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Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Gardeners Tale

Matthew 13:24-30


Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven.  A man sows a field with good seed.  His enemy adds "darnel" to what the man sowed.  When both grow the darnel is visible. The servants don't understand.  They know the man sowed good seed.  They want to purge the field of the darnel.  The man stops them and defers the "cleansing" until the time of reaping for fear of damaging some of the good seed.


I have always read this and applied it to the sorting of believers and unbelievers at the judgement.  I think it applies.  Recently, as I was praying and dealing with areas and thoughts within me that are not of my new nature (the nature of Christ), but are of the "natural man", my old nature (that which is corrupted by sin), I saw this passage in a new light and wanted to share it with you.  One additional thought that will catch you up with me is to read 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.  Paul speaks about a "thorn" that he asks to be removed.  God's answer is: "My grace is all you need".


What if the field that was sown is me, or you.  What if the good seed is our new nature, the new creation, that which has been redeemed by God and for God?  What if it (the good seed) is God's Word (Jesus) taking root in us and growing up?  Does that picture fit for you?  It did for me.  Now, what if the enemy is our adversary, the Devil.  The "darnel" are those lies that pray on our "natural" selves and appeal to the flesh.  This rang true for me.  Both God's Word and the sinfulness of my old nature seem to be within me.


I have asked God to remove the sinful nature.  It is still there.  It plays on God designed attributes (wanting, desires - James 4:5).  The lies twist what God designed and intended and as I think about them or give them place, a "plant" sprouts - the darnel (James 1:13-15).  For God to remove the "darnel" would require him to remove the designed in quality.  I can't ask God to remove my ability to "want" (which when corrupted becomes lust) and still expect to be able to want God (its intended purpose).  In this case, I must conclude that God's grace and wisdom are sufficient to see me through.


What also became clear (to me) is the idea of being a gardener.  Which plants am I tending to?  Which plants am I feeding?  Which plants am I encouraging to grow?  Which plants get my attention?


If I am preoccupied with the "darnel", I will ignore the "Good Seed".  Regardless of whether my intentions are to root out the "darnel" or to stimulate its growth, I am ignoring the "Good Seed".  If the "darnel" grows, it threatens the plants of the "Good Seed".  If the plants of the "Good Seed" are ignored, they could wither away from lack of attention, feeding, care or worse be choked out by the plants that are getting my attention, the "darnel".  On the other hand, if I invest in the plants of the "Good Seed", they will grow and become strong with deep roots.  It doesn't guarantee that the "darnel" will go away but the plants of the "Good Seed" begin to crowd out the "darnel" leaving it less and less room to grow.  This follows the teaching in the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13).


As long as I lodge in this body, I will be confronted with my Adamic nature (Romans 7:21-25).  My (your) role as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to focus our time and energy on the plants of the "Good Seed" and trust God's grace to enable us to deal with the "darnel".  

6:16 am edt 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Have To

My thanks to my brother, Chris Schwiesthal, for planting this seed.  Pray for and support him in the ministry of Athletes in Action (www.schweisthalfamilyministry.org).


"I have to..." 

This is a phrase I have uttered thousands of times.  Sometimes I realize what I am saying and sometimes it is just the vocabulary that is top of mind.  I think it betrays me.


"Have to" represents an attitude and I think it may actually be a lie I tell to myself.  The attitude is that of victim, of being imposed upon which makes me think it is a lie.  Because of God's choice to create us in his image with free will, we don't "have to" do anything.  There are things I choose to do.  There are things I get to do.  I am doubting there is anything I "have to" do.


"Have to" represents bondage.  I am a slave to something that compels me.  "Get to" represents freedom.  I am free to choose, to serve, to do.  My sin nature and the Adversary tell me I "have to" do things.  Jesus tells me I "get to" do things.


I am learning and relearning just how systemic I am.  My heart ("want to", motivation and emotion) and my head (what I know and understand, my values, my perceptions) can be influenced. Largely they are influenced by the state of my soul (priorities, truths or lies, union with forces and agents beyond me).  The three together direct my strength (the physical me, my ability to act on things and people). 


If my soul is being fed a "have to", then my head tells me I am a victim and that I am not responsible, it isn't my choice.  I feel negative and my motivation is avoid versus achieve.  As a consequence I end up doing something of little value, possibly something destructive, and in the worst cases something of eternal consequence. 


If my soul is being fed a "get to", them my head tells me I decide and am responsible.  I feel positively and my motivation is to enjoy.  As a consequence I end up doing things of value intrinsic and extrinsic.  I build up.  I create a legacy that is positive.


God created us to live a "get to" life ("you can, or ‘get to', eat from any tree in the garden...").  The Adversary tries to convince us we are slaves to "have to" ("God doesn't want you to have knowledge...").  So, as you think through this and take inventory of your own motives and self talk, my prayer is that you realize the "Get To" life God has given you.  Resist, reject, and repent of any "Have To" thoughts and attitudes.  "Have to" is a foot hold for the Adversary.  "Get to" is a confession of your heart for God's grace and love.

6:14 am edt 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Groups of Believers (The Local Church): in 4 Parts - Part 4

Part 4

I have been reading and studying Revelation and working on writing a doctrinal statement about the church.  Both of these projects intersected in the first 3 chapters of Revelation... the letters to the Seven Churches.  I wanted to share and needed to organize my thoughts about what I am understanding on these churches.


In summary, there are seven types or seven states that a group of believers (Assembly of Believers in Jesus Christ or the local church) will find themselves in:

1.       Distant from Jesus and Academic (Ephesus)

2.      Jesus is all (Smyrna)

3.      Lost a hold on the truth (Pergamum)

4.      Know Jesus but aren't faithful to him (Thyatira)

5.      Asleep (Sardis)

6.      Paying attention and doing what you know to do (Philadelphia)

7.      Intellectual and Arrogant (Leodicea)


As I thought, reviewed, and prayed over this, I see three distinct categories:

A.      Acceptable

B.     Struggling

C.     Dead


As I use the term "church" here, the New Testament context of it means "an or the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ".  It does not mean nor imply a denomination or a building.  It includes house churches, Bible Studies, regions, and the church as a whole.  When you look into and think about the "church" you are part of, think about the beliefs, the people, the behaviors, the focus, the things you and those who are part of your "church" invest themselves in, what is "important" to you (defined by where you spend your resources).  Back to the categories...


Part 1 focused on "Acceptable" churches, those at Smyrna and Philadelphia.  Part 2 focused on "Struggling" churches, those at Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira.  Part 3 focused on "Dead" churches.  Those in Sardis and Leodicea.  Part 4 is the call, the challenge to all us who are believers and part of a group of believers.


I believe each of us, especially those of us who are leaders, can look at our fellowships, our community of faith, our "church" and see who we are.  We need to be objective.  Objective means according to God's Word.  There is value in tradition, but it is not God's Word, nor are the patterns of this world, nor is our wisdom (our observations of what we are doing based upon our opinions).  Base it only on God's Word... chapter and verse.  Base it only on Jesus (God's Word - John 1:1-18).  Only he is true (John 14:6).  Only he can show you the path (John 14:6).  Only he can be your source of life (John 14:6).  Our minds can be and are corrupted (Romans 1:21,28) and they need to be transformed (Romans 12:2) which is why we cannot trust our own assessment of ourselves but must stick to God's Word.  The "Hope" for the church is Jesus.  It isn't in what we do but will affect what we do.  It isn't in what we say but will affect what we say.  It starts inside each of us (Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17).  As each of us repents and is transformed, renewed, reborn, then our families will be, and our churches will be, and our communities will be, and our nations will be.  Apart from each of us being authentic as disciples and leaving our former life to cleave only to Jesus (Ephesians 5:31-33), we will be inconsistent at best, for sure we will "struggle", and eventually we will "die".  The only way to be "acceptable" is to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), concluded that Jesus died for each of us (2 Corinthians 5:14-17), leaving our former ways for His ways.

4:37 am edt 

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