Walking in the Garden

EDEN FLORA | GUEST While I wish otherwise, I am not a gardener. What a delight it would be to have an herb garden or flowering plants in my back yard. But the only plant I have is one that sits next to my kitchen sink. And its yellowing leaves do not bode well for the longevity of its life cycle. Even so, I am drawn to the garden imagery God uses throughout the Bible. From the garden and its luscious beauty in Genesis to the garden imagery throughout the tabernacle, from Jesus’ teachings on the vine and branches to his comparisons of the poor or rich soil, there are numerous illustrations the Bible uses involving gardens. Now might be a good time to point out that my first name is Eden! When We Hide from God Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the Garden of Eden with God? In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, immediately after eating the fruit, heard “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (v.8). As we continue to read, we learn that Adam and Eve hid “from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” I too can find myself hiding in shame like Adam and Eve instead of walking with my Father. In sin, I choose darkness over light. I choose what I want instead of seeking God’s will. I look to myself for strength rather than trusting in Him. I assume I know better than my Father who is the Creator of all things. When I realize what I’ve done and find myself standing there behind the fig leaves of my own making, I see how far I’ve turned from Him. It’s frightening to realize I can’t do life on my own. I grieve the condition of my heart in those moments.  Not only that, but as I look around my community, my country, and the world, it seems like far too few of God’s people turn to walk with Him. And when I watch the news, it seems like nearly everyone is digging into darkness instead. What are we to do when we find ourselves seemingly so far from God’s presence whether by our own doing or other’s actions? What are we to do when we find ourselves hurt, scared, disappointed, or jaded? What are we to do when we don’t walk in the cool of the day with God? Or when we desperately want others to long to be with God too? God has an answer for us. We are to turn outward...

Walking in the Garden2024-01-11T17:53:03+00:00

You Can Run But You Cannot Hide

NEYSA NOVAK | GUEST Have you ever felt like the pressure from life has pushed you to a breaking point? As women, we tend to have a lot on our plate. Many of us care deeply for those around us. We raise children, work hard, and are involved in our communities. Balancing all these demands can be hard, but if you add in strained relationships, it can feel impossible. Outside of Eden, the struggle is real. I once found myself in what felt like a hopeless situation and chose my own way. On the Run from God I'm a public high school guidance counselor and work stress was taking a toll on me. In addition, my three kids played on three different sport teams, I'm a pastor's wife, and a women's ministry leader. One Saturday evening, my husband and I got into an argument—it’s classic spiritual warfare before the Sunday sermon. But I took the bait and came out of the argument feeling like he didn't appreciate my efforts at church. The next morning, I woke up early before the rest of my family and instead of praying, decided to go to a coffee shop to do some work. I know that willful disobedience to God never goes well, so I don't know why I found working on the Sabbath so appealing. I thought that if I could just get one hour of work in, I would feel better about my situation. I soon discovered that the entire student information system was shut down. This never happens without notice. My plans to work were thwarted, so I decided to go to a park instead. I thought it would be peaceful to sit in the car and shut my eyes for a few minutes of quiet. I heard worship music and realized I had parked near an outdoor worship service. Psalm 139:7 says, "Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?" God reminded me that I can't escape Him. I should have repented and headed home to ride with my family to Sunday School, but I was frustrated and didn't want to give in; I found myself in a battle of my will...

You Can Run But You Cannot Hide2023-09-02T16:59:54+00:00

The God Who Sees and Redeems

BETHANY BELUE|GUEST My family loves music. While we love all kinds of music, many nights after the kitchen is clean and the kids are bathed, we find ourselves dancing to 90’s pop and swinging our children around the room. Recently, as I danced with my little boy and looked over at my husband holding my little girl in the air, I thought to myself, “This is the life I dreamed of. Oh, how I feel seen by the Lord!”  It’s a simple thought and a true statement, but it stops me in my tracks. Of course, I feel seen by the Lord right now. I’m living the life I wanted. I hold the children for which I longed for so many years; I look at my husband for whom I spent many years praying, and although my life is far from perfect, I am living a life which brings me much joy. Yet, did the Lord not see me four years ago when we moved to a new city? I felt completely alone in a new church, our marriage was hard, and our children were an unmet desire. Was He not just as present then as He is now in this moment?   The God Who Sees I’ve always been drawn to the story of Hagar...

The God Who Sees and Redeems2023-08-15T13:18:28+00:00

The Lord Who Heals

RACHEL CRADDOCK|CONTRIBUTOR A few weeks ago, both my family of six and my fifth-grade homeroom were hit with a stomach bug. As I washed sheets, held buckets, and disinfected desktops, I couldn’t help but beg the Lord for healing from this common, modern-day plague. In my prayers, I called on Yahweh Rapha, the Hebrew name for God which means, The Lord Who Heals You. In The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I find the statement to be heart-wrenchingly true. When our knowledge of who God is limited, our faith is limited, and our prayers become limited. Discovering the multi-faced character of God through the study of His names has invited me to know Him more deeply, come to Him more boldly, and wait for His answers to my prayers more expectantly. As I prayed for my family and my students during our mini-plague, I could pray with confidence and surety because I know God is The Lord Who Heals...

The Lord Who Heals2023-08-15T13:42:33+00:00

Love Letters of Scripture

SHARON ROCKWELL|CONTRIBUTOR The letter finally arrived. Acceptance to a Christian university along with a scholarship for tuition and housing. I was on cloud nine! As I read the details of the scholarship requirements, I recognized the expected minimum grade point average. But there was another requirement and this one was not expected. The scholarship I was awarded came from an anonymous donor who simply requested that I send her a letter after each semester, updating her on my academic progress and personal goals. With a grateful heart, I looked forward to sending those letters at the end of each semester. I would tell her how much I wanted to live up to her expectations, and that was doing my best. I proudly sent her a copy of my grades so that she could see the results of her investment. Though I never met the woman, I grew to think of her as a confidant and friend as I shared my academic progress, spiritual growth, details about happenings in my family, and about the boyfriend I fell in love with and then married the week after graduation. All possible because of the generous gift from a woman I never met. I continued to send letters after college so that she would know I put my degree in chemistry to good use. Love Letters to the Church I love letters – both sent and received. Last year my Bible study read through Acts, which records the establishment of the early church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Its author, Luke, detailed the missionary journeys of Paul in establishing local churches and giving direction to their work, worship, and organization. Acts 1:8 provides a summary of what was to come for those charged to be witnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” When our Bible study ended in the spring, I wanted to know more details about what happened next. The answer comes in the form of letters. Paul wrote letters to the churches he planted and hoped to visit again, and through those letters Paul gives practical definition to the Christian faith. How thankful we can be to God who preserved Paul’s letters for our edification. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4). I usually do my personal Bible study by reading a chapter and then using a commentary for further understanding. But I changed my study this summer to reading the entire letter sent to one of the churches or one of Paul’s spiritual sons, at one sitting. Reading the letters this way gave me a whole new perspective. Paul’s letters are really love letters. He never fails to communicate his love for the church and his intense desire to see both Jews and Gentiles come to know the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He also wrote to convey a plan for organizing and managing the church...

Love Letters of Scripture2023-08-15T13:43:26+00:00

The Problem with Meddling

SUE TELL|GUEST Do you practice the habit of having a word of the year? In 2021 the word God gave me (or two words) was pull back. Why? What does that look like? I started praying and was stopped in my tracks when I read Peter’s admonition, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” (I Peter 4:15, emphasis mine) Is meddling really in the same category as murder, theft, and evil? And are there areas where meddling is God’s reason for my pulling back? I began to pray. I began to seek the wisdom of my friends. I began to hear stories. And I began to hear God whispers. Three lessons rose to the surface: We who are entrusted with leadership are highly susceptible to meddling. Meddling can have serious consequences. When I don’t pull back and cease meddling, my time, capacity, and energy to give myself to God’s purposes designed for me are in jeopardy...

The Problem with Meddling2023-03-24T17:53:41+00:00

In a Given Day: Giving Praise to the Giver of Days

SUSAN PYKE | GUEST What’s in a day? Every life has a first day. I recently witnessed that joyful day in my first grandchild’s life! And we all will have a last day. We can probably describe our happiest day, and our saddest. Days that felt like they would never end, and days that ended much too soon. We are anxious about upcoming days: the scheduled biopsy, a meeting with our child’s teacher, a presentation at work, or the day the rent is due. The simple truth that God gives us each day to live for His glory can quickly get lost in these emotions and anxieties. How can we remember to praise and trust God for today when our minds and hearts are filled with memories from the past and fear about the future? We can find help with this searching question in John 1:1-5. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. With these verses in mind, we can go through our day more intentionally aware of Christ’s love and life for us. In the morning, we remember that Jesus, who was there at the first morning of creation, abides with us today. At mid-day we remember his sacrificial, redeeming love for us. At the close of the day, we see his truth by the light of his life in our darkness. God’s design of the daily rhythm of any given day can remind us to praise the Giver of days.

In a Given Day: Giving Praise to the Giver of Days2023-03-24T17:59:06+00:00

Cultivating Hearts of Adoration

ABBY HUTTO | GUEST One summer while my children were in elementary school, I instituted a new prayer policy in our home. I could no longer take hearing the same prayer over and over again. Every single day, three times a day, they prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for our food and please help us have a great day.” I finally had enough. I purchased a little chalkboard, downloaded a prayer guide with 31 names/attributes of God, and made a new rule: before we thank Jesus for our food, before we ask him to make every day a great day, we must first thank him for being himself. I declared that summer a season of adoration. Meditating on God’s Character My children were doing what comes instinctively to all of us. When we pray, it’s easy to thank God for the things he has done for us. We don’t have to search our minds for things we want to ask him for. If we’re truly spiritual, we confess our sins. But appreciating God for just being who he is doesn’t seem to come naturally to us. Adoration is not something modern American Christians spend a lot of time doing. Our culture, our schedules, and our overactive hearts don’t leave us time to slow down and meditate over who God is in his character and nature. We rarely separate who God is from what he does. At first glance, that may not seem like a big deal. After all, who God is in his character and nature is displayed in his acts of power as he works in our world to rescue and save his people. Thanksgiving and supplication are vital to our prayer lives. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts.” It is good and right to be moved by God’s intervention in our life. When he provides, comforts, rescues, it is right to be thankful for what he has done. But do we also adore him for who he is? Do we open our prayers as Jesus taught us, adoring our Father who is hallowed and enthroned in his heavenly kingdom?

Cultivating Hearts of Adoration2023-03-24T18:08:40+00:00

They Saw, But They Forgot

MARLYS ROOS|GUEST Sometimes, no matter how many times we’ve read a Bible passage, it strikes us and sticks with us as a new revelation. It’s proof that “the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word doesn’t change, but on occasion He opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts in His timing when He has readied us to see a particular truth, to take it in, meditate on it, and perhaps share it. Seeing a passage anew is exciting; it’s like getting a tiny glimpse into heaven where “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Luke 12:2, NLT). In fact, the passage I recently “discovered” is about Israelites who actually did see heaven: Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Ex. 24:9-11, emphasis added). They Saw The first thing which stands out in this passage is the clear declarations: “and they saw the God of Israel” and “they beheld God.” It’s repeated, so there is no doubt those seventy-four men were clearly in the presence of God. Apparently, God had even set a table for them to eat and drink in His presence, reminiscent of Joseph’s feeding his brothers or, perhaps, a glimpse of the table to be set in the Upper Room, or even of the table to be set for believers at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb still to come. However, of particular interest in this passage, are its timing in Israel’s history and those who are named. After the feast, God called Moses up to the mountain to receive instructions for building the Tabernacle and the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, but what did the others do? Moses told them to wait until he returned. Did they? Or did they go down to the people and exclaim, “We saw God!!!” Did they tell of His glory, the glory of the Lord, like a “devouring fire,” which remained on the mountain for the people of Israel to see from a distance? The Scriptures don’t tell us what they did―until Chapter 32...

They Saw, But They Forgot2023-03-24T18:11:48+00:00

Stewarding the Struggle

KAREN GRANT|GUEST The rough concrete scratched my toes as I focused on keeping my nose above water at the Fun in the Sun Club pool in Arlington, Texas. My goal that day was to touch the bottom. Water pooled in my ears and my hair swayed like seaweed in my eyes as I learned to hold and release my breath while flipping upside down to touch the bottom. Then I could swim toward the light. My parents applauded as I ventured into deeper and deeper water, opening my eyes to churning legs and feet, and watching my breath in measured bubbles. Discovering that less and less effort was required to break the surface, I began to trust air and water to do what they do. Where were you in the murky pool called the pandemic—that time of uncertainty, fear, and crisis? Were you upside down, attempting to avoid the churning chaos, swimming for the light before you ran out of breath, looking for cheer from someone, anyone out there? To gain perspective, we must somehow step outside of our own view. I believe the only healthy way to do that is to open God’s word to a relevant passage, engage with it, wring it out, cry into it, and ask questions until we get to the bottom. We submerge ourselves and trust Christ to do what He does when we engage with the living and active breath of God. We burst through the surface into His world, His thoughts, His reality, and it does what He does: it reveals areas where we must repent, restrains us from wrong, and sheds enough light for at least the next step. Stewarding Our Sorrows I remember the image of my pastor many years ago as he related the death of over ten friends or family within the span of a year. He and his wife were left empty; they could only be still and listen. They realized that stewardship is not only for money, gifts, and time, but also includes stewarding our sorrows. He held his hands out in the shape of a bowl before the congregation and told us that all he had to offer the Lord was ashes. This image continues to guide me as I’ve come to Jesus with my own offerings of ashes due to losses, severed relationships, and broken dreams, laying them at His feet and trusting Him to make them beautiful in His time. My question to Jesus in 2020-21 then became, “How can I steward this unto Your glory? Would you use me, and re-form me to bring comfort and encouragement to others?” He took me to Isaiah 12, and I was stunned. The truths in this chapter are clear for both its original and prophetic audiences, the covenant people of God. Gratitude, Opportunity, and Joy This is what I found: Our stewardship comes through gratitude, opportunity, and joy. Look at verses 1 and 2...

Stewarding the Struggle2023-03-24T18:13:47+00:00
Go to Top