Growing Good Grapes

He planted a vineyard on a fertile hillside because he knew a hillside was the best place to plant good grapes.

He cleared the stones and planted only the choicest of vines.

He built a watchtower so he could watch over the vineyard and care for it.

He prepared a winepress in anticipation of making a fine wine with the good grapes.

He is our Father God.  And we are the grapes.

He has placed me right where he wants me in this world and he has a purpose for me here.  You have been placed here for a purpose, too.

He has prepared this place for us.  He has prepared you and I for this place and he watches over us with love and care.

He has planted us in a fertile place where we have the opportunity to grow – if we want to.

God tells us in Isaiah 5 that he did this same thing for the nation of Israel.  He prepared a place and planted them.  But when he looked for good grapes to make the wine, he couldn’t find any.

There was only bad fruit.  Because they didn’t choose God.  They didn’t choose to grow in the fertile ground he had prepared for them.

The same is true for us.

God desires to make a fine wine out of the good grapes that he will grow in our lives if we let him.

What kind of grapes are we growing?

Thank you for your love and care for us, Abba Father.

Stumbling…

Making a wrong choice.

Turning in the wrong direction.

Saying something that’s not right or should not be said.

I do it.

You do it.

We stumble.  It happens.

The big question that makes a significant difference in my life is – how often do I stumble?

Is making a bad choice a rare thing in my life?  Or does it happen pretty regularly?

Do I learn from my mistakes so I don’t do it again?

Or do I keep doing the same thing over and over?

There’s a big difference between an occasional stumble and being a regular ‘stumbler’.  And that difference will be pretty obvious in the amount of negative consequences we have to deal with in our lives.

God points out this truth to us very directly in Hosea 14 – “The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

Rebellion.

Doing what we want.

Not obeying God.

Putting ourselves on the throne of our lives.

Rebellion is a mindset that will cause us to stumble – regularly.

So, in reality, I choose how much I’m going to stumble when I choose my level of obedience to God.

Please help us obey so we can avoid being a regular ‘stumbler’, Abba Father.

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer, 2017

LORD, the God of our ancestors, you are the only God in heaven.  You are King over everything.

Power and might are in your hands – no one and nothing is as powerful as you.

Our God, you have always been on our side.  We know whatever problems and trials come our way, we just need to turn to you.  When we stand in your presence – crying out to you –  you hear us and save us.

We come to you now because we have more problems and new sorrows.  So we cry out to you, our God, to take care of them.  We cannot face these issues on our own.

We have no power.

We don’t know what to do.

We fix our eyes are on you, LORD.

We trust you, Abba Father.

 

 

Get Off the Teeter-Totter

I’m feeling good…

walking closely with God.

Hearing him.

Seeing him move.

Got a new Christian song rolling around in my head all day.

It’s all good.

And then something happens.

Big or little – it doesn’t have to be a major thing.

And life is suddenly a struggle again.  The things rolling through my head are not the most positive things.  I start wondering – where is God?  What is he doing?  It’s like a dimmer switch has turned down the light in my life and everything becomes darker…colder…..sad.

I know this happens to you too.  This is how it is here on our broken planet.

As we read Elijah’s story in 1 Kings, we find that it’s been like this for thousands of years.

First, Elijah is up on Mount Carmel, trusting God who shows up in such a powerful display of omnipotence that all of the Baal followers fall on their faces to worship the One True God.  Wow!

And then we read that Elijah went away to crawl into a cave to hide because he didn’t trust God to save him from his enemies.

Up!

Down.

Up!

Down.

It’s not easy to have a long-term, consistent relationship with God.

Life gets complicated.  Emotions start rolling.  Stuff happens.  And we find ourselves going up!

Then down.

OK, going up again!

Then down.

I have found a key that helps me avoid some of this ‘I’m not having fun’ time on the teeter-totter.  And that key is to follow God’s direction to me to trust and obey him – all the time.

Trust and obey – it works on the mountaintops when everything is great!

And it works in the valleys when I want to crawl in a cave.

It doesn’t take all the emotion out of the ride up and down but it helps limit the bad choices I could be making if I was reacting to all of these fluctuating feelings.  When I remember how faithful God has always been in the past, I can stand firm knowing that he will also be faithful today and in the future.

It’s not easy, but it works.

Thank you for your faithfulness, Abba Father.

 

Doing My Own Thing

Deciding for myself what is best for me.

Reacting – and sometimes over-reacting – to the situations around me.

Spending my money on me and what I want.

Determining my next step without consulting anyone.  And then quickly going down that path without stopping to evaluate whether it’s the right one for me.

Spending all my time on what I want to do or what I think is best for me.

Any of these describe your life?

I definitely find myself in these situations sometimes.

Do you know how God responds to us when we act like this?

“You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 12:6.

I want to go my own way?  He let’s me.

Don’t get me wrong – he still loves me.

He hears.

He cares.

It breaks his heart when I wander away and abandon him in any part of my life.

God lets me have this freedom of choice because he wants my whole heart.  He wants me to choose him over myself.

If I don’t choose to line my life up with his truth, he lets me.  And then I pay the consequences for those bad choices.  Sometimes very long-term consequences.

We share this broken world together so I know you’ve been there.  You might be there right now.

Saying whatever you want to say when you’re angry – how well did that work?

Spending all of your time working.  Too busy to spend any time with God.  Where did that get you?

Spending all your money on ‘stuff’ and  finding yourself deeply in debt.  Yeah – the consequences of not being obedient with our money are nasty.  Stressful.  Depressing.   And can last a very long time.

And God lets us.

Because he wants us to learn to choose him over everything else.

Everything else.

How are we doing?  Where do we need to improve?  Or maybe we need to start.

There is no better time than now.

Thank you for never really abandoning us, Abba Father.

Chasing the Wind

Is that what I’m doing?

Is that what you’re doing?

What is the meaning of life?

The Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that everything is meaningless.  He tells us that we cannot comprehend the meaning of life using human wisdom.

He tried.

And he found –

the emptiness of pleasure,

the emptiness of achievement,

the emptiness of labor – unless the person enjoys what they do,

the emptiness of worship that is not true and obedient,

the emptiness of being too busy to value relationships in our lives. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”,

the emptiness of wealth – accumulating stuff,

the emptiness of disobedience – doing whatever we want,

and the emptiness of strength not guided by wisdom.

The Teacher tells us that we will discover our life’s meaning by knowing God and obeying him while we find the correct balance of all of these things.

There is a time for everything.

So we aren’t chasing the wind.

Please let us know you and obey you, Abba Father.

A Sad Story

Do you hear about people who are very successful in doing all of the right things and then they blow it?

Such sad stories!

They had it all together at one point…but then they lost it.

I think one of the saddest stories in the Old Testament is how King Solomon let himself be negatively influenced by the foreign wives he let into his life and they led his away from his One True God.  The wisest man who ever lived started worshipping made-up, detestable, wooden gods.

A pitiful ending to a life that started out so well.

Do any of us want our lives to end up that way?  I don’t think so.  I know I don’t – I want to end well.

So I’m making a plan to ensure that my life stays on track with God.  I’m going to make sure I don’t get lazy about my spiritual habits of reading and memorizing Gods Word, talking with him, and building relationships with my spiritual family.  I’m going to be careful about the people I let into my life who influence me.  And I’m going to quickly turn back to God if I see myself wandering  down a path that doesn’t bring me closer to him.

What’s your plan?

Please keep us close to you, Abba Father.

Speeding Towards Danger

Rushing through life…

Speeding through each day…..

No time to think……

No time to reflect…

Does this describe your life?  There are times that it describes mine.

If I don’t take a break to figure out where my decisions are taking me and determine if that’s where I want to go, I’m looking for trouble.

God tells us in Proverbs 22:3, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

I’d like to describe myself as prudent so God is reminding me to be thoughtful about my journey in order to avoid the dangers.  When I see danger, the prudent thing is to go to God and take refuge in his truth and love.

Because God has all of the answers.

He loves me.

And he has promised that he wants the best for me.

Those who simply don’t take the time and effort to evaluate the path they are choosing will miss the danger signs and will pay the consequences.

And consequences for bad decisions are never fun.  We all know that.

Maybe today is a good day to stop and evaluate the road we’re on – looking for danger?  Before danger finds us.

That’s what I’m doing.

How about you?

Please open our eyes, Abba Father.

(This picture is the view from my balcony as I take a break during my vacation in Silverthorne, Colorado to evaluate.)

Not A Spectator Sport

It takes an effort.

It takes action.

It takes committment and perseverance.

Living a life of faith is not a spectator sport.  God tells me in Proverbs 2 to turn my ear to wisdom, apply my heart to understanding, call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding.

I must look for wisdom and insight like it is silver and search for it as I would search for hidden treasure.

How would I look for hidden treasure?  I would research information about the person who hid it which would help me figure out where they would hide it.  I would look for a map or any guidance that might be available.  And I would search for the tiniest spark, the smallest glimmer which could lead me to the treasure itself.

This is how God wants me – and you – to pursue him.

Seriously.

On purpose.

Taking advantage of every opportunity.

When I do that, I will find him and will be filled with his wisdom and knowledge of him.

Then, I will understand the right and just and fair thing to do and I will find the right path he has prepared for me.

This filling will not happen one hour on Sunday morning.  It will not happen in a 5 minute morning devotion.

Living a committed life of faith is not a spectator sport.

Thank you for how clear your word is to us in this area, Abba Father.

 

My Greatest Treasure

My greatest treasure is not money,

or fame,

or a lot of ‘stuff’.

My  greatest treasure is wisdom.  Wisdom – so I can navigate successfully through all of the valleys and hills and curves and u-turns of my life.  I’ve been memorizing wisdom scripture this last 3 years and it has been extremely valuable this last year as tragedy blew my life apart.

James tells us in his first chapter that God gives us generous amounts of wisdom when we ask for it.  I’ve been asking and I’m not going stop.

We read in 1 King 10 that the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon.  She was not interested in Solomon’s wealth – she was extremely rich herself.  She was not interested in his palaces or any of his numerous possessions.  She came to test his wisdom.  That’s what motivated her to take a 1200 mile trip on a camel through a desert filled with thieves and criminals.

When the Queen of Sheba asked Solomon all of her many questions, he had an answer for everything.

She was surprised.

She didn’t think that was possible.

She talked about how happy Solomon’s people must be to be able to hang out with him and hear this wisdom every day.

All wisdom comes from God.  It is our greatest treasure.

Thank you for generously giving us wisdom when we ask,  Abba Father.