Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Pruning, Please!

Yesterday my loving husband trimmed our bushes and hedges, knowing I wanted to work on the rose hedge.  It's something I try to do every spring, but because of a teaching assignment, I didn't get it done.  Now that it is fall, the rose hedge looks like this:

It looks full and had many beautiful antique and tea roses on it this last spring.  But what happened as I began to clear out the grass and weeds was this (note the far right side of the hedge, behind the flowers):

What?  You can't see anything?  Exactly.  There are a few stems coming up from the ground, but they are sparse and small.  Because I failed to prune and care for them this spring and over the summer, they  suffered atrophy.  Their appearance was beautiful and they seemed to serve their purpose, but my negligence has affected their growth.  Truthfully, I don't like pruning--as the one who trims, or as the one whom God prunes.

The physical work was a good reminder to me (once again!), of God's faithful, pruning work in my life.  When I allow other things to grow up, in, and around my time and energies, I eventually rob myself of abundant life.  I fail to grow and flourish the way I was designed.  As the one who did the pruning, I can testify to cuts, blisters, and embedded thorns.  The process is difficult, painful, and--in its immediacy--damaging to the plant.  But until the air can circulate, the sun can penetrate, and the rain can nourish the base of the plant, it will die a slow (and undisturbed) life.

As we continue to faithfully serve where God has placed us, may we willingly submit to His gracious pruning and purifying work in our lives.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Deceptive Service

Matthew 7 Verse 21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast our demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’”

Observation: The important piece that perhaps I am seeing more and more is that the one who enters heaven did the will of the Father. The others did good things, amazing things, but their eyes were on what they accomplished in His name—not what He accomplished through their service. They were still the center of the story, even though they did the things they thought God would want them to do.

Application: Knowing and doing the will of God is just that—doing God’s will, not my own. My basis for doing things has so often been based on other people, or perhaps what I thought would please God—even that is a self-focus. There is a pay-off in doing what pleases others, even if it’s not what God wants me to do. And to do what I think pleases God puts me in the judge’s seat of deciding what God wants. It would be better to simply submit myself to His Word and do what I know to be right, to respond to not getting my way with submission and contentment (even if my way seemed right), to be the aroma of Christ to God—an aroma of humility and sacrificial service apart from what anyone else would say or do. May today be a day of simply “doing the will of My Father.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wholly Consecrated

This morning I am reflecting on yesterday's long, hard day.  The day when we provide free furniture and household items for international students at the University of Iowa.  All 169 of them!  Many who have have been sleeping on the floor, eating on the floor and using Styrofoam containers now have bedding, dishes, tables, beds, dressers, couches--all from the hand of God who loves them.  The God who moves people and circumstances according to His will.

Before falling asleep last night I thought through the day and pictured our many fellow workers.  The words, "“The world has not yet seen what God will do through the life of one man who is wholly consecrated to Him,” came to mind.  Now, this morning, I realize that we will never see that man because God, in His greatness, guards His own in humility.  The church yard and streets of Iowa City were full of men, women, teens, and children who were wholly consecrated.  There was no name, no individual, no agenda apart from Jesus.  Jesus was serving the multitude out of compassion.  Jesus was moving the hands, feet, and hearts of His Body. 

Biblically, we cannot, nor will ever, be wholly consecrated apart from the working of the Holy Spirit.
But I have seen the result of consecration--and I have learned this:  The one who is wholly consecrated to God will not draw attention to anyone but God Himself.  He will serve diligently, with or without recognition.  But the Lord God, in His grace, will bless such a one with peace, joy, and contentment.  After all, the fruit of the Spirit fills the giver before it is given (Gal. 5:22-23).

Where some would count success in the number of international students who adopt our church as their own, or become involved in Bible studies, or come to a saving faith in Jesus, we can simply say, "We are blessed."  Yes, we continue to follow-up with student contacts, to pray, to seek opportunities to minister--as conversational English partners, through Bible studies, and continued offers of aid.  But the light shines, not because the world is dark, but because there is a Light.  And as the Light penetrates darkness, it is not lessened or enlarged because of the darkness.  It is.  God uses His people to extend Himself to a lost world and His essence is not affected by their acceptance or rejection.  He is.  And because He is, we are.  We are...blessed...praying...depending...available...working...living.

"As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. " (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Communion Bread Recipe

If you are serving the Body of Christ, you may have the opportunity to provide communion bread. This recipe was passed on when, as a young mom, I was elected to a women's ministry board. The woman who fostered the recipe was one of my mentors in high school, so this particular recipe has both sentimental and practical value. We celebrate communion on Sunday evenings and this recipe can be easily made that same afternoon.

May God be glorified through the service of His saints.

Sift together:
 2 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. Cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 tsp. Sugar
Cut in:
1/2 c. Shortening
Slowly add:
2/3 c. Milk
1 Egg
Stir briefly to a stiff dough.  Knead 5 times on lightly floured surface.  Roll into a ball and divide in half.  Roll one half of dough to fit cookie sheet (1/4" thick).  Fold and transfer to greased cookie sheet.  Poke entire surface with fork.  Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.  Roll and transfer remaining dough, poking with a fork before placing in the oven.
Remove bread from oven and cut immediately into thin strips from both directions. Discard corner and other uneven pieces.  Bread can be refrigerated or frozen.  Makes approximately 300 pieces. (This recipe was passed on by Helen Lange.)