Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lessons From an Oak

Have you ever taken part in a school play as an elementary student? Did you want the role as the hero or heroine? Maybe you yearned to be the villain who had the leading role? Instead, you were given the 'leftovers' as the pond frog or meadowlark with a screeching part that lasted a whole 4 seconds. Or were you given the dreaded oak tree in the corner that your mother was so proud of? If you still hold in bad feelings towards the drama teacher who made you feel like the Arbor Day poster-child, hear this: You happened to have represented one of the greatest symbols of strength according to God's word.

In Isaiah 61:1-3, the prophet is writing of the Messiah and His coming to deliver those who have been captive, to mend the brokenhearted, and to bring good news to the afflicted. The Lord deliberately distributed His Word in order for us to saturate ourselves daily in the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). As an oak of righteousness (cf. Isaiah 61:3), we need to follow 3 basic principles during the duration of our lives.

An oak tree needs to maintain proper nutrition for survival. The average mature tree will use up to 50 gallons of water a day. Just as a tree relies on its root system for intake of this moisture, we must daily ingest God's Word as if our life depends upon it. And guess what? It does! The 50 gallons of water is taken in just for daily survival. We're not even talking about how to fend off fires, beetles, and deliberate cuttings. You see, unlike the oak, we make a conscious decision to remain strong and upright for the Lord. We must take the initiative to feed our minds with the Bread of Life for proper defense and to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

Another great quality about the oak tree to emulate is its yearly (continuous) production of seed (acorns). Though it may take 20-25 years before it begins producing acorns, a mature and healthy oak tree is always increasing its yearly production of seed. As mature Christians, we should follow the model and strive to increase our delivering of God's Word (seed) to a lost world (Matthew 28:19-20). The typical oak can produce 10,000 acorns in the span of its lifetime, but only one will develop into a tree on average. Why the dismal ratio of acorns produced to trees developed, I don't know. But this is for sure, as we take notice of the apostles, evangelists, disciples, children of God in the Scriptures, we don't see them declining in delivering God's message because someone rejects the message (seed). Instead, they press on until their life is over. So, too, is the oak tree. Its production never declines (it may slow down when it reaches 100, but never declines) in yearly production as long as it maintains maturity!

Finally, as an oak of righteousness, we need to recognize that our steadfastness for the Lord during the length of our stay here on earth is because of our Savior. We shall glorify God through proper righteous living and praising Him (Psalm 63:3). We need to do our job as children of God. The life of an oak tree is remarkable when studied about, but the oak tree is just oak tree. That's what an oak tree is and does. So must we be as obedient followers of Jesus. We need to be Christians acting like...Christians. That's what Christians do.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Meeting the Need

Last week I was contacted by my health provider. I missed the call and returned it as soon as I could. I was waiting for this particular call for some time as I had a medical need to take care of and as quickly as possible. I made the return call and was welcomed by an automated answering service. Initially, it was no problem having to wait through the, “Thank you for your call. Your call is important to us. A customer professional will assist you soon. Thank you for your patience.” But by the time 20 and then 30 minutes rolled by, the “Your call is important to us” sounded more like, “Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!” I couldn’t understand how important I really was at that point. My mind raced thinking if they REALLY did think I was important, wouldn’t they have enough employees meeting demands in a timely manner? Surely they’re making enough money in health care to secure more phone lines, aren’t they? The frustration grew and patience wore paper thin.

As a church, how are we meeting the demands of the needy? I personally know I have been cared for with great love and urgency in times of help. I can’t share with you the negative side of meeting my needs within the body of Christ because the experience has been overwhelmingly comforting. This article’s purpose is only to be a reminder to us all that needs will always be around and along with those needs are souls who are anxious and often times out of sorts and should expect at least a reply of acknowledgment with the hope that the need will be addressed as soon as possible. It may not necessarily be the case where a legitimate need can be resolved in a ‘right here, right now’ fashion. There are times when circumstances are unique and warrant an extended amount of time for further consideration, but when the call is made for a real-world need, instead of letting the people hear, “Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!” let’s do our part to let them hear “Your call is important to us!”

Keep being the loving church God purposely designed!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10

Friday, October 23, 2015

Greetings to All

The year was 1993. Our family had just arrived to a rural, Midwestern town to begin another chapter in our military, whirl-winded lives. What was different about this new assignment was the growth and energy associated with it, as opposed to the past two locations we lived in which were closing for good due to military reductions and life there was just dead. Everything about Knob Noster, Missouri (don’t laugh, it’s a real name) was different, new and fresh; the mood, the buildings, the people. Everything had an air about it that left you excited to be a part of this mission with a bright future.

What took place from May of that year was something I had not experienced in quite sometime. Not only were the members of the base responsible for their day-to-day duties, but also their attitude, dress, and behavior were always to be a notch above standards because December 17th was coming. That date represented the delivery of the first operational B-2 stealth bomber to it’s new home at Whiteman AFB. That date also represented the first of MANY dignitaries who would grace themselves through the gates to witness and to just be in the presence of a modern-day weapon marvel. The parading of enumerable military, government and civilian leaders, current and retired, was quite a spectacle which kept us all on our toes, ready to meet and greet with great respect and gratitude as every new B-2 touched down to their new quarters.

The Apostle Paul, in a God-inspired way, bombards his audience, the church, to also be respectful and gracious to distinguished individuals…the church. Now, I’m no scholar but I haven’t seen a chapter so chock-full of imperatives (words that mean, “you just gotta do this!”) and using the same word to show urgency, as I have in Romans 16. And the very word used is “greet”. Sixteen times in fourteen verses (Romans 16:3-16) we see instruction to greet brethren.

I truly believe Paul is longing to see the many named, those unnamed, and all those who are referred to as being in various households. I’m sure he misses the camaraderie and time in worship together. I, too, would be screaming through papyrus to give them all a big bear hug and to send them my love. But I think there’s more to this than just Paul wanting the church in Rome to give an arbitrary hand shake to the brethren from him, as if this is an after thought to the previous fifteen chapters. We can’t downplay Paul’s wish to salute these brethren. In previous chapters, Paul addresses the contention between Christian Jews & Greeks and explains emphatically that the children of God (descendants) are not the children of the flesh, but of the promise (cf. 9:8); the called are not only of Jewish descent, but also Gentile (9:24); there is no distinction between Jew or Greek Christians (10:12). Paul also stresses the importance of selflessness in bearing the weaknesses of those without strength for edification sake (15:1). These scriptural references are just a few from the book of Romans displaying an underlying theme to unite, stay united, and to greet ALL of God’s children, no matter their lineage, language, length of time in-service, livelihood, or if you share the same likes.
Yep, “greet” is a pretty non-impactful word on the surface, but in context and through inspiration, we see there is no place for Christians to treat the redeemed, the saints, the children of God any less than stellar. Go and greet ‘em all, for they are all distinguished!