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.

Work That Does Not Work

We got a new bird feeder! I love it. It’s squirrel proof. They step on the perch and the bird feeder goes to work. No matter how hard the squirrels work at getting the bird seed, all their efforts are without effect. All their work, does not work.

The way you get in is the way you go on. We get in by grace through faith, we go on by grace through faith. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to stress that the Christian life is one of grace and faith. He scolded the Galatians with, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ….” He told them, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” That’s “grace,” not “salvation.” An important point to note.

The word that is translated “severed from” is more literally translated “made of no effect” or “non-work.” It’s like when you type for hours on your computer and then shut it down before remembering to save your work. You worked, but the results are gone, as if you did no work at all.

The same word is used in Romans 6:6 with regard to our old nature and the flesh. “Our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with.” The tendency of the flesh toward its old sin patterns is made of no effect by the cross.

It also appears in Hebrews 2:14 where we are told that Jesus took on flesh and blood and went to the cross so that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil.” Through the Cross of Jesus, Satan is made of no effect.

We, on the other hand, are made of no effect when we try to go on by a different means than the way we got in. When we start seeking our justification in actions, deeds, doing, works, rules, or law, we have moved away from resting in His finished work on our behalf. We have moved away from, or fallen from, grace. We have moved away from the cross. We are made of no effect. All our efforts fail to produce the desired results. Our work does not work.

Do you feel powerless in your walk with the Lord? Do you find it impossible to always be holy, to always do the right thing? Great! Faith is not a system of religious beliefs. It is not a set of rules. It is not a denomination or a religion. All those things may fit a dictionary definition of the noun “faith.” None of them are what it means to “faith” God. Glory in your weakness. It is there that His ability shines through. Quit trying to do His work in your strength. There is no better place for you to be than in absolute dependence on the Father. That is faith.

Rest in Him. Depend on Him. That is death to self. That is the cross in the daily life. Walk in the grace that saved you. You may very well likely find yourself doing the same work you are doing now, but in His strength and ability and not your own. It will be a work characterized by inner peace, not emotional turmoil, striving and burnout. You may struggle, but it will be the struggle to rest, not the struggle to work.

The Greek word usually translated “power” is dunamis. It means natural ability, or inherent capability. Consider God. What is He capable of doing? How powerful is He? What are His abilities?

Now, whose ability would your rather operate in, yours or His?

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The word of the cross is to . . .  us who are being saved . . . the power of God.”

Our old nature is made of no effect by the cross. Satan is made of no effect by the cross. When we get away from the cross, we are made of no effect. But through the cross, the daily resting in Him and not ourselves, we find the very ability of God at work within us.

Profoundly Simple, Simply Profound


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Profoundly Simple, Simply Profound

Okay, so God’s the “prime mover.” He reaches out to man and provides a means of reconciliation. He calls us to Himself. He provides atonement for our sins. He wrapped Himself in flesh and opened the way for us to abide in His presence. Our part is to cease from our own efforts – whether to run from Him or to Him – and rest in the work He has accomplished for us. He loved us before we first loved Him. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.

Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him.”

What does that mean? The key is in the little words: “as” and “so.” They both basically mean “in the same manner.” It means the way you received Him is the way you walk in Him. In other words, “The way you get in, is the way you go on.”

hallelujah

Is it not true that you had to reach a place where you realized that you did not, and could not, please God? You needed a savior because you could not save yourself. Before you ever reached that awareness, Jesus had done everything necessary to secure your salvation. So, you ceased from all your efforts to save yourself. You stopped trying to make yourself pleasing to Him. You rested in what Jesus had already accomplished for you. That’s what we all have in common as Christians. It does not matter what your “testimony” is at that point. You may have come from a life of degradation and unspeakable evil. You may have been a murderer, an adulterer, prostitute or frequent customer of prostitutes, or a thief. You may have been cruel and brutal. You may have been a drunkard or drug addict. You may have been a victim of one of those evils. You may have been a little child who never did much of anything wrong. You may have never seen the inside of a church. You may have been in church since you were old enough to be taken after your birth. To become a Christian, at some point, you realized God loves you, and did all that was needed for your salvation. You stopped striving in your own efforts, and you rested in His work. The way you get in is the way you go on.

You went to the cross. You saw that Jesus died for you. It was not only His place of death, it was yours. You died to yourself. Like the seed that falls in the ground and dies, you died to your “seedness” in order to become what He made you to be. You died with Christ. Dead men do not work. The way you get in is the way you go on. Go to the cross daily.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not as a result of work, lest any man should boast. By grace through faith. By His doing. Not of works. The way you get in is the way you go on.

God does not intend for you to live the Christian life in your own strength. It is not a life of striving to be pleasing, or acceptable, or to appease God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The righteous shall live by rules? No. The righteous shall live by faith. The way you get in is the way you go on.

You get in by the cross, you go on by the cross.

You get in by grace through faith, you go on by grace through faith.

You get in by ceasing from your own efforts and resting in His finished work on your behalf; you go on by ceasing from your own efforts and resting in His work.

Does this make sense? Do you know that God really does love you, because He chooses to? Do you understand the value He places on you? Do you realize, that was not just for when you got saved (got in) – it is for today, and every day as you walk in Him (go on in Him)? Feel free to raise questions, or to share how learning this made a difference in your life.

Corn Kernel Christianity


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Corn Kernel Christianity

Wo! Spring is coming. Can you believe it?!? It’s almost time to plant our garden. I always have the best intentions in the Fall. I’m going to till the garden several times during the winter – work in material from the compost bins and leaves from the yard. In January, I realize I haven’t done that yet. I had not even pulled out all the dead plants until a few days ago.

When I was a child, I watched my Dad plant his garden. He would till it up and form the rows or mounds, depending on the type of crop. He would go along and punch small indentations for the seeds, then come back and drop in the seeds – four in each hole, for most of the plants. When I asked him, “Why four?” He said it was what he had learned from his grandfather, and told me a little poem.

farmerpoem

John 12:24 says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” I thought about my great-granddad’s poem in light of that verse and had to ask, which one was Jesus referring to? Obviously the ones eaten by worm and crow are gone and don’t produce fruit. The one that rots is surely dead, but doesn’t grow or bring forth fruit. That would mean that the one that grows, is also the one that dies in order to produce. If it dies, how does it produce fruit? And, if it dies, why doesn’t it rot?

Remember in school when you put a seed in a jar and filled the jar with dirt or paper so that the seed was pressed against the glass and you could watch it grow. Eventually, it began to split open and sent out a little root. A stem broke through and began to unfurl little leaves. Soon you had a little plant with a seed stuck to its side. Before long, as the plant continued to grow, there was no sign of the seed itself.

A seed must cease to be a seed and become a plant. It must die to being a seed in order to become the stalk on which more seeds can be produced.

After I finished my cancer treatment, I was told by the doctor it was “gone; we got it all.” People would ask me, “How are you doing?” But there was something different in how it sounded. It was especially noticeable when Trish and I were together. They would ask her how she was doing, in a normal, cheerful-greeting, kind of voice. They would ask me, “and how are you doing?” It would be said with seriousness, sometimes with brow wrinkled by concern, in a slightly hushed voice appropriately seasoned with a hint of sympathy, bordering on sorrow. It used to irritate me a little. I would usually just answer with a cheerful, “I’m fine,” or “I’m great.” Although sometimes I would, with almost the same degree of seriousness add, “How are you doing?”

I am a little ashamed I let it bother me. I still occasionally get the same kind of inquiry. While I do not want pity, when you think how flippantly we inquire into one another’s well being without really caring, I realize how blessed I am that they are genuinely asking after my health. When I tell them it has been five years now and I am still cancer free, they are sincerely happy for me. It often leads to their mentioning another friend who had cancer, or is currently going through treatment.

Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Sometimes that happens just in our choosing to do the right thing, or choosing to not do the wrong thing. Sometimes it comes through major struggles and disasters. Sometimes it is through the loss of a loved one through death or divorce. Sometimes it is a battle with injury or disease – such as cancer. In all these things, as our world is shaken, we can either cling to things that eventually go away or fall apart, or we can cling to the Eternal. We can be devoured by worm or crow, or rot in our self-centered misery. Or, we can die to our small and petty “seedness,” and grow and thrive and produce much fruit in Him.

Which seed do you want to be? How do you respond to life’s challenges? What experiences have you had that have taken you to a deeper understanding of God’s love and faithfulness?