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Archive for the tag “Keep the Faith”

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

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Badge of Honor

When my Australian friend was describing me to her mother, she called me “sporty.” That is a really good description of the younger me, but these days I’m not sure how much “sport” I have in me. I wouldn’t say I was a rough and tumble type back in the day. I enjoyed sports and played as much as possible. But as far as physical contact sports, I shied away from getting hurt. In my younger years, my best friend was a boy named Jack. He was a year older and had a few pounds on me. Whenever we played together, I was leery about playing aggressively against him because he would always take it too far. I was not a cry baby so I would always shrug it off. Getting hurt took the fun out of the game!

When I was in my mid-thirties, I decided to try my hand with martial arts. I loved it in theory; but on sparring days, I hoped my sparring partners would be skinny little kids. However, it was always the ladies with a weight advantage and would put me on my butt more times than I would like to admit. My Mom was quite concerned with my new sport due to the possibilities of getting hurt. Me too. And one day it happened; I had to call Mom and tell her she was right. However, the injury did not come from sparring partners; it came with learning a new kick. It put me out of commission for about two months – in a wheel chair; cast on one leg and a leg brace on the other. My dream of earning a black belt was over. I was done. The fun of it was gone.

Needless to say, I have a few scars from a few misadventures. However, that tumble with martial arts didn’t leave a physical scar; it played with my psyche. Two months in a wheelchair gives you a different perspective. Even though I have always had an aversion to getting hurt, I became more apprehensive about falling down. I became more conscious of playing it safe; making sure my footing was sure on slippery slopes. Anything that looks potentially hazardous I avoid doing. Sometimes I have missed out on the fun just because of a new fear of getting hurt. Is the fear rational? Possibly, but it doesn’t mean that I have to sit on the sidelines because of it.

A few years ago, I went with the church ladies to a mountain retreat. It was in the fall of the year, and the leaves were at the peak of color. The house where we were staying had a breath-taking view of a lake surrounded by the color of autumn. Upon arrival, we all decided to hike down to the lake. The path looked easy enough. We rounded a bend, and my fear raised its ugly head. The way down from that point on was filled with loose rocks. My prayer life took on a whole new dimension that day. I arrived at the bottom of the hill; and it was a glorious time of rejoicing – not only for the beauty that surrounded us, but for the relief of making it to the bottom without incident.

The other night I read an excerpt from a message from C. H. Spurgeon in my Streams in the Desert devotional that had me thinking of my fear of falling. He mentioned the soldiers who had come home from battle showing their scars and talking about the battles they had come through. There was a (not noted) quote in the devotional “God will not look you over for medals, degree or diplomas, but for scars.” Think about when we get to heaven, we will not talk about playing it safe. We won’t sit around and tell of the things we didn’t do because it was too difficult or a possibility of getting hurt.

The Apostle Paul wrote of his many sufferings as a badge of honor. He had survived beatings, shipwrecks, jail time, and even stoning. At the end of his life, he wrote that he had fought the good fight; he finished the course, and kept the faith. There will be many seated at the wedding table who display battle scars, and we can anticipate hearing all the stories.

It’s not about playing it safe for Jesus. The fun is being in the game. The slippery slope is meant to give us a thrill on the way down (and draw closer to Jesus) and a foothold for the way up. When I began the ascent back to the mountain retreat, I realized going up was much easier because of the rocks placed along the path. I kept looking up to find the next step. Each step took me closer to my destination. Once I made it back, the view was still stunning; but I knew what it was like at the bottom of the mountain, and I could appreciate the view all the more. The journey is always better with a little adventure – even if it’s scary. We might get a few scars in the process, but the stories will be incredible. We are meant for so much more than playing it safe.

This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (MSG)

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