There are two kinds of people (churches), the dry and barren because they are not near the Lord, and the healthy and bountiful because they draw close to and draw from the Lord.
There was something that I had started noticing several years ago and now I watch to see it happen every year. One thing that Winter does for me is to start me to look for signs of Spring where ever I can find it. If you want to find the first sign of Spring look down by the rivers and creeks.
The water supply is the source of life for all living things. The budding of trees starts with the trees closest to the water source. And those are the trees that are the last to lose their leaves. In the dry times of Summer, they are the strongest and most healthy.
Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter the dry drought of life can come. And for many of you in the church today, the heat has also come into your life. Churches too experience dry, hard times. Experiencing the of loss of attendance, division among people, loss of resources, not to mention brokenness and hurt in the families of the congregation. The heat has come into the lives of the church. And if it is not here in your life today, it is likely to come another day. Scripture says there are two kinds of people, the dry and barren because they are not near the Lord and the healthy and bountiful because they draw close to and draw from the Lord. I believe this can apply to any congregation today.
The Characteristics of the Cursed
1. He trust in man (self)…this is to say that he sees his might, his abilities, his intellect, his determination as the means to his gain. Churches do the same by looking at the fat bank account, figuring out clever strategies for attracting people, and sheer will. A church can become too dependent on their our strengths and not relying on God.
2. and makes flesh his strength…he sees that he is young and strong, and God is for old and weak people. Churches that see themselves as the new game in town and have all the coolest programs and worship team. Yes, we need to be able to be relevant in our communities but we cannot do that by leaving the foundations that the church is built on. We cannot compromise our core values just so we can be the coolest church in town.
3. whose heart departs from the Lord. We are free moral agents of our own lives. We can trust in our own flesh or we can trust God. We cannot have it both ways. Some churches rely and depend more on the pastor and staff as the guides for moving the church instead of God Himself. In the book of Jeremiah, God told him to tell the nation that He had a plan for them to prosper them and not to harm them. But what they had to do was rely on Him and trust Him to direct their paths.
4. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert…When we are living in the dessert place like a shrub. You become twisted and distorted because of the struggle and harsh condition in which it lives. When churches trust themselves and their abilities more than the Father, then they end up bent out of shape and no longer resemble Christ but more like a trendy social club where people can say “I go to that church” as a fashion statement.
The Characteristics of the Blessed Man
1. A blessed man is one that not only hears but listens to the Lord and the direction that He has for them. They are ones that know that every good thing comes from God Himself. Not like a “shrub”, but as a “tree”, a green olive tree, a palm tree, a cedar in Lebanon, a fruitful flourishing tree. Not like one of the trees of the wood, that grows wild, or as a wild olive tree, but as one “planted” in a garden, vineyard, or field; and is one that is planted in Christ, in the house of the Lord. Isaiah 60:21 “Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.”
2. Like a tree planted by the waters. This is the source and life to the blessed man, and even to the blessed church. They know where their life comes from and are determined to plant themselves in that place of nourishment and sustaining life. A church that is intentionally planted by God has mission and work that can be incredible and life changing for the church and community. Song of Songs “You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.”
3. Spreads out his roots by the waters. We know the phrase putting down roots means to deciding to stay in place where you are. That this is the place that is best for you because God has called you to be in this community at this particular time doing the particular work He has set before you as a individual and as a church.
4. Will not be anxious in the year of drought. It does not matter where you and your church is planted, there will be hard times, dry times that will come to you but we have nothing to worry during droughts and harsh periods of ministry because we are tapped into the source of life. The blessed man and church is drawing from the source and the heat may be high and long and hard but the leaves do not wither.
The last part of that passage is key to the whole promise of blessedness. The production of continued fruit bearing. That is the goal anyway, to bear fruit for the Kingdom regardless of situations and circumstances. The reason that God calls us and plants us is to further the Kingdom for His glory. In our own strengths and power we can do nothing but be a distorted, twist mess in a hot and dry dessert. But with the nourishment of the Living water of God we can proper at what He has called us to do for Him, which will benefit all that is around us.
Pastor Rob Beckett, Shepherdsville First Church of the Nazarene.
Restoring “The Image of God” to the broken and hurting.