“It’s a BIG Pumpkin!”

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect…
~ 1 Peter 3:15 ~

Did I really look like a big pumpkin?!

This week I went on an errand to the local Walmart. Two young men were outside the store asking for donations to an organization. They saw me coming, and one of them said, “Hey! Look! It’s a BIG pumpkin!” He had a big grin on his face and was not being disrespectful, so I smiled at them.

I couldn’t blame him for calling me a “BIG pumpkin!” because I was wearing burnt orange Bermuda shorts and a pumpkin colored t-shirt.

I walked into the store and got what I needed. When I went outside and walked toward them, the same young man, said, “She’s back! It’s the BIG pumpkin lady! And she’s ready for Halloween!”

I replied, “I don’t celebrate Halloween.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to make fun of you by calling you a BIG pumpkin,” he said.

I smiled, “You didn’t. I just want you to know that I’m a true follower of Jesus Christ. And to be honest with you, light and darkness don’t mix.”

The other young man said, “Yea, Jesus is in all of us.”

To which I responded, “No, He’s not. I was a big time sinner, and He was not in me then. But He came to me and found me when I needed Him the most and I gave my heart to Him.”

They both stared at me like I was speaking a foreign language, so I spoke of something they might know. “You know how Linus has that big pumpkin he waits for on Halloween?” Blank stares. “You know, from Charlie Brown’s Halloween movie about a great, big pumpkin that Linus waits for every year to visit him?” Their eyes opened in recognition and they nodded up and down.

“Well, think of that huge pumpkin as a backpack on my back. It had all my sins in it and I couldn’t carry it anymore because it was so heavy and unbearable. When Jesus found me and I gave my life to Him, He took it away!”

They politely listened, though I knew they were getting antsy. After a few more pleasantries, I walked away. But, I heard one say to another, “Hey, I didn’t mean to get a sermon out of…” I didn’t hear the rest of it, but it’s an encounter I don’t want forget. I hope they don’t either, so that tiny seed about Jesus will somehow break through their hearts and take root. I’d like to see them in heaven one day.

The lesson is to always be ready to give a brief testimony of who Jesus Christ is, “making the most of every opportunity” that presents itself. Paul helps us to understand this in Ephesians 5:8-17:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Father, thank You for the opportunities You place before us to be able to testify of Your Son, Jesus, with respect and gentleness, and sometimes, with humor. We ask You to help these young men, and those to whom You lead us, come to know how much You love them—its width, length, height, and depth. In Jesus’ name, the name above all names, the name that is mighty to save, amen.

Posted in Answered Prayer, Christian Life, Christianity, Encouragement, Jesus, Lessons from God, Opportunities, Things Happen | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Call to Rest

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
~ Matthew 11:28 (NASB) ~

Have you ever tried to rest, but as soon as your body starts to relax someone calls you to get up and do something? It happened to me today, twice, each time, within minutes of lying on the floor to rest my back. But there’s a rest that I have in Jesus, that no one can take from me.

“Come to Me,” Matthew 11:28 by Harold Copping.

When Jesus called out, “Come to Me,” He was inviting the people into a personal, intimate relationship with the only One who would give them the rest they sought.

It was also an open invitation—for all ages, to all people, wherever and whenever they may be. It’s a call that many have accepted, including me.

When Jesus said to me, “Come to Me,” I didn’t think nor hesitate, I jumped into His waiting arms. I was exhausted from carrying the weight of the huge backpack that contained my life story. It was filled with regrets, brokenness, shame, guilt, sins, loneliness, and so much more. In accepting Jesus’ invitation, I immediately received His rest. The backpack was gone! All was forgiven. I was immediately different. All my debts were settled because Jesus took all the debt I owed to God and paid it Himself. My restless soul found peace with God.

Today, for all of you whose are restless and exhausted from doing life your way, go to Jesus, and receive His invitation to “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soulsFor My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Life is no different today than it was then; people are still restlessly going from one thing to another in order to find rest and peace, and Jesus is the only One who is able to do something about it.

Warren W. Wiersbe said, “Jesus is inviting us to rest. But please understand what this rest is that He offers. It is not rest from life—but rest in life. He is not inviting us to retire and take it easy! He is asking us to take a yoke of responsibility and face life courageously with a new peace in our hearts. He is asking us to share the rest that He enjoys. As you read the four Gospels, you never see Jesus rushing around nervously, or pushing the panic button. He always has a calmness, even in the midst of trial. His life is controlled by a wonderful peace, and it is this peace that He offers you and me.”

On this Labor Day, I encourage you to accept the invitation to go to Jesus; you will find the rest your soul needs, but more than that, you’ll have a Friend who comforts and loves you like no other.

Thank You, Father, for Jesus, and for the invitation to go to Him and receive the rest we need. We will still have burdens, but this time, we will be “yoked” with Jesus and He will be bearing the brunt of their weight, because His “burden is light.” My experience teaches me that this is true, and I’m thankful that I don’t walk through life alone, but that Jesus is beside me, and sometimes, He carries me! In His name we pray, amen.

 

 

 

Posted in Approaching God, Encouragement, God's Presence, Jesus, Reconciliation, Salvation, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who Has You Wrapped Around His Finger?

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel
that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
 

~ 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) ~

One of the greatest joys of my life is the reward of obedience to God.

Harvest Crusade August 2018, Jesus Recendez Garcia © 2018

Two weeks ago I participated in the Harvest Crusade by being part of the prayer and decision follow-up groups. The last time I’d attended this Crusade was the early 90s.

The Lord did amazing things during those three nights, not only with those gave their lives to Him, but also in me.

On Sunday night, while I was in the prayer group and the pastor leading the prayer was speaking about what God was doing at that moment in the stadium, he attempted to remove the mic from the stand so he could walk about with it in his hand. But he couldn’t. As I watched him struggle to unwrap the cord, I saw a picture of how the devil wraps people around his finger with their sins. No amount of struggle will remove those sins and the hold the devil has on their lives. Only Jesus can free people from the hold that the devil has on their lives; only the blood of Jesus can remove their sins.

That night, when I walked onto the field to be one of many helping with decision follow-up, I saw several thousand people around me. My heart rejoiced and praised my Savior for all those who were choosing to surrender their lives to Him.

I was able to encourage a single mom and her two little boys to read their Bibles daily, pray, get into a Bible believing church and fellowship with other believers. I’ll not forget them.

So, next time you’re out and about, remember how you used to walk in this world, but because of the love of Christ you now live differently and have a hope and a future. Paul reminds us that some of us were once part of the world, fulfilling its lusts,”But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God“ 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NLT).

We don’t have to wait for a crusade to come to town to pray and share with others the good news of Jesus Christ, we can do this every day.

Father, help us to walk worthy of Your calling on our lives by being ready at all times to share Your love and good news with those we meet. Time is running out and the days are becoming more and more evil. We don’t want anyone to perish, but for them to give their lives to You. We ask in the name of Jesus, amen.

 

 

Posted in Encouragement, Prayer, Purpose, Reconciliation, Salvation, Serving God | Tagged , , , ,

“Look Up, I’m with You!”

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
~ Psalm 121:1-2 ~

Sometimes I feel as if I’m deliberately being overwhelmed in an attempt to make me sin against the Lord by turning away from Him; to accuse Him of being negligent with what’s going on in my life, in the lives of family and friends, the church, and the world. The Bible records what Job said after everything had been taken from him, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). 

I don’t want to “sin nor charge God with wrong,” so I need to be sober, awake, and not let myself be lulled and deceived into accepting a strategy that I call, “Attrition by Overwhelming,” Attrition, according to the Google dictionary means, “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.” Google’s example sentence is, “the council is trying to wear down the opposition by attrition.”

It’s exactly how I feel. The enemy of my soul, the world, and my own body have conspired to wear me down relentlessly, to make me an ineffective witness for and child of God, by overwhelming me with a barrage of distressing events and things. If it weren’t for the Lord, I don’t know where I’d be. It’s comforting to know that He knows what I need, when I need it, and provides for that need.

On Sunday, a pastor reminded me that Jesus said in Matthew 12:20, “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench.” He said that bruised reeds are used by shepherds to make music and smoking flax is tended so that it can burn brightly again. It was the encouragement I needed. 

“I am not alone.” Psalm 121. April Casillas on US 395S. © August 2018

My friend sent me this image as her family was driving through Mammoth. That old house is so tiny, compared to the size of the sky and the mountains that surround it. But it’s still standing through all the elements that assault it day and night. And, by the grace of God, so am I.

Though my body is falling apart, there is One who tells me, “Look up, I’m here for you. Am I not your Shepherd? Am I not with you and for you? You are not alone, Maria. I hear your heart’s cry. You’re on the path I’ve made for you. Do not grow weary nor lose heart. Remember that those who seek My help will receive it. Trust Me.”

Our God is faithful and true. Though we might not understand what He’s doing in our lives or in the world, we know this:  He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. There is none like Him, no one can ever compare to Him. He is God and knows how frail and weak we are. Yet, He loves us so much that He gave His own Son to redeem us. He is our strength and refuge from things that overwhelm us. He is with us, we are not alone.

Join me in magnifying our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose ears are attentive to our cries and who delights to help us.

Psalm 121, NJKV

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Amen. All praise and honor and glory are Yours, O LORD.

Posted in Christian Life, Lessons from God, Purpose, Trusting God | Tagged , , , ,

A Surpassing “Weight of Glory”

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Even though our outward man is perishing,
yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

~ 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NKJV) ~

Photo by Noah Ann Wieland during a visit to Japan © June 5, 2016

My body is “taking a beating” as the Lord works on the pottery wheel to transform me. Saturday morning I hurt my left lower back; Sunday, I drank a different water and the left side of my tongue, mouth, esophagus, and body reacted by swelling. My immediate response was to cry out to the Lord for help; He heard me and helped me.

I know that my body is slowly falling apart, but the daily grace He gives helps me get through it. I won’t lie to you, sometimes fear creeps in, sometimes it comes in like a flood, but GOD is GREATER than fear, and His word engages it and destroys it.

He gives me perspective. For instance, the J.B Phillips New Testament combines verse 16 with verses 15 and 17:

 “We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.”

Finished cup. Photo by Noah Ann Wieland © June 5, 2016

I’m not saying that it’s easy going with my body, but hope in Him keeps me going. In other words, I don’t “lose heart,” because I know that He’s transforming my mind and conforming me into the person He wants me to be—stronger than the body, persevering through the discomfort and pain, and inwardly being renewed and matured in Him.

(One day, when He’s “completed” me, I’ll go home and then I’ll be perfect, no more corruption of this mortal body! In heaven I’ll be incorruptible and eternal; it’s the gift of God to anyone who receives His gift of salvation. Oh, what joy awaits!)

Today, a friend reminded me of Psalm 143:8 and Isaiah 43:2-3,

“Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.”

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

He cares for me throughout each day. Though I don’t know what’s before me, I trust Him. He walks by my side and keeps me on the way I should go. He truly cares for my soul. I “pass through the waters,” staying above their surface. I’m walking “through the fire” and not being burned nor scorched. Sunday was a most difficult day, but I see now that He was showing me the truth, “I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” He gave His beloved Son for my ransom; and, He took my place on the cross and took the sting out of death. Therefore, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

In verse 17 of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul states, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” George Campbell Morgan says of this verse, “This very ‘affliction worketh’ the glory. Affliction is not something to be endured in order to reach glory. It is the very process which creates the glory. Through travail comes birth. Through suffering comes the triumph. Through dying comes the living.”

We may not understand why we’re going through affliction, but can you imagine a glory that surpasses our afflictions?!

Verse 18 continues, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT). 

Abba, Father, there’s no one like You to whom we can turn, who’ll tell us the truth, and who truly cares for our souls. We’re weak, but You’re strong. We’re temporal, but You’re eternal, therefore we live, daily, with our eyes on You. Your presence with us enables us to go through our “light” afflictions because You provide what we need. Enable us to see our afflictions through Your eyes, because it’s our response that determines whether or not the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” will be worked in us. Our victory comes from You! For Your glory and honor, Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray, Amen.

 

 

Posted in Christian Life, Difficulties, Faith, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , ,

The Lord’s Encouragement (“A Little Bird Told Me”)

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms.
~ Deuteronomy 33:27a ~

I was sitting at the table finishing lunch and looking out the window when I noticed a little yellow bird fly into the lower branches of a tree. It kept hopping from branch to branch, going back and forth, and higher and higher until it flew off.

This little bird was both an encouragement and reminder from our Father that He cares for me just as He cares for this little bird. Also, that the difficult things He allows in my life are taking me higher and higher in my relationship with Him.

He knows us well, and when, where, and how to speak to us to remind us of His great love and care for us. Whatever today or the future brings, remember that our Father’s for us and with us. His love is so high and great that whatever comes against us will not prevail. That’s what the second part of verse 27 says, “He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’”

He’s our refuge; His loving and open arms are always ready to receive us.

∗ ∗ ∗

Father, You’re so good to us! You’re patient and kind toward us; You’re our refuge and our strength; You set a hedge around us and protect us from the enemy—You’ve even given us armor and weapons to fight with! And in Your wisdom, You’ve placed us in the high places where You are, so that we can know that the world we’re living in right now, is not our home. It’s wonderful to know that You’re with us and for us, and that one day, You’ll call us home! Father, You are worthy of all praise and honor and glory! Hallelujah! Amen.

Posted in Comfort, Encouragement, Lessons from God | Tagged , , , , ,

“The Little Dogs”

But He answered and said, “It is not good
to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs
which fall from their masters’ table.”
~ Matthew 15:26-27 ~

This is one of those exchanges which Jesus had with women that touches me deeply. You see, I was one of those little dogs.

The interaction between Jesus and a Canaanite woman speaks of persevering faith that continually presses into Him, in humility.

When this woman came to Jesus, she was humble and worshiped Him as Israel’s Messiah. She was desperate for help and wouldn’t let Jesus’ initial silence to her plea for mercy, nor the disciples efforts to get rid of her, stop her (Matthew 15:21-23). And though Jesus told her afterward, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (verse 24), she persisted in a manner that told Him, “Yes, Lord, I know that You were sent to Israel, but we also need You; I need You! Help me!”

When He says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs,” she wasn’t offended. She accepted the distasteful word and responded in humility and hope, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” You could say she “conquered” Him with her faith.

Jesus commends her, “‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (verse 28). 

C.H. Spurgeon said, “She had come to her last word, and now Christ gives her his best word. It is his way, sometimes, to make us wait till we are completely exhausted, and can say and do no more; then he comes in with the fulness of his divine power, and gives to us what we have importunately sought at his hands. Our extremity is his opportunity.”

This greatly encourages me. It’s faith that says, “Father, You’re present with me. You know what’s going on and how overwhelmed and discouraged I am, yet I put my trust in You, I won’t let go of You.” This faith, exhibited humbly, perseveres and presses into the heart of God and pleases Him. Faith takes us straight to the throne of God where we’ll receive mercy and grace from Him to carry us through whatever we’re going through (Hebrews 4:16), and if it’s according to His will, will obtain for us what we desire.

If you’re in a situation that is difficult or overwhelming, and there appears to be no way out or possibility of it being resolved, press in, don’t give up. Trust the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what is going on in your life and already has an answer for you. He wants us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12, NIV).

He’s also called us to daily “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We show our faith (trust or confidence) in Him by this:  Every day, regardless of whether our circumstances change or not, we praise, worship, and spend time with Him. When we do this, we give Him the opportunity to adjust our perspective and minister to us.

∗ ∗ ∗

Father, You knew we needed You and sent Jesus to redeem us. Once, we were “little dogs” who were separated from You, but Jesus came and found us, loved us, and when we received His gift of life by grace through faith, You adopted us and made us Your own. Father, You “made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Help us to walk by faith and trust You to lead us in the way we should go. Help us to have faith that amazes You and brings You glory and honor. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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