Thursday, July 30, 2015

When Life Seems Unfruitful

Everything is far & long gone by… I would like to step out of my heart & go walking beneath the enormous sky. Rainer M. Rilke

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? She asked, hoping for an answer to quench her thirst or curb her restlessness. It has been a long, long, season of waiting, and standing, and believing. It is a frustrating time as well; it is a time that nothing in my life seems fruitful. I am just here…waiting. I suppose I could fill my time with busyness so that I won’t feel the crush of the wait, but that would not prove fruitful either. Nothing seems fruitful at all; as illustrated in Piper’s Farm which is rich in green leaves and flowers, yet lacking fruit. I am weary of walking through the Farm anticipating fruit; I am disappointed each day. It seems that the Farm’s chronos is suspended in time for a harvest as well. 

The trees did not bloom this year;

There will be no apples this summer…

The apricot tree has forgotten to bloom…
The plumb tree which traditionally boasts of more plums than one knows what to do with, did not survive a hard freeze; most of it had to be pruned…
I could not find a bloom on my Texas Bluebonnets, which I am growing to remind me of God’s promise to me…

So, I ceased looking for fruit, and my expectation of harvest diminished.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit (Jer. 17:8 NASB).

When you feel like you are being crushed like a grape; God is getting ready to do something amazing with you. 

We all have experienced times when we feel unfruitful. It is in those times we need to press in diligently to hear God’s voice; set your face as flint... He is desiring to be more intimate with us and to deepen our understanding of who He is.

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel  (Ps 103:7 NASB)

The Israelites witnessed God’s miracles—His signs and wonders; but they would not climb the mountain; they wanted Moses to be their advocate to God. Moses knew God face-to-face, because he desired to be in the presence of the Lord; he would settle for nothing less than basking in God’s glory.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11 NASB).

Moses knew God’s ways, He understood His character. He trusted God because he knew God was trustworthy. When we don’t seek God, we will continue to walk around in a wilderness; questioning God and losing faith in His promises. The purpose of these dry, unfruitful seasons is to cause us to seek God more ardently than ever; we, like Moses, should not settle for less than God’s presence.  

Things are growing slowly, we had a late start to the warm weather. In Colorado, the growing season is all too short, and as August looms on the horizon, ushering in the fall, it is growing shorter by the day. I see green lush leaves and flowers that open and close, as if to tease me.  I worked hard to get this Farm planted, and it may come to naught. This causes me to be anxious for the fruit of my labor.

After a couple of days of sulking in my fruitlessness, I found a raspberry bush in a lower garden that I have neglected; it holds a few red berries. I planted this bush years ago, and honestly forgot about it; my energy focused on the berry bushes growing in my Farm.  

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. Wendell Berry
It caused me to reflect…do we have gifts or talents that we neglect, focusing our energy elsewhere, only to find the thing we neglected bearing fruit? There are things the Lord wants to see you bear fruit in, but you have forgotten to care for it. This is true for me. Use these dry times to cultivate your gifts and talents; be mindful of what you are neglecting. We must not leave our gifts and talents buried in the sand; driven by fear and afraid of risk. The reason I neglected this raspberry bush is that it is not organic. I bought it years ago before I began growing organic food. This bush I thought not worthy of my attention because it is not packaged the way I want it to be. That is how we miss God…when we don’t like the package or don’t recognize His workings when they manifest. The Pharisees made the same grave error. They knew the Hebrew Scriptures better than anyone. The very One those pages spoke of, they did not recognize when He walked the planet and knocked on their doors. Jesus did not appear how they envisioned, so He was despised and rejected (see Is. 53:3). 

Though it seems dark now, God always reminds us of His faithfulness. As I walked through the Farm a few days later, I began to see signs of life…

A few cucumbers…
And a bloom on my bluebonnets…

I have wasted too much time being disappointed; instead I should practice cultivating a grateful heart. My Farm brings me joy and happiness and it contains much to be thankful for. Thanking God in the midst of the crush is vital to our relationship with Him. I am thankful for the beauty of the pumpkin’s orange flowers—a promise of fruit. I am thankful for all the flowers that hold the promise of fruit, and the large green branches that are being conditioned to bear the coming harvest. The harvest may seem late by my perception, but God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). Part of cultivating a grateful heart is finding joy in the everyday mundane chronos. My small humble container Farm brings me joy and I thank Him for the coming harvest. God's beauty and His goodness is all around me. Be thankful...

Be joyful because it is humanly possible. Wendell Berry

When death seems imminent…God always brings life. He cares enough about me to cause my bluebonnets to bloom, to nudge me toward the mark and to remember that He is faithful that promised (see Heb. 10:23). The promise those flowers represent is still alive, though it seems unfruitful right now, God gently reminds me not to let go, and that He is getting ready to do something really amazing.

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Leave It To God

This Sabbath I am absorbed in my thoughts of  resting in God. His Word today is bread for this weary soul. Hold on to God’s faithfulness. Breathe. Breathe in God’s Word like oxygen. Exhale all your cares on Him. He has you and He will fulfill His promise to you.

To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27 NASB).

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7 NASB).

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23 NASB).
I know the words “leave it to God” can be misunderstood…the sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ will somehow share with him the perfect human obedience which He carried out from His birth to His crucifixion: that Christ will make the man more like Himself and, in a sense, make good his deficiencies. In Christian language, He will share His “sonship” with us, will makes us, like Himself, “Sons of God” (p. 128). C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside (p. 129). C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

 When Christ is in me (my only hope of glory), my circumstances may stay the same, but I change because Christ is working in me. If you feel like you are being crushed like a grape in a wine press...God is preparing something amazing for you. 

Give it to God and Rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 18: The Psalm Worth Repeating—Part I

The Lord Praised for Giving Deliverance.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said,

I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies
(vv. 1-3).
David’s life of worship is a beautiful pattern for us…he pens yet another a song to the Lord for His faithfulness and deliverance. Each day we should rise with thanksgiving pouring from our hearts to God for His faithfulness, and for keeping us in the cleft of His rock. While He hides us there from the storm, His glory is displayed; Moses witnessed His glory from the cleft of the rock (see Ex. 33:18).

“It is David’s thanksgiving for the many deliverances God had wrought for him. The poetry is very fine, the images are bold, the expressions lofty, and every word is proper and significant; but the piety far exceeds the poetry. Holy faith, and love, and joy, and praise, and hope, are here lively, active, and upon the wing.”[1]

This is the second recording of the prayer in Psalm 18. The first is found in II Samuel 22; though David’s editing pen is evident.

David’s love for the Lord is beautifully expressed here. David offers his words, as the evening sacrifice (Ps. 141:2). He praises God with all that is in him. He loves the Lord so deeply and it flows out of his soul like water. I want thankfulness and gratitude to flow from me like this. I want to wake up singing praises to God from the very depths of my spirit. This praise life that David nurtured, began by thanking God in everything; cultivating a grateful heart. And this is where it begins for us.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 NASB

David cannot praise God enough for His strength and power, and victory over his enemies. The Lord is his rock and fortress—his place of refuge. God is also His shield and the horn of his salvation. David is quite familiar with the horn. Samuel anointed him with oil poured from the ram’s horn. The horn is the symbol of power and strength. Animals use their horns as a defense and are the power and strength of the creature.

David is poetically and prophetically speaking to Christ, the horn of our salvation, and our altar.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant (Luke 1:68-69 NASB).

Four horns adorn the altars in the Tabernacle and Temple of Solomon. Horns were used to tie the unwilling sacrifice to the altar; though Christ is our willing sacrifice bound to the cross with grueling pain and cruelty, with nails that pierced His precious hands and feet. Revelation chapter five describes Jesus the Lamb of God having seven horns, which is emblematic of the power of His sacrifice, and His body and blood.  
The horns of the altar were also a place of refuge for one desperate for mercy. The horns were a place of life or death. 1 Kings 1: 50-53 is the account of Adonijah, a rebel to the reign of Solomon. When he heard that Solomon was crowned king, he ran to the temple and clutched the horns of the altar, seeking mercy from King Solomon; mercy was granted. God granted mercy to David by saving him from his enemies.  Each of us can grab on to the horns of the altar—Christ Jesus and His sacrifice—and find a place of mercy and refuge. No other religion can make that claim, and no other god can make that promise.

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me (vv. 4-5).

David eluded death on many occasions; God proves ever faithful to David, and promised him the scepter would remain in his house forever. David was not perfect; he suffered weighty consequences for his sins. He had a promise of the scepter remaining in his lineage, but the sword, too, will never depart from his house (2 Sam. 12:10). It is no surprise that David found trouble—or that trouble found him. But God never left David because of his sin, and he won’t leave us either. Christ died to set us free from sin, not so that we can stay in our sin. He loves us in spite of our sin. He is Faithful and True.

Death seems to surround us today as well; the slaughter of people around the globe fills the news. Christians and other religious minorities are being butchered by ISIS. Church shootings, and terror threats confront us on American soil every day. Ungodliness seems to be running amok in our nation, as America grows more hostile to Christianity than at any other time since the founding of this great nation. We live in desperate days indeed. Once again, David serves as our teacher:

In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears (v.6).

David knows just where to run; He knows God will hear him when he cries. God heard David from His temple.

God heard. Notice the past tense verb. Before we even call, He know our needs (see Matt. 6:8). One Jewish Scholar suggests that God heard him in the past tense because David lived a life that was thankful to God, and he was grateful for his past victories. Sometimes it may feel like you are praying into the wind, or over an endless mountain range, hearing nothing but the echo of your own voice; but God hears—in fact He heard you before you called.  
In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Is. 2:2 NIV

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Ps. 90:2 NIV

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? Ps: 121:1 NASB

[1] Leslie F. Church, ed., Matthew Henry’s Commentary in One Volume (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 594.

Piper's Farm: The Beauty of Bees

Bees work for man and yet they never bruise their master’s flower, but leave it, having done, as fair as ever, and as fit to use; so both the flower does stay, and honey run. George Herbert Providence

Yellow, black and a single stroke of red; Too big I cannot fathom how you fly with wings so small
From summer’s last stand into the arms of beckoning fall; The freezing threat hastens you to glean the last of summer’s nectar; Jumping from flower to flower each one brings new hope into the air;
The violet and blush of summer colors fade now with the crisps nights; And mild days...
Piper Green © 2012

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Witnessing the Divine: Rain, George Herbert, and Piper's Farm

Witnessing the Divine  grace of God today, as it is cold and raining on Piper's Farm; George Herbert seems appropriate;

 Rain, do not hurt my flowers, but gently spend
Thy honey drops: do not press to smell them here:
When they are ripe their odor will ascend,
And at thy lodging with their thanks appear.

George Herbert Providence