This time of the year the foothills of California are beautiful. The leaves on the trees are fresh and new, the meadows are carpets of green, and the streams are full and flowing with the recent snow melt. As I was driving through the mountains this past week, I noticed a huge sheer rock along the side of the road that had purple lupines and golden poppies tenaciously hanging on to the rock’s face. It makes you wonder how anything could grow in such harsh and unfriendly conditions. It started me thinking about people I have known who have had very difficult circumstances happen in their lives, but have continued to bloom and be beautiful for all to see.
My grandmother, Ozella Mimms Lee, was a person I remember who was always kind, gracious, and thankful for all the good things the Lord had blessed her with in spite of very trying times in her life. In the early 1920, she was a mother of seven children, aged 12 years to a few months old when she became ill with a severe case of the flu. Her husband tried to nurse her back to health, but he caught the flu and died within just a few days. So, there she was on a sandy farm in West Texas with seven children to raise and no husband. Fortunately, she had many brothers, sisters, and extended family near by to assist her, plus she was not afraid of hard work. Like many mothers, she was also willing to do without to see that her children had what they needed. She never remarried, and raised those seven children on her own. One of her sons became a deacon in the church, one son was a preacher and missionary, two sons became elders, and all three girls lived faithful Christian lives. She too was a faithful member of the Lord’s church until the day she died.
Grandma Lee had a choice to make. She could let the storms of life cause her to be bitter and resentful, or she could work with what she had, and ask for God’s care along the way. I’m sure she had dark and difficult days, but she faithfully persevered, and I think her life was a major success. When we had hard times, we must also look to the Lord and “keep on keeping on”.
John 16:33 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”
Revelation 2:10b “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
We are fortunate to live in this beautiful agricultural valley where each year we are able to witness the crops that continue provide us with fresh food. Here in Ripon each spring we enjoy the almond blossoms that adorn the trees and promise the harvest that will come in the fall.
After several years of drought, we have been thankfully blessed with ample rainfall. However, along with some of those rain storms, we also had severe winds that caused many almond trees to topple. As I walked through the orchards, I noticed that some of the trees that were down were mature trees, some were young trees, and trees that were in their prime production years. A few of the trees that were down were lost because the trees next to them had blown over and knocked the neighboring tree down. The cost to the farmers over the years of lost revenue will be huge.
As I considered the trees, it reminded me of spiritual things. Sometimes when the winds of hard times come, it can cause Christians to fall. Just like the trees, this can happen to older members, new converts, and those of middle age. These Christians can look spiritually very healthy and strong, but because their roots are not securely grounded, or there is unseen disease (sin) in their lives, or the cares of the world are too great, they give up on the Lord and return to their old way of life in the world. Many times when one brother quits, it influences others, particularly those in their families to leave the church as well.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells the parable of the two houses. One house was built on a rock. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.” The other house was built on the sand. “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”
None of us are immune to the pitfalls and tragedies of life. If difficult situations have not come to you, they will. The important question is, are you firmly rooted in God and striving to the best of your ability to do His will so that you will be able to withstand life’s trials. If you are not living the life you know you should, you still have time to make things right before you are flattened by the winds of trouble. Make the commitment today to build on the rock. Your spiritual future depends on it.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8. Grace describes God’s part in salvation. Faith describes man’s part in salvation. Salvation is not forced upon man. Salvation is offered as a free gift. God has done everything for man to be saved which man cannot do for himself. Man must accept God’s gift of salvation. It is accepted by faith. That faith is in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 “ Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” This faith believes in Jesus as our Savior. This faith obeys Jesus as his Savior. This faith trusts Jesus as our Savior. This faith obeys Jesus as our Savior. (Matthew 7:21; James 2:24-26) Salvation is God’s free gift to man; however, man does not receive this gift unless he accepts it with obedient faith.
“But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6) If a Christian prays in faith, his prayers will be answered. Faith means confidence that God will answer the prayer. The opposite of faith is doubt, his prayer will not be answered. He will be like the waves which are blown one way by the wind and then are blown another way by the wind. The waves are unstable. The person in doubt cannot make up their mind.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) The word of God, the gospel, is intended to produce faith in Christ. One cannot have faith in Christ without it.
To watch a master artist, craftsman, or tradesman practice his craft has always been an enjoyable experience for me. My own father was a woodworker. With patience and attention to detail, he could transform rugged chunks of wood into beautiful and useful creations. Once, while he was in Oregon, he visited a shop that specialized in myrtle wood art and utensils. As was his custom, he struck up a conversation with the owner, who gave him an off-round piece of myrtle wood that he had planned to throw away because it was going to take too much time and effort to make it into something that would be profitable. My dad brought that discard home, and with his loving touch changed that useless object into a lovely salad bowl. I still have that bowl in my home today and admire it and my dad for his talent and generosity. When I think about it, he raised me with the same love and care that he put into that piece of wood. I am not saying he didn’t get stern with me when he felt I needed it, but his love and Christian example was and continues to be a major influence in my life.
Spiritually speaking, we must allow our Master, Christ, to shape and mold us into what He wants us to be. Over and over in Scripture we read about Christ’s compassion for others. (Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14) We must be compassionate. Christ was submissive to the Father’s will. (Matthew 26:42) We must be submissive to the Father’s will. Christ loved the unlovable. (Matthew 10:8) We must love the unlovable. Christ prayed. (Mark 14:32) We must pray. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, and perfect.”
Sometimes we might see ourselves as useless and untalented in the Kingdom. However, like the piece of wood in the master wood workers hands, we must, without resistance, allow Christ to form us into what He desires. Let Him smooth out our flaws and rough spots and make us into His likeness. It may sometimes be uncomfortable or even painful, but the end result is well worth any temporary afflictions today. We can become His creation.
The hymn “Have Thine Own Way” by Adelaide Pollard, tells us: Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou are the Potter: I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.” Each day let’s allow Christ to mold and make us into His image.
A Christian’s obligation is to use their possessions to support God’s works and to take care of family. To have material things is not a sin; however, we Christians have a great responsible in how we use them. The words of Jesus say this to us, Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”
We all have things that we possess. We would think in our own minds that we work hard for them and we deserve to have them. It could be pictures of family or things that we use for our hobbies. It might be the houses that we live in. There are a multitude of things we possess. It is not the things we have that might cause us problems but it is how we use the things we have. In all of this we always need to remember that it is God who really did bless us with what we have. The lessons that we receive from the Bible should tell us how to use these things that we have. It is not about how much we have, a little or a lot, it’s just how we use it, and if we give thanks to God for what we have.
The rich man in Luke chapter twelve who had so much that he needed to build bigger barns to hold all his wealth is one example. He did not get the benefits of this because he did not give God the credit and kept all that he had for himself. He was not willing to share. The poor widow in Mark chapter twelve gave all that she had, which was not much, and Jesus gave a place in the written word to say how great she was. Acts chapter five tell us about Ananias and Sapphira, they had things to share but just wanted glory, they did not get to enjoy what God had blessed them with.
The question that comes is, how do we as Christians use the things God has blessed us with. Is it to give back to God the glory He should have or is it to give us that glory. Lay up the treasures you have been blessed with in heaven and you will have rewards that cannot even be counted. Great is our God.
600 West Milgeo - Ripon California 95366