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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Genesis 1:1-25 (ESV)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
God creates and what He makes is good…period. It doesn’t necessarily matter how we feel and think about some of the things He created. In God’s eyes, it is all good. That could be the end of it; however, the passage in Genesis is saying more. God goes further and creates a specific environment that is made perfect for His creation. Why? Because He cares about His creation and designs a world where we can not only survive but thrive. In the first four days, Genesis tells us that God speaks a world into order, a world made for abundant life. Oxygen and hydrogen are combined to make water, light is separated from darkness, land appears, “the earth sprouts vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit.” On the fifth day, the planet earth becomes a utopia for living animals. Plants are also created for a sustainable food source, through their seeds. Sea life swim in the great bodies of water and winged birds fly across the sky. From the smallest “creeping thing” to the largest beast of the land, the earth is teaming with life. Not only does God create life, He blesses them to multiply and live in every kind of terrain. After every day of the account of creation, God stops and sees that what He creates is good. God’s intricate work to make this earth assures us that everything has a plan and purpose. Our God is so good.
Isaiah 45:12 (NLT)
I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.
This verse is plucked out of a chapter of verses spoken to remind God’s children that their future was in His control. Creation tells of God’s power and the Bible tells of His salvation. The two combined reveal His glory! In this verse, God is reminding them of His creative power and His vast provision, not only in creating the earth and galaxies…but in creating the intricacies of people! He didn’t create the world to be chaos, but to be inhabited and enjoyed. What more can be needed by people than the friendship and protection of Him who made the heavens and the earth, and who still controls the stars!
“I have made the earth” - God asserts that He had made all things, doubtless with a view to show that He was able to hear their cry and to grant an answer to their requests. His work was visible everywhere, in forming and sustaining all things, and in raising up for them a deliverer. They might, therefore, go before Him with confidence, and spread out all their needs.
Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul speaks to the reality of suffering in the lives of believers. Everyone faces hard times, and the church in Rome was not any different. In fact, Paul tells them that all of creation is under a curse, the effects of sin in the world. That curse plays out in the suffering of creation itself, and our own suffering. It’s in this context that Paul pens today’s verse.
Though we suffer, we are not left to face our suffering alone. God, through His Holy Spirit, lives inside of us, and even when it hurts too bad to pray…the Spirit speaks to God for us. For many, this plays out in a personal prayer language (a form of speaking in tongues). For others, it plays out in a desperate desire to connect with God, yet not fully understanding what to say, or how to convey the hurt and pain that you feel. Sufferings will come, but God is with us…and He does hear us.
Romans 8:5-11 (ESV)
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Today’s reading is rich. It’s like a piece of chocolate, peanut butter cheesecake with whipped cream on top. Yeah, that rich! It’s jammed packed full of goodness; however, it’s probably best to eat it in small bites. So, let’s focus on just two of the passages from today’s reading. Let’s specifically look at verses five and six, because I think they set the tone for the rest of the reading. The Apostle Paul uses these verses to uncover two distinctively different powers that can be at play within us. The first of these two is the flesh. This is a much more extensive topic than can be covered in a devotional, but to keep things simple, let’s define the flesh as the sinful nature of man. The second that Paul mentions is the Holy Spirit. You notice for each of these two powers, he uses the same phrase to set them up. He says that those who live according to either the flesh or the Holy Spirit will “set their minds” on or toward that power. Simply put, it’s the way your mind thinks or is aimed.
Like a ship set to sail in a particular direction, we can get our minds on course for either the flesh or the Spirit. To have our minds set on the flesh (sin) will ultimately lead us to sin, and to have our minds set on the Spirit will ultimately lead us to walk in the Spirit. Now don’t miss this. Read verse six again. What does Paul say will be the fruit for each of those powers, if we set our minds on them? For the flesh, it is death. Sin will destroy us if we set our minds on it. It will leave us like an abandoned house scheduled for demolition. For the Spirit, it is life and peace. The Spirit will restore us if we set our minds on Him. It will leave us a beautifully ordained temple set to stand firm through all things.
Friends, don’t miss this powerful truth that Paul is speaking. God has given us His very Spirit inside of us, and His Spirit is life and peace. Who wouldn’t want that? Deep down, that is what we are all striving for. We can attempt to find it in sin, which we know will never happen, or we can find it from the true source, the Holy Spirit. This is available to you today, in this very moment, and in every other moment where you find yourself en route to living in the flesh. Go now and set your mind on the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:3, 17-18 (ESV)
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
In verse 17, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the living God. And wherever the Spirit is, we can be confident it is God working and moving. Where we find the Spirit, we find freedom. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we have access to God unlike people ever had before. God knew we would need a helper, so He gave us the Spirit.
When we make the decision to follow God, the Spirit becomes an active part of our relationship. Walking with us, guiding us, leading us, protecting us, and giving us full access to God in all things at all times. The more we follow the leading of the Spirit, the more transformation we see in our lives. The more we walk in obedience to the Spirit’s leading, the more we become like Him. And just as Paul encourages the followers in Corinth, when we allow the Spirit to move and work in our lives, the transformation becomes evident to the world around us.