COMPOST Matthew 13

The gardens around our home are becoming more beautiful and lush. Mainly due to my wife’s ‘green thumb’. She’s a wiz at gardening. Removing critters that eat away with abandon. Weeds don’t have a chance. New ideas grab hold of her only to make our gardens even more gorgeous.

The earth that makes up our home lot consists of river rock soil. Sounds fine until you want to dig into it. Almost impossible. Hit rocks at every turn. Can hardly make a dent. But after eight years of hammering away, it’s coming along and giving way.

What makes the difference? Good old compost. Fresh scraps from meal preparation, coffee grounds, wood chips, and especially the gifts given by worms who eat that stuff leaving casings (manure) that add richness to our compost. Planting this mixture into our soil, and blending it thoroughly, produces a gumbo of luxurious soil. Compost.

Matthew 13 contains Jesus’ parable about soil. A farmer spreads seeds over his fields. Most wind up falling on less than favorable soil conditions that then produce a poor crop, if any at all. Some get eaten by birds right off the bat. Other seeds have shallow roots and don’t survive. Some grow up between noxious weeds that choke the life out of them. The last group is planted in good soil, grabbing hold and producing crops like gangbusters. Thirty, sixty, one hundred-fold of grain galore!

Later on, Jesus explains to His disciples that the good soil represents God’s Word implanted in them and then acted upon–‘As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields…’ (Matt. 13:23). The good earth of God’s Word leads to a productive life for Jesus. That’s what I want. To be useful for the Master. Who wouldn’t?

I picture the Lord’s good soil involving compost. For when you read your Bible you come across all kinds of characters. A concoction of personalities and abilities. Much like you and me. Many start out strong for God and then wind up on some trash pile somewhere out in the desert. Like King Saul and Solomon. Others amble along trying to avoid trouble, only to find it smack dab in their faces. Like Gideon and Job. While some finish up fully committed to the Lord, yet paying the ultimate price with their lives. Like most of Jesus’ apostles.

So, that good soil involves messy stuff like those Bible madcap eccentrics. Like you and me! Tossed out as abject failures. Full of regrets. Sinners, yet forgiven, thankfully. All the spoiled stuff of our lives can meld and blend together in the warmth of God’s Word into something useful for Jesus. Like compost.

I need this message. I’m sure there are others who do also. For when we keep reminding ourselves how horrible we’ve been, then Satan robs us of the joy of God’s forgiveness. When we get stuck in the past, not letting go of what God has forgiven, then we can’t effectively serve Him. Puts us on our back foot, off balance, and dizzy. Too much looking in the rearview mirror, missing what’s right in front of us, becoming useless soil.

I need to put His promises into action. Planted and rooted in the good soil of His Word. Where can I hear Him? You know. Your Bible. The true good earth. Time to plant?

Why not give Jesus our compost, the jumble and muddle of our lives? What we’ve mishandled and mismanaged. And watch what He makes of it. Surprising what good can come out of our seeming messes when given to Jesus. Give it a try. You’ll see! Want to?

Lord Jesus, thank you for placing me in the best place of all, right next to you. Amen.

CLING Joshua 23

I love reading 19th-century novels such as those authored by Dickens, Tolstoy, Eliot, Melville, Austen, and more. One recently recommended is entitled ‘Shirley’ by Charlotte Bronte. It’s proving to be a real page-turner. Bronte’s descriptive powers are breathtaking and sublime. Masterfully crafted language with nary a swear word, thankfully. Aren’t you tired of the smut oozing out of our current culture, which seems to lack any semblance of ‘culture’ whatsoever? When you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

But there’s nothing new about a decaying society. You know about the Old Testament book of Judges, where everyone does exactly what they themselves want to do regardless of God’s ways or will. They’re mad to defy and flaunt the Law of the Lord. Maybe it’s recreation or cheap entertainment for them. If they want to do something, they’ll do it. Defiant bigshots. See what I mean? There’s ‘nothing new under the sun’.

But what precedes the book of Judges offers some semblance of hope. The Israelite leader Joshua is tasked with the unenviable job of settling Israel into its twelve tribal land allotments. You can imagine the war-mongering going on from within and without. Battles rage yet victories outnumber defeats. Near the end of Joshua’s life, he challenges his people to choose whom they will serve–the One True God of Israel or the gods of neighboring nations? Decision day arrives.

As Yogi Berra says, ‘When you get to the fork in the road, take it!’ But Joshua offers a more decided choice. All roads don’t lead to Rome or Yogi’s home! You either follow the Lord or align yourself with pagan gods. Not ‘all of the above’ on God’s multiple choice test. Decide, already.

Knowing how wonderful Israel’s God has been to them, the miracles He performs, what kind of choice is that? Should be a no-brainer. Like rejecting everything to embrace nothing. As my Grandfather Fischer used to say: ‘Smart like your father, you dope you!’ So, who’s not playing with a full deck? Read the book of Judges to find out.

Many years ago, I chose to follow Jesus. To accept His offer of love and forgiveness. To be my Lord and Savior. How could I not? And then to make the Bible my life’s guidebook. Also to hang out with others who’ve chosen the same Lord and guide. Is that it? There must be more. Seems way too simple.

So, what does God require of us? There’s got to be a catch somewhere. Something that’s hidden in the fine print, which I can barely read? Too good to be true? Let’s check it out.

Hints can be found in the Old Testament Book of Joshua. ‘Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods…’ (Joshua 23:6-7). GPS is your Bible. God’s Positioning System! He’ll lead. We’ll follow.

More? ‘Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God’ (Josh. 23:11). Something else? ‘…but you shall cling to the Lord your God…’ (Josh. 23:8).

As I read these verses, I understand that following the Lord Jesus is not tied up with rituals and rules. Of course, there are do’s and don’ts but not to hamstring us. He wants to help us. Giving us good guidance with ways to live a life that is for our best. Being in a loving relationship with us, as we freely choose to follow Jesus. Loving Him back. Clinging to the Lord. Hanging on to His every word. Not letting go. Does He ask too much of us? Does He?

Back to Charlotte Bronte–‘…it is felt that a pitying God watches what all mankind has forsaken; the tender compassion of Jesus is recalled and relied on. The faded eye, the gazing beyond Time, sees a Home, a Friend, a Refuge in Eternity’ (‘Shirley’).

I choose to rely on Jesus. To cling to my Friend who prepares a Home for me, a Refuge, a safe place, not only for a fleeting moment but forever. How could anyone turn their back on such promised good news?

Thank you, Jesus, for being my true forever Friend. Amen.

THE KEY Ecclesiastes 5: 8-20

A friend’s mother warns him to shy away from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Why? He’s not sure but he’s tiptoed around it ever since. Not me. I love this book. It’s nitty-gritty. Down-to-earth. With warts and all. That’s for me.

I know we hear that life today is jam-packed with anxieties. Super busy. Preoccupied. All wound up, tied up, and hung up. Less free time than what’s promised at one of the pavilions at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, where smart-aleck prognosticators picture us flying here and there in personal helicopters with household chores done solely by robots. In someone’s dreams. Or nightmares.

Hard-pressed and swamped only in our time? I don’t think so. In a way, we’re spoiled rotten. Troubles come followed quickly by a check from the government. Food galore makes us roly-poly and groggy. Possess so much stuff that we need self-storage facilities all over the place. Park $80,000 trucks in the driveway while enclosed garages overflow with junk galore. We’d be the envy of previous generations? Are you sure about that? I’m not.

In spite of someone’s warnings, check out Ecclesiastes 5:20–‘ For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.’ God focuses our hearts and minds joyfully upward rather than snared in a downdraft of worries and fears.

I wish someone would tell me how to do that. Sorry to admit that I quickly trip into thinking that the worst will happen in no time flat. One wrong move and God will get me. Anything bad must be my fault including earthquakes and enemy attacks. See what I mean? I know all about being preoccupied with what drags me down.

But it’s my occupation, so to speak, that the Lord wants. Pinpoint focusing on Him. Giving Him my life. After all, He can do more with it than I can. Being uplifted by God’s promises, getting His Word entrenched in my thick craw, crowding out those pins and needles. Pushing hard.

When I was going through a year of medical tests, surgery, and follow-ups, I kept Isaiah 26:3 right at hand, nestled firmly in my mind–‘ thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.’ When fear comes on stage, I quickly quote from God’s script. It feels reassuring, planting God’s Word deep within. The Bible standing by me, a most welcome companion, whose hand I hold onto tightly. And still do.

Did all my fears evaporate? Hardly. But they’re pushed out a bit more to the fringes of my mind allowing faith to make a better showing. No room for both in full bloom. Clip and prune your fears and faith grows taller and more muscular. It’s true. Give it a try.

But don’t wait for some disaster to strike. Find a couple of Bible verses to memorize this week. Why not Isaiah 26:3 and Ecclesiastes 5:20? Hold onto them. Don’t let go no matter what, and you’ll find yourself occupied with joy from the Lord Jesus, the key to life in all its fullness.

Lord Jesus, I love you, and thank you for always standing with me. Amen.

HONEY Proverbs 24

Our silver anniversary French River cruise was one for the book. On board, the food was sumptuous and scrumptious. Something unique was provided for our enjoyment at the breakfast and lunch buffets. A wooden honeycomb frame about a foot and a half square, where you could spoon out whatever quantity of honey your tummy desires. I enjoyed honeycomb treats every day at both meals.

Not everyone chomped away. One passenger made it crystal clear to her hubby, and those of us within earshot, what she thought of this gooey goodness. ‘I don’t like honey,’ she’d bellow. Too bad, so sad. More for the rest of us!

Proverbs 24:13-14–‘My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.’

Wisdom. I’m sure I have some. Don’t I? Probably none in abundance. And, in and of myself, not worth writing home about. I wonder where I can get more? Any ideas?

You know. Go to the head of the class. Yes, the Bible. From cover to cover, it’s God’s Word. Totally trustworthy and true. Helpful and wise like nothing else. Puts us on the straight and narrow and keeps us there. Picks us up when we’ve fallen into some ditch of our own making. Wipes us off. Cleans us up. That’s my experience, yet He’s not done with messy old me. There’s more needed, sorry to say.

When the Bible speaks, God speaks. What better voice to hear? Who knows best? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I’d have to say yes. I’ve done some checking elsewhere. Scoped out the competition. Studied under some rather liberal religious professors, who thought they knew it all. Many cast the Bible as just another record of ancient myths and fables. They rest smugly on the settled science of theological arrogance. Of their own making. They should get off your high horses before they fall off. Watch out, Humpty-Dumpty! I’m moving out of the way. A big crash is coming. Sheltered safe and secure under God’s Word.

I’m glad I heard those discordant voices, casting doubt and disrepute about the Bible, for they inadvertently drove me back to God’s Word, where it made the most sense. And still does. More than ever.

Can I figure it all out? All of my questions answered? Not quite. But that’s why I dig deeper into my Bible. More time committed to and with my Lord Jesus. Learning and studying are never-ending. No Summa Cum Loud Mouth for me. Graduation day has yet to come.

I know myself. That I need more of Him daily. For I run out of spiritual steam way too soon. If I skip getting closer to the Lord in prayer and His Word, the gas tank quickly runs on empty, sputtering out by the side of the road. When I let worry grab hold of my mind, imagining all the possible horrors that await me, forgetting His promises, I sink deeper into fear, ignoring how close He wants to be with me, right there next to me holding my hands. Now you can see why I dare not neglect Jesus and His Word.

Again, wisdom is but a Book away. Sweet as honey. Spoon it on your plate. Take all you want. Relish its sweetness. Plenty to go around. Never runs out. No supply-chain delays or over-inflated price gouging.

Go ahead, try some. You’ll like it. So good and healthful. Besides, it’s the wise thing to do. Honey.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of the Bible. In Jesus’ name. Amen.