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Archive for February, 2019

(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Anyone sitting in the camp meeting that night in 1850 would never guess they were in the presence of greatness-in-the-making, as a thirteen-year old girl prayed to receive Jesus into her life.

After all, she had three strikes against her: she was female, black, and a slave.

But strikes mean nothing to an all-powerful God. He had grand plans for Amanda Matthews, although even she was not aware for a long time.

First, God released her from slavery. Amanda’s father worked nights selling brooms and mats he made, after completing his duties on the Maryland dairy farm where he resided. The money he earned was finally sufficient to pay for his own freedom, and then one by one, the freedom of his wife (from a neighboring farmer) and their five children.

They moved to Pennsylvania and became part of the Underground Railroad, helping other slaves escape to freedom. During that time, Amanda’s heart was expanded by empathy for others and her spirit strengthened by courage.

 

 

Second, God provided opportunity for Amanda to practice his presence and grow in intimacy with him while she worked as a domestic servant.

Later in her autobiography she described the benefit of those years:

 

“…Though your hands are employed in doing your daily business;

it is no bar to the soul’s communion with Jesus.

Many times over my wash-tub and ironing table, and while making my bed

and sweeping my house and washing my dishes,

I have had some of the richest blessings.”

–Amanda Berry Smith

 

Amanda faced more than her share of heartache. Her first husband never returned home after the Civil War, her second husband died of stomach cancer, and four of her five children also died.

Though God certainly did not cause such hardships, he used them to accomplish good purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

(www.quotefancy.com/quote/12006/C-S-Lewis)

 

To assuage her grief and depression, Amanda immersed herself in church activities and camp meetings.  Such occasions not only ministered to Amanda’s aching heart, but provided preparation for what was to come.

Under the leadership of a camp meeting preacher, Amanda was invited to sing (with her expressive, deep contralto voice) and also to speak. She was a commanding presence at nearly six feet tall. But her captivating smile, well-told stories, and clear, biblical presentation soon garnered her more invitations to other churches and revival meetings.

Not that everyone was taken with her. Amanda experienced rejection and racism, as well as prejudicial treatment because she was a woman.

“But I belong to Royalty,” she said. “I am well-acquainted with the King of Kings. I am better known and better understood among the great family above than I am on earth.”

 

 

Others saw and appreciated “God’s image carved in ebony,” as Amanda was sometimes called. Bishop James Thoburn once had occasion to kneel near Amanda during a prayer meeting. Suddenly he heard her singing.

“I looked up,” he said, “and saw the colored sister…with her hands spread out and her face all aglow…Something like a hallowed glow seemed to rest upon the dark face before me, and I felt in a second that she was possessed of a rare degree of spiritual power.” *

Invitations here in America eventually led to invitations abroad—not a typical experience for nineteenth century Americans, much less for a former slave. Amanda must have smiled, perhaps even sang for joy, at the impossibilities God engineered for her.

 

 

In 1878 she traveled to England and stayed for two years, then sailed for India and ministered there for eighteen months.

Finally she spent eight years in Africa, working in churches, traveling by canoe from village to village to share about Jesus, and advocating for better treatment of women and children. While there Amanda adopted two boys.

In 1891 Amanda returned to the United States and settled in Chicago, perhaps at the urging of friends there. Several years later, Amanda began to pursue God’s next venture for her: to establish an orphanage for black children.

By 1899 the dream had become reality, and the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home was officially opened in Harvey, Illinois with thirty children.

Funding was provided in part by donors, including Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears and Roebuck, Inc. Another valuable source of funding: Amanda’s newly-written autobiography which sold widely.

By 1912, Amanda’s failing health began to interfere with her ability to handle orphanage affairs.  She was 75 years old.  But God provided a couple willing to take over for her, and Amanda moved south, at the invitation of a wealthy supporter and real estate developer, George Sebring. He provided for her a cottage in his community, Sebring, Florida.

On February 24, 1915 as the result of a stroke, Amanda Berry Smith went home to heaven, to her King of Kings and the great family above—many of whom reside there because Amanda was obedient to God’s call on her life.

 

 

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, God, let me be gripped with the same spirit of intensity and excitement as Amanda Berry Smith. Keep me mindful that every encounter can be a divine appointment with far-reaching impact. May I also be obedient to your promptings.

 

*Chris Armstrong, http://grateful to the dead.com/2010/11/07/poor-black-and-femaile-amanda-berry-smith-preached-holiness-in-the-teeth-of-racism/

 

Sources:

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/37-1_065.pdf

http://blackhistorynow.com/amanda-berry-smith/

http://greatawakening.blogspot.com/2010/01/amanda-berry-smith-gods-image-in-ebony.html

https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/amanda-berry-smith-turning-obstacles-gospel-opport/

http://satucket.com/lectionary/amanda_smith.html

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefacy.com; http://www.flickr. com (Sapphire Photography); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org)

 

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If you have an extra $1,300 you need to spend, you’re in luck! A high-end department store offers an item of clothing you can purchase for just that amount: a belt.

You’d think the buckle would be gold at that price. Nope, it’s brass. And it’s shaped in the logo of the company. So you get to pay them to advertise for their company on your midsection.

Now some might treasure such a purchase, but I’d choose a different belt as my treasure: the belt of truth the Apostle Paul referenced in Ephesians 6:14. No doubt he wanted us to understand:

Just as a belt holds clothing close to the body, a belt of truth holds the confidence of our faith close to our hearts.

And truth is a treasure, in spite of ethical relativists who would throw it away.

Why?

 

(www.quotefancy.com/John Owen)

 

Some will say, “That’s a very arrogant and exclusive thing to say, that we have to accept absolutes revealed by God in the Bible!”

But isn’t it just as arrogant to dismiss him–and his Son Jesus? Can we afford to ignore Jesus’ claim to be the [only] way [to God], and the [real] truth, and the [real] life (John 14:6 AMP)– without thorough investigation? And isn’t it being exclusive to exclude the Son of God from careful consideration?

 

 

Such truth as presented in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 requires a response. We can’t afford to ignore even the possibility of truth about such a life-and-death matter.

But then there are those who do not find John Owen’s statement (above) offensive, and would agree: We find reliable guidance, strengthening confidence, and expectant hope in the truths of God’s Word.

 

 

Imagine that belt of truth Paul wrote about, woven with spirit-strengthening statements. What truths would you choose?

Try on this combination for size. Cinch them snug around your heart by speaking each truth out loud:

 

  • God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 31:3; 29:11).

 

 

  • With perfect wisdom and understanding, he has thoughtfully planned out your life (Psalm 139:16). Therefore,

 

“Never be afraid of giving up your best

and God will give you his better.”

–Unknown

 

  • God is all-powerful and in control of all things, including your circumstances (Isaiah 14:24). How empowering to know…

 

…“There is no situation so chaotic that

God cannot from that situation,

create something surpassingly good.

He did it at the creation.

He did it at the cross.

He is doing it today.”

—Bishop Moule

 

  • He faithfully leads you in the way you should go (Psalm 23:3). You can count on him because:

 

 

  • All that God is, is always at work (John 5:17).

 

“If you are praying about it

God is working on it.”

–Unknown

 

  • He is constantly by your side, ready to help in a myriad of ways (Psalm 145:18-19).

 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you,

all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you,

all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you,

all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”

–Thomas Brooks

 

  • God’s peace, joy and hope are forever available (Psalm 29:11; John 15:11; Romans 5:5).  And what is hope?

 

 

And his word is absolute truth.

The more I learn about archaeological evidence, ancient manuscript verification, fulfilled prophecy, historical substantiation, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding the authenticity of God’s truth in the Bible.

His truth is the reliable confidence of our faith, a treasure worth cinching close to our hearts.

 

What scriptural truths do you treasure?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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One Sunday morning years ago our Bible study teacher, Andy, gave each of us a pencil and a piece of paper with a large grid—4 squares across, 4 squares down. One square at a time but out of order, he guided us to draw various sized curves in various positions.

 

 

Sometimes he instructed us to revisit a square and add more detail.

 

 

 

The bits and pieces made no sense—just haphazard strokes accomplishing nothing–until the last few curves remained, and Andy told us to rotate our papers bottom side up.

 

 

 

 

 

Each of us was constructing a very recognizable Mickey Mouse.

And you can probably guess Andy’s objective:

God does indeed know what he’s doing, even when events seem random to us. Sometimes he reveals the reasons for nonsensical curves in our lives, as purposeful outcomes finally sharpen into focus.

Such was the case with Joseph in the Bible. The violent curves of his life story finally made sense when he became prime minister of Egypt.

To his brothers whom had terribly mistreated him he said,

 

 

Quite often, however, God chooses to withhold explanation.

I have to wonder if he’s waiting until all his children are gathered together in heaven and then he’ll reveal the complete, awe-inspiring panorama of intricately wrought events, involving billions of lives over eons of time.

Andy Andrews, in his delightful children’s book, The Boy Who Changed the World, offers a glimpse of this panorama, as he tells the story of a farm manager named Moses and his wife Susan who raised an orphaned boy. Together they shared their love of plants with the child. That boy was George Washington Carver.

 

 

In addition to his many scientific achievements, George provided an important influence for a young boy named Henry, teaching him all about plants. Henry Wallace grew up to become the U.S. secretary of agriculture and then vice president of the United States.

 

 

Henry hired a young biochemist named Norman and instructed him to develop a high-yielding, disease-resisting wheat. Norman spent twenty years in laboratory and field research to achieve the objective. He also developed superior corn and rice.

 

 

More than two billion lives have been saved because of Norman Borlaug–and Henry Wallace who impacted Norman, and George Washington Carver who influenced Henry, and Moses Carver who inspired George.

 

 

Who else but God could have directed such events, connecting one life with another to create such epic results?

We, too, have the exciting privilege to participate with God.  There are grand possibilities in every encounter–to impact our corners of the world as Jesus’ agents, speaking on his behalf, acting in his name, and drawing people to him.

And at those times when the effort doesn’t seem to accomplish much, we can remember:

  1. 1. “God does some of his best work when we don’t think he’s doing a thing” (Priscilla Shirer, The Kingdom Woman Devotional, emphasis added), and
  2. 2.  God’s work in us and through us isn’t over until we’ve completed the last curve.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Father, I want to be a person who seizes the day under your instruction, who chooses to honor you in word and action. I want to be a participant in what you’re accomplishing, not just an observer. May I be faithful to follow your lead, knowing that in the end the results will be gloriously worth it.

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.sunraybook.com)

 

 

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The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

 

It’s a familiar story:

Crowds of people teemed the hillside—thousands of them. They had gathered hours before so Jesus could heal the sick and infirm. But soon the sun would set, and hunger gnawed at everyone’s belly.

One young boy offered his meager lunch, and with its contents Jesus provided an ample supper for the entire throng.

I can only imagine, Jesus breaking the pickled fish and barley rolls into pieces over and over, his hands hiding the actual multiplication. He must have worked fast too.

Let’s see…if 5,000 men were in attendance, and perhaps an additional 5,000 women and children, the total count may have approached 10,000 people.

And if each bread-and-fish meal required one second of Jesus’ time to create, he would have been producing food for two hours and forty-six minutes. (Math whizzes: please check my figuring.) In actuality, the process must have been much more rapid.

But even when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus wasn’t finished yet.

“Gather all the leftovers,” he told his disciples. And they filled twelve baskets with broken pieces (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13).

 

 

Now why would Jesus create an overabundance? Such excessiveness seems without purpose. And why did he instruct the disciples to collect all those leftovers? The birds would have swooped in and quickly devoured the remains.

But Jesus had his reason. Like all the other miracles he performed, his objective was to make plain certain truths about himself and his Father.

Consider:

  • The sheer number of wonders proved he was the Messiah. No one before or since has achieved such a record number of miracles.
  • Jesus’ supernatural deeds for people of all walks of life demonstrated his love and compassion for everyone; a person’s nationality or social status didn’t matter.
  • The breadth of his power became clear as he turned water into wine, healed numerous kinds of diseases and infirmities, quieted the wind, caused nets to fill with fish, walked on water, and even raised the dead.

 

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt

 

The miracle of multiplied bread and fish highlights God’s benevolence. And the leftovers in particular provide a memorable picture of God’s inexhaustible resources and overflowing grace, available to us through Jesus.

I wonder if the disciples were reminded of Psalm 31:19 as their baskets began to fill with roll fragments:

 

 

Such abundance none of them had ever seen before.  The fact that it was an abundance of bread is significant too, because the very next day Jesus called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

 

 

Just as he had supernaturally provided an abundance of bread for a huge crowd, so he would supernaturally provide an abundance of life (John 10:10)a God-enhanced, satisfying, joy-filled life—to those who believe in him (John 11:25-26).

And what about those twelve baskets? Where might a band of wandering disciples find a dozen baskets on a Galilean hillside?

Historians can explain. Each man would have been carrying his own kophinos—a knapsack-type basket. It would have held food and necessary items for a journey, and also provided a place for acquired objects or supplies along the way.

The baskets might symbolize our hearts where the Bread of Life dwells. But unlike the disciples’ grapevine backpacks, our hearts are elastic, capable of stretching to hold more and more of the fullness of God.

And there is a wondrous and glorious abundance to be gathered.

 

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Father,

“We need not fear that we shall ever come to the end of your goodness or any experience for which you will have no blessing ready” (J. R. Miller).

You are our Almighty God, able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. With you, amazing things are always ahead.  Hallelujah!  

(Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org ( U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1924.); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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