May 25, 2022 - Rotten

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (Matt. 23:27 NIV)

Deb and I were out working in the yard last Friday. Ninety degrees. Potential heat stroke. I was hand sawing tree limbs and doing an overall lifting up of a neglected forest canopy. I mentioned to Deb that this should keep the trees healthy and around, Lord willing, until our repose or the Rapture. (Perhaps today, Lord! Perhaps today!)

As soon as I said this, I heard a crack and then a cracking, and then that horrible noise of something falling followed by a thud. For a moment I thought my words were prophetic and to be immediately fulfilled, but the sound was not above or near. It was the second section of my neighbor's tree. The first section had fallen over the winter. The other half left to wonder when it too would succumb to gravity and the illness undiagnosed.

Weird. Weird because if you looked at that tree you would have never known that something was wrong with it. Leaves of green. Beautiful shape. Not crowded out by anything next to it. No child or pet abuse. Alone. Strong. Deceptive. It was dying and no one knew it. It reminds me of the person who goes to the doctor just not feeling well and leaves being told they have stage four inoperable cancer. How does that happen?

Jesus alluded to this in the spirit world. People. Religious people. Those with the education, the flowing robes, the community praise and adoration. White-washed tombs that look clean and shining on the outside but are full of dead men's bones on the inside. Self-deceived. Undiagnosed. A spiritual stage 4.

But I think Jesus' words are given not for "them" but for us, for me. Self-examination. Self-deception. I might look good on the outside but is there some rot at the center. Is there still something that I am excusing, something not addressed, something neglected that makes everything else that is good -weak?

I have been studying for my devotions, "The Departure of the Soul According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church." It is a massive two-inch exhaustive work on what happens when you die. I would argue against its biblical veracity and assign it to church tradition and saint testimony. However, it has provoked me to more consistent confession of sins and repentance - a good thing.

Their belief is that when you die and your soul separates from your body, the soul must go through at least twenty "toll-houses" where at each stop the demons accuse you of things done and things not done in order to take your soul to hell. Your Guardian Angel accompanies you and gives testimony of your contrition, your repentance, and your good deeds, much like a spiritual shield until you are finally escorted into the presence of Jesus himself - the ultimate Judge.

Theirs is a works/faith salvation so I disagree with their understanding of judgment. I trust in nothing but the blood of Jesus who has cleansed me from all my sin - past, present, and future.

However, it has made more aware of the rot that still tries to work its way into my life. It reminds me to keep short accounts with a Savior who died for me and covers me with his sacrificial blood. For such exhortations, I am truly thankful.

If a tree is going to fall...let it be in my neighbor's yard and not mine. If you know what I mean....