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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I am not a huge Christmas fan, and I can be a bit of Scrooge when it comes to my appreciation for Christmas. But one of the things I am thankful for is that we have a season dedicated to celebrating Jesus. Sure, there are parts of this holiday that have changed slightly, with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents, and all the holiday traditions. However, the fact that Jesus and the story of His birth still have such a prominent presence really excites me. What a story it is! God leaving His place in heaven to come down in human form to become the Son of God. He became a poor defenseless baby, lived a perfect life for 33 years, and then died on the cross. Through that sacrifice, we gained an exceeding number of gifts, including reconciliation. This means that when we put our faith in Jesus, we are no longer separated relationally from God. We too, like Christ, become children of God. John 1:12 says it this way: “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” We can give credit to Jesus, the Son of God, for letting us connect deeply with God.
This is Who we celebrate this season, and even though it might not be as obvious as it once was, Jesus is still very present in it. I’m very glad we have holidays like Christmas that give us a chance to be reminded of Him and His great love for us. More so, I am sure there are children and adults who have never heard of Jesus or know the true story of Christmas, who become curious about the origins and purpose of Christmas and get introduced to the most incredible story of all time. I may not get too deep into all the frills of this season, but I do find much delight in celebrating Jesus, our Immanuel (Matthew 1:23).
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Technology is so amazing. We are seeing many incredible inventions and advances in technology. I love seeing things around me improving and changing for a more accessible society.
One thing that hasn’t changed in a long time is water. It is always around us and available to drink. We are blessed with purification methods and the ability to purchase it at stores, but it hasn’t really changed. No new flavors. No new color or smell. It doesn’t give you any special ability. While our body is made up a lot of water, it doesn’t make us stronger or faster. It is just water.
Growing up, when I was hungry and looking for a snack, my mom would always ask, “Have you tried drinking some water? You might just be thirsty.” Some people love water, but not me. I saw this as a punishment. As I have gotten older, water is a bigger part of my life, but still holds the same level of excitement.
But what if they could make water better than it is now? What if they could make water give you more energy? What if water could make you lose 10 pounds in five days? What if water gave you super strength to be more productive? If they could make water do any of these things, I think we would all drink a lot more water. We would all be lined up at this well to wait our turn for a drink.
We know from the verse above that God offers a water better than this. Scientists may invent something that can quench our physical thirst, but they will never invent something that gives us eternal life. There is the only place we can get this type of water.
What “wells” are you drinking from to quench your thirst? If you are going anywhere but Jesus, you will be thirsty again. Drink from the well that won't leave you thirsty.
This week I had an interaction (long interaction!) with one of my kids because he kept doing something he shouldn’t have been doing and he kept getting consequences. At one point I found myself saying, “Do you like what is happening to you?” He answered, “No.” I replied, “Then why do you keep doing the same action over and over if you don’t like the result?! You have to change your behavior to get a different result!”
I do this exact same crazy pattern at times. Although the specific behavior is different, the pattern is the same. I get into the habit of doing something even though I don’t like the result, YET, I continue to do it! Do any of you struggle with this? Do you continue eating certain foods even though you don’t like the result of what it does to your body, have the same type of relationship even though you don’t like the result of a relationship being unhealthy, continue to put yourself into situations where you know you will fall under temptation and do things you will regret? If we’re honest, I think we all do these things at times.
In Romans 7:15, Paul shares our frustration over this issue. He says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Can’t we all relate? He goes on to say that it is our sin nature that causes us to make bad decisions even though we know it’s not the right thing. He goes on in Romans 8 to talk about how to overcome these things: through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through a relationship with the One who has overcome sin and wants to dwell within us. When we are in relationship with God and pursue Him, we start to view things in a different light. We should start to make different decisions because we are taking time to evaluate what the outcome will be. When we are in a relationship with God, we should constantly be changing to be more like Him instead of the same old person we’ve been. Our mindset changes. When we follow after God, we reap the benefits of a relationship with Him. We experience full life.
This week, ask God to show you areas in your life where He wants to change and mold you. Pray for wisdom in how to change and then the courage to walk out that change. We don’t want to be people who do the same old behaviors, getting the same old negative results. We want to be people who are looking more and more like Jesus!
Over the past few years, our family has been getting more and more involved in sports. We have a son who is active in baseball, football, and basketball. He is finding a love for each one of these sports and wants to get better at each one. My husband was an athlete in all of these sports in high school and had great coaching. Because of his experience, he is able to give instructional critique to our son. One thing he reminds our son of frequently is that no matter what sport he is playing, the most important part of the game is the ball. To get better, he needs to focus on getting better at how he handles the ball while abiding by the rules set forth in each sport. If you don’t take care of the ball, your game will suffer and your team could potentially lose. By understanding the rules of the game and constantly working to get better, he will see growth in what he accomplishes.
This made me think about our spiritual life. Isn’t it true that when we focus on God, by spending time in worship, prayer, fasting, and studying, we grow spiritually? But when we lose focus on any one of these, another area of life suffers. Just like my son wants to get better at a sport by dedicating time to focus on how he handles the ball, we need to direct our focus in the right way to be able to experience spiritual growth. For God, we are His focus. He designed each of us with a purpose and knows how we will function best in life. We have to make God our focus to be able to grow spiritually and to know how to play the game of life to the fullest. Just like my son choosing to work at each sport by learning how to focus on protecting the ball, we have to choose to focus on the ways we can grow closer to Jesus to protect our hearts. We have to work hard at being dedicated to prayer time, devotions, studying the Word, and worshipping. In the end, we will have the best win ever! Choose to focus on your spiritual growth.
Therefore, holy brothers, partners in a heavenly calling, keep your focus on Jesus,
the apostle and high priest of our confession.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus,
the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated
at the right hand of the throne of God.
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake,
I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
There is a constant tension that followers of Jesus must always navigate. It’s a tension each of us feels the full weight of every day, and it surrounds the greatest pursuit of our lives…our happiness.
The tension I feel every day is that the God of the universe created this world to be a beautiful and pleasurable place. It was given to us to care for and enjoy. God didn’t create us for a bland existence. He put the capacity and desire for pleasure and joy into our hearts. And there are things on this earth that deliver. There are things that make us happy…and should. Things like having children, good food, beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Even under the curse of a broken world, beauty and pleasure permeate this earth. But God never intended for us to make those things the end all and be all of our existence and our happiness. God desired to be what our joy ended on, and the world He created was meant to give us a taste of pleasure for the purpose of finding it ultimately in Him.
But we are like kids at Christmas who are more concerned with the gifts we are getting than the generous parents who provided the gifts. It’s the natural bent of our hearts. So we are left to wade through the tension of comfort, pleasure, and good things to see the even greater God. The truth of the matter is the tension gets easier the harder life gets. But God promises to be better than the good times…not just better than the bad.
If your heart is to find joy in the giver and not settle for the gifts, join with me in praying and asking God to give us eyes to see how amazing He is…how beautiful He is…how much joy His presence and His Word and His truth bring to our lives. So like the psalmist, we can say “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” (15b).