After Adam and Eve, the Bible shows us Cain and Abel coming before God. Obviously they knew from their parents that they needed to come with a sacrifice. Cain, however, decided he didn’t want to bring an animal sacrifice as his parents had. Cain wanted to bring a sacrifice that did not require the shedding of blood. He felt his sacrifice of garden produce should be just as good. Here we see the beginning of a contention that has not abated through history: the issue of how to worship. Today it has become one of the greatest contentions among the people of the earth, permeating politics, social life, music and world affairs. Where two or more are gathered it seems that a disagreement over worship will eventually ensue.
Sometimes it doesn’t even take two or more to have a disagreement. There is the story of the man who was rescued from a desert island. The man was a builder and had spent his years on the island building different structures. By the time he was rescued he had built a complete village. The rescuers looked in awe as the man pointed out the different buildings he had constructed, “That’s my house, that’s the general store and that building with the tall steeple is where I go to church.” One of the rescuers noticed another building on the other side of the village with a similar tall steeple and asked, “What about that building over there.” The man frowned and finally replied, “That’s where I used to go to church.”
I believe the Bridegroom wants us to be “His whole life.” It is only us who balk at the idea. The bride had a hard time understanding the Bridegroom in the perspective of His larger world, the kingdom. He was always calling her out to join Him in His endeavors there. Once it was past bedtime and the bride had already put her hair up in roller and her face smeared Noxzema. She had her fuzzy house robe on and her bunny slippers and did not want to get up. The Bridegroom goes on without her but the bride knows that she can’t live without Him so she wipes off the Noxzema and kicks off her bunny slippers and runs off to find Him. Unable to find Him she tells the daughters of Jerusalem, “If you see Him tell Him I love Him.” When I read this recently my heart stopped. I thought, “We are the church, the bride of Christ. The last thing the world should hear us saying is ‘Where’s Jesus?’” And this is not the first time the bride had run around the streets saying, “Have you seen my beloved?” But if we continue to resist the Bridegroom’s invitation to His larger world we will all eventually find ourselves one day left behind while He tends to His kingdom. He will come back, of course, but the fullness of the relationship that we could have enjoyed with him will not be realized. He wants us out with Him in His Kingdom and if we decline the invitation we will find ourselves, too, saying, “Where’s Jesus ?"
On June 6th, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops assaulted a 50 mile wide beachhead in Normandy, France. Four German infantry divisions and one Panzer division were waiting for them, but by midnight 175,000 Allied soldiers along with 50,000 combat vehicles were ashore.
The Allied beachhead was established, but instead of breathing a sigh of relief and taking a day of leave, the Allies had to focus their attention of the next and more costly phase of their invasion. They had to break out of their beachhead and drive the enemy back to make room for almost a million more troops and their equipment that would be needed to liberate France and then the rest of Europe.
Breakout proved to be more difficult than was anticipated. Enemy resistance was fierce and the hedgerows of the Normandy farmland turned out to be daunting. The farmers sectioned off their fields by planting rows of hedges. Each small section of farmland (about the size of a football field or less) was surrounded by hedgerows that had been there for centuries, their roots grown large and deep and impenetrable. Allied tanks couldn’t break through them and the enemy could hide all through them making progress for the Allies very costly and time consuming.
In the midst of all this frustration, an enterprising young American serviceman came up with a plan to make use of the iron obstacles the enemy had submerged in the surf of the Normandy beaches to hinder the Allied landing. These iron railings were welded onto the fronts of Sherman tanks and acted as plows to break through the hedgerows. They had used the enemy’s own weapons against him.
Finally, the Allies were able to break out of their beachhead and establish their full invasion force on the European continent, but the price of victory had been staggering indeed. D-Day had lasted one day and cost the Allies 9,000 casualties. The breakout had taken 75 days at a cost of 200,000 casualties (casualty estimates from Stephen Ambrose’s book on the D-Day invasion).
I believed we have established a beachhead in our new season. But that does not mean we can sit back and rest. The real battle lies ahead. We must break out. And sometimes the weapons we will use to break out will be those the enemy has fashioned against us.
In the February 3, 2008 early morning prayer meeting, Chuck began to prophesy that the Lord was moving the hedges and establishing new boundaries, dealing with the roots and allotting new assignments to people. I had been redoing the landscaping in my back yard that winter, transplanting bushes, digging new flower beds and generally establishing new boundaries and allotting new assignments for many of my bushes, plants and trees. What I found most interesting was what I discovered under the surface of the ground in those areas where we can’t see. Mostly it was the roots that amazed me, roots from other bushes or vines that had inched their way over they years into areas where they should not have been, taking more than their share of water and nutrients from plants that weren’t as vigorous. I ran into this a few years back in another house. A Boston ivy had sent roots out under most of my yard and a good part of my neighbors. Where ever a sprinkler was running in my yard or the next, the Boston ivy got most of the benefit. So I knew I had to establish new boundaries for some of those roots in my new back yard and make a way through soil mix and fertilization for the transplanted root systems to flourish.
Though we usually can’t see what is going on under the surface, the Lord always knows. When He begins to dig or prune, we usually don’t appreciate it. It’s uncomfortable. It invades our status quo. But God knows when a bad root is steeling our life flow. He knows when our soil is compacted and needs to be loosened up. None of these things are easy for a plant to handle, nor are they easy for us. But we must trust that what ever He is doing, it is for our ultimate good. Jesus said, “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, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-3 NKJV)
Oh, another thing I found under the ground was construction debris from when the house was built: pieces of plastic and wire, chunks of concrete and brick and even a smashed Styrofoam cup. Sometimes we need to just let God dig all that stuff up and replace it with good fertile soil. He is doing that right now in many of us so let’s let Him move the hedges and establishing new boundaries, deal with the roots and allot new assignments to us.