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The True Vine

It’s quite amazing to me how much insight the seemingly insignificant objects and circumstances of our lives have to offer us if we’ll just stop for a moment to look and listen. Like word pictures on a life size screen they patiently wait for us to focus on them to impart to us their message.

Last week I gathered together the remnants of the partitions that I had moved from the ministry center and used them to construct a playhouse for my daughter. It worked out nicely because I also had several bundles of shingles that had been left sitting in the yard by my brother in-law to use for the roof and this was the proper motivator for me to deal with them.

As I was sitting outside admiring my handiwork one evening in the relative coolness that so blessedly replaces the intense midday heat of August,  my attention was drawn to the artificial vines that I had draped across the structure. I was impressed by their realistic appearance as they moved with the occasional light summer breeze.  So beautiful! Unlike the real vegetation in my yard that was starting to wither from the heat, they were unchanged…

I saw these real grapevines growing and so I snapped this shot to use for comparison.

They look as if they’ve been through a hot summer. Most of the leaves have wilted and fallen off allowing a better view of the delicious fruit they’ve given their all to produce.

All of this vine viewing caused me to take a serious look at my own spiritual life.

Is my Christian life just about appearances?

Do I really have a connection to the true vine?

Given the choice,would I rather not “get real” if it meant that I couldn’t remain unchanged and indifferent to my environment?

Am I really so superficial that I’d prefer to be something with practically no value primarily because it required nothing of me other than to go through the motions?

Am I “okay” with never bearing any real fruit because deep down I know what a drag it is being a fake…

John 15:1/5

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

My recent evangelistic/ministerial efforts fell pretty far short of what my hopes were for them but I feel as though I learned many valuable lessons in the process. I’m still very interested in seeing my vision of a ministry center happen, I think it’s a great idea that could produce a lot of fruit!

Basically the idea is for the church to connect with people by providing assistance with many of the common issues that are causing both the churched and unchurched so many problems today. It’s more than just mentoring, it’s free help with things like exercise classes and health maintainence information, diet and food issues, money stewardship, family skills and counseling, substance abuse and addiction support meetings. All centered around the practical application of biblical principles as the solution to every need!

Why not put it all under one roof and make it convenient and organized so that people could be more easily helped? There would be paid teaching/training positions as well as a lot of volunteer work done by members of  local congregations which would provide their members with great opportunities to  stir up the gifts within them as they serve God and their communities!

According to the statistics I’ve read put out by The Barna Group we’re losing the battle for souls in this nation. If I were to speculate as to why that is I’d have to say that it seems as though the church has gotten a reputation for being about all of the wrong things. We’re hypocrites, child molesters, thieves and con men in peoples eye’s who it seems really only care about one thing and that’s money!

And according to author Anne Rice who recently “quit” Christianity,

we’re primarily known for what we’re against, not what we’re for…

What better way can you think of to let people know what we’re actually “for” ?

This can be accomplished by promoting what it means to live victoriously in a tangible way they can easily relate to.  As the true vine we’re called to love above all things, which can perhaps be defined as being willing to ask,

“How can I help?”

We as the church must attempt to reach everyone that’s “wrestling” with all of the weapons that have been formed against them by the powers and principalities of our enemy. The only way that we can lose is If we continue to do nothing but sit back and wait for the lost to come to us instead of going to them.  Instead we should be open compelled to do whatever it takes to share the good news of salvation and deliverance with everyone who’s life is plagued by the effects of sin!

The Father gave us the resources to build multi-million dollar churches, He left us with His Holy Spirit to help us, and He sent us Jesus who defeated the Devil for us so that none of these weapons can prosper against us unless we allow them!

What will we as the church do with all of that?

I guess that depends on who and what we really are…

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

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Land Of Many Springs

 One of the great joy’s of blogging I’ve found is in sharing the unique and special things about where I call home with the rest of the world.

The area where I live is known mostly for being a hunting, fishing, floating, camping/hiking destination. During the spring it’s turkey season, summertime around here is all about the river. When the chilly winds of winter begin to blow the town is overrun with people dressed in camouflage who are looking to bag that big buck!  In the winter months the local people rest up!

I’m not much of a hunter, but what I do enjoy is seeing the abundant wildlife practically everywhere you go around here. The deer are somewhat tame and will sometimes just stand there  next to the road allowing you to get a good look at them as you drive up . The other day I saw two hen turkeys scurry across the road in front of me with their collective brood of about 10-15  in tow.  The spring hatch-lings, they were beautiful in their tan colored juvenile feathers!

Perhaps the predominant characteristic of the area I live in is the abundance of naturally occurring springs. The water they provide is literally the “life blood” that freely flows throughout this part of the state. Their cool blue effusion’s and the underground waterways that they represent are a precious resource that’s value cannot be overstated.

Now that I’ve said my little speech we can get on to the good stuff…

This is Greer Spring

Pictured here is the much celebrated and often photographed upper outlet which join’s together with the water from the lower outlet and flows into the Eleven Point River more than doubling it’s size! It’s the second largest spring in the Ozarks, second only to Big Spring which is located in nearby Carter County, Mo.

Originally the spring was harnessed by Samuel Greer to power a grist mill in 1859.

To the right is the lower and much more substantial source of the spring and the one time location of the aforementioned mill. It’s an incredibly beautiful area that’s easily accessible. Various hiking trails that skirt the surrounding hillsides provide some excellent photo opportunities!

One of the most interesting and beautiful springs is Turner’s Mill Spring! Located in what was once a small logging village called “Surprise” Mo. it’s a must see if you’re in the area!

This picture to the right is what remains of the wheel which using the spring supplied the power needs of the small community.

 

Our next stop on the tour is Boze Mill Spring.

Many things about Boze Spring really stood out to me. The setting is unique in one respect because of the approach to the spring from the trail. If you look closely at the area between the trail and the deeper turquoise blue of the main spring you can see the shallow sandy area that’s  ideal for wading in! But be warned, the water here is in my opinion colder than any spring I’ve ever been in! It practically numbed my legs within minutes of wading into it!

 

I’ve been a Missouri resident my whole life and an avid outdoors person as well.  As a typical young boy I was fascinated with reptiles, frogs specifically. Having said that, I found it remarkable that as I approached the spring I was welcomed by a strange sound. Strange in that I only vaguely recognized it. The “noise” was coming from frogs.  Their call was different from any frog I had ever heard, and for them to be active in the middle of the day is also unusual. As I sat there on the bank they entertained me with their “calling” to each other.  Here in their secluded paradise I wondered how many thousands of generations had lived and croaked here in this place and provided the ambiance for thousands of people who had sat just where I was on it’s bank.

This last spring is in many ways also the least.

It’s water volume is small and I’m not really even sure of what it’s “official” name is. I’ve heard it called “Panther Creek” spring, I tried to research it and still couldn’t find any definitive information about it. It’s located less than a quarter mile downstream from the Whitten access on the Eleven Point river. It’s just a hole in the ground that sits less than a hundred feet back off from the main channel but what I found interesting about it is that it makes it’s own noise…

That’s right, it’s a “Talking Spring

My daughter and I had walked up the creek that flows from it one day a few years back. I remember hearing a noise that at first I assumed was coming from the insects that were everywhere. Something about it seemed out of kilter though, it never stopped! When I paused to concentrate on it more fully I noticed that it seemed to emanate from the spring it’s self!

That struck me as being an impossibility at first, “Can sound travel in water?” I’d never seen or heard of such a thing and upon a closer examination I saw what appeared to be small rocks that were caught in it’s flow. The waters effect upon them was to toss them upward in the current of the spring and then suck them back down so as to imitate a volcano spewing lava. During this process,they constantly made random contact which was the source of the “clicking” sound I was hearing.

I’ve really only scratched the surface of listing all of the springs in this part of Missouri. I barely mentioned Big Spring which is the largest, and I didn’t even mention the appropriately named “Mammoth Spring” which is south of here just across the Arkansas state line.

My intent here wasn’t really to provide an exhaustive list, instead my goal is to celebrate who it is that gives life to not just this little backwater part of the world but to everyone everywhere!

In this world there may be “Many Springs”  but there is only one true source of life!

John 7:38

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

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I Had No Business…

If ever I were to write my life story, this would probably end up being the title.

What does “that” really mean?

That my life has been characterized by my feeling that I’m a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

That as a square peg in a land full of round holes you will do a lot of searching to find a place where you fit in.

Which also means that chances are you’ll become involved with a lot of stuff that you really…

“Had No Business”

being involved with.

I’m not saying it’s been all bad or anything, or that I’m really any different than you are.

In fact, I’ll bet you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

A couple of weeks ago one of the transient cats that frequent my yard decided to have seven kittens and abandon them there.

My wife was the first to hear something crying, we found most of them inside of an old cabinet next to our house.

All efforts to reunite them with their presumably overwhelmed mother failed and so the task was taken up by my daughter, who passed it off to my wife…

Without getting into the details of my personal financial situation, let me just say that

“I had no Business”

spending the money I did on “cat formula replacement” or the eye dropper and tiny bottle that I bought at Wal-Mart.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing, it’s about $10.00 each, I bought two containers.

(I call this “one” Don King)

Now it’s a week or so later, six have died from aspirational pneumonia which is caused by formula getting into their lungs and causing an infection, one is left…

But he is SO cute!

What the head makes cloudy,the heart makes very clear…

Last November I decided to rent a building in a nearby city and try to establish what I called a “ministry center”

It was an idea based not only on what I believed to be an unmet need in the community, but also on what I perceived as being a need to “walk the walk”  in the Christian community.

For eight months I showed up five days a week during the scheduled hours. I promoted it, and I paid every bill associated with it’s operation.

Including but not limited to…the rent,electric,phone,water,to the tune of about $500.00 a month, and during the entire time I think I might’ve talked to a dozen people about their drug/alcohol problems.

It’s sort of a double entendre

I had no business spending that money, and I literally had no business going on!

“I Had No Business”

When people use that phrase to describe someone else what are they really saying?

At least in part I think it means that there’s no profit in what you’re doing.

maybe it means you were involved in something that was better left alone or that wasn’t your affair.

And in these times we’re in right now, minding your own business is a pretty easy sell when it comes to doing something towards meeting the needs of our fellow man.

(or beast)

Do you think that “minding your own business” is part of being a Christian?

In the story of the good Samaritan that Jesus told to His disciples, I’ve always thought it was interesting that the first two people who came across the man in great distress were representatives of the church…

If we fear becoming involved, whether it’s financially, personally, or BOTH! And we rationalize that fear because of our circumstances or based on the possibility of negative outcomes, it may well be said that we’re simply “minding our own business”. And although the primary motivation I mentioned is fear, we can further rationalize that our choice’s are right by referring to them as being

“self-love”

But that’s in stark conflict with my understanding of what being a Christian is about.

It’s definitely not loving God and others as yourself.

It’s not trusting that God has all of our circumstances under His control.

Not being interested in expressing love can only mean you’ve yet to receive it.

Lately it seems to be a popular thing for Christian people to refer to themselves as

“followers of Christ”

Luke 2:49

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business

Many church’s and individual Christian’s are seeking a move of the spirit, and yet they’re standing still! One possible interpretation of Luke 2:49 is that the church is seeking Christ in the wrong places. That if we’re seriously interested in following Jesus or in being used by the Holy Spirit we’ve got to come down off of our mountain and move towards the front line’s of this battle for souls that’s going on, that’s where the Spirit of God is, and I believe that’s where the Father is looking to “do business” and that’s where He needs His church to be!

So go and rescue some kittens, and then go and volunteer at a rescue mission if you want to see the spirit move!

Well, not exactly…but what I am saying is to let it be your constant compulsion to find a way to

“let your light so shine”

among men that your Father in heaven is glorified!

Never be convinced by the apparent lack of results from your efforts to serve the Lord that you

“had no business”

In attempting to do something.

Our adoption into Gods family makes it our family business to proclaim Christ!

I have no business other than the Fathers

In closing, this quote from C.H. Spurgeon

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

Also this…

Evangelism is a process of bringing the gospel to people where they are, not where you would like them to be… When the gospel reaches a people where they are, their response to the gospel is the church in a new place…–Vincent Donovan

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Weeds…

Have you ever felt insignificant, Like a weed? Perhaps even a bit resentful at the thought of you’re life being played out as a supporting role in someone else’s

“big life”?

Perhaps your a frog who dreamed of being a prince…

Or maybe a plain old brick that wanted to become a great building!

The ugly duckling?

Many of us are inclined to see our ambitions as the problem. Reasoning that to act on the desire to rise above our apparent station in life is to choose to be openly discontented in our present circumstances.  And the only “call” on our lives that we’re aware of has to do with maintaining our status quo.  Change is an uncertain thing and depending on the results of it,  it can sometimes be looked upon by others as a vain manifestation of our selfcenteredness…and that’s BAD!

Isn’t it?

Blooming where we’re planted is the key, if I’m just a brick then I must be the best brick possible!

If I’m a weed, I’ll proudly and earnestly go about fulfilling Gods purpose for me!

That’s the ticket, forget about being a flower and just get happy!

After all, wherever you go, there YOU are!

If you weren’t happy as an ugly duckling then becoming a swan won’t solve your problem!

will it?

I believe it to be a very true statement that there is nothing so common in this world as men with God given talent and intellect. That they literally walk the streets, sleeping under bridges and in alleys.

“Well that’s crazy” you say, “how could that be, those people are bum’s?”

I believe it’s true because I’ve met them. It seems as though these men were at some point convinced that they were weeds, which is of course a lie. Everything in their lives beyond that point was merely living down to the expectations that were placed upon them. That’s not to shift the responsibility off of them, how could they not eventually come to know the truth? What could be more painful for them than to live with a yearning in their soul’s for the good and perfect will of the Father in their lives instead of their own profoundly misguided choices. Not to fret, our crafty enemy is ever ready to provide them with his  “answer”.  And so with the lie of  “I’m a weed” firmly implanted in their mind, and something to numb the pain, we can begin to understand the helplessness and hopelessness that’s expressed through the circumstances of their lives.

As much of a believer in education as I am, I’m an even bigger fan of people with a vision that can inspire others to put aside their personal agenda’s and start bailing the knee deep water out of the boat we’re all in! This nation has jumped the track, they say that in order to get a train back on the tracks after it derails you have to reverse it until you get back to it’s point of departure. How far back do you think that is? I’m not as impressed by how many diploma’s you may have on your wall, or with the capital letters that follow after your name as much as I am in knowing

“Do you know how to fix this and can you make this thing work?”

It’s always more cost efficient to take care of what we have than it is to repair or replace it. The investment that’s made through providing education and protection from harm to societies most vulnerable members is one that’s made in everyone’s best interest. The real payoff isn’t immediate, it’s a long term investment that societies make in their own future. It’s an investment that we’ve failed to make because our short-sighted leadership stood by while our real collective wealth as a society was plundered. It’s would’ve been cheap to fix at one point, especially if you give any credence to the sixteen to one exchange rate expressed in the phrase,

“an ounce of prevention is worth a whole pound of the cure”

Those who’s destiny it was to be the much needed missing elements of today’s society were thwarted through various means. The holocaust of abortion, our unchecked nationwide epidemic of drug/alcohol abuse, and the crown jewel of our undoing, the compromise of the American family! It’s a fairly common thing for men to take an old rusty car and restore it, not just because they hope to turn a profit from it but because they love doing it. How much more important is doing “rehab” work with people? And rewarding, look at the return on that investment in terms of the number of added hands being put towards the successful outcome of our common cause.

They say that a weed is a plant man hasn’t found a purpose or a use for yet, and that’s probably the best reason I don’t recommend looking to man for your validation! God made man in His own image, so that means your not a weed, and God does have a vitally important purpose for your life! So if you’re not a weed, who were you supposed to be? What part of the solution were you intended to provide? When will you decide to do whatever you can from this point on to make that happen? Where do you belong? Why…why not?

You’re not a weed, your significance is in the difference you can make in the lives of others who are perishing because of their need of what you have. That knawing feeling in your gut is from you holding back what God sent with you into this world. Have you had enough of Satan’s lies, or are you going to let him continue to steal from you? Is the life you’re living the life that God meant for you? How do you see the focus of your life and who’s glorified by it? If it’s not God, then friend you have a sin problem! And that’s a very bad thing,

I’ll tell you why…

Inside your heart,a still small voice, is calling out to you.

But it’s very easy to ignore, and do the things you do.

Just don’t ever wonder why Your life is filled with pain,

or why things never do work out as long as you remain

The one who’s will is served by the living of your life.

This is not the purpose, it’s the product of your strife.

He said that if we’d be His people, He would be our Lord.

And that the battle has been won,

we don’t need to lift the sword.

A life that’s lived to honor God really blesses you.

So just let go of all your sin

and thank the Lord it’s true!


From my book of poetry, “Something To Read Besides The Walls”

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Without A Net

Whether we realize it or not all of us are walking a tight wire of some kind in our lives and our balancing act is always at risk given the thin nature of the “reality” we subscribe to.  Everyday, people in this hard little world fall off that wire, land hard, and are injured in way’s that can be hard to heal. The repercussions of that fall are what we sometimes call a “crisis” which interestingly enough is a word that’s based on the Greek term Krinein which means to decide.

Decide what?

Any trapeze artist you happen to meet will most likely tell you that a certain level of fear or respect is essential to the performance of their craft, but that if you allow that fear to take center stage walking that wire becomes impossible. And while a net can be something that catch’s us and keeps us safe from a fall, it can also be used to keep us in bondage after we’ve lost our balance and fallen into a trap or snare of some type! Safety is of the Lord, but fear is a symptom of spiritual bondage to sin. How is it that after thousands of years we’re still hiding in the bush’s just as Adam did in the garden from a loving God?

I think that the deepest fear any of us have is that of not being loved. Why does it seem as though we run from the thing we need the most or pretend to be above it in some way? Perhaps it’s because in lieu of being able to procure it, we’ve taken on the mantle of god in our own lives and have arrogantly chosen to express or exercise our “divinity” by making god-like choice’s about our lives that no one else can change, even if we’re the one’s that suffer as a result.

Isn’t that a shame?

Ultimately it isn’t us who make our choices, but instead they, who make us!

It’s at these familiar crossroads, these moments of sudden confusing complexity, that like any other subscription we’ve signed up for our fear delivers to us our default answer….

What about me?

Our lives become a frustrating failure when we try to take on Gods role in our lives or when we project onto God our flawed human understanding of love. Most of these misguided actions and bad choices flow from a core belief that the universe we live in is a decidedly unfriendly place, that real love is a lie, and that if there is a God He’s probably mad at us!

No wonder we’re anxious and afraid to step out!  We’re walking on a wire and we believe that we’re working…

Without a net!

Why am I saying all of this? Because there are way too many people who go through their lives making decisions that originate from thoughts sponsored by fear, not love. Who instead of living the life God had planned for them are tangled up in the net of this world and are presently miserable as a result! If hell is an eternal separation from God, Who is love, then you might say they’ve already started doing their time here on earth! In fact, I’ve heard more than a few people refer to their lives as being a “living hell”…I don’t believe that Gods pleased with any of those things at all, actually I think it break’s His heart, mine too…and since I’m trying to be on His team I’m interested in doing whatever He enables me to do to help others choose Him instead!  Being a Christian is simply an ever growing awareness of who we are in Christ and the joyful acknowledgment of Gods saving love that has freed us from the necessity of fear in each and every moment and circumstance of life!

What it means for each of us is that,

Above all we are greatly loved!

Come what may, we do have a safety net…

Jesus caught each of us when we cried out for Him to save us!

You’ve done that right?…Is your life going to suddenly become perfect after you come to know the Lord? NO! what it does mean is that whatever you go through in this life He’s in the midst of it with you! God never promised us a smooth ride, but He has promised us a safe landing! We don’t have to live a life of fear, shame and doubt, or be prisoners to things like worry and anxiety and there’s no reason this life has to be an empty meaningless existence without a hope for eternity when all we really have to do is stop and simply reason this thing we call faith out!

Have YOU traded in fear for faith!

That’s a choice I’m committed to making every day!

“Faith is that state of being in which we’re able to find present comfort in the arms that have held us up all along, and future peace based on the past and the present.”