“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
A Message from Mrs. Strawn, by Randall D. Kittle

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I was filled with mixed emotions as we drove out to an old farm located just beyond the outskirts of the city. For quite some time my wife and I had been looking for a small farm out in the country but close to the city where we could move our home and headquarter our ministry. This new prospective sounded perfect: thirty-seven acres with a house and a number of outbuildings.

The only reason my heart was not charging full steam ahead was that I had known the woman who lived on this farm. Her name was Mrs. Strawn, and she had died only a few months earlier. Mrs. Strawn was a dear saint I had come to know quite well over the passing years. Her faith was solid and deep, and her life was filled with a vast depth of the fruit of the Spirit. She had grown up on the farm and loved to tell stories about rural life at the beginning of the century. Mrs. Strawn even shared some stories about my wife’s grandmother who grew up a few farms over.

As we finally approached the farm, I reflected on this wonderful woman who was now with the Lord and pondered the potential of this farm ending our long search. I felt both loss and expectancy. It was as if I was starting the introduction of one book while I was still reading the conclusion of another.

The farm turned out to be in need of more repairs than I felt we could afford in time and money. In fact, the only things that appeared to be in good condition were the fences around the sheep pastures and the small orchard near the house. Though the rest of the plantings around the homesite were scrawny and scraggly, the trees and bushes in the orchard looked full and strong.

While this was not the end of our search for a new place, I did glean a valuable lesson from our inspection of the farm. It was while looking over the small orchard that I discovered something that much of the Church needs to learn. All the trees and bushes were so healthy and such a contrast to the rest of the farm that I asked the real-estate agent if she knew why they looked so good. With a smile she replied, “Sure, everyone knows why Mrs. Strawn’s orchard is the best…she used her sheep manure to fertilize it.” She took the “messes” from her sheep and used them to help her trees grow and be fruitful. And that is the message from Mrs. Strawn to the Church: “God wants to take the messes from His sheep and make His garden more fruitful.” From our mistakes and messes, the things we think are only a waste, God will bring correction, strengthening, and fruitful new growth … if we will allow Him.

Respectability vs. The Anointing
We often speak of God working in our lives by planting seeds and watering. Occasionally we talk about God pruning or weeding. But how often have we talked about fertilizing the garden?

In American church-life we frantically try to avoid any messes. We are so result-oriented that we are afraid of failure. “What if I’m wrong? What will others say?” But having a “mess-less” church might mean we also have a powerless church. The Scriptures tell us in Proverbs 14:4,
“Where there is no oxen in the stall, the stall is clean.” If we want to harness the strength of the ox, we have to be willing to clean up the mess. Let us take the mess to get the strength, only let’s be certain the mess is coming from the anointing of God and not our own flesh.

One reason we fear the messes is because we are afraid we will lose the respect of others. When we seek respectability from the world, we are resisting the anointing of God, which empowers us to grow and be fruitful. Paul Cain has said “There is often a conflict between our ability to walk in the anointing and many of the things we do to seek respectability in the eyes of man.” If we want to be respected by men we are going to have to do things to be esteemed by them, and those things are often repulsive to God. As Jesus warned
“… that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Obviously, God will not anoint that which is detestable to Him.

In the eyes of the world, the apostles were anything but respectable. As Paul put it
“… we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:13). The apostles may not have had the respect of the world, but they had something that was worth a whole lot more — the anointing. There will be messes, but, like the apostles, let us not worry if we end up embarrassed, misunderstood, and defenseless — as long as we have His anointing!

The danger of respectability is that its desirability can blind us to the things God has called us to. The more we seek respectability according to our present cultural standards, the more we will take our eyes off of Jesus and what He is doing. We need respectability with God far more than we need respectability with man, for without the power of God’s anointing we are like a great schooner without any wind — big and impressive, but without any power!

A Place to Grow
Francis Frangipane has said that if the book of Acts was written today it would be called the book of tries. However, I think Francis was being a little too gracious. It might more accurately be called the book of wishes. Our twin nemesis Fear of Failure and Fear of Man have kept us frozen — too frightened to even try in most cases. We are too afraid our efforts will merely create a big mess.

If we remain so afraid of messing things up we will never grow up. The messes are part of the maturing process. They don’t hinder our growth, the help it! A friend and I stopped by the house of a relative of mine a few months back to pick something up. As we left, he commented to me “wouldn’t it be great to live in that house.” My reply surprised my friend, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” You see their house is picture-perfect; it looks like it belongs as the featured home in some magazine. Nice to look at, but really no place for a family to play or have fun. My two-year-old would destroy the place in a flash. Their house is more of a museum displaying antiques and collectibles than it is a home.

Have we done the same in the Church? Have we made it more of a museum or showplace than a home for God’s family? When a child starts to learn to walk, there are a lot of tries and very little success. But I am so glad my children didn’t wait till they had it all figured out before the started walking (I’d probably still be carrying them around to this day). As a toddler starts taking his first steps, their parents explode with applause and encouragement. No good parent barks at their toddler, “What’s wrong with you? You keep falling down and knocking things over. You’re getting bruised and making a mess. Just stop it until you can do it right!” Our heavenly Father is not like that either, and He expects those in His Church to be like Him — encouraging and exhorting, helping make fertilizer out of messes.

It is time for us to stop wishing and start venturing forth into the things God has for us. Yes, there will be some messes along the way. But if we will let God, He will take our messes and use them to cause us to grow our roots more deeply into Jesus. Break free from the fear of failure and seeking the world’s respect, and God will anoint you with the power to be strong and fruitful.


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