Monday, August 21, 2006

The Great Commission at Street-level

The account was convicting from its opening paragraph:

In the midst of suffering, pain, poverty and HIV/AIDS, there is joy
unspeakable. Nothing can hold it down; it spills out in hours of worship,
in the daily grind of life, and while driving along roads with potholes the
locals call "Hippo ponds" they are so deep...but there is always joy.

Away from the din of the great "Reasserter vs. Revisionist Rumble", the mandate of the Gospel is being carried out in a way that should give us all cause for reflection and repentance. Read about it in
David Virtue's essay

Overheard from the Pulpit

"He was a self-made man who worshipped his creator all the days of his life."

Fr. Toby Larson, quoting an unnamed Englishman of the 19th Century

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Of Spiritual Roots and Spiritual Fruits"


We’re all eventually known by what we are rather than who we say we are. We may have a James Carvelle-Caliber spin machine that paints us to be an Albert Schweitzer or Mother Teresa, but if we’re a cad or a scoundrel at heart, thats what will come out in the end. Abraham Lincoln once said "you can fool some of the people some of the time...", and Jesus reminded us in the Sermon on the Mount that individuals will be "known by their fruits".

A Child of God will (or Should) manifest fruits, or traits that are commensurate with the family of God. Those outside of God’s family may well be decent, upright people but in their unredeemed state, will never be able to manifest these godly traits or fruits.

We’ve all come here this morning for any number of possible reasons. We may be here this morning out of a sense of duty, or tradition. Perhaps we’re here because we’re seeking God or seeking answers to life’s questions. Or, we may be here because we love God, and have been called according to His purposes. And as children of God, we’ve responded to the mandate of Hebrews in assembling ourselves together for worship. Regardless of who we are and why we’re here today, we all share a common thread in that we’re all producing the fruits of what we truly are.

Now, our life’s fruits are directly proportional to our life’s roots. Are you aware of your fruits? Do you know where your roots are? All of us here this morning have some level of relationship with God, and we want our life to please Him on a greater level. This all said, I know that in your heart, you want to hear the father say "Well Done". I’m going to let you in on a secret... "Your fruits are in direct proportion to your roots".. I’d also like to toss out a challenge this morning.. "Do you want to sense the smile of God on your life as you produce fruit that brings glory to the Father?"

I. Every Life Manifests some variety of Fruit

A. Distinct Fruits (Galatians 5:19-23)

There’s a cliche that’s often applied to comparisons, "comparing apples and oranges". Though there are Rome, Macintosh, Granny Smith, etc., An apple is an apple and on orange is an orange. As long as we walk this earth, our lives will produce one of two distinct varieties of fruit, Saint Paul described these as the "Works of the Flesh" and the "Fruits of the Spirit". [READ GALATIANS 5].

We don’t have to be a Bible Scholar or Theologian to see just how diametrically different these two types of fruit are. They’re polar opposites of each other, and like we said, an average child can quickly discern the difference between the two. If you put shoes on these fruits in a way to personify them, it would be like comparing Corrie Ten Boom to the average guest on the Jerry Springer Show. Or, too it would be like comparing a Bach concerto to the rant of a gansta rapper. The one has a sweet soothing aroma, the other carries a vile stench, and is an affront to both God and our neighbor.

B. Distinct Origins (Galatians 5:17)

To say that one variety of fruit originates from above, and another from below would be essentially true but it won’t give us a sense of the gravity of the difference. The fruits of the flesh are rooted in the dark hearts of fallen humanity. They took root early in each of our lives and could be observed before we ever learned to walk. When your child struggled to take a toy from the other infant in the playpen, those fruits were budding. Day by day and year to year, each of these wonderful road apples began to manifest themselves until we became pretty creepy. Now it’s easy for someone to become a little self righteous in light of these fruits of the flesh. Somehow, people will justify themselves in the fact that they may only be carrying around half a bag of road apples rather than a full one. Truth be told, it simply states that we’re only sightly less creepy than the one with the full load.

The fruits of the Spirit clearly have a divine origin. Throughout scripture, we’re reminded time and again that left to ourselves, we’re incapable of a righteousness that’s acceptable before God. Of course we can do good deeds. But scripture reminds us that these have no more righteousness than filthy rags. These seeds of these good fruits were appropriated on Calvary’s hill, and made available to all who would surrender their lives to Christ.

C. Distinct Harvests (Galatians 5:24b)

A true beauty of God’s word is that it tells folk what the need to hear, not what they want to hear. The word doesn’t mince words concerning the harvest of the fruits of the flesh. The man or woman who made a life of cultivating the fruits of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God. St. Peter drives this fact home in reminding us that God isn’t slack concerning his promises. There’ll be no mulligans, no "do-overs" or the like. At the great harvest, all will be known by their fruits and the contents of their bushel baskets will affect their eternal destinies. The life spent cultivating fruits of the spirit will be rewarded by some of the sweetest words ever to be spoken throughout all of eternity. In that moment when the child of God steps before the throne

II. Our Life’s Fruits are a reflection of our Life’s Roots.

What’s the general "shape" of a tree? We’ve all just painted a mental picture of a tree and chances are, its kind of popsicle-shaped... Some shape (triangular, elliptical or whatever), on a stick. If the soil was clear, we could see that a tree is more or less "dumbell-shaped". A healthy, thriving tree will have almost as much growth beneath the soil as it has above ground. Christ had ths in mind when He spoke to parable of the sower. Though the primary context of the parable spoke to the condition of the soil, the soil had a direct impact on the health of the roots. There’s a number of soil problems that may stunt, damage or destroy our roots beyond those listed in the parable but for the sake of the discussion, we’ll focus on these.

A. Stunted Roots, Spoiled Fruits (Mark 4:3-7)

While spending time out in Seattle, an observation reenforced a lesson about root quality. Seattle is a well-watered city that receives an ample amount of annual rain. As we were driving through West Seattle, I noticed that many of the lawns were withered and dry. Our sponsor pointed out that in the wet climate of Seattle, many plants don’t bother to sink deep roots. As the upper layers of the soil dry out in the summer, the shallow-rooted plants wither for lack of moisture.

Many take a "lazy-man’s approach" to their spiritual health simply in relying on others for their spiritual health and growth. They take in a steady diet of teaching and preaching. They seem to be very knowledgeable, and biblically literate. Yet because they’ve never dug deep into God’s word on their own, to borrow the expression, their spiritual health is a mile wide, but only and inch deep. Because they have shallow spiritual roots, they can never fully mature to a point where Spiritual fruit can began to grow in their lives.

Other’s exist in a state of partial surrender, which if the truth be told, is a state of non-surrender. In their state, the soil is full of things not surrendered In this parable, Christ used the simile of the rocky soil to speak of persecution. We could also think of this life-soil as indicative of a carnal, or unsurrendered life. These objects are like rocks in the soil. They take up vital space and offset the nutrient-rich soil. Regardless of how deep the believer may lay their roots, the soil simply doesn’t maintain the nutrients required to produce and maintain healthy fruit.
Then there are those who’s lives are just so full that they’ve all but crowded God out of their lives. These "Spiritual roots" are competing with so many other things, hobbies, overextended commitments that they’re simply unable to root. Sadly, because these things have crowded God out, they’ve essentially become idols.

B. Healthy Roots, Ample Fruits (Mark 4:8)

Roots that works themselves deep in good, nutrient-rich soil can spread, enlarge and serve to absorb the materials necessary to develop a healthy tree, and subsequent fruit. There are no external barriers in place. This is a life is in surrender. This life is in balance and is free of idols. We need to realize though, that this isn’t a point of arrival, its an entry point. The believer is now in a place where God, the Vine dresser, can began to groom the believer.

III. Rooting our Lives for Eternity

The facts that fleshly fruits are toxic to our spiritual health, and that the Father expects his kids to bear good spiritual fruits should be apparent. "Now what?" we ask. The challenge then for us will be in Rooting our lives for Eternity. This is no small order, in fact its like staring up the sheer face of El Captain, knowing that you have to do a free climb up its sheer granite face. But lets face it, the God of the Universe doesn’t deal in penny-ante games, nor does He expect His Kids to settle for low goals or spiritual mediocrity. There’s great news for the spiritual climber at the base of the mountain this morning... The God who demands lofty results, supplies the means for His kids in attaining these Goals.

A. Walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)

In Rooting ourselves for eternity, the first and most important fact to remember is that we simply can’t make this happen in our own strength. Like the Galatians who were being told by the Judaizers that the way to true righteousness was through strict observance to Mosaic law, we too need to remember that rooting in God won’t occur through our efforts, it’ll only occur as we surrender to God, and allow him to work from our hearts outward. When it comes to our spirits, we simply can’t "multi-task"; If we’re walking in and through the power of God’s Spirit, we won’t be running down the side trails, feeding the unhealthy desires of the flesh. Just as in the same way that it’s impossible for us to serve two masters, it is impossible for us to simultaneously feed desires that are diametrically opposed to one another.

B. Abiding in the "True Vine" (John 15:5-8)

If the previous idea didn’t settle things for us, John’s account of Christ’s own words should bring complete clarity. We must abide in the only one in whom, as Paul reiterated, "We live, and move, and have our being". Why? It’s a zero sum outcome; Without him we can do nothing. Outside of Christ, the potential and ability to produce spiritual fruit ends. In fact, we’re little more than dead branches that are collected and treated as so much agricultural waste. These branches are simply gathered and burned on the brush pile. Connected to Christ and feeding on spiritually life-giving presence, we’ll bear an abundance of spiritual fruit. This, Jesus reminds us is our pre-ordained purpose and an act that brings Glory to the Father.

C. Submitting to the hand of the "Vine Dresser" (John 15:1-4)

Last and certainly not least, we’ve got to remember just who we’re producing fruit for. We’re producing fruit for the Glory of the Father. And because we’re producing it for Him, He takes this fruit at face value and harvests it. He harvests this fruit and prunes our branches in order that fresh, new fruit will grow. Pruning isn’t pleasant but it is absolutely beneficial to fruit production.

Should we ever loose focus of just who we’re producing for, we risk serious spiritual peril. Remember the Christ’s admonition about the ones suffering from an "Altar Ego", those are the ones whose righteous acts were being performed for self promotion in the local "Super Saint League". Those righteous acts had no eternal weight and that individual’s only reward would be the hollow, temporary praise of men. No, we produce fruit for the Father and for eternity.


To this point of our Spiritual journey, we’ve all been actively producing fruit. This has either been fruits of the Flesh or Fruits of the Spirit. Regardless of the variety, these fruits all carry eternal weight. We will stand before the Lord of the Harvest and He’ll pronounce His decision. When I stand there, I want to hear him say "Well done..." as I’m sure you do too. Let’s be about rooting ourselves for eternity and producing fruit that will bring the smile of God.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thoughts from Jamestowne

It was a hot day along the shore of the James River, where three vessels were moored at the dock. Several yards uphill were garden plots, disorganized and scattershot by our modern standards. The corn seemed to be planted without rhyme or reason and scattered between the stalks were running vines of squash. This wasn't a garden planted for the eye, it was a garden planted for the survival of its planters.

Across from the corn and squash were stalks of the demon weed, that plant rued and despised across the entire spectra of the "Nanny Culture". Yes, I'm speaking of (Gasp...) Tobacco. Funny, but of all the plants in that eyesore of a garden, it wasn't the squash or corn that ensured the survival of the English settlers in Virginia, It was that weed. Had it not been for tobacco, Jamestowne may well have gone the way of the Roanoke Island endeavor some 40 years prior. The fate of Jamestowne could have been as enigmatic as the "CROATAN" carved into the oak in the Carolinas.

I think its important to note the church that is situated in the center of the Jamestowne compound. Mind you, this colony wasn't ostensibly a theocentric community founded by individuals seeking spiritual liberty apart from the Church of England. No, Jamestowne was designed to be England's ecconomic and political beachhead on the new continent. A bulwark that sat a the mouth of a great river that could repel Spanish aggression, Jamestowne was also to be a base for the harvesting of mineral wealth. Yet there was the church, an unassuming hut of mud, wattle and thatch. It demonstrated the fact that even in a "Secular"colony, a living faith was central to the lives of those carving out a place in the history of the new world.

Monday, August 07, 2006

8/7/06 -- It starts today...

Welcome to "The Catbird Seat", blog of Andy Terry. For those yet to meet me, I'm a Electronics Technician,Web developer, and aspiring Anglican Deacon. I'm the one on the right in the photo. The one on the left s Ms. Lexi, my Westhighland Terrier and faithful sidekick. To add to the mix, I'm also a Christian Libertarian.

"Wow Andy, A Christian Libertarian, isn't a contradiction of tems or a major oxynoron?" Heck no, and as this blog unfolds I hope all would see this. Despite the message being bandied about by the Prophets of PC, we live in a universe of absolutes where a right and wrong exist. We live on a planet where ideas have consequences, and many of these consequences have an eternal import. Though the American Republican Christian Right may get it on many points, they've unfortunately drank the koolaid In the name of political acceptance. They've traded vessels of gold for vessels of brass and have subsequently sold their birthrights only to sit at the conservative "Kids table". We'll talk more about this sad affair later.

Folks visiting this Blog will have the opportunity taste any number comments on the passing scene, random musings and devotional/homelitical thoughts.

More to come. Until then, Grace, Peace and Clarity to you all!