Tuesday, November 12, 2013

6 Reminders about Time from the Last Rose of Summer

The Last Rose of Summer

King Solomon attempted to put life in perspective when he wrote, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Moses prayed,  "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). And Jesus, commenting on His earthly days (and ours as well), advised, "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

Earlier today, I shot a photo of the last rose growing in our flower garden. Over the spring, into the summer, and now with the fall under way this flower finally makes its magnificent entrance onto planet earth. It will be here momentarily then just as quickly as it appeared, it will fade away. Meteorologists are telling us that early this week in Kansas City, we will have the season's first visit of Arctic air and the temperature will dip into the low 20s. Goodbye rose!

Between Scripture and the garden, I find some life-lessons that I want to be mindful of. 

1. Each of us lives in the present. Cherish the time God gives. It will not last. It will move hastily on. We cannot slow time down. We all live in the present.

2. As we live in the present, we also live in community. Even there, each of us is in a different stage of life. I glance over to watch my grandson and see his mother (my daughter) walk across the room. It seems like yesterday that she was the grandchild and I was the parent. We are together but find ourselves at a different stage of life. And time races on.

3. Life passes all too quickly. I recently saw a portrait of Philadelphia from the late 1800s in "Historic Pics" on Twitter. What stood out for me was that everyone in the photo (which captures a moment in time) is now deceased. Life was here and now it is gone.

4. We should do all we can to display the reality and goodness of God while we have opportunity. We never know when the present opportunity is the last we will have. Even the last rose of summer (or fall), declared God's glory even for only a moment...and then it is gone.

5. In the end, life is over. I have said many times, there is nothing so sure as death and nothing so unsure as the time. All of us have a date with death from this life when we will step into eternity.

6. If we really embrace the reality of the brevity of life and the infinity of eternity, would we not choose to live differently? Does Hebrews not teach us, "it is appointed unto man to die and after that the judgment?" And if we will be judged, should we not live our lives in light of that inevitable appointment? 

Even as the last rose fades, I am reminded that we will too. So, like the rose, let's live our moment in the sun to display the beauty God intended.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Parable of the Apple Tree: Year 2

This time last year we were enjoying apples from our tree. All totaled, we probably harvested close to 200 of them. This year, however, was different. We have one lone apple. 

Just one! 

We may have another hiding in the foliage but I doubt it. To what do I attribute this under performance? I could argue that God in His sovereignty decided to withhold His hand of blessing. But this leads me to observe that God often gets blamed for things He had nothing to do with. So what is the reason?

This past Spring started out just like the previous one. Beautiful green leaves came first then what looked like hundreds of little flowers. Each was beautiful in its unique way and each had the potential to grow and ripen into a delicious and mature apple. But I was busy and did not spray the tree this year for insects. Neither did I fertilize it. So between the insects, the deer that enjoyed the low hanging fruit, and the squirrels, by harvest season there was virtually nothing left. Who can I blame? Myself and no one else.

Jesus told a parable of a fruit tree that bore no fruit (Luke 13:6-9). In this instance it was a fig tree. It had the same problem my tree has had this year: no fruit. The gardener's solution? Give it one more year. I will dig around it and fertilize it, then we will see. If there is no fruit, then we will cut it down. But hopefully fruit will be present next growing season. The difference? Cultivation. In Jesus' case, digging around and fertilizer. In my case fertilizer and spraying. But the difference is in the cultivation.

All over the world, God has planted churches which, in agricultural terms, exist for the purpose of bearing a harvest. The fruit produced is both new believers and an increasing maturity on the part of its members. In John 15 terminology, believers are branches which bear the fruit which Jesus as the vine (He is dealing with grapes in this parable) produces and God the Father superintends as the Master Gardener. The life flows from the vine through the branches to produce fruit. 

From the human perspective, the key is still the issue of cultivation. Healthy trees, well tended, must produce fruit. If no fruit is forth coming, something is wrong. Every church with no new and maturing believers ought to consider that they might have a cultivation problem. I would encourage them, moreover, not only to acknowledge the problem but to take action. My apple tree next year, if I have anything to do with it, will be laden down with apples. Why? Because I intend to cultivate it and set it free to do what it was intended to do. Grow apples! 

How about your vineyard, your harvest field, your fruit tree? Are you cultivating the life and ministry God has entrusted to you? 

The test? Fruitfulness.