Weed or Flower?

It’s a weed.dandelion-blowing-1269626_960_720[1]

No, it’s a flower.

Or maybe it’s a wildflower, but I’m not really sure.

I spent some time today researching the difference between weeds and wildflowers and found this delightful quote.

“What’s the difference between a wildflower and a weed? Nothing more than society’s judgment.”

Maybe plants and habits have a lot in common. We often let society determine which habits are “weeds” and which are “flowers.” And society often changes its mind.

  • Chick-fil-a is closed on Sunday. That’s a bit out of place these days, but was a common practice for many businesses when I was a child.
  • Sex and violence were far less common elements of network television programming years ago. On the other hand, many a TV cowboy or detective lit up a string of cigarettes while solving the problem of the week.
  • Once upon a time we all ate less sugar and processed food, but we hadn’t really given much thought to organics yet.

Society is an unreliable compass. We know that truth in our heads, but do we embrace that it as fact in our hearts and show it in our actions? We are often called to a life that is out of sync with what is cool. Our wildflowers may look like weeds to others. (I mean, really, why would anyone want to fast periodically, or get up early on a Sunday morning to head out the door, or give away a significant portion of every annual income?)

Sometimes what we identify as a weed is labeled as a wildflower these days as well. (While we know better, it can be easy to allow certain sins into our lives, because they simply aren’t as clearly labeled as sin these days.)

So, as always, it’s back to The Book. We have to take our cues from The Manufacturer’s Handbook, regardless of what is “in” or “out” in popular culture. And we can do just that, with great result, because the Bible and its Author do not change. They do not lie. The Lord who loves us set down many do’s and do not’s for us long ago for our good and for his glory. Living his way works well.

I hope you’ll adopt some new, true-flower habit this week, and maybe yank a weed or two out of your life as well. Want to tell me about it? Your comments mean much to me, so write away!

 

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Resistance Is Futile! A Tale of Two Lies, Part 3

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Temptation isn’t going away anytime soon, not in this lifetime. The Bible promises deliverance from sin, but never promises that sin will stop calling our names just because we have committed ourselves to Christ. We are at war. Combating temptation is part of the fight, part of the training, and part of what makes us strong. We are called to declare a faith-filled “Get thee behind me,” and then walk through the fiercest assaults by utter dependence on the grace of God. When victory comes, we honor him and have yet another reason to offer praise and worship. Thus, sin’s own weapons are turned against itself.

These are the lies we must refute: Temptation is a sin. Sin is inevitable.

The villain in many a sci-fi movie exclaims at some point, “Resistance is futile!” hoping to convince the good guys to give up the ship. Satan tries that lie as well. It belongs on the trash heap. It isn’t true. Surely, since we are called to live a holy life, we don’t have to be enslaved to sin.

  • “God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
  • “You may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation’” (Philippians 2:15).

Picture a couple of captives on a torture rack, blindfolded, hands bound with thick cords. If the tormenter convinces his victims that it’s only a matter of time before they’ll break, then why should they bother to suffer? Why not give in right away? Satan’s scheme is to make us believe sin is inevitable. His tactic is clever, really, because if we buy that one, we’re probably going to sin plenty. In reality, though, his torture rack is broken. It turns only so far, not nearly far enough to make giving up inevitable. The evil one has a single option. While trying to hide his ultimate impotence, he must make his prisoners believe in a level of power and control that doesn’t really exist.

When we’re tempted, it’s as if we’re on an enemy’s rack. That’s not a sin. When the wheel turns, and the temptation increases, we may feel pain, but the rack is still broken. The enemy will never be able to deal out more than we can take, and that’s a promise. Resistance is not futile. We can fight back and tell that torturer to desist, since we are on to him and have chosen to resist his schemes by the grace of God.

Are you on the rack of temptation today? Don’t give up! You have been promised a way out:

  • “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
  • “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Inspired by the writings of Hannah Whitall Smith

The Backpack and the Rack: A Tale of Two Lies, Part 2

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Even though we are offered freedom from the power of sin, we should guard ourselves against slipping into satisfaction with a life so conformed to the world, so like it in almost every respect, that a casual observer would discern no difference.

  • Are we making the choices Christ would have us make in our private lives?
  • Do we treat our family members with love and patience even when no one else is watching?
  • Do we behave as honorably to our peers as to our pastors and as kindly at the mall as at a prayer meeting?
  • How seriously do we take our sin?

When we sense God speaking to us about our sins, we benefit from paying attention to his gentle leading. We follow him, not because we fear his retribution, but because we trust his guidance. He may urge us toward changes that look trivial, unworthy of our efforts or concern. Some small behavior that seems of no consequence to us may be of the utmost importance to him. Temptation can take many forms.

While those backpacks of sin may continue to tempt us, we need to keep passing them by. They won’t disappear, and their allure may be strong at times, but we never have to snatch one up and strap it on. Furthermore, wanting to grab one is not a sin.

Jesus was tempted, yet led a sinless life. James chapter 1 tells us to “count it all joy” when we face temptation, and that the man who endures temptation is blessed. Surely, then, temptation cannot be sin. The Enemy wants us to think it is. Deception is the name of his game. “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). If Satan can convince us that temptation is sin, he has a good chance of discouraging us to the point of saying, “’Might as well go ahead.” We don’t have to buy that lie.

If the devil prefaced each temptation with the words, “I am the devil, your relentless enemy; I have come to make you sin!” he would lose out almost every time. Instead, he comes at us with subtle propositions of evil, then turns around and says, “Oh, how horrid you are to think such things! Surely, if you were following the Lord, it would be impossible for you to have these thoughts.” Another lie.

Temptations are not sin! We ought not to be so weakened by misplaced shame that we give in to them. We can turn to the Lord right away and commit the battle to him, keeping our focus on Jesus and asking him to provide the power to resist. The only attention the tempter deserves is a hearty rebuke of, “I have found you out now. It is you who are suggesting these dreadful thoughts to me, and I’ll have nothing to do with them. The Lord is my helper.”

Inspired by the writings of Hannah Whitall Smith

The Backpack and the Rack: A Tale of Two Lies, Part 1

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Imagine this: You and I are standing at the starting line of a 10K run on a crisp clear morning. And we are ready.

We’re trained.

We’re fed.

We’ve got the right gear.

We’re looking forward to traveling the distance.

Moments before the race begins we see a colorful booth offering “Free Backpacks!” Hmmm. These aren’t your run of the mill backpacks. They’re the designer sort — classy, expensive and impressive. Just imagine what might be inside! Money? Free passes to something fun? Should we grab a couple before we head out? They don’t look too awfully heavy, not more than we can handle, anyway. We still have time to heft them on backs before the starting gun fires.

If the race is really important, those backpacks are a bad idea. They’ll slow us down, make the hills harder, and cause us some pain along the way. Encouraging hugs? Helping hands? Those beautiful packs will keep us from easily giving or receiving either one. We’re better off running the race unencumbered. But, oh, they do look tempting!

Our sins are like those packs. They may look good at first, but they weigh us down and hurt us. They separate us from God, keeping us from doing and being all that he has planned. Sometimes they even open the door to new worries by obscuring our view of the Lord who loves us.

Sin is a choice, and always a sad one in the long run. It keeps us from the joy God means for us to have as we run the race of life. Here’s the good news, though: Christ died to save us not only from the punishment of sin, but from its power over us as well. He bought our freedom from sin now and in eternity. He didn’t leave us to lead hopeless lives of discouragement as we fall into sin over and over again, waiting for deliverance to come when we die.

  • Titus 2:12 talks about saying no to ungodliness and living upright lives in this present age.
  • Ephesians 4:24 encourages us to put on a new self, one of righteousness and holiness.
  • Hebrews 2:18 tells us that, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
  • Ephesians 6: 10-11 instructs us to, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6: 10-11).

And so, it is time to say no to the “backpacks of sin” and run freely the race God has set for us.

If I Were a Hammer

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I used to teach fourth grade, and often kept my students’ attention by using visual aids. Since you and I don’t have a classroom, our imaginations will have to do. Picture me (as young, thin and beautiful, of course) holding a hammer. It’s a perfectly good hammer, but what could it possibly accomplish by itself?  Can it pound so much as a single nail on its own?  Of course not.

On the other hand, if a master craftsman chose to build a fine house, and wanted to use this hammer in the process, would the hammer be up to the task? Saying it was or wasn’t up to the task would be stretching things a bit, don’t you think? The task would be entirely in the hands of the master, not the tool. If this hammer was the one he wanted to use, and if (suspend your disbelief for a moment, please) it had a will and a voice of its own, we would all laugh to hear it say, “Oh, master builder, I just don’t know if I can pound that nail!  Perhaps you should have chosen another tool!  I fear that I will fail you!” Silly hammer!

By the same token, when God chooses to use us by calling us to some service, we are foolish to worry about whether or not we’re “up to the task.” Of course we’re not up to it, not on our own, anyway! It’s the Master’s right to use any person he pleases, and he will make those he chooses fit for the job. Feeling inadequate today? May we all remember that we are in the Master’s hands and he can equip us for any task.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Halfway There

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‘Covering three more House Rules today:

OFT

OFT stands for Obey the First Time. Obedience is big in the Bible. In Hosea, God said he wanted obedience more than sacrifices. Joshua 1:9 says, “This word of the Lord shall not depart from your mouth, but you will meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all that it says. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Obedience is something God wants from us. We need to obey him as soon as we know what he wants us to do. As for our kids, when we require them to obey us the first time we give them instructions, isn’t life better for all concerned? Furthermore, I think the more we help our kids learn to obey us first off, the more easily they learn to obey God without question.

Do to Others as You Want Them to Do to You

We’ve all been taught the Golden Rule, but do we think of it as a scriptural mandate? It comes straight from Luke 6:31. We know the drill; we just need to put it into practice.

  • Be kind.
  • Don’t yell at our kids, or anyone else, for that matter (since, obviously, we don’t want them to yell at us).
  • Smile at grumpy people.
  • Lend a helping hand.
  • Show some grace when people goof.
  • And so on…

Don’t Say Things to Others That Make Them Feel Bad.

James 3 says, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” ‘Hard to add much to that. We need to control what we say, because we can never be sure who is listening, or what effect our words might have.

That’s enough to work on this week, don’t you think?