Are You Garden Wise?

kindnessWhen I posted to this blog yesterday, I wrote a little bit about my garden.  Since I made that post, I’ve thought about the first garden and Adam the first farmer: “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it (Genesis 2:15.)”

Gardens and farmers are metaphors that are found throughout the Bible. In Galatians 6 the metaphor of farming is expressed in the principle of sowing and reaping.  People often interpret Paul’s words in a negative context; however, they should also be considered from a positive perspective as well:

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians. 6:7-10).”

St. Basil may have been thinking about these verses when he said: “He who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Taking the words of Paul to heart and applying the saintly advice of Basil, what type of seeds have you been sowing and what kind of harvest have you been reaping?

The importance of sowing seeds of kindness is found in a comment made by Leo Buscaglia: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Kindness is a form of communication that is not limited by ethnic or social barriers. It is a language that even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

I encourage you to make a difference in the life of someone today—give them the gift of kindness. “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” ~Mother Teresa

Flapjacks For Firemen: Responding to a State of Emergency

barber wildfireThe raging wildfire that has devoured 72,000 acres of grass and farmland was the focus of an article I wrote last week.  That same fire is still burning this morning, and it has now consumed over 400,000 acres.

The snow that fell Easter Sunday has helped the fire-fighting efforts. Thanks to the hard work of firemen, ranchers, and volunteers from Kansas and the far corners of the USA, the fire is about 81% contained.

This fire has done much more than just burn grass, it has killed livestock, left houses in ash heaps, and zeroed the resources of many rural fire departments.  In an effort to respond to some of these needs, there will be a, Flapjacks for Firemen, benefit breakfast Saturday morning, April 2 from 8 to 10 in El Dorado, Kansas.

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To help respond to the needs of these first responders, you can attend the breakfast and make a donation, or you can give online or mail a donation to:

 

Flapjacks For Firemen

C/O First Christian Church

300 W Central

El Dorado, Kansas 670452

For more information, you can contact Stan at 316-321-2878.  Thanks for your help!

….Flapjacks for Firemen Updates will posted on Facebook ….

Be Still and Bear Fruit

prayerYesterday I walked by a table and, I heard part of a conversation in which one person said:  “It’s a mute point.”

Mute means silent, and I have often made a point of being silent, and I have even pointed silently. I cannot, however remain mute about a key point of that conversation.

Mute and moot cannot be used interchangeably—they are not synonyms.  Moot is used to refer to some item or point of discussion that is debatable, but of no practical value.

While moot points are often hypothetical in nature, making a point to be mute can have real value.  In Psalm 46:10, there is a clear command to be mute:  “Be still and know that I am God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed the importance of this principle in a letter to some friends:  “Daily, quiet reflection on the Word of God as it applies to me becomes for me a point of crystallization for everything that gives interior and exterior order to my life.”

The words of Bonhoeffer serve as a commentary on God’s instructions to Joshua:  “This set of instructions is not to cease being a part of your conversations. Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to carry out everything that’s written in it, for then you’ll prosper and succeed (Joshua 1:8.”

Mother Teresa suggested that silence is an essential of practical Christianity:  “The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace. “

I encourage you to take time out of your schedule for a mute point, so you can “be still” and bear fruit . . .

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

Simply and Complexly Marvelous

Beauty-of-NatureIf you want to spice up a conversation, bring either religion or politics into the discussion.  There are many diverse opinions on both subjects, and the topic of creation can stir the pot among both the believers and skeptics.

Some people believe in a random Big Bang form of creation, others espouse a view known as intelligent design, and then there are those who embrace the Genesis account of creation.

I find it hard to look at the intricate design of the world and believe it just happened by chance.  In Psalm 9, David writes:  “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When was the last time you paused and reflected on the “marvelous works” of God?  What would a flower be without its fragrance?  How dark would the night skies be without the light of the moon and stars?  How different would birds be if they were drab in color and whistled and sang out of tune?

The sunrise, the sunset, and the rainbow are the canvas on which the Master Artist paints in vivid colors, and the day would be much different if it began and ended in a colorless brown instead of  fire-red hues.  Speaking of fire, what would fire be without its warmth on a cold night or water without its refreshing coolness?

How about food?  What would chili be like if there was no spice or a breakfast roll without cinnamon?  And, it’s almost too painful to consider a world without ice cream!

How mundane would life be without this complicated, yet marvelous thing we call love?  Isn’t love the WOW factor in everything that God created?

When you read the book of Genesis, you see God at work.  After He had spoken the physical world into existence, God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  Next in line was the creation of the animal kingdom, but God wasn’t finished until He created woman.

Adam thought he had seen it all, but then he saw Eve.  To Adam she saw the marvelous WOW-inducing work of God

Take sometime this week, to marvel at the works of God, and the way He has blessed you.

Raw Emotion

Reading-facial-expressions_articleDo you remember the last time you did it?  Something happened and you let your guard down and the true you showed:  Your emotions were on display for everyone to see.

Immediately following His Passover entry into Jerusalem the emotions of Jesus were easily seen :  “When Jesus came closer and saw the city, He began to cry, and He said, If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But you cannot see it (Luke 19).”

In a moment, Jesus went from the joys of the palm branches to the tragic reality of what the future held.  In this incident, it’s easy to see His love in:

  • His walk of grace as He came near to the city
  • His eyes of love in the way He beheld the people
  • His heart of compassion as He wept due to the spiritual blindness of the people

Is it a comfort to you to know that the love, grace, and compassion of God is yours to claim?  It’s available to you because of who Jesus is and what He did.  Notice how this is explained in The Message:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.      ~Hebrews 4:14-16

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

Texas-Sized Trauma

dating-scam-traumaOkies and Texans have had more than just a wet spring.  The recent floods have left them soaked, drenched, and thoroughly saturated.  They must feel like Noah retired to their states and God has called him out of retirement for a sequel:  The Flood Part Two.

The residents of these two states are feeling the aftermath of Texas-sized trauma.  At some point in their ordeal, at least a few of them must have wondered:  “Why is this happening to me?”

A truthful answer to such a question is about as easy to digest as a shoe leather tamale. To borrow from the words of Winston Churchill, it is so difficult to understand that it “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Trusting God when times are good, is easy; however, when adversity is knocking at the door it’s much harder.  These are the times when you choose to believe in spite of the heartbreaking circumstances, and your belief is rooted in the truth of the bible.

When a traumatic event buckles your knees, you can find some comfort in three substantial truths about the nature of God:

  • He is complete in His sovereignty
  • He is infinite in His wisdom
  • He is perfect in His love.

These truths are at the heart of what Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:  “God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep that it is impossible to explain his decisions or to understand his ways (Romans 11:33).”

Your reaction to calamity should not be controlled by your feelings.  Instead, your response should be grounded in the truth and promises of God:

  • In Corinthians 12:9, God said to Paul: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”
  • In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul said the peace of God is sufficient to sustain you in your anxious moments.

Solomon made an interesting statement that can be applied to this discussion:  “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).”

When your plans go awry, and the Lord’s purpose begins to prevail in some incomprehensible way, will you trust in His truth, love, wisdom, and knowledge?

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.

Indexing The Heart

images (2)Many years ago, I was told that good speakers have at least three characteristics in common:  They stand up, speak out, and sit down.

The book of Proverbs is full of good principles for you and the way you speak.  Proverbs 4:24 is a good example:  “Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips.”

When you consider the underlying principles of this verse, you see that:

  • Dishonesty needs to be removed: Whenever it moves in you need to move it out.
  • Dishonesty is a nasty dish of lies that should never be allowed to nest in your mouth.
  • You should never be receptive to deceptive speech: Put it far away from your lips.

In Proverbs 10, Solomon highlights the benefit of wholesome speech:

  • The mouth of a righteous person is a fountain of life (verse 11).
  • The tongue of a righteous person is pure silver (verse 20).
  • The lips of a righteous person feed many (verse 21).

If you’ll take the time to compare the words of Solomon to the teachings of James, you’ll see a well-defined contrast:

  • Solomon likened the tongue of the righteous to pure silver.
  • James said the unrighteous use of the tongue will “defile the whole body.”

Listen to the manner in which you speak and the tenor of your conversation.  When you become more aware of what you say and how you say it, you get a better idea of the real you.  This is because your speech or your tongue is the index of your heart.