It's that time of year again! My red truck is now orange because of the amount of pollen falling from the trees. According to a Newsweek article in 2019, Memphis is the 4th worst city in America for spring allergies. That is a comforting thought, isn't it? Especially for someone like me, who has dealt with allergies his whole life! Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing and much more. Add this to what we are dealing with in the world today with Covid-19, and you are set up for a mess. If I sniff or cough at all, will everyone think that I am infected?!
To help offset this problem in my own life, I decided to cut down a few trees in my backyard. For perspective, the largest one I was going to cut down is around 6-8 inches in diameter. Before I was full-time at First Assembly Memphis, I worked for a company contracted by the electric company. We worked out of bucket trucks with climbing gear to cut trees away from power lines. Not a very safe line of work to say the least. When God calls you to ministry, you do ministry and whatever else you can to pay the bills! There is no such thing as a part-time pastor.
With the help of my very trusting wife, we cut down every small tree that we intended. The only thing left was a rather large vine hanging from one of the trees. Being the safe person that I am, I got out my ladder, thinking I could reach it from there! I could reach, so now to pull it down! I didn’t want it to fall and hurt anyone outside later. As I pulled, I heard a crack. At the same time, I heard my wife tell me to stop pulling! I didn't. Little did I know, the tree that this vine was attached to was dead. Really dead! I pulled half of the tree down with the vine.
Somehow, in God's sovereignty and grace, the tree missed me, missed the window to our house and barely hit our gutter. There is no damage to our roof! My kids were not around, and my wife was far away. We both stood there for a moment, shocked at what had just happened. Here we were, hoping to get a few trees down before they budded out and dropped pollen. Now, we have half of a dead tree in our yard! What a mess it made. You never know what a day or activity may bring about in your life.
1 Peter 5:8 is very familiar to most of us. Here is how the New International Reader's Version puts it:
"Control yourselves. Be on guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow."
I wonder how often spiritually we do this. We see something hanging out in front of us. Perhaps it is like the forbidden fruit on the tree in the garden. Or sometimes it can be like the carrot hanging in front of the donkey. We say things like:
"It's completely harmless."
"What bad could come of this."
"I can stop anytime I want."
Our yard was completely clean before I took down this large, dead branch from our tree. We had worked hard up to this point. Everything was done in an orderly fashion. We cleaned as we cut, and things were looking good. This is the way it can be with our lives before everything comes crashing down. Sometimes, it is not even of our own doing (mine obviously was!). Pastor Lindberg has referenced Ephesians 5:17 frequently during this time in our country. "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." I really like the verses that precede it as well:
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. "
Be careful. All it takes is to say one hurtful thing, and you may have a mess in your yard that you did not want or need. All it takes is one act of disobedience and the consequence, again, may be a big mess in your yard. There is always forgiveness for these mistakes, but there are still consequences. There are some consequences that will not simply go away because you repent. Trust may have to be built again. Love may need to be restored in a relationship.
During this time, and at all times for that matter, I urge you to live at peace, if possible. Control your tongue as the book of James says. Watch what you say and do. Be gracious and kind. Be full of the fruits of the Spirit. They should be ripe and ready to be picked. Let's have clean yards in our lives!