Selling The Farm Then Buying It (Farm Implements part 3)

Or is it the other way around?

“I will take no bullock out of they house, nor he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:8-9)

What do we do to “go on unto perfection” as it says in Hebrews (6:1)? I would say the fact that God has taken pains to get our attention and reveal Himself to us is cause for a lifetime of celebration. But the question of possessions. It crops up every once in a while because I seem to accrue more than my fair share purely by virtue of living in my economy. And then giving away that which I don’t need becomes necessary. But this in itself isn’t my salvation.

“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29)

Oh my lands! 

Jesus makes the case for unplugging oneself from all that could potentially hinder that one self from serving Him more fully. Two things, though: He’s speaking to the disciples as they were the ones to whom He refers. But if you endeavor to be to Him as they–if that makes sense–God will put His finger on every single thing in your life so as to imbue each with His power and perspective. This seques into the second thing. Just because it looks like Jesus says to leave everything behind and take on a wayfaring and vagabond life doesn’t mean that’s what He’s getting at. Because all these things are gifts from Him. He’s talking about seeing them as does He and in turn serving them (in the case of family) and stewarding (the possessions) as unto Him. Something far harder only because it requires we rewire our notions as to how to do that which we thought we were already good at.

“But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.” (2 Samuel 12:3)

David so desired Bathsheba (the little lamb) that he had her husband Uriah abandoned during a fight at the front lines. He was killed. The parable above is Nathan speaking to him and bringing the fight back to David. In further speaking for God, Nathan delineates all the things God had already done for him then caps it off with “I (God) would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” (2 Samuel 12:8) See, I don’t think God has a problem with supplying our wants as well as our needs. But it’s when we actively seek to acquire them out of His timing that they cause harm to ourselves and others. And it goes without saying that we’re not “content with such things as [we] have” (Hebrews 13:5). All possession and relationship should point back to the Lord. When we winnow down to essentials, this must be kept at the top of the list.

All our eggs in this basket

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemened the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7)

If the giving up–and giving up on–things and loved ones provided any better standing before God what would that do to us? God isn’t to be known first by any other way than the heart. Not by “selling the farm”. And certainly not by “buying it”.

Win/Win

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” (1 Corinthians 15:35)

Okay, so admittedly, Paul is shouting down his dogged detractors. Two verses prior does he say this: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”

But in this case, as I am admittedly taking this a bit out of context, it’s not about shame. With reference to “that thing you want”, it’s not about anything. It’s about immolating it on the altar before God. Anything we desire. From that awesome set of flatware, to the person we’re crushing on, however hard. To any of a thousand other things we think will make us happy. It’s about letting it die.

“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny Himself, and take up His cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

This is part of “the knowledge of God”. Understanding that He knows and loves us better than we do ourselves. Boiled down to practicality, think of it this way. Jesus asks us to deny ourselves. Elsewhere, in Luke’s Gospel, it’s emended with “daily”. So, something you do daily. You have a list of wants and needs. I feel I should pay my electricity today. Okay, maybe not today but soon. But Jesus says to deny myself. Just how far down does this go? I need to see where I’m going, thank you very much. With reference to what I think will complete me or add anything to my life, I think Jesus is saying to let God choose for me.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

When I wait and waive and otherwise winnow my wants and desires into a category that has been boiled down to essentials–and then build up from there, I feel I’m open to that better thing God was holding for me and that I was holding out for. If I need a new pair of fancy socks and think they’ll somehow add (yes), I wait. I give it to God and if the desire crops up in the ensuing days, I’ll go for it. Turns out it was God showing me some new socks, all along. If you let the desire die, God will either revitalize and resurrect it with His staying power. Or else let it stay dead as something that was meant to be all along. A win/win situation all around.

Travelling Light (Irreducible Complex part 1)

“And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.” (Luke 22:35)

Such things

The very concept of simplicity is greatly appealing to me. Maybe it’s because I got nearly everything I wanted as a child. I might’ve been spoiled but I wasn’t spoiled rotten. The older I get, the more I seek to add only those things that are needful. And anymore, I’d rather be putting out and creating and giving than merely getting. It might be more blessed to give than receive (see Acts 20:35), but the peace and joy and purpose one gets from giving and serving, is worth the price of admission.

“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

When I was a kid, after first having read and comprehended what Jesus is asking of (and promising) me in this verse, I had a great deal of internal struggle with my wants and desires. Seeing all the things that the other kids had and wanting the same (I did get stuff, just not in a timeframe that suited my selfishness). Thank God I’ve grown out of that. Oh, sure, as an adult, there are still things I desire. But I seek to sift through my wants and to winnow them to what applies to what I believe God is doing in my life. And without the intangible qualities of the Holy Spirit–things like peace and contentment and purpose–no thing is going to make me any happier or closer to God and to who He desires me to be. I find that in America, the acquisition of stuff is akin to idolatry. Turn it around on its head though, and make sure that you don’t idolize the zen-like simplicity of having all your ducks in a row merely for its own sake. Because there are things we’d like and things we need.

“Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip (like a wallet): and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

Such and such things

“…and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.” (2 Samuel 12:8b) This is Nathan the prophet, speaking for God, to David after David had Uriah killed. Notice the tone of God. Absolutely willing to give David whatever it was he wanted. Such and such things…

God wants us to be happy. He also wants us to be joyful. More so the latter, if I may. Because His joy is like the root that produces the fruit of happiness, it might seem that things are dry above ground and nothing’s happening. But we’re not moles. I would say that most times, God doesn’t let us see how things are growing underground. Rest assured they are. Endeavoring to know “the joy of the Lord” is something that is totally worth the time it takes to do so. The dryness I experienced as a kid was akin to drilling through rock in order to reach the depth of God over which I had layered years and years of hedonism and materialism. It takes as long as it takes. The root that’s growing under the surface is here to stay. With pruning, it’ll get deeper, but it’ll Spring back stronger than before, producing more fruit than you ever thought possible.

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11) This is David speaking of God. I would say that those God used to write the Bible would not have been allowed, or able for that matter, to do so unless they had lived through the meanings that their words pointed to. David knew the bounty of the Lord, and it would seem he could’ve known more. What is the bounty of the Lord? It’s everything good that we have. And it starts with the intangible qualities of the Holy Spirit coupled with both our physical and spiritual life. How much do we need to be happy? If were not grateful for the things that God has already given us (and seen to it that we indeed receive) nothing will satisfy us.

“For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” (Romans 14:17-18)

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National Resurrection

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

Whether you believe in God or not, the fact that you have the freedom to believe or the freedom to doubt is integral to the fabric of this nation. Ten years ago that fabric hung, tattered and knotted as we struggled in disbelief at the attacks on the East Coast. I watched from my TV, having just come back home from delivering a missed customer on my paper route. It took a long time to process what I saw and still some of the details are hazy. Like the New York skyline for weeks following.

Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not. But I believe He was powerless to prevent it.

As it says in Proverbs (16:7), “if our ways please the Lord, He’ll cause our enemies to be at peace with us”. The pundits, preachers, poets, priests and politicians (thank you, Sting) pointed at this sin and that “sin” and blamed each other. Conspiracy theories littered the landscape like detritus from the war of ideologies. And yet, following this tack, it was indeed an inside job. Inside our hearts and minds we shut God out. All of the apathy and hate and ingratitude rising to heaven, we sacrificed compassion and conscience for hate and hedonism and as such the door was left open for the enemy. We paid the price. And as Ed Roland (of Collective Soul, in an unrelated song;10 Years Later) sings: “it’s 10 years later and still I haven’t a clue”. I see today, the same apathetic attitude we were infected with a decade ago.

God’s forgiveness is still extant and extravagant. Love, as Peter says (1 Peter 4:8), covers a multitude of sins. Any outward, behavioral sin, “a reproach to any people” (again, Proverbs 14:34), begins—towards God (Psalms 51:4)—in the heart and mind. So, too, do the virtues. A lukewarm heart, veneered over with rudimentary morality isn’t going to last. Let us turn to God again and let Him heal our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14). We need to “put aside the alienation” as Rush sang in Limelight. Only when we renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) to the truths in God’s word will we experience real healing and prosperity. And freedom. From sin, violence and apathy. His love, mercy and grace will help us if we ask.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)