The gardener found a place with a perfect amount of sun to suit the cravings of the rose bush. He was cautious to dig deep as he planted his prized plant. He understood the importance of drainage for the root system, as well as allowing the rose bush room to grow. The gardener adored roses, and he knew if he poured out himself into the rose bush, there would be seasons of plenty.
The gardener watched over the rose bush, spoke to it, cared for it. He carefully inspected the rose bush. He could imagine the roses that would one day bloom. He placed banana peels gently alongside the roots to promote flowering. He kept the soil moist while keeping the foliage dry. He knew exactly what was needed for the rose bush to grow and bear a beautiful selection of buds. He cherished the rose bush. It was his.
As time progressed, the gardener allowed others to assist with the care of the rose bush. The people that helped the gardener were each related to the gardener, but each helper could never be as great as the gardener. The helpers could never love the rose bush as much as the gardener and so the helpers never poured themselves completely into the rose bush. Whereas the gardener focused attention on creating and growing the rose bush, the helpers were content for it to simply exist as it is—never seeking to help it be more, to help it be what it was destined for in life. The helpers barely glanced at the instructions given to them by the gardener.
One day, as a helper was watching over the rose bush, the aphids invaded. The aphids showed up early in the life of the rose bush and they reproduced rapidly. Each of the aphids took from the rose bush. They sucked the juices from the plant. The aphids damaged the rose bush, leaving it broken and lacking. The helpers never even noticed. The outward appearance of the rose bush never gave the helpers any excuse to look closer—again, the helpers were satisfied that the rose bush simply existed. The helpers could never love the rose bush as did the gardener.
Following the invasion of the aphids, the ants arrived. The ants were attracted to the honey dew that was left by the aphids. The rose bush was scarred and broken. The damage was done. The gardener could detect the damage done to his plant, but the helpers overlooked the streaked leaves and misshapen blooms. The gardener knew what his beautiful rose bush was destined to look like in full bloom—the helpers were satisfied with blooms of any kind. Apart from the gardener, no one noticed because no one cared.
It was now time to harvest. People came by in droves to take from the rose bush. The helpers enjoyed this because the harvest brought them attention, money, and pleasure. Everyone wanted to have their own collection to use for their own purposes. For some, it made them feel special to have some of the roses to display at home. For some, the roses were used to beautify an area where people gathered for a time. For some, the roses were used as a declaration of love or as a sweet goodbye. Everyone took from the rose bush to satisfy their own needs.
As the harvest ended, the rose bush was nearly bare. It was clear that the rose bush was not in good health. The helpers never really cared for the rose bush. While pruning the plant, seeking out the healthy white centers, it was very evident that the plant was dying. What had become of the rose bush? Everyone took from the gardener’s beautiful plant. They took and took some more, until all that was left was a diseased, broken rose bush.
Now it appeared that this would be the last bloom. The pruning showed the plant was beyond help. The helpers, the ones who were supposed to care for the plant for the gardener, had instead took everything from it. Carelessly watching over the plant was to them all about what they could receive, what they could enjoy, what they could possess. What the gardener said to love and honor, the helpers decided to stampede and pilfer.
One last person approached a helper for a small collection of the blooms. He asked, “Please, let me have this small clipping. I adore the roses.” The helper was now wise to know that there was no chance left for the rose bush. He and his friends had failed to uphold what was entrusted to them. In a last-ditch effort, he imagined that perhaps this last person could treat the roses better and there could be redemption of their misdeeds. The helper clipped the final blooms from the rose bush and handed them to the man. The rose bush was now completely bare.
The man took this last bit of life of the rose bush to his home. He really liked the roses, so he said. Soon his declaration was shown to be false, as he only displayed them for a brief time. He stared at the roses and became aware of the imperfections. He saw the streaks. He saw the misshapen blooms. He became disgusted by this, the last collection of roses that remained. The man tossed the roses in the bin and deposited them outside in the trash the next morning.
All this happened while the gardener looked on. He looked on to see his beautiful roses destroyed by the helpers. He watched as the man became disgusted by the imperfections that resulted. He saw his cherished rose bush become nothing more than sickly mildew covered leaves, and branches that would grow nothing more. He knew of what was to become for the rose bush—what could have been, what should have been. If only the helpers could understand what it truly meant to love. If only the helpers could have seen the beauty in the broken. If only the helpers would have appreciated the rose bush and fought for the rose bush.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” ~ Romans 12:10 [NLT]
When we are small, we try to help ourselves. I remember my kids trying to do some things for themselves and making a mess because they did not know yet how to accomplish the task. It is cute. You might find toothpaste all over the bathroom sink. You may find milk all over the kitchen counter. But this behavior continues as we get older. Though we have a God Who is ever-present and loves us with an unfailing love, we try to fix every situation. We think we have the answers. We think we can make it work.
It is only when we are brought to our knees that we usually realize we cannot do life alone. We then give up control and ask God to help. We accept that we are frail. We accept that we cannot do everything. We accept that we are not in control. The Psalmist asked that God not be far from him. He understood that trouble was lurking around. He knew that no one else could help. When we understand this—when we accept that we cannot do life alone, and only God can help—then we are more apt to give everything to Him.
Today, recognize that trouble is always near. Evil is all around us. God alone can help us. Whatever we are going through, He alone can see us through. Invite Him to stay near. Seek His presence. Fix your eyes on Him. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth!
“Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.” – Psalm 22:11 [NLT]
Yesterday I had to spray the weeds. It is one of my least favorite activities. Though I am not too fond of dusting, I can understand the reason. Things are happening all around—my family is doing things that helps the dust to collect. We are living life. But with weeds, they just come. We don’t do anything. We even put mulch all around hoping to have a barrier of protection.
When it comes to our walk with Christ, it is important to understand that Satan is like those weeds, sneaking up and ready to cause havoc. We may think that we spray the weed killer and we will be fine; however, that is not the case. With Satan, the father of lies, he doesn’t turn away easily. He will do whatever he can to thwart your walk with Christ.
So what can we do? Put on the Full Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). This includes the Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Sword of God’s Word, the Shield of Faith, the Belt of Truth, and the Shoes of Peace. DAILY. Every day. Remind yourself that within you is the fullness of God—the Comforter, the Helper—the Holy Spirit. No matter what comes your way, you have the power to overcome through Christ. When Satan comes at you, tell him to leave in Jesus’ name and watch him flee. You will slip up. Some weeds will sprout. But Jesus has already won the battle. Claim His promises. Cling to His Word. Embrace Him.
The fight was on with the Israelites facing the Amalekites. During the battle, Moses was standing up on a hill. The Bible says that if Moses held his arms up, the Israelites were winning the battle; if Moses put down his arms, the battle changed significantly. For Israel to win, Moses needed to keep up his arms.
It’s hard to keep your arms in the air. Before my aches and pains came along, I remember when holding up my arms wasn’t such a big deal. But I remember that if you keep them up, it starts to be too much. It doesn’t matter if you are holding a feather, as time continues that feather will feel like a large rock. Arms get tired.
When the arms of Moses could no longer be held up by Moses’ own strength, we see something very amazing happen. We see Aaron and Hur step up and help. They found a stone for Moses to sit upon and they both stood beside him and helped to hold up his hands. They understood he couldn’t do it alone—that he needed help—and they stepped in and did what they could to get things done. Today if you see someone who is struggling, perhaps you could step in with the stone. Maybe you can help them to complete the task at hand. Aaron, Hur and Moses had the same goal—to see the Israelites to victory. We as Christians have a shared goal—and we can achieve victory together if we each keep our eyes on Jesus and we each step beside one another to lend support and encouragement when arms feel to heavy to keep lifted.
“Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.” – Exodus 17:12 [NLT]
Here’s a sermon / devotion outline for Genesis 19. You can download the outline below.
Don’t Look Back
“We are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it” (v. 13 NASB).
LOT HESITATED – v. 15 – so the men seized his hand and the hands of his wife and daughters. FOR THE COMPASSION OF THE LORD WAS UPON HIM.
When they were outside city, “Escape for your life. DO NOT LOOK BEHIND YOU and do not stay anywhere in the valley” (v. 17 NASB).
“BUT HIS WIFE, FROM BEHIND HIM, LOOKED BACK, AND SHE BECAME A PILLAR OF SALT” (v. 26 NASB).
Lot’s daughters – got dad drunk – got pregnant – Moab and Ben-Ammi — Moabites and Ammonites.
You can take Lot’s daughters out of Sodom but you couldn’t take Sodom out of Lot’s daughters.
- Remember what the Lord has said and done in your life – journal, remind yourself when you need reminding. Ex: Passover Meal – reminder of Exodus and God seeing His people out of Egypt. “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth.” – Psalm 105:4-5 [NIV].
- Don’t look back desiring your old life. Lot’s wife looked back because she didn’t want to let go of what was back there. Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (NLT). Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus” (CEB).
- Seek the Holy Spirit to help you in your weakness and to help you pray (Romans 8:26) and to live your new life in Christ (Romans 8:11).
- Keep yourself in God’s Word and remember to focus on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellent, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8)
- Belt of Truth
- Breastplate of Righteousness