The Seeds of Relationship

September 20, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

SCRIPTURE: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7 NAS).

The law of the harvest is: You reap what you sow, later than you sow, and more than you sow. Americans have sown to the wind for generations and we are beginning to reap the whirlwind, just as God said we would in Hosea 8:7

Remember when we were children? All it took was that look from Mom or Dad. If we were misbehaving—we stopped. If the look showed approval—we continued. There was visual contact. Nothing between our face and their faces.

As we grew older, we didn’t have to watch Mom or Dad’s eyes to sense their approval or disapproval. We knew what their responses would be because we knew them. The more we know who God is, through the power of His Word, the more we experience living in the light of His mercy and grace, the more we understand and know Him too. There is to be nothing between His face and our face. That’s relationship.

Too many of us find ourselves trapped in the garbage heap of deception and lies that capture and suffocate, preventing us from having a clear picture of who God is and what He is doing. Deceptive clouds distort our vision and lies disable our GPS and our ability to find Him.

God created a spot, in each one of us, for His Spirit to live. Without Him that place is empty, and we can’t fill it. It’s reserved for God. Without the Spirit of God our lives are chasms where whirlwinds develop and grow. Whirlwinds that have the potential to destroy us. Forever.

I walked in rebellion to God for years. I knew about Jesus, but was attempting to work my way to goodness. But I couldn’t do it. I had no personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I could no longer walk the tightrope between church-y-ness and the world, God brought me to the end of myself. I knew I was a sinner. I believed Jesus died to save me. I gave my allegiance, my heart and my life to His Lordship. Then He forgave me. Redeemed and restored me and gave me what I didn’t deserve. Because of His mercy and grace.

I’m forgiven. But consequences of past rebellion remain. I couldn’t teach my children what I didn’t know. But I didn’t teach them what I knew, that the consequences of sin are like tire tracks through patches of bluebonnets.

The Texas sun coaxes these flowers to sweep the pastures and roadsides in Spring. But they also brings swarms of folks to have their pictures taken in this ocean of blue. And those tracks and prints leave a trail of destruction through the bluebonnets, just like sin treads and tramples our life and the lives of those we influence. While the field and the plants remain in the pasture, the trampled blossoms never recover and don’t produce seeds for the next generation of bluebonnets.
Sin produces the same affect in the lives of those we touch. Tire tracks of anger and footprints of rebellion are stamped into the lives of our children. They maim and destroy seeds of love, trust, and relationship before they can blossom and reseed.

God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children. The choice to accept His mercy and grace through the blood of Christ—forgiveness—is an individual’s choice.

Do you murmur over treads and tramples that sin has deposited across the pages of your life? Or have you given your heart completely to God so that He can transform the ashes of sin into a life that blooms, reseeds, and gives glory to Him?

Fried Green Tomatoes

July 29, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (NAS Jeremiah 29:11).

I decided to grow tomatoes this summer. I visited the nursery, picked out varieties of tomatoes, and took them home to plant. I gave them a drink of water, and dreamed of eating tomatoes in sixty days.

Each day I gave them water and inspected the new growth that appeared overnight.

Until the first worm appeared.

I squashed the yucky creature and mourned over the sculpted bite marks in the leaf.

This routine continued ‘til tiny green lumps replaced yellow blossoms. I licked my lips, anticipating those homegrown delights.

Sunny days transformed the tiny spheres to large and green, each one hanging on their stalks and changing color as they ripened. I counted the days, envisioned salads garnished with tomato wedges, or sliced tomatoes sprinkled with basil and goat cheese. My taste buds danced a jig of anticipation.

Then, one morning, I walked into the garden as the sun cleared the treetops. Would this be the day?

I gasped.

One lovely tomato hung sideways, gaped open, and dripped juice on the leaf below. Hungry ants gobbled breakfast while a mockingbird sat in the tree above, screeching at me for interrupting its breakfast, intent on stealing what was mine.

I’d show him.

I plucked the maimed fruit and tossed it away. That bird swooped in as if it was the last particle of food on the planet. Through the day I peered from every window to be sure he contained himself to the castaway fruit. But yesterday, he returned and pecked three more of my delicious-darlings.

I raced to the closet where the Christmas ornaments waited for next season, grabbed a box of shiny red balls, dug a roll of wire out of the drawer, and cut pieces to thread each scarlet oval. I dashed back to the garden and tied them onto the tomato cages, hoping to fool the bird with fake red globes.

While I was gone, that bird pecked holes in another ripening tomato.

These tomatoes would never make a salad. But the taste of fried green tomatoes sashayed through my mind. Ah ha! Even though the fruit was mangled, I could repurpose them into a delectable delight.

My plan changed those damaged tomatoes into a scrumptious meal just like God uses broken, battered, blemished people to accomplish His plan. We are created in His image and are His treasures. Though we bear the bruises and welts of sin, He loves us and knows the plan He purposed for our lives.

Like that rascal mockingbird, bent on gobbling up my tomatoes, Satan eyes us, waiting to subvert God’s plan and destroy us.

Jesus stands ready to answer our cries. He will rescue, cleanse, and set us back on solid ground. God’s love is deep and wide and He will transform us into the image of His Son. We are the object of His mercy and grace. No scar of sin is beyond His ability to forgive and heal.

My Mama said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest there.” We have a defense against Satan by placing our faith and trust in The Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s your choice. Run to Jesus when Satan lobs flaming arrows or allow this enemy to build a nest in your mind, deceive your heart, and destroy your soul.

I’m on my way to the garden this morning. Did those red Christmas balls solve my problem or will there be more fried green tomatoes on the menu tonight?

It’s Not About Me

July 5, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

I got nothing from the sermon this morning. Should have stayed home. The music was loud and consisted of fifteen words, repeated over and over. And not a soul spoke to me.

Hmm, ever thought that?

Come on now, ‘fess up. I have.

Last week a friend of mine loaned me a book she bought at a garage sale. The title was In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon, published by Moody Press in 1956. This powerful book has caused me to rethink and refocus on the object of worship. And the conclusion is clear. . .

Worship is not about me.

What? That statement begs the question, then who or what is worship all about? What I get out of church? Me feeling good when I leave church? Me hearing the pastor give an acceptable sermon?

Or is my purpose to sit at Jesus feet and become more like Him? Only the Spirit can accomplish that in me—my part is to be quiet, to listen, and then obey. Scripture says I am to, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and come into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4 KJV).

Worship is all about God—not about me.

And to be truthful, if I’m not worshipping before I reach the church building, chances are I’m not going to worship once I’m inside.

So why do I go to church? Several thoughts spring to mind: To hear the pastor’s message and read God’s Word? To sing and listen to the special music, and enjoy the company of friends who believe as I do?

But is that worship?

Worship convicts me when I humble myself and recognize my traditions and self-righteousness are like filthy rags before God. I realize the vast chasm between a holy God and a sinner like me, then acknowledge and accept that Jesus paid the debt for my sins and gave me life—eternal life. And I am thankful.

Jesus commended the tax collector who stood outside the tabernacle and beat on his breast, crying out, “God be merciful to me—a sinner.” But He condemned the Pharisee who said, “God I thank Thee that I am not like other people…even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11-13 NAS).

I don’t recall thinking, Lord, be merciful to me. I’m a sinner, as I’m racing through the church doors before the first song or prayer. I don’t even remember spending those moments in the car driving to church contemplating my desperate need for Him. Roget’s Thesaurus lists the verb worship as “adore, cherish, respect.”

Who? Him?

Have I? No. It’s been all about me.

Is it any wonder I leave church in worse shape than when I arrived?

Are you tired of sitting in church every Sunday, singing a few praise choruses, reading a few scriptures, praying, then continuing with business as usual Monday through Friday? I wonder if our lives would change if we committed to ask Jesus what He would do each day, in every circumstance of our lives—relationships, finances, business?

In His Steps tells about a pastor and his congregation who found themselves asking that same question after an unsettling experience during a Sunday service brought them to question the core of their worship. They chose to surrender to the power of the Spirit of God. As a result, the preacher, the congregation, and their town was changed.

Those believers did not take their commitment lightly, nor should we. When we seek answers from man, we receive only what man can provide. When we ask God, we receive wisdom, power, and understanding from the Lord God Almighty.

But the battle begins in our hearts and minds. Our sinful nature shouts, “It’s all about me.” But when we make the choice to worship God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and we choose to follow in His steps, victory is certain.

I ask you to search for a copy of Charles M. Sheldon’s book and read it. Ask God to speak to your heart about worship, then share with others what He says to you.

The Sacrifice of Praise

June 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

I flopped on the couch this morning, my mood as gray and heavy as the stormy sky. This week has been filled with problems—serious, heart wrenching family problems. I’ve been reading through the Book of Psalm and today was the 66th Psalm, which began:

“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Thy works!”

Shouting joyfully to God was not on my agenda this morning. Rather murmuring and whining.

I read the psalm over again and remembered several other psalms. This wasn’t a suggestion. My brain screamed, All right, God. How? How can I be joyful about anything today? You know my heart is breaking.

But the words on the page didn’t change.

The silence was deafening. Why? Why is this imperative statement repeated over and over throughout the psalms?

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name for the Lord is good” (Psalm 100:4 KJV).

“O sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonderful things” (Psalm 98:1KJV).

“I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1 KJV).

That still, small voice whispered to my heart, “To come any other way tells Me you don’t trust Me.” I sucked a deep breath and heard, “Oh ye of little faith. In all of your sixty-nine-years, have I provided for you? Protected you and proven that I am at work in all things in your life? In all of your trials, sorrows, or problems have I ever left you alone?”

I lowered my head. “I’m sorry, Lord. Yes. You are always faithful. Please forgive me and I will offer the sacrifice of praise to You.”

That was the answer!

When I’m on top of the world and everything’s going my way, it’s easy to praise. Singing joy-filled songs at that moment costs me nothing thing. Was it David or Abraham who said they wouldn’t offer anything to God that didn’t cost them something?

Hmm. Could it be that coming before God with thanksgiving and praise, in spite of my circumstances, is that sacrifice of praise the psalmist wrote about? Could it be when I murmur and complain I’m saying, “God, you’ve not told me the truth. You’re not good.”

A bubble of joy gurgled deep in my soul and shattered the shroud of gloom that had consumed my heart. I reread the words of Psalm 66 and agreed with God that He was indeed an awesome, magnificent, and mighty God in all circumstances of life.

Throughout the morning, I sang, “What a Mighty God We Serve.” His peace filled my heart because I chose to obey His Word.

His joy changed my thoughts and emotions all day. Have the problems vanished? No. But in those quiet moments this morning, I gave them to Jesus. They’re too heavy for me to bear.

How about you? Are burdens suffocating your joy today? Wringing the last particle of endurance from your spirit? Are there burdens you need to relinquish to Him? He’s ready to listen and act when you come to Him. Sing the glory of His name, even with eyes pouring tears of sorrow. Offer Him the sacrifice of praise. Trust His faithfulness to work all things together for your good and His glory, because you’re His child. You belong to Him.

That doesn’t mean all things are good. Joseph spent twenty years in prison. I’m sure those prison bars didn’t seem good. But God was at work. Even when Joseph didn’t see or understand what He was doing. Read the account of Joseph’s life in Genesis 37-50 and remember. God hasn’t yet revealed the final line of your story. Do you trust Him? Then offer that sacrifice of praise. You can, because He never fails.

Clean, Dry, Towels

May 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By DiAne Gates –

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations” (KJV Psalm 100:4-5).

Roberto joined our Vacation Bible School In The Park in Houston, Texas. This tall and lanky sixth grader’s enormous dark chocolate eyes spilled over with sadness that made him appear older than his twelve years. But Roberto was the first to arrive each day for VBS.

Now, summertime in Texas arrives the day after Easter, so by the time school was out and Bible School began the temps were scorching by 10 AM. Add humidity to the equation and it was a recipe for wring-and-droop. What I would have given for a clean towel to mop the sweat that dripped from every pore.

The week progressed and I learned this young man was a budding artist. He had five brothers and sisters. Their family lived in an apartment complex and shared a bathroom with two other families. Paper, paint, and brushes for Robert were not on this family’s shopping list.

The last day of Bible School we had a picnic for the children, complete with food, games, and gifts. Roberto’s gift was paper, paints, brushes, and socks—three pair of athletic socks. Those sad brown eyes turned into sparkles when he exclaimed “thank you” over and over again. Would any of our children be exuberant over a small sack of inexpensive gifts like those? Probably not. Hugs were shared and we boarded the bus back to our church in the suburbs.

I arrived home hot and grimy. The first thing on the agenda? A bath. Filling the tub to the top, I slid into the refreshing water and Roberto’s family—sharing a bathroom with more than fifteen people—flashed through my mind. Face to face with his reality made an indelible mark on my heart.

A tornado had ripped across town the week before and many of those folks were displaced from their homes—no personal soak time for them either—and no clean, dry, towels.

I pulled a fluffy towel from the rack, inhaled the scent of fabric softener, and was ashamed of my ingratitude. Like those lepers Jesus healed who forgot to say thank you, I never thought to say thank you for my bathroom, the water, or the clean, dry, towels.

Surrounded by a mountain of provisions from my Lord God and I failed to thank Him for running water, a pantry filled with food, plates to eat on, a car to drive, grass to run through, flowers to enjoy, family, friends—the list of blessings goes on and on. For goodness sake, a washing machine to do the laundry. The majority of people all over this earth lack these conveniences. God has blessed my family beyond measure and I haven’t even thought to thank Him. How about you?

I learned from Roberto never to complain when I must wait for anyone to vacate a bathroom. And I’m now grateful to fold a load of laundry—anytime—‘specially those clean, dry, towels.

Father, please teach me to be still before You each day. To remember to thank You for each and every provision you give to me, even the simple, small ones that I take for granted. Everything comes from You. You are the giver of every good gift.

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