Tuesday, May 03, 2016

making the promises personal // a declaration

"The soul prospers when we are full of the Scriptures and of the grace of Christ." (Matthew Henry) 

today i am simply thankful for the promises in God's Word, and that they apply to me. i can read my bible and make each promise personal, because the God i serve is a personal God who desires a personal relationship with me. it is true - 

"I am loved by God and nothing, no height or depth, could separate me from that love. 

Because of God's sacrifice of love, I am no longer a slave but a son. I am at peace with God in every way. He broke the bars of my heavy yoke and I am in right standing with Him. Now my yoke is easy and light and I approach him boldly.

What the law couldn’t do, God did and because of that, I can’t be condemned! He has washed me clean and freed me from the laws of sin and death. It is not I who now live, but Christ who lives in me.

As the Spirit dwells within me, he directs my steps and fills my mind with life and peace that surpasses all understanding. I don't have a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind. As I walk, I know that I am far from oppression and fear won't come near me because God has given me hope as a firm and secure anchor for my soul.

By the stripes of Jesus, I have been redeemed from the curse of sin and all sickness. I am forgiven of my sins, kept safe from secret traps, healed of all diseases, and am protected from all harm and evil.

Because I seek God first, food, clothes, shelter, and everything I need are added to me. I am complete in Him and content in any situation I find myself because I, like Paul, know a secret: I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength.

Because I am submitted to God, the devil has to flee from me! Gods faithfulness is my shield. He is my glory, my strength, and the lifter of my head. He sets my feet on high places. his steadfast love preserves my spirit.

I won't fear what the night brings, or daytime assaults. Thousands can fall all around me, but it won't come near me. Even when I'm hard pressed I'm never crushed. The favor of God surrounds me like a shield and he is with me as he was with Moses.

His Word and His Spirit always comfort me. And in every weak moment the Spirit is helping me. By his light I walk through darkness. No weapon formed against me will work. I’m like a tree planted by rivers of water, everything I do prospers. His power is at work in me and he does immeasurably more for me than I even think to ask.

God goes before me making crooked places straight and opening doors that no man can shut. He busies himself with my every step.

I am precious to God. I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith, and overflowing with gratitude. He has made me the head and not the tail; He has set me above and not beneath. But I don’t just talk, I live an empowered Holy Spirit driven life, I have overcome and am much more than a conqueror.

I am God's person and he planned things a long time ago for me to do! For this reason, I break up with the past and run forward, like I'm after a prize. But really, I consider anything I might gain garbage compared to the great great worth of being loved by him and knowing Him.

And because I know Him, I will be strong and I will do great exploits."

-Declaration of God's Promises, Church Eleven32

It is not enough to have a Bible on the shelf—it is infinitely better to have its truths stored up within your soul. It is a good thing to carry your Testament in your pocket—it is far better to carry its message in your heart. ...There is no book that has so much power over us if we will but give ourselves up to it! (C.H. Spurgeon)


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

my mom's tree // #fruitgoals

my parents moved in to their home, a historical landmark on the Gulf coast of Texas, about eleven years ago. one spring, my mom says she noticed a tree on the side of the house was blooming tiny flowers that resembled that of a fruit tree. every day when she went to hang linens on the clothes line, she watched the tree blossom. sure enough, it soon had pretty little green limes growing on it's branches! my mom says she was so excited to have a lime tree! she eagerly picked some from the tree and garnished key lime pies and margaritas all fancy.

as spring turned to summer, the limes multiplied and my mom noticed they were turning yellow. she wondered were the limes going bad? over-ripe? or could it be that they are actually lemons? my mom laughed at the mysterious fruit tree, excitedly plucked some of the most yellow fruit from the branches, and made fresh lemonade.

you won't believe what happened next. those big yellow lemons got bigger and bigger until finally they were a pretty shade of orange and the branches could no longer hold the weight of them. big orange fruit littered the ground underneath the tree. my mom wondered again- were the lemons over-ripe? or could it be that they are actually oranges? she happily gathered up the orange fruit, peeled it, sliced it, and served it in fruit salad.

in the span of a few months, that little tree on the side of her house gave her limes, lemons, and oranges that year. was it a lime tree? a lemon tree? or an orange tree? all caught in an incomplete state of growth? the humid coastal air and salty soil creates a unique atmosphere for flora to thrive and grow in ways very different than it does inland. but we all know there's no way can that one tree produce all three fruits.

now, after eleven years of watching that tree grow and produce fruit each year, my mom has discovered it is, in fact, a lemon tree. the tiny green fruits that first grow look like limes, but are bitter, acidic, under-ripe lemons. and when they are over-ripe, they turn orange and are soggy rotten inside. when they're yellow, though, they are perfectly ripe lemons- juicy, tangy, and a little bit sweet. and now that my mom knows it's a lemon tree, she knows to wait for the yellow to harvest.

i read Luke 6 recently and when i got to the part about trees and fruit i thought of my mom and the tree that gave her all kinds of fruit.

"A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes." (Luke 6:43)

limes are never gathered from lemon trees. oranges are not picked from lemon trees. under-ripe lemons look like limes and taste bitter and acidic. the lemons aren't ready yet. they aren't to their full maturity. they need more sunlight, more water, more time for growth. but keep reading. Jesus isn't just talking trees and fruit. he's being metaphoric here, and per usual, he brings it home and makes it about us: 

"A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45)
if we are like trees, our words and our actions are like the fruit Jesus is talking about. just as good fruit comes from a good tree, good thoughts, good words, good deeds, are the product of a good heart. and an evil or rotten heart produces evil things, or rotten fruit. 

in any given circumstance, our first thoughts and words are like under-ripe fruit. most of the time, our initial thought-reactions to situations are underdeveloped and immature. like the tiny green fruit that was bitter and acidic, our thoughts and words can be judgmental, harsh, and selfish. they need more light (Jesus), more time to grow (patience), and to cultivate (prayer). we're called to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and be slow to speak (James 1:19), to give our fruit - our thoughts and words - time to ripen, mature, and develop healthily.

i have seen this fruit ripening process in action during my time serving on the Declare team. in planning the event, if an idea is proposed, instead of acting on it or making a decision in haste, even when we're on a tight deadline, even if it is a super great idea, someone always says LET'S PRAY ABOUT IT FIRST. let's make certain that this idea lines up with God's plan for the event. it is amazing AMAZING to witness the Lord bless that obedience time and time again. imagine if we did that with every single thought/idea that came into our heads in every aspect of life! wow. 

my mom didn't know what kind of fruit her tree would produce because she didn't plant it - it was already there when they moved into their house. but we can be certain of the kind of thoughts, words, and actions we will produce by planting the right seed. Luke 8 tells us that the Word of God is a seed we can plant in the good soil of our heart.

"the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest." (Luke 8:15)

i want to be the kind of tree that produces good fruit, like the juicy lemons my mom gets every spring. so i plant the Word of God in my heart as often as i can, reading and studying His promises, singing His praises, and growing closer to the Lord every day. 

(you know what i think is a bad seed? the news. gossip. controversial conversations. teaching from false prophets. slander. negative self-talk. that stuff takes root in our hearts and produces fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, deception, comparison, and sadness.)

Lord, prune anything in my heart that isn't pleasing to you! i want to be careful not to speak too soon, to line my thoughts up with the Word, and to speak words that are life-giving and helpful. when you meet me, i want you to know with certainty what kind of tree i am by the kind of fruit i bear. not the immature green fruit, and not the rotting orange fruit, but the beautifully ripe yellow fruit.