Suck It Up

Photo: Tammy Cardwell

I love succulents! They are amazing in so many ways; one of my favorites is their ability to suck up water when it rains and store it for use during dry seasons.

I want to be like that! I want to stay full of the Holy Spirit, full of the Word of God, and full of love so that dry seasons, times of trials and troubles, don’t catch me unprepared. Yes, I may take a beating and look less than my best in the midst of the battle, but when it’s over I’ll still be standing!

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Oh Lord

I come to you as a child of the church. Some of my earliest memories center around Sunday school and the sanctuary. We weren’t always in church over the years, but we were there enough that I accepted Jesus in the summer after sixth grade.

On that day, at summer camp, in a chapel by a lake, I accepted Him as my Savior. It was years before I accepted Him as my Lord.

You hear the question all the time: “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” And you hear others answer, “Yes.” It seems you especially hear them answer affirmatively if they were raised in church like I was – because that’s the response you’re expected to give.

In actuality, though He was undeniably my Savior and I knew it in the depths of my soul, I had no clue what it even meant to accept Him as Lord. Worse, I didn’t know there was a difference. I guess I figured “Lord and Savior” was all the same thing. But…lordship?

I knew what it meant to follow the guidelines I was taught in church.

I knew what it meant to obey the rules laid down at home.

But Jesus as Lord? I didn’t even know what a lord was, or not until I started studying certain historical time periods.

Throughout history, the lord of the estate or region was the one who ruled – similar to a king, but on a much more personal level. If he were a good lord, he kept his eye on you, saw to it that you had what you needed to get your work done, knew if you were sick… He accepted a certain level, a high level, of responsibility for you.

And you? If you truly accepted him as your lord, you obeyed him and submitted completely to his authority. You made sure you knew what he expected of you and you did it. You learned what pleased him and tried to make him happy. You were his and he was yours, and you considered it an honor to serve him.

It was after gaining this understanding that I began to grow up as a Christian. Jesus’ question in Luke 6:46 is relevant, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” Here is reality; it’s one thing to say He is your Lord. It is another thing entirely to live with Him as your Lord. Honestly, it seems that most Christians today don’t even know what He says. How, then, can they let Him be Lord? So…

Number 1: We learn what He says. The very first thing we have to do, of course, is start listening to Him. Read the Word and truly pay attention to it. Pray and genuinely listen to what He has to say to you. Be in the church He calls you to and let the minister He has set there guide you as you learn.

Number 2: Act on what He says. Always do what He says, and put forth every effort to please Him. Remind yourself continually that He was never supposed to be only your Savior, but also your Lord.

Accepting Jesus as your Savior requires a heart change and a declaration. Accepting Jesus as your Lord requires action – continual, faithful, intentional action.

Salvation is free, but accepting His Lordship requires effort – an investment of time, heart, intentions, and actions.

But oh, the rewards on that investment!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

No King but King Jesus

I just completed my study of the book of Judges, which ends with some of the saddest words in the Bible: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

The last few chapters illustrate the utter depravity Israel sank into after Joshua died. It’s horrific, and I cannot help but see a parallel.

“No king but King Jesus!” is a phrase associated with the American revolution, a heart cry that made its mark on our nation’s founding documents. Letting God reign made a difference at our founding as it did at Israel’s founding.

In the book of Judges, we see that when God is removed from His rightful position things go south because people are left to do whatever seems right to them. This is where we are in the US today. Moral relativism rules and depravity dominates – and the failure started in the heart of the Christian just as surely as, in the book of Judges, it started in the hearts of the Israelites.

If there is to be any hope for our nation as a whole, it starts with us. We Christians MUST put Jesus back on the throne of our hearts, letting Him rule. Then, and only then, will we be in position to be the light of the world so others can be drawn to God. Then, and only then, can we hope to experience a moral revolution in this nation we love.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Revisiting the Furnace

Most of us have heard the story of the three Hebrew boys and how they were thrown into a fiery furnace after refusing to bow to the idol. (Daniel 3) We read about their obedience to God, being thrown in, the guards dying from the heat, the king seeing them and the fourth man walking around, and them walking out of the fire not even smelling of smoke. But let’s pause for a moment. What about while they were inside? What happened…from their perspective?

The first thing they would have noticed, beyond the fact that they were still alive, was that the very fire intended to destroy them had, instead, burned away their bonds. They were thrown into the fire held captive and bound, but were likely loosed before they even hit the floor. Yes, they were still in the fire, but they could stand up, may have even playfully pulled each other up, and they could walk around as they liked. In truth, they were more free than they had been for a while. 

Many times in our lives, we find ourselves anticipating potential outcomes with dread, perhaps with such a fear that it binds us, holding us captive and keeping us from moving forward. Statistics say that what we fear almost never even happens. Think about that. How much time do we waste letting the fear of something that will NEVER HAPPEN hold us captive to the point that we can’t even move?

But the thing is that, once we’re thrown into the fire, that fear is burned away. The worst has already happened and, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can look up from the floor of the furnace and realize, “Hey! I’m still here! I survived!”

I can imagine their surprised joy in that moment. They had dared declare God’s power to the king, assuring him that the One they served was more than able to deliver them. And He had. You know that special laughter that comes with joy? I can almost hear it. I can also see them turning to look through the flames, out the door, at the outside. Perhaps in the midst of their astonishment they wondered what they should do next. And then, just maybe, from behind them…

They heard a chuckle. Can you see them whipping around in even more shock and amaze? The king said the fourth man in the fire looked like the son of God. Presumably, he was right. They wouldn’t have known Him as “Jesus,” but their hearts would surely have recognized Him.

Now their backs are to the exit, the fire that surrounds them is pretty much forgotten, and their eyes are firmly focused on their first ever glimpse of the One they’ve offered their lives for. Though they have no way of knowing it, everything – literally everything – has changed. 

What words would Jesus have spoken to them? Did they ask all of the questions that had burned in their hearts for years? Did He… I can’t really even begin to propose what He might have said. We do know this, though. They spent some time in there. 

We don’t know how much time, but it was enough that the king eventually realized what he was seeing, pointed it out to his companions, and called out for the three to come out. Given the raging fire, and how loud it would have been, it seems to me that either the fire was allowed time to burn down or Jesus told them, “Hey guys, the king is calling.”

Regardless, stepping back inside with the kids… While I was homeschooling, I wrote an essay entitled “The View from Inside the Furnace,” and at this point I suggested that they, instead of being in the worst time of their lives (what it looked like) were actually on the field trip of a lifetime.

As they walk around, I imagine Jesus explaining exactly how this furnace works, how it is used to harness the destructive nature of fire and cause it to change things, transforming soft clay into usable, even valuable, vessels. Then I imagine Jesus sharing a few secrets about how He is going to use their time in the fire to do far more, not only to change them, making them more useful and valuable, but also change the world. I imagine…quite a lot, actually. 

Can you see the disappointment on their faces when either they finally hear the king calling or Jesus announces that their visit is over? The very thing that was at one time the ultimate threat has now become a refuge, a place they’ve been seeking their whole lives – a secret place where it is just them and Him. In all honesty, if it were me I’d have been like a child begging for “just one more story.”

Actually, I have been. I wrote the essay I referred to earlier during one of the hardest times of my life.  I intended it for friends who were worried about me, and with good reason. In the midst of the fire I learned things I could never have learned anywhere else, and I developed an intimacy with God that I had never known. As I shared with God in prayer at the time, I would never wish that fire on my worst enemy, but I desperately desired to take the intimacy with me when I walked back out of the flames. 

Those three boys had to feel the same way, but for them I think it almost had to be a harder walk to take, because Jesus came out of that furnace with me, staying always by my side, and they had to leave the fourth man behind, knowing they would likely never see Him face-to-face again.

And, as I imagine Jesus promising, their world changed – and not just for them. Yes, they were promoted and given all honor, but even more importantly God was promoted, and the king himself ordered that He be worshipped. Yes, our God was merely added to the list of gods they already worshipped, but it was a beginning.

So I leave us (Yep, this is a reminder for me.) with this. Serve God with all your heart and don’t fear the fire. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He has great plans for us, and Romans 8:28 promises that He can cause all things to work together for our good. Even a walk in a fire-filled furnace, though terrifying to face, can be  an amazing experience that prepares us for an astounding future. 

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Let Go of Your Seed!

Can you plant a seed without letting it go? No.

Our church is coming up fast on a multi-layer event that raises money for our myriad missions and outreach programs, and a while back God led me to donate one of my newest and favorite possessions. I won’t lie; I choked for a moment, but I’ve learned through the years that God never calls me to give up something unless He has something better in mind, a purpose (or multiple purposes) for my actions. Besides, when you plant a seed you get a harvest – as the Bible says, thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

So the other day I had a thought: “I could bid on it and get it back.” In that moment, I had an epiphany. I didn’t need to. I didn’t want to. I had completely let it go and didn’t even want it back. This revelation led to an interesting conversation with God.

Long story short. Years ago, I’d been called to give away one of my favorite things and I’d done it almost instantly, but begrudgingly. For years (not kidding) I’d had this niggling thought of, “Man, if only I’d not…” In our conversation, God reminded me about that event and pointed out that I HAD NEVER LET GO of that seed. Because I had never truly let go, the seed had never been truly planted – regardless of the fact that it was in the other person’s hands. So I had never received the harvest He had wanted me to have.

So… When God calls you to give something, be it to someone personally, to a ministry, to a charity auction…whatever, LET IT GO. Don’t judge how you think that person should handle it. Don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t have it any more. Don’t let regret hang around. LET. IT. GO.

You cannot plant a seed in the ground if you do not let it go first. You cannot plant a seed in ANY ground if you do not let it go first. And if you don’t have a planted seed you don’t have that seed’s intended harvest.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Meditations: Hebrews 4:2b

Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014
Copyright Clarissa Pardue 2014

Hebrews 4:2b
NIV

…the message they heard was of no value to them,
because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.

 

“They,” in this case, are those who Moses led out of Egypt. In the previous chapter, the author shares what God said about that generation and how their refusal to trust in and obey Him resulted in them not being able to enter into the rest that God had promised to give them in Canaan. They heard the same message that the next generation heard, but they only heard it; they failed to mix the message with faith, with action.

Some think that faith is merely believing, that if they hear a message and believe that message, then they have mixed the message with faith, but the Bible speaks otherwise. A message mixed with faith results in action. In the case of the Israelites who had fled from Egypt, the action would have been the taking up of arms and conquering of Canaan. They only heard the message, however. They did not really believe. Their faith, such as it was, was dead, useless.

James reminds us…

2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

2:17 …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead

2:20 …faith without deeds is useless…

2:26 …faith without deeds is dead.

I had to fight the temptation to copy all of James 2:14-26 here. It reveals so very clearly that faith and action absolutely must work hand-in-hand.

I do not want to miss out on that rest my God has promised me. I want all that He has set aside for me. I refuse to miss out!

Having made that decision, what is required of me now? Action! As I hear the message, if I do not want it to be of no value to me – do not want to be counted as no more worthy than that group of faithless Israelites – then I absolutely must combine the message with faith, faith that steps out and does whatever the message calls me to do.

It was that combining of message and faith that resulted in my salvation in the first place. Who knows how many times I’d heard the message previously? All those earlier hearings had been of limited value, however, because I did not act on them, did not combine them with faith. Yet on that one, specific day, while I probably heard the very same message spoken in much the same way, I reacted differently. I combined the message with faith and took a step toward the altar, I accepted all that Jesus did for me when He offered His life up as the sacrificial substitute for mine, and I was forever changed. Far from being of no value to me, that morning’s message was priceless.

Remembering this – the moment and the results of what happened in that moment – how can I fail to ensure that the message always is of value to me? Yet I do fail. There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve heard a message and done nothing with it, not even mixed it with a tiny bit of faith, a little bit of action. What have I missed as a result? What seeds did God try to plant that I let die before they bore fruit, killed by my own negligence, my own lack of faith-based action?

I can’t change the past. I can only repent and commit to a changed future…and I do.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Trust

One of the responses I received to a One-word Challenge I offered on Facebook, “trust” is a word I couldn’t resist blogging about. I recently finished reading The Complete Jewish Bible, and it tends to use “trust” where most other translations use “faith.” It took me a while to notice it, but there is almost an easier feel when you read “trust God” as opposed to “have faith in God.” Perhaps it’s ridiculous, since they mean the same thing, but it’s true for me. “Trust God” seems easier somehow.

When I think of the word “trust,” I also go pretty directly to my life verse: Prov 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord…” I have broken this passage down repeatedly, looking at it from various angles, yet interestingly enough I’ve never looked up the literal definition of trust before. So today I pulled out my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible to learn more about the Hebrew word.

#982 – batach – a primary root; prop. to hie for refuge [but not so precipitately as 2620]; fig. to trust, be confident or sure:–be bold (confident, secure, sure), careless (one, woman), put confidence, (made to) hope, (put, made to) trust

It’s interesting that it says this trust is not quite like “chacah” (2620), in that the latter word indicates fleeing to protection. Instead, this trust is more about finding our permanent refuge in God, knowing that in His presence we are as safe as a child in his father’s arms. A child riding securely in his father’s arms is confident and sure; he’s bold, secure, and free from care. Having put his trust, as well as his self, in his father’s arms, he has hope that all will be well.

This, then, is the trust our Father wants us to have in Him. He not only wants us to come as little children (Luke 18:17), He wants us to live with Him as little children in this sense, trusting Him so implicitly that we do what He tells us to, all He tells us to, when He tells us to…knowing that, when we do, everything will be all right.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

 

Door Opening Dreams

“Dreams open doors.”

God spoke these words to me, and then explained further. Whether for good or evil, our dreams open doors.

I’m obviously not talking about what we dream while we sleep, but rather the thoughts we think while awake. We know from II Cor. 5:10 that we are to cast down “imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” These are the evil dreams He spoke of, those imaginations that inspire fear and, once they get hold of us, create feelings that can completely overpower our faith.

The thing is, dreams – godly dreams – are some of the very things God created the imagination for. By creating pictures with our imaginations, daydreaming if you will, of the things we know God wants us to do, or be, or have, we are building up our faith – and our faith opens doors to our future.

Consider what happens when you hear someone give their testimony, how it inspires you to think, “Well, if He did that for them He can do what I need too!” This builds your faith. Take it further and imagine God actually DOING IT and your faith is built more.

The world got hold of this truth long ago. They use fancy phrases and scientific labels, but the bottom line message is that if you can see yourself doing something, if you dream of it long enough, imagine clearly enough, you have a much better chance of actually DOING it. Athletes have used this “technique.” Business tycoons use this “principle.” It’s time for the church to wake up and use what God designed for His purposes from the very beginning. It’s time for us to open doors with our dreams.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C