Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3 NLT
Maybe it is because of the season I have been in, or maybe it is just a coincidence, but I am noticing that a lot of worship songs out right now have a common theme. A theme of stepping out into the waves, the winds, the storms of life, and standing strong in the midst of it all. It is such an interesting concept to me because that is often where God calls us to be…right smack dab in the middle of the storm. Sometimes He calls us out onto the waves and into the deep. But let’s be honest for a moment...it is scary! I don't know about any of you, but to this day I do not like thunderstorms. They still make me cringe and cause fear to rise up in me, so the thought of walking out into the middle of the storm does not sound like something fun to me. I do not want to go out into the deep where the waves can surround me, crash down on me, and cause me to be flattened, yet here I am, in the storm, exactly where God has called me.
For me, it all started about six months ago. Some unforeseen life events happened, and God clearly told me the road ahead is going to be hard, it is going to be bumpy, it is not going to be fun. (Thanks for the pep talk, God.) I remember a moment when God told me this season is one when I am going to be forced out of my comfort zone. I am going to have to head right for the middle of that storm, in the middle of the ocean, where it is going to be scary, frightening, and chaotic. Want to know what I wanted to do? Run the opposite direction and get out of there as fast as I could. I was scared, but I decided to forge ahead, walk toward the storm and right into the middle of the waves…exactly where I didn’t want to be.
It is so easy to focus on the waves and the storms that surround us. They can seem so big to us and feel as if, at any moment, the waves will overpower us and take us down. It is easy to have our constant focus on the storm, but something happens when we take our eyes off of the storm and turn them to Jesus. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the storm doesn’t seem as large or intimidating. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we are reminded He has already overcome every single obstacle that gets in our way. When I look at Jesus, I am reminded He is bigger than the storms of life we find ourselves in. Focusing on Jesus helps to remind me that He is always with me, He is for me, He is protecting me, He is leading me, He has not left me! Jesus is bigger than the storms of life we are fighting. Satan wants us to feel like the storm is too big, that there is no way we will ever get out of it. The winds and the waves may swarm around us, and may sometimes knock us off our feet, but God is right there to pick us up again and help us take the storm head-on, one step at a time.
Dear friends, no matter what storm is in your life right now, I want to encourage you to fix your eyes and your sight on Jesus. Yes, the storm is big, but Jesus is bigger and greater. He can do incredible things. Stand firm, and remind the storm you have a God who is bigger than anything you could ever face. He is going to stand right in the thick of it with you until the end. God’s got you, my friends. Keep your hope and your trust in Him. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
Psalm 27:1-3 NLT
I may be missing something, but I don’t get it. I don’t get families that regularly get angry with each other. I don’t get marriages that live in constant chaos because of the incessant fighting. I don’t get office situations where no one gets along. Always bickering. Always angry. Always stressed. I don’t get it.
Growing up, not only did my sister and I have a peaceful home, my parents modeled how to have peace in the home. My parents taught me this principle: unselfishly learn to make the necessary adjustments to life change. Change is inevitable in our lives. Marriage is one of those places that gives us opportunities to encounter constant change…from the many stages of your children to job adjustments to sickness. You must learn to make the necessary adjustments to keep your marriage on track.
Marriages grow because spouses will always know how to make the proper adjustments for one another. At its core, it’s all about being unselfish. We must learn to become less selfish!! It’s one of the greatest discipleship lessons we all must learn in life (especially in our marriages).
So how do you become less selfish and make positive adjustments in your marriage?
The real model of love toward your spouse or family member isn’t what you say about your love. It’s how you demonstrate that love. Just one little adjustment can change everything. Real, mature love is treating other people as Jesus would. Our example of modeling love is Jesus Christ. “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us” (1 John 3:16a GNT).
Spend the rest of your lives applying unselfish adjustments to your marriage and with other people. If you do, you will find life so much better. And incredibly peaceful.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
I remember learning this memory verse as a child. I’ve repeated it in my head multiple times over the past 40-something years since I first learned it. I knew it and I sang it. I am a BIG music fan. All kinds of music, but I really love contemporary worship music. When I think of this verse, I automatically start singing the song “Your Love Never Fails.” The chorus of that song says “You make all things work together for my good.” (If you’re singing that song in your head right now, you’re welcome!)
As much as I love this song, I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of singing the song without truly meaning the words. I’ve recently found myself in a season where things have been just plain difficult. One evening a few weeks ago, on my commute home, I was really struggling with some work-related issues and asking God to intervene. I was at that point where I had difficulty seeing the road because my ugly cry was overwhelming me.
I don’t remember when this song came on during my ugly-cry meltdown, but at some point, I was singing it in my head. After it was nearly finished, I realized what I’d been repeating over and over throughout the song. I asked God to help me understand this is more than just a song lyric or a verse I memorized when I was six; it is one of His promises.
Over the course of my entire career, I’ve been a numbers kind of girl (geek). This prompted me to do a little research about God’s promises. Did you know there are 5,467 promises mentioned in the Bible? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time remembering even one or two promises I’ve made to my kids or my significant other over time. Even more so, God has the power to fulfill each and every one of those promises.
If we truly believe He will do as the verse and song say, and make all things work together for our good, we have responsibilities, too. We have to be faithful. We have to trust Him. We must believe God is truly working on our side. In Hebrews 10:36, we are reminded to “persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” It sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Learning to be obedient and to be good recipients of the gifts He offers to us, can be a little tricky at times. I find myself bargaining with God at times to work all things together for His good as long as it’s not inconvenient for me. God’s promises aren’t written with an exception clause. We must trust that His way is better, and if we believe…really believe…He will be our provision in the tough times.
Lord, thank You for Your promises and Your provision. Help us to be faithful and obedient so we may experience the fullness of all you have set aside for us!
One of my favorite Disney movies to this day is The Lion King. I remember as a kid watching this movie over and over again, to the point where I could even recite most of the lines. It also had such memorable music, and this is going to date me, but I bought the soundtrack on cassette tape and listened to it all the time. I remember the music very well. My children actually just saw this movie for the first time a few weeks ago, and of course I sat right there watching it with them. The reason I think I enjoy this movie as much as I do is it portrays the classic theme of good and evil so well.
On the good side, you have Mufasa the lion king and Simba his son, who is set to be future king. On the evil side, you have Scar, who is Mufasa’s brother, and his hyena minions. Mufasa is clearly the dominate force, and Scar is well aware of this. In order to try and put himself in power, Scar devises a devious plan to lure Simba into an unsafe situation and force Mufasa to save his son by sacrificing his own life. It never really dawned on me until recently, when I was reflecting on 1 Peter 5:8, how much this story parallels the true story of good and evil we face every day. This verse says to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Scar must manipulate and devise evil schemes to gain power, and the power he does have was not rightfully afforded to him, but stolen by him through lies. You toss in a little fear, and instantly you have a recipe for disaster. A once-healthy kingdom becomes a barren wasteland. This is the same game satan will play in our own lives. He will prowl, roar, and seek to devour whatever is good in your life. He will steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) with the hope that you will give in, give up, give away all power to him…and ultimately lead you away from the one King who can protect you and give you the full life you were destined to live. Satan, like Scar, hates the King, and will do anything to gain the power he thinks he deserves.
This is exactly why Peter tells us to be sober-minded and watchful. Satan hates the King, and therefore, hates the sons and daughters of the King as well. Just as much as he wants the King to come to ruin, he wants the children of the King to come to ruin as well. Therefore, we must be sober minded. We must be hyper-sensitive to the voices we are allowing to shape our views of life and faith. There are many voices we hear, both in our own minds and in the world around us, and these voices have opinions about who and what God is, and who and what we are. We have to be extra careful to test and approve (Romans 12:2) each of those voices we hear, and determine whether or not they are from God.
Satan will often use lies and manipulation to make you think or feel differently about God, and our minds are often the battlefield for those attempts. However, we have been given the Holy Spirit to keep us sober minded, alert, and watchful for the attempts to misguide and redirect us. Unfortunately, satan’s voice can become like a roaring lion above the voice of God if we let it, and it can make us feel like we are being devoured. So we must be purposed to regularly spend time in God’s presence, and become familiar with His character, His word, His will, and His voice. These foundations will combat any roaring we may hear coming from satan. Think of your time with God like a meal. During a meal, you are consuming food that will sustain you for the work you need to accomplish for that day. The same goes for your time with God. In order to stay sober minded and watchful, you need the sustenance of the Holy Spirit to fill you and protect your heart and mind from being led astray. This is the ultimate goal of satan, to lure you away from God so he can devour you. Don’t let him. Draw near to the King and let Him protect and defend you.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11 ESV
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I want to conquer life. I want to be strong. I want to accomplish and experience grand things. I want to drink life dry of its joy and gladness, and sit back and let out a great, “AHHH, that was good!”
And yet there is a part of me that feels overwhelmed and defeated from time to time. There are seasons, days, months, even years, when joy is a hard thing to come by. There are a lot of reasons why these seasons come into our lives. Sometimes it’s chemical and we just fight real depression, sometimes it’s situational and the circumstances of our lives take their toll (circumstances that even the most positive of us get overwhelmed by), but sometimes it’s because we have forgotten where to look for joy…it happens easily sometimes.
The psalmist talks about how the circumstances of his life are thrashing him, and he just feels overwhelmed. And through this poem, he writes about his experience and where he knows to look for his heart to be restored. He doesn’t look to his circumstances, he doesn’t look to experiences or memories, he doesn’t even focus on the positive things in his life…he looks to his source of joy.
When our hearts are cast down and life is overwhelming, our eyes need to look at the source of life, joy, hope, and peace. We need to remember that God, no matter what we feel, is the place where we can go to find everything we need. And when we hit seasons when we are cast down, He is the one who can once again restore our souls.