Dead Elm Trees are Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down…

We only have a few trees on our property, and when two beautiful Elms mysteriously died during the past winter, they were sorely missed. As I watched spring roll around, with new leaves and growth on all of the trees except these, I wondered what I was going to do. I don't own a chain saw, and it was obvious that all of my human strength wouldn't budge those 50 year-old tree trunks! (I did try, however! Needless to say, all I received for my efforts was a sore shoulder!) The only choice was to leave the dead trunks to the creativity of my kids.

It took them until the end of the summer to figure it out. "Let's turn the one closest to the house into a lighthouse," they said. They then proceeded to draw up detailed plans about how to do so, and I had to admit, it looked promising! But since the school year would soon be starting, we decided to undertake this particular project in the spring. It would give the kids yet another thing to look forward to when winter left the land!

This year we were blessed with an extended summer. We were still mowing the grass mid-way through the month of November, several weeks longer than is usual for this area. In fact, by mid-October, all of the trees (except for our Elm trees, of course!) Still had their full compliment of summer foliage! When autumn did finally arrive, it did so with a flourish of wind. In a matter of two or three weeks, all of the trees were bare, and it was difficult to tell the difference between our dead elms and all of the other trees in the area!

Then came that fateful Friday . . .

The winds were extraordinarily strong. My wife, who was trying to use the clothesline one last time, ended up having laundry spread out over the lawn, and sometime that morning the inevitable happened: The two Elms, the "strong" and "immoveable", trees, snapped and fell heavily to their sides.

There was nothing I could do about it. In the end, I would still have to find a chain saw somewhere to cut the fallen trunks into campfire length! For the moment, my wife and I simply pushed them off to the edge of the lawn, and then we began the formidable, thankless task of picking up all of the fallen sticks and branches. Who would have thought that two dead trees could have dropped so much debris?

This left me plenty of time for reflection, and as I stared at the stumps of what had been two beautiful trees, it occurred to me that what had once been grandiose would be reduced to nothing but a pile of ash. There would be no lighthouse (not unless we wanted a horizontal one!), all because of a simple wind!

Then my mind went a little farther, and I realized that just as the once unmovable trees had been defeated by a simple wind, everything that seems grandiose in man's eyes will someday be turned to dust. Ministries proclaiming to be led by God will fall. Churches said to be built on God's glory will crumble. Even missions that seemed to care of the needy will be reduced to nothing but ash. Why? Because nothing we do on our own has any everlasting value! Jesus said: "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:6-7 NIV)

This doesn't mean that our ministries and churches won't bless some people here and there, but if they are not completely dependent upon God, their purpose is purely selfish. "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." (1 Cor 3:11-13 NIV)

Remember Moses? He tried to deliver Israel on his own. The only thanks he received for killing an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite was that the Pharaoh of Egypt, his own adopted grandfather, turned against him! In the end, he had to flee into the wilderness, where this prince of Egypt was forced to become a simple shepherd! Why? Because he acted on his own initiative instead of waiting upon the Lord! It took forty years of living in the desert to humble Moses' proud heart into total dependence upon his Maker. Only when he was invited by God to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian bond was he successful.

Ministries of men are worthless. Only the ones that are completely dependant upon the Lord will succeed. Standing tall and strong is only possible through the One who died on a cross and rose three days later. His power is available to us, but only if we depend solely on Him: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NIV)

Are you starting to lose some leaves? Do your branches seem to be becoming a bit heavy? Turn to Jesus! He will revitalize your whole being. He will make it possible for you and your ministry to reach out effectively.

Rob Chaffart

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