Rumination XIV – You Can’t Pressure-Treat People

(Author’s note: This post has been rattling around in my head for quite a while, but it just now made it to paper … in an electronic sort of way. It is not targeted at any specific individual(s), movement(s), publication(s) or church(es). It is simply a collection of my personal thoughts about a trend that causes me concern.)

I love to build things. It must be wired into my DNA.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been building dog houses, shelves, decks, fences … you name it. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of me helping my Dad build or fix things. (Actually they are memories of me being in the way while he tried to build or fix things.)

Most of my construction projects take place outdoors. I’ve built a few room additions over the years, but I really prefer being outside, building decks and fences. It’s my opportunity to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, while accomplishing something tangible and satisfying with my own hands.

When building outdoor structures, you always use treated lumber. It’s the only type of lumber that will stand up to the sun, the weather, and the termites. Anything else will rot in a very short period of time.

Unless you’re really into pressure-treated lumber, you may not know how it’s made. (Never mind the fact that you probably don’t care, either.) So, ready or not, I’m going to tell you how pressure-treated lumber comes to be.

It starts as plain ol’ lumber, cut and sawn from trees, like any other lumber. It’s usually made from yellow pine. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen treated lumber that wasn’t yellow pine.

Once the pine logs come into the mill, they are cut to create lumber of the desired size and length. After cutting, the lumber is placed into stacks.

The stacks are then loaded into a pressure chamber, specifically designed for this purpose. I’ve never seen one, but I’m guessing that it’s a large iron cylinder, with hatches on both ends.

Once the untreated lumber is locked inside the chamber, a special type of treating chemical is injected. Prior to 2003, the chemical used was chromated copper arsenate (or CCA), but the EPA banned its use in residential applications in that year. Seems they didn’t think it smart to use an arsenic-based compound around children. Huh … Never seemed to affect me. (Insert your own snarky comment here.)

CCA has since been replaced by alkaline copper quaternary (or ACQ), which not only keeps our children safe from the dangers of arsenic, but has the added benefit of corroding virtually any type of fastener used on it. Nothing I’ve built with CCA lumber has ever fallen down. Ultimately, the same may not hold for ACQ.

When everything is all comfy and cozy inside the treating chamber, both the temperature and pressure inside are increased to pre-defined levels. This provides an ideal environment for the treating chemical to be forced all the way through and into the heart of the lumber.

After the requisite amount of time, the lumber is removed from the chamber, stacked, banded, tagged, and shipped off to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot, where it awaits an opportunity to do what is was prepared to do: be used in the construction of outdoor structures, and ultimately withstand the elements.

It’s a fascinating process that yields a useful product, which enables me to do something that I truly enjoy. Great, huh?

Now here’s the catch: You can’t pressure-treat people.

Huh? What in the world is this nut talking about? How did he get from pressure-treating lumber to talking about people?

Stay with me for a few minutes and I’ll try to get you there.

There’s a growing trend in the church that seems to imply that it IS possible to pressure-treat people. That it’s somehow possible to pressure-treat Christians during worship and change them into people who are prepared to accomplish God’s purposes. That there is some magic combination of external factors (e.g. praise teams, better singing, new/different songs, music, candles, videos, drama, etc.) that will change people and draw them closer to God.

It’s here that I’ll return to my earlier statement: You can’t pressure-treat people.

Unlike lumber, nothing that happens outside of a person can be forced into their heart, no matter how hard you try. No amount of improvement in singing, or song selection, or worship style, or worship environment, or anything else external can truly have an impact on the heart. You can’t turn up the heat and the pressure to force those externalities into the person.

You can definitely entertain folks with such externalities, but without changing their hearts, they’ll rot quickly when exposed to the elements of the world.

So, what can change the heart?

An understanding of Who Almighty God is, and how awesome and fearful His being is … (“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10)

A deeper appreciation of His power and holiness … (“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” Revelation 4:8b)

A recognition of Who He is and who I’m not … (“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?” 1 Chronicles 17:16b)

A recognition of the lengths to which He has gone to save a wretch like me, as the phrase from “Amazing Grace” put it … (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16)

Any understanding of Who Yahweh is must begin with studying what He reveals to us about Himself in His Word. Not just reading the Bible, but soaking it in, allowing His Spirit to work through it, fill our hearts, and give us understanding.

Once His Spirit fills the heart, then the change can begin to work its way to the outside. And then, and only then, we’ll see folks become what God has planned for them to become. Then you’ll end up with Spirit-treated people, who can withstand the elements and be what God wants them to be. And that will give Him great joy in the work of His hands.

So, to change people, you must start with the heart and let God work outward, because you can’t pressure-treat God into people, no matter how hard you try.

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