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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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Daily Devotions

What Comes from the Heart
Jan 27, 2020


Matthew 15:10-20 (NLT)

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” 

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 

Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” 


The Pharisees were religious leaders who knew about God, they just didn’t know God. The disciples were being trained by Jesus, and He would reveal Himself to them in a personal way…relational and life changing. Jesus made it clear to the disciples that who you listen to affects you. “Blind guides” is a very insightful label that Jesus gave those who knew a bunch of rules, but were blind to the power of a changed heart. Jesus clearly wants His disciples to know that real change and real life begins in the mind and heart. 

We all can all talk like a Christian much faster than we can act like a Christian. All effective change starts in the heart. 


1. Every stronghold in our life began with a thought. In fact, here are the steps it took for anything to become a stronghold in your life:

  • A thought
  • A consideration
  • An action
  • A repeated action
  • A stronghold

If you have an addiction, those steps were taken. If you are in an improper relationship, those steps were taken. If you are gripped and entangled with anything that is robbing you spiritually, it followed that sequence. Something as common as unhealthy eating choices follow that pattern. Everything that eats away our spiritual power begins with a thought. We can’t stop thoughts, but we can stop considerations. The moment thought intersects with consideration, the battle begins.

2. Voids must be filled. The key to power in our spiritual lives rests solidly on what we fill the void in our heart with. What I fill my heart and mind with is exactly what will come out. It’s a spiritual law as sure as gravity is a physical law. I can’t expect to have words of wisdom in a moment of crisis if I have not filled my mind and heart with the words of wisdom of Jesus. Whatever I have meditated on will come out in a moment of pressure.

3. This is a very stark list that Jesus gave in verse 19:

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. This clearly emphasizes that what is allowed to grow inside our heart produces acts from murder to gossip. It all has one central incubator…our heart. None of us ever outgrow this danger. The heart has to be carefully protected for our entire earthly lives. What practical guard do you need to put in place to protect what goes in your heart? 

4. Take inventory. What do you secretly think about that you would be mortified if it were known? Our passage today warns of the outcome if we don’t confess and repent of our thoughts, and allow God’s power to change the way we think.

Prayer Prompt:

  • Jesus, I am keenly aware that your Words are right, and I need your Holy Spirit’s power to enlighten for me the things that lurk in my heart and are producing bad responses to life. Help me see me, and help me be willing to stop participating in those things that feed the thoughts of my heart and mind in a way contrary to Your nature. I ask for your Holy Spirit’s power to stop allowing myself to be exposed to anything that feeds the darkness. Empower me to feed myself from your Word and presence. Cleanse my mind and heart, and purify my thoughts…I ask, in Jesus’s name.

Devo Plus:

  • I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. (Psalm 101:3a, NLT)
  • Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.(Romans 12:2, NLT)


Daily Devotions

Protect the Heart
Jan 26, 2020


Proverbs 4:23-27 (NLT)

Guard your heart above all else,

for it determines the course of your life.

Avoid all perverse talk;

stay away from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead,

and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

Mark out a straight path for your feet;

stay on the safe path.

Don’t get sidetracked;

keep your feet from following evil.


The book of Proverbs includes a collection of writings from ancient Eastern sources, but most of the book is written by King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live besides Jesus (1 Kings 4:29). The proverbs in the book are short sentences or sayings that teach the reader morals, values, and wisdom or “the right way” to live drawn from life experiences. This interesting book, which is divided into four sections, often contrasts wise living verses foolish thinking. The above verse is from the introductory section, and is written from the perspective of a father giving wise instructions to his son on the ways of life. The father is giving him practical knowledge and skill on how to live in a world that honors God and others. 

We always want to examine what we allow our eyes to see and our ears to hear, because if we are not proactive in this, it can quickly affect our mind and heart. Our mind is how we think about a situation but our heart is how we truly feel. If I believe in something with my heart, then my actions will reflect that belief. The Apostle Paul said “for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved (Romans 10:10). We want our hearts to be pure, so we avoid arguing with others and using bad language. We must be careful who we allow in our lives as friends and what we do with our time. God wants us to focus on our goals in life and not fall into temptation. He wants us to consider wise council and to always seek His Word before making difficult decisions in life. God wants us to trust Him with our whole heart and not mimic the actions of this world. Like the wise advice of the father in this proverb speaking to his son, we want to please our heavenly Father in the choices we make and living healthy Christian lives.  


  1. Do you pray and consult God before you make an important decision, or is He often an after-thought? 
  2. Have you thought about the people who you chose to associate with on a daily basis? Do you feel that you are a positive influence in their lives, and reflect Jesus?
  3. How do you respond to God? Do you trust Him with your heart?
  4. Do you guard your heart and mind in situations you know will negatively impact you? If not, how can you begin to make choices to begin this?

Prayer Prompt:

  • Ask God to show you areas in your life that have caused you to sin or fall into temptation. Ask for wisdom in these areas because you are a child of God and He loves you.
  • Pray for forgiveness and opportunities to seek Him throughout your day. Put your trust in God that He will protect and guard your heart as you pursue His love.

Devo Plus:

  • Read all of Proverbs 4 with the mindset of a loving father wanting his child to succeed in the very best life possible.


Daily Devotions

Only One Thing is Needed
Jan 25, 2020


Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 


On the surface, this passage seems to be a call to abandon service for the contemplative life. It seems Jesus is saying to forgo any work, and just spend time praying and studying, because that is the “best” thing to do. But Jesus’s rebuke of Martha is more subtle and more challenging than that. Martha is doing good work. She is caring for multiple guests and preparing everything that needs done to host this famous Rabbi, His disciples, and possibly even a large crowd.  It takes a lot of work to prepare and care for that situation well. It would honor God to handle that situation well.

But a few things happen here. One, it says Martha was distracted. Service can be a blinder if we let doing things for Jesus trump the relationship with Jesus. Because Martha said yes to serving, she missed the best thing standing right in front of her…Jesus. Busyness kept her from recognizing a better path in that moment, it kept her from seeing what would be good for her and everyone else around her. Second, her busyness was self-assigned (and this is my imagination reading into the gaps of the text). Jesus didn’t ask her to do all that she was doing. I am sure Jesus was appreciative of the care, but more so, He wanted time with Martha. Lastly, her busyness led her to self-righteousness and jealousy. Martha was a little ticked she had to do it all by herself, and who would blame her? But Jesus would not let her self-imposed service rob Mary from choosing the “best” thing, the “first” thing. 

Martha lost sight of the fact that service flows out of relationship. This is what Jesus wanted Martha to understand…that loving Jesus comes before serving Jesus. 


  1. Have you ever found yourself skipping quiet times to do things for God?
  2. When service comes before relationship, often the wrong product comes out of our service. For Martha, it was jealousy. Have you ever tried to do the right thing, but found yourself grumpy, dissatisfied, or even frustrated for doing the right thing?
  3. Have you ever tried to make yourself busy to avoid spending time with Jesus? Think through and confess what is going on in your heart that makes you want to do more for God than be with God.

Prayer Prompts:

  • Ask God to reveal the motives of your heart today.
  • Ask Him to help you desire the relationship with Him far more than serving Him.

Devo Plus:

  • Read the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15, and see how Jesus describes how easily the Word of God is choked out by the busyness of life.

Daily Devotions

What’s on Your Mind?
Jan 24, 2020


Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.


From a prison cell, Paul wrote this book (letter) to a group of believers he was getting reports about, but had never met. He wrote to them so they would not fall victim to false teaching. Paul knew that knowing the truth about Jesus and the power of the gospel would be the best protection against deception. The false teachers at Colosse had attacked the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.

They had attempted to seduce believers into thinking true spirituality is found in more knowledge or rules. Paul knew from experience that Jesus was as deep in God as you can go.

Putting Jesus first means you take the time to get to know who you were created to be, and let go of the rules in your subconscious mind telling you how you should behave. To truly put Jesus first, you have to let go of what others think, and follow Him and learn of Him. 


  1. How do you set your sights on the realities of heaven? Jesus sits in the place of honor in heaven, and if He sits in a place of honor in your heart and mind, it will change everything for you. Jesus will infuse your life with hope, when He is central.
  2. How would thinking on things in heaven change your thought life? Practical ways to train your mind to think on things of heaven is to be purposed about it. Download the app “Dwell” and utilize it while doing your grooming in the morning, invest in ways of listening to worship music in your car, read a faith-based blog in the waiting room, listen to a podcast while you cook. Yes, you need quiet time in the Word and prayer, but there is a lot of thinking going on in between, and we can choose influences that position our thoughts on Jesus. We are to be preoccupied with what gets top billing in heaven.
  3. What heavenly values capture your heart, emotions, thoughts, ideas, and actions?

Prayer Prompt:

  • Jesus, as I go about my day today, I desire Your presence and Your leading. I ask You to reveal Yourself to me in each layer of my day. May I hear Your voice speak life in me and through me. May I be drawn close to Your heart, and see my world through Your eyes. Touch me in a fresh way, and may I ever be grateful for my life, the life You died for. 

Devo Plus:

  • And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. (Colossians 2:6-9, NLT)

Daily Devotions

Don’t Be a Stumbling Block
Jan 23, 2020


 1 Corinthians 8:9-13  (ESV)

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.


At this time in history, people offered meat to idols and false gods as a sacrifice. Many of the “educated” men in Corinth believed that because they knew there were no false gods, it was okay for Christians to eat the meat that others had left as a sacrifice to their gods. Paul steps in and tells them that they need to be careful…other people are watching them. There were people in their community who had lived their lives believing in the false gods, and had just become Christians. They were less mature in their relationship with the one true God, and in the above scripture, are referred to as “weak in conscience.”  It doesn’t mean they weren’t as smart as the next guy; they just were less mature in their faith. When they ate the meat that the other Christian men had deemed acceptable, which they had previously known as unacceptable, it caused them issues in their conscience. Even though they had given up their old beliefs, it had been engrained in them that meat sacrificed in this way was not to be eaten. 

Paul lays it out like this to the Corinthians: Even if it’s good for you, it may not be good for the guy next to you. If you are causing injury to his conscience, you need to back off, so your brother doesn’t stumble or fall. What’s safe for you may be quite dangerous for the person next to you. We need to judge our actions in the context of how it affects those around us.


  1. Does knowing that your actions could cause someone else to fall, make you aware of things that need changed in your life so you can be a better role model?
  2. God wants us to lift each other up, not cause each another to stumble. Are there opportunities for you to turn a potential “stumbling block” into something positive for those around you?

Prayer Prompt:

  • God, you know our hearts. You know our intentions. Help us to be good role models for those around us, whether it’s at home, in the workplace, or in a social setting.
  • Allow your light to shine through my actions, and keep me from being a roadblock for others as they pursue a relationship with You. Forgive me in the areas where I have failed. Thank You for Your grace and mercy and my salvation.

Devo Plus:

  • To reinforce today’s scripture, read Psalm 56:13 and Romans 14:13.