So Blessed

This past Sunday, our Sunday school class spent our time reflecting on the story in Matthew 16 of when Jesus asked the disciples “Who do you say the Son of Man is?” If you are familiar with the story then you remember that Simon Peter answered this most important question by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

Jesus could have said to Peter, “Nice job Peter, you got the answer right,” but instead Jesus alerted Peter    to the fact that he was “blessed” to have received the gift of revelation from the Father about the nature of his  Son, Jesus.

This past week I’ve been meditating on how “blessed” I also am in having received that revelation from Father about the nature and person of Jesus Christ as well as the gift of faith to believe that revelation.

Then, on Wednesday night I met a member of our congregation in the hallway by my office and I asked how she was doing. She said she was “blessed” and proceeded to share with me several ways she was blessed. Again, I believe it is a wonderful gift when Father makes us aware of how blessed we are.

On another occasion, Jesus revealed more truth to those who gathered to hear his teaching about how a person would know if they’re blessed. And just in case you’re not sure if you’re blessed, I’ve included Jesus’ examples from Matthew 5 to help you. (And please, take your time; revelation rarely occurs when you’re in a hurry).

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

So how about it, did Jesus’ list help you discover at least one way you are blessed? Any fresh revelations? For me today, verse 5. May it be so with you and me that we would be growing in our understanding of all the ways we are blessed!

And now, may the Lord bless you and keep you…,

Mike Altena

 

 


Hide It Under a Bushel – NO!

I was recently visiting with a member of our congregation and he shared with me that it seemed like the picture on his television was getting darker so he invited his grandson to come over to his home to check out his television to see if there was any way he could make the picture brighter. In addition he mentioned how he had gradually lost his ability to read the newspaper. Well, a few weeks ago he had cataract surgery in which they removed the cloudy lens of his eye and replaced it with an artificial one that was clear. He said, “Within a day I could read the newspaper without glasses again and the television was also remarkably clear.”

As I was reflecting on his story, Jesus’ words from Luke 11:34 immediately came to mind.

34 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”

Here Jesus describes how our perception affects our soul. When Jesus refers to healthy eyes, he meant eyes that not only see well, but also that perceive well. So it’s not only what we see, but how we perceive that impacts our ability to live as the light of the world. Bad eyes lead to bad perception, but if our spiritual eyes are good, our body, soul and spirit will be illuminated. Just like, if we are in a well lit room, we see things clearly and therefore are able to easily navigate around the obstacles in the room. On the other hand walking in a dark room will often result in walking into tables and chairs and doorways.

Everyday our eyes filter thousands of images that are good or evil, beneficial or harmful, and our perception of them, the meaning we give to them, or the story we tell ourselves about them inform our world view. If we perceive goodness, goodness will radiate outward from within our hearts and minds. However, if we allow our eyes to linger on evil, eventually darkness will begin to emanate from within and can corrupt us and those around us.

In preparing for our message on putting on the belt of truth, I am reminded of II Corinthians 11:14 where Paul alerts us to the fact that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. The number one scheme of the devil to destroy you and me is to cloud our vision—to make us think we found the light when it’s actually the darkness of a false light. His intention is to slowly blind us to the truth and therefore corrupt our minds and eventually our behavior.

Using his army of demons and those who follow him, the father of lies continually parades a never ending stream of evil for us to gaze upon. In addition to all the images that feed the lust of our eyes and the lusts of our flesh, Satan would also try to deceive us into thinking that he is actually winning the battle between light and dark and that God is helplessly trying to figure out how to stop him.

Satan would love nothing more for us than to focus on the darkness of a health issue that doesn’t appear to be improving, on strained relationships, on the rising cost of providing for your family, on the current challenge of the harvest including yields and commodity prices, on the political turmoil in America, on the inability of the church to be the light of the world…and the list goes on and on.

But not so with you and me. Let’s pause and invite Jesus to perform his spiritual cataract surgery on you and me. Jesus is the light of the world. In this world we will have trouble, but the Truth is, he has overcome all that we perceive as darkness.  35 “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”     Hide it under a bushel, NO!! Mike Altena

 


Receive Mercy, Give Mercy

On Saturday, September 14, ESPN’S “College Game Day” was broadcasted from Ames, Iowa prior to the football matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones. During the broadcast, Carson King held up a homemade sign that could be seen in the background which read, “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” followed by his Venmo user name. (Venmo is a means of sending money through social media).

Kings’s phone immediately started ringing with notifications from Venmo. Within 30 minutes, the 24 year old had received donations of over $400. King was quite surprised he would receive any donations since it was intended as a joke.

After speaking with his family about it, he decided that, minus the cost of a case of Busch Light, he’d give the rest of the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. As word spread of his plans to donate the money, more and more people decided to contribute. Eventually, Venmo and Busch Beer offered matching funds and by Sunday morning, the contributions—including Venmo and Busch matches—had raised 1.14 million dollars and more money was still coming in.

In addition to the matching funds, Busch Beer sweetened the deal by offering King, now dubbed the “Iowa Legend” a year’s supply of Busch Light and they were going to put his picture and name on the cans of Busch Light.

King was ecstatic about reaching the one million dollar mark and now has set a goal of raising two million dollars for the Children’s Hospital by the end of the month. Kind of a cool story, right?

Well after hearing about the unfolding story, the Des Moines Register decided to send a reporter to interview King. However before doing so, the reporter dug into King’s past social media posts and discovered that when he was 16 years old, King apparently sent a racial tweet. Deciding the seven year old media post was pertinent information to the outcome of the story, the Des Moines Registered published the Tweet. Busch Beer soon heard about the young man’s foolish mistake, and although they are still going to honor their donation to the children’s Hospital, they announced they are cutting any ties with King.

Hearing that the Des Moines Register had discovered his foolish social media post of seven years ago, Carson King immediately apologized to the public for his comments. Venmo announced they have forgiven King, acknowledging we all say and do stupid things when we are young. Now there is an outcry against the Des Moines Register for ruining the story by publishing needless information.

When I reflect on the story several thoughts come to mind. Doing something as a joke can have surprising outcomes that can change your life in a hurry; be careful when doing something as a joke. Be careful what you post on social media, you never know how it might be used against you. In my opinion, for the Register to publicize King’s social media post from when he was in high school was senseless. Like the Apostle Paul, I am grateful that God doesn’t hold my past against me, but rather can use it for his glory.

Maybe the Des Moines Register could also learn a thing or two about mercy from Paul’s testimony in I Timothy 1:15-16.  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

There is no doubt that sometimes we will pay the price for our past sin, however I praise God that he keeps no record of my wrongs and that his love covers a multitude of sins. And may it be so with you and me that we would be quick to drop our rocks.

Grace to you and peace, Mike Altena

 


In It To Win It

I recently stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few items, and after I returned to my car, I noticed two young girls, maybe third and fifth graders, approaching the car parked next to me. Walking about fifty feet in front of their mom, who had a cart full of packages, I could tell they were very excited because they were carrying a new board game. You remember how it was when you were a kid and you got a new game or toy and you couldn’t wait to get home to play it.

Well, as they were getting into the car I noticed the game they bought was the “Game of Life.” As I began to reflect on their sense of excitement about their new game, I could only imagine how happy they were hoping this game would make them feel. Then another thought entered my mind, I wondered how many times they would play their game before it became just another game among the stack of games they already have—would they be able to make it to Christmas before they asked for another new game.

As I continued to reflect on the experience, I realized how often I have been like those girls in my life. I can remember the excitement of driving my first car home. I was so happy…but it wasn’t long before I began thinking about another car. I can remember my first job, I was so excited and happy…but it wasn’t long before I began thinking about what it would be like to work for someone else. And then I can remember my first girl friend, I was so excited, she seemed so special, but then it wasn’t long… before she began thinking about what it would be like to date someone else (yes, she dumped me).

Life seems to be full of those experiences, doesn’t it?  You buy something, or you find that perfect job, you hope will make you happy. You fall in love with that perfect person and you can’t wait to get married because you know he/she will make you so happy. Or you take your little cuddly bundle of joy home, only to discover he/she won’t sleep and they keep needing to be fed and diapered—and you wish at the end of the day you could just put them in the toy box with all the other toys. Yes, how often the things we hope will bring happiness, leave us feeling empty.

This all led me to begin thinking about “my new life in Christ,” was it still everything I had hoped for. Am I experiencing the joy and peace and happiness that God intended? Have I become bored with my life, or am I feeling the excitement of being part of the bigger story that God is writing? As God’s story unfolds in my life, could I truly have been put on earth for such a time as this?  And if I didn’t choose to become a follower of Jesus, but he was the one who chose me to bear fruit, am I bearing fruit that lasts?

May it be said of us that we are a people of God who are truly passionate and joyful about the gift of life. And having been called “to be a blessing in this world” (Genesis 12:1-4), may we never become weary of participating in God’s mission.

In it to win it,

Mike Altena

 

 

 


A Day Off

This past Wednesday Vicki and I had the opportunity to go to a Twins baseball game with our son Jonathon and his wife, Chelsey. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a baseball game. Having once dreamed of playing in the majors, I quickly found myself wondering what it would be like to be talented enough to be paid anywhere from $550,000 to $13,000,000 a year to play the game of baseball.  (And even though in our game, only three players got on base).

For those of you who have never attended a game, going to a MLB baseball game is a unique entertainment experience.  Before the game begins, some special person is given the privilege of throwing out the “first pitch.” In our case it was a young high school girl from some town in Minnesota who has set all kinds of pitching records in girls fast pitch softball. It must have been a pressure packed moment for her since her pitch didn’t even get close to the catcher.

A little bit later some lucky young boy gets to bring the first baseball out and set it on the pitcher’s mound. Then after that special moment a veteran from the Iraq War was honored followed by some 70 year old guy who loved to sing in his church’s choir who always dreamed of singing the National Anthem at a Twin’s game. Then finally, another very special little boy, maybe three to four years old get’s the spot light and he squeaks out “wet’s pway baseball!”

Like I mentioned earlier, in this game the Twins couldn’t seem to get a hit so the game seemed fairly boring. I guess maybe that was ok, since I was actually only able to see about half of the game. Yes,  Jonathon found us some great tickets on the lower level about half way between first base and right field and I was lucky enough to have an aisle seat. But the only reason you would want an aisle seat is if you had to go to the bathroom every inning. The bad thing about an aisle seat was that there was a never ending stream of fans walking up and down the steps who either had to go to the bathroom or to get more hotdogs or pretzels or gyros or french fries and sodas.

Then in addition to those people interrupting my view, you have the vendors who are playfully trying to get you to buy their tasty ice cold $10 bottles of Bud light and $5.50 bags of Fischer’s peanuts or $5.00 boxes of popcorn or cotton candy or ice cream treats or raffle tickets. And then just when the view clears and you think you’re going to have a chance to watch the game, a tap on your right shoulder means it’s time to stand up so someone from your aisle can exit or return.  Now please don’t think I didn’t enjoy my experience at the ball park; we had a great time!

And yet the following morning after reading Acts chapter 9, I found myself reflecting on the nature of my entertainment experience. Here I was, sitting and watching a bunch of grown men play a game of baseball with 30,000 fans gorging themselves on food and drink, meanwhile the Apostle Paul was trying to figure out a way to escape those who were trying to kill him because of his bold preaching. Like, how am I supposed to process that?

Who knows, maybe Luke just never told the story of when Paul took the day off to go to a baseball game. 🙂

Grace to you and peace,

Mike Altena

 


Seriously, But Not Literally

Several days ago I received an email from a random web designer in Michigan who was offering his services to help our ministry with our website if needed. In order to display some of his work he submitted three examples of some websites he had designed.

Curious to check out the quality and creativity of his work, I clicked on one of the three links and I found this information on one of the church’s home page. “The UCC tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages heart and mind; we are non-doctrinal and respectful of other faith traditions. We take the Bible seriously but not literally.” My initial response was WHAT!!!?? What a wretched declaration!

Well, in order to gain clarity about who this congregation/denomination was claiming to be, I had to get out my dictionary:

Progressive = (of a group, person, or idea) favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Unabashedly= without embarrassment or shame.

Non-doctrinal= not concerned with the belief or set of beliefs held and taught by the Church

Seriously= with earnest intent; not lightly or superficially.

Not literally= not in a literal manner or sense; not exactly.

As I reflect on their declaration, what I see is adherence to the deception of relative truth. For them, truth is a set of beliefs determined by who has the most power or who has the most votes.

So I wonder, how does a person take something seriously, but not literally. Like, that sounds like my approach to my wedding vow to cherish Vicki when we first got married; I took it seriously, but not literally. (I actually cherished myself way more than I cherished her).

And then I wondered, how do I say to Jesus in my prayer time, “You know that stuff you said in Luke 14 about giving up everything in order to become one of your disciples, well I take that very seriously, but of course not literally.”

With an approach to the Bible like that, then one could also say, “Jesus did say that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, but he didn’t really mean that small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it—silly Jesus.”

The more I thought about the statement, the more my heart was filled with sadness. And yet the more I thought about the statement, the Holy Spirit convicted me that my heart was also becoming more and more filled with self-righteousness. See because, I would never dare say that “I take the Bible seriously, but not literally,” but a daily review of my life would show there are many occasions when I don’t take the word of God seriously or literally.

Even though the Bible says I am not to engage in idolatry, I find that I have many idols. Even though the Bible tells me not to lie, out of fear I often find myself lying. Even though Jesus said, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full,” I fill my daily planner with so many other activities that I have no time left for seeking the wandering sojourner. What a wretched man I am!

Father, I pray that you open the eyes of the heart of the UCC that they would see that it’s not progressive ideology and relative truth that sets a person free, but that freedom is found in Christ alone, through grace, by faith alone, to the glory of God alone. And may it not be so with me that I would ever think it’s acceptable to take your Word seriously, but not literally. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Reformed and always being reformed,

Mike Altena

 


Strength In The Lord

Often times these articles are birthed from an experience that creates an emotional hook. For example, during last week’s little wind storm that blew through the area, one of the trees in the boulevard at the south end of church’s property broke off right at the ground—no, not just a limb, the whole tree broke off. So I thought about writing an article about the tree and making the connection about the importance of being spiritually healthy in your inner being. But no!

And then I thought about writing an article in response to a conversation I had with someone who was extremely angry at God because his plan includes good people being killed in car crashes. But no! (God was not to blame).

And then after spending a little time at the Rock County Fair and looking at the pigs, and the horses, and the kangaroos, and emus, I thought about writing about the creative nature of God. Or after walking by the little food stands, I thought about writing an article in response to how easily I am lured to feed on junk food. But no!

No, this article is written in response to a story I read recently from 1 Samuel 30. It goes like this…

1 Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

After reading the story, I tried to imagine the level of discouragement David must have felt when he arrived back from deployment to war, only to find his community destroyed and his family had been kidnapped. And then not only his family, but I tried to imagine the weight of the responsibility he felt towards all the soldiers who were fighting with David whose families were also kidnapped. And then I tried to imagine the fear and the loneliness David must have felt when he discovered his friends wanted to stone him.

I began to think about all the things that have recently caused me to be discouraged. Of course, none of my reasons for discouragement come close to the level of discouragement David felt, simply because most of my reasons for discouragement are the result of “rich people problems.”

But then did you notice how David responded to what seemed a most hopeless situation? It says, “But David found strength in the Lord.” The English Standard Version says, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord.” Don’t you just love that verse!! No matter what it is that causes you and me to lose heart, we can always strengthen ourselves in the Lord.

So then I began to wonder, well how does a person go about finding strength in the Lord? But no! I’m out of room. So give me a call; we can go for a cup of coffee and discuss some ideas.

The joy of the Lord is my strength,

Mike Altena

 


Our Source of Comfort

A few weeks ago Vicki and I went to the Pizza Ranch for lunch. While I was scoping out all the delicious rations on the various food troughs, I noticed a little boy who was doing the same thing. The little lad walked around the pizza trough, and then around the chicken and taters trough, and then around the roughage trough.

And then suddenly he turned and realized he was all alone. His face immediately was filled with panic as he quickly scanned the room looking for his daddy. Unable to find him, his voice beginning to crack, he cried out in fear, “Daddy!!!” Immediately his daddy stepped forward from behind the pizza trough and reassured his son saying, “I’m right here son, I’m right here!”

As I reflected on what had just happened, I immediately realized how much I am like that little boy. For so many of my days and weeks and months I feel confident as I go about navigating the wide variety of experiences this world has to offer, but then something difficult happens and suddenly I feel very alone. And like the little boy, I cry out to Daddy seeking his presence, knowing he is a source of comfort, help, and deliverance. Much like David did in Psalm 34 when he was feeling lonely and afraid, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Are you feeling alone, afraid, troubled, and brokenhearted? The Pizza Ranch is not the place to turn to for comfort, but rather turn to God’s word and taste and see that the Lord is good!!

1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Radiantly content and at peace, Mike Altena

 


Daily Toil

After replacing the two windows on the north side of our house recently and then looking at all the paint that is peeling, I began to reflect on how much time and money we spend on maintenance.

Changing the oil, rotating the tires, mowing the lawn, replacing the bearing, getting your hairs cut, oiling the roller chains, vacuuming the living room floor, having a body part fixed or replaced, filling the water softener tub with salt, drinking a glass of water, sharpening the blade, trimming your nails, washing the car, meeting with your mentor, washing the clothes, going to the meeting, washing the body, fixing the fence, painting the deck, replacing the light bulb, trimming the trees, replacing the roll of toilet paper, going to the chiropractor, going to the eye doctor, going to the body doctor, and going to the teeth doctor, trimming the lawn and trimming the long hair growing in your ears, sweeping out the garage, trimming the trees and the hair that grows in your nose, eating breakfast, cleaning the barbeque grill, pausing to pray for yourself or with a friend, spraying for bugs, replacing the ink in the copier, picking up rocks, washing the windows, cleaning your glasses, gathering for worship, dusting the end table, greasing the bearings, fixing the gate, repairing the water way, replacing the o-rings in the faucet, taking a nap,         re-siding the house, going on a date night, edging the side walk, emptying the garbage, studying your Bible, cleaning the shower, picking up branches and twigs, getting your vaccine shots, refilling the bird feeder, writing a note of encouragement, running on the elliptical, going to bed for the a good night’s rest (or for whatever sleep you can get in your season of life), pulling weeds, watering the flowers, replacing the shingles, brushing your teeth, eating lunch, meeting a friend for coffee, ironing your dress shirts, re-seeding the bare spot in the lawn, observing a daily office, spraying the weeds, staining the deck, mopping the floor, blowing out the air filter, singing along with a worship song, replacing the furnace filter, enjoying a bonfire with your spouse or family…I’ll let you finish the list.

When I reflect on my list of all that we do to maintain our daily lives, two scriptures come to mind, the first is from Genesis 1:28 where God invites us to join him as co-creators both in word and action.  God has given us the responsibility of managing and stewarding the earth.

The second is a few verses from Ecclesiastes 3. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted,…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;…What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time….12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Grace and peace to you as you enjoy the gift of life, even in the midst of the daily toil, Mike Altena

 


Weed Sowing

If I remember right, in 2017 we had a hot and dry spell that lasted long enough that a portion of the grass in my front yard went dormant. So dormant in fact that when the rains came and the temperatures cooled in the fall, there was a significant dead spot in my lawn.

Seeing that the lawn was dead and that it wouldn’t be growing back, that fall I lightly tilled it up and sowed some new seed. I began to water the area and faithfully continued to water that area until winter set in with no signs of new growth.

So in the spring of 2018, I lightly tilled up the area again and sowed some more new grass. Although I barely needed to water the area because of all the rain we had during May of last year, I continued to water the area during the month of June—but still no new grass grew. Later in the summer I had a friend who has an over-seeder come and he sowed some more new grass into the sun-scorched and barren area of my lawn.  Again I faithfully watered the area, however, after sowing nearly enough grass to cover a football field—STILL NOTHING!! (So much for Scott’s Turf Builder Quick Mix Fix Grass Seed)

After months of sleepless nights trying to discern if I have a soil problem or a seed problem, I planned on trying to re-seed again this spring. However with all the rain, I have been unable to do anything with the area.  Now here’s a most disturbing discovery over the past few weeks, apparently while I wasn’t paying attention, someone snuck in and sowed a nice fresh crop of clover.  Like, how does that work? I spend all that energy trying to grow good seed, but then an enemy of mine comes in and sows some clover and it pops right up.

Kind of reminds me of when Jesus told the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13, 24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.”

Now if you’re like the disciples and me, you would like an explanation of what the parable means. And like for the disciples, Jesus is also pleased to clarify for us. 37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil.

After spending a week in Washington DC in May, it’s become clear to me that the battle between the good seed that Jesus is sowing and the bad seeds the devil is sowing is intensifying. The devil has clearly intensified his weed sowing efforts in our state and in our country in hopes of choking out the good seed.

Life in such a kingdom, until Jesus comes again, has the potential to be much more difficult so it’s vitally important for us to continue to stand strong and to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

And unlike that pesky clover that is corrupting my lawn, may it not be so with you and me that when the harvester comes that he would find us corrupting his kingdom.

Shining like the sun in the Kingdom of the Father, Mike Altena