While I failed to center this Magnolia perfectly like a good photographer would have, I'm still able to look at the bloom and be amazed by its perfection. It forces me to consider the Creator. Yet, the curse of sin often causes even God's creation to be distorted, so when I see something in nature so utterly perfect I stand in awe of the God who made it. I'm reminded of my life verse - Ecclesiastes 3:11a, "He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Consider the detail - the lines, the curves, the texture, the symmetry, the contrast with the deep green glossy leaves. If God cared enough to put so much thought into this single bloom, how much more thought does He put into making, saving, and sanctifying His children? Just as He perfected this beautiful Magnolia, He grows us through every event, every person, every detail of our lives to conform us to the image of His perfect Son. Even the evil that surrounds us from within our hearts and from our enemies out in the world has purpose in molding us, growing us, causing us to blossom into the perfect fragrant flower He meant us to be.
As we watch our freedoms eroding before our very eyes, we become fearful and we wonder how we are to respond. We feel so helpless to stop it. Like bindweed in a garden, evil has taken root in our country and is sprouting up on every side, choking out the beautiful flowers of freedom. Where were the gardeners, the faithful servants of God, when the bindweed first erupted? Why didn't they diligently pluck out each weed before they started choking out our freedoms? Have we tarried in the land of enchantment Bunyan spoke of in The Pilgrims Progress and fallen asleep in the comfort surrounding us? Have we placed our trust in our politicians, our country, our constitution, our freedom?
"Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land." Jeremiah 17:5-6
It's past time for those shepherding the flock of God to lead us back to our first love. It is past time for individual believers to examine their own hearts. Are we using the gifts God has given us to further the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of self? We need to ask ourselves, where is our zeal for God? We should pursue God and His righteousness with at least as much zeal as our enemies use to advance against us and God's Kingdom. Why do we allow the bindweed to continue growing, choking out God's beautiful flowers?
Yet, how do we pluck out the bindweed? It's grown incredibly big, sprouting new branches all over our garden with roots that are strong and powerful. What do we do? When you weed a flower bed, you pull one weed at a time. And every time another weed sprouts, you pluck it before it becomes too strong to choke out the flower next to it. Whether we have fallen asleep in our enchanted garden, have become more afraid of the weed than the Master Gardner, or thought if we tolerate the bindweed we could somehow live together in the same garden, it's time to stop lying to ourselves. It is the responsibility of each Christian to do their part, to use their gifts to further the Kingdom of God. We must trust God for the fruit of the use of those gifts. Imagine what we could to if we band together and take our garden back by force.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8
We face evil everyday. I think I speak for many when I say that I was naive enough at one time to believe that as a Christian my life should be easy. How contrary to the Gospel this is! Jesus said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him.
Peter says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 'If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." 2 Peter 4:12-19
Peter continues in chapter five by addressing those who shepherd the flock of God. If you are a pastor, teacher, or youth leader, I encourage you to read it and ask God to search your heart and help you be the shepherd He intends for you to be.
As our freedoms are being stripped away faster than any of us could have ever imagined, let us be strength to our neighbors. Let us show the world that we know Who is really in charge. We may lose our outward freedoms, but what can man truly do to us? Our enemy may triumph for a while, but Christ has already won the victory. Let us place our hope and trust in Him. Let that hope and trust make us bold to fight for what is right. Let us be humble servants of God so that He might use us to further His Kingdom.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen...Peace to all of you who are in Christ." 2 Peter 5:6-14
Finally, remember, "...if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14) And, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:8-9
Go with God and blossom into the perfect fragrant flower He created you to be.
Linnette R Mullin
*All scripture references are taken from the ESV.