Small verse, big changes…

 

Autumn brings spectacular change. Falling temperatures remind us to open our windows and invite the cool air inside. Hay bales and mums decorate porches. And, of course, the leaves begin to display their fine autumnal hues. The change in the colors of the leaves is a complex bio-chemical process that boggles the mind. Thankfully, not all beautiful change is complex. In fact, deep and dynamic personal change can take place through a simple process; it is outlined in Jeremiah 26:13:

“Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God…”

 

In Jeremiah’s admonition to God’s people he described how God-honoring change takes place. Let’s take a look at it together.

 

First, God-honoring change requires us take a hard look at ourselves. None of us enjoys this, but it is the intial step toward lasting change. Before we can “amend our ways and doings,” you and I must compare ourselves to the standard of God’s Word. We are to not compare ourselves to others (that’s self-justification) or compare ourselves to a standard that we have no intention of keeping (that’s hypocrisy). We must compare ourselves to God’s standards. Ouch! Hold on, there is good news. The gap that exists between your everyday life and God’s eternal standards is bridged by His grace to you in Christ. So, with courage, and encouragement, go ahead and take the floodlight of God’s Word and shine it onto your thoughts, motives, and attitudes knowing that His grace covers failures and forges change.

 

Second, the truth about ourselves produces a desire to change our ways.  “What needs to change?” you ask. According to Jeremiah 26:13 it’s our “ways and doings.” We are to amend our ways — the way that we think and live. Once we dial in on correcting our ways we will then see a change in our deeds. To attempt to change your actions apart from changing your ways is to ignore the inner problem of our sinful nature. The Pharisees were experts at this. If you intently focus God’s Word on your mind and heart long enough your ways will begin to change, then, so will your doings.

 

Third, continue to focus on and follow God’s Word. That sounds easy. It’s not. Your responsibilities at work and home, activities with kids, stresses and frustrations, and tight schedule can crowd out your consistent time in God’s Word. Busyness can create an un-focused and un-still mind that is dulled to what God is doing through His Word.  Beware, unless time and attention are devoted to God’s Word each day you won’t sense His direction and walk in His “ways.” You know what becomes of your “doings” if you aren’t walking in His “ways.” We’ve all been there before.

 

To summarize, take an excuse-free look at yourself through the lens of the Bible, make difficult changes in your ways and doings as God points them out, and thank Him for His grace that forgives our sins and forges our change.

 

Thankfully, oaks and hickories do not demand to hold on to summer’s greenery. If they could, and did, we would be robbed of autumn’s splendor. Is there some of God’s splendor that you do without by holding on to your old “ways” and “doings?” It’s worth looking into…

 

The sign says

 

There are events that happen every now and then that seize my attention. And, they demand that I respond rightly. By rightly, I mean that I should take the time necessary to halt, soak in the event, and process it in a manner worthy of its presentation.

Here’s the story. We were on a pre-Christmas trip to Branson, Missouri. We were driving to the Branson Landing to do some shopping. Then, it caught my eye (for the record trees, rocks, the clouds, a hawk, anything of that sort tends to catch my eye). It was a tree that was strangely out of place. It wasn’t growing out of the ground; it wasn’t growing on top of a rock ledge; it was growing out of the rock ledge about 12 feet off of the ground!

So, I slowed the car, pulled off in an awkward location that would irritate other drivers, grabbed my camera, and bounded off toward the tree. I zig-zagged along the grassy roadside to the spot, and with cars whizzing by, and my family worrying about my safety and sanity, I took several photographs of it.

It appeared to be a red oak, and as I approached it, and positioned myself slightly under it, I was awestruck. It was grand. I hadn’t seen anything like this before. In the middle of a busy roadway, in a tourist town, grew an oak that was defying the rules. It was a small dose of wildness among sterile domestication; it was visually poetic.

 

 

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As I backed away from the tree and took several more photos something unexpected crept into the viewfinder–a road sign.

 

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The sign was telling drivers — and a nut like me (though I prefer the term “acorn” instead of “nut”) — not to go this way. Ironically, the red oak stood as a striking contrast to the sign’s message: “WRONG WAY.” The tree was growing the “wrong way” according to common sense and the usual practice of nature. It should have been growing on the ground where its roots could anchor and spread, or in a pasture, or anywhere other than out of a crevasse in a rock ledge.

I have no idea how the acorn that became this daring oak arrived in the gash in the rock ledge. Perhaps a suicidal squirrel dropped it there as it pondered leaping off the ledge. Who knows? I do know this: the acorn did what it was supposed to do in the location that it was placed in. Hmmm. This lesson needs little, if any, elaboration.

Psalm 1:3 states that the godly man (or woman) “is like a tree planted” by streams of water, bears fruit in his/her season, has non-withering leaves, and propers. Note the verb “planted.” The trees (godly men or women) in this verse are planted. You are where you are by design.

This rock ledge-defying tree was not planted alongside a calm stream of water. We usually aren’t either. Like this tree, we are to grow where we are planted. We often have to do it against the “rules” or the expectations of those around us. But we do it. We hold on, grow, drink in the water that God gives, and by His power we bear fruit, resist withering, and prosper. Even on a ledge.