Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sale

As I drive back and forth to the ‘day job’, I occasionally drive past a farm where everything is out in the yard and pastures being staged for an estate sale.  Whenever I see the rows and rows of things that once made up a home and farm, all being readied to be sold to the highest bidder, my mind immediately goes back to my father-in-law’s estate sale.  As we placed all his worldly possessions out in the yard, we were struck with the idea of how much an estate sale is like a memorial. 

My father in-law was a mechanic as well as a skilled machinist.  For the last couple of decades of his life he turned his talents toward collecting and restoring antique tractors.  In addition to lots of machine tools, 36 tractors in various stages of restoration, and piles and piles (and piles) of parts he also had collections of antique wrenches and toy farm equipment.  Before the sale, as everything was in the yard waiting to be sold, we could see so much of Dad in the things he once possessed.  Many of his friends stopped by and had a story about this piece or that, and how it fit into their relationship with him.

The bidding began and over a couple of days the physical vestiges a life’s work passed into history.  It was a time of transition.  Soon the real estate was sold and the transition was complete.  The old was gone and the family was left with memories of a father and of a childhood home.  Each of the children has a few family possessions in their home and there is stone in a cemetery that marks his final resting place.

Many years ago, another Man’s life work was exhibited in public for all to see.  The few possessions went to those who understood Him the least.  He, Himself was on display, nailed to a cross – seemingly sold cheap to highest bidder.  Many of His friends were there, and also many enemies.   Over the course of a day, friends and enemies alike watched a man die and be buried.    His friends gathered together and I can imagine them all sharing stories about this conversation on that and how it fit into their relationship.  It was a time of transition that most did not understand.

But then something unexpected happened.  The tomb was emptied and the Man walked again among His friends - and those who hated Him.  Over a forty day period He finished His life’s work and went away again to be with His Father for a time.  That was nearly 2000 years ago, and it was a time of monumental transition.

As we look back now through the eyes of His written Word we see His life’s work, set out for all see.  And as we gaze at the whole we begin to understand this man, Jesus, in a way that one piece – one story – at a time does not allow.   The accounts told in His book weave a tapestry of love and righteousness, of majesty and humility, of power and sacrifice.  And eventually we begin to see that He was not the one for sale – we were.  We begin to see that we were being auctioned off in a sale with only two bidders and that His life’s work - His birth, His teaching, the Cross and the empty tomb, His whole life, was the price of our purchase.

1 Cor. 6:19-20 (NIV)
    Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; [20] you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

In that time of transition everything was turned upside down.  The buyer becomes the property being sold and the seller becomes the currency.  Instead of us buying forgiveness for one more year with the blood of bulls and lambs and doves, we were bought with the blood of the Son of God.  And as we look at the cross, which is now a part of history, it takes on new meaning.  There we were bought and paid for at a terrible price.  By paying that price He initiated for us a new relationship with Him.

Galatians 3:26-29(NIV)
   You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, [27] for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

He, in effect, made us His brothers and sisters – children of God.  And because we forget, He set forth a memorial.

1 Cor. 11:24-25(NIV)
    … and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." [25] In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

One day He’ll return to gather those who belong to Him and take us home, making what is now the new covenant old.  Until then, I encourage all who believe and call Him Lord to remember "The Sale” and the price that was paid.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just One Little Flower!

I stepped out our front door shortly after sunrise a couple of days ago and was greeted by this sight.  A single, small, beautiful purple Morning Glory.  Right in the herb garden.  Most of you will know that Morning Glorys, while beautiful, can be horrendously invasive and, when left unchecked, will rapidly take over a space and choke out the things that are intended to be there. 

While there are probably a number of thoughts we might draw from this, as I was looking at this small explosion of purple amongst the greens, grays and browns this verse came to mind from Ephesians 5:3-4 (NIV), so I'm going with that.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

It may be a bit of stretch in relating an invasive flowering vine to the sins Paul is warning us about but I think the analogy is a good one.  That little splash of color is eye-catching and, at least on the surface, strikingly beautiful.  It adds a bit of color and it's just one flower - only one!   How can one little flower be bad for my herb garden which is, at least this time of year, shades of green going to brown?

Paul is warning about letting even one bit of uncontested sinful behavior to establish itself in our lives.  Perhaps its a favorite TV program with 'racy' undertones, or a regularly sharing a bit of gossip when talking over the fence line with a neighbor.  Or books we read, or music we listen to.  How could these tiny things be the 'improper' and 'out of place' activities we must avoid?

The answer, of course, lies in what is underneath.  That one pretty little flower is supported by a root that is is being fed by the soil around it.  That plant is drawing energy away from the good things that belong there and, left unchecked, will soon multiply and spread.  It rapidly will wrap itself around everything else in the bed, climbing to the top.  If I don't act quickly on this single flower I will one day look at that bed and see only the Morning Glorys instead of the chives, coriander, sage and other herbs that produce a rewarding harvest for us.

Sin can be like that.  Left uncontested it can spread until it becomes the first thing that others see in our lives. Allowing just a little to become established makes it harder to say 'no' to a little more, and a little more, and just a little bit more, until the sin is the primary crop people see growing in our lives.

My neighbor planted Morning Glorys along a woven wire fence line nearly 10 years ago. (Probably the ancestors of this one.)  They spread quickly, filled the fence and choked out everything else there.  A couple of years later he decided he didn't like them there and has spent the last 8 years or so trying to eradicate them. 

The sin in our lives can be like that, too.  Once accommodated, once allowed to take root and grow, it can be horribly difficult to extract and often requires digging up not only the roots of the offending behavior but also some of those good things that lie adjacent.

I encourage all of us today to take a look around the gardens of our personal lives and look for those little things, perhaps off in the corner, that have been allowed to take root.  Let's deal with them now, while they are small, so we can avoid the hard work of grubbing out all the invasive roots that weave themselves around the good things.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with a little purple flower.  :-)

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Goals, God's Will and a Good Week

This week, I'm taking time away from the day job to catch up on the fall chores around the homestead.  As I write this post, I have a separate document open so that I can capture things I need (or at least want) to get done this week as I think of them.  That list, after some sorting and filtering, will become my list of goals for the week.  If this week goes like most, I'll feel pretty good if I get 1/2 way from the top to the bottom. 

If I were to be able to sit out on the patio with each of you, share some iced tea and talk about our goals, we would likely end up talking about improvements we want to make, new things we want to try around the homestead, and maybe some financial goals or career goals. We would surely have some family goals and some thoughts on what we want to do as we get older and start slowing down.

It is unlikely for most of us, me included, the first goal I would bring up would be a spiritual goal, but that is God’s goal for us. While it's great that we strive to care for those material things over which God has made us stewards, our first goal should always be to become more and more like Christ.

Romans 12:2  - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

I love these verses with encouragements that come with a promise.  IF you make it your goal to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, THEN you will be better equipped to know His will in the other areas of your life.  That's worth reiterating:  As we strive to become more and more like Christ, we find that the other goals we set for ourselves are more aligned with His.

Spiritual goals will not be our only personal goals, but every personal goal should aligned with God’s spiritual plan for our lives.  Jesus Himself, in the context of teaching us not to worry about having clothes or food, offered the same encouragement:

Matthew 6:33  - But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Just is it's going to be tempting to measure the success of my week on the number of goals I have checked off my list, it's easy to measure the success of our lives by the tangible things we can count.  But that's not the way God counts success.

Do I want to be successful?  Of course but, if we really believe what he tells us, the key to being successful is to forget how the rest of the world defines success and to align our wills, our GOALS with God's.

Readers of Hoosier Country Home know that I always sign my posts with Col. 1:9-12.  That passage is my prayer for all who have taken the time to read and share my thoughts, my experiences, and a bit of my life.  It speaks to knowing and acting on God's will for our lives.  I'll include it in full here, and will continue to sign Hoosier Country Christian with that same scripture reference. 

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 

Now that's a path to real success and a real good week. 


Monday, September 7, 2015

What do we do with "More than Enough"?

The last couple of weeks have been some of the hottest of the summer here in NE Indiana with accompanying 90+% humidity.  The combination makes pretty much any outdoor activity a bit of a challenge.  The 'tropical' weather is also great for finishing tomatoes and any of the other last minute, summer veggies.  As oppressive as the last couple weeks have been we are thankful because we were concerned we wouldn't be getting enough tomatoes to can and stock up the pantry for the winter months.  So today I went to the garden early expecting to pick a lot of tomatoes before it got too hot.  Thanks to God's providential care, I brought in about 8 gallons of beautiful red tomatoes.  Then there was something unexpected.  Green beans.

We figured, after the last picking of green beans, that the green beans were done.  We were ready, after the last picking, for the green beans to be done.  We had plenty canned to eat through the winter and to give to the kids.  But here they were: More beans.  An unexpected abundance.

As gardeners, and as Christians, there are many tests of our maturity that come along the way.  My experience with the garden today reminds me of two:  The test of 'not enough' and the test of 'more than enough'. 

The test of 'having not enough' is clear. Not having enough, I mean genuinely not having enough ("not enough tomatoes canned" doesn't count), is a heart-wrenching thing and the Bible speaks frequently of the generosity, care and dignity we owe the widow, the orphan, and the poor.  De and I were there with the poor a couple of times early in our marriage.  God always got us through, usually through the help of our parents.  Looking back I can say in those early years we did not appreciate His care anywhere near enough.

The test of 'more than enough' is often harder for us to wrap our heads around.  How could having more than we need become a test?  It seems a little counter-intuitive.  If God has blessed us with more than enough, don't we just thank God for it and get on to next thing?

It is these two questions that Agur son of Jakeh addresses in Proverbs 30 (NIV).  As De and I have come to point where we rarely worry about 'not enough' this passage has come to mean more and more to me.

7“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: 8Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9Otherwise, I may have too much and disown† you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

I think our question of 'more than enough' centers on God's question to us:  "What will you do with the abundance with which I have blessed you?"  This question is, of course, not just about the green beans we didn't expect to harvest.  Many of us, if we were to be completely honest, would have to admit we are drowning in 'more than enough'.  We are warned against simply "building bigger barns" so we can take it easy (Mt. 12:16-21).   We are expected to do more.  Not just for us: For Him.  God expects us to be conduits and not accumulators.  If we wish to continue to receive blessings we must know ahead of time who we plan to bless with what He gives.

The Apostle Paul closes Eph. 3 with the following passage:

20Now to him who is able† to do immeasurably more than all we ask† or imagine, according to his power† that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.†

"...immeasurable more than all we ask for imagine...."  Christians, let's all think today about what we will do with our promise to live for Jesus, when He keeps His promise of what He will do for us.  When He does it's going to be "More than Enough"

Col 1:9-12,


All scriptures used come from the Kindle version of the NIV Bible.  Various Authors (2010-05-05). Zondervan NIV Study Bible: Updated Edition (Kindle Locations 90618-90622). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Welcome to Hoosier Country Christian!!

Welcome!! It's yet another blog!  The first question is, of course, "Why?".  There are already a gazillion blogs on nearly any topic, and a jillion (which is a bit less than a gazillion) on the topic of Christianity.  I've been writing Hoosier Country Home (HCH - mostly a homesteading blog) for well over a year now and have at times struggled to keep new posts on the board.  Why would I take on yet another blog writing task?

The answer is, because I feel called by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to write another blog.  One strictly dedicated to the encouragement of the Christians everywhere.  So we come already to the first note of encouragement:  "Whatever God calls us to do, he will equip us to do!"  (Dr. Charles Stanley) This means a lot to me today because, as readers of  HCH know, I really don't have time to write another blog. I really don't have time to maintain another blog.  I really don't have time to follow-up on comments and make return blog visits.  What I do have is a calling and a whole string of promises: 
  • "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13 - NKJV),  
  • "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:30-21  NIV)
All that will be enough.  I'm going to write, and He's going to worry about readers, the time to do all that I think I don't have time to do, and what happens to the message after I hit the "Publish" button.  Which brings me to another promise that makes this a bit less worrisome.  It's from the book of Isaiah and was one of my Dad's favorite passages:

  • As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:10,11)
I'll have lots of logistics to work out, but they will get all right eventually.  I'll make lots of mistakes, but we've all been there before.  I welcome your comments and I suspect we'll have lots to talk about.  To God be the Glory,  we're on our way!

Col. 1:9-12,