HOWL, FIR TREE

“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen.” Those are the words of the prophet Zechariah, written to foretell a dark time coming to Israel. While the prophecy has nothing to do with our loss of a great man today, the phrase is gripping. If the mighty cedar is fallen, what hope is there for the lesser fir?
Indeed, the mighty cedar has fallen. V.E. “Buddy” Hall passed away this morning. Last week his wife fell and broke her nose, and this week he had to have a cath and other tests in preparation for a liver transplant, and in spite of a rough week, he wanted to be at church this morning. Church was in his blood.
“Heart’s good,” the doctors had said after the cath. Yes, as good a heart as I’ve ever known. If you ever needed a picture of the Christian man, you could just look at one of Buddy. A model in every way: an excellent husband, father, grandfather, brother, employer, church member, and friend.
In our church’s early years, he was the benevolence program. I could appeal to the church for benevolent help for some hurting families, and quietly Buddy would come afterward and say, “Let me know what else is needed,” and then, whatever else was needed, he would help.
In 35 years, never a cross word, never a criticism of anyone else, never a judgment, never a complaint. Just a strong man who lived with a strong discipline and dedication to God. There is a reason a plaque hangs by the door of our church’s fellowship hall naming it “The Buddy Hall.” He was our cedar.
And now, the cedar is fallen. We firs are trembling.
Our feet will travel the path of the cedar, in time, and we can only hope that in our day we can have the courage, the character, the conviction of the cedar, Buddy Hall.

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THE CHURCH WAS ROBBED

The church was robbed.  It’s the third time in a couple of years or so.  It wasn’t bad this time.  They just stole underground copper wiring, about $3,800 worth.  We lost the use of our youth building for a week.  We’ll replace it this week, and move on.

It gives you pause, wondering what kind of person steals from a church.  I guess it shouldn’t be any different than stealing from an individual, but it seems worse, somehow.  Churches aren’t rich. They spend everything they bring in.  Our small church has only around 200 people coming to it, and we gave over $23,000 last year in benevolent gifts.  Throw in another $10,000 for missions and volunteer staff food and gifts, and we look pretty generous.  We give. It’s the heart of a church.

So to be robbed seems such an unnecessary violation.  The thieves would have to take the copper to a reclamation site, and that business would know that they didn’t come by that copper wire honestly, so they would only offer them pennies on the dollar.  They might have made $300!  Who knows?  I guess for 20 minutes’ work, that’s not bad.  But if they had just come to the church and told us they were destitute, they might have gotten more than that, and they wouldn’t have had to steal it.

I mused about such things last week, and then chuckled to God about the nature of a thief.  I sensed God whispering back to me, with a smile, “Nothing to do but forgive and move on.  I do it all the time.”

“You do?”  I was genuinely incredulous.

“Sure.  Folks rob me every week.”

I should have seen that one coming.  But I bit. “Seriously?”

And then I turned the pages and read the account again.  “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.”  It’s in the Old Testament book of Malachi, 3rd chapter, verses 8 and 9.

Well, some folks were pretty high and mighty about what they’d do to those thieves if they caught them. “Low-life punks!” snarled one.  “I’d like to get my hands on them,” growled another.  I sure hope they’re contributing to their church.  It would seem pretty hypocritical if they’re not.

But then I thought, wait! We’re not under the Old Testament Mosaic law.  So is anyone really robbing God that way these days?  And, of course, Paul’s words came ringing:  ” The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).  And there it is, plain as day!  God loves a giver.  Oh, yes, it says “cheerful” giver.  But you can’t miss the “giver” part of it.  Makes you wonder what He thinks about non-givers, doesn’t it?

At any rate, the church was robbed this week.  I hope it was only copper wire that was stolen.  But you never know.  There’s all kinds of thieves.