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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It was approaching midnight on a rainy and cold Thursday night. I tossed my luggage into my trunk and started my car. Less than a mile down the road, the annoying bell that indicates my car is low on fuel went off. Annoyed, I contemplated if I had enough fuel left to make it home—or at least past some of the “sketchy” areas around the airport. I thought back to Monday morning, when I decided it was too cold and rainy to stop for fuel. Why did I think that running on empty was a good idea?
At that point, it became real. I was treating God just like I treated my car. I allowed my time with Him to be moved down the list of “things to do.” I let the “busy” take time from God.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”
As I stood at the gas station filling up my car, I asked God to give me a “Mary” heart. A heart that isn’t so consumed with all of the tasks on the “to do” list that I remember to put Him first. One that prompts me to sit and spend time with Jesus instead of doing the 900 other tasks that I think are important. I want a heart that is full of Jesus.
If you are running on empty, I urge you to look at your priorities. Allow Him to fill up your tank with the things that are important. No more running on empty!
One of my son’s favorite stories in scripture is the story of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5000 with only two fish and five loaves of bread. If you haven’t ever read the story before, please take the time now to read it in John 6:1-14. I am not entirely sure why my son loves this story so much, but we do read it often, and for that reason God has used it on several occasions to teach me something as well. Most recently, God has shown me a new perspective. I have always viewed the story through the lens of the incredible miracle Jesus performed and what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples through this miracle. However, a new perspective that God showed me recently was the perspective of the boy who gave Jesus the fish and bread to begin with.
There are many unknowns about the boy. Was he there alone or with family? What or who brought him to Jesus in the first place? What gave him the courage to speak up or stirred his heart to offer his food? His only food? Maybe the only food his family had left? What would it have cost the boy to offer his lunch? Would he and his family starve the rest of the week? I am sure there was some sort of cost to him, and this cost teaches us a great lesson of faith. I am taking a little bit of liberty with this because we don’t know much about the boy, but we know that out of the thousands of people present that day, this boy, in faith, gave of what he had. He made what he had available for the work of Jesus, and although the offering was good, it still was not enough to feed the entire crowd. However, he still gave, and what did Jesus do? Jesus made it better. He made it best. He made it work for the betterment of Him and those who were with Him.
My friends, this is what happens with Jesus. I know this is a simple thought, but this is a profound reminder to us who are weak. We should not let anything, and I mean anything, keep us from giving what we have into the hands of Jesus. The greatest potential for betterment in any area of our lives can and will always be found in the hands of Jesus. Your finances, better in the hands of Jesus! Your marriage, better in the hands of Jesus! Your job, better in the hands of Jesus. Your fears, better in the hands of Jesus! Your (you name it), will always be better in the hands of Jesus. Let’s then, like the boy, step up and give. We know the end result will be better. Better for the kingdom of God, better for those around us, better for us.
As I was driving to work one day last week, I could see in the distance that I was going to drive into a storm. When I left my house, the sun was attempting to make its way out and the sky was absolutely beautiful, full of purples, pinks, and blues. But the farther from home I got, the darker the sky got. It was very apparent I was about to drive into a storm. As I continued to drive, God spoke to my heart and reminded me of some truths.
As God spoke to me that morning, this is what I felt Him reminding me: what you do before the storm is just as important as what you do in the middle of the storm. What I mean is when life is good and things are smooth sailing, we still have to get into the presence of God. I think for many of us, when life is going well, we backslide and think we don’t need to spend as much time with God. But the opposite is true. We need to use those seasons to saturate our lives with God and His Word so we are prepared when life knocks us off our feet. I will remember the truths during the storm only if I read them and study them during the time of blessing. Things get foggy and out of focus when we are in the storm. It is often easier to forget God’s faithfulness, truth, purpose, and love because often we can only see the storm raging in front of us.
I know in my own life, God has time and time again brought scripture or worship songs to mind when I have been in the middle of difficult seasons. The only reason I was led there was because I spent time with God when life was good. My relationship with God is just as important during the season of peace as it is in the difficult.
You have to be prepared, my dear friend. It doesn’t mean you will walk through it perfectly; it doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of despair or weakness. What it does mean is when you find yourself in that place, you will be reminded that God will be with you. You will remember the stories you have read in His word. You will recall those worship songs that speak to your heart and remind you of His truth and goodness. I encourage you today, if you are in the middle of a good season, a season of blessing, saturate your life with God. No matter what season you find yourself in, I encourage you to make it a habit to get into the presence of God. If you are in the middle of the storm, His presence is exactly what you need to weather it. If you are in a season of blessing, His presence and Word are what you need to be prepared for the next storm that comes your way.
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT
Like many kids, mine love video games. They have many favorites. Quite a few of their favorites are games that are worlds. They choose a player they want to be, and then they wander around whichever world they choose, doing whatever they want. They can drive different vehicles. They can change their clothes. They can build things if they save up enough money. They can cook food and eat. They can fight people. There’s no point. There’s no purpose. You just wander around doing things.
The kids love for me to play with them. I’m not much of a gaming person, but honestly these types of games drive me NUTS. Give me a racing game, a sports game, a game that has a beginning and an end...and I’m good. But a game with no point or purpose? I am not a fan. Half the time I am sitting there playing and asking, “Where are we going?” “What are we doing?” “I don’t know where I am.” “Where are you?!?” It is confusing and frustrating.
I finished reading through Ecclesiastes a couple months ago. Ecclesiastes can be kind of a depressing book. For instance, this is the beginning: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
The author of the book is on a quest to find the meaning of life. He goes through many of life’s situations...being rich, being poor, working hard, being lazy, being foolish, being wise. And he comes to the same conclusion to it all. It’s all meaningless. So, what is the point to life if everything we do is meaningless? Well, (spoiler alert) at the very end, the author shares, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Everything is meaningless without purpose. Everything is meaningless unless we are living for God. He is the meaning to life. God makes sense of it all. If we take Him out of the equation, then we are just wandering around this world doing meaningless things, much like my kids’ video games.
But when we live for Him with purpose, life doesn’t seem meaningless. The situations we go through in life have meaning. We have a goal. We want to please Him. We want to live to further His kingdom. We want to be in heaven with Him for eternity. Then we don’t have to wander through life and think, “Where am I going?” or “What am I doing?” or “Why is this happening to me?” We have our eyes fixed on Him. He is our purpose.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:36–40 (ESV)
I have a daughter who is two and very trying. She pushes the envelope in every regard and can be a handful, to say the least. But on the other hand, she is also this kind, sweet, innocent, and loving little girl. Let me give you a glimpse into what I am talking about. Just this morning, she was cranky from the minute she woke up. She wanted to go potty, but when she was done was insistent that she keep the same underwear she had on the previous day. I eventually tricked her into putting on new undies. Then she didn’t want to get dressed and just kept yelling “Nu uh!” I turned off her favorite cartoon (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), and I explained to her that until she listens to Mama, she can’t watch TV. She finally realizes in order to get what she wants, she needs to listen, so she allows me to get her dressed. Then comes the shoes… This is such a dreaded thing every morning. I have a shoe in my hand getting ready to put it on her foot and she yells, “No, not that shoe!” She then looks at the exact same shoe, but for the left foot and says, “I want that shoe!” Ladies and gentlemen, she doesn’t care what shoes I put on her, she just has to be in control! After all of this, she puts her arms around me and gives me a hug, patting me, and says, “Mama, Mama, I love you.” Every morning I go through these similar steps, and I am usually frustrated and emotionally charged by the end of it, yet I still absolutely adore that little girl. Even though she drives me crazy daily and pushes my buttons, I absolutely love everything about her.
This got me thinking about God’s love. I feel like sometimes I can almost miss the vastness of His love. Take a minute and think about how we are as parents. We are short with our kids, we don’t give them the attention they desire, we say things in the moment we regret later, we mess up, we yell when we shouldn’t, yet we still love them. God doesn’t do any of those things I listed. He is never short with us. He always gives us attention. He doesn’t mess up or yell. He shows us grace and mercy and knows every thought we have ever had. God loves us more than we love our kids.
God loves you! He adores you! I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder and I feel like there are some others who need to be reminded of that truth. He loves everything about you, even the brokenness. Spend some time today in His presence. Let His love flood over you. Turn some worship music on, and praise Him and talk to Him. He will meet you right where you are, and I promise you will leave feeling loved and filled with hope, because that is the kind of Father we serve.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.