The Farmer And The Apple Tree

There was an apple tree named Al. Al wanted to grow big and strong and wanted to produce lots of apples. He was planted on a hill, got some sun and some water and thought he was ready to go. But something was wrong, No matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t produce many apples, and sometimes he produced non at all.

The farmer came by and said “Al, how are you doing?”
Al said “I’m OK, but I’m an Apple Tree and I want to produce really good apples, but I’m having trouble…”

The Farmer said “I think I can help you with that, do you trust me?”
Al said “I think so… I really want to make good apples, will you help me?”

The farmer said “Sure, you’ll be a great apple tree …But remember, no matter what happens, no matter how unpleasant things may be for a moment here or there, you’ll be ok and afterwards you’ll make the best apples. Again, do you trust me?”

Trepidatiously Al said “Yes.”

The next day the farmer came with a small hatchet and some gardening snips, and started cutting branches and twigs off of Al, here and there.
Al yelled “OUCH! Hey, cut that out…that hurts!!!”
The Farmer explained that these little branches and twigs took Al’s time, attention and energy; they kept him from producing good fruit.
Al relented and said “OK.”

The next day the farmer drives up with a truck full of manure. Now, talk to any farmer and they’ll tell you the best fertilizer is chicken poop.
So here comes the farmer throwing fertilizer on Al the apple tree, all over his roots, all over the ground, and Al exclaims
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” “THIS STINKS!” “Why is this happening to me?” “I HATE THIS…”

But the farmer just smiled and told Al “It’ll be OK, Al.”

A few weeks later Al noticed lots of apples, beginning to grow.
A few more weeks and the Farmer brought a truck load of kids to pick apples. The kids said how good the apples were, their moms talked about how nutritious the apples must be.


Al was so happy he had produced good apples.
The Farmer said “Al, well done!”

(A story based on John 15, The Vine, The Branches & The Gardener)

The Fire

“Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth…you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.”

These fiery words were spoken by Catherine of Siena, around 1380 AD. They echo so much the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

As they traveled, heartbroken and dismayed about the death of Jesus of Nazareth, they meet a stranger on the road and ultimately invite him to have supper and spend the evening with them. As the stranger broke bread at the table, his identity is revealed to them, the stranger was Jesus!

But he immediately disappeared from their presence and afterwards they said:
“Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us…”
Yes, Jesus, YOU are a fire… and you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.

In our lives we need just to ask to be in the real presence, and Jesus walks with us. In his presence he brings warmth and light, beauty and wisdom, and is our bread of life, our secret manna.

Pray this Prayer of Spiritual Communion with me today:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Behold The Humble Way Of God

Saint Francis- Behold the humble way of God

“For One in such a lofty position to stoop so low is a marvel that is staggering. What sublime humility and humble sublimeness, that the Lord of the Universe, the Divine Son of God, should stoop as to hide Himself under the appearance of bread for our salvation! Behold the humble way of God, my brothers.” (Jesus Our Eucharistic Love By Stefano M. Manelli p.X).

Paul, in Philippians 2:7 writes that Jesus emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Jesus, being fully God, shows the great extent of God’s love for us in becoming something that we can perceive and understand. In becoming one of us, becoming human, he did so that we could more easily relate and hear the voice of God.

When we come to the Communion Table (or make an intention of the heart to make a spiritual communion) we are reminded of the Love of God, that, not only did Jesus become one of us, but then Jesus takes bread and says “Do this.” “I am the bread of life.”

Do we understand? No, not fully, it is a mystery.

But I am reassure that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans ch.8) not covid19, not tornadoes, not circumstances, not even death itself can separate us from the love of God. Jesus is ever with us and we never face the world alone.

Lift up your hearts!

Lord, in your mercy…

During this time of National Emergency we enter in to the ancient rhythm of prayer for the world. Now let us go to Lord together in prayer.

Father God, Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; * you are worthy of praise; glory to you. We thank you for family and friends, for food and laughter, and for all your rich blessings!

Lord in your mercy  – Hear our Prayer

Today we pray for the needs of the whole world; let us remember, in his name, the poor, the hungry, the helpless, and the oppressed, the lonely, and all who are at higher risk of illness; we pray for the sick and for all that mourn. We also pray for those who feel tested, or wearied, or overwhelmed.
Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

In this time of National Emergency we pray for all medical staff and first responders, for those serving in humanitarian outreaches, kitchens and shelters. We pray for all needs nationally, around the world, and in our own community.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Now take a moment of silence to lift up our own prayers and intercessions…

Now as Jesus taught us, we pray together:
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

The Lord My Shepherd

One of the names given to God, this one by David, The Lord my Shepherd:

Consider what you can discover about the nature and character of God in these verses:

The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me

all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord

forever.

God is in the front row, smiling and proud:

Understanding “The Kingdom”

From the time of John the Baptizer until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful people have been seizing it.

-Matthew 11:12

Remember when you first wanted to play guitar, or baseball, or when you got excited about a new hobby, exercise routine, course of study, etc? Once you get “turned on” to something new then you pursue it with great enthusiasm; so much more when you discover the “kingdom life” with Jesus. When we want something, when we are desperate for it, then we pursue it hard.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:20-21

We’ve tried to “bring the kingdom” in many ways on our own. The Crusades tried to bring the kingdom by their own might and by their own power; but the anger of man doesn’t work the righteousness of God.

Even in our own day people look with “careful observation” and say Jesus will return on cinco de mayo 2020… possible, but not likely that we can accurately say “Here it is or There it is…”

Jesus clarifies “the kingdom of God is within you”

One thing we must remember when it comes to seeing God’s Kingdom;It’s His power, not ours:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

– Zechariah 4:6

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

-2 Peter 1:21

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

– Col 1:29 
These three scriptures reiterate a similar truth over and over:

It’s by God’s Spirit that we do:
we don’t do of our own power but by the Holy Spirit, it is God’s Spirit that works within us.
My friend Joshua Stump says “We are like kids in a ballet, and no matter how awkward we are, God is in the front row with a camera smiling & proud…”

So it has nothing to do with our power and has everything to do with God’s power, God’s anointing, and our being carried along by Him. He takes joy and pleasure in us. He has a purpose for everyone. He cheers us on as we follow Christ!

ADVENT

Can you imagine?
There was a time before cell phones?
There was a time before flat screen TVs
There was a time before laptops computers
There was a time before people even had computers in their homes
There was a time before microwaves
And a time before itunes…
A time when music was played on record players
And popcorn was cooked on top of a stove
100 years ago most people didn’t have a car
And many didn’t have electricity
10 years ago were the 1st iphones
10 years ago we didn’t have ipads
Just now are 3-d printers becoming affordable
Driverless cars
Babelfish earbuds? Have you heard? They translate in almost real time into your language…

We live in between the times, in between what has been and what will be. There was a time where the people of Israel waited and waited for the messiah to come.

The Prophets Foretold:

Genesis 12:3 specifically states that God intended to bless all on the earth through Abraham’s family. Specifically,the messiah would come through this family (Israel).

2 Samuel 7:11-16 the prophet states that God would, through the line of King David, raise up a king established forever; Christ the Lord.

Isaiah 9:2-7 is a favorite Advent passage and speaks of light coming to the people in darkness, joy, an end to wars, at the coming of the prince of peace.

He heals the blind and sets prisoners free. He says this redeemer, though despised by the rulers of nations, shall ultimately be honored, and his salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of a new covenant made, to write His law on their hearts, to fulfill salvation, and to remember sin no more.

Micah 5:2 clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem.

Malachi 3:1 specifically speaks of the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Moses even prophesied almost 1300 years before Christ was born-

Looking for the prophet
“The Lord your God will raise up for you
a prophet like me from among your
fellow Israelites, and you must listen to
that prophet.” 
-Deuteronomy 18:15 – 1260 B.C

So from this time on, this is one of the principles the Jewish people were looking for, The Coming Prophet. For hundreds and hundreds of years…. Then something very peculiar happened one night as a group of shepherds watched their flocks…

Luke says:
Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people:  Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

An army!
That’s really one of the best words to use here. and this army was announcing something amazing! Yes- they were announcing the birth of Jesus, a baby. But they were announcing what was the fulfillment of all those old testament prophesies…
Up until that time the shepherds had lived in the WHAT HAD BEEN
They were about to enter the WHAT WOULD BE

The gospels say Jesus came preaching The Kingdom of God. The Angels, that ARMY, was announcing a KING & a KINGDOM.

What does that mean?
It would be a different kind of Kingdom and HE would be a different kind of King…

Well what did Jesus do?
Blind see
People walk
Sick healed
Raised Lazarus from the dead
Fed thousands of people
Was kind…
He forgave people
He gave people hope…

The interesting thing is that we also live in between the times; in between what has been and what will be. The Kingdom has been initiated, but it has not fully come yet. That’s why things aren’t quite right, why things aren’t quite the way they are suppose to be, but he left his disciples, then the early church, throughout the centuries, and now us, to carry on the Kingdom of God in big and small ways…

But when Christ returns- all that is wrong will finally be dealt with and made right. Till then he has left us here to do the job. He told his disciples:
This is how you bring my Kingdom:
feed the hungry, clothe the cold, help the sick, visit the lonely,
show kindness to the stranger, we live a life of prayer,
humility, and generosity towards others.
And now it’s our time.

Revelation: The Church Who’d Forgotten Where They’d Come From

To Laodicea,

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’

And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.”

What you see with Laodicea is — when we forget where we’ve come from, when we forget our relationship with Jesus first, then we substitute something, anything in it’s place.

See what had happened here, They viewed themselves one way, but Jesus saw them differently. Sometimes we substitute our relationship with Jesus- with something else, anything else; Here they’d substituted prestige, power and wealth for a relationship with God.

When you’re going for prestige, power and wealth, you want to put forward this image, right?

  •  the black power suit
  • the power handshake
  • the successful ceo

Religion without relationship= indifference

When we forget where we’ve come from then friendships are reduced to business hierarchy and success is reduced to measurable results. When THE CHURCH forgets where she came from then the CHURCH is reduced to religion and not a relationship with Christ. Religion without relationship is an ugly thing indeed…

Take the relationship out of it and reduce it to a corporate model, a country club, or anything else that the church really is not, and all you are left with is indifference. Look at verse 19

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “

Relationship = Friendship with God

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

Friends?

  • not some image you want to project
  • not a power trip or authority trip
  • not a self dillusion

…A relationship with him, nothing else will do…

Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

Laodicea had forgotten what real power looks like, it looks like Jesus who’d come in humility, taking on the form of a servant. We, individually and as the church must emulate him. They’d forgotten Thanksgiving, the doxology says “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”. We individually, and as the church are to be a doxology of thanksgiving before God. They’d forgotten where they’d come from, the state of every man: poor, wretched, naked, & blind. They’d forgotten the significance of Christ’s first advent, and also had lost sight of his second coming.

The message of the church today is the message that John the Baptist preached long ago “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a path for him! Every valley will be built up and every mountain will be brought low… and all people will see the salvation of God…”

To the wretched he gives hope!

To the the poor he sustains!

To the naked he clothes!

To the blind he heals and gives sight!

Revelation: The Church at Philadelphia

Philadelphia was known as a frontier city; “Gateway to the East”. Industry and agriculture was their bread and butter.They grew a lot of grapes, specifically,  so it’s no surprise that Dionysus was a primary deity worshipped there.

Not a Mega Church

The church in Philadelphia would seem insignificant to our standards today, and probably also to the standards of the first century. It was not a mega-church, no TV program or daily radio show, no big building, no fancy facility, no multi-book deals for the senior pastor, no “city-wide” influence… just a small insignificant church in a house, or perhaps a strip-mall… Yet there were no words of rebuke for this church.

Something had happened

Scripture doesn’t say exactly, but if you look at all the things said then you get the idea that the church in Philadelphia had been treated harshly by someone… read the first half of the letter before we go on.

The Message to the Church in Philadelphia

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.

This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:”

“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.”

What had happened?

The church began within the context of it’s Jewish roots (Jesus was a jew), it sounds like the church may have been “dis-owned” from the temple. The Jewish community may have been trying to put pressure on the church; refusing to acknowledge them, using manipulation to get them to forsake the church and return to the temple, or dis-associating with them, or kicking them out of the temple.

+ ever been fired by a boss with issues?

+ ever been ignored, kicked out, or otherwise dis-owned?

When He Returns injustices cannot stand

JESUS says of those he calls the “Synagogue of Satan” -“They will acknowledge you, they can’t ignore you and pretend you don’t exist, and they will acknowledge the fact that I love you…”

Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth…”

KEEP FROM is the same word as in LORD’s PRAYER = “deliver us from evil”, this is a promise Jesus makes to Philadelphia.

They had already had hardships, it’s not like they were going to live problem free, The GOSPELS and the Book of ACTS taught them “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” and this was their context for living, and their context as disciples, but Jesus made this promise of relief to them!

Then Jesus says

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it.”

So, to the one’s who’d been pushes aside, ignored and treated as dead Jesus says “They cannot kick you out! I shut and nobody opens~ and I open and and nobody shuts… you will never be told to leave the temple of my God ever again!”

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.

This sounds curiously like addressing something to be delivered.

WHEN HE RETURNS

God sees differently than men do, what seems insignificant and weak to us may be seen by God as very significant indeed. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.