The Bitter Root – Failing the Grace of God

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” –Heb 12:15 NLT

One by one we poured out the hurt we encountered through the church. Some had grievances with pastors, some with elders, and others with a brother or sister in the congregation. This issue came up while we were discussing why some people do not attend church. I emptied my heart on this issue, as I too was apart from the church for a short period of time. But my conclusion was that we always have to come back to the Scriptures to see why God created the New Testament church, and where we fit in.

When I got home from this meeting, it hit me between the eyes – we often divorce ourselves from the church when we are hurt. We tend to play it safe and stay where we are most comfortable – at home. But is this Biblical?

According to Easton’s Bible dictionary, “Bitterness is symbolical of affliction, misery, and servitude (Ex. 1:14; Ruth 1:20; Jer. 9:15). The Chaldeans are called the “bitter and hasty nation” (Hab. 1:6). The “gall of bitterness” expresses a state of great wickedness (Acts 8:23). A “root of bitterness” is a wicked person or a dangerous sin (Heb. 12:15).[1]

When we allow past hurts to take root in our lives, we are succumbing to bondage. And that bondage, when fully rooted, makes us groan/complain. When the children of God were slaves in Egypt, they cried out to God in their distress, because they were heavy laden. It is no surprise then, that the Passover is celebrated with bitter herbs, symbolizing the oppression of the Israelites.

“No oppression can give us joy. No oppression can give us satisfaction. No oppression can help alleviate the misery our soul is bound to.”

When the New Testament church met regularly, it was to exhort each other, meet their needs and hold each other accountable. We were not created to be an island to ourselves, but streams of living water that flow outward and change lives for Christ. Paul says this about meeting together as Christians:

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. [2]

God created the New Testament church as a gathering place for the saints. It is to be a safe haven for His people to gather and be united in His word and deed. When we forgive, we produce fruit of righteousness (right living) that is pleasing to God. Although this dwelling place is full of redeemed, yet tainted people, we fail God when we do not forgive each other. We conclude that His grace is not sufficient for us, because we cannot forgive others of their trespasses. Love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8-9). By God’s grace we were forgiven at the cross. And by God’s grace He covered our guilt.

What about you? Is there someone in the church who has hurt you directly or indirectly? Are you allowing a “root of bitterness” to keep you and them in bondage? I encourage you today, sever the wicked weed of unforgiveness, and untangle yourself. Your holy crop depends on it!


[1] Easton, M. (1996). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (3rd ed.) (Heb 10:24–25). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.


Hidden, But Not Forgotten (Resurrection of Jesus)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” John 20:6–7

In my previous post, I explained about the significance of Jesus fulfilling the Passover Seder, and how the Matzah, or the “aphkiomen” was hidden for the children to find. When Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week, after the Passover, He left his linen cloths for the disciples to find (just like the Matzah hidden in linen cloth).

The tomb was open not to let Jesus’ body out but to let the disciples and the world see that He rose.1″

There is great implication here that Jesus rose through the linen cloths, because to pull away the burial dressings would have caused damage to them, thus  being unable to fold them. If  someone removed them by hand, they would leave an imprint of the body.

It is a Jewish custom to fold a napkin and leave it on the table after a meal, announcing that they would return to their home again, because they enjoyed the meal and fellowship. When Jesus folded the head dressing/napkin and left it on the table were His body had been laid, He was saying that He would return to fellowship again.

Are you in want of fellowship with Jesus today?  He proved His love for you by hanging on a cross (for your sins) and then raising from the grave (to show that death
cannot hold you to your sins, but rather believing in Him you will be raised to glory also). He is inviting you on this Easter Sunday to come, sit and dine with Him.

“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9–10

1Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Jn 20:3–9). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Twilight – Slaughter at Golgotha

The Passion of Benny Hill

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” Exodus 12:5–6

Death hung in the air, as the Passover lamb was nailed to the cross. The day drew to its pinnacle, as mourners and mockers assembled to see the unblemished One slaughtered. Beaten beyond recognition, blood poured from His wounds. Just a few days earlier, they welcomed Jesus into their homes, and praised Him in the streets as their king, crying, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Now, they spit and curse and revile Him.

In preperation of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover, the people purged out the leaven in their homes. They prepared the Seder and partook of bitter herbs (to remind them of the bitterness they endured as slaves in Egypt),  and ate unleavened bread (to remind them of the freedom they received leaving Egypt, from the bread of affliction they used to taste daily). They ate the flesh of the Passover lamb and burned its remains.

Symbolic to this ritual, was Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Lamb of the Passover, hanging on a tree (cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree), tasting the bitterness of God’s wrath. As the sins of the world burned through Christ’s body, He was purged of the old leaven (sins of man). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb, just at the Jews put away the “aphikomen,” the larger piece of Matzah that was broken in two and hid for the children to find at the closing of the Seder meal.

So far it doesn’t seem like a “Good Friday.” But “Son”day is on its way…

Cross-Pollination (by Sherrie Ashcraft)

Anyone who’s been to my house anytime from spring through fall knows that I love to garden. When we moved here six years ago, my flowerbed space was filled with waist-high weeds (which would be shoulder-high on most of you!)

Sherrie Ashcraft

Though it was hard to envision what could be, I knew I had to start by pulling all those weeds. It was an impossible task, but since when did I, Super Garden Woman, give in to impossibility? I donned my cape (er, I mean my dust mask) and braved the dangers of hay fever to bring some order to the jungle. It took a couple of years, but by the second year I had more flowers blooming than weeds, and thus deemed the project a success.

Now, you can start a flower garden from seeds, or from having a disobedient car that won’t drive past a nursery without turning in, but the best way to increase your blooms is by cross-pollination. That doesn’t mean that you frown at your flowers and scare them into producing more, but that the pollen from one plant is transferred to a different plant. Flowers are sexual beings, and the male pollen on the anther of one flower needs to be moved to the female stigma of another flower. This is necessary in the fertilization process of flowers.

So how does this happen? It doesn’t take a moonlit night or quiet, romantic music. Sometimes the force of the wind can carry the pollen from one flower to another. God also designed it so that butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and even flies are involved in the process, though they don’t even realize it. They’re just busy going about their normal, daily routine of trying to get food. In their quest for their favorite nectar buried within the flower, they unintentionally rub against the pollen-producing stamen, getting pollen stuck to their body. By moving on to another flower, a portion of the pollen rubs off their body and onto the next plant’s stigma. It makes for new, strong flowers.

At this time of year, with Easter on Sunday, our thoughts naturally focus on the cross. As Christians, we realize that it is central to our belief in the saving power of Christ. The cross and resurrection are what brings us salvation, freedom from the power of sin, and the assurance of spending eternity in heaven. But we’re not supposed to keep that news to ourselves–we need to have cross-pollination. The truth we have must be carried to another person in order for the gospel to spread.

Just as pollen can be spread by a gentle breeze, so too can the word of God be spread by the Holy Spirit, which is often represented by wind in the Bible. But God also uses us to carry out His rooting of a new life in another person. Just like the insects He uses to fertilize different plants, we may be going about our daily routine, not aware of how God is using us. As we feed on the nectar of the Word of God, we can’t help but have it “stick” to us. As we interact with other people around us, God’s love, peace, joy, etc. also rub off on them. We are pollinating other people with the power of the cross, fertilizing the work God is doing in their lives.

So the next time you’re out working in your garden and you see a big bumble bee cruising in and out of flowers or notice pollen floating in the air, just remember that God has called you to be a cross-pollinator too. The message of the cross of Christ is the life-giving pollen for our world.

*You can read more of Sherrie’s writing at:  sherrieashcraft.blogspot.com

No Looking Back

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 NLT

People working with cattle and plough in Gorj ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultivating Thought:

Worldly cares distract us from fully committing to God. Jesus knows the hearts of men and their excuses for not following Him (Luke 9:57-62). He used the example of plowing to illustrate the qualifications needed to be a kingdom disciple.

In Jesus’ time, the typical plow was pulled by oxen. If the person breaking the ground looked back while steering, it would inevitably turn the blade in the wrong direction, thus creating a crooked furrow. If the rows curved, they would waste space and be unable to plant to their advantage.

When we allow disturbances to take precedence over our duty to God, they hinder us from producing fruitful work. It is then that we find ourselves heading in an undesirable way of life (or even in circles). It takes focus and follow through to plot and plow when and where God assigns us. Jesus knew the urgency of preparation, because the harvest was near.

Prayer:

God of discipleship, thank You for Your example through Jesus. Please guide  me to better plot out the time You have given me. I now bury all excuses and cast my gaze before me, fully committing to glorify You, as You prepare my heart for harvest. In Jesus name, amen.

Preparing the Soil

Plowing with a John Deere tractor and a Kverne...

Plowing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’  Hosea 10:12 NLT

Cultivating Thought:

Plowing hard ground is crucial for casting out old roots and making the soil fertile for planting. Likewise, repentance softens the heart, causing it to draw in nutrients of God’s word.

When we choose to live within the parameters of God’s precepts,  He releases showers of blessing upon us, watering our offered seed. And as we allow the Holy Spirit to work the soil of our lives daily, He will turn over those unholy dirt clods and make our hearts pliable for producing godly fruit.

Prayer:

God of Preperation, please cultivate in me a plant-able heart. Break up the fallow ground of unrighteousness that keeps me from producing a healthy crop of right living. In Jesus name, amen.

Pain in the Foot – Living with Plantar Facsciitis

So, here I am again. Posting my haphazard medical discoveries on my blog site. I must say that I have a lot to write about, since I first started on this journey a year ago.

I would rather write about the fun stuff in life – the happy-go-lucky times when all is right within my world. But I find myself once again learning more and more about God’s grace and mercy, through these tough times. There’s just something about suffering that brings us closer to God.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Right now I am learning to live with plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis). Or as I like to call it, “Plant-your-fashion-iris” (This was what I called it before I could pronounce it). This foot crippling dysfunction causes tremendous heel and arch pain. When taking the first steps out of bed in the morning, the pain can be mild to extreme, depending on how much the plantar fascia is shortened. Because the plantar fascia (a thick band of

Plantar Fascitis

tissue) runs across the bottom of the foot and is attached to the heel bone and toes, it can cause excess or stabbing pain when it is tight. Upon the foot limbering, the hurt usually declines, but may reoccur after standing for long periods of time, or after getting up from a seated position.

Treatment

When I started dealing with this last year, I bought new walking shoes to help alleviate the stress. That has proved beneficial for my walking, but it didn’t take the pain away when I rested. I tried shoe inserts, as instructed by my doctor and massage therapist. Upon stepping off of the “foot diagnoser” in front of the insert display at Sports Authority, a store worker quipped, “You have flat feet!” I would say that I felt like a “heel,” but that goes without saying at this point. She then asked me if I needed inserts for cushion or for support. I told her that I had plantar fasciitis. She grabbed the appropriate inserts and placed them under the insoles in my tennis shoes. I then wore them the rest of the night and again in the morning. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and hurting in places I never knew I could hurt! I began to think that I would just have to put up with the pain until my feet get used to it, but then I remembered the pain and never wore them again.

I did eventually see the foot doctor, and he told me to try Super Feet insoles, to help form my arch and take the pressure off of the fascia. The inserts I was given at Sports Authority were not the right ones – way too short for my feet (no wonder I was in pain!). About six months later, I entered into Fleet Feet Sports and purchased a similar type called Sole. I have used them for three months now, and they are wonderful! Such a huge change in the way my feet feel - virtually pain free!

There are other treatments to consider, such as using a tennis ball to roll under your foot. This will help stretch out that wretched nerve. Also, you can purchase a night sock to wear. This will straighten your fascia nerve and keep your toes from curling at night.

If you are having severe foot pain, try some home remedies, but most of all, I encourage you to seek a podiatry doctor for advice.

All in all, Plantar Fasciitis can be painful and very trying , especially when it nearly disables your walking. But as with most medical conditions, it can be treated, and over time, healed.

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