Every once in a while, we get to see the familiar faces of people who’ve been part of our church family, but have had to move on because of work, etc. This week was a veritable flood of “old home week” interactions! Rick and Liz Schmalzried came into town to celebrate Rick’s 50th birthday by going to Alexander’s Steakhouse... which also brought back Frank and Faith Zosky to celebrate as well... which had absolutely nothing to do with why Zach Malmgren just happened to pop in on the same day.
But it was a beautiful, celebratory day in the Lord this Sunday. Graham League forgot his notes to help him get through his sharing about his ministry at Great Oaks Camp... and in his “winging it,” he just happened to share with exactly the right tone and exactly the right focus to prepare the congregation for what Vanessa had set up for the worship music, and for what I had been planning for the message... though none of us had discussed any of that with one another in advance.
Luckily, God knows what He’s doing with that sort of thing, so if Graham and Vanessa and I are all praying and asking God to lead us, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone when God does precisely that -- so when we pray and then simply do what comes naturally as a result, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when all of those unique ways of stepping out in obedience just naturally echo exactly what God had prepared for us to do.
We talked a bit about that in our message this week, looking at simply growing naturally in the Lord.
When God works in us and through us, He changes us from the inside-out. He plants the seed of His Truth in us, and we transform from being mere dirt to being soil with eternal life growing within it. We can’t make ourselves grow, and we can’t make anyone else grow, either... but we can certainly do what we can to facilitate that growth in ourselves and others.
For instance, we can dig our roots down deep into Him (instead of maintaining a shallow, “Sunday-morning-Christian” relationship with Him and calling it “good enough”), and we can clear out the weeds in our lives (the worries and distractions of this world that choke out our growth so that we never get past the initial sprouts), and we can make sure that we’re never satisfied simply being tall, green trees (since no new trees will ever grow up if we aren’t the fruit-bearing trees that God calls us to be).
Now, just exactly how you bear fruit is kind of up to how God planted you (apple trees shouldn’t be unhappy that they’re not producing oranges, orange trees shouldn’t expect that they’ll bear figs, etc.), but all of us should be bearing fruit in our lives that produce the seeds that bring about the next generation of Christians, or else we’re not really healthy trees.
But again, that’s not an unnatural strain on a fruit-bearing tree -- in fact, it’s unnatural for fruit-bearing trees not to bear fruit. In the same way, outreach shouldn’t be an unnatural strain on a Christian -- in fact, it would be unnatural for a Christian planted by God not to let God’s Spirit overflow out of them and into those around them. It’s not about being outgoing, or about having lots of non-Christian friends, or about being part of a complicated evangelism program -- it’s simply about naturally sharing what God is doing in and through you, in much the same way as you naturally tell people about your grandchildren, or about the Seattle Seahawks, or about your favorite pizza place. Should sharing about the God who loves you be somehow more unnatural than those other, lesser things?
Don’t let the world choke your growth by convincing you that growth and bearing fruit is unnatural. Just let God work in you and through you, and watch what the Master Gardener brings out of your soil... and theirs...