It was another 4 mile run today. I ran at 5pm around the OARDC Arboretum in Wooster, OH. I felt good and the scenery was great, so why not run the extra .9?
I was running back around my happy pace and loving life. I ran 4 miles and my time was 31:00.1. That is an average pace of 7:45 per mile.
The Arboretum is really quite beautiful. It is a fun, safe place to run and there are plenty of things to look at.
Today while I was running, I found myself thinking about butterflies and roses… and the church.
Friday is my day “off” from the church, but I spend Fridays at home with my kids and I play the role of school teacher for the day. During our history lesson we learned about Charles Finney, who was an instrumental voice in the Second Great Awakening in the United States.
He had a different style from what people were used to in the early 1800’s. His critics claimed that he spoke with a judgmental spirit about him, but God used him powerfully (whether they were correct in their assessment or not). He made plenty of enemies, but as a result of his faithful preaching of the word of God, thousands put their faith in Jesus and escaped the fires of hell.
Sounds pretty loving to me…
At one point he was preaching at a village called Evans Mills in New York, and he was becoming frustrated with the congregation’s lack of response to what he was preaching. At the end of the sermon, he invited anyone who was ready to put their faith in Jesus to stand to their feet.
No one moved.
“You have taken your stand,” he said. “You have rejected Christ and his gospel.”
He left the pulpit and many of the people were angry with him. The following night he preached about wickedness, alluding to the wickedness within that particular congregation, but he gave no invitation to repent at the end of the sermon.
The town was in uproar. On the following night nearly the entire town showed up to hear Finney preach. Many were furious with the preacher. One man even brought a gun to the meeting with intentions of killing Charles Finney. However, while Finney preached the gospel, the Holy Spirit of God was moving through the congregation, and many gave their lives to Jesus that night. The Second Great Awakening had begun!
So this was fresh on my mind as I ran through the Arboretum, and I began to think about butterflies and roses.
There are significant parallels between the western church and butterflies and roses.
Consider butterflies. They start out as something very different from what they become. They start out as a crawling caterpillar. It has a purpose, but it’s not quite ready to fly. Next it goes through a stage where it is asleep, and finally it emerges beautiful and complete.
The church is kind of like that. When we first put our faith in Jesus, we are kind of like a caterpillar. We have a purpose, but we are far from complete. God still has plenty of work to do in our hearts before we are complete.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
Unfortunately, it seems that too many of us are content to just be a caterpillar, or we are stuck in the stage of being asleep.
But don’t worry! Take heart! God is faithful!
He is going to bring about his purposes through the church, and he is inviting us to be a part of it!
Just like he did when Charles Finney was preaching to a sleeping church, God has the power to wake our souls, as well! We should be praying for the sleeping church in America to emerge and be beautiful, like God intended for us to be.
I’m up for another Great Awakening, how about you?!
Or consider the rose. (As I was growing up, my all-time favorite song was “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison. I may or may not have dressed up like Brett Michaels one year for Halloween.)
At the top of the rose is something quite beautiful. Everybody loves a nice rose (my wife sure does). The top of the rose is like Jesus. He is beautiful. He is perfect in all of his ways.
But every rose has it’s thorn.
To be clear, Jesus has no thorns in and of himself, but he has willingly joined himself to us. We are fallen creatures. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are his thorns.
But he loves us! He is committed to us. He took a crown of thorns with him onto the cross where he laid down his life, dying for our sins. He paid the penalty for sins by his death, and he credited it to our account so that we could be free forever! This invitation for total payment is available to anyone, but only those who put their faith in Jesus will receive it.
The rose reminds me of the church. We are not perfect, but we are attached to the One who is!