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Accurate Representation

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at lessons from the fig tree in Mark 11. Hundreds of years later, we are still learning from this moment.

Lately, we’ve seen an increase in breaking news headlines announcing of organizational changes. The media release explains that a company has cut ties with an employee because their actions did not reflect organizational standards and values. Whether intentional or accidental, the actions of the employee were cause for dismissal. They misrepresented the company and were now a liability.

When Jesus and His disciples found the fig tree in Mark 11, it should have been full of fruit. Its leaves were in full bloom, suggesting that the figs were ripe for the picking. But there wasn’t even one fig on the tree. Jesus then cursed it to never bear any fruit again. The tree misrepresented its standards and was now a liability.

Jesus and His group approached the fig tree to satisfy their hunger. But when the tree turned out to be empty, they were disappointed. Perhaps they left even hungrier than when they first approached. At the risk of discovering other bare trees, they may have been hesitant to try another fig tree anytime soon.

When the group passed by the tree the following morning, they noticed it had withered from the roots upward.

Whenever I’ve seen a withering plant, it usually starts from the top and travels downward. The tops would first droop, then die. Slowly, you’ll see less and less green in the stem as the plant dies. There is hope for the plant if it’s trimmed or cut down before the death spreads to its roots. Once the roots are lifeless, there is no chance for new life. Withered roots are unable to absorb nutrients and water from the earth.

This encounter with the fig tree teaches us that God takes His name very seriously! He has even issued commandments describing how His name is to be used.

If we claim the title “Christian”, if we act like a follower of God, then the expectation is that during any interaction with us, we’re responding and behaving as someone who is closely connected to God. Our words, our actions, our ideas should be filled with good intentions. Our very presence would feel welcoming and inviting because God is with us.

When we send out mixed messages, like this fig tree, we risk hurting people. When we misrepresent God, the condition of those in need may deteriorate.

This does not have to be our experience. Let’s learn from this Bible story and made a decision to live and represent God with our best. We are not alone in how we live day to day. The Holy Spirit is available to us and helps us live honestly, representing God with accuracy in all that we do.

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Written by Sabrina Jacques-Rowe
Communications Director,
Henderson Highway Church

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Read more about the fig tree:
Part 1: Are We Productive?
Part 2: Seasonal Produce

Seasonal Produce

Last week, we began looking at lessons from the fig tree in Mark 11. Hundreds of years later, we are still learning from this moment.

Though the tree looked promising, it did not produce any fruit. It did not fulfill the purpose for which it was created. This tree was then destroyed by Jesus Himself because it produced nothing. Even one fruit would have changed the fate of this tree.

When it comes to our lives, we must be producing something in order to be effective. It’s not enough to only look like a Christ-follower or to wear the title. We must live and love as Christ did.

Life is full of seasons. Each of us is living at our own pace in this journey of a Christian life. There are seasons of hardship. These moments can be incredibly painful and we may wish to hit a pause button on life in order to catch our breath. There are also seasons when we may not want to awaken from what must be a dream because life is going spectacularly well. Blessings are lining up for us and our jaws keep dropping lower and lower in amazement. We can’t forget the in between seasons. We may have developed a new appreciation for the mundane during the recovery from an upswing or downswing season.

Regardless of what’s currently happening at this very moment, life does not stop. We are not exempt from producing fruit because of what’s happening to us. The hardships and trials can fuel our resolve to dig deeper and hang on.

Dig deeper into God’s Word and cling to His promises. When we’re rooted in Christ, He will help us to weather the storms and keep on producing. Spend time in His presence, talking with God and listening to what He wants us to learn.

The enemy takes advantage of our trials and hardships to distract us from following Christ. As long as our focus shifts from Christ, we will stop producing fruit.

There is good news. Producing something, even if it seems small, is still a sign of production. It’s not about the amount of fruit that’s produced. It’s about whether or not we are producing something good that reflects the presence of Christ in our lives.

We’ll continue exploring the fig tree next week–stay tuned!

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Written by Sabrina Jacques-Rowe
Communications Director,
Henderson Highway Church

Are We Productive?

The vibrant tree stood tall with its lush leaves. It was flourishing and full of life. Eager to satisfy their hunger, the group approached the tree anticipating its fresh fruit. They couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into some figs.

Though they got closer, it was still hard to spot fruit hanging from the tree limbs. Jesus scoured the branches, searching high and low for some sign of fruit. There wasn’t even one fig in sight!

The production process of a fig tree is a bit different than other trees. Many times, leaves appear first, followed by that tree’s fruit. However, for the fig tree, growing figs appear first, followed by the opening of its leaves.

Jesus selected the fig tree because, based on its appearance, it was supposed to have something to offer. The fullness of the leaves suggested that there was plenty of fruit to pick. Instead, there was nothing at all.

Disappointed and disturbed by this tree, Jesus said: “May no one ever eat your fruit again!”

As followers of Christ, we share some similarities with fig trees. Christianity goes much deeper than it appears on the surface.

Some of us have mastered the appearance of a Christian. We can speak with great eloquence and know the fitting scriptures to apply at the appropriate moments. We know how to walk and carry ourselves, particularly when we’re feeling blessed and highly favored. We have perfected well-timed smiles and can flit about here and there looking busy while serving the Lord.

Yet, looking like a Christian does not mean that you are living as a Christian. Being a Christian means that we’re intentional about producing fruit. Fueled by our relationship with Christ and His transformational power in our lives, we will want others to have this experience as well.

The love of Christ is meant to be shared with those around us. If when people interact with us, and they leave without being fed, nurtured or encouraged in some way, then we have not produced any fruit.

The day that Jesus and His disciples came across the fig tree, they were in need. They were hungry and needed to be fed. Because they tree did not produce any fruit, the group left this encounter in the same condition that they first arrived in.

We’ll continue exploring this fig tree lesson next week–stay tuned!

 

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Written by Sabrina Jacques-Rowe
Communications Director,
Henderson Highway Church

God Works Through Awkwardness

Elijah, a prophet of The Most High God, had his awkward moments. Let’s check out a few of his highlights.

Elijah boldly strolled in to see the king unannounced and uninvited. Just as quickly as he walked in and delivered his short message, he walked right out. Then there’s that day on top of Mount Carmel. After mocking and taunting the prophets of Asherah and Baal, Elijah prayed a simple prayer and fire came down from heaven immediately. Shortly afterward, he outran the king’s chariot back into town. There’s also the time he asked a woman gathering sticks for water and bread without even saying hello.

One of his most awkward exchanges came when God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his replacement. In obedience, Elijah went to find Elisha. They did not have a somber and reverent ceremony to mark Elisha’s new call. Instead, Elijah walked up, threw his cloak around Elisha and walked away. It was Elisha who chased after him to find out what exactly was to happen next.

Yet, for as quirky and awkward as Elijah was, he was still called by God. God used Elijah time and time again for great things. Though the Bible doesn’t say much about the relationship between Elijah & Elisha, we can see that God’s work was done well. Not only did Elisha stick around but he asked for a double portion of the spirit that Elijah had. Elisha saw the hand of God, even through the awkwardness.

If you compare Elijah’s behavior to some of the other Bible prophets, he does not rank high for grace and eloquence. However, there was enough good in Him that God knew He’d be able to use Elijah. Furthermore, Elijah was willing to do whatever God told Him. He was obedient.

There are times when we hinder ourselves because we don’t think we fit the part. We’re quick to list the reasons why we cannot do this, that and the other. We’re quick to forget that nothing is impossible for God—including using us for His work. God specializes in using misfits!

Some of us are more gracious than others. Some could give masterclasses in eloquence to the rest of us. There are introverts and extroverts among us who thrive exactly as we are. Regardless of what we may deem our strengths and weaknesses to be, God looks deeper than that. He looks for the hearts that He can use for His purpose and for His glory. God works through the awkwardness in undeniable ways.

If we’re willing and have a desire to follow Him, to be obedient to His call, God will use us for His amazing purposes!

 

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Written by Sabrina Jacques-Rowe
Communications Director
Henderson Highway Church

The Bells and Pomegranates

“So when all these things being to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:28, NLT

As we conclude our series on the High Priest’s garment, there is one aspect left. The fringe.

Yes, God’s attention to detail also includes the edges of clothing. He is that comprehensive and thorough in all that He does.

The fringe is a combination of tiny bells and pomegranates. Though it sounds like ear-pleasing décor, even this detail serves a purpose.

The Most Holy Place was to be accessed only one day each year. The High Priest was the only one permitted to enter this room. Because of the solemnity of this space, the High Priest required special preparations, including being cleared from sin before meeting with God.

The bells on the fringe of the garment would tinkle lightly as the High Priest moved about doing his duties. Attentive listeners stood outside, making sure that they kept hearing these bells. The tinkling meant that the High Priest was still alive while in the glory of God. His personal sinful condition and the sins he carried on behalf of the people did not overtake him while in God’s presence.

The bells on the garment of the High Priest gave the people an audible sign that he was alive and interceding for them in the Most Holy Place. As Christ intercedes for us in the Most Holy Place, even though we cannot hear the bells on His garment, we should pay attention to signs that He is about to finish His work as High Priest and come back as a Judge and King.

As we’ve studied the High Priest’s garment, we’ve been reminded that God has a plan.

We are not alive without an intended purpose from our Creator. There is significantly more to life than we see each day. Jesus is coming back to take us to our home in Heaven.

Because of sin, God sent Jesus, our High Priest, to earth to die in our place. Jesus was that unblemished and innocent young lamb that was sacrificed to atone for our sins. When Jesus died, the veil tore in the curtain, from top to bottom, allowing the Most Holy Place to be accessible to everyone at any time.

We are able to pray–talk to God–directly. We can be direct in seeking His forgiveness. We can be direct in bringing our needs to Him. Likewise, God can be direct with us as tells us His plans for our lives.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.