Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Gardener and the Apple Tree

Someone recently wrote to me and said, "I believe humans have infinite value. I believe I am an expression of experience and that the root of my consciousness, the root of all my energy, like an apple connected to a tree of life, is an extension of God. Just as you can touch an apple still connected and say, "This is an apple tree, " I am humanity. And just as you can point at that apple as an example of the creation of nature, I am God's creation. I believe I have infinite value because I believe God does not make junk."

I picked up on the key words, "still connected," as in the apple being the apple tree if it is "still connected." I believe there is a condition, but the connection is different. So, I answered in reply with what I believe about this connection and its condition. I hope you get something of value out of it.


I believe God is the Gardener who planted the apple tree, not a tree of life, but the tree of life. Without Him, there would be no apple tree, no apples, no soil, no water, no nutrients, nor sunlight. Nor would there be anyone to admire the beauty and fragrance of the tree and its fruit. I believe that tree, which was the highlight of a full and diverse garden, was perfectly started. We started as the apple of His eye.

But then, two apples, a male and female, decided they did not need the tree in order to be fruitful. "Look how delicious and nutritious I am! The worm told me so. Why has this knowledge been hidden from me?" They proudly exclaimed this as they pulled themselves loose from the branch by which they were attached to the tree. The two apples suddenly realized what they had done as they fell; it was a suicide mission. The gardener had warned them, but they did not value His wisdom more than their own.

Since then, all apples have fallen to the ground and continue to fall. Sure, they carry seeds to reproduce themselves apart from the tree that is their true source, so there are many apples. But life without connection to the true source was empty, temporary, and meaningless. They constantly attempted to make their own ideal gardens, but not all apples agreed what this meant.

Some gave up. Some smashed other apples to get their way. Groups of apples, called breeds, began to isolate and form boundaries to protect themselves from unwanted outside influence of other breeds that differed in so many ways, some being superficial. But, this also had the unwanted affect of keeping them confined, requiring rules and structure that further dampened their individual spirits.

Some fruits prematurely spoiled and rotted, taking others nearby with them. Not only were there distinct breeds, but there was a growing perception of good and bad fruit. With that perception came judgment. With judgment came action. The breeds felt the need to protect themselves from their own kind as well as outsiders. But, by labeling these "bad apples" in such a way that "kind" has little to no part of their identity, it was easier to cast them out of the garden. Reconciliation was not the goal; longevity was. Getting was. Then, the garden could maintain the appearance of being good and fruitful. It could justify itself, and detach itself from problems it could not solve.

Other than those first two apples that grew from the original tree planted by the Gardener, before they fell (or rather, jumped), none sought the Gardener for wisdom on how to get back to Him. Several know He planted such a tree. Yet, they preferred to invent a tree from their own imaginations, and worship a product of their own doing. Surely, this experience seemed wonderful. But, they did not know the Gardener, or realize He has a much better plan. They did not listen to Him. They figured they already have what they need. Besides, by now the Gardener must be filled with unquenchable wrath, they thought, because He's been ignored. To seek Him would have to be a constant appeasing of this wrath, they reasoned.

In the meantime, the Gardener had compassion on the fallen fruit. He knew what they truly needed. He greatly desired it for them. He knew they can't sustain themselves forever. He didn't want to put a band-aid on the situation and simply repair their gardens, though that's what the apples continually ask for. He joyfully wants to give them a new life altogether. But, neither does He want to force a solution on them. That wouldn't be fair and true to the apples. The Gardener decided the apples must come to realize that life would be in them only if they were attached to the Branch of the original tree, and that He would pick them up and secure them there if the apples let Him.

The Gardener's job, then, was to persuade the apples of His solution; a miracle was possible. He chose to come down to the level of the fallen apples and speak their language. He would even give a precious piece of Himself to demonstrate wonderful miracles to clearly show He was the source of them. Perhaps, they would listen then. Still, many apples refused to believe the significance of these miracles, or that they even happened at all. Some were even angered by this demonstration because it interrupted their own solutions and plans for the apple breeds. Many refused to even acknowledge the existence of the Gardner and convinced others of the same.

I believe in the Gardener. I love the Gardener. I seek to know Him and the Branch.

I believe I have infinite value in Him. Without Him, I don't know, and can't fully know, who I am. I believe I don't get to decide what tree the Gardener planted, or from which Branch I am to blossom. He needs to tell me and I need to listen, otherwise, I'm merely kidding myself. After all, it's His garden, His design. I believe the Gardener is worth listening to above all others. I believe without Him, my perceived value of the whole scheme of things is severely diminished because my vision would be severely limited. I cannot develop a bird's eye view from ground level. How can I get a God's eye view without His Spirit?

I believe humans are products of their own gardening, spreading seeds apart from the Gardener, even though His garden is where it all started. In these separate gardens, some apples go bad. Sometimes the entire garden goes bad. Most apples never reach their full potential. All gardens have such apples and hence a garden will never reach its full potential, except the garden planted by the Gardener.

Where there are gardens, the will of weeds is never overcome. We've made a mess of what we've been given. We cannot even imagine what it could have been. We seldom try. The best we can do is settle for the mere humanity we are, hoping to practice and spread empathy and compassion. When we do, we think we're ahead of the game. We do not realize how short of the Gardener's vision we fall. Instead, we think, "This is the hand I've been dealt." Let us make the most of it.

Some think they discovered their life's purpose, but few have. Most know they haven't. Many give up on thinking there even is a purpose and vision at all. They are too proud to admit defeat and grasp the Gardener's hand that is so lovingly reaching out to them. Many see the messes the apple breeds have made and blame the Gardener. They do not know how pure are the motives of the Gardener. Some feel pushed to accomplish great things, but they don't know the source of it. They may call it God, and it may very well be. But, they do not seek to know God as a person.

I believe He, God, the Gardener, is my Father and I am His son, and that Jesus Christ is my brother. I am not the apple of His eye, I am His eye. His Spirit is in me. Yet, this was not my own doing. It was not according to my terms. This is His will for me. I believe the same offer is made to everyone. Where do I get these ideas? Directly from His word.

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)

Love,
:-Dwight

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

More of You (Letter #5 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father in Heaven,

I miss our quiet mornings together. My cup overflows when You pour Your love into me. You pour Your love into me the most when I turn humbly to You.

Yet, sometimes I choose to sin. I know this grieves Your Spirit. Forgive me. I claim that if I do not feel loved [specifics omitted], I have an excuse to act out.

I have no valid excuse to turn away from Your love. Rather, let Your words be refreshment for my bones and, as I delight in You, may You give me the deepest desires of my heart, which are more of You, always.

Love,
Dwight
Feb. 10, 2012

Note to reader: I purposely omitted the specifics of when I didn't feel loved and when I sinned. Plus, I substituted 'act out' for exact terms. Those specifics and exact terms are mine. They're personal.

You may or may not have related to them. That's not the point. What I learned for myself here was to become aware of these conditions and actions in a new light, and then to hold every thought captive to Christ before I make excuses and choose to sin.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, 
and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:6)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I Adore Your Works (Letter #4 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father,

My Lord and my God, my Father. Your grace and beauty are in all the earth and the whole universe. I adore your works. Yet, they are merely a glimpse into Your Person; surely Your thoughts and ways are higher than mine, and Your love is deeper than I could imagine. Therefore, I am humbled. No doubt Your mercy is deeper than the pit in which You found me, sought out by Your patient love.

Love,
Dwight
Dec. 18, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016 - Do you believe in Miracles?

Christmas 2016
                                                                
Do you believe in Miracles? 

I do!  For us to have this gospel of Christ, it is a miracle.  It is a miracle because the things that are spoken of in bringing this gospel to us are miraculous.  We are not going to look to science to explain or reason with our logical scientific minds.  If you believe the gospel, you do believe in miracles and you know God orchestrated those events.  Yes, God has spoken, He has entered our time and space and left very large footprints for us all to see.  Of course, it is your choice to see what you want, and ultimately believe what you will. 

This Gospel makes me glad. I’m glad there is a response to the “why” questions we all have had in our minds.  I’m glad God did not leave us to figure things out on our own because of course, we’d be prisoners of our own foibles.  I’m glad that God has a plan and in that plan, salvation is offered in grace.  I’m glad God is good.  That means, God is righteous, just or simply put, divinely fair.  And, that is not just important to me, it is important to God Himself. 

Christmas then, is a time for us to reflect on God and His amazing plan. The “how” of the plan is detailed for us in ways we can all see in the gospel narratives.  We can see God, His workings, intentions and His heart of love.  We can see the omnipotence of His promises and will, fulfilled in the human frailty of a newborn babe.  Christmas brings God so close to us, we can now identify with Him in the most intimate of ways.  We can now see Jesus, “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). 

What you do on this Christmas day is up to you.  I’d suggest you take a moment to thank God.  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2Cor 9:15).  Thankfulness is the result of a heart that can clearly see God.  Thankfulness is recognition of God’s goodness, His love and His grace.  

Jesus tells the story of the 10 lepers who were healed, and told to go show themselves to the Priests to be allowed back into society.  Well it was a miracle for sure; they were ALL healed.  However, only ONE returned to Jesus in thankfulness!  This did not go unnoticed, “So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).  So, the thankfulness in his heart acknowledged the miracle, but also God and His plan.  Thus, this one Samaritan leper received the greatest gift of all, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:19).

"We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;"  Col 1:3-6


Merry Christmas!

Doug


Message from Dwight: I went a day without checking email. Whew! That was tough. And then I open this one from Doug,, my pastor/teacher, this morning. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this belated Christmas message. I will continue with my own Letters to God and journal entries in the next post, probably one from 12/18/2011. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Last Year's Christmas Message (2015)

Here's an unusual post for you: genuine sermon outline notes from the church I attend remotely by conference call, Word is Truth Christian Church. I hope the notes and Scripture references give you a small taste of what the message was all about, and a small taste of the goodness of God.

Enjoy!

"Word is truth" comes from John 17:17 which says, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." We took a break from our usual study of Titus for this special, seasonal message.

Please reply or leave a comment if you would like a link to the recorded sermon, if you have any questions or comments about the message, or if you'd like more information about participating in this weekly conference. 

The church is a virtual assembling of the saints with the purpose of learning the deep thoughts of God headed by Pastor Doug Presley. Messages are available on Dropbox upon request. Doug Presley says, "follow me as I follow Christ," on Twitter as @charislife. 

Thought of the Week

For this reason I kneel before the Father, (Ephesians 3:14)

One point to make is about Paul’s attitude before the Father in prayer.  Even though he has a ranking position in the Church [as an Apostle], notice he kneels before the Father.  Kneeling is not just posture; it is an attitude of humility.  It is an attitude which gives open recognition and respect for our eternal God and Father.  It says we are creatures from His hand and we have an abiding appreciation and admiration of His majesty.  It further says we willingly submit in total humility to this One who is all wise and powerful.  

Kneeling speaks more of our humility than it does posture.  It says we know His plan and willingly present ourselves before His wisdom to use us as He sees fit.  It is to abandon our agenda and place ourselves in the loving hands of the Father, willing and ready to act according to His will.  We are not to give ourselves to anyone or anything like this in this world.  We are not to bow to earthly rulers or angels because this type of worship and surrender belong only to the Father.  We are free to have this attitude anytime we approach God, whether kneeling or sitting, whether walking or driving in a car.  We can approach the Father with the reverence and honor He deserves. 

Sunday (12/27/2015)

(Luke 1:37) For with God nothing will be impossible.

Faith is our eyes to see God.  Of course, you know that God is invisible to the world generally speaking.  There have been some exceptions where God has chosen to make an appearance in the world.  Imagine that, there is physical, tangible evidence that God does indeed exist, and more than that, He wants us to know Him!  This Christmas season, stop and breathe in the wonder of almighty God visiting us in such a personal way.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). 

1.     For with God…
a.     Learn to consider God!
b.     Consider Him broadly (creation’s designer and planner)
c.     Consider Him personally (the babe in the manger, Heb 10:5; John 1:14)
d.     Consider Him intimately (We are made in Him image, not everything is, Gen 1:26, 27; Rom 8:16, 17; Gal 4:4-6)
e.     God is more real than we are, after all, we did not create Him, but He created us! (Psalm 100:3; Isa 42:5)
2.     nothing will be impossible
a.     We live in a miraculous world, don’t lose the marvel of life by looking past God.  Thank you for allowing me to BE and be here
b.     The miraculous is common to God, (the wizard of OZ analogy)
c.     The Christmas story is filled with impossibilities—BUT with GOD…nothing!
d.     We live in the atmosphere of God’s capabilities (all the time!), “and in Him all things consist.” (Col 1:17)
e.     Faith not only sees God, but it the recognition of HIM as the eternal cause 
f.      A great verse which expresses the desire of God (1Cor 13:12)
3.     Learn to respect what God has done
a.     Mary’s perfect response: "May your word to me be fulfilled."
b.     Merry Christmas!  Yet another opportunity to celebrate God, don’t miss it!
c.     Another way to honor God on Christmas, see Him AND His eternal plan

Thursday, December 22, 2016

You Have Set Me Free! (Letter #3 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father,

We're not moving anywhere, Father [I was thinking of moving my family to another state due to a possible change in job]; You have given me work to do and this is the place to do it.

You have set me free from cares of this world.

  • I can sit at my desk at home to work on the book. [I don't recall what I meant by "work on the book." It may have been a book idea, an idea with which I'm still toying to this day.]  
  • I am physically close enough to Doug and church [Word is Truth Christian Church] to visit. 
  • I have an office to which I can go to concentrate on work and even on You [because I would arrive before others and enjoy the quiet time].  
  • I do not have a house to maintain with all its bills and worries. I just have opportunities to pitch in once in a while. 

[I was renting space in an owner-occupied house. Rent covered utilities. I was free of the responsibilities of maintaining a house. At that time in my life, I had enough other things to think about and do. I would just help around the house.]

You have set me free from the pleasures of this world. Things are starting to calm down at home. [Sentences deleted dealing with earthly pleasure and certain others. I had a tendency to try to force what I needed to feel loved, such as deep conversation about doctrine. I was learning to let go of getting my needs met through artificial means, and let others be themselves.] I am seeking less to get validation, affirmation, respect, and [pressured] expressions of love and spirituality.

So what if I don't feel loved by [the people I expected to feel loved by]? You love me. So what if I don't connect to them spiritually? Likewise, religious leaders rejected You. So what if talk [in familiar places] is shallow and without desire for depth? You know there are seeds that fall along the path. So what? [What can I do about someone else's choices?] You have set me free!

In the end, to move now would be a major disruption in my own spiritual growth, as well as others with whom I am interacting. Plus, would there just be a whole new set of long term problems? My adjustment to working remotely all the time, school and homeschool, my spouse's work, new friends, new support groups, new church, different travel requirements and opportunities, etc.

Therefore, I praise You and thank You for your wisdom in carefully planning my circumstances. Let me be at peace with You, and feel Your love, peace, and joy in my heart.  I once talked about my cup overflowing.  Let me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that such is the case again and always will be.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)

Love,
Dwight

October 9, 2013 (from Topic Notes in e-Sword)

~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Reader,

Sorry! I edited this piece by adding commentary or substitute words [in brackets] to explain what is not being said, or removing references to specific people. I don't mean to say anything hurtful.

Rather, I hope I've been able to maintain the essence of what I'm trying to say from my heart so it benefits all.

I left the real first name of my pastor and the full name of our church. Thank you for reading.

Dwight

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Help Me to Forgive Myself (Letter #2 - Dear Father...)

Dear Father, August 8, 2013

I love You so much! Why do I not write to You every day, each morning? In what better way could I start my day? You are in my thoughts often. I wish I could say "always."

Father, I need help. I need Your help to resist the temptation that so often ensnares me. You know what I mean. It even becomes my first thought when thinking about others, instead of being excited and joyful about the opportunity to give someone the gospel. Help me to forgive myself, also. Help me really make a change, a 180-degree change, to turn away from my own lusts, lusts of the flesh, and run toward You, like a marathon runner, or at least crawl toward You in deep humility.

Grant me wisdom, Lord. Grant me a submissive and humble spirit to think about and carry out Your plan. I pray that You would grant the desires of my heart, the deep desires, to delight in You with absolute delight, songs, psalms, and poetry of praise. Then grant me the courage, Lord, that I may boldly speak and write these things to strangers, as well as friends, that they may be my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love,
Dwight
(from Topic Notes in e-Sword)

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Using Time Wisely (Letter #1 - Dear Father...)

Dearest Father,

I am not using my time wisely, I fear. I'm not focused as if there is one thing much more important than anything else. I pray for a focused mind and a still heart, focused on You and humble before Your Spirit.

Let me rejoice in You always. Let me pray without ceasing. Let me put on Christ, the whole armor of God. Let me always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in me. Let me love you and others as you have loved me.

Who is stopping me? Who is sabotaging my efforts? Who is in my way? I am!

How do I get out of my own way? I stop conforming to the patterns of this world and be transformed by the renewal of my mind, be sanctified by the truth, which is Your word, and be filled with Your Spirit.

How do I do those things? Humbly show up! Intentionally place myself at Your feet and choose the one thing that is truly necessary: listen to Your teaching. Help me do that, Father, please.

Love, Dwight
April 25, 2015

~ ~ ~

Dear Reader,

The letter above is one of hundreds in my journals written to my Father in heaven, the Father of Jesus Christ. The one here is the first I've publicly posted.

My hand-written letters are short because I have essential tremor and it takes a long time to write clearly and neatly. Yet, I hand write them because I deliberately want to take my time and go slowly.

I decided to share these private prayer letters with you, one at a time. My hope is that by being transparent in my own spiritual journey, you will be encouraged in yours. I want you to see my joys as well as my struggles. I want you to know that there are some real people, vulnerable and genuine, who try diligently to seek God and "come to the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).

I think this particular letter is relatively recent, but I forgot to include the date. I'll try to include the date going forward and I may come back and edit this post if I find the original entry. These letters may have been edited a bit to correct some grammar and/or clarify the intent.

Lastly, my content is often making implicit reference to Scripture. For example, "stop conforming and be transformed" is from Romans 12:2, being "sanctified by the truth" is from John 17:17, and "choose the one thing that is truly necessary" is from the story of Mary "who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching" and Martha who "was distracted with much serving" (Luke 10:38-42). Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise stated.

I welcome you to enjoy a piece of my heart. Please leave a comment if it touches yours.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

To My Non-Christian Friends...

I want to apologize to my non-Christian friends.

To be clear, I'm apologizing on behalf of a group of people that doesn't even realize it needs to apologize. Yet, they are all loosely connected by a title that should mean a lot more, "Christian."

  • I'm sorry for the unkind and horrible things said and done by many religious hypocrites in the name of Jesus Christ, who would never commend or condone such behavior or attitudes. Those people have given Christians a bad name.
  • I'm sorry if it's challenging for us to be close friends simply because the label I apply to myself, "Christian," associates me with self-righteous religious organizations or shallow worldviews that are often self-serving, proud, hypocritical, and judgmental. For they have given Christianity a bad name.
  • I'm especially sorry if you are offended by Christ not because of what He said and did, but because of what others who claim to be faithfully following Him arrogantly declare as justification for their own moral superiority. 

How can one come to Jesus to learn from Him, who is gentle and lowly in heart, when He is presented along with God as being harsh and cruel? Indeed, why would anyone come to Him then?

But, that is not the way I learned Christ. I wish to share what I've learned from Scripture that's actually quite refreshing. I could remember thinking after some sermons, "How could the good news sound so bad?" I learned if the good news does not sound great, it's not the gospel.

I don't judge you or condemn your beliefs. On the contrary, I respect whatever faith and lifestyle you choose. Your choices are your responsibility, just as mine are my responsibility. All are welcome!

I'm simply asking for a chance. I'm pleading for bits of your time as I post herein. I've posted a lot of Bible lessons already, if you're interested. But, from here on out, at least for a while, I plan to post some of the hundreds of my personal prayers. They're short, so it shouldn't take long to read.

I desire for you to see my love for the Father and for Christ, and understand why I've persisted in seeking Him in a religious world that puts self-gain before truth and grace.

So, please give my writings some thought. I hope you stick around. I hope you are refreshed. Likewise, feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts and heart with me, or ask any questions. I'd love to hear from you.

Lastly, there are things for which I am not ashamed and will not apologize. Here are two examples:

  1. I wholeheartedly believe in Christ.
  2. If I have not love, I am nothing.

Yes, I am a Christian. But, I'm sure that doesn't mean what you've been told it means. I know, I've been there. Please accept my sincere apologies to you, my friend, and read on.

Your Friend,
Dwight