Is Your Spiritual Life Dormant?

 

Daffodils, gladiolas, and tulips are blooming in full colors, a sign of spring and new life. Their blooms burst out from bulbs that lie dormant during the cold winter months, hiding in the dark ground until the days become warmer and the power of the sun shines in the sky.

Much like the flowering bulbs, many Christians are hiding in the cold ground, lying dormant even though they have the potential to bloom and produce abundant fruit. Instead, there is no sign of new life. They seem frozen in their walks with God, at a standstill. Because of a cold heart towards God and His Word, the Holy Spirit’s power is dormant. Apathy ensues and soon there is little or no sign of life. They wonder why they can’t love others, can’t be patient, have no desire to forgive, don’t have self-control to stop certain actions, or don’t experience peace but instead fear and strife. They just don’t desire the things of God.

Believers in Jesus have been given an inner power, the Holy Spirit, who gives new life which produces spiritual fruit in those who desire to live godly lives. Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit would come to guide and instruct them, giving them the power to obey his commands.

“[God] will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you…He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us new life in our thinking and actions when we come to receive Jesus as Savior:

“the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God…you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his children.”  Romans 8:10, 15

“He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth, and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5

So why are some Christians not experiencing this new life?  Many do not rely on the power given to them by the Holy Spirit, and some walk away from God and his commands to be different from the world. They have gone back to their sinful ways and look no different than the world. Evidently, the Christians in Galatia also had this problem:

You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires…But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. “Galatians 3: 2-3, 5:16, 22-23, 25

There is hope from God’s Word. He says to take action. Don’t make the Holy Spirit sad, but choose to put away the sinful actions that keep us dormant in the cold:

throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception…Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Ephesians 4:22-24, 30

When we as Christians admit that our lives are not fruitful and the Holy Spirit is dormant, we can go to God in prayer. He desires us to ask him to change us.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” James 5:15

Maybe you need to pray right now, asking God to make you alive and fruitful through the Holy Spirit. Ask him to produce the spiritual fruits in your daily life. Then watch for the beautiful blooms as God works and renews your life through the Spirit.

 “When it is a question of God’s almighty Spirit, never say, I can’t.”            Oswald Chambers

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Tell and Proclaim this Christmas!

Turning onto the highway, I saw the large red and yellow letters which covered the entire sides of the semi-truck. You couldn’t miss it – “JESUS”. The back of the truck posted a website for more information about Jesus and God’s love. Not able to grab my phone to take a picture or write down the website, I did smile a big smile, thinking – “Thanks, brother, for announcing to other drivers your love for God’s son, Jesus, and a desire to share him with others as you go about your work traveling on highways. You aren’t afraid of what others will think or say. You just want to proclaim the news of Jesus literally wherever you go”.

The story of Christmas is a story of signs, announcements, proclaiming, and telling. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to tell Mary she would give birth to a son – “you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)

At the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field at night, telling them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then a multitude of heavenly angels began to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

The shepherds then went to look for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Upon finding baby Jesus, they “…told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.” (Luke 2:17-18)

Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated as Jewish law required. While there, Simeon, a prophet saw baby Jesus and began praising God proclaiming:

“’I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations’… Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said.” (Luke 2:30-33)

At that same time, Anna, a widow and prophetess also began to praise God and “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

This Christmas song reminds us that this season especially is the time for all who know and have “seen” Jesus’ work of love and forgiveness in their lives to proclaim, to tell, to announce:

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born

Are you telling?  Are you proclaiming the message of Jesus- God’s salvation “prepared for all people”- to others? Painted on a truck, shared with a neighbor, told to a co-worker, written in a Christmas card, introduced to a foreigner in your city, and talked about in your home with children, parents, aunts and uncles?

Or maybe like the shepherds, you have been told the message of Jesus every Christmas but instead of seeking him you are skeptical of the announcement, not leaving your “field” to find him. This year, go, seek and find Jesus.  For he said, “seek, and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Join with the angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna praising God for Jesus, who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:79), and make telling and proclaiming your celebration of Christmas.

 

Finding Beauty in Your Season of Life

My eyes can’t get enough of their beauty; if I could only capture it in my mind before winter comes. Yellow, red, and gold autumn leaves have come to the mountains, but they stay only a short time. Seasons come and go; things never stay the same. But there is always beauty in the changes. We may have to look for it though and always remember it.

In the past few months our family has gone through seasons of change. The ending of the season of college years with a graduation and the beginning of a new season with a wonderful new family member through our son’s wedding. Now I move on after the celebrations and joyous memories are tucked away into photo albums.

Our lives are all full of changing seasons – new jobs, new friends, and new locations. Yet, other seasons may bring loss of a job, people, or even our home. Some seasons seem to last forever feeling stuck applying for jobs, taking care of children or a sick family member, or longing to be married instead of single. As a nation, we are going through a season of leadership changes that may affect our very lives and families. During these times, we feel like we are riding an emotional roller coaster. Joy, fear, grief, sadness, happiness, anger, peace and excitement grip our hearts.

Thankfully, each season has its own beauty, even in the darkest suffering. That beauty lies in God, the Designer and Master of all seasons – “He changes times and seasons…” Daniel 2:21. Yet, HE is NEVER changing. He does not change with the seasons but orchestrates them remaining in control and at peace.

“God who is enthroned from of old, who does not change…” Psalm 55:19

“I the LORD do not change…” Malachi 3:6

King Solomon, one of the wisest kings in history understood seasons of life:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace… He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

God has made everything beautiful. Everything! How? Because He is God and He is good. He is in control of time, circumstances, kings and kingdoms.

God is All-Knowing, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.” Hebrews 4:13

God is All-Powerful, “All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases…among the people of the earth. No one can stop him…” Daniel 4:35

God is Love and is Faithful, “Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens, your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.” Psalm 36:5

God is Good, “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” Psalm 145:9

God is Sovereign, “He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; He alone is God.” 1 Timothy 1:17

God is Holy, “No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

Every season comes from God for a purpose – to accept His salvation personally through His Son Jesus, to trust His word, to make Him a refuge, to rejoice in Him, to grow in faith, or to be quiet and enjoy His presence.

Do you see the beauty in your season? Look. God is there with you and will make “everything beautiful in its time”. You can trust in His loving plans and abide in His love. Through the seasons He produces beautiful fruit through our lives as believers for His glory. What fruit do you see?

 

 

Our Vocation

times-square

Around the world this morning, people woke up to the sun rising in large cities and the countryside. People from all countries and languages began their new day. Business people opened storefronts, farmers went to the fields and parents helped children pack their books for school. In every season of life, most people have a job – a vocation, a purpose to make a living and to live in this world. Others may be looking for that job, that next step to working in this world.

God created work in the Garden of Eden and work is good. We can glorify God in our work no matter what we do. The farmer provides food for others, the doctor provides healing for the sick, the teacher gives knowledge and a love for learning, the businessman provides work for his employees, and mothers and fathers work at home to take care of little children.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, what is our true “job” besides the need for work to provide food and clothing for our families?  Is our identity in our earthly job or in our heavenly purpose?  Who and what identifies us? When people ask us, “what do you do?”, what should we answer? What is our true vocation?

In The Valley of Vison, a devotional book of Puritan prayers, one prayer called, “Vocation” is a reminder of who we are in our true “vocation” for Christ:

Heavenly Father,  Thou hast placed me in the church which thy Son purchased by his own blood.

Add grace to grace that I may live worthy of my vocation...

 

 I am a tree of the vineyard thou hast planted.

Grant me not to be barren, with worthless leaves and wild grapes;

Prune me of useless branches; water me with dews of blessing.

I am part of the Lamb’s bride, the church.

Help me to be true, faithful, chaste, loving, pure, devoted;…

 

May I live high above a love of temporal things, sanctified, cleansed, unblemished, hallowed by grace,

Thy love my fullness,

Thy glory my joy,

Thy precepts my pathway,

Thy cross my resting place…

Today, no matter what your job is whether you are working or looking for work as a Christian, your “vocation” is to be a light to the world wherever God has placed you in His vineyard. Through His blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit given to us who believe we can bear fruit that the world knows nothing about. We can love others, have supernatural peace and joy in our circumstances, show acts of kindness and goodness, be an example to the world of faithfulness in our commitments and discipline and self-control in our speech and affections.

God is glad to give us work but ultimately desires us to give Him the glory in whatever we do. As you work today, meeting deadlines, managing finances, communicating with others, serving others with “mundane” tasks, desks piled high with papers or a field ready to harvest, remember your vocation as a believer in Jesus. He is your vocation as you work in this world!

 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

 

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Colossians 3:23

 

“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:11

 

Silence and Trust is Your Strength

Living in an area that offers rest in the mountains, quite often people are instead attracted to the many activities and tourism. Even though surrounded by the quiet beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some don’t know how to enjoy the silence. They have become too accustomed to noise and busyness.

These past few months have been a time of silence and quiet from blogging and writing so that I can read God’s word, pray and renew my mind. From these times of silence, quiet trust, and prayer God renews my strength to help others and minister to their needs. Silently reading and meditating on God’s word and listening in prayer, I have the words to speak and write for others. In our American culture of busyness and noise, even in the church, this spiritual discipline is rarely honored in the Christian community.  In fact, we “glorify” being busy.  We rarely seek silence before God. Instead we seek our own ways, asking God’s “blessings” on our plans instead of first going to Him in silence, listening to His instructions and gaining His strength.

Often a recurring problem among God’s people, centuries ago, the Israelites decided not to listen to the Lord either, wanting to go their own way, as “children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord.” (Isaiah 30:9) They decided to seek someone else’s help and guidance in Egypt. They didn’t want to hear from God – they had their own plans, thank you. Yet, even in their disobedience against God to listen, He wanted them to come back and rest in Him:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

It is our silence and trust in God that give us the strength and words to minister to others in this hurting world. We are too quick to make our plans and not stop to be silent and pray. Too many Christians, even those in ministry, are following their own ways, and the influence of others’ worldly knowledge instead of seeking God’s instructions in silence and prayer. God could say to them as He told the Israelites, “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances that are not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.” (Isaiah 30:1. NLT)

In his book, The Way of the Heart, author, Henri Nouwen talks about the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer. Nouwen says:

“A word that bears fruit is a word that emerges from the silence…from it we speak to those in need. Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer…The literal translation of the words ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest’…It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense struggle.”

In the quiet clinging to God in prayer, we grow in our strength. The deep roots of the tree grow in silence but its strength is shown through withstanding the power of the wind and storms.

Can we just stop for a few minutes or even an hour? And dare I say, even perhaps not attend another Christian meeting or event before we have spent silent time with God, listening to His instructions? Can we turn off the noise around us, put down the tourist guide, and get away so our strength is renewed? You never know what you might hear God say to you in His word and through prayer.

“He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30: 19, 21, NLT

 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him,” Psalm 62:5

 

Fruits of Worship

Their vast beauty is amazing, in every season of the year. Row after row of blue hues, smoky clouds and waterfalls, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina are one of the most visited locations in the U.S.  Living not too far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, my husband and I took a drive last weekend to be awed at God’s creative beauty. While speechlessly gazing into the distance, another car filled with girls stopped at the overlook. They sat in the car taking selfies, seemingly not noticing the mountains right next to them, only admiring their personal beauty instead.

Too many today are consumed with self, the god they worship. In conversations they boast about themselves, their possessions, their skills and accomplishments and their looks while paying no attention to others. Great amounts of money are spent on shining their idol, keeping its outward appearance glowing. If someone seeks to destroy their idol, they lash out, mock, and hate others. The idol is never satisfied and needs constant attention and maintenance. Eventually, in utter exhaustion these people lose hope. As the idol crumbles so do they. And the results: Those who have “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…are filled with envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:25, 29-31)

However, the great Creator God, the Almighty One “who is worthy of eternal praise.” (Romans 1:25), has the power, love and forgiveness to free others from this self-love and its results. When God said, “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3), He was protecting us. He knew the results and wanted us to instead know His love and not hatred – “I lavish unfailing love…on those who love me.” (Exodus 1:6).

God spoke, “I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and sorry for their sins. I will give new life to those who are humble in spirit. I will give new life to those who are sorry for their sins.” (Isaiah 57:15)

The fruits of worshiping God as the only true God, is life not death, hope not despair. When we smash our selfish idols and run to Him alone, through His son Jesus Christ, He produces His holiness in our lives. His Holy Spirit produces the fruits of love for others, joy in the midst of sorrows, peace in all circumstances, patience with Him and others, kindness toward those who are hateful, goodness in character, faithfulness in keeping our promises, gentleness instead of strife and self-control in our thinking and actions.

Who are you worshiping today? Are you satisfied with the results? Are you willing to throw down the selfie stick and instead raise up God as your only god, who will in turn lavish his love on you?

It’s time to praise God, the Almighty Creator whose beauty reveals himself to us – even in places like the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

 

Withering But Awakened to New Life

rose bud

A bright yellow bud is finally appearing on the rose bush. After clearing a bank of weeds and dead plants in front of our house, I needed to fill it with other plants, so I went to our local garden shop. I always look in the back for plants that are half dead, the ones that no one wants but are ridiculously inexpensive, and I found a few plants plus an unrecognizable “Royal Golden” rose bush.

Taking them home, I took special care to plant the rose bush where it would get a lot of sun. Green started showing on the bush but no rose. Finally last week, nearing the end of summer, I saw a beautiful yellow bud on one end of a green stem. I just wanted to see one rose before the end of summer. A sigh of relief and joy, I was glad it was true to its name on the tag – a “Royal Golden” Rose. If there were no roses on the bush it would just be another green plant with thorns. I would have to throw it away because a rose defines a rose bush.

Like the shriveled up rose bush, many people who call themselves Christian don’t have fruit that looks like Christ at all. Their thoughts, actions, and speech are nothing like Jesus, even though the “tag” says “Christian”. There is little or no fruit in their lives, no buds on the branches. Just a green plant with thorns. From years of not talking with God, not reading His word, and not fellowshipping with other believers they have withered. And they need new life. The soil has become dry. Maybe just living in a sinful world, they have allowed themselves to become bitter, discouraged or apathetic by hurt and rejection. They just quit and no longer trust God and His nourishment for their lives.

Yet God sees them and wants to renew their lives, to bring fruit to the unrecognizable branches. God is extremely patient and longs for those who know His love and forgiveness to return to Him and be renewed. God wants those who know Him to abide with Him and seek Him. Then He will produce fruit, rose buds in their lives.

God shared this message with His people centuries ago through Hosea:

“…stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Hosea 14:8

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”  Hosea 6:3

God cares for those who know Him. He produces the fruit as we love only Him and not the idols in our lives. He wants to shower His rain into our hardened dry hearts. He says:

“Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD.” Zech 1:3

Right now there are too many defeated, apathetic, and lifeless believers in Jesus who need to return to their God. Seeing God work in my own life, just like the rose bush, I wrote a book to encourage others, Christians and non-Christians, to seek God and let Him renew their lives. Wake Up! Return to God will be out on Amazon in a few weeks. God always longs for His people to return to Him and be made whole, to live fruitful lives that reflect His glory to the world. As we seek God and only Him in our daily lives, He alone can create a vibrant life, full of hope, joy, peace and goodness. He gives us a life full of abundant rose buds bursting into radiant fragrant roses.

Are you like the rose bush in the corner needful of new fresh blossoms, a restored relationship to the Creator who loves you and wants to care for you? Go to Him, He knows exactly what to do and will plant you in such fertile soil you will be amazed at the abundant fruit in your life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and a witness of Jesus in your life.