Psalm 91:1 -2
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
F R O M T H E P O R C H
Christian Articles by Dale Collins
The advantage of vacationing at the beach is that we wake up stress free. No alarm clocks, no agendas. After watching the morning sunrise, we put on the coffee and sit on the balcony to enjoy the quietness of the hour. There’s no hustle and bustle of the traffic yet. A few hardy souls are already walking along the surf line. Soon we will join them. It is one of our favorite things to do. New batches of shells have washed ashore. Serious shell collectors are out in force armed with buckets or bags to gather new treasures. Dogs and their masters add to the mix of the morning brigade.
How I start my day many times determines the kind of day I will have. I can begin by waking up refreshed, being thankful and reminding myself to develop the habit of living gratefully.
God’s Word says that his tender mercies are new every morning and His compassion never fails (Lamentations 3: 22-23) He will be our strength and our son (Isaiah 12:2). And, we are also reminded to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
As my wife and I sip that second cup of coffee on the balcony, or take that leisurely early morning walk on the beach, we recount of all the ways that God has blessed our lives
By Dale Collins
Invitations today come in many forms. It might be a form letter asking us to attend a “special presentation,” which we rarely attend and will respond in the negative. It might be a weekly email invitation reminding us not to forget our church service the following week. It also might be a personally addressed envelope announcing a graduation or wedding anniversary and to save the date. Or it might be just a text message from old friends inviting us to dinner, which was the case recently, and which was readily accepted.
Receiving an invitation to a meal is an honor because eating with someone is one of the most intimate connections you can make with other people. A meal together is fellowship. It's engagement. It's acceptance. We looked forward to the meal that would be served. Our hostess is a great cook and she put a lot of effort into planning the appetizer, the salad, the main course, and a special desert. The fellowship during and after the meal was light hearted and enjoyable. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, the evening was late.
Unfortunately, I have known a few individuals who, when they receive an unexpected gift or a personal invitation, would just let it sit unopened gathering dust. They didn’t have any interest or curiosity in the contents. I’m sure the giver or the one initiating the invitation would have been grateful for a reply one way or another.
Christ is constantly sending invitations to share a meal and fellowship with him. Jesus loved sinners. He knew who the hated were. He welcomed people to share a meal with him not just when they had a bad reputation, but even when that reputation was well-deserved. Scripture gives us the picture of Jesus regularly sharing meals with people. The invitation to come to His table meant that friendship was being offered.
The conclusion is that our household needs to put into practice regularly inviting guests to our table for a meal and fellowship. Knowing we have a seat at His table, we must invite others to ours.
Matthew 9:10-11; 26:20-21;
By Dale Collins
Old Man in the Choir
Last year, for whatever reason, I volunteered to join the choir to sing in the annual cantata. God must have chuckled at the thought. I’m not an accomplished vocalist, but I can sing with volume and can carry the melody most of the time. Composers who created some of those high notes tenors have to reach didn’t have me in mind. I thought my tour of duty was over until one of the men asked me to continue singing in the choir. Alas, I now occupy the seat once occupied by my friend John who moved to South Carolina.
What is it about music? It speaks to you in ways that nothing else can. Music moves you to another time and place. It allows you to dream dreams, recall memories, quiet your stress or just helps you pass the time away. Everyone has favorite songs that they can sing from memory and with passion whether or not they can carry a tune even in the shower.
There are so many genres of music, each capturing the mind of those who immerse themselves in the lyrics and melodies that captivates them. Music jazzes up your life; it soothes the soul. Music is a universal language.
We can share our faith through the joy of music and teach others how to dance to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, some waltz through life without ever hearing the presence of God’s voice speaking to them. They never seem to hear the melodic whispers of the Holy Spirit
We need to lead others to sing with passion and a purpose. All God’s creatures can be in His choir, some who sing loud, and some who sing softly, some with angelic highs and clear pitch. And most importantly, the music has to be performed to the glory of God, or it is nothing more than a clanging cymbal in our ears. The harmony and the crescendo of the multitude of all the voices blend together and rise to the heavens.
Psalm 100 reminds us to worship the Lord with gladness and to enter his presence with singing.
By Dale Collins
After 85 years living in the area, our friend Bob, with a heart for God, headed to a new address.
1 Heavenly Circle
Sunny Acres, Heaven, zip code 77777
He will contact us when he is settled into his new accommodations, and said we are all welcome to visit him as our schedule permits.
Bob was a good friend. His smile was welcoming. He was honest as well as humble, a loving husband, father and grandfather. His passion was hunting and fishing. The stories he told about his exploits were so real that you knew he had to be making them up. Unfortunately, he had to leave his fishing gear behind.
He was a regular member of the Thursday Breakfast Club and Bible study and enjoyed “peeling back the onion” in order to gain a better understanding of the Word. Bob was the guy you would have chosen to be your “wingman” to cover your back in time of trouble. After attending the Emmaus weekend years ago, he had a new outlook on life and a foretaste of what his journey into the future would look like.
Most of all Bob was a Christian brother in Christ.
Actually, the Trinity searched Bob out years ago, registered him in God’s family Bible, and made a notation to cover all his moving expenses when it was time to change his address. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. He just had to wait patiently and confidently until he received his invitation from iCloud.com.
His invitation came today:
From: J.C. and the boys
Well done my faithful servant. You have been steadfast in using the gifts I gave to you. I’m at the lakeshore preparing a charcoal fire. One of the crew is being reassigned and I need you to supervise cooking the fish they caught last night for all the new believers who will be arriving. After that, your new assignment will be on how to fish for men and hook them on my Word. Peter will meet you at Capernaum and walk with you to the Sea of Galilee.
By Dale Collins
Garden of Gethsemane
Just a short walk below the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane. From here the walking path leads across the Kidron Valley to Old Jerusalem to the west. The garden encompasses an area of less than two acres. However, it contains a number of very old but thriving olive trees, some of which are believed to be 2000 years old. Remarkably, they still extract olive oil from these trees and may have been the very trees that provided shade and shelter to Jesus and his disciples. (The actual word gethsemane translates to mean olive press.) It is obvious that the grounds are well groomed, and surrounded by open decorative fencing that allows visitors to walk around the perimeter. Inside the enclosed area are pea gravel walking paths and a wide variety of annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs including Bougainvillea.
The Garden of Gethsemane is a place of solitude. A whisper is too loud for one’s ears. The calm, welcoming nature of the Garden and its ambiance, enhanced by the trees and large shrubs, makes it a place where one feels comfortable meditating. It speaks to your heart and reminds the believer to be watchful and not yield to the temptations that confront them daily.
Following the Last Supper, Jesus led his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30), While there he asked James, John, and Peter to stay awake and keep watch while he prayed a short distance away, overwhelmed with the pain of what was and what would be.
And for that, He would give His life for us. Through His sacrifice, we would have a chance at true salvation and eternal life. Yet the cost was still high, and in an emotional moment, Jesus asked, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
When we talk to God, it isn’t about what we think He wants to hear, it’s about how we really feel. God wants us to tell Him our struggles, our shortcomings, our successes and our feelings of gratitude along the way. He wants a relationship that stands the test of time. God will always hear us, and He stands ready to help us in our time of need.
By Dale Collins
Mount of Olives
On a clear, crisp morning our day in Jerusalem began at the Mount of Olives. It is situated on a ridge of low peaks east and adjacent to the old city of Jerusalem. Its higher elevation provides a panoramic view of the old city and the Temple Mount. The opposite slope leads eastward into the Judean Desert.
I don’t know how many acres the Mount of Olives originally covered, but it has certainly been diminished by modern streets, roads and dwellings. Historically it is mentioned in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and 2 Kings as well as in the New Testament.
During the time of Jesus, it must have been an area of respite and solitude dominated by hundreds of olive trees. Wherever we traveled in Israel we could always identify olive trees because of their distinctive, pleasing green-colored foliage. These trees, like other fruit-bearing varieties, rarely grow more than 20 feet in height and their branches spread outward like a large umbrella creating a canopy that blocks the direct rays of the sun. This provides shade and a cooling breeze for the sojourner as the wind passes through them. Maybe this is why Jesus ventured there so often in his travels to and from Jerusalem.
The Mount of Olives was far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem for Jesus to rest and recoup after teaching at the Temple, confronting the Pharisees, or displaying his righteous anger when he overturned the money tables. In the quiet of the grove Jesus could explain in more detail his parables and prophecies to his disciples. It was here in this place that He spoke about end times *(Matthew 24) and also the place where He led the disciples after the Last Supper, the night he was betrayed by Judas (Matthew 26:30).
There was a steady cooling breeze from our vantage point looking westward toward old Jerusalem. There was an internal sensation that I was standing where Jesus may have stood and that my eyes could see what Christ would have seen every morning as he prepared to return to the city he wanted to protect.
Matthew 23: 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Matthew 23:37, 24
By Dale Collins
The Jordan River moves swiftly from the mouth of the Sea of Galilee downward for more than 150 miles before entering the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. This river reaches places that its source never knows. Along the way it provides the living water that nourishes the valleys and farmland along its way producing a bounty of wheat, corn, sorghum and vegetables. Groves of trees: olives, lemons, mangos, figs, dates and bananas dot the skyline as well. My only comparison to the magnitude of these valleys is my remembrance of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and the San Joaquin Valley in California.
The Jordan River Valley has been occupied for thousands of years. It has served as a boundary between the tribes of Israel and today as a political boundary with the country of Jordan. Biblically, the Jordan River is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament over 100 times.
In our brief time in Israel we were able to see the Jordan River on more than one occasion as our tour bus headed to the next stop on the agenda. It seemed to meander unimpeded through the valleys twisting and turning wherever the landscape called it to go. It seems to find a way over, around or through every barrier and obstacle in its path.
What about our personal journey? Do we allow the currents of today that meander through us to be blocked by obstacles that are placed in our path? Or do we allow the living water of Christ to circumvent these barriers so we can produce more fruit for the Kingdom of God.
As the Jordan River provides living water to the land of Israel, Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual living water to every Christian who believes in Him.
John 7:37-38. On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare,‘ Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’ ."
By Dale Collins
Amongst our travels we made a stop at a section of the Jordan River near its entrance into the Sea of Galilee. Instead of a church built at this location you had to pass through a large commercial store selling souvenirs. However, there was also a niche in one corner where you could rent or purchase a full-length cotton garment for those who wanted to be baptized or rededicated in the cool flowing water of the river.
The source waters for the Sea of Galilee begin their descent from the mountains in northern Israel and flow southward. Then at its mouth the Jordan River begins its 126-mile journey before it empties into the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1400 feet below sea level.
I have no idea how wide the Jordan River is at its widest point or how deep at its maximum depth, but it was less than a hundred yards wide at our vantage point. Both sides of the river were lined with trees and flowering shrubs giving you a sense of serenity and peacefulness. Concrete steps and hand rails allowed all to wade into the cool, gentle, meandering current. Some even collected small viles of the river’s water as a remembrance of this date in time. One in our group even elected to be baptized for the first time in his life. Everyone stood on the shoreline in excitement and cheered enthusiastically when he reemerged as a confirmed believer.
Can you imagine the reaction 2000 years ago of those who witnessed Jesus rising out of the Jordan River when he was baptized by John the Baptist? They saw the heavens open, the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and a voice announcing that Jesus was God’s beloved Son who brought him great joy. (Matthew 3: 13-17)
This was one of God’s incomprehensible mysteries - that all three persons of the Trinity were present: God the Father spoke, God the Son was baptized, and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. How could these witnesses not believe that Jesus was the Messiah!
By Dale Collins
The Capernaum Road
Rejected at Nazareth, Jesus moved to Capernaum and made it the center of his ministry. This town, located on the Sea of Galilee, was known for its fishing industry and was, at the time, the international highway connecting Mesopotamia to Eqypt. The ruins and reconstructed structures at Capernaum attest to the fact that it was a thriving community. Unlike other Biblical sites, and except for the contemporary Catholic church built above Peter’s mother-in-law’s home, the area has been untouched by modern homes and businesses.
Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew were called to be disciples near Capernaum (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9) and many of Christ’s recorded miracles were performed there. It was in Capernaum that Jesus frequently taught in the synagogue, delivered a man from an unclean spirit, cured Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever, and healed many people who were sick with diseases (Mark 1:21-34). After casting demons out of two men
and into a herd of pigs, Jesus returned to Capernaum where he healed a paralyzed man that had been lowered in front of him from the opening in the roof (Matthew 9:1-2).
Wherever Jesus ventured during his ministry, he always managed to return to Capernaum. Jesus probably was accustomed to attending weddings and being entertained in homes where he and his disciples stayed. I don’t know if he had a good singing voice, but I can humorously imagine him humming a Jewish folksong written by John, son of Denver as he trudged the many miles back to Capernaum. (Writer and lyrics altered to fit the times.)
Take Me Home, Country Road
Almost heaven, the Sea calls to me,
Life is old there, older than the trees
Take me home, country road
To the place I belong
All my memories gather round her.
I hear his voice in the morning,
It reminds me of my home far away
With my Father up in heaven.
Heading down the road, I get a feeling
That I should’ve been home, yesterday, yesterday
Dusty roads, take me home.
Regardless of what I imagine, the truth is that each recorded event, and each miracle performed by Christ astonished the large crowds who followed Him because He taught with authority. Each miracle only deepened the faith of his disciples and his followers. He was God in the flesh. Christ healed multitudes of people in and around Capernaum. Not only did He heal them of their infirmities, He forgave them their sins, which is something only God can do.
I can only imagine walking in His footsteps down those dusty roads.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my inheritance, Therefore I hope in him. The Lord is good to those who depend on him, search for Him. It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
By Dale Collins
Sea of Galilee
One of our more pleasant excursions in Israel was our motorized sailing venture on the Sea of Galilee. The boat, named Reuben, was our respite for a few hours. It had a broad beam and could easily handle a hundred people under its canopy. As soon as it left the dock everyone could easily walk from port to starboard, and from stern to the bow. It was a warm day, full of sunshine and a gentle breeze blowing across the bow. After being shuttled from one Biblical site to another in short bursts of time, being in these calm waters was just what the group needed.
There was lots of laughter, and everyone took turns taking pictures of one another. Even a few miles from shore you could make out the various landmarks at or near the water’s edge including Magdala, Capernaum, the museum of the old ship, and the hillside with its caves where many had hidden from their enemies. It was a perfect afternoon on the water.
It has been said that Jesus spent sixty percent of his ministry on or around the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberius. It is a freshwater lake about 8 to 10 miles wide and about 20 miles long located in the northern part of Israel. Unbelievably, it is approximately 700 feet below sea level. Because of the hilly terrain surrounding this body of water, storms can crop up and drop down onto its surface without much warning.
The Sea of Galilee is the same body of water that Jesus and his disciples crossed back and forth during his ministry. How many times we don’t know, but it was a convenient way to reach many of the towns and remote areas. Most crossings were probably as calm and restful as the day we enjoyed.
However, not every crossing was uneventful. After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sent his disciples back across the lake without him. Not far from shore they encountered strong winds that threatened to sink their boat. However, Jesus went to them walking on water, and encouraged Peter to do the same until he became frightened and began to sink. Jesus rescued him and when they both climbed into the boat the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:22-32). Another time a fierce storm came upon them while Jesus was sleeping. After the disciples woke him up, he rebuked the wind and the storm stopped. (Luke 8: 22-24).
This was the second time the disciples witnessed the authority Jesus had over the wind and stormy weather.
Our excursion on the Sea of Galilee was relaxing. It’s when we are caught in the storms of life that it’s easy for us to think all is lost. Where is God? We have to remember that God is sovereign and controls the world as well as our destiny. Just as Jesus calmed the waves, he can calm any storm we face. If we can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, then the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 28)
By Dale Collins
St. Peter's Church
Another landmark in the region of Tabgha, near Capernaum, is the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. It’s not the location of the church that is important, but the Biblical significance.
The grounds leading down to the church are beautifully maintained and lined with flowers and fauna of the area. This attractive church was built on the shoreline strewn with large immense rocks and boulders. Its foundation is built literally on the solid rock touching the water’s edge. On a stormy day the waves actually whip up and crash against its western wall. The most prominent feature inside the walls is a massive basalt boulder on which visitors can place their hands. The rock inside the church fulfills the prophesy when Jesus told Peter, which means ‘rock’, that upon this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:18)
This is also the sector of land where seven springs of fresh water were known to have flowed into the Sea of Galilee, and one of which still flows through the property. The convergence of these fresh water springs, rich in nutrients, mixes with the larger water body attracting large schools of fish. This is an important fact since Peter and his brother Andrew, and five of the other disciples were known to have cast their fishing nets near the shallows around the seven springs before and after becoming disciples of Christ.
Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John records the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. Once again it was beside the Sea of Galilee. After serving the disciples a charcoal cooked breakfast and bread, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. When Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to feed his sheep.
Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he still had a ministry ahead of him in spite of his earlier denials. Jesus wanted to hear from Peter that he loved Him, truly loved him. What would your response be if Jesus asked you that question?
It's important for us, to know that Jesus loves us, to know that Jesus forgives us and that Jesus wants us to utilize our gifts and talents to further the work that needs to be done in God’s kingdom regardless of the challenges we face.
The Church of the Multiplication near Capernaum was constructed at the site where tradition says the feeding of the five thousand took place. Inside, the intricate tiled floors have an Egyptian influence from that ancient culture. However, in front of the simple alter positioned above a large rock are the tiled representations of the loaves and fish.
The actual Biblical event is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus sought solitude after receiving the news that John the Baptist had died at the direction of King Herod. He left in a boat to a remote area near Bethsaida, west of Capernaum. The crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns in the area. (As we discovered during our sojourn to Israel, the terrain at the upper end of the Sea of Galilee rises sharply and on a clear day one could easily track the movements of a small fishing boat from the roads and vistas traversing the countryside.)
The look - you know, the look when two sets of eyes focus on one another. It can be the look:
of adoration, of joy, of laughter. it could also be a look of dismay, anger or uncertainty. It could even be the look that said, “What were you thinking?”
Whatever “the look” it converts a message that is fully understood without a word ever being spoken.
What about the searching look Jesus gave Nicodemus, one of the most knowledgeable Pharisees of his day, when he told him he had to be born again if he wanted to see the Kingdom of God. (John 3: 1-21)
What about the all-knowing look Jesus gave the woman at the well that stirred her to run back to the village to tell everyone about her conversation. John 4: 1-26)
What about the powerful soul-searching look Jesus gave to the crippled man waiting to be healed at the pool of Bethesda, near the Sheep Gate. Looking directly into the man’s eyes, and with a firm commanding voice he said, “Do you want to be healed? Then stand up and walk”. He was healed instantly. (John 5: 1-15)
What about the accusing, interrogative look Jesus cast upon the Pharisees who brought a woman caught in the act of adultery and wanted her stoned according to the law of Moses. He admonished them saying the one who never sinned should throw the first rock. All walked away. Then with the look of compassion and forgiveness he told her to, “go and sin no more.” (John 8: 1-11)
What about the look of amazement Jesus directed to the crowd during his encounter with the Roman who wanted healing for his dying servant. Jesus was willing to go to the house, but the centurion had faith that Jesus could cure his servant from where he was. Turning to the crowd with a look of total astonishment he declared that he hadn’t “seen faith like this in all of Israel.” (Matthew 8: 5-13)
What about the foretelling look Jesus gave Peter and the others on the way to the Mount of Olives. He knew Peter would deny knowing him 3 times before the rooster crowed the next morning. Matthew 26: 31-35, 72-75.)
What about when Jesus waits at the door of our hearts looking to see if we will let him in. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7: 7-8)
The look - you know the look. The one where you glance up and God is there waiting to embrace you . No words need to be spoken.
Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
Isiah 61:10 I rejoice in the Lord my God. He has dressed me in the clothing of salvation. He has draped me in the robe of righteousness.
Our first full day of touring Israel continued with a stop at Tel Megiddo. It was hot, with the temperature approaching 100 degrees. Trudging up the steep incline to the top of the hill made us grateful that we had bottled water to stave off dehydration.
Megeddo was considered to be a large city in Biblical times, and guarded a strategic pass through Mount Carmel at the southern end of the Jezreel Valley. Over twenty different layers of occupation have been found here, each one built on top of the ruins of the preceding city- hence the name Tel Megiddo.
Megiddo is mentioned in Joshua 12, Judges 1 and 5, I Kings 4 and II Kings 9 and 23. The last mention of Megiddo is in Revelation 16, where the Jezreel Valley, now called the Valley of Armageddon, will be the location of last great battle of armies at the end to the Great Tribulation Period, and just before Christ’s return to earth
Three things made Megiddo a desirable location. First, it was on high ground and provided a wide view of the valley below. Secondly, a fortress could be built there to defend it from intruders and, most importantly, it had access to water.
The value of water was apparent as we traveled throughout Israel. It’s the most valuable commodity they own and is mostly provided from the snowmelt of the mountains that flow into the Jordan River. Other sources are springs. In fact, Israel sells water to Jordan. In return Jordan has agreed to a non-aggression agreement.
In Biblical times, travelers mapped their routes according to where water was accessible. Supply routes between settlements depended on available water supplies every 10 to 20 miles. It was amazing how creative various cultures, including the Romans, specifically, designed aqueducts and tunnels to guarantee access to water.
Water is life. Without it we perish. God’s Word is our water source of life. The enemy, Satan, tries to defeat us and conquer us by cutting us off from our intake of God’s Word. Our best defense mechanism is to remain on high ground, and drink abundantly each day from His water source, the Bible.
When you feel spiritually parched, grab a glass and fill it with the living, lifesaving fountain of water that will quench your thirst.
Isaiah 12:2 See the Lord has come to save us. I will trust Him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song. He has given me victory. With joy, you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation.
Isaiah 43: 2-3
Psalm 42 :1-2
Peering into the Past
If you have ever hiked a mountain trail you know how strenuous it can be to reach the summit. Along the way are vista and lookouts where you can pause for a minute or two before marching onward and upward. Day two of our tour of Israel was like trudging up a mountain not knowing what to expect. One thing for sure is that our tour guide never stopped moving.
The day began with a brief stop at old Jaffa, the main seaport and entry gate to Israel for thousands of years until just before the time of Christ when Herod the Great built another seaport at Caesarea to the north. It was a strategic crossroads called the Via Maris, and the main travel route linking Africa with Asia and Europe.
After a short bus ride northward we arrived at Caesarea Maritime. Even after thousands of years the architectural and building remains Herod designed and built were impressive to say the least. The amphitheater, the ancient port, the freshwater pool built into the shallows of the sea, the shipping storage caves, and the hippodrome for chariot races all testified to the fact that this had been the largest seaport during the Roman Empire. One could only imagine what a thriving city Caesarea was so many years ago. It was also Herod who had all the children 2 years and younger slaughtered in Bethlehem in his attempt to kill Christ. He was a jealous king who feared losing his power and control over the people of Israel.
Not letting moss grow under the tires of the bus, we next headed to Mt. Carmel. After a relatively short walk through the shaded hillside we arrived at a vista overlooking the Jezreel Valley. What a spectacular view, one that allowed you to once again look back into biblical history. It was on Mt. Carmel were the great showdown between the Prophet Elijah and the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah took place.
There is a faith lesson in the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal recorded in I Kings chapter 18. Elijah challenged the people to take a stand - to follow whoever was the true God. It is important to take a stand for the Lord. If we just drift along with whatever is pleasant and easy, we will someday discover that we have been worshipping a false god ourselves. The event was real, Mt. Carmel actually exists, and we were standing at one of many overlooks peering into the past. The faith lesson is as pertinent today as it was during the reign of King Ahab.
I Kings 18
We have a number of Nandina bushes scattered around our property. They are in the bamboo family of shrubs but grow slower and not nearly as tall as the traditional bamboo plants people envision. These plants have delicate green leaves and clusters of berries that turn red when they mature in the fall. New leaf growth is reddish in color. The red-green combination is pleasing to the eye and many use clippings at Christmas to decorate their homes.
This past spring we mentioned our disappointment in the growth of all the Nandina plants with a master gardener. Without hesitating she said, “Add mushroom soil, just add mushroom soil.” After a few yards of the magic soil was delivered we spent an entire day shoveling the stuff around every bush in the yard plus the starter plants behind the vegetable garden. About a month later we noticed that all of them had unbelievable proliferation of new berry buds, more than we have ever seen before. Instead of the few inches of growth, everything that receive a heaping helping of mushroom soil has grown exponentially. We don’t know what the nutrient-mineral composition is in mushroom soil but it magically worked its way into the soil and root systems
Faith in God is like mushroom soil added to plants. It works slowly into the composition of our lives enriching it. Over time, in the midst of the storms of life, through the droughts, the trials and temptations that confront us, faith strengthens our spiritual roots. Main elements of faith consist of hearing the Word, receiving the Word, believing the Word, and speaking the Word. Additional nutrients include worship, fellowship, prayer, and study. The resulting gain in knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the Word produces spiritual fruit beyond anything we can imagine.
The more we believe, the deeper our faith becomes. When we focus on Jesus our faith will grow. we must keep adding spiritual mushroom soil into the composition of our lives.
Psalm 16: 7-8
I will bless the Lord who guides me.
Even at night my heart instructs me.
I know He is always with me.
I will not be shaken because he is right beside me.
John 6: 32
When Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion for them healing many who were sick As evening approached the disciples came to Jesus wanting him to send the crowds away to the surrounding villages to buy food for themselves. Jesus had another thought and asked his disciples to feed them. There was a small boy in the crowd who had five loves of barley and two fish. The disciples brought what the boy had to him and Jesus then directed the people to sit down in the grass in groups. Knowing that there wasn’t a human solution to the problem at hand, he took what was given to him, gave thanks to God, broke bread and fish into pieces, and had the disciples distribute the parcels to the people. The miraculous act began. All ate as much as they wanted and when the left-overs were collected it filled twelve baskets.
So, how did Jesus perform the miracle of feeding the five thousand? What was the secret that defied mathematics where 5 loves plus 2 fish equal infinity? What’s the first thing he did? Jesus gave thanks for what he had to give and the miracle happened.
Jonathan Cahn, author of the Book of Mysteries, emphasized that, “Giving thanks is crucial to a life of fullness and blessing.“ Jesus doesn’t want us to focus at how little or how much we have. He doesn’t want us to concentrate on our problems or what appears to be impossible situations. And he doesn’t want us to complain or be disappointed over not having enough.
But we are to take what we have, regardless of how small or inadequate it is, and do what Jesus did. We are to lift up what we have and give thanks for it. When we do, the more full and blessed our lives will be.
The lesson from the feeding the multitudes, then and now, is to practice giving thanks for everything.
Matthew 14: 13-21
Book of Mysteries, Day 42, How to Multiply Bread.
We like to walk on a sandy beach just after sunrise. The crashing sound of the surf is rhythmic and the birds of the air provide a morning chorus welcoming us. Each step we take leaves temporary impressions in the sand until they are washed away by the incoming waves. Invariably we spot other footsteps going in the same direction and follow them. Who did they belong to? Were they running or walking? Was it just one person or more than one.? We could see the signs but weren’t able to locate the persons who made them.
Our trip to Israel was like walking on the beach. Everywhere we went was like tracing the footsteps of Christ. We could see the signs where he had been but couldn’t catch up. We were on the shoreline at the Sea of Galilee but couldn’t find him there or on the stony path at Magdala. We gazed upon the mountainside at Capernaum looking for the crowds he spoke to but were too late once again. It was as though we just missed seeing Christ sailing to the other side of the lake in Peter’s boat, or a day late hearing his Sermon on the Mount, and again at Tabgha, the region around Capernaum, where he multiplied five fish and two loaves to feed the masses.
However, we don’t have to keep looking for Him at the water’s edge, or gazing out across the landscape, or even searching for Him in the hills. We just have to remember that God’s goodness is running after us. We just have to stand still and let it catch up to where we are. Then there will be only one set of footsteps in the sand from that point on because He longs to sing over us. He will carry us through every storm of life and be our eternal source of joy. His word is a lamp onto our feet and a light onto our path.
We can only imagine what it will be like when we finally walk by his side on the shores of the new heaven and earth. We can only imagine what our eyes will see when He faces us and we are surrounded by His glory.
Lyrics from “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me
Revelation: 21: 1
One of our most refreshing tour stops in Israel was the Church of the Beatitudes early one morning at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. The church and monastery are nestled on a high ridge and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. As you walk the various paths in and around the church you sense a quiet serenity that encompasses the entire surroundings. You feel peace in this place, a place that beckons you to spend hours just sitting and meditating.
From several vantage points you can see the sloping terrain that ends at the shores of the Sea of Galilee. On a clear day you could probably see more than 10 miles to the south. The area around Capernaum was off to the west and the hills of what are now Jordan were on the opposite shore to the east. The landscape was complete with fertile fields, banana groves under netting, acres of trees shading the rolling hills, and multitudes of blooming shrubs and flowers of all colors.
Over the years they have discovered a number of natural bowl-like areas where you could either sit at their base closest to the Sea of Galilee or at their highpoint closer to the ridge and be able to speak to
hundreds of people in a normal voice depending on the direction of the wind that day. Somewhere in this region Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. All we know is that it was west of Capernaum because we are told he returned there when he had finished speaking to the enormous crowds that Matthew and Luke recorded in their gospels.
No one actually knows, but Christ probably spent several days preaching to the masses. Standing there where we were, one could only imagine what it would have been like to hear the Master proclaim his position on the law, what was important is his Kingdom, and to follow him with an obedient heart. Each Beatitude proclaimed told of how to be blessed by God and what it meant to find and experience hope and joy.
Those blessings are just as clear to us today as they were when they were proclaimed on that hillside so long ago. Then as now, the Beatitudes provide a code of ethics and a standard of conduct for all who believe as well as comparing the Kingdom values that are eternal with worldly values that are temporary.
Matthew 5 -7
One of our memorable stops in Israel was the time spent at Capernaum. Obviously, each site we visited on this tour had its own distinctive characteristics. We were there in the early afternoon and our guide once again used his King James Bible to validate where we were and what events may have taken place. As we discovered, the remains of the actual town and synagogue were similar to those we had seen earlier in the trip. If there is one thing that the country of Israel has, it is rocks, lots of rocks, millions of rocks. And, they basically all look the same. Older first century villages utilized a lot of black basalt for building, and later structures used sandstone which is readily available in the region. Depending on the date some structures like synagogues had marble pillars
It was at Capernaum that Jesus cured the son of the Roman soldier. Later that day Jesus went to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. (Matthew 8). The distance from the foundation of the synagogue to what tradition says is Peter’s home is only a few hundred feet. The factual point is that the event took place.
Not long after, we were at the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Earlier that day we had taken a quiet, pleasant excursion on the same body of water. The water had been calm and there was very little wind. But then, suddenly, as we watched from the shore, the wind increased in intensity to the point that it blew hats off a number in the crowd, and caused women to hold tightly to their skirts. There were no storm clouds on the horizon, but white capped waves began crashing against the rocks. Almost immediately, everyone started talking to someone, either a friend or a total stranger. A few of the women began singing. Mind you our group consisted of Christians from the United States, Australia and Canada. Others at the site were from Jordan and Israel. Quite a diverse gathering!. Of those at the shoreline, twelve were associated with one church, our church. Coincidence? We couldn’t touch the wind but we surely felt its effects.
We were reminded of the wind at Pentecost. Did we not comment on how the wind picked up and we all talked to one another? It was as if the Holy Spirit was there to remind us of His presence in our lives. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand. But, once again, He revealed himself, speaking to us as if to say, “I am Here!” As with the singing of the Lord’s prayer at Magdala, the Holy Spirit was with us this day, too.
Acts 2: 1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm. and it filled the house where they were sitting. …4. And everyone present was filled with the Holy spirit and began speaking in other languages.
John 3:8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind, but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is blowing, so you can’t explain how people are born in the spirit.
There are all kinds of lists: shopping lists, honey-do lists, address lists. There’s one more - the bucket list. Our trip to Israel falls into the latter category. After two years of postponements due to the COVID virus, twelve of us from our church family along with other sojourners from Oklahoma, California, Texas, Canada, and Australia came together for a trip to the Holy Land.
The tour was memorable in many respects, and we came away with some notable observations. First of all, each time we open the Bible we read about events and places recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. However, actually being In Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Capernaum put a visual exclamation mark on the authenticity of the written Word as we walked on their streets and paths. It was as though we had been put in a time machine for a brief period of time so that we could have a glimpse of what might have been so many centuries ago. We were modern visitors in an ancient land.
Secondly, at some juncture each of us felt the presence of God in our lives as we stood at a specific vista overlook, or a distinct location where Jesus may have performed a miracle, spoke to a gathering or taught in synagogue on the Sabbath. “Something more than humbling, something spiritual,” as one of our group vocalized. None of us will ever read the Bible again without reflecting on our brief experience in the Promised Land.
We enjoy flower and vegetable gardening. Part of the preparation for the growing season is to make a trip to the local farm store to purchase a variety of bean, beet, squash, and zucchini seeds.
All seeds, regardless if their size, are a marvel of nature. They are the genesis, the essence, the nucleus of reproducing and developing other like plants. There’s a problem though, seeds can’t grow unless you plant them. AND water won’t quench our thirst unless we drink it. Just looking at it won’t suffice. AND, grace can’t identify us as a children of God unless we allow it to be planted into our hearts. Grace clarifies who we are.
God saved us by his special favor when we believed. It's a gift from God; you can’t take credit for it. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us new in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
Grace defines us. We are who God says we are. We can do what God says we can do. We have what God says we have. Wherever we go God is planting us there for a reason. Wherever we are, God has a purpose for our being there. Believe it. His grace gives us the power to achieve anything. He said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains. As we grow in his light, he nourishes us, his special seeds, allowing us to grow deeper into His grace.
By Dale Collins
Digging in the Dirt
Spring is definitely here and we actually look forward to working in the flower beds and getting dirt under our finger nails. Now that the yard has had its first spring cleaning we can concentrate on the perennials and flowering shrubs.
It’s still early in the growing season, but we noticed two patches of Shasta daisies that had emerged from the winter. We only had a few plants bloom all of last year and were quite surprised at how the plants had multiplied. Enough, in fact, that we decided to expand the beds where they were growing. The first step was to carefully remove the young plants and set them aside. Next, the ground had to be loosened and a generous amount of mushroom soil added. Finally, the clump of young daisies had to be gently separated before replanting them about six inches apart to create the space needed for the fragile plants to develop a strong root system.
All of the plants will still have to be nursed along in an effort to give them the opportunity to bloom at just the right time according to nature’s timetable. They will need constant attention to survive.
We were all young once. From an early age each of us has been pruned and transplanted more than once in our journey to where we are today. The Master Gardener knew when and where to nourish us so that we would grow and bloom.
Working with children, as a gardener works with plants, is messy and time consuming. Children are the young emerging plants of our future. It is our turn to nurture them along, planting love in their hearts and watering them with wisdom and life’s lessons rooted in the word of God. They need periodic nourishment to establish relationships, to allow them to dream big dreams, to help them overcome the difficulties they will face, and to never burden them down with any more than they can carry. Finally, as they grow, we must give them space to bloom.
Morning Has Broken
It’s been a really great week for working outside. Mother nature has provided the sunshine and warm days. A good night’s sleep between the days has given us the energy needed to do the manual labor required to complete the initial outdoor spring cleaning and sprucing up of the flower beds. Each day it seemed like another perennial has awakened from its winter slumber and reemerged from under the leaves and mulch.
We have been blessed to be the caretakers of the land we have owned for the last 40 years. Our home is a respite from the noises of everyday life that surrounds us just a few miles away; a quiet sanctuary. We look forward to that first cup of coffee in the morning as the sun appears through the pine trees that separates our property from the fields to the east. There is a peacefulness in that first trek around the perimeter and then down the lane before heading back to the house. Like the old Cracker Jack box, there’s always a surprise waiting for you at that hour of the day. Today it was the return of the Mallard ducks, one female and three males. A sure sign of Spring in our corner of the world.
March weather is unpredictable along with the range of temperatures. In warmer weather we settle down on the porch to begin our morning devotionals and reflect on the direction we are nudged to take that day. Until then we have to move inside to the comfort of the family room and the warmth of the wood stove.
We are blessed. All that we have are gifts from God. The dawn of each day, like a Cracker Jack box with its hidden prize, is a gift from God and we wait expectantly to see what it holds for us.
Psalm 16:5-6 Lord you alone are my inheritance; my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance.
The March of the Seedlings
Winter is fading away and the warm days of Spring are on the horizon. This past week we had two great periods of sunshine and temperatures in the high 60’s. It was a reprieve after being cooped up during the cold days of January and February. We really look forward to those abnormally warm days that occur in March allowing us to work in the flower beds, cleaning out winter debris, trimming the crepe myrtle trees, grooming the hydrangea bushes and transplanting a few shrubs that need a new home. Some of the more difficult weeding is done along the driveway which is lined with field stones. Digging up the wild onions is always time consuming.
Unnoticed oak seedings have had a full year to develop making them difficult to eliminate or transplant. These potential oak trees have a long root system that go deep into the ground. They are often longer than the portion above the soil line. If lucky we can pull them out by brute force, but often need to use a spade to dig deep to loosen them. If you trim them off at ground level they only send up new shoots and the roots spread wider and deeper.
I can’t help but think that these oak seedlings are a representation of the struggles that the Ukrainian people are enduring in their attempt to preserve their way of life. They are strong and determined. They just want the opportunity to continue to grow and prosper. Unfortunately, a foreign developer has invaded their space, cutting and destroying everything in his path, rearranging the landscape to suit his needs and thus keeping the young seedlings from developing.
Unknowingly, what he is actually doing isn’t severing the young trunks from their roots, but pruning them, allowing the root systems to become even stronger and more persistent in their efforts to support their growth. One day they will become healthy, towering oak trees among the other trees in the forest of nations.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. They are for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
John 15:4 For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Life and Freedom
Freedom to live one’s life and its pursuit of happiness is a universal construct that people and countries around the world cherish.
They are ever fragile and need constant attentiveness to protect and guard their well being. In the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, after his great fall, all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put him back together again. Once one’s freedom is deprived and shattered it is difficult to restore without great effort, diligence, and perseverance
A children’s puzzle with only a few pieces is easily assembled. On the other hand a 1000 piece puzzle takes more time and persistence especially if there isn’t a picture of the finished product as a guide.
The events surrounding the invasion of the country of Ukraine are being witnessed in real time. The invader’s goal is to conquer and subsequently subjugate tyranny and oppression upon its citizens. Those who have managed to relocate to neighboring countries go not knowing if they will ever be able to return to their homeland. Freedom is not to be tolerated by their oppressor.
It’s winter. Water, food, and medical supplies are becoming scarce. Buildings and homes have been obliterated or made uninhabitable. Families leave in fear escaping with only what they can carry. Men of fighting age remain to protect their homeland. Many may never be reunited with loved ones.
However, God sees what is happening and has the whole picture of the events in his sight. Prayer is still God’s mighty force in solving problems and His presence is being felt through the actions of many who help those in harms way. Even though the current events are in the hands of one evil person, God is still in control. We may not fully comprehend everything that is occurring, but we must trust in God’s protection to do what is right and just.
People all over the world have condemned what they see as profoundly immoral and are doing everything possible to provide food, transportation, housing, and a safe-haven to alleviate the plight of the oppressed. Their collective endeavors shine brightly for all to see. They are the fabric of what it means to give rather than receive. God will reward each who has given even a cup of water to reduce the pain and suffering of another.
Freedom is a precious gift. We need to do all we can to help preserve it.
On our most recent trip south, we elected to take a longer route to skirt the impending winter storm approaching from the west. It was a good choice. We didn’t run into rain for the first hundred miles and then only showers for the next few hours before we stopped for dinner and refueling the car.
Then it began to pour in earnest, one of those driving storms with severe gusts of wind and rain that comes down in sheets. I don’t mind driving in foul weather but I’d rather drive during the daylight hours when I can see road markers, the traffic around me and a sense of what’s happening. As daylight transitions into darkness I become more tense. The muscles in my back tighten and my hands grip the steering wheel as though they were glued to it. Thankfully, the car had both heated seats and a heated steering wheel to relieve the stiffness of my muscles and joints. The pounding rain forced all those on the road to slow down and put on their emergency flashers. Each mile traveled was one less mile driving in the storm, one less mile of traveling into the abyss of darkness. Knowing we had a motel reservation only minutes away was a relief, the preverbal light at the end of the tunnel.
Isn’t that the way it is in the storms of life we find ourselves? Some days are cloudy but foretell of things to come, we just don’t know what . Some days irritate us because of unforeseen roadblocks that affect our daily schedule. And, some days have the potential to test our faith and trust in God to pull us through the peril facing us. We have the choice to keep moving aimlessly without a roadmap or look for the nearest exit leading to rest and comfort provided by the Holy Spirit. In these times, it’s as though the Holy Spirit is saying, “Move over and let me do the driving today. I know the road ahead, its pitfalls, and I know how to maneuver through the storms you experience. Buckle up.”
We may not know what lies ahead, but we can put our trust in the one who knows how the story will end.
Isaiah 40:30 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Each winter, sometime between January and March, we reach a point that it’s too cold to do anything outside. That’s when we drag out the picture puzzles to put together in the family room in front of the wood stove. Normally, we tackle a 300 or a 500 piece puzzle. This Christmas our daughter gave us a box containing, not one, but four 1000 piece puzzles.
Opening the box we selected one of the four bags and proceeded to deposit the contents in the center of the card table. We were overwhelmed, to say the least, with all those itty bitty pieces staring at us. It took awhile but we finally managed to locate and assemble the ones that created the outer frame. Next we unfolded the printed detailed picture that went with the puzzle. Now instead of floundering, we had a clear picture to guide us. Yet, there were still areas that defied us. We just couldn’t see the details well enough to locate the pieces needed.
With persistence and endurance over the next few days we finally finished. In front of us was a picture perfect puzzle. We could see the whole picture and all the fine details.
Reading the Bible may be like putting together a puzzle with all of its tiny pieces that make up every book, chapter, and verse. It’s difficult and daunting at first but, the pieces come together as we read more intently. Each verse read adds more clarity and detail. With perseverance and endurance over time the messages found between Genesis and Revelation reveal the picture of God’s love, forgiveness, hope, and salvation. He longs to be with us. The more we delve into His Word the more we discover new and powerful insights. Reading the Bible encourages us to draw near to God as He too promises to draw near to us.
As you begin your daily Bible reading you may want to begin by saying the following:
This is my Bible. It is the Word of the Lord.
It is called the sword of the spirit and is my spiritual weapon.
I am armed and considered dangerous according to the Word of God.
I can do what it says I can do.
I am what it says I am.
My heart is receptive.
My mind is alert.
I will never be the same again.
(Rev. Jim Logan)
I have an old jar of keys in my garage that contains hundreds of keys from days past. Some I recognize and many I haven’t the slightest idea what they were for or why I’m even collecting them. The ones to my vehicles and the house are the primary ones I carry with me daily. They are indispensable, the ones that I keep close at hand. When not being used I hang them with other important keys on the wall rack in the hallway. However, other keys that are needed periodically are hung inside a closet door elsewhere.
Keys are important and there are so many types, each with their own purpose. They provide access as well as a source of security for those things that are valuable and precious to us.
There is one more essential key, the one the Holy Spirit provides and can be easily attached to the essential keychain you carry. It is the spiritual key that opens the door of our hearts allowing His presence to immerse us in God’s Word as we journey the path of life. This key unlocks the truth found in the Bible. It is the key that opens our mind and improves our spiritual vision of things to come. Once the Holy Spirit has access to our hearts, then His word can sink deep into the recesses of our soul where we cannot reach, filling the vessel of our lives with the sustaining living water of Christ.
Jesus explained that we cannot control the work of the Holy Spirit. He operates in ways we cannot predict, control, or understand for it is a gift from God. This gift, for disciples like you and me, is the key that we share with others in our walk with God.
Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.
The wind blows wherever it wants, just as you can hear the wind, but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, devotion for January 9 )
Retaining the Edge
I enjoy working on a wood lathe. The creation process of selecting a piece of rough wood and bringing forth its beauty strengthens my inner self. My skills are improving with each new project. On the other hand, no two are ever the same no matter how hard I try. Each wood type has its unique qualities. Poplar is easy to shape. Walnut and Cherry are harder varieties to craft, but valued for their color and beautiful grain patterns. However, everything hinges on the sharpness of the tools. They allow me to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort, time, and expense.
A dull tool is practically worthless, especially if it gets to the point that it won’t slice soft butter. A dull kitchen knife can’t slice meat or cut vegetables with ease. A dull pair of scissors can’t cut cloth efficiently, and a dull axe is unable to chop cleanly or split wood with minimal effort. The same is true for woodworking tools. One that is dull just takes too much energy to use effectively, and can be dangerous to use.
Isn’t this the same for each of us? Our life can become “dull” if we don’t “sharpen” it periodically. If we are not keeping the sharpness, it seems to take more effort and strength to accomplish anything. Our life, can become, may become unfocused and purposeless if we are not careful. It needs honing and sharpening of our GOD-given tools and gifts.
Obviously, a major step is to "put an edge" to our life so that everything we do is consistent with the aims and direction GOD has
intended our lives to take. With a newly-sharpened edge and energy we add significantly to our ability to succeed as disciples, as a Messenger of The Gospel. How do we get this "edge" and keep it? By being in worship, fellowship and Biblical study.
As this new year begins I can put and edge to my life by resolving to:
1. Sharpen my spiritual life by increasing my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.
2. Hone the gifts and talents given to me.
3. Remind myself to treat others as I would like to be treated and do more than expected.
Using a dull ax requires great strength, to sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom, it helps you succeed.
…. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Do unto others whatever you would like them to do to you. …..
To Know and Be Known
Everyone has a name. Everyone wants to be known by that name or a nickname. My Thursday Bible group meets at a local restaurant for breakfast before we journey to the church for our weekly study. We’ve had the same waitress for two years. Her name is Janine. Most of us know her well enough to speak to her about her family, and events in her life. She knows each of us by name and knows what each of us is going to order for breakfast.
I believe everyone wants to be known. Being known adds a degree of security and value to one’s life. Being known helps fight stress, anxiety, worry, and keeps us grounded. Being known is a foundational footprint in developing relationships and friendships.
We all want people to notice us, to really understand us. People know us for our smile, a special ability, our honesty, our work ethic, and how we interact with others. Most importantly, we all want to be known for who we truly are and we all want to know others in the same way. To know and be known is what we all desire whether it is from friends, parents, or spouses. Periodically something gets in the way in many of our relationships, and we are not known or understood in the way we wish. And in those times when our relationships are not as strong as we’d like we begin to wonder if it is even possible to be known.
Psalm 139 begins “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” God perfectly knows every little part of us, both the good and the bad. And yet he still perfectly loves us. To be fully known and fully loved is what we all desire.
And not only does God know us, but we are able to know him. He has made himself accessible to us. We can continually learn about and know him through His Word and fellowship with other Christians. As we come to know God more, we end up knowing ourselves better, and a real relationship is formed.
Psalm 139: 2-4
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I am far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say, every before I say it, Lord.
By Dale Collins
During the day it is easy to find your way and easier to maneuver when you can see where you are going. Everything changes when it gets dark. Even if you know the terrain like the back of your hand, things happen when there is no light to assist or guide you. You can trip on that tree root that appeared out of nowhere, or make finding something you dropped on the ground more difficult to find.
The first things you search for are flashlights and candles when you lose power to your home resulting from hurricanes and snow storms. The light given off from even a single candle can provide enough light to show you what’s in a room. It can keep you from falling, stumbling or bumping into something. A single candle can assist you in finding anything to make life easier until power is restored.
Matthew 5:14-15 is a familiar passage to many.
You are the light of the world, like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. No one lights a candle and puts it under a basket. Instead the candle is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to everyone in the room. In the same way let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Christ’s birth brought new light into the world that was full of spiritual darkness, hopelessness, and evil. Christ came into the world to be your light in the darkness, to be the light that leads you from hopelessness into hope. Let His light go in front of you to give you a safe path wherever you go, and a safe place wherever you are. He is there to hold your hand and keep you from stumbling. Let His guiding light lead you on your pathway of life today, tomorrow, and forever.
Christ is the light of the world. He is our candle that makes the darkness disappear.
By Dale Collins
Mailboxes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are actually humorous that grab your attention like the ones that look like a chicken, a fish, or a football. Some people get carried away and mount a mailbox to the top of a ten foot post for airmail parcels.
If you have an address you have mailbox, and if you have a mailbox you have mail delivered to you one or more days of the week. Our plain, nondescript mailbox is located about 300 feet from our front door. If we are home for the day, we eventually stroll down the lane to pick up the mail and place inside mail that has to be sent. On the days we are away from the house we stop long enough to pick up its contents. One thing is sure, you don’t know what’s in the mailbox until you look inside.
Once inside the house we normally place the mail on the center counter in the kitchen and divide into several piles: those addressed to me, those addressed to my wife, bills, that which is deemed junk, and one more that has peeked our curiosity.
The junk mail is quickly set aside and we leave the pieces of mail that intrigue us till last, not knowing what to expect when the envelopes are opened. It might be a reimbursement check, a 30% offer from a department store, a thank you note from one of the grandkids or an unexpected letter that brings a smile to our faces.
Not long ago I received the following in a plain envelope with no return address. (Others, I know have received it as well.) It read as follows:
This is God. Today I will be handling all of your problems for you. I do not need your help. So, have a nice day.
P.S. And, remember….if life happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it yourself. Kindly put it in the SFGTD (Something For God To Do) box. I will get to it in MY time. All situations will be resolved, but in My time not yours.
My first reaction was “Whoa!” Could it be that it’s just another way that God is trying to let me know that I needn’t be so concerned about my current problems and concentrate on the all the wonderful things that are present in my life? He has examined me and knows everything about me. He directs my steps and delights in the details of my life. So why would I not trust His counsel, His understanding, His knowledge and His wisdom to guide my days?
Psalm 139 : 1-2 Matthew 6: 25-34 Psalm 37: 23-24
By Dale Collins
It's Right in Front of You
My wife and I are our two worse enemies when it comes to cell phones, I-pads and keys. We misplace them constantly and then run around in a panic trying to locate them. Today was no exception. Rising just before sunrise we both dressed in work clothes and set off downstairs to begin our morning routine beginning with turning on the coffee pot. New neighbors were coming over to the house to dig up crepe myrtle trees to plant along their long driveway. All went well and we returned to the house by 9 a.m., just enough time to shower and ready ourselves for church. Mental checklist: keys- check; wallet- check; cell-phone- where is the cell phone? Thirty minutes ago it was in my possession, now it wasn’t. I searched the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen area, the study and my work clothes. No luck. Frustration was setting in and we had to leave for church. As a last resort I used the other cell phone to call my number. Ah -it’s in the house, I heard it, but where. It seemed to be coming from the utility room where I left the work clothes. Not in plain sight, there it was lying on the floor under my sweatshirt right in front of me. The phone had apparently slipped out of the pants pocket and found its way to the floor. What was lost was found.
Though not in written form or bound by a leather cover, we unknowingly carry the Bible everywhere we go. This version, too, contains scripture and the Word of God. It will be read by many who will never fully study it. And it will be read by others who normally have no interest reading anything in print. This version may be or will be the only translation some will ever read. Each of us is a messenger of the Good News the Holy Spirit has written on our hearts. We have what it says we have. We can do what it says we can do. We are what it says we are.
Whenever others see God’s work in our compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and actions, they will be reading His word. As believers, we are the living, breathing translation of the Word of God. We don’t have to search far and wide for this walking Bible. It is in plain sight and is with us always. It is closer to us than our next breath. Our responsibility is to go and maximize the glory of God.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven.
By Dale Collins
Book of Mysteries - Day 302
Thank You For Your Service
This past week we took the auto train to Florida from Lorton, VA. That in itself is an experience. You have to arrive hours ahead of departure to have your car “squirreled” away on the double decker car carriers. Then you wait until it’s time to board the train. If everything goes according to schedule, which rarely happens with Amtrak, you leave at 4 p.m. and arrive in Sanford, FL the next morning at 9 a.m.
As we settled into our roomette, the couple across from us was finishing unpacking as we were. Noticing his Purple Heart Vietnam cap, I thanked him for his service to our country. He looked up with an appreciative smile and quietly said “Thank you.” That simple acknowledgment started an hours- long conversation as the train clacked down the tracks.
Later in the week history repeated itself. While playing miniature golf, we both commented on a patriotic shirt that someone ahead of us was wearing. Except for the color of the shirt, it was identical to ones we own. Then I noticed his Navy cap and when he looked up, I thanked him for his service. He too acknowledged me with the same appreciative smile and said “Thank you.”
We finished our round. My wife was in her glory as she whomped me by seven strokes, including two holes-in-one. As we were returning our clubs, the veteran approached us. He was so thankful that we publicly acknowledged his service that he came back wanting to know if we would join him and his wife for refreshments at the restaurant on the grounds of the resort. Needless to say, we spent the next few hours in conversation and laughter.
Both encounters ended with exchanges of phone numbers and email addresses. Whether we see either couple again is insignificant. It’s the fact that the act of honoring these veterans for their service touched them.
What about our daily walk with God? Isn’t it good that we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives and thank Him for all He has done for each of us? We do this by thanking Him for our time, our talents, and our gifts to touch the lives of others needing a hand up, a lifeline, or an encouraging word. We also need to thank Him for giving us opportunities to interact with others knowing that the simplest gesture of confirming another’s self-worth is pleasing to God.
Psalm 107: 1
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
By Dale Collins
October 25, 2021
The Covid pandemic has changed how we interact with one another. Many of those who are vaccinated still feel the need to wear masks in public places, outdoors, in their cars, and even at home. Masks prevent us from seeing one another’s facial expressions that reveal their non-verbal feelings. You can’t tell if they are smiling or if they are in a sorrowful mood. Don’t get me wrong. I respect the right of those who feel they must wear a mask. I only ask that they respect my right to avoid wearing a mask if I’m not required to. Even more disturbing is that more and more people have become accustomed to avoiding eye contact walking down the street. All of these new “norms” stymie relationships.
In the not-so-recent past open handshakes were commonly done when meeting or parting company. They were a gesture of welcome, the signal of acceptance. Handshakes, especially one with a firm grip, signified congratulations, or gratitude. They were also a public recognition of completing an agreement or good sportsmanship. Handshakes denoted trust, friendship and a willingness to help. This custom, too, is waning in our current culture in favor of fist bumps and elbow taps. Hugs are definitely frowned upon.
However, all is not lost. The hands of worship, the hands of praise, and the hands of thanksgiving are done with open hands. Open hands that are raised to accept and welcome God’s blessings. Open hands stretched out to establish a heavenly relationship. No earthly Covid mandate can destroy the power of the spiritual open hand.
Psalm 134.2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
By Dale Collins
October 6, 2021
Work, Hot Dogs, Fellowship
For 25 years or more the church has held its annual picnic in September at what is still known as the Frenchtown Swim and Tennis Club, even though it is no longer in operation. The Renwick family has continued to maintain the property and graciously offers the pavilion and grounds to be used for the annual event. Until last year. The Covid pandemic has altered how people interact with one another with ever-changing policies on mask wearing and vaccinations.
But, the good news is that we are sensing a degree of normalcy and we are beginning to have the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company with less fear and trepidation. That includes having our church picnic once again. It’s been two years since we’ve had this outing, and much had to be done in order for it to take place this coming week.
The grounds needed some basic clean-up removing leaf and twig debris, leaves raked from under the pavilion, the picnic tables cleaned of cobwebs, dust and dirt before they were stained to look new again, and the bathhouse facilities cleaned.
A general call via announcements at church and email was made inviting volunteers to come and help one evening with the promise of food when the tasks were completed. No one ever knows how many will appear to lend a hand. Early responses indicated between 10 and 20 able bodies would be on hand, a sufficient number to say the least. Rakes, shovels, and cleaning supplies were all waiting for someone to put them to work.
At the appointed day and time the crew began arriving. The first four immediately picked up the rakes and got to work. The mechanical genius of the group tacked the gas grill and got it back in working order. Two others were only a few minutes behind them. The remaining eight joined in shortly thereafter. Everyone pitched in. When one task was completed, each simply went to assist someone else. Even the horseshoe pits were made ready for friendly competition. What would have taken one or two people a full day to do, was completed in one hour.
Finally, someone asked, “What’s next?” I said, “Hotdogs!” and the crew headed to the fire pit not far away. Everyone found a comfortable place to sit until everything was ready for consumption. It was just a simple meal of hotdogs, chips, and beverage but for the next hour or so we fellowshipped with one another talking about sports, vacations, the recent damage caused by the hurricanes, the whereabouts of our children and grandchildren complete with pictures. Lots of laughter. What a pleasant antidote for the world that is swirling around us.
The point of all of this is that when you work together in community, work is fun and the resulting fellowship binds you together in friendship.
Christ encouraged fellowship. Pass it on.
Psalm 65:8 “You make the gateways of the morning and of the evening shout with joy.”
By Dale Collins
September 21, 2021
It dawned on me that if we focus our attention on what is around us and right in front of us, we will discover that the Holy Spirit is there to welcome us each and every day. You just have to be willing to look for that wave and smile.
If the weather is cooperative, I take my Bible and my coffee out to the porch. Recently I noticed a single leaf from the Norway maple tree just a few feet away. One individual leaf among the thousands that provide cooling shade during the day. Swaying back and forth frantically, it seemed to be waving at me. The sunshine coming through the branches highlighted it as though it were performing on stage. It was as if the Holy Spirit was right there in front of me, smiling and saying, “Good Morning. I had the feeling that He was encouraging me to talk with Him.
Over the next few days, I constantly looked for those morning greetings somewhere in the yard. Instead of hide and seek, it was seek and find. Some days it was the fresh bloom on a single flower that captured the sun’s first rays of the morning. Other times it was a Bluebird resting on the bird feeder chirping its song, “I’m here, I’m here;” or a gentle breeze touching my cheek.
Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for Me wholeheartedly you will find Me. (NLT)
Zechariah 1:13 So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. (NIV)
Matthew 7:7 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find, keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. (NLT)
By Dale Collins
August 19, 2021
FROM THE PORCH
Are You A Gardener?
It’s Spring again and our vegetable garden needs to be prepared for the upcoming growing season. You have to have a desire to be a gardener, to work diligently year after year to have one that is productive. The spring work begins in the previous fall when we dump mulched leaves into the garden and work them into the soil.
In March, when there is a stretch of warm weather, we re-till the ground adding more leaves from the winter stockpile. Once the danger of frost has passed, we plant a variety of seeds and young, tender tomato and pepper plants. As the growing season progresses, we nurture the plantings with the proper fertilizer while eliminating the invasive weeds that sneak between the rows. Eventually, if all goes well, we
will reap the fruits of our labors. Nothing tastes better than fresh produce from your garden.
Like an earthly vegetable garden, the soil in God’s garden, our
heart, also needs to be cultivated if it is to prosper and be
productive. The question for a disciple is, “How do we become God’s gardeners?” First of all, gardening is a LABOR OF LOVE and takes PREPARATION. Being a spiritual gardener doesn’t happen instantly. It takes the Holy Spirit. Being a spiritual gardener takes time, dedication, and being diligent in acquiring knowledge, being in the Word, the Master Gardener’s Book to gain wisdom. It means trusting in the Lord with all your heart and not depending on your own
understanding. It also means seeking His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take. This type of gardening involves opening the door of our hearts, devoting time to prayer, and reflective study to discern God’s will and direction and timing. The process may mean pruning and weeding those things in our life that keep us from being a productive disciple.
Once the spiritual gardener (Disciple) has been prepped adequately,it’s time for planting the seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Each seed requires a unique combination of knowledge, understanding and discernment. As we watch the seeds grow, we look for ways to NURTURE them allowing GOD to bring the growth.
Just as our gardens need sunshine and water, so they need nourishment to enhance growth. Church fellowship and Biblical studies develop greater awareness of the ways God directs us to help others. This might include a hand written note, a batch of homemade cookies, offers of help, a listening ear, and the offer to pray with someone and reading the Word with one another. Each act of kindness blesses the receiver and it blesses us and most of all it brings glory to God.
One of the tedious duties of the gardener is WEEDING those invasive plants that hinder the growth of the seeds. Just as we must keep watch for the weeds in our gardens, we must watch for the weeds in our own lives and the lives of those we are tending. Little actions or words that may be hurtful to others, thinking more of our own needs than someone else’s, choosing to follow our own will rather than God’s, depending more upon our own abilities than relying upon God’s strength, not staying in touch with God as often as we should. If we aren’t attentive, each of these weeds will continue to grow and keep us from having a productive garden. If we can’t weed our own garden how can we help others eliminate the weeds in their garden.
At just the right time we can begin HARVESTING what has been planted, watered, nurtured and weeded. What joy there is in picking a juicy, ripe tomato, fresh green beans and beets. The spiritual gardener relishes the moment when their efforts have helped others becomes fruitful in the eyes of God.
(ISAIAH 55:10-11 PROVERBS 3:5-7 GALATIANS 5:22-23)
May 25, 2020
I Have Overcome The World
“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It is hard to believe where we are as a country until you read Scripture (Daniel 9, Matthew 24, 2nd Thessalonians 2, Revelation 6 and 13). I realize, that there are widely differing views of these and other Scriptures. That is why I suggest that you read your Scriptures, pray, join a solid Bible discussion group, and listen to the Holy Spirit.
The world has been in the “Last Days” moving toward the End of Days since the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord. The Church is in the days of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).
Many things have hung with me from the 60’s, many others have drifted away. One that has resurfaced, a song by Bob Dylan. I’m sure many know where this is going.
Since the Lord has taken His rightful place in my heart, the meaning of this song has taken on a whole new meaning (John 3:8). You see, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.” Only GOD knows what all this means.
Our role as Disciples of Christ, is to Stand Firm (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-16). Our role is to encourage one another (Romans 15:4-5) and to stand guard of our own souls and that of loved ones and friends (Ezekiel 33:1-7).
The answer to what we see and experience in the world today, lies within the Word breathed out (Acts Chapter 2, Pentecost). The Holy Spirit of GOD, among other works is to provide, wisdom, fortitude, revelation and knowledge.
Keep in mind, we are all just passing through this world.
~ Rev. Bob (retired)
Flower gardens are God’s love song to us. As in a song, the beauty is in the composition; the varied notes, instruments, voices and the harmony. In a flower garden it too is the sum of its plants; the shape of flowers, the fragrances, and the colors. Once the pieces are assembled together, they create a unique set of lyrics that give us a glimpse of the Holy Spirit’s nature and God’s diversity (Acts 2:8-12,16-21).
Every day in the flower garden is fresh and new. It changes constantly. There is always something blooming during the normal course of the growing season before disappearing into the time of rest. The daffodils come first, followed by emerging hosts, brightly colored azaleas, the white blooms of the spirea, the flowering dogwood trees and the rhododendrons in April and May. Then it's time to plant the annuals, and wait for the rest of the perennials to burst out in all their splendor (Genesis 1:11-13).
Flowers are nature’s music. Their lyrics and melodies keep time with their swaying of the breeze, back and forth as they ask us to join in their rhythm of seasons and then to be at rest (Genesis 2:1-3). Yet as gardeners in God’s garden of today, we have work to accomplish; weeding, planting, transplanting, trimming, pruning are all part of the process (Genesis 3:17-19).
The result of a well-cared for garden rests in the beauty of the arrangement and variety of the plantings. The arrival of the hummingbirds with their flitting here, there and everywhere even if for only a few moments is my reward. Sometimes, even for the briefest of moments, they stop in front of me, as if to say, “Thank you for providing me with nectar and caring for the garden.” Could it be that the hummingbird symbolizes the Holy Spirit in that it ducks in and out of our lives just at the right time, the right moment, for the right reason? As with the hummingbird, our delight is in knowing that He is there. Awareness of God’s presence in His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) must, from time to time, again and again bring us to the understanding of His Grace upon our lives.
I know I am skirting around the theology, just nipping at the edges, but I had a really good day with the Holy Spirit today and I look forward to the time he returns to my garden of my heart.
Artist drawing by: Blair Beaumont Baker - Wiltshire, England