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Archive for the ‘The wonders of creation’ Category

 

 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  1 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow is sorrow devoid of shame. Shame does not bring repentance it brings regret. Regret does not do the work that repentance does, it merely transfers the object of our affection from the sin to the result. Repentance transfers our affection to God from sin.  We are conditioned to think that shame is good because sin is bad. Shame is a byproduct of sin. Forgiveness grasps that both the sin and shame have been wiped away.

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20140321-101652.jpgYesterday was the first day of spring. I spent the day at a garden with my wife. As we walked around the Des Moines Botanical Garden  we observed many beautiful plants.

Often, people compare the values of the Christian experience with that of a garden. Not a bad idea since life in the Bible framework it began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. They enjoyed all kinds of things but were told to avoid one particular item, the tree of “the Knowledge ofGood and Evil.”

Throughout the Bible the theme of growth is emphasized just as one example: “But  grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

The idea that is given to growth is that it should always “A La Natural.” Many times it’s almost implied if we do anything that takes effort we are essentially working contrary to allowing God’s grace to work The idea forwards that “any works” are foreign to becoming a mature believer.

Yet my walk yesterday with my wife proved the opposite as much effort had been performed by many people in the garden that delighted our eyes at every corner. Yet, clearly the very people that put forth the effort understood and acknowledged that it was the forces of nature that brought about the true beauty. They only participated by being gardeners within that great power.

Being a fellow “participator/gardener with God is also invaluable to bring about the beauty that grace works in a life. Yielded-ness and efforts of obedience are not works for salvation but rather participating with the grace of God at work in our lives. I see three main areas within “organic spiritual growth” where participation is beneficial.20140321-101815.jpg

There is the preparation stage. This is where we as believers prepare by studying and examining the Scriptures. We look to see what is it that God would want of our lives. It is not wrong or evil to know what God would want of us. Learning what it is to be loving, kind or any of the other many characteristics that are clearly portrayed within the pages of Scripture is a worthy exercise. Encouraging the same traits in others is not evil either but rather the act of a person committed to see God’s grace at work in another’s lives as well as our own.

A second key stage is organization. It is fascinating to consider that the word organic and organization are actually related to each other. These two are not conflicting but rather complementing sources. It is not wrong to observe proper patterns and then seek to implement those same patterns into your own life. Instead this is by its very nature an act of love toward our Savior by being Christ-like and following the ultimate example and ordered life. “If you love me do my commandments” (John 14:15).  “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” Don’t miss the obvious, discipline lead others to observe they were Christ-like.

Finally cultivation is the ability to recognize the finer points of maturity. Just as cultivation in a field brings about a higher level of production so cultivation in our lives will bring about a higher level a living. It is not wrong to set goals or to aim for progress. It is not wrong to monitor the direction your life is headed. The difference between cultivated plants and uncultivated ones is often the difference between a garden and a weed patch.

20140321-102624.jpgAny farmer acknowledges his dependence upon rain sunlight and the seasons. He does this so that he can work at the best possible times to achieve the greatest possible results. It is completely appropriate to give God credit for the results of your effort in grace. “He makes the sun to shine!” A hot ear of corn buttered and salted to perfection tastes even better from your own garden in part because it is the reward of your labor. God is honored in part because you “trusted” in the sun and rain with your efforts in preparing, planting and picking. Yes you worked but your work was within the faith of the power of God unto salvation.

Not working is essentially a lack of faith on some level of the promise of God to the laborer in the harvest.

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Deer on the horizonI love hunting because it gets me out into the woods. I have always enjoyed being in the woods, but there were times when it was scary. When you hunt you get to carry a gun so a walk in the woods isn’t nearly as scary. One of the extreme joys of walking in the woods is finding something you never expected to find: an antler, an old bottle, a long lost knife or perhaps best of all a hidden meadow filled with a golden arrangement of flowers kissing the morning sunrise.

Morning Glory MeadowSurprised by beauty, you are glad to be alone. Nothing needs to be said, and you have no one to interrupt the moment. The stillness and wonder capture your mind and years later you can still close your eyes and see the photo album of memories discovered. Part of the magic is the path that led there was narrow, and didn’t give you the clue of the full wonder that was only just ahead!

This is the marvel of walking with God. The path is often so narrow that only one can walk and that one is you. It is lonely and often scary, but there are wonders along the way that can’t be missed so the journey calls. It is not a journey to rush forward, but to explore. God has much to show you about Himself, but perhaps even more about you. There is something strange about coming to see yourself as God does. At first it seems like something you would never want to see, but truly no view is better than God’s view, even if it is the view of you.Flowers kissing the sky

The marvel of God’s path is that it provides you views of things you before thought irreconcilable as redeemed. The cross can make things before that were ugly now beautiful. God’s grace has a transforming property that is really beyond our comprehension or understanding.  That transformation often is found through a journey within a path of great restriction that ultimately opens to a wide area. Without the restriction (read narrow way) the wide place would not be.  The “narrows” of life can cause me to be frightened, but the reputation of our Guide brings peace as I trust Him to bring me out to a place of wide beauty.

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Chatter from AboveOn the limb above me he chattered. I was in complete camouflage with a face mask and gloves, but he knew I didn’t belong. I enjoyed our conversation, but I think he was displeased. It was a simple thing, but a treasure.

There are often treasures in life that have very little monetary value but warm a heart and bring a smile. I have been reading of becoming more aware of them through the writings of Ann Voskamp. I must admit I play the part of the squirrel far too often. I chatter and moan about the interruptions that take up my world. Things that are out of place and I don’t think belong are an irritation and I bristle at the thought of having to put up with them.

I ask forgiveness endlessly for my chatter in the face of such blessings. One of the great values of hunting for me is that it leads me into a place where I can see treasures, but that I can’t talk or they will disappear. I sat still recently for over two hours while hen turkeys moved through and even napped within a few feet of my location.

I get paid for talking in part, but I remind people that preachers are not paid for overtime especially at noon on Sunday. Talking when there should be stillness is like the pig with the gold ring. Whatever the beauty that could be the smell prevents the seeing. Words can stink even when they are true. They tend to spoil and rot when piled up needlessly.

These are the words that get in the way of hearing God. They can echo so loud that one can’t hear the whisper of the near God. God’s words are so valuable that sometimes He doesn’t repeat them for the noisy soul.  Noise is often the byproduct of the heart that is troubled with life’s challenges.

David was fleeing Jerusalem with Absalom closing in to take over the city. All David’s men are noisy, but somehow David’s soul is still. The catatonic scenes rise in volume until Shimei is shown dusting David with rock and cursing. Enough shout David’s men, but David calm still speaks, “It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good” (2 Sam 16.12).

Clearing the noise both outside and from within is not an easy task. It is a discipline that many think is unnecessary or impossible. I have not perfected it, but I am learning to admire it. I think its admiration is part of its learning. The strange function is that silence to the noise does not yield immediate answers.

Truth is this, some things learned cannot be taught, but are learned only by experience. My children teach me this all the time. I see them doing things I used to do, but no longer, and I am glad, but I cannot give them a reason. I am not frustrated by this. I understand now better the value of aging.

Perhaps we can find stillness in more moments by listening with more than just our ears but even our souls. It is scary to be this vulnerable with God on the loose. Yet, I am sure He can be trusted to speak what we really need to hear.

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I think it could be? Yes, it is, yes I am sure, there are shades of green showing in the Kansas prairies. After a long cold hard winter, well maybe not that LONG, but it appears that the brown of this year’s winter is going to be traded in for the glorious shades of green. Kansas has a way of making spring like no other place. There is always the possibility that Kansas could grant us a surprise blanket of that white stuff when we least expect it, but clearly the seasons are changing.

Spring brings with it one of the great truths of life, there are second chances. Spring makes us all feel that way, but will you be better this year? Will you use your second chances? In the Psalms I am learning that God enjoys giving men and women second chances, but often folks just refuse to take advantage of them. God showers us with forgiveness, but some just let the rain run off like water across a concrete parking lot.

Grass won’t grow where the water isn’t allowed to soak in. Grace won’t grow where forgiveness isn’t accepted. The opportunity for change comes in part through understanding the roots of our first failures. Sometimes the best thing to do with the past is just burn it off and start over. This takes a great deal of honesty to just face your mistakes and take responsibility and confess your fault.

Sometimes after a long dry winter we can really see the results better and accept our part in the problem. Allow grace to soak into your life this spring, accept God’s forgiveness through admitting your failures to Him.

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“The wind blows where it will.” Controlling the wind is not an easy thing to do, but men are trying to harness it everywhere. I see huge blades going down the interstate. They are part of large wind turbine fields where power is being transformed to electricity.

I hope that wind doesn’t become just another commodity, because it is much more mysterious and wonderful. The sound of trees recently in the night air outside as I went for firewood was the product of an orchestra set up by God and the coursing breezes across the Kansas hillside where my home rests. I could choose that night to not listen, but fortunately my heart was not closed to the performance.

So much of life comes down to listening to quiet sounds. It is easy to shut out the choir because of the past pains and present alarms. A tear drifts down our cheek and instead of feeling it we wipe it away not wanting to feel all that God is doing. It can’t be good, because it hurts, we think to ourselves. We miss the sound of breeze of God’s grace because our hearts want to be insulated from all things outside of our control.

Just because we can’t control it does not mean that it is uncontrolled. The liar says to our hearts, “it is random and without purpose.” But listen closely it may be a note of song not yet fully sung. God is composing not a jingle for an advertisement, but a sonnet for His love.

My nephew plays a flute. I think God plays a winding flute; haunting, bold, careful, and measured. His flute sings to my heart, but I only listen to parts. As I grow older may I listen to more, and be less frightened by each pause.

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Driving to work today in the dark, I was thinking about all the daylight I was saving. Soon daylight savings will come to an end. We allow the government to do this, yet we make fun of people that do the same thing in a smaller way. They set their watches ahead five minutes thinking it will help them save time and still they arrive late!

Clocks are everywhere it’s hardly necessary to even wear a watch. We have the time on our phones, the dash of the car, the stove, microwave, and television.

It seems that we are controlled by time. Animals don’t wear watches, but men are creatures of time. God made us that way. He put it within man to consider the time.

I wake up in the night and hear the chimes on my clock and feel a certain comfort. I wind that clock once a week on Sunday morning. Speaking of Sunday, God made that day special for men to help them understand their time. People talk about saving time, but that is not really possible. We can use time efficiently but we cannot save time.

Time is one of the great constants. God intends for men to understand their time, and to grasp His provision within their time. We can become time controlled to the point that we are no longer time conscious, so caught up with our schedule that we forget to live our lives. That is not good.
God wants us to see our limits and time helps us to understand that we need God. Within your day today, seek God. It will be time well spent.

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