Tuesday, 27 March 2012
The Three Trees
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.
The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!".
The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!".
The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell. "Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!", the first tree said.
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me" he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for the animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, and not filled with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcuter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."
Many many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.
But, one night, a golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. "I wish I could make a cradle for him.", her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful." she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew that she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.
But, on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And everytime people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has feely given us." (1 Corinthians 2:12)
In other words we are like people born blind - spiritually blind - and who need the miracle of healing to help us see. I came across the following passage from one of the Navigator's wonderful Bible Study Courses (click here) which illustrates the idea perfectly:
The challenge of revealing truth to the blind hit home for me when I was in my early twenties. God used an ordinary experience to teach me how miraculous His revelation through Scripture really is. I was working my way through college as a waiter at a steakhouse when a blind couple was seated in my section. Until then, I had never interacted with a blind person. I was not aware how blindness not only impairs the way a person moves through the world but also affects how he or she understands the environment. As I was taking the couple’s order, they began to question me about the differences in steak temperatures and how the steaks were cooked.
“What is the difference between rare and medium rare?” asked the gentleman.
I had been trained to explain that rare was a cool red center, while medium rare was a warm red center, and
so on. This is where the tricky part came in. How do you explain a cool red center to a person who has never seen the color red? This is the challenge God took upon Himself when He chose to reveal Himself and His works to us. He had to explain grand spiritual concepts to His creation, who had been blinded to these
truths — concepts such as unconditional love and forgiveness, sin and spiritual death, and good and evil. In essence, God had to explain the color red to people who could understand only black and white.
It is through His Word that God works. It is the most reliable standard by which we can determine where and how God is working. Without God revealing His ways to us, we are totally blind to His hand always working among us. Our frail humanity limits our ability to clearly see Him. But the Bible, in its most basic
interpretation, opens the eyes of our souls and makes sense out of our lives and our place in God’s vast story. God uses the written account of His works to not only allow us to see our brokenness but also catch a glimpse of His undeniable love for us. Without this revelation, our attempts to connect with God would be based on our own best guesses of what we think He may want from us.
God, in His generous grace, revealed Himself to us. We don’t have to aimlessly wander about, blindly trying to configure the correct formula that constitutes a relationship with Him.
Thursday, 1 March 2012
But pausing and praying and thinking has been a wonderful preparation for this new ministry. And God has been good and I am on my third blood-free day!
As I have been preparing for what is to come I have been drawn back again to the writings and ministry of John Stott. What is it about the man that attracts me so and helps encourage me for future ministry here? Let me introduce you to Derek Prime who knew him. Here are his thoughts quoted on an interesting blog called "Cutting it straight":
“When I was first asked to provide a contribution to John’s blog about a preacher who has had the most influence on my own life and ministry I found myself a little perplexed because two men came equally to mind – Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. The recent ‘exodus’ of John prompts me to write of him.
“After National Service I went to university in 1951 and a regular speaker at the CU was John Stott. In 1952 he conducted a University Mission at Cambridge that I believe was his first such opportunity. For him it was a return to the place where he had first studied and then trained for the ministry. The CU obtained the use of the large University Church, Great St. Mary’s, a church where John Stott’s hero – Charles Simeon – had often preached. From the first day of the mission the numbers attending were beyond all expectation. I remember us wondering if the gallery could support the numbers of people that filled it.
“He preached a series of addresses that subsequently became a book entitled Basic Christianity, published in March 1958 by IVP, and it remains in print today. His initial preaching of this material made a great impact upon me and others, and the characteristics he manifested then continued and developed throughout his long ministry.
“I find it difficult to pinpoint what made the greatest impression upon me but let me try.
“First, his Christ-centeredness. Whatever his subject or text he had clearly asked of it, ‘How does this passage or subject relate to the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ?’ As he preached, his personal devotion to the Lord Jesus shone forth. Without ever saying it, his determination, like that of the apostle Paul. was to know nothing in his teaching and preaching ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).. That does not mean that he did not deal with practical, moral and social issues for he was outstanding in doing so. But his concern grew out his understanding of what it means to walk in the footsteps of the One who died and rose again for us.
“Second, he rejoiced in the Bible. His confidence in and love of the Scriptures shone forth without him ever having to say so. He lived under the authority of Scripture and the Holy Spirit gave a clear sense of authority to his preaching as a consequence.
“Third, in his language he was clear, precise and logical. It would not be inaccurate to say that he was simple in his preaching – the simplicity that comes from a sure knowledge of one’s subject. He had a sharp mind – he gained a double first at Cambridge. But he never paraded his knowledge or loaded his teaching and preaching with quotations of people he had read. He worked hard at being understandable and there was always a logical framework or skeleton behind what he said.
“Fourth, he was warm and pastoral in his preaching. That warmth made it easy for people to approach him. Although an outstanding preacher, his application of Scripture to daily life meant that pastoral counsel and care were given and exercised as much in his preaching as in his one to one meeting with individuals.
“Finally, he never projected himself. It would have been all too easy for him to do so especially as he became so widely known at home and abroad, not only for his preaching but for his writing. We may so easily appeal to people’s interest in ourselves in our preaching by illustrations that draw attention to us rather than to the Saviour we proclaim and whose servants we are.
As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us, ‘Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:7-8).
The following is a sermon I gave in response to some concerns raised about our application for a Lottery Grant to renovate our church and ch...