Friday, August 28, 2015

The Art of Self-Preservation ...

The argument American Christian’s cite to fiercely defend their second amendment privileges to keep and bear arms (apart from hunting) is for “protection”.  The basic premise is that guns offer “good” people protection from “criminals”.  In its most idyllic form the premise simplifies down to the idea that if one just “owns” a gun, they will be prepared for bad things that could happen, and will be able to prevent them.  The original thinking behind incorporating this right into our Constitution was to effectively “protect” the citizenry from the power of the state.  It is this concept of “protection” that give us a sense of comfort.  Our ability to react to bad events in a strong and decisive manner, allows us to feel more secure in a generally insecure world.  And perhaps if our enemy were only human, there could be a small degree of merit in this thinking.  But alas, there are greater powers who threaten our security.  It is in fact through their guile that we take comfort at all in owning a weapon whose sole purpose is to kill.
Our premise of defending the right to own guns is flawed on many levels.  First, it relies upon the notion of control in situations where surprise is most often the first response.  For example, assume you are happily sitting in your living room with your family watching TV.  All of the sudden, armed criminals break down your door, and begin to threaten your family.  Most of us do not watch television with a gun in our lap, aimed at the door, just anticipating it being kicked in … so that we could fire first and kill our potential assailants.  Instead our guns are properly stored (and secured), and likely completely unavailable in this situation.  Thus just owning a gun responsibly in our home, does nothing to “protect” us from a surprise we could not anticipate.  Yet it is exactly this scenario that most inspires gun purchases.
The reality is, that it takes time for the human mind to process an event, particularly one where lives are put at risk.  Keep in mind the criminal is aware of his intentions ahead of time, the scenario is not a surprise to him, he has anticipated what will occur, and is already prepared for it mentally.  It further takes training and discipline to respond appropriately, so that collateral damage is minimized or avoided altogether, and the appropriate response is delivered.  Shooting a family member in an attempt to hit a criminal is hardly the outcome we are looking for.  Our military, and our policing agencies, are given this training … our citizenry is not. 
Most policemen carry guns off hours; my father carried his even to church each week.  While a surprise could still have taken his life, or mine, he had the training to react quickly and appropriately as that was his primary job function.  But even then, at its core, his “gun” offered neither me nor him, any real “protection”.  At best, it offered a counter-measure to someone else’s violent inclinations.  He could have, and would have, killed another person in order to prevent them from killing.  But make no mistake, a gun does not provide a shield from other people’s bullets.  Your bullets do not fire like little patriot missiles, finding and intercepting other peoples bullets before they can do damage.  Instead it is a race of accuracy for who will kill who first.  If the policeman kills the criminal first, we are relieved.  If the criminal kills the policeman first, we are doomed.  In either case, this contest must end in death when bullets start to fly.
Responses however, and deterrence, are not actually the same thing as protection.  And there are many life threatening situations where having a gun does nothing to make them better.  For instance, car accident fatalities are generally something that a gun could do nothing to prevent.  Health issues, pollution issues, improper dietary habits, and slow killers like obesity, and chemical abuse are not at all impacted by whether one owns a gun or not.  Guns have the power to kill quickly, but not much else.  Then there is the more real danger Christians face every day though they are likely less aware of it.  The real danger exists beyond the world which we can see and experience, and lies in the power of a former angel and his compatriots that are bent on causing us nothing but pain, suffering, hopelessness, and death.  Guns have no impact at all on demons, or their leader.  And it is these forces who work to lull us into a false sense of security that relies upon self (and our weapons) to keep us “safe”.
This is actually not a new phenomenon.  Satan has long sought to kill Christ.  He started his efforts in the first war in heaven.  Then again when Christ came to earth, attempting to get Herod to kill Christ at birth.  And Satan never gave up on his quest.  So how did Christ live past being a baby?  How did He make it to the relative age of 30 before He began His ministry?  Why didn’t Satan take Him out as a teenager, or cause an accident to happen in Jesus’ early twenties?  There had to be a reason why Jesus was able to live in a world where Satan was singularly obsessed with killing Him.  How did Jesus, and then His disciples remain truly “protected” without ever owning a single gun?  It is perhaps worth examining one of the incidents where Satan acted to kill Christ (again), long before His appointed time.  It begins as Peter recounts to John Mark in his gospel in chapter four and verse 35 saying … “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. [verse 36] And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.”
The incident begins after a day of teaching the people and disciples in the form of parables or storytelling.  The sun was going down, most of the people were returning home, and Jesus had decided there was a man in desperate need of His attention.  So He planned to go to free Him.  They would take a boat across the Sea of Galilee here in the quiet of the evening.  In fact, the popularity of Jesus was so high, that other listeners elected to go with Him, just to see what would happen next, or hear what He might say next.  So the disciples, several of whom were experienced fishermen, prepared the boat and began the cool, refreshing journey across the Sea.  I can imagine the other little boats doing their best to keep up with the Master, and all of them begin this journey in good spirits and happy to enjoy the beauty of nature in the evening on the quiet waters.
But this condition would not last long.  John Mark continues in verse 37 saying … “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.”  Out of nowhere (unless you count the fact that Satan stood behind it), a storm arose on the quiet Sea.  The fishermen immediately began doing everything they knew how to do, to greet this threat with the appropriate response.  These men were trained, they had seen storms before.  This was not their first rodeo, nor were they novices at these kinds of events.  But this storm was something different.  The hate that stood behind it, bore the mark of the supernatural.  It was a situation beyond their ability to control.  The best of their skills, training, and experience was no match for the hate with which Satan hates the children of God.  The boat began to fill with water.  It was coming in, faster than they could get it out.  It would not be long, before the boat sank to the bottom of the Sea, killing everyone on board, as swimming to shore in this gale force storm was not an option either.  Despite the best efforts of humanity to protect itself, Satan was far more prepared, and strong, than we.
Spiritually, this is the condition we face every day.  Our enemy bears us the same hatred he had for our Lord.  He is better prepared, has far more experience, and what he plans is no surprise to him, only to us.  Our best efforts to protect ourselves, are going to wind up being useless.  Our best training is no match for his hatred and resources.  We will find ourselves in a boat filling up with water, with no viable alternative options.  We will have moved from the beauty of a sunset on the water, to a hurricane force of hate in our face, occupying the whole of our attention, and bent on our immediate destruction coming out of nowhere.  Just like our disciple forefathers.
Often in these times of peril, we begin to question God.  We did not invent this phenomenon either.  The answer to the question however, allows us to discover what real “protection” is made up of.  Peter recounts where Jesus was during all this ruckus in verse 38 saying … “And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?”  Herein is the key to real protection.  It is not within us.  It is found ONLY in the security of knowing how much our God loves us.  Jesus was asleep.  The boat had to be rocking violently.  The waves had to be getting Him wet.  The disciples had to be yelling at each other just to be heard over the noise of the winds and waves.  Yet Jesus was comfortably asleep on a pillow in the rear of the boat.  It was not because this situation was not life threatening, in fact the storm was designed to specifically kill Him.  It was not because He did not care about His disciples or the little fleet of boats that were undoubtedly in the same peril.  He was able to sleep during Satan’s most violent attempt yet at killing Him, because He KNEW His Father loved Him, and was watching.
Christ so trusted in the will of His Father, if God had elected to let Him perish in this storm, He was willing to die, nestled in the Father’s love.  But He also likely knew, that this was not His appointed time, nor was it the appointed manner, in which He would sacrifice His life for how greatly He loves us.  So no matter what, this storm had no chance of killing Him.  The love of His Father God was no less for the disciples or for the little fleet who was following in tow.  But, the difference between the disciples and Christ in how they responded was something God the Father permitted in order to teach where real protection comes from.  We are not protected by our best efforts, but only by His love.  If we meet our end, and claim to be His servants, then we are simply following His path.  But if it is not our time, we will only survive not because of what we do, but because of what He does for us.
The hate of Satan is a constant, both for Christ and for us.  But the love of God is greater than the hate of Satan.  Satan may be able to squash our human life, but God will raise us back up, into the immortality of perfection He has so longed to give us.  In that situation, who really wins?  This is not the life we should treasure, it is in fact the next one that is the only one that matters.  Jesus knew this.  He was able to sleep in response to the hate of Satan, because no matter what, He was safe in the arms of His Father God.  And frankly so are we.  If criminals burst in to your home while your family is watching television and cut short the earthly life we all value so much … it is nothing next the eternal life you greet in the blink of an eye as time is immediately accelerated to His return and you and your family go home to meet Him in the sky.  Nobody wants to die on this earth, but for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ, what comes next whether in this world or the next one, is all that really counts.  Have you stopped to consider the massive number of nights you already spent with your family in front of the TV, where no such intrusion has taken place?  Have you stopped to consider that despite the hate of Satan, you remain largely untouched by this level of rage, because God has already been preserving your lives to give you time to learn what it means to be loved by Him, and to love others like He loves you?
The response of Christ to this threat is the part of this story we most remember.  But I submit, it is His ability to sleep in the face of Satan’s hate that reveals more about where our real protection comes from.  Peter then records Jesus effectively telling the storm to “shhh” as he continues the story in verse 39 saying … “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. [verse 40] And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”  Jesus looks at the raging wind and sea and simply says to quiet down, and nature hears and obeys the voice of its Creator.  The clouds part in an instant.  The night sky emerges from behind what was only moments ago a series of lightning’s and thundering’s that seemed to shake the earth.  The stars and moon are cool and quiet.  The noise is gone.  It is so peaceful the sound of the water gently lapping against the boat is so faint, it hardly draws the mind.  Somehow, the boats are emptied of water, no longer sinking, but as if this storm never even occurred.  The miracle is not one of partiality.  It is a miracle of completeness.  The Gospel of John records that immediately they were found at their destination on the other side of the lake.  What was done here in terms of miracle, was really only Christ restoring things to how they were supposed to be.
But then there was the probing question of Christ … “why” are we SO fearful?  If we cannot control a thing, why should we fear a thing?  Our lives are held in the loving hand of God, they are not our own to control and dictate, and assume will last forever.  His question tugs at the basis of our premise of gun-based protection … it is not our weaponry or training that will preserve our lives … it is the love of God that will see our lives run the course He intends them to run.  We are not intended to be burdened with the fears of those who have no hope in the eternal life our Lord has in store for us.  Death is nothing more than a momentary interruption in what will be an infinite number of days and evenings we spend in perfect love with our families, friends, and our God.  We are not supposed to be afraid of something others fear.  Instead we are to LIVE these lives, loving others to the highest extent possible for as long or as briefly as we have them.  Secure in the knowledge that our way of loving and living is actually going to be eternal, because the love of God has enabled it to be so.
We should have faith in the greater vision of our God.  We should ABANDON fear, and embrace the freedom of knowing our lives are a gift of God that began here, but are slated to never end, in the perfection He is preparing and offering us now and into the future.  That question undermines an entire gun culture when Jesus looks into your soul and asks … “Why” are you SO fearful?  Our ability to kill is not the ability we should cherish.  Our ability to really live is the gift He offers, a life without the burden of “normal” fears.  A life that is made free to love fully, without hesitation or regret.  This is the gift Christ offers.  This is what “faith” can do for us.  A certainty that our lives are in the loving protective hands of our Father God.  It is He who alone can make the hate of Satan simply quiet down.  It is He alone who can remove us from situation beyond our control, or greet us if our eternity all of the sudden begins before we thought it would.
The disciples however, were too overwhelmed with the extent of the miracle, to understand the question Jesus had asked.  Peter has John Mark transcribe their response in verse 41 as he writes … “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  Nature, and Satan remain completely subservient to the power of our God.  The love of Christ is no match for the hate of Satan, for Satan loses every single time to it.  But the certainty of Christ that allowed Him to sleep in this storm, and the magnitude of what happens when Jesus says “shhh” is something we should take comfort in ourselves.  Our world is filled with the hate and danger these followers of Christ faced that night on the sea.  It comes to us out of nowhere.  We cannot anticipate it.  We can only respond to it.  Our weapons, our training, and our experience are no match for it when it comes.  But in spite of this, we need have no fear of it. 
It is our “fear” that drives us to actions we so often regret.  It is our “fear” the compromises our ability to live and to love, and makes our lives ones of mediocrity.  We allow our fear to put a muzzle on our spontaneity and our generosity and become creatures of no distinction, living lives of timidity.  Yet we need not fear at all.  For even death, is not our enemy, only our fear remains in that role.  Beyond the death that will surely come to us all in this life, whether by old age, disease, or the maleficence of another; waits a life of perfection, where pain no longer exists, and love reigns supreme.  What lies beyond our death is far better and greater than we can now imagine.  So, confident in this knowledge, why live lives limited by fear, which has no basis or meaning for us?  This is not a call to live recklessly, it is a call to live completely.  This is not a call to abandon reason, but a call to embrace the magnitude of what loving another can do in the life you have right here and now. 
This is a call to abandon the notion that inflicting death on another is the role you should play.  Leave that role to our police, our military, and the souls who choose to serve and sacrifice their own lives on our behalf.  Better to be left to those who serve us in this way, than to believe everyone should have to bear the burden of taking lives to preserve and protect this existence.  Our real protection comes from our God’s love, not from our weaponry.  Our ability to walk another day in this earth alone come from Jesus, not from Smith and Wesson.  We can, through our surrender to Him, and His gracious mercy to us, live a life in the absence of fear.  We can live a life where each day is a precious opportunity to love someone else and make their life just a little bit better.  We can love this way unburdened by fear, and certain in the knowledge of the love our Father God.  We can live with absolute certainty that our lives with Jesus have only just begun.  Where we place our feet tomorrow, whether on the concrete of this world, or the golden streets of the next one, can be in the love our Father God.  This is the beauty of the certainty of Christ that allowed Him to sleep in the midst of Satan’s most violent attack.  It is the beauty our faith can offer us, if we let it …

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mystery of Reclamation ...

Not many of us prefer to ponder the idea that our tap water may well have gone through our sewer system at one point or another.  It is a difficult concept to grasp that water that was once filthy and unfit to drink could somehow be chemically “cleaned” to the point where we would not hesitate to fill our ice trays and drinks with it.  Perhaps it is equally ironic, if not disturbing, that the quality of our soil can be richly enhanced by adding fertilizer to it.  The chief ingredient of fertilizer being excrement.  Yet after adding perhaps the most disgusting substance on planet earth, which itself is composed of nothing but “waste” materials fit for no other purpose, our farm lands or gardens produce much better crops than if we had simply left the soil without this “precious” resource.  When we look at a bright fresh bowl of fruit on our kitchen table, and enjoy digging in to a fresh cold sweet harvest of berries, or citrus, we really have no idea “how” an infant seed, exposed to disgusting ingredients, in a generally polluted world, through a process of growth we did not witness, nor cause … results in such a delicious treat our bodies long for and enjoy.  We have a notional idea of how crops grow, and how resources can be reclaimed, but the details remain mostly a mystery.
The composition of the human mind and heart are infinitely more complex than the simple seed which will one day become a sweet berry, or an ear of corn, or an herb we season our food with.  The mind, like our soil and untreated water, can become a place of great pollution, waste, and darkness.  It is the inevitable result of having embraced the addiction of self-love and sin we are covered with.  It is a degenerative process, which would have us slide deeper and deeper into a muck fit to grow nothing, add no value, and become something only bent on taking, and “offering” little & only when there is a chance at greater rewards for doing so.  Our minds of greed, and our hearts of stone, are hardly the right place for any seed to grow.  To plant a seed of Love here, could only be done by a Farmer we would call “insane”.  We, are not good ground in which to grow anything.  We, are a toxic un-reclaimed section of scorched earth, with a history of destroying everything we touched.  We, are known for causing pain, not for relieving it.  Yet somehow, our Father God, chooses to do the unthinkable.  He comes to plant seed here, in us, and on purpose.  Why?  What does He know that we do not?
The mystery of how a corrupted mind and heart can be reclaimed is unknown by us.  And this is not a new phenomenon.  Peter recalls to John Mark in his gospel in chapter 4 the continuation of this theme and analogy that Christ used to teach us about salvation.  He begins in verse 26 recalling the words of Christ saying … “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; [verse 27] And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.”  We do not see the seed opening up underground.  We do not see it take root.  We only see it when it emerges from the earth and begins to grow.  “Why” a seed grows is not just a metaphysical question, particularly when considering why “this” seed grows, but that one does not.  The farmer in this analogy plants a seed and time passes, and it grows.  But the “why” it grows remains a mystery to the farmer.  The “process of growth” is NOT up to the farmer.  The human farmer in this analogy is a “witness” to the growth, not the cause of it.
Understood in the context of spreading the gospel … “we” do not “save” others.  We may have the joy of spreading the “seed” of the gospel.  We may introduce people to Christ.  But that is where our part of the story ends.  The “process of growth” is NOT up to us.  We do not get to rush it, and should not slow it down.  This is true in ourselves, and in others.  The “process of growth” is contained WITHIN the seed itself.  In this instance, the “Seed” can overcome the pollution it comes in contact with.  The “Seed” is capable to reclaiming the excrement and untreated water of our lives, and purify it, for the purposes of making something wonderful grow within us.  The Love that grows within us, is the love of Christ for others; as it grows it will become evident to the world around us.  We begin to treat other people differently.  This is the key evidence to us, and to those around us, that the seed is taking root and springing forth.  All of the sudden, the focus is no longer on the earth, it is on the plant.  All of the sudden, the pollution and muck of our lives, is no longer the focus, it is the plant of love that is springing forth from our muck, despite all the odds against it.
“How” this occurs is a mystery to us.  Peter continues recalling the words of Christ in verse 28 saying … “For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. [verse 29] But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”  The growth that takes place is not immediate, or completed in an instant.  It takes time to transition from seed, to blade, to ear, to corn.  Trust takes time.  Full submission takes time to achieve.  We must come to realize that what we “give up” to Christ, are not things we wanted or needed in the first place.  What we “treasure” today about ourselves, are things we come to despise later when we see them for what they truly were.  The things about us that we take pride in, are the very things we would be better off without.  In short, when diseased soil looks at itself, it does not think badly about what it sees.  But when pure water sees what untreated water looks like, it cannot imagine ever “wanting” to be that dirty.  As we learn to trust God, we come to see He does actually save us in spite of ourselves.  As we see Him tenderly pick us back up after we have thrown away His victories, and continue to tend to us, despite our lack of response, we come to “know” that He is bent on saving us.
It is unfortunate that we are such slow learners, but the level of our disease is great.  Despite the process of growth taking time however, it does continue to occur.  And at every point in time, there is an evidence of how mature His Love in us actually is.  We can measure our progress by how deeply we care about others, and how little we care about ourselves.  If those scales do not tilt the way we wish they would, perhaps we are not as mature as we would like to think ourselves as being in the Christian journey of transformation.  Again this is not a measurement of how complete our doctrinal understanding is, it is a measurement of how deep our passion for others is.  What is planted within us is a seed of Love, not a seed of mere wisdom.  We can already be “smart”, or “wise”, but lack all notion of what it means to love another.  A brilliant Christian can expound on the meaning of scripture, and the interpretation of prophecy, and still have NO concept of who Jesus is, and how He loves others.  It is Love that saves us.  His love for us, and His love for others reflected through us.
What is most evident to the Farmer … this time the heavenly Farmer … is when the growth process has been completed and when the harvest is ready.  It is the sickle that is used to gather the ripe ears of corn to feed those in need.  We are cut off from the lives we once knew.  We are taken away from our past, though the seed of the corn remains with the Harvest.  The self-perpetuating seeds of Christ, are still found in the berries, the corn, or the herbs.  Even when the fruit is cut off from the plants, the seed remains.  Without Christ we could never be saved.  If we were to be cut off from Christ, we would wither and die, and our love for others would die as well.  It is His undying love for others, which can remain ever green within us.  It is His strength to love the unlovable that can inspire us to do the same.  We do not need to rely upon our own strength to “be good people” and to love others.  Instead we can “reflect” His love for them, and His passion for them, through us.  We can simply get out of His way, and not limit Him, but provide Him unlimited access to strengthen our Love for others, and renew our physical being when we would otherwise be exhausted by human weakness.  Instead of attempting to be good, we can simply let go control to Christ, and watch Him actually make us into something we never thought possible.
The Harvest can feed the world.  It is not the process of growth that saves others.  It is the offering of fruit, the offering of Love for them, of meeting their needs, that awakens them to how much God loves them, which begins the process of saving them.  We do not offer the world in need a green leaf from the corn plant, something that is not ready yet to love, and cannot offer sustenance of love the hungry needs.  We offer them fully ripe, and ready harvest, the fruit that is laden with the Seeds of Christ and His love for others; offered in a tangible way.  It is not the idea of Love the world needs, it is the tangible meaningful example of Love it needs.  Speaking words is not enough, the fruit is driven to do something.  The fruit is so driven, because it is no longer just holding a single seed.  The seeds within the fruit have multiplied such that the fruit can hardly contain them all.  The Love of Christ for others reaches such a growth point within us, that we are literally driven to DO SOMETHING for others.  We do not sit still and remain steeped in our apathy, because our apathy has been driven from us.  We have so much passion, we MUST do, we have to do, we will not … just sit.
What was once a plot of muck and mire, a mix of untreated sewer water and excrement, has become a fruit of brilliant color and excellent taste.  The focus is no longer on the dirt from which we emerged, or the sins that once dominated our existence, but it is on the Love of Christ we are now so fully reflecting to those in the most desperate need of it.  We have become a delicious berry, or a wholesome ear of corn, or a seasoning herb that enriches the meals of others.  Our purpose is no longer to simply grow, it is to feed others.  This was the mission all along.  The growth was only the journey that would lead us to become something that would feed the world.  Our goal was not simply to produce a leaf, or get a little taller.  It was to reach maturity in the reflection of His Love to the world, as demonstrated within us. 
The magnitude of what we can become in this theme needed further clarification, and so Jesus continued to teach Peter and the others, as John Mark records in verse 30 saying … “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? [verse 31] It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: [verse 32] But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”  A grain of a mustard seed is indeed a very small herb in its seedling state.  When looking at how small a thing it is, one could hardly imagine how large it can grow.  Well beyond a bowl of berries, or even a dozen ears of corn, the mustard seed will grow until it is a large tree with great branches shooting out in space.  It will offer the world shade, and become a place where even birds can make their nests.  Not only can our love for others become nearly infinite, as we begin to reflect the infinite love of Christ, our love can reach out to our physical world and the animals He created in it.  A tree does more than just feed humans, it offers other benefits that nature enjoys.  While providing shade, and bird lodging are hardly its first priority, they are certainly not omitted from the list of benefits it provides.
Think of the literally millions of seeds a single mustard seed tree can provide.  Think of how the time of harvest comes year after year from the plants God sees fit to save and grow, and reclaim.  There is a reason why God prefers the math of multiplication where it comes to spreading the gospel.  While He is fully focused on the single seed planted in you, He fully intends to see a harvest grow that will multiply exponentially the love for you He has, into love for others that was there all along.  The point was to save more than just one seed, but in so doing, to multiply the harvest in others.  Your reclamation project was not about changing the soil composition, or purification of the water in the mud of your life.  It was and is, about changing the focus from the ground, to the plant, to the fruit.  It was about altering who you are, to a point where you can hardly recognize who you were.  The goal of your reclamation, was not to teach you “how” the transition takes place.  God knows the “how”.  The goal of your reclamation was to be re-claimed, and re-created.  Attempting to control the “how” only slows down the process.  Submitting and trusting in God, speeds it up.
Mark concludes in verse 33 writing … “And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. [verse 34] But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.”  Christ chose to speak to His followers, both then and now through scripture, in the form of parables of storytelling because it was effective.  It gives us a chance to learn truth, every time we reopen the word.  These themes and analogies have much to offer, as long as we continue to view them through the lens of Jesus Christ, and His ultimate mission to see mankind redeemed, reclaimed, and reconciled to God.  Like any story, not everything is literal, and not every analogy holds up in every single point of detail; but the themes of salvation and redemption can be easily seen, if one chooses to look.  While we may never understand “how” Christ saves us, what is clear from these stories, and the example of His life, is “why” He chose to save you and I … He loves us.  It was Love that motivated God to reach out and save us, even when we were not certain that is what we wanted.  It is Love that can awaken the heart of the unbeliever to the knowledge that there is something more out there, and something better, and they too can experience it.  It is Love that is the Seed of Christ, planted in a human heart. 
I would pray to become the fruit, driven to feed others; and not remain the dirt mired in a focus of only our pain and past.  I would see my apathy, replaced with passion that cannot sit still.  There is so much more than we have hardly imagined … and Peter’s gospel through Mark was still in its infancy.