Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Fruitful Tree, Internet Domain
Times of crisis when the storms of life arrive is when we need to have trust in God and not other humans. Then we’ll have deep roots in a solid bedrock of strength and spiritual will to not only stand firm against the winds, but also possess the resolve to share with others. Jeremiah reveals that “I will bless those who trust me, the Lord. They will be like trees growing beside a stream—trees with roots that reach down to the water, and with leaves that are always green. They bear fruit every year and are never worried by a lack of rain”.
A fruitful tree was seen as a sign of godly living in early times, compared to one that bore no fruit for the patient gardener. In his parable of the four soils, Jesus teaches that seed which falls on good soil matures and produces a good and noble heart that hears the Word, retains it, and perseveres to produce a good crop. When we store goodness in our hearts, then good will be raised up out of our hearts. Jesus describes himself as a vine giving sustenance and strength and we humans are likened to the branches receiving it as we bear fruit for God. And he characterizes God as the patient vineyard gardener. The gardener will prune back productive branches to promote growth, which means sometimes we must endure storms and consequences to strengthen our character and faith. But the gardener’s patience has limits when no fruit is produced and those branches are eventually cut off from God’s life-giving power at the trunk.
Jesus mentioned that when teaching in parables, only those who had taken the time to study the Word of the Kingdom of God would understand the secrets of their meaning—“Others, though seeing, may not see: though hearing, may not understand”. He tells the story of a fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 in which we could consider God to be the master and Jesus to be the gardener; “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. One day he went out to pick some figs, but he didn't find any. So he said to the gardener, ‘For three years I have come looking for figs on this tree, and I haven't found any yet. Chop it down! Why should it take up space?’ The gardener answered, ‘Master, leave it for another year. I'll dig around it and put some manure on it to make it grow. Maybe it will have figs on it next year. If it doesn't, you can have it cut down.’” This parable is sometimes called the unfinished parable because we don’t know “the rest of the story” like Paul Harvey used to report. The end of the story is still being written for many folks who enjoy God’s providence but do not share or give back anything in return.
And it may not have been a coincidence that when Jesus was raised from death in a garden on that first morning of Easter hope, the disciple Mary at first saw him as the gardener--a gardener and an intercessor for all of those branches of the tree of life that sprang from the Garden of Eden.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Fire Rainbow, Jamestown, NC
There are a variety ways that we human beings can be jolted out of the ordinary and become inspired! There is that “aha!” creative moment like Archimedes experienced after he stepped into his bath and realized that he could measure the volume of irregular objects by immersing them and recording the displacement of water. He was so excited about his inspired discovery that he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting “Eureka!” There’s artistic inspiration that is translated into great art such as Rembrandt’s painting depicting an angel whispering into The Evangelist Matthew’s ear as he writes his gospel. That is a very imaginative creation, but perhaps not a very realistic one. Martin Luther didn’t consider that Scripture was dictated, but that the knowledge of salvation prompted writers to express divine truth and knowledge of God in a form of human understanding. The Biblical inspiration of the Holy Spirit prompted fallible Christian followers like Matthew to draw inspiration from their own time and experience to write the books that are contained in today’s trustworthy Bible.
The apostle Luke records an account of sacred inspiration in chapter 24 about a couple walking along the road to Emmaus shortly after Jesus had been crucified. The travelers on that dusty road were grieving His death and its implications for themselves and their people. Then Jesus joined them and “interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.” After they invited Jesus to dinner and he broke bread with them, “they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Weren't our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?’"
There are many well-meaning folks out there who both deride and defend every written word in the Bible who unfortunately might just have to admit that they’ve never read all of the books it contains from cover to cover. I believe that every generation must read, decipher, understand and act on the relevant words for their time. There have been many disciples over time, but only we can be a disciple for our time. And as the couple on that dusty road to Emmaus found out, it is very enlightening to closely follow every step along The Way to ensure that God is revealing the message you need to hear in a “hearts on fire” moment!
Monday, April 21, 2014
Firelight, Jamestown, NC
Have you ever had the experience of standing around a blazing fire out in the great outdoors on a chilly late fall night? There’s a great lesson to be learned as you slowly walk toward the roaring fire. First of all, you find yourself becoming warmer. And secondly, the light slowly becomes brighter as you move out of the darkness into the welcoming brightness of the flickering firelight.
The Old Testament Scripture writers generally wrote about a rather severe and stern God who was seemingly frustrated with the creation of man and his constant turning away from Him. Even His chosen people of Israel were overrun by the Assyrians and Babylonians as God withdrew his protection from the unfaithful.
But we see a rather radical change in the writings of the New Testament authors who describe the character of God as revealed in His Son. This revelation shows a God of compassion and love for all His creation, culminating in His righteous self-sacrifice nailed onto a Roman cross to redeem His creation.
So, who changed? Was it our timeless and loving Creator whose eternal light shines in the darkness like a blazing fall bonfire? Or was it perhaps mankind himself who had progressed enough towards the warm light of knowing his Creator to finally understand and write about His true character?
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Resurrection, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Lots of folks deny the existence of God and the availability of His priceless grace for all. Some have witnessed or been a victim of such abhorrent experiences that they absolutely cannot believe a greater power would allow it to happen. Man’s own inhumanity to man accounts for much of this. But there are examples of people who have decided to work with God to bring good out of a bad situation. And when they do that, the rest of us are doubly impressed with their faith and character. The grace-full reaction of the woman in Kansas this week who discovered the senseless hate murders of both her father and teenage son comes to mind.
During this Holy Week of Easter, we’re reminded of Luke’s account of Jesus’ false arrest on the Mount of Olives during the night. Two of his twelve disciples denied him to set the stage for his death and our redemption. Judas, the group’s treasurer, was seemingly disappointed that Jesus was not the Messiah warrior king he was expecting to help defeat the ruling Romans, so he sold out for thirty pieces of silver. Later, as Jesus was being falsely accused of the crimes that Barabbas had actually committed, Peter denied that he even knew him a total of three times.
After Jesus’ resurrection on that glorious sunlit Easter morning, Peter was locked in an upper room fearing for his life and Judas was dead. But later, Peter received the personal forgiveness of Jesus and went on with his life to become the rock of God’s church. His testimony provided even more weight and assurance for God’s priceless grace. And it pales in stark contrast to the extraordinary possibilities of the message of forgiveness and hope that Judas could have delivered to countless generations in desperate circumstances, if only he had waited for just three days.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Spring Harbinger, Jamestown, NC
Morning Camellia, Jamestown, NC
Have you ever stopped the music and contemplated how you would spend “the perfect day”? What would the perfect day look like? The prophet Isaiah envisioned the perfect day after the end times with the hope of both nature and mankind fully restored to God’s will. Micah saw a peaceful pastoral scene where “they shall sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid…nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. Peace, prosperity, justice and care for all would be the norm. A new heaven and a new earth would be created and the old world of suffering and tears would be no more.
Jesus also taught that we should strive for the Kingdom of God here on earth today. Individually, we may not be able to stop all warring nations and hurricanes or all the heartache in our world today, but with a little bit of effort, we can interface with the world and be vessels of grace that can make a difference in someone’s world. Perhaps we can also be more mindful of the peace and beauty that surrounds us right now to make a difference in our own lives. Life can only be played out in the present moment. And every moment spent ruminating about the past or fretful of the future is a moment squandered forever.
Admittedly, not every day of our lives can be characterized as anything close to perfect. But many days are lost to us because we’re not consciously making it so. We’re not looking up at the rising sun or wispy cirrus clouds overhead; not pausing to listen to the song of a spring robin or appreciate the bright red color of a cardinal perched outside our window; not venturing outside to be the first to welcome emerging blooms of daffodils and camellias; watching mindless television shows instead of experiencing the joy of reading a book that teaches us new life lessons; or perhaps passing up a candid conversation with our Creator or fellow journeymen that validates our relational image. So, how would I describe a perfect day? Well, today of course! And besides, it’s the only game in town.