Thursday, February 25, 2016

It Doesn't Have to be a Quagmire

I live in Pennsylvania farm country. It’s beautiful. We’ve had a lot of rain this week.

The other day my friend John Casey said something that made me pause. He prayed out a prayer thanking God for the rain “that softens the earth.”

This area has lots of productive farms with crops of corn, soy beans, tobacco, and others on its fertile, rolling hills. The rain is obviously important to the farming.

I immediately had a mental picture of that happening.  The softening of the earth. It made sense. Of course the rain softens the ground.

Just a few minutes ago I let our dog out into the back yard. A branch had gotten blown down. I walked over to pick it up, and surprise… the ground was very soft and squishy under my feet from the rain today. One part was like a quagmire.

When I think of rain and farms, I think of the fact that plants have to have rain to grow. Without water, lawns dry up, flowers die, crops fail, and the fire danger exponentially rises. While all that is true, I don’t think I’d ever considered the importance of the softening of the ground that rain causes.
Wouldn’t it be a loving and helpful thing for God to do, - to soften the ground before the planting season? How much easier to turn over the soil that has absorbed water, than just dry, hard soil. 

An old-time writer in India talked of the benefit of rain to rice crops. “A few showers in February and April are hailed with delight because they soften the ground for ploughing.”[1] No wonder “April showers brings May flowers?!”

April showers bring weeds too. In a very practical way the softening of the soil helps solve this problem. Columnist Linda Ly observes, “Luckily, rain softens the soil, making weeding much easier on the hands and back.” [2]

It’s that softening that allows plows to cut more easily and those weeds to pop out in one piece. How kind of God?

Scripture records “You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
You settle its ridges,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
11 You have crowned the year with Your bounty…”[3]

The next ttime you tromp through mud, remember how ultimately helpful that process is.

John Casey’s corollary prayer point that day was that our hearts should be soft. It doesn’t have to be a quagmire. There’s something to be said for that. A soft heart is a prepared heart. Prepared for God’s purposes.

God loves YOU today.

[1] LSS O’Malley, “Howrah,” (New Delhi: Logos Press, 1909) p 66
[2] “Three Quick Tips for Gardening After the Rain,” Linda Ly,     March 4, 2014
[3] Psalm 65:9-11 (New American Standard Bible)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The War

We live in a war zone.

Mankind’s enemy, Satan, is real.

 Jesus knew he was real. He had encounters with the devil and his demonic forces. Christ had much to say about satan and the invisible spiritual world.

As I write, that ages-long war is raging. It is a war that is manifested in the physical through the agency of human beings.

In World War II, Germany blitzed England, dropping 50,000 tons of bombs on the British between September 1940 and May 1941. Hitler hoped to gain the surrender of England. Instead, “British society became in many ways strengthened by the blitz, and more, rather than less, determined to stay the course.”[1]

The British knew they were in a war, they expected it, and they stood strong.

The Christian must have a mentality similar to what the English had in 1940. It is true that Jesus has won the ultimate victory already, by his death, burial, and resurrection. But in God’s infinite wisdom, that victory is not actualized yet. Our lives are lived in the context of a great cosmic battle.

The enemy is not the Muslims, the LGBT community, liberal politicians, the police, Christians, Donald Trump, Barrack Obama, the Hispanics, the Black Lives Matter movement , the rich, the NRA, Planned Parenthood, or the system. We all have opinions about these, and they matter, - but they are not the enemy.

Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”[2] Jesus speaking to his closest follower, Peter, said, “Get away from me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”[3]

If Jesus, - seeing things not merely from a human perspective - is considering his friend a tool of Satan… then we’d best take notice.

When a “Christian” shoots someone at an abortion clinic, that is a work of the devil. I don’t care what church he goes to or what he believes.

When a Muslim guns down people at a concert, that is a work of the devil, no matter what his justification or cause.

When I’m hurtful to another person,  that is a work of the devil through me. We call it sin.  It’s my fault yet it’s exacerbated in some way, shape, or form by “spiritual forces of evil.” I was the one through which the offense came. I was oblivious to the battle and the nature of the attack.

It’s necessary to be aware. We are not Switzerland. We are not neutral. Paul says, “We are not unaware of his schemes.”[4]When the siren sounded the Brits headed for their bomb shelters. They sowed name tags into their clothing for identification. They lived in the light of an active conflict going on.

What are our weapons?

Not Jihad. Not a gun. Not wealth or control. Not blocking a freeway on-ramp. Not bigotry. Not law-suits. Not blaming others or the system. Not divorce.

The specific ‘weapon’ Paul was talking about was forgiveness. That’s just one. There are others. Love. Humility. Patience. Doing the right thing. Finding out the Truth and siding with it. The list goes on.

In short, all the things Jesus did.

Peter, the one Jesus called ‘satan’, learned his lesson. Today he tells us, “Stay alert. Watch out for your great enemy the devil… stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.[5]

We’re in a war, folks. Stay alert!

[1] The Guardian, “Civilians on the Front Line” by Richard Overy, Sunday, 6 September, 2009.
[2] Ephesians 6:12 (New International Version)
[3] Matthew 16:23 (New Living Translation)
[4] 2 Corinthians 2:11 (New International Version)
[5] 1 Peter 5:8-9 (New Living Translation)

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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