Lovetree (A Short Story)

A beam of light pierced through a small hole in the tent right onto the farmer’s tired face, warming his cheek. There was so much dust in the beam’s path that it almost looked like you could reach out and grab the light.

The farmer rubbed his eyes sleepily and then stretched out his arms and legs, cracking his back in the process. And then, sitting up on his bed, he clasped his hands together, closed his eyes and sat in silence. For an extended period of time he spoke not a word—he simply sat there. One might have been convinced that he had somehow fallen back asleep in that position, but that was not the case. It was clear from the way his eyes shifted around under his eyelids and the occasional deep breaths he took that he was quite awake.

After an hour had passed, he opened his mouth saying, “Alright Father. I will offer him your water today.” (Luke 6:12–13) And with that, he rose to his feet and walked across the sandy ground to the corner of the tent to get his wooden bucket.

The sky at Lovetree Farms was a beautiful bright blue that spring day. The farmer smiled as he treaded the long orchard towards the well on the other side, the tree branches waving in the mild breeze around him. He whistled along with the chorus of morning birds and a bluejay landed on his shoulder to join with him.

“How are you this morning little friend?” greeted the farmer.

The bird chirped back in what sounded like an attempt at a response.

“Really? You’re going to teach your son to fly today?” asked the farmer. “Dear bluejay, you and your kind never cease to amaze me. Here we are just getting over a long winter and none of you have come to me worried about finding food or about any other matter. Instead you simply share with me the blessings in your life and in doing so, bless me also! Your spirits are always up even when you have reason to complain!” (Matthew 6:26)

If birds can blush, that most certainly was what the bluejay did. The farmer pulled a sunflower seed out of his pocket and placed it on his shoulder. “Don’t change my friend. There is never any need to be anxious about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is anxious enough for itself. There’s enough trouble to deal with today, yes?” (Matthew 6:34)

The bird speedily ate the sunflower seed and chirped happily in the farmer’s ear.

“Yes, as one writer once said, ’tomorrow will be certain to bring worse than today, for many days to come. And there is nothing that I can do to help it.’” (Gandalf)

The bird stopped its happy chirping and did what resembled a double-take. The farmer stopped walking as the bird leaned forward to make eye contact with him. The farmer’s eyes slowly moved towards the bird and a smile cracked on the his face as he began to laugh one of those deep belly-laughs.

“Come, my feathery friends!” he shouted into the orchard. “Come be rewarded for your trust in my Father’s provision!” The farmer reached into his pockets and pulled out fistfuls of sunflower seeds, throwing them into the air with a big smile on his face. Birds flew from the branches all around, flocking to the farmer’s feet. The seed was gone in a matter of seconds.

“Oh, you’re all hungry I see!” exclaimed the farmer. “Don’t worry, my Father likes to feast!” He reached back into his pocket and pulled out an impossible amount of seeds, throwing them all across the ground in front of him. “Eat up friends, eat up! The last thing I need is to weed sunflowers out of this orchard all summer.”

The farmer carefully stepped around the hundreds of birds, as an amazing amount of seeds fell out of his pockets with every step. The birds were so satisfied with their meal that they didn’t even see him leave.

Well, all that is but for one bird. The bluejay that had landed on his shoulder fluttered onto a branch at the farmer’s eye-level. Two other bluejays hopped out of a nest at the end of the branch and joined him.

“Oh, hello again,” smiled the farmer.

The bird’s demeanor changed as he chirped something that only the farmer seemed to understand.

“My dear friend,” started the farmer, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier that your son’s wing was broken? Surely you didn’t want him to try to fly today like this?”

The baby bluejay looked down in shame. He was a bird after all, he was meant for the skies!

The farmer leaned in close to the baby bird. “Do you wish to be healed?” he asked.

The bird shook his head.

“Then get up, take to the skies and fly,” said the farmer, a warm smirk spreading out across his face. (John 5:7)

At once, the baby bird leapt off the branch. His parents chirped in fear and closed their eyes, but they never heard him hit the ground. The farmer turned around to see him soaring across the open sky, landing on branches and taking off as immediately as he had touched them. The farmer laughed another one of his loud belly-laughs as the baby bird chirped in excitement, gaining the attention of all the other birds in the orchard. Never had their been such celebration amidst the birds before. The mother and father bird jumped onto the farmer’s shoulders and rubbed their faces against his neck in appreciation.

“Oh there, there,” gushed the farmer as the birds flew off into the distance to catch up with their son. They were so happy that they forgot to eat any of the sunflower seeds. (Acts 3:6–8)


Awhile later, the farmer arrived at the well. It stood right in front of an old rugged tree, next to the wagon he had left there the night before. He pulled his big wooden bucket off of his shoulder and tied it to the well’s crank and lowered it down. When the bucket was full, he rolled up his sleeves and put all of his strength into pulling it back up.

The farmer cupped his hands, filled them with water from the bucket, and took a generous sip. “Mm…” he sighed as a gopher popped up out of the ground. He wagged his finger at the gopher and said, “There truly is no water like this water. Why some choose to get drunk with wine compared to this, I’ll never know. I myself will continue to be filled with this (Ephesians 5:18).” The gopher wasn’t sure what to do with that statement so he quietly lowered himself back into his hole.

The farmer looked back towards the orchard and said, “And perhaps he will drink it too.”

At that moment an ox trotted up to him. “Hello old friend!” The farmer greeted him, petting his head. “Have you come to help me with my work again?”

The ox put one foot forward and bowed his head.

“You know, you’re a much gentler and humbler creature than your horns suggest,” he said.

The ox bit a rope connected to the wagon, backed himself up in front of it, and waited to be attached.

“Well you’re ready to go, aren’t you?”

The ox’s tail wagged excitedly like a dog’s.

The farmer chuckled and then grunted loudly as he grabbed the rope handles of the wooden bucket, carrying it from the well wall to the back of the wagon. He then walked up to the ox and attached the yoke.

“I too am gentle and humble,” the farmer whispered in the ox’s ear. “You work hard friend. Today this yoke will be easy on you and bring you rest. I know you expect the work we do to be burdensome, but as you do it with me, it will become light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) When he had said these words, the farmer knocked three times on the yoke and flowers sprouted up across the old splintered wood. The ox made a joyous noise and calmly began to tread the long orchard in sync with the farmer’s direction.


“Alright friend,” said the farmer. “You can take a break, we’re here now.”

The farmer removed the yoke off of the ox and the ox quietly laid down and fell asleep.

The wagon had stopped in front of one of the apple trees in the orchard. It looked a little livelier than many of the other trees surrounding it. It couldn’t have been more than 25 years old, yet its branches stuck out further than the surrounding trees and it was budding before all the rest.

The farmer put his hand on the tree’s trunk. “Hello friend,” he said. “It has been wonderful to watch you grow these past years. I remember when my father knit you together—when you were just a seed (Psalm 139:13). And now here we are years later and your destiny still awaits you, for you were born for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

The farmer continued, “So far in your life, you have not seen me, for you have been a simple apple tree. What ability do you have to be conscious of things outside of soil, sun and water? But as I have watched you grow, it has become clear that you have picked up on my presence and direction in some shape or form. For I have come to talk with you often and have taken great care of you.”

The farmer walked back to his wagon and grunted again as he lifted the bucket of water off the back. He placed it in front of the apple tree and leaned over to catch his breath.

“I have labored hard over you these past 15 years, though you have not entirely known it. I have built fences around you to protect you. During a drought, I watered you. When you were younger and the fire blight overtook your branches, I worked hard to bring you back to full health. When you grew too many apples to support your small branches, I relieved you of them. And when the weight of your trunk began to tilt you over, I straightened you back into the ground.”

“I’m adamant about serving you, for my Father finds you to be of supreme worth and wishes you—like all of your brothers and sisters here—to be taken care of. I do only what I see my Father doing, (John 5:19) and today my father is reaching out to you, inviting you to become something new. Everything you know of being an apple tree will pass away, and a new life will come upon you, if you accept my invitation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The farmer put his hand back on the tree’s trunk and closed his eyes and was silent. The tension was palpable. You could sense that there was really some kind of magic in the air—that all it would take was a word or action from the farmer to activate it.

The farmer opened his eyes and quietly said, “I have talked with my Father and have already paid the price necessary for you to access this new life I’ve been talking about. I know you can’t talk, but this decision goes deeper than words. If you decide to make it, I will know and will freely give you this new life.”

“But you should also know: if you accept, you will have to follow me so that I can teach you more fully what this life looks like. Then you too, will be able to teach others.” The farmer paused and took a deep breath. “Do you accept the invitation?”

The magic was so full now that the whole orchard must have felt it, for the entire land fell silent. The farmer once again closed his eyes as though listening intently to the quietness. And then something must have happened. The tree must have responded somehow, someway, because a huge smile stretched across the farmer’s face.

“Then receive it,” he said. He reached into the bucket and a scar in the center of his once broken hand opened up, releasing a small amount of blood into the water (Matthew 26:26–28). As he pulled his hand back out the scar miraculously closed up. In that moment, two clouds appeared in the bright blue sky and crashed into each other, causing incredibly loud thunder (or was it a voice?) (John 12:28–29) to echo across the farm. It immediately started to downpour on the tree. The farmer tilted the bucket over, covering the ground all around the tree. He then backed away out of the rain to watch.

The tree gasped loudly. He leaned forward, his branches stretching across the ground like fingers, scraping the grass right out of the dirt. He pulled his extensive roots out of the ground and fell on his face. There he lay, convulsing as all of his branches and roots began to wrap around each other forming new arms and legs. The change was violent and tense and the tree cried out as it continued. But then as swiftly as it had started, it was done. The tree was left lying on the ground in the fetal position with a large wooden body that could now move around.

The farmer slowly approached the new species of tree with that warm smile on his face. “My Father has washed you clean with rain from Heaven and I have poured out living water on you that will make you never thirst again and bring you into eternal life (John 4:14).”

“Living… water?” the tree groaned through the new mouth on his trunk. He was still adjusting to the change. “I think… I can feel it inside of me.”

It?” questioned the farmer. “Certainly you can feel it. It will always be there with you now. It is what makes you the new creation you are. But like all living things, it has a name. In fact, He has carried many names, but you will know him as The Fruitful One.”

“The Fruitful One,” the tree said aloud, soaking it in. “My lips tingle when I say His name out loud.”

“Indeed,” replied the farmer. “He is as sacred as they come. All sins will be forgiven in this world except the blasphemies against him (Mark 3:28–29). If you’re lucky, that tingle will remain on your lips as a safeguard.”

The farmer drew closer to the tree and placed his hand on his shoulder. The tree let go of his knees and straightened out from the fetal position. He laid on his back and looked up at the sky for the first time.

“It’s so beautiful,” said the tree.

“Isn’t it?” replied the farmer. “The Fruitful One made it all, you know. The sky; the earth; the stars; the waters; the creatures; the trees; all of it.” The farmer stared off into the distance for a moment to take it all in. “That being said, it’s really no shock that He would create something new out of you. Creation is His speciality.”

He looked at the tree and smiled. The tree looked into the farmer’s loving eyes and attempted to smile back, but he was still new to the whole process. It was like watching a baby learn to smile. He shaped his lips in a way that made you think he was maybe catching on, but then his face fell back into an unenthused state.

The farmer laughed. “You may be a 25 year old apple tree, but you’re just an infant Lovetree.” (1 Corinthians 3:1)

“Lovetree?” questioned the apple tree, still playing with his facial muscles in attempts to smile.

“Yes,” replied the farmer. “It’s what your new state is called. You’re not the first tree to drink the water I gave you today. There are many more that have already accepted my invitation. They are all Lovetrees like you, regardless if they are apple trees or pear trees or male or female.” (Galatians 3:28–29)

“And what do Lovetrees do?” asked the tree.

“Follow me mostly,” replied the farmer.

“Where?” asked the tree as he sat up.

“That you know where I’m going is not the point,” he answered. “That you follow me regardless, is.”

The tree was confused. “The Fruitful One will allow me to follow you that blindly?” he asked.

“My dear friend,” started the farmer, patting the tree’s shoulder, “the living water you drank today which is The Fruitful One flows out of my very heart (John 7:38–39). You could not have received Him if you had not received me. I will never lead you a direction that The Fruitful One wouldn’t. We are all headed to the same place.”

“This is all so much to take in,” said the apple tree, putting his new hands into the ground behind him in attempts to stand up. “Ouch!” he hissed as he rose to his feet. He wrapped his arms around himself. “Everything really hurts!”

“That is normal for a new Lovetree,” said the farmer. “In order to become a new creation you must die to your old self and ways of life (Ephesians 4:22–24), so yeah, you should definitely be feeling it right now. And as you keep growing as a Lovetree, you’ll find there is plenty more of your old life that you’ll need to strip off along the way.”

“Will it hurt those times too?” asked the tree.

“Death always hurts my friend,” answered the farmer. “But it is appropriate. And it often takes time—even a lifetime for some—but it’s worth it.”

“But then what if I return to my old ways of life?” asked the tree.

The farmer looked intently at the ground. “We will never give up on you if you do. We have called you into this new life for a reason and we will now and forevermore call you to it. But if you start to live like an apple tree again, then an apple tree you will become.”

The air grew cold for a moment. Each of the farmer’s words carried a certain weight with it. The whole orchard could feel it. But then the farmer perked up and the mild breeze returned.

“You need a name!” he said, sounding quite excited to try some out. The tree raised his eyebrow, which was really just a piece of conveniently placed bark. “How about Ferdinand?” he asked.

The tree puckered his lips in a way that communicated he wasn’t too fond of the idea, though he was afraid to let the farmer down.

“No?” the farmer laughed. “Don’t worry, I always thought that was a hilarious-sounding name! I would never actually name someone that! Hm… Let’s see,“ he pondered. ”How about Pomegranate?”

The tree wasn’t sure how to respond to that one.

“Oh come on now!” laughed the farmer. “I’m kidding! I’m not going to have an apple tree walking around named Pomegranate! Besides, we’ve actually had a name chosen for you since before you were planted.”

“Oh?” said the tree. “What is it?”

“Millo,” he answered.

“Millo,” the tree whispered to himself. “I like that.”

“Good! Now let’s stretch those new legs of yours and head to Lovetree Village where others like you are staying.”

The farmer led the way whistling a catchy hymn with a hop in his step. The orchard was quite large and much of the day had been spent traversing it and bringing Millo to life. The sun was now beginning to go down, setting the sky ablaze with oranges, pinks and blues. Millo opened his new eyes as wide as he could to absorb it all in. After awhile, he opened his mouth to interrupt the farmer’s whistling as politely as possible.

“Excuse me for interrupting your song Mr. Farmer, but what does Millo mean?”

“Fullness!” exclaimed the farmer. “And so you will live up to your new name!”

“Fullness?” asked the tree. “Fullness of what?”

The farmer laughed. “Fullness of questions perhaps! But I suppose that makes sense given the circumstances. In this case, it means fullness in fruit-bearing.”

“Like apples?” asked Millo.

“Sort of,” answered the farmer. “But this is a different kind of fruit—The Fruitful One’s fruit.”

“But I’m an apple tree,” replied Millo. “Is his fruit different than apples?”

“It is!” said the farmer. “But in your new state you can grow it if you desire to. And who better to illustrate The Fruitful One’s fruit than a fruit tree himself!”

“But why me in particular?” asked the tree as he stepped cautiously over a squirrel that was gaping at his incredible height.

“Well, technically bearing The Fruitful One’s fruit is the destiny of all Lovetrees. But as we’ve watched you grow, we’ve had this hope that you might demonstrate that fruit more fully than the rest of the Lovetrees,” said the farmer.

“See, the others really need a boost. Apathy and complacency is a strong wall and many of the other trees can’t seem to break it down. But if we can find just one Lovetree that will grow all The Fruitful One’s fruit passionately and adamantly, then the others will see and desire it too. We believe you have that passion in you Millo.”

“Well I do enjoy growing fruit,” said Millo.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like you in an apple tree your age,” said the farmer. “The eyes of my Father run to and fro throughout the whole garden to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9). As far as being a good apple tree is concerned, you were blameless. Do you think you are you capable of being just as good of a Lovetree?”

“I hope so,” replied Millo. “But what all do I have to grow?”

“Oh, just a few things,” started the farmer, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The farmer gazed up at Millo and found an overwhelmed facial expression. “But don’t worry, maturity and fullness requires time (Ephesians 4:13)! We don’t expect you to grow an entire fruit overnight.”

As the farmer finished this statement, he and Millo had reached the gate of Lovetree Village. The farmer walked in and yelled into the courtyard. “Hello friends!” Stomping and rumbling came from all directions as a group of about 50 Lovetrees gathered around the farmer. Millo stayed behind the gate, too shy to come in just yet.

“I’d like to introduce you to a new Lovetree tonight!” proclaimed the farmer. “His name is Millo!” The trees clapped and cheered loudly, shaking the ground.

“Now I’m sure most of you remember what your first night was like in Lovetree Village—you were all still adapting to your new bodies, ways of life and really, existence in general. That being said, please make sure Millo is comfortable and welcomed with the same warmth that you desired on your first night. Love him as you love yourself (Mark 12:31).” The farmer then turned around to tell Millo goodnight, but he saw sadness on his face and was filled with compassion for him.

“I’m afraid,” Millo said.

The farmer grabbed Millo’s giant hand and led him into the courtyard. “Remember, The Fruitful One flows out of me and into you. Therefore, if you need to reach me, I’m right here,” the farmer said pointing to Millo’s heart. He then turned and yelled to a tall Lovetree off in the distance. “Hey Ferdinand!”

“Yes boss?” replied a low voice from a tall tree.

“You’re specifically in charge of making sure Millo is taken special care of at every step,” he told him.

“You got it boss,” Ferdinand said giving the farmer a thumbs up.

“See you soon buddy,” said the farmer as Millo walked towards the large tree.

“So your name is Ferdinand, huh?” said Millo.

“Yeah, hilarious right?” he answered. “I think the boss meant it as a joke, but I just went with it.”

“No, no,” said Millo. “I’m sure he takes that name very seriously.” Millo turned around to see the farmer slapping his leg and laughing. He then waved to Millo and headed back towards his tent.

A few hours later, Millo got over his anxiety and laughed, ate and played with the others. After a long night of getting to know the Lovetree community, he went and found himself a cozy spot to lie down and stare at the stars before falling asleep in the lush grass.

He of course had never seen stars before. The wonder of it all consumed him. The same Fruitful One who had hung those stars in place now lived inside of him. And the evolution he had gone through that day from a simple apple tree to a Lovetree wasn’t the end of his story—there was more. In fact, after 25 years of being alive, he sensed that this was just the beginning of the real story of his life.

And perhaps, starting tomorrow, he would begin that new story and see what The Fruitful One had for him.

Happy First Birthday Jericho!

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I think one of the most precious moments in my life is when my daughter Jericho looks at me and says, “Dada!?” Turning to her, I say back “Jericho!” “Dada!?” she replies. “Jericho!” I return.

This often goes on for awhile—I think because she’s tried it with the “Cat!” and he doesn’t really engage in the conversation.

Of course I’ve had similar moments with my son Beckett which were equally as precious, so I’m really just reliving the experience right now with Jericho. Yesterday Beckett joined the conversation.

JERICHO: Dada!?

ME: Jericho!

JERICHO: Dada!?

ME: Jericho!

BECKETT: Beckett!!!

ME: BECKETT!!!

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There’s something about a child having almost no vocabulary at all, looking you in the eye and shouting “Dada!?” over and over again. They call out your identity and you do the same back to them.

I am Dada. She is Jericho. And every affirmation comes with a playful intonation that says, “I love you very much.”

That’s how it can be with our Heavenly Father. All of the names Jesus could have chosen to identify God as, and he chose “Father” which was occasionally used in metaphors in the Old Testament. He chose Father over his most sacred name (used 6,800 times) or the second most popular name for “God” (used 2,500 times). Thats a bigger deal than we think. As Brennan Manning points out in, The Furious Longing of God:

Jesus is saying that we may address the infinite, transcendent, almighty God with the intimacy, familiarity, and unshaken trust that a sixteen-month-old baby has sitting on his father’s lap—da, da, daddy. (44)

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And so we see the cycle continue in its own divine way.

JERICHO: Dada!?

ME: Jericho!

JESUS: Dada!?

GOD: Jesus!

ME: Dada!?

GOD: Jamin!

BECKETT: Beckett!!!

GOD & ME: BECKETT!!!

Few things warm my heart like Jericho calling out for me. And with God being a perfect Father, you know our cries for him do the same. He gives good gifts to his children (Mt 7:11) and “loves like a hurricane.”

Our First Weird Cartoon

My brother Joel and I are influenced by the same weird stuff. That being said, let’s take a quick break from the usual spiritual posts for a random cartoon we worked on about some kind of fancy piece of corn…

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Everyone’s a Critic

Our culture is trained to have a sharp tongue and critique anything and everything that comes up. The biggest webpages in the world are based around 1-5 star reviews, telling us that our opinion is the most important thing in the world and that we’re entitled to it.

While eating one the greatest burgers of my life (see below) with a friend last week, an older man sat behind us and ordered a different variety of burger.

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After he had eaten a good portion of his burger the waiter asked him how he was enjoying it. He replied, “This is the worst burger I’ve ever eaten. The patty is too big for the bun. It’s awful.” And if I heard him right, he went on to imply that he may never eat another burger again. The waiter proceeded to take it off of his bill and the man was taken aback for a minute by the kindness, and then returned to his angry state.

My face was on fire, I was so mad. Such blatant critique of a waiter and a cook is dehumanizing and wrong. We need the same rebuke Jesus offered James and John (rightfully nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder”) when they were refused a place to stay in the city they were in. “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?!?” (Luke 9:54) I can only imagine Jesus’ reply:

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“Uh, guys… let’s just go to the next city, yeah?” But James and John were already on Yelp.

People have different responses to things. I ate one of the best burgers of my life at this restaurant, while he ate 3/4ths of one of the worst. It’s okay to have a different opinion as we’re all different. When faced with criticism on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien responded:

Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or the kinds of writing they evidently prefer.

So sure, have an opinion. But if you can’t offer it with grace and kindness, you may want to expect some criticism/conviction coming your way from Jesus himself, even if your opinion ended up being right in the end.

What Worship Music Does

I once heard one of my favorite pastors belittle worship music to being a way that we plug into “the story” of God. That doesn’t seem to do worship music justice for me. Sure, the story plays a part in it, but to me that feels far from being the sole characteristic.
Crazy things seem to happen in the spiritual realm when worship music is played. With music, David used to fight the demons inside Saul. Within the music of the Psalms, David used to prophesy. As a giant band played music at the grand opening of the new tabernacle, the presence of God entered so thickly that the priests couldn’t even stand.

If you go to Pentecostal services today, the most intense movements of the Holy Spirit are found accompanied by worship music. His presence almost seems intensified in those circles because of how authentically and passionately people worship him in the music.

Worship music tells story, but it’s so much more than that. With it we encounter God and the Kingdom of Heaven becomes real around us. God is there in it, waiting to meet us if we are open. 

Serving the Poor

I’m often terrified to answer the church phone. There’s two different kind of calls I receive the most: (A) a robot from a 1-800 number or (B) a request for money.

I remember being a worship leader at my old church, sitting in my lead pastor’s office listening to the answering machine with him. It was loaded with tons of messages from people sobbing, asking for whatever money they could get. What are you supposed to do? How do all of these tiny churches pay for the hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of requests they get?

It was heartbreaking to listen to these requests as a worship leader, but terrifying now to listen to them as a lead pastor. They aren’t easy situations to be in. What if I have to say no? What if I can’t get the money to them by their deadline? What if our benevolence fund has already been wiped clean? Does that mean that I have to pay out of my own pocket to witness on an entire church body’s behalf?

On top of that, it’s just painful. People play with my emotions quite a bit when asking for money. They’ll butter me up one moment as though I’m the greatest person in the world and then snap at me if they don’t get what they asked for. I’ve been hurt probably about 50% of the time.

I remember a man stopped by and asked if he could weed the church’s front sidewalk and he’d take whatever we were willing to pay for it. I didn’t necessarily want to pay out of my pocket for it so I tried to refuse him. He didn’t play the nice-humble-guy-part very long. I was the new guy in charge at the time so he seemed to figure he could find someone else in the church to ask. He returned a few weeks later with the same request. This time when I refused he brought the Holy Spirit into it. “I’ve got a gift for seeing things in people. You’ve got a bad spirit about you.”

Another time a man drove a stranger to the hospital and gave him our church’s number if he needed anything. He called later that day. For whatever reason, I didn’t have money for the bus ticket he was requesting, so suddenly it was my job as the Christian and pastor behind the phone number to give him my own money. Afraid to make this commonplace in answering the phone, I told him we didn’t have any money. But he kept trying to get it out of me. I lost my cool a little bit and eventually he yelled, “Well I’m just going to die in this hospital then and when you get to Heaven you’re going to have to answer for it!” He then hung up on me.

More judgment on me and my character. I was furious and I was hurt. So I figured out how to get ahold of him and got him the money.

One woman wanted money for her apartment. I told her we could cover a portion of it and asked if she would be able to raise the rest so we weren’t just giving money to an apartment that was going to be taken away from her in the end anyways. I’m not sure how, but suddenly she thought I was calling her a liar and started yelling at me.

I gave another guy a 5 minute ride across town once for about 3 hours (try to figure that one out). He refused to get out of my car and started asking me for cash so he could buy what I’m pretty sure was drugs. He lied to my face and disrespected me over and over again. The other time I agreed to give a stranger a ride across town I noticed they were quite high on something. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying and they started yelling at me when I wouldn’t stop by the store while taking them home.

On top of being emotional, it’s time consuming. I spent hours once, driving around town trying to figure out how to legally pay some stranger’s electric bill.

Now it’s very easy to give money and time to people within our church who need it because there’s already relationship and trust there. But I gotta be honest: doing the same thing for strangers is often hard—partially because nothing seems to happen after you serve them. I’ve never had anyone attend our church even once after we helped them. Are they able to see Jesus in what we’re doing? Or is it just money or entitlement? Is this even witnessing to them?

And so at the end of all my complaining is that question, which brings me to the moral of these stories: I’ve served them as Jesus has asked me to. I’ve given time and resources. I’ve survived the emotional onslaught that often comes and I’ve (sometimes) done what was asked of me. I can only hope for a, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and ask God to continue to use me in these strangers’ lives down the road and pray that some kind of seed be planted in them through these actions.

In the end, love and serve God and neighbor to the best of your ability. Our reward is found in God.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

The Earliest Attempt at a Church Split

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Many of us have heard the horror stories of church splits. Many of us have experienced them ourselves. Often something goes awry between pastors and one starts an uprising against the other. These church splits are born out of gossip and jealousy, raised in bitterness and eventually split by Satan.

It’s an old technique of the devil’s and it dates all the way back to Numbers 16. It’s there that a group of 250 well-known Israelites come together to usurp Moses’ leadership position. He may be the “head pastor,” but many of these usurpers are from the tribe of Levi and are therefore set apart to be the priests that take care of the ministry of the Tabernacle—that is God’s holy, sacred space among His people.

“We’re all holy!” they say. “God is among all of us. So what makes you so much more important? Why do you get to be in charge? Do you even know what you’re doing? Because last we checked, we were lost in the wilderness!”

You can see everything that has led up to this point seeping out of their speech. The gossip, the jealousy and the bitterness. They have even invoked God’s name and used spiritual logic to justify their point.

Somehow God is always of our opinion, isn’t He? He always seems to be a part of our own personal uprising. Perhaps that’s why some churches are torn apart so easily. We invoke God’s name and in doing so make ourselves to be a god. “Follow me because God is on my side. This other guy obviously doesn’t get it.”

I’ve done it. I’ve attended churches and felt like I had to offer my 2 cents in the other direction of whatever the pastor said for no reason other than to have someone think my thoughts were important. We especially love to do it to the worship band. Oh, I wouldn’t have played this song. I can’t believe they let them on the stage. He’s so flat today. They’re so loud. I can’t believe they’re wearing those clothes. I can’t believe they’re playing so many hymns. I can’t believe they’re not playing any hymns. I can’t believe they played just the right number of hymns. I could do all of this better than they could.

It’s in these small places that our uprising and bitterness begins. To some extent we’re probably all guilty of the seed of a church split. Water it enough and it’ll eventually take over. It grows very quickly.

The story found in Numbers 16 doesn’t end well for the mob. In the same way, church splits never end well for the church. It destroys our witness and abuses Jesus’ bride, leaving her blemished and beat up, trying to get back up on her feet.

Let’s check our pride at the door pastors. This is God’s church, not ours. And despite the fact that it’s our job to take care of His church, in the end He’s actually more concerned about her than we are. And He does not care to see her heartbroken.