Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

Have you ever seen a cultivator?

hand cultivator

It’s pretty wicked looking.  To me, anyway.  If I’m dirt, that’s a pretty intimidating device.  Not sure why, but it reminds me of the life-sucker from Princess Bride- you know, the thing they hook up to Wesley to suck life out of him.  All the way till he’s *mostly* dead.

I’ve been reading the Gospel according to Mark lately, and the last couple of weeks have been focused on the parable of the Sower and the Seeds.  Or, more to the point, the Parable of the Seed and the Four soils.

Allow me to summarize if it’s unfamiliar by name.  Jesus is telling a story about people.  He says, a sower goes out and sows his seed.  Some falls along the path, but the ground is hard, and the birds come and take it away so that it doesn’t take root.  And then some falls on rocky soil.  It takes root, but when the heat of the day is on it, it withers and dies, because the soil is shallow.  Then some of the seed falls amongst thorns.  It grows, but the thorns quickly choke it out, and it does not bear any fruit.  Then there is the seed that falls in good soil.  It takes root, grows, and in due time, produces fruit, 30, 60 and even 100 times what was sown.

So we’ve differentiated between 4 different landing zones for the seed.  The Sower is not really discussed in any particular detail, nor the seed.  Jesus goes on to explain to his dullard friends what he *really* meant.  He says the seed is the word of God, and the different soils represent the different kids of hearts that receive the word sown by the Sower.  The Path represents those for whom sin has so hardened their hearts that they turn from the word immediately- Satan snatches it up before it can grow.

This makes me sad.  Sometimes when I hear a word of truth- a word that is convicting me directly I squirm and sweat a little.  I get that icky feeling that I know I have to confront this.  I know that there have been seasons of my life where I had given myself permission to feel like this, talk like that, act in this way to such a degree that I honestly didn’t really feel that bad about it.  I know that this dimension, affected so deeply and radically by sin, which is simply alienation from God and from perfection (or as the bible calls it, Shalom)- that this dimension is so filled with the power of sin that God’s spirit REALLY does have to struggle to crack through the stone heart.  It’s amazing to think about- that the God of the universe has to exert the same force that created black holes to penetrate the human spirit and win his heart!

…the God of the universe has to exert the same force that created black holes to penetrate the human spirit and win his heart!

Imagine the sadness God must experience- the profound sadness of a child not simply turning away from a parent, but disowning and rejecting him.  Calling him evil.  This is the timelessly unending and yet immediate daily reality for the sovereign God of the universe.

Then there’s the rocky soil- a place where the seed takes root, but is shallow, and is burned by the sun.  It’s a simple, skin deep kind of root.  The kind that burns off like the fuel I drown my charcoal briquettes in.  Apply a little bit of fire, and poof.  It’s gone.  Maybe this person’s heart experiences a little ribbing when his friends find out that he’s giving Jesus a try.  Little bit of fire- poof.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

And the thorns.  We all know about thorns, don’t we.  I mean, lets face it, Christian or not, anybody who’s ever had a goal has faced thorns.  Maybe you wanted to overload in college.  Or lose weight before spring break.  Or learn how to play an instrument, speak a foreign language.  Pray.  Submit to authority.

But the worries of life, and the desire for things crowded out the seed, and it never produced any fruit.

This person never got to experience the “now” aspect of God’s kingdom.  They never experienced the pure joy of brotherhood, of accountability, of sharing the serenity of God’s faithfulness and how good He is.  They never experienced the nearness of God’s kingdom.  And, frankly, some would say they never really knew who Jesus was to them, and will be for all of us.  I don’t know.  That’s not for me.  Then, finally, the good soil.

Which brings me back to the cultivator.  Take another look at that thing.  Teeth.  Spikes.  A really crazy mad looking rake.  Guess what the big difference between the good soil, and all the others?  You got it.

Is the seed different?  Nope.  Sower?  Nope.  Just the ground.  The path has never seen a cultivator in it’s life.  The rocky soil?  Nope.  That rake in the back is for picking up rocks and whatnot.  The tines on the wheel are for the thorns and weeds.  All in all, I’d say it looks like an altogether unpleasantly, disturbing instrument.  And I think that’s the thing.  The ground needs the tiller to cultivate the soil to prepare it for the seed.  It’s worth mentioning that the process of cultivation is ongoing.  Ain’t no “one and done” kind of deal.  That ugly, spiky wheel rolls over the good soil over and over again, constantly pulling up the weeds and rocks, constantly turning the rain-soaked soil into loose, workable dirt.

How does cultivation happen?  Abide.  Jesus shares in John 15.  He says that the one who abides in Him will bear much fruit.  How much?  Like 30, or 60, or 100 times what was sown?  Maybe?  Maybe.  So the time we spend with Jesus is the time He spends picking weeds, plucking the rocks and stones from the flesh of our souls.  The torments and worries- he plucks them away.  And he nurtures the soil- painful at times, but rewarding, as the sun is able to warm us, and the rain to water us, with nothing to steal away our joy.  Our joy being the pleasure of experiencing God’s kingdom and salvation now, and forever.  This isn’t to say really that Jesus is a torture device.  If that’s what you read- I humbly apologize.  But God is a farmer- he plants a vineyard, he cares for it, builds a threshing floor and digs the winepress, and builds a wall around it.  Why?  To keep the soil good and workable.  And he uses tools and time to do the job of making rocky, thorny, packed down soil into loose, clean, workable soil.  Are you ready to receive the seed?  Are you submitting to the plough blade?  Or the tines of the cultivator?

If you are experiencing pain outside of the context of salvation- if you are not a follower of Jesus, and are experiencing deep, chronic pain- spiritual pain- you are in Hell.  Right now.  This is the foyer of the kingdom of dark.  But God desires to grow you!  He will even spread the seed of his word on you!  Farmers don’t drop seed on the road, friend!  It’s a waste!  But God- He will sow anywhere and everywhere.  Receive his word-  the Kingdom of God is near you!  He will faithfully tend you and make you to grow and produce a harvest!  The soil needs to be broken though.

Maybe you are a believer, and like me, you have experienced drought.  The ground is cracked and stiff. Rocks poke up from the frosts, and the thorns are the ONLY thing that seem to grow under this sun.  Submit to the rake and cultivator.  You will loosen up, and the seed will sprout.  He is faithful, and he’s got a bit of a green thumb.

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Waiting to Be Seen

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
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Genesis 40:

8.Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Joseph is in prison.

Ambushed by his brothers, threatened with death, and ultimately sold into the hands of travelers, he was sold into the servitude of a high-ranking military figure in the Egyptian royal guard, near the palace-compound of the Pharaoh.  Undaunted by the specter of his past, and unfettered by the chains of his circumstances, Joseph has risen to prominence, even as a slave, by being a blessing to the people around him.

Joseph’s attitude and mission made him a fountain of blessing to the people closest to him, no matter his circumstances.  He was attractive to people, because he brought blessing to them.

Unfortunately, somebody desired to take advantage of that, and lustily grasped for more.  Joseph refused to be put in that situation, out of respect for his master, but ultimately, because he knew it would be displeasing to God.  So she cooked up false charges against Joseph in her bitterness, and now, he is in prison.

Framed, and unjustly imprisoned, yet his attitude and mission have not wavered.  When fellow prisoners appear disheartened, he seeks to ease their burden.  And he says something that is most intriguing to me.  They tell him they are troubled because “they have had dreams” and there is no one to interpret the them.  His response?  “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.”

What a curious phrase.  Why would Joseph think he has any ability to ease the burden of his fellow prisoners by hearing the dreams, if interpretations belong to God?  What would make him think that?

Rob Bell, enigmatic and ire-inspiring, has written on something that strikes me as being parallel to this question:  Does God speak into and through unbelievers prophetically?  I don’t know that Bell would necessarily have phrased the question as clumsily as that- being prone to poetic prose, and being very good at phrasing questions with swagger.  But the question is still interesting.  Does truth spill from the mouth of the unbeliever?

I see Joseph making that claim, in a veiled way, in his statement.  He seems to be suggesting that the dreams have truth in them.  The truth resides in the vision-giver, not contingent on the vision-haver‘s belief or knowledge of God.

Paul says, hundreds and hundreds of years later, that God has made his invisible qualities known in Creation, and that He is made known in what He has made.  But that we have turned a blind eye to it.

All that is necessary then, is for somebody to enter the situation and see it for what it is!  And isn’t that ability itself a gift?  Isn’t it grace that removes the veil of sin and darkness from our eyes that we can peel back the curtain and see God’s Kingdom?

Joseph looks into these men, and their lives, as they are, and peels back the veil of God’s Truth spoken to them, and through them.

God longs to be known.  Communion with what He has created is intrinsic to the plan, and design of what He has made.  He is a communicator.  He is a protagonist.  Life is qualified by the degree to which it is in communion with its maker.  Joseph knows that God desires to be seen.  And that He can be seen, present in every life- not just the life of a “believer.”  So he looks for the truth in the vision, and gives the truthfulness of the vision- the degree to which it is true- over to God, who himself claims the meaning.

God speaks into people.  He speaks through people.  He does this with the desire to be seen and known.  Maybe one of our most important jobs isn’t to bring the truth to people, but instead of bringing it to them, showing them how it’s been there all along.

God doesn’t just show up in your life all of a sudden when you realize and admit that He’s real.  That would be idiotic.  Why would you want a God like that?  Rather, it’s in recognizing how God has always been, and will always be, there, with you, ahead of you, to your left and your right, and protecting your rear flank.

I think there is a powerful and compelling message to be found here: God doesn’t need us (i.e. “believers”) to “stick together” to the exclusion of the outside world.  We do not need to be pharaisees in our world.  He’s already out there, laying truth in people, doing truth in people, and setting them up to be called out and seen as part`of God’s plan, as part of God’s world, rather than antagonistic to it.

I think there are seasons where withdrawal is good.  We often call those seasons “sabbatical.”  Kind of like going to bed each night- sleep is more than recovery.  Sleep is health building.  But if you sleep all the time, well, you just get fat.

I will accept the challenge in this passage- God is out there, working, doing things, and waiting.  He’s waiting to be seen, waiting to be identified.  Waiting for genuine communion with everything He has made.  At the root of everything that is true, there can be but one Truth.

Persuasion

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
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We live in a society of persuasion.  Right now, there are a number of people trying to persuade me to elect them to the office of President.  Watch the TV for eight or nine minutes and I’ll likely find 5 or 6 ads trying to persuade me that my quality of life will improve if I buy their product.  The list goes on and on.  Seriously.  I won’t bore you with a more exhaustive list of the plethora of arguments and attempts for our attention, our time, our money, our lives.

I’m guilty of that too.  I love the challenge.  We’ve been raised in a theatre of debate: if you want something, you have to demonstrate the need for it.   We must build the case.  Or defend it.

One most troubling things to ever crease the forehead of the world was spoken by Jesus when He said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody can come to the Father except by me.”  What a fuss that’s made.

I think that my life- at least as I reckon it, has been spent obsessing over a very small portion of that statement:  the Truth.

I like debate.  I like argument.  I like to explore and spar.  I don’t mean to antagonize people.  I really just want to give away something that I have and love.  Problem is, other people don’t see it that way.  And I can appreciate that.  I’d feel the same way.

I need to change.  To repent.  It’ll be difficult and I probably won’t make it.  I hope that you can forgive me as we go.  Because I’ve been convicted that there’s a better way.  The Way, and the Life.  It seems to me- that is, I myself have been persuaded that if I simply live the Way, and the Life, if I manifest Truth in my flesh, I will have no need to persuade anybody of anything.

Rather than argue, even in a kind and friendly tone, I can just live.  What might happen if I just invite people to live the way Jesus did?  I mean, obviously, I’d have to start doing that too.  But if I just live a life of dependence on God- of healing the wounds that have bloodied the life of my city, of living grace and mercy, of living Jesus’ way, what’s left to demonstrate?  Where is the need for persuasion?

If Jesus is the Way, something in the act of living must bring us closer to God.  If Jesus’ is the Truth, it must be the truest, best way to live- the way that most corresponds with the reality God created.  And that- THAT would be the life!

So here’s my confession.  I talk too much.  I think a lot, and debate a lot, and ultimately, it’s just arguing.  Which really is a defense, not an offense.  So- I’m going to focus a little more on the offense.  I’m going to focus on the way, and less on the truth.  I don’t believe you can really separate them- if I live the way, the truth is manifest.  I mean, “truth” is more than a simple “known” object anyways.  It’s not an “it” as much as it is a “who.”

If I am living the life- all I need to do is invite people to live the same kind of life I am living.  A life defined by mercy, submission, service, loving and genuine community with my neighbors is a life rendered to God.  Defined by my actions, not by my words.  If I am joined in this life, those who join me will see for themselves how good, and right, and true Jesus is.  And there will be nothing left for me to say.  Except “welcome.”