About sandygarman

I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I love to write, surf the net and hang out with my incredible husband and three amazing kids!

Kick Off The Dust of Egypt

Most of are familiar with the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years Picture1before reaching the Promised Land. I often wondered how they felt during that time. Was it difficult to believe the promises of God? Did they struggle to hold onto hope that life would ever change?  All they knew of life was oppression, slavery and bondage. They had been born into that life in Egypt. Stories had been passed down through their ancestors of a life of freedom in a land that was truly their own. But their life was so far removed from those stories that they probably thought they were the ramblings and dreams of old people.

 And this God who was to save them? Where was He? Why was He taking so long to show up? And now that He had spoken to them through Moses, why was it taking so long to enter the Promised Land? Day after day, their life in the desert did not seem much different from their life in Egypt. So they waited.  They were in a holding pattern; out of Egypt but not yet home.

Finally in the book of Joshua, Moses dies and God allows the Israelites to enter the land He first promised to Abraham. The Israelites cross the Jordan River which God parted for them and into the Promised Land. God then instructs them to set up a memorial to remember the day that God parted the waters of the Jordan for them and brought them safely to Gilgal.

There at Gilgal, (a place of grace) God consecrates his people; sets them apart for His purpose. They are to keep themselves holy and be fully devoted followers of the one and only true God. The men are circumcised as a sign of being set apart and Joshua 5:9 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ “

I love this picture of God “rolling away the reproach of Egypt.” It is as if God is saying to His people; “You are no longer slaves and outcasts. You are now free men and women. I have rescued you. I have gone before you to prepare this land for you. Now kick off the dust of Egypt and live like sons and daughters of the Most High God.”

 Beloved, too many of us have been freed by the blood of Jesus yet we are still living with the dust of Egypt on our feet. We allow our past experiences to shape and color our        present.  We have allowed the dust of Egypt to cake around our feet and clog our journey. We may believe in our head that we are new creations but we don’t live like it.

 God has taken away your reproach now kick off the dust of Egypt! Jesus has washed that dust away with His blood. No matter what your past is Jesus has redeemed it and He will use it for his glory. We are NEW creations; forgiven, redeemed, blameless before God, adopted, chosen, holy, have received an inheritance, sealed by the Spirit, alive in Christ, God’s workmanship, created to do good works,  and a citizen of Heaven. Believe it all and live like it for it is all true. Do not believe what your emotions may tell you, your friends or family may tell you. Believe the One who created you and loved you before the foundations of the world were formed. Believe the One who sacrificed His son for you. Believe the One who bled and died for you.  Believe the Spirit that lives within you and you will live with joy and purpose every day.

 I remember when my burdens rolled away;I had carried them for years, night and day.When I sought the blessed Lord, And I took Him at His word,Then at once all my burdens rolled away.

 

God’s Masterpiece

I have always admired the work of Claude Monet, the master French impressionist. Actually revered is probably a better description on how I view his work.I have a deep love for landscape art and Monet’s paintings are quite breathtaking.  I had the opportunity to visit an art gallery in Las Vegas of all places which was displaying a large collection of his work.  It was remarkable to note that when looking at his paintings up close, they all looked like random blotches of oil paint.  But when one steps back to take in the whole painting, that is when the true beauty and the nature of the subject comes into view.

Monet lived the later part of his life in Giverny, France on a small farm which he turned into his canvas. His particular passion was painting his water-lily pond, which took him many years to cultivate to his perfection. In the last 33 years of his life, Monet painted little else, creating many masterpieces for us to enjoy.

The Bible tells us that we are God’s masterpieces, (Gk.”poiema”), his work of art, his magnum opus,  his poem, his symphony. He is the master artist who sketches us and takes a lifetime to fill in that sketch with a palette of colors. He is the master musician who composes the symphony of our lives. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10. God also tells us in Ephesians that we are His chosen, adopted, holy, blameless, his inheritance, redeemed, forgiven, sealed with the Spirit, righteous, a citizen of Heaven, faithful, lavished on by God, included, a saint,  light to others, secure, have peace, alive with Christ, complete, and our lives bring great glory to God. If God thinks so very much of us, why do we think so little of ourselves? We are His masterpiece and yet we live as if we are a dime-store imitation.  We often view ourselves as random blotches of paint. If we would but step back and take in the whole of our lives, we would see the work of art God is creating.

Realizing how wonderful God thinks we are seems to collide with the biblical imperative to be humble. How can we have a healthy, biblical self image and still be humble? We do that by remembering that it is all God. Long before He laid the foundations of the earth, “He had us in mind.” It was God’s plan from the beginning of time to love us, choose us, and adopt us. It was all Him, and it was made possible by His sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. It was said that in order to get perfect reflections off the water in his pond, Monet would insist that both the garden and the pond were meticulously clean-even to the point of asking his cleaners to dust the surface of the water.  How fortunate we are so have a God who does the cleaning of our souls for us, washing us in the blood of the Messiah, His Son.

When our focus is on how great our God and all He has done for us, humility and gratitude are the result.  Humility is not thinking too much of ourselves, (which is pride), nor thinking too little of ourselves (which is also pride), but thinking of ourselves less. We do not admire great works of art, magnificent poetry, or a stirring piece of music for the thing itself. We admire the artist who did the painting, the writing, or the composing.  God makes much of us so that we can live our lives making much of Him. We bring God great glory when we live our lives as the “Work of Art” he has made us to be.

A Season of Waiting

Winter is a season when the whole earth is in a waiting period. The grapes have been harvested and the vines are bare. The almond trees are void of leaves and buds. The summer wheat has been baled and stored in the barns. It is as if the world is asleep waiting to be awakened in spring.

Winter is a time of waiting for us as well. Children await the arrival of Christmas day and the promise of gifts galore. Adults anticipate time with family and friends, warmed by the joy of Christmas.

Waiting is something we do not do well in the 21st century. We are used to getting what we want as soon as we want it. We can get in touch with people instantly through email, cell phone, and text messaging. We feel that by waiting we are wasting time and being unproductive.

God is in the waiting business. His waiting is an active waiting not passive. The earth externally appears to be dormant, but internally it is being revitalized and reborn. Like His creation in winter which patiently, eagerly waits for the warmth and new life of spring, we wait for God to do His work in us. But this waiting takes patience.The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.” Waiting often feels like suffering to us, but it means to suffer through the present moment, in order to experience the joy and fulfillment of the future.

Winter is the perfect time for Advent, a time of waiting in expectation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Messiah. With awe and wonder we wait for His arrival with great longing. We marvel at the mystery of the incarnation; God becoming man in a baby. The miracle of the incarnation made possible the miracle of salvation.

Yet we should also marvel at how God could love us so much that He would leave His heavenly throne to become like us. The miracle of Christmas is not just that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” but that God chose to love us at all. The ancient scholar Irenaeus wrote, “The word of God, Jesus Christ, on account of his great love for mankind, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”

Advent is also a time to reflect on the promise of Jesus’ second coming as well. Hebrews says Jesus “will appear a second time…to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” This waiting actively anticipates the return of Christ. As believers we are to wait with expectation. Just as our children wait for the good gifts their parents give them, we eagerly await the good gifts God has for us at His return. While we wait we are to be busy preparing the fertile soil of our hearts for His return. We are to be sowing seeds of the Gospel message in the hearts of others. We are to be busy in our waiting.

God beckons us to a place of stillness, quiet, and reflection during the Christmas season, for it is in the stillness that we most clearly see His presence and hear His voice. May you experience the intimate, amazing love and overwhelming grace of our Heavenly Father through the celebration of the birth of his Son, Jesus, this Advent season.

Window Shopping

I love living on the Westside of Paso Robles. With the renovation of the downtown area, Paso has been able to keep the small town atmosphere alive and well on the Westside. This is a great time of the year to stroll along the streets of downtown. The shopkeepers are all busy decorating their store fronts for the holidays. I love window shopping at the furniture and decorator stores. The displays of their living areas are warm and inviting. The rooms are always accessorized perfectly. There is never anything out of place. As I gaze longing into the windows, I imagine myself sitting on one of the cozy sofas with a cup of coffee and having a long chat with a dear friend.

It is entertaining to imagine living in that perfect room in the window, but reality soon creeps in. I live on the other side of the window in a world where life is not perfect, where my living room is not accessorized perfectly. Dirty cups reside on the table and stray socks hide under the sofa.

So it is with our spiritual lives. My heart longs to live in a perfect world with a perfect family, perfect friends, and a perfect church. I desire to be a perfect wife, mother and friend. But I am a sinner living in a world marred by sin where perfection is an illusion. I am thankful that my family and friends love me enough to forgive me of my sin and imperfections. I am thankful that my Heavenly Father uses this imperfect world to refine me and smooth out my rough edges. I am thankful that Jesus challenges me to live out the Sermon on the Mount, causing me to struggle with the same questions; “who is my neighbor; how many times must I forgive; what does it mean to be light to the world?”

My heart also longs for God. David cried out in Psalm 63, “My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David could not quench his thirst for God. Often I try to fill my hunger for God with other things, other enticements, but they never satisfy. They are only temporary distractions. Perhaps our longing for God is not meant to be satisfied until we reach heaven. The prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.”

C.S. Lewis said in his book, The Weight of Glory

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
We are on the outside of the world, strangers in a strange land. But it will not also be so. Jesus promised the disciples and us in John 14 that someday we would dwell with Him in our Father’s house. I long for the day when I shall get IN, when I can mingle with the splendor. When that day arrives, I will no longer be on the outside of the window looking in. I will be sitting on a cozy sofa having a long chat with a Dear Friend.

Love And Marriage

I recently attended the wedding of my nephew to a wonderful Godly young woman. It was a grand, celebratory occasion. I gathered with two of my kids, and their spouses, my sisters and their husbands, and my brothers and their wives. We sat around our table laughing and remembering the crazy things that happened at our own weddings.  I reveled in the fact that all us are on our first and only marriages and all lasting many years (from my little brother at 18 to my oldest sister at 48 years). During a lull in the conversation I glanced over at the bride and groom and smiled at the look of promise, hope, and love in their eyes.

Thirty-seven years ago this July 1, I was one of those brides. Looking back I realize how little I knew about marriage. Not long after our wedding, I came to realize that marriage is not all romance and flowers, and my husband realized that I would not always be at the door when he came home with dinner on the table and slippers in hand.

Both my husband and I have had to adjust our expectations of marriage and our life together. I thought he would always pick up his own clothes, he thought I would always put the cap back on the toothpaste. We both thought our spouses would always put our needs above their own. Somewhere is the process of the “Will you marry me?” and the “I dos” we forgot we each were marrying sinners. Fortunately, we are sinners saved and sanctified by a longsuffering God who refines us continually.

I wince at the line in so many movies where two people are seeking their soul mates. I am not sure we marry our soul mates, but I know that we can become those soul mates for one another.

God’s plan for marriage is to use us and our spouses to sanctify each other. Like sandpaper on wood, we rub, scrub and scour one another within the most intimate of relationships this side of heaven.  We chafe, we irritate, we sin, we repent, we reconcile, we are changed. And it is all part of God’s plan.

I think we have bought into the false notion that marriage will be comfortable, easy and we will always get along and agree. I’ve heard friends say, “it shouldn’t be this hard!” In his book, What Did You Expect, Paul Tripp says “God has designed marriage to be one of his most effective tools toward personal holiness. Your differences and difficulties that they place you in are not a sign that God has forgotten you…they are not an interruption of his plan; they are part of his plan. “

Paul also says “when viewing our differences in marriage it is important to remember that these things are not to be viewed as the potholes to be avoided on the road to a good marriage but as effective instruments of change in the hands of a loving, wise and faithful Redeemer. “

When I came to see God’s true purpose for me in my marriage, it changed my point of view drastically. I stopped trying to be a better wife and mother and focused instead on becoming a woman of God pursuing holiness, which made me a better wife and mother. It became not about what I was trying to do, but what God was doing in me. Because God loves me, I then want to respect and love my husband and live out the gospel in my marriage on a daily basis.

Balancing family, an outside, job, and ministry life as a young woman was difficult for me for many years. I often felt cheated out of “me time”; resentment would grow, and I would neglect nurturing the one earthly relationship that God views as “holy.”  I am thankful for God and my husband helping me to root out my sin, thankful for confession, repentance and reconciliation. I am thankful that because of their patience and love I now see a bit more of Jesus in me.

I am very fortunate and blessed that I married a man who was also committed to allowing God to refine him. Confession, repentance, and reconciliation have become a part of our relationship. He is committed to loving me as Christ loved the church, and I am committed to respecting him, both out of obedience to God. We have learned to major on the majors and not on the minors. We have learned that our differences are often a matter of tastes and preferences.  If the clothes do not make it into the hamper it is ok. It is not a statement on our relationship.

I Corinthians has often been called the “love chapter” and is read at many weddings. I love the way it is worded in The Message Bible,

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

You can hear many statistics on the divorce rate in America both in and out of church. I don’t know why some marriages fail and others succeed. I only know why mine has and it is summed up in the last verse of 1 Corinthians 13…

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly ( I Cor 13:13).  Now that’s great marriage advice.

He Set His Face to Jerusalem

WHEN THE DAYS DREW NEAR FOR HIM TO BE TAKEN UP, HE SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM.
LUKE 9:51

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus is traveling south with the disciples after finishing his Galilean ministry. He had preached in many synagogues, taught in many towns, and performed many miracles. He had spent very day of the last year and half to two years with his twelve disciples. His words and teachings would become the doctrinal foundation of Christianity. He is now in the last six months of his life. The time has come for him to journey back to Jerusalem to be crucified, and so “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The Latin Vulgate says he “strengthened his face.” This denotes courage, boldness, and firmness of mind.

We often minimize the fact that Jesus was wholly human as well as wholly God. We think that He was probably not as troubled by sin, temptation, and selfishness as we are, and living in this world was easier for him. But Jesus was as human as we are and he had to choose to obey his Father just as we do. He made the choice to go to Jerusalem with full knowledge of what awaited him there. It was not an easy choice. It was hard. He knew what going to Jerusalem meant. He predicts in Luke 18:32, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him…” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

He willingly chose to go to the cross for us—to take upon himself our sins, our shame. He states in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”He knew God’s purpose for his life and he was committed to carrying it out at all costs. His disciples were still ignorant and unaware of Jesus’ true purpose. While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples took the shortest route, through Samaria, even though the Samaritans and the Jews despised one another.

They had journeyed through Samaria before. John chapter 4 tells of Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman. The woman became a believer as a result of her encounter with Christ. However this time, Jesus and the disciples did not get a warm reception. “But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53) Public opinion of Christ was already changing. His rejection by the people had begun. His disciples, James and John, wanted to destroy Samaria because of their rejection. The “sons of thunder” lived up to their reputation.

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.’ For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:53-56

Jesus’ message to his disciples and to us in this passage is clear. You too will be rejected by men. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to be an imitator of Him. He calls us to follow him down Calvary Road to Golgotha. We must crucify ourselves, our selfish nature, and our wishes for a comfortable life. We must allow the light of God’s Word to penetrate the darkest parts of our sinful hearts. We must be ready to give up our desires and wishes to serve God and one another. This is true discipleship ——to be ready and willing to “set our face to Jerusalem.”

What’s Love got To Do With It?

Ahh February..the month of Love! February gives us Valentine’s Day; the holiday that causes most men more than a bit of anxiety. The average person will spend $126.03 this year on Valentine’s Day to show their love to their favorite person.  It is a holiday that people either “love” or “hate”. My son used to call it “singleness awareness” day.

It is wonderful to celebrate love of family and that special someone at Valentine’s Day. But it is unfortunate that even in the church we have allowed our culture and media to define “love” for us.   Our culture today has us believing that love means if you meet my needs then I will love you.  I have been to more than one wedding ceremony to hear the bride and groom promise to stay together “as long as their love shall last.”

We need look no further than to the Creator of Love, God himself for the definition of love. 1 John 4:7 says that love is from God. Biblical love is an action word, not a feeling word. We have reduced love to a feeling that can come and go. Biblical love is based on covenant; a promise made and kept.

The word most often associated with God’s love for us is the Hebrew word hesed translated lovingkindness. Lamentations 3:22 says, The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never ceases, For His compassions never fail.Hesed it is not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself. It is most often used of someone “doing,” “showing,” or “keeping” hesed. Hesed expresses both God’s loyalty to His covenant and His love for His people along with faithfulness to keep His promises.

The first time we see the word love used in scriptures is in Genesis 22:2. The Scriptures tell us that God tested Abraham by asking him to offer up his son as a sacrifice.  He said, Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. Isn’t it interesting that the first time God uses the word love it is the context of a father sacrificing his son. This is how our Heavenly Father showed His love towards us; by sacrificing His son, His only son, whom He loved. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What’s love got to with it? Everything; for we are to love one another with the same depth of love that the Father has shown to us. Jesus said to his disciples the night before he died.  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends” John 15:9, 12-13. This too is to be a hesed kind of love; loyal, dependable, kind, committed, all shown by our actions.

This Valentine’s Day as you celebrate the ones you love; remember to give glory to your Heavenly Father the author of love and your Savior who put His love in action on the cross.