2020 was a year like no other I have ever lived in my now 49 years on this planet. As chaos and fear swept the United States (and the world) I watched men and women I know and love become caught up in countless dangerous philosophies and ungodly practices that have infected the Church more deeply than any pandemic could ever dream of. New Age philosophies are now embedded and rampant, as well as conspiracy theories and a fresh resurgence of works-based religion. Prosperity gospel has reared it’s ugly, self-centered head and many believers in Jesus have apparently forgotten not only who we are, but why we are here. We don’t know the Word of God for ourselves, so we fall prey to any well-presented philosophy that makes us (gasp) feel good.
What has happened to us? How have we allowed this to happen? What has left the beloved Bride of Christ in such disrepair? I have two illustrations to share with you that I pray will bring light to the problem and to the solution.
Several years ago, a tornado swept through Murfreesboro, Tennessee and carved a gash through multiple neighborhoods. On the north side of town, there was a beautiful house that sat pretty far off the road atop a gently sloped hill. It was surrounded by huge oak trees and scenic views. When the tornado hit, it took down the big trees around the home but the home survived. It wasn’t long, though, before the house was abandoned. I have no idea why, whether the tornado had anything to do with it or not, if the owners died or went bankrupt, but I remember watching the house deteriorate.
It was shocking. Within just a few short months this beautiful home began to die. The white paint cracked and started to peel. Ivy grew out of control and took over the outer walls. Weeds and saplings, no longer hindered by foot traffic, grew wild and unruly. The porch began to sag. The roof started to cave in. Finally, just a handful of years later, the property was sold, the house demolished, and a strip mall built in it’s place.
The outside of the house reflected the inside. Emptiness resulted in disrepair.
The woods behind us, which we call the Shadow Wood, had been neglected and allowed to grow untamed when we moved here last summer. They appeared impassable and I was nervous about intruding, not knowing what might be living within all that underbrush. But then the day came that we ventured back after Autumn thinned things out. It didn’t take more than a handful of trips back there to create a worn path, an easily navigable trail that grew and branched until we could freely explore all that was hiding there.
Without the intentionality of walking on the path God has set before us, it becomes overgrown, thorny, and intimidating.
Sisters, this life is our one chance at it. So many things vie for our attention, so many distractions and mundane time-passers beckon us to look down, navel-gaze, and ignore what lies just outside our doors. When we do, the walls fall down and the weeds take over until we are trapped and physically weak. We lose our vision, our passion, our joy for living because our attention has been forced away from what we were created to be and do.
And I must insert here…what we were created to be and do is NOT about us. It is about God and His Kingdom, bringing people into the family and glorifying Him by how we love one another. It requires discipline, passion, and a willingness to suffer. Yes, suffer.
Passivity is dangerous. It leads to disrepair and death. Refusing to face and deal with the weeds in our lives will choke us, leading us into a place where we no longer do any one any earthly good. And navel-gazing? The sin of self-focused living is toxic, divisive and demeaning to those around us. We begin to see God as a candy machine, becoming short-sighted and greedy. We forget why we are here and that any blessing He gives is for the good of the Kingdom, not just for us.
We see scripture through tainted lenses, twisting it to say what we want instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to conform our lives into what brings glory to God. The weeds grow. They entangle and multiply and tighten and choke.
And the beautiful house God built becomes overgrown and unrecognizable.
Friends, it is high time we get to work. It is time to pull the weeds, tend the garden and slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Open your gosh-darn Bibles. Read what it actually says instead of trying to pick and choose the parts you like. Read it from cover to cover, over and over. Then read it again! Without the solid foundation of the Word of God we cannot maintain a healthy spiritual house.
I know you are busy. I get it. But we need to face that fact that walking with Christ requires a daily dying to self, realizing the time spent learning the Word of God and living it out is more valuable than anything else we could be doing. Spiritual growth and the pursuit of Truth must be our top priority, one that nothing can push aside. Not work, not family, not even kids.
Would you be able to survive long-term on burgers and fries, chips and sodas without suffering debilitating physical consequences? Of course not (and believe me, I have tried!). In order to be physically healthy and have the energy to do all the things “adulting” requires, we have to ingest a minimal amount of nutrition. The more demanding our lives, the more good nutrition is required. If we allow ourselves to fall into bad habits, it will show in low energy levels or even disease.
The same goes for us spiritually. Without the complete nutrition contained in the Word of God and time spent in communion with Jesus and the Spirit of God, we become weak, sick, and easily swayed by the ear-tickling philosophies of our modern culture. If we only know bits and pieces of the Bible, but have no context, we will be confused at best…deceived at worst.
And sisters, the Deceiver is lying in wait right outside your door…hiding in that overgrown bed of weeds. He hates your guts and will do anything to take you down.
He wants you dead, and if he can’t kill you physically, he will make you so spiritually sick that you don’t even remember what healthy feels like.
I am tired of watching my friends fall, one by one, because of a lack of Biblical knowledge, so I’m determined to do something about it.
I’m going to teach you to eat healthy again.
Very soon, I will finish a study of the book of Romans and I plan to share it with you. We will walk through the book together, a chapter at a time, and we will learn what it means to be alive in Christ. We will fill our soul-cells with good nutrition and cleanse our lives of the junk food we have lived on for too long so that we can be fully alive, fully used of God, and Kingdom-focused.
May we be those with a faith that is alive. May we be faithful tenders of the house Love built and fling the doors wide open to the children of God. May we live as a community of genuine unity, looking out for the interest of others above ourselves.
The book of Acts says it well. Read it for yourself and just see how what you learn might translate into how you live today. Knowledge of the Scriptures, community, brotherhood, holiness, unity and selfless service to the King and to one another are hallmarks of the Christian life.
Disrepair is not.
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