We Are All Mirrors!

In my book, A Different Kind of Tree, I am using the tree as a metaphor for who we are, how we grow, what we produce, and how strong we are. It is a function of our roots, the nourishment gained, the soil we chose, and light we live under (or the lack thereof). It is about our growth from sinner to a child of God.

As we live, we present who we are to others…not an earth-scattering idea, but true all the same. Are we kind, selfish, a bully, helpful, hurtful, a liar, honest, dependable, a drunk, an alter boy, or a gang-banger? Our sad culture try’s to tell us that we are born this way or that way. Baloney! We are a function of our early environments, the impacts upon us, and the decisions we make. You may be born into the ghetto, but the ghetto does not always destroy a person; a person making good decisions can escape…and they do. As a female, your father may have beat you or molested you; maybe male bullies terrorized you at school, a male date tried to take advantage of you, so you feel much safer in a girl relationship. Maybe you join a hateful gang because it feels more like family and than your own family with parents that were AWOL; but does this new found family make you a better person? …which is the prime function of family.

We reflect back the image of who we are, like a mirror. Have you covered yourself in tattoos, piercings with boxer underwear showing  and wonder why you can’t get a job? As you leave church, are you a hateful driver, yell at the grocery clerk, or throw trash out the window? I guess you didn’t listen to the church service, nor did read your Bible…a Christian in name only, I suppose. What is the main (though stupid) argument people make about we church-goers? …that we are hypocrites (as if there are no hypocrites outside of church walls). But they do have a point. We Christians say that we are “new creations in Christ”, then why do we act like those who are not? Should there not be a detectable difference in speech and action? If we reflect Christ in our lives, others should be able to tell that our nourishment, our growth, comes from the LORD Jesus Christ who is the light unto the world.

 

 

 

December 26, Christmas is never over – Who is your Truth in the next 364 days?

 

 

Do you know anyone who has ever questioned their faith? Or have you ever known of a church fight over doctrine? Or maybe a denomination that believes it is the only RIGHT denomination, and all others are going to hell? Have you ever known of a particular congregation that believes it has all the right answers and is willing to fight all others who believe differently? While I am all for “keeping the faith” and being solid in my beliefs, it is arrogant to think that “we” have all the right answers. Further, it is not God’s way for us to tear down someone else because they don’t believe as we do; let the other religions (beside Christianity) do that. Are Christians weak, no, they are to be humble because we are not perfect and we don’t have all the right answers…for we “know in part and prophesy in part” (I Cor. 13:9 NIV). I know a man that once hung on a cruel bloody timber that once said, “They know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

 Somehow making this standard response, saying, nobody has all the answers…so don’t worry about it, just doesn’t cut it; it just doesn’t help, does it? The wars between people and between denominations still go on. People are hurt; why are Christians (in name only) so mean to one another? We are to tell of the love of Jesus Christ, yet we often display the same hatred found out beyond the church walls; nonbelievers see it and say, just look at those hypocrites, as if there are no hypocrites where those outsiders are standing! At least we Christians know we need a Savior and forgiveness of our sins.

Yes, there are really two Christian groups…Christians in name only (see Matthew 7:21) and Christians that are “a new creation in Christ” (John 3:3-7). We are to love one another. Everyone takes a stand on something, and we should. This is not bad, but please know that you only have partial truths and this should impact how you treat others. The Apostle Paul said that “We don’t know everything, and our prophecies are not complete.” (1Cor. 13:9 LB). I’m not suggesting you cave-in to false religions and doctrine, oh no, we are to be willing to stand in the breach and Truth will come to us (John 16:13). But what I am suggesting is that you are to become a strong Christian, set for you a firm foundation in Jesus, and then stand upright secure in your beliefs that Jesus Christ is LORD. Let the Holy Spirit do your fighting and you be loving to all as Jesus was and still is. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matt 5:44 NIV), yet the churches hurt their own brothers and sisters (they hardly being enemies) over these partial understandings.

Should we then stop from searching for a higher understanding? Never! The Apostle Paul once said, “I struggle for what is ahead, I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. (Phil 3:13+14 LB)”. My main point is…it is “how” we run the race, not “should” we run the race. We have just celebrated the birth of the Christ Child, Immanuel…how are you now going to live in the next 364 days…for yourself or for that Baby, God incarnate?

 

 

 

Growth: Are you searching for better nourishment?

As tree roots perform the tasks of food acquisition and delivery to the tree trunk, they also provide the structural support to resist wind storms pushing against the tree. The roots also resist the overturning by the cantilevered weight of the branch growth of a healthy tree. As a branch grows out, it is in search for life giving light. Light is the engine that powers the tree; light is critical to a healthy tree.

A person’s roots are the same. No matter where the tree grows, your roots provide for the nourishment of the soul. It does not matter if you grow in the desert of the urban slums or the desert of an area of affluence or within the lushness in the region of a loving family. Following the tree metaphor, you are engaged in a search for light. Many seem to look for their light in all the wrong places; in other people, in sex, in drugs, a booze bottle, or their work. The true light is only found in Jesus Christ.

Roots in rocky ground produce dry blinded amoral selfishness, which most often hurts everyone. The person that comes to his or her senses will actually wish to search for something better in life. At some point any soil is going to be better than rocks. So now, could this soil, let’s call it “regular ground”, be the ticket to happiness and fulfillment?

One should ask, what does “regular” mean? Regular to what? Regular to a nun in an isolated convent would be grossly different from regular to a member of a street gang. Whose definition should we use for what is to be considered regular? Regular, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is something that is “constituted, conducted, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules or discipline.” Rats, we are back to what the culture tells us is regular; what if the culture is off track or worse yet, wrong all together? A wrong datum or benchmark produces wrong information and a grossly wrong reality.

Do we follow the majority consensus? Or do we follow in the words of Robert Frost in his poem, “The Road Less Traveled”; that is, take a different road – a less traveled road that has made all the difference? The Bible tells us that the road to hell and destruction is wide and crowded, but to find real life in Christ, you must enter the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13+14).

So what then is your “regular ground”? Where have you found nourishment? What do you feed on? Is your ground fertilized with E! on television, or the written manure of Cosmopolitan Magazine or worse yet, The Star? Or, do you feed on the Bible? Which text has the best food? That is…the most long lasting nourishment? Which produces the most worry and envy? Which produces the most peace? Which shows how you are loved? Which heaps the most burdens on you to be perfect as prescribed by the culture? Which shows you how to love? Which shows you selfishness? Which shows you how to be concerned with self instead of with others? Which shows the most grace and which shows the most vanity?

When I was very young, maybe ten or twelve years old, I had the feeling that I was not alone. I’m not talking about family and friends; I’m speaking of a feeling of a higher power. I felt that “something” was going on from a religious point of view. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I needed to find out. During my youth, my family did not attend church on a regular basis. Our attendance was better than the “Christmas and Easter only families,” but not much better. We attended an Episcopal church in Oklahoma City. The church service, one I like to call “high church,” was filled with cool ritual, though not as much as the Catholics. I loved it. There was a hymn before the sermon during which all the children had to leave the Sanctuary and go to Sunday School, I mean to play school. When I attended, there was no “school” in our Sunday School. It was strictly playtime. I would beg Mom and Dad to let me stay so I could hear the priest’s sermon. It moved me; it filled me but I knew there was much more. In comparison, it was only a sip of sweet wine. But it was indeed a big fat taste of the good stuff. As the Spirit started to fill me over the next 25 years, I came to understand how empty I truly was; but more importantly, I came to realize how much I was loved by Jesus!

I set up a footlocker in my clothes closet with a table cross, a couple of candles and a Bible. As an early “closet Christian,” I knew something or someone was talking to me and I wanted to know more. It was a miracle that I never caught my clothes on fire with my candles in my closet; my parents never knew or maybe just didn’t think about the risk of a kid in a closet full of clothes with a candle. Perhaps I was protected by the Holy Spirit, about whom I was just learning.

I was baptized by sprinkling as an infant and later confirmed in the Episcopal church and became an acolyte. I loved it; it moved me. I still didn’t know much but, of course, Saint Paul once said similar words (1 Cor. 13:9). It didn’t matter to me as “let the little children come to Me” rang in my ears (Matt. 19:14).

There are some Protestant denominations that believe your change by the Holy Spirit is immediate; they talk about knowing the exact time you were saved and received the Holy Spirit. If you can’t name the day and the hour, many believe you are not saved. Hogwash! While there can indeed be immediate change like that, I don’t believe it happens that immediate way to the majority of Christians. Of course, I would never limit the Holy Spirit in how He elects to act. Most Christians grow in the Spirit over time as they mature (Ephesians 4:13) as they come to personally know Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:13) and become a Child of God and a joint heir to the Kingdom of God.

Growth is a wonderful thing! Are you doing it? Are you searching for better nourishment or are you fighting against Jesus by making up some ridiculous argument? It is an insane argument for those wishing to reject God and the Church, by spewing the worn out cliché that the church is full of hypocrites, as if there are no hypocrites outside the church. At least we Christians know we are sick and where to find the one and only doctor that can save us, Christ Jesus (Mark 2:17)! My belief remains that you doubters of Christ are sick much more than we; my hope is that you too will desire to seek the only proper medicine, the only proper nourishment available to you. It is my firm prayer that you come join us instead of fighting us.