Are You A Servant?

I am a servant of the most high God – the God of heaven and earth, who holds my life in the palm of his hand – and because of the price he paid to give me life, I am his slave.  Yet, I am free!  For God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, a calm and well balanced mind, a spirit of discipline and self-control.

He brings to my life love, joy, peace, an even temper, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-restraint.  Now that I have come to be acquainted with and understand the true God – or rather to be understood and known by God – how could I turn back again to the weak, worthless, elementary things that I was enslaved to before?

So overflowing is his kindness toward me that he took away all of my sins through his Son and showered down upon me the richness of his grace.  For how well he understands me and knows what is best for me at all times.

O, how kind my God is – for he has shown me how to trust him and become full of the love of his son, Jesus Christ.

These words are the profession of my faith in Jesus Christ. They are words I strive to live and  work by every single day.  With his help, most days, I do.

 

How often we wish for another chance
to make a fresh beginning.
A chance to blot out our mistakes
And change failure into winning.
It does not take a new day
To make a brand new start,
It only takes a deep desire
To try with all our heart.
To live a little better
And to always be forgiving
And to add a little sunshine
To the world in which we’re living.
So never give up in despair
And think that you are through,
For there’s always a tomorrow
And the hope of starting new.
Helen Steiner Rice

Some personal principles

Shared in the sincere hope they’ll give you an understanding of the spiritual things that make this Grandmother’s life more meaningful.

The first is my faith.

The Lord, Jesus Christ, made himself known to me in the summer of 1977, a summer of abject crisis in my life.  Shortly thereafter he began the process of redefining my life from one of absolute self service into the life of a servant.  In the years since that amazing summer, my Lord has gently, but steadily, taught me the difference between being a minister and being a servant.  There is no i in servant.

In September of ’97 I was converted from the original “get a MAC” user, to the world of PC’s.  The transition gave me an opportunity to connect to the Internet and I began to surf.  The next couple of months were spent developing a growing awareness of the number of surfers who were hungry for peace and tranquility and who had a deep need for the healing power of God’s Word in their lives. The germ of an idea started growing.  Share!  Share the love and the healing and the richness of his grace. How?

What does, a humble servant, have to offer?

Nothing!

Nothing except the ability to communicate the comfort, encouragement, and healing that my Lord offers me.

Next a gift.

The Lord has blessed me with an almost burning desire to tell others about him – about his goodness, his healing power, his mercy in all things, his love – and about how he caresses a life with his presence.  Of course, being a just and logical person, when he places a burning desire in the heart of his servants, he also makes available the means to carry it out.  In other words, the Lord enables his servants to do what he requires of them.  These abilities are a gift.

Over the years, I have come to understand that just as a child must learn to play a new game or ride a new bike, God’s gifts come not only with a responsibility, but with a built in learning period, too.  Just as a child, tired of falling off a new bike, may put it aside for awhile – this servant put aside God’s gift several years ago, with no real intention of trying it out again.  However, any gift that once brought such joy cannot be forgotten so easily.  The ancient prophet Jeremiah put it this way:

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

So… the conclusion that I must write – draw – share – tell others about him!  Could I do it? No!  Not alone! With his guidance and help –  perhaps. . . but

“Will you do it?”

“Very well, Lord.   I will obey you again – serve you to the best of my ability – share your love with others – as you enable and inspire me.  Please, Lord, bless each and every word; each and every drawing – bring your presence to each and every reader.  Bring your healing power to any who come here looking for something of you.  And hide me, Lord, allow them to see only you.  These things I ask, in Jesus precious name.”

A Few More Thoughts. . .

For just a moment this morning the sun’s first level rays broke between the mountain tops and the rain clouds hovering over us.  It shone in the windows, brilliant and warm, touching gold across the surface of my desk, lighting the room with glory.  Then it was gone!   But it had done its perfect work, reminding me of the glory of Christ and the occasional fleeting glimpse we see of it in our day to day lives.  As the room returned to the gray of a rainy day, I thought, “What a perfect picture of faith!”

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Yesterday was a beautiful, spring like, day spent close to the earth, cleaning winter debris from the flower beds.  Working thus, became my daily devotion time.  It’s true!  One IS closer to God in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.  The warmth of the sun on my back, the birds celebrating life all through the garden, the tulips and daffodils poking their heads up to inquire about the temperatures; all of these miracles speak of a loving and wise creator.

One has to think the apostle Paul must have spent some time on his knees in a garden, too.  And, his thoughts must have run along the same lines as mine when he looked up from his work to rest and take in the miracles around him.  I wonder if a day on his knees in the garden, thinking about what God had done for him, and then wondering why his friends and neighbors refused to accept the glorious gifts his Heavenly Father offered, were on this mind when he penned his epistle to the new Christians at Rome?

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: It is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith. . . . . . For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts.  Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power.  So they will have no excuse {when they stand before God at Judgment Day}.  Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for his daily care. . . Romans 1:16, 19-21 LB

By midmorning the muscles in my back and legs where letting me know they had grown weak and lazy in the months since I last spent an entire day outside.  I continued on with my project, assuring my complaining muscles that a hot bath later would relieve their aches and pains.  Eventually as the fallen leaves and dead branches were removed,  I began to see the results of my careful labor.  My garden took on the form I had originally planned for it; flowers and herbs, pruned and tended, standing proud against a backdrop of the rich brown soil!   “An example of my walk with Christ!” I thought.

Heavenly Father, Abba, God, I beg you to guide me in keeping the debris of negligence from accumulating in my life.  I ask for direction in pruning away the worthless things that distract me from you and help me with the discipline to devote enough time to your instruction each day that my spiritual muscles don’t grow as weak and lazy as my physical muscles have over the winter.  Lord God, show me how to tend the garden of my life, that it may produce the blossoms and fruit you planned for it!  So be it!

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Why do you suppose so many of the things we do in this life are like hiking up a mountain?  Only when we reach the summit can we look back down the path and clearly understand the reasons behind the twists and turns we made, on the way up!  Today, I just want to thank the Lord for the switch backs and rough spots climbing this particular hill.

Thinking back on my climb, I am reminded of of Romans 8:28 as translated in the New King James version of the text: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”  And, I wonder if the key here is “called according to HIS purpose”?  The Living Bible translates the same text, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”  Again, I wonder. . . is the “working for our good” conditional upon our love of God and our willingness to work toward fitting into his plans for us?  Is this verse just a Christian placebo for the pain of daily living?  “God?  Are you sure all the things that we encountered coming up this hill were GOOD for us?”

Wait a second, here. . . that scripture is lifted out of it’s context!  And Romans is HARD to comprehend, at best.

I think it would be better to go back and read the whole section, maybe even the whole 8th CHAPTER of Paul’s letter to the young Christians at Rome.

Now, we’re getting somewhere!

J. B. Phillips (The New Testament in Modern English) says. . . 8:1 The truth is that no condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Christ Jesus.  For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ Jesus lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death. . . 8:9 you are not carnal but spiritual if the Spirit of God finds a home within you.  You cannot, indeed, be a Christian at all unless you have something of his Spirit in you. . . 8:12-14 So then, my brothers, you can see that we owe no duty to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts.  Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death.  But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you will live.  All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. . .  8:28  Moreover, we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.

Looking back down the hill from here, with these verses from the “owner’s manual” in mind, I can also see clearly that the climb would have been considerably smoother, had I simply chosen to remain on the path!

Lord, please, help me to cut the nerve to my instinctive actions—to love you more, and to read the instructions a little more carefully before I begin my next hike.   Amen.

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“How will I KNOW when I’m doing what God wants of me?”  How many, many times we have asked ourselves that question over the years!  In our early years of following God’s path we felt our way along, clinging to each other and to the traditional religious answers for our question. And the path grew more difficult!  Steeper and more narrow!  Out of necessity, our knowledge of God and his Word grew as we climbed.   So did our understanding!  Today, the assurance that we are exactly where God wants us to be, doing exactly what He planned for us, comes from peace of mind and spirit.  Perfect peace!  A peace which passes all understanding!

“What do you mean,  perfect peace?” A neighbor, in crisis, recently ask me.  “How in the world can there be peace in this situation?  Like so many of us, she has never experienced a true and lasting peace – the “blessed assurance” that our grandmothers sang about.  Her notion of God is “someone – somewhere – out there – who may or may not answer my prayers in times of crisis”.  And, her definition of “peace” is to be happy, comfortable and prosperous!  Not necessarily in that order!  Oh how I wish it were so. . . No!  Peace comes from knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, God as Father, the Holy Spirit as Counselor and Friend, and trusting them to guide and direct our lives in the way of peace.

The ancient prophet, Isaiah, admonishing a nation at war, puts it this way:

“Thou dose keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.  Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 RSV

Paul, the apostle, wrote to the church at Philippi from his prison cell:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7 RSV

And, Jesus, on the eve of his crucifixion told his disciples:

“Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 RSV

No dear hearts, peace is not measured in dollars, nor comfort, nor happiness!  Peace is measured in “blessed assurance.” Peace is measured in the absolute trust that if we stumble Jesus will pick us up.  If we fall He will carry us.  We know we are where God wants us to be, doing what he wants us to do, because we have the blessed assurance that Jesus is right there too, walking beside us!  Think on these things as you climb the path today – and if you have no peace along the way – consider changing paths!  Rejoice!

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“Shake it off!  Move on!  That was then, this is now!  Get over it! ”  Just a few of the things we’ve been telling each other all the way up this mountain.   Basically, because there have been stretches of the path that are very, very rough.  In some places,  we climbed over huge obstacles.  Sometimes we walked through a lovely, shaded vale.  Frequently, the path lead across an open rocky area and we hiked with the sun beating down, hot upon us, for what seemed forever.  We have stumbled, fallen, scraped our knees and twisted our ankles.  And all the way along we were encouraged to keep climbing, without looking back, and without getting bogged down in self-pity and regret.   Often, as the path grew steeper and more difficult, we were forced to lay aside a portion of our pack.  Leaving behind things that we were sure would be necessary to complete the hike, was not always an easy decision.  Opportunities to simply say, “forget it!” and turn back came almost daily.  Fortunately, during the especially difficult times we were reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi:

But I keep going on, trying to grasp that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me.  My brothers, I do not consider myself to have grasped it fully even now. But I do concentrate on this:  I forget all that lies behind me and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal — my reward the honor of my high calling by God in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are spiritually adult should think like this, and if at present you think otherwise, yet you will find that God will make even this clear to you.  It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have already learned. _ Philippians 3:13-16   Phillips

” Get over it!” I hear the still, small voice say to my spirit.  “Move on, and don’t look back!  Beloved, do not squander today on yesterday’s sorrows.  And then in I am reminded of the words of my Lord!

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest!  Put on my yoke and learn from me.  For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30   Phillips

Learn from Christ — that is the lesson!  Oh, Heavenly Father, help us to climb the remainder of the way carrying only the light, easy yoke of Christ.  Help us to unload any unnecessary stuff we’ve been carrying on this trip and simply leave it beside the path.  Make clear to us those things that we need to leave behind, and enable us to go forward in the light of the truth we have learned from Jesus.  So be it!

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