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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Considering the lilies: Choosing freedom from fear, worry, selfishness



"Consider the lilies, how they grow... And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.                                       (Luke 12:27, 29-32 NASB)



The lily series continues, mainly because I've enjoyed learning about the lilies.  I hate to leave it. We began this series by considering the lily bulb. In case you missed any part of the series, you can click on the links to catch up. We've also considered lily propagation,  lily's dispositiontrue lilies and the importance of the name, the importance of planting the lily bulb deep in the ground, the different varieties of lilies, and  living the lily life. Yesterday, we examined seeking the kingdom

Today, we look at the "DO NOT's". The world often thinks of religion in terms of "thou shalt not's". To the unbeliever, Christianity seems more like a list of don'ts than do's, a divine dictatorship rather than a relationship. If they only knew... 

The "don't's" of faith are for our protection and generally come with a "do" alternative. (Maybe not in the same verse, but if you look for it, you can find it.)

There are three "don't's" in this passage and they aren't what most people think of when they hear "thou shalt not". 
1. Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink. 
 The word translated as "seek" is not a casual hide and seek game. We might think of it as  a demanding search, determined to have what we want. Jesus is warning us against demanding a certain kind of consumption. 

The implication is for us to be content with simple fare. We may want caviar and lobster, but that doesn't mean we should have it. Let's give up our selfishness and our sense of entitlement.

The most commonly eaten food in the world is rice. The diet in many countries is composed largely of rice. Not caviar. Not filet mignon. We would likely improve our health if we did not "seek" (demand) a certain diet, but were satisfied with a simple diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Okay, lean meats, too for the omnivores among us. (My physician side is shouting this morning.) 

2. Do not keep worrying.
Jesus knows us, doesn't He? We don't just worry for a moment. We keep on worrying. Agonizing, soul-wrenching worry. We fill our lives with what if's and miss the here and now. It's not the way we were intended to live. 

Jesus told us not to keep worrying because there is no need to worry. Our Heavenly Father has the world in His capable hands. He can handle our lives. So take every thought captive. Make a choice to obey. Stop worrying. Stop it. 

Here's a motivator for those of us who have trouble with worry. Jesus told us not to keep worrying. When I refuse to obey Jesus by continuing to worry, it is sin.

How do we stop worrying? Take our thoughts captive. Stop rehearsing our worry. Speak truth. Quote Scripture aloud. Pray. 

3. Do not be afraid.
I love this particular admonition. "Do not be afraid, little flock." The Good Shepherd is speaking here to His lambs and reminds me of Psalm 23. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." As our Shepherd, He has accepted the responsibility of providing for our needs. We are not to allow fear to drive our actions. Momentary fear should drive us to Christ. In His presence, fear flees. 

Will we stop doing what Jesus says not to do? We must, so that we can live free of selfishness, entitlement, demanding, worry, and fear. 

Choose to live as free men and women. It's the way Christ intended us to live.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, Our Shepherd and our Lord, forgive me for my selfish demanding, my worry, my fear. Help me to trust you and to follow you. Help me to live free, for You bought that freedom with Your blood. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Considering the lilies: Seeking the Kingdom




"Consider the lilies, how they grow... And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.                                       (Luke 12:27, 29-32 NASB)


The lily series has continued a little longer than I expected. We began this series by considering the lily bulb. In case you missed any part of the series, you can click on the links to catch up. We've also considered lily propagation,  lily's dispositiontrue lilies and the importance of the name, the importance of planting the lily bulb deep in the ground, and the different varieties of lilies. Yesterday, we considered living the lily life.

Today, we turn to the contrast between the world and the disciple. There's no need to worry about clothing, or food, or drink, Jesus told the disciples. The nations of the world eagerly seek all those things. The word translated as "eagerly seek" can also be translated as clamor or demand. The world, those who do not trust God for their daily needs, clamor after what they want, demanding that they have whatever it is they think they need. 

I don't know about you, but demanding never works well with me. God doesn't care for demands from us, either. Demanding is pagan behavior. Worry is pagan behavior, too. ("Nations of the world" is a term used to describe those who do not have their trust in Almighty God, the pagans.) They want something, so they clamor and demand, chasing after their desire until they have it. 

Our Heavenly Father expects us to approach life in a different way. He wants us to trust Him. When we have a need, we are to take it to our Father and leave it with Him. He can handle our lives and our needs with the same care and extravagance He gives the lilies. We need look no further than gardens and road sides to know this truth. 

We are not to clamor. We are not to demand. We are not to worry. Instead of seeking the things we want, we are to seek the kingdom of God. He will handle the rest. Matthew 6:33 says, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness". God will handle everything else. 

We have a choice. We can live like the world, worrying and demanding and clamoring to get what we want and think we need. Or, we can live like the lilies, beautiful pictures of grace and the provision of God, doing the job God has given us, seeking His kingdom, depending on Him to provide our needs. Which will it be? 

I choose the lilies.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, forgive my worry and create in me a heart of faith, trust, and peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.







Sunday, July 26, 2015

Considering the lilies: Living the Lily Life of Faith




"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the  grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!  And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.                                        (Luke 12:27-29 NASB)

The lily series has continued a little longer than I expected, but we're winding down. We began this series by considering the lily bulb. In case you missed any part of the series, you can click on the links to catch up. We've also considered lily propagation,  lily's dispositiontrue lilies and the importance of the name, and the importance of planting the lily bulb deep in the ground.  Yesterday, we looked at the different varieties of lilies.

Today, we return to the original passage. "Consider the lilies," Jesus said, "And how they grow." You may remember the information about how lilies grow. They can grow from seed, form scaly bulbs, grow a single tall stem and produce fragrant, showy flowers. 

Jesus would also have us take note of how lilies don't grow. They don't toil, they don't spin, they don't worry, yet their "clothing" is breathtaking in beauty. "Not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these." It would be hard to dress ourselves in the beauty with which God clothes the lilies. 

Lilies and the grass of the fields have an extremely short lifespan. At most, the lily flower lasts a few days. When the bloom is spent, it's treated as trash and thrown away. The brevity of its life does not diminish its value. God still provides for the lilies, still clothes them in beauty.

If God clothes the lilies, don't you know He will take care of you? 

This discussion between Jesus and his disciples began when a man asked Jesus to intervene in his inheritance. Jesus saw his question as an indication of greed and He reminded his listeners, a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Life is not about your money. You can't take it with you. 

Life is so much more than you think.

Don't worry about what you'll eat. Don't worry about what you'll drink. Don't worry about anything. Your Heavenly Father can handle this. Quit worrying. 

Jesus went on to say, "Seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you." It's a matter of priority, of faith, of trust. If we stop chasing material things and start chasing the things of God,  we will experience the faithfulness of God in an amazing way. 

This is a promise. We can count on it. 

This trusting when I don't see how God can provide requires deep faith. It requires deep obedience. You and I have to stop living in panic mode and start living in faith mode. We have to adopt the faith of Jehoshaphat.  When a triple-army (Moab, Ammon, and Meunites) was coming to attack the nation of Judah, King Jehoshaphat turned to the only One who could deliver.

"For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You." 2 Chronicles 20:12 NASB

You and I need a lot less "I can handle this" and a lot more "my eyes are on You" if we are to live this life of faith we say we want. We need less seeking of our own solutions and more seeking God's solution. 

Life is more than we think. It is so much more, but we are content with so little. We surround ourselves with material things and call it wealth, but it's not. What God wants for us is Himself. He is the treasure we should seek. He is what make life rich. 

I want a lily life. 

Lilies spend their lives doing the work God has given them to do, putting the beautiful provision of God on display in their blooms, dependent on Him to provide. Just to be clear, lilies spend their entire lives doing the work God has assigned them. The lily life is by no means a life of leisure, but it is a life of joy. Of faith. Of promise.

We, too, can live like the lilies, but only if we start by seeking Him first. So let's take stock of our lives. Are we living like lilies? If not, let's begin by seeking God first. Do the work God has assigned us. Put His bountiful provision on display by the lives we live. 

Live like the lilies. 
~~~~~~~
Our Father in Heaven, forgive us for seeking everything except You. Forgive us for accumulating the wealth of this world and missing that of the next. Help us to seek You first, to follow You. Help us to have the life You meant us to have. In Jesus' name, Amen.








Saturday, July 25, 2015

Considering the lilies: Divisions and Unifying Fragrance




"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the  grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!                                            (Luke 12:27-28 NASB)

The lily series has continued a little longer than I expected. I've found another nugget of truth, so we're here for one more day. At least. We began this series by considering the lily bulb lily propagation, and lily's disposition, and true lilies and the importance of the name. Yesterday, we considered the importance of planting the lily bulb deep in the ground.  Today, we look at the different varieties of lilies.

We learned a few days ago that not every flower bearing the name of lily is actually a lily. Water lilies and  day lilies are not true lilies. Of the true lilies, there are nine different varieties. (If you're interested in horticulture, you can find the varieties here.

Although all nine varieties are distinct and recognizable in their division, their similarities mark them as lilies. According to gardening.about.com, "What they all share is a certain elegance of form and sweetness of fragrance." (1)

Elegance of form and sweetness of fragrance are characteristics that should be the common thread running through the different "varieties" of Christians, as well.

Before we continue in the "fragrance" analogy, we need to remember one important fact. The first century church was one church, not multiple denominations. The differences were in location, not in theology. The Apostle Paul, among others, wrote letters that were circulated among the churches in an effort to preserve the doctrine and keep it consistent.

We won't be divided by denominations in heaven. No one is likely to care if we were Baptist or Presbyterian or Assembly of God when we enter eternity. The question that will matter then will be "Is Jesus your Lord?" 

With that said, we have divided ourselves into denominations based on interpretations of Scripture and nuances of doctrine. It is not my intent to argue doctrine. There are good points in every denomination, as well as arguable points. 

There is one Christ and He is the only point that matters.

Jesus is what should remain when divisional strife is swept away. If we follow Him, He should be the most important, unifying factor. He is to the Christian church what the genus Lilium is to the the varieties of lily.

Now, back to the question of fragrance. Lilies have a fragrance that is distinct and is unlike the fragrance of roses or hyacinths. It's distinct to lilies. 

In that same way, disciples of Christ should have "the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him". (2 Cor.2:14) 


 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death; to the other an aroma from life to life." (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 NASB)

Knowing Jesus should make such a difference in our lives that we are recognizable as belonging to Him. 

He should unify us with His fragrance. What is His fragrance? Get ready for this. It's not what you expect. It's sacrifice. 

The aroma of Christ is sacrificing Himself to the will of God.

Yeah. Who expected that? I considered the aroma of Christ to be love, fruits of the spirit. Anything but sacrifice. 

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." (Ephesians 5:2 NASB)

Jesus gave Himself up for us because of His love but it is the sacrifice of Himself, the offering of His life,  that is the fragrant aroma.

If we want the aroma of Christ, we must live sacrificial lives, just as Christ lived. We must sacrifice our desires to have God's desires for us. We must sacrifice our goals to attain His goals. Our priorities must become His.

When we sacrifice our will to His will, an amazing thing will happen. We will begin to sacrifice ourselves for those He loves. Sacrificial service. Sacrificial giving. Sacrificial love. It won't be about "us" anymore. Everything we do, everything we give, everything we sacrifice will be motivated by love. 

People will know. We won't have to say a word. Because sacrifice is rare. It's shocking. Sacrifice is scandalous. Give up ourselves for the less fortunate? Love those who have wounded us? Forgive those who have offended us? It's sacrifice that the world cannot understand. 

But Jesus does. Because He set the standard for shocking, scandalous sacrifice. He took it to the extreme when He presented Himself as a blood sacrifice on the cross. For me. For you.

There's no way I will ever be that sacrificial, but I can make a start. Have Your will in my life, Lord, is where it begins. So, we make a start. We begin today to make a small sacrifice of time, or money, or love, or will. Make a small, Jesus-like sacrifice and begin to live scandalously.

Begin to live like Christ and keep living like Him until you are so infused with His love and His sacrifice that everyone who meets you will say, "There's Jesus in her, in him." 

Be the aroma of Christ.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, who art in Heaven, holy is your name in all the earth. Our Lord Jesus, you are the sacrifice that makes our lives possible. Create in me a heart to live like you, sacrificing myself to your will, your way. In Jesus' name. Amen.
















(1)http://gardening.about.com/od/bulbs/a/Growing_Lilies.htm

photo from freeimages.com

Friday, July 24, 2015

Considering the Lilies: Planting Deep




"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the  grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!                                            (Luke 12:27-28 NASB)

In case you're just stopping in, we've been considering the lilies for the last few days. We began by considering the lily bulb lily propagation, and lily's disposition. Yesterday, we explored the question of true lilies and the importance of the name. Today, we're looking at the planting of lilies.

I don't recommend this, but I often use the "plant and wonder" technique. I stick a plant or bulb in the ground and wonder what it will do. The reason I have to wonder is because I haven't bothered to find out what kind of environment the plant needs. Does it need sun or shade, moist soil or well-drained? Does it want to be planted deep or shallow? I killed more than a few plants before I realized a sun-loving plant would not perform as expected if I tried to make it survive in the shade.

Lily bulbs have specific depth requirements in order to grow and produce the beautiful blooms we desire. Lily bulbs must be planted deep in the ground. The recommended depth is three times the diameter of the bulb. (1) At depth, the bulb remains cool and is well-protected. The bulb thrives there. In fact, the roots are contractile and will pull the bulb to the proper depth if planted too shallow.


Shallow is easy, but depth brings growth.

It's true for lilies, but it's also true for disciples of Christ. If I am to follow Jesus, I will follow best if I know Him well.  I will explore His depths. Allow Him to take me deeper in the Word of God, and in obedience, than I planted myself.

Can you truly follow Jesus and be shallow about it? I wonder.

Attending services, saying a blessing before meals, and posting Scripture memes on social media do not indicate depth (although prayers and assembling with other believers are actions Jesus expects of us and are not optional). If attendance and rote prayers before meals are all we have, however, it's a shallow kind of faith.

A deep faith says, "Lead me anywhere and I'll follow."

A deep faith loves every single person God loves, which is EVERYONE.

A deep faith serves anyone Christ calls us to serve.

A deep faith bears anything for Jesus.

A deep faith studies the word of God, allowing Him to plant it in us. To plant it deep in us (that's where memorizing comes in) so that we have it when we need it. 

A deep faith bears fruit.

  Here's a secret it took me entirely too many years to learn. A deep faith is exciting and fun and so intimate it's unbelievable.

When that Still Small Voice whispers, it's the most amazing thing in the world.

We don't start deep, but that's where the good stuff grows. If we want to know as much as possible of this big God we serve, we must plant ourselves deep, too. How? Spend time in prayer, listening and talking, studying Scripture and obey it. All of it.

The amazing thing about the Christian life is that, if we want to be deep in our faith, the Holy Spirit will act much like the contractile root of the lily, drawing us deeper. If we ask for deep faith, God will supply it. If we ask for a deep knowledge of Him, He'll supply that, too. 

So ask. Ask for deep faith. Deep knowledge of God. Deep knowledge of Scripture. Ask, then do what it takes to have it. Open your Bible. Obey.

You'll love it in the deep. That's where all the wonders hide. All the gems and treasures.

Deep calls to deep.

Let the depths of God call you to the deep.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, I don't want superficial. I want to know Your depths, to follow where You lead, to have all of You that You want me to have. To know You more. So teach me Your ways, lead me in Your paths. Make me like You. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

(1) http://gardening.about.com/od/bulbs/a/Growing_Lilies.htm
photo from freeimages.com
chart from blog.gardenheights.com

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Considering the Lilies: The importance of the name


True Lily

"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the  grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!                                            (Luke 12:27-28 NASB)

In case you're just stopping in, we've been considering the lilies for the last few days. We began by considering the lily bulb, and  lily propagation. Yesterday, we considered the lily's disposition. Today, we turn to the topic of true lilies.

I've learned a surprising fact about the lilies in my garden. They aren't lilies. I've called them lilies for years. The landscaper who sold them to me called them lilies, but they are simply not lilies, no matter what we've called them. As it turns out, only plants in the genus Lilium are lilies. True lilies grow from the bulb we considered earlier, with overlapping scales. Leaves grow around the stem in a spiral pattern and the flowers always have six petals and six anthers. (1) 



Daylily

Daylilies, on the other hand, grow from a tuberous bulb with leaves growing in a clump at the base of the stem. Instead of six petals, the daylily flowers have three petals and three sepals. 

One of the most striking differences between lilies and daylilies is that the true lily bloom persists for a week or so but the daylily bloom only lasts a single day.

Not every flower that bears the name lily is one. In that same way, not everyone who bears the name Christian is one. In our culture, the person who attends a Christian-oriented church is called a Christian. The person who was reared in a "Christian home" is called a Christian. This is done in much the same way that a person reared in Mississippi might call themselves a Mississippian. Sometimes a person who has conservative values is called Christian.

Dictionary.com reflects our changed culture. Christian is first defined as "derived from Jesus Christ". The fourth definition is "exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ", but the remainder of the definition includes "decent, respectable" and "human, not brutal, humane". It's no wonder we're confused.

Acts 11:26 tells us that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch. It was a name given them by the Gentiles, and it was used for people who lived their lives according to Christ's teachings. They were strict adherents of The Way, people willing to die for their faith. 

These first "Christians" were people who persisted in their faith despite persecution and tremendous opposition. There was nothing casual about their faith. They were not occasional attenders or merely adopting the faith of their parents. They had staked their lives on their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

When Jesus called people to be disciples, He told them "Follow Me." That's what disciples do. Follow their master. If we are true Christians, we are followers of Christ. We study His words and obey them. We persist in faith even in the face of opposition. We press on even when it's hard.

Disciples don't pick and choose which part of Jesus' teaching fits our thinking. If I am a Christian, I adapt my life to fit His teaching. He is my standard.

It's a matter of relationship. We serve a living Savior, a risen Lord. He is with us, by His Holy Spirit, every day, every moment. Our job is to please Him with our words, our actions, our thoughts. Are we perfect? Certainly not, but our goal is to constantly become more like Him. 

Being a Christian is not simply being decent and respectable. It's not about making moral choices. It's about laying down our lives and following Jesus every day for the rest of our lives. 

For today, let's pause to consider our own perspective on life. Am I a church-attender or a Christ-follower? Am I a moral person or one transformed by the Blood of the Lamb? 

Am I simply a decent, respectable person or am I a follower of Jesus? 

There is a difference and it makes all the difference. In this world and the next.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, who lives and reigns in Heaven, holy is your name. Show me my heart as you see it and reveal my motivations and priorities. I choose to follow Jesus. Help me to relinquish my life to you. Help me to live for you and not merely to please myself. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(1)http://gardening.about.com/od/perennials/qt/Lilies-versus-Daylilies.htm
images courtesy of freeimages.com 
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/pink-stargazer-lily-1199018
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/wild-daylily-1369652

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Considering the Lily: Disposition



"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the  grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!                                            (Luke 12:27-28 NASB)

In case you're just stopping in, we've been considering the lilies for the last few days. We began by considering the lily bulb. Yesterday, we considered lily propagation. Today, we're considering the lily's disposition. 

I learned an interesting fact as I was considering lilies. One of the reasons gardeners like to plant lilies is their reliable disposition. Lilies are simple plants. You nestle the bulb in the ground at the appropriate depth, provide water, good drainage, and protection from winter weather (by mulching). The lily responds by providing showy, fragrant blossoms every year and propagating itself. If you take care of the lily, you can rely on the lily to do what it was created to do. Flower and propagate. 

We serve a yesterday, today, and forever, same-all-the-time God. We can count on Him to be the same because He is reliable. It's His nature and it's supposed to be our nature as believers, too. 

Having a reliable disposition is more than doing what we've said or not doing what we said we wouldn't. Having a reliable disposition also includes having a consistent disposition. People know what to expect from us because we are the same, not swinging from one disposition to another. We're consistent, hopefully consistently kind.

Our goal with this reliable disposition business is not so much being consistent with our own dispositions. Our goal is supposed to be consistency with God's disposition. When the world looks at people who call themselves Christians, they expect to see people who act like Jesus. 

In case you've forgotten, when He walked the earth, He was funny, and friendly, and loved sinners. People were drawn to Him. He spoke truth but He did it in a nice way. (Except with the Pharisees, who were the church leaders. They were supposed to know better and He was uber-blunt with them.) Jesus was even kind to His worst enemies, the Pharisees. He shared meals with Pharisees and He died for them. Even though they voted to kill Him. Even though they tried to totally annihilate Him.

I'm not that nice.

I'm not that kind.

I'm supposed to be, though. 

When the world looks at me, they should see a walking, talking, smiling picture of Jesus. If I have a reliable Jesus-disposition, they should always see a walking, talking picture of Jesus. But they don't. I fail. On the days when I totally blow it, I repent and try again, and I'm grateful for the consistently reliable mercy and grace of our Lord that says, "Forgiven. Removed as far as the east is from the west. Do better next time."

I want that reliable, consistent mercy and grace for myself. For my failures. I want others to see it in me, to experience it in me.

Maybe you know something about this struggle for consistency, too. One day, we'll be like Jesus. All the time. Until then, we repent, rely on the lavish mercy and grace of our God, and try again. As we do, let's be as lavish with mercy and grace towards others as our Lord has been with us.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, forgive my failure, my inability to act like Jesus consistently. Cleanse me and help me to be more like Christ today than I've ever been before. Thank you for your mercy and grace. In Jesus name, Amen.