Monday, September 24, 2007
In Isaiah chapter 61, at the end of verse 3 it says,
"They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of His splendor."
I've been meditating on this verse a lot in recent days. The context is discussing the year of the Lord's favor, but if we think about the principle and how it relates to many of the parables Jesus shared, it is totally awesome, yet bears much responsibility...
Much of Matthew 13 talks of planting, sowing, and reaping or harvesting. Imagine if the seeds Jesus was talking about were tree seeds and the farm a tree farm. The seed (before genetic modification - don't get me started) has one job and knows what to do. It knows its purpose is to become a tree, whatever species, but a tree in the farmer's field for the purpose of growing and giving off oxygen, a place for birds to rest, something beautiful to look at, and to produce more seeds. A tree seed doesn't think it's supposed to be a shrub or tomato plant. It does not know any different message than to become a tree.
When I think about the Scripture in Isaiah, "...a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor" I can't help but think that we have been strategically placed here on earth by God, regardless of how we got here, no matter the circumstances, not by man's will but God's strategy to display His splendor through our lives. You see, God does not screw up. We are the ones that make mistakes, but never too big that He can't display Himself through us. He wants us to be a reflection of Himself...the question is, "Do we want Him to be seen in us or do we think doing life our own way (genetic modification) is better in the grander scene?"
A tree grows in many directions. We witness above the surface growth that first takes place in the quiet of the soil. Without sturdy roots seeking out water for life, a tree is easily topsy turvy. I know, because I lived in Arizona while growing up and palm trees are shallow rooted trees that fall down easily. As followers of Christ, often times we look around and expect instantaneous trees from those around us, as well as ourselves. When we judge our brothers and sisters, taking an ax to their trunks, we expect to see several rings of years of growth represented. Our job isn't to cut other trees down. Our job is to water. It's obvious when other trees aren't fruitful, yet it's not our job. What if we are growing alongside our neighbor and our tree is full of foliage, blocking the sun from shining on our neighbor? Are we willing to receive the pruning we so desperately need because of overgrowth? Some trees are just big and would serve the display of His splendor better with some pruning. Meanwhile, are our roots seeking the Source of Life, establishing a firm foundation? The growth above the surface will come only if the growth below the surface starts first, and continues...roots don't stop seeking water for life because if they do, the tree dies.
When we begin wishing our tree had the same amount of branches, same leaf formations and veins, identical amounts of rings as the tree next door, without even knowing it, it may become covetous. We want that tree transplanted in our yard to make us look better, when it was planted down the street for a purpose by the Arborist for His reasons.
Individually the responsibility is to seek God above all else. One on one, we are to fan into flame the gifts that God has deposited into others, not wish we had them instead. It calls for us blessing and not cursing. The responsibility of God's truth in His word calls us to sharpen one another and allow ourselves to be sharpened. It calls us to humble ourselves and pray.
Corporately the responsibility is to do the same. There will always be a church down the street, across town, on the other side of the country, that is bigger, smaller, does praise and worship or focuses more on outreach or Sunday school or cell groups differently than your own house of worship. There will always be Christians that disagree on whether we should use weed eater or be organic, whether the youth department is more important or outreach to the nursing home. Instead of focusing on the fact that we are undeniably different in the way we use the gifts God has deposited in us, we as the Bride of Christ need to start praying for that church down the street. Think of the church in town that drives you the craziest and pray for that one. Yes, and especially the one that is abusing the name of God. Go to your pastor, priest, to the lay people and tell them you are starting to pray for such and such a church and watch their reaction. If they are opposed to praying for another church or group, I'd be a little nervous.
Only with God can we do a proper soil test in our lives to know if we are living in an optimum growth environment. Some of us need pruning, others need some growth poles with wire around our trunks for supports, others need acidity or alkaline tests, others are trying to thrive amongst weeds and we need to pray for their fight, some are the weeds...The way we fertilize our soil is by watering it with God's word. The way we fertilize others' soil is by doing the same. Personal opinions don't fertilize.