Rushing To Ripen?

imageFarmers know it takes time for their produce to ripen. For example, they understand mushrooms reach maturity in a matter of days, sunflowers require weeks and pecan trees take years. They may wish to grow things faster, but none the less realize it takes time and conditioning to yield bountiful harvests. If this is true for farmers, how much more does our Creator know the time and conditioning required to ripen our faith and produce the various “fruits” He desires for us?

Naturally, it can be tempting to grow impatient with others and ourselves at times, believing they and we should know and do better. However, this impatience may also be an indicator that we’re seeking to rush the “ripening” process God is working into our lives and the lives of others. Thus, when we’re tempted to rush to judgement, or discouragement, it’s helpful to remember that it takes time to mature, especially in three key areas of our development:

Humility: C.S. Lewis said, “true humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less” – an attribute difficult to acquire apart from Christ. For He exemplified humility as He stepped down from heaven in love to willingly lay down His life for us. May we be so bold and humble to willingly surrender our lives to Him in return (Mark 8:35).

Honor: What makes one honorable? Many words can be used to describe a person of honor, but nothing illustrates it more than what we allow ourselves to do and ponder when no one else is looking, or aware. Again, without Jesus working in and through us will-power can never be adequate enough to meet such a challenge (Hebrews 13:18).

Honesty: Children have to be taught to tell the truth, but seem to be born knowing how to lie. Whether it’s a white lie, exaggeration, or major deception, consistent honesty is hard to come by. Even harder to find is sincere honesty wrapped in love. Jesus was always honest, loving and sincere – and leaves no doubt that this same level of maturity can only be ripened in us by Him (Proverbs 4:23).

Application: “Time To Harvest” – Galatians 6:9
Is there anyone we have grown impatient with to the point of judgement and/or discouragement – is it with ourselves? As the Master farmer, Jesus knows precisely what is required and how long it takes to produce and ripen the spiritual fruits He desires for each of us. It doesn’t happen automatically and we have a part to play, but if we do not grow weary in hope and permit ourselves to be long suffering with life’s shortcomings, Christ will produce in His children, and for His glory, a bountiful harvest to be shared with all.

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

From Worrier To Warrior

imageNot long ago, one of the Sunday school teachers at our church approached my wife to share something my daughter had said in her class. As the story was relayed to me, I would have loved to think it was due to our outstanding parental abilities and biblical teaching, but I dared not. For it was clear only God could have revealed such simple, yet profound truth in the heart of a child. Her statement was no more than, “Jesus takes us from being worriers to warriors,” but in the context from which it was shared, it impacted her teachers, her friends and now, her parents. It’s truly a gift to gain spiritual truths from my child, and my prayer is that she always hears so clearly from God, trusts Him so completely and remains far from the various worries so many of us adults fall victim to – three in particular:

Revenge: How often do we worry about whether something is fair and how someone did us wrong? Clearly, we have a right to be upset when victimized and treated unfairly. We also have a right to even demand justice, but who delivers it? Hollywood’s heroes often encourage us to take revenge in our own hands, rather than allow the law, or God to handle things. For what if they aren’t harsh enough, or take too long? Yet, we know, as believers, retaliation is not the answer. For one of the reasons God established government was to administer justice (Romans 13:4), and He clearly commands us to treat our enemies with kindness and leave vengeance to Him (Romans 12:19). Thus, we needn’t worry and fret, but forgive and trust God – and not necessarily for the abuser’s benefit, but largely for our own.

Reward: Likewise, how often do we worry about being recognized and rewarded for our hard work, sacrifice and good deeds? This type of worry may also be categorized as “fear of failure”. Thus, we become obsessed with success. But who’s definition and measuring stick of success is being used – God’s, or man’s? Again, as believers, our life success is not determined by how much we acquire, but rather how we live and give for Christ. We then trust Him with the rewards, which may not always be monetary, for the fruits of the spirit are not counted in dollars (John 14:27).

Repair: This is the worry that often originates from the seemingly good intention of self improvement. For we can try all the therapies, self help books and philosophies available in order to make ourselves better, but consider, whose standards are being prescribed? After all, if we can fix ourselves, what need is there to be saved by grace? Until we realize only Jesus can repair what is broken, and straighten what is crooked, we will remain enslaved by legalism and haunted by defeat. For only the power of Christ can truly heal and set us free (Psalm 147:3).

Application: “Victory Through Faith” – 1 John 5:4-5
Responding to all the worldly chaos the way God instructs us to goes against our natural inclinations and seems impossible – and that’s the point. It’s an unfair world, there is chaos and there is evil, and we can not respond to these onslaughts on our own. It takes Christ living in and through us to make the impact He desires for us. Therefore, we will only experience victory in life when we surrender our life to Christ – for His victory is ours and only His power can change a worldly worrier into His kingdom’s warrior.

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

Ditching Doubt

imageBenjamin Franklin once stated, “When in doubt – don’t“. Although wise and witty, this simple proverb is nearly impossible to apply on a consistent basis, for we all struggle with the occasional bout with doubt. It may be with a decision we made, a situation we’re in, or even in areas of faith. However, we needn’t be discouraged, for God is not surprised by our doubts. Instead, He provides instruction in His word on how we can effectively deal with them, whenever they arise:

Reflect: When we are faced with doubt one of our first responses should be to reflect back on all the ways God has provided and protected us thus far, which stimulates our heart to praise (Psalm 77:11-12). In addition, it’s a powerful tool in overcoming doubt when we remember all His promises made to us and that He possesses the power to keep them – now and for eternity.

Reclaim: Once we have recalled all He has done and is capable of doing, we reclaim their truth and validity through our faith in Jesus Christ. We then confess and surrender our doubts in prayer, give thanks for His love and mercy, trust in His word and depend on the reliabilty of His promises (John 11:27).

Reapply: Even if our faith is no larger than a mustard seed, we can face our doubts boldly. Even though we may not always receive the exact answers we want when we want them, we can accept that our Father in heaven knows our struggles, hears our prayers, provides what is necessary and will achieve His plans for each of us – for His glory (Psalm 138:7-8).

Application: “When In Doubt – Reach Out” – Matthew 14:31
In many ways, our doubts often serve to strengthen and mature our Christian walk when we approach God with our questions. For when we believe and make Jesus the Lord of our life, we discover He’s right there with us, lovingly reaching out to raise our hope, refresh our spirit, restore our confidence and refine our faith.

Control Check

imageI was recently sharing with a friend how I have this frustrating tendency to drift from abiding mode and plow straight into striving mode at times, but that I’ve learned to quickly identify when it’s happening. It’s quite simple really, for when my inclination to control outcomes begins to kick in, it always results in escalated levels of stress for me and others. However, even though I’m thankful for being able to identify the problem, I still desire to prevent it in the first place. This is when my friend nodded and smiled in agreement as he shared a simple tool he ues to help keep similar “control” tendencies in check – T.I.G.

Literally, this stands for, This Is God’s. Whatever it is – it’s God’s, not mine. Granted, we are always to give our best efforts, but for what purpose? Who’s glory? When I find I take a task too personally, it’s typically for selfish reasons, but by reminding myself that it’s for God and in the end, it’s in His hands, I begin to release and allow His grace over my grit to go to work. I now literally write T.I.G. on the top of any project I’m working on to remind myself of three primary truths:

Presumption: To presume it all depends on me to get something accomplished is arrogant and boastful. For no man is an island. Clearly, life comes with challenges, but when we seek to grin and bear it on our own, it only proves our spiritual immaturity. For God never leaves us, or forsakes us and is available to help us when we align our priorities with His – for His name sake (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Perspective: How we see things primarily determines our response to them and ultimately our experiences with them. Therefore, if we receive challenges as personal assaults rather than presented opportunities our tendency is to seek control, charge back, or complain. However, when we trust in the all-knowing and all-powerful presence of God, life begins to blossom as a series of opportunities to reflect His grace and glorify His name. This empowers us to further His agenda over our own and depend less on our will and more on Him (Zechariah 4:6).

Purpose: What’s the purpose behind all we do? If we find it’s to promote our plans and position, we’ll typically default to striving over abiding, because it’s all about us. However, when all we do is aligned with God’s purposes, we desire to seek and rely upon Him more, because it’s all about Him. Therefore, we are freed to give our best for God and then trust Him with the outcomes (Jeremiah 7:23).

Application: “Just One Thing Is Necessary” – Luke 10:42
God doesn’t call us to our mission without equipping us with everything we need for the journey. For as we see in the lives of Mary and Martha, believers will struggle at times with the temptation to strive versus abide, especially when we possess high motivations. However, we have also been blessed with the ability to choose what is best and not give in to such temptations.  Thus, through His power and the transformation of our life purpose, perspectives and presumptions, we can relax in His grace and relinquish our need to always be in control.