The Plowshare

Once upon a time a farmer surveyed his fields. As he looked, all he could see was the devastation left from the storm. His crops were ruined. What was he supposed to do? Was it too late to replant? 

Totally discouraged he prayed, “O Lord, give me wisdom, strength and peace. I don’t know what I should do?” Suddenly he heard, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) 

As he pondered the word from the Lord, he realized that “Be still” was an inner attitude, not inaction. It definitely did not mean – do nothing!

Yes, he would have to clean up the damage from the storm, but when that was completed the farmer was unsure of his next step.

A week passed and the debris had been removed. “Be still” remained his focus. He rested, prayed and spent extra time with his family.

He had peace that he was following the Lord’s instructions. Meanwhile, his fields remained fallow (unplanted). 

His family and friends kept asking him what he was going to do. He replied that he was trusting the Lord and trying to “Be still.”

He sharpened his tools and got his farm machinery ready. Still his fields remained fallow. By now it was too late to replant.

He studied about the Israelite farmers in the Old Testament. They were commanded to let their fields lie fallow during the seventh year. “Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyards and gather the fruit thereof. But the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath unto the Lord.” (Lev 25:3-4) 

He came to understand that the fallow field year was a time of refreshing. He experienced the Lord’s peace and goodness.

He understood that the Lord had him in His hands. He learned to savor this special time with the Lord.

Then spring came. The Lord told the farmer it was time to “break up his fallow ground.” (Hosea 10:12) The farmer got his sharpened plowshare and joyfully began to till his fields. He was now in a new season…. And so it is with us.

Sometimes we get frustrated or discouraged when it seems the Lord does not allow us to plant. Sometimes He has us in a season of rest and trust. Pushing against the restraints often brings more frustrations, but when we decide to be still, and know that He is God, we discover that He really is able. When He is ready to restart our growing season, He, Himself, will take His plowshare. He will cut through the weeds that have been in our lives. 

The new season might look different than the past, but that’s okay. Life is not stagnant. Are you willing to be in a fallow season?

Being fallow is beneficial to both the soil and the soul. The Lord uses it to restore and refresh. If you allow Him, the Master Gardener will lovingly enable your life to grow, prosper and flourish for His kingdom. Are you willing?

~Marianne Wright

Walk with Me in the Garden

“Then the man and the woman heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Gen. 3:8) Oh, what a delight this must have been for Adam and Eve! Walking in the garden was probably a fulfilling, tranquil every day experience. Then sin changed the equation.

I believe that the Lord still wants us to walk in the garden with Him. No, we don’t live in the original Garden of Eden. We live in a world containing joy and sorrow, blessings and curses.

A few days ago I felt like the Lord said, “Walk with Me in the garden.” So I started wondering how can I be obedient and accomplish that goal? If the Lord asks us to do something, then it must be achievable.

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The Gate

Gates have many functions. They provide an entrance or secure an area. When opened they allow access or can signal the beginning of a race. In Biblical times the gate to a city was the seat of governmental and business transactions.

26-ideas-for-garden-gates-and-garden-gates-the-first-to-welcome-us-22-839We each have gates in our own lives. One of my favorite gates is in the book, The Secret Garden, by ‎Frances Hogsdon Burnett. This gate leads into a magical garden that initially is dead and unfruitful, but overtime transforms into an exquisite garden filled with beauty and healing.

I have been the dead, brown, lifeless garden. The Lord in His infinite mercy has, over the years, planted His flowers into my life to also transform me. Sometimes though, He allows us to go through seasons where we find ourselves severely pruned back and we are like the garden in winter – waiting for spring. The good news is that spring always, eventually comes and we see the glorious results of His drastic garden maintenance.

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The Pathway

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had to stay in the castle because a great malady had come over the land. She filled her days with reading books and spending time with the Lord. He became her best friend. They would have deep conversations.

forest-clearingOne day He asked the little girl if she would like to go on an adventure with Him. She enthusiastically responded and asked where they would go. He told the little girl to trust Him, took her hand and said, “Follow me.” 

Soon they came to the edge of the forest. The woods were thick and wet from the recent rain. The little girl hesitated because it seemed like there was no way to pass through the thick undergrowth. The Lord, sensing her dilemma, told the little girl to just trust because there is always a way. As He held her hand they both stepped in the underbrush. Continue reading

The Web

Spider webs are beautifully and intricately woven. They are incredibly strong, and for the spider’s prey, very deadly.  If you brush up against one unexpectedly, you might involuntarily shudder; but when the sun shines on a dew-covered web, you marvel at its spider web 2exquisiteness. It is the exact same web seen from two different perspectives. Webs can be a protection or they can lead to destruction.

Most people have probably heard the story of the soldier who hid in the cave while he anticipated being captured by the enemy. Then a spider wove a web across the entrance. The enemy did not enter the cave because the web gave the appearance that the cave had been unoccupied for a long time. The spider’s web became the man’s protection.

When the Lord creates our web, He can use it to shield and protect us. Sometimes, we need to retreat or regroup for a short time. Often, when I am in a “Wait” season, I feel like I am enclosed in a dark cave of uncertainty with a subsequent lack of direction. For me, waiting is difficult. It’s not that I feel like I’m floundering, but it is hard to not have a clear direction especially when it concerns important, life changing decisions.

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Seeking Justice 

Early in my legal career I volunteered to help, for free, some victims of white-on-black police brutality in inner city Baltimore.

Unfortunately, there were no smartphones back then to record such oppression and violence, and so in those days justice was seldom served.

It was a rude awakening for this naïve country boy who grew up knowing only good cops, and the oppression I witnessed deeply impacted me.

All this came rushing back watching recent events unfold.

If we feel no righteous rage over continued senseless violence against blacks by bad cops in bad departments …

If we feel no righteous rage over senseless violence against good cops in retaliation …

Then we are part of the problem.

Let’s be ministers of reconciliation, because we don’t advance the need for justice in one case …

By minimizing the need for justice in the other.

~ Jim Wright

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The Power of the Gospel

I went to the jail yesterday with another brother to be with one of the churches we helped establish there.

When we arrived, that other brother, John, felt the Lord’s prompting to ask if anyone was struggling with anything and wanted some one-on-one help. A young man raised his hand and I met with him alone while John remained with the larger group of about twenty inmates.

God and ManAs we talked, that young man was able to openly confess and release to the Lord years of hurts and regrets that he had suffered. The pain he carried from the wrongs he experienced as a boy contributed to addictions and emotional enslavement, which had been destroying his life. As he began to expose and gave them to the Lord, Jesus met him in a very personal way.

Then, without prompting, he started talking about all the stupid sins he had committed in reaction to the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of others. He began crying and asked how he could be free from the guilt and weight of his own wrongs.

I find that’s often the case: When we forgive others for their wrongs, we often clearly see for the first time the significance of our own sins and then are brought to a place of genuine conviction.

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Men With Chests

C.S. Lewis bemoaned, in The Abolition of Man, that the West was becoming a culture of men without chests – meaning we have either lost the courage of our God-given convictions or in many cases denied those virtues altogether.

moneychangers

Offending the Offensive

This is amply illustrated by relativistic “tolerance”, which has been used for too long as a counterfeit “virtue” to attack what is true, beautiful and moral.

Lately, however, those who rationalize Jihadist atrocities in the name of “tolerance” – and who then protest that we must not “offend” Islam – are causing more and more people to reject the moral bankruptcy of their squishy relativism.

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The Gift

Gifts are special. Gifts can sit on a shelf awaiting the appropriate time to be given, or they can be spontaneous. Gifts can come in small or large boxes. Sometimes the gift in the smallest box is far superior to the one in the larger container.

giftThe Lord knows how to give good gifts. If a son asks for bread, he will not give him a stone.

When the Lord selects our gift, He handcrafts it so it is exactly what we need. His gift is sometimes not what we would have picked, but He knows our true needs.

Sometimes the gift is an unexpected answer to prayers that may be decades old or it could just be a little reminder that the Lord is good and He loves us with an infallible love.

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The Lessons of Ferguson

It’s time to speak plainly and listen to each other, even if we don’t like what the other side has to say.

black_and_white_handshakeUntil White America understands the pent-up frustration of Black America over the suspicion, marginalization and humiliation they are forced to endure from predominately White power structures…

Until Black America understands the pent-up frustration of While America over the crime, entitlement and social disarray they are forced to subsidize in predominately Black neighborhoods…

Neither side will learn the lessons of Ferguson.

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Prayer and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I have always felt, is our nation’s most significant holiday.

It is the least commercial and the most focused on acknowledging God’s providence over our land by calling on His name as sovereign Lord and expressing gratitude to Him.

Don’t lose heart. God desires to bless not just individuals who love Him, but whole nations. He holds the destiny of nations in His hands and is bigger than any headlines or trends.

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The Seasons of Life

I recently posted this update on Facebook.

Deciding to step down from jail ministry was hard, but I was deeply touched by the comments that followed on Facebook – especially from those who have first hand knowledge of my involvement in men’s lives at the jail over many years.

In the meantime, pray for Marianne, my mom and me as we bring grace and dignity to my dad as he closes out a lifetime of service to the King.

~ Jim Wright

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The “Missional” Trap

diverse_parts

“Missional” seems to have become yet another buzz word used by gifted leaders to rally God’s people around their own callings and motivations.

It all sounds so good, but it becomes a trap when the Great Commission is reduced to one man’s vision and mission – especially if all the other gifts, callings and Kingdom imperatives in the New Testament then get pushed aside or made to play second fiddle.

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Mission, Discipleship and Fellowship: Life Reproducing Life

Last Friday was a holiday here in the United States, and Marianne and I opened our home, yard and pool for a day of family, friends and fellowship.

plantingFortunately, following my heart operation and extended hospital stay two weeks ago, several brothers in a couple of fellowships we relate to stepped forward and organized things – including a great cookout.

Afterwards, Marianne and I both said that this was one of the nicest days we’ve had in years – not because the past few years have been bad (they’ve been challenging due to some of my health issues, but not “bad”!), but because we’re seeing solid maturity arise among those we’ve been pouring our lives into.

Although we’ve always loved them deeply, now it’s actually fun to spend time with them!

In addition, we now have the profound pleasure of watching them reproduce their life in Christ among others.

As they step forward and do the work of mission, discipleship and strengthening our various fellowships, it seems more and more that God’s role for Marianne and me is to step back and serve through simple hospitality, unassuming encouragement and quiet mentoring.

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The Gospel, Up Straight and Direct

Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.

repentanceI felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.

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Celebrating Redemption

graduationThis afternoon, I’m driving to Richmond, Virginia, to attend the graduation of a young man I first met in jail years ago. He’s receiving his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, with honors, from Virginia Commonwealth University. From jail to now has been an intense journey as Marianne and I stood with him during the hard times and refused to let him fall through the cracks. Now, we get to rejoice with him as he achieves this major milestone.

Following God’s Presence is something I wrote five years ago about him, and the church he was part of in the jail. In fact, he’s one of the brothers who asked to pray for me, as I recount in that piece.

I’m not going to use his name, because he is very humble and doesn’t like publicity. But you know who you are, and I am so very, very proud of you! Even as I write this, I’m tearing up thinking about the honor it’s been to be part of God’s plan of redemption and restoration in your life.

~ Jim Wright

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My Bible Prophecy Secret Decoder Ring

My Secret Decoder Ring

My Secret Decoder Ring

Unfortunately, I lost my John Hagee “Bible Prophecy Secret Decoder Ring”, so I was unable to determine the true meaning of last night’s “blood moon” before I went to bed.

Within nothing more to do, I decided I might as well get a good night’s sleep, wake up in the morning, and get on with my life – just like normal.

Now that it’s morning, I see that the world’s still here – with its normal complement of good news and bad news.

What a bummer. I was hoping for something more exciting, given all the hype.

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Recovery Homes

Several of our fellowships want to open additional recovery homes in the county for those putting their lives back together following abuse, imprisonment, addiction, economic distress or other major disruption. Over the last several years, we have teamed up with another ministry to support this local need, but its focus is only on addiction – which is very much needed. However, we also need similar homes for those dealing with other issues.

Our desire is to create transitional, peer recovery homes where there is functional, Christ-centered community within each house. This would involve mutual support, encouragement and accountability among the residents – with appropriate outside support and oversight.

Our experiences to date have confirmed that such a focus is essential for real change to occur among those in each home. Otherwise, the houses become little more than a warehouse for knuckleheads, and become a detriment rather than an asset for those seeking to put their lives back together.

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