Knowing the Gardener (Part 3)

The Gardener Prunes

I share a true confession with you today.

I was arrested in high school.

A couple of my friends had heard that kids were going for late night swims at our community pool and thought it would be fun for us to try as well. However, it required scaling the pool wall, after hours. I was always the cautious one, so as my three friends were halfway up the wall, I was still on the ground.

“Are you sure we should do this?” I asked.

“Come on, Lisa.”

“Oh, alright.”

I gave in and began my ascent.

We didn’t make it very far because as we began to strip down to our bathing suits, three men in blue shirts emerged from behind trees and shouted, “Freeze! Police!”

Shouting was not necessary. We were so frightened by the unexpected visitors we were cemented in the ground.

We were hoping to receive a warning and go on our way, but the law enforcement officers didn’t let us off. We were trespassing, and the reason they were staking out the pool is because the night before there were vandals on the property. One of the officers, Roger Terry, was well known to us kids. He asked, “What would have happened if you girls had been here last night when the vandals were tearing up the place?” They hauled us off to jail, and after scaring the wits out of us (and watching me cry buckets of tears) they called our parents to pick us up.

As I look back on this incident, I realize this was a case of God’s holy discipline in my life because He disciplines those he loves.

When have you been disciplined by the Lord?

The most difficult stretches in my life are the ones where I have grown the most spiritually.

Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”

Like a gardener with a rose bush, our Holy Gardener prunes us so we can bear more fruit.

Many years after this incident, I was sponsoring a confirmation student at my church. Her name was Caitlyn Terry and I was supposed to sit with her and her family at the morning worship service. Before the service, her mom came up to me and asked, “Lisa, have you met Caitlyn’s dad, Roger Terry?” Immediately recognizing him, I blurted out, “You arrested me in high school!” This time it was Caitlyn and her mom’s expressions that froze.

As I sat in the pew that day, singing the song “Here I am Lord,” I marveled at the way God turned my life around 180 degrees, so much so that I was now praying for the child of the police officer who arrested me in high school. As I thanked my heavenly Father for his loving discipline and redemption, Officer Terry saw me weep again.

Today, will you thank God for his discipline in your life, even though it was painful? Sometimes tough love is needed in order to steer you into the right direction.

Knowing the Gardener (Part 2)

The Gardener Provides

Years ago, my then teenage son and I worked on a Habitat House. Our only job all day was to place sod in the front yard of this house, and we quickly found out it was laborious work. Sod is heavy.

After a day of manual labor, we were worn out and agreed, “A slush from Sonic sure sounds good right now” but we didn’t know where a Sonic was.

It was before the days of navigation systems and we were serving in a part of town that was not familiar, so on our way home, I got lost. We were winding along trying to find our way out of the maze, when I spotted a highway. I immediately headed that way, and staring at us from the access road was a Sonic! I never forgot that day because it was an example of how God provided and met a need after a hard day’s work of serving the kingdom. He knew exactly where the Sonic was, and took us there.

In the Old Testament, there are many names for God. When it comes to providing, he’s referred to as “Jehovah Jirah.”

This name of God first showed up in Genesis 22 when Abraham led his son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah to offer him as a burnt offering to God. Can you imagine how difficult this was for Abraham? But by faith, I believe Abraham knew all along that his heavenly Father would provide another sacrifice. When Isaac asked his dad where the lamb was for the burnt offering, Abraham said,  “Jehovah Jireh himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” If Abraham truly believed God was going to let him go through with this cruel act, I think he would have responded to Isaac’s question in a different way.

“We’ll see what happens.”

“I don’t know.”

“Too many questions!”

And of course, God did provide a sacrificial ram at the eleventh hour.

Perhaps it is the eleventh hour for you right now, and you are desperate for provision. If you are connected to the vine (Jesus), then trust that the Holy Gardener will provide, if you’ve given the situation over to Him.

Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying ad a single hour to your life? If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not more clothe you of little faith?”

Our Gardener is always watching over the garden, but sometimes, as a part of the cultivation process, he’ll wait a bit to see if we trust him to provide.

 

 

Knowing the Gardener (Part One)

Part One: The Gardener Created You

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener” (John 15:1)

Do you have a green thumb? Sadly, I do not, but I keep trying.

Meanwhile, everything my grandmother (Nonnie) touched flourished. She had a peach tree in her backyard that bore beautiful peaches every year. Nonnie used the fruit for peach preserves and delicious cobbler. There were also pecan trees and blooming plants in the back and I always wondered, How does she do this? I thought some of her gift would pass on to me when she died, but to this day, plants have a short life span at my house.

However last year, I birthed a bumper crop of tomatoes because of some help from my son, Kyle, and his soon-to-be fiancé, Bailey. I am thankful the two of them are coming back again this year to help me out. I remember the feeling when I looked at the first tomatoes on the vine.

“Wow! Aren’t they beautiful? These actually grew in my garden!”

I think that’s the way the Holy Gardener looks at us. He says, “Look at her. Isn’t she beautiful? You know I formed her from a tiny seed in her mother’s womb. She is my design.”

I know the heavenly Gardener, God, put this nerdy, sports-loving church lady together. He cultivated me to be who I am today. He’s strung the DNA intricately to create you as well, just the way he wanted you.

Are you critical of your appearance? When we say negative things about the way we look, we are telling the Creator that we don’t like his work. “Maybe a little less around the middle, please.”

We need to quit being so hard on ourselves. The Gardener has molded us and created us just as he wanted us. Remember the following verses:

“Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” (Deuteronomy 32:6).

“Yet you LORD are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

Today, let’s not question the Gardener’s creation. Instead, let’s learn more about the Gardener by jumping into his Word and taking in a little plant food from the One who created us. And let’s not forget to thank Him for how he designed us, perfectly for His purpose.

Dear Father, we confess that we have not always been so complimentary of your creation. Help us to appreciate who you designed us to be. At the same time, we pray that we’ll take care of this intricate creation out of respect for you. Thank you for life, for the breath you give us and for our beautiful design. In the name of Jesus we pray, AMEN.

Standing in the Gap for our Pastor

“Pastor Robert had a complication after his surgery and has been taken back to the hospital this afternoon. Would you please take a few minutes right now and pray for him?”

This was the post on our pastor, Robert Morris’ public Facebook page and the beginning of a traumatic day for him, his family and his church family. Meanwhile, prayer was activated worldwide. I am the intercessory prayer leader over Jewish Ministries at Gateway Church, so throughout the day, we stood in the gap for him as we sent out updates to our team for specific prayer. It is my belief that intercession pulled this man of God through this touch-and-go ordeal.

Yesterday Pastor Robert was bathed in prayer as he underwent two different surgeries for internal bleeding. The first one took out a cantaloupe-sized blood clot in his abdomen and when the bleeding continued, pastoral leaders at the church organized a 9:00 p.m. prayer vigil at the church to get him through his second surgery in less than 24 hours.

I got the word about the vigil at 8:40 p.m. I live over thirty minutes from the Gateway, but I wanted to be a part of the corporate prayer time that would start in minutes. Not a night person, I was already winding down in my sweats, had very little makeup on, my hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, and I was half awake. Generally, I stop talking after 8:00 p.m., but the Lord was calling me to pray. When I got up from my lounging position, my husband asked, “Where are you going?” I responded, “Our pastor needs prayer. I am going to the church.” So looking a little ragged, I left vanity at the house and drove to Gateway so I could join sisters and brothers in worship and prayer for our shepherd.

I kept thinking of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus went to the cross. Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” and asked his disciples to pray but the disciples kept falling asleep. Jesus said, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”

Last night with my energy waning and my body desiring sleep, I kept hearing the voice of the LORD, “Can’t you stay awake for just one hour?”

Here are some things we need to understand about prayer:

  • Sometimes God calls us to pray when it’s not convenient. Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night to pray?
  • Prayer has no time clock. It is 24/7.
  • We must step up our prayer during times of crisis.

In 2 Kings 20, King Hezekiah fell ill, was told to put his house in order because he was going to die. Where did the king go when he learned this news? To the court of the LORD where he prayed and reminded God, “Remember, LORD how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” Guess what? God heard the king’s prayer, had mercy on him and gave him fifteen more years of life.

Last night, as we filled the church lobby with our utterances, many of us reminded the Lord of Pastor Robert’s faithfulness. We asked that he be healed so he could continue his work and teach His people. We sang praises to the only One who heals and our loving God heard our worship and prayers. He directed surgeons to the source of the internal bleeding and corrected the problem.

One other thing we need to know, there is no one who does not need prayer, whether it’s presidents, kings, leaders of churches, family or friends.

No one is invincible. In fact, we need to be praying for our godly leaders daily, not just during crisis, because they are the ones who are in front, and therefore a much more visible target for the enemy of our souls.

Today, I am thankful I stayed awake to pray and will continue to lift our pastor up throughout the day today. Even if you are not a part of our congregation, would you join me in prayer for the complete recovery of Pastor Robert Morris? Through television, God is using him to reach the world for Christ, and here at home, he is enriching his congregation through his teaching. I am thankful for him and for what both my husband and I have learned through his messages. We are using what we have learned to make a difference outside the church walls.

 

 

Looking Beyond the Facade

We had a decision to make. Where would we hold this September’s Pearls of Promise Level-Up Conference? At first we were sweating it out. The beautiful church that hosted us last year would be undergoing renovations and could not renew our agreement. For a while we searched and couldn’t find a church that rented out space.

However, at the eleventh hour, three possibilities emerged, and then we had a decision to make. What should we do? Two had more impressive curb appeal, but the third, New Day Church in Southlake, Texas, had a beautiful sanctuary. We also had a connection with the pastor, Ricky, his wife, Joni, and son, Joe. You could feel the heart of the church and the ministry team’s heart for the Lord. They were church planters and were putting every ounce of their energy into making sure the church thrived.

When making a decision, you must take into account all of the “God things” that happen. When I met the pastor’s son, Joe, I told him about a certain well-known worship leader we were going after to lead worship at the conference. He guessed who it was and amazingly, was correct. He told me he had a dream that he met her. I prayed that dream would come true for him.

I envisioned the speakers on the altar in the sanctuary at New Day and I remembered my “word” to live by in 2018 was “new.” Isn’t that interesting?

I also remembered how the Lord looks at us. In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I still toiled over the decision. Even though all three churches had said yes to our request, I prayed that God would eliminate the venues that were not his choice. He did not. It was up to me to make the final decision and I believed God pointed me to New Day. I loved the church’s heart. Right after that, our second place church emailed and said they couldn’t host us after all. There would be no looking back. God is good that way.

So this was a lesson for me and perhaps for you.

When we look at buildings, other homes or people. What is inside?

Someone could live in the fanciest mansion but there could be no love in the house. Would you trade for that? When you meet another person, is it all about how they look, or do you try to see their heart? I know at times I am not as warm as I’d like to be, but my heart is bursting in love for people. I am praying today that everyone I meet will see my heart, and I also pray I will see theirs. What about you?

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