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October 13th, 2010 | Author:

We’re coming to the end of apple season here in upstate New York, and I am grateful. Yes, grateful.

The problem is that I love apple season.  From about January on, I can hardly wait for fresh, tart, juicy apples, instead of those tasteless, mealy things the grocery store has – some of which, I discovered this summer, come from New Zealand, probably on a very slow boat.

My all-time favorites are MacIntosh, and they have been especially large and juicy this year.  Then a couple years ago after the Mac’s were done for the season, my local orchard convinced me to try Crispins.  Ooh-hah!  They are very crisp and tasty, and they keep very well.

This year, my hubby got me two large bags of Macs and a very cool gizmo to peel them, core them, and slice them, making that process much easier for my achy hands.  This has resulted in apple pie and multiple batches of Apple Brown Betty, from an old friend’s excellent recipe.

So why am I glad apple season is almost over?  Because I made the mistake of reading this the other day:

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

Like Eve, I think apples are among the best things that God put on this earth.  I certainly desire them almost all year, and I would have to admit that I’m passionate about them.  And I have definitely not crucified my flesh in this regard.  In fact, I feed this passion.  I cater to my hunger for all things apple.

Are apples sinful?  Of course not  (unless God has told you not to eat them, and we all know how that turned out for Eve.)

The sin is that I’m feeding my flesh instead of my soul.  I’m letting my fleshly desire and passion rule what I do, instead of crucifying that flesh.   It would appear that  a little discipline and self-control are in order.

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9:23-27)

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October 06th, 2010 | Author:

As always, Christian bloggers are invited to participate in the Word for Wednesday. See the WFW tab above for details.

I was following links this morning, and came across a story that the media largely ignored. Here’s part of a wire story from FoxBusiness posted in the Markets section:

Members of Ecuador’s national police and members of the air force on Thursday started protests and went on strike against the government of President Rafael Correa.

The heated protests started after the Correa administration went ahead with reforms that will cut benefits and affect decorations that increase remuneration for the police and military.

Police officials burned tires in the streets and protested against the government, while air force officials shut down the airport in Quito. The army has said it supports Correa.

Here are more details from a missionary in the area:

In a matter of hours Sept. 30, a nation of 14 million people found itself at the mercy of gangs and hoodlums, ransacking and looting at will.

Ecuador, the South American nation I have served as a Southern Baptist missionary for 24 years, isn’t known for being politically stable. With eight presidents in the last 10 years, Ecuadorians have seen many uprisings, strikes, demonstrations and unrest. Trouble struck again Sept. 30.

That day, as we were going out to celebrate my wife’s birthday, we noticed people running down the streets. Traffic backed up along the side streets of our neighborhood. Within minutes, word spread: “The national police are striking. Go home immediately, lock your doors and stay there!”

Even as I rushed to get back to our house, businesses were locking up and people were jumping into their cars. When I stopped someone to ask what was going on, he shouted, “They’ve robbed the bank down the street! There is looting all along the shopping district a block away!”

With the threat of more than 40,000 national police walking off the job, chaos and terror soon reigned across the country.

Patriotic Christian Americans know, of course, that nothing like this could ever happen here. But just for a minute, I ask you to imagine that it could.  Just for a minute, think about a scenario that would leave our country at the mercy of looters and criminals.  Think about how our military would react.  Just think.

As you imagine this situation, try to figure out how you would react.  As this missionary did, I suspect that most of us would try to find safe haven for ourselves and our loved ones, but what would your next step be?  Would you dig out your ammo and clean your guns?  Would you set up barricades to harden your safe haven?  Would you venture out to get food and supplies to last through the storm … even if you had to turn into one of the looters to do it?

If you thought to pray, what would you pray?  Would you pray for safety for you and yours?  Would you pray for God to restore our country, to eliminate the fear and chaos?

A couple years ago I took a walk through the New Testament prayers.  Almost all of them are prayers for people’s souls.  They are prayers for Christians to walk as Christians, to know God, to share God.  Prayers for personal safety and earthly comforts are rare.  Here’s part of one of my favorites:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Here’s what that missionary and other Christians are doing in response to the chaotic events in Ecuador.  Would we do as well, or would we just want our creature comforts restored?

While this latest round of political unrest is tragic, we ask Christians around the world to pray that it will become the catalyst for a long-awaited harvest of souls here in Ecuador. On Oct. 10, all evangelical Christians in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, will unite in a citywide evangelistic effort. We will blanket the city’s schools, parks, media, homes, government offices and sports arenas in an attempt to reach the entire city of 3 million people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pray that the tragic events of Sept. 30 will prepare people’s hearts to respond to the Gospel.

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September 29th, 2010 | Author:

Hell is happy to provide us with vain philosophies and other mental futilities by which we are blinded, flattered, coarsened, and calloused until our damnation is complete; these must be rejected and left behind as we draw nearer to Him who loves us and will heal us from our wounds — self-inflicted and otherwise.

-Jim Wetzel, WFW 9/22

The statement above generated a rant in my heart that continues today, as I see person after person cling to error when God reveals the truth.  So consider last week’s rant this week’s Word for Wednesday:

Why is it that so many people refuse to reject the old when God is trying to show them the new? Christianity is supposed to change us from “glory to glory,” and yet so many cling to their understanding from decades ago, not acknowledging that God reveals Himself to us in bits and pieces as we are able to bear it.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (John 16:12-13)

Out with the old man that causes us so many problems. In with the new, that looks more like Jesus every day.

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September 22nd, 2010 | Author:

Scenario I: You and your buddies Mike and Jim got up at oh-dark-thirty and drove three hours to your favorite ski resort.  You got there before the sun, bought your lift tickets, and were really looking forward to a crisp, sunny day of racing down the mountain.

As you left the lodge for the lift line, though, three buses pulled up and disgorged a horde of foreigners — ignorant foreigners who mulled all over the place in their street shoes, ruining the snow pack at the bottom of the run.  They obviously didn’t even speak the language, if you went by their confused looks when people started telling them to get off the trail.  Great.  Just great.

“C’mon,” you said to Mike and Jim.  “Let’s get at least one run in before they figure out how to get up the mountain.”

You and Mike hustled to the lift line, and Jim said he’d catch up to you in a bit.  You and Mike caught a chair, and you continued to grumble all the way up the mountain.  When you got to the top, though, the sun was bright and the snow was fast, so you forgot about the foreigners as you set off down your favorite trail, Mike close behind. You forgot, that is, until you got down to the bottom and had to dodge around the foreigners who were still in the way and still wrecking the snow.  Where was the ski patrol?  Why weren’t they getting these idiots out of the way?  This was getting downright scary.  How many of them were there, anyhow?

As you tried to work your way back to the lift line, you realized you hadn’t seen Jim.  You finally spied him heading toward … the beginner’s slope?  Then you realized he was leading one of the foreigners, who had somehow acquired a pair of skis.  They were laughing and Jim was obviously trying to teach the guy how to walk in skis.

Scenario II: If you substitute America for the ski resort, Muslims for the foreigners, and police for the ski patrol, I think you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what many American Christians think about the Muslims in our country today.

  • We resent foreigners that show up at our mountain, ruining our day.
  • We expect them to act like expert skiers, even when they don’t have skis.
  • We get scared when a lot of them show up.
  • We think they should know the language.
  • When they don’t “get it,” we want the ski patrol involved.

Expecting anyone to act like a Christian when no one has told them about Christ is ludicrous.  Making laws to that effect not only violates the First Amendment, it exposes our selfishness in wanting to keep the “mountain” to ourselves, and our hypocrisy in focusing on outward behaviors instead of a heart filled and changed by the Holy Spirit.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. (Matthew 23:4)

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September 15th, 2010 | Author:

Runnin’ late today. I’ll finish it and update here … sometime. :)

Saturday morning update:  I finally had a block of time and some brain power, so here’s my Word for Saturday.

*   *   *

A few days ago a visitor to my blog was referred to last week’s WFW when they searched for today’s post title:  how can good truly overcome evil? The question has stayed in my heart, and I’ve wondered about the person who asked it.  I realized how far away from this viewpoint most Americans live, so I’ve decided, with a little trepidation, to try to answer.  The question deserves an answer.

The question is based on scripture, so I’ll start with the relevant passages:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

Paul expands on the idea in his letter to the Romans.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

When I first read this as a new Christian I didn’t understand it, but I really liked the part about heaping burning coals on someone’s head.  “That’ll fix ‘em,” I thought.  Even now, I hear Christians that think that this is a means of getting even or bringing down the wrath of God on someone, but I don’t believe that’s the attitude this verse is supposed to encourage.

Instead, by resisting the human urge for revenge, the “enemy” might feel shame for what he has done and might be brought to repentance and reconciliation with God, which should be the goal of every Christian. Resisting that urge is not an easy thing to do, of course, because our natural instinct when we are hurt is to strike back.  If our child or another innocent is hurt, we want to strike back twice as hard.  But here are some examples, so it can be done.

In II Kings, Chapter 6, the king of Aram was warring with Israel, intent on being its king.  He would send war parties to attack, but Elisha the prophet would send advance warning, and the king of Aram was unsuccessful.  So he sent a great army, but Elisha prayed that they would be blinded, so they were captured and brought before the king of Israel.  We pick it up after Elisha has prayed for their sight to be restored.

Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:21-23)

A more modern example comes from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, p. 215.  In case you’re not familiar with the story, Corrie worked as part of the underground who protected Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  She and her sister were arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where her sister died.  After Corrie’s release, and then the end of the war, she traveled around Europe encouraging people to heal by turning to Jesus and forgiving their enemies.

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was empyting, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

And that, I think, answers the “how” of the question.  How can good truly overcome evil? When the Holy Spirit enters our heart, He brings the goodness and love of God for us to dispense as needed, if we are lead by the Spirit and not the flesh.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16-17)

In that short passage from Corrie, I can see from the other side, as well.  I strongly identify with the Nazi soldier’s statement, “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”  That sense of amazement is related in my testimony.  I was subsequently filled with gratitude to God, which gave me the desire to be changed into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ – who is, of course, the best example of good overcoming evil.

Here are a few more related verses, so I’ll leave the “last word” to God’s Word.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.(James 1:17)

and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. (Philemon 1:6)

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

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