Make some space!

Our new habit of social distancing has made everyone even more aware of giving space to one another. In the garden, we have no such methodology, but even in a crowded garden bed, proper spacing must be maintained. 

The surprising gift of two Veilchenblau roses last year was reason enough to rearrange the patio bed. These fragrant purple roses were perfect to go on my backyard trellis. There was one problem; we had a beautiful “Jude the Obscure” rose bush too close to one side of it already.  Continue reading “Make some space!”

Slow growing

Instant gratification – this is not something that a garden provides. My sister-in-law has a gift for transforming drab porches and patios into a welcoming haven within a matter of days, sometimes only hours. In stark contrast, my bargain-hunting compulsions leave me with little choice but to wait much longer to see the rewards of my labor.

When an unusual variety is desired, what is usually required is starting it from seed. That process is not compatible with a demand for immediate color in the garden. Continue reading “Slow growing”

I’m so over it!

Last week I listened to someone rant long and vehemently about a problem, only to end with the words, “I’m so over it!” I’m not sure this person really understood that phrase, but she clearly was not “over it.” Nor did I have any expectations that the outburst had given such relief that the tension was now past. Continue reading “I’m so over it!”

Angry at God

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by Barbara Ann Oliver

“David became angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah” (2 Samuel 6:8).

I had a friend and mentor when I was still a fairly new Christian. She was excited about her Christianity and she was a wonderful influence on the young people with whom she came into contact. It was a joy to see her celebration of life.

Unfortunately, early in their marriage her young husband died. She was so upset and angry that she blamed God. She had worshiped her husband and her life with him so much that, without him, she refused to worship God.

As a result, her children grew up without God and the influence of the church. By the time she finally returned to God later in life, it was too late for her children.

 

David was in a celebratory mood. He was bringing the ark home to Jerusalem. Suddenly, the party mood was broken when God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark. David’s joy turned to anger toward God. Refusing to take the ark any further, he left it in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.

“Thus the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (2 Samuel 6:11).

Now, David was no fool. When he found out that Obed-edom’s house was being blessed because of the ark, he decided to bring it home to Jerusalem after all. Apparently, his anger toward God had dissipated enough for him to realize that he was missing out on the blessings.

Job is another example of the exuberant celebration of life cut short. His children and everything that he owned were taken from him. In one day, Job’s happy life disintegrated before his eyes.

After the loss of his family, later, his body became infected with boils and he was totally miserable. But when his wife advised him to just go ahead and curse God and die, he rebuked her.

“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).

Job, in physical and emotional pain, even though he didn’t understand why all these bad things were happening to him, refused to turn his back on God.

 

The thing about the crises in our live is that they happen when everything seems to be going well. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a crisis! The question is, do we love God during those times? Do we lean on him or do we curse him?

Job spent seven days with his friends, questioning God and his intentions. When he finally accepted that God had his own reasons, God blessed him.

David, because of his anger toward God, spent three months letting someone else enjoy the blessings that rightfully belonged to him and to the house of Israel. When he got over his anger, God blessed him.

My friend spent years and years being mad at God. Finally, when she got over her mad, God once again blessed her life. But she lives to this day with the consequences of her prolonged anger toward God.

Anger can hurt us. It can hurt our relationships, our peace of mind, our health.

Anger towards God deprives us of the blessings that can come through adversity. It deprives us of the strength that comes only from him. And if left unchecked, it deprives us of eternal life with him.

God understands that we get angry (Ephesians 4:26). So instead of forbidding it, he gives us the best advice: get over it quickly!

Road rage

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by Paula Harrington

I’m always amazed at the stories of road rage that make the news and how furious some people become while driving. Honestly, I’ve been aggravated at times, but never have I been so absolutely livid that I’ve wanted to hurt another person because of their lack of driving abilities.

I don’t really get it, and I think the truth of the matter is that people are already angry before they get behind the wheel because let’s face it, life is hard. It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey; you’re either going through a difficult time or just coming out of one.

Matthew 7 has a great story where Jesus explains that storms come upon all of us. Rain, wind, and floods wreck havoc in all our lives regardless of wealth or status.

The part I love about this narrative is that Jesus, as usual, not only tells us how life is, he tells us how to live it. He gives us the key to weathering those trials.

Build your home on the rock. Peace and joy aren’t based on your physical situation but on your spiritual location. Is your entire life focused in, on, and around the Christ?

Do you begin and end your day with Jesus? If so, you’re good. If not, no wonder you honk, cuss, and rage at the people around you. When you don’t know Jesus, you’re speeding down the wrong lane in the dark without any headlights.

Sometimes we need to do more than change lanes to get right with God; sometimes we need to change roads altogether.

If we want hope, then the road we’re racing down better be the one that leads to Heaven. If we want peace, then Jesus better do all the driving.

Move over and let Jesus take control. He won’t always keep you off the rough roads, but he’ll get you where you’re going.

What makes you angry?

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by Michael E. Brooks

“When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill him” (Acts 5:33 NKJV).

“Then he said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live'” (Acts 22:21-22).

I was in a discussion with fellow missionaries recently when the conversation turned to the psychology of mob action. One man, referring to his experiences in Islamic countries, stated, “Someone cries ‘Allah Aqbar’ and everyone starts fighting with sticks and weapons.”

There are numerous instances of this in the Bible. In Acts 5, the Jewish leaders were made angry by the claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. In the story told in Acts 22, Paul’s life was endangered because he dared to say that the Jews were not the only people whom God loved.

Our secular society might point to these incidents and use them to condemn religious faith. To many all believers are fanatics, willing to go to war or commit violence on behalf of their creeds. This is simply intolerable to their way of thinking.

While I certainly agree that war and violence are not appropriate ways to express Christian faith, I do find a positive lesson for us in these incidents. The Jews of the first century cared enough about their religion to respond passionately in its defense.

I must ask, how many of us are deeply enough involved in our religious beliefs to even perceive a true threat? And if we do, how many love their religion enough to defend it with such passion? As wrong as they were in so many ways, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were not wrong in their love for God’s Law.

Granted, they were wrong in their understanding and application of the Law. They were wrong in their personal hypocrisy. They were even wrong in their exclusive appropriation of God as belonging only to them. But they were very right in their zeal for the true God.

Genuine religion is not and never has been a promoter of unjust war and violence. When those things result from religious motives, one can be assured that men have perverted and misapplied faith.

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Love, not hatred; peace, not wrath–these are the marks of faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ.

In all of the time he spent on this earth as a human, the only time we are told of Jesus’ demonstrating anger was because of the desecration of God’s Holy Temple (John 2:13-17). He could overlook any insult or threat to himself, but would not allow his Father to be disrespected.

Should not that also be our stance? Men cannot truly harm us (Matthew 10:28). They may destroy the body, but cannot harm our eternal soul. It is in the hands of God. He is our refuge. He deserves our worship and our love.

“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. . . . The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Psalm 18:3, 46).

Curse

by Christine Berglund

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it;’

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return’”
(Genesis 3:15-19 NASB).

We know that our heavenly Father disciplines us for our good, and this example with Earth’s very first inhabitants demonstrates this clearly.

Occasionally, I find myself mildly annoyed that womankind shoulders a lot of Adam’s curse, but I have yet to see a man who has pain in childbirth. No matter; there must be a reason.

However, after a very troubling week, employing a seemingly superhuman effort to contain my anger, I find myself hacking at these weeds with a vengeance.

It is now my urgent and compelling mission to eradicate the undesirable plants in my garden, since I cannot eradicate the undesirable events in my life. It feels good. It feels like I am winning.

Of course this is all in my own imagination. The garden will never be completely free of weeds, no more than life will be free of annoyances and trouble. But it is therapeutic, and for that I am grateful as I give those weeds what’s coming to them.

What if God really couched a great blessing in the “curse” of the ground? What if hard work, especially the specific punishment of Genesis 3, is really meant to be an outlet for anger?

When sin entered the world, it was inevitable that it would cause the righteous to become angry at some of it. Jesus was. It is not wrong to be angry. “Be angry and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

So the punishment for sin– thorns and weeds–can actually be an outlet for the anger that was to follow the entrance of sin into the world?

The wisdom of God astounds me!

Some people recommend quelling their anger by punching a pillow or kicking the furniture. I would like to think that my anger management techniques are more genteel, and more productive overall.

While it is true that the garden rewards me with delicious vegetables and a slew of flowers, the violence in my weed reduction techniques is still evident.

I have a wicked-looking Japanese hand hoe, and I’m not afraid to use it!

Your methods may vary, and that’s quite all right. For me, engaging in a grudge match with errant vegetation is therapeutic.

Other people throw themselves into their work as an anger management tool. Again, this is a productive way to redirect bad energy into something useful. God meant for us to work, even before the Fall.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

It has been suggested that Heaven is a place where we can work for God. It is beyond my comprehension what work God has for us, but it will not be as boring as the age-old stereotype of sitting on a cloud strumming a harp!

How often do we thank God for work? Do we thank Him for His loving discipline? Thank God for weeds. Take that!

A risky business

Watch out for the consequences of anger. It kept Moses out of Canaan, when in the dry and desperate desert, hitting on a rock, he failed to glorify God and disobeyed before Israel. Vultures weren’t biding their time over the bodies of the people; Satan was hovering to devour a soul.

James reminds us that “human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:20 NET). Moses’ outburst did nothing to further God’s purpose. This from the meekest man on the earth. Just imagine how bad it gets for those lower on the meekness scale.

• An American Christian joined us yesterday at church. Our city is an industrial and technological center, so it’s not uncommon for Americans to travel here on business. Some of them are Christians who search us out. (We even set up a small English-language website to make it easier to find us.) It speaks highly of these brothers and their faith that they went out of their way to find us.

Even though they don’t understand the language, they benefit from being present and encourage the brethren as well. It’s a deep spiritual impulse that prompts people to do this, when it would be much easier to justify missing the meeting of the saints. Though Hebrews 10:25 isn’t ignored, it’s like the mission of God dwelling in the heart: it’s much bigger than a mere command. This bond is forged by God’s Spirit.

• Whenever I read or hear a parent say they moved to a congregation for the youth program, I see the tail wagging the dog.

• Paul’s letter to the Philippians, like so many of his, is a missionary document. A thank-you for support. A heart-warming note of gratitude and joy for cooperation in the gospel. Unevangelistic Sunday-goers won’t see it. The non-evangelists miss it. Those who call themselves Christians but have never won a soul skip over the salient parts of the cooperative mission in the letter. But the letters breathes the spirit of gospeling.

• Remember the old adage that love is a verb? Gospel is action. Not merely God’s in Christ, but the loud march of motivated feet into the world. Gospel, you’ve tired of hearing, means Good News. News means movement. A word travels, a message arcs from mouth to ear. If the gospel isn’t being told to the whole world, we should fold up and go home, and quit pretending we’re Christians.

• Many (how many is too many?) churches are spending millions on themselves and throwing a pittance to missions. In the growing world economic crisis, the inevitable budget cuts hit those fartherest from the home base. Because many of those churches are self-serving clubs whose goal is to cuddle the members. (That’s why we have church members.) But the church has no other mission than to save souls through the message of Christ crucified.

• A risky business, soul-winning. As the Lord meant it to be. Once the gospel is presented to someone, a relationship will either go forward toward the Lord or apart with the gospel as the wedge. So the Lord meant when he said he did not bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:32-42). The faith will either unite people in the strongest bond or, often, those who reject it will react in the strongest terms and with extreme measures.

What a joy to be a part of this divine project, is it not?