What Seeds Are You Planting in Your Field?

11 06 2018

My lone tomato plant.

I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA where springtime is a frenzied time of planting.  It smells really bad in our county, from one end to the other.  It’s that magical manure being applied to help supply the ground with needed nutrients for the soon-to-be-planted seeds.  The farmers are busy as they move their equipment from winter storage to field after field.  Quite honestly there is no such thing as a lazy farmer; he or she is fully expecting a future crop.  It is why they work so tirelessly day and night.  From our home, we can hear the diesel tractors running through the night and catch their lights shining into our windows.

 

Soybeans and corn just surfacing

I have never met a farmer who doesn’t expect to yield a crop.  They work and labor in anticipation of the forthcoming seed growing into a harvest. And all along the way, there are factors the farmer cannot control, e.g., too much rain, too little rain, wind and even varmints eating the crop.  Every time I witness their faith I think of a verse found in II Corinthians nine, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

 

I am “farming” this year as well.  I have one tomato plant on my front porch.  I am expecting a harvest, albeit a small one. I’ve sown sparingly and I’ll reap what I have sown, a little fruit.  But my farming neighbor is going to reap heaps, truck loads that will fill his barn and his grain elevators.  He will feed his livestock and his family for the coming year because he has sown generously.

 

What seeds are you planting and what size harvest are you anticipating?

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8 Reasons Why You Are Not a Victim

4 06 2018

I first wrote this and shared it with a victim of rape. She was deeply hurting, feeling victimized and of course dealing with shame.  If the enemy of our soul can keep us in shame and victimization, he will keep us from future effectiveness.  Perhaps something written below will speak to you and help with something you still feel from your past or maybe a friend is in need of it.

  1. You are not a victim. Victims give up influence and assertion.  Victims do not know who they are because victims are lost in insecurity and suffer a loss of identity. But, because the believer’s identity is not in himself, it is already lost to Christ and the power of His resurrection.  (See II Corinthians 12:9 – His power is made perfect in your weakness.)
  2. God’s plan is victory. Sin is a part of the Genesis three world we live in.  Victory means that God takes the evil of this world and turns it into something victorious.  Being a Christian does not mean we do not experience the evil of this world because it rains on the just and the unjust.  It means God has a bigger plan, a greater story.
  3. You are not responsible for someone else’s sin against you. True guilt leads us to repentance. Shame leads us to condemnation. True guilt followed by true repentance leads to life.  Shame leads to death of one’s spirit and soul.  Shame leaves us feeling exposed, injudicious, inadequate or defective in some way. Shame breeds condemnation and condemnation breeds more shame.  Jesus took our shame on the cross, as well as, our sorrows.  He spoke to you from the cross, “Shame off of you.”  We must ask ourselves: What am I responsible for and what am I not responsible for? What is the responsibility of the offender?  What am I learning about myself through this?
  4. What boundaries did I break or do I need to instill in my life? Perhaps we realize that we broke our own boundaries or had not thought through God’s boundaries.  We need to search His word for His boundaries and His values that He gives us for protection. God’s boundaries are not as the world’s boundaries because He has our best interest in mind.
  5. Do not repress your anger. Often we have a tendency to go inward with our anger after severe hurt(s).  Anger can erupt from feeling powerless and out of control, wanting to “make someone pay”. Allow your anger to be a positive force for healing and personal change.  Anger does not make a better athlete or person, but a more careless one.  If pressed down, it leads to bitterness and self hate.  (See Job 7:11 and Ephesians 4: 26-27 where we are told to not allow our anger to cause us to sin.)  Talk through and work through the anger so you are not stuck in its grip.  Keep moving through the sadness so you can reach the acceptance piece of godly grief.
  6. Obsessions of thought. Watch for thought obsessions turning into actual physical obsessive compulsions.  Maintain life balance through prayer, worship, counseling, talking to parents and trusted friends who are confidential.
  7. Forgiveness pursued. Watch for defense mechanisms, e.g., rationalism, denial, unforgiveness, becoming the fixer or the peacemaker. Matthew 18:21 says to forgive continually.  There is a difference between extending forgiveness and complete forgiveness.  Not forgiving or forgiving only partially will initially cause us to feel power over the perpetrator, but it will only punish us in the end.  Take steps to forgive the perpetrator as God gives you the grace to do so.  Forgive yourself; He has forgiven you.  You cannot change what decisions you made, but you can forgive yourself and move on so you can grow from them.  Forgive God rather than allowing bitterness or anger at God.  Because of Jesus, God understands our disappointment.  Remember Jesus said from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
  8. Move on and mature in God. Allow a tragedy to become a springboard for a better future. For example, we will never know why we were born into the family we were born into, but we do know that God has used it to make us who we are today.  (Isaiah 43:2)

You cannot change this situation, but you can let it change you to become more secure, more compassionate, a stronger and more loving person used by God to bring healing to others.





Comparison is a Killer

28 05 2018

I am not totally sure why comparison is so often our human go-to mode.

I’m guessing the experts would have a lot to say on the subject, but the Bible has something to say as well.  It states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”  (II Cor. 10:12)  Pretty straightforward, eh?

 

Some years ago I wrote a tract about developing a child’s self-esteem and started out with the story of Maggie.  I observed that Maggie never combed her hair, brushed her teeth, looked in a mirror or compared herself with anyone.  She was our Labrador Retriever whose full name was Sweet Magnolia of Pheasant Hills, aka Maggie.  She knew who she was, who she was created to be and she knew our unconditional love and acceptance of her.  Perhaps that’s what’s missing in our lives…knowing who we are, what we’re created for and that we’re all unconditionally loved and approved of by our Father in heaven.

 

The Bible says that comparison is unwise. Why? When we compare ourselves to someone else we typically come up short or proud, insignificant or feeling better than another.  Obviously these outcomes are unproductive and self-deprecating.  Comparison is often full of feeling less than, not measuring up or lacking in performance.  Or, it’s full of pride, feeling better than and viewing oneself as more significant than others by out performing.  Crazy thing is it’s all within our own minds.

 

If you have children help them to not compare themselves.  Children have their own unique gifts and talents.  Do not make performance the determining factor of your love, acceptance and approval of them.  Never compare them with their sibling.  Comparison is full of critical judgment and will eventually kill their creativity.

 

Ask God to help you hear your own thoughts of comparison and allow Him to speak truth-filled words over you rather than your own negative or pride-filled mental dialogue.  I wrote another prayer tract called, Who I am in Christ and it is filled with the truth of scripture to help you know whose you are and why you exist so that comparison can end once and for all.





Raised Hindu with the “Favor” of Many God’s

14 05 2018

“I grew up in a Hindu family and was introduced to the worship of many gods,” said my new friend. “However, those ‘gods’ as I grew older, became more and more aggressive, unfriendly, demanding and evil.”  Her family told her this familiarity was highly favored and to be embraced, but nothing about this world felt favorable to her. At the age of sixteen, someone introduced her to Jesus and she received Him and His love into her heart.  She told me there was a profound change in her life and she soon realized that the “gods” she carried with her were actually demonic presences or spirits meant to torment her.  She wanted them gone from her life.

 

Some of her Christian friends gathered to pray over her, declaring the powerful blood of Jesus and one by one those unwanted spirits left and a new freedom was the result. After hearing this testimony, I looked straight at her and asked what her primary spiritual gift is today. Without hesitation she said, “I see spirits in and on others’ lives.”  I knew it; I just knew that the God who delivered her would now use her to bring deliverance to others.  It made me smile.

 

Looking straight into her eyes once again I asked, “Look at me and tell me what you see; do you see ANYTHING…any presence that does not represent the kingdom of God?”  I do not want anything that does not represent my King in or on my life.  I want nothing hanging out in my presence that does not represent or reflect the holy and the sanctified.  She focused squarely back at me without taking a breath and said, “I already checked you out and you’re clean.”  With a sigh of relief, I sat back in my chair and told her thank you…thank you for walking in this gift and ministering love, compassion and freedom to others.  I continued by saying thank you for not shying away from something that can be considered controversial.

 

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus our Deliverer.”  He cleansed the temple and He cleanses our lives just because He loves us and longs for us to be free.  (Galatians 5: 1 & 3:13)





God’s Thatching Process

7 05 2018

I really enjoy thatching my lawn every spring for several reasons.  The most obvious is that a long winter season is coming to an end, the birds are singing and the perennial flowers are breaking through the earth’s surface.  Secondly, I love working outside, especially after a cold spell that keeps you held captive to the indoors.  Third, it is meaningful that my heavenly Father has provided a place for me to live and enjoy and lastly, most of all, thatching is a reminder of God’s ability to remove the old, unwanted and dead vegetation that is no longer productive.

 

Removing this undergrowth allows the soil to breath through the process of aeration, while also making room for new growth. Over the winter the ground becomes hard and crusty, but thatching breaks up that surface allowing moisture and nutrition to absorb more easily for a stronger root system.

 

My life longs for the same from my Creator – God’s thatching process.  He wants to pull up and remove the dead, unproductive and unwanted subsurface areas of my life.  He desires a better-prepared soil so my spirit can receive truth for life change and new seasons.   And, He’s so good at knowing exactly what spiritual nutrients I am in need of for growth and transformation.  It doesn’t always feel the best, but I trust His thatching process because He loves me.





Resurrection Life

2 04 2018

What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, mean to you?

When I was a child it meant dressing up in a suit and tie with my newest pair of stiff penny loafers making my feet hurt. My sister adorned her new Easter dress and hat, an annual ritual. My mother drove us to town in her six-year-old 1954 four door yellow and white Buick. We walked through the huge red wooded doors, fit for a castle, to a room I remember her calling the Narthex…whatever that meant. It smelled old.

There we heard the story of God sending His only Son who would live three decades and now we celebrated his excruciating death on a cross with nails and a spear and blood. What a scene being described to a young boy sitting uneasily on an old wooden pew.

But it was Sunday and somehow the huge stone was rolled away and somehow the broken, bruised and dead Savior was now alive. His grave cloths were folded neatly and an angel was telling two women to not be afraid. I’d find myself imagining an angel that was large enough to move a gravestone was large enough to be crazy fearful of – yikes!

Today I see a totally different picture. I love how Luke writes about these events in the book of Acts, chapter thirteen. He describes the resurrection as a, “…fact that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead never to decay,” quoting Isaiah fifty-five and Psalm sixteen. He goes on to share that since this Jesus is alive we now have forgiveness of sins, justification and eternal life.

Have you encountered the resurrected One? What does this “fact” mean to you?





Does Your Heart Ache?

12 03 2018

A number of years ago my wife and I visited some churches in the nation of Rwanda. We were responding to an invitation to share marriage principles with these lovely, but broken people. Just leaving the airport, we were told by our hosts, “But first, you will visit the genocide museum.” Mary and I could hardly speak after seeing those images and reading about what happened in this war-torn nation. We were wrecked from the inside out and, quite honestly, our hearts ached. It was difficult to gather our emotional selves for the service that evening. As we looked into the Rwandan’s eyes that night, we wondered what images they carried with them.

Once again, a little over a year ago, I returned to that same country. On this visit, I listened to a young man who watched his father be hacked to death by another man whom he knew. Ten years had passed and the murderer was released from incarceration for his crime inflicted on my new friend’s father and family. He felt called by God to visit this man and extend his hand and heart of forgiveness toward him. Stunned, I sat there thinking and wondering to myself  if I could do the same.

But I relay this story for another reason. I want to ask you what your heart aches for? Does your heart ache when you view the news and see the KKK member blurting out his or her beliefs? Does your heart ache when you watch and disagree with the political candidate that you do not endorse or even like? Does your heart ache for that self-centered and mean boss or co-worker? Does your heart ache for the drug addict, suicide bomber or immigrant? And does your heart ache for that welfare recipient who is lying and taking advantage of the system? Or, is your response anger, irritation and criticism?

In the gospel of Matthew (chapter five), it is recorded that Jesus said to me and to you…love your enemies and pray for those who may hurt or persecute you. He said that the sun rises everyday for them as it does you and me. He said, even a tax collector can love if they are being loved. He said that if you only greet (love) your brothers, what is that? Jesus then said, even those outside the kingdom can comply with such efforts.

My paraphrase of these verses would go something like this: If you or I cannot look at that certain government official, the parent that deeply wounded, a past friend who has rejected you, someone with a different sexual orientation or a former spouse who lied about you…with love, compassion and have your heart ache for their soul, then how can we go to another nation and openly declare our love for those persons, those national leaders and those unfamiliar faces whom we do not know?

Paul once wrote to Timothy that he was at one time a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man, acting in ignorance and unbelief, but God’s grace was poured out on him.  Paul went on to say that he was one of the worst sinners who was shown mercy because Jesus came into the world to save those exact persons.  (See I Timothy 1: 13 – 17) That was me too. Thank God for sending His Son whose heart ached for mankind.








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