Discipleship

Pomegranates and the Christian

It is pomegranate season, or at least the tail end of it. When the trees are full and the fruit falls easily and the red, juicy flesh is ripe for the enjoying.

Our back yard has one such tree and it has been a delight for these six years (and no small amount of work for our harvester Stacy!) This year the kids were creative and decided to sell the pomegranates to raise money for Buddy Break, a respite program for families with kids with special needs.

As the harvest has come though, I can’t help but see the Christian in the pomegranate. And as I study the Sermon on the Mount I see it all the more.

You see, pomegranates grow from a bright pinkish red flower in the spring to the hardened dusty colored ball in September. You know the pomegranates are ready when you see them begin to break open under the force of the fruit inside. The bright purple proves them.

Now, bear with the illustration, the believer is formed and grows under the stress of life. The seasons of heat, and little water. Avoiding, if we can, the ‘birds’ or ‘rats’ that might try to pluck and harm us. As we persevere, something is happening inside. There is fruit welling up, getting strong and ready to be seen.

Then we are broken open and what is inside is bare for all to see. We don’t prefer the brokenness, but it is the way. And if we have found our source in Christ and his life, then the fruit is sweet and draws others to glorify our Father who is in heaven.

I am praying that this is a fruitful season for you as you trust in Jesus, and let the light of Christ shine in you.

Discipleship

Face to Face

I am thankful for the letters of the Apostle John in the Bible. To me they serve as permission to be brief but weighty in communication. But in the wake of this pandemic, John’s concluding line in his second letter laid bare my heart.

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 12 (ESV)

I have much to say to those I pastor, and man have I tried using the paper and ink of our day. But I long for face to face. It is what we were meant for. Without a doubt. And thank God we are in the beginning stages of gathering as the church again.

Even with this desire, the hunger for the complete joy we find in community, I don’t think John would encourage us to be reckless about it. As a whole I don’t think Scripture would either. So I won’t infringe on the conscience of others with my claim of my own rights, I will be patient as we get toward the day we can see smiles without masks again, I will attempt to humbly remind and be reminded that every path is an experiment as we don’t have all the answers.

I hope to be face to face soon, and that hope will carry us through… We are people of hope, now we get to live like it.

Book Review

Worth Reading: The Possibility of Prayer

John Starke’s latest offering, The Possibility of Prayer, is already in my shortlist for best book of the year for followers of Jesus. It comes at an appropriate time – there is demand for understanding rhythms of life lived in response to Jesus and an increasing pull toward spiritual direction – and it serves the needs of the church.

The book is clear and never drags on. In fact I felt invited further in with each chapter. Starke shares his own experience but not as one who has it all figured out but one on the same journey as you, leaning into life of contemplation and prayer.

This book actually does better in my opinion than the recent tranche of books on hurry and slowing down. Starke rightly orients the desires to solve those things with the gospel and a life in response to it. There is abundant grace on these pages and whether you count yourself as a prayer warrior or prayer novice, this is for you and will enrich you in your walk.

Here are some choice quotes from the book:

“The witness of Christian history is that the ambitious need quiet hearts. We need ancient paths for our modern, busy lives that teach us to be settled with God in an unsettling world.”

“When we pray, we come with Christ into the mountain-melting presence of God. He is more intensely and densely real than anything else. This is not a god of religious experiences or a god to be manufactured for trivial comfort. He is ultimate reality. He is the God of all being. He is the God who confronts Moses at the burning bush, saying, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground….I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:5, 14).”

“If we come to the Bible and read it on its own terms, it will divide our hearts, separating us from our lusts and false loves. If we come to commune with God in his presence, we must be prepared for pain. He shows us where our hearts are in conflict with his heart, and he will bum away the chaff and purify us.”

“The practice of prayer consists of primary rhythms (communion, me meditation, and solitude), and secondary rhythms (Sabbath resting, fas ting and feasting, and corporate worship). The word secondary shouldn’t communicate “optional” or even “supplemental.” Just as faith without works is dead and love without truth is trivial, primary and secondary rhythms of prayer depend on one another for vibrancy and life. Our personal times of communion, meditation, and solitude are enhanced by the regular rhythms of Sabbath rest, fasting and feasting, and corporate worship. And our rhythms of Sabbath rest, fasting and feasting, and corporate worship are deepened by our personal habits of communion, meditation, and solitude. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!”

“The individualistic streak in American Christianity balks at the importance of corporate worship. “As long as my relationship with Jesus is good, I’m good, we say. But the New Testament doesn’t allow for that. The more we are alienated from other Christians, the more we will be alienated from Christ himself. It’s a mystery, but that’s how God has put it all together. We simply cannot depend on a personal prayer life for a healthy spiritual life or even an adequate one. Without other Christians and the experience of worshiping with them on a regular basis, our personal prayer lives will suffer. We need corporate worship. We need to gather regularly with other Christians to sing, pray, read, and hear God’s Word, to receive the Lord’s Supper, and to be sent back into the world full of peace and good news.”

Find the book for yourself here.