If you met me in field frantically looking at mesquite trees and growing more frustrated by the minute, I can image you would ask what was happening. What would you think if I replied I was looking for bananas? You might call for help thinking I had lost it! Why? Because everyone knows you don’t find bananas growing anywhere except on a banana tree!
In Matthew 7, Jesus used that same illustration this way:
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing by inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16 ESV
Our Master explains that “fruit” reveals character. Our fruit is best understood in this context as our lifestyle. Wolves will be known by their lifestyle. They will live in a way that pulls people away from God. On the other hand, our lives should be lived to draw people to God. If we are His disciples, it should show. Talk is easy. Everyone can claim to be a follower of Jesus. However, we are warned that wolves will come in acting like sheep, but with bad intentions. But fruit will be displayed. And fruit indicates character!
May we always have discernment in dealing with others and may our fruit always point people to God.
John MacArthur, the expositor and preacher, has said this about strife in the local church, ‘Strife brings fractured fellowship into the church of Jesus Christ, which robs Christians of joy and effectiveness. It robs God of glory, and it robs the world of the true testimony of the gospel – a high price for an ego trip’.
Jesus spoke of a divided kingdom in Mark 3:24-25 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rebels against himself and is divide, he cannot stand but is finished.”
Division can destroy anything. Whether discussing a business, church, or a family, having division undercuts its effectiveness and will cause destruction. Jesus here makes that point to explain how He couldn’t be casting out demons through Satan’s power, otherwise, Satan’s kingdom would be divided. Jesus desires us to be unified with each other around Him. He is the great uniter. He tore down the walls of separation which mankind and built. He brings together all types of people in His church.
We must work to keep His church united. We must work in our families to cling to each other in unity. We must all walk in God’s ways as reveled in His word. This keeps us on the same path working for the same goals. That eliminates the opportunity to be selfish and to ignore each other’s needs.
I have always been overweight. I never viewed weight as a spiritual issue. Then came Financial Peace University. What does eliminating debt have to do with health? Dave Ramsey has often said, “You don’t take financial advice from broke people. It’s like taking dieting advice from fat people.” He also stressed stewardship in all aspects of our lives. God owns us and everything. We are merely His stewards.
It finally sank in that my stewardship of my health was pathetic. Last summer, I had trouble walking due to the pain and stress on my feet and knees caused by excess weight. I reached the highest weight of my life at 360 lbs. I knew I had to do something.
Shannon and I started Weight Watchers on July 1, 2017. Since then by eating lean proteins, fruits and veggies and making better choices in my carbs I have lost 104.8 lbs.! People have been asking how I have done it. The biggest factor which made this time different was finally have a good enough why.
Why did I want to lose weight? I finally get it that I am responsible to the Lord for stewardship of my health. Paul said in 1 Cor. 4:2 ” 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” ESV My health issues were self-imposed due to bad habits. I also have no desire to get back into a wheelchair. 11 years ago, Guillain-Barre Syndrome left me paralyzed and it was a long road to get back on my feet. Last summer, I saw that I was moving back to the wheel chair as my poor health took its toll on my mobility. I also turn 50 in June 2018. I saw that looming milestone and wanted to get as healthy as possible before entering a new decade. Finally, my last why is my family. My son, Joshua crossed over to Boy Scouts this year and I was sitting at 100 pounds over the maximum weight allowed for many scout adventures. I don’t want my health to limit him. My daughter is entering the high school where I teach next year, and I don’t want to reflect poorly on her. All of us needed to improve our health so we have taken this journey together.
Now that 30% of my starting weight is gone, I feel better. I have energy, very little pain, and my blood pressure is much better. I have discovered a new why and a reason to keep going. Many others have noticed and now turning to this fat boy for information on what works! We are reaping the benefits of working together to get better.
We will plan to remain good stewards of our health so that we can better serve the Lord. Learning self-control and discipline has paid dividends in my walk with the Lord as well. Seeing all life as a stewardship issue makes us more mindful in all of our choices.
When I was a child, I had the coolest toy! Sitting in our yard was a fire truck. My Dad was chief of the volunteer fire department and with that came the truck. I spent hours on that truck pretending to be a firefighter. I was imitating my Dad and all of the other firefighters I had seen. When I was older, I was allowed to ride on the truck to a grass fire with them. I will never forget the moment I got to fight fire for the first time. We had reached a fence the fire had just crossed. Because I was small enough to do it, I was able to take a wet toe sack and cross the fence to put out the small fire that had crossed. I was probably 10 or so years old, but felt grown up.
It is often said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It is also true, that imitation is a great way to learn. Children watch and imitate the actions of others around them and thus learn many of the social skills needed in life. The same holds true in our spiritual lives. The Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV Paul modeled the Christian life for the believers in Corinth. He lived a life imitating Christ. He tried to let the character of Christ be visible in his life. He did this so consistently, he could tell the church at Corinth, that they could imitate him and thus would be closer to living as Christ lived.
The challenge to us is to follow Christ, so others will see Him in us as well. Each day, we should ask ourselves if we are living for Jesus. Are we walking as He walked? Are we loving as He loved? Are we preaching repentance as He did? Only when we answer yes, can we say as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
It is often said that April showers bring May flowers. If that is true, we are in for a bumper flower crop this year! We have seen many days of rain and several storms this spring. The quote is often used to remind us that the storms of today can bring future blessings. Paul said essentially the same thing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
It is important to pay attention to what is said. It does not say “all things are good”. Neither does it say, “all things will be pleasant”. God through Paul says that “all things work together for good”. The storms and showers of today, can bring a greater good in the future.
God is building our character. He works to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. In that process, He must remove some things about us which interfere with that goal. He must also build within us new attitudes and skills. That process is not always pleasant.
I always struggled with visiting hospitals as a pastor. It was not that hospitals frightened me or anything. You see, as a teen, I wanted to become a doctor. When I was called to preach, that dream changed. However, there was still within me a desire to be “of tangible benefit” to people. I felt I was doing less just visiting someone. I felt awkward. As a bivocaitonal pastor, I also worked as an Emergency Medical Technician. That gave some skills which were medical related. There was always a desire to look at the chart and “do something”.
Then, eight years ago, I became the patient. I developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome. GBS is a disorder which left me paralyzed in the hospital. I received a week of treatments and then spent a month in therapy. During that time of helplessness the calls, visits, cards, etc. were a lifeline to me. I experienced firsthand the value of a visit. Guess what? Being there for me was “doing something”. I will never again feel awkward when visiting, calling, or checking up on Facebook.
I would not volunteer to go through that again. However, I am grateful for that storm and the growth it brought to me.
In my job, I see many sick computers. There are several ways computers can start to fail. Sometimes malicious software (malware) and viruses can infect a machine and grind its processors to a halt. At other times, they have been running too long and need to restart to clean out the junk which clutters their memory. An especially aggravating malady to afflict our computers at work is that they quit trusting the domain. When that trust relationship fails, they will no longer allow users to log on. I requires being taken off the domain and reintroducing the computer to the domain in order to get them to trust each other again.
As I was deep into administering some TLC to a cart of computers this week, it struck me that similar things can interfere in our walk with the Lord.
Sin is far worse than any virus/malware at bringing destruction. It interrupts our communication with God. Sin starts destroying our testimony, and left unchecked (repented of), it leads to the destruction of our lives.
There are also times in my life in which I need a fresh start. The junk in life starts to clutter my mind and distract me from God’s purpose. It is good to occasionally clear out the junk which distracts us and wastes our resources.
Finally, many lose their trust relationship with God. They forget their place in the Kingdom. Like the prodigal son, they move on and forget their heavenly Father. It never changes the fact that God is their Father, but they get out in the pigpens of the world and need to be reintroduced. They need to remember who they are and what God has provided for them.
Hopefully, we will learn from the machines and not let sin contaminate, junk to clutter, and trust to wane.
I once asked an older gentleman how he was doing and he replied, “I’m getting by ok.” This exchange is typical in central Texas for hello. However, I began thinking how many of settle for just getting by. How many times do we just go through the motions and settle for making it through another day of mediocrity?
As children of God, we are called to so much more. C. S. Lewis argued in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” that we often set the bar to low. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” In comparison to what God wants to give us, the best this world can offer is toys, trinkets and tinsel.
We need to set our sights higher than just getting by. Scripture says that we are joint heirs with Jesus, royal priests, sons and daughters of God, more than conquerors, etc. None of the descriptions I read inspire me to just get by. Raise the bar and go for it! Live life. Do not settle for merely enduring it.
Remember what Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10 NKJV). We will one day appear before Christ and give an account of how we managed this gift of life He gave to us. In that day, I do not want to say, “I got by…..” On that day, I want to know that I entered heaven having really lived and experienced abundant life in Christ. Set your sights high!