Seek: A Command with a Promise

magnifying glass

“Seek,” is the another of God’s commands followed by His promise, “You will find.”

Remember, God answers our prayers based on His plan and purpose for our lives and His will and perfect timing in any given situation.

“Yes” answers come immediately because whatever we’ve asked for fits within God’s plan and timing for us. “No” and “Wait” answers require some seeking and knocking on our part.

Seeking is an active process rather than just a verbal one. It requires time and patience for searching. Whether you’re looking for a lost item or a hidden meaning, your search will lead you to deeper understanding of what God wants you to learn.

While “Lord, where did I put my car keys,” might lead me to a lot of drawer opening, paper shuffling, and frantic room-to-room searching, God will use the time I spend searching to reinforce the adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

I’m not saying that God is into adages. But He is a God of order and peace rather than confusion and would much rather see me at peace than scurrying around the house like a squirrel trying to cross the street.

Whether you’re looking for your car keys or something much deeper like the meaning of life or a better understanding of a Bible verse, your quest for answers begins with your need to know. Your wait for answers can turn into hours, days, months, and sometimes years of seeking and searching until finally through that wall of silence comes an understanding and the discovery of God’s greater purpose as His promise, “You will find,” comes to fruition.

When the mystery is finally revealed to you and the puzzle put together in your mind, you will discover that through your time of seeking and searching, God has brought you into agreement with Him. And that’s what He wanted all along.

Three Levels of Prayer

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You’ve probably heard that God answers our prayers with “Yes,”  “No,” or “Wait.” But did you know that your very first prayer of forgiveness establishes a relationship with the King of the Universe Himself? Continuing prayer, or simply talking with God, maintains that relationship with Him.

When we ask according to our needs (not wants), God answers according to His plan and purpose for our lives and His will and perfect timing in any given situation.

“Yes” answers come immediately. That means that whatever we’ve asked for fits within God’s plan and timing for us. “No” and “Wait” answers require some seeking and knocking on our part.

Jesus told His disciples, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” (Luke 11:9-10).

Did you notice that God’s commands to ask, seek, and knock are all followed by His promises?

It will be given to you when you ask.
You will find when you seek, and
The door will be opened to you when you knock.

In other words, if you do what He tells you to do, He’ll come through for you. That’s a promise.

Ask, seek, and knock represent three different levels of prayer, all of which arise out of a need.

ASK prayers are verbal requests that will be met immediately with a “Yes.” All you have to do is ask. For instance when we ask for one of God’s attributes like wisdom, we will have access to His wisdom immediately.

That’s what James 1:5-8 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…and it will be given to you.”

James goes on to say, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because…that person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

You see prayer is a two-way street. When we ask, God answers based on our trust in Him. We prove our trust by putting His shared wisdom into action.

Here’s an example: As I was multi-tasking in the kitchen, my back was turned to the wok of oil heating on the stove behind me. When I felt heat on my back, I turned around to discover the oil on fire with flames leaping three feet high and toasting the cabinet above the stove.

While a gazillion solutions for putting out the fire raced through my mind, in rapid succession I said, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?”

Quick as a flash, the answer came to me, “Stick it in the oven!

I grabbed a hot pad, wrapped it around the handle, flung open the oven door, stuck the fiery wok in and shut the door. No fuss. No mess. It was a solution I’d never thought about before. But I asked, trusted, received and acted on God’s wise answer and lived to tell about it.

God sits on ready to supply all our needs. So ask believing, and you will receive.

(The next blog will be about the next level of prayer: SEEK. Stay tuned.)

Repaired Gates

Nehemiah's Jerusalem

The repairing of the gates and walls surrounding old Jerusalem was critical to the safety of the city. So everybody pitched in. They repaired their own section first, then helped their neighbors complete their sections. As a result, the wall and it’s gates were completed in a record 52 days.

I was intrigued that each of the gates not only has historical and prophetic significance, but altogether they parallel our journey to salvation and living the Christian life. The complexity of it all isn’t surprising considering that our God is a God of order and depth beyond our understanding. So I started digging to learn more.

Knowing that Scripture must interpret itself, here’s what I found…

The third chapter of Nehemiah begins and ends with the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3: 1, 32) through which the sheep were brought for sacrifice. You’ve probably caught the significance already. Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, through whom all things were brought into existence is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sins. His death on the cross was the turning point in human history; and believing that He died for our sins is the turning point in our spiritual lives. So sheep are a symbol of sacrifice.

Going counter-clockwise around the wall, the Fish Gate was for the fisherman from Galilee to enter into the city to sell their fish. Centuries later when Jesus multiplied two fish to feed thousands, Christians used the fish symbol to identify those of like faith. The Greek acronym for “fish” was also the acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. So the Fish Gate represents sharing the fish or evangelism. As followers of Christ, we are called to sacrifice our will for His will and to be “fishers of men.”

The Old Gate may have been one of the original gates. It represents the old ways–the ancient ways–of truth as opposed to new ways. I’ve heard it said, “If something is new, it’s not true; and if it is true, then it’s not new.” Truth never changes–not even with the New Age Movement. The Lord calls us back to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The Valley Gate represents humility. The suffering and pain, trials and tribulations of our lives remind us there is no place for pride in our lives. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Valley experiences help clear away the garbage in our lives and bring forth opportunities for great personal and spiritual growth.

The Dung Gate was the exit for all the rubbish, refuse, and rot. Once we are aware of the rot and corruption in our own lives, we sense a need to be cleansed of its filthiness. Confession is our Dung Gate. “When we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness,”

The Fountain Gate is located at the end of the Pool of Siloam. It’s streams of living water describe the work of the Holy Spirit who cleanses us of the dung in our lives and empowers us to live the life Christ wants us to live. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me…streams of living water will flow from within him,” (John 7:38).

The Water Gate, the only gate that didn’t need repair, led down to the Gihon Spring where Ezra read God’s Word to the people. Water refers to God’s Word, and God’s Word is truth–the same yesterday, today, and forever. It doesn’t need repair either. The streams of living water by way of the Holy Spirit make God’s Word come alive for us, in us, and through us so we are truly washed in the water of His Word.

The Horse Gate follows the Water Gate because wherever God’s Word is read, spoken, or discussed spiritual warfare is sure to follow. The King’s men left for battle through the Horse Gate located close to the soldiers’ barracks. In Scripture, the horse symbolizes battle or warfare and reminds us that we too are on a battlefield swirling with spiritual warfare.

The East Gate faces the Mount of Olives and speaks of a future time when Jesus will return and stand on the Mount of Olives. He will then enter the city of Jerusalem through the East Gate. Jesus told His disciples, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” (Luke 21:28). So the East Gate assures us that Jesus is coming again. Till then we wait expectantly for His return.

The Inspection Gate is also called the Mustering Gate. This is where King David met his troops for inspection or to see if they passed muster. It reminds us that we too must pass muster. We will be held accountable for our lives and face a final inspection.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him,” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

As we wait in eager expectation for His second coming, let’s repair and restore the gates of our own spiritual lives then lend a hand to help others.

Remembering Aunt Ludy

Aunt Ludy note

Senior saints make great mentors, and Aunt Ludy was one of mine. No, she wasn’t my real aunt. She just wanted her younger friends to call her that.

I first met Aunt Ludy in the senior adult Sunday School class at Pleasant Valley South in Lindale, Georgia. In the year 2000, her 1940’s look with her little white gloves and hand-made dresses reminded me of Sweet Polly Purebred. The fact that she topped off her look with a Marilyn Monroe wig startled my sensibilities. I had to get to know this woman.

Even though she was twenty years older than I, our friendship grew. She became one of my spiritual mentors. She’d read her Bible cover to cover every year since the printing press started churning them out, so I figured she had all the answers. Besides, she’d already rewritten the entire Bible and had a friend type it for her. I called it the ALV–Aunt Ludy Version.

She enjoyed searching the Scriptures, answering my questions, and recommending books for me to read. She even gave me a copy of Arthur W. Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis.

Aunt Ludy book titles

Aunt Ludy and I enjoyed lively and sometimes deep discussions. She said my questions made her think.

We laughed a lot, too. After I got to know her pretty well, I told her she reminded me of Sweet Polly Purebred in a Marilyn Monroe wig. She raised her delicate hand to her lips and said, “You make me blush.”

Those chats with Aunt Ludy were like salted mines that always yielded spiritual nuggets and life lessons that stuck with me. I especially remember the time I joined her in the common room of her building to work a jigsaw puzzle. As we searched the table for just the right piece of the puzzle, our conversation turned to “witnessing.”

As if on cue, the lady mail carrier stopped by to say, “Hello.” When she continued down the hall, I asked Aunt Ludy if the mail lady was saved.

She said, “I don’t know if she is or not.”

“Well, don’t you think you should find out?” I asked. My boldness usually elicited an equally bold reply.

“No,” she said.

Shocked by her swift and negative response, I tried to create a sense of urgency in her.

“What if she steps onto that elevator, and it crash-lands and kills everyone in it?”

“Well…” she said without finishing her sentence.

I sat dumbfounded by her apparent lack of caring. Then I realized that I was just sitting there, too, with my imagination running wild.

What if the elevator really crashed? What if she really dies? What if she goes to hell because I didn’t witness to her? What if I’m her last chance to hear the Gospel? How can I live with her blood on my hands?

I bolted from my chair and hurried to the elevator.

“Excuse me,” I said, “do you live in this neighborhood or do you just deliver the mail here?”

The mail lady looked at me curiously without responding, so I continued. “I just wanted to invite you to church if you don’t already have a church home.”

She smiled and said, “I do have a church home, but I haven’t been much lately.”

“God surely does miss you,” I said. “Why don’t you go this Sunday? You’re saved aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am…” Her voice trailed off as she lowered her head.

“Then I know God really misses you. Why don’t you talk to Him about it?”

Just then the elevator door opened, and she made a quick exit.

I walked back to the table amazed at my reaction.

“She’s saved,” I said, feeling relieved.

“Good,” Aunt Ludy responded without looking up.

I sat down to look for another piece of the puzzle. But, not willing to let the subject drop, I asked, “Why haven’t you ever talked to her about her salvation?”

Aunt Ludy studied the piece in her hand, reached across the table and firmly snapped the piece into place as she said, “Because I wasn’t the one convicted. You were.”

Wham! Wisdom landed a blow.

God didn’t command me to tell others to witness; God commanded me to witness, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:16).

And Jesus said not to put it off. Don’t procrastinate. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” (John 4:35).

Senior saints have fields wisdom and life lessons ripe for the picking too. And I’m so thankful for the time Aunt Ludy allowed me to glean the fields of her learning.

Rest in peace, Aunt Ludy.

Aunt Ludy memo

The Jordan River Decision

 

 

Don't settle 2

Why settle for an ordinary life when you can live an extraordinary one? After all, the convenient path in life is rarely the most rewarding.

In chapter 22 of the history book of Joshua, God promised Joshua that the 12 tribes of Israel would cross the Jordan River, enter the land of Canaan, and defeat all the enemies they faced. If they settled there, they would enjoy rest on every side. All of God’s promises came true for those who crossed over.

But the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh liked the fertile grazing land east of the Jordan River for their massive herds of cattle. All the tribes had camped there before crossing the river, and the two and a half tribes grew comfortable there. So they promised Joshua they would lead them across the Jordan and into battle to defeat their enemies if he would allow them to return and settle on the east side of the Jordan River as Moses said they could.

After seven years of battle Joshua conceded, “You kept your word to the Lord, to Moses, to me, and, perhaps most importantly, to your brothers in arms…therefore turn and go to your home in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Take good care to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they went to their homes.

On the surface it might appear that the two and a half tribes lived happily ever after. But when we look a little deeper into God’s gift and Moses’ concession, we discover a different result.

God gave the land west of the Jordan River.

Moses gave the land east of the Jordan to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-tribe of Manasseh as a concession for fulfilling their promise to fight with them. There is no record of Moses consulting the Lord about it or receiving His approval.

It was God’s will that all 12 tribes cross-over, claim their inheritance, and settle into a close relationship with Him. Nine and a half tribes were obedient and enjoyed rest on every side.
Two and a half tribes chose not to cross-over. Instead they chose to divide the nation of Israel, abandon the covenant of the Lord, separate themselves from God’s promises, live in a pagan land, and bow down to gods they did not know. In doing so, they invoked the wrath of Almighty God and later were carried away by Assyrian kings, never to be heard from again.

As believers, we face the same Jordan River decision–to cross over or not to cross over–to move forward in God’s will and receive His blessings or retreat to our comfort zones and leave His blessings behind.

God has so much more for us than we can imagine. He doesn’t like for us to distance ourselves from Him. He doesn’t want us to settle for the comfort of what we know. He wants us to step out in faith, trust His plan, and claim all that He has for us. He wants us to lean on His promises of safety, security, and rest and exchange the ordinary life for an extraordinary life with Him. That is the desire of His heart.

 

 

Dragging Dead Weight

Driftwood

Kayaking one morning, I found a piece of driftwood floating in the lake that I thought would look good as a free-form garden sculpture. I could just picture Creeping Jenny crawling all over it.

Hoisting it onto the back of my kayak required strength I didn’t have, so I tied a rope around it to drag it home.

What a lesson that was.

Paddling a straight line is easy by myself. But I struggled with the weight of this big, weird-shaped piece of driftwood in tow. The heaviest two feet of it dragged underwater like an anchor holding me back. I tacked back and forth so much, it was hard to tell if I was making any forward progress at all.

I paddled hard and gave my body a good workout. Then it dawned on me: sometimes life is like dragging dead weight. The burdens we carry get heavy. We may not be able to see the progress we’re making, but we are strengthened in our struggle.

And the burdensome things that slow us down are the things that God will turn into something beautiful…even more beautiful than the garden sculpture I envisioned.

God Will Provide

Knight armor

 

My church family has heard me pray many times, “Thank You, Father, for who You are, and the way You work in our lives.” At the local Super Center, He showed Himself to be my Provider when I took Earl’s car in for an oil change.

After being assured they had the right oil for the change, I left the car to buy groceries during my wait. When I returned, the car wasn’t ready.

“Mrs. Winn, there’s a problem. We don’t have enough of your brand of oil to finish it.”

“And I imagine you’ve already drained all the oil out of my car,” I responded.

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said.

“What are my options now?” I asked hoping he would respond by getting it from his supplier.

Instead, he shrugged, tugged at his shirt, and said, “I dunno.”

When his what-do-I-do-now mode kicked in, he called the manager.

I felt like the cavalry had arrived with a knight in shining armor leading the charge when the manager showed up. It was Jeremy, a friend from church, ready to have his metal tested.

Jeremy didn’t know it was my car in question, and he didn’t see me sitting in the waiting area. He walked straight to the oil changer in a problem-solving mode.

When they began double-checking the stock, I joined them because this was not the first time they had drained my oil without having enough to replace it. The same thing happened a year before, and I had not been back. But in an effort to consolidate my do-list, I opted for the convenience of one-stop-shopping. That attempt to save time cost three hours of waiting.

Not finding my brand of oil on the shelves, Jeremy asked me what I wanted to do.

I began by blubbering, “This is Earl’s car and…”

That’s all I said before Jeremy went into action.

“We’ll take care of it; and I promise you this will never happen again. This is NOT good customer service!”

Jeremy went to his supplier, got the right oil, and gave me a free oil change. But more important for me was Jeremy’s sensing my moment of weakness and taking charge in my behalf. He was in the right place at the right time to bring life to the verses that say, “God will supply all your needs;” and, “Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for Me.”

Situations like this don’t happen by chance. They are arranged. Perhaps to remind me, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Or perhaps to correct a problem in the Super Center’s automotive procedures like, “Check the stock before you drain the oil.”

Or perhaps God was simply testing Jeremy.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that Jeremy was available to be used by God; and in the process, he came through for me in a time of need.

Thank you, Jeremy, for being God’s good and faithful servant.

Knight valor

Ask, Wait, and Watch

Ephesians immeasurably more

Out of all of God’s commands, “ask,” “wait,” and “watch” are the three easiest for me to obey.

I’ve experienced, many times, the blessings and benefits of the One who has the most creative imagination, the ability to sustain all things, and Sovereign power over all that He created. Add His goodness and His desire to give us the desires of our hearts and you might understand how easy it is for me to ask for what I want; wait for His perfect timing; and watch in anticipation of what He’s going to do.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “God’s gifts put man’s dreams to shame.” You’ve probably experienced the truth of that statement in your own life. I have, too.

Recently I had a friend help me open the kitchen window and remove the screen so I could shoot better photos of all the activity in my front garden. My dream was simply to get a clear shot of the flock of rose breasted grosbeaks munching sunflower seeds at my ground feeder. They only come through here each spring so we needed to hurry.

By the time the screen was off, the birds had continued their migration to wherever they go. Little did I know that my disappointment would soon turn to joy.

My new camera with its long zoom lens sat ready for action on the counter by the window when Mama Fox posed on the other side of the street.

Foxes 113

Not knowing what she would do, I followed one of the first rules of outdoor photography: Get the shot! You may not have another chance.

Fox sightings are a regular occurrence around here, but my neighbors had reported seeing a litter of fox pups rolling and romping together in their back yards. I’d seen the mother fox watch us as I walked Jethro several times a day, but I’d not seen the pups. So, in my most pitiful and petulant pre-schooler’s voice, I pouted, “Lord, I want to see the fox pups play!”

Little did I know that God had already ordered immeasurably more for me than I’d asked or imagined.

Look at these untouched photos. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see Mama Fox drinking out of my bird bath. That photo is posted on my facebook page. Or one of her pups on tiptoes imitating Mama Fox…

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Or a fox pup with fresh kill…

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Or action shots like these…

Foxes 073Foxes 082

That afternoon, Mama Fox brought all of her pups into my garden to play. They chased each other back and forth across the street till midnight. My street light allowed me to watch as they ganged up on a skunk and drove it out of the culvert they used as a hiding place. Too bad it didn’t provide enough light to get the shot.

Now, days later, the whole fox family continues to run and chase each other from my garden to the culvert across the street. I’ve shot hundreds of photos that I hadn’t dreamed possible. Some, once-in-a-life-time.

All I did was ask, wait, and watch as God showered me with an abundance of photo ops that far outweighed my desire to see a rose breasted grosbeak eat sunflower seeds. Instead I got to see the pups gobbling up the seeds and drinking out of a pan of water I put down for them.

Fox pups in garden 017Fox pups 039

What an awesome God we serve. He even answers pouty, petulant prayers with immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

What is it that you would like to see? Ask, wait, and watch. God is able to make it happen for you.

Resurrection Witness of Spring

Dianthus

I love spring and always look forward to seeing what will come back for another year in my gardens. This year I discovered plants that I forgot I’d moved; plants that I thought I’d moved and didn’t; and even plants coming up from the seeds of parent plants. All remind me of God’s promise to make all things new.

Teresa, my Georgia golf buddy and budding gardener, sent me the above photo of some dianthus she’d left in a pot in the back of one of her gardens. She commented, “These stayed outside over winter. I thought they were dead…but surprise!”

She also told me she had tossed two more out in the woods after they died. Now, with a full understanding of “perennial,” she scurried into the woods to retrieve them. The plants–still alive– are back in their pots and enjoying a lot more attention now.

That’s the beauty of perennials, isn’t it. They come back from the dead and are enduring, constant, and everlasting.

Jesus promised His disciples He would come back from the dead too, but they didn’t believe Him until they saw Him again either. Over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus and talked with Him. His disciples even ate with Him. They enjoyed His presence for 40 days before He ascended into heaven so He could multiply His presence on earth through the outpouring of His Spirit into the hearts of believers everywhere.

His presence in our lives begins with just a small seed of belief; and like our plants that bloom where they are planted in our gardens, Jesus comes alive and blooms in the garden of our hearts when we plant Him there.

The glorious blooms we see in our gardens now bear witness to the resurrection glory that awaits us in God’s eternal garden. Let’s nurture His seed.

Forgiveness: The Fragrance of Life

forgiveness-fragrance

From the beginning when God created a perfect world and sinless people to walk with Him in His garden, sin entered that perfect world through Adam and Eve’s foolish decision and their resulting disobedience. Hence, our nature to sin has been passed down through every generation.

But God cannot look upon sin, so He sent His Son to this earth to pay the price for our sin and win us back into fellowship with Himself.

That journey to forgiveness began over two thousand years ago when God placed His Holy Seed into the womb of a righteous young virgin named Mary and said His Son would be called Jesus, meaning “Jehovah saves.”

As a youth, Jesus astounded the religious leaders of the day with the depth of His knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. But then again, He should know them. They were inspired by His Father, with whom He’d already spent eternity past.

Finding Himself in human form, Jesus stayed in close personal contact with His Father to follow His will, saying and doing only what His Father told Him to say and do. He was the one and only perfect human being. Without sin. Obedient to death.

Because He was without sin, He paved the way for our sins to be forgiven. His obedient journey on earth led Him to His death on the cross and crying out, “Father forgive them…” and minutes later, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Describing that harrowing moment, Pastor Tony Evans said, “Jesus became sin, severing Himself from the fullness of the intimacy He had always known with His Father. As the sin of the whole world shot through His body, God the Father turned His back on His Son…Jesus endured the distance, the desertion, and the rejection for us.” For us!

Thankfully, our journey to forgiveness isn’t nearly as painful as crucifixion. It only requires a humble heart, a desire to be cleansed of all unrighteousness, and bowing the head or bending the knee. Pretty simple, huh; but mandatory if we want peace in our lives here and on the other side of eternity.

But seeking forgiveness does not come naturally to us. Sinning does. The apostle Paul said, “I do what I don’t want to do, and don’t do what I want to do. What a wretched man am I.”

I know how he feels, don’t you? Thankfully Jesus provided the way to rid ourselves of the burden of sin.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Wow! All we have to do is ask with a sincere heart. When we forgive people who’ve done us wrong, our heavenly Father forgives us of the wrongs we have committed. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. In other words, what goes around comes around. What we send out boomerangs back to us.

During this season of forgiveness, we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus–the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of our sins. So let us also take time to forgive those who have hurt us and to seek forgiveness from those whom we’ve hurt.

That simple act of forgiving will release burdens, rejuvenate friendships, restore our fellowship with God and add the sweet fragrance of peace to our lives.