Thursday, January 22, 2015

Year of the Garden

For myself, and several of my close friends, New Year’s Eve is a time of celebrating, but also a time of remembering where we’ve been. It started 5 years ago on a road trip across the country. We spent New Year’s Eve in the town of Goodyear, Arizona, and we spent a lot of time talking about where we’ve been, where we’d like to go, and where God is working in us. Something unique came out of that experience. For the first time, we set a theme for the upcoming year. At the time it was a theme that resonated with where we were all at, and meant a great deal for us. From that point on, every year you can find us together debriefing our years and setting a new theme. The themes have varied over the years, whether it be, “The Year of Being Direct,” or “The Year of No Excuses,” or our current theme, “The Year of the Garden.”

            As we were thinking through this new theme, it seemed appropriate for where our lives were heading, full of new endeavors, and for some of us, continuing on, doing what we’ve been doing. The Year of the Garden brought a profound picture to our minds. A picture of planting. A picture of tending and working. Overall, a picture of cultivating. For us, we saw our new year as a plot of land. We could either choose to plant and tend our garden, or we could sit back and do nothing with it. The funny thing about all of this is that the garden is completely reliant on God for anything to happen at all. For some of us, this means we need to plant something new, and for some of us this means we need to tend and cultivate what is already there. Either way, we need to do some work, and see how God will work through it.

            I feel like a garden is a great image for our spiritual journeys as well. You have the ability to not do anything with your garden, but then it’s just an empty plot of land. But you also have the option to plant and tend your garden, and with God’s blessing, the rain will fall, your plants will sprout, and you’ll have a bustling crop. So if we lay our spiritual walk aside and don’t pour into it, it will likely remain distant and barren, but if we pour into our spiritual lives, taking time to be in God’s word, and taking time to pray and be in community, we will be amazed what God can do. I’ve heard it said, “the grass is greener where you water it,” so my encouragement is to invest in your garden, and see what God will do. 

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  1 Corinthians 3:7-8

- Jake Houf

Saturday, January 10, 2015

First Love

But I have this complaint against you.  You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!
Revelation 2:4

In Revelation 2:2-3, eight signs are mentioned showing the zeal of the church at Ephesus, but there was one bad sign.  The Lord said:  ”Turn back to me again and work as you did at first.  If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (verse 5.)  What was this sin?  “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! “  They forgot their first love.

Are we committing this same sin in our churches today?  Are we doing good deeds, and working hard, persevering for His Kingdom, and enduring hardships without growing weary, yet … are we missing what God values the most: tender, fervent love for Him and for each other.

We can be good Christian examples in all that we do and are accomplishing, but if we don’t have that tender love for Jesus that shines through how we love each other, then all our activities and hardships are nothing in the Master’s eyes. 

God desires our heart above all else.  He came to this earth to love us; to suffer horribly on the cross to make a way for us to be in relationship with Him.  Let us not forget that He ultimately did all that He did so that we could be in personal fellowship with Him. 

When you reflect on that, does that stir something within your soul?  Your First Love for why you do what you do!  Francis Chan says in Crazy Love, “When we work for Christ out of obligation, it feels like work.  But when we truly love Christ, our work is a manifestation of that love, and it feels like love.” 

Don’t forget your Fist Love!  When you are alone with Him enjoy Him!  When you are gathered together as a body of believers, embrace joy and worship Him!  When you serve Him, show others how to love Him.  “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.  It is as if they are showing you the way.”  Blue Like Jazz 

May your life be a dance for joy! 

Dance for You

May I dance for You, Lord, today and every day.

Days your song is joyful and alive,
May my soul be enraptured by Your tune,
As I dance for You.

Some days the music is powerful and vigorous,
May my steps keep in Your time,
As I dance for You.

There are days the melody is slow and sad,
May my arms reach up though my head hangs low
As I dance for You.

Waiting for the day that my pulse will quicken to Your glorious beat,
May my lips sing Your praise and my all respond,
As I dance for You.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.  Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30: 11, 12

- Sue Parrott

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Importance of Prayer

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Luke 6: 12 

If Jesus who had no sin to confess would spend entire nights in prayer, then is not prayer so much more than simply confessing your sins and making your requests known to him?  Absolutely.  Prayer is what strengthens us, as it was for Jesus.  The fellowship we have with Him is cultivated, developed and renewed through prayer.  We have no power on our own to maintain our spiritual life.  Our strength comes from communing with Him, seeking His face, listening to Him without distraction.

If we are to have our whole heart turned towards God, we must have it turned away from man, from all that occupies and interests, whether of joy or sorrow.
Everything that is not God, that excites or fears or stirs our efforts or awakens our hopes or makes us glad, hinders us in our perfect waiting on Him.
When it is seen that waiting on God is itself an unspeakable blessedness – one of the highest forms of fellowship with the Holy One – the adoration of Him in His glory will of necessity humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself.
Waiting on God, Andrew Murray

How often do we get away, and spend more than just a few minutes in hasty prayer and reading a few verses?  Are we taking the time to come into His presence in all seasons of our life, whether we are having moments of happiness and peace and enjoying life, or facing unexpected circumstances that causes us unrest and fear.  Just as Jesus needed to get alone with God away from all that distracts, the good things as well as the stressful things, it is imperative that we grasp the importance of this…and do it.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…
Jeremiah 29: 12, 13

Father, I yearn for you, yet how often do I let the distractions of life get in the way.  Give me the discipline to find time to be with you.  Make it evident within my soul when I am in need of getting away to be alone with you whether it be a few minutes within a busy day or an entire afternoon in your presence alone, or perhaps longer than that.  Help me have the discipline to find time with you and to do it.  And through that time, grant me the strength I need to continue to serve You in your kingdom.  Thank you for the example of you, Jesus. Amen.

- Sue Parrott