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Ephemeral Plant or Spiritual Redwood?

The yeErythronium americanum, Yellow trout-lilyllow trout lily is an ephemeral plant. The word ephemeral means transitory or quickly fading.¹ It is beautiful but it doesn’t last. Compare that to the giant redwood trees which live and thrive for hundreds of years.

Bill Easum and Tom Bandy have been involved in helping churches all over North America understand our times and themselves in relation to the mission that Jesus has given us—to make disciples. In a book, which they co-authored, called Growing Spiritual Redwoods they talk about some of the differences between “declining” and “thriving” congregations.

In these “thriving” congregations which they call “Spiritual Redwoods,” leadership is “all about letting go of control. The organization does not tell people what to do, but helps people discern their callings themselves, and then equips them to pursue those callings with excellence.” One thriving-church leader was asked, “How do you decide what ministries to begin?” She answered: “We tell people that if the Lord lays it on your heart today, you can do it tonight, and tell us about it tomorrow!”

That kind of environment, climate depends on some basic factors:

• A clear commitment to Jesus. Nothing matters except the
gospel. “The body of Christ will sacrifice anything and
everything—property, offices, financial security, traditional
music, familiar heritage—for the sake of the gospel.”
• A clear understanding of our mission (purpose)—to make
followers of Jesus (disciples). There is a passion for
transforming lives.
• Ministry is part of being a follower of Jesus.
• High expectation from each follower.
John 14:12- The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works,…

Messiah church—ephemeral plant or Spiritual Redwood? It’s up to us to decide.

¹Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
photo credit: flickr.com/

Some Old Bones + A Breeze=An Army

a valley;…full of bones…. and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army. -Ezekiel 37

“Some  Old Bones + A Breeze=An Army”

In an article about a reunion of old time aviators, the lead read: “Two veteran aviators met here yesterday for the first time in 40 years and discovered that of all the things that fly, time is the fastest.” (RD,2/89,p.114)

A human being has dreams, hopes, aspirations.  It is the soul and substance of life’s meaning.  It is, in fact, part of the definition of human.  This is best seen in the young before the corrosive effects of time take’s its toll.
Lorraine Frontain, a kindergarten teacher, told about a little girl named Gina, whom she had warned several times, to pay attention.  It was to no avail.  Finally in desperation,  she asked, “Gina, why are you so excited?”  “I can’t help it,” she replied.  “My daddy said I could have a horse when I’m 35.”1
The anticipation of the young.  Dreams, hopes, plans are laid for life.  But as surely as we have dreams, we also have failure of dreams and hopes, set-backs and reverses.  Dreams and hopes can be lost, abandoned and not replaced.  It may be hard for youth to identify with that.  For them, hope is easier.  But few escape defeat which can lead to lowered expectations and hopelessness (loss of dreams).  Sometime ago an article on social workers quoted one as saying,  “I wanted to make a difference for the kids. Now I realize it was a totally unrealistic expectation.”  Lost dreams, cynicism.
There is an interesting and mysterious story in the Bible which tells about a vision given to a strange man called Ezekiel.  In the vision, Ezekiel sees a valley full of old dry bones.  As he speaks God’s word to them, flesh and breath are restored and they come to life—a vast army.

It is a vision symbolic of a people discouraged, defeated, hopeless as bleached out bones in a desert.  But God says he can and will bring life back to dead bones of shattered dreams and lives.  When we lose, when we fail, when a dream goes up in smoke, when life throws us a wicked curve, what can we do?

We can pick up the pieces because what left is usable by God, even old bones.  We can learn, we can adjust, we can “roll with the punches.”

In 1920, a young man by the name of Oswald Smith had a dream to be a missionary.   He had   prayed and dreamed for the opportunity and now stood before a board selecting missionaries.  He was turned down.  Did not meet qualifications, failed the test.  Decided if he couldn’t be a missionary, he would build a church that could send missionaries.  That church, People’s Church, Toronto, Canada became one of the greatest resources for missionaries in history,  sending hundreds to share God’s good news about Jesus.

Nothing given to God is lost.  A Christian, who gave money to build Baylor University,  later lost everything he had.  Someone asked him, “Don’t you wish you had the money back that you put into that school?”  “Not at   all.  It is all that I have saved.  If I had kept that money, I would have lost it too.”
We just need to let God breath life into what’s left.  When you do, life is an adventure(not easy, comfortable, predictable) but adventure.  We are too focused on winning or loosing, success or failure.  We miss the pure joy of living.  Gene Stallings tells of an incident when he was defensive backfield coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

Two All-Pro players, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris, were sitting in front of their lockers after playing a tough game against the Washington Redskins.  They were still in their uniforms, and their heads were bowed in exhaustion. Waters said to Harris, “By the way Cliff, what was the final score?”2

When you love and are immersed in the game, the score doesn’t matter all that much.

Walter Peyton was one of greatest running backs in National Football League history.  During a telecast of Monday Night Football, one of the announcers remarked that he had gained over 9 miles rushing in his career.  The other said, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!”  That’s 3443 times!

Life will knock you down, wreck your dreams, but God is not foiled by that.  Just remember WHEN YOU’RE DOWN, THE WAY OUT IS UP.
God’s word to Ezekiel was “Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

1Reader’s Digest, Jan., ‘89, p.80
2 Penney F. Nichols, Leadership

A Burned-out Florescent Tube

          Theologian Myron Augsburger once told a story about a man who wanted to discard a burned-out florescent tube from his office.  Past hours, he planned to dump it at a construction site on his way home. “He carried the seven-foot tube down the street, into the subway station, onto the train.  But how do you sit down with a seven-foot tube in your hand?  So he remained standing, holding the tube upright.
          When the train stopped at the next station, five people go on, and four of them grabbed hold of the tube.  Now what?  Pretty soon, it occurred to him that all he needed to do was to get off at his station and leave the pole.”1 That could be a parable of many of our contemporaries. We’re all looking for something to hold on to for some stability.  However, sometimes what we grab, like that burned-out florescent tube, only has the illusion of support.
          Archimedes,  a Greek mathematician and engineer, said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.”  Blaise Pascal, considered to be one history’s greatest minds, left notes on a book intended to tell about a “center of stability” he had found.2  Rick Warren, author of best selling book of all time (outside the Bible), The Purpose Driven Life, wrote, “You need an unshakable center.”
          Something to hold on to, a place to stand, what we can depend on—stability, certainty, trustworthiness are all necessities for meaningful life.  In our chaotic world, the good news is that Jesus provides what we need for this life and eternity.  Place your faith in Him and hold on for dear life.

1Marguerite Shuster
2 Elton Trueblood, A Place To Stand