As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lessons From a Watermelon

In one of my ministry groups, we are discussing the fruit of the Spirit. Last night, someone brought up the idea of God needing to prune us to make us more effective. The exact context was talking about things that harm us or our testimony. The application was that God needs to cut off what isn’t useful. That’s great… for a tree.

Not every fruit-bearing plant is a tree. Some things are vines.

My mom and I tried (unsuccessfully) to grow watermelon in our garden last year. Watermelons grow on a vine, and let me tell you, the vine was crazy. It found its way all over our back porch. It was climbing up our fence and strangling our tomatoes. After about three weeks of wild growth, we decided to trim it back. There was a slight problem. It was all one vine. It was not many branches of one vine, it was one vine. One wrong cut would kill the plant. So, we had to unravel it. We found it to be well over ten feet long. The poor thing was so busy growing and reaching that it couldn’t produce fruit. The nutrients were spread too far. They were spread over too much ground space. If we did have any watermelons, they would be too far from the roots.

Sometimes, God has to prune back healthy, vibrant life in order to ensure an abundant fruitful life.

At the moment, I am like that watermelon vine. I have myself spread too far. I’m not involved in bad things. I’m not involved in a variety of ministries. I have one vine. One vine that has just become so long that I can’t keep up with it. I can’t bring forth abundant fruit when I am trying to pump energy through 10 feet of vinework.

That hurts.

This is not the first time I have had to trim back. I have to cut off things I love. Ministries that are healthy and God-honoring, in order to make sure that I am at my top level of performance in the ministries that are closest to my roots.

But God is the Divine Husbandman. I have to trust Him. Just like that watermelon plant, if I am left to myself, I will keep spreading, looking for coverage instead of productivity. When the first frost in my life comes, I will be tilled under and marked as fruitless. I don’t want that. Neither does God.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fortune Cookie Faith

I received a text from a friend the other day. It had something to do with seeking the will of God for our lives. Anyone who knows me knows I am all for a good, deep spiritual discussion, even debate. Anytime! Seriously. If things are veering toward the spiritual, everything else goes on hold. But then there are times, times like the other day, when ‘deep’ went no further than the wading pool at the local park. We weren’t even in the shallow end! Our toes barely went under water. Those days frustrate me.

The Bible is our truth, is it not? Are we not called to consume it like meat and milk?

Then why on earth are Christians settling for regurgitated leftovers? I have never seen a person walk up to a cafeteria line and, when faced with the choice of mac and cheese or meatloaf say, “Well, I really don’t want either. I just can’t stand the work to chew them. Would you mind taking a mouthful of each and chewing them up for me? Maybe mix a little bit of the fruit salad in there too, just so I can have a balanced diet. Chew it up real good and then put it on my plate. I won’t even need a fork or a spoon; I’ll just get a straw.”

That kind of stuff doesn’t happen!! You do not do that when you are getting your physical food, so why depend on someone else to chew up your spiritual food? It makes no sense, but we are still doing it!

Instead of delving into God’s word and searching through the depths of His grace for ourselves, we crack open the nearest inspirational living book and make it the new Bible. As a soon-to-be author, this fact scares me because, trust me, none of us consider ourselves God. Not a one of us. Can we be inspirational? Sure. Greeting cards can be inspirational, but only the Bible is inspired.

The great thing about the depths of God is that we all bring something to the table when we discuss it. Just like with food, there are different contrasts and dimensions to flavor that one of us might taste while another is totally oblivious. In this is the beauty of Christian fellowship. It is like a group of friends, sitting down in a restaraunt, each ordering something different, then sampling each other’s food. No one expects their friend to chew up a bite and then spit it out for them to try. That is unheard of.

The Christian life is something we discover on our own. God has shaped us with individual personalities, talents, and desires- “tastes” if you will- that make our walk with Christ uniquely ours. It cannot be matched by anyone else. It is meant to be consumed in whole by us as individuals, not blended and mass distributed.

I often accuse people of having a ‘fortune cookie faith.’ Those people are the ones who have read way too many books on Christian living and have one too many “cute Christian quote of the day’ calendars. Know someone like that? You give them a call, share your burden and they spit out some mindless modern-day Hagaddah that you have to sort through and apply. Some cliche lame answer that, while it is true, has no depth at all. Just like fortune cookies!

Situation: “My husband just lost his job. We don’t really know what to do. It’s hard. It’s so hard to trust.”

Fortune cookie reads: “God will take care of you.”

Situation: “We just lost our son. He was so young. We don’t understand.”

Fortune cookie reads: “God is in control.”

Situation: “I am trying to find the will of God in my life. I am just praying and don’t know.”

Fortune Cookie: “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.”

They are cute sayings. Little spiritual crumbs that have fallen from someone else’s meal and we treat them like they are never-ending vats of oil and flour. They are cute sayings, and that is as far as they go- sayings. Is there truth in them? yes. Are they the Truth? Absolutely not.

If you think that those people don’t already know that God is in control, you probably have another guess coming. A friend of mine just experienced a heart-breaking situation and all of the Christian Neosporin in the world just stung more. Brainless quotes like, “Well, God knows” or “God has a reason” or “It must not have been God’s will” do not help a hurting heart.

A fortune cookie faith is not effective. Basing your walk with God on the crumbs of others will lead you to a very bland, and unhealthy life with Christ. You will play like a broken record and be shallow until the day you die if you don’t learn how to communicate the truth for yourself. If you don’t want to dig into the Word to find answers, if you don’t want to pray about how to handle a situation before you open your mouth, then get off the court and zip it. Leave the field open for the people who have teeth.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I will Walk On

I absolutely love when I stumble across a song that speaks right to what God has been teaching me. Music can be such a tool in our lives. It gets that hook in our head and, if it is Godly, that hook can affirm truths in ways no other thing can.

Today, just moments ago, I came across “Walk On” by 4Him. The chorus is simple but anthemic and motivating.

“I chose to take this road called faith. I will walk on. I trust that You will lead me through. I will walk on.”

The whole concept of a determined faith is something that God has been establishing over the past months. The idea that my faith is a choice. It is a determination and in every moment of every day it is a choice I make.

Scripture says I cannot serve two masters. Over and over Christ tells us to take up our cross and follow. He isn’t throwing our cross at us. It is a determined will and choice to take up a cross. No man wakes up one morning and wonders how this burden has landed on his shoulder, he knows he has chosen this because the prize in the end is worth it all.

That is faith.

Faith is stopping on the easy road, turning and seeing a rugged cross lying there in the dirt. It is looking up and seeing a cloud of dust and in that cloud is a figure, Christ bearing His cross. It is seeing Him turning, looking over His shoulder, and saying simply, “Follow me.” Faith is that decision, to turn to our right and wave the world goodbye, to kneel down, grasp that cross, place the crux on our shoulder, straighten up as much as we can under its weight, fix our eyes on Christ, and move. At any moment, we can drop that cross if we would like, but through the sweat and the tears, even the blood, we press on, because Christ did the same for us.

That is faith.

“The course is set. Life’s hard but yet, we will walk on. Around each bend, until the end, we will walk on.”