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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The other day I had breakfast with a wonderful godly lady who is much farther down the faith journey than I am. We need those people in our lives, the people who have walked the paths we haven’t yet. I’m lucky enough to have a few of those people who I can call on when I need some faith-filled advice. I love how God will generously provide the friends you need just when you need them. It’s just another way God smiles down on us, His children, providing for our needs once again.
As we were discussing some things I have been dealing with, she dropped some advice on me that really laid heavy on my heart. I can’t stop thinking about it, actually. She told me when it comes to our past, it’s normal to think of the things we wish were different. It’s normal to have regrets over past mistakes or things that came against us through no fault of our own. She told me, “It’s ok to look back at your past, but don’t stare.” That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
It’s so easy for me to park myself in the “what should have been.” And some days, I do. But God is so gracious to me, and sends the friends I need to pull me back out and into His truth. There has been many times God sent the perfect dose of encouragement to me, through a friend, a card, or a text. That’s no accident, friends! That is our God who loves you and me. I hope you have experienced that love of God.
This life wasn’t meant to be done alone. God puts people in our lives for a purpose! When our paths cross with another individual who just happens to be going through something you went through months earlier, that’s not by coincidence. I believe it’s so they can be encouraged by how far you’ve come. It strengthens our faith, friends! It definitely helped me when that friend shared that advice with me, advice she once received when she was in a time of need. Our lives keeps going. Experiences keep happening. We have to keep looking forward. Keep looking to the future, to the prize, the eternal reward. These truths will keep you going on those tough days. Write them down. Post them on your mirror if you need to. God’s not forgotten you! Talk to Him and let all your regrets be known to Him. He already knows them anyway…He wants to hear from you.
Look back if you must…but don’t stare. Don’t linger there too long.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
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.
The Royal Wedding…Televisions worldwide tuned in to watch the Duke and Duchess of Sussex exchange vows in their fairytale wedding. I was fascinated (no ‘fascinator’ pun intended) that so many people zeroed in on the fact that the Prince was marrying an actress, a woman raised by a single mother, with a multi-cultural background, previously divorced, and what some would call a “commoner.” The choice was considered somewhat unusual by news media.
Although unusual for many, it made me smile a little to think of the bit of similarity this holds to our status as the “bride” of Jesus. We are common folk. We are broken. We come from many different backgrounds, and are all shapes, sizes, and colors. Not worthy to be loved by royalty by any standard, cultural or heavenly. Jesus, however, didn’t care what the eyes of the world thought. He found us worthy…worthy to sacrifice His life so we could someday be His bride when He returns to take us to heaven and live eternally, if we accept His free gift.
When I watch the media criticize the “famous” people in our culture, I often think in my mind, “But Jesus died for them, too, just like me.” He died for the rich, the poor, the broken, the diseased, and the destitute. He died for you and for me, and someday He’s coming to take us all to be with Him. It won’t matter who’s a prince or a princess, who was famous or not, who was rich or poor. We’re all famous in the eyes of our Savior, and for that I’m thankful.
The truth of 1 Peter 3:18 is this: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
Rejoice with me that our current situation is temporary, and we have a Savior who found us worthy of saving! We have been made Royal. We have been given the ultimate gift of eternal life. No carriage rides, no giant cathedral, and no fascinators required. That’s worthy of celebration!
One day I decided to go to Rising Park, so I went and sat by the pond and just observed everything. As I sat there for a while, a little girl and her family came and sat down, too. However, this little girl was not very happy. She was crying and crying and would not stop. I then heard what she was saying through the sobs. She was saying “I don’t want to go!” at the top of her lungs. And this phrase made me think of all the times I have felt God pulling me toward something, and I have been the one crying and screaming, “I don’t want to go!”
I think we can all get easily overwhelmed by the situations we are in and the situations we are pulled into. I know we all have told God things like, “I can’t do that, I’m not good enough” or “I just really don’t want to do that.” The truth is, He is going to call us into the unknown and the uncomfortable more often than the familiar. You know why He does that? FAITH! It takes faith to jump head first…no, heart first…into the plans of the Lord. It takes faith to trust that His plans are greater than those we create ourselves. It takes faith to leave our comfort zone and our safety to seek after the will of the Lord. But one of the things God is telling us, as He is pulling us into a different direction, is we have nothing to fear when we follow His plan. He is working ALL things for good in the plans He is setting for us. Trusting in Him and putting our faith in His promises need to be our response when He calls us.
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 want to challenge you. Think about the things God is calling you to, and think about the reason you are putting it off or telling Him no. What is holding you back? More importantly, what will happen when you let go and trust God?
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
I remember this time in high school. I was on the way home from a college visit with my dad and a couple of friends. While driving home, we got a flat tire on the highway. Oh, did I forget to add that it was at night in the pouring rain? Needless to say, we were kind of stuck. We pulled to the side of the road and sat in the car.
We were alone, somewhere in Kentucky, in the pouring rain. Now don't get me wrong, we had a spare tire and an umbrella, so it’s not like we were without a paddle and stranded. We made it home. We swapped the tire and were back on the road in a few minutes, but for a moment, we felt stranded. In our minds, for even a moment, we thought "Oh no! Now what?"
While this may be a silly example, have you ever felt this way with God? Are you currently in a season of "Oh no! Now what?" I know, for me, I have a few places where I haven't figured out what I am going to do, a few situations where I feel stranded. But like it says in Deuteronomy, God isn't going to leave us. He goes with us, and calls us to be strong and courageous. He calls us, and promises that He won't leave us stranded on the side of the road. I pray you find peace in knowing God is still on your side and still walking beside you.
How can you trust God this week? What situations do you feel stranded in? Have you called God to come bail you out? If you call Him, He will show up and be your guide. Trust Him.
A couple weeks ago, I taught the kids the concept of focusing on God. I taught the story of Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter had his eyes on Jesus when he got out, and trusted Him. There was a problem that happened…all of a sudden, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked around. He saw the winds and waves, got scared, and started sinking. As soon as he started sinking, he yelled out for Jesus, who pulled him out of the sinking water and said, “You of little faith.” You see, Peter was one of Jesus’s disciples, and he trusted Him. Peter knew Jesus would take care of him; he just had taken his focus off Him.
I asked the kids this question: What makes us take our focus off Jesus? What makes us not listen to the Holy Spirit? One of the girls in our group said, “My sunburn is why I don’t focus on God.” The funny thing, this was really true. Sunburns hurt, they make us hot, they make us cold, sometimes we have to take medicine for them, and sometimes they scar us.
Life can be like a sunburn to us, and then we take our focus off God. When worries, fears, and frustrations happen, they can hurt us, make us scared, control our minds, and leave a scar in our hearts. The only medicine for these situations is to put your focus back on Jesus. Only Jesus can fix our situations and give us peace that passes all understanding. Only Jesus! The way we can come back to that spot is to put our focus back on Him. As soon as we wake up, we put our focus on Him. Not the distractions of this world, but on Him. We worship Him in the middle of situations.
Take a minute to think. Have you taken your focus off Jesus? What situations in your life have become like a “sunburn” to you? Give it to Jesus right now in prayer. Put your focus back on Him. Talk to Him about what’s going on, worship Him in the middle of the situation, and thank Him for all He has done.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.
In all your ways obey him. Then he will make your paths smooth and straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIrV)