One for the Worm, One for the Crow


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One for the Worm, One for the Crow

Congratulations! It’s a…

We found some baby oak trees in our yard. Apparently the squirrels and birds have been moving the acorns around because these little trees are nowhere near the young oak trees we already have growing. We left three where they are and put tomato cages around them so we don’t accidentally mow them down. We transplanted some to pots. The dirt fell away from most of them as we removed them from the ground. A couple of them still had the acorns attached. Most didn’t. It was nowhere to be found.

“Some Greeks” sought out Jesus while they were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. They were there to worship. Who were they? Were they descendants of Jews who had immigrated to Greece? Were they Greeks in the more common sense in which the word is used among Jews at this time – as a generic term for Gentiles, non-Jews? And were they then proselytes, Gentiles who had accepted the Jewish religion? We don’t know. Nor do we know for certain why they were seeking Jesus, or if Jesus met with them. From the passage, it would appear He did not.

Instead, He responded with words about His pending death. He knew that it was soon, and that through it, He, as the “Son of Man,” would be glorified. But He also knew the nature of His death – that He would be “lifted up” – raised up above the ground and hung on a cross. It was not a pretty picture, and certainly didn’t sound glorious or glorifying. His words describe Himself and what He was doing, but also set forth principles that apply to each of us.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Jesus knew that His death was going to result in life. Life always comes out of death. As trees die in a forest, they become the compost that fertilize the next generation. A seed has to die to become a fruit-bearing plant. In an earlier post I told of a poem my dad shared with me when I asked him why he put four seeds in each hole when he planted his corn.

One for the worm
One for the crow
One to rot
One to grow

So, if a seed has to die in order to bear fruit, it obviously is not either of the ones consumed by the worm or crow. Although we associate rotting with death, that seed obviously doesn’t grow either. So, the one that grows must be the one to which Jesus referred. A seed must die to being a seed in order to grow. So our baby trees that had no acorn attached, the tree was all that was left of that acorn.

It is a principle that goes back to the first Garden. When Adam and his wife felt the shame of their sin, exposed before God and one another in the vulnerability of their nakedness – physically and spiritually – God lovingly covered them. The death of that first sacrifice, to clothe them in animal skin, set the precedent of life out of death. It goes back to Noah and the animals and humans who were saved on the ark and came forth to start the world anew. It goes back to Abraham when God had promised him descendants through Isaac and then told him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar. Abraham had learned by that time that God’s promise was immutable and irrevocable, and that if God truly meant for him to go through with this, that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Because he demonstrated his willingness to trust God even in this, God provided a ram as the sacrifice, Abraham received Isaac “from death,” and Isaac received the promise that had been given to his father and became the ancestor of many nations.

And these words of Jesus spoke to the future. They are a promise to all who come to Jesus at the cross. His death becomes our death. His cross becomes our cross. His resurrection becomes ours. His life becomes ours. If we take up our cross daily, we will live. If we lose our life, we will keep it to life eternal. If we “die” to self we will bear much fruit. If we serve Him and follow Him, we will abide with Him and be honored by His Father.

Have you been through, or are you going through, a time of struggle? Do you feel like there’s nothing left to hold onto?

Jesus knew people, like the Greeks in John 12, were seeking Him because He had done some really impressive things – like raising Lazarus from the dead. He also knew that in a few days, He would die on a cross. It would not be so cool or impressive at the time. However, it would be the beginning of life for all who would be willing to let go of this world and its struggles, die to self, and live through Him.

A seed must die to being a seed in order to become a fruit-bearing plant. http://bit.ly/2pqC0eI Click To Tweet
click to retweet, and send me a direct message on my Facebook page with your email or Kindle email address, or sign up for e-mail on my blog, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s book – In Him There Is No Darkness. Jean was born blind and crippled. She was my aunt. Her autobiography is inspiring as she tells of the loneliness of a child who cannot see, who cannot run and play with others, and how she chose God as her best friend, for life.

The Christmas Mystery


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The Christmas Mystery

How can rational, 21st century man embrace a religion founded some 2,000 years ago? I’m sorry, but how can he not? How can he not realize that although man is building and discovering and accomplishing amazing things, man has not changed. He is still brutal, manipulative, self-centered, and downright ugly at heart – capable of amazing anger, bitterness, cruelty, harshness and vitriol. Yes, much harm has been done in the name of Christ and the so-called “Christian religion.” But this is not the Christ or the Christianity of the Bible.

christmas_love

“The Christmas Mystery” evokes images of a fictional story taking place at Christmas time involving searching for something, or solving some crime, or reasoning out someone’s strange behavior. There are myriad of possibilities, many of which have been explored in books and movies and TV programs. But this mystery was proclaimed centuries, even millennia ago. It was revealed on that first Christmas night when a young man and woman, deeply in love with one another, found refuge in a barn and laid their newborn baby in a bed of hay in a trough used for feeding cattle – a manger.

What was so mysterious about this event? We’ve told the story countless times in countless ways. We have sung songs about it. We have made into the biggest event on our annual calendar.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote out a prayer. He prayed that God would grant, according to the riches of His glory, two things:

  1. You to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man
  2. Christ to indwell your heart through faith

There is a wealth of truth in those two phrases, but for now, let’s focus on the indwell part. The word used there means to be at home. Literally, it could be translated “to house down.” That’s kind of an odd way of saying it, but it means to settle in, to be not just in a place of dwelling, but to be comfortably at home.

The results of this prayer would be that you would comprehend the full dimensions of the love of Christ and know it in a way that would surpass all knowledge, and that you would “be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Paul described himself as a steward of “the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from the ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the gory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

The Christmas story is not just a baby in a manger, it is God indwelling His people. It is the gospel story of this child, God with us – Emmanuel – God among us – the creator wrapping Himself in the creation, confining Himself to this tiny little wrapper, growing as a child, becoming a man, living a sinless life, making knowing and fully depending on the heavenly Father His top priority – taking on the death of the cross – the One who did not deserve death dying for those of us who do, then conquering death through the resurrection.  So that He can abide eternally, not just in heaven, but in the each heart that follows Him by faith.

Colossians 1:21-27 – “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard… Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Not just God with us, but Christ in us. That is the mystery of Christmas. God became man and dwelt among us. In doing so, he only began enacting a series of events that would result in the creator of the universe coming to make His home in your heart. In the process, He would make you holy and blameless and beyond reproach. He would make you a house so beautiful that God Himself would be comfortable dwelling there.

 

My God and I

Jean Ellzey was born in October 1924. She was born blind. It was later discovered she also had a debilitating bone disease, severe curvature of the spine, and dwarfism. The doctors didn’t expect her to survive even a year. She passed away in 1993 at the age of 69.

My Aunt Jean had a great voice. She even taught piano and voice, and children’s choir, and sang in the adult choir at church. One of the songs I most remember her singing was “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” I know a lot of people associated her with that song because she sang it so beautifully. I guess I always kind of thought of it as her favorite song. A few weeks ago I was reading her autobiography (again), and noticed she said her favorite song was “My God and I.”

My God and I go in the field together,
We walk and talk, as good friends should and do.
We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter,
My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

Pretty cool, huh? She was blind, crippled, never walked without holding on to something or someone. Because she could not walk or see with her eyes as a child, she spent a lot of time alone as the other children around her ran and played. She longed for a friend. She chose God for her best friend. She stuck with that choice her entire life. She couldn’t go for walks, but I know from personal observation that she spent a lot of time talking with her best Friend.

The second verse says:

He tells me of the years that went before me,
When heavenly plans were made for me to be,
When all was but a dream of dim conception,
To come to life, earth’s verdant glory see.

That’s an interesting verse for someone born blind. She “saw” only what she could touch with her hands. She never saw the glorious, green (verdant) grass and trees that surrounded her growing up in northwest Louisiana. Verdant can also mean “young, youthful.” The true glory of earth when it was very young was that God walked with man in the garden. This is how it was meant to be. This was Aunt Jean’s choice – to spiritually walk with God day by day as faithfully as she could. As a result, she saw more of the glory for which we are created than most of us ever will.

My God and I will go for aye together,
We’ll walk and talk and jest as good friends do;
This earth will pass and with it common trifles,
But God and I will go unendingly.

“Go for aye.” I always wondered what that meant, and why in the song it was pronounced with a long “a” sound rather than a long “i” (as in all in favor say, “aye”). I finally looked it up. The long “a” pronunciation is from Middle English according to the dictionary and is a poetic way of saying “ever, or always.” My God and I will always go together. Makes sense.

I tend to kind of stumble over the next line, too. I can visualize the walk and talk part, but the idea of jesting with God always has felt a little strange. I mean, I’m pretty sure God has a sense of humor. He created man and gave us a sense of humor and an ability to laugh. I have had a few occasions in prayer where talking with God I saw the humor in a situation. Still, “jesting with God” is not an easy concept to grasp. Before she died, Aunt Jean dreamed about dying and going to heaven. My mom asked her what she did when she got to heaven. Aunt Jean said, “I was running around seeing people.” I have to say, that still makes me chuckle. I love it that God gave blind, crippled Aunt Jean a dream where she was “running around, seeing people.” Mom even asked her about who she saw, and Aunt Jean gave a very accurate description of their grandfather, Papa Sibley. God does have a sense of humor.

I should maybe choose Him as my best friend, too. How about you? This earth will pass, and with it all the huge things we worry about from pimples to cancer, from gnats to presidential politics. When it does, wouldn’t it be great to spend eternity with your Best Friend?

Retweet this and send me your email address, and I’ll send you a digital copy of Jean Ellzey’s autobiography – “In Him There Is No Darkness.”

This earth will pass & with it everything we fret over from pimples to cancer, but God & I… Click To Tweet

Two songs


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Two songs

My sin – oh wait. this is so cool. Just the thought of this makes me overflow with joy
My sin – not just part of it, not just one sin, but all of it!
Every sin I’ve ever done is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. It is well with my soul.

Or, as Philip Bliss put it:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
It is well, It is well with my soul.

And then there’s this jewel by my dear friend Dennis Jernigan. It’s called “I Will Run to the Arms of My Father.” It’s been awhile since I sang this one, but I pulled it out during my quiet time, and as I sang and thought about how much my heavenly Father really loves me and delights in me, I thought of family and friends who need to hear this. Not just hear it with their ears, but hear it and receive it in their hearts! Oh, to know the love of the Father – God, who not only loves, but is Himself the true meaning of love – who directs that love toward you and me. He loves us with a love a love that will not let us go.

Again I’m brought to the prayer:

Lord, grant them to be strengthened with might by Your Spirit in their innermost being,
and grant Christ to indwell their hearts through faith,
so that:
they may be able to really grasp, really embrace in their heart of hearts,
the breadth and length and height and depth – the full dimensions of the love of Christ
and to truly know – experientially, personally, see it for themselves so that they truly know – the love of Christ, which is greater than all other knowledge!
and be filled with all the fullness of God.

May Christ truly be that at home in your heart today. May he feel totally, comfortably at home in you. And may you find yourself to be enabled with His ability, strengthened with His strength, empowered with His power, by His Spirit in your spirit. God loves you that much! He, the God of the universe, the creator of the universe, wants to confine Himself to that itty-bitty space – inside of you, so that You can know and experience a universe size love. And so, He sent His son to live as man, an innocent, holy life, and die on a cross – taking all of your sin and mine with Him there, and leaving it there – nailed to the cross, so we bear it no more.

God, the creator of the universe confines Himself in itty-bitty me so I can know a universe size love. Click To Tweet

hislove

Need to know love?

I was praying  this morning, and it turned into praying for someone to  know more of God’s love. Paul prayed a prayer in Ephesians 3, and it became the core of my prayer this morning. I’m putting a blank, instead of a specific pronoun, so that it can be an example of how to pray scripture. In this context, it isn’t about the person for whom I prayed, but rather, hopefully, a help to others as to how to pray.

Father, I lift _____ to you, and ask that you would give him/her the heart of a child toward you – a heart that trusts – eloquent in its simplicity. Lovingly trusting.

Help_______to see that their problems are not due to a lack of love and kindness on Your part, but rather due to the evil that men have invited into the world, and to which those around them have yielded their hearts.

And open ______ eyes to see their own children for what they really are – for as they do, it will help _____ understand their own need for You as Father.  Those little ones are just children in search of love and tenderness – someone they can trust with their own child heart and faith. Help______ to see, and to teach their children, that life is not about sex or sexuality or even gender, and neither is love. Help ______ to see that their own search for worldly love has left him/her feeling empty, and grant that _____ would know Your love in all its fullness:

Lord, grant, according to [in proportion to] the riches of Your glory, _______ to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in their innermost being, and grant Christ to indwell [literally be comfortably at home in] _____ heart through faith. This I know will have the following results – so that, _______ being rooted and grounded in love,
may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,

that _______ may be filled up to ALL the fullness of God.

Strengthened with power – verb and noun form in Greek of the word dunamis – ability! Through His Spirit – God’s ability turned loose in us. Christ indwelling us – being at home in us – so comfortably at home that He could kick back with His feet on the coffee table and just know He belongs there.

When those to things happen, the result is we come to know the love of Christ in its fullest dimensions – a knowledge greater than any the world offers, and we experience the fullness of what it means to be God’s house.

An Invitation


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An Invitation

How to be joyful, without faking it.

Come join me on a journey into joy. We are supposed to have joy as Christians, right? How do you find joy in a world like we have seen this month? The death of two black men at the hands of police officers and the media jumping on it without knowing whether or not the shootings were “justified.” Then the sniper attack on police in Dallas resulting in five dead officers and others wounded. Then a terrorist attack in Nice, France leaving over 80 dead. Finally, a failed attempted coup in Turkey.

And that’s the world stage! Then, there’s where we live. Friends dealing with cancer, marital problems, divorce, financial struggles, pressures at work and home.

Sounds pretty grim. And we’re supposed to be joyful?

 

Relentlessjoy

 

In my welcome to this blog, I shared an experience that set me on this journey many years ago. And it is a journey. I first wrote “Extreme Thanks” in 1991, under the title “He Is a Rewarder.” I’ve tried to come up with an elevator speech to answer the question, “What’s it about?”  I’m still working on it. I’m open to ideas.

It’s about learning to give thanks always for all things. Hmmm. What’s that tell you? Needs a little fleshing out.

Well, giving thanks is a form of praying, and it’s a part of prayer. So, the book is kind of about praying. Giving thanks is also a way of telling God that you trust Him in a given situation to work that situation for your good and His glory. So, it’s about trust and faith. Giving thanks helps us let go of our fears and learn to be joyful, to find God’s strength for our trials. It helps us be joyful even through our trials. So, it’s about finding joy. It’s all of that, and more.

It really is a journey. And the journey continues as I grow and learn.

Here’s the thing…

I’m not a “professional” Christian. I don’t get paid for it. I have pastored, been a music and youth minister, but that was a long time ago. As a lay-person, I’ve led worship, led home church and cell church groups. For my entire adult life, since college, I have worked full-time at “real world” jobs. There have been times through the years that I have been more successful at living out and applying the lessons I’ve learned and written about than others. Now I’m at a place where I really need to just live it, to the extreme, to the maximum. It is my heart’s deep desire to just walk in the joy of the Lord, and I know that is wrapped up in joyfully giving thanks always for all things to a God who is faithful to work all things for my good, and His glory.

The Invitation

I submit that God’s love is relentless. His tenderness toward us is relentless. In response, our faith and our expression of faith through thanksgiving should be relentless. The result will be a relentless joy. God's love, relentless. God's tenderness, relentless. Our response - relentless faith and thanksgiving. The result,… Click To Tweet

So, I invite you to walk with me on this journey. Learn with me. Grow with me. And, while we’re at it, you can help me develop my blog and my book into something relevant, meaningful, and helpful – especially helpful.

A Jewel from My Journal


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A Jewel from My Journal

Back in ancient times, when personal computers were little more than a gleam in the eyes of men like Steve Jobs & Bill Gates, people didn’t blog. There was no web to log your thoughts on. You actually had to use paper and pen.

surprise

I know! Right? I can almost hear your collective audible gasps!

I was reading back through one of the volumes of my spiritual journal, mainly to verify exactly what year I originally wrote the manuscript for my book, and I found a number of entries of lessons learned and prayers answered that I had forgotten about. (Hmm. Must be why I kept a journal.) Here’s an example. The church we were attending, AnchorChurch in Ft. Worth, had a prayer ministry. Because I traveled during the week, and did not want to take time from my family when I was home on weekends, I took a turn praying from 3:00-6:00 on Sunday mornings. I spent the first 2 hours praying in the prayer room over the prayer requests, and the third hour walking and praying in the auditorium for the church and the services later that day.

On Sunday, 12/2, as I was praying in the AnchorChurch meeting place, I found myself praying in the center of the platform, that from that very spot, healing would go forth.  That something would happen, and from right there, life and healing would go out to the whole body of AnchorChurch.

That morning, the pastor, Tim Taylor, stood before the church and in brokenness confessed his need of us.  He then sat down right where I had stood earlier, in order for people to gather around him and pray over him.  As he was prayed over, the father of one of our worship leaders, who was visiting that Sunday, said that during the praise time he had sensed in Anchor a “spirit of rejection,” and invited all who were dealing with that to come forward.  Almost all who were there did.  And the healing began.

It was not because I had prayed, per se, but because it was His will!  Because it was His will, He put it in my heart to pray for it.  If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, we know we have what we request of Him (1 John 4:14-15).  Because it was His will, He chose to do it, and put it in my heart to pray it and open the door for Him to work it.  He is at work, both to will and to work for His good pleasure! (Philippians 2:13).

Share a time when God put something on your heart to pray about, and then proved it by answering. Feel free to share any answered prayers.

Sometimes God inspires us to pray for something, then provides it. He wills, and He works. Click To Tweet