REFLECTING TREES!

This Christmas we have placed our big Christmas tree on the porch rather than in front of the picture window in the living room.  There were several reasons for this switch, the primary one being that no one was around to move the sofa onto the porch! 

Christmas tree on porch from yard
The view of the tree on the porch while standing in the back yard.

 

But there was a beautiful surprise when we looked at the completed tree on the porch.  It was reflected in the windows around the porch. 

 

There was only one tree, but the reflection made it appear as if there were multiple trees, all identical and all lit up, shining out into the yard.

Christ tree on porch with reflections
Reflections seen in the windows.

This prompted a number of thoughts as I observed this surprise reflection.  The tree was put up to celebrate Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  He was born of a virgin, placed in a manger in Bethlehem and the star identified the place where He was laying.  The angels announced His birth with vast chorus of joyful singing in the heavens, as they looked in amazement at this small child who was Lord of all.

Christmas is a celebration of miracles, the miracle of the virgin birth, the miracle of the Son of God coming to a sinful world and proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to those around Him by performing miracles of healing and declaring that the person’s sin had been removed, something the religious leaders could not stomach! 

The miracles continued as He was crucified on the cross, taking the punishment that sinful men deserved so that He could give His people relief from their sin debt to God and eternal life with Him and the believers who form the Body of Christ from all nations, tribes and tongues.

This Babe was way more than a little baby.  This Babe was the King of Kings and Lord of Lord who had legions of angels at His disposal and yet He deigned to live and walk in this sin-filled world so that He could redeem His people from their sin. 

What does this have to do with the tree on the porch? 

I suggest that it is not so much the tree itself as the reflection that is occupying my mind today.  The Body of Christ should be the reflection of Jesus Christ.  We are not yet sanctified (big word for being sin-free), but we are working on living our lives as Jesus did, trusting God for forgiveness and confessing our sin when we err, knowing that He is faithful and Just to forgive us those sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

Jesus said that our light should shine among men:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Paul said this about our light in the dark world:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6.

Paul also said that we should shine as lights in the world:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Philippians 2:14-15

The challenge, therefore, is for us to be lights this Christmas season and every day that God gives us to live on this planet.  We should reflect Jesus Christ to the world around us.  We should multiple our light as we go about our daily business, loving others, doing good to those who are in need, spreading the gospel in word and deed, and giving spiritual refreshment to those we meet.

So, the question is:  are you on the porch, reflecting light to others, or are you in the corner of the room?  Are you in the picture window so people can see your light, or are you hiding your light in a closet, or under a basket?  When you walk down the street, are you reflecting the light of your Lord, or not?  Only you can answer, and only you can decide to let your light shine for Jesus!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020.  Blessings to you as you shine your light to those you come in contact with today and throughout the new year.

Father, I pray that I would reflect my love for Jesus as I go through my life.  I pray that I would not hide my witness but that it would blaze and be clear light to draw others to Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.   

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 1

We have had a number of significant storms in the past month, with very heavy rains, some hail, and extreme, sustained, wind.

Our yard is quite wooded, and we can see the wind even when we can’t hear it because of the trees swaying in the breeze.  When strong winds come, though, it is as if the trees are doing a stationary dance in praise to God, while bending and swaying to the will of His Hand.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

 

When you watch the tree branches swaying in the wind, it is not difficult to imagine that they are clapping their hands in praise and glory of their Creator, the Almighty God. 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 ESV

Jesus said these words when He was telling to Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. 

We know that the wind is present when we see the trees swaying.  Then, too, we hear the sound of the leaves as they are driven in all directions when the wind increases and its force is felt by even the strongest of trees.   

When I hear the wind like this, I recall Scripture telling us that the Apostles heard the Spirit of God at Pentecost, and the sound was like a mighty rushing Wind.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Acts 2:1-5 ESV

God’s Spirit is characterized as a mighty wind in this Scripture text.  The Greek word used for “wind” is transliterated as pnoe, and it means “breath, breath of life”.  So Luke is saying that the breath of life that comes from God filled the house … it was His Spirit. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned, languages that the people from “from every nation under heaven” who were in Jerusalem would understand.  The apostles were given this ability so that they could effectively witness to the foreigners of Jesus, the Messiah, the One who rose from the dead and who lives in heaven, the One who could cleanse them from sin and who would give them life eternal.

The apostles’ message that day accomplished something that transformed the known world – it made the Gospel of Christ known worldwide.  An example of this is found in the fact that Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) was the pastor for the church in Colosse, a church to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians, but there is no record that Paul ever visited this church.  The people who traveled from Jerusalem to other cities and regions started churches and spread the witness for Jesus Christ throughout the known world.

The application for us? 

Have you been touched by the Spirit of God?  Has He breathed life into your heart so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?  Have you committed your life to Him?  If so, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit resident within you and you can use that power to witness to the miraculous works that Jesus has performed in your life.

Next time you feel the wind blowing in your face, or the next time you see the wind blowing the trees around, or the next time you hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, think of your God and His Spirit that came to this earth to take up residence in your heart and in mine.

Let the wonder of God’s creation remind us to give praise to Him for His wonderful works to the children of men.  Psalm 107.

 

Father, thank You for caring so much for us that You gave us Your Spirit.  Thank You for blowing Your breath on us so that we can then breathe out Your love to those around us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We praise Your holy name and may we give glory to You in all that we do.

TREES – UNIQUE AS OUR OWN PERSONAL WITNESS

It is no secret that I have long been an admirer of trees. All different kinds of trees. I love them.

When I was a little girl, we had a lone tree in the parkway between the street and sidewalk in the front yard of our house. Because it was a new subdivision, my father was taller than the tree!  However, I had a taste of big trees in the Forest Preserves that are sprinkled around the Chicago area. There you can rest in the shade of old trees, have picnics and play in the cool provided by the tall trees.

There have been quite a number of trees that we have seen in our travels, many of them blending into the picture of one vast canvass of green.

Woods along stream in Tennessee
Woods along a stream in Tennessee.

However, there have been some trees that are unique and which have made a mark on my memory.

Octopus tree Oregon 2009 434
The Octopus Tree, near Cape Meares Lighthouse, Oregon

The Octopus Tree is a Sitka spruce. According to information about the tree provided by the Friends of the Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, the tree measures more than 46 feet in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and is estimated to be 250 to 300 years old.

This is the base of the Octopus Tree.

Octupus tree close up of base Oregon 2009 435
Base of Octopus Tree showing no central trunk.

 

Another beautiful tree we encountered was far from the Oregon Octopus Tree. It was in Mississippi at Beauvoir, the home of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi, Mississippi.

 

Friendship tree entire
The Friendship Tree in Biloxi, Mississippi

It is a live oak, several hundreds of years old, and it branches out over the sidewalk so that you can walk beneath it with limbs extending on both sides of you.

The lady at the gift shop said that there was a legend associated with this tree, specifically that it was called a Friendship Tree and the legend was as follows: “I am called the Friendship Oak. Those who enter my shadow will remain friends through all their lifetime.” Of course, we had to stand beneath its limbs with that legend upon our minds!

Friendshp tree
Standing under the Friendship Tree, Biloxi, Mississippi

 

Another tree we found exceedingly beautiful is the ancient tree at the Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Mission san jose
Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas

 

The ancient tree is on the mission grounds and it is another beautiful example of our Lord’s creation.

 

San Antonio mission tree
Ancient tree in San Antonio at the Mission San Jose.

 

Standing beneath the branches of these magnificent trees reminds me of Scripture:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3.

 

Father, May I be found to be wise, one who delights in the law of my God. May I be found to be as a tree planted by streams of water, so that I can yield much fruit for my Savior and so that my leaf, my witness, will not fade as time goes by. I pray that I will prosper, not for myself, but to the glory and honor of my God and Father, and for the glory of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.