This morning like many here and there over the years before my feet hit the floor a hymn came to mind. It is entitled, “Blessed Assurance”. I came downstairs and got my coffee and started wondering about the history of the song I have heard through the years. What an amazing woman of God I found in the composer of the song! Her name was Frances “Fanny” Crosby from New York. She was blind after an eye infection as an infant yet she was a poet, lyricist and composer of over 9000 hymns and gospel songs. She was a missionary in her own back yard so to speak and helped the homeless, and a teacher. She considered herself to be a rescue missionary in helping those in need. It is said that she had a accomplished so much in her life and around the age of 30 she started to question if she was truly saved. She visited several different denominations and Wesleyn Holiness Camp Meetings until one day in church she felt the unction of the Holy Spirit and began to shout and came to the altar. Shortly after that she visited her friend Phoebe Palmer Knapp and she played a melody on the piano for Frances. She asked her, “What do you think the melody is saying to you?” Frances stated, “Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.” She wrote down the lyrics to the song and it was published in 1873. Once a preacher asked her if she wished she was not born blind. She stated, ” Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petiton it would have been that I should be born blind? He asked, “Why?” She said, “Because when I get to heaven the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!” After years of serving God when she passed they wrote on her tombstone at her request the following: “I did what I could.” What a wonderful example of someone dedicated to Jesus in being a light to others. She was unsure of her salvation and sought after it until she found it. Then she used her gifts to reach many through the years with her poems and hymns to allow the Holy Spirit of God to draw them to salvation. First thought when reading the lyrics was wondering how many have sang this song in church so many times yet go home unsure of their salvation if they were to die that day. The lyrics go something like this: “Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine, heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood. Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed. Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love… This is my story, this is my song, praising my savior all the day long, this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long, Oh what a Savior, wonderful Jesus”….How beautiful she wrote this after she was recently saved and without a doubt she knew Jesus was her Savior. What about you? Do you know without a doubt Jesus is your Savior? Are you sure?
I was talking to a very good friend of mine yesterday morning who happens to have a doctorate in Nursing. We have been friends now for over 30 years. She teaches nursing in South Ga and is very dear to me. This year the Covid 19 virus has run rampid and the numbers of people dying have escalated and not gotten any better. She lives in a hot spot where the virus to this date in April of 2020 has hit 967 cases according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. It’s a number dwarfed in size in comparison to New York and New Orleans but on a per capita basis the outbreak makes Albany, GA the 4th worst hit in the country with 659 cases for every 100,000 people. It all started in Albany with two funerals and people not washing their hands. My mom lives near Albany and I would love to just pile up in the car and go see her. Cindy advised differently and said for me to stay where I am. It’s just too risky. Cindy said, “Dawn how could something so deadly be easily destroyed with soap and water but wreak havoc inside the body. It’s almost like it was made.” Well, you know me and immediately I thought something biblical so today this conversation made me thing about how we in the flesh look so prettied up on the outside yet on the inside we are dying. No matter how much make up we put on, or smile and fake it on the outside, if we are tormented by the enemy on the inside he can destroy our very lively hood to the core. We have to be on guard and be sober and vigilent because the enemy comes around like a roaring lion the Word tells us seeking whom he may devour. We have to stay in the Word, in prayer, and in close relationship with God to hear His still small voice lead and guide us in this lost and dying world. In the book of Matthew 23:26 it is written: “Thou blind pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. ” Ezekiel 7:15 says: “The sword is outside and the plague and the famine are within. He who is in the field will die by the sword; famine and the plague will also consume those in the city.” Just like this virus can easily be contained if we stay contained, and wash our hands we can also fight the enemy with “It is Written.” How do I know this? Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by satan himself and every single time he tried to tempt Him, Jesus fought back with the Word and said, “It is Written.” We have to be aware of our surroundings and we have to know how to fight. With this virus we can only be cautious until there is a cure and be smart about whom and where we go to get our essentials. With every day life we have to not only clean up with soap and water on the outside, we have to work on the inside. Beauty comes from within and is where the Holy Spirit resides if you are a believer. Soap can clean up the outside and the living water can clean up the inside.
Lately my husband and I have been fishing a lot. We live near a lake in the North Georgia Mountains within walking distance and it’s pretty much a given if we are not home we are out on the water somewhere. My husband likes to use a fish finder to see how deep the fish around us are and if there are any near by. It’s a wonderful tool to have so you don’t sit in one spot all day long without a bite. I got to looking at it and it made me think what if we fished for people who were lost and had a fish finder to locate them? We walk by people every day without knowing if they have a relationship with Jesus or not and are saved. Do we really need something to locate them with? I would have to say no. In my life I have found since I surrendered my heart to the Lord that if I pray for the day and ask God to put people in my pathway to witness to He will. In the book of Matthew chapter 4 verse 18-19 it is written: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That’s all we have to do really is have a close relationship with Jesus. Follow Him by His Word and Deed and He will place people in your life to point to Him. In the book of Luke chapter 5 when Jesus entered Simon’s boat he sat down and taught the people out of the ship. When He was done he told Simon to launch out into the deep waters and let down his net. After Simon did exactly what Jesus said to do he brought in a multitude of fish. He couldn’t do it in his own strength. He had fished all night and caught nothing. However, once Jesus entered his boat and he was in His presence that was when the shift changed for the good. Billy Graham once quoted the following: “Jesus Himself was the first missionary. He pledged His followers to be missionaries too.” If we are going to be fishers of the lost in this world with people who are dying every day then we need to follow Him and allow Him to work through us. In prayer today why don’t you ask God to show you who you can be a light to today for Him. All you have to do is ask Him to order your steps, much like casting down the net and when you do you will be surprised at who needs encouragement and hope in Jesus just as you once did.
I have always loved the Dogwood tree. My Daddy told me when I was little that it symbolized the cross and blooms around Easter every year. As I was walking to the lake yesterday with my youngest son I captured a picture of the leaves of one of the blooms on a tree close by. I looked at it closely and saw the cross and the indentions of the leaves on each petal as if that was signifying where the nails were and the blood that was shed by Jesus when He was on the cross. I’ve seen pretty poems about the dogwood tree around Easter Sunday, but I’ve never seen the word mentioned to my knowledge in the Bible. I searched yesterday and saw that there was mention of the olive tree, the fig tree, juniper tree, cedars, and even an oak. I couldn’t find dogwood mentioned. I looked it up and it doesn’t even orginate in Israel. Why would it bloom around Easter every year? God’s hand is in everything isn’t it? I got out my bible this morning and in the book of Luke it mentions a green tree that Jesus was speaking of right before his crucifixion. He stated in Luke 23:30-31 the following: “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Jesus was speaking of a proverb that if His own sufferings in referencing himself as a green tree were so great that it would be more instense for the Jews as a dry tree in their suffering and the judgement to come. Jesus was a living tree. He is the life eternal, the life everlasting, and our hope we have that never dies. Without Jesus we are all just a dried withered up tree that is dead and of no use with no purpose for being here. In the book of Isaiah 2:19 it is written: “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” End times are near and I fear for those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Winter is a season when there are no blooms, and is a season of dormant and death if you will. Then the season of Spring comes and the trees and flowers bud with beautiful colors. The dogwood represents the green tree to me. In 1953 Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea had a short video clip about the blooms on the dogwood. He said the petals were bruised on the ends and was a great reminder of Isaiah 53:5 where it states the following: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed.” My Daddy used to say that you can break a branch off of a tree and if it’s green it’s alive and if it is brittle and dry it is dead. Looking at the dogwood even though it bears no solid fruit it actually is a reminder that it does. It has a season of death, however, at Easter time it blooms and is alive. Jesus died on the cross and paid our sin debt in full at calvary. He was dead and buried in a borrowed tomb, then on the third day rose from the grave and conquered death to make a way for us to be reconciled with Him in heaven. The green tree. What a beautiful reminder. Thank you Lord.
Over the weekend it was announced that someone I knew had a family member pass away unexpectedly. So many of us either have had that happen in our own family or know someone who has but when it hits close to home it hurts our heart and we grieve for the ones who are grieving. I have a cousin who was killed on her way to our grandmother’s house for lunch by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and ran a red light. She was only in her twenties. I have another cousin who was killed along with his parents in the wee early hours of the morning by a guy who is still in prison to this day. My oldest son was talking to a friend of his on his cell phone in the 8th or 9th grade one night and the next morning her mom found her not breathing when she went to wake her up for school. No one knows when our time is up. God is the only one that knows the calendar and the number of hairs on our head. We are in a fallen world all the way back to Adam and Eve and because of their disobedience we will have sickness, death, and disease but there is hope. The hope of not going to hell and being reconciled with Jesus in Heaven so that we can be with Jesus and our loved ones who have gone on before us. I saw an image on facebook one time that said, “H.O.P.E. Hold on pain ends.” That is exactly what we have to hold on to is the hope we have in Heaven. Paul wrote to the church at Philipi and it is written in Philippians 1:21 : “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” John 14:1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Revelation 21:4 says this: ” And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes’ and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, anymore; the first things are passed away.” Billy Graham in an interview after his wife passed away stated the following: ” Even if others forget about your heartaches, God never does! He knows the hurts you feel, and he knows as well the empty place you have in your heart. Futhermore, He has promised to be with you, and even when sadness or loneliness overwhelm you, He loves you and wants to comfort you.” We may have unexpected loss but one thing we have we can cling to is hope.
I’ve been hearing a song on the radio often lately entitled, “Way Maker”. I’ve written several devotions over the years about different things such as how God provides a way out or how He is our light or our pathway, so this morning before getting out of bed promise keeper came to mind. We are going through one of the hardest things through out the world right now with the pandemic corona virus 19. People are dying, and our President has put a travel ban for people entering in our Country. The supplies in our stores can’t be stocked fast enough. There are beaches closed and curfews. The elderly can not be visited in nursing homes. The healthcare workers are working over time. Our schools are closed and children are working on their studies from home on line. The fear in the World is there is no cure available right now and people are asked to stay home. When times of trouble have come my way in the past I have had to look to God’s promises to get me through it all. I’ve had a son I had to raise with two liver transplants 13 years apart. I’ve had breast cancer and so far am doing well four years out to date. I’ve have taken care of my father that had stage four liver cancer and alzheimer’s disease until God called him home. I’ve been through divorce, loss of jobs, and emotional abuse with depression. I have over come a lot but only by the grace of God in knowing He was with me through it all. In God’s Word in Psalms He tells us that He will walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. In Isaiah He tells us not to fear that He will lift us up and He will not let the waters rush over us or let us be burned when we walk through the fire. He says He will will not let us run weary and that He will renew our strength. He reminds us in James that He will give us wisdom if we ask for it. He reminds again in the book of James to resist the devil and he will flee from us. He tells us in the book of John that if we confess our sins that God will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. He tells us in the book of 2nd Chronicles that if we will seek Him and pray and turn from our wicked ways then He will heal our land. He reminds us in Philippians that He will meet all of our needs in Christ Jesus. He tells us in the book of Psalms for us to praise Him and to not forget all of His benefits who forgives all of our sins and heals all of our diseases. There are so many more written in God’s Word. We just have to claim them for ourselves and believe in Him. Through Jesus our way maker which is our light in the darkness, He will provide a miracle and be our promise keeper. I don’t know about you, but I am standing on the promises of God my Savior. In Him my Hope is found and He is the anchor I cling to and I hope He is yours too!
Yesterday my husband and I decided to walk around our community we live in and as we were turning the corner to the stables I noticed how beautiful the bradford pear tree was. I said, “Look at the tree, isn’t it gorgeous?” He replied, “It’s pretty, but it’s useless.” I asked him why he thought that. He then responded that it simply bears no fruit. It made me wonder why God would create something so beautiful that didn’t bear any fruit. I looked up information on the tree. It is originally from China and Vietnam and is a manmade crossbred tree with the Callary Pear tree brought over to the U.S. in the early 1900’s. God’s Word talks a lot about trees. In Ezekiel 17:8 it is written: “It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine.” Matthew 13:23 says this: “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.” Luke 6:43 reads this: “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor on the other hand a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not father figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” I’ve heard this several times from different preachers over the years that you know a tree by it’s fruit. If it’s an orange tree then it will bear oranges. If it’s an apple tree it will bear apples. If you are a Christian and a follower of Christ you will be known as a person who lives out their faith by loving others and serving Christ to the best of their ability. In the book of John chapter 15 1-6 it is written that if we abide in Christ we will bear fruit for He will abide in us. It is also says that if we don’t then we will be cut off like a branch that dries up and is thrown in the fire. After reading that I want to bear fruit for His Kingdom and Glory don’t you? A.W. Tozer once quoted this: “Moral discontent and spirtual hunger make us terribly uncomfortable in this world. Yet they mark us as appointed to be fruit-bearers. Is the fruit evident to those around us?” As believers we didn’t choose God. God chose us to be fruit bearers for His Glory in a world where the laborers are few. I want to be like a tree planted by the living waters which in due season bears fruit and I hope you do as well.