Burned Out? Find Comfort in the Growth to Come!

The news continues to roll out of Gatlinburg. Stories of families searching for missing members only to find out they’re a part of the growing number of fatalities. Over 1,000 structures were damaged in the fire, one of which was the Gatlinburg church of Christ. Several members lost their homes as well. Thankfully, we haven’t heard of any lives lost among the brethren in Tennessee, but there are many in the area who cannot say the same.

For those who have visited the Smoky Mountains — particularly the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area — the beauty and majesty of the surrounding landscape is something that one rarely forgets. Seeing the images of fire ravaging the hillsides, entire cliffs glowing orange in the night, and the ashy aftermath is beyond words. “How could God allow this to happen to such a beautiful area,” a woman asked on one of the news reports I watched. The irony in her question is that God designed the forest ecosystem to benefit from fire. In fact, forests are made stronger and flourish in the aftermath of a fire. Through prayer and support from their community, businesses and families will heal as well. The emotional healing will likely take the longest.

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A small gallery of images from around the Gatlinburg area as fires swept through the area. At the time of this writing, the fires lead to the deaths of 13 people, injuring more than 100, destroying more than 1,000 structures and several acres of forest.

A small gallery of images from around the Gatlinburg area as fires raged, killing 13, injuring more than 100 and destroying more than 1,000 structures (at the time of this writing) and several acres of forest.

A person with experience in forestry and forest firefighting said that in 2-5 years, it will be hard for the untrained eye to tell the Gatlinburg area experienced such a blaze. It’s how the ecology works, apparently. According to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, fires are essential to the survival of such a large forest. “In the 1970s scientists started to notice that keeping the Great Smoky Mountains National Park completely fire free was having some unintended consequences. There are at least 12 native species of plants and animals in the Smokies that benefit from routine fires. For instance, the Table Mountain pine depends on the powerful heat of ground fires to open its sealed cones, which is how the tree spreads its seeds. Without periodic fires, the Table Mountain pine and other species would disappear from the park.”

Hearing that, I’m reminded of James 1:2-4 which reads, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Just like the forest fires, the trials and temptations we meet in life may be devastating at the time. They may cause our faith to be stretched. The true test comes in whether one allows the trial or temptation to stretch their faith to make it stronger, or allow it to break their faith.

Nature has God ruling over it, allowing and orchestrating the regrowth and build up after a fire. Man requires assistance to not allow their faith to be completely broken. That’s where the church comes in. As we’ll cover in our final lesson of the “Scripture Salad” sermon series this morning, our assembling together serves to encourage and stir up one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24). God’s perfect design for nature allows for regrowth and a thriving ecosystem after the “trial/temptation” of a fire. Christ’s perfect design for His church allows for the body to support and edify one another so the body can continue working together in perfect harmony (Eph. 4:16).

A Christian needs that encouragement and edification in order to mature spiritually. It cannot be done alone. Just like the Table Mountain pine relies on fires to flourish, the Christian needs to rely on the church and proper, biblical teaching to be the light they’re called to be in this dark world.

As always, if you have any questions about this, or if you’d like to learn more about how to become a Christian, feel free to email me at derek@duckdisciple.com.

–DD–

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How to avoid disappointment

Election Day could hold some disappointment for millions of Americans as their chosen candidate may lose (or win). Last week was a week of highs and lows for me. As a long-time fan of the Cleveland Indians, seeing them back in the World Series for the first time since 1997 was exciting enough. Then to see them with a 3-1 lead and the chance to win the title with just one more win… Just one more! Well… The Chicago Cubs won 3 in a row in a thrilling World Series comeback for the history books. Cleveland, once again, lost. For the third time in my life I watched my favorite baseball team fall short on the biggest stage in baseball. Disappointment quickly gripped me.

So, I did what any other “logical person” would do in that situation… I went to work doing the dishes. I had to occupy my brain with something other than the overwhelming feelings filling my brain space and chest. Tom Hanks once said, “There’s no crying in baseball!” I fought hard to keep the tears back, but a single one squeaked out of the left eye. Then, as I wiped the tear from the corner of my eye, I realized how silly it was to be feeling this way.

Disappointment comes from putting hope in the uncertain. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines disappointment as, “unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.” See… I hoped the Indians would win after getting a 3-1 lead. I hoped they would win, bringing it back to Cleveland with a 3-2 lead. But I put my hope in the uncertain. An Indians win wasn’t guaranteed. There was too much left to chance. When I realized this, I also quickly came to my senses and realized the only certainty we have is the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

Hope is one of three elements to a Christian’s character: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).” The greatest of these is love, which helps us understand why “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mt. 22:37)” and “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:12),” are so high on the “commandment list.” But hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life, so essential that, much like faith and love, it can be what people see to let them know you’re a Christian.

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” – 1 Peter 3:15

How can anyone know what hope we have in us, if they can’t see it in your life? The hope we have in eternal life should eclipse any hope we have in uncertain things of this world. 1 John 3:3 says that our hope is based on God. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul says Jesus Christ is our hope. In Titus 2:13 Paul goes further and says, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” God made hope possible by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who provided for us hope through His atoning sacrifice. It’s through His death, burial and resurrection in which we are baptized into and thus receive the promise of eternal life. The hope that kindles the fire within. A hope connected to faith and love! A hope based on Christ.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Th 4:13).” Those who are not children of God according to the means authorized in scripture do not have this hope, but we do. Therefore, disappointment should not have a hold on us because of the hope we have in the certainty of eternity with our Creator, Lord and Savior. Amen.

How do you avoid disappointment? Put your hope in things of Heaven and not of this world! Obey the commands of Christ and start with “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).” As always, I welcome your questions and feedback. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at derek@duckdisciple.com.

– DD –