Gene Ort's Blog

Spiritual

Listen Closely – Episode 1

by on Sep.29, 2011, under Gene, Spiritual

The disciples once asked Jesus: “Why do you speak to the people in stories, why not just say it plainly?” He told them.. The stories soften their hardened hearts and prepares them to hear and respond to the truth.

Be ready.. soft hearted.. listen closely

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Matthew 21:33 “Here’s another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip.34 When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.”

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A little musical score if you like..

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So… I am listening.. I love a good story…  ( good movie, etc. ) the scene opens to a lush colorful valley, deep green rolling hills, dotted with exploding bursts of red, orange and yellow flowering trees. It’s springtime in the vineyard. In the distance a man is working in the vineyard. As we move closer we see an older, stately man looking carefully at his vines and branches. He appears pleased with the progress. There is an obvious pride in the work that has been done. It was his own design, built with his own hands. He surveys the vast estate, bordered on all sides with a strong fence, protecting the vineyards from the little foxes and intruders that would destroy the vines. He inspects the winepress where the fruit will be processed and later barreled. He pauses to imagine the festive gatherings, weddings and celebrations where the wine is consumed and joy abounds. He ascends the watchtower where special care is given to oversee all that has and will be done. Satisfied at having made provision for every success, we see him climb aboard  a wagon and with a few words of final instruction he informs his caretakers that he will send some servants soon to collect the profits.  He and his family leave behind his life’s work, really, his pride and joy in the care of  his trusted farmhands which now are as near to him as his own family. He leaves on his quest with peace and confidence envisioning the endless blessings that the future will hold. A few month’s time pass and harvest time is come. With great joy and expectation he sends his servants. He imagines with affection the vineyard and caretakers he left behind as he waits for his servants to return with joyful news and the profits. He anticipates the joy in sharing the blessing with all who labored with him.

THE END.  ( don’t I wish )

Credits:

Wealthy Farmer: God ..aka ( Abba, Father )

Trusted Farmhands: Me and You

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What a difference it makes to read this story with a softened heart. I have read it both ways.  You immediately connect with the wealthy farmer who is sharing his wealth and his trust with his workers and servants. It is a picture of a thoughtful and loving man, a careful man, a planner, protector, provider. Not a hint of greed or selfishness. There were no posted guards to protect his investment from the untrustworthy help. You want to know this man, be a part of his family. Your sure his children want for nothing. Even to work in his fields would be a blessing.

The people Jesus told this story to were no doubt feeling the same thing. He was opening up their hearts to experience a glimpse of their Father God. His warmth, love, trust and generosity. These people were oppressed in multiple directions. The Romans on one side, the Pharisees and religious leaders on the other. They were starving for a word of hope, longing for salvation to come. This picture of the Father was exactly what their hearts needed.

The story continues…

One dark moonless night back at the vineyard.. a farmhand is persuaded to open the gate to a stranger…

TO BE CONTINUED….

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Fig Tree

by on Sep.24, 2011, under Gene, Spiritual

” The Withered Fig Tree”  Matthew 21: 18-20

“18 Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry.19 Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, he approached it anticipating a breakfast of figs. When he got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. He said, “No more figs from this tree-ever!” The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick.20 The disciples saw it happen. They rubbed their eyes, saying, “Did we really see this? A leafy tree one minute, a dry stick the next?”

From a distance the fig tree looked healthy and green, but up close it was fruitless. This scares the bajeebees out of me.

The appearance of success can create the same illusion.  For the most part, I am sure I measure things exactly in this way. I cant help it. I have been taught to measure things this way from childhood on.  Worse yet, I started to believe it about myself.  ” I must be right, look at all this success ! ”  Green leaves on a fruitless tree.

It’s a comb-over or a girdle … you the get the picture. Sellin’ one thing, delivering another. One commentary I read said “the story” with ” the fig tree drama” was about Israel and in part I am sure it was. But for me it’s about my own image management ( Gene’s P.R. firm ) and learning how to identify that same spirit in the culture I live in. Both the world’s culture and the church’s culture. Jesus was clearly addressing both.

The Shock !  The disciples were in awe and shock when the tree instantly withered.  Green leaves one second…. whoosh.. dead, dry stick the next. I think Jesus was also dramatizing the judgement. A fore taste. When it happens, we will all be shocked.

We are the fig tree.  From a distance we look pretty green and leafy. This is especially true if we have some worldly stuff to substantiate our claim. Add in some notoriety, physical attractiveness, an education and charisma. Boom .. your in. Everything is in place. You must have a fruitful tree.

There cant be a more dangerous misconception. The violent and instantaneous nature of ” the withering” is dramatic evidence of the outcome of depending on outward appearances as the validation of fruitfulness. This story is just one of many that warn us of making judgements based on outward appearances. It’s a very dangerous game.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.10 But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

The Antidote.

Psalm 139: 23 Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;24 See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong-then guide me on the road to eternal life.

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Lost, and God Knows it.

by on Sep.27, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

The distance we have fallen away from God and away from who were created to be is far greater than we think. We want to believe we are “just a little messed up.. but not too bad.  sure we make mistakes but fundamentally we’re ok”.
I have changed my opinion..  I think we were and are truly lost. And God knows it. I have been being led toward this thinking more and more as I move toward God. My own sin awareness increases as I approach Him. He is Holy, something we are not. I used to spend tons of time hiding my sin from Him ( and others ) but now I want to give them all too Him. I crave Holiness. I crave Him. This is where my words fail me. I want to describe how I am drawn toward His beauty, His purity and Holiness., but I can’t really. But I can say it’s different than before.. my heart is tender before Him.. His love for me is real and getting realer.
But I know His love never changes, it’s me that has changed, He has changed me.
What did I do in all this?  I died. I surrendered. If I need to die more, please Jesus, help me die more. If I need to surrender more or again.. please Jesus, help me surrender more.
There is a battle… but how strange.. my victory is actually total surrender !
The delusion that says “I am fine, just a little messed up but really ok” wants to return to me. It’s a lie from the father of lies. I need Jesus every moment. It’s why He says it plainly, I am the vine, you are the branches. Stay connected to Me. I am your life, without me you can do nothing! Without the living connection, we are separated from our Savior, our life.
The distance we fell is greater than I thought. I am more messed up than I thought.
But His love is bigger than I thought. Way bigger. I may be lost on a distant and forbidding planet, but I have been bought and rescued. He has now promised to “lead” me. Why not just get me out of here ?
Why has He left me here ? I am purchased..I am rescued.. why not take me out of this mess ?
There can be only one reason. To tell our other lost brothers and sisters that they can be rescued too.
Another truth that remains. Yes, I am rescued but not completely restored to what I was created to be. We are blind children in need of direction. Jesus is the light that will keep us on the path and keep us sensing the Love He has for us. He will keep us “on task”, we are to stay connected. Are very lives depend on it.
It sounds overly dramatic when you say it out loud but thats exactly the truth.
This is one dependancy we are not to get over.
There is only one way, Jesus is it.. there is only one truth, Jesus is it.. and only one life.

Isaiah 42:16 But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them— sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”

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Time Cut Short

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Cambodia, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

I took this picture while visiting a Cambodian village. This young woman is married. Her husband is off in the city trying to get a job. She is living with her dad. She had just lost a child.

Trouble is relative.. I guess.

Sometimes God wants to do something new….

This is something new for me.. poetry. I have never given poetry much thought. This just happened. I have learned to expect the unexpected when I give myself time to be with God.

Time Cut Short

Father, do not cut short the time.

my days I would shorten, to be with you

and lessen the pain..

but I remember… I am not alone.

The not so distant and distant cries arrive in my ears

at the same time…

They, we are all your children.. you hear everyone.

Tempted to camp in my incompleteness..

It seems departure the better choice

Disappointment to self, to others

to much to bare.

But there they are..

stretched out in both directions

time past and time future

but to you all the same

and I agree with You again..

not one lost who would be saved..

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Created in His image…

by on Jul.13, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

A mountain man in India. This man has only heard the name of Jesus in his village for the first time just recently.

This word is for him and for me, for we were all created in His image…

Luke 10:27 “Love the lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”

Heart: From the deepest place of truth expressed in the inner part of man.. resulting in care of the richest kind with the purest emotion.

Mind: The place of intellect, wisdom and understanding. The place that hungers to learn more about who God is and what He has done and what He has planned. Where we ponder His mighty deeds, the creation and wonder at His beauty, innocence and holiness.

Soul: The sum of your eternal self. The part of you thats hardest to understand because it’s not your flesh, but the image of God in you. The part of you that knows you were made for more than this world has shown you. The part that lies awake in the middle of the night and prays to the Father for all of life to be restored to what it was meant to be in the garden. The part that longs to walk with Him in the cool of the day.

Strength: The hands of action and movement. Putting love into motion.. for the things that God loves, His children. To love Him with all your strength is to let His love move you. It’s to lift the burdens.. and move the obstacles out of way for you and others.

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Holy Week Exodus Interruption

by on Mar.30, 2010, under Spiritual

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Exodus trek for this important message.

A close friend sent me this video yesterday.  It stopped me in my tracks. We are a handful of days away from recognizing the most important event in human history. God, in the form of man, allowing sinful man to murder him without cause and without resistance. There can only be one reason. Our God loves us beyond what we can comprehend.

Luke 9:43 Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Treasure and ponder each of these next words: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands.”

Luke 9:48 “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”

Dean Pickering is a musician and composer. He supplies my little company with his wonderful music, featured in this video. He is also a video producer, he produced this video. He is a staff video editor at Willow Creek Community Church. He is also a Man of God and a father. His heart comes through in his art. He is a Child of God.

Dean is right now in an intense battle with cancer. He knows who his Saviour is and where his healing comes from. He is a Man of Faith.

Please join me in prayer for my friend, Dean.

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What kind of currency does God use ?

by on Feb.11, 2010, under Gene, Spiritual

I am not a historian and certainly no expert on the evolution of trade, but I do understand commerce. Here and abroad. From time to time I travel in other countries and there is always a ritual upon entering another nation, I exchange my American currency for the currency of the country I am visiting. It’s fun. I try to make sense of the system and look carefully at the artwork and usually I try and keep a little of it in my wallet to take home for a souvenir. In India, it’s all about Rupees. In England, it’s mostly about Pounds or Euros. Recently I was in Cambodia, there it’s Riel, but they were very happy to accept American currency.

It was not that long ago in American history when it was common to pay for goods and services with a chicken, goat, bushel of apples or what ever you had access too. It’s amazing what you can buy with some beads..  New York for example..

The point is value. To some degree or another, value is measured in two ways. Either your the buyer.. or the seller. Almost all of us are both.

IMG_0237 vball

Last fall I had the opportunity to coach a girls 4th grade volleyball team. It was a two month commitment. Three events per week. What was I thinking? My life was already to busy. At first I was fine.. then I started to feel the pressure. I started asking myself questions and really began to wonder if I had made a mistake. Is this the best use of my time ? A question of value.

Then something happened. I was struck by the diversity within the group of girls.. The range of personality and skill level mirrored many of  the people in my everyday life encounters. There were girls who were clearly athletic stars and girls who lacked basic coordination. There were confident high achiever types and timid insecure types. Strong, weak, mouthy, pouty, they were all there.  A significant change in my awareness came when I yelled at one of the girls for kicking a ball and nearly smashing another girl in the face with it. She shut down completely. I had been oblivious to the the damage I could do even though I was clearly right to protect the other girls from this potential source of injury. It took me several minutes to talk this little girl back into “being ok”. Up to that point I had been treating all the girls pretty much the same regardless of their individual personalities or skill levels. But not anymore. I got real intentional about understanding each one better. My wife, Mary was also co-coaching with me and she helped me a great deal with this. In the weeks to follow I got significantly better at interacting with each girl with better understanding.

I was loving these girls. Each one in a different way.

IMG_2123_little

Grandma & Granddaughter in Remote Cambodian Village

During the time I was coaching this volleyball league, I was also prepping for a two week trip to India and Cambodia. These mission trips are a very big deal to me. They are a significant part of what I think God has called me to do. It’s important! Really important! A very high value in my way of thinking.

One morning in prayer.. I believe I got a little revelation… about value and currency.

God’s currency.

He does not need money, He owns everything.  What does God value ?

Love.

God’s currency is love. And it has the same value everywhere. No need to exchange it at the border.

When we are sharing God’s love, it has the same value no matter to who or where you are sharing it. In India, Cambodia or the 4th grade girls volleyball team.

So what does God want ?   Who has something of value for Him ?

We do. He wants us. He wants to spend His love on us. Lavishly.

Jesus is God, spending His love on us.

The Cross, the symbol of God’s love and payment in full for my sin and the sins of all His children.

Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love for us.

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A Tale of Two Kingdoms – Part 3

by on Feb.02, 2010, under Cambodia, One Prayer, Spiritual

In this final video, Part Three of The Tale of Two Kingdoms, An Eternal Kingdom, we visit the the villages where the Kingdom of God is growing rapidly. 

Only a few short months ago the church planters completed their training and went out into the villages and jungles of Cambodia with the good news of Jesus Christ. This message of hope for today and eternal life was received with incredible enthusiasm. Soon the new believers began baptizing each other in the name of Jesus. Now several of the church planters have begun planting additional churches. This is truly the definition of “going viral”. This is the body of Christ in action. Men and women, children of God being the hands and feet of Christ, bringing His Kingdom, from heaven to earth. 

While visiting these villages, many practical needs became evident. Clean water, healthcare, food, sanitation and educational needs. Now we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of these new believers by sacrificing some of our blessing to help meet some of there most basic needs.

This video documents and celebrates the work of God through His people being obedient to His call:

Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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Tale of Two Kingdoms – Part 2

by on Jan.24, 2010, under Cambodia, One Prayer, Spiritual

Part 2 of Tale of Two Kingdoms moved Jack and I from Seim Reap and the jungles of the north to Cambodia’s largest city, Phnom Phen. Along the way we stopped by to witness a baptism service by some of the brand new churches began by One Prayer church planters.. but more on that in the next post.

Just saying the name of the city, Phnom Phen raises childhood memories. I grew up during the height of the Vietnam war. Nearly every day I would hear Walter Cronkite reporting on the number of young men who had died in the war that day. I often imagined that could be my fate. Many of these reports would come in from Phnom Phen.  I will have more to say on that in another post as well.

But nothing could have prepared us for what we saw in and around Phnom Phen.

The killing fields, as it’s commonly referred too, is just outside of the city. For a full historical account, google will give you all you could ever want to read. The atrocities performed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge cannot be overstated. We also visited a school that had been converted into a place of torture, interrogation and murder.

When men falter and submit to the god of this world, satan builds a kingdom… and this is what it looks like.

However, there is a different kingdom, The Kingdom of God. And on the thrown sits Jesus Christ, the lamb slain for the sins of man. His Kingdom has no end, and there will be no place for evil. His subjects are His children and fellow heirs.

“2 Corinthians 4:16 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.17 These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.18 There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Part three will address God’s kingdom being built in the hearts of new Christ followers in Cambodia through the One Prayer church planting efforts.

Coming soon..

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Beauty Will Rise

by on Nov.03, 2009, under Rachel, Spiritual

IMG_9718 Sunset

Steven Curtis Chapman’s new CD “Beauty Will Rise” just became available yesterday. I have been waiting for this for along time. Somehow I knew that God would give him the songs that would speak to my heart in a way few others could. I am only part way through it and I already have been blessed beyond words. It is so comforting to hear someone who has so closely experienced what I am living. I am so thankful that Steven submitted to God to reveal this much of his heart, the pain and the hope.

This kind of grieving forces you to view all of life in a different way. For me, it caused me to look up. I have a loving Father who knows me infinitely better than I know myself. His plans for me are good. His perspective is eternally good. His arms are not weak nor His arms too short to save me. He is good. I have seen Him.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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