Did You Get What You Paid For?

We’ve all done it–saved a few dollars only to find that the product wasn’t what we really wanted. The boots were a great buy, but the first time you wore them in rainy weather your feet got wet! Disappointment and frustration come on the scene, and we’re angry with ourselves for being a penny wise and a pound foolish, and angry with the company for a faulty product albeit an excellent sales pitch!

And what about religion? Do we get what we expected, or are we disappointed with some aspect of our “religion?” I hesitate to use the word “religion” because it can mean so many things. Merriam-Webster defines it as (1) the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2)  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

Service, worship, commitment, devotion–each word requires action on our part, and yet they can also involve others: a pastor, song leader or worship team, a building, other believers. We need to stop and ask ourselves whether our disappointments and frustrations are because of others or ourselves. For example:

You battle with your kids all morning to get them to church, and then you sit in the car waiting for hubby to get himself ready. By the time the car is moving, tempers are hot, kids are cranky, and somewhere along the way, the Spirit of God has been doused by the caustic atmosphere. You get there late–no parking! You rush the kids to their classes, receiving a look from their teachers which you read as, “Can’t you get here on time?” When you finally get to your class, you don’t hear a thing and wonder why the pastor/teacher can’t be more effective.

Is the problem with your kids, hubby, teacher, pastor…or you? We recently watched a program about Queen Elizabeth II. In one episode, her sister, Princess Margaret, was told that parliament would not approve her plans to marry a divorced man. As queen, her sister also presided over the Church of England and needed to make a choice: would she uphold the doctrine of the church or sanction the marriage. 

Princess Margaret was faced with a choice: lose title and country by marrying the man she loved or step away from the relationship. She chose the latter and did eventually marry, but that marriage ended in divorce.

This is not a condemnation of Princess Margaret.  The circumstances surrounding her life are only known completely by her. But to blame her sister, or her uncle for abdicating–forcing her father to be king, or the common people for their sympathies, or Peter Townsend for being so friendly… it only hardens the heart; and there is just one root that enjoys the dusty soil of a hardened heart–the root of bitterness. It grows unseen by the owner of the hard heart and may stay dormant for years, secretly growing beneath the surface, but its fruit will show eventually. Sadly, the Princess’ life was full is heartache, sickness, and sin.

When we are quick to blame others, we are in danger making Romans 6:12 a reality in our lives.”Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” We can blame others, but there is no remedy for a hard heart there.

Back to our “religious” disappointment. Check why the disappointment is there. It may be legitimate.  You may have a pastor who doesn’t preach the Word. It could be that your church carries false doctrine on the books. You may have a program that is business-oriented instead of Christ-oriented. If so, then ask the Lord for His leading. But if the problem is within your own heart, there’s only one way to fix that! Surrender to God’s Word.

John 10:27 says, “For my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

We have a wonderful Shepherd! Not all religions can say that! They demand so much and offer only lies! Our Shepherd KNOWS us. But this verse also sheds light on our part: Do we hear His voice? Going back to our late-to-church scenario, the question or challenge is: Can you lay aside all the frustration of a morning gone wild and surrender to the message from the less-than-perfect preacher? Can you put aside the cares and worries of the day and spend time alone with God… “my sheep hear my voice.”

And then there’s another admonition: “and they follow me.” Listening is never enough. Following is the key to routing out bitterness or whatever we are harboring which will hinder the work of the Holy Spirit.  As Martin Luther said, “Keep a short account with God!”

You get what you pay for.  Thankfully, we pay nothing for our salvation!  It’s been paid in full, and it is a perfect salvation offered by a perfect Savior.  His church is not perfect, but we can make our part as spot-free as is humanly possible! Then the question becomes, “Did Jesus get what He paid for?”

 

Lessons From the Frozen Fruit Trees

With our unseasonably warm weather in March and then four to eight inches of snow on April 23rd, the fruit farmers are not going to have a bumper crop this year.  As I look across my yard to the neighbor’s apple trees I see very little fruit!

Can the same scenario play over in our lives?  Have you had a season of fruitlessness in your Christian walk, or are you in one right now?  To answer the latter question, ask yourself this question: has there been a previous time in my life when I was walking closer to the Lord and my life was more fruitful? If so, it might be a good time to look at the facts surrounding the situation.

Fact for 2012 fruit trees:

  1. The warm weather came too soon forcing the blossoms to bloom early.
  2. The cold weather came after the buds were forming and killed them
  3. No fruit

Fact for the Christian “fruit tree”:

  1. There can be wonderful seasons of hot preaching and warm hearts that produce the early signs of possible fruit.
  2. Satan has a real knack of freezing out the buds when our hearts turn cold
  3. The same result: no fruit

However, there are some major differences between the tree and the Christian.  For the farmer, he has no control over the weather; for the Christian, a cold heart can be stopped by an act of the will.  Satan whispers in our ears that the preaching doesn’t really apply to our lives or that the preacher is meddling :), and we turn our backs to God’s gentle prodding.  What do you think happens when the sheep are gently prodded but choose to stay on the wrong path?  The shepherd prods harder – the same is true of our Great Shepherd.  Sometimes Satan’s whispers cause the fierce arctic winds of bitterness to blow in and freeze our hearts.  I’ve heard it said that “idle hands are the devil’s playground.”  The same is true of a bitter spirit.  No wonder  Heb 12:15 says “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”  There is nothing more deadly to the possible fruit bearing Christian than a bitter spirit.  Sad to say, it often becomes our blind spot. 

Another major difference is timing: the farmer must wait a full twelve months for another harvest; the Christian can stop the season of bitter cold whenever he or she chooses.  (I must add that there are times when the fight takes longer.  It may be because of our history of “coldness” and God needs to keep us in the trial longer to teach us.  However, there will be “sweet release” in God’s time if we stay on His path. See 2 Sam 24.)

The only solution for the fruit farmer is to plead with God over his crops.  As a Christian, we have two weapons in our defense against the deadly freeze: prayer and surrender.

  1. We must stay close to the heart of God in prayer.   “And He walks with me and He talks with me…” and I talk to Him.  Stay in touch with the Good Shepherd.  Talk to Him often and allow Him to speak to you through His Word.  No one likes a one-way conversation, including our Heavenly Father!
  2. Yield to His way.  This is the most difficult part of the Christian walk, but do know that a genuine walk with the Lord IS a walk of constant yielding.  When is it hardest to yield – ALWAYS!  We must yield because there is a difference of opinion between ourselves and God:  His path is not the path we want to take.  Unfortunately, we like our sins.  Notice I said WE!!  I see it all too clearly among my own branches!  Yielding requires us to be dead to self.  That’s tough, but if we could only see the blessed fruit hanging abundantly upon our branches because we HAVE yielded, we would never hesitate.  The other unfortunate factor is that we do walk by faith – the yielding of our heart’s will must come before the yield of abundant fruit!  Don’t take my word for it – look in the Book.  Just take a look at Psalm 119 and see all the blessings that are promised to the one who yields and follows.

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Ode to Tilly

Dear Tilly is my rototiller.  She’s not actually mine – I’m just ‘borrowing’ her from my mom!  I remember Dad faithfully using Tilly every year for Mom.  (He didn’t know her name though! 🙂 )  I guess it’s the farm girl in me, but I love to put on my dungarees (I just love that word!  It sounds so much more “farmy” than jeans 🙂 ) and head for the garden to till it up.  Now Tilly is old and tired, but she starts right up purring like a kitten.  She does have a little cough every now and then, but that doesn’t stop her!  She’s not as strong as she used to be: she’s had a rough life.  I don’t know how many years my folks used her, and I’m not even sure if they bought her new.  Then she sat in the shed for about eleven years.  The wasps got at her and there was water in the engine.  She was a mess; so, we took her to a dear older man in our church, and he got her chugging again!  There are so many lessons to learn while gardening.  Tilly taught me a few today:

  1. She’s old and ready for that big junkyard in the sky, but I still have some work for her to do.  I feel that way sometimes.  I understand Paul’s statement more every day: ”For me to live is Christ, to die is GAIN!” I may be old and achy, but God still has a few things for me to do – you too (even if you’re not old and achy!)
  2. When I hit a stone, Tilly just jumps all over like a bucking bronco!  How do I react when God puts me in a tough spot?  We’re in a battle, dear friend.  Life as a Christian is NOT easy.  There are lots of rocks that can really jolt us, but God will pick out the rocks.  Our job is to stay the course!
  3. I let go of Tilly for a moment to check my watch.  Do you know what she did?  She went her own way – the easy way: down hill and through the already tilled spot!  Isn’t that just like us?  We want the easy road, and oh, how lost we would be if God let us go our own way!!

Half the garden is tilled, but that’s the easy part.  I’ve just finished raking all the big stones and weeds that have the nerve to already be sprouting.  From my kitchen window, it looks pretty good.  To the casual passerby, it looks ready to plant; however, I know better.  I will need to go over it again.  Why?  Because there are lots of roots yet to be dug out, and I need to go deeper into the soil.

 Are you looking good on the outside but a little weedy on the inside?  God knows and sees all the weeds that need to be tended to, and YOU are the only one who can dig them out.  God might come at you with a tiller: a dear Christian friend or pastor or radio speaker who uses the Word to dig at that nasty weed’s roots, but YOU need to pull them out.  The Bible only mentions one root:

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God;

lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you,

and thereby many be defiled;” (Heb 12:15)

  What a nasty root – its parallel for the gardener is the dandelion.  If you’ve ever tried to pull one out of the ground, you know that they have a tap root – a LONG STRONG root.  You will need a tool to dig it out, and if you don’t get the whole root: Surprise! – another dandelion will appear.  Notice that the root of bitterness not only troubles you, but MANY are defiled!  It’s like acid rain that poisons everything in its path.  You will need the Word of God to root that one out!  Memorize a verse like Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Then we need to dig deep into God’s Word.  I’m honored that you have taken the time to read this, but be sure that you are taking time for yourself in God’s Word – just you and God!  Go deeper: look up cross references; use a commentary; look up words you don’t understand; get a pen and notebook and write down your thoughts.

 “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”    Job 23:12  Wow! What a verse, but that one needs a whole other blog!  🙂