home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > February > NO BONZAI CHRISTIANITY

NO BONZAI CHRISTIANITY

For a good many years, my life revolved around plants. I grew up with a fondness and deep fascination for using plants to make well-planned and kept gardens. Back in the days before the internet, there used to be these things called ‘magazines’ and I didn’t know of any other kid my age who relished reading through garden-design magazines. I dreamt of the day when I would have my own home to build my own garden. As time went on I began a full-time job in a nursery where I sold plants and garden supplies. It was during this time that I first encountered bonzai plants. Bonzai gardening is one of the most fascinating horticultural art-forms I can think of. It was a technique developed by Japanese gardeners who experimented with how to reduce an ordinarily very large tree to be a full-sized extremely small tree. Thinking about bonzai trees it is striking to me just how many parallels there are for our spiritual development.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
First Corinthians 3:6-7

TALL TREES BECOME SMALL TREES

Bonzai trees are amazing. The Japanese discovered that they could trick a big tree into thinking it was always meant to be a very, very, small tree. They would take a cutting of a maple or oak tree and coax it to form its own roots and then plant it into a very shallow glazed earthenware pot. Each time it developed a shoot they would prune it back appropriately. Once the root system was developed, they would upheave it out of the pot and trim its roots back before repotting it back into its shallow pot. They would then repeat this process over and over and over until the miniature tree resembled its fully mature huge relative — except in miniature form. At some point the bonzai tree becomes convinced that it was always meant to be a miniature tree. Again, I think there is a spiritual parallel to draw from this process of bonzai tree making.

They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green
Psalm 92:13-14

OUR SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT IS LIKENED TO A GROWING TREE

Consider how the bonzai gardener tends their bonzai trees. They must continually keep cutting it down to size and uproot it repeatedly to cut its roots back. I wonder whether this hurts the little tree to be continually uprooted and cut? I know it hurts a person when it happens to them. I also know that the result to both a little tree and a person is the same. Both are stunted in their growth to some degree. While I marvel at the artistry of the bonzai gardener, I can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for the bonzai tree. (I also feel sorry for those people who get treated—or worse still, treat themselves—like a bonzai tree.) 

¶ But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
Psalm 52:8

SPIRITUAL GARDENING

The Scriptures describe God as a Gardener who plants people (note Jer. 11:17). The Psalmist describes the blessed person being like a tree planted by streams of water that grows and bears bountiful fruit (Psalm 1:3). But the Scriptures also indicate that we are gardeners of our own soul. And while it is not a horticultural metaphor, the same point is made by the apostle Peter when he wrote that every new Christian should desire to nurture their soul just like a newborn baby who desires to drink milk in order to grow, but as a Christian, Peter says, there should be a desire for spiritual milk in order to grow into their salvation (1Pet. 2:2).

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
First Peter 2:2-3

Sometime later, the apostle Peter wrote what would be his last epistle. This time, in the very last verse of his last epistle he doesn’t just exhort new Christians to actively take steps to grow in Christ, he now exhorts all believers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ so that God is glorified.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Second Peter 3:18

It is God’s will for each of His children to grow tall, strong, and mature. That is, it is God’s will for you to grow into the man or woman of God He has always designed for you to become. This can only happen if you are spiritually planted, spiritually well-watered, and able to spiritually grow without allowing hurt to hold you back. Or, another way of putting it is, God hasn’t called you to be a bonzai Christian!   

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

6 Comments

  1. Melissa Lubke

    Great analogy Andrew.

    Reply
  2. Mike Sladden

    Thanks Pastor Andrew. Makes me even more determined to pray for my boys, for them to grow up to be ‘oak tree’ Christians. Blessings, Brother Mike

    Reply
  3. Gladys Parry

    The parallel between bonsai and human growth is a wonderful comparison. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Therese Stepanovic

    What a great comparison Ps Andrew, I really enjoyed reading that! Thank you.

    Reply
  5. John Sands

    Also bonsai’s require very delicate care and treatment and Dir if not fussed over and not nourished. Almost impossible to go on a holiday.

    This is as distinct from a mature tree which is rugged and can put up with a lot and thrive.

    Reply
  6. Karen Dickson

    Thank you Andrew

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

THIS IS HOW AN EXPERT SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT SPIRITUAL WARS

home > Pastor's Desk > 2024 > April 12th > THIS IS HOW AN EXPERT SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT SPIRITUAL WARSThe distance between the spiritual dimension and our earthly-material dimension is a lot thinner than most people realise! This means that there is a direct...

KNOWING GOD THROUGH THE PSALMS

So many thriller movies are just funny. Of course they are not meant to be and many people would find them more like nightmare material. The producers would be horrified to see me giggling at some of their ‘scary’ bits, but it’s just the way I’m wired. I see more of the special effects than the story line and I see the absurdity of the scenes that lack the necessary rules of consistency instead of the fear factor they hope. I once watched a movie where the victim lay dead bleeding from the mouth but the make-up blood had not dripped to the ground with gravity, but rather, accidentally dripped up. The whole movie just became hilarious from that point on.

THE NOTHING OF EASTER SATURDAY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2024 > 30th March > THE NOTHING OF EASTER SATURDAY‘Nothing’ is often something. How many times has God been accused of “doing nothing”? Even Christ’s disciples seemed to accuse Jesus of this when He was asleep in the boat in the...

HE WAS A KIND AND CHARITABLE MAN

home > Pastor's Desk > 2024 > March 22ndr > He was a kind and charitable man.WHO WAS KENNETH TYNAN? You’ve probably never heard of Kenneth Tynan. I hadn’t. I was introduced to him while conducting some research for my current PhD program on C.S. Lewis. In...

FROM LITTLE THINGS

The first time I heard the song “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” was in early 2008. I was trying to get my head around superannuation funds. I never knew of its writers – Paul Kelly and Carmody. Neither did I know it was originally a protest song. In my opinion, the original lyrics and melody bears no semblance to what we may consider protest today. Many will agree with me that it is now synonymous with Industry Super Funds. But its principles remain true in nearly every aspect of life.

ADVICE WORTH MORE THAN GOLD OR A MOUNTAIN OF CASH ABOUT HOW TO USE REJECTION TO BECOME AN EVEN BETTER, WISER, STRONGER YOU!

For several reasons I am qualified to help people deal with acute and chronic pain. Some acute and chronic pain can be resolved medically. Some pains can go a long way to being resolved with the help of a psychologist. Some pains can be resolved with a hug from mum. But there is a pain that a doctor cannot cure, a psychologist cannot counsel, a mother’s hug cannot alleviate. It is a pain that goes deep – beyond the defences of our integumentary system, our neurological system (including our para-sympathetic nervous system), our muscular system, our skeletal system, our lymphatic system, our renal system, gastro-intestinal system, our respiratory system, our cardio-vascular system, our hormonal system, and our half-share of a reproductive system. It is a pain that wounds: our memory, our sense of self, our estimation of our worth, our confidence, and our ability to connect meaningfully with others (our ability to love and be loved). It is the pain of rejection. It not only effects who we are (our identity) but it also leaches symptomatically into each of these ten-and-a-half biological systems which every human being possesses. I am going to offer all those who have experienced the pain of rejection how they can be healed from its wound, and actually become stronger, wiser, more confident, as a result.

THE MYTHICAL PATHWAY TO HAPPINESS

I’ve accidentally found myself enrolled in a Ph.D. program. I kind of blame Associate Professor Stuart Piggin for this. A few years ago I was having some serious discussions with him about doing a Ph.D. in Historical Theology at Macquarie University focusing on the contribution of Dr. F.W. Boreham. But I found myself unable at that time to proceed. In my discussions with him about my health prognosis and what I wanted to be able to do in the remaining time that I have left, he suggested focusing instead on Philosophical-Theology and enquiring with Monash University. I took his sage advice and did as he said. This week, I formally commenced with Monash as a part-time extension (distance) student. The result is that after my first zoom meeting with my supervisor I am now having to delve into an arena that requires me to be able to convince a critical secular audience that my proposal about the Bible’s truth claims are reasonable. Oddly, in order to do this, I have to explain in some depth what C.S. Lewis meant by the word, myth. And to do this I have to draw even deeper on the writings of a now dead French philosopher who is regarded as the greatest exponent of what a myth is! Therefore, I am going to tell you something quite shocking. It might be advisable for you to go and get a strong cup of tea, then return to this screen, and read on while sipping your tea, to absorb some of what I am going to tell you. 

Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.