Devotion of the Week | Pearls of Promise | Page 96

Japanese Maple by Catherine Weiskopf

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Recently, we began redoing our mud-filled back yard by creating a low-budget Japanese rock garden. The idea was a lot of rocks and a few key plants to make an oasis of peace under our large oak trees. I was excited one day when I got a Calloway’s email saying, “Thursday Only. Japanese Maples Regularly $29.99 Just $12.98 While they last!” So when Thursday came, I drove to Calloway’s at about ten ready to pick up my precious tree.

Walking up to the store I asked a clerk darting about where I could find my maple. “Sorry, they were gone within the first twenty minutes. There was a line when we opened the store at nine.” Proud of their popularity, he didn’t notice my disappointment.

Leaving the store, my agitation burned. Why had the store advertised the trees and only had enough for the first twenty minutes. Why hadn’t I come earlier? This upset stayed with me, oscillating back and forth with a sense from God that everything would be ok. If I was meant to have a Japanese maple I would get one.

Later that day, a neighbor posted a picture of her two beautiful Japanese maples from Calloway’s.

Ugh.

The picture of the delicate trees felt like salt rubbing in an old wound, but again God’s peace spoke to me. If I was meant to find an inexpensive Japanese maple he would provide, if not, something else would be better in the yard.

On Friday during a lumber run, I asked about their prices for Japanese Maples: The $89.00 sticker shock made me realize what a great deal the Calloway’s offer had been. Again, I let it go. Another store, another maple, bore the price of $149. A wave of upset followed quickly by the repeating peaceful sense from God.

In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The Bible in fact is full of references to the peace he wants to give us if we will give him all our problems. Admittedly, the tree was not a big problem, but sometimes our little problems are like slivers wedging their way under our skin, constantly pricking at our peace. In the past, not getting my Japanese maple would have become just such a sliver of upset.

Monday, as I was heading home from my chiropractic appointment I passed Calloway’s. I decided that even at their regular price of $29.99 they were a great deal so I decided to stop and buy. I asked the clerk if they had any and he said they were out. Wandering the store I decided to look for a hydrangea instead so I headed toward the back where the shade loving plants are kept. As I scanned the shadowy area, I spied a small delicate tree lying on the ground with the signature lacy leaves. It had been blown over by the wind so I picked it up and placed my precious Japanese maple in my cart. It was labeled $29.99 but was still a bargain and the only one around.

When I went to check out the manager did a double take as he scanned my tree, “Where did you find this?”

He was sure they were out, and so pointed it out to the other clerk. “Look what she found.”

“Yes, someone returned two of them,” she replied.

“Who would return a $12.98 tree?” I wondered out loud, and then I knew. God had someone return this tree just for me.

When he rang up the bill, another nice surprise. “You got it for $12.98.”

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” Peace is, or rather should be one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith.

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus left us with His peace; he left His words so we would have peace; he doesn’t want our minds to be troubled by anything. As I sit outside in the midst of my peaceful Japanese garden and gaze at my perfect Japanese maple I am reminded daily of God actively working in my life to bring me His peace. He shows me daily how I can trust him, how I can lay down my upset in each and every circumstance and how I can run into His arms of peace.

 

 

Learning From Job by Melba Booker

Melba Booker

Today’s guest blogger is Melba Booker. Here is Melba’s bio in her own words: 

As a woman (wife, mom, grandmother, professional, entrepreneur), I look back and I am thankful that I was introduced to Jesus.  He made me everything I am today.  I believe becoming a Christian is the highlight of my life, for now my eyes are open to real life.I am the mother of three (3) children, grandmother of (7) and my passion is to see or hear that my family and others I come in contact with will honor the one and only true God.As a professional, I am proud of the 12 years I spent in the Education Administrative arena.  As a business owner, I am proud to be a vehicle to encourage others to productivity. My husband, children, and I are enriched by the many places we lived and traveled to. We are thankful for the opportunity we had to serve America in the Armed Forces overseas and here in the USA. We now reside in Fort Worth, and are looking forward to making an impact in our community.        

Have you ever read the book of Job?

Many shy away from it because it’s perceived as a downer, but as I read through its pages this time, it’s providing a totally new experience.  In particular, the New Living Translation has opened my eyes to things I have not seen before.  Job 17:1-16 says “…You must defend my innocence, O God, since no one else will stand up for me.  You have closed their mind to understanding … the righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger…”

As an interpreter, I understand you can lose flavor, meaning in life, and can blend into the culture, but through the power of Christ it is now easier to move forward in righteousness so we can become stronger and stronger in the faith. It was more difficult on Job’s side of the cross, but today salvation through Christ makes us clean!

How do you need to be cleansed?

Jesus can wash you white as snow.

Are you moving forward, or do you find yourself back peddling a lot of the time in your faith?

Christ will lead you down a path of righteousness.

Job knew his only hope was with God. When we don’t think we can take another step, Jesus helps us put one foot in front of the other. When we are falsely accused like Job was, Christ will defend our innocence.

Have you ever been falsely accused? Hire Jesus as your defense attorney!

Job knew God was the only answer during his time of despair and today, we should turn to Christ in our need.

He is our strength.

He stands up for us when no one else will.

He moves us forward.

A Speck

His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.” (Job 9:4-6)

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Every once in a while I take a step back, and think about the greatness of God.

It’s humbling.

When I take a moment to remember how vast and intricate creation is, I am in awe. Job understood God’s greatness saying “He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be fathomed.” (Job 9: 7-10)

When I consider I am only a speck in a world overflowing with people, any pride in me evaporates. Yet despite the minuteness of my existence, the Almighty, Powerful God wants a relationship with me and with you.

W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 says, “Yet the staggering fact remains that Christ, the Creator of such an enormous universe of overwhelming magnitude, deigns to call Himself my Shepherd and invites me to consider myself His sheep—His special object of affection and attention. Who better could care for me?

There was a time when I thought I could make it in this vast world on my own, without a shepherd leading me, but I found that in my own power, I just botched things. What about you?

A sheep is reliant on the Shepherd. A sheep follows the Shepherd. A sheep listens to the Shepherd’s voice.

Yes, when I think about the vastness of this world and God’s creation, I realize I need a Shepherd to lead me through it.

And I’m listening.

I’m following.

I realize I can’t make it without my Shepherd.

And I’m thankful. Thankful that such a Great God cares enough about a speck like me and deems me important enough to take care of.

I can’t think of any other word to describe it than….

love.

Scatter the Seeds

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Do you have a green thumb? My grandmother, who I nicknamed “Nonnie”  did, and it seems like everything Nonnie planted bloomed into a beautiful, luscious plant or tree. She had peach trees, pecan trees and grapevines in her backyard and at harvest time, Nonnie would take the fruit of her labor and used it to make wonderful homemade preserves or cobbler. As I reflect back, I realize now why I was a pudgy child. There was too much fresh food to eat!

I didn’t inherit my grandmother’s green thumb, but I still love flowers, and plant begonias and pansies every year. Sometimes they make it. Sometimes they don’t, but I always try to be a gardener every year and hope for the best.

sowing seedsIn a spiritual context, it’s wonderful we are not the gardener. Our job is only to plant the seeds and let God do the watering and feeding. We don’t know if the seeds we plant will germinate, but it’s not for us to judge. We still need to plant them. We need to be open about our faith and let people know why we have eternal hope, how we overcame the past droughts in our life and tell them about the Master Gardener who grew something beautiful out of the rocky soil we found ourselves in at times.

The seeds we plant with people won’t always bloom. In Matthew 13:3-8, Jesus explains, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Regardless of the results, the farmer still scattered the seed.

If we live long enough, many times God blesses us with a glimpse of some of the beautiful plants that began with a tiny seed. This past week, I was on a ministry trip to San Antonio and a woman who worked with me in public relations fifteen years ago, wants to participate in a ministry outreach we are working on for San Antonio. When someone asked her why she was going to be involved in the new ministry she said, “It’s all because of the seeds Lisa planted.” Her words were the fuel I needed to keep at it and to continue scattering seeds.

As seed scatterers, it’s important to have a positive attitude. It’s not for us to pre-judge where the fertile ground is. We need to be open, and ask our Father, “Who needs to receive the seeds of eternal hope?” They may not seem open to it now, but God does the cultivating.

Maybe you don’t have a green thumb like me, but isn’t it wonderful to know we don’t have to be an garden expert to make a difference for the Heavenly Kingdom? We just have to be willing to scatter the seeds. (LBW)

 

Opposition

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Opposition.

Whenever we choose to put ourselves out there as Christians, it’s going to come.

There will be challengers of our faith.

Questioners of our hearts.

Comparisons.

And the strength of the attacks will increase a notch when we venture into Christian leadership.

That’s because we are a more of a threat to the enemy of our soul when we try to make a difference in the world for Christ.

Sometimes it’s enough to make you want to hide in your house and never come out.

It can make you feel discouraged,

Confused,

and brokenhearted.

But if you experience this, take heart! You are just walking the road that Jesus walked.

Throughout the gospel, Jesus’ integrity and authority were constantly challenged.

The intensity of the opposition was fierce in John 7 and 8 when there was division among the Jewish leaders and crowd as to who Jesus really was. Here is a sampling from the barrage of derogatory statements and questions:

“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted.

“Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

“The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come?”

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

Question after question. Scathing statement after statement.

When God opened my eyes to this, I had such a heart for what Jesus endured.

He was constantly challenged when he knew what his mission was. He understood who he was and his Abba Father knew his heart.

If you’re in ministry, and feeling down because of criticism, remember, the Lord knows your heart and that’s who you have to please.

He is aware of your pure motives. He understands your desire to help people.

He equips you to face the opposition when it comes, and it may come from those who are closest to you.

It just goes with the territory of Christian leadership and is part of being a follower of Jesus who understands because he went there before us. Thank you Lord, that we can walk to road you walked. What a privilege!

 

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