Eve dreamed of paradise while living in Eden.
How different from her are you and I?
Ripe for Harvest is written by Charles Flemming.
©2014 Charles Flemming.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39
If there was anybody who checked my timeline on a regular basis (which even I don’t do), they would notice how often I paste the same Romans 8 passage into my status. Every time it’s for a slightly different reason. But it’s always from a sense of marveling. I mean, there’s all these pairs of opposite things—a Hebrew literary device, by the way, expressing the entire gamut of possibilities, a concrete expression of infinity that can be expressed as effectively no other way.
Then, in case he left anything out:
But notice the one phrase in the middle that has no opposites.
It is the red dot on the white background:
That includes God’s powers.
And my powers.
And your powers.
One of the traditional definitions of hell is eternal separation from God. If that’s a valid definition—even if inadequate—it tells us something about the security of our future as new creations in Christ:
No matter how we fail. No matter what decisions we make. No matter how we rebel or shake our fists at God, if we have ever belonged to him. If we ever been changed by his hand. If our sins have ever been cleansed and we have been redeemed—truly, genuinely redeemed—
We will never be apart from his love.
We will never be apart from him.
Ever again. No matter what.
John 6 is about the feeding of the 5000 and the conversation Jesus had with the crowd the next day.
The day after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the crowd followed Jesus across the lake, as it turned out, to get more bread.
Jesus pointed out to them that they weren’t following because of the SIGN the miracle was designed to be, but simply because they wanted more bread.
And as he talked to them about more important things than bread—who he was and what he offered them—they scoffed, demanding a sign.
Which he’d just provided them.
Everything he said to them after that was incomprehensible—even offensive—to them.
And many who’d been following him took that opportunity to leave.
Many people you and I encounter today are interested only in bread.
No matter how carefully and prayerfully we explain great things, they’re fixated on bread and will leave and look somewhere else to get it.
It’s important that we trust God with these folks and not give into frustration at our inability to explain well enough to gain their trust for God.
Because that’s his job:
Photo Credit: Loaves and Fishes mosaic_0912, a photo by hoyasmeg on Flickr.
And he [Jesus] said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then one day in my Bible reading I ran across this:
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” —Luke 12:42
Wow. I could do a whole blog post—and probably should—on teachableness, humility, and openness to differing ideas. But as this phrase has rattled around in my head the last few weeks, I can’t get away from the central truth of Jesus’s words and how they apply to my relationships and responsibilities.
You see, as a colleague at work, or a husband or dad, or a pastor-teacher, or a Facebook friend—it isn’t necessary or wise to drop the whole load of what I think I’ve learned or what I’m passionate about (or what currently upsets me) on the people around me.
Even the things that come into my head from God himself.
As my friend Woods Watson used to say—and I’m paraphrasing from a very long time ago here—discernment is for the purpose of intercession, not for sharing.
One of the great challenges for me personally is to regulate what I’m sharing, whether with a friend in The Real World or a friend I know only through Facebook, so that I’m sharing only what is necessary for that friend at that moment.
As I look over the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s conversations, the way he approached different people at different times, I can see concrete examples of this principle at work.
We need filters in our lives in at least two directions:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29
According to their needs. Not mine.
Going through the scripture memory part of my quiet time right now, but am in full ADD mode (reigning in ADD is one reason scripture memory is a big part of my every day quiet time).
This has led me to ponder the question of my brain’s wiring.
I don’t worry too much about these questions because I’m confident God has them sorted out. But I’m curious nonetheless.
Was looking for one of my Facebook updates and discovered this one that I’d forgotten:
Uniqueness. Oddities. Good.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.”
It’s on my list right now of verses to review every morning. As I reviewed it just now, I realized how much it touches my emotional center. And I think it has for a while.
It’s like an intimate word from a parent, or even a lover.
Something only someone who knows me at my deepest, truest, most vulnerable level can know to say.
And say it in a way that escorts its message past all the filters and straight to my heart.
Here’s the truth that came to me as I thought over the verse this morning:
God has a different word for each of us that touches us in the way this verse touches me.
This particular verse may be encouraging to you. Or enlightening. Or comforting. Or whatever.
But your emotional response to it may not be what I’m experiencing right now.
However, there may be a verse—a word from your Father in heaven—that already DOES strike that chord in you. That DOES touch that deepest, most significant, truest part of you.
But there may not be yet, because that word may not have been spoken to you yet.
Or you may not have heard it yet. (Being spoken to and hearing are two distinctly different things.)
But I assure you there is a word, a message from God, that he is speaking to you and to no one else. Even if it’s the same verse, it’s not the same word.
Keep listening, my friend, and you will hear.
And you will be touched by the God of the Universe, who loves you with all his heart.
I just put on an old LifeChurch.tv T-shirt.
It has a picture of stacks of poker chips on the front. And the words “ALL IN” on the back.
Brings back old memories every time I put it on. Which is probably why on most Wednesdays it’s the shirt I choose to wear.
They gave it to us several years ago to promote a teaching series at LifeChurch. I remember how pumped all of us on the Host Team were as we wore the shirts and talked about what it meant to be “ALL IN.” It meant we weren’t just Christ followers on Sundays, but every day. Not just at the church facility, but everywhere we went. Not just with each other, but with everyone who came across our path. Not just as we were engaging in “religious” activities, but in every task of every day.
And not only when we’re in need, but in helping those around us who need Jesus just as much as we do.
We’re in a different city now, in a different state.
And we’re taking this part of the LifeChurch DNA with us.
Even though there’s no LifeChurch campus here, and—frankly—no church we know of with LifeChurch’s balance of passion for nonbelievers and vision for equipping them to reach their world, our little family remains ALL IN.
We simply cannot rest while so many folks don’t yet know Christ and what he wants to do for them, in them—and through them.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” —Matthew 9:36-38
In precisely the same way he’s a fan of everything else he created and sustains.
Here’s the kicker, though. He didn’t create individual liberty so that you and I would be free of all constraints or responsibilities. As I read the owner’s manual, I’m not seeing God being a great fan of self-centered individualism.
In the Kingdom, compassionless liberty is king of the oxymorons. The concept simply isn’t there.
We are called to liberty and we are called to service.
We are not compelled to service, either by God or by those God ordains. (Although God does have creative ways of applying pressure. See Jonah. Or Saul.)
We are called. We are given the opportunity. The resources. The empowering.
And the responsibility.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”
Now the world can safely end.
It was really cool, because Carol and I walked into the store, told the guy what we were looking for, and he pointed us right at what we needed.
5MP camera? That one, sir.
Then he transitioned us to a new plan. And we were in business.
As he was setting things up, though, I became unsure about the camera. Was it really 5MP? So I grabbed the box, turned it over, and looked at the bullet copy.
And I felt much surer.
I woke up really early this morning, thinking about that. Kind of picturing the bullet copy of my life.
How would people in the world around me describe me, you know…in bullets?
I have a friend, a guy I’ve known for decades now. Some of his bullet copy would be easy to write:
There’ve been many times I wished I could borrow some of those benefits for my own copy. And, in a way, I have, because he set a pattern I could learn from.
One day in high school, I got really upset with some friends and let them know.
Later, one of them said, “You are an angry person. If you could bottle that anger and find a use for it, you could make a ton of money.”
So at the top of Charles’s bullet copy he would’ve put:
Hopefully, that one’s been replaced with something better:
I remember one time, in a session with my life coach, Bob, I said something about being (or appearing to be) a screwup.
He challenged me on that. I mean, honestly, it was just a throwaway line. A burst of corny levity.
Not to Bob. “Do you really see yourself that way?” he said.
“Not really.” He didn’t say anything else. He kind of looked at me a bit before he let it go.
You know what? Let’s strike that one out:
Which is actually the truth, and had been for some time.
Which leads me to the question:
Should the bullet copy of our lives be factual or aspirational?
I think it should be actual. Which means it should be as God says it is.
A good illustration of this in my own life is when God interrupted my morning newspaper reading to let me in on something he was making true in my life:
He had given me
Anybody who knew me at the time would’ve scoffed. I scoffed.
He had actually done something in my life that we simply couldn’t see yet.
But he could.
There is much I aspire to. Some of it’s from God. Some of it’s not. All of it that’s from God is actual. It’s not just aspirational. It really exists. We just don’t see it yet.
We’re not only talking about me here. We’re talking about you too. And your kids. And your spouse. And the guy at work that gets on your nerves.
There is so much power in the bullet copy of our lives.
For good and bad.
I used to envision things—the shepherd’s heart thing was one of them—and I would be too embarrassed to tell anybody. At some point I realized it wasn’t the fear of failure that kept me back, but the fear of being laughed at for my arrogance in even dreaming.
I was living down to the bullet copy other people wrote for my life.
I have a bucket list of bullet copy. Do you?
When you cut away all the hype and puffery, here are the bottom line bullets I would like carved into my tombstone:
What about you? What bullet copy do you want for your life?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. —Hebrews 12:1-3