Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Keep it weeded.................................Parables 005

We just received a seed catalog in the mail. Thoughts ran rapidly from planting seeds and watering them, to weeds. Ugh! 

Thoughts of weeds were enough to put the catalog aside and postpone gardening for a few months, maybe indefinitely.

Weeding is tedious work. Besides, a couple of days of sleeping late and moving slow were beginning to dull my enthusiasm to do much of anything. Even the well-formed habit of early morning Bible reading and prayer was slipping. By 1 p.m. on Boxing Day, I had to force myself to go to the study and read the Scripture selection for the day.

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles covered the face . . .  and the stone wall . . .  was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well; I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall poverty come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Proverbs 24:30-34.

Biblically, thorns and thistles speak of several things. One is God’s curse on the earth because of man’s sin (Genesis 3:17-19). Another is the cares of this world that choke a person’s spiritual life (Matthew 13:22).

With that, several principles of gardening came back to mind, especially weeding. Weeds take over my garden without any help from me at all. But the desired plants must be tended daily to produce fruit. That requires work.

So here I was, “taking a little sleep, and folding my hands,” slacking off in the tending of the garden of my soul. With no early morning weeding for one day, by that afternoon I was already more interested in personal pursuits, maybe even another nap, than spending time with my God and obeying Him. That is exactly the same attitude the seed catalog revealed. I am basically lazy.

What kind of harvest can a lazy Christian expect? Not much of the right kind. Sitting back and folding my hands only frees the weeds to do their thing.

God uses His Word to cultivate my heart. It reveals sin, corrects it, purifies, encourages, teaches truth, exposes lies, gives hope, builds faith, warns, comforts, and centers my heart on eternal values and on God. If I expect my life to be Christlike and fruitful for Him, I need the daily nurture of this marvelous resource.

When I neglect it, I leave my heart open for the weeds.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Reason for the Season...................................Parables 004

A man walked into a department store in mid-December, heard a carol being played over the store’s sound system, and angrily remarked, “These Christians have to bring their religion into everything, even Christmas!”

Those who know that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ may chuckle, or feel somewhat saddened that this person seems to have missed the whole point, that, without Christ, there would be no Christmas.

Well, that is not entirely true. There was a time when huge celebrations were held in late December, without Christ. Historically, December was a month of pagan festivals, feasts, and orgies. Pageants were held to honor idols as winter reached its fullness. The strength of the sun and spring thaw were eagerly anticipated. Then, in the middle of the 4th Century, a Bishop in Rome choose December 25 as the day that the church would celebrate the birth of Christ. It was hoped that this would somehow sanctify the pagan celebrations and tame the wild revelry to a holy occasion. It was a nice thought -- but the heathen festivities continued.

So what does that make Christmas? It has become a strange mixture. Some of the things that Christians do to commemorate the birth of Christ include customs picked up from heathen festivals. Some are adapted from later practices, such as threes, cards, and plum pudding. And many of those who are not Christian turn to “spiritual” activities -- singing carols, sharing love, and manger scenes.

Does Christmas confuse you? If so, it is no wonder. Our thoughts of what this holiday really mean vary as much as the colors, lights, and decorations. Part of my celebration comes from some rather dubious tradition, however, we joyfully give gifts, send cards, and put up a tree anyway. Personally, I’d like to send up sky rockets and use loud speakers sometimes, just to share the joy I feel about Christmas. God actually became a man and lived among us! He was not born in a manger to have us say, “Isn’t He sweet?” or so we could throw a big party, with or without inviting Him; He was born so He could die for our sins, and rose again so we could boldly declare, “Behold, my Lord and my God,” and receive a gift from Him -- eternal life.

So I have to agree somewhat with the angry man in the department store -- not with his anger, but that we who believe in Christ do have to bring what we believe into this holiday. Those of us who have received His gift have great reason to celebrate.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wandering Stars...................................Parables 003

My husband received a birthday balloon last month. This is not an ordinary balloon. For one thing, it is metallic silver and shaped like a star. Another novelty is the helium inside that kept it up on the ceiling, at least for a while. But now this balloon is especially unusual because it has become a “wandering star.” Partly deflated, it moves with the air currents, gliding through the house, searching for a place to rest, but never seeming to find it. 

It is an eerie thing to watch this star floating aimlessly around the house, sometimes hiding behind doors or under the leaves of our giant silk palm plant. It looks lonely, giving the impression of unhappiness and discontent.

As we watch this balloon, I think of a Bible verse that uses the term “wandering stars.” It is near the end of the New Testament in the book of Jude. “Wandering stars is used to describe the people who understand the gospel, that “Jesus died for their sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures,” (2 Corinthians 15:3,4), but have said “no” to that message. They are described as “willful and presumptuous” with meaningless lives. They complain and speak evil against Christ. They are motivated by evil desires and have no spiritual goodness. Worst of all, these “wandering stars” have reserved for them the “blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 13)

That balloon wandered around our house all last night. It came up the stairs from our son’s bedroom, and who knows where it went before getting hung up on a palm leaf in the living room. That gas-filled star is a vivid picture - not enough substance to keep it down-to-earth, not enough of the right stuff inside to rise to any heights. It just keeps moving, tossed about by outside pressures.

It may seem pointless to personify a balloon. However, Jude makes a real point concerning “wandering stars.” No one wants to have a life without purpose or direction. Jude reminds Christians to “keep ourselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Our purpose is to serve and glorify Him.

What a contrast to our nearly spent balloon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

She gave what she had.........................Parables 002

This week someone told me of his Christian mother and her influence on people. He said, “She gave what she had.”

She had little formal education, was not a Bible scholar, and was not wealthy or famous by the world’s standards. But people who met her were not satisfied with one meeting. They came back over and over again. When she died, hundreds of friends attended her funeral.

What did she have? The man said words like “love” and “hospitality,” however his first statement, “She gave what she had,” seemed to be essential to her attractiveness. The virtues she possessed would have been meaningless to others had she not did something with them. She gave them away.

This woman’s son affirmed that her goodness came from God. He then spoke of God, who also loves, welcomes, and gives. The God of the Bible gives rain, and sunshine, and good for His creatures. He gives grace and strength, and understanding, and wisdom to all who ask Him in faith. The greatest gift of all is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but has the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16)

This Christian mother possessed that life. Out of it flowed virtue to bless others. Her son regretted that she could no longer give in this way. However, we rejoiced too, because when God gave what He had, it never stopped by reason of a funeral. In fact, death made possible the most precious of His gifts: the death of His Son meant the gift of eternal life.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Farming Father Rolled with Thunder...............Parables 001

Why is it that farmers can accept the fall rain and the damaging hail storms more readily than some folks can handle a rained-out picnic? After all, doesn’t a farmer stand to lose a great deal more from adverse weather?

My father farmed for 50 years. One time he told me that he and come to grips with his part and God’s part in farming. He was to plant the seeds. God made them grow.

That simple philosophy sums up a lifetime of watching the weather, trying to fit seeding time and harvest into its pattern, and realizing that it is senseless to fight with the tremendous power behind the wind and the rain.

Those of us whose exposure to nature is limited to picnics, ball games, and backyard barbeques do not develop that awareness. We generally see weather changes as inconvenient. If we are honest, we’d like to be in control.

My dad never expressed, “It I had my way it would never rain in August or September.” He worked patiently around the late frosts and early snows, and did his part. To him, God was never unfair. Perhaps he recognized something even more profound - that springtime and harvest are blessings.

The Psalmist says, “God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10)

Perhaps my father felt grateful for just the privilege of being able to plant the seeds.

First published in Fort Record, December 4, 1985

Monday, July 22, 2013

Coming Soon

Parables: from farming to gardening, household chores to the daily news, God weaves life events in such a way that they connect to spiritual truth. More than 800 parables were published in an Alberta newspaper. Soon they will be added to this blog.