Showing posts with label 2024. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2024. Show all posts

Thursday

Fall Harvest begins in Spring

Last fall, I had a revelation about my garden, and its impacting how I prepare for this springs planting.

I was wandering through my garden last fall, cleaning out some of the plants that had finished: the tomatoes were winding down, the broccoli, cauliflower & cabbages were composting, the first crop of lettuce has gone and the second crop is winding down. The zucchini (there’s always too much zucchini) was feeding the chickens.

And I was inspecting the peppers and winter squashes and such that were still working on completing the produce that they’re working on. They were ripening nicely, getting ready for their own harvest shortly.

But there’s something of a problem, and this requires a bit of confession, and something of a backstory.

In the spring, I plant starts into my garden, but nearly all of the young plant starts come from my own greenhouse. In fact, I plant the pepper seeds around Christmas every year, and I plant the tomatoes and squashes later in the winter. I label them and nurture them as the seedlings grow into strong plants so they’re ready for a running start in my garden when the weather warms up enough for them.

End of backstory.

As I was wandering through my garden last fall, inspecting the results of my spring starts, and that’s where I discovered a couple of problems. I'm trying to learn from that lesson this spring.

One of the problems was pretty evident, and had been for a while: I hadn’t labeled the starts all that well. (And actually, the seed company that provided me with seeds also failed in this.)

I had a number of pepper plants that were labeled “bell peppers” that were producing a variety of other kinds of strange peppers. (That one is at least partly on the seed packager.) And I had a large number of tomato plants labeled as slicing tomatoes (my favorites are Brandywine and Cherokee Purple) that were producing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of cherry tomatoes.

The other problem is where the real confession happens. We put pepper and tomato and squash plants out into the garden in May (we're getting close to planting season now!), but I'd been tending these little plants for many months, sometimes five or six months! These were my babies!

Here’s a secret I learned: some varieties of peppers apparently germinate at a higher rate than others. So I had a modest number of the bell peppers, particularly the baby-bell peppers that I value more highly (and many of those, thanks to mislabeling, weren’t actually bell peppers, but I’ve already groused about that one). Ghost peppers were particularly difficult to germinate (I use dried super-hot peppers as a pesticide: it keeps the squirrels off the bird-feeders pretty well!).

It turned out that fairly hot varieties, Lemon Drop peppers, Scotch Bonnet peppers and especially Sugar Rush peppers germinate really well. They also survive the first several weeks in a greenhouse at a better rate than baby bell peppers or ghost peppers.

So when it came to be time to transplant young peppers into the garden in the spring, I had a few bell pepper plants (far fewer than I thought I did, thanks to mislabeling), fewer baby bell plants, and only one ghost pepper plant (that turned out to be something else entirely). But I had dozens and dozens of the varieties that I only wanted one or two plants.

I had the same problem with tomato starts and squash starts: too many starts, and not the starts I really wanted.

But they were my babies. I’d already given away as many as I could find homes for. I couldn’t just toss my babies, whom I’d been caring for for so long into the compost. They’re like my children.

So I planted them in my garden, of course.

That was last spring. In the fall, I saw the error of my ways. It turns out that those fairly hot varieties (that I only wanted one or two plants of) are incredibly prolific. So I have dozens of huge plants bearing hundreds of fruits I’m not all that interested in that are crowding out the fewer (and smaller) plants whose fruit I really value.

And I realized that my choices to be “merciful” to those plants last spring had doomed my pepper harvest (and my tomato harvest, and my winter squash harvest).

And as I grumbled to myself, I heard Father clear his throat. “Ahem…..”

And suddenly I realized this is a life lesson. 

Somebody – and it wasn’t a gardener – once said, “Don’t plant seeds that you don’t want to harvest,” and a famous guy once said. “If you don’t like your harvest, change the seeds you’re planting.”

I need to change the seeds I’ve been planting.

But I can’t do that. Not now, anyway. That’s a change I need to make before I start planting my starts in the dead of winter. That’s a change I need to make when I’m getting ready to plant seeds in the dead of winter.

Fortunately, with the wrong peppers and wrong tomatoes and wrong squashes bearing fruit in my garden, that’s not a complete disaster. I can harvest them when they’re ripe and feed them to the chickens (chickens eat all sorts of things!) and then the chickens will give me good eggs all this year and great compost next spring.

But choices in my life, that’s a bigger issue. I’m still limping through the harvest of poor choices in previous seasons. I can’t change those choices back then, but I can learn the lessons and make better choices today and through this transition season that’s upon us.

If I don’t like my harvest, I need to change the seeds I’m planting.

Lessons About Prophecy From Ezekiel

I’m really thankful that I don’t live under the Mosaic covenant (the “Old Covenant”).

That messed-up covenant was about a priesthood between people and God and about obeying the rules (and getting punished if you didn’t obey them). It wasn’t the covenant that God wanted, but it was the only covenant that the people would accept, but that’s another story.

But even if we’re not part of that covenant, we can learn a lot from the stories that come from those days. We can learn a lot about the weakness of human intentions, I suppose, but the part that I find interesting is when God’s heart is revealed, even through that inferior covenant.

For example, this prophetic word about prophetic words,


This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! ... You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the LORD has not sent them, they say, "The LORD declares," and expect him to fulfill their words.” [Ezekiel 13:3, 5-6]


This rather talks about both the weakness of human intention and the tender goodness of the heart of God. I came across this passage, and I realized that there are lessons from this Old Covenant encounter that apply even to us who live in the New Covenant. Here are some lessons that stood out to me.

• One of the legitimate roles of the prophet is to strengthen the people of God for days of difficulty and opposition. (He uses vocabulary of repairing breaches [holes] in the defensive walls of the city, a pretty common metaphor.)

In New Covenant vocabulary, the prophetic gifts are for “edification and exhortation and comfort;” this is not news to us.

• In those days, there were “foolish prophets” who speak for God, even when God has not given them a message. He says they prophesy from their own spirits, and haven’t actually seen a vision from God.

I have great empathy for itinerant prophets these days. There’s real pressure on them to always have something to say, always have a fresh revelation, always be in the social media headlines, so that they’ll always have an invitation to minister, and therefore receive a paycheck. The desire to feed your family and pay the rent is pretty powerful, and it probably ought to be.

This is one of the reasons I believe that discernment is absolutely critical these days. God calls out this prophesying from their own spirit pretty regularly in the Old Testament; I believe it happens in our days as well. Which means we need to discern the prophetic words that are actually from God from the prophetic words that come from the prophet’s own spirit. (One tool from this passage to help judge a word: does it “repair the breaches in the walls”?)

• It’s probably worth pointing out that even if a prophetic word comes from the prophet’s own spirit instead of the Spirit of God, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s evil or demonic. If they have a good spirit, then words from their spirit won’t be bad. They may even comfort and encourage, but they won’t carry the power of God; they’re just words, empty words, even if they’re good words.

There were in those days – and there are in our days – declarations made that were not from God, but people expect God to fulfill the empty words. Both the prophet and the hearer are deceived into thinking that God is going to accomplish what was essentially wishful thinking or good intentions behind the “thus says the Lord” declarations. But he is not obligated by promises that come from anyone other than himself.

• I confess that I find it a little uncomfortable that prophets can prophesy from their spirit well enough that they can’t recognize when God is speaking and when it’s just their own good intentions. But I see it happen all over the place.

And if the hearer has not done the work of discerning the prophetic word properly, they may attach their heart to words that were merely spoken from wishful thinking or good intentions, and as a result, be disappointed, even devastated when that which was promised in the flesh does not come to pass. I’ve known people who have walked away from God because of this stumbling block.

This is where Jesus’ warning seems to apply so clearly: Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. [Luke 17:1-2] That sounds like Jesus is pretty serious about this.

And this is the point in this article where I sometimes feel the need to come up with a snappy conclusion to what I’m writing, something about guarding our hearts, something about hearing Father’s voice for ourselves, something about purity of motives. But I’m cautious about my own good intentions here.

Instead, I’m going suggest a re-reading of the passage that started this whole thing, and taking a moment to open your heart and visit with God about it:

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! ... You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the LORD has not sent them, they say, "The LORD declares," and expect him to fulfill their words.
” [Ezekiel 13]

Who’s Minding the Store?

I had an interesting afternoon. I was out for a walk in the rare spring sunshine, and I came on an area that was a mess. It was actually a parking lot for a large government office building.

There was some old vandalism, the detritus of where someone had cleaned out a stolen purse, a few bits of drug paraphernalia and a whole lot of litter. A lot of this mess looked like it had been there for a while. 

The context for this story is that I’ve been reflecting for a while on the value of beauty for its own sake. Beauty is good because it’s good. Beauty is good because it’s a characteristic of who God is and how he does things. Beauty is good because it communicates that there’s good in the world, and it’s within reach. 

Back to the messy parking lot. I’ve been trying to clean it up some, just because it feels better when it’s cleaned up. It crossed my mind that with all the personnel cutbacks and all the drama (there sure has been a lot of drama in our society in the last couple of years), that there was nobody responsible for cleaning the place up. I confess, I grumbled a bit.  

“That’s right, Son. Nobody is taking ownership for this.” And suddenly some lights came on, and I was in a very strange place. Suddenly I think I knew some things that I am absolutely certain I didn’t know before. 

I’m still in the place of testing these new things, but when the lights came on, when those thoughts showed up, they showed up with scripture used in an unfamiliar way to support them. 

I’m asking you to think these things through with me, test them with me. Don’t bother telling me “But that’s not traditional!” I already know that.  

Hold on. This might get bumpy. A bunch of thoughts showed up all together. I’ll try to sort out some of the key thoughts.

• Yes, beauty represents God better than a mess. That in itself is enough reason to clean up the mess as I can.

• I already knew that wherever hell has its way, there’s a mess: pain, confusion, squalor, deception. The physical mess here reminded me of hell’s work. 

• One thought that caught me off guard is that cleaning up the parking lot is a good way to make hell less comfortable, and to make the place inviting to the things of God. (Seriously? What?)

• And the big one: when a place has no ownership, it invites hell, it invites the demonic. 

And as that thought dropped into my mind, this verse came with it: 

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” [Luke 11:24-26] 

We (correctly) use this passage to teach a number of good things. But one thing I think it teaches, or at least it was teaching me this afternoon, was that this person got into trouble the second time because they weren’t taking ownership for their soul. 

Yes, God had set them free and cleaned them up. But there was no real opposition to the return of the impure spirit and its seven “more wicked” spirits, so they just moved in. There was nobody taking responsibility for the clean and tidy soul. Nobody was minding the store.

And I wonder if something like that has happened with this government office building? It was all clean and tidy when they finished the mess of construction and took down the fences. It was swept clean and put in order. But nobody took ownership of it; nobody made it their responsibility to keep the place looking nice, to keep the bad things out. Nobody was minding the store.

So normal things happened, and bad things happened. People began parking in the parking lot, teaching their kids to drive in it (it’s a big parking lot), folks took shortcuts through the lot, and kids began hanging out next to the dumpsters after (or during) school, vagrants set up camp back inside the landscaping and used for their latrine. It was like a handful of demons were settling into the territory. 

To repeat: the principle that I’m working on sussing out here is this: when nobody takes ownership for a thing (a place, a soul, fill in the blank), then hell likes to waltz in and make themselves at home. Or so I suspect. 

As I write this, I am feeling a nudge that this might have broader implications than a parking lot. In fact, it doesn’t seem insignificant that this is a parking lot for a government office building. 

For a long time, it was religiously incorrect for believers to soil themselves by working for the government, or for big business. And so there was a lot less “minding the store,” as it were, by believers in the midst of the federal Government, in state and county government; there was a lot less “minding the store” in big business (like Signature Bank or Disney or Anheuser-Busch) new tech startups (like Google or Facebook or OpenAI or whatever). 

Sure, there were bureaucrats on duty, business executives paying attention to business, but there was nobody taking any real measure of responsibility for the spirits working in these organizations. 

So hell was comfortable waltzing in and making itself at home. And look where we are now. 

So where do we go from here? 

Sure, prayer is the easier part. Don’t get upset, I didn’t say it was easy; just easier than the alternative.

Part of the alternative is for believers to work – to work in positions of responsibility – in government or in business and on behalf of both the Kingdom and our employer to make decisions that are responsible. 

The rest of that alternative is to roll up our sleeves and get involved, to take responsibility for places and organizations and regions and such. To clean up the parking lot, to report the shoplifting, to set policy in the place. 

And when hell rolls up ready to get comfy, we get to say, “This is my turf; you’re trespassing. Out you go!” 

Pray For Them, Not Against Them

I was at a big Christian worship-and-prayer festival at my state’s capitol campus. It was actually pretty good.

I should mention that my state politicians who work in that capitol building have demonstrated that they value politically-correct social whims over the well-being of the state. It’s pretty messed up. Yeah, they need prayer.

In fact, I really appreciated the corporate prayer for my state! If we’re going to change for the better, the change will be built on a foundation of prayer. I treasure that.

So I was surprised when I realized I was uncomfortable with the prayers that afternoon. They weren’t bad prayers; they were about “Stop abortion,” stop this bad thing or that bad thing. And those are things that need to stop.

But something wasn’t settling right in my spirit for the moment. I couldn’t have told you why.

Across the lawn, there was a counter-protest going on in reaction against this good gathering. A small group of satanists showed up in protest of the Christian event, offering to “un-baptize” people while they occasionally shouted “Hail satan!” at the worshipping crowd. They caught my attention.

There was a park bench near the counter-protest. The state had put up a pretty big barrier between the two groups, so I had to walk the long way around to get there. And I sat on that bench and visited with Father, just to watch what was going on, mostly.

The satanists were sure angry. Well, some of them were. Some appeared to be high, and they looked like they might be there just for the party. It seemed that there was a deep sadness among them. In particular, the angry ones caught my attention. So I watched and listened.

Thousands of Christians, just beyond that fence, were ignoring the satanists, were worshipping their God, praying against some of the things that these people valued. I could see why they were angry, why they were protesting.

I reflected that a lot of times when I visit with atheists, the god they don’t believe in is also a god I don’t believe in: capricious, judgmental, distant, self-centered. I figure that this might be part of why the satanists are angry at the Christian gathering (and the Christian God): because they see them the same way: capricious, judgmental, distant, self-centered.

That isn’t who I know God to be, and it isn’t what these people were like when I walked among them earlier, but I can understand the concern. I’ve been around enough to get an idea of where they got those untrue ideas. I could see why they might be angry.

Yeah, if I saw things that way, I might not want to celebrate those values either. As I began to understand a little bit of what might be their concerns, I began to feel compassion for them. So I talked with Father about them (in more religious vocabulary, I began to pray for them). And I learned some things.

As Father & I talked, I became aware that I was praying for them in much different ways than the prayer & worship gathering was. While the gathering was praying much for our state and our politicians and our people, the thought that came to my mind was that these people had had enough people praying against them. What they really needed was somebody to pray for them!

So I tried to turn that corner. I’ll be honest, it was a difficult turn. I’ve had decades of experience seeing “the enemies of God” as issues, as values, not as people, certainly not as individuals. I needed help to see these people as individuals, and if I was able to, to see them as individuals that Jesus died for, that Father weeps for, that Holy Spirit is drawing to himself.

Gradually, I began to see them less as “angry satanists,” and more as lost sheep, whom the shepherd was searching for.

That changed my prayers, I can tell you.

I prayed for individuals, that big angry guy with the demonic imagery on his black vest, that servant-hearted woman who needed more clothes on, that bouncy woman (?) with pink hair down to her knees.

I began to pray for peace, specific peace: that they would ind what they were looking for, even if they didn’t know they were looking. I prayed for success in their jobs, in their schooling, in their relationships.

I could go on. Actually, I did. For kind of a while.

I understand that hell is busy these days, and the political realm is one of his favorite places to wreak “stealing, killing, destroying,” and he’s having a measure of success. I understand that Father is still seeking saints who will “stand in the gap before me for the land;” I know a number of good people paying the price for that important work. I’m thankful for them.

At the end of it all, I am feeling a need to pray for people more than praying against them. At least, that’s what I’m feeling this week.


The Day of the Big Guns is Over


There have been several events this week that have reminded me of this prophetic word from a friend of mine:

On a Sunday evening in the fall of 1998, I was in a home meeting a friend's home. While we were worshiping, the Lord gave me a vision.

The picture was of a city; it had an enemy marching towards it, a large army marching in ranks. Inside the city there was a very large cannon, and the people of the city were frantically hurrying to crank the cannon up into position to fire, but it was going up slowly, very slowly. I found myself frustrated with how slowly it was moving.

Finally it came up to the right position and then started to come right back down. This happened again even more slowly than the first time, and with more frustration on my part. I wondered if this vision was really from the Lord.

Then the scene changed, and I became aware of movement to my left and then to my right. Small groups of people were moving forward, but no one said a word. These were small teams of warriors, moving purposefully, sometimes forward, sometimes sideways, sometimes waiting. I could see that their eyes were fixed on a common point ahead of them. There were several groups, and though they were was no communication between them, yet they were moving in coordination with each other.

As I saw them, I was aware that these warriors had come out of the desert, and that they had spent a considerable length of time there. They had learned to pay close attention to the One Who was leading them. I was then looked and saw that it was the eyes of the Lord that their gaze was fixed on. There was no need of talking for direction, for the Lord led them with His eyes. Their enemy was unaware of their presence, and unaware of which direction they would be moving.

Then I heard the declaration, “The Day of the Big Guns is over.”

I asked the Lord what He was saying in this. He said to me that we - the church - had been waiting for a very long time for God to bring a move of his Spirit by someone well known. But every time a big-name evangelist was brought in, nothing happened; the only result was unbelief. He said he was not going to use the “big guns” any longer. He was going to use those whom He had trained in the desert, those who had come to know Him so well that they would follow Him with just the glance of His eyes.

He was going to use people like us.


His Word as a Talisman?

I’m convicted this morning that sometimes we – that sometimes I – have used the promises of God as an incantation, his Word as a talisman.

There have been times that I have quoted the promises written in the Book at my problems as if quoting the promises written in the book would change my circumstances. While those recitations have occasionally worked change in my attitude, I cannot recall that those words alone have ever changed my circumstances.

On the other hand, there have been times that I have used those promises in discussion with my King, times that he and I have wielded those same promises on the problems that were facing me, and the problems have bowed their knee.

I am reminded this morning that it is not the words on the paper that carry power. It is not the noises that come from my mouth that are imbued with his authority, no more than noises from any other part of my anatomy.

It is he himself that is the word of God, and while he inhabits me, while he lives in me and with me, if I use his words apart from him, if I unintentionally leave him as a bystander or cheerleader during my fight, well then he can stand by, he can cheer me on, I suppose.

But if I intend to move in the power of God, I need to move with God, in God. And that’s not a challenge, it’s not difficult. I’m not convinced that it’s automatic either.

I’m not above chewing out an oblivious driver who endangers my life and my vehicle. I’m not sure those words are imbued with the power of God; in fact in hindsight, I hope not!

I’m not perfect in my relationships, and I’ve said hurtful or insensitive things, more than I care to remember, actually. If those words carried the power to move mountains, we’d be in real trouble, I can tell you.

There have been times I’ve declared, “I forgive you” with no more power than my mutterings at the oblivious driver. And there have been times when those words carried power and presence enough to change a life. Apparently it takes more than just the noises from my mouth.

But there are times where my words have been in harmony with his words, words like, “Come out,” “Be filled,” “Be healed,” “Be blessed,” and what I spoke changed reality, became reality. When I spoke with him.

The alternative is to be with him. To be with him when we speak.

There is a New Year Before Us

It has been said that “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.” If we apply this personally, we could say, “Those who fail to learn from their history will find themselves making the same mistakes all over again.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not make those particular mistakes again. It’s not that I’m afraid of mistakes, but I’d sure like to learn from new ones, instead of repeating the old ones.

And so I try to reflect on the year behind me, and I try to learn from the year I’ve just finished, with the hope that I’ll actually be more mature, not just older, next year. If you’d like to join me, here are some questions you might reflect on.

Hint: this is a great time to get out your journal and write:

  • What was your biggest triumph in the past year? What does God say about it? (Go ahead! Ask him!)

  • What was your most costly mistake in the past year? What do you learn from it?

  • What was the smartest decision you made during the year?

  • What was the greatest lesson you learned during the year?

  • If you could repeat one day of the last year, what day would that be, and why?

  • If you could forever forget one day from last year, what day, and why?

  • What one bit of Scripture best describes last year?

  • What are you most happy about completing during the last year?

  • Who are the three people that had the biggest impact on your life? Have you thanked them?

  • Who are three people whose lives you impacted for good? Have you thanked God for them?

  • What area of your life have you best taken responsibility for?

  • What area of your life did you leave to someone else to be responsible for, and why?

  • What was the most loving service you performed? What effect did you see from it?

  • What was the biggest risk you took? How did that turn out? How could it have gone even better?

  • What important relationship improved the most? What made the improvement?

  • What important relationship took a hit last year? What can you learn from that?

  • What compliment would you have liked to have received?

  • What compliment would you like to have given last year? Can you give it now?

  • What else do you need to say or do to be completely finished with the year?

  • What would you like to say to your Father about last year or your last season?