Community Aid In The Forest

Community Aid In The Forest

Warren E. Berkley

It is hard to imagine. Some trees not only communicate with each other, they help each other. I hadn’t known this or thought of it, until our recent trip to Utah.

A dynamic illustration of this is the underground root network system of the “Quaking Aspen” Tree. When you look out into the forest you see individual trees. While they are grouped together, what you see is individual trees. Underneath the surface there is a root system connecting the group. If one tree has an abundant supply of nutrients, that thriving tree is able to share the nutrients with struggling trees. It is sometimes described as a compassionate system of communication.

Stronger trees “look after” the weaker trees. Weaker trees are able to “tell” the stronger trees that they need help. So, what you see isn’t really independent trees but a group, a family, like a healthy church – where the strong help the weak and where the weak do not hesitate to seek the help of the more mature trees. Growth and longevity depends on the “fellowship” or unselfish generosity of the members. 

This is what God built into His creation. These trees could not have lived without this “organic” system of mutual assistance and community aid. I do not believe this system of community aid could have slowly evolved (how could the trees have survived before the system evolved?). God built this into nature in the beginning.

Likewise, God has ordained that this system of shared assistance be active in families and local churches. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Rom. 15:1

Fair Fighting

Comments On Fair Fighting

We’ve heard these legendary sayings. “Fight fire with fire,” “Whatever it takes,” and recently I heard, “get your hands on their karma and turn it on them early.” 

These expressions may seem to carry the sound of loyalty, commitment to a cause and perseverance. I want to raise the possibility that these remarks may also reflect ill-conceived attitudes that can take us into reactions that miss the mark of what is right and just.

Friedrich W. Nietzsche warned, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster … for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Along the same line, Richard Rohr offered that “We all become well-disguised mirror images of anything that we fight too long or too directly. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the questions after a while. Most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot.”

I want to point out to us (Christians) that we must carefully and prayerfully guard our militance. In resisting evil, opposing humanism and exposing sin whether in personal behavior, institutional doctrine or in the culture, we can become so obsessed with fighting our enemy, we begin to use his tactics.

Isn’t there the danger that we become so emotional, so locked into the aim of defeating what is wrong, maturity, discipline and balance slips away from us and we gradually begin to use the same methods we oppose in the enemy camp?

There is a form of situation ethics that can subtlety get in the way of righteous zeal. For instance, we oppose lying but may be tempted to distort the truth when we are under fire or in intense moments of debate. We may accuse our opponent of ignoring contexts, leaving out pertinent facts and leaning away from objectivity. Shouldn’t we examine ourselves by that same criteria?

Our cause may be righteous, but our methods unrighteous. Our beliefs may be biblical but expressed with such anger we defeat ourselves. Our purposes may be holy, but our tactics unholy. 

We must resist the devil without using his tactics. Stand for truth without compromising in our presentation. Debate to inform, not just to win at any cost. Have the glory of God at the highest point of intent.

TRUTH CONNECTION: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds,” and “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, (2 Cor. 10:1,2, Eph. 4:15).

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Do You Believe What Jesus Believed? #8

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed?

#8

The first time you discover this passage, it may seem out of place. If you are familiar with “red-letter edition” Bibles, the direct words Jesus spoke are printed in red. As you are reading through the book of Acts, there is this one sentence printed in red in those editions of the Scripture: “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35). Paul was speaking to the brethren in Ephesus, reminding them to work hard and help the weak AND to remember these words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What Did Jesus Believe About Giving?

Our first response to that question is obvious. There has never been anyone to walk on the earth who illustrated giving more than Jesus. He “gave Himself a ransom for all,” (1 Tim. 2:6). He “gave Himself for our sins,” (Gal. 1:4). Paul said, He “gave himself up for her,” the church (Eph. 5:25). And, He “gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” (Eph. 5:25). When Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember that He gave Himself for us (Lk. 22:19-20).

God’s grace (perfect mercy combined with generosity) is perfectly witnessed in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus believed in giving.

He expects His people to imitate that spirit that freely gives. He instructed His disciples to give what they had received (Matt. 10:8); a genuine but quiet benevolence (Matt. 6:2-4). We are to give encouragement and spiritual help: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal. 6:2). “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward,” (Matt. 10:42).

When it comes to “givers” and “receivers,” Jesus confers the greater blessing on the givers. That’s what He believed. What about us?

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed? #7

#7

The ancient world of the Roman Empire was not a child-friendly zone. There were laws, leaders and lazy people who accepted no responsibility toward children. To the contrary. There was an ancient practice called “exposure,” that is equivalent to the modern practice of abortion.

There is, first, the well-known case of Herod’s response to news of Jesus’ birth. “When king Herod heard this,” he was so troubled, he ordered that “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under,” be “killed,” (see Matt. 2:1-18). Parents and friends were unable to protect those children, thus the prophecy of Jeremiah came to pass; the “weeping and great mourning” written by the prophet (Jer. 31:15). Jesus’ parents would flee to Egypt.

In the ancient, status-ordered world, children were at the bottom of the ladder. (Ortberg, John. Who Is This Man? (p. 24). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)

What Did Jesus Believe About Children?

Jesus did not see people through the cruel lens of economic benefit, self-interests or cultural correct structure and language. There was a dignity He perceived as Creator (Heb. 1:2), knowing people were made in the image of God. He didn’t ignore or reject someone as useless or worthless because others imposed their hate on their fellows.

In Ortberg’s book (cited above), this is hard to read but boldly historical.

Many babies did not grow up at all. In the ancient world, unwanted children were often simply left to die, a practice called “exposure.” The head of the household had the legal right to decide the life or death of other members of the family. This decision was usually made during the first eight or so days of life. (Ortberg, John. Who Is This Man? (p. 28). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)

What did Jesus believe? “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and went away.” Matt. 18:13-15

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed? #6

#6

So many people express their love for and confidence in Jesus Christ. He is admired and some of His well-known statements have been quoted repeatedly through the years since His time. The question raised in this series is: Do you believe what Jesus believed?

What did Jesus believe about false teachers and false religion?

Here’s what He said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:15-20)

One expanding trend in our culture is blind diversity or celebrated plurality. This isn’t new. I remember in my childhood hearing people say, “Attend the church of your choice.” I was taught by my parents and teachers that this was not wise. Christ has His church. We should read what is written in the Bible and identify with a local group of people who follow what is written to the best of their ability. Denominational diversity became the artificial unity of that post war time.

Today, this importance placed on unity in diversity has been exaggerated a hundred times. Through the evolution of this agenda, the reality of false teachers and false religion has become almost laughable. The modern attitude is, “who cares.”

Jesus cared. He not only acknowledged the reality of false teachers, He said these two things about them: (1) they are false, and (2) they are deceptively disguised. Then He told the people: “Beware” of them. They are like bad fruit from a diseased tree.

Do you believe what Jesus believed about false teachers and false religion? Do you use the Bible to test what religious teachers say or write? Discernment is a necessary discipline for everyone who seeks to please God. “…test everything: hold fast what is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Believing what Jesus believed, #5

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed?

#5

Perhaps I should have started this series with this question. A kind and honest inquiry was brought to me, “did Jesus have faith? Was He a believer?”

Was Jesus A Believer?

On one level, it can be said that He believed what He said was the truth. In that use of the term Jesus was a believer.

The question goes to the humanity of Jesus. All inquiries must take into account that He was both God and man. His dual nature is affirmed in Scripture (notably in John 1:1-14, in particular verse 14; likewise Heb. 2:14-18).

Now look further into that reference in Hebrews. And note how these words are attributed to Him: “I will put my trust in Him,” (Heb. 2:13). Jesus put His trust in God, believing every word of His plan. Later in Hebrews, Jesus is called “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2).

The robust trust Jesus had in the Father is part of the whole example of living given for our imitation. And here is another Hebrews reference that implies that Jesus had faith: “…without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6). If Jesus pleased God (no question that He did), the activity of that way of life was founded on trust in the Father. Therefore I will answer in the affirmative. If faith is trust or dependence on God and taking Him at His word, thus producing obedience, Jesus had faith.

I’ll continue to ask us: Do we believe what Jesus believed? Watch for the next installment in this series.

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed #5

Do You Believe What Jesus Believed?

#5

Perhaps I should have started this series with this question. A kind and honest inquiry was brought to me, “did Jesus have faith? Was He a believer?”

Was Jesus A Believer?

On one level, it can be said that He believed what He said was the truth. In that use of the term Jesus was a believer.

The question goes to the humanity of Jesus. All inquiries must take into account that He was both God and man. His dual nature is affirmed in Scripture (notably in John 1:1-14, in particular verse 14; likewise Heb. 2:14-18).

Now look further into that reference in Hebrews. And note how these words are attributed to Him: “I will put my trust in Him,” (Heb. 2:13). Jesus put His trust in God, believing every word of His plan. Later in Hebrews, Jesus is called “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2).

The robust trust Jesus had in the Father is part of the whole example of living given for our imitation. And here is another Hebrews reference that implies that Jesus had faith: “…without faith it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6). If Jesus pleased God (no question that He did), the activity of that way of life was founded on trust in the Father. Therefore I will answer in the affirmative. If faith is trust or dependence on God and taking Him at His word, thus producing obedience, Jesus had faith.

I’ll continue to ask us: Do we believe what Jesus believed? Watch for the next installment in this series.