Gettin’ a little crowded in there

babyrobins 4Don’t you think it’s about time for these guys to start finding their own food??  I don’t think mom and dad are going to be able to keep sustaining them (and themselves) much longer, and they’re outgrowing the nest by more than a bit.  Dependence is a comfortable thing, however, and self-sufficiency is hard work, and somewhat dangerous at times.  Just look at what happened to the Israelites during the prophet Samuel’s time—

Backstory: because of the enemy occupation, there were no blacksmiths allowed in Israel.  To sharpen anything, God’s (wayward) people had to go the non-Israelite smithies to simply file an axe or other daily implements.  (As if my kitchen knives weren’t dull enough…)  This was a really smart ploy of the enemy—they were basically in control of the weaponry, which decidedly put the people of Yahweh at an uncomfortable disadvantage.

“So on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan.”

Unfortunately, our Enemy employs the same tactic today when I allow myself to become dependent on church leadership and the pastoral staff/worship team/Sunday school teachers for my personal spiritual sustenance and the responsibility I have for the effect of the Gospel in my family and community.

Okay, that was a run-on sentence, and back in high school my comp teacher, Mrs. Rose, used to give my red ink for that.  So I’ll break it down.

Point #1:  Any church philosophy that encourages the people to become solely dependent on the leadership team is from the enemy camp.

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?  After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News.

Point #2: Church leadership is not to keep us in the nest, but to prepare us to fly on our own.  That doesn’t preclude church affiliation (mustn’t take the analogy too far) as it is obvious God expects us to keep up our teamwork and fellowship.  There is, however, a specific call for the church to BE the church, not merely GO to church.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” 

Even “dumb animals” like robins know when it’s time to grow up and feed themselves.

Or maybe they’re not so dumb after all…?

 

Samuel 13:22; I Corinthians 3: 4,5; Ephesian 4:11,12  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Superheroes, UNITE! (This means us.)

Underdog_(animated_TV_series)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The iconic Underdog character was birthed from the mind of W. Watts Biggers. I think he intuitively knew our American mindset in this area!

Bob is pretty fascinated with the superhero phenom in our culture.  At the time of this writing, we just returned last night from a date (yes, couples should still date after 36 years…) to the local theatre where we saw Captain America-Civil War.  No spoiler alert in case you’re one of the handful who hasn’t seen it, but as the title implies, it’s the flick in the interminable series where the supers duke it out against each other. 

I guess they haven’t read that part about “a house divided against itself…”

Anyway, as a society we congregate over these fantasies for several reasons, some more ominous than others.  In fact, a good blogging buddy of mine, Oneta at Sweet Aroma, left me this comment:

“And while we build supermen in the sky, on earth we live so far below what God has available for us.”

Good seg into this account about Continue reading “Superheroes, UNITE! (This means us.)”

A Parent’s Prayer

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I like to call this “A Parent’s Prayer”.  Anyone who’s been a parent for, say, more than 60 seconds can relate to the feelings of: a) overwhelming affection and, b) overwhelming responsibility.  As uncomfortable as it may seem, all of us are born into a war zone; we call it Earth.  And it’s been a spiritual war zone since before Eve discovered apple pie.  So this prayer of David speaks to me of the spiritual warfare that we, as parents, are never discharged from.  But we have the best-ever assistance from our Captain.  Pray this over your family, no matter what circumstances looks like– Continue reading “A Parent’s Prayer”

Hate those #weeds !

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)

Weeding.  Yuck.  Why is it that during a drought, weeds still grow? 

I love the flowers and the plants; I love the tomatoes and the fresh herbs.  But let’s face it, weeds are the pits.  Some of their roots go so doggone deep!  And they spread, underneath the surface where you can’t see them, until they pop up somewhere else.  They suck up water, a precious resource by any definition, but especially “tres chere” during July and August in southern Missouri, and especially this year.  Weeding is in the “not fun” section of my gardening book.

“Not fun” is, however, usually a prerequisite to “fun”. 

I now have certain pieces of equipment to take care of said weeds:

  • Thickly padded knee pads. This shows that I mean business. I hate to admit it, but getting down on my knees is not as convenient as it was 20 years ago.  And then there’s the getting up part.  So “knee work” takes effort, as well as, at times, more than just a little discomfort.
  • Weed fork. At least that’s what I call the wicked looking thing. It has sharp little fangs that penetrate deeply into the weeded area to help pull up as much of the root as possible.  It’s a merciless piece of metal, probably invented by someone without knee pads who wanted to spend as little time as he could on his knees.
  • Chemical herbicide. Yes, I know, not exactly eco-friendly, but you don’t know the extent of the weed habitat in my yard. I don’t use it much, sparingly, but it is part of the heavy artillery in my arsenal.
  • Sometimes I wear gloves, but even with those, I always—I mean always—manage to get dirt under my fingernails. So really, I should also here mention my fingernail scrub brush, which sometimes even itself doesn’t fully complete the cleaning up job 
  • Timeliness – rather than put it off until another day, telling myself that I’ll do it all at once, (ha!), it is so much better to see a weed, and pull it on the spot. When it comes to weeds, procrastination only allows them to grow deeper and sprout additional “weed-babies”.

Weeds are a pain, no doubt, but they must be dealt with unless I want to allow them to dominate the garden.  And that includes the weeds in my life-garden as well.  Unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy—these are some big ones.  Then there’s deception, slothfulness, and gossip.  Unkind words are really ugly weeds whose roots can really go deep and pop up when and where we absolutely don’t expect them.  All of these, and more, (since there are many species of “life-weeds”), suck up the precious water of our existence and threaten to dominate our days…unless we take diligent action.

  • Weeding in our life takes commitment—commitment to the point of discomfort, and often times, more than just a little. The writer of the book of Hebrews warns that “for the time being, no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful”—now there’s an understatement! But he goes on to say that “afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Okay, I like that part.  If makes sense that if I don’t want the weeds listed above, or any other species of unwanted harvest, there is only one person responsible for eradicating them—me.  The same writer then adds this encouragement: “So then, brace up and reinvigorate and set right your slackened and weakened and drooping hands and strengthen your feeble and palsied and tottering knees.”  (Has he been spying on me while I’m gardening??)   Although that may sound a bit harsh to our sensitive 21st century ears, it’s actually quite helpful.  There are time when, oh yes, I can feel very tottering and weak, even discouraged when I work, and work, and yet keep seeing things in my character and personality with which I am sorely displeased, a weed popping up when I thought I had taken care of it or a new unknown weed that I’ve never seen before.  What the writer is saying here, however, indicates that this courage, this strength is, in fact, available to me.  So brace yourself (or pad yourself!) for the impact, expect the pain, but know that the results of our hard work will be rewarded. (1)
  • We need to go as deeply as possible to the root of the problem. Surface weeding may allow the garden to appear well-tended, but as the saying goes, looks can be (and usually are) deceiving. I think of my weed fork, a sharp and menacing-looking tool that, in the right hands and wielded skillfully, can bring up roots while yet sparing the precious soil. This kind of deep life-weeding takes time and effort, and we may need the help of a friend, or sometimes even a professional.  It is here that we must be willing to allow God to search and reveal as only His light can do. As the Psalmist said, “Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me…” (2)  And then let Him have control of the tool.
  • We must not disregard the heavy artillery of spiritual warfare. As Keith Green so aptly illustrated in a song that is supposed to be Satan himself singing to us:

                          I used to have to sneak around,

                          But now they just open their doors! 

                          You know, no one’s watching for my tricks

                          Because no one believes in me anymore! (3)

One of the enemy’s main tactics is deception.  Our Lord uncovered this by describing Satan as a liar and even the father of lies. (4) This age-old adversary will try to convince us of everything from false guilt feelings lingering after true repentance, to thinking we have committed the unpardonable sin.  Yes, I’ve been there too.  But God says otherwise.  We must arm ourselves for continued battle, and learn to use this critical piece of spiritual artillery. There is much well balanced writing on practical, Biblically based spiritual warfare.  In our culture, we are many times uncomfortable with this aspect of what used to be assumed in the early church as a normal part of Christian life.  The Bible makes it clear that it still is. (5)

  • Certainly, we cannot be afraid to get our hands dirty while we dig about in our lives, removing the weeds with the help of our Holy Gardener Himself. Sometimes it’s also a matter of getting our hands dirty helping weed around someone else’s life, after which are just as concerned with keeping ourselves cleaned up! Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, reminds us as he reminded them, to be careful to watch ourselves, especially when we think we are doing well.   We are just as prone, whether we like to admit it or not, to lapse into tempting thoughts and behaviors as the ones we have been helping.  Maybe not the same temptations, but sinful dirt under our nails nonetheless.  Our Lord promised to wash us clean when we bring this dirt to him, and surely it pleases Him to do so! (6)
  • And, of course, when the Master Gardener points out a weed, we must not delay in getting it taken care of as quickly as possible, so that successful growing time is on our side, not the weed’s. When God calls us to a specific repentance to a particular life-weed, procrastination is not a good idea. The longer we wait, the deeper it grows, and the more resources it wastes on itself. Most gardeners have seen this happen over time in flower beds that are habitually untended—yuck!   And one of the unhappy consequences of such neglect is that the seeds of the weeds float into my yard, (and honestly, I have enough of my own to deal with), then I have to tend to those as well!  Gossip, for example, spreads into others’ minds and hearts and begins to root (very quickly, I might add) unkind thoughts concerning the victim being gossiped about.  Another culprit is irritability—that one spreads like dandelion seeds!  (7)

In seasons of plentiful water, or in times of difficult drought, weeds seem to flourish both in our gardens, and in our lives.  Yet we are not without the proper tools to deal effectively with them.  The alternative is to ignore them or to pretend they don’t exist.

And, really, a weed would love nothing better… 

  • Hebrews 12:10-12 (Amplified)
  • Psalm 139:23-24 (Amplified)
  • No One Believes in Me Anymore, by Keith Green, c. 1977
  • John 8:44
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 6:11-12 (For a good resource in this area, see Neil Anderson’s Victory Over Darkness, and The Bondage Breakers, both from Harvest House Publishers. Another good resource is The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare, by Ed Murphy from Nelson Publishers.)
  • 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Ephesians 5:26-27
  • Proverbs 15:1