Dying to Live

Dying to Live – John 12:24-25

Spring has sprung! Or so we all hope! It is April, and temperatures are warming up. The snow is gone (hopefully for good). Robins are back; trees are actually starting to bud out, and flowers are beginning to pop up! Looking around our rural community, farmers are beginning to do a little field fitting (i.e. getting the fields ready for planting). It won’t be long till spring planting will be under way; home gardening too!

I enjoy gardening. I like to work the dirt and plan for the vegetables I’d like to plant. But then I really enjoy watching as the plants sprout and poke their heads up through the soil, and as the summer progresses, watching them progress into maturity, and then seeing the fruit form on their vines or stalks. When my kids were little it was fun for them, and me, to go out and work in the garden. Explaining to them how the process of planting, and growing and harvesting works would really, and still does, spark amazement to think that each one of those seeds, planted in the ground, if properly watered and weeded and cared for, would grow up to be a mature plant yielding produce many times the amount of what was first planted.

There would be plenty to harvest for us to eat or to use for seed to plant next year’s garden. Think about it: just one ear of corn provides enough kernels of corn to plant several rows of sweet corn plants, yielding several bushels of (ears) of fresh sweet corn. Potatoes are another fascinating garden plant. You dig a hole and drop in a couple old potatoes from last year and by fall the kids and I would go out and dig up the roots of that plant and find dozens of fresh, new potatoes! It’s a demonstration of sacrifice. Out of the one seed comes forth life! But it’s not until the old seed, or kernel, or potato, dies and decays, giving food and nutrients for the new plant, that new life emerges.

We see the same thing in nature with certain species of fish. Their life cycle culminates by returning to the streams and rivers of their birth where they lay their eggs and then they die. It’s like they have just one purpose; to give of themselves in order for new life to carry on. It’s like they’re “dying to live”. Without such a sacrifice, there would be no continuance of life. The one life given, makes way for the lives of those to come.

In an effort to explain His own forthcoming sacrifice, and the necessity of the death of one to provide life eternal for many, Jesus told His disciples in John 12:24-25, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life well lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

How do we choose to invest the physical life that we’ve been given? If we hold on to it, as if it something of eternal worth, as if this life is all there is, then that will be truly all there is for us. But if we invest the life that we’re given here on earth in serving Jesus Christ and living for Him, the reward will be a new life, an eternal life.  Do we choose to hold on tightly to the temporary life we live here and now, or do offer all that we have, surrendered to Jesus so that He will give to us an eternal life that does not end? Jesus chose to give of His life for all of us, to make that promise of eternal life possible.

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”      C.T. Studd

In Christ,

Rick

Spring Cleaning – Proverbs 20:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5

 

According to the calendar, Spring arrived a few weeks ago. And for the most part we’ve had some pretty “spring-like” weather. But this past week has brought us back to the reality that a Michigan winter never gives up easily. March is one of those months that can go either way; Spring-like or Winter holding on to the end. As the temperatures increase and snow turns to rain showers another reality becomes evident; snow and ice melting away leaves behind the residue of filth accumulated since last fall. Everything looks dirty, muddy, piles of gravel from a winter’s worth of snowplowing. It seems that there is mud everywhere! It’s impossible to keep a car clean!

It’s not only outdoors where we find the accumulation of dirt and residue left behind by a long winter. This is where we come by the age old phrase, “Spring Cleaning”.  Open those windows and doors, clean out those places that have been closed up and covered up for months – gone unattended for a season. It happens. Something is sparkling clean and we admire it, being the way it’s supposed to be. But it won’t stay that way if it only sits there being admired. It must be maintained, dusted, polished, cared for, repaired. It doesn’t take anything long to regress if it’s not cared for.

Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?”

That goes for the Spiritual condition of our hearts as well. It is imperative that we continually maintain our hearts through prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and repentance when we stumble – always maintaining our close relationship with the Lord and depending on Him fully.

When sin has been evicted from us, if we do not replace it with the good things of God, sin will find its way back again. Mt. 12:43-45 43“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

A dirty object doesn’t cleanse itself. Our hearts are precious to us. It’s the seat, the origination of all that is good or evil. It’s that place where sinful thoughts are nurtured or done away with. Our hearts are constantly presented with propositions to do good or evil. Dust and dirt is looking for a place to settle and if we don’t keep it wiped down and polished, it’ll accumulate and our hearts will grow filthy dirty.

Let’s not wait for Spring to do our cleaning. Your heart is your soul’s navigation system. It must be constantly monitored and maintained. Let us constantly look to Jesus as our maintenance man, leaning on him for His protection and seeking His will and guidance every single day.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?

In Christ,

Rick

You are what you eat – Proverbs 23:7

You are what you eat – Proverbs 23:7                                                                                                                                                       

The other day I was in the local diner and the conversation between another customer, myself, and the owner was on the importance of whole foods; being cautious about chemicals, additives, etc. in the foods we eat. Actually we started out talking about health issues and how interesting it is to compare the type and frequency of various illnesses, say 50-70 years ago with today. The statement was made by one the elderly folks sitting there, “You are what you eat!” – indicating the fact that so many foreign additives and chemicals, processed foods, are interjected into our food today that didn’t used to be present. If you aren’t careful to read the labels you can be taking in all kinds of unhealthy “tag alongs” that build up over time in our bodies causing sickness, obesity, heart disease, clogged arteries, unclear thinking capacity…

I remember a common saying, in the early years of the computer age; ‘garbage in – garbage out’. Indicating that the outcome directly correlates with the input. If you plant weed seeds in the garden, don’t expect to produce a useful crop of vegetables. If a person spends all their time laying on the couch watching television and eating junk-food, never exercising, it is no surprise when they are overweight and lack physical stamina. Our minds tend to operate in similar fashion. They are reflective of what they dwell upon. If we spend all our waking hours playing violent video games or watching movies with foul language, violence, and vulgar moral activity we become a product of desensitization. We’re no longer bothered by things that used to appall us.

It can and often does, get blamed on society, those we hang out with; outside influences. As if we have no control over such. But what a person fills their mind with, what we dwell upon, is a choice, a direct reflection of something we find pleasing or important – a desire. And that desire lights in our thoughts and we can either allow it to stay, or shoe it away. But it’s like that temptation is coated with quick drying glue; the longer we allow it to light, the more stuck it gets and more difficult to get rid of. It’s like eating a plate full of cookies and, in mid form you discover the cookie you’re devouring has raisons in it! You can either spit them out (logical) or go ahead and ingest them (not recommended).

James 1:14-15 …but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.

So, in a way, the things that we do, the things that we say, our attitudes are directly related to the things that we nurture. Garbage in – garbage out. What you think has everything to do with you and your choices, your desires. So the inside stuff that you think you’re concealing, isn’t that well-hidden.

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…

People can see your attitude long before they hear your words. Your thoughts affect your attitude. And your attitude affects your words and actions. In Genesis 4 we’re introduced to Cain and Abel. Abel put forth an offering of meat that was more pleasing and acceptable to God than Cain’s offering of fruits and vegetables. God favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s and he began to nurture anger and jealousy toward Abel. God saw what was happening with Cain’s attitude and he said, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? …sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

The second part of the Proverbs 23:7 verse says, He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.

What’s going on outside isn’t painting a clear picture of what’s really going on inside. The true inner thoughts and desires lurk within and will eventually come forth. God says, ‘don’t let it happen’. “…it desires to have you, but you must master it.

Rather than relying on shear will power to keep away sin and bad thoughts, be proactive. Instead, fill your thoughts with good, wholesome, godly thoughts to where there is no room for evil and impure thinking. Devour good, healthy food. You are what you eat!

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8

 

In Christ,

Rick