As a church we believe that discipleship happens best through purposed relationships. The call to make disciples starts and ends with the call to LOVE WELL.
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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Without faith it is impossible to please God. Those who come to God must believe that he exists. And they must believe that he rewards those who look to him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV
My dad recently had total knee replacement surgery, so in our house we had been praying for the procedure to go well and also for the healing process. One night we were playing together as a family, and out of the blue my daughter says, “We need to pray for papa.” (That is what she calls my dad.) So we stopped everything we were doing and prayed for my dad. We prayed for him to feel better, for the pain to be less, and for God to be with him in that moment. My husband then texted my dad to tell him that God had laid him on my daughter’s heart and we were praying for him. My dad’s response amazed me. He told us that he actually was experiencing a lot of pain in that moment. God knew my dad needed a boost, a pick me up, and he used my daughter to do just that.
This was such an incredible moment for us as a family. It was so awesome for me as a mom to know that God is already using my three-year-old daughter to be a light and a witness to others. I loved her innocence in that moment. A little later that evening, we asked her how she knew we needed to pray for my dad. Without missing a beat she said, “God told me to.” It wasn’t some extravagant answer, just a simple faith that said God told me to, so I did.
God used my daughter that day to teach me something very important. There are many times in my life when I hear from God, but get scared in the moment. I look at the unknowns and the what-ifs. As an adult, so many things can cause us to become jaded, to question and to wonder. All of this can cause us to be timid in taking those steps God is calling us to. Fear can cripple us, and cause us to take a step back and question where God is leading us. But child-like faith says, “God told me to. I trust Him, so I’m going to do it.” It doesn’t question God; it doesn’t allow fear to get in the way. It is a faith that is confident in who God is, and takes steps of obedience because God told us. I want faith like that. I want a faith that says, “I am scared in this moment, God. I don’t know how this is going to work out, but I’m going to take the leap because I fully trust You and where You are leading.”
At that time the disciples came to Jesus. They asked him, “Then who is
the most important person in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus called a little child over to him. He had the child stand among them.
Jesus said, “What I’m about to tell you is true.
You need to change and become like little children.
If you don’t, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Anyone who takes the humble position of this child is
the most important in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:1-4 NIRV
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10
I feel like I’m always writing on my pain and heartache with these devotionals. Those who have been by my side through my battles will tell you I’ve come a long way. And I have. With God’s strength, not my own, He has brought me through the fire. Not without scars. Not without pain, discomfort, or perseverance. But nonetheless…He has brought me through.
Time and time again, I ask for my thorn to be removed, but God has allowed this thorn in my flesh to be present because His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9). And it is. Every day I come to God again and keep giving the pain back, and He takes care of me every single day. My faith in Him gets replenished every day. But I have to keep coming back, talking to Him, reading my Bible, and staying the course. This is my survival kit…because I am weak, I am human, and I am vulnerable to slip up.
If you are in this spot too, I am praying you keep your eyes on Jesus! Keep talking to Him. Keep praying. Keep up the hard work so you can fight the battle. God is so gracious to us, and fights for us even when we can’t anymore. I’ve had so many come to me and say how my story has inspired them to keep going. Or they say how seeing our family persevere has given them the strength they needed to keep going as well. I always point it back to God, the only one who can save! He is the only one who can get us through this life stronger than we were before.
When I think of how far I have come, I realize satan will undoubtedly attack with his lies. He doesn’t like the progress made, and he will try to take it all away with a single thought. Don’t let him. Don’t let him in. Don’t give him a foothold. “Not today, satan.” That’s a common phrase I say A LOT. But you know what? It works. It works because my God is bigger. My God is faithful and not a liar. It works because I put in the hard work of keeping a relationship with God. You have to!
Today, make God a priority. Even if you are not struggling with a difficult time right now, you will. At some point, you will have hard things come against you. And I want you to be prepared. I want you to succeed in your battle. I want you to be able to look back at how far you’ve come! You will. You can do it. With your loving, gracious, generous Father by your side, you can make it.
I long for the day when I can hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). With God’s Holy Spirit working within us, we can win the battle. Let Him fight for you this week!
Recently, I was talking with a few other moms at one of my son’s basketball practices. They jokingly talked about how “over-protective” or prepared they were for cold weather. Mostly they talked about the difficulty of getting their kids to wear weather-appropriate clothing to prevent illnesses. But it was also brought up what they do just in case something happens to them while in the car. Blankets, pillows, snacks, extra gloves, etc., were kept in the car in case they were stuck in their car for any reason when it is cold. I find that I do some of this, but I realized that I have a “just in case” plan for many things I do, especially with my family. When flying for vacation, I include a change of clothes for me and the kids in our carry-on items. I bring our own snacks, “just in case.” This is just one example. My purse is probably a mystery to some because I carry so many things. I intentionally put many things in there, but others have not yet been put away from the last use. For example, I currently have an exacto knife in my bag. It was put in there about two months ago, and I left it there “just in case.” Guess what? I needed it about two weeks after it was placed in my bag, so now I don’t want to take it out! What if I need it again?!
While listening to these moms talk about what they do to be prepared “just in case” something happens a certain way, I wondered about other ways I prepare for things in my life. What do I find value in that I want to be “overprotective” or prepared for? I value my faith. What do I do to be prepared for the “just in case”? Is my faith strong enough to survive life-altering situations? Am I prepared for when these things happen?
There are lots of examples of how God is preparing for us, and how we need to prepare for Jesus’s return. Psalm 23 comes to mind as an example of God’s “overprotective” preparedness. Matthew 25 gives us a few parables with examples of those who were prepared and those who weren’t. What can we learn from these? First, it is our responsibility to be prepared. We can’t follow someone else’s preparations when it comes to our own faith. Basically, someone else can’t have enough faith for all of us. Second, being prepared starts with actually knowing Jesus. In Matthew 7, we are cautioned of the consequences when we don’t take the time to get into relationship with Jesus.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
The blood of Jesus gains us access to heaven, but that doesn’t prepare us for His return. How are you preparing for His return? Will He know you? Take time to get to know how your faith can grow so you will be in closer relationship with Christ. Study, read your Bible, listen to sermons. Choose preparedness for eternity.
Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
The verse above says a million different things. “Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet in my opinion, one of the most powerful. When I first read this verse, I did not think much of it. I was focused on the story of Lazarus and how Jesus would handle that situation. Think about that though, the savior of the world crying, mourning the loss of a close friend (Lazarus), feeling compassion for the loved ones who were grieving. Why didn’t Jesus just walk up and immediately heal him?
There are several reasons why this verse is so powerful to me. One is that it comforts me. It is a reminder that in the midst of chaos, when life gets hard, when all I can do is cry…Jesus is there with me, He has compassion for me and my situation. He loves us so much that it upsets Him to see us upset. That is so comforting to me, to know that when I am heartbroken, I can run to Jesus, and He will walk through it with me, every step of the way.
Another thing this verse tells me is even devastating situations can be used to glorify God. The whole chapter leading up to this, Jesus knew that Lazarus was sick and close to death. The ones who surrounded Jesus were encouraging Him to go to Lazarus and heal him. But Jesus kept telling them that this would be used to glorify God. When Jesus arrived, He wept and felt compassion, then turned directly to God and asked Him to show the surrounding people His glory. After Jesus did these things, a miracle was performed, and Lazarus was raised from the dead. That is the process I believe we need to go through when bad things happen. We need to feel emotion. It is okay to grieve; it is okay to feel sad or upset. But after you do that, you must turn to God, and He WILL show up. Jesus asked the Father to be real to the people who surrounded the grave of Lazarus, and then a miracle happened.
Ask God to be real for you this week. That is my prayer for all of you…if you are going through anything at all that may be difficult, I pray that Jesus would show up in your life in a mighty way.
One of the bummers about getting older is that we eventually experience loss. When we lose someone who has impacted our lives, whether it is someone of influence or a loved one, something changes inside of us. For most of us, it is a perspective change. For some of us, it is physical change. But for all of us, it is learning what grief feels like. Grief is so uncomfortable and different for each person that it is really difficult to express how you are feeling and easy to feel alone in those feelings.
My experience with grief has changed with each loss I have experienced. As my faith grew, how I processed grief did, too. The hardest grief for me was losing our daughter. I felt things that seemed out of character for me. I didn’t feel like myself for years as I dealt with the mourning. The normal me was happy, I found joy in everything, and could see the good in any situation. But that wasn’t me for about five years after her passing. Daily I prayed for Him to lift the grief from me. My grief was so heavy that giving it to God each morning was the only way I could function all day. I got annoyed with this. I felt like I just needed to “get over it.” I broke down one day, so frustrated with myself. What was wrong with me?! Why did I keep dealing with these same feelings yet have so much peace?!
The following Sunday, Pastor Matthew made a simple but profound statement that gave me purpose in my grief during that time. This was years ago so I don’t remember verbatim, but paraphrasing he said that there are some things we just aren’t meant to get past. God flooded me with His love with the realization that I was seeking Him daily. I was pouring myself out to Him every day and He was able to pour the Holy Spirit into me. If I were to just “get over it,” would I feel the need to pour into Him daily? There it was. Finally! The purpose behind what I thought was prolonged grieving. It was God keeping me as close to Him as possible DAILY! I then felt like it was okay to have my “moments.” I was reminded to seek Him about everything, even if it seemed like a negative attitude. James 4:9-10 gave me the permission I needed to feel like I was doing this in a healthy way: “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” He meant this in a different context, but in reality I was looking at grief from my own perspective. But when I humbled myself to the thought that God wanted me in those moments, I realized it was okay to cry, to not feel joy, as long as I was seeking Him in the process. He loves us in all of our feelings and will meet us in those feelings. He will use all of our experiences (good, bad, grief, etc.) but we won’t see it until we give ourselves to Him in all of it. I learned that grief can be good. Choose to seek Him daily. Choose to make your grief, “good” grief.