When we value simple things, hope and encouragement permeate our lives.
Recently, some family and friends visited, and we shared a delicious meal, and enjoyed an afternoon in our back yard by the pool.
At one point, Sis, known as the “hummingbird lady” in the small Oregon town where she lives, pointed out one of these fast little flyers seeking nourishment from the silk red flowers in a pot. This sight spoke to me.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
The little animal reminded me of what our Lord said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matt. 6:26 (NKJV)
The hummingbird returned to the fake flowers several times. Hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any creature on earth, about 100 times that of an elephant, and often eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight in food per day. Hummingbirds must visit hundreds of flowers daily, and one day of bad luck can spell death. I gain weight reading a recipe.
So, I understand why the bird kept coming back to the fake flowers for food, even though trumpet vines, lemon blossoms, gardenias, and my two hydrangeas, Alice and Henrietta, waited to feed him.
People do the same thing. I want a car, so I jump ahead rather than submit the purchase to prayer, and give it more thought and research. Regret. Some young people decide to get married before they’ve had a chance to know each other well. Regret. We say angry words to a loved one because it felt good at the time. Words wound, even after an apology. Regret.
I thought of the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10:17-27. Although the man deeply desired right standing with God, he knew he fell short.
Yet, he refused to place God before his desire for power and wealth, and went away saddened and “unfed.” He returned to fake flowers for food, even though he knelt before the One Who is the bread of life. Regret.
Jesus said, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures [and leads] to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you; for God the Father has authorized Him and put His seal on Him.” John 6:27 (AMP)
Farther on in this passage, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” John 6:35 (NASB)
We never again read about the rich young ruler in scripture, but I like to think the young man, now penniless, was among the three thousand saved in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (Hmm, perhaps a novel awaits?)
Our relationship with Jesus is always about the condition of our heart. We can’t buy or work our way into heaven.
King David said, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT)
It’s not hard for me to find someone who looks for spiritual food in places where none is to be found. I only need a mirror. I ask myself, “Do I see anything that draws me away from Jesus?” Too often, I do.
We can see this same conflict, looking for spiritual food in temporal things, in others. Like the hummingbird, we frantically beat our wings in search of real food, but settle for far less.
Even local fellowships do the same thing. I believe, when church leaders attempt to relate scriptural truth to modern life, they can become arrogant. God doesn’t need our help to move the human heart. Indeed, we can’t help.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
Yet, it is common for churches to go to great lengths to modernize their appeal to a secular audience, to focus on easy and immediate application of the Word, a quick take-home, in an effort to make the scriptures relevant the modern age.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.”
Paul contrasted of the milk of the Word and solid food.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” I Corinthians 3:1-4 (NLT)
Doesn’t this sound like the frequent strife in congregations between traditional worship and “seeker” worship? It’s a complicated discussion. If both groups kept their eyes upon Jesus, I believe there would be more love and less strife. Neither group has a better hold on grace.
Given the definition of grace, unmerited favor of God, none of us deserves. So it is silly for one group to think they deserve it more, unless they believe they can earn it.
I agree with Chris Hutchinson when he says of the “seeker” movement, “its chief problem is not innovation but unbelief—unbelief that God saves people through sincere, rich, sin-and-grace-based preaching. It would rather believe that God needs our help through new and creative methods. And since its methods are essentially man-centered and works-based, its disciples will be the same.” (citation reference below)
Below is a link to the article in Tabletalk Magazine, written by Chris Hutchinson, senior pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. He explains the tension between “seeker” and traditional sin and grace preaching, between accessibility and practicality and mystery and urgency. Cut and paste the address. I had to read this one a couple of times, but it’s worth it.
The link: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/2018/06/preaching-seeker-driven-churches-and-unbelief/
My point is, all this relates back to our hungry hummingbird, and the search for food. We can seek fake food, or real spiritual food from Christ our Savior.
William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote several hymns, but lived his life a troubled man. He lost his mother at the age of six, and the rest of his life he struggled with depression and doubt. John Newton, the writer of the hymn Amazing Grace, became his spiritual father, and together they penned many of the Olney Hymns.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
Shortly before Cowper’s death in April, 1800, he wrote “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood.” He overcame his doubts and accepted the scriptural truth that nothing but the blood of Jesus saves. Nothing.
This truth opens wide the door of hope.
As Christians, we seek to do good works because of a changed heart, not to earn our salvation, or to boast we have a better hold on grace.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:13 (KJV)
A few lines from Cowper’s hymn say it well, “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away. For since by faith I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply, redeeming love has been my theme and shall be till I die.”
Bonhoeffer also said, “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others . . . not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.”
Don’t be like our hummingbird, searching for food in places devoid of nourishment.
I love snuggling up with a good mystery book on a rainy night. The Bible is like that, but infinitely more. It is full of wonderful mysteries, and our Heavenly Father has amazing things to tell us. He wants to dazzle us. Be patient, but diligent.