Sun Flowers or Sun Followers?

The black edge of night gave way to dark blue as I drove south on a rural Nebraska blacktop.  Having driven through the night, I welcomed the faintest glimmer of sunshine that soon would spread across my path and force night’s retreat. 

A rightward glance revealed the uniformity of a row crop standing perpendicular to the narrow road.  Mile after mile, hundreds, no, surely thousands of these figures loomed as shadowy silhouettes against the darkness that skulked westward.  They looked like beleaguered soldiers mustered for morning inspection by the glowing general advancing from the East. 

Moments later, that bright and morning star shone across a vast army of sunflowers mustered on both sides of the road.  Who could count them all?  Their ranks stood attentive to the sun as the seed bearers strobed past my window and gentle hills rolled under their feet.

Alone on the backroad, I slowed to an idle to drink in the experience.  The left scene was mostly green.  But the right was bright with brilliant heads of sunflowers — throngs of glowing golden faces that once gazed at the ground and had turned into sunward stares.  I marveled at the plants’ ability to track with the sun as it rose slowly and slid inevitably across the brilliant sky. 

Until harvest time, this is the consistent daily ritual of sunflowers.

As Son Followers, we often must endure darkness while firmly planted in the nourishing confidence of coming Light.  This will be our routine for the Lord — until harvest time.

Mark 4:8, “And [some seed] fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred” (KJV).

Whether the sun sets or rises, help me to stay rooted through obedience in the truths of your word, Lord, and to remain planted faithfully in following your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

© 2020.


A Bold Approach

One of the most memorable joys of my life multiplied many times over was during my stint as a writer who traveled the world interviewing and reporting on missionaries.  While there are many deeply meaningful experiences, few top the time I visited the Maasai people in Tanzania.

On the morrow we would travel from village-to-village, visiting sites where the gospel had taken root and churches sprung up.  But on my first afternoon in Longido, TZ, missionary Tim Tidenberg said, “Let’s take a walk.”

I think we had walked maybe 200 yards behind his house when several Maasai children appeared in the path.  They knew Tim and came running toward him.  He greeted them.  Then they came to me, these beautiful, giggling, happy children.

They began bumping their heads into my thighs.  I thought I was not watching my step, so I took note to steer clear.  But they kept bumping their heads into my thighs, intentionally.

“Tim, what’s going on, here?”

“They’re greeting you.  They want you to put your hand on their heads.  It shows acceptance and approval.”

No one’s heart ever melted any faster.  It was my honor to place my palm briefly on their heads.  As I greeted them, they ran off one-by-one to do what little kids do.  And they ran off with my heart, too. 

Can you imagine children of single digit ages in our country running toward adults they had never met, arms extended, with a desire to be acknowledged and greeted by a hug?  I can’t — maybe because I was reared on the heels of a culture that thought children should be seen and not heard.  Yet, those precious African children ran boldly to me, their actions sweetly insisting they be greeted.

Decades later I reflected on this treasured memory and thought about the verse that commands God’s children to come boldly to him (Hebrews 4.16).  

When we come to God, should we not do as the Maasai children?  Hebrews 4.16 says we should.  Yes, there are those times we will have the attitude like the Prophet Isaiah (re: chapter 6).  But I think there are those times when we ought to run boldly to God.

The seraphim can just get out of the way because I am running to Daddy.

And Daddy will be delighted to place his palm on my head.

PRAYER: Daddy, I know this is another word for Abba and not merely father. So, thank you for this term of affection and for encouraging me to come to you in boldness. I know that you are ready to extend the welcome of your heart full of mercy and grace. Amen.

© 2020.


Forgiveness: a few thoughts

How easily do you forgive an offender?

After many years, the Lord has enabled me to live in a spirit of forgiveness — most days.  Note that this is the Lord’s doing and not mine.  This blessing from God frees me almost instantly from the wrongs perpetrated upon me.  This is not a form of suppression; it is liberation.  Further, I want to forgive others ASAP because that is how I want to be treated.

And, if we do not forgive so readily, then Matt 6:15 ought to provide sufficient motivation: If we do not forgive we will not find forgiveness.  Holding a grudge, then, means that God will turn a deaf ear to prayers for forgiveness, which I need daily, if not also hourly.

Were it all up to me and my fallen human nature, vainly I would be laboring in Grudgeville, suffering as I bear the load of others’ sins while believing that every transgressor owes me an apology.  One cannot expect to grow spiritually while in such a state of heart and mind.  I have come to conclude that, what must happen is transgressors need to realize their offenses and apologize; but it is utterly pointless for me to hinder my own prayers and spiritual growth by demanding an apology from them.  What a waste of valuable time and emotional effort that is.

It is not my job to feel sorry for myself, and it is impossible for me to bring anyone to a state of repentance.  How many parents demand that offending children apologize to a sibling or someone else?  How disingenuous was that?  A forced apology is meaningless if not altogether counter-productive.

Numerous New Testament verses regarding forgiveness say nothing about an apology.  Rather, we are instructed in several verses to forgive as Christ forgave.  And how was that?  Well, our Lord’s claims of deity as shown, for example, in his ability to forgive sins was a major reason Jesus was nailed to the cross.  Looking to the cross and hearing the words of Jesus, therefore, can enable us to grasp the command to forgive as he forgave.

Jesus looked at those who were jeering, spitting, and cursing.  He looked at those who had punched, kicked, whipped, and beaten him, had torn out his beard, pierced his scalp with a crown of thorns, driven spikes through his wrists and feet, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Of course, the people were fully aware of what they were doing with regard to their hate-filled invectives, the brutality of their actions, and the cruelty of the crucifixion.  Other than members of the Lord’s family, his followers, the repentant thief, and the Roman Centurion, the mob had no clue that God of very God, the Son of God, was the victim of their ire.

Are there people in your life who have offended you whether knowingly or unknowingly?  Free yourself.  Forgive them.  Only then will the grudge you hold against them let go of you.


100 Percent Compliance

Those are the words that kept rolling through my head: “One hundred percent compliance.”

As a Christian, my goal per the Lord’s requirements is to conform to the image of Christ and to have the mind of Christ.  This means behaving like Jesus, who lived sinlessly. As for Christ followers, the Book of Hebrews tells us to be rid of the sin that so easily besets us.

What is the sin (or sins) that so easily beset you?  Is it anger or a spirit of unforgiveness (passive aggression)?  Maybe it’s materialism or sexual lust.  Perhaps you are selfish and are not giving to the Lord and others as you ought.  Maybe your lust is not sexual, but is about food or clothes or career. Perhaps pride?

There was a time in my walk with the Lord (and this still happens) that I was working on a besetting sin — which, by the way, is a gift from God to want to do that — and every time I would transgress I heard this: “One hundred percent compliance.”

Because I kept hearing that phrase too many times a day, I was moved by God’s encouragement to discipline myself in an attempt to take every thought captive, which is yet another command of God.

Then the Lord began to show me other areas where he desired 100 percent compliance. And that voice kept repeating, “One hundred percent compliance.”

Oh, I get it, Lord. For me to be holy as you are holy means more than one hundred percent compliance in only one matter, but in the totality of my life.

Needless to say, there was a season when that compliance phrase echoed almost constantly in my head. As of this writing, I hear it a bit less.  That does not mean I have attained near sinless perfection. No. Rather, it represents the truth of God’s promise: Resist the devil and he will flee.

Christians need to realize that it is not a sin to be tempted.  But when we are tempted, we answer with a mind and heart of compliance toward God’s word and not Satan’s destructive detours. 

Regarding temptations, the reformer Martin Luther is credited to have said: “You cannot prohibit the birds from flying over your head; but make sure they stay in the air and do not build a nest in your hair.”

I guarantee that, if you tell those birds they cannot land on your head, they’ll never make it to your heart.  In fact, they will fly away and visit you less often.  And that not only because resistance causes the devil to flee, it is also because we are more than conquerors in Christ.