Book Review ~ The Garden of GOD’S WORD

Book Review by Aaron Cerda

Last year I reviewed a delightful book by Fran Rogers called Two Full Plates. If you missed that review I would highly encourage you to go back and read it. You can find it hereThe Garden of God’s Word is another fine book by author Fran Rogers. Mrs. Rogers is a wife/caregiver to her husband of over 50 years, as well as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, When someone of this stature sits down to write a book, we would all be wise to read it. On a personal note, I read Mrs. Roger’s books slowly (much slower than I read most books) because I want to absorb every word written by this dear saint.

As I sat down to read this book (the first time around) I was immediately struck by the chapter titles. The table of contents lays out a very clear trajectory for what lies ahead. The chapters outline the course which you will read for the next hour or so. It is there that we discover that Rogers will be leading us to discover that scripture Informs, Reforms, Transforms, Conforms, and allows God to Perform His work through us. In other words, to quote the author,

God, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, has done all the previous work ~ informing, reforming, transforming, and conforming us, so that He may perform His own work through us.

This is the message of The Garden of God’s Word — That the Word of God is sufficient to not only inform us of what we ought to believe and how we ought to behave, but it is also sufficient to equip us for this life as we are changed by its words into that which God has promised to complete in us. Mrs. Rogers doesn’t leave room for the ruggedly individualistic Christian who believes that he can reap the blessings of God’s word by sitting alone however, and she gives a wonderful explanation of how the unity of the body is achieved by participating in the life of the Word together:

This is the means of unity in the whole body; as each member studies, learns the truths, and joins in like mind and spirit to portray the image of Christ that is seen there.

As with Two Full Plates, The Garden of God’s Word is written in the wonderfully affectionate manner which you would expect to read from a dear friend. I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this extraordinary short book, grab the warm beverage of your choice and take the time to pour over this book as if you were reading it from a longtime friend.Take the words in this book seriously- there is a lot that we have to learn from Fran Rogers as she magnifies the glory of God by unfolding the wonderful garden that is the Word of God.

You can find The Garden of God’s Word at Amazon. The book is available in both paperback and ebook formats — both of which are very (VERY) reasonably priced.

You can read more about this review here.
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You can find all our books on Amazon.
Fran

Jesus’ Words Are Not Suggestions

As I taught my grandchildren, we would all do well to HEAR, HIDE, and HEED the words of Christ. He came to declare the kingdom of God through His life and His words. He set the record straight for truth and life for humanity.

Only a few people of Jesus’ day could stomach His words.

Jesus asked, after other disciples left Him, “Will you also go away?” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:67-68

We would be blessed and filled with awe and life if we knew all His words, but in this short treatise, we want to express four particular things Jesus said about His words, and why we need to listen.

 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. John 12:47-48

In verses 49-50 Jesus states that He speaks on the authority of the Father, whose commandment through Him was for eternal life. His words bring life against judgment. Without them we will stand naked and without hope before God.

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

To abide means to spend time, to dwell in time through the truths that were set for us in the New Testament where His words are recorded. His words mean nothing if we do not take them in hand, read, study, meditate and memorize that which pertains to eternity. As we look at food on a table and do not eat, so to have God’s word given through His Son without receiving it in the heart and mind, leaves us without true life, now and for eternity.

 It is said that Jesus spoke more warnings than promises of the eternal kingdom. We receive the promises, the freedom and the life of Christ when we know and heed His words and His warnings. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind.

Dear Father, I pray that today these references stand alone as you draw your people to Jesus, your Son, who came to speak the words of life. Give us your Spirit to quicken and enable us to hear what He says, recorded for eternity with your love, mercy and grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Image: Pinterest

Healing From the Inside

Ten years ago I learned how to dress a horrible wound that was a result of Jerry’s left leg amputation. The wound left from Jerry’s surgery three weeks ago is somewhat different, but both would be described as an open hole. These kinds of wounds have to be treated and healed from the inside, with medicated packing, so that it does not close on its own and leave a cavity underneath the skin.
This one seems to be more difficult for me to handle than with the amputation; perhaps, because I watched a visiting health nurse do the dressing for several weeks. Jerry and I came home from the hospital this time with simple instructions for cleaning and dressing the incision. But after a week we noticed the difference in the top of the incision from the four inches below.
The next visit to the vascular surgeon confirmed the need for wound care, which she began in her office, and gave me supplies to care for it every day at home, with an appointment for a return visit each week.
My inadequacy for this has kept me awake, but finally, I think I am able to do this without anxiety.
During these last two weeks the thoughts came of how we are all born into this world wounded from the Fall due to our first parents’ disobedience. Though the fault is not ours, we have this hole in our soul that can only be healed from the inside.
Just as jerry cannot care for his own wound, and must depend on me for his care and healing, so we cannot cure ourselves. Our wound is much more serious than a physical one. There is no one who can apply what is needed except our heavenly Father, through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to fill the void that sin has left in us all. He is able and promises the witness of our healing from grateful hearts as we submit to His working, His tender care and comfort. He is the great physician and able to bring complete healing of the heart and soul.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for providing all things pertaining to life and godliness through your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. We praise you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Patience That Leads to Contentment

The title for this post came as Jerry and I waited for the nurse to bring his discharge papers late last Monday afternoon.
He was admitted as an outpatient early Wednesday morning and discharged as an inpatient late Monday afternoon.
Wednesday, we waited two hours before they took him to have a stent inserted in an aneurysm in his right leg.
After the procedure, we waited while they applied pressure to stop the bleeding where a sheaf was used to insert the stent. He had to stay overnight to be sure there would be no more bleeding.
Thursday, we waited for the results of an ultrasound that showed the artery had not sealed and for the news that Jerry would need major surgery to seal the artery.
Then we waited for the results of an EKG and ultrasound of his heart to determine if he could endure the surgery.
Friday, we waited for the outcome of the surgery.
Saturday and Sunday, we stayed while a wound vac was used to suction drainage from the four-inch incision.
Monday we waited until the vascular surgeon removed the wound vac.
Now at home, we both wait for Jerry’s healing and our strength to return, so that we may continue to serve Him.
We have indeed experienced many blessings everyday, as the Lord continues to show us His mercy and grace. It is in these difficult times that He continues to grow us in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before I began this post early this morning, my thoughts were centered in how to describe the true Christian life. The words, faithful, obedient, and steadfast, were a few that came to mind. Patience is not always the first that we think of, but if we look to the last book of God’s Word, in Revelation 13:10 and 14:12 (KJV) these both speak of “the patience of the saints.” The English Standard Version translates patience as endurance.
“If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
When I think of waiting in the circumstances of this life, it in no way compares to the terms of “taken captive” or “slain with the sword.”
In Revelation 14:12-13 we find again the word endurance related to faithfulness and faith of the saints in Jesus.
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
It is amazing what the Lord does during our times of adversity. Waiting is linked to patiently enduring whatever He has planned for us, working all things for our good, as He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29) even as He is faithful to us in all that He is and does.
Three main thoughts came during those six days in the hospital (this is our third visit since it opened three years ago):
God, our Father, is always faithful, even when we are not. He promises to complete the work He has begun in us.
Blessings are hidden in the places we would rather avoid.
We mature when we endure.
Contentment was the only sense that I experienced as we waited for Jerry’s discharge papers Monday afternoon, the fruit of the Lord’s working in my heart during those six days.
Dear Father, we thank you for continuing to fill us with your grace, wrapped in your glory, so that you will not fail to bring us through this life in Christ, even as you are preparing us for your eternal glory. We praise you that you never fail, able always to hold us, strengthen, and grow us as your children. Fill us with your Spirit today and through us, witness to others of your goodness. In Jesus’ name we thank you and praise you. Amen.

Find Your Blessings

Who knows how many eggs are hidden on any Easter weekend, and perhaps not found. For the toddlers, eggs are hidden in sight so that they are easily found. For older children, the eggs are hidden so that they are more difficult to find.
Our heavenly Father promises blessings to His children. He makes His blessings known to us as newborns and small children without much effort on our part. Our eyes are opened to His blessings through a new birth. He continues to bless us as we age, but we find them in different ways.
Last Wednesday the Lord gave me a direction as Jerry and I journeyed early in the morning before daybreak to the local hospital. We were instructed to “look for a blessing” in the day ahead. Little did we know that we would be there longer than planned and that He would continue to unfold blessings everywhere and everyday for the next six days.
Blessings came in the events of the first day with our daughter, who took time away from her job to be with us, and through the hours of the procedure with nursing staff, doctors, family and church family.
Because we did not come home the same day as we had hoped, Jerry was admitted as an in-patient, for major surgery on Friday. The direction to “look for a blessing” continued. Now I know that I should have journaled these blessings; they were too many to remember.
The experience of those six days, coming home on Monday, looking for the blessing of Jerry’s healing continues to bear fruit and the sharing of this blog.

How do we find these blessings that God has hidden for us?

There are three places in particular that we are “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessings in heavenly places.”
  1. Blessings are hidden in the knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word. The more we read, study and look for these blessings the more we will find.
  2. Blessings are hidden in everyday circumstances, especially in times of adversity. This is where the Holy Spirit directs us to focus on God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He is there in His promises to be with us always. It is during these times that we are more in need and able to see the blessings He has for us.
  3. Blessings are hidden in relationships, beyond those that seem the most affectionate and amiable. Loving our neighbors, no matter their disposition, is a blessing from our heavenly Father, and will multiply as we relate in the Spirit of Christ to those who are not blessed in Christ. We can be a blessing to them as we share our concerns for them in a way they are not used to.
There is much more we could say about these blessings hidden from us, but revealed by the Holy Spirit. Tired from this last week, needing for both of us to recuperate, I wanted to at least share this experience with you. As soon as possible, I will share The Patience That Leads to Contentment.
In the meantime, look for and find your blessings hidden in Christ, His Word and everyday circumstances. Thank Him and praise Him for all things.
Dear Father, you, indeed, are exceeding abundantly able to do more than we can ask or think by the power that works in and through us. Please continue to open our eyes to the blessings of your kingdom for your children here on earth and let us share them with others. In Jesus’ name, I pray, thank you and praise you. Amen.

The Price of Contentment

For the world, contentment cost nothing more than what money can afford.
A divine contentment was purchased by the blood of Christ; for those who are His followers, born of His Spirit. The love of God was revealed for His children by the death of His Son; purchasing and redeeming us from the bondage of sin and death (Romans 8:2). We are born to a living hope by His abundant mercy and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; to an inheritance in Him that no one can take away (1 Peter 1:3-4).
It is a legacy that we do not deserve, could not pay for, nor earn by any good work.
Not to be content with the finished work of Christ that assures and provides a pardon from sin, and an abundant life in Him, is to doubt this free gift of His own righteousness for us and to live without Him.
“You Are Not Your Own”
“You have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God so loved us, desired us, sired us and made us His own, to lavish His grace, His provisions, His protection, His goodness, His own life for us, in us, and through us. To His own glory He has shined His light into our hearts to shine through us His grace, mercy and power. He has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) through Christ His Son (Romans 8:32).
He has given all for us to reflect His presence, His goodness and His wealth in and upon us. He has spread abroad His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which He has given us (Romans 5:5).
Our Response to His Sacrifice and Mercy
In response to His sacrifice and mercy in taking our sin and punishment upon Himself, Paul urges, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
Here is the reality of a life of contentment according to His will. His sacrificial death works through us for a sacrificial life devoted to serving Him and others while He is preparing us to share His glory. True contentment cost Jesus His life, and it costs us ours. He denied Himself for us to give us eternal life in Him. To experience this life of contentment we deny ourselves for Christ’s sake. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 
Understanding the Terms of Sacrifice
Eternal life in Christ begins when we are born of His Spirit; a new heart and spirit are joined to Christ from that moment. Eternal life is not experienced just when we die, but here, now, and forever. The new birth, faith and repentance separate us from the world’s way of life. We are no longer our own, being conformed to this world, but sanctified, being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ until He calls us home to be with Him.
Jesus paid the price for our contentment. Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice  means that we have received, understand, accept, and enter into the covenant of life that is ours in His death and resurrection.
Gracious Father, We thank you for your covenant of redemption and grace made with Christ, your Son, before the foundation of the world. We praise you for the work of your Holy Spirit in revealing and fulfilling your covenant with us. Enable us to know the power of Christ’s resurrection through the continued work of the gospel, bringing us to submission and surrender of all that we are, so as to live in covenant with you, in Christ, now and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray and thank you. Amen.

Jesus’ Donkey

Have you ever seen a donkey standing out in a field? I am not familiar with donkeys but whenever I see one, it seems to be waiting for something or someone to direct it.

God could just as easily have called us his donkeys instead of his sheep. But there are only a few special donkeys; many special sheep.

There are two donkeys mentioned in the Bible. It seems they were created to be “beasts of burden.” In the Old Testament Balaam had a donkey that could talk; he warned him and saved his life (Numbers 22:22-35).

Balaam’s donkey was probably older, beaten down under the burden of his master.

Jesus’ colt was waiting for his master when the disciples found it and took it to Jesus.

As the gentle master He rode the colt through the gates of Jerusalem.

There may be much that we could learn from the scenario of the Triumphal Entry that we now call Palm Sunday, but one in particular comes to mind this morning.

There are times when we may feel like nothing but a donkey (you many call it whatever you please) but that is not how God created us. The oppressor would have us believe that we have to carry the burdens of the world; that we have no worth except as the scum of the earth. We, as His children, were born in His image, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and directed by His Word and His Holy Spirit to bear His image and the fruit of the Spirit of Christ.

Would we have been honored to be Jesus’ colt? Yes, but that honor was predestined for one only. That colt carried Jesus into the fiercest battle that anyone can wage ~ the battle against Satan and our sin. He won the victory a few days after, and since then calls us to Him to fulfill His purpose in each of us. The memory of the first verse held in my mind since childhood is in Matthew 11:28-30. He has not redeemed us to ride us, but to free us from our bondage and to share our lives here while preparing us for His glory. In meekness He is able to fulfill His will in each of us as we tell others of Him and His victory in us.Dear Father, Thank you that each Lord’s Day, you call us to come in worship to Christ, your Son, who has won our hearts to serve Him and to be a part of the battle against the oppressor in our own lives and the lives of others. We praise you that our calling is not to tread through this life alone, but in unity with Christ, our master, and His other sheep. In Jesus’ name we thank you and praise you. Amen.

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