A Rose Standing Amongst the Rubble
Panicked eyes turn skyward as the sirens begin to scream. The black storm clouds, 200 feet above the ground, pull behind itself a vale of darkness. These sinister clouds, rolling like waves on a beach, look like evil itself is pouring into the town.
What started out as a normal storm now grips the attention of every onlooker. It is just a matter of time before the calm would be shattered. At first, the flag in the center of town shows just a hint of a breeze. Gradually, it begins to rise up, showing its full colors. As the wind increases, the pole begins to bend under the pressure. Suddenly, the flagpole snaps off, sending 20 feet of metal into a car’s windshield.
Nearby, trees are shattering like matchsticks as the storm grows in intensity. The howl of the wind is replaced by the dreaded sound of a freight train. The beast drops its long arm out of the sky to demonstrate its awesome power. The tornado, dancing back and forth, shows no mercy to the homes below. As quickly as it began, the terror was over. In a matter of minutes, multiple homes and lives are destroyed.
In the midst of the mayhem and destruction was an unusual sight. A single rose standing boldly amongst the rubble. This fragile beautiful flower survived the storm. It survived a destruction that even concrete and steel couldn’t withstand.
This rose is an excellent picture of what a Christian should be like: Strong enough to survive the storms, while remaining beautiful and refreshing. Unfortunately, many Christians find it difficult to be both strong and refreshing. The Christians who are very strong tend to be more cold and sterile and those who are refreshing tend to be less consistent in their Christian walk.
Being a Christian is a fantastic experience. Obviously, the forgiveness of our sins and our inheritance in Heaven are important benefits of our faith. However, our life here on earth should be fulfilling and rewarding. Unfortunately, many Christians have never experienced the "abundant life" of which Jesus spoke.
Living in a fallen world can be difficult. There are diseases, hardships, and premature deaths. Mean, rude, and cruel people often disrupt our lives. Everyone, both Christians and non-Christians have to face these problems. As Christians, however, we have an additional adversary: Satan. He knows hurting us is the one way he can hurt an otherwise untouchable God. Of course, if a Christian is successful in leading others to Christ, he becomes even more of a target for Satan.
To prepare for these difficulties, many work hard at becoming strong and faithful Christians. They ground themselves in the Word and become extremely disciplined. Not only is this commendable, this is something all Christians should do.
Unfortunately, many Christians develop a hard emotional exterior while trying to solidify themselves against Satan’s attacks. They lose the love and passion for Jesus. Their warm and gentle touch becomes cold and firm. Their loving and passionate speech becomes sterol and clinical. These Christians are no longer refreshing to be around. They have lost the inner beauty that attracts others to Christ. In a sense, it is like a person being trained by the military's Special Forces. They become excellent fighting machines, but their personality becomes stiff and formal.
Remember the rose? It didn’t survive the storm because it was hard like steel or stone. Its survival had nothing to do with its own strength. Likewise, our survival in this storm of life will not be because of our internal strength. Our protection has to come from something that is more powerful than the storm. God is our protection. Ps 33:16-20 says the size of the King’s army can’t save him, a warrior’s great strength can’t help him escape, and a horse’s great strength can’t bring deliverance. Ps. 3:3 says, "You are our help and shield." (At the end of this chapter are many verses calling God our shield and protector.*1)
God expects his children to be diligent in their spiritual preparations. We are to ground ourselves in His Word and develop a close walk with Him. However, our lives should still be as soft and refreshing as the rose. Our strength and stability should come from the protective hand of God, not our hardness. Prov. 21:31 says, "A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but safety is from the Lord." God requires us to do our part to protect ourselves spiritually, but God is the one who actually provides the protection.
This hardening process is a natural occurrence that takes place whenever a person is exposed to rough elements. For example, when a person works with rocks everyday, he will develop a hard protective coating on his hands called callous. Likewise, when a person works in a difficult and hostile environment, his emotions can become calloused.
"I’m going to kill that officer if he doesn’t back off!" an angry prisoner vented to another prisoner. "I’m sick and tired of this place and I’m fed up with being told what to do." A couple minutes earlier I had a run-in with this prisoner up on the Fourth gallery in the prison where I worked. Unknown to the prisoner, an officer in a nearby gun turret overheard the threats on my life. Before other officers could be brought in to put him into segregation, the prisoner went down to the officer working on Base in the block and said, "You tell Bronson to back off. If that punk keeps messing with me, I’ll drop him off the Fourth gallery." (Since it would be too offensive to quote verbatim what the prisoner said, I eliminated some of his choice adjectives.)
Subsequently, he was locked up for threatening behavior. To our surprise, this prisoner, who was in prison for double murder, was found not guilty of threatening to murder me and was released back into general population. The reason: The prisoner never made the threats directly to me. Since he never told me to my face that he wanted to kill me, the prison court ruled the prisoner’s words were not intended to intimidate me or cause me to fear for my life. This ruling caused such uproar that even the Free Press ran an article about it (Nov. 10, 1986).
Working with violent, anti-social people with intense behavioral problems is extremely difficult. In order to cope with this, many officers develop a hard exterior. Although this hard exterior helps the officer deal with some brutal situations, it is a hindrance in dealing with normal situations. This hard exterior is not conducive to a happy home life.
It doesn't have to be this way, though. A person who works with rocks can use lotion to keep his hands soft. Likewise, an officer working in a prison can keep himself from becoming emotionally hard. It isn't easy, but it can be done. Surprisingly, the officers who have been able to accomplish this are usually the most successful in dealing with prisoners. Not only can they handle the rough situations, but their calm and friendly demeanor often defuses volatile situations.
Although being emotionally calloused is problematic, being spiritually calloused is even more problematic. There are a couple ways a person can become spiritually calloused. One way is for a person to focus too much on their Christian preparations and subsequently lose their love for Jesus. There is a reason why seminaries are sometimes referred to as "cemeteries." The Church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7) was doctrinally sound, but had "lost their first love." The mechanics of their Christian experience became more important than the person with whom they were supposed to adore.
Exposure to the daily grind of the Christian experience is another way a person can become spiritually calloused. I think pastors can easily relate to this. A pastor’s job, by its very nature, can be very difficult. However, strife in their church, brought on by petty fights over things like the color of the carpet, takes its toll. To survive, many pastors have become calloused spiritually.
My goal for this book is to help you develop a Christian life that is exciting, consistent, and victorious. I want you to be able to develop a Christian life that not only is strong enough to withstand the storms, but one that will be attractive and refreshing to others.
I think you'll find this book is written from a perspective quite different from other books on Christian living. I have had four years of Bible training (New Tribes Institute) and have worked as a full time Christian worker. I also know the difference between lofty theological theories and practical down-to-earth solutions. Having worked in the prison system for over 15 years, I know exactly where the "rubber meets the road." I think you’ll find the solutions provided in this book are practical and beneficial. To illustrate the unique approach I have taken in this book, I will tell you about another experience I have had.
When I was an officer at the prison, the Deputy Director of Corrections discovered that I was skilled with computers and asked me to work in his office. I designed computer programs for him for over four years. I was in a very unique position. Not only was I highly skilled with computers, I also had an intimate knowledge of prison operations (a rare combination). As a result, I was able to design computer programs tailored-made for the prisons. I knew from first-hand experience the areas that would benefit the most from computers and I knew how to write the programs to meet these needs. These programs were down-to-earth and practical.
Likewise, I am currently in a unique position in the field of Christian service. Not only do I have extensive theological training, I have an intimate knowledge of the struggles Christians face. I personally had to struggle in a wide variety of situations. The solutions I have developed are not targeted for a specific group, such as the lay-Christian or the pastor. These practical and down-to-earth solutions have been developed for Christians in all walks of life.
This book provides practical solutions to many of the common problems Christians encounter. It is designed to help bring the Christian to a more mature and enjoyable walk in Christ. A balanced and mature Christian will be more consistent, productive, and happy in his Christian experience.
Recently, I bought my wife a Pfaff sewing machine that also does embroidery. It’s a fantastic machine, but each card holding about 15 embroidery designs cost about $120. A couple months after I purchased the machine, I discovered there were places on the Internet that gave away free designs (some made by professionals and others by sewing enthusiasts).
After spending several hundred hours searching the far corners of the Internet, I have collected over 18,000 designs. Although there are hundreds of sites that offer only one free design, there are other sites that offer 50 to 600 designs. As a help to other embroidery enthusiasts, I posted several articles on the Net showing where these designs can be found. More important, I have shown them how to get over 4,000 designs by visiting only 10 sites. Instead of spending an incredible amount of time searching the Net, they can acquire an impressive library of designs very quickly. The bottom line is this: massive gains can be made with minimal effort (in comparison) if you focus on the correct areas.
This same principle holds true when it come to developing spiritual maturity. A great deal of spiritual maturity and stability can be obtained if the Christian focuses on the correct areas. That is the purpose of this book. Christian maturity is, of course, a never-ending process. I have found, however, a Christian can greatly reduce his struggles and frustrations if he is well grounded in some basic areas. View this book the same way as the embroidery list I have mentioned. It will not provide you all of the answers, but it’ll give you a great start.
My desire is not to make money from this book. My desire is to help others develop a solid and exciting life in Christ. This is the reason I am now making this book available on the Internet. Hopefully, in the near future you will be able to download a printable version of this book.
I have literally invested several thousand hours and several thousand dollars in developing this book. My wife has sacrificed a great deal of her time editing the manuscripts. If you find this book helpful, please share this Internet address with a friend and pray that God would use this material for His Glory.
Footnote*1: Verses calling God our shield and protector
Other Chapters in this Section
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