Lessons From The Cedar Tree
LESSONS FROM THE CEDAR TREEPSALM 92:12 Just one verse of scripture, in fact one half of one verse of scripture I want to address tonight. You know I have never done it but one day I might preach a series of sermons on the trees in the bible. I thought of Adam behind the tree hiding, Elijah under the tree, Nathaniel beside the tree, Zacchaeus up the tree, and Jesus on the tree. I mean there are all sorts of things you could preach on. I want us to examine the Cedars of Lebanon. The Psalmist said that the righteous man shall flourish like a Palm tree He shall grow like a Cedar in Lebanon. The Cedars of Lebanon were used in the temple to make it beautiful. God gives us some Cedars to make the church beautiful. Cedars describe a Person (Righteous) Cedars describe a potential (Flourishing). Why is there so little spiritual growth among many people in our churches? 1. THE CHARACTER OF THE FLOURISHING MAN “He will flourish.” It means to grow. He thrives. He blossoms. He shall flourish like a Cedar of Lebanon. Now maybe some of you think that there is only one kind of cedar. There are actually four Cedars in Lebanon that we will look at. A. First the Little Cedar. The little cedar was very small, very unimpressive, but very important. It was named so because it wasn't very tall. The little Cedar was small but it was very important. It was used for fence posts. It was used for studding in the walls. It was used in the ceilings and even in the furnishing of the temple. 1.) Now there is something very interesting about the little cedar. When you go out to get them you cut them down and pile them on a cart. It's not necessary for them to be tied on with a cord or a rope. So you can just pile them on a cart and they will stay there. You can whip those old oxen and down the road they go, around the curves, across the potholes, but not a one falls off. Do you know why? Because there is a certain "consistency," in the bark of the little cedar and they simply cling like glue to one another. Now that's the kind of stuff that God is looking for. He's not necessarily looking for the beautiful oak or the polished maple tree. But God is looking for some ruff, crude, if you will, little cedars in His church that will stick together no matter what. As a pastor I spend a lot of my time going along behind the cart, picking up the little trees that fall off. And about the time I think I have them all on another falls off. The result is that most pastors don't have time to study, pray, or do the preparation of his sermons because too much of his time is spent in picking up the little trees that fall off. And then he can't find the time to go out to win the lost. It shouldn't be that way. There ought to be a certain consistency. There ought to be a dependability of the little cedar that holds them together. 2.) Another thing about them is they are not usually the most outspoken, or the most visible, or the most impressive people, in God's church. Did you know that many times the most important in God’s house are those who feel themselves to be most unworthy. If you are here today and you feel you are small. “I am too insignificant and preacher you know I'm not very talented. You know I'm not very smart and there's really not much I can do for God.” Well I am saying to you are important to God. You are important to the church. You are important to me and to what God is doing in these last days in which we are living. 3.) Do you know what makes the difference in the little cedars? They have developed a pattern of faithfulness. They don't live by their feelings but they live by the quality decision that they have made. They are faithful and they are not shaken by anything. They are patterned to read the word of God and to pray. It is their pattern to go to the house of God and to worship. It's their pattern to witness for Christ. I heard about this young lady who after dating this boy for about three years was having second thoughts about marrying him because he was too predictable. She knew every move he was going to make. She said I am afraid I will get bored. She said she wanted someone who was not so predictable. She said I like a fellow that you don't know what he is going to do from one minute to the next. Let me tell you something, in marriage or your Christian life look for predictable people. Someone you can count on today and tomorrow. I get a little uneasy about those people that you don't know where they are coming from. People scare me when they are sweet as honey today and tomorrow they are as sour as a dill pickle. This week they are on fire for God, ready to turn the world upside down but the next time you see them they are cold and indifferent. Be predictable. God is looking for people who are consistent and who are faithful to the work of God. Do you know the one sin that plagues the church above all others? It's not the sin of murder or adultery. It's the sin of inconsistency, not doing what I know that I should do. But thank God for the little cedars. They are faithful. They hang in there and you can depend on them to do what God has called them to do. The 1992 Summer Olympics featured two tremendously poignant moments. American sprinter Gail Devers, the clear leader in the 100-meter hurdles, tripped over the last barrier. She agonizingly pulled herself to her knees and crawled the last five meter, finishing fifth—but finishing. Even more heart-touching was the 400-meter semifinal in which British runner Derek Redmond tore a hamstring and fell to the track. He struggled to his feet and began to hobble, determined to complete the race. His father ran from the stands to help him off the track, but the athlete refused to quit. He leaned on his father, and the two limped to the finish line together, to deafening applause. My friend that's the stuff that little cedars are made of. Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. So gifted was he, he could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for the poor whites and the poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the '40s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folk in town. The town people tried everything to stop Clarence. They tried boycotting him, and slashing worker's tires when they came to town. Over and over, for fourteen years, they tried to stop him. 2. THE COMMUNION OF THE FLOURISHING MAN Let’s look at another cedar. The fire cedar got its name because it was saturated with a very oily sap and it was highly flamable. In fact the shepherd used the fire cedar to light their campfire at night because it would ignite with a spark and burn almost indefinitely. I believe we need some fire cedars in the church today. I love to see people in our church who need no pressuring, no priming, no programming. I am talking about seeing people come to the House of God soaked with the oil of the Holy Spirit and ready to catch fire and burn for the glory of God. One of the most distracting things I see in some Churches today are preachers who get up and beg and plead and coax and try to get people to worship God. But worship is not something that you whip up. It is something that comes down from above. I don't think we ought to freeze in formalism. I don't think we ought to fry in fanaticism. But we ought to freely worship God in Spirit and in truth. When Donna and I lived on the farm at our first church we had a well with a hand pump on it. Have you ever pumped water from a well and you pump and pump and nothing comes out. What did you do? Sometimes we have to put something in to get something out. Worship, God desires it, God deserves it, and God demands it. But in worship you have to put something in to get something out. As a preacher to the church I shouldn't have to pump the people up. When they come God’s people ought to be prayed up and ready to praise God. Why do people come and sit and slump and soak and sour and say “Here I am preacher, bless me if you can.” I mean here is a man who reads the morning newspaper and then hunts for his bible so he can get to church on time. You know folks we ought to come to church ready to go. And if you aren't primed for the service then more than likely you won't get anything out of it. And let me tell you sometimes on Sunday I go home beat and worn out, shoulders aching why, because I have been pumping. I've been preaching to folks who have lost their prime. They haven't prayed since last Sunday. They haven't been renewed since they were saved and here I am – pump, pump. Lord help us to put some fire cedars in the church that will come already primed and ready to rejoice in the power of the Lord. We need some fire cedars in the church today because when it burns it energizes, it warms, it empowers the people of God. It's the fire of the Holy Spirit we seek. God hates bondage; He hates it so much that he sent a Moses to lead the children out of Egypt. He hates it so much that he sent His son Jesus Christ to set you free. And one of the things He has set you free to do is to worship Him. 3. THE CONSULATION OF THE FLOURISHING MAN Let's look at the Humming Cedar. The way it got its name was because of the way the leaves were shaped on the humming cedar. When the winds would blow especially on a cold winter night those humming cedars with its bell shaped leaves would give off a melodious humming sound. There was a legend years ago that said King David tuned his harp by the Cedars of Lebanon. They made a very beautiful sound when the wind blew through them. The harder the wind blew the louder they would sing. Oh what a beautiful sound that must have been. Did you know that God uses humming cedars today? He does. He uses humming cedars to keep the sweetness of spiritual harmony ringing in the church. We need humming cedars who are men and women who can turn bitterness into sweetness. God knows most churches have got enough fussers and complainers and backbiters and criticizers, people who moan and groan and sigh and cry. I heard one pastor say that he had the whole Tator family in his church. He said he had the dictators, the agitators, and the irritators. He said he had them all. God deliver us from the Tators. Let's pray that God plant some humming cedars in the church. The harder the wind blows the louder and sweeter they will be. Praise God for the humming cedars. You know people are like the humming cedars. When the pressure is on what ever is on the inside will come out on the outside. If there is sweetness on the inside and the storm rages then bitterness is not going to come out. My friend you can always find people out and they will find themselves out too. When the winds blow and the pressure is on. Now listen to me. You will never know if you are a crab apple or a weeping willow or a humming cedar until the wind blows. So we need to pray that God will give us some humming cedars to keep the melody in the church. Robert Browning wrote a poem about a little girl named Pippa who worked in a sweatshop. On her way to work she passed through a ghetto of doom and despair. As she walked through that neighborhood that reeked of hopelessness and grief, Pippa sang. As she sang from her heart the shutters flew open, and it seemed that sunlight once again shone because Pippa brightened the valley through which she passed. Will we add to the gloom of this Old World or will we create joy? Oh how we need the humming cedars in the church to keep the fellowship sweet. The harder the wind blows the sweeter the sound. 4. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE FLOURISHING MAN The fourth cedar is called the Tall Cedar. It got its name because it grew tall. Sometimes it grew to be 80 or 90 feet tall. Now the thing that makes the tall cedar impressive is not its great height. It is impressive because of its root system. I have learned that just as far as the body of the tall cedar extended above the ground the tap root is buried beneath the ground. Do you know what the results would be if you tried to take a tall, heavy cedar tree and support it with a 5 foot tap root. It wouldn't last one winter night. It would just blow over. We need to know that God is not going to help us grow by just keeping the winds calm. God is not going to help you "survive" by taking away all of the threatening influence of life. But God is going to help you grow and be stable by showing you how to get roots down deep enough so that you can withstand even the most severe of difficulties. My friend being saved does not deliver you from having troubles. Pressures and trouble are in the process of working out a future glory. One man had the personal hobby of handcrafting violins. He focused on the kind of wood that made the best violin. He used all domestic woods. He imported foreign woods. He used aging processes to harden the woods. In all of it, the tone he desired from his violins rested beyond his reach. One day he found a gnarled piece of wood that came from the timberline. It had grown at that point where trees stop growing. The blast of winter wind, the slashing rain, and the wind –swept bleakness of a mountaintop had twisted the wood and hardened it. Yet the violin created from wood taken at timberline produced a heavenly tone unlike anything else ever made. Timberline! It was a place of pain and of gain. In the program of God there are those who are to live at Timberline where it is not easy, but that is where he puts the music in our lives. Romans 8:28… "I consider our present sufferings not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us". Charles Spurgeon was the greatest preacher in the English language. Yet he preached out of the pain of intense personal suffering through gout and related diseases. His wife was an invalid confined to her room during the ten most productive years of his ministry. As the pained preacher sat in his wife's room one evening while a log whistle in the fireplace, Gases trapped in the wood were released causing a brief, musical tone. Spurgeon told his wife Susannah, "It takes the fire to bring out the music." What is true of logs is true of life. We need to be like the tall cedar. We need to get our roots down deep. We may bend but we won't break. We will weather the storms of life. Lets me asked you a question are you flourishing? Are you growing? Has it been long time since you have grown? Are you flourishing? Are you a blessing to others? Do you turn bitterness when it comes into sweetness?