Archives for posts with tag: grace

I watched a Discovery Channel program the other night about how our brain “sees” color. It was very interesting. One of the things our brain does, all on its own, is interpret what we are looking at according to the knowledge we have. In other words, as a child you were told that the leaves on trees are green, and that is how you will see them even if there is no sunshine illuminating them. Many people who have been asked as witnesses in an accident or other occurrence at night testify that they saw green trees, even though that is impossible. Our brain “sees” what it has been trained to see.
The neuroscience behind this is fascinating. Our brain is more than just an organic computer (info that goes in turns into knowledge). It processes the information input to a level that is not only split-second, but can make our bodies react in split seconds, too. Saving us from disaster at certain times.
But what I found fascinating was the explanation of how we see “color.” All our vision comes from the light that is reflected on what we are looking at. If you have ever been deep in a cave, where absolutely no light reaches, you will see absolutely nothing….not even your hand right in front of your face. It is impossible to see because there is no light at all.

color
Colors are created by the type of light from the sun that is in the atmosphere. Besides the polarized light that bombards us, there is ultra-violet light, which humans can’t see without special lenses and adaptations, being emitted all the time. Many cats, however, can see ultra-violet light, and if you notice a cat staring intently off into nothing, it could be they are looking at something you cannot see.
The “color” white is in actuality the reflection of the entire visible light spectrum. Black is not a color at all: a black object absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them to the eyes. When you paint with water colors and dip your brush into one color, then clean that color off your brush in a bowl of water and get the next color and do the same thing, over and over, eventually the water will turn black because it has absorbed all the colors you have put into it.
Spiritually speaking, no wonder heaven is described as needing no sun or moon because God Himself is the light…He is the epitome of ALL the reflected light there is or ever could be. In fact, He is blinding in His radiance. Therefore, Heaven will hold beauty we cannot fathom, nor has “eye ever seen.”
Hell, with Satan the father of all Darkness, will be the exact opposite. Many people argue whether there will be flames that do not consume in Hell or not. Okay, debate that. What I do know, and our science confirms, is that without the Light of God, wherever Hell is, it will be totally pitch black. Twenty-four and seven. For eternity. I cannot think of a worse place than that. Never being able to see anything, anyone, forever.
That is why I know the darkness that fell over the earth at the moment our Savior died on the cross must have been terrifying. The moment God’s light was removed from the earth.
And that is why I praise God’s Mercy and Grace for loving me enough to give me eternal life with Him. He has provided perfect light and a perfect place for us to see His Glory. And we are to enjoy that Glory with Him, forever.

by Cindy Best

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

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Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

(adapted by John Wesley from a prayer by Richard Alleine)

Here in our state, we see acres and acres of corn and we know it is one of the most important crops in the entire world.

Sweet corn that is so delicious you swear you’re eating candy.  Feed corn that is used to feed animals and help them grow.  And seed corn… sent over the oceans to countries that use it to grow their own crops of corn to feed their people or animals.

Corn

Corn is used in a multitude of ways.  I can only think of a few, but they are amazing.  Corn oil is used to fry veggies and chicken.  Or corn is used to ferment and make alcohol. And with new technology, corn can be turned into Ethanol to help power engines.

And corn is a symbol of so much of fall.  “Indian corn” with its multi-colored kernels adorns many tables in centerpieces of harvest blessings.  And corn shucks are tied to fence and light posts to decorate our gates and doorways.   And then there’s “candy corn” passed out as goodies for fall celebrations…the yellow, orange and white candies sold in bags and bags at the grocery store, all based on CORN!

candy corn

If you’ve lived around a farm, or driven by one throughout the year, you know the hours of work involved in planting corn.  First, there’s the preparation of the soil, making it soft and rich with nutrients to give the seeds an environment to grow and be healthy.

Then there’s the hours spent planting each one of those seeds.  Can you believe that dried up seed will grow into that awesome ear of Peaches and Cream sweet corn???

Following that there’s watering, weeding, and praying a hail storm or strong wind doesn’t destroy the plant.  Harvesting goes on in billows of dust and into the night.  Ever see those harvesting machines with headlights on working into the night?

God bless our farmers!

Much the same routine goes on for all sorts of produce.  But think for a moment about tomato plants, peppers, green beans, peas, squash, zucchini.  Do you plant those in your home garden?  How many tomatoes do you get per plant?  How many peppers, beans, peas, etc.?

produce

And for an apple tree, or cherry tree, or citrus tree of some sort…how many fruits pull at the branches?

You plant, water, weed, fertilize…harvest.  Same kind of work for each plant, right?

But most varieties of CORN–each stalk so lovingly tended to–yield just ONE ear, maybe two!   Did you know that?  That is why we see acres and acres of corn in order to get bushels to be used in so many ways.

How many of us are willing to do just as much work for ONE thing as we are to get MANY things?

Do you know that Jesus would have gone through ALL he did, being made fun of, taunted, hated, lashed and crucified for ONE person?  For YOU?  That is how important you are to God.

Don’t forget it.  YOU are His child…the fruit of His labor.  YOU!

by Cindy Best

Have you ever owned anything you really couldn’t afford?  Maybe you’ve bought a fixer-upper house (or any house) and found that no matter how much time and money you pour into it, there’s always something else to fix or replace.  Or maybe you’ve bought a classic car, intending to restore it to its former glory, and everything you do just leads to something else that needs to be done.  We invest so much into maintaining and improving our investments, sometimes we wonder if they are worth what they cost.

Perhaps you’ve received a gift you couldn’t afford.  Has a well-meaning friend or relative given your child a puppy or kitten, thinking only about how much the child would enjoy the pet and not about how much time and money you will have to spend feeding and caring for it?  Or maybe someone has given you an expensive family heirloom, and over the years you have had to move it, find a place for it, dust it, insure it.  Sometimes a gift can be a burden.

When we consider the gift of salvation that God has offered us, we surely experience joy and gratitude.  This is truly a gift that we cannot afford; yet, it is a gift that we must accept if we are to embrace life and overcome death.  God’s grace is freely given:  it cannot be earned or bought and, just as importantly, it cannot be returned or lost.  It is the gift we celebrate at Christmas by giving presents to one another.  It is the babe in the manger, the offerings of the magi, the miracle of God becoming human and living among us.  It is the wonder of a young girl who gave her own life, her plans and her future, to God to use as He pleased.  How many of us would make such a sacrifice?

If you have children, you have probably heard them say, “I wish it could be Christmas every day!”  Indeed, we are urged to keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  Doing so might make us happier, more generous, more loving people.  But as followers of Jesus, isn’t it even more important to keep Easter ever in our hearts?  The love of God demonstrated by the incarnate Word is a complex love.  It is generous, kind, compassionate, and joyful.  It is also sacrificial, demanding, and loaded with expectation.  It is the warmth of a stable full of animals making quiet sounds over a newborn baby dozing in the protective arms of his mother.  It is the agony and solitude of the cross and the bitter chill of a tomb.  It is the impossible truth of a risen Lord.

angel-prayers public domain

What does it mean to keep Easter all year long?  To me, Resurrection Sunday is like New Year’s Day.  It is a new beginning for everyone who has accepted this incredible gift of salvation.  It is a day of ecstatic joy preceded by three days of darkness, mourning, and despair.  We would do well not to forget those days of hopelessness because they remind us of the despair Jesus felt on the cross as first his friends and then his Father turned away from him.  Christmas is God’s perfect love poured out on creation; Easter is God’s pure love tempered by sacrifice.  It is love that through the tormenting fire of ridicule, abandonment, cowardice, selfishness, abuse, jealousy, hatred, and murder became . . . grace.

How can we respond to such a gift?  Saying “thank you” is a start, but it’s not enough.  Unless our hearts are changed by this extravagant grace, God’s love is wasted on us.  When we are tempted to be proud of our new status in Christ, we might remember that he, not we, paid the price for it.  When we are provoked to righteous indignation, we might consider the many accounts in scripture of his dealings with provokers and respond the way he did, with quiet confidence.  When we are angry, we might remember how an act of sacrificial love was what it took to satisfy the wrath of God, and we might offer love instead of a clever word or hurtful retort.  When we see those in need, we can reach out beyond our own small circles and offer help.  When we don’t know what else to do, we can love.  And if love costs us something, we can be grateful for the opportunity to make the sacrifice.  It is so little compared to what we have been given.

We must keep Easter in our hearts always, lest we forget that the babe in the manger was also the lamb on the altar.

We are faced with another passing.  Another friend.  Another family.  Another loss.

Is your heart heavy?  Come to Jesus.  His burden is light.  He gives us a Comforter and a promise of God’s kind of peace.

As Pastor Clegg said at the time of Gina Higbee’s death, we do not grieve as those without hope.  Thank God alone for that!  This world is a world without hope.  Except for the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we would grieve as the world grieves.  But He gives us a forever-life with our forever-family and friends.  Gina and Jim Brown are experiencing that.  Tina believes that.

God GIVES it.  He GAVE it.  Before the earth was even made.  Before you and I and all our loved ones existed.

Cross on a hill

Think of that!

It means you have nothing to do with the salvation God planned.  There is nothing you could do to change His plans for you to be in heaven with Him, because you have no part in the arrangements He has made.  Christ provided your way to God and once you know that, you can be assured He is engaged in preparing His house for you.

How awesome is our God!  How worthy to be praised!  How deserving of our love and thanksgiving.

His promise is done.  Completed.  If you ever had a doubt that He loves you, look at the Cross of Christ.  Where is it in history?  Behind you.

“It is finished,” Jesus said.  God is the God of all time…past, present and future.  And because of that, what He says ‘about’ time stands forever.  When Christ spoke on that cross, his words agreed with what God had already proclaimed.  That once, and for all time, the price of sin was paid.

Jesus paid it all.

All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain.

He washed it white as snow.

Let us all say, “Amen and Amen!”

And remember to pray for all who grieve losses, including Margaret’s loss of her sister-in-law.

by Cindy Best

Rachel’s parents had died of AIDS and that is how she came to live with her only blood relative, an aunt, and her three cousins with a sometimes-present husband.

As the uninvited guest, Rachael was expected to earn her keep by doing chores, fetching water and firewood, and digging in the garden.

This tiny girl was strong and could carry a full jerry can, 40 pounds of water. She slept on bare ground, was the last to eat, and often endured verbal and physical beatings by her drunken guardians. This explained why at age nine she looked like she was six.

Staff at Juna Amagara noticed Rachael and, with the aunt’s permission, invited her to come to school. They found a sponsor to cover school fees which included at least one hot meal a day. “She was sick and undernourished when we found her,” Moureen Kyokusiima, the Director of Child Services commented. “Juna Amagara saved this girl’s life.”

 

I met Rachael when, in 2010, she needed to be removed from the abusive living environment and we rode in the same van to her new home, an orphanage/school in another village.

I was extremely fascinated by this diminutive munchkin wearing her whole wardrobe, growing wide-eyed at not-oft or ne’er-seen sights like reflective window glass and tiled bathroom facilities at the petrol station. And the petrol station! I’ll not soon forget how she savored each tiny spoonful of the half cup of ice cream bestowed upon her there at that pre-heaven fuel stop.

While waiting for our ‘taxi’ (van) I pulled out a pen and two sheets of paper and began to draw in an effort to gain the trust of this wordless child. I drew a stick figure of her and wrote her name beside it, drew a sunset scene and taught her tic tac toe.

It was when I drew a dog that she spoke up, “It is a pig.” A smile broke through. After more writing and drawing she pronounced, “It is a book.”

The next morning when our team visited her at The Children’s Home, she produced ‘the book,’ in which she had practiced writing her numbers earlier that morning.

I knew that the childhood stolen from Rachael was being re-discovered when this shy not-comfortable-looking-you-in-the-eye Cinderella broke into dance right before my very eyes.

Rachael gives the conclusion of the matter in this video, in an understatement of monumental proportion:

“My life at Juna Amagara, it is good.”

Blessings upon the not-so-diminutive savor-er of life. And ice cream.

Connie Hoogeveen 2012

Beginning a project, a new concept, or a new season brings with it the chance of failure.  Are you feeling up to a challenge?  Are you thinking of the positive side of what the new venture or new resolution can mean?

To me, the fall season doesn’t mean winter is ahead and I have nothing to look forward to but colder weather.   It means so many things are in front of me that I get to experience again and afresh!  Fall leaves, cool nights and fire pits, candles, comfy sweatshirts and holidays I love!

Yes, there could be lousy weather…no doubt there will be.  But it comes and goes, and I get to experience it.  Each day I try to thank God for the gifts He gives me so graciously without my asking:  sight, hearing, movement, the ability to think, touch, smell, taste and swallow!  For some, those things are not possible…I try not to take them for granted.

And on the inevitable down days–sometimes even downright bad days–I try to let them pass and be done with them.  Not always easy, I grant you that!  One quote that I’ve come to love is by Tony Robbins:  “Yesterday does not equal tomorrow. Forget the past and move toward your goals.”

If you’ve ever rested beside a moving stream, you’ve probably noticed the water tumbling over and around rocks, sticks, and dead leaves; sometimes it pools in a little quiet spot and then when it gets full to the brim it trickles around and down, other times it spills over the top of a stone and flows quickly on its way.  What it doesn’t do, is give up and go backwards.

Obstacles are part of everyone’s life.  There is no person without a past.  And as long as you live just one more second, you will have a future.  As the water in the stream meets objects that just happen to be in its path, we must figure a way around whatever we bump against.  Often it is our own inner thoughts that give us the biggest obstacles.

Surrendering our own plans to God, our strong wills, our weaknesses, our failures (and yes, we all have failures no matter how we look on the outside) will help us get through the changes that come daily.  Those new challenges, new projects, new ideas…they are there for a reason.  Not to make us stumble and go backwards!  Surrender does *not* mean we give up…it means we keep going with renewed confidence in the God who sustains us and gives us each breath.  Surrendering to God can only bring goodness into our lives, because God is good… He cannot be other than good!

As we continue to learn more about God’s love this season, I hope we can focus on what is good about our journeys.  Each one of us is on a path going somewhere.  We may not understand our own path, let alone someone else’s, but we can understand that God loves each one of us and is on the path *with* us… He is actively engaged with us on the road of life, not standing aside and watching us stumble our way along.  Believe in His love for YOU!  Accept His grace to YOU!

by Cindy Best

My favorite place to vacation is in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  To me, that is the closest place to heaven on earth.  There, I can see mountain streams with the sparkle of diamonds on the water where the sun shines on it almost every day of the year.  And listening to its babble as it flows crystal clear over rocks and tree limbs relaxes me like no other sound.

The Aspen trees have leaves that rustle in the wind and the pines brush against one another and have their own special sound.  I love it, love it, love it!

Something I found out not too long ago was that the gorgeous, tall  and stately pine trees reaching toward heaven all have very shallow roots.  In fact, so shallow, they need to grow close enough to one another so their roots can intertwine.  Only in that way do they withstand the high mountain winds and thunderstorms that could make them sway so badly they twist and fall.  They literally hold one another up.

I think those pines are a good example of how we as Christians should come alongside one another and provide intertwined spiritual roots to help each of us stand strong against the storms of life.

What would happen if we could, without even knowing what others’ problems were, just always be available to reach out and “grab hold”–underground as it were–of them and help them survive!  What an amazing difference that would make in the lives of our friends.  That kind of love and unconditional support would also draw untold thousands to churches across our land looking for what it is we Christians “have.”

Of course, as believers in God’s plan and gift of grace through Jesus Christ, we have this kind of support available every second of every day.  So, I’ve decided to challenge myself to reach out and support anyone who wants to grow along beside me…would you be willing to reach out to others, too?

I think the pine trees have become my example of how very important we are to one another.  This week, try to reach out to someone else, even if it’s only a “hello” across the aisle at church, or a smile at someone in the grocery store.  You never know what burden is undermining their roots where you cannot see.  Touching your roots to theirs could make all the difference to them, and to you!

by Cindy Best

If you were sick with the stomach flu this past week, you’d be treating yourself as symptoms arose: stop eating, rest, and as soon as possible begin drinking hot tea or some fluid to replenish your body. If you found out your illness was not just the flu, but something very serious, you’d get yourself to a doctor, maybe even a specialist. If you’ve discovered that your life is in danger of a spiritual death from an illness you can’t begin to cure, you can at once call for the Perfect Physician and as soon as that Healer is allowed into your life, the spiritual malady is cured. There will be no “death” from this disease.

Are you at a point where you need to be assured you are healed from the disease of spiritual deficiency, unrighteousness and therefore, death? Is it all real? Well, I can share what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans so long ago: “Now God says He will accept and acquit us and declare us ‘not guilty’–if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.” (Romans 3:33-34, Amplified Version)

You know if you are healed of a tumor or appendicitis, or even a decaying tooth, there is pain involved. Healing is not always painless. With spiritual healing there is the painful act of humility–the conscious agreement that you cannot heal yourself. God must perform His miracle in your life in only one way: you must admit defeat in your own ability, your own “cures.” 1 Cor. 1:10 says, “For God says, I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.” (The Living Bible)

When the vaccine to prevent Polio first came to the world, we felt so fortunate that this horrible, crippling and killing disease could be halted. People flocked with their children to receive this “miracle vaccine” to protect themselves from this illness. Now there are vaccines for most diseases that used to plague children–and now we make sure our children get them!

What a pity those who are afflicted with diseases of the spirit don’t flock to the One who can provide the miracle of grace as the cure to the release from the crippling effects of a burdened and aching spirit within.

How simple the story of the stricken daughter and her illness seems, and the answer also. The problem was in the discovery of the seriousness of the disease. If you know you or a loved one is suffering from a fatal spiritual  disease, call in the Specialist. There is no cost. Salvation is free and available to all. “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, Living Bible).

by Cindy Best

Many years ago, a young girl was extremely ill. When her father
learned just how serious the illness was, he spent over $70,000 to
bring a specialist from another country to cure his daughter’s disease.
Even decades ago, that amount of money is beyond most of our personal
financial ability, but what father wouldn’t give his entire worth
for the life of his child?

This incident pricks our own hearts, because we instinctively recognize
that if one of our children had a fatal disease and the family doctor or
local specialist couldn’t help, we would immediately seek help from a
physician with greater experience in the specific area needed. And our
acknowledgement of the need for this person and the urgency of the
moment would be obvious. A good father would not wait to call for
help until a child’s illness was past the point of recovery.

What do you think makes thousands and thousands of people turn
away from accepting the free grace, love, and salvation provided for
the asking from the Great Physician? Instead of receiving healing for
their soul, they turn away to certain death and eternal separation from
God and family and friends who’ve already become children in God’s
immense family.

Why deliberately refuse to call in a specialist for your spiritual illness?

Personally, I think it’s because people don’t realize they are gravely–
fatally–sick in spirit. They don’t realize their illness is an illness leading
to a “forever death.”

Many times symptoms of an actual disease are treated as they appear.
First a couple pills for a headache and fever. Then a capsule for allergies
or a cough syrup for a bad cough that keeps sleep from coming.
Finally, there’s a diagnosis that instead of a cold, the person has
pneumonia and needs an antibiotic and maybe even hospitalization.
By treating the symptoms, some relief came, but the total cure
couldn’t happen until a proper diagnosis was made.

How similar is the spiritual sickness so many endure. The symptoms
are treated sporadically. Heartaches, depression, loss of purpose, confusion,
loneliness; all these can be treated as they occur, but never
really cured because the disease itself is never properly diagnosed.
“Spiritual Unrighteousness” carries with it the prognosis of death. The
death of the body is just the beginning, because the spirit keeps on
living, only without God, it is a death that never stops giving pain,
heartache and loneliness.

In Romans 8:2 and verse 10, the Amplified Bible translation tells me
“The power of the lifegiving spirit–and this power is mine through Jesus
Christ–has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death….Yet
even though Christ lives within you, your body will die because of sin;
but your spirit will live, for Christ has pardoned it.”

How often we see others, adults and children, with spiritual disease
spreading through them virtually to the point that the illness so overtakes
them they no longer see the need for a cure. They become used
to their illness and therefore die with it. How tragic that the mind can
become so crippled it lulls the spirit into thinking no help is needed.

Possibly they think their illness can be stopped by ordinary “symptomatic”
measures. Some small thing they can do, some law to follow,
some amount of money given to charity. Something will certainly cure
their malady.

They never think they need a specialist.

by Cindy Best

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