Monday, July 28, 2014

Of Plastic Fruit and That One Thing We Know for Sure



Recently, a friend reminded me of something one of our college professors used to say,

 “Have you ever seen a tree branch sweat?”

Christ said He is the true vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing (see John 15).

How many of us are like a branch that works and sweats, but only produces what my friend calls “plastic fruit”?

We stick “plastic fruit” on the otherwise unproductive branches of our lives and the result is fruit that looks good from a distance, but is worse than no fruit at all.





We all have heroes of Scripture. I think the blind man who was healed by Jesus and confronted by the Pharisees is on my top ten list (John 9).

Boldly, he told only what he knew, and that truth shot arrows at the religious hypocrisy of the day.

Blind for years, but healed in a moment, he had this to say to the questions and doubts and plastic fruit of the religious leaders,

“One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).


Putting on an outward show didn't even enter the equation for this man. Christ had done everything for him, and that's all that mattered.
 
One thing we know for sure: We were blind once, but now we see.

That’s really all we need to know.

Anything we do and any effort that that doesn’t magnify that truth is plastic fruit—a show of good, but lacking anything life-sustaining.

One thing is for sure.

Christ stepped into your life and mine when we were blind, and He gave us sight.

We didn’t receive sight out of sweat and tears.

He performed that miracle.

That alone is fruit enough to share.

Real fruit.

Only Christ can produce fruit through your life and mine.

The One who gives sight to the blind.

Who did that for us.

Who can do that for others.

The one thing we know for sure.





Monday, July 21, 2014

The Only Answer for a Broken Life



He was standing at the corner of a busy intersection just waiting to cross.

Standing there while many drove right on by—living their broken lives.

I noticed this man for one reason only.

A Bible was tucked under his arm.




An unusual sight on a corner like that one.
Unusual in our city.
And unusual in our day.

When did the only answer for a broken life become unusual? 

Why is God’s Word hated? Forgotten? Left on a shelf?

Left unopened?





She sat across from me, and I asked her if she went to church.

“No. I’m divorced and single again. I need my weekends to catch up.”

“Do you read the Bible during the week then?” I quietly asked.

Because she needs God’s Word.

We each need God’s Word.

Life's too broken to keep our Bibles closed.

“I’ve never read the whole Bible,” he admitted.

Then he grinned. “I always fall asleep.”

He had told me about his very broken life.

And God’s Word remains closed?

God spoke and galaxies were set in motion, birds flew, and a man breathed his first breath.

God spoke.

And “how small a whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 26:14)

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The Word spoke words from a cross, and redeeming words have transformed millions of lives.

God’s words are written down.
Words that heal.
Words that save.

Sufficient words.

And our Bibles remain closed.

We’re too busy; too tired.

We drive on by, and miss the man on the corner with a Bible tucked under his arm.

A Bible read.

A Bible used.

A Bible opened and consumed is the only answer for a broken life.


"Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer. 15:16)



Monday, July 14, 2014

Where Peace Meets Grace



“Grace and Peace to you.”

Don’t you wish every letter started out this way?

A prayer for each other.
A prayer for two essential, life-sustaining elements.

“If you want peace, you must have grace,” our pastor said.

Because peace is something that has to be given.

Many ache for peace. Many look for peace in all the wrong places. 

They put on an outward peace, like a coat that hides all the turmoil underneath. They grope for outward peace, hoping it will seep down and touch the deep places of life that can’t ever seem to be settled.

But real, abiding peace is a gift.

A gift handed down from the One who is the Lord of peace.

“Peace has a Lord,” he went on to say.  A Lord who gives what is His by right.

And He gives it willingly to those who are His.

Peace isn’t something we wear.

Peace is a gift, unlike the world gives. Something that's designed to rule our hearts. 

Fruit of His Spirit.




Grace and Peace.

Two inseparable, life-sustaining elements.

Because if peace were not accompanied by grace, where would any of us be?


“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15)



Monday, July 7, 2014

A Simple Promise for a Hurried Life



I just spent an unhurried weekend in an unhurried town with a good friend who’s never in a hurry. (Thanks, K! ;-))




Coming from a hurried town and a hurried life, slowing down didn’t come easy.

Until slowing down was required—slower than I realized.
(Don’t ask me how I found out how slow in one of those very small, very unhurried towns. Let’s just say I wasn’t that slow, and a big guy handed me a little paper with a big number on it.)

The preacher in the old country church on Sunday spoke of Christ, the Bread of Life.

Our only sustenance.
            Our life.
The best provision.

Christ, the reason no one needs a hurried life.

We hurry for numerous reasons. More often than not, we hurry because we’re planning to do it all.

We have bills to pay, a life to live, dreams to reach for, and hopes to pursue.

We have to do it.

And we have to hurry about it.

“He has already provided,” the country preacher said. “And He has promised to provide.”


“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask . . . I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Matt. 6:8; Heb. 13:5)


A simple promise for a hurried life.

God will provide.


“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)





Monday, June 30, 2014

What Five Minutes in the Midst of Job Can Do



Wading through the advice of Job’s friends and Job’s own wishes that he’d never been born, you come across words you little expect from the heart of a man deep in the wilderness of pain and suffering.

Early on in his pain, Job worshiped God.

Everything was taken away. But Job still held on to what he knew about God.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed by the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Some suggest he was still in shock.

Maybe it hadn’t hit him fully that all of his possessions and all his children (all of them!) were gone.

Maybe that’s why he was able to worship.

If you’ve ever experienced a chronic situation, you can place yourself in his shoes several days down the road.

The initial shock is over.

His friends have shared their opinions.

His faith is wearing thin.

. . .  But Job still worships God.

He supports his wavering faith with a two-pronged truth—a truth that has to go hand-in-hand:

God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. (Job 9:4)

Wise.

Mighty.

Two truths about God we can be grateful are both part of His being.
J.I. Packer once wrote, “In God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes Him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.”

God is “immortal, invisible.”

And He’s the “only wise God” (1 Timothy 1:17).

He is worthy of our trust, because He’s the powerfully wise God who unites His wisdom and power to move on our behalf and for His glory.

Nothing He ever allows is outside His wise plan. Nothing He wisely does is accomplished apart from His strength.

He orchestrates our world in perfect wisdom. He rides the heavens to our help (Deut. 33:26).

A wise God.

A strong God.

Two truths about God Job basked in when he was deep in the midst of His suffering.

Faith falters. Worship wanes. And life-sized questions loom.

But the two-pronged reminder that “God is wise” and “God is strong” can support any day.

Remembering who He is will always uphold our minutes.

Take five minutes to bolster your faith.

Bask in the truth that our God is both wise and strong.

Fully trustworthy.


“O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all.
. . . Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Psalm 104:24; Genesis 18:14)




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