Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shock and Awe

“He is like a tree planted by streams of living water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Psalm 1:3 NIV

The phrase “Shock and Awe” was coined during the second Gulf war and the invasion of Iraq. This post is not about that time in history but deals with gardening! What to flowers, bushes and trees have to do with Bunker Buster Bombs?
The portion of scripture quoted above, read from the Tehillim (Jewish translation of the book of Psalms with commentary) states: “He shall be like a tree replanted (emphasis mine) by streams of water.” A footnote to this verse reads: “The wicked people who are enchanted by the charms of This World are considered ‘planted’ here, i.e. rooted permanently in this earth…Not so the righteous man who is considered replanted’, i.e. he has uprooted his desire for the pleasures of This World and has planted his soul in a higher realm of existence so that it derives its vitality and sustenance from the world of the spirit.” This sounds much like a born again experience.  Col. 1: 13-14 NIV says: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God literally transplants us into a whole new world.
In recent years I have become an avid gardener.  Proper soil preparation is critical for success; red Georgia clay is as friable as cured concrete. When I establish a new bed I remove all the old soil and replace it with top soil, manure and organic matter. Whatever I plant there has a rich medium to sink roots into easily. Eph. 3:17 NIV describes the ground our Heavenly Fathers places us in. We are to be “rooted and established in love.” I John 4:7 NIV states that “God is love”; He is the soil we are transplanted into and soil composition is very important. 1 Cor. 13: 4-8 provides the breakdown of this new ground we call home. God is patient, kind, does not envy or boast. He is not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered. He keeps no record of wrongs; does not delight in evil; rejoices with the truth. God always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and He never fails. God relocates us into a totally new and foreign environment. As plants in the natural react to change, we also experience transplant shock.
When flowers, shrubs and trees are uprooted and moved, their root systems suffer from the disturbance. It is unavoidable, but steps can be taken to mitigate the effects and help smooth the transition from one location to another. I use a product called Quick Start and it is akin to a B-12 shot for transplants. The impact is visibly demonstrative; the plant adjusts much quicker to its new home. God, The Great Gardener, does the same thing for a new believer. He place His Holy Spirit in them to provide assistance and help on an as needed basis. Becoming born again is an exhilarating experience, which initially can also be a bit bewildering, even un-natural. This is normal and God provides His own supernatural bloom boost in Holy Spirit who helps us adjust to the new surroundings.
Another rule of thumb in gardening is “dig a ten dollar hole for a one dollar plant.” To insure that a transplant will grow and flourish, provide a soil enriched space much larger than the root ball. If I do not follow this rule, the native clay creates a barrier that severely restricts new growth. The plant expends enormous energy in an attempt to develop a good root system and may stay stunted. This applies to all plants: flowers, shrubs and trees. God is not cheap nor is He chintzy. He does not carve out a tiny portion of Himself with just enough space to squeeze us in. He lavishes us with ample, fertile ground to quickly put down strong roots. He desires that we tap in deeply to Him to establish stability and the ability to draw our nourishment from Him, our source.
Some plants, especially trees, benefit from being staked. These help ensure straight vertical growth and provide protection from being damaged or uprooted by strong wind and severe weather. There come a point when the tethers must be removed and the plant or tree stands on its own. Failure to do this can cause damage as growth continues. The guide lines could cut into the trunk and open the door to disease or infestation. Supporting the plant never guarantees storms and winds will not take a toll. Their purpose was to steady the plant or tree when developing a strong foundation to withstand strong turbulence. New believers benefit from a strong support system in the beginning of their walk with the Lord. More mature brothers and sisters can help by: teaching and instructing in the Word of God; praying and interceding while the young Christian learns the practice and habit of prayer; using their faith to combat difficult situations until babes in Christ develop their own. Winds of adversity will come. Tethered support can help prevent a new believer from being blown over or uprooted when storms hit.  
The tree in Proverbs 1:3 was transplanted next to a stream. All plants, especially those freshly relocated, need water. The fourth chapter of John’s gospel records a discourse between Jesus and a Samaritan woman (a major cultural faux pas and another whole topic for discussion). Jesus initiated the conversation with a request for a drink from the well. He told the un-named woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst, indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life.” ver 13-14  A new believer is comparable to the tree in Proverbs; the stream of water to Jesus. From the Lord, a believer draws enough to liberally share because he or she “will yield its fruit in season”, and be refreshed themselves because their “leaf does not wither.”   
If this transplant process happened automatically when a person is born again, why do many never seem to take root and flourish? Proverbs 1: 1-2 NIV gives explanation. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law does he meditate day and night.” The scripture does not imply that we cloister ourselves away; avoid any outside contact; and spend our time 24/7 with our nose in the Bible. It deals with making right choices. We determine who has entrance to our sphere of influence. Choose friends wisely. In life we have contacts with all sorts of people; some of these encounters we cannot control. How these associations and interactions impact us is our decision. We must use wisdom and discernment to know how much of their input we receive.
The second point mentioned was having daily exposure to God and His Word. Most of us, throughout the day must focus our attention to the task at hand. In our free time we have opportunity to study and memorize God’s word. The word “meditate” means to ponder and contemplate. It also means to “think out loud”, repeating what we’ve read as we consider its meaning. This process builds a filtration system that screens incoming thoughts and ideas. If they pass the litmus test of God’s Word we can have confidence to follow their directions.
 Another aspect about transplanting, more evident with trees than with flowers and shrubs is this, growth is a slow process. We desire instant results, however, maturity takes time. It may appear as though nothing is different. Continue to follow God’s plan and good growth will occur often unseen, under the surface before there is any visible manifestation. Then, as if overnight, everything changes. We are “shocked” and the progress and development and “awed” at what God has accomplished.
Trees tend to stay put once they become established. To uproot a fully mature tree carries the real risk of death. When we are firmly “rooted and established in love”, it behooves us to stay put. To pull up roots and head for greener pastures can prove lethal. Stay with God; develop a strong, personal, intimate relationship with Him. Study and apply His Word to your circumstances. You will have all you need and plenty to share with others. In times of adversity, which will come, you will not wither, die or be toppled. Your roots are dug down deep and you will flourish in the best and worst of times.

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