The Camellia, a shrub whose leaves are seen here, produces a waxy, perfectly shaped bloom of beauty in winter landscapes and conditions, maintaining its dark, glossy green leaves as another unique form of ‘the evergreen.’ This one produces a bi-colored flower of red and white. At a glance, it looks like a rose, but closer examination reveals a character and beauty all its own. In warmer climates, this shrub can grow into a tree.
This bud caught my attention today on my stroll in the backyard. With everything around it brown or tan and lying in wait for the warmer season, this Camellia is full with its green leaves, brown flowers that have expressed their beauty in spite of very chilling conditions, and these buds that await opportunity and the right time to open up to lend its beauty to the landscape. These buds, when opened, will stand out because of their life and beauty during a challenging time for much of creation.
There are people who stand out to make a difference during the harshest of times. They look for opportunities for service or giving without much concern for notoriety or gain. They are people who look at life unselfishly and empty themselves that others might be aided in the struggle of life. These kind of people follow something outside themselves, a power greater than any they may observe or feel. They look beyond the ordinary or common to follow the lead of deep passion rooted in eternity. They are willing to lose everything because they have already gained everything. They have seen God! Have you seen God?
In the Bible, men came inquiring, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21 NKJV) Still, today’s world conducts an inquiry every day in much the same way . . . “we wish to see Jesus.” Are there yet budding ‘followers of Christ’ who can introduce Him to others that might also ‘follow Him?’
Seeing God makes the difference in life and springs forth into budding opportunities to live with purpose and meaning while telling others about Him. Serving this present age becomes a passion when one sees the Lord and decides to follow Him. That is the ‘follower of Christ’ mandate. Instead of pondering whether one should be on the right or the left, can we be ‘behind?’ Can we FOLLOW Him? Can today’s Christians get behind the Lord to follow Him through denial of self, taking up the cross of service and sacrifice, and serving the needs of others?
This shrub has brown, fading flowers and a host of buds awaiting their chance to bloom. They represent the past and possibility!
Is that a good description of your life . . . some brown, fading blooms but a host of buds awaiting their chance to bloom? You’ve done some good things . . . but are there buds awaiting to blossom into greater works?
You’re not finished yet. There is still meaning and beauty to share into the lives of others that are searching and hoping for something better. The glance, glimpse, or perhaps the closer examination of your personal witness of following Christ will be the proving point for many to find the reality of possibility and potential. You can find it and others can too when WE are willing to follow Him!
Does the camellia describe you? As it warms up the landscape with its character and beauty, you too can shine in abundance of characteristic Christ-like beauty in the midst of these harsh and hard times!
Share your abundant life and witness of Christ with others! By following Him and denying self, in these harsh and challenging times, we may find life, full of the abundance of evergreen and budding possibility.
An article recently reported “100,000 Atheists Are ‘Unbaptized.” This is being done by such groups known as the National Secular Society, Unbaptism.Org., or Sunday Assembly which “has launched new services in 35 cities across the world with plans for 16 more.” Certificates are offered to those seeking them with the following wording: “[Name] having at one time willingly submitted to the Rite of Christian Baptism and subsequently having realized my beliefs were in error, I hereby publicly revoke any and all implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all that Church’s Creeds and all other such Superstitions. I wish to be excluded henceforth from claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics.”
At first this ‘certificate offering’ appeared to be a real astonishing thought and an effort in complete and utter folly. However, this ‘gesture’ may work for some who have the courage of their conviction to admit that they have no faith in God or Jesus of Nazareth. They do not believe in the Church as an institution that they can support and officially move on in life by declaring themselves as being what they really are, nonbelievers.
What may be sadder to deal with is the reality of many that still lay claim to something that their lifestyles or behaviors confirm is not their honest and earnest selves. And many people still attend church and perhaps are involved in its ministries and life, but have little or no ‘saving grace’ that affects the true essence of life resulting in the new and abundant life that Christ offers.
Perhaps there should be respect for the courage of many to declare their unbelief. It doesn’t make them the worse people in the world. Rather it simply says to the church that I am not a believer and I do not wish to any longer be associated with it or its ‘faith enterprises.’
The challenge to the church, however, is to be real about its own beliefs with some consistency. On many fronts it is fighting battles in the public while at the same time privately living out a reality that suggests otherwise about what its honest beliefs may be. In too many cases, it is hot on certain subjects while cold on others. Believers tend to be condemning about what they dislike and condone things that they themselves do or at least would prefer turning a deaf ear. Blaming others for the world’s ills and overlooking it’s own failures is common. Personal sins of too many believers are paraded before the public and overlooked by church members and its leaders. Too many believers are heard saying one thing while actually doing something totally different. Political ideologies are justified in biblical and spiritual terms while there is silence on matters that affect the social reality of the human experience. The Bible is clear and the words of Jesus speak specifically and with clarity about caring for the poor.
Remember, Peter stayed with Jesus even beyond Jesus’ rebuke of his personal and ‘real ideas.’ Under the right circumstances he denied Christ three times. Judas stayed while holding on to political and ideological beliefs that eventually thrust him into the worst betrayal. James and John hung around and they held on to their own personal ambitions. Thomas couldn’t accept the inevitable truth that had been told him before the fact because of his skepticism and unbelief. And the rest could easily walk away when their presence could perhaps have made a difference in the whole scheme of things one Sunday morning!
The rest of us that are a part of this 21st Century reality must deal with our own set of issues and must deal with them honestly and earnestly to find our own repentance and redemption. We’re not that much different from those flaws and failures of the men closest to the Master. And, like them, we have to face our reality and its truth about ourselves in a struggle with being true to what we believe toward repentance and restoration.
The end of all things will be revealing for everybody. The ‘unbaptized’ may have accepted that reality beforehand while the rest of us just hope for a different outcome instead of repenting!
Some people will study the philosophies of men, spend hours researching matters of the world, listen to lectures on the most boring subjects, complete the requirements for various degrees, consult with professors under whose tutelage they must learn, travel far and wide to be educated, submit to testing to examine their knowledge of disciplines and methodologies, and commit themselves to enormous debt and will not do the same for the most valuable treasure of mankind – The soul!
When the social ills or sins of a nation go unnoticed, unmentioned, or unchallenged, is that nation really Christian? Or, when the church gives much less priority to its Gospel message while the nation’s culture, prosperity issues, and self-gratification are celebrated, is it really being Christian? Is there an enemy on the inside of the church?
The heart of ‘the good news’ celebrates suffering, sacrifice, death and resurrection! Its whole focus is upon one person whose life centered on others, their plight, and their access to the best that His kingdom offered. He overcame humanity’s greatest enemies by making Himself of no reputation and obedience, even unto the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)
With that in mind, how can the 21st Century church justify its mild mannered approach to cultures, its commitment and challenges? The world’s ills call for a bold stance upon principles of righteousness, service and sacrifice. The Apostle Paul tells us that this was God’s aim and purpose ‘before the foundation of the world.’ (Ephesians 1:4) Modern times nor new technologies, or even new heresies and teachings can change the focus of Jesus to fit what are now base desires and lusts packaged in new forms. He ‘endured the cross’ and its consequences to rise to a new beginning and new victories that can be had by all those who will trust Him in faith.
This may explain the commonness of our modern church experience. It becomes even more piercingly obvious when we compare ourselves to that first victor and Overcomer? Does the message of the modern church resemble the message of an itinerate preacher from Nazareth? Our willingness to serve and sacrifice, perhaps even consider death in this cause, may be the very essence that is missing in these latter days. The power associated with His central message cannot be the church’s experience nor will others who observe and inquire feel its affect unless there is the same desire for the church to be rejoicing that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41 NKJV)
And emphasizing His blessings and benefits without focus upon His suffering sacrifice is dangerous. It may be the very cause that drives the question, ‘is the church really as ‘Christian’ as it proclaims? And it will have to reconsider the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
There is a church identified in scripture that wears the label ‘carnal.’ Its description fits these modern times in every way. And that church’s effectiveness as change agents, healers of the community’s ailments, or ministers of reconciliation was compromised . . . as it is today. (I Corinthians 3:1-4 NKJV)
The church may be its own enemy within, out of focus and existing aimlessly. Perhaps another look at Jesus will help!
Something to consider!
Roads lead away from everything familiar, everything known, and everything already experienced into an unknown future, unknown and often unrecognized opportunities, experiences that are sometimes shrouded needing to be searched for and unveiled. This road leads to life and all of its offerings for abundance, fulfillment, purpose and service for everyone courageous enough to travel thereon. Covered by beauty at times, overwhelmed by the elements at other times, trees cover it with darkness, and sometimes the road may become a mere path through frightening forests or meander through dry and thirsty deserts. But, travel you must, one step at a time and sometimes alone.
Everything unfamiliar becomes the norm and order of the day away from this scene of beauty. But, such is life with its ever winding roads, expressways, paths, trails, highways, byways, or mere hikes in striking and challenging terrain, heading somewhere with new familiarities, new visions of beauty and possibility.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” – II Corinthians 5:7 NKJV
That is where life is . . . rich, beautiful, fulfilling and prosperous! All that and more in the forever altering scenarios of that for which we all seek “. . . life and that they may have it more abundantly.” — John 10:10 NKJV
Don’t allow what you see today engage you in fear or distress! What you see on the road of life may be unfamiliar, but it is still rich with what will be new familiarities, new blessings, new opportunities, and new ways to trust God.
Trust God by walking on, though alarmed by unfamiliar observations or experiences, keep moving and don’t allow yourself to be arrested in time. One step at a time, one day at a time, believing God for an outcome, deliverance, and a destination of purpose within His plans for your life. Keep on walking by faith.