From the monthly archives:

October 2010

Lessons in Faith

October 21, 2010

"He brings me safely over the mountains"

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

This passage is an advanced lesson in biblical faith.  The prophet previously cries out to God because he knows that the sinfulness of Israel cannot and will not be overlooked by mercy forever.  His prayer is capsulated in the following words from verses 2 &3…

“…revive Your work in the midst of the years; in wrath remember mercy.”

There has seldom been a more sober reminder of the heart of holiness that the Father has for His wayward children.  What follows is one of the most mature renderings of biblical faith recorded in the Word.
There are three considerations…

  1. Faith cannot be tied to circumstances. The barren fig tree, the failed olive yield, the naked fields as well as the empty stalls reflect a season of want and not just a temporary setback.  In other words, faith is the substances, THE TANGIBLE EVIDENCE, of things that cannot been  seen. Faith looks forward.  Faith plans for future.  Faith refutes fear.  Faith looks at circumstances and believes that God is in control no matter what season rule the day.
  2. To rejoice is a choice. Circumstances can make me happy or sad but only knowing God can make me rejoice.  The prophet declares that even though circumstances are thin, he chooses to rejoice.  The choice is always ours… sometimes our rejoicing is with tears and sometimes with laughter, but real faith rejoices in God no matter what the circumstances.
  3. God controls the life given to Him. He is the God of my salvation, the light to my path, the Redeemer of my life, my strength, my joy, my protector and defender.  The prophet declares that even in the rocky heights “he will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” If you serve God, He will always provide the strength to get through the mountains no matter what.

The other morning, Jan and I met with the doctor who is overseeing her stem cell transplant recovery.  The change in one year’s time is astounding.  It would seem that for the past 20 years our song has been “though the fig tree does not blossom.” I call this past year a slow miracle because the changes have been gradual and the progress at times halting… none the less, she is becoming what had not been possible only one year ago.

My faith has been less than best at many times through these years.  Faith that is forced is hardly a choice and my choice of faith over fear has often been the last resort.  But God through the grace of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit has never lost faith in me.  That fact alone is  what makes grace amazing.

Jan still has a long way to go yet through it all we are astonished at the clarity we share of a future that had once been robbed from us.  He has made made our feet surefooted, our steps bold, and given us a portion of faith that can never be taken away. All of this in the long barrenness of lean times, empty harvests and apparent robbery.

The lessons of these years have not ended, to be sure, but I can say that I know more about God’s grace than I could know otherwise.  And maybe that is the big lesson through my life to this point.  Through all the painful and astonishing events God never leaves, never forsakes and never abandons His called and chosen.

I am one of those.  Are you?  Then rest, friend.  Rest.


Everything in It’s Season

October 13, 2010

I would call it a herb garden but it’s really just a bunch of basil plants in pots.  There is Thai basil… a pungent, long and pointed leaf that flowers beautifully throughout the summer.  Lemon basil that somehow has the distinct smell of lemon when the small coarse leaves are crushed.  Aussie Sweet basil from the land down under and, finally,  plain old basil that smells like basil is supposed to smell.

I harvest the leaves throughout the spring and summer by cutting the plants back which forces more growth.  The leaves spend a day in my dehydrator and then my special blend of all four varieties goes on everything from scrambled eggs to pasta. Yum. I love basil.

The rule of thumb is to not allow herbs to flower because it reduces the intensity of the flavor but at this time of the year, the flowers also go to seed if left long enough.  I am waiting and watching for the seed pods to turn brown so I can plant a bumper crop of different varieties next year.  Enough to give away.  Little plants to spread out through my network of future wannabe basil connoisseurs.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies,” Jesus said.  There is no bumper crop unless something dies.  There is no death without first a seed.  There is no seed  without the beauty of flowers.  There are no flowers without the freedom to grow.  There is no growth with pruning.  There is no pruning without a plan.  There is no plan without a conscience desire for growth.  There is no desire for growth without a seed of love to begin the whole process of reproduction.

The cycle is repeated or abandoned in every life, relationship and church because it is the simple and profoundly sovereign plan of our loving God.  “To everything there is a season, a time to plant…”

Paul wrote these words about the process.

We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:3-6

If you reverse the process, it begins with death.  Without the awfulness of Jesus’ death, I could never fully embrace the great love of our holy God.  Without that love, I could never know real hope.  Without hope, I would never strive to live with integrity.  Without integrity, there would be no impetus to persevere.  Without perseverance, tribulation would be avoided at all cost. Without tribulation, a believer will never know real joy.  J.B. Phillips says it best, “We can be full of joy here and now.”

I am so used to pruning my plants that it is difficult to allow the woody growth to continue.    The petals are already dropping though, the seed pods becoming distinct. Soon all will be lost to the pruner’s blade and the plants will succumb to the cold silence of winter.

God did not create His image in plants but people… free willed, passionate, frail yet fearless image of God children… so the process is relentless.  To forge the ongoing intensity of love for God and others, my flowers fade, my gifts are meant to be scattered not held, my character produced is pruned to the bone all in divinely fashioned symmetry of everlasting purpose.  And God trusts me enough to not take time to explain every detail of every trial.  He does not coddle or hold back when I say “enough.”  He does not change His plan if I threaten to fail.  No.  “He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

The difference is that I have a choice while my basil obviously does not.  A person who sees only the trial or circumstance will never allow the process.  Yet with the eyes of faith and with a heart that embraces the wisdom of the Book, a life lived according to His process produces the fruit of the Spirit that is evident and enjoyed by all.

I’ll tell you a secret.  Though I enjoy the taste of my spices it does not compare to the process of watching them grow.  I think God is like that too.  He certainly enjoys our gifts given back to Him… worship, prayer, service.   But I think He relishes watching us grow, pruning us back, allowing seasons of flowering beauty, anticipating the spring of new life possibly more than the spices that the process produces.

What season are you in today?  More time is spent pruning my plants than anything else, by the way.  Planting, harvesting and enjoying the short season of flowering is all contingent on the snip of the scissors, friend.  Most likely you are in or coming out of a season where you have felt the cut of the Master’s blade.  Fear not.  Pruning is part and parcel of walking with the Master.  Flowers are only good to look at,  it’s the seed and the fruit that will matter in the end.


Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So!

October 8, 2010

The greatest work accomplished on the cross was to forgive all sin for all time, from Creation until eternity.  No other payment can or should be made.  The impossible complexity of paying for all offenses for all time is beyond a finite creature’s ability to understand but for the Christian, it is truth because it […]

Read the full article →

How Forgiven are You?

October 6, 2010

October 6, 2010… Wednesday Each day in the middle of the morning classes, the Bible College staff and student body gathers for Chapel.  There is worship, prayer and a time of teaching, much the same as in Christian schools around the globe.  It is my great privilege to speak to the students and professors throughout […]

Read the full article →

Servant of the Lord

October 5, 2010

Meet K.J. James. Years ago here in India he translated for me and an instant bond was forged.  There is something about those who speak and those who translate that either makes it work or not.  K.J., being a biblical scholar as well as a powerful preacher, simply made me sound really good.  Soon, we […]

Read the full article →

Safety Among the Idols

October 4, 2010

It is not only the inequity of caste that kills in India, it is also gender.  As in every place where girls have a vastly unequal status (that is to say that they are valued at or below livestock) girls simply disappear.  When a girl is born in India she is less likely to be […]

Read the full article →