Are We Blossoming or Fading Away?

While I failed to center this Magnolia perfectly like a good photographer would have, I'm still able to look at the bloom and be amazed by its perfection. It forces me to consider the Creator. Yet, the curse of sin often causes even God's creation to be distorted, so when I see something in nature so utterly perfect I stand in awe of the God who made it. I'm reminded of my life verse - Ecclesiastes 3:11a, "He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Consider the detail - the lines, the curves, the texture, the symmetry, the contrast with the deep green glossy leaves. If God cared enough to put so much thought into this single bloom, how much more thought does He put into making, saving, and sanctifying His children? Just as He perfected this beautiful Magnolia, He grows us through every event, every person, every detail of our lives to conform us to the image of His perfect Son. Even the evil that surrounds us from within our hearts and from our enemies out in the world has purpose in molding us, growing us, causing us to blossom into the perfect fragrant flower He meant us to be.

As we watch our freedoms eroding before our very eyes, we become fearful and we wonder how we are to respond. We feel so helpless to stop it. Like bindweed in a garden, evil has taken root in our country and is sprouting up on every side, choking out the beautiful flowers of freedom. Where were the gardeners, the faithful servants of God, when the bindweed first erupted? Why didn't they diligently pluck out each weed before they started choking out our freedoms?  Have we tarried in the land of enchantment Bunyan spoke of in The Pilgrims Progress and fallen asleep in the comfort surrounding us? Have we placed our trust in our politicians, our country, our constitution, our freedom?

"Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land." Jeremiah 17:5-6

It's past time for those shepherding the flock of God to lead us back to our first love. It is past time for individual believers to examine their own hearts. Are we using the gifts God has given us to further the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of self? We need to ask ourselves, where is our zeal for God? We should pursue God and His righteousness with at least as much zeal as our enemies use to advance against us and God's Kingdom. Why do we allow the bindweed to continue growing, choking out God's beautiful flowers?

Yet, how do we pluck out the bindweed? It's grown incredibly big, sprouting new branches all over our garden with roots that are strong and powerful. What do we do? When you weed a flower bed, you pull one weed at a time. And every time another weed sprouts, you pluck it before it becomes too strong to choke out the flower next to it. Whether we have fallen asleep in our enchanted garden, have become more afraid of the weed than the Master Gardner, or thought if we tolerate the bindweed we could somehow live together in the same garden, it's time to stop lying to ourselves. It is the responsibility of each Christian to do their part, to use their gifts to further the Kingdom of God. We must trust God for the fruit of the use of those gifts. Imagine what we could to if we band together and take our garden back by force.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

We face evil everyday. I think I speak for many when I say that I was naive enough at one time to believe that as a Christian my life should be easy. How contrary to the Gospel this is! Jesus said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him.

Peter says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 'If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." 2 Peter 4:12-19

Peter continues in chapter five by addressing those who shepherd the flock of God. If you are a pastor, teacher, or youth leader, I encourage you to read it and ask God to search your heart and help you be the shepherd He intends for you to be.

As our freedoms are being stripped away faster than any of us could have ever imagined, let us be strength to our neighbors. Let us show the world that we know Who is really in charge. We may lose our outward freedoms, but what can man truly do to us? Our enemy may triumph for a while, but Christ has already won the victory. Let us place our hope and trust in Him. Let that hope and trust make us bold to fight for what is right. Let us be humble servants of God so that He might use us to further His Kingdom.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen...Peace to all of you who are in Christ." 2 Peter 5:6-14

Finally, remember, "...if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14) And, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:8-9

Go with God and blossom into the perfect fragrant flower He created you to be.

Linnette R Mullin

*All scripture references are taken from the ESV.

Completing the Work He Began

"...Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5: (ESV)

If you've been a Christian for very long, you are well aquainted with Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV) It's a verse I've heard all my life and yet I'm not sure I've ever heard it preached in context - that or I simply wasn't paying attention.

God touched my heart this morning with a different view of it than I've ever had before. In starting with verse one, I read as though I were reading any other book. Too often we read the Bible as though it were a textbook in which we scan through to find the correct answer to an assigned question, or in search of an answer to a question that's bugging us. We've become uncomfortable with something and we seek an answer in God's word that will restore our comfort. Our intentions are selfish more often than not because we want to read what we want to hear. But, this morning I read Philippians (1&2) with no hampering mental stigmatism.

Paul starts the chapter by greeting the believers at Philippi. The words he uses to greet these believers are very touching. He has an obvious affection and appreciation for these people. He tells them how he thanks God for them and prays for them with joy. Then, he goes on to explain the reason for this depth of love for them. It is because they have been faithful in and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - not just in the beginning when they were new Christians, but from the beginning until the present time in which he is writing the letter. It is after pronouncing thanks for this steadfast faith that he says:

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

This really struck a cord with me. How many times do we get derailed in our walk with the Lord? How easily distracted do we become? Do we have the same fervor the Philippian Christians had? Or do we take God for granted, expecting Him to take care of us and keep us comfortable in this life only to rail at Him when things don't go the way we want?

We often forget that Jesus has called us to take up our cross and follow Him. We forget that the purpose of this life is to spread the Gospel of Christ as well as to shape us and mold us into His image. A very dear and wise woman once reminded me during my college years when I was searching to "find myself" that my search was misdirected. She reminded me that I need to seek to be like Christ, not seek to be me. I don't need to know who I am other than to make sure I am a daughter of God, committed to loving and following Him with all my heart.

As if to confirm this, Paul says in verse 7 and following that it's right for him to feel this way about them (that God will finish the good work He started in them), because they take part in defending and confirming the Gospel of Jesus Christ even in the face of his imprisonment.

Would our pastors be able to say of us that they thank God for us because we are dedicated to following Christ everyday of our lives no matter what the cost? Do they find encouragement in ministering to us because of our faithfulness or do they grieve over us because for the most part we could care less?

I admit that I have not been the encouragement I need to be - not to my pastor, not to my family, nor to my church. How I pray that will change! For I want others to be able to say of me that "...he who began a good work will bring it to completion..."

Mysterious Providence

When I first came to learn about the doctrines of grace or the reformed faith, I couldn't understand how God could be completely sovereign, that is in complete control of ALL things, and tragedy still occur. I mean, how can sin be in God's plan? While I still don't understand all that God allows or does, I now take great comfort in knowing that nothing surprises Him. Nothing is out of His control. He has a specific purpose behind everything He does and everything He allows. There is no greater comfort than knowing He's in complete control of all things.

This knowledge also strengthens my faith in Him. Though I still don't understand nor enjoy pain, I find comfort in knowing that it is not without a purpose - a God ordained purpose. While our dreams may be killed, God's visions are born in us through the tragedies we face. He always fulfills His purpose even in the midst of a sin-filled, Jesus-hating world.

"Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, and everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon My salvation will come, and My deliverance be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil."
Isaiah 55:6-56:1 ESV

When things get tough, I always remind myself that God is in control. He knows what's going on and He makes all things beautiful in its time.

~Linnette R Mullin

Photo: Sullivan's Island, SC, 2009 by Linnette R Mullin

Come to the Edge

A friend shared this devotional from her former Pastor Dave Hutson and I want to share it with you. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine.
Smoky Mountains taken by
Linnette R Mullin

From Pastor Dave:

Our preschool director once shared with me a card she received from a parent of a preschooler. It was flowery and nice and had the following words;

"Come to the edge," the teacher said.

"We can’t – it’s too high!"

"Come to the edge," the teacher said.

"No!" said the children, "We might fall down!"

"Come to the edge," the teacher said.

And frightened, they slowly moved closer to the cliff.

Leaning out, they looked over the edge and saw with wonder

The beauty stretched out before them.

And the teacher pushed them off the cliff;

---and they flew!

That sounds like the mighty Wood Duck. The hen builds a nest in the knothole of a tree and hatches her eggs. When the chicks are ready, (still featherless puffballs of fluff) – she coaxes them out of the hole/nest and they float to the ground and life is off and running, or flying when the time comes. "Come to the edge."

How many times has God called you to the edge? What were the times in your life when fear paralyzed, when hope seemed to dissolve, or when all that you depended on failed and the only certainty you knew was gravity? "Come to the edge!" - or maybe – "Welcome to the edge!" It is here that the real power, love, and presence of God are made known. "The edge" is where life is transformed from the mundane to the sacred. The edge is stepping out of the boat and finding water firm. The edge is Lazarus opening his eyes. The edge is the woman who heard Jesus say, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin." The edge is any time that God opens your heart in times of need. It is then that He brings peace, comfort, hope, blessings, grace, and his presence to encourage and uplift his people. Welcome to the edge – and in His power, you will fly!

Peace – Pastor Dave

Prayer; Heavenly Father, you know our fears and the times "on the edge" we face. Help us in those times to trust in your love and power. Free us from fear and make us strong in your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God help, guide, and bless each of us as we live our life on the edge!
~Linnette R Mullin

Grace and Obedience

As human beings, we often feel like we need to earn God's grace. We sin, we mess up, we want to be perfect but can't seem to get it quite right no matter how hard we try. What we don't seem to realize is that this is a sin in itself. We cannot work for God's favor for even our righteousness is as filthy, bloody rags. The assumption that we must work to gain God's grace stems from the sin of pride. We will never be good enough on our own in order to merit or earn salvation.

Yet, the Bible also says if we don't obey and strive to please God, living as He commands us to live, we aren't really believers. (James) So, where does this leave us?

A couple weeks ago, my pastor made what was to me a profound statement. So, here it is: "Obedience is not the root of justification, but the fruit of justification." There is nothing we can do to be saved, but once He saves us, we will live in obedience to His word.

Are we made perfect, then? Yes and no. We are made righteous in God's eyes, yet we are constantly being sanctified by the Spirit which now indwells our sinful bodies. For now, our spirits have been reborn. But, complete perfection and sinlessness won't occur until we've recieved our new bodies, as well.

Still, we must strive to be obedient children of God. And, we will strive if we are truly His because His love and grace and spirit moves and empowers us to do so.

Slow, Steady Destruction of Life’s Foundation

I caught a glimpse of a TV program last night where the man was addressing the topic of food supply. Not only does he fear we will run out of food, but he spreads his fears to others with his line of thinking. I questioned the rationale of his fear when it struck me that this and many other similar fears are products of the belief in evolution.

Though I didn't comprehend his logic at the time, I now understand Ken Ham when he said we have a serious problem on our hands if we do not defend the issue of creationism. If we do not believe that God created man in the space of six days (as is written in the Bible) as a fundamental truth, the very foundation of humanity will crumble. Do we not see this happening now?

If there is no creator God in control, if everything evolved from whatever the claim of the day is, what hope is there? In the world of evolution, there is no room for hope. We become gods who, by our actions or lack of actions, determine whether or not we run out of food and water. We determine whether or not global warming happens. We determine who has the right to live or die. We determine what is life and what is only an "embryo." The list goes on.

In this guy’s mind, if we aren’t careful to protect what we have we will run out of food. He can’t see the miracle of life producing life because God set everything in motion and will continue to produce as He commands despite the destruction men cause. While evolutionists say they believe in everything evolving and getting better, it really has the opposite effect – life will degenerate because there is no power behind it other than human power to keep in growing and flourishing. Everyone with common sense knows intuitively that if we have mankind to depend on for the progression of the universe, we are doomed. Man is not “basically good.” We would kill everything off including each other.

Not only this, but if creationism is a lie the whole of the Bible is one huge deception. How can we believe God concerning salvation and eternity if creation as a lie? Remove the stone of creation from the foundation and the entire thing crumbles.

But God did create all things and keeps everything growing and progressing. When the Bible says that God rains on the just and the unjust, He’s not talking about bad things in life. He’s saying that all good things come from God including the good that comes to those who don’t know Him or believe in Him – even to those who hate Him. Many Christians refer to this as “common grace.” It is only by God’s grace that we don’t destroy the world and each other. Sin is degenerative. Only God can sustain and keep us – ALL of us - in the midst of a sin infected world.
So, the next time you hear someone talking gloom and doom about our food supply, global warming, or any number of the day’s fear factors, do not let them destroy your life’s foundation. Remember that God created all things good and where there is God there is hope.

Thought Provoker:

If we are truly in danger of world wide food shortage, then why does the US government pay farmers to NOT farm? Why are we limited on the amount of food we are allowed to store up in a year? Why is it illegal to hunt outside of hunting season?