Those Amish Are Really Different Than Us! Or Are They?

An unusual sound emanated from one of the Amish houses I passed on my morning walk.

Normally, these homesteads are very quiet. One may hear an occasional “neigh” or “moo”, or the sounds of metal buggy wheels rolling over a graveled drive. But this sound was different.

The distinct chug of a gas-powered small engine echoed through the trees. As I drew near the house, I saw the engine anchored to a small metal plate which had been welded to a pole driven in the ground beside the house. The engine’s crankshaft had been extended through the metal siding and into the open “utility area” of the home.  It powered some type of tool or appliance located inside.

Which is highly unusual.

The Amish in our area are known for their conservative stance when it comes to the use of gas-powered engines. These sources of power may be used on hay balers and other farm implements. Occasionally, they may be utilized in the form of a chainsaw or other tool necessary for accomplishing a task on a jobsite. But until recently, gas-powered engines were considered taboo for any type of tool used for chores around the home; they could not be used for mowing the yard, generating electricity for milking a cow, powering a clothes washer, or anything else.

Apparently, changes are being made in our community’s Amish order. Now, occasionally, one will see a man mowing his yard using an old-fashioned gas- powered push lawnmower. Some things that once were considered worldly are now being considered amoral. Some things that once were shunned due to the possibility that they could contribute to worldly temptations, are now being utilized in moderation.

Which brings to mind some questions which are regularly thrown out around many a table in our area.

“Why do the Amish have such an aversion to modernization? If there truly is something worldly or sinful about it, why will they eventually change their practices?

Why are some “orders” so conservative, while others located just a few miles away so liberal; for instance, one order may not allow any use of a phone, another order may allow the use of a community or pay phone, and still another order will allow the use of cell phones, providing they are used for business purposes? Why can the members of one order only utilize horse drawn implements with metal wheels, while the members of other orders are allowed to use equipment which rolls on rubber tires, and still the members of other orders are even allowed to drive tractors or automobiles?

Why do some advocates of the Amish faith continually relocate as they search for a community which will allow them to work and live the way they want to work and live; for instance when a man desires to operate a commercial dairy but his current community will not allow him to use an electrically powered milking machine, why will he move his family many miles away into a community which will allow him to do what he wants?”

All these questions have been pondered and discussed by some very religious individuals who question the reasoning, motives, and standards of this “unusual” or “odd” sect which dwells among us.

But are the Amish that much different than most of the religious world? Do not many within “Christendom” think and act the same way?

In every “faith” are there not “conservative” and “liberal” congregations? Haven’t the core members of every church in existence at some point considered some things taboo, but later consider those same issues or practices acceptable? Doesn’t every faith have members who continually relocate from congregation to congregation, or even from “faith” to “faith” until they find a group that will allow them to live the way they want to live and to do the things they want to do?

People are people no matter where they are located, or how modernized or civilized they become. Perhaps we more readily notice the changes in the Amish community because they are more visibly identifiable. Perhaps we openly discuss these changes because more times than not, there are no Amish present during the conversation. Perhaps we sometimes can’t understand their reasoning because it resembles the same logic we use for arriving at our own religious beliefs; and we can neither understand nor willingly admit our use of such unreasonable logic.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:1-11) ESV

 

 

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Nurses Hold The Key To Any Surgeon’s Success. Members Of The Church Hold The Key to Any Preacher’s Success.

“Who performed your surgery?”

It seems that at least one person has asked me this question everywhere I have gone over the past 4 weeks. Sometimes as many as 3 or 4 people have asked it. And each time I answer the question, the response has been something like, “He did my surgery. He’s such a good doctor. I don’t think there is a better one anywhere.”

I have yet to hear anything negative about this surgeon. I will agree that he does excellent work. My results are an attestation to that fact.

But there is a group of essential people who we often overlook when we single out the surgeon as the key to a successful procedure. Most surgeons would hardily agree that these people are absolutely necessary to their success.

Nurses play a major role in the success of any surgeon.

Nurses do all the prep work before the surgery. Nurses assist during the surgery. Nurses ensure the surgery’s success during the recovery period.

Nurses keep an ever-vigilant eye on the patient’s vital signs during those critical hours immediately following surgery. They are the ones who administer or adjust the levels of medications which ensure healing and comfort. They are the ones who continually evaluate the patient’s condition and make extemporaneous decisions as to their needs. The nurses are the ones who remove tubes, apply prolonged pressure to potential bleed-out sites, ensure that the patient exercises, and puts up with the patient’s ever-changing mood swings.

Indeed, the surgeon plays the role of conductor of the surgical staff, but without the nurses which make up that surgical staff, most all patients (myself included) would be singing a totally different tune when we describe our satisfaction with the surgeon and the procedure. For without the prep nurses, the surgical nurses, and the recovery nurses, successful recovery would be virtually impossible.

Spiritually, there are times when it seems certain people have been blessed with an exceptional gift for leading people to Christ and encouraging them to remain faithful to their commitments. Christians often sing the praises of these gifted people. They will describe them as persuasive, powerful, encouraging, motivational, and exemplary. Indeed, these persons seem to have been blessed with a unique gift.

Paul was such an individual. Few people will argue against an assertion that the Apostle Paul was a gifted evangelist. But Paul, himself, would insist that he could not succeed without the help of his fellow workers; people like Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Phoebe, Aquila and Priscilla. Paul was the surgeon, and the other christians were the nurses. But Paul could not have accomplished all he did had it not been for his faithful companions.

So it is today. Zealous, enthusiastic, charismatic preachers and teachers may seem to be the primary instruments for the spread of the gospel in a community. But often, the “regular” christians in the community are the key to a preacher’s success. The preacher may be able to present the gospel so that it stirs the hearts of his listeners, but the “regular” christians are the ones who monitor the pulse of the listeners. They are the ones who interact with the listeners and who provide the needed support for the new born babes to grow in their faith.

Appreciate and commend the skills of a surgeon, but don’t ever forget that his nursing staff provides the key to his success.

Appreciate and commend the gifts of an evangelist, but don’t ever forget that the “regular” members of the church are the key to his success.

“Who then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) ESV

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. 3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. . . .6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. . . . 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. . . .12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. (Romans 6:1-12) ESV

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Maybe I Don’t Need My Insulin Or Medicine Anymore. And Maybe I don’t Need Jesus Either!

Many diabetics control their blood sugar levels by injecting insulin and/or orally taking medicines. I am one of those diabetics. The condition is relatively new to me, as is the treatment. Through the knowledge and wisdom of the medical personnel helping me to gain control of my condition, my sugar levels have gone from consistently sky-high to consistently falling between the accepted standards for a healthy lifestyle.

A part of my treatment has been modification of diet and exercise. This is something I can and must control on my own.

The temptation I am facing is to believe that I am controlling my sugar levels totally through my own efforts.

I desire to one day hear the words, “You no longer need to inject insulin.” I’d like to eventually hear the words, “You no longer need to take medication. You are doing a fine job of controlling your sugar levels through healthy diet choices and exercise. Just keep it up, and everything will be fine.”

So, about every day, I must remind myself that the diet and exercise modifications I am making to my life are helpful and essential, but the modifications, by themselves, are not the stabilizing forces which have led to the leveling of my sugars.

These modifications are working in conjunction with the insulin and medication. The insulin and medication are not optional. Without them, my sugar levels would consistently run much higher, and would exhibit major spikes from time to time. I cannot control the levels by my own efforts. I need the benefits of the medications.

(Please note the number of times the personal pronouns “I”, “me”, and “my” are used in the section above. This indicates a desire to be in control. It indicates a desire to be totally independent of anyone or anything else. It indicates a desire to deny personal weakness and helplessness.)

Spiritually, we often face the same type of temptations when it comes to dealing with sin. Perhaps we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, and by the power of the initial emotional adrenaline rush, we make some major modifications to our lives. Our goal is to totally change. Our goal is to be as “good” and moral as we can be so that God will be proud of us.

Often, we may experience our lives transforming from an emotional rollercoaster filled with drama into a calming Sunday drive down a country lane. And we are tempted to think to ourselves, “Through my own efforts, I have made an amazing change. Maybe I don’t need Jesus; at least not as much as I once did.”

Often we joyfully witness our list of priorities shifting from parties, excitement, lust, and self-fulfillment to family, sobriety, love, and service. We think to ourselves, “I have finally found myself. I have discovered that which I have been searching for; that which fills the void in my life. I am complete. I have arrived. Maybe I don’t need God or Jesus; at least not as much as I once did.”

In those times of temptation, we fail to realize that Jesus is the reason we have been able to get off the emotional, drama-filled rollercoaster. Jesus is the reason we have replaced selfish superficiality with selfless profundity. Jesus is the reason our lives have gone from spiritually depleting to spiritually enriching.

Physically, some of us diabetics may one day be able to discontinue the insulin and medication. But spiritually, none of us will ever come to a point that we can discontinue Jesus. He will forever be the stabilizing force within our lives.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) ESV

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) ESV

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) ESV

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“I Used Your Recipe. But I Omitted 2 Ingredients And Substituted A Couple. Yet It’s Still Your Recipe.” Or Is It?

A recipe for a delicious looking Brussels sprouts side dish came across my FaceBook newsfeed. I saved it, thinking I would make it one night for our supper. The ingredients were simple; Brussels sprouts, garlic, heavy whipping cream or half-and-half, bacon, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. The author listed specific amounts of each ingredient to be used.

The night that I made the dish, I read the directions. I planned to follow the directions. I tried. I followed the preparation and cooking portion of the instructions. But giving in to my own tastes and opinions caused me to significantly veer from the author’s ingredient list.

I saw some fresh vegetables in the refrigerator which needed to be used before they spoiled; cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots. I thought that these would enhance the taste of the dish. So, I added them. Due to the additional vegetables, I added more half-and-half than was called for in the recipe. I did not have the needed amounts of parmesan or mozzarella cheeses, so I purchased an Italian blend at the store. Although the recipe called for 2/3 of a bag, I poured the entire contents over the concoction. (After all, who doesn’t like melted cheese.)

What started out as one person’s Brussels sprouts side dish became my vegetable medley bake.

The dish was delicious. My wife and I agreed that I should try to recreate it.  But we also agreed that the baked mixture could serve as a main dish rather than a side dish if chicken was added.

A couple of weeks later, I tried to make the dish again, just as I had made it before; only this time I planned to add chicken. I read the original directions, starting with the Brussels sprouts as the main ingredient. I used the author’s preparation and cooking instructions. I threw in my additional vegetables. However, this time, I added a greater quantity of each to the pot. I could not find fresh garlic, so I tried to substitute garlic flakes. I did not sprinkle in enough. By the time I added the half-and-half, the hot skillet I was using was filled to the brim so I had to pour the concoction into a pre-warmed Dutch oven.

Needless to say, the dish did not taste the same as the first time that I made it. It was alright, but not the same.

Yesterday, my wife tried her hand at recreating the dish. But like all good chefs, her intent from the beginning was to bake her version of the concoction. She read the author’s original recipe; the one that called for Brussels sprouts to be the only vegetable ingredient. She followed the preparation and cooking instructions. But her ingredient list veered significantly from either the author’s or mine. She omitted the Brussels sprouts entirely. She omitted the carrots. She used heavy whipping cream instead of half-and-half. She used a different blend of cheeses.

My wife’s vegetable dish was delicious. I hope that she can recreate it. But the words she used to describe her inspiration are the motivation for this blog.

She told me, “I used your recipe.”

I had no recipe. I simply started with someone else’s formula for a baked Brussels sprouts side dish, and tried to transform it into a main dish by adding the ingredients I wanted or had available. My wife started with the same baked Brussels sprouts side dish recipe, and tried to transform it into her own personal main dish, omitting the ingredients she dislikes and substituting the ones she finds tasteful.

In the end, three separate dishes have been created; the author’s, mine, and my wife’s

Spiritually, many within Christendom approach the church in the same way we approach cooking. In the Bible, God has told us and shown us how he wants his church organized, the type of worship he wants it to offer, and how he wants his church to fulfill its mission of evangelizing the world.

But we are not satisfied with God’s instructions. They are too basic.  They are too simple. They do not satisfy our tastes or our need for adrenalin producing excitement.

So, some of us start adding our own ideas to the church’s organization, to its worship, and to its work; we put in that which excites and invigorates us; we omit that which we consider boring or offensive.

Then when we each have our own version of the church, we turn to God and say, “I used your recipe.” We imply, “What I have designed and made is exactly what you intended.”

But what we have is an organization suited to our own taste and not made according to God’s original instructions. We have a denomination. We have a social club. We have a community activist organization. But we do not have the church.

The only way that we can have the church is to go back to the original, and to restore it, using God’s recipe.

“Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)

“I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

 

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Famous Last Words: “I Can Handle This.”

“You will be thirsty. You will beg me for water. But I will not give you any, because your stomach will still be asleep. Until your stomach awakens, I can’t give you water.”

The pre-op nurse stood at the end of the patient’s bed, using her 18 years’ experience to help the surgical candidate understand what lay in store for him.

“You will be in pain. Ask for pain medicine. Take the pain medicine we offer you. You will not get a gold star for resisting the pain unmedicated, and taking it will help you calmly endure the inevitable.”

The nurse continued to describe the different reactions which she had observed patients experience during their revival and recovery process.  No, she had not personally experienced these hardships, but through the years, she had assisted several hundred patients to regain consciousness and to learn to breathe on their own again.

“Do your best to listen to us, and to do what we tell you to do. We are here to help you. We will try to get you off the ventilator as quickly as we can, but you must work with us.”

The patient listened. He heard. He took it all in. He stored it in the back of his mind. Yet the whole time he was thinking, “But I am an exception. You have not witnessed my abilities as a patient. I’m different than all the others. I can handle this.”

These were his thoughts until the first pangs of conscious pain hit him. He believed these thoughts until his parched tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Then he understood that though we are all unique, we are all the same. Then he understood that years of witnessing the inevitable stages of the revival process produced a beneficial wisdom within his friend, the pre-op nurse.

Experiencing his own weaknesses stopped him from saying to himself, “I can handle this.”

Spiritually, we all have many people within our lives who try to help us see the dangers and pitfalls of sin. Some speak to us from firsthand experience, knowing the pangs of addiction or depravity. Some try to convince us from years of  lovingly counseling others who were searching for hope and truth upon which they could rebuild their lives. Some speak from a knowledge of the wisdom which God inspired the biblical writers to expound and preserve for us.

The most helpful adviser is one who combines all three; one who knows the truths of God’s word,  who can beneficially apply those truths because he realizes how he himself has been affected by sin, and he has witnessed many of the same affects in the lives of others.

But so many times, the wise advisers’ advice falls on deaf ears. As they try to warn us of the dangers of sin, we look straight through them and say to ourselves, “But you don’t understand. I am an exception. I am unique. I am strong. I can handle this. This will not be a sin to me, nor lead to my downfall.”

“The things that has the power to addict others will not addict me. That which may lead to depravity and poverty for the majority will not be strong enough to lead me down such a path. I will not allow those things which leave others lonely and empty to desert me in such a miserable condition. I can handle this.”

Then one day, we find ourselves slavishly swilling the alcohol or drugs. One day, we find our marriage broken beyond repair because we enjoyed the endorphin rush of flirting with lust. One day we find ourselves struggling to keep our family fed because we bet our paycheck on the horses.

That’s when we realize that though we are all unique, we are all the same. That’s when we realize that there is a reason why our wise old grandma warned us to flee from sin. That’s when we realize that the Bible’s wisdom applies to every generation of every age.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) ESV

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) ESV

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray ny it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) ESV

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Adjusting To Diabetes and Christianity Isn’t That Tough! Or Is It?

Walking into a hospital emergency room complaining of chest pains, and being diagnosed with vessel blockages and sugar diabetes is life changing. Many everyday habits must be modified to deal with these serious conditions.

Vessel blockages can be cured through intervention or surgery. Prevention of future problems may involve modification of diet and exercise. But the changes to a person’s life style may not be extreme, depending upon his past habits.

Diabetes, on the other hand, offers special challenges since it involves monitoring blood sugar levels multiple times per day, injecting medicines, and tracking carbohydrate intake so that one’s blood sugar may remain consistently level.  One can never be completely cured of diabetes. All he can do is gain control of it.

At first, lying in the hospital room, one experiences denial. He reasons that the lab techs must have made a mistake. He tries to get the medical staff to admit that the established standards vary from person to person and that the levels he is experiencing may not be high for him; that they are peculiar to his health. He may go through a phase of making light of the seriousness of his condition; he tries to convince himself that gaining control of his diabetes really doesn’t make any difference.

But eventually, the fact sets in, and he realizes that he must deal with this undesired condition.

While lying in the hospital room, one begins reasoning that dealing with diabetes will not be difficult. The nursing staff regularly checks his blood sugar levels, and injects the needed insulin.  The hospital dietary staff delivers tasty, balanced meals (yes, I did say tasty) at consistent times each day.  In those circumstances, there is no need for him to count carbs or starches.

So, he reasons, “This isn’t going to be that hard.”

At home, where the food choices are somewhat limited, the diabetic may reason to himself, “This is going to be a little more difficult than I thought, but still not too hard.”  The fact that his RN wife prepares his meals, doles out the portions, and helps him monitor his sugar levels adds to the diabetic’s confidence that he can indeed make these changes with ease.

But eventually, the diabetic must go out on his own. He must monitor his own health. He must make wise food choices.  And he must do so outside the confined room of the hospital or the semi-confined walls of his home.  He must do so in the mega commercialized food world.

The nurses and dietary staff are not around to ensure that he receives a well-balanced diet. His wife is not there to monitor his dietary intake.  It’s just he against the food world.

And the food world isn’t particularly concerned about his condition. Its main concern is presenting bountiful portions of food which the masses consider delicious. The food world spends millions of dollars on advertisement, hoping to draw as many people as possible through their door, or to their grocery aisle.

That’s when the diabetic experiences true temptation. That’s when it finally hits him just how hard it’s going to be to make the healthy lifestyle changes. That’s when he realizes what the rest of his life is going to be like.

And it’s tough.

Spiritually, many people begin searching for Jesus, already suspecting that they have a spiritual health issue.  Through the sermons they hear, they are convicted of their sin problem and they realize that they must do something about it.

The Bible teaches that our hearts are the cause of our spiritual disease. God and Jesus can cure the heart. Jesus can empower a person to transform from a voluntary slave of Satan to a humble servant of God. When one transforms, he realizes that he must make major changes in his lifestyle; he must give up sin. (Romans 12:1,2)

This may not seem difficult as long as the new disciple remains in the presence and worship services of the church.  Preachers and Bible school teachers serve the proper type and amount of spiritual foods. Fellow christians help the penitent sinner identify and keep check on those sinful activities that seem “sweet” to him. When confined within the church, adapting one’s lifestyle to a faithful lifestyle may not appear difficult.

Within the presence of a christian family, living a faithful christian life may not appear to be a difficult task. One’s parents, spouse, and children constantly encourage him to give up old habits, and to replace them with prayer, Bible study, and christian priorities. The temptations which one faces are limited. God designed the home to be a safe place for his followers.  And within the home, a new christian may be tempted to reason that adapting from sinner to disciple will not be difficult.

Then there comes the day when the spiritual babe must face the world on his own. His fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not with him. He is absent from the influence of his family. He, and he alone, must make wise decisions as he purposely resists the temptation of the world.

And the world doesn’t care about his spiritual health.

Satan, through the world simply wants to market bountiful temptations which taste “sweet” to the masses.  He spends billions of dollars trying to entice as many people as he can to try his destructive delicacies.

Facing these temptations alone are the times when a christian will be more likely to give in to the destructive forces of sin. Facing these temptations alone are the times when a new disciple realizes that faithfully living his newly chosen lifestyle will not be easy.

These moments are the times when he must fall back on all the Bible truths he has learned. These are the times that he must appreciate the love and care of his family. But mostly, these are the times that the new disciple must learn to rely on his Master, his Savior, his Teacher, and his Counselor.

For when a newborn babe truly learns to trust Jesus, he realizes that he is never alone, and that the salvation of his soul is worth resisting even the sweetest temptation.

“18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me

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Is That A Flower Or A Weed? Who Knows? I Guess I Might As Well Go Ahead And Cut It Down Just In Case.

Few people can trim and landscape another person’s lawn without destroying at least some plants which the owner purposely set out and fondly values. This is especially true when the owner loves flowers, but the trimmer finds no delight in horticulture.

When a person appreciates the beauty of blossoming flowers and the satisfaction of caring for living plants, she will carefully choose, locate, and plant both perennials and annuals, so that her garden plots remain in bloom from early Spring till late Fall. She will energetically water these beds to prevent the beloved plants from wilting due to dehydration. She will carefully weed the beds to keep her flowers from competing with unwanted weeds for nutrition. She will continue this practice for many years, establishing several permanent beds.

Then one day, the time comes when someone else must mow the lawn and tend to the beds.  That someone else may appreciate the beauty of the flowers while they are in bloom, but he may not be able to differentiate between the emerging blades of a cherished perennial, and that of a distained grass.  He may not be able to differentiate between the broad leaves of a Holly Hock and that of an emerging gypsum weed.

That’s when difficulties arise for both.  The one envisioning the beds to be as beautiful as she once kept them, and the other not knowing for sure how to accomplish that goal.

Spiritually, the Bible clearly teaches us that we are to be our brother’s keeper.  We christians are to help one another become untangled from the world. We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1,2). If anyone goes back into the world, we are to do our best to restore that person, thus saving his soul. (James 5:19-20)

In essence, we are to try to help one another remove the spiritual weeds from our lives, and to cultivate the spiritual flowers which make our lives beautiful.

But this is often difficult. Because many times there are disagreements about which actions and attitudes constitute flowers and which ones constitute weeds. One person may have purposely planted and lovingly nurtured an action or attitude for years within his life, believing it to be a beautiful, fragrant flower, while his brother may deem the action or attitude to be an obnoxious weed.

God has given us a difficult task.

So, what do we do in such a case?

Carefully read God’s word together.  Lovingly speak God’s word to one another.  Then allow God to aid each person to identify the flowers and the weeds within his life. Allow God to empower each person to remove the unwanted spiritual weeds from his life.

When we go beyond this, and forcefully try to “weed” another person’s life for them, we may destroy their flowers as well.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) ESV

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7) ESV

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Our Words Tell More About Us Than Our Words Tell About Others

Unprompted words display a man’s heart more clearly than any of its other random manifestations.

I sat down next to a man I did not recognize at a communal-type table in a small diner. We were the only patrons in the business. We exchanged introductions. I recognized his name as being that of the father of a couple of sisters that attended the same school I did over 40 years ago. The girls were several years younger than me, so I did not personally know them; I knew their names and faces.

I asked the man if he was indeed the girls’ dad. He assured me that he was. I then asked him how they were doing, and where their lives had taken them.  He proudly told me about the girls’ accomplishments, and included the accomplishments of a third sister I did not know existed. All the girls had moved to urban areas and had done well professionally.

We sat silently for a few moments.

Then out of the blue the man said, “The first two girls carry quite a bit more flesh now than they should. The third one has kept herself in pretty good shape, but the older two have let themselves go.”

I nervously laughed, thinking about the 30-plus extra pounds I now carry. But I also took my first good look at him. Although he showed the signs of age, he remained slender and wiry, not having that paunch that so many of advanced age develop.

His words and his physique betrayed at least a portion of his treasures. Looks and body conditioning play a major role in the man’s life.

I also took a good look at myself. What had my words manifested about me?

When we think about our verbal interaction with others, we need to ponder what our words tell others about us, especially strangers? When we feel a need to begin or extend a conversation, what subject does our heart prompt us to broach?

Do we initiate conversations about money and the economy? Do we talk of the world news? Do we try to discuss our opinions concerning the current state of our nation? Do we talk about others? If we speak about another person, especially a loved one, what do our words say about our respect for that person?

Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV), and “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18 ESV).

Want to display your heart?

Just start talking. Your priorities will soon be evident.

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If I Could Only Have a Do Over. I’m Sure I’d Get It Right Next Time.

Our 9-years-old granddaughter moved her finger over the black screen and a multicolored line appeared. She continued to draw lines on the screen until she had ornately written her name. With one push of a button, the screen cleared itself and became blank once more. The next series of screen touches became a work of stick figures and block letters. It too became history with the touch of a button.

Erasable drawing pads have been popular throughout the years. The Etch-O-Sketch could be shaken to make an image disappear. The black wax pad covered by a sheet of gray film and etched with a plastic stylus could be erased by pulling the film away from the wax pad. Then there was the plastic framed electromagnetic pad that could be erased by sliding a bar across the drawing surface.

Each of these – from the wax pad to the high-tech electronic screen – have accomplished the same goal. They each have allowed the user to express themselves in some way, then to erase the expression and start over. From their respective popularity, it is apparent that children and adults of every generation desire the ability to express, evaluate, erase, and edit anew.

Spiritually, Jesus gives us the ability to have our slate wiped clean and to start anew. This has been Jesus’ drawing power for centuries. By his blood, our sins can be washed clean, and although we may have to deal with the earthly, physical consequences of our sins, the eternal guilt is forever forgiven.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) ESV

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What Do You see In a Person? Do You See What Christ Sees? We Will See What We Have Trained Ourselves To Search For.

A hunter can spot a turkey, deer, or groundhog in the middle of a field a half mile away, many times while the hunter is driving down the highway at 55 MPH. Other people only see dark spots, if even that. Why?  The hunter is looking for game.

A fisherman can see fish, sunken logs, algae, and fish beds underneath several feet of water, while others only see the reflection of trees and the sky on the surface of the water. Why? The fisherman is looking for fish.

A real estate agent or investor can spot a potential business investment in a line of rundown shacks and buildings, while others only see eyesores that need to be destroyed. Why? The agent or investor is looking for future potential rather than historical failure.

A salesman sees everyone he meets as a potential new or repeat customer, while others only see them as friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Why? Because he is looking for people who have a need which his product can fulfill.

A disciple of Christ who has truly taken on the likeness of his teacher views everyone he meets as a valuable human being who needs Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Why? Because that’s how Jesus viewed every person in the world. He saw them as wayward sheep who needed a shepherd, lost children trying to find their way home, and sinful souls which needed saving.  For Jesus, every soul demonstrated a need which only his blood could fulfill.

May we ever be disciples of Christ, viewing ourselves and our fellow man through the eyes of Jesus.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) ESV

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) ESV

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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