...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where's the Fruit?!?!

Where's the Beef?

Years ago, there was a Wendy's restaurant commercial where a grumpy old lady would lift the bun off the hamburger, take one look at the patty and yell, "Where's the beef?!?!"

I felt that way one morning as I took a look at my garden, only since I am growing tomato plants and not cows, instead of "Where's the beef?" I thought, "Where's the fruit?!?!"

I have have planted a garden for the first time in a long time and have waited very eagerly for some fresh produce. We have had a long, dry, summer- and when I say dry I mean the third worst drought in south Texas of all time. And the third-worst drought in Texas is saying something! It is dry around here.

See how green the garden is?
But where is the fruit?
But in spite of droughts and in spite of deer eating my plants to nubs, I have persevered and my plants have grown. And grown. And grown.

And they have bloomed.

But there is one problem.  There is very little fruit.

I have blossoms, but why no fruit?
Harvest so far? One cherry tomato (which was very delicious, but not exactly filling), and 4 Serrano peppers that I am trying to figure out what to do with. I have just a few tomatoes on the vine that I hope will someday ripen, but for the amount of plants I have, and the effort that has been put in, and the water that has been applied....it is just not very impressive.

As I was pondering this while watering the other day, it struck me. This is exactly what I never want my life to be- a garden of pretty, healthy plants that look like they are going to be very fruitful, but never exactly produces anything much of actual value.

And then I thought of the American church.  All the buildings, and programs, and mission trips, and activities, and meetings, and committees, and retreats, and..., and...., and....

We have so very, very much- but the question begs to be asked...where's the fruit?!?!

Where's the Fruit? 

If Jesus was serious (and I mean that rhetorically, because OF COURSE He was serious!) in Luke 12:48 when He said,
"to whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required"

then we- and by this I mean the whole American church, individually and collectively, could be in some serious trouble.

Why is there so little fruit in our personal lives, and why is there so little fruit in our churches?

  • Maybe it is because when we could have been reading the Word, we were reading Facebook.
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have been ministering to the poor, we were at the movies.
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have been praying, we were texting.
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have been involved in an in-depth Bible study, we were trying to find something to watch on one of our 500 TV channels.
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have given money to help rebuild a church for persecuted believers, we used that money for going out to eat instead.  
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have been reading a biography of some great man or woman of God and could have been inspired and moved, instead we were watching funny videos on youtube.
  • Or maybe it is because when we could have been evangelizing we were playing volleyball, or riding our skateboard, or going bowling, or water skiing, or shopping, or getting our nails done, or finding SOME WAY to entertain ourselves and not be bored.

We have more ways to distract ourselves to death than any generation before us.  

And it is sucking the life out of us.

It is sucking all the life that could pour through our veins and produce fruit. Instead all the nourishment and opportunity we receive just makes us look good while we produce NOTHING.

I am not talking about working to be saved. I am just saying if Jesus was serious when He said in Matthew 12:33, (and yes, I think He was serious this time too),
"for the tree is known by its fruit."
then what does that say about us? What are we producing? Is there enough fruit in our lives to even know who we are? And if we have no fruit, will the world even know Whose we are?

And if we have been given so much, and that means that much will be required, but we have produced so little-
and by produced so little, I mean outside of buildings and programs and debt and entertainment and television church....
when it is required of us, what will we say? What will be our excuse?

May I wake up.
May we wake up.
May we take Jesus and His word seriously.
And may we start producing fruit...while we still can.

PS- If you haven't read the book Radical by David Platt, I heartily endorse it. But I will add a caution that someone else stated the other day: if we read it, and by taking in the information think we are somehow doing something, then we are deluded. It isn't that we know that we can and should be radical that will make the church radically different. It is ONLY by being Radical!

Here is a link:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keep Praying!

We don't like to wait for anything! We want our food fast and hot. We want our communication instant. We want no red lights in our life. But the truth and often the frustration of our life is that with most things we have to "wait for it".

Have you ever prayed for something for a long time and yet not seen any results?

Have you ever prayed and felt it got no further than the ceiling?

Have you ever been convicted to pray and then thought, "Oh, what's the use."

Have you ever wondered if God actually hears all your prayers?

Most of us, in Christian circles, might not want to admit that yes, sometimes we do wonder about prayer and question its effectiveness and fail to persevere in praying through the long dark nights of silence.

But prayer is not like an ATM machine. It is not a fast food drive-through window. It is not a vending machine.

So, how do we keep praying?

Your Petition Was Heard
Let's look at the parents of John the Baptist, Zacharias and Elizabeth. They had wanted children all their lives. And they had prayed for children. They had lived righteous, blameless, obedient lives for the Lord (Luke 1:5-18). But they had never received the "Yes" answer to their prayers. They had never had a child.

But then one day, when Zacharias was doing his duties, in the Holy of Holies by the way, an angel comes and says to him, in the present tense, like the couple had just prayed that morning, "Your petition has been heard...Elizabeth will bear a son."

And I know, even though the Scripture does not say it, that Zacharias had long ago given up hope. Why? Because he ARGUES WITH THE ANGEL GABRIEL!  (Note to self: if an angel of the Lord comes and give me a message, just believe it. No Arguing!) The prayer he had prayed all his life has just been proclaimed by an angel of the Lord to be heard! 

Or how about this example: Daniel 9 contains a beautiful prayer of Daniel, in fact his prayer takes up 4/5ths of the chapter. And then all of a sudden Gabriel shows up (yes, the same Gabriel that showed up to John). And his first words to Daniel are, "As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given..."

Some More Proof
"I have heard them crying out... the cry of the Israelites has reached me" Ex. 3:7,9

"The LORD...hears the prayer of the righteous." Prov. 15:29

“In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple He heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.  2 Sam. 22:7

"The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." James  5:16

But reading about "the effective prayer" the question begs to be asked, if we know from the book of John that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous why did it take so long for their "effective prayer" to "accomplish much" in the form of a young son?

Wait For It!
2 Peter 3:9 says: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness." God wasn't slow in answering their prayer. He was, rather, split-second perfect. Not only was He giving them a son, but their son was the one who was the fore-runner of Christ. John couldn't come until the moment of the ages was at hand.  If God had answered their prayer sooner, John would have come too soon. If they had had other children before John, the miraculous hand of God would not have been evident in his birth. 

Our greatest privilege on earth is to be a part of God's story of love and redemption to the world. And the way we learn our part is through prayer. Through the long, hard nights of prayer, when we do not feel it is being heard, and when we are tempted to faint and give up hope.

But don't give up hope! Keep praying! God hears you. He is not slow. Your cries have reached Him. Your petition was heard. As soon as you prayed an answer was given.

Wait for it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Put It Away!

One of our family rules is:
If you get something out, put it away.
Confession time: my kids aren't very good at that.

Another confession time: I am not very good at that.  I mean to be good at it. I want to be good at that. I plan on being good at that.

But I am not. Sigh.

Note: this is NOT my desk. My is MUCH less messy. Really.
It is just that I get stuff out to get started on a project and then get started and begin making headway, and then get called away to some other need, and then get a phone call, and then put a load of laundry in, and then see something else that needs to get done, and then get hungry, and then get distracted by another job, and then remember an email that needs to get sent, and then (while I am on the computer) check Facebook, and then........

By the time I return to the original "scene of the crime" of the half-begun but not yet finished project I have to start making dinner. But I don't put it all away, because I am going to sit down and finish it right after dinner!!! Really, I am. And then......

There are lots of distractions, but it is the putting away that is the problem.

Like laundry. I can get it washed and dried easily. But then it might sit in the basket, permanently setting the wrinkles for a while. But we pull it out, I read aloud, and the kids fold. Okay, two-thirds done.

But then, getting it put away.  Sigh....

Note: to all you neat, together, check your list off, house all clean, type of Moms who have no clue what I am talking about and always put everything thing away the moment you should....you sort of irritate me and convict me and I think you should get off the computer and go dust something- that is if you can find something that even needs to be dusted! If not, come to my house- you can definitely find something to dust here!

As I was reading the end of Ephesians 4 the other day I saw this in a whole new light. It says:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
 Ephesians 4:31,32

Now these verses are so chock-full of so many important things, it is hard to concentrate in on one of them, but possibly because of my ailment of "not-putting-away-what-you-get-out-itis" I was struck by the intentional, purposeful determined action of putting away.

Just think how different the atmosphere in our homes would be if every time we wanted to let bitterness out we put it away instead.

Or when the wrath and anger started building up we put it away.

Or how about clamor or slander- put it away.

Don't leave all the bad, ugly selfishness lying around, making a mess, and cluttering up the place. Because the mess that is made with bitterness and wrath and clamor destroys relationships and hurts hearts and looks NOTHING like Jesus.

So what have you left lying around? You might want to go put it away.  I would write more about it, but I have some serious cleaning up and putting away to do!!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is There Any Other Explanation?

I got to go to my 30th high school reunion this past weekend. That made me feel seriously old. I mean, have I really been out of high school for THIRTY years? But after I got over the shocking realization that I really had graduated Three! Decades! Ago!... well after that I had a fantastic time. It was so great to see friends and catch up on each other's lives.

Of course, one of the first questions was, "Do you have any children?"

Hmmmm......well yes, as a matter of fact I do. Seven.

"SEVEN!?!?" they would exclaim in half statement and half question.

What could possibly be my reason for having so many children in the midst of culture that tells us that children are expensive and demanding and difficult?

Jesus. That is my only explanation.

But as I was thinking about that question and that explanation while I was "running" the other morning, I start thinking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedneggo. I had just been studying their amazing story in Daniel 3. In the account they are required to bow down to a golden statue but they will not turn their backs on God. And when they refuse, the King throws them into a fiery furnace.

They willingly go in the fiery furnace knowing God COULD save them although they were not sure if He WOULD. But they served God, remained faithful, and left the results in His hands.

And God showed up. Right in the middle of the flames.

And when they came not, not a hair was singed. Not a piece of clothing was scorched. And they didn't even smell like smoke!

I can't even sit near a campfire without the smell of smoke permeating ever fiber I have on!

But as they came out, and the king and his servants saw them, and they saw their condition and did not smell the smoke....

They were left with no other explanation.

It HAD to be God.

Just listen to King Nebuchadnezzar:
Praised be the God of ShadrachMeshachand Abednegowho has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and 
giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God!... 
For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.
Daniel 3: 28-29

There was just no other explanation.  God is the only One that fit. God was the piece to the puzzle, the key to the door, the answer to the question, the cipher to the riddle.

What about me? What about me has no other explanation but Jesus?
  • I have a lot of children, but so do families of other religions or families of no religion.
  • I homeschool, but there are lots of people who homeschool with no religious faith.
  • I am a stay-at-home Mom, married a long time, go to church every Sunday kind of girl.
But really....in the long run.....there are lots of people who do these things for lots and lots of reasons.

All I know, in my deepest knower, is that I want my life to be lived in a way that if someone was to see it, examine it, and yes, even SMELL it, it would not make sense...

Not without the explanation, the key, the answer:


Monday, July 11, 2011

And the Verdict Is....

If someone was out to take me to court, what could they find to accuse me of? And would it be easy to prove I am guilty of the alleged crime?

Lately, many people around the country have been completely mesmerized by the Casey Anthony trial and now most find themselves completely enraged by the verdict which seems so wrong. I am old enough to remember with exact clarity the moment of the OJ Simpson verdict (I was in a Taco Bell drive-thru) and the sense of injustice that verdict brought.

But just recently I was thinking about being brought to trial myself after reading my friend's blog where she posted this quote:

If I were accused in court of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?

What a great question- disturbing, but great. Is there enough evidence in my life that there would be no doubt to anyone who looked at me that I am a Christian?

But that question got taken a bit further for me during my Daniel study this week when I read about how some men in Babylon who were jealous of Daniel were trying to get rid of him:

Then these men said, "We shall not find any ground of accusation against this
Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.
Dan. 6:5

So apparently not only could Daniel been found guilty of being a Believer in Jehovah as the first quote asked, but according to this THAT IS THE ONLY THING THEY COULD ACCUSE HIM OF!

Just think about it! The only way that these men could bring Daniel down was to make his belief and the practice of his belief in the One, True God illegal. There was NOTHING else to bring against him!

Could that be said of me?

Could that be said of you?

But, back to Daniel.

After he knows that evil men have set out to entrap him, what do you think Daniel does? Does he go "into his prayer closet" to pray so no one will see him? Does he keep his devotion to God hidden so that no one can catch him?

No. He goes to the big window on the roof chamber (you know- up high, where everyone can see), just like he always had, and prayed. Just like he always had.

Just like his enemies hoped he would. Because they wrote the law just so his consistent devotion to God would make it impossible for him to not break the law. In fact, Daniel's consistent devotion to God was their only hope of bringing him down.

And they did bring him down.

Straight into the lion's den. 

Of course that is not the end of the story. God sent His angel (Dan. 6:22) to shut the mouths of the lions and to protect him so that,
no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Dan. 6:23

In many places around the world Believers have to make a Daniel-like decision every day because for them to choose to believe and to choose to follow God means to choose to be willing to face the lions. And often the "mouths of the lions" are not shut.

In America....

In America, we think we are suffering for Jesus if we still go to church when the air conditioning doesn't work.

We have both the blessing and the curse of living in a country where we can believe and live out that belief to a certain degree and it can cost us nothing.

We won't lose our homes.
We won't lose our jobs.
We won't lose our children.
We won't lose our lives.

At least, not yet.

But the day may come......

But whatever happens in the future, whatever it may someday cost to live as a Christian in our country, the decision I have before me now is how will I live today.

Today I want to live in such a way that the court would have such overwhelming evidence against me that they would have to find me guilty of being a Christian. There would be no other option.

I want to live in such a way that if I have enemies who want to find me guilty of something THE ONLY THING they can find to accuse me of is my belief in and my devotion to Jesus Christ.

What about you. What do you want to be found guilty of?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Dependence Day

I LOVE the 4th of July.

What a great holiday- fun, games, food, family, and no presents!

This year was a lot of fun and we managed to make it to two different parties. Unfortunately we are living in a place with extreme drought conditions which on the 4th of July means.....No Fireworks. (Clarification- it is not unfortunate that we live here, just unfortunate there is a drought- just wanted to make that clear!)

Sigh. So very, very sad. At least for me, because I LOVE fireworks! Especially if there is patriotic music going on in the background.

July the 4th is a great holiday and a day, as Americans, we celebrate and hopefully feel gratitude for the independence of our country. Americans love being independent and free!

I have been struck at the price at that freedom very strongly this year. Maybe it is because of doing lots of reading on the American Revolution this past school year and realizing the improbable victory with which we were blessed. Maybe it is from knowing families whose husbands or sons or wives or daughters are overseas now and who face danger every day.  There is the danger the military member faces, but also, having been the military spouse left at home I know the loneliness and pain and fear of that position.

I also just read a fantastic book that brought home to me what some have had to endure in the past in order for all of us to have freedom today.  It is a book titled Unbroken and it is an amazing tale of survival amidst unimaginable and interminable pain and suffering.  It is the story of Louis Zamperini who as a boy was in trouble with the law, as a young man was an Olympic runner, and as an adult during World War II was a prisoner of war for years in notorious Japanese prisons.  The stories of his life in those prisons were horrific and the long term consequences of all that suffering could have ruined the rest of his life, but.... well I won't ruin the story for you.  But read it!

I think the convergence of having just read that book and celebrating Independence Day made some verses in Ephesians leap out at me like never before.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he was a prisoner in Rome. But instead of complaining of that fact or speaking against the Romans or his situation he does something remarkable- he doesn't even mention them.  Instead he writes this:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles...  Eph. 3:1


I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called...   Eph 4:1

The Romans just thought Paul was their prisoner. He wasn't. He was Jesus' prisoner.

There are several defining characteristics in the life of a prisoner:

  • You can only go where your captor allows you to go
  • You can only do what your captor tells you to do
  • You must get up when your captor says and sleep when your captor says and work when your captor says
  • Your life is no longer your own- your life belongs to your captor

But the deal was that Paul did not see his captor as the Romans even though there were Roman chains that bound him. Yet he most definitely did recognize that he had a Captor- it is just that his Captor was Jesus.

He was a prisoner of Christ.

And he would go where Jesus told him to go and do what Jesus told him to do and get up, and sleep, and work when Jesus told him to. His life was no longer his own- it belonged to Jesus.

Today, as an American, I celebrate my independence! My freedom!

But today, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to proclaim that I am a prisoner. My life is not my own. I am totally and completely dependent upon my Captor.

I will go where He tells me to go.
I will do what He tells me to do.
I will get up, sleep, and work when and how He tells me to.

As Steven Curtis Chapman would say (or rather sing), "This is my declaration of dependence!"

I. Am. A. Prisoner. Of. Jesus. Christ.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Get God Out of the Box

Have you ever put God and His purposes in a box?

If things don't work out well, does that automatically mean we are out of God's will?

If a relationship dies, should we have never entered it?

If a business fails, should we have never started it?

If circumstances are difficult and wearisome, have we just made a wrong turn, or has God looked away, or does He want things to be difficult for us?

If we think we have felt God leading us in a certain direction and have seen confirmation in Scripture and we do it and it ends up in a mess...did we hear God wrong?
          Or did we actually just walk in the flesh?
                    Or is God just some cosmic professor who is putting us in difficult situations to test us and see how we can handle them?

I have had these questions rolling around in my mind yesterday after a coffee with a young friend who was relaying some issues in her life that just hadn't worked out like it seemed they should. She had only moved forward after prayer and the leading of Scripture, sooooo.........why did it not "work out"?

I also have had these questions myself, after this past year.  We have had several situations come crashing down in our lives, and as I have walked amongst the rubble, I have wondered, "Lord, I thought You wanted us to go this direction. I don't understand. Did I hear You wrong? Are You in this?" Can I stand among the ruins and still believe?

These are tough questions, and sometimes Believers don't want to admit to such questions. I mean, they don't sound like someone walking in great faith and victory.

But David had them and Elijah had them. Should I be surprised that I have them?

As I was ruminating on these questions this morning, the Lord brought to mind:

 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. 

 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, 
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout, 
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; 
it will not return to Me empty, 
Without accomplishing what I desire, 
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 
Isaiah 55:8-11

Why do I try to put God in a box?

Why do I assume God's goals and designs are human ones?

We judge the rightness and goodness of a thing by success and happiness and by it looking like what we think it is supposed to look like.

We judge by the results.

But just look at Abraham.  God called him to go to Canaan so he could make his descendants as numerous as the stars and so that He could bless the whole world through him. But Abraham didn't have his one and only child with Sarah until he was one hundred and when he died 55 years later, Isaac had only two more sons. I doubt to Abraham they looked like they were going to be as numerous as the stars of heaven!

Had Abraham made a mistake?

Had he heard God wrong?

Was he not supposed to move to Canaan? Was he not supposed to be married to Sarah? Was God not blessing them or fulfilling His promises?

Did Abraham ever wonder those things? Or did he just decide to obey God, go where God led, do what God said, and leave the results in the Hands of the One Who created the universe?

From our vantage point on this side of history, we can certainly tell that God did exactly what He said He was going to do, but have you ever wondered how it felt to Abraham?

I have more questions than answers today, but here are some things I know:
        God's ways are not my ways.
        God is in control, even when I don't understand what is going on.
        God's plans are much bigger than my success or my happiness or my paycheck. 

So sit back and watch the Lord. I think He wants to do things we could never even imagine.

But we have got to stop putting Him into our box. 

He really doesn't fit.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21