This is a place to rest and reflect at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Oasis Living in a Dry Parched World
Dry, parched earth. Yellowed grass that crunches when you walk across the acreage. Blaring sirens all around as firefighters rush to put out yet another wildfire. It is drought time here in our area. No rain for weeks with temperatures soaring in the 90's each day. Florida in the spring and summer can be brutal with its unending heat. When rains do arrive, they quench the earth that hungrily drinks deep each drop of chilling liquid. However, I have a secret oasis. A little spot of beauty that I admire each day. I purchased some flowering plants and ferns to place on a small porch area. Each day, I water this little garden so the plants will be healthy at least until the rainy season begins. I guard it carefully making certain to feed the plants, and then, I step back and watch it grow. How pleasant is this little oasis in the middle of this drought. I believe this is how we are meant to be in the midst of this world. Like an oasis to a dry and parched society all around us.
If we look carefully, we can see the garden that God is planting and tending. He places us just where we are supposed to be in our lives right now, for He is the gardener of our souls. When we remain in Him, who is the true vine, we will flourish, but if we stray, we will wither. Our hearts will be darkened and our understanding will be clouded. So how do we remain abiding in Him so that we can be "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither" (Psalm 1:3)? The key is found in guarding our hearts and minds in Christ. In his letter to the believers at Philippi, the Apostle Paul writes these words of instruction: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:4-7). To unpack this, we need to look at a couple of words. When Paul tells believers to "Rejoice", he means no matter what the circumstances appear to be. Our joy, which is found in Christ, will abound from a well deep within to water our souls and sustain us from the droughts of life. One thing I do not think that some Christians fully understand is that God sends the rain on the just and unjust alike (Matt. 5:45). We tend to believe that somehow we have a supernatural shield around us when we accept Christ that prevents anything bad from ever happening to us. If we accept that, we will be disappointed. Jesus said that in this life we would have tribulation, but He also said that we should rejoice because He has over come this world. In our rejoicing in Christ, we are proclaiming a joy that no circumstance can take from us. It is a joy not dependent on the situation...it is the joy found in our redeemer.
Another word we need to consider if we are to flourish in this drought stricken world is the word "reasonableness". The Greek word used here means that we are able to rise above offenses. We are generous in heart and forebearing with others - not repaying evil for evil. This was modeled for us in the life of Jesus Christ who did not claim equality with God His Father but emptied Himself to be a servant. People notice a servant heart. They notice someone who does not strike back or who holds a grudge. This is very "earth-like" when we do these things. However, in our dealings, we are called to be Christ-like. Our vine must flower as we demonstrate a reasonableness that others do not possess.
Finally Paul tells us not to be "anxious". When we are anxious, we are not able to concentrate. Our minds and hearts are paralyzed by unknown fears. Half the things we worry about never come to pass which means we have wasted a lot of time speculating on "non-events" in life. Isn't that silly? Instead, Paul encourages us to take all our concerns to God in prayer. Carry every thought, every worry, every concern, every pain to Him. Then, leave them there and quit trying to go back and pick them up again! Either we trust God or we do not. Is He not the vinedresser and we are the vines? Then, we must allow Him to trim off our dead branches and pull up the weeds that have grown. As we pray, we are giving God the ability to work on our behalf and do just this.
As a result of turning over our lives into the hands of the Master Gardener, God grants us something in return. He gives us peace that surpasses comprehension and He guards our hearts and minds in Christ. Oh how we need this! Our minds are the entry point for ideas. Every day we are bombarded by ideas. Many are negative, drought infused, empty, and sin-filled. God wants to guard us against this by washing our minds in His Word and refreshing us in His Spirit. By protecting our mind, He also keeps safe our heart as well. What better place to give our hearts and minds than into the hands of God? He provides the nourishment we need in order to be that oasis in the middle of this dry, thirsty world. Living an oasis life in Christ comes as a result of rejoicing, demonstrating reasonableness and turning over our worries to the Lord. The result is peace which this world does not understand at all. It attracts them to come and ask us what it is we have that keeps us from falling to pieces when difficulties occur. If as Job did, we could say: "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10); then, we would experience peace and joy which this world does not know. Job kept his faith even though he was sorely tested. Yes, he questioned, and could not fully fathom why he had to go through the trials he did, but all the while, God kept him in the hollow of His hand. God will do the same for us if we will abide in Him. We must daily drink the Living Water in prayer and feed upon the Word. Committing to this will allow us to bear much fruit in this dry and crusty world. People will notice and they will ask in what is the hope that keeps us growing and green. This will give us the opportunity to tell them the Good News of new life in Christ, and how they can also become an oasis in this drought stricken world. Selah!
How is God helping you to flourish in this dry and parched land? Please share your thoughts with me. I always enjoy hearing from you as you read.