The Fresh Fruits of Summer are here!

The summer tent is back up on Allisonville Road by the Church. And with the Tent all kinds of fresh produce are once again available.
When we lived in Oregon, I would drive by a large fruit farm everyday on my way to the office. The sign listed every kind of fruit imaginable that the farm produced. In the cold and damp winter the trees and fields looked pretty bleak, but in the spring everything turned green and began to show promise for the harvest. I was really looking forward to the harvest season when all the fresh fruit right from the vine would be available.
I never tasted that fruit as we moved back to Indiana before the fruit was ready for harvest. But seeing all the fruit got me to thinking . . .

In the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23) we read about the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God wants to grow in our lives. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  We each would like to have these characteristics, but it’s hard to always love, or be good or self-controlled when things aren’t going our way or we are tired or some one is giving us a hard time.

I have news for you. God doesn’t even want you to try to be these things all by yourself in your own strength. He wants to grow these characteristics in you. He does that when you spend time with Him. Just like you are influenced by other people when you spend time with them and become kind of like them, you are influenced by God when you spend time with Him and become like Him.

You can spend time with God by reading the Bible and listening to what He wants to say to you. You also spend time with Him when you pray to Him or when you go to a Bible Study or Prayer time at church with your friends. The more time you spend with God the more fruit the Holy Spirit can produce in your life.

So, as you spend time tending your garden, shopping the produce department of your favorite grocery, visit a Farmer’s Market, shop under a Tent and take time to enjoy that Indiana-grown cantaloupe and then stop for a moment and ponder what fruit is being produced in your life.

Take time this summer to spend time with God and ask Him to begin to ripen some new fruit in your life.
After all, we could all use a little more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
May God bring us each and abundant harvest this summer!

Learning to play the Fool …

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Working in Septic Tank in Guatemala
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Leviticus 25:35 NIV
Serving Food to the Needy

 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  James 1:22-24 NIV

Over the years, I have done many things in pursuit of serving Jesus.  I have tried many things in trying to be more like Jesus.  Too often though the things I do are respectable, honorable, and (well let’s face it) they make you look good. But not everyday.  I confess that I have been made a fool more than once while trying to  serve and live like Jesus.
A few years ago on a bitterly cold day I was part of a community food distribution and despite our best efforts we had food left over.  The leftovers were to go to the Community Food Pantry.  There was leftover frozen meat, but there were no boxes to put the meat in.  I suggested that we use a grocery cart from inside the church (used to collect food pantry donations) and transport the meat the 3 blocks to the Pantry.  I never gave a thought to what I would like in the process – in looking at the pictures I was a fool.
On another occasion while serving in Guatemala with Mission Guatemala, I had the opportunity to spend two days in the belly of a septic tank as part of our project to expand the restrooms in a community school.  I can tell you it was not my number 1 or 2 favorite jobs, but someone had to do it.  What a fool to volunteer!
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”            I Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV


Perhaps we if we spent more time being foolish and less time being honorable, we would understand what it means to truly live and to LOVE like Jesus.

Here’s to more days of being the fool for Jesus!

And now we begin . . . again

31416_426471080179_582995179_5896140_5420886_n.jpgIn the world of baseball the first month of the season is coming to an end this week.
Spring Training is a distant memory. All those games played – the wins and the losses – do not matter.  Now the long season has begun and everything counts and everyone started equal.

Shoot … even what you did last season doesn’t matter.

What you did yesterday will not determine the game today.
Each game is a do over in this long season of baseball.
Every spring optimism is abundant within every player and every team. Scott O’Connell, director of new ballpark development for the Minnesota Twins, once told me, “Optimism is what every team has during spring training. Reality is what every team knows by July.”

Every player strives to get ready during spring training, but at the same time the veterans know that the games don’t count and the real season begins with Opening Day.

Players that have struggled all spring will play like All-Stars in April and All Star players with great springs will struggle.
The Good News is that today, like each day stretched out this season, will offer the opportunity for redemption.  An at-bat following an inning with an error. A fielding chance after striking out. And a game tomorrow after today’s loss.

The day after Easter is the beginning of season as Christ-followers.

What will you do with the resurrection?
Everything up to this point was a dress rehearsal for this moment.
God’s plan for salvation and relationship was finished and now it is up to us to respond.
What will you do in this season after Easter?

It doesn’t matter what has taken place in the past.

Today everything is new.

So, Batter up!

The time is NOW to live your faith.

An Easter Surprise!

Picture1.pngDid you know that God loves surprises?

Easter is the reminder that God loves us, but it is also a reminder of how surprising God’s love can be.  Let me share with you some of God’s surprises.

God told Noah to build and ark because it was going to rain, but no one had ever seen rain before but then … SURPRISE! it rained and God saved Noah and his family because of their faith.

Shadrach Meshach and Abendigo refused to worship anyone other than God and so the King had them thrown in the fiery furnace but then … SURPRISE! God saved them from the fire because of their faith.

Daniel refused to stop praying to God and so the king had Daniel thrown into the Lion’s Den but then … SURPRISE! God saved Daniel from the lion’s because of his faith.

God promised that He would one day come as a King but then … SURPRISE! God arrived as a baby born in a manger.

Zacheaus just wanted to see Jesus so he climbed into a tree for just a view, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus went home with Zacheaus and ate dinner with him.

The disciples went fishing but didn’t catch any fish, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus said try one more time on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish the boat nearly sank.

The disciples got caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee and they were afraid the boat would sink but then … SURPRISE! Jesus came to rescue them walking on the water and then … SURPRISE! Peter walked on the water because of his faith.

God loved us so much that Jesus died for us as payment for our sin and was buried in a tomb, but then … SURPRISE! Jesus is alive.

After Jesus conquered death, He went up into Heaven to be with God, but … SURPRISE! Jesus promised that one day He would come back to us.

Until that day, Jesus promised that we would not be alone. He also promised that we didn’t need to be afraid because He was with us. The way that God cares for us can be surprising. God loves to use surprises to remind us over and over again how much He loves us.

So, don’t forget and don’t be surprised that God loves you.

Jesus died for you – and today we know the good news that Jesus is Alive!

Jesus is alive and promises that if we believe that one, day we will get to be with Him in heaven.  So as you hunt for Easter eggs today, remember that the Egg is a reminder that the tomb was empty – After all the candy is gone the empty egg is a reminder that the tomb was empty.

Be open to the surprises of life …

they are simple reminders that God loves you!

Holy Week : Holy Saturday

Garden Tomb outside of Jerusalem

On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. Only after the solemn vigil during the day and night, does the Easter celebration begin.

On Holy Saturday long ago the followers of Christ began to gather in the safety of the Upper Room where they had days earlier dined with Jesus.  They gathered to meditate on the suffering and death of Christ – Why had this happened? What was the purpose? What would they do now?

Did anyone remember the story Jesus told? 

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  Luke 12:35ff NIV

Today as we wait for Easter morning, what will you be doing?
As we wait for the return of Christ, will you be found ready?

See you at Church … I’ll be doing my best to be ready … will you join me?

Holy Week : Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. This is the Friday before Easter Sunday and on this day Christians commemorate the suffering and death on the cross of Jesus Christ. On the surface ‘Good Friday’ seems a ridiculous name for the day that Christ was crucified.

But let me explain …
I have a millennial print edition of Rembrandt’s etching “Descent from the Cross” hanging in my office (image above). I often stop to marvel at the detail in the etching – each pen stroke carefully placed and meticulously made – with skill and love the picture is completed. With care and love the people in the painting are lowering Christ from the cross to take Him to be buried. The detail and compassion revealed in this etching are the same reasons that this dark day is remembered as good!

God doesn’t miss a detail on this day. While Christ suffered and died on this day, He did so by making a choice to die – to die for all sinners – past, present, and future. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son (John 3:16). On this day, every detail is cared for – every prophecy complete. Each detail is lovingly and meticulously cared for until the picture is complete and Christ can declare, “It is finished!

The work is done. My sins forgiven. My life redeemed.

If that isn’t reason to call a day – Good. I don’t if there ever will be a day.

This day is good, but Sunday is coming and it gets even better!

See you Sunday, until then I might take another look at that picture …

Holy Week : Maundy Thursday

“Maundy Thursday” is the traditional name for this day of Holy Week in England. It is therefore the usual name also in English-speaking protestant churches that originated in England. The word Maundy is derived through Middle English and the old French word, mandé, from the Latin mandatum. This is the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you).

This is from the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) in which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. 

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
John 13:1-7 NIV

As the meal preparations are coming to a head. It is time for a customary cleansing. It would have been customary to bathe before attending a feast. This is in part why the custom of foot washing existed. You would bathe in preparation for the feast and then walk to the place of the feast. Upon arriving at the feast you would be seated at the tables. These tables would not be like those that we see portrayed in movies or in paintings.

Olive wood carving in Bethlehem

You would sit in a nearly reclined position; your feet would be near the table and others. Therefore, the custom of washing your feet before the meal comes in place. The rest of your body was clean, but your feet would get dirty while traveling to the feast. This task of foot washing was a menial task and was relegated to the lowliest of the servants present at the meal.

Imagine yourself at this meal. You have already asked who is the greatest among you with no real answer. Yet you still want to know who will it be? You see the customary wash basin in the room. You begin to look around sizing up those that are around you. You may not discover who the greatest is, but tonight you will learn who is the least. There are no servants present, it is just the disciples and Jesus and no one has volunteered to perform the task.  Who will be washing the feet? Who will it be? Surely not me! And then it happens. Jesus picks up the basin and the towels. No! Surely this cannot be. Jesus is not the least among us. He cannot be the one to wash my feet.

So much time has passed, but we are still looking for someone else to clean us up. We are willing to acknowledge that we are not clean, but we are reluctant to let Jesus be the one who will clean us up.
We want to be the one. Who will it be?

We still live in a world that is reluctant to let Jesus be the one.
And now as the meal concludes, Jesus tells us that this flock of followers will scatter (Matt 26:31).
We listen as Peter loudly declares that he will not leave (Matt 26:33).
And isn’t that so much like us?
We come together and loudly proclaim in our places of worship that we will follow, but then morning comes.

As we rise from the table, I wonder, “Who will be left to follow?”
Who will choose to pray this night with Jesus in the garden?
Who will claim to be His follower as the crowd rises to shout crucify?
Who will be at the cross on Friday?