Isaiah 11:1 says,
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Salvation comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.
That gives me hope. I keep expecting big and loud events to convince me and others of God’s saving power. But that’s only what the world offers on cable news and social media. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the “shoot that shall sprout from the stump.”
When I don’t see the small signs of God’s presence–the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the encouraging hug of a friend–I will always remain tempted to despair.
The baby of Bethlehem, the carpenter of Nazareth, the naked man on the cross asks for my full attention. The work of salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continue to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hiding in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.
“A life devoted to dead things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.” Proverbs 11:28 (The Message)
How much of my life is devoted to things that won’t last? We buy, purchase, consume things that eat up time that can’t be used for eternal things. But ALL of our time can’t be spent on that which is not of earth. God wants us to enjoy beauty and art…but most humans just live FOR THAT.
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord…. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they go right on producing delicious fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)
If God is for us, who can be against us?
GOD is or you. People will always let you down including those closest to you who really love you. But within reach of each prayer is the Maker of heaven and earth.
God IS for you. Not “maybe” or “used to be” or “will be” some time in the future but right now! He’s on your side. He couldn’t be closer to you than right now. Will you seek Him?
God is FOR you. Tired? He’ll carry you. God is cheering you on and applauding your steps.
God is for YOU! If God had a calendar, your birthday would be circled. He’s already written your name on His hand (Isaiah 49:16).
A study at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research tracked the relationships of 423 elderly couples for five years, during which time 134 of them died. Those who had giving relationships (helped friends, did child care, assisted in errands) had half the mortality rate of those who didn’t. It’s interesting that the benefits don’t accrue to those at the receiving end of the relationship, only the giving end. We need to give in order to meet one another’s needs, and this need in us is so basic that “lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality equivalent to forty years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.”
Jesus said in John 16:33,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Jesus was right. We have all dealt with trouble in different sizes and sources in work, family, church, and body. No one is immune. This is the absence of peace.
The Bible talks about three kinds of peace:
- Peace with others. Romans 12:18. It’s EXTERNAL and necessary for relationships.
- Peace with yourself. Colossians 3:15. It’s INTERNAL and this is our state of mind and the part that probably gives us most trouble.
- Peace with God. Romans 5:1. This is the ETERNAL peace, the most important, and comes from knowing God and being in right relationship with Him.
When you’re at peace with God you’ll be at peace with yourself and when you’re at peace with yourself you’ll be at peace with others.
That’s the direction it flows. So if you’re having “trouble,” start with God and let Him bring the peace that passes all human understanding.
That’s how the church operates but how’s it working?
Getting people to a place where they can nourish themselves with the Bible, through prayer, community, and other spiritual disciplines doesn’t happen just because we tell people that’s how they can nourish themselves spiritually.
Christians, for the most part, are not acting like real disciples because they aren’t making other disciples. Before we’re too harsh, the burden of that problem is the leadership. We’ve allowed that to happen. Christians need to be taught what a disciple is and what a discipleship culture looks like. It can’t happen in one hour on a Sunday morning.
Jesus taught the crowds but he apprenticed the disciples!
In Luke 9 he sends out the 12.
In Luke 10 he sends out the 72.
Then Jesus coaches them in Mark 9:17-29.
Jesus practiced living in immersion with the Twelve. There is very little that Jesus does without all or at least one disciple present.