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Friday, May 10, 2013

God: “I love you.”

            She hugged the card to her chest, covering it up to keep anyone from seeing it.  It was a special card she had made for her mother and she wanted it to be a surprise.  So, I looked around, found some purple construction paper and we made a special envelope for her to put the card in.  She was so happy!  Now she could give her mom her special love letter.
            Love letters are special to make and special to receive.  That someone would take the time to write words of love carries deep meaning.  When I went to Ethiopia for the first time I made Pam a series of love letters for each day I was gone.  I made a set for the kids as well.  I wanted them to remember me!  And I wanted them to remember that I loved them and cared for them.
            Some have said the Bible is God’s love letter to those he cares deeply about.  We may read some of its content and think, “That’s a weird thing to say in a love letter!”  Yet, through the words of scripture we begin to see God’s heart and hear God’s voice.  It helps us understand God, know him personally and recognize his plan for us.
            The book of Malachi is truly a letter of love to the people God has chosen.  The very first thing God says is “I have loved you.”  God’s love isn’t sentimental though.  God’s love is based on a promise that he will never break.  That is the essence of covenant love – a promise held intact by the character of God.
            When it comes to experiencing God’s love, many times we can be like the people of Israel who responded to God’s declaration of love by asking, “How have you loved us?”  Have you ever felt that way?  You may not have said it but you thought it.  In the middle of a difficult time, when all seemed dark, you are wondering “Where is God?”
            The book of Malachi reminds us one of the evidences of God’s love for us is his sustaining grace.  Yes, you are taking many blows.  Yes, life is very hard.  Yes, you have many questions.  And you are still standing.  That is God’s grace.  That is evidence of his love for you.
            So no matter what you are going through right now, remember God’s covenant of love to you.  God always keeps his promises and he will never leave you.  He loves you.


My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8, ESV)
“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Life-Giving Stories - The Story of the Soils

In my garage is a 1929 Model A that has been in our family since it was brand new.  My Grandfather purchased it in January of 1929 and drove it until it wouldn’t go anymore.  He was a man of the earth, running a business that had a florists shop and huge greenhouses where he grew wonderful plants.  Every Christmas one of those greenhouses would be filled with beautiful red poinsettias that he had grown.  He was a master.
            One of the things that Grandpa Sam understood was if you are going to grow great plants, you must have great soil.  So, every year he would hitch a trailer to the Model A, drive up into the hills of Idaho where the best dirt was and replace about 15 tons of dirt in his greenhouses.  Every year.  Trailer full by trailer full.  As a kid I remember the planting shed where Grandpa Sam made his special dirt mixture that smelled so rich and earthy.  If dirt can be beautiful, Grandpa Sam knew how to make beautiful dirt.  And that beautiful dirt produced beautiful flowers and vegetables.
            Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Jesus’ parable of the soils.  (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8)  In his story he identifies the different soils that seed falls upon and what happens.  There is hard soil where nothing grows, there is shallow soil that can’t sustain growth, there is contaminated soil, full of weeds that block out the good stuff and then there is good soil that produces a beautiful, rich, plentiful harvest.
            When Jesus explains his story to the disciples, he makes it clear that the soils represent the lives of people.  The seed that is sown are the words of God and, in particular, the teachings of Jesus.  The point of Jesus’ story is what happens in our life is a result of the type of soil of our life.  If you resist God’s truth, it won’t take root.  If you are shallow in your interest in truth, something might come up but it will quickly die.  If you contaminate your life with worry and things, it will kill your faith.  But, if you carefully open up the soil of your life, God’s truth will take root and put down deep roots that will bring change.
            The key way we have good soil is purposefully obeying what we hear from Jesus.  There is an old song of worship that goes like this – “Trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  Do you trust and obey?
            There are two motivations for obedience.  The most common is fear.  I obey the speed limit because I fear the CHP Officer’s ticket book and the pain it would bring my life!  Obedience because of fear doesn’t transform us, it just contains us such that, once that constraint is no longer a threat we do whatever we want.
            The other motivation for obedience is love.  I love my parents and want to please them so I live a life of obedience to them.  I love my wife so I obey her desires and wishes knowing it will bring a blessing to her and me.  I love God so I choose to obey his words because I want to honor him and please him.  Obedience fertilizes and tills the soil of our heart so God’s truth can take deep root in our life.  God’s deep rooted love will change us to be more like Jesus.
            Changing out 15 tons of dirt every year is not easy.  Especially if it is via a Model A!  But Grandpa Sam wasn’t thinking about the work, he was thinking about what he was committed to producing – beauty and excellence.
            Changing the soil of your heart isn’t easy and you will fail if that is all you think about.  But if you focus on the beauty God wants to bring, you will do it.  How is the soil of your heart?

Peace and grace,