Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pillars in the Temple of God

"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more"  (Revelation 3:12).

I have been reading Jesus' messages to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, and have really been blessed by all of the deep meanings of each church. Some churches just have warnings (like the churches of Sardis and Laodicea), some just have encouragements (like the church of Philadelphia and Smyrna), some have both (like the church of Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira) but every one has a promise for the future to those who overcome the temptations of their time. The messages fill me with hope. Here are a few samples: "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death" (2:11), "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (2:7), "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels" (3:5), and "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (3:21).

This morning I was pondering the promise for the church of Philadelphia. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name" (3:12). I can understand how the second part of the verse is a promise. Having God's name and character imprinted upon everyone who overcomes is truly a blessing I would like to have, but what about being a pillar?

Early in my childhood I moved around quite a bit. My seventh birthday was the first time that I spent two consecutive birthdays in the same house. I was used to saying goodbye to those I loved. Sometimes we would be the ones moving, other times friends would be, but in each move, I felt like a part of my heart was being left behind or taken. I wanted to have all my friends and family in one place someday, where we wouldn't have to say goodbye. More recently I have lost some dear friends to death, and I long all the more to be in a place where I no longer would have to say goodbye. As I fell in love with Jesus, I found that more than anything else, I long to live with Him. Although He promises to be with us here on earth, we are separated in that we cannot see Him face to face.

As I think of all those who are dear to me that are separated by time, space or death, it is easy to wonder if there will ever be a time when there will be no more goodbyes...

Then it struck me. A pillar does not move. In fact, a pillar's job is to stay in one place. Christ's promise is to "make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more." As a pillar in God's temple, you would continually live in His presence. He will fulfill every desire, He will "wipe away every tear" (Rev. 21:4), He will bring together loved ones who have been separated, He will do away with every need to say goodbye. What a promise!

"One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple..." (Psalms 27:4).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You will know them by their fruits

John and I have been blessed to have a small fruit garden in our backyard. One of the joys of living in Southern California is that there is an abundance of amazing fruit all year round. At this time, our fig tree is beginning to show signs of ripening figs, and we look forward to a few weeks from now when we can work on drying and making fig jam.

Sadly, not all trees in our backyard are fantastic. This winter, we were delightedly eyeing an orange tree that had a copious amount of bright orange fruit. The oranges looked rather deformed and lumpy, but we assumed that they would be excellent inside. Maybe they were a heirloom variety. Eagerly we waited for the first to ripen. When the great day came, we picked a few, and excitedly opened them up. The first thing we noticed was that they were a pale yellow inside, not at all like navels usually are, they also had precious little pulp to the amount of lumpy skin around them. when we took a bite, we were even more shocked. Instead of the sweet, juicy fruit, they were as sour as a lemon with a bitter aftertaste. They left much to be desired.

As we talked to more experienced gardeners, we found out that navel trees are grafted on to a wild root. As long as the gardener keeps back the wild root from sending up it's own shoots, the tree will produce delicious fruit from the graft. But if the wild root sends up it's own shoots, and they are not cut back, they will produce a nasty, bitter, sour fruit that is only good for compost. In fact, the tree would be so busy sending it's energy to the aggressively growing wild shoot, that the grafted side will only produce one or two good fruits, which was the case for our tree.

Since we have been living with fruit trees, I am realizing the importance of pruning. Jesus used the illustration of pruning when He spoke to His disciples, just before He was crucified: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:1-5).

So often we let our own desires crop up like the wild root, ready to produce bitter fruit. Selfishness, pride, indolence, greed, the list of bitterness can go on and on. Let us let our Master Gardener to prune away our bad habits and desires. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8).