I have a relative that lives on an island in the Caribbean. He has often said that he lives in paradise. During the night on Tuesday, his paradise was demolished. He lost everything but his dog and his life. We are extremely grateful that his life was spared.
Many stories emerged this week that make it abundantly clear that the earthly places that we equate with paradise can be destroyed. However, the true paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, will never be destroyed. If it dwells within you, it is your life and can never be taken from you no matter the circumstances.
It will be like the house built upon the rock. When wind and storm and rain beat against it, nothing, no storm and no attack from hell, can tear it down.
My garden is my place of quiet and peacefulness. Yesterday I brought in the top of a lettuce plant that had gone to seed and this morning I was taking off the tiny flowers and opening them up. The tiny seeds inside fell into the paper bag. Soon there were enough seeds in the little bag to plant plenty of lettuce in next summer’s garden.
One lettuce plant produces enough seeds to create ten future gardens. Imagine how many gardens could be created with all of the seeds from all of the plants in the garden! God is amazing. He put enough seeds in one plant to create an abundance of new plants. It’s a miracle.
Think of a maple tree. Each maple has thousands of tiny helicopters on it that will float down to earth and potentially become more maple trees. He gave us enough seed to make up for all the possibilities. Seeds falling on rocks. Seeds being eaten by squirrels. Seeds being washed away by rain. Even with all of the destruction that can happen to each maple seed, in the spring we find our yard filled with tiny maple seedlings after a few spring rains. And no matter how I clean up my garden, in the spring I find random lettuce plants growing here or there, tiny tomato seedlings sprouting where I don’t want them any more. About fifteen years ago, I planted some mustard green seeds. Every year those mustard greens still show up. They never sprout in exactly the same place, but they faithfully make an appearance wherever the wind has blown them.
As I open each miniature seed pod and scrape out the seeds, it is impossible not to realize that these seeds represent hope. They are the hope of a successful garden, not this year, but next. They are the hope of the return of spring even before winter has arrived. They are the hope of new life, of all things good, of things even bigger and better than this year. Thank God for hope. Thank God for the tiny seeds that anchor us in the faith and knowledge that life will go on. Winter does not last forever. Hardships will cease. Spring will come.
Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature – his eternal power and divine character – have been clearly perceptible through what he has made. (Romans 1:19)
On September 9, 1776, the congress representing the group of colonies that made up this country at that time decided to call it the United States. However, ever since its inception, this country has been tested as to the meaning of its name. Although the founders held deep convictions and high ideals for this country, there were already deep divisions in our unity, specifically over what to do about slavery. That crack widened until we fought a bitter civil war over the issue. Even since the end of that war, the divisions have persisted.
Over time, those divisions have branched out from the issue of slavery and new divisions have been created. Nowadays, our congress cannot even agree on the simplest of issues. I read in this morning’s paper a comment by a young man of 27. He said, “My generation can’t talk to each other. They don’t want to hear another perspective. If you label yourself a conservative or a libertarian, they don’t want to talk to you.” (“What of Civil War Re-Enactments,?” Hartford Courant, 9-5-2-17) What is wrong with us and why can’t we even have a civil conversation to discuss the issues?! The crack is widening and there seems to be no way to bridge the gap.
However, God is giving us a chance. Unfortunately, the times that we come together end up being the worst of times and yet the best of times. Disasters somehow make us forget politics and opposing opinions and bring us together in a common goal of survival. The experience of Houston, Rockport, Wharton and Port Arthur has both horrified and softened the hearts of Americans across the nation.
I believe that everyday Americans would welcome a change from the divisive rhetoric streaming off the airwaves. Another huge storm is heading our way. Hurricane Irma. Hopefully, we will rise to the occasion once again and pitch in to pick up the pieces that are left in its wake if indeed it ends up taking direct aim at us, but why do we need a monster storm to force us to do that?
A house divided against itself cannot stand. We know this to be a truth. We have to come together. We have to be willing to listen to one another. We have to work together if we want to ensure the survival of our country for the future. We can do it without another storm. Teach young people to discuss. Be an example of civil discussion. Listen first. Listening doesn’t cost a thing.
This morning I was walking along and came across this scene. There is one guy down in the hole working hard at digging the hole deeper. Five guys, some with clipboards, are watching him work. There must be a reason why they need five to watch and one to work and yet it seems a little absurd. To me, this picture illustrates one of the many problems in our society. We are becoming top heavy. My mother had a saying stenciled on the wall in front of our kitchen sink. It is no longer politically correct to use this saying, but when we were children it plainly let us know that there were: “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.” Therefore, we’d better get to work!
It seems that everyone wants to be the boss these days and very few want to do the hard physical work. The bosses give themselves large raises while maintaining the poverty of those few who are doing the labor for which the bosses are being paid. It’s true that we need administrative help, but do we need so much of it? One of my relatives works at a small private high school. He told me this summer that due to recent hiring practices, his school now has thirteen administrators but only eight teachers. How is that possible? No wonder tuition is going up nationwide.
It’s not just a problem in our schools and in our nation. It’s a spiritual problem as well. James 1:22 warns us not to be that way. “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” This Scripture tells us that if we stand around and do nothing while other people are fulfilling God’s will, we are deceiving our own selves. God wants people of action. He doesn’t want people who stand around watching and commenting on what others do. He wants people who will live their faith and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. There probably will be plenty of commentary from the watchers. “You should have done it this way. Why did you do that?” But if our motives are to follow after God’s will for our lives, we will be in the right way.
Just as the man digging in the picture is possibly getting a lower salary than those watching him work, we might never receive any kind of natural benefit in this world for doing God’s will. Even so, God is faithful. Verse 25 tells us, “a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Verily, there is a reward for the righteous.
This morning I heard a song on the radio. “I’m waiting for the world to change.” Really? Is that like waiting for the cows to come home of their own accord? And what if the world does change? Where would that leave me? Unchanged? Left out? There is no assurance that the world will change. The only thing we can do in this world is change ourselves. Jesus left us the template. We need to change whatever doesn’t fit into that template. God will not give us too much to do at once. As we walk along life’s path, He brings just the right thing along that can be changed today. We can change that one thing today. Tomorrow there will be another thing, but that can wait for tomorrow.
Two days ago God gave me one thing to change. I was getting onto a flight to return home from a trip. As I walked down the aisle, I realised my assigned seat was next to an enormous man. Yes, I was in the middle seat, sandwiched between the rap man (music playing into his earphones so loudly that I could hear the words) and the fat man (who was actually using up a quarter of the space that I had paid for). I was irritated and feeling nearly nauseous and definitely claustrophobic. God was very merciful because it was less than a two hour flight. However, I didn’t start thinking until well into the flight that instead of being annoyed at him and wondering whether I could be allowed to request a refund of 1/4 of my ticket price, I should be praying for both him and the rapper fellow. In my heart, I was hating him because he was overweight and yet that was the only thing that I even knew about his life. That was one thing that I could change that day. I could stop the anger and irritation and just pray and it didn’t cost me anything. I feel bad that it didn’t occur to me at once, but that’s the way life is. Something comes our way out of the blue. We have a reaction and our reaction points us towards what we can change.
Let’s not wait for the world to change. Let’s change the one thing that God brings into our lives today.
Contentment does not depend on outward circumstances. Contentment is my choice no matter the circumstances. If I’m not content, am I not finding fault with whatever it is that God has allowed to come my way today?
The promise is not that my circumstances will be easy. The promise is that those circumstances, whether they be easy or difficult, will all somehow lead me to Him. What more could I want?
Philippians 4:11. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Luke 11:20 If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
Luke 17:20, 21 … The kingdom of God cometh not with observation … the kingdom of God is within you.
So many are waiting for the Kingdom of God. We look around our world and pine for a world where there is no murder, no theft, no terrorism and no fear. We long for a world where love is paramount and kindness is the rule of law. We don’t need to wait for this kingdom. Jesus gave us the road map to it two thousand years ago. The power to bring God’s kingdom to this earth lies within each one of us. We just need the will power to do it. That will power comes from the Holy Ghost, which our Father will give to us if we desire it and if we will use it correctly. To use it correctly, each one of us has to say NO when it’s easy to find fault with our brothers, NO when temptation stealthily invites us to come in, NO when hate abounds, NO when greed and selfishness knocks on our door.
We often think, “That’s too hard to live like that.” Actually, it’s not. The Spirit of God is there to help, to encourage and to give strength. All we really need is love for God and love for our fellow man. If we love our fellow man, we don’t want to do anything to him/her that we wouldn’t want done to us. The finger of God is there to eliminate satan’s kingdom of hatred, anger, selfishness and lust and to replace it with the exact opposite quality of God’s kingdom.
The Kingdom of God lies within and it’s within our reach to grab onto it. It’s a kingdom that is like the tiny mustard seed. It may seem very small in my little life, but as it grows in my life, it inspires others and they begin the same journey and they in turn inspire others. Keep at it and pretty soon there is a great multitude living the love of God on our beautiful earth. A life of unselfishness will create it here and now. We can do it.