We live in THE VILLAGE, a most wonderful place to spend the rest of your life. Our house is surrounded by three giant century old Oak trees. Squirrels and birds find their nests. Our porch faces the east and is sandwiched between two of the trees. They will still be standing long after we are gone.
Following a recent surgery, I received a letter from some friends in Hubert, North Carolina. They enclosed a copy of the poem, THE OAK TREE.
A mighty wind blew night and day. It stole the Oak tree’s leaves away, Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark until the Oak was tired and stark. But still the Oak tree held its ground, while other trees fell all around. A weary wind gave up and spoke, how can you still be standing, Oak?” The Oak tree said, “I knew that you, can break each branch of mine in two; Carry every leaf away, shake my limbs and make me sway. But I have roots stretched in the earth, growing stronger since my birth. You’ll never touch them, for you see, they are the deepest part of me. Until today, I wasn’t sure of just how much I could endure, but now I’ve found, with thanks to you, I’m stronger than I ever knew.” (Author unknown)
Practically all of us accept the proverb – quoted and used by Jesus – that “A tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 7:20). The point of the proverb is that a person’s actions reveal to an observing world the innermost secrets of his heart.
A more reliable saying about the heart comes from the pen of Solomon, “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19).
What is worth knowing about one’s own heart? After all, we see from the inside out. What are some of the things which allow you to see a true reflection of the real you? Reflect on the following questions one at a time.
Grandpa use to say, “Boy, you gotta learn to be before you can learn to have before you can learn to do! The formula sounds simple – “Be – do – Have!” This is somewhat the opposite of what is said today. “Boy, You go buy nice things, where you can do things and BE somebody.” Is this why some kids can murder for a pair of expensive Tennis shoes? Is this the primary reason why we are up to our eyes in credit and debt? Do we really believe that ‘clothes makes the man’ or designer shoes make you jump higher? Has our mindset so changed that we believe that having things equals ‘being somebody’? Paul’s criteria was different. He wrote, “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test”
(II Corinthians 13:5).
There are three words that begin with the letter “D“. It is absolutely urgent that we keep them in order. The world of psychology teaches the first two but not the third. You must DISCOVER SELF. Knowing self is not the answer. It can be the problem. The doctor was kind but blunt. When I woke up from the examination, he simply said, “Mr. Exum, you have cancer! Knowing I had cancer didn’t cure the cancer. Knowing ones sin is important only and if he seeks redemption and forgiveness for it.
Paul speaks of death in Colossians 3:5 when he writes, “MORTIFY therefore your members which are upon the earth.” The word “Mortify” is translated, “Put to death therefore”. To KNOW YOURSELF only allows you to mourn your sin and deal a DEATH blow to the appetites of the flesh. Knowing self is vital, and putting to death the sins of the flesh is commanded – but HOW?
Jesus gives the answer when he said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Now you have the proper sequence. The knowledge, the need, and the power to cure the cancer of sin.
The beauty of simple questions is an honest answer, not one that is simply playing a game. We may fool others, but God knows the heart. When Samuel was looking for a King in Israel, the Lord gave him these instructions. “Look not on his countenance nor the height of his stature . . . for the Lord does not see as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
This column is dedicated to all of you who suffer in silence. You have the patience and fortitude of the Oak. You stand alone because of what you are inside.
You know that being is not doing or having, and that the secret of a “Life in the Spirit” is in knowing personal sins, denying self, and following the Christ. The “HAPPY ATTITUDES” in Matthew five helps us here. Break your heart – “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Know your personal sins – “Blessed are they that mourn”. Strength for your soul – “Blessed are the meek.” Truth seekers – “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Mercy, purity and peacemaking are the fruits of this journey (Matthew 5:1- 9).
Have a happy day.