Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Is Thy Sting?

I recently cut my father's grass while he was recovering from an injury.  I had trouble getting his lawn mowers started so I gratefully found a neighbor who was willing to loan me her lawn mower for the project.   Due to my work schedule and the increasing growth of the grass, I felt an urgency to cut the grass on that particular day.  So, with a self-propelled lawn mower in hand, I commenced to cutting.

The project began rather smoothly.  The lawn mower was cutting at a good clip.  I felt a sense of pride, seeing the grass getting mowed down at a good pace.

Then it happened.  I felt a sharp stinging sensation in my calf.  As I looked down, I could see the culprit...yellow jackets.  I had cut over a yellow jacket nest and they were swarming in the vicinity.  I quickly vacated the premises, but not before I had received two stings on my left calf, one on my right calf, and one sting on my right hand.  I rested for a short time, then resumed my project, carefully watching for additional yellow jacket nests.  Thankfully, my father-in-law came over and helped me cut the rest of the grass.  The yard was mowed but I left the project wounded from those pesky yellow jackets.

When I went to bed that night, the stings were very painful, just a constant ache.  I wondered if I would even be able to sleep due to the pain.  This concerned me because I needed to rest to be able to work the following day.  Finally, I took some Tylenol and got some rest. The stings itched for several days and I coated the areas with antihistamine gel.  Finally, after about 2-3 days, the stings caused no discomfort whatsoever.   

Nevertheless, the stings reminded me of 1 Corinthians 15.  As a matter of fact, death is described as having a sting.  It bites with a vengeance, sometimes gradually as seen with progressive illness, but sometimes rather quickly as loved ones are removed from this earth in a moment. However, the pain of death is overcome by the eternal victory of those who belong to Christ.  Our lives on this earth, just as the fleeting stings and lives of yellow jackets, are only temporary.  Death ultimately leads believers into the eternal glory of heaven.  Thus, it is no wonder the scripture taunts death, saying, "..O, death, where is thy sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55).  In other words, death, is that the best you can do?

The yellow jackets may have felt they had gotten the best of me.  Yet, in the big picture, as a believer in Christ, I truly am the victor.

Hence, "...thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15:57).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bearing More Fruit

Many years ago I lived in the house of my great aunt and great uncle after they passed away.  It was an old house but rather unique.  It was located on a large amount of property, meaning there was a big yard which required much effort to keep the grass cut on a regular basis.  The property also contained several fig trees which were somewhat unproductive.  I admired the large leaves of these biblical trees but didn't see much fruit of which to speak.   

However, after I moved out, my parents moved into this house, a nice move for them but even better fortune for the fig trees.  My father, in his wisdom, recognized the problem with the fig trees in that they contained multiple dead limbs.  Therefore he commenced to pruning the trees or "cutting them way down" as he put it.  That was several years ago.

Now you wouldn't believe the number of figs that we harvest every year.  The trees have grown to gigantic proportions with extensive foliage.  Hence, as the summer progresses, the challenge is to pick the figs as soon as possible (before the birds get them) and distribute them to whoever desires their sweetness.  Needless to say, my father's pruning has been very productive.   

Jesus says that the Heavenly Father is also in the pruning business.  John 15:2 says, "...every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit."  What does the pruning entail?  I would imagine it could be any type of hardship or difficulty.  For me, I underwent a major pruning when I went through cancer.  Yet it could be financial difficulties, relationship issues, work problems, whatever.  Some very painful processes.  On the other hand, the abundant harvest (just like my father's fig trees in due time) proclaim the value of the pruning. Consequently, just like my father gives away figs, the pruning in my life may provide nourishment for many others.  That is my prayer.