Birthday Truffle

My mom was a master of leftovers.  I guess with five kids all spaced about a year apart and, though by no means poor but definitely with a budget to work within, she needed to make sure nothing was wasted.  The picked over remains from one meal would be put together with a few new ingredients and become something brand new.  A lot of times we didn’t even realize the meal started with leftovers.  Even the leftover porridge would become the foundation for some glorious fresh baked bread.

Most impressive though, were the dishes that for one reason or another didn’t turn out but would be transformed into not just something edible, but delicious.  Like birthday cake.  I don’t remember whose birthday it was (we had a lot of them), but the tradition in our house was that the birthday child chose the meal.  We could ask for whatever we wanted, including what kind of cake.

For some reason this particular cake didn’t turn out.  Either it fell, or got left in the oven a little too long, or was missing a key ingredient because while it tasted like cake you sure couldn’t put candles on it.  Most of us would have thrown it away and pulled out the box of cake mix, but not my mom.  She cut up the mess into pieces made some pudding and whipped cream and mixed it all into a fancy serving bowl and set birthday truffle in front of us complete with candles.  As I recall none of us were disappointed we didn’t have cake.  In fact I’m pretty sure birthday truffle was requested at least once after that.

Many of us live with some “if only’s”.  If only I hadn’t made that choice.  If only I had chosen this path. If only I hadn’t been so foolish or immature or any number of other regrets, guilt, or even sin.  But God is a master of taking the mess that we’ve made and as we submit our lives to him, he creates a beautiful masterpiece from it.

For those who are Jesus followers, no experience is wasted.

All the experiences of our past, whether self-induced or caused by others, even the blatantly sinful things we’ve done, God will use to make us into a dish that he sets before the world to bless and meet the needs of others who are hurting and messed up.

As per Genesis 50:20, what was meant for evil, God uses to bring about his good.

My Life Is Not My Own

I’m usually a pretty up-beat, positive kind of a guy but last week for just a few minutes I began feeling a little sorry for myself.  I was out at Hardendale Hall for a rehearsal for a wedding I would be officiating the following day, and being a little early I decided to slip down to Cow Lake just to enjoy the quiet for a few minutes.

It was stunningly gorgeous! The water was like glass.  The color of the blue sky and white clouds contrasted with the changing leaves reflected perfectly on the lake was breath-taking.  There were grebes with their strangely beautiful croaking cry close by, and from off at the far end of the lake came the occasional wail from a loon.

Cow Lake

Cow Lake

My first response when I saw the lake was “Oh God, this is beautiful! You are amazing!”  But my second response was “I don’t want to leave.  Let me go sit in a boat with a line in the water and just enjoy this for hours,” which was followed shortly in my downward spiral of self-pity by “It’s not fair.  I never get to go fishing, or hunting, or even get out in the bush anymore.”

Graciously, God didn’t let me follow that path very long.  I was gently reminded that my life was purchased by God at a very high price, the suffering and death of Jesus, and no longer belongs to me to please myself as I see fit.

I heard someone say that many people will willingly name Jesus as their savior, receiving forgiveness from their sin and the blessing of eternal life, but far too many stop at naming Jesus savior, and do not name him as Lord of their lives as well.  There is a belief that has developed in our western culture that Jesus died for me so that I can be happy.  That belief is wrong.

Jesus laid down his life for me because he was obedient to the Father. That obedience brings glory to the Father, who in response gives honour to the Son.  And therein lays the pattern for our lives.

God brings many wonderful things into our lives including wealth, possessions, our houses and church buildings.  His blessings also include his creation and the enjoyment of it.  But none of these gifts were intended to be hoarded to ourselves as though they were an indication of God’s pleasure with us.  All gifts from God are given with the expectation that they will in turn be spent on others, thus bringing glory to God and honour to the Son.

Cow Lake

Cow Lake

Harvesting Is Dirty Work

It’s harvest time again.  In previous years out at the farm my job has been to do the cultivating after the crop has been taken off.  I like that job.  I’m in a nice, clean, fairly quiet, air conditioned cab with comfy leather seat, a stereo and a cup holder for my coffee.  It has GPS steering so once I drive the headlands all I have to do is make the turn-around at the end of the field, touch a button on the screen and then sit back and watch to see that everything is working.

But I’m not really harvesting.  Oh, it’s part of the farming, but I really have had nothing to do with the actual work of bringing in the harvest.

This year, as it happens, I’m driving truck.  There’s a lot more pressure driving truck.  There’s the almost constant shifting of gears, dealing with traffic, the rush to get back from dumping at the yard so the combines don’t have to stop and wait, the stress of not spilling while picking up from the combine on the go, the noise of all the machinery and so on.

And then there’s the barley dust.  You just can’t avoid it.  By the end of the day my eyes are scratchy, my neck is just about raw, and I’m itchy all over.  But it’s worth it because I’m actually part of the harvest!

Jesus told his disciples to pray that God would send out workers into the fields to bring in the harvest.  It was a metaphor he used to describe the process of telling people about the love of God expressed to us through Jesus, and leading them to a life characterised by hope, meaning, and purpose as we live to serve God and others rather than ourselves.

Here’s the challenge: the first word Jesus spoke after the instruction to pray was “Go”.  Many of us, myself included, would prefer to stay with the cultivator.  We like the familiar, relative comfort of going to church, singing familiar songs, being with people who think and dress like us, and where we pretty much know what to expect. But we’re not really being involved in the harvest.

To be involved in the harvest is more dangerous and more stressful.  We’re going to be uncomfortable, and we’re going to get dirty as we involve ourselves in the lives of people who Jesus died for but whose culture and experience is vastly different from our familiar “church circles”.

I’m committed to being in the dust of the harvest, will you join me?

A Joyful Funeral

Today I attended the funeral for a man named Clark Ironside.  Most of you reading this won’t have known him, I myself didn’t know him really well, though he was the type of man who if you met him you knew him because he was always very real and genuine.  Clark is the father of one of my wife’s oldest and dearest friends who describe themselves as sisters by choice.

At most funerals people speak predominantly about the good deeds and traits of the person who has died.  Today, while there were a number of glowing tributes, there were two things that stood out to me that were different from most funerals I’ve seen.

The first was how Clark approached death.  In the Bible Paul as a prisoner facing what turned out to be a death sentence wrote of how he longed to depart and be with Christ which, he said, is better by far.  From his hospital bed Clark told a friend, “Two days ago the doctor gave me 48 hours to live.  Why am I still here? I’m supposed to be in heaven today!” And even though by the end he struggled to breathe or speak the one thing he kept saying to whoever came to see him was “better days are ahead.”

When a person knows Jesus the way the apostle Paul or Clark Ironside did death is not feared but is honestly and eagerly anticipated.  But the excitement is not primarily for all the wonderful blessing of heaven; freedom from pain and sickness, no hardships or disappointments, or even all the glorious beauty of perfected creation.  It’s about seeing Jesus face to face.  And that points to the second thing that stood out to me.

For all the wonderful accolades given about the man that Clark was the focus and honour was all given to Jesus.  Clark actually told the pastor who he had asked to lead his funeral, “Don’t talk about me, talk about Jesus.”

The truth is that when a person lives in such an intimate relationship with Jesus the praise that is given to that person is naturally given to Jesus because all that that person is and does has been created and given by Jesus.  Paul says it is Christ living his life through me.

What do you want your funeral to look like?  If am the primary focus of the praise at my funeral it’s really no benefit to me at all; I’m not there to hear it.  But if the attention is on what Jesus has done in me that praise will literally carry on for ever.

That’s Not Why I Rode

One of my favorite movies in my youth was “The Man From Snowy River.”  Set in the 1800s in Australia it’s a coming of age story of Jim, a young man from the mountains who, after his father’s death, is forced to go work in the lowlands to prove he can look after himself.  He goes to work for wealthy cattleman Harrison and faces all the adversity of fitting in and proving himself to the other ranch hands and his boss.  And, of course, there’s Harrison’s pretty daughter.

 The story climaxes when Jim is falsely accused of setting loose Harrison’s extremely expensive colt allowing it to join the “Brumbies”; the wild horse herd.  Harrison calls together all the locals and offers a reward for the colt’s recovery.  And the chase begins through the spectacular scenery of the Snowy River Mountains.

It abruptly ends when “the mob” escapes down an unbelievably steep incline forcing all the riders to stop – all except Jim who, with a crack of his whip launches in slow-motion over the embankment and down the hill.

The rest of the riders all assume the Brumbies are lost and so head back to the ranch. But a while later they are astonished (spoiler alert) to see Jim single-handedly bringing in the herd. (Yes, it’s kind-of campy and somewhat far-fetched, but non-the-less…)

The scene that I wanted to get to is this. Once the horses are all in Harrison comes to Jim with a wad of cash saying “Here’s the reward as promised.”  Jim gives him a look of scorn and replies “That’s not why I rode. “

I was reminded of that scene in reading the account of Abraham after he rescued his nephew and many others from a raiding kingdom.  After the rescue the king of Sodom tries to give Abraham a reward for the return of his people and goods.  But Abraham refuses wanting no one to assume this king had made Abraham rich. Instead he gives a tithe to one identified as a Priest of God.

Abraham is, in essence saying “that’s not why I rode.” Wealth, status, comfort, accolades, power was not Abraham’s focus and motivation in life.  Rather, as Hebrew 11 says, he was looking for a better country, a heavenly one and God was not ashamed to be called his God.

What’s your reason for riding in life?  Are you riding for an immediate temporary reward? Do you realise you have been created and called for a greater, far more noble purpose?  God has called you to share in building his eternal kingdom.  That’s why I ride.

Mow Down The Saskatoons

Part of my job at the farm is to mow a ten foot perimeter around the crops.  Because it’s registered seed the inspectors require that space to insure against cross contamination from other crops, as well as minimizing the weeds that are always prevalent on the edges of fields.

One of the other benefits of this practice is that I’m able to push back the ingrowth of trees and bush that creep in on the fields. I pull a five foot Schulte mower with a five foot wing behind the tractor. It’s amazing what that mower will eat.  I’ve been told that the factory tests their mowers endurance by lowering them at full throttle onto a metal post fixed in a concrete pad.  I can easily take down a three inch sapling leaving not much more than splinters.

Now when I’m obliterating those giant weeds called poplars I don’t feel the least twinge of regret.  But when I’m about to mow down a Saskatoon bush, especially one that’s heavy with big, juicy berries I have to admit I’m sorely tempted to pull out just a little and take down some of the crop instead. Or at least stop and eat the berries before I maul the bush.

But instead I remind myself, this is a seed farm not a berry farm.  (Ok, I did stop a couple of times when the berries were exceptionally plump and juicy.) The berries don’t make us any money, and likely nobody will pick them anyway.  It hurts, but I gotta do it.

Life is kind of like that sometimes.  It can be so easy to sacrifice the important for the immediate; to chase after things that bring temporary satisfaction at the expense of what is truly valuable.

Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and again, “do not store up your treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.”

Someone has said that nobody ever came to the end of their lives and wished they had spent more time in the office or the shop.  But many, many have longed for the opportunity to spend one more day with their spouse or children.  Many more in the final days have realised the futility of all they have accumulated or the thrills of this life they have pursued while ignoring the One who gave his life for them.

It might be worth your while to examine your life and see if you’ve been mowing crop to save a few berries.

What You Do Matters

Do you feel like what you do matters?  Whether you’re in the corner office or in a cubicle, management or menial labour, at home with the kids or out in the field, all of us long to know that our lives are making a difference in the world.  But from my observation many at least occasionally wonder, if not outright despair that they’re doing anything of any real value.

If you’re one who ever feels that way I have some encouragement for you.  1 Corinthians 15:58 says your labour in the Lord is not in vain.  Notice it does not say your work for the Lord, but your work in the Lord is not in vain.  What does that mean?  To understand what it means to labour in the Lord we first need to understand what it means to be in the Lord or in Christ Jesus?

John Stott puts it this way; “To be “in Christ” does not mean to be inside Christ, as tools are in a box or our clothes in a closet, but to be organically united to Christ, as a limb is in the body or a branch is in the tree. It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of his authentic followers.”  The term Christian is only found 3 times in the Bible.  The most common description of a follower of Jesus is the term “in Christ” or “in the Lord”.  (164 times just in Paul’s letters.)

This doesn’t mean that because I am “in Christ” automatically all my labour is “in the Lord” and therefore purposeful.  In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul, writing to those who were Jesus followers, describes their lives as building either with gold silver and costly stones, or with wood hay and stubble.

The implication being that anything I do that is motivated by and done in dependence upon my union with Christ is of value.  Even more he says that those things will last into Heaven.  Conversely the things done from self- motivation and strength are without real value and will disappear – even the seemingly really good deeds.

So here’s my encouragement to you.  Today, whether you’re cleaning up after your kids, or sweeping the floors in the shop, driving a truck or sitting at a desk, feeding people or feeding cows, whether you’re by yourself or on a team; whatever you are doing, if you are doing it in the Lord it will literally last and bring glory to God for ever!

What you do matters!


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