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Archive for May, 2010

We’ve been growing a lovely patch of weeds in our garden this year. No effort was required to cultivate this abundant harvest. A simple lack of vigilance allowed these unwelcome intruders to take over our plot of string bean plants, until we couldn’t tell which were the vegetable plants and which were the weeds.

So on a sunny Saturday, armed with my worn gardening gloves, I got down on my knees in the grass to investigate. Brushing the leafy tops aside, I could identify the imposters by their thin, rough stems, contrasting with the smooth green stems of the string bean plants. One section at a time, down the row, I searched out the counterfeits and swiftly removed them, yanking them out by the roots. Soon there were several piles of discarded weeds next to me on the grass, and I could finally see the string beans that had been hidden from view, some of them ready for picking! That night I enjoyed fresh string beans for dinner, the sweet fruit of my labor.

It’s easy to allow weeds to grow up unnoticed in my heart. They start small – a seed of bitterness, a sprout of anger, a shoot of resentment, or a patch of unforgiveness. Sometimes I even feed my weeds, by indulging in self-pity or nursing a grudge. If not dealt with promptly, they continue to grow wild until they take over any other fruit that I’m trying to cultivate.

But if I’m willing to humble myself and allow the Holy Spirit to search out these intruders, the unpleasant task of uprooting can begin. It’s not easy. I get dirt under my fingernails. I encounter worms and grubs in the process. Some of the roots are deep and stubborn. But our heavenly Father is a patient Gardener, and He helps me.

Let the Father reveal the roots of bitterness, pride, fear, shame, rejection, anger, depression, and any other intruders in your heart that are not pleasing to Him, so they can be removed and the fruits of His Spirit can flourish in your garden… The “garden” of your heart, can have a FRESH START!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139: 23-24

GOING VERTICAL!

MJ

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As long as Benjamin could remember, there had always been civil war.  Hutus against Tutsis.  Tutsis against Hutus.  A member of the Hutu tribe, Benjamin had grown up hearing stories of the tall warrior Tutsis who had invaded his native Burundi, dominating the agricultural Hutus.

For decades, Benjamin had witnessed the effects of the violence between the two tribes in his small village.  Several of his uncles and cousins had been murdered by angry mobs, leaving young widows to raise families alone.  Women from his village were raped by cruel Tutsi soldiers.  Many times Benjamin had to take his wife and small children into hiding to evade the attackers.  Years of seeing his people live in fear caused a deep rage to grow in Benjamin.  Vowing to take revenge, he singled out a target from a neighboring village – a Tutsi man named Moses.

A member of the minority Tutsi tribe, Moses was despised by the majority Hutus.  From the time he was a young boy in primary school, he had been identified by his ethnic heritage, learning to hate those who were different from him.  The endless cycle of killings was a way of life in Moses’ village.  When raiding Hutus murdered someone in his family, Moses decided to take revenge.  He devised a plan to kill a Hutu from the closest village – a man named Benjamin.

But before Benjamin and Moses were able to carry out their plots for revenge, each man had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  Their hearts were radically transformed as they surrendered their lives to God.  Just as they received the love and forgiveness of the heavenly Father, these once bitter, angry men now chose to extend forgiveness to their enemy.  Instead of seeking to kill each other, these men now sought to build relationship with each other.

Today Moses and Benjamin are close friends, and their families spend time together and share meals with one another.  They no longer identify themselves as Hutu or Tutsi, but as sons of the Father and brothers in Christ.  The power of forgiveness through Christ Jesus has done what no government or army could do – brought those who were enemies together as friends!
(Based on a true story)

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. …Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:19&21

Going vertical!

MJ

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“The father should have beaten his son.”

Simone’s shocking pronouncement was met with murmurs of agreement from her classmates.  Though she was the most outspoken of my middle school English class, she clearly wasn’t alone in her opinions.

These East Asian students had just finished reading the parable of the prodigal son, from Luke 15, for the first time.  In great detail, we had talked about each part of the story – how the son left his father’s home, wasted all his money on parties and gambling, and ended up in the mud with the pigs – finally leading up to the dramatic ending of the return home to his father’s arms.

With much prayer and anticipation, I then launched into what I expected to be a good discussion on the powerful illustration of a father’s love and forgiveness.  But when I asked whether the father in the story was a good father, the students’ answers surprised me.

“No, he wasn’t a good father,” James responded quickly.  “He shouldn’t have let his son leave home.”

“He shouldn’t have given his son money,” Sarah reflected, shaking her head.

“The son is very foolish. He will do it again,” predicted Lisa, brow furrowed in concern.  “And the father is not strict with him, so the son didn’t learn anything.”

That’s when Simone chimed in confidently with her opinion.  “The father should have beaten his son.”

Coming from a culture that demands unquestioning submission to authority and inflicts harsh consequences for disobedience, these 14 and 15 year old students couldn’t get past the glaring issue of the son’s rebellion.  The obvious moral of the story to these kids was that the son needed to be punished.  The message of forgiveness was totally lost on them.  Unconditional love was something they had never received from their own fathers.

What’s your view of the heavenly Father?  Do you see Him through the lens of your own experiences?  Are you too caught up in your own guilt to receive His grace?  Or will you accept His freely offered, undeserved, unconditional forgiveness and love?

“So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”  (Luke 15: 20 NLT)

GOING VERTICAL!

MJ

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