The Lesson of the Trees
My Dad was a logger. He worked in the woods longer than I could remember and he insisted that his boys work in the woods with him. That means that when I was in 3rd grade my dad took me into the woods so that I could learn the trade. This never sat well with me because, well, it was hard work and I could not do what I wanted to do, which basically was lazing around, playing and being me. How dare he try to teach me to work! As I look back on it, it wasn't something that I enjoyed doing much.
One day when we were cutting some trees down, I noticed that the taller and larger trees were always next to older, large trees and I asked my Dad why that would be so. He told me that in order for for a tree to reach it's full potential, they needed a strong and tall tree nearby. He said that he believed that the older tree would shade the younger tree and in order for the younger tree to get enough sunlight, it would HAVE to grow taller so that it's leaves could rise above the other trees and capture the sun. If it did not grow, it would eventually die. That is how, he explained, that the older trees forced the younger trees to grow tall and strong and when they had served their purpose, we loggers would come along and cut down the older trees and then the job of growing new trees fell to the younger strong trees which were left and so, the process was repeated.
As I grew older and a little bit wiser, I began to understand and appreciate the reason my Dad took me into the woods in the first place. It was to challenge me to grow. He had learned the lesson of the trees and he was trying to teach me. He knew he had to challenge me in order that I might grow into a man and in forcing me to work in the woods with him, he was making that a reality. It wasn't something I appreciated or even wanted, but it was something I needed. I am now happy that he loved me enough to ignore my whining about the work.
I am working with Christians instead of trees and it is surprisingly like when I was a kid working in the woods, except now I am playing the role of my dad. I find that people are exactly like me and they too do not like to be challenged. Like the trees, if they are not challenged, they eventually will end up taking the path of least resistance and will not grow; they will be spiritually weak. If they do not grow they will die or be so weak that they are not effective and that is not acceptable.
This is a particular problem in the Church today. People want to be comforted. They want to feel good and like me, they certainly do not appreciate being challenged. However it is a truth that the trees have long ago learned....and that is while it is not the most pleasant thing to go through, we all grow stronger and more useful when we are challenged to grow.
So remember that the next time you feel uncomfortable during a sermon and your ego is not stroked and you come away saying, "You know, that really wasn't a feel-good sermon." Take a lesson from the trees and grow. In that way you might be able to say, "You know, that really wasn't a feel-good sermon...but I really needed to hear that!"
Friday, October 31, 2014
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Can a Christian be persecuted by other Christians?
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
I have sometimes felt persecuted by what happens to me beyond my control. I think may of us have had this feeling. Sometimes we throw a pity-party and invite everyone we know to attend...I've done that before and have been less than satisfied with the result. :-) But if you think about it, there are differences in being persecuted and in being criticized by jealous or insecure people. Here are my reasons.
1) Persecution needs to come from outside of the Church. Hurtful and petty people, often with the best intentions, however misguided and wrong, are within the Church. Jesus has said so...we know this is true. Paul often had critics from within the body of believers and I don't think he viewed it as being persecuted. He viewed the people as being disobedient. Disobedience needs to be dealt with...sometimes from within the congregation and sometimes directly from the Lord. However, this is not my place, nor my task. My task is to lift up Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross for everyone to see and to build up the Body of Christ in Love,
2) Persecution cannot come from Christians. As I mentioned before, it is the nature of human beings to want to be comforted and assured. It is no different with Christians as it is with non-believers. In this respect we are just being human. So when we think we are being persecuted, what we really find is that we are just the subject of human beings being human and not letting the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit free reign in their lives. We need to be grace-full to these people, not judgmental toward them.
3) Persecution is aimed at destruction. Criticism from within sometimes can seem like it is destructive, especially if you take it personally, but seriously, Criticism actually says more about the people criticizing than it does about the object of their criticism. So instead of being destructive, criticism often is a catalyst for building up rather than tearing down. Give it over to the Lord and you will see what He can do with it. In fact, you will rejoice in what He does with it!
So rejoice if you have had critics! It is by these that the Lord works and strengths us. Amen and Amen!
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Folks, don't get side-tracked here. This verse is NOT about demons. Satan and his minions are what they are. This verse is about "THIS WICKED GENERATION" and how if they do NOT put God back into their nice, clean lives, that their lives will be worse than before! Hey! Listen!
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”