“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. “
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. “
As I sit in my office gazing out across the Wyoming sky, I enjoy watching the sun slowly sink into the western horizon. My view is vast and very peaceful, unencumbered by buildings, traffic or other distractions. Large spruce, maple and other flowering trees are carefully planted across our yard. Beyond our property lies over 170 acres of undeveloped rolling hills providing refuge to many deer, antelope and other wild life.
In the forefront of my view, in the tree closest to my window, hang two bird feeders. I carefully placed them in that very tree on purpose to draw the birds as close as possible. Almost every morning I rise early to enjoy the peace of the morning and share time with the Lord. After I settle myself into my comfortable chair I watch in anticipation for the arrival of the birds. Only after the sun has risen high enough to illuminate the yard do they come, in mass, with their expectation of full feeders.
I have become a bit of a slave to the bird feeders. It seems like they are ALWAYS empty, AGAIN! My husband calls them “ a bit of a black hole”. But to me, having the privilege of being close enough to see the beautiful, brilliant colors, different sizes, shapes and to hear their unique sounds is a gift in itself. I am so thankful for the pleasure it brings me and I am pretty faithful to keep the feeders filled.
You see, the birds are focused on getting fed and they will succeed in their mission everyday with or without full feeders on my tree. The Word says in Matt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” I believe the Lords wants us to be more like the birds in diligent pursuit of our food. Not only natural food to sustain the body but more importantly spiritual food to render nourishment to the soul.
Our soul is made up of our mind, our will and our emotions. If we are willing to grow in the Word and be fed the healthy meat of the Word, (Heb 5:13 ”For everyone who partakes only of milk is NOT accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.” ) we will find that:
1. our minds will be renewed, (Rom 12:2 “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”)
2. our wisdom and knowledge will increase_(James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”)
3. we will walk in the peace that passes all understanding__(Phil 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”)
James writes in chapter 4:3 “ We have not because we ask not…”. Well, if we don’t take time to focus on communicating with the Lord, and allow Him to feed us through the sustenance of His Word we will be weak, immature, unfortified and very unlikely to ask for His help, or, may ask with wrong motives.
God’s animal creations don’t worry and fret about being fed, they know what to do and they do it without fail everyday for they know the words of Job 12: 10 “ In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” We too have the privilege of being fed everyday, but for us it’s a choice not an instinct.
Jesus knows our every thought and deed, the number of days appointed to our life and He holds the solution to every problem. His feeder is always full, never empty. When we give Him our hearts and time He delights giving back to us in good measure, pressed down and overflowing as is recorded in Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
With promises like these, how can we deny ourselves the opportunity to eat everyday from His overflowing feeder!
In the Bible, God calls Christians the salt of the earth (see Matthew 5:13). He expects us to “season” the lives of those around us. All of life is tasteless without love. Love is the salt, the energy of life, and the reason to get up every morning. Everyone in the world wants to be loved and accepted. And the love of God—that wonderful gift He freely gives us—satisfies that need. His love flows to us, and then it should flow through us to other people.
Each of us can be a container full of blessings. We should want to be the type of people who can pour out God’s love into the lives of those around us. In fact we will find that we will always be happier when we choose to make others happy.
A Few Simple Ways to Make Others Happy
There are many people who have a special need for tenderness.
We cannot know the secret burdens that many of those around us are carrying. There are hidden griefs that burn like heated embers deep within. Not all grief is obvious because it is not revealed in the garb of mourning. Sometimes the brightest faces conceal very heavy hearts that would never ask for sympathy yet long for tenderness. Even Jesus longed for someone just to be there when He was in the garden praying in agony. He needed no words, just alert companionship. He longed for someone just to sense His need and be attentively there in support.
These animals wonderfully depict the security and comfort expressed through companionship. What made them “friends” was their need, and it transcended any differences they had.
We have all recently heard a lot about bullying. In fact there is a good chance that everyone reading this has had at some time contact with a bully in your life. It might have been in your childhood or could very well be someone you have to deal with in the workplace as an adult. Whatever the case, a bully targets someone they consider weaker, lesser, or just plain undesirable. To show their superiority they do things to verbally and sometimes physically hurt you. Bullying at it’s extreme can even result in injury or death.
But what has occurred to me recently, is that there is lurking in many a bit of the bully attitude that only shows up when we come in contact with someone we believe has what I call “less than” characteristics or who is undesirable. I discovered this when on a walk one night. There in the middle of the street walking slowly, but as fast as it could, was a common marsupial known as an opossum. They look very rat like because of their tail, and are considered quite ugly by many. Though 8 times less likely to carry rabies than a dog, and with an immune system that makes it impervious to most poisonous snake bites, the opossum is disliked by many. So disliked many people target them with their cars thinking they are doing a service by killing just another big rat and that is what I witnessed. Just because they consider them ugly, the bully uses the car to punish a creature for being alive, made the way it is by God.
It is this very method of judgment that empowers all bullies to do what they do. If they don’t like the way someone looks or behaves, and if their victim can’t put up much of a fight, they take advantage. I have seen this same thing done to cats by cat haters, and heard others brag about it as if it was some great triumph. But it is really a sad commentary on the condition of human hearts. There is no sadness over the loss of life. Yes, accidents happen, but many times they have been targeted.
To be honest, it is not the opossum I grieve over the most. I grieve over the condition of calloused human hearts that are learning more and more to be unmerciful and aggressive.
Saint Francis of Assisi was so right when he wrote,
“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission–to be of service to them whenever they require it… If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. — Saint Francis of Assisi
The training of a puppy is critically important to support proper behavioral development. We start with very short lessons with basic commands and encouragement that won’t overwhelm the dog. If we present ourselves with a calm spirit, give gentle direction, and firm but loving correction the puppy begins to respond. Ultimately we see the fruit of our efforts and enjoy watching the willing responses to our commands.
Why do we invest our time to sow these behavioral boundaries? For me it is my heart’s desire to lead my dogs to work at their highest and best performance, and to assure proper boundaries are respected that will protect their lives. (Proverbs 12:10 “A righteous man regards the life of his animal.”) I know if I am willing to remain consistent with a training schedule I am always amazed to see the animal advance far beyond what I thought possible.
In my heart I see the Lord’s relationship with me as similar to my relationship to my dogs. I lead and the dogs follow. If we all are willing to follow the Lord’s direction we will live in His protection, operate in His amazing blessings and grow far beyond what we can dare hope ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20 “ God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (The Message))
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord I came to Him as a new babe, much like a young puppy. When I clumsily bounded into His presence hungry for food and attention. He faithfully fed my spirit with His mercy, love and grace, always standing by to lead me. The more I came into His presence the more He lovingly guided or chastised me setting me back on his course of protection. Like a puppy I continued to grow and often resisted His gentle leash. On many occasions I’d plant myself firmly in rebellion, pull my head right out of the collar and wander at my own in risk of hurt and danger. My rebellion always resulted in a bad end. But, the Lord is always faithful and never left me. He didn’t give up, would pick me up and put me back on track.
It takes time to learn new things and to understand why they are beneficial for our lives. Commands are spoken to give dogs direction or to guide them into protection. The same is true for all of us. When Jesus stays “ Sit and Stay” it is always in our best interest to willingly obey!
As we enter Passion week we read about Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. Many believe that it was a Nubian donkey whose line was domesticated 6000 years ago and commonly used as a burden bearer to carry people and supplies. It was probably that same breed who carried Mary, then pregnant with Jesus, into Bethlehem.
The reason this is fascinating is that this breed is often known to carry from birth a mark upon their backs that makes them distinct. It is the sign of the cross that stretches across their shoulders and down their backs. Legends have been written to remind Christians that it was Jesus who said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
Below is an example of what has been written regarding the markings of the cross on these humble creatures and the message they truly bear.
The Donkey’s Cross
“Bring me the colt of a donkey.” was the Master’s request.
A young donkey was brought to Jesus
to carry Him into Jerusalem
A week later Jesus was ordered crucified
The little donkey so loved the Lord that
he wanted to help Him carry the cross.
But alas, he was pushed away.
As he turned to leave, the shadow of
the cross fell upon his back and shoulders
And there it has remained, a tribute to
the loyalty and love of the humbles of God’s creatures.
When we think about the story of the birth of Christ we think fondly of the child being born in the city of Bethlehem in a stable laying in a manger wrapped in cloths. He is there because there is no room in the inn and it seems that the underlying reason might have something to do with His coming in humility. I believed that to be the predominant reason until recently I saw a deeper theological implication. In fact, the truth deepened my understanding of God’s faithfulness and thoroughness.
History reveals that Mary and Joseph had to journey to Bethlehem to take part in a census decreed by Caesar Augustus of all the inhabited earth. (Luke 2:1) Behind the earthly command there was heavenly purpose that would have Mary deliver the Child in Bethlehem, the city of David, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. (Micah 5:2) Added to that, I believe there was a greater reason for His birth being in a stable than just the fact of there not being room in the inn. I believe Jesus was born in the stable to fulfill a promise that dates back to the first chapters in Genesis.
In Genesis 1:24-28 it states that the animals were created before Adam and that he would rule over them. It was while he was naming the animals that Adam learned that there was no one corresponding to him and the result was God creating the woman who would be known as Eve. So, animals were present to witness the creation of man and woman who would have dominion over them. But that is not all they witnessed. They were present to witness the fall of Adam and Eve and when the couple used leaves to try to hide their shame (Genesis 3:7). It was an innocent animal that would be the first to feel the penalty of sin.
“And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21). From the beginning plants could never be a sufficient substituionary sacrifice for Adam and Eve’s sin because only a creature with “owr” (Hebrew) or skin, the word used only for the skins of man or and animal, would suffice. From that time on an unblemished animal, probably a lamb, would represent the temporary solution for sin until the time would come for the Lamb of God to come to earth to once and for all atone for the sins of mankind. Until then a sacrificial animal’s blood would be the covering and the temporary price paid for sin.
To me it’s no wonder that Jesus was born in a stable and rested in a feeding trough. Animals had witnessed the creation of man and woman, were present at the sinful fall of mankind, and became the first to die because of sin. It’s fitting that their representatives should be the first to look upon the Christ child and behold the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Yes, He was born in Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy, but I believe He was born in a stable to fulfill a promise. God truly is faithful and thorough even when we might not think so.
Recently on July 29, 2014 a 25-foot juvenile gray whale was spotted off Mission Beach and La Jolla in San Diego County. It was entangled with rope—possibly a commercial fishing line—and kelp, and was clearly encumbered. Most gray whales have already reached their Arctic feeding grounds, after spending the winter and part of spring in Baja California, their nursing and mating grounds. This straggler was swimming at about the same pace a person walks, which is about one mile per hour. Normally, the whales travel at about 4-5 miles per hour, but this undernourished exhausted whale was putting out all the energy it could.
After literally nuzzling some surfers on their boards as if to ask for help, it was finally freed to continue it’s journey that would have soon ended in death if it had not been cut loose from the encumbrance.
My heart went out to this poor creature that had been so held back by the ropes, kelp, and net. And the truth is, that beautiful creature represents so many of us who have been dragging encumbrances of hurt, regret, shame, guilt, anger, or bitterness because of things we have done or things that have been done to us. Like that whale each day of the burden leaves us weaker and behind in our journey. Like that whale we need help to be freed, and need it sooner than later.
But help is available and has been for 2000 years. Christ came to free us from the burdens of sin whether it’s the result of our own poor choices or because we are the victim of another persons sins. Either way, we need help, and God promises to set us free if we will but ask. The Bible says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). It says we can cast our cares and anxieties upon Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Ask Him to remove the burdens, and then be bold enough to let Him keep them. We must trust Him to be big enough to handle what we leave behind.
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The following video is amazing in that it reveals that a dolphin shows more wisdom than many humans. The animal had become tangled in fishing line from its mouth to its pectoral fin, and sought help from a diver. As you watch the video you will see how vulnerable the dolphin was as it drew close enough for the diver to do the necessary work to set it free.
It took several tries but the dolphin kept drawing close so that the work could be done. The dolphin was apparently aware that it could not free itself, and recognized the diver as having the necessary skills to get it freed. The only thing the dolphin had to do was trust in the character of the diver.
Be Humble Enough To Ask For Help
So many times in our own lives we come up against something bigger than we or any human can handle. It is what many people would call “an impossible” situation, and without help there is no hope. It is only after we have exhausted all possibilities that we realize there is no known solution. It could be an addiction, an incurable illness, besetting fears and incapacitating anxiety, financial failure, the lasting pain after the loss of a loved one through the breakup of a marriage, or the ongoing hurt from a death. Any number of scenarios exist that can leave us in this hopeless state.
But like that dolphin we must reach a point of absolute honesty about our condition being something we are helpless to change. Next comes humility, so that we will become vulnerable enough to express our honest need. To whom you might ask? The only One more powerful than difficulties such as these, is God Himself. The only question is whether or not you will trust that He can take the worst messes and make a miracle. The situation must be given over to Him trusting that no matter what, His character is loving and good.
We are so much like the man beaten and left to die beside the road in the Good Samaritan story. What was needed was someone to come along who would help and heal the wounds and that is what God does. He meets us where we are, and gets us to where we need to be. If you are like that dolphin and need help, begin today by being open and honest. Sure, you may not know very much about God, but all you need to know is that you can trust His character. He is loving and cares for you and your situation.
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