Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Proclaimers and God's voice

God still speaks to us today. The question is . . . are we listening?
On Saturday night I was laying in bed getting ready to drift off into sweet slumber and I had this song going through my head. All that kept going through my mind was "I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 miles more. . ." I hadn't heard that song in a long time. I couldn't remember the name of the group and it was driving me crazy. I couldn't sleep because this song and whoever wrote it was circling in my head over and over again.
Anyway, I came to church early the next morning and went up to the stage and was greeting the band. San, one of our guitarists, was tuning his guitar and just getting ready. When I heard him strumming this really familiar tune. I exclaimed "Hey Sam are you playing that 1000 miles song?!" He said it was. I was blown away. I haven't heard that song in forever and it comes up 2 times in like 12 hours. I asked what the name of the group was and he said it was The Proclaimers. I was so glad he could ease my tortured mind. Don't you hate when you can't remember stuff like that.
The story continues. . . During our community time (10 minutes of talking with new people and grabbing some coffee) a friend named Dave, came up to me to say Hello. I was wearing my glasses and he commented that he had never seen me in my glasses before. He said that during the worship I reminded him of the guy from the group The Proclaimers! He said that while He was thinking about it, God said to Him that I was His Proclaimer.
Amazing! That was the third time in less than 24 hours The Proclaimers and their one hit wonder came to my attention. In scripture, God often spoke 3 times for emphasis. (Holy, Holy, Holy, 3 parables about lostness, 3 parables about the end-times etc.)
God definitely got my attention. I began asking me what it meant. God often speaks metaphorically. That's why he used parables and didn't explain most of them. Jesus said "to Him that has ears let them hear." He was saying that to those who really want to search for the meaning in what He says would discover it. God often wants us to seek after Him and what He is saying. God loves active listeners.
So after seeking God and what He was trying to say to me, I felt that the words of the song were important. The song is a proclamation (get it, the proclaimers, proclamation. sorry I know it's a bad pun) of a man's willingness to walk 1000 miles just be with the one he loves. I think the Lord was letting me know that He was willing to do so much more than that because of His love for me. It also reveals that I often am unwilling to willingly go to any level of discomfort to worship Him and proclaim my love for Him. I often get miffed if I have to sing a song I don't particularly like during worship. I so casually hist the snooze button than get up early and spend a few minutes talking to Him before I start my day. But when I reflect on His willing sacrifice for me and His ongoing goodness to me I can't help but respond to Him.
I'm so glad speaks in mysteries, metaphors and one-hit-wonders.

Monday, January 5, 2009


We have this grapefruit tree in our backyard. We also have a lemon tree. The lemon tree was full of beautiful lemons. They were great for putting in a glass of ice water on those 35 degree days. However the grapefruit tree was less than stellar. Don't get me wrong, it looked great. It had full branches with lush green leaves. It was also the best smelling tree. It had this crisp, refreshing citrus smell. It looked and smelled awesome, but there were was no fruit. I mean it did have a couple of grapefruit here and there, but they either never got ripe or they fell off the branches before they could ripen.I would see a yellowish greenish fruit hanging there and I would start to salivate thinking about eating it. I would keep saying "another couple of days and that sucker is going to be mine.". then they would fall off in the night and just lay on the ground turning brown and mushy. It was like they were mocking me. . . "I'll show him. I will commit fruit suicide before he can pick and eat me.".
Anyway, after a few months of this I was ready to chop the stupid thing down to make room in my minuscule yard. I loved the way it looked, but it was a fruit tree after all not a looking tree. It didn't seem right to me to have a grapefruit tree that didn't have grapefruit. It was like having Micheal Jordan look good in his warm ups but couldn't make a shot if his life depended upon it. But before I pulled out the axe I thought that maybe i should prune it a little to see if it helped at all. I had never pruned anything before, but knew enough to take off the leaves and branches that were dead. That was easy enough, they didn't even look or smell good. Than I just started to "shape" it a little. I cut off some little branches and some bigger ones, but nothing major because all I had was a small pair of pruning shears (I'm so savvy with the technical gardening tool names. Are you impressed?). It was pretty easy and relatively painless. . . at least for me. Maybe if the tree had a mouth it would have screamed it's head off.
An interesting thing has happened. The tree is now full of little grapefruits. I mean full. I may even sell some on the corner with my kids to pay off their college tuition (just a childhood business dream).
I never thought that pruning would yield so much fruit. It doesn't make sense to me (don't try to explain it, you gardening types. I don't really care that much). I cut off living matter off a tree and it produces new and improved living matter. Can you imagine if the human body worked that way. Say that I don't like my biceps (obviously hypothetical (sarcasm is prevalent if you haven't figured that out yet)). I could just take a carving knife, lop them off a couple of times and then in a while I'm looking like Vin Diesel. That would be great, if I had any pain tolerance.
However this concept is true from a perspective of us a Spiritual beings according to the scriptures. Jesus said in John 15. "I am the vine and you are the branches." He is describing our relationship with Him in terms of a vineyard metaphor. He goes on to say that if we stay connected with Him like branches to a vine, we will bear much fruit. That is to say Spiritual fruit (IE The Character of Christ and the works of Christ) He said apart from Him their would be no fruit. He didn't say some fruit or a little fruit, He said no fruit. He says apart from Him we could do nothing.
A little later He says that His Father is a gardener that prunes the fruitful branches to become even more fruitful. Thanks to my little grapefruit tree, I get this now.
There is just one problem. . . I don't want to be pruned by God. I mean a part of me wants to bear the fruit He has for me, but another part says "put those shears away God it's going to hurt. I like those branches and twigs. I know that some are wilting and dead, but I'm used to them by now. Go prune somebody else. I know some people that have plenty you should hack off. I'll even give you a hand in doing it. Just please let me be! OK?!"
We often think that Jesus walked around like Gandhi wearing a cool hippy tunic and sandals saying flowery nice phrases and telling people to love each other and Him. I hate to burst our little Jesus-bubble, but this is a warped view of reality. Jesus was kind, gracious gentle and loving, but he could also be strong and forceful sometimes. (Ask the money changers in the temple how strong a carpenters butt-beating could be. John 2:12-15).
In Matthew 21:18-20 Jesus was hungry. He went up to a fig tree that was at the side of the rod. when he got to the tree to grab a fig snack He saw that while it was full of leaves it had no figs. Jesus says to the tree (in a way that I'm sure was less Gandhi-like than we may think) "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. Man Jesus takes His figs seriously. I felt like doing this to my little grapefruit tree. Why would Jesus do this to the tree? Most think that Jesus was giving a prophetic parable about judgement for His Disciples (and the fig tree owner) to remember. I think it's also for me. Better to be pruned now than live without fruit later. Better to have my branches look a little funny today, than look great right before I wither. Maybe Jesus is revealing with this fig tree His heart for us. "Let me prune you. I do it because I love you. I promise not to cut off anything that you really need and most of it you don't truly want if you are to be honest. I promise that I will stay with you, heal you and grow new fruit in it's place. Fruit that will blow you away."
How about you and me? How is our fruit to leaf ratio? Are we ready to let Jesus get a little closer, so to speak, and see what needs the pruning shears. Are we ready to invite the pruning hand of God?
I'm not sure. I want the fruit. I want Him and His heart and His works. OK Lord, but be gentle and just take a little off the top.