TREES

There is much beauty and wonder in this world that God created.  From the elemental foundations of creation God produced a vast array of intricate and beautiful objects.  Each day the sun rises to illuminate before our eyes amazing things, yet because we are so use to them we often hardly notice.  Today I invite you to take a few moments to explore with me the wonder of trees.

Here in sun drenched California, we go to extremes to find shaded parking.  We are seeking a tree.  At the end of a day’s work, we arrive home to our wood structured homes and recline on a comfortable wood structured chair with perhaps a handful of almonds or an apple all brought to us by a tree.  Trees provide so much of life’s amenities.  Just think of all the things in our daily lives that come from trees.  Trees are immeasurably useful, but they also contribute to the aesthetics of life.

A grove of trees becomes a forest.  If you think of a forest, memories will flood your soul.  A lone palm tree may stir visions of a tropical island and a cool ocean breeze.  The quaking of an aspen grove is amazingly soothing.  What can compare with the beautiful colors of a New England forest in autumn?  There is something magical about walking on a path through a wooded area.  When we were children, the forest provided great adventures.  We have all been touched by the vision of trees.

When I was in the Navy, our missions often took us to sea for long periods of time.  During these times, there were two things that I sorely missed trees and potato chips.  (We’ll save the wonders of potato chips for a later discussion.)  I’ve always loved trees.  My childhood memories are deeply imprinted with trees.  On my grandparents farm in Pennsylvania stood a large maple tree near the chicken house.  I spent many hours in that tree.  By climbing high into its limbs, I could hide away from all cares, and my mind would flow with countless thoughts.  For a time, my family lived in rural Virginia.  Our home was right in the forest.  When the leaves fell in autumn, they piled as high as two feet.  My brothers, sisters and I would rake streets through the leaves and create our own city.  This city occupied many hours of play time.

There is so much wonder and beauty in God’s world.  Thank you for joining me for a few moments with trees.  Think of those parts of creation that most stimulate you.  Take time to enjoy them even if you only have time to explore your memories of them.  It will quiet your soul.

PRAISE THE LORD

The other day, I was driving along the city streets when I started to feel a sensation through my being.  From within came persuasion to praise the Lord.  I started to pull my car to the side when all the cars around me just came to a halt.  People began to step out of their cars.  Then an unexpected sight developed before my eye.  All those around me began to lift their hands toward the sky, and their mouths were moving as if they were talking to the sky.  As this phenomenon progressed, I could hear the words of praise coming from those around me.  Following along, I joined this spontaneous worship and praise.

The scene propagated as far as I could see.  People lifted their hands and spoke words of praise.  The trees that lined the street began to lift their branches toward the sky.  A tiny squirrel, poised on a tree branch, raised its voice and tiny paws upward.  On the street corner, a dog lifted his head and howled toward the sky.   The combined sound of our praise increased in a crescendo of love and thanksgiving.  It seemed as if the entirety of creation was lifting praise to the Lord.

While reading the words of Psalm 148 this visualization came to me.  I was imagining what the whole of creation praising its creator might look like.  What a stirring thought, the whole of creation giving to our God what is rightly due him.  The psalmist states in verse 5 “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.”  In the midst of our busy week, let’s stop and remember to give praise to the one who created us.

IT IS NOT EASY, BUT IT IS TRUE

What I write about in this blog is founded on the belief that God, as described in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, created the world we live in.  Therefore it is reasonable to look to him for guidance.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”  Jesus tells us (see Matthew 6:25-34) not to worry about what we will eat, or drink ,or wear, but to focus on the kingdom that God is building, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to us.

In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-23) Jesus warns us about focusing on the cares of this world.  He explains to his disciples that the seed sown among the thorns is about the cares of this world.  He says, “But the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it (the message of the kingdom) making it unfruitful.”  The worries of this life keep us distracted from the direction God would have us go.  We are then unfruitful.

I believe with all my heart that these scriptures are exactly how I should conduct my life.  Yet, this is not easy.  Every aspect of our American culture wars against what these scriptures teach.  I’m supposed to be proactive and make it happen.  I’m supposed to seek wealth.  You’re still doing that job?  Can’t you find anything better?  “Well the Lord wants me here” I respond sheepishly.

Friends and fellow Christian aren’t much help either.  When asked, “What are you going to do about this?”  My answer, “I haven’t heard from the Lord yet, but I’m trusting that he will direct me in this,” gets some interesting reactions.  They are often speechless, at least to my face.  Would Christians talk behind my back?  “Aren’t you worried about that? “  I am asked.  “No, Jesus said don’t worry.”  That answer is definitely a conversation stopper.   So, there are cultural and peer pressures, but the greatest pressure comes from within.

Guilt is a big one.  “I should be doing something about this.”  I’m now seeing the cartoon with the black devil on one shoulder and the white angel on the other.  The devil is pumping guilty thoughts in one ear and the angel is reminding me of scripture.  I know what the scriptures say, but……  That “but” is always troubling.  Did the Lord already tell me, but I missed it?  God helps those who help themselves.  I know that this is not in the scriptures.  My flesh is always warring against my spirit.  Now that is in the scriptures.

Trusting in the Lord to take care of things is not easy, but He has shown me over a life time that his word is true.  He is my provision, and he does guide my path.

More

Adam and his wife Eve, as he was later to name her, shared in the bliss of the beautiful Garden of Eden God had made for them.  They played with the animals, climbed the majestic trees, and ate the fruit the trees produced.  At night they chose a comfortable place on the ground and slept the sleep of the content.  Fear did not exist.  They lived in perfect harmony with all of God’s creation.  As husband and wife, they never disagreed or argued for they had no awareness of self.  In fact they didn’t realize that they were naked.  There was no shame in their world.

One day Adam and Eve were walking near the middle of the garden.  Adam went a short distance away to look at one of the plants he’d not seen before.  Eve went near the forbidden tree to view it more fully.  The serpent seeing his chance was quick to join her.

Genesis 3:1-6

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

 

Adam and Eve lived in a state of perfect peace.  They wanted for nothing.  Death did not exist, there was no fear, and even the weather was nice.  They had world peace!  And, for those who have experience the presence of God in times of worship, you know there is nothing sweeter then the presence of God.  Adam and Eve had that all the time!  The choice to disobey God and open themselves to the knowledge of good and evil came at a high price.  They had everything we desire.  What were they thinking?

Adam and Eve were created good, but they had no knowledge of good.  They just were.  Just like hot and cold define each other, so good and evil must define each other.  You can’t understand “good” without the contrast of “evil”.  Imagine being inherently good without having to make the choice to be good.  For us we know that having the knowledge of good and evil isn’t that great.  Now we have to make a choice.  How often we choose evil.

I can’t blame Adam and Eve for wanting something more.  I know the wonders of God, yet everyday I’m looking for something more.  God knows what I need, and He provides it daily.  The “more” I want will most likely harm me, but I want it.  Every day I have to remind myself that God is sufficient. He is all I need.

The Companion

Adam spent his days exploring the wonders of the garden where God had placed him.  As he walked, the birds and animals that God had created came to him, and he named each one.  In the evenings, he would share with his Father (the name God preferred) all the adventures of his day.

“Today I named those creatures that climb in the trees, monkey.  I climbed with them all through the trees.  What a wonderful experience.  I then visited the Lions.  I always enjoy the lions.  We wrestled and romped together for hours.  The cheetah and I ran together for a short time.”

God could see that Adam was enjoying the garden and the animals, but he wanted to provide Adam with a being that could walk beside him and share the joys of the garden.

God said to Adam, “I am going to put you into a deep sleep, and while you sleep, I am going to take a rib from your side.  I will use your rib to create a companion that will walk with you and share your days.”

God put Adam into a deep sleep then took the rib from his side.  From the rib, God formed another being.  He breathed the breath of life into her, and she became a living being.  God welcomed her to his creation then took her to Adam.

As Adam awoke he beheld the being God had created.  She smiled at him, and Adam experienced a feeling he’d never felt before.  “She is truly the most delightful being of all you have created Father.  We will call her woman, for she was taken from man.”

The first man and woman walked together without the disharmony of sin and with the continual presence of their creator.

First Encounter

The being opened eyes that took in light, then color, and objects.  He rose as if he had done this many times, yet it was his first.  Everything he did was his first, for he was the first of his kind.

A voice spoke to him, “Welcome to the world I have created for us to enjoy.”  He turned to see another being standing there beside him.  “I have brought you forth that you might know me, and that we might walk together.  Come let’s walk and experience that which is good.”

They walked through trees and shrubs with bright blossoms and sweet smells.  The being spoke his first words, “This which you have created brings a feeling of joy and delight.”

“Yes that was my desire.  Enjoy all that I have created,” the creator shared.

Just then a creature scurried past them.  “What was that?” asked the being.

The creator smiled, “I have created many creatures for you to know and oversee.  See this one returns to you.  What would you name him?”

The being bent down and picked up the little creature.  “I will call this one mouse.”

The scriptures record that Adam, as we know this being, went on to name all of the animals that God had created.  Mankind started with purity and goodness and walked with the continual presence of God.   His promise to us is that we will again experience that which Adam knew.  We don’t know how the first encounter between God and man actually occurred, but I hope this scenario helps you to imagine what that encounter might have been like.

God Made It All

Romans 1:18-20  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

It has long amazed me that men can observe the vastness, beauty and complexity of the universe and believe that it came about by a series of random events.  This belief however has value in that it allows man to deny the existence of God.  With God out of the picture men get to make their own rules, and do what they want.  How’s that working for us?

Scientists receive great glory for what they discover, but there is no glory given for the one who created what they have discovered.  Atoms, molecules, photons and the DNA code, to mention a few items of scientific discovery, did not randomly come about.  God created them.  How much more amazing is the one who created than the one who discovered?  The scientist himself was created and given his ability to discover.  Does God get acknowledged for that?  I am very appreciative of the great discoveries made by scientists, but the glory goes to the one who made it all, God!