Dead or Alive

Now that we are well into the season of ‘planting and transplanting’, discerning the health of our plants is a vital activity.

I have spent quite a few hours monitoring the health of our garden plants. Battling the insect pests and unwelcome creatures is constant. But, I also frequently check on the condition of two transplanted bushes.

Though I could have chosen better timing than the hottest week of the summer, the time seemed right to move two shrubs from the east side to the west side of our house. Both appeared to be quite healthy when we began the process since both ‘loved’ the heat and sunlight. Confident of success and careful to do all I could to protect the root system of both plants, I watered and watched.

Sadly, each day brought new revelations of a possible miscalculation on my part. Within a few days, both plants, once filled with bright green foliage, showed signs of stress. Actually, they looked like the plants we had pulled up and thrown onto the mulch pile. This was definitely not the goal toward which I was working.

After a few days of anxious watering and weeding, I noticed the first signs of success. On a few of the plants’ stems that, by now, looked a little bit like wiener roasting sticks, a few tiny sprigs of green life began to appear. First one leaf emerged…then another…then another. Now it is apparent that the transplanting work will succeed. WAIT–we still have a Wisconsin winter to endure! Oh, well, we’ll just take one step of victory at a time.

Recently, while reading and meditating on Revelation 3, I noted a similar, though not exact, process conducted by Jesus, The Master Caretaker. He was assessing the health of two churches: Sardis and Philadelphia. During His examination, Jesus concluded that Sardis, though appearing to be quite alive, was actually dead. And He noted that Philadelphia, though quite weak, was actually very much alive.

This made me think: Is our church dead or alive. It’s a critical question to answer.

In Sardis, the cultural conclusion had been drawn–here is a church alive! This church is relevant, affirming, active, responsive and popular. And yet Jesus concluded that it was dead because it was spiritually asleep, decaying and incomplete. How could a church that seemed to be so ‘alive’ be so ‘dead’?

On the other hand, Philadelphia appeared to be so insignificant. As a matter of fact, Jesus said that the church had ‘little strength’. And yet, the church was actually very much alive, because it ‘kept Jesus word’ and ‘refused to deny His name’. To this church, Christ was much more important than anything. This church did not curry favor with culture. It cultivated faith in Christ Jesus.

We all want to make a positive impact on culture. But, it might be true that exalting Christ may just exasperate culture. It could happen that as we revel in Christ culture may just revile us.

So let’s be cautious. Find out what pleases the Lord, walk in His ways and let Him decide if we are alive or dead regardless of what culture concludes.

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