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Shade Tree Christians
"The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand." Psalm 121:5

Have you ever heard the expression; "I've got it made in the shade?" That saying originated in the 1950's and means being in an excellent or ideal situation. A Christian truly does have it made in the shade. Consider, we are forgiven of all our sins, past, present and future because Christ died on the cross and so paid the debt that we owed. Christians have been adopted by God, he now is our father and we have a wonderfully inexpressible inheritance that includes being joint heirs with Christ the Lord of all! And, although we still commit sins, the consequences for such are not eternal death, but a breech in fellowship with God. We have God's spirit because His amazing Grace and power has regenerated us from Spiritual darkness so we love Him for doing that and we cannot take sinning lightly or passively. Sin grieves our Heavenly Father's heart and sin hurts our hearts too. Actually, God will chasten us to help us realize what's important and to remind us that we are His children. Sometimes we do have to suffer here on earth, but it's only for a brief time compared to eternity with God in Heaven, where we'll live forever with no sickness, pain or tears! Christians do have it made in the shade.

Christian actions are important and often reveal our faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus. Christian reactions are more important though because they show where our priorities and our purity originate. For example, a difficult life experience may freeze our faith; we may not know what action to take, or may be helpless in ourselves to do anything. However, a genuine Christian will find a shade, a place to be comforted, protected, and refreshed. "The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand" is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

"And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Isaiah 32:2

In our modern, air-conditioned lives, we probably do not appreciate shade trees as much as those before us did. Yet, I remember growing up working in the tobacco fields about this time of the year, recalling that the first thing to do before beginning the tobacco harvest was to locate a shade tree to work under. Then, all the tobacco from the field being harvested was brought to that shady spot to be prepared for the barn. Summertime in the south meant shade trees were where you worked, rested and built your houses. The greatest shade tree there ever was is Calvary's Tree! Jesus Christ became a curse for us hanging on a tree and that tree's shade protects us from the wrath of a Holy, Almighty God. So, really, if we are not shade tree Christians, we are not Christians at all!

The Lord keeps us by keeping us looking for a shade tree, i.e., by staying close to Him. How do you respond to committing a sin, or experiencing a tragic loss, or when a heart breaking dilemma hits? Do you run away from God, trying to cover up your shame or do you run to His wide open, loving arms the shade of salvation? Do you go to the tanning bed, or do you run to the mall to get a pair of Ray-Bans so you can look cooler than me? Seems to me that if we have it made in the shade (and we have), then our reaction to trouble or trials ought to be to look for a shade. A shade tree Christian knows the difference in religion and enjoying God. Now, shade tree Christians are spiritual beings having human experiences on earth. Earth is not the shade tree Christian's final home, but it is her or his assignment. Christians will not need shade in Heaven, but since God is our keeper, He provides plenty of shade for us while we're here on earth.

A shade tree Christian is a Christian who is concerned about working in God's kingdom. It is a lay ministry! A shade tree mechanic is a person willing to learn and perform scheduled maintenance or simple repairs on his own vehicle. And, the work is often done at his home under a shade tree or covered area. There is actually a Shade Tree Mechanic Ministry based in New Jersey where you can go to a garage at the home and help work on actual mechanical vehicle problems or bring your own vehicle to work on. While work goes on though, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God's Kingdom are discussed and often real life problems are solved through the application of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit enabling. Come to think of it, there always seemed to be a lot of fellowship, even laughter in those hot summer tobacco fields while we worked under a shade tree. The slogan for that Shade Tree Mechanic Ministry is, "Like a finely-tuned high-performance machine, you were fearfully and wonderfully made. Get to know your manufacturer. Turning wrenches, changing lives."

The difference in a pew sitter and a shade tree Christian is that a pew sitter has the attitude that it's better to pay someone else to fix it than to do it ourselves, while a shade tree Christian will roll up his or her sleeves and respond with a responsible attitude. Now, there may well be situations that call for professional knowhow, or special tools and that is the time to seek Christian counselors, pastors, and teachers. Several years ago we had a leak under our kitchen sink. Well, I rolled up my sleeves and tried with little success to fix the problem. Then, I swallowed my pride and called the plumber. Penny told me that the plumber who came out, fixed the sink and told her to please never let me try to fix it again. But for the most part, Christians ought to be shade tree Christians. We should move past the "hired gun" attitude and have a willingness to invest our own efforts in the work of ministry. After all, we all have been positioned by God within the body of Christ to fulfill a role and perform a task, it's our assignment really.

I think the greatest obstacle for the shade tree Christian is fear. Recently, a bearing problem caused a breakdown of a piece of farm equipment I own. I thought about taking it somewhere for repair, but something way down in my pocketbook said to fix it myself. I hesitated for the longest time because I was afraid I would take it apart and not be able to put it back together right. Church members can miss a lot of blessings that come with Kingdom work because they lack the confidence to get involved. This is not the time for us to hear a good sermon either, it's the time to preach to ourselves.

"And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." I Corinthians 2: 3-5

A shade tree Christian must have the right tools in order to do God's work in His Kingdom. God provides all the tools we need. Hammers of the Word, wrenches of compassion, pliers of fellowship just to name a few are found in the shade tree Christian tool box of Spiritual gifts. One problem I have is that I do so little shade tree mechanic work, that when I get up the courage to fix something, I can't find my tools. There have been times when I blamed my children or someone else for misplacing my tools. Hardly without exception though, I find the missing tools right where I left them! The Bible is the shade tree Christian's most important tool. It's the only tool Jesus used to handle a problem with the devil in a wilderness where there was hardly any shade. Are you in the Word? If you are not, don't blame it on your children or your busy schedule, go back to where you felt closest to God, and you will find it right where you left it. The Bible is the manufacturer's handbook and any sensible shade tree Christian will consider instruction from the maker invaluable. Manuals and YouTube are great aids to instruct and guide us to fix most anything, but we must study and learn from the illustrations offered. Likewise, a good shade tree Christian will stay close to God by studying His Word, prayer, and Holiness. Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness, so He was ready and willing to tighten any loose bolts Satan tried to shake loose.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." II Timothy 2: 15

Shade tree Christians must learn to prioritize their time and energy. It can be said that "a farmer works from sun to sun, but a shade tree Christian's work is never done." Now there were a lot of things I'd rather be doing than working on a broken farm harrow, but I was willing to forgo my wants in order to get the work done. It really boils down to this for the Christian: "Do I want to build my kingdom, or do I want to build God's Kingdom?" In life there are always things we enjoy, but we must recognize what is really important.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

When I replaced the bearing in my harrow and put it all back together, I felt great. I did something I really doubted I could do. It encouraged me to know that when something else breaks, (and it surely will) I will get under a shade and go to work.

There are times though, when a shade tree Christian cannot do anything but stay in the shade. Flowers grow best in the sunshine, but ferns grow best in the shade. Some of God's spiritual ferns include patience, longsuffering, heartbreak and meekness. God, the Great Gardner glories in the ferns just like he does the flowers, and He purposes to save them from destruction by the shadow of His hand. So, He takes us into the shade of disappointment, the shade of sorrow, and the shade of pain and sickness. But it is a very wonderful shade, it is the "Shadow of the Almighty." The Fire Fern grows in the forest under the canopy and shade of much taller and denser species. It's called Fire Fern because it flourishes after a fire. A shade tree Christian is like a Fire Fern, responding to hurt with faith that reaches beyond the shadows believing that there cannot be shade without "Sonshine." If you are weary with worldliness, or just feel like you're broken even though you've tried to do right, then maybe it's time to find the shade.

"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." Song of Solomon 2:3

Brother Randy

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