Within the Bud

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Within the Bud

by Patricia Knight

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Flower buds are a mystery.  Within their protective sheath resides concealed potential; invisible flower power packed into a compact package, prepared to explode with new life and beauty at the opportune moment.  Until the swollen bud unfurls tight petals to reveal its inner features, we can only speculate about its impending characteristics of size, color, and fragrance.

Similar to a confined, insipid flower bud, our Christian capabilities were once concealed beneath an exterior layer of unbelief.  When we humbly accepted Christ’s forgiveness and redeeming grace, we became a new creation.  We “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).  Our hearts jubilantly responded like a newly exposed flower bud, revealing a thriving uniqueness, shining brightly with the light of Jesus, and salting the world with the intense fragrance of His goodness and love.  No longer held captive by an inexorable bud with no expression of beauty or power, we magnified Christ as we learned to spiritually bloom where we were planted.

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Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

A branch out of contact with the vine is deprived of life, just as a flower bud’s vital resources are terminated when it is severed from the parent plant.  Only when we are anchored to our sovereign Source of energy does our life consistently exhibit loveliness and value.

We become a catalyst to God’s love under the nourishment of the Son, flourishing with the strength He supplies.  As a flower bud opens from the center to reveal a delightful bloom, our hearts display the central focus of our spiritual life, where Jesus’ love grows and disperses joy.

Though the flower bud maintains a blind physical attachment to the parent plant, we express free will, nurturing trust and following our Lord with eager obedience.  “Those who look to him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5) with joy as we align ourselves with our Savior, leading a “thy will be done” walk with Jesus.

God surrounds us with myriad expressions of His presence in nature.  If we seek to appreciate the proliferation of His creation, we learn more about our personal relationship to our Lord.  Just as the flower bud’s true potential is revealed as its protective exterior sheath peels away to unfold an extraordinary flower within, Christ living in our hearts promises a unique positional status as a child of the King and heir with the Son of God for all eternity.

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Bloom with confident obedience! —Patricia Knight

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God’s Final Verdict and Vindication of Job

I receive Moody Bible Institute’s “Today in the Word” daily devotional booklets every month. This month’s booklet was titled “Job: Faith, Humility, and Worship.” Although I’ve studied the Book of Job several times, this devotional study has been by far the best. Please visit Today in the Word to subscribe to the email version of their daily devotionals, or to the booklet version which is delivered by snail mail.

God’s Final Verdict and Vindication of Job

Read Job 42:7–9

You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.
Job 42:8

Christian musician and author Michael Card wrote a series of songs entitled the “Job Suite.” In one song, Job laments, “These friends of mine are no comfort to me / So deafly they listen, so blindly they see / Their words and their doctrine, they all sound so true / The problem is, Lord, they’re all wrong about You!” 

In today’s verses, God emphatically agreed with Job. Two verses in a row, He said to the friends, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (vv. 7–8). Job had believed God would vindicate him, and He did! God as Judge rendered His verdict, finding in favor of Job, who was indeed innocent, and against the three friends. They had behaved so badly, in fact, that they were required to offer substantial sacrifices publicly confessing the sinfulness of their speeches. In addition, in a perfect example of poetic justice, their former target Job offered intercessory prayer for them in order to obtain God’s forgiveness. 

Though Job and his foolish friends were unaware of the behind-the-scenes drama in the heavenly throne room, God’s verdict also sealed the case against Satan. Job had passed Satan’s test, as God knew he would. He had held onto faith in God, despite personal suffering and the stripping away of his secondary blessings. By contrast, the upside-down theology of the friends valued God’s blessings above God Himself. They were thus guilty of Satan’s accusation (1:9–11); ironically, given their claims to speak for God, they had often represented Satan’s perspective during the debate. 

Job had spoken rightly about God. The Lord is no clockwork mechanism of retributive justice, as envisioned by the friends. He is personally involved, He cares about us, and His plans reflect these truths despite our failure to understand. Even for the friends—who by their own rules deserved punishment—God made a way for them to be reconciled to Himself.

Apply the Word

Listening to Michael Card’s “Job Suite” would be an excellent way to review and meditate on the book of Job and our month’s study. This 10-minute biblically focused composition was originally on his album The Way of Wisdom, which itself was the second in a trilogy of albums about the Old Testament. It has since also appeared on another album, An Invitation to Awe.


Beloved, this is one of the songs on Michael Card’s “Job Suite” album mentioned above, a video (with lyrics). It is definitely worth the 10 minutes to watch and listen.

 

 

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I Will Glorify Your Name Forevermore

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The Lord’s Compassion

Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Long-suffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.

Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Devotional

Sometimes it is difficult to get our hearts around the truth that no matter what our circumstances may be, God is worthy of our praise. No matter what we may be going through, whether good or bad, prospering or experiencing adversity, there is great comfort in knowing that God is the same, unchanging and ever present. He is a loving, kind, helpful, giving, and forgiving God. He uses everything that comes into our lives to shape us to look, sound, and act more like Jesus. He truly works all things for our good and His glory. That is called compassion.

Compassion is recognizing the suffering of others and then taking action to help. Because God is sovereign, He knows all things. He knows of our storms and victories, our hurts and fears, and He searches our hearts and knows exactly where we are in our faith journey. He is willing to help us in and through our times of suffering. However, for us to fully comprehend His great compassion, there are some things we must remember.

We must be teachable (v. 11). There is something to be learned through every trial we face. God wants us to look to Him, listen to Him, and live in such a way that honors Him.

We must praise Him for His compassion (v. 13). We recognize where He has brought us from and what He is doing in our lives. This results in worship.

We must share our hearts with Him (vv. 14,17). We are to be transparent, because He loves us and cares about what we are experiencing.

We must depend on Him (vv. 15-16) and ask God to see us through our trials. When we confess our trust in and dependence on Him for help and comfort, He provides us with the strength we need.

—Dr. Lee Sheppard, Mabel White Baptist Church, Macon GA

© Copyright 2013. God’s Wisdom for Today: My Daily Scripture Devotional , by Thomas Nelson

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Godliness + Contentment

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Godliness + Contentment

By Patricia Knight

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We could list the aspects of our lives that have changed due to the invasion of adversity, but that exercise would not change our circumstances. Instead of stressing the negative, why not accentuate the positive? List the gains rather than the losses. Reflect on the people you’ve met, the introspection you’ve gained, the spiritual strength and dependency that has grown, the patience learned, and the ability to mature in your faith.

If we are able to combine our faith with personal well-being, then improvement or enrichment will result. We have learned the secret for peace of mind. Following God, no matter what occurs in our lives, believing that whatever He chooses is best for us, and telling others about God’s goodness and grace, will all contribute toward our personal and spiritual riches.

1Thes5-18-HandSilhouetteSunset-35--AMPAs difficult as it may seem, we can develop a greater dependency upon our Lord even during afflictions. Therefore, we can go forward to accomplish whatever God asks us to do for Him, not in spite of pain, but because of it. We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thessalonians 5:18). The thankfulness we express is not an appreciation for leading a restricted, hurtful life, but rather it is a means of recognizing and showing gratitude for God’s sovereign leadership in our lives. Whatever He plans for us is perfect in its design and timing. 

Learning patience and perseverance produces a stronger faith. We learn those attributes by practicing them. Our hardship gives us reason to develop positive and useful emotional tools—those with which we can reach out to others in their time of need.  Christian maturity will follow.

When God has something to teach us, He may set us aside in order to instruct us in life’s lessons. The experience we gain will be invaluable in serving a loving, faithful God and others.

“Godliness + contentment = great gain”
is a method of expressing the verse as a formula for life.
It defines a spiritual goal for us—
one that God honors.

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7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer

 This is a wonderful blog post about prayer by Ron Edmondson.

7 Thoughts for
More Effective Prayer
from a Stressed Out Leader
Named Hezekiah

By Ron Edmondson – March 21, 2015

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, made plans to overthrow Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan.

He went before the Lord in prayer – and – he followed the Lord’s commands.

Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared Hezekiah’s people.

Hezekiah heard about the threat and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be okay, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up their verbal assaults. They kept taunting the kingdom of Hezekiah, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. Finally, they sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, which basically said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

It was a credible, realistic threat. In a practical sense, Hezekiah had reason to be afraid.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner as a leader and you’re about to face something bigger than your ability to handle?

Read the rest here.

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I Wonder – Followup

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Last week I was looking back at some of my first posts, back in 2011. My second post was titled “I Wonder…” When I read it again, I was struck by how much has happened and yet stayed the same since then. Hmm… isn’t that considered a paradox?

This is what I wrote then.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the deeper meaning of life. I mean, what if this is all there is?

I read this earlier today:

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see! Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and Master, He will “surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).”

Now, I have to start by saying that I do try to see God in everything, but I’m not really sure about that “calm and color everything I see” stuff. When I live with yet another migraine (and this current one has lasted almost all week), hear about helpless hurting children, view photos depicting yet another flood or earthquake, read about another tax hike-pay cut-employee cutback-home foreclosure, or simply stand by the side of a close friend struggling just to make ends meet, I ask myself again: what is life really all about? Are we simply here to suffer through life’s challenges and then die? Or is there something more?

We all have a yearning to know the reasons behind our circumstances—that desire to justify the bad things that happen to us. If we seek to do what is right, help others who are in need, and are very careful to not hurt anyone or anything, why must we still suffer?

I don’t have the answers, although I know Who does. Stay tuned…

Fast forward 4 years to where I now am physically.

Every day is a new adventure in pain. I still live with several chronic pain illnesses: Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and chronic migraines. CFIDS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Some people with FMS or CFS/CFIDS/ME get better over time. Others get worse, and I’m in this group. Add to this that my migraines now assault me daily. We live at a 5500 foot elevation, and my doctor told me once that she believes my body never has adjusted to living in a high elevation area, even though we’ve been here for almost eleven years.

Every prescription medication I’ve tried for any of these illnesses has either not worked for me or caused huge side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic or massage only work as long as it takes to administer the therapy. Several years ago I used to work out several times a week, until I realized that exercising through my pain was causing even worse migraines.

Does this get me down? My feelings try to make me feel frustrated and helpless about all of this. But read on to find out the one Reason I can grab hold of those feelings before they take over.

This leads to what’s going on now with me spiritually.

I am more convinced than ever that God is with me every single day. My true hope is in Jesus Christ and this is what carries me through each day. On days like today when I’m going through yet another FMS/CFS flare and everything I do causes even more pain, migraines and nausea, I struggle with all of this.

Not the why of it, because I know everything in my life is part of God’s plan for me. It’s the persistence … the everydayness of it … that is wearying. 

These days, my life is a very delicate balance. I need to weigh everything. If I want to do something as simple as the laundry, I need to allow for rest time before as well as afterward. And most times there is payback after the activity even if I have rested well beforehand. It is very frustrating.

In spite of all that, there persists in me a joyful hope that never fails to uplift my heart. I know without a doubt that God is always with me throughout all of it. And if anyone can truly understand my pain, it is Jesus. He not only understands it, He holds me close in His arms and comforts me when I am in pain and feel discouraged. He is my God of hope. He helps me cling to that hope, which turns my frustration and weariness into joy and peace.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Beloved, please remember that if we completely place our trust in God, He will fill us with hope, joy and peace. The more we trust in Him, the more He supplies all the hope, joy and peace we need every single day.

Hope in God is saying “no” to fear or discouragement, and by so doing, saying “yes” to something that will satisfy much more down the line. Wait on God, believing that what God has planned is so much better that what we grab for ourselves! —Joni Eareckson Tada

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How to Be Content

Have you wondered how it is possible to be content in this chaotic, sin-sick world? This is a wonderful piece by Sam Storms. Please visit his Enjoying God blog to read more great articles.

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The Secret of Spiritual Contentment

By Sam Storms

What could the Apostle Paul possibly mean when he says that he has “learned” to be “content” in whatever circumstance or situation he’s in? Here is what he writes:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:10-13).

Key verse from this article:

The issue for us all is resting and rejoicing in Jesus to such an extent that neither poverty nor prosperity has any affect on us, whether for good or ill.

Read the rest here.

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National Day of Prayer 2015

Please pray for our nation!

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Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant
is praying in your presence this day.
—1 Kings 8:28

Please pray along with me:

Heavenly Father, our nation has strayed so far from our Christian roots. We seem to have forgotten that kingship belongs to You alone. You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and deserve all of our worship and praise.

Please forgive us for all the times we have not first looked to You for guidance in everything we say and do. Forgive our country for the willful disregard and hatred of You and all You are to us, for not trusting You enough, for not believing completely in the saving grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please renew the faith of those who love You and glorify You as we watch and pray for a nation in the midst of tremendous turmoil.

Father, we love You, although we don’t always show it. And though we don’t deserve it, please don’t abandon this country. We plead with you to turn the unbelieving and untrusting hearts of a nation intent on setting standards that go completely against Your will for us, into a country that once again seeks to follow Your ways. Please protect those who love You, and keep us close to You.

Amen.

All the ends of the earth shall remember    
and turn to the Lord,    
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.   
For kingship belongs to the Lord,   
and he rules over the nations.
—Psalm 22:27-28

 

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