Bigger Than Orlando

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I was driving home from a Lutheran church yesterday when I finally turned on the radio and let in the outside world. That’s when I heard about the Orlando massacre, and got the first inkling that it was probably Islamic terrorism. Since then, I have watched the reactions of many friends and acquaintances on social media, as well as how various politicians and talking heads have weighed in on this horrible tragedy.

It seems like almost every argument and point of view has been covered as some people look to fix blame or position themselves in the best light. And there have been many expressions of sorrow and grief and anger that are all easy to understand. So I have been in no hurry to rush to make a statement, or be a part of any particular camp. It’s not because I am heartless or do not care, but I do have what seems to be an unusual perspective. I hope you will take time to consider it.

Every day in America between 6,000 and 7,000 people die of various causes. Around the world, it’s over 150,000 deaths per day. Although many of them are untimely or tragic, they all have one thing in common: they are inevitable. And from there, the go to spend eternity in the presence of their Savior, or they go to Hell. And very little is said about this, the ultimate tragedy.

Perhaps you do not believe this is the case. Keep in mind that you do not make the rules. We were created by a holy God, and He ultimately calls the shots. Bring your lawyer if you wish, but remember that he will just be another defendant on Judgment Day.

Because I do believe this, and so do many of you who are reading, that puts a weight of responsibility on us to share the Good News, that God so loved the world that He gave His Son, to pay the price for all of our sins, so that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. In fact, we have been commanded to share that message. And I don’t need to bring out empirical proof to all of you for you to know that most of us live lives of gross disobedience to the Great Commission.

Over the next several months I expect to see a lot of changed profile photos expressing solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre by many believers in Christ. Keep in mind that showing your sadness is appropriate, but it is not a substitute for sharing the Gospel with the lost world.

It is interesting to note that the shooter was born in the US and went to school here. I have to wonder if he had heard the Gospel while he was growing up. Was he or his family befriended by Christians who shared the Gospel with them? Every sinner, no matter how vile you believe that person to be, started life as a child.

That is the lens through which I see this terrible event. In a nation where we have the right to share the Gospel, most of us don’t. And even those of us who do, focus on reaching people AFTER they have grown up. The average church spends 3% of its budget on ministering to children, and most of them do not evangelize the children they have.

This terrible event will not be changing my profile picture or how I live my life. I am back at work today, planning on reaching hundreds of children this summer with the Gospel. Many of them will make first time professions of faith, and begin a life of living by faith in Jesus. I am blessed to have many volunteers who give of their time to obey God and do what He has told us to do. But there are many thousands more to reach in this area, and we don’t need sympathy. We need your help.

Visit us online at CEFCH.ORG to give your time, talent, or treasure. Thank you.

The Sober Business of Pruning

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If you frequent this site, you are aware that I have taken to gardening. Last year, when I first moved to Homosassa, I got it into my head that I could grow some of what we eat, and I immediately went to YouTube for gardening videos. They led to some experiments, which mostly failed, and I also thought I’d try my hand at tomatoes. After all, everyone likes tomatoes, and if i can’t grow anything else, perhaps I can trade tomatoes for other vegetables.

I began with four different kinds of heirloom tomato seeds. I thought I’d try them because I noticed they were more expensive in the store than regular tomatoes, and I heard them getting rave reviews from organic vegetable purists. So, I planted what I thought was 48 seeds in egg cartons, and it turnout out I planted 50.

Fast-forward to today, and I now have rows of tomato plants and I am beginning to eat some of them! I have German Green tomatoes, which have to be gently squeezed to test for ripeness since the color gives no clue, Colossal Yellows, Cherokee Chocolates and Cherokee Chocolate Cherries. I have about 25 of the original plants, and they are 3 to 5 ft tall. They make quite an impression on my visitors, and I am tempted to be proud of them.

To be sure, I am aware I am a neophyte gardener, and I know I have done a fairly sloppy job of it. I have tried to fill the gaps where I am not much of a farmer by praying for these plants and asking the Lord’s blessing on them. He gets the credit for all I survey. But while I was praying for my plants, I also asked him what all this means to me, and what is He wanting me to learn from the experience. After all, this is highly irregular activity for me. I do NOT like working in the yard, but I have felt drawn to do this.

While watching a video about pruning tomato plants, I remembered what Jesus said in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Well, that is what I wanted: more fruit. I am not just growing leafy plants to be ornamentals. I want tomatoes!

So, I started looking carefully for any signs of fruit. The cherry tomatoes came up first, but all my other plants were giving me blossoms, but no fruit. I also noticed I was getting my first attack of leaf miners, these tiny insects that make tunnels in your leaves. It looks like yellow tracks all over the leaves. Those had to go. In general, plants with too many leaves got shorn. Almost every day I was trimming away unnecessary foliage. It seemed to pay off. After awhile I started seeing tomatoes budding from where the blossoms were.

A couple of days¬† ago, I believe I got a word from the Lord in my garden. He said, “You are pruning, but you are not taking away.” I looked at one of my well trimmed plants, and noticed one long branch that had born nothing. It was sucking up water and nutrients and there was no fruit. I cut it off from the main stalk and examined it. It was part of that plant from the beginning, yet it had never produced. I looked around and found a couple of others. And a few more. I was sad that I had to cut them back so far. It seemed like such a shame. Then I realized that we were not really talking about tomato plants.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” This took on an entirely different meaning. I realized that I need to be pruned. There are things that need to be cut off, so that I may bear more fruit. He said MORE fruit.¬† He wants me to grow, and in order for that to happen, there are things that have to go.

And that is why I am no longer involved in politics. It was a great, fruitless branch in my life. It was leafy and looked healthy, but there was no fruit on it. It attracted parasites and disease. I got invited to a local candidate event yesterday and had to say NO, and WHY. It was not advancing the Kingdom of God, so it had to go. It’s all about the fruit.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Matthew 6:33.