Bitterness and Grace – Mandates for citizens of the Kingdom of Light

My daughter lost a cross. The chain on her necklace broke while she was gardening and the tiny cross fell somewhere in the grass or dirt. She searched a long time but gave up hope of ever finding it again.  

For some odd reason, I love searching for things like this—things that are supposedly gone forever, but we know they must be there somewhere. The cross had been gone for weeks and it was barely half an inch long, but I was determined to find it. I suppose I love rising to such challenges.

So I went to her gardens, got down on my knees and started combing through dirt and grass. She gave me this firm warning: “Don’t pull anything! Some of those tiny plants are things I want to save!”

I admit that I also have this compulsion (sometimes) to pull other people’s weeds when I see them poking up obnoxiously in a flower bed. (What? You do, too? 😊)

I thought about pulling weeds in her garden when I read this:

Hebrews 12:15
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.
Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Wow. Talk about challenges. Here are two for everyone who follows Jesus, is a citizen of His kingdom, and has become a son or daughter of God.

That poisonous root of bitterness. Be vigilant against it. The world today is infested with an unrestrained, particularly aggressive species of bitterness. I’m sad to say that I’ve seen it taking root and cropping up in places it has never before been allowed to flourish—in churches, between neighbors, in families, circles of friends. In my own heart and mind.

How do we pull up those roots of bitterness? It’s growing everywhere in our nation today. But it seems as though anything I might do would be ineffective against the great crop that is growing so rapidly today. How do we “watch out” that it does not overtake our relationships and interactions? 

Here’s the thing: I can’t pull weeds from other people’s gardens. I can only tend the garden of my own heart and mind. That warning to “watch out” is meant for me to heed on a personal level. I’ve got to stomp out this invasive species whenever I find it taking root in my own garden.

But lest we retreat too much to tend only our own backyards and let the world do what it may, read again the first words of Hebrews 12:15: “Look after each other…”

We are to be involved in the lives of others. The NIV wording is even more emphatic in urging us to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God…”  We are to be carriers of God’s grace in this world. We’re to promote the spread of His magnificent grace. That’s the invasive species that every mission-partner of Jesus is to be planting.

When it comes to the bitterness spreading so fast in our world today, we’ve got to weed it out of our own souls. Leave no stray root that will grow up to corrupt. That’s a challenge.

When it comes to the grace of God, though, God’s children are to be a conduit through which it flows out, unhindered and extravagant, to everyone with whom we interact.

Everyone. Because that’s who God wants to reach with His grace. I admit, that’s an even bigger challenge for me.

But this is the mandate for citizens of His kingdom. Talk about rising to the challenge… Will we?  

**

p.s. Yes. I did find the cross.

Mystery seeds of 2020

(This is an unscheduled interruption of our Dwelling posts. I had to get this out of my head — and into yours.)

Strange packets of seeds that people have never even considered ordering are appearing in mailboxes around the world.

Supposedly, the packages originated in a foreign country. And, adding to the puzzle, they may not even be labeled as seeds but as jewelry. In this season of quarantine and isolation, when we can’t even ship packages overseas and our domestic mail is facing serious obstacles, these packages that seem to have been dropped on us from nowhere are mystifying. The USDA is trying to discover what they are, if they pose a danger, who sent them, and what the best course is in handling them.

Let’s not be mystified, though, about other seeds that are being slyly dropped into our lives today.

These seeds are, beyond any doubt, dangerous—deadly, even. The packages may have attractive labels. But we cannot, dare not, must not plant them and let them take root. Let’s name and nail the sender: the enemy of our souls and our faith. The purpose is to grow robust crops of fear, anxiety, anger, quarreling, resentment, harsh words, rage, slander, self-preservation, division, criticism, and hostility. Invasive species, these crops are meant to choke out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If these seeds are dropped at your door, DO NOT PLANT. Give them no soil to take root. Hand them over to an Authority who knows what to do with them.       

Book Tour, COVID style

We’ve all been walloped by the reality that we cannot control, predict, or depend on what we thought we knew of the future.

But there are certain things that God repeatedly and emphatically tells us we can always be certain of—no matter what the next hour, the next day, or the next year might look like.

Those certainties—and the difference this hope makes in our lives right now—are celebrated in the fourth book of the Hope Knows series, Facing the Future. The book can be used as a devotional, for group study, or as a springboard to dig deeper into Scriptures to keep your hope strong.

For the first three books in the Hope Knows series, YOU have taken the time and made the effort to come to ME at book signings or to purchase your books at local stores. Now it’s my turn to come to you.

Since no book signing event is planned, I’d love to do a book “tour.”

If you want to buy a signed copy of the book, I’ll deliver one to your doorstep, your porch, your backyard picnic table, or whatever socially-distanced place works for you. If you prefer, I’ll send your copy in the mail.

The planned “tour” to deliver books is this Saturday, May 23. PM me on Facebook, or contact me through the email on my blog site for more details or to order.

Looking forward to sharing hope with you.
Elaine

P.S. The Hope Knows books are also available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Or you can order directly from the publisher, http://www.jpvpress.com. JPV Press has two special offers right now. When you order Facing the Future, you’ll receive the third book in the series Can God be  Trusted? FREE. Or, if you’d like the complete set of all Hope Knows books, a special price saves you $15 on the four. Click on their Bookstore.

Count the Stars

“But, Lord, that’s impossible!”

That’s what Abram said when the Lord told him he and his wife would have a son. We can’t be too critical of Abram. The situation did look impossible. Haven’t we often reacted the same way to a promise the Lord has given us?

“Look up at the sky and count the stars–if you can,” the Lord told Abram.  “That’s how many descendants you will have.”

Count the stars. 

When I’m tempted to say, “Lord, it’s just not possible… is it?” and wonder how He could ever make good on His promise, I’ll have to step outside and try to count the stars. The stars will remind me: That’s the extent to which He is able to make good on His promises. That’s the scale to which my God can do the impossible.

Count the stars, and hold firm to our great hope.

 

  • (Painting by Brenna Moan. Thank you, B.)

 

Stand firm in this…

Last night I sat at a dinner table with a new friend. As we learned to know each other, she talked about first coming to this area as a young woman and being in awe of the beauty of our hills and valleys. When she married and became a resident of our county, as she raised her family she tried to instill in them an appreciation of the gift of living here.

Those of us who have lived here all of our lives sometimes forget we have such a gift. Every now and then as I drive 39, I wonder how many thousands of times I’ve driven that same stretch—could it even be tens of thousands? And so often, I do take it all for granted and don’t even see the beauty God created for us here as I race through busy days and occupy my mind with the challenges of the week.

Are we prone to do the same with the amazing, freeing truth that Paul wrote about in Colossians? He wrote, “But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it” (Colossians 1:23).

What truth? Go back two verses: You were once God’s enemies (strong language!), but he has “reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ… and brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

His enemies. A bad spot to be in. But because Christ went to the cross, we now live in God’s own presence and He has wiped out the record against us.

I am reminded this morning of what a wonderful gift it is to live here in God’s presence, with no blame brought against me. I don’t want to take this for granted. If you belong to Christ, stop for a moment and drink in the beauty of this place where you now live.

This is the Good News that Paul said was changing lives all over the world (Colossians 1:6, 23).

Stand firm in this. Don’t forget or take it for granted. It changes our lives!