Peaches in October

It’s passing the middle of October.  Yet I am still attracted to the carefully-organized peaches on display at the grocery store.

My slow-walking-then-stop is accompanied by an internal conversation between common sense and my desire for yet one more delicious fruit….peaches in October?  They’re not going to be any goodstill, they don’t look too bad on the outside and I think I can smell a peach scentwhat if these were late-harvested peaches, and they really aren’t so old?

 Two peaches-in-October were carefully placed into the plastic produce bag and carted off to the brightly lit check-out stands.

The next morning, I discovered that the first peach gave me an “OK” eating experience.  Not as juicy or peachy as I would have liked; but peachy-tasting enough, a decent texture, and not too bad…for mid-October.  Then came Peach Number Two the following day:  the odd-colored flesh around the seed gave me warning #1.  The equally odd texture when I sliced it gave me warning #2.  Still, I took a bite…and I don’t know what the flavor actually was, but it definitely was not peachy, and it flew speedily into the nearby open trashcan.

Yep—in my book, peach-buying season really had officially ended.

The reality, of course, is that “peach season” had truly ended at least a couple months earlier.  I had hoped-against-hope that there were still a few “good ones” out there, although I knew the quality would be lacking, the flavor would have declined, and the texture would not be the same as an in-season, truly fresh peach.  Even armed with all these facts, however, the peach still looked so good from the outside I decided to give it a try.

And I felt like the Lord whispered, that’s how compromise gets its traction.  The enemy is a deceiver and what he offers is empty.

The seriousness of His statement gave me a jolt.  It was a weighty and unexpected thought when contrasted with my simple pondering regarding out-of-season peaches.

CompromiseSuperficial appeal.  I could picture myself standing with Eve in the Garden of Eden, contemplating that fruit as “a delight to the eye.” (Gen. 3:6)  The enemy always uses the same strategy — deception, misrepresentation.

Then Proverbs 25:26 came to my mind:  “If a godly man compromises with the wicked, it is like polluting a fountain or muddying a spring.” (Living Bible)

That description provides a vividly graphic mental image.  Although there is no moral consequence to unwisely betting on the quality of October peaches, with moral compromise does come consequence:  to our soul.  To our judgment and perceptions.  To our freedom and honesty in our walk with Him.  To our witness of Him to others.

The Message translates 2 Cor. 6:14-18 with Paul exhorting, “Don’t become partners with those who reject God.  How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong?  That’s not partnership, that’s war.  Is light best friends with dark?  Does Christ go strolling with the Devil?  Do trust and mistrust hold hands?  Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple?  But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.  God himself put it this way:  ‘I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.  So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God.  “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.  I want you all for Myself.  I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.”

When I think of the phrase “gaining traction” I picture a car on the side of a road, slowly trying to enter the established lane.  It’s a deliberate, strategic, well-timed act that requires some element of friction between surface and tire to enable momentum forward.

In our lives, situations and people that generate friction seem to be abundant.  The momentum of the enemy to move forward into the lane of our lives is often easily achieved through simple and random interactions.

When Paul taught the Ephesians, “do not give the devil an opportunity,” (Eph. 4:27 NASB) it was preceded by several instructions, one which is phrased two different ways:  “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25)

Laying aside falsehood.

Speak truth each one of you.

Don’t pretend your October peaches were picked in June.  Granted, that’s not scripture…but the principle is the same.  Don’t deceive yourself or others about the nature of what you contemplate. Through forgiveness and truth, compassion and  humility, keep your fountain clear, your spring of His life unclogged, and your lane of life cleaned of traction-enabling debris.

The Map and Its Alignment

 

map and its alignmentI was short on time, travelling on a narrow road in the right direction but just beginning to realize I had driven considerably past my intended destination.  As an extra step of preparedness, I had even photocopied an internet instruction map and placed it on the seat next to me for quick reference.

This particular fact significantly increased my annoyance:  how was this overshoot even possible when the map illustrated only one main road into the small town and a single turnoff that led directly to the address I sought?

After making a U-turn on the highway and revisiting each of the cross-roads I had just passed, I indeed found where I was headed…and as I examined the map through the lens of having reached the destination, rather than trying to find it, I discovered where the error had occurred:  when the map was enlarged to print, the directional indicators had been cut off.  I had no idea how the roads actually collaborated to a north-south-east-west grid.  Hence, I had diligently searched for my turnoff on the left side of the road, whereas I would have quickly found it on the right.

Despite feeling both foolish and aggravated at myself, I got the sense that this error had actually tickled the Lord’s funny bone.  Exasperated as I was, I felt like He whispered to me,  You’re not the only one who has ever cut off a directional marker.  My kids misread or cut off My directional markers all the time.  And, like you, they end up looking at the map upside down or backwards and come to conclusions based on that error.  That’s why I promised to take all those wrong turns and dead ends and make sense out of them, make them work out for good in their lives

Jesus is so gracious, and that was a timely insight for Him to have shared.

I also started thinking about how easy it is for the enemy to use our misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the map to build strongholds of mistrust, unbelief, cynicism and even a hardened heart towards Him.

Delays.  Denials.  Mis-turns.  Tragedies.  Unexplained and unexpectedly unfortunate events.  Disappointment.  Sorrow.

In the midst of experiencing frequent trials and bewilderment, Paul taught, “For I am convinced that neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

Are you as convinced of that, as was Paul?

If not, the map you are following is not properly aligned with one of the most significant directional markers He has given.

We are able to strengthen ourselves in the Lord by reminding ourselves of this truth that Paul speaks.  And there’s more:  We are also branches of His vine:  “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser…abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 4-5, NASB)

I love the way The Message states John 15:1,4:  “I Am the real vine and My Father is the Farmer…live in Me.  Make your home in Me just as I do in you.  In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me.”

Paul points out the all-encompassing relationship we have with the Father and Son when he asked, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31, NASB)

That is a good question to ponder.  When the “rubber meets the road” and I am personally feeling the skid marks….what are the things I choose to believe about God and His goodness, His guidance, His acceptance of me, His patience, His promises of my destiny?

The truth is, sometimes, we are against us.  Sometimes, the enemy is against us.  But it is never God who is against us, even when tragedy, the unexpected, disappointment or destruction strikes.  The Farmer simply does not go around torching vines, squashing pumpkins or tomatoes, or vindictively destroying His vineyard, the very vineyard He has sacrificed His Son to create and nurture.

Jesus spoke the comforting words, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  (Josh. 1:5, Heb. 13:5)  Actually, Joshua 1:5 states “I will not fail you or forsake you,” while Heb. 13:5 rephrases the promise, “For He has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”  The Passion Translation phrases it, “For hasn’t He promised you, ‘I will never leave you alone, never!  And I will not loosen My grip/hand on your life!”

Quick, align your map with the markers of His inseparable love, our connection with Him as our Vine, His championing our progress forward in every kingdom endeavor.  His Hand is actively and positively at work, He is walking with us, in us, and holding our lives tightly, even possessively.