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Chlorophyllum rhacodes (Shaggy Parasol) growing in the decaying leaves and moldering twigs in Oaxaca, Mexico

We have gotten a lot more rain than usual here at the children’s home in Oaxaca, Mexico. Everything is nice and green and mushrooms of different shapes, sizes and colors are popping up all over the place, some as big as a dinner plates. I find them fascinating and have been doing some research on them. I have come to the conclusion that Christians are a lot like mushrooms, at least in two respects.

One thing I learned is that mushrooms grow best in places that are wet or really damp. We have received more rain this last June and now into July than I can ever remember in my 16 years of living here. So that explains the surge in ‘shrooms. They grow especially good in dead, decaying and moldering matter, like old leaves and sticks, exactly the place I found Old Shaggy, pictured above.

Christians actually grow and even thrive in exactly the same kind of environment. The Bible describes this world and its systems as dead, decaying and moldering. Yet Christianity, as the proverbial mustard seed, has been growing like crazy, not just in spite of pain, suffering and persecution, but because of it. Throughout the centuries different cultures and regimes have been trying to systematically snuff Christianity out, and yet it has grown into the largest religion on the planet.

I read an article recently in Christianity Today about how, in the past, the missionaries were kicked out of China, and church leaders feared for the future of the church in that country. Not to worry. Christianity grew from a few thousand believers to millions of believers within the following generations. Now it seems the same thing is probably occurring in North Korea; an expanding underground church amidst the worlds worst persecution of the church.

But not only the Church Universal grows amongst the death and decay of the world, but so do individual Christians. We all experience times of trials and tribulation, sorrow and suffering, frustration and failure. These are times of rotting leaves, moldy twigs and decaying branches. Times where we not only grow, but flourish. With these kind of experiences I think of Joseph and all he had to endure during his life. Sold by jealous, spiteful brothers into slavery. Falsely accused of a capital crime and tossed into prison. Forgotten by a fellow inmate he had helped out, he languished in jail. And then what? Next thing you know, he is second in command in the most powerful empire in the world.

When those same brothers came to him begging for food, he could have extracted sweet revenge, but instead he told them, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He was able to say that because over and over Genesis reminds us that God was with Joseph. God is still in the “making good out of evil” business as we can plainly see in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God…” Even those decaying, moldering things.

The second way I see that Christians are like mushrooms is mycelia. I learned about mycelia from Emma Erler who is a landscape and greenhouse specialist at the University of New Hampshire. She writes, “Mushrooms will go away on their own once the weather dries out. Keep in mind that although these fruiting bodies have disappeared, the fungal mycelia is still growing in the soil. The fungus will continue to grow and persist as long as there is plenty of organic matter to feed upon.”

I found that to be very interesting. Mushrooms are only the fruit of a much vaster, invisible fungus network that lives underground. When the mushroom dies, the plant continues to live and grow and have its being. That makes me think of all the Christians who have died, yet a part of them continues to live and influence us who are living. I especially think of Christian writers from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Stott and C.S. Lewis, to name just a few. They are all dead, but their ideas, theology and insights continue to live and spread through the world with their words, just like mycelia.

So, if anyone should happen to tell you that you remind them of a mushroom, take it as a compliment. You are growing strong through the murky mire of decay; the stench and darkness of this present world, because God is with you, just as he was with Joseph. And, after you are gone to be with the Father, your mycelia, your love, grace, compassion and kindness will continue to live on in all those you cared about and helped.

Mushrooms and Christians. Who knew?

hope1

 

I was studying Hebrews chapter eleven, often times called the Hall Of Faith.  Here are a few things I learned about faith –

  1.  Without faith it is impossible to please God              11:6
  2. Faith means believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him  11:6
  3. Sometimes faith means you don’t know where you are going      11:8
  4. Sometimes faith means you are a stranger     11:9
  5. Sometimes faith means that you do not receive the things promised      11:13,39
  6. Faith means that you will be tested      11:17
  7. Sometimes faith means choosing to be mistreated     11:25
  8. Sometimes faith means making people angry      11:27
  9. Sometimes faith means being tortured       11:35
  10. Sometimes faith means facing jeers, beatings, chains and imprisonment.     11:36
  11. Sometimes faith means death by stoning, being sawed in two and killed by the sword    11:37
  12. Sometimes faith means being destitute and persecuted     11:37

So, do you want to be a person of faith?  I like to talk about how much God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Where’s the happiness in all that?  The ultimate happiness for people of faith is Heaven.  That’s easy to see by taking another look at Hebrews 11.

Verse 16 tells us that people of faith are longing for a better country – a heavenly one, and that God has prepared a city for them.  Later we see that Moses was “looking ahead to his reward.”  Verse 36 says that some who were tortured, refused to be released, so that “they might gain an even better resurrection.”  The last verse of chapter 11 lets us know that God has planned something better for us.

The main thing to remember about Faith comes to us from verse one, “Faith is the substance of things HOPED for …”  Not so much what we hope for in this world, but in the world to come.

After studying Hebrews 11, I came across some quotes from Timothy Keller about hope and heaven:

“We are future oriented beings, and so we must understand ourselves as being in a story that leads somewhere.”

“The disposition properly described as hope, trust, or wonder … three names for the same state of heart and mind – asserts the goodness of life in the face of its limits.  It cannot be defeated by adversity.”  (Keller quoting Lasch)

“Hope does not require a belief in progress, only a belief in justice, a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of tings is not flouted with impunity.”  (Keller quoting Genovese)

“Hope that stands up to and enables us to face the worst depends on faith in something that transcends this world and life and is not available to those living within a worldview that denies the supernatural.”

“Christian hope has more power for sufferers than a mere optimism in historical progress.”

“We are trapped in a world of death, a world for which we were not designed.”

“The immortal Son of God was sent into the world, sharing in our humanity, becoming subject to weakness and death.  But then through death he broke its power, in order to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

“We may physically die, but death now becomes only an entryway to eternal life with him.”

“All death can now do to Christians is to make their live infinitely better.”

(All quotes from Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense of God)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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