Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mulch Is Not Enough

Weeds in my landscaping is one of my pet peeves, so a couple of weekends ago, I spent a day and a half pulling weeds and putting out fresh mulch. It looked wonderful. Fresh. Clean. Weed-free. The only plants that caught your eye were the ones I intended.

I rejoiced in my work and moved on to something else. Yesterday, when I was watering the garden and landscape, I realized that the weeds had begun to creep through again. 

Mulch is not enough.

Consistent weeding is a requirement of a weed-free garden.

After it cooled off, I weeded again.

The job wasn't enormous, but it was essential if I wanted pretty flower beds. 

Over the last few days, I've realized I've have a few weeds in my heart-garden and they marred the effect God had planned. Fear, pride, control, and busyness are the things that creep in most often, and I had to pull them up by the roots, again, lest they take over and choke out what God wants to do.

Listening to fervently-spoken sermons and spending hours in Bible study are not enough. Our sin has to go if we are to be all God intended.

Today, let's take a close look at the landscape of our heart. Are there weeds that need to be removed? Of course, there are. We are sinners who, even though we don't want to be, are bent toward sinning. 

Despite our sin-ward leaning, we can make a better choice. Let's pull those weeds of sin up by their roots so that the Word of God can grow and flourish in our lives. 

Our hearts, the garden of God.

"... and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:11 esv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Door of Hope is Still Open

#heartgarden #disciple #weeds #sin

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Door of Hope is Still Open

Another terrorist attack...
More racial tension...
Further revelations about public leaders...

There's destruction and death, deceit and depravity everywhere we turn.  

In the midst of it all, however, I have good news. God is STILL on His throne.

I know there's a temptation to look at this mess and wonder where God is in the midst of it, to wonder why He doesn't move. 

Some people say that the evil in our world argues against a righteous God. 

I say the evil in our world argues for a patient, loving, long suffering, one-more-chance God. 

At the root of all this evil is a problem we don't even recognize. We've lost something precious, something protective, and we're poorer for it. As I read Psalm 119 this morning, I realized that, as a society, we no longer "tremble for fear" of God. We aren't afraid of His judgment.

We should be, though.

The delay of God's judgment is not an indication of an inability to render judgment. The delay shows us how much He loves us. His Word is clear, though. He will not delay forever.

If we continue on our current path of rebellion toward God, of immorality, spiritual arrogance, and chasing after the gods of this world, we will reap the judgment of God. We are already reaping it. 

God will not let our evil go on forever.

I cringe at the idea of judgment, until I look at Israel. Over and over again, God's people sinned, experienced judgment, and turned back to Him.

It's easy to trust ourselves in prosperity. When we have nothing but God, we come to understand that God is all we need. We turn back to Him. We trust Him again. We embrace the change that comes with repentance and revival.

We are sin-broken people, living in a sin-broken world, but we are not without hope. There's a time-proven treatment for sin-brokenness. When we turn to God with a repentant heart, accept the Lordship of Jesus, and follow Him, He heals us. He cleanses us. He makes us new.

Judgment is at hand.

But the door of Hope is still open. The Message paraphrase translates Hosea 2:15 this way: "I'll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope." No matter how hard life gets, God can still turn heartbreak into hope. Judgment into joy.

What should our response be in the midst of unsettled, sin-filled times? Scripture makes it clear. Repent. Return. Pray.

Is there still a chance for things to change? Maybe not much, but yes, we still have a chance, so let's do what must be done. Repent. Return. Pray.

"But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Lesson of the Succulents
#hope #ifmypeople #Jesus 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Lesson of the Succulents

Hannah, my son's girlfriend, enjoys propagating succulents. She removes a tiny leaf from the original plant, sets it in indirect sunlight, and waits. In a few weeks, the leaf sprouts roots. She then transfers it to a growing tray filled with succulent soil and positions the tray under a grow-light. Given time, the leaf should begin to grow a plant. 

She makes it look easy, so I decided to try it. On my second try, three of the leaves sprouted roots. Those leaves sat in a growing tray for weeks. I drizzled water to keep the soil moist, but not wet, watched with expectation, and waited. 

I was just about to give up hope when I noticed a tiny leaf on one of the rootlings. Over the next few days, a new plant began to grow.

As the new plant has grown, the original leaf has withered. Before long, the old leaf will be completely gone and all that will remain is the newly propagated plant.

I'm stunned by the ease of it, but also stunned by the profundity of it.

The leaves of succulents are thick and fleshy because they store water. In times of drought, the plants can survive because they already have a provision of water safely tucked away. In an interesting way, succulents survive because of the "living water" inside them. 

Those living-water-filled leaves root easily, even in open air. In a way, they live to reproduce. 

I think that's the way we are to be as believers, as well. When we're filled with the living water only Christ can give, we, too, can reproduce easily. When we share Christ with others, we leave behind a bit of good news that, in just the right conditions of Son-light (Jesus' Spirit), can begin to sprout roots and grow a new plant. 

At the same time, as we share the good news of Jesus, mentor those who want to grow, and share our lives with those around us, we find that there is less of our old self and more of Christ. In a way, our "old life" withers so that the new life can flourish. 

It's a good picture of the Christian life. Ever-growing. Ever-reproducing. Our old sin-life withering away. 

Christ didn't save us to leave us the same. Today, let's take a look at our own "propagation". Are we reproducing? Is our old sin-life withering away? If not, let's ask for a filling of the living water only Christ can bring and spend some time in the light of God's Son. 

"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Starvation Diet
Here's the link to yesterday's flashback extra:(from just before the Ferguson riots) Praying Like Your Life Depends on It
#succulents #succulentpropagation #disciple

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Starvation Diet

If you've followed the Sam stories, you know that his much-loved wife, Jamie, died back in October. They were married sixty years, so life without her has been quite an adjustment. 

Learning to prepare nutritious meals has been hard for Sam, and, after a while, it was more trouble than it was worth to him. It was no surprise to me when he lost even more weight. It was no surprise to me that he suffered the effects of poor nutrition. He had almost quit eating. "More trouble than it was worth," he'd say.

After a while, to my experienced-physician eye, it was obvious that he was on a starvation diet, and equally obvious that it threatened to take his life. I cajoled. Helped him find easy meals. Sent food home with him.

Finally, I did the only thing that would help. I began to prepare his meals and watch him eat. When we started this latest chapter, Sam probably thought I was being a bully. He complained that I was forcing him to eat too much. He wasn't hungry. He felt too full. On and on.

Yesterday, however, made all the struggle worthwhile. Sam pulled into my driveway just after I returned home from the prayer vigil. We've progressed to the point that I had prepared meals and sent them home with him. He'd eaten every meal that was scheduled while I was away. Every bite. 

"I'm feeling so much better since you started making me eat like this. I didn't know food mattered so much. I thank you for what you're doing for me."

It was obvious he's better. He's gained nearly four pounds. His dizziness and weakness are better. Stamina is improving. Complaints are decreasing.

Sam understands now that a starvation diet will kill you, and it will make you feel awful before it does.

A starvation diet of spiritual food will hurt us just as much, but we often fail to realize it. If we deprive ourselves of the Word of God, sound Biblical teaching, fellowship with other believers, and service to those in need, it has an insidious, but steadily progressive effect.

If we want to be physically healthy, we must have a diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fat in balanced proportions. If we want to be spiritually healthy, we need a balanced diet, as well. Bible study. Teaching. Fellowship. Service. 

Bible study alone, without fellowship and service, is good, but it's not enough. To live as Jesus lived, we have to serve the people He served, as well. The sick. The lost. The worst sinners around. 

How's your diet going? Are you getting all you need for your spiritual health? If not, maybe you need to make some adjustments. Rearrange your schedule to allow more time for the things that matter most. Look outside yourself for those in need.

Let's aim to be healthy so we can live long and productive lives, not just physically, but spiritually as well. 

"For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil." Hebrews 5:13-14 nasb
In case you missed it, here are links to the most recent series: 
#starvation #healthydiet #Biblesudy #disciple

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Prayer Vigil

(Written Sunday evening...)

Desegregation occurred when I was in 9th grade. It was a very confusing time.

To be perfectly honest, the only black people I knew back then were Clara Belle and Phoebe. Clara Belle was a tall, big-boned woman who talked so loud to herself that she scared me. During my medical school psychiatry rotation, I realized she was probably schizophrenic. She ended up at Whitfield when she threw bricks at the welfare people. I don't know what happened to her after that, but I've wondered about her a lot over the years.

My grandmother loved Clara Belle. When she was hungry or needed money, she came to see Grandmother, who always gave her a little work, a little money, and a big meal. If my grandmother had had a lot of money, she'd have given it to her. I think she probably gave her all she had.

Phoebe worked for my grandmother for many years. It looked to me as if they were best friends. Even when Phoebe was too old and frail to do much work, she'd come to our house and cook a little. She and my grandmother would talk and pray. We all loved Phoebe. I thought all black people were as gentle and kind as she.

The world changed for everyone that 9th grade year. The black high school students came to the white high school. Younger grades were moved to the black high school. There was lots of anger and fighting and fear and I didn't understand it, but it frightened me.

There were marches and boycotts and I didn't understand any of it, either. They frightened me, too.

I didn't know there were places black people couldn't go back then, but I do now, and I'm still shocked by it. 

I had some hard experiences in high school because of desegregation, and they were painful at the time. Looking back, though, I prefer to remember Sharon Nicks. She was the prettiest black girl I'd ever seen. She had the most wonderful, gentle smile and I thought she was a lot like Phoebe. She was genuinely nice.

I didn't understand much of the unrest that happened when I was in high school. I just lived through it, like we do.

I understand a lot more now, and I wish I could've made it easier for those kids. Because they had it bad. I'm so very sorry for all their suffering.

Things are better than they were for African Americans, but they still aren't all they should be, and it's past time for change.

I don't know what I can do to make a difference, but I'm going to the prayer vigil because I care. Because God cares. Because black lives matter to me, just like white lives and Asian lives and any other lives. 

Life matters.

By the time you read this, I'll probably already be at the prayer vigil, joining with others in our community to pray for healing in our nation and our community. It's long overdue, and I'm praying healing begins tomorrow.

I've spent most of this afternoon preparing meals for Sam to eat while I'm gone, putting the final polish on my notes for teaching Wednesday evening, and pondering what God will do tomorrow.

I never know what to expect from Him, but I know that, if I'm faithful, He will be, too. And so I go...

If you've never participated in a prayer vigil, I invite you to come. I'm not in charge in any way, so I don't know what the leaders have planned. At most of the prayer vigils I've attended, the altar is open and people pray, alone or in groups. 

If you want to come, look for me, and I'lll pray with you. 

It may not be a familiar place, but there'll be family there, and I'm sure you'll be welcome. With your presence, even if it's just for a few minutes, you'll make it clear that every life matters to you, no matter how much pigment their skin has.

The words I plan to say, as often as possible, are "Your life matters to me." I invite you to do the same.

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31 nasb

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to Your Life Matters to Me

And the link to The All-Important IF and the Chance to Save a Nation
#yourlifematterstome #prayervigil #disciple

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The All-Important IF and the Chance to Save A Nation

I've spent the last three months writing about Hosea. As I've studied and written about the times in which Hosea lived, I've been shocked by the parallels between his nation and ours. 

God's people worshipped false gods, sacrificed infants in the name of prosperity (to the idol Molech), and made immorality a way of life. They still talked a great game, but the worship of their idols was so intermingled with the rituals of God-worship that they exchanged faith for a form of religion, relationship with God for nothing more than words.

Hosea's world looked so much like ours that I cannot help but wonder if we will end up the way Israel did. God's people had one chance after another to repent, but they did not. It cost them everything God had given them. They lost their homeland. Their homes and all their possessions. Their wealth. Their freedom. Their lives.

We, too, stand on a precipice. 

I don't have to tell you what a mess we've made of our freedom. You can see it on your news feed. In our streets. In our homes.

A precipice is not a place you remain forever. You either go forward, into destruction, or make a change that takes you to a safer place. We have a choice to make as a nation. Will we do what it takes to become the strong, healthy, and unified nation our founders intended or not? 

It's that simple.

Those of us in the northeast Mississippi area have an "if My people" opportunity. 

One moment. 

One chance.

A group of ministers in Tupelo, both black and white, have called for a Day of Prayer on Monday, July 11, 2016. A 24-hour prayer vigil will be held at the Temple of Compassion and Deliverance in Tupelo. It begins tomorrow (Monday, July 11, 2016) at 6 am and runs until Tuesday at 6 am. The address is 1148 N. Madison St. in Tupelo.

I'm going, and I hope you will, too.

When God says He will move in response to the prayers and repentance of His people, He's not kidding, but our repentance and prayers are not optional, either.

We've complained about the situation in our community and our nation. We've grumbled about the killings and the anger and the violence. We've trembled in fear at what is happening.

Now, we have a chance to come together and make a difference. We must not let this opportunity go by.

It doesn't matter what I think we should do. It doesn't really matter what anyone thinks we should do. At this point, all that matters is what God wants us to do. 

We already know what He wants.

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 nasb

Humbling ourselves is not optional. Praying and seeking His face is not optional. Turning from our wicked ways is not optional. It must all be done.

BUT, if we do what God says, He will hear us. He will forgive. He will heal.

Tomorrow, we will kneel together before the Only One who can make a difference. It won't matter how much pigment we have in our skin cells. It won't matter where we usually go to church. 

The only thing that will matter is that we're willing to humble ourselves, repent, turn from our sins, and pray.

If we will do that, God will heal. He said He would, and He will.


It's a big IF. The question is not whether God will respond. The question is whether we will do our part.

I'm counting on you, body of Christ. A nation in desperate trouble is counting on you, and they don't even know it.

Now is our moment. Now is our chance. We dare not let this pass. 

I'll be there at 6 am. I hope you will be, too.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's extra post: Your Life Matters to Me and to: The Fish Hook Gift

#yourlifematterstome #714 #saveournation #disciple