Declaration of Readiness to Receive the Word

In Acts 17:11, Dr. Luke records the account of the noble Bereans who were so willing to learn and grow.  They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Apostle Paul said was true.  I picture this eagerness as on-the-edge-of-your-seat readiness, with your spirit fully active and alert to receive everything Holy Spirit wants to say to you as you hear the Word.

Below is a declaration of readiness to receive the Word with eagerness.  I mined the gold of this declaration from the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 13:9-18, 35.  Apply this treasure by declaring it for yourself whenever you are preparing your heart to hear God’s Word, both before your own daily Bible study and in corporate gatherings.

In the Name of Jesus, I declare…

I have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to His Church.

I receive from Jesus the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.

As I hear, I hear and understand.

As I see, I see and perceive.

My heart is soft.

My ears and eyes are open.

I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, and understand with my heart.

I turn to Jesus, and I am healed.

Blessed are my eyes for they see.

Blessed are my ears for they hear.

Blessed is my heart for I understand.

Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what I see and to hear what I hear.

I will listen then to what the Word means.

Holy Spirit, I ask You to seal this declaration of truth and cause it to become fully true in my life as I receive Your Word with eagerness.  In Jesus’ Name – Amen!

Daniel 9 – A prayer on behalf of our nation

Daniel 9:3-19,

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which You have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against You. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, refusing to obey Your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that He has done, and we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for Yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for Your own sake, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by Your name. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for Your own sake, O my God, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (ESV).

The Prophet Daniel turned his face toward the LORD, seeking Him in prayer and pleading for mercy on behalf of his nation of Israel. 

He prayed to the LORD and made confession for Israel’s sins.  Israel is a nation that is special to the LORD like none other, because through it He has sent the Messiah Jesus to suffer, die, and rise again to life to redeem sinners back to Himself.  Whatever your home country, you can pray a similar prayer of confession, repentance, and contrition as Daniel did on behalf of your nation.  In like manner, we also turn our faces toward the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking Him in prayer and pleading for mercy on behalf of our nation the United States of America.  We stand in the gap.  We make intercession.  Now, I pray to the Lord and make this confession for the sins of our nation.

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets and apostles, who speak in Your name to our leaders, our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To You, O Lord Jesus, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of America, to the inhabitants of Washington D.C., and to all of the United States, those who are near and those who are far away from sea to shining sea.

I confess that we have broken Your Ten Commandments, disregarding these vows of the covenant that You first proposed to Your beloved people at Mount Sinai.  I confess we have had other gods before You, worshiping false gods and making gods in our own image that better suit us; blasphemy, taking Your Name in vain; dishonoring and disregarding the Sabbath day of rest; disrespecting and speaking maliciously against our parents and those in authority; murder, hatred; adultery, looking with lust, fornication, pornography; theft, failure to give, hoarding; lying; and coveting our neighbor’s possessions and relationships.

I confess our deeds of the flesh: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly; impurity, degrading our bodies, shameful lusts, unnatural relations, indecent acts, perversion, depravity of mind, wickedness, strife, gossip, hatred for God, insolence, boasting, disobedience, inventing ways of doing evil, being senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless; prostitution, drunkenness, and swindling; debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and orgies; evil desires, anger, and filthy language; being lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly, sinful, unholy, irreligious, killing our fathers or mothers, human trafficking, perjury, and false doctrine; being cowardly, unbelieving, vile, immoral, and practicing magic arts.

I confess abortion, removing the Bible from the education of children, debt, dishonesty, poor stewardship, materialism, humanism, atheism, false religion, racism, and disregard for marriage.  I confess among professing believers hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, persecution, backbiting, divisions among and within congregations, focus on buildings and programs to the neglect of biblical values, favoritism of the rich, neglecting the poor, orphans, and widows, failing to visit believers imprisoned for their stand for Christ and ignoring the persecuted church, failing to preach the Gospel and take a stand for the truth; failing to fulfill the Great Commission around the world, trivializing Hell and the judgment of God; sloppiness and lack of precision in our study and teaching of the Word; loving politics and sports more than the Gospel of Jesus; loving arguments and debates more than the truth.

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our leaders and to our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets and apostles. Our whole nation has transgressed Your law and turned aside, refusing to obey Your voice. And the consequences of our disobedience have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against Him. He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us great calamity.

O Lord, according to all Your righteous acts, let Your anger and Your wrath turn away from America, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, the USA has become a byword among many peoples around the world. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for Your own sake, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon this land. O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for Your own sake, O my God, because of the believers in this nation, Your people who are called by Your name.

In the Mighty Name of Jesus, our Lord and Messiah, AMEN!

 

(November 6th, A.D. 2012)

 

an old book with pages curved into a heart and flowers in the binding
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Miracle basketballs

 

This morning, I texted our school administrator at the Christian academy where I teach to let her know I needed two basketballs for my high school gym class last period today. She responded that the school does not have any but that she would check with the basketball coach to see if there were any we could borrow.
Shortly after we talked, an elderly man from our church who faithfully supports our school with ten dollars each week came into the office with a basketball under each arm. He said, “I read that the school was in need of some equipment, and I felt the LORD wanted me to bring in these two basketballs today.” It may seem simple, but this was a perfectly timed provision. Glory be to Jesus! He truly does know exactly what we need to carry out the task He has called us to each day. Have you been called to a task that seems like too much? Do your responsibilities feel heavy on your shoulders?
Our Savior has all the supply you need to accomplish His will for you today. Ancient rabbis, Jewish spiritual teachers, would call their life teachings their “yoke.” All they stood for, what they lived for, and all they taught would be entrusted to their followers to pass on to others. The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
I can hear the Lord Jesus say, “If your Heavenly Father provides basketballs for a Christian school teacher in his time of need, how much more will He provide what you need for life and ministry!” Let’s serve Him with abandon and watch in faith as He opens Heaven’s windows to pour out His extravagant love.


Also posted on Thrive80: http://www.thrive80.com/2011/11/miracle-basketballs/

Losing teeth, gaining wisdom

I sit here writing this morning with a dull ache in my mouth. When sharp pain woke me a couple hours before my alarm, I figured it was an early wake up call to write. I had an unexpected surgical procedure two days ago that I’m feeling this morning.
I’d been having tooth pain for a few months. Finally this week, discomfort made it difficult to chew on the left side of my mouth. I visited a dentist who specialized in wisdom teeth consultations and made an appointment this past Tuesday. The doctor recommended I have all four wisdom teeth removed, as my mouth didn’t have space for them. No room in the proverbial inn. He explained his calendar was booked till August.
A hygienist peeked into the room, smiled, and said, “Well, Doctor, you did have one cancellation tomorrow morning at 9.” A way had been made, and I was penciled in to have my four teeth extracted.
My mind was racing, and I asked as many questions as I could, before agreeing to make the appointment. I like to research. I like to understand. I like to ask questions. The dentist and hygienist answered as best they could. How long would recovery take? What would I be able to eat? Because the whole thing happened so quickly, there were several questions I didn’t think to ask until it was too late.  My mouth was quickly propped open with a piece of rubber and gloved hands were sticking metal utensils into it. Of course, new questions arose once I’d been stuffed full of gauze, and I had four less teeth.
The night before the surgery, I was scared. My fear was uncovered by getting my wisdom teeth out, but more broadly it was fear of the future and fear of the unknown. What would the pain be like? What complications could arise? What side effects could the medications cause?
My unanswered questions fueled my fear. I didn’t know what the procedure would be like. I hadn’t experienced it before. I wasn’t told very much, and I didn’t have time to do substantial research. I even wondered at one point if I might contract an infection that could prove to be fatal. The dentist had a strong Jamaican accent. I wondered what would happen if I couldn’t understand his instructions during the surgery.
An encounter with truth can dispel fear. I had imagined the pain would be much worse than it actually was. The most discomfort of the procedure came from the pricks of the initial Novocaine shots. I squeezed the chair’s armrests firmly, and the worst was soon behind me. During the actual extractions, I didn’t feel much of anything.
It’s been said, fear is false evidence appearing real. When the truth was brought to bear in my situation, my fear was dispelled and I renewed my trust in Jesus. Beforehand, people shared Scripture with me: “God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.” Driving to the dentist, my mom said, “The Lord is your Helper whom shall you fear? What can man do to you?” I thought silently, “He can rip my teeth out!”

business care clean clinic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I fully experienced the situation and hypotheticals faded into the background, my perspective became realistic. My fear was crippled. People wrestle with fears of rejection, failure, abandonment, and both physical and emotional death. My fear of the future extended beyond my wisdom teeth extractions. It was at heart a fear of rejection.
I thought I would be unable to talk for several days after the extractions. This fear of being unheard was strongest of all. I was intensely unwillingly to give up my voice. I imagined no one would listen to me. Being willing to surrender my tongue was both humbling and healing. I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, and I didn’t need to. The day of the surgery, after two hours of stuffing my mouth with gauze, I was not only talking but also singing praise to my Lord Jesus. Family members went the extra mile to help me.
I just graduated from Moody, and I got two jobs. I’ll be writing with New Life Community Church and working in the kitchen at a restaurant downtown. Again, the devil tries to paralyze me with fear of what people think. I’ve been asked things like: “Oh, you got a B.A. in communication and pastoral ministry to work in the kitchen?”
I don’t know what my future holds. But I do know the One who holds me. Though the details of my future are unknown, and people may outright reject me. I am known, and I am forever accepted by my Father and my Savior, who will never let me go (1 Cor. 13:12; Jn. 10:28-29). God wrapped Himself in human flesh in the Person of Jesus to free us from bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Discovering His truth, makes one free – free indeed (Jn. 8:32, 36).


Also posted on Thrive80: http://www.thrive80.com/2011/06/losing-teeth-gaining-wisdom/

Who are you?

There they sat at an Italian establishment, discussing what they would name their first child. The husband had been reading a book on the Roman Emperor Constantine. And the dad-to-be liked the name Flavius, a hero in the story. His wife knew she needed to think fast. There in that Pizza Hut, she had an epiphany.

On a napkin, she wrote a name, which formed an acronym of her and her husband’s full names. She wrote, “Marcus.” These two were my parents.

In biblical times, names entailed great meaning. They were given with purpose and often prayerfully. A man’s name represented who he was. People usually lived up to their names.

Jacob was a “deceiver.” He “wrestled with God” and was renamed Israel. Isaiah’s ministry prophesied, “Yahweh is salvation!” Joseph, called Barnabas, epitomized a “son of encouragement.” Phoebe was “bright” and “radiant” as she shared the Gospel alongside the Apostle Paul.

Marcus means “mighty warrior.” I have affinity for Ephesians 6, where Paul urges believers to be clothed in God’s armor, so we can engage in spiritual battle. Marcus has been the name of a Roman orator, a pope, a politician, a statesman, and now a news editor and open-air preacher.

My middle name, Arthur, comes from words meaning “bear” and “stone,” and it makes me a namesake of my dad and my Grandpa Pemberton. When Elizabeth in Scripture became pregnant in her old age, her husband was likewise expected to pass on a family name to their son. However, Zechariah obeyed the LORD’s prompting, naming him John, which means “God is gracious.” Constantine is Greek and means “constant” or steadfast.

I strive to live out my name, as a mighty warrior, bold as a bear, steadfast as a stone, constant in the faith, conducting myself in a manner worthy of Christ’s Gospel (Phil. 1:27). What do your names mean?

When seeking to properly place you, people may ask, “Who are you?” I’ve gotten in the practice of answering, “I’m a child of God and a follower of Jesus. My name’s Marcus.” Whether your name means “deceiver” or “Yahweh saves,” it does not determine who you may become.

When you know who you are, you can live confidently. No excuses are needed for a life of surrender to the Holy Spirit. It is for freedom that Christ sets us free (Gal. 5:1). We are not to submit to slavery again. Only Jesus frees us to fully live as He intends. What holds you back from becoming who you could be?

Are you known by extravagant love for Jesus? They will know by our love that we are His followers (Jn. 13:35). Why do some professing Christians talk about seemingly everything except Jesus? Treating Christ like a hobby breaks the heart of the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). We are called to love Him and not this fallen world. When we live in His freedom, unbelievers may think our love is excessive. They should.

Remember, they hated Jesus first (Jn. 15:18). He loved perfectly, and they nailed Him to a cross. Out of our union with Jesus flows that sacrificial love, intimacy with the Father, and soft heartedness toward the Holy Spirit. He is our power source (Acts 1:8).

Christ followers have become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). We have received new names (Rev. 2:17; 3:12). It’s against our new spiritual nature to act contrary to the LORD’s will. Live in light of who you truly are. When we know who we are in Jesus, we can live confidently in His love, faithfully in His power, and freely in His grace. Believers could spend an eternity pursuing the beauty that becomes ours when we join Christ’s Bride by faith. And we will.

Leaving a legacy: the cloud of witnesses

Henry “Butcher” Varley, the British revivalist, gave a charge that gripped D.L. Moody’s heart. Moody recalled Varley saying, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” Moody replied, “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

As students of the Bible and followers of Jesus Christ, consider the legacy we have inherited. Believers throughout history, who pressed to make their Lord Jesus known, have entrusted it to us: witnesses like Moody, Varley, Torrey, Noah, King David, Mary, Lazarus, Peter, Paul, and John.

This great cloud of witnesses spurs us on (Heb. 12:1). Their histories bear continual witness to the Gospel of Jesus. Their testimonies exemplify surrender of self to the declaration and demonstration of His full Gospel. The great cloud calls to us, urging us to walk in their footsteps, follow their examples, and build on their foundation.

“Imitate us as we imitate Christ!” their lives beckon. Someday soon, those serving the Lord Jesus will join that cloud of witnesses. Their legacy urges, “As the Lord tarries, call future generations to Gospel-centered lives through your faithfulness today!”

Moody heard that call from his friend Varley. In 1873, Moody asked Varley to repeat his words that had spoken so powerfully to him just a year earlier. Varley looked at him blankly. He did not recall uttering any such charge.

 

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” ~Henry “Butcher” Varley

“By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” ~D.L. Moody

According to Paul Gericke’s Crucial Experiences in the Life of D.L. Moody, Moody responded to Varley, “Ah, those were the words sent to my soul, through you, from the Living God. As I crossed the wide Atlantic, the boards of the deck of the vessel were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with [them]. Under the power of those words I have come back to England, and I felt that I must not let more time pass until I let you know how God had used your words to my inmost soul.”


What are you preparing for those who will come behind you? Like sewing squares into a patchwork quilt, you can choose each day to add beauty to your legacy. What are you forging that you plan to pass on?

When believers stand before Jesus, our works will be tested by fire. Only treasures stored up in Heaven, the precious metal and gems of work done for Christ, will endure (Mt. 6:19-21; 1 Cor. 3:13-15).

Leonard Ravenhill advised an evangelist, “Make sure when you die that you aren’t standing knee deep in ashes.”

As we proclaim the Gospel and run this race with perseverance, the ripple effect of our legacy may touch nations. Our calling is to bear witness by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). As we faithfully serve, we remain unaware of the full extent of our legacy until we arrive in glory.

All I need

He was parched. For more than a month, He had plastered His footprint around the barren desert. He walked during the cooler parts of the day and found rest during the darkest watches of the night. The sun beat down upon His brow with intense heat. Sitting to rest and pray was necessary to go on. In this wilderness, He was tempted by Satan, but the Holy Spirit had sent Him there (Mk. 1:12). He was with wild animals, but angels cared for Him (1:13).


He had fasted 40 days in the desert. Jesus needed food, right? After all, He was hungry. A hungry man needs food. Satan used that exact argument: “You need food! Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). A hungry man needs a higher sustenance that goes beyond natural food.

When you bore down to the deepest level, we all need this sustenance. What do you need? You need whatever will sustain you to accomplish God’s will for your life. But where does that sustenance come from?

Of course, you need to be eating properly and caring for your body. But food alone will not sustain you. Satan later tried to tempt Jesus with worldly riches (Mt. 4:8-10). Do you need money? We’ve heard often that Jesus clothes lilies and watches over sparrows. Luke records that He feeds the ravens too (Lk. 12:24). This is gripping because, according to Jewish law, ravens were ceremonially unclean birds. These birds could not be given as an acceptable sacrifice. Yet the LORD provides even for them. He sees your need. He knows what will sustain you. We are not to set our hope on “the uncertainty of riches but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).
 
Are you too dependent upon important people in your life? I’m not saying you should neglect other relationships because you have Jesus. When you follow Christ, you learn that He often encourages and speaks through others in His body. But we must be able to spend time alone with Him, to look to Him first, as we wait upon and listen to Him.

Philippians 4:19 speaks of God meeting all of the believers’ needs “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” In His wilderness time of need, Christ’s sustenance came through the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the ministry of angels (Lk. 4:1, 4; Mt. 4:11; Mk. 1:13). Followers of Jesus have access to all three of these (Heb. 1:14).

Ultimately, Jesus Christ is our sustenance. In other words, when you introduce someone to Jesus, you give her everything (Col. 3:11). Paul learned to be content in all circumstances, because he trusted the One who always provides (Phil. 4:11-13). The writer of Hebrews states, “Be content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5). But how? The verse continues explaining we’re content because the LORD says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

You have only one true need. It’s not food or drink, riches, or even friends. If you will hold fast to Jesus, He will provide your daily sustenance that you might carry out His will. Find delight in His presence. He will use whatever means necessary, whether food, people, or supernatural strength during 40 days in the desert, to sustain you. In Christ alone, you truly have all you need.

Bear much fruit

My Momma came bolting up the stairs nearly in tears. She was ecstatic. Something important had clearly transpired in her life. Why the excitement? Why the emotion? What was happening? She proceeded to explain in decibels that demonstrated the masterful design the LORD used in creating the human ear.


“It’s my fig tree!” she exclaimed. “It’s finally produced figs—three of them!”

How long and patiently she had waited for her fig tree to produce figs. My godfather Padrino Gino, a Sicilian immigrant, had given her this treasure two years before in the late summer. Growing figs is a time-honored, Italian tradition. Mamina planted it in an elephantine plastic pot and watered regularly. It displayed nothing but leaves for several years.

You started to wonder, “Is fig season ever coming?” She explained that she told the tree it would be cursed if it didn’t produce. A few short weeks later, her efforts paid off in the form of three plump, tasty figs.

In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus approaches a fig tree, looking for fruit. He is hungry but finds only leaves. He curses it, saying, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately it withers. Mark 11:13 adds the detail that it was not fig season.

According to Evangelist Ray Comfort, there are only two proper times to preach Word: in season and out of season. Many, who stall, delaying for the exact proper moment to share the Gospel, neglect the Scriptural command to witness and preach the Word in and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). There is no excuse for neglecting the ministry of the Gospel. We are called to be prepared. We must love, know, and study the Gospel so deeply that it flows from our lips with ease. Believers will continue to discover the glorious depths of the Gospel in Heaven as we pursue knowing Jesus for all eternity. On earth, we must rely on His Holy Spirit to be ever prepared to share His good news.

Jesus taught that true and false prophets are discerned by their fruit. Those without good fruit are cast into the fire of Hell. This fruit is more than good deeds. Jesus explained that unless our works flow from a genuine, personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus, they are worthless (Mt. 7:15-23; Lk. 6:43-45; 13:5-8). Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” and does good in His Name will be in Heaven. The true believer has surrendered his life to Jesus, and his life, transformed by the Holy Spirit, evidences it.

Paul urges professing believers to examine themselves to ensure they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). John the Beloved’s first letter was written as a test we can use. He penned, “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). James reminds us that a fig tree doesn’t produce olives, and a pure heart doesn’t praise and curse (3:9-13). The way we speak and live evidences our true heart condition.

Momma has placed her fig tree in the garage now to protect it from the coming frost. Last season, she covered it with a cardboard box in the garage away from the draft of the door. Once a month, she gives it a cup of water. This year, it’s blossomed so large that she may wrap it with a box and then cover it with a blanket. The leaves will all fall and only the stem will remain.

For those who live in falseness and pretending, the Bible gives a solemn warning. When their lives are called upon to produce figs seemingly out of season when they don’t expect it, their disobedience will be brought into the light, and they will be accountable for their neglect and ultimate fruitlessness. Be connected to the True Vine (Jn. 15:1-5). Bear much fruit.

Two of Momma’s first figs (7-12-10)

Awake, O sleeper!

It was Dec. 15th of last year. I was resting on my top bunk in our Chicago dorm during the earliest hours of the morning. It was cold out there. Suddenly, I was jolted awake by a loud pounding at our door.


An officer entered the room and shouted instructions: “Wake up! Out of bed!” We drifted sleepily out of bed. My exhausted roommate could only mutter, “I need pants. I need pants,” over and over again. The officer demanded we quickly evacuate our room.

I fumbled tiredly through my drawer. “What do I need to bring?” my numb mind wondered to no avail. Thankfully, I thought to put on my glasses. But that’s all I grabbed. I left behind my keys and ID. All the while, the soft reassuring music of my “Bedtime” iTunes playlist sang on the computer. My roommate and I had slept through the fire alarm. Most of the building had already evacuated.

The campus security officer wanted to know our names. He reported us into his walkie-talkie: “Marcus Constantine and Jordan Gilbert found asleep in their beds while the fire alarm rang.” I wondered if our sleepiness made us indirectly guilty of insubordination. Thankfully, there were no lasting repercussions for our slumber.

The officer again goaded us out of our warm room. We took off barreling at top speed down fourteen flights of stairs. Suddenly, the oddity of the situation hit me. There I was donning a pair of black dress shoes below my orange pajama pants and my heavy winter jacket. My roommate modeled a pair of old sweatpants and flip-flops. We were thoroughly unprepared.

Just when we reached the main lobby, security gave the okay to return to our rooms. We joined a crowd of chilled, groggy men, who had been evacuated from their comfy beds. My roommate and I hauled our confused bodies back up the fourteen flights. I used the railings to pull myself up, as my legs were thoroughly disoriented and went on strike for the night.

In the physical, I climbed back under my covers and drifted back to sleep. In the spiritual, I’d received a taste of what it’s like to be caught sleeping when an urgent call is made. Hear Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The chapter urges hearers to imitate God, live as children of light, expose darkness, make the most of every opportunity, and submit out of reverence for Christ.

We must wake up from slumber, for the end of all things is near (1 Pet. 4:7). Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11-12). Jesus will return soon. Be ready, O unbeliever, and rise from the dead by surrendering your life to Jesus. Don’t be caught sleeping when the judgment bell tolls. Awaken, O believer!  The night is far spent; the day is at hand. 

Are you snoozing through life? Do you enjoy your pillow and your blankie too much to rise, shine and be a bold witness of the Gospel? Are you sluggish to open your mouth and share Jesus? Are you too sleepy to make Him known to a dying world? Are you so busy that you have no time for God’s Word? Are you too tired to awaken, to be watchful and vigilant for your Lord? Will you not wait one hour with the Lord Jesus in the garden as He prays? He’s interceding for you (Jn. 17; Heb. 7:25). How much in your life is truly for the cause of Christ? How much is for yourself? Are you coasting through this life? Are you asleep? Rise.

Free indeed

I was sitting by a pond in the Illinois suburb, where my sweetheart and I were visiting family. I had found a comfortable spot in the shade to read my Bible for my Daniel and Revelation distance learning class. All of a sudden, I noticed something flapping around wildly down by shore.


As I looked closer, I saw a bird with his foot tangled in a fishing line. This robin had been snagged by the line, which was now wrapped tightly around a small leafless bush by the water’s edge.

I continued watching, and it seemed with all the robin’s effort, he would soon be free. After a few moments, I realized that the more this little bird struggled, trying to free himself, the tighter the line was wrapping around his leg. His wings were catching on the sticks of the bush. He kept making crash landings into the dusty ground as the nylon thread yanked him down. He was bleeding and bruised.

I wondered if anyone would help the stuck little bird.  There were ducks swimming playfully nearby. Their loud quacks made them oblivious to their fellow bird’s predicament. A blue heron was strutting his stuff just a few feet away. He majestically lifted his spindly legs out of the water one after the other.  His long pointed beak had the power to rescue the perishing robin. Maybe he just wasn’t willing, or maybe he was so focused on his own fishing trip that he remained unaware of the captive robin’s suffering.

A tree near the shore was peppered with a flock of blackbirds, who had come to watch the show. The longer the robin wrestled, the more the tree above darkened as black feathers covered its branches. There were a few large crows in the mix, cawing piercingly. It seemed they led the blackbirds in taunting the robin: “Come on, little bird! What’s the matter? You stuck? You too weak? That bush got the best of you?” They cackled at their own jokes. They thought themselves so clever. I wondered if they were merely waiting for the robin to die of exhaustion, so they could feast on his remains.

When I moved in closer to help him, the robin thrashed around wildly, struggling even harder to escape. The tree above us squawked even louder at the spectacle, thinking I’d steal their lunch.

I spoke softly to the robin trying to convince him I wanted to save him. He refused to listen. Finally, using a bit of wood, I set the little bird free.

He was ungrateful. His first act as a free bird wasn’t to give thanks but to hobble away up the hill to hide in a large bush.

Do we act the same way when One bigger and wiser, who cares about us deeply, comes to our rescue? Do we kick, scream and fight away? As breakers of God’s Law, we are in bondage to sin that’s too strong for us to break. Only the Lord Jesus, who shed His Blood on the cross, is strong enough to save. He rose from the dead. He’s able, and He wants our good.

Are you an oblivious duck, a self-focused heron, a pliable blackbird or a mocking crow? Do you rescue those in bondage with the message of freedom in Jesus? Are we in the business of breaking chains? Are you still trapped? You’d be surprised. All it takes is surrendered stillness to the only One strong enough to break the line.