…Truth Hidden in the Trees

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The Tools for our Treasure Hunt

When we ended our last visit, we did so poised, with our treasure hunting tools in hand, ready for the truth seeking adventure that was promised for today.  As you may recall, Tool #1 was the understanding that we had gained as to how the Big, Infinite, Spiritual, and Holy God of the Bible reveals Himself to us–the small, fleshly, finite, and sinful human beings who are living here on planet earth.  We learned that this God reveals Himself not only through what He says in His Word, but also through the things that He does; which, as we saw last time, included the separating, dividing, and judging of the very things that He had just created.  These actions revealed to us not only what God did at that particular time but they also revealed who He is all of the time—that He is, in His very nature, a Separator, a Divider, and a Judge.  As for Tool #2, we learned that this was an understanding of the way that this very same God teaches us about spiritual things;  that He does so by using the things that we can see to explain the things that we cannot see, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18b).”

Treasure Chest

Searching for Treasure of Truth

Now, having re-familiarized ourselves with the tools at our disposal, let’s take a moment to identify the treasures that we will be searching for during this, and our next, visit.  After all, we will need to know what we are looking for if we are going to be able to recognize it when we find it.  During this visit, we will be searching for Treasure #1, which is “The What” of the trees, or the object lesson that God wants us to give us every time we come face to face with one of His trees.  Treasure #2, the goal of our next visit will, on the other hand,  be The Why” of the trees, or the answers to those questions that were posed back in “Redemption, A Story told by Trees, questions as to why God would want to use trees to tell His story of redemption in the first place.

So, with our equipment now in place, we can proceed in our hunt for…

Treasure #1—The What of the Trees 

Treasure Hunt

We Will Need a Treasure Map

We begin our search for Treasure #1 by taking a look at our treasure map, the Bible, to see what clues it holds for our discovery.  Since treasure is almost always buried, and because the Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth, when we search for the treasures of truth hidden within it, we will find that we need to dig for it on at least three different levels:  an earthly level, a heavenly level, and an eternal level.  At the earthly level, we will be presented with real people or real events taking place in real time; people and events which God will use to teach us valuable life lessons. Then, God will take those same people and events and use them to illustrate something that He has done or will be doing in the spiritual realm, or some important spiritual truth that He wants us to know.  Finally, God will use what we have learned on both of those levels to take us to the eternal level, or that place where He will reveal to us a more complete picture of who He is.

Our earthly level excavation for truth begins with a look at the first verses in scripture that mention trees, specifically Genesis 1:12, 1:29, and 2:8.  In these verses, as we see God calling trees into existence, and from the descriptions that are given of them, we very quickly learn that when God created trees, He had some very practical purposes in mind for them.  According to His plan, they were meant to:

  • Spring up out of the earth;
  • Bear fruit;
  • Reproduce after their own kind;
  • Be pleasing to look at; and,
  • Be good for food.

Here, we learn that in creating the trees as He did, God was actually preparing to meet the the natural needs of the people He would soon be creating.  As not only the source but also the sustainer of the lives that He was about to bring into the world, God, through the trees, was making provision for their needs even before they existed.

If the meeting of these natural needs had been God’s only reason for bringing trees into the world, that would certainly have been reason enough for their existence.  However, if we dig a little deeper into the Word, by going on to Genesis 2:16, we get our first hint that God, in His creation of the trees, may have had more in mind than just meeting the physical needs of man.  For, here in this verse, we are re-introduced to the God we first met back in Genesis 1—the God who not only created the world but the One who also then separated, divided, and judged every aspect of His own creation.   Here, we find Him doing the same thing, only this time He is focused on separating and making distinctions between two of the trees in the garden that He Himself had made for man; here, we find him differentiating between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, designating the fruit of one to be good or life-giving, and the fruit of the other to be bad or death-inducing.  And here, too, we are given our first clue that He, in this separation, division, and judging of the trees, had other reasons for including them in His created order.

This is a very important clue for us and now that we have it in our possession, we can use it to move on to the next level of exploration—that being the spiritual level of truth-seeking.  This is the place where Tool #2 will come in handy; for it is here is that we will see how God applied spiritual principals to the natural characteristics of trees in order to illustrate an important spiritual truth.  To explain what I mean, let’s go to Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17, where we read:

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 it fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1: 1-3

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.  Jeremiah 17:7-8

You see, when God wanted to teach us what a righteous man or woman would look like, He used trees to make His point.  For:

  • Like trees, we as human beings are to grow up out of the earth, with heaven as our focus and our ultimate destination;
  • Like trees, although still drawing our physical nutrients from the earth, we are to be continually seeking the light of the Son as our real source of life;
  • Like trees, for us to remain strong and fruitful, we need to be planted by the streams of God, regularly drawing life-giving water from His Word;
  • Like trees, as we grow, we will have to weather many storms which, if we keep looking heavenward, will only make us stronger;
  • Like trees, as and when we mature, we are to become fruit-bearing, reproducing ourselves both physically and spiritually; and,
  • Like trees, in our maturity, we are to be safe spiritual havens or sources of refuge for others, all while acting as agents of purification for the atmosphere surrounding us.

Just think about it, by placing trees on the earth, whenever and wherever one was growing, God was actually providing people with a living illustration, a silent witness or reminder, of what and who He expected them to be.  Each tree was to be a reminder, too, that He was there, not only as the God who had made the trees for their benefit but, as the God who from the beginning had separated, divided, and judged the trees on the basis of their fruit, He would also be there one day to separate, divide, and pass judgment upon them on the basis of the fruit produced by their lives.

Fruit Orchard

Trees Are Supposed to Be Fruitful

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When we see a tree, maybe we should do as Jason Gray does, and ask God to use it to “Remind Me Who I Am”…

 

Treasures of Truth…

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During the course of our previous two visits, we learned two important things:  that God, for some reason, has chosen to use trees to tell His story of redemption; and, that God, for some reason, has chosen to use me, a very reluctant prophet, to give you an explanation for that choice.  But that presents something of a challenge, doesn’t it; I mean, how is it possible for any of us to know the mind of God concerning issues of this or any other kind?  After all, God is Big and we are small, God is Spirit and we are flesh, God is Infinite and we are finite, and God is Holy and we are not.  How, then, can we—the small, fleshly, finite, and sinful ever begin to understand Him—the Big, the Spiritual, the Infinite, and the Holy?

Amazingly, God has made that possible for us through:

  • The gift of His Spirit…

    The Spirit of Truth who comes to live within us when we are born again; and,

    The Spirit of Truth who, according to Jesus in John 16:13, 14, will guide you into all truth…for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

  • The provision of His Word…

    …which was in the beginning with God, and was God (John 1:1);

    …which was breathed out by God, and…”profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16);”

    …whose unfolding gives light and imparts understanding to the simple (Ps. 119:130); and,

    …the sum of which is Truth (Ps. 119:160).

  • The wisdom that has been made available to us through prayer, for…

    If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5);” and,

    Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord [for, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7)] and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity… (Prov. 2:3-7).

Therefore, when the time comes for us to try and plumb the depths of God’s reasoning about anything, the first thing we must do is pray for wisdom and expect the Holy Spirit to be ready, willing, and able to guide us into the truth that we are seeking.  Next, we need to get out our picks and shovels, or the tools which will help us as we begin digging for the treasures of truth that are hidden in God’s Word.  Two such tools are:  an understanding of the way that God reveals Himself to us; and, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual things.

Of course, the most obvious way that God reveals Himself to us is through the things that He says—after all, His Word isn’t called His Word for no reason.  However, an equally revealing way, and one that is often overlooked, is through the things that He does—that is, in the way that He acts in a given situation, as well as in the way that He relates to the people involved in those situations.

For instance, from the very beginning of the Bible, we are introduced to a God who purposefully separates things, repeatedly making divisions or distinctions between them, before passing judgments upon them.  We see this taking place throughout the creation story, where, in Genesis 1:1, we learn that God’s intentions were to create two separate and distinct realms of existence, the heavens and the earth; while in the verses that follow, we learn how He went about doing that.  The process was simple:  He spoke, His Word was activated by the hovering Holy Spirit, then that which was spoken became reality; the results, on the other hand, were beyond impressive:

  • God spoke light into darkness, separated the light from the darkness, and then He gave them distinctive names;
  • God commanded the waters to be divided by an expanse or an atmosphere, with this resulting in the creation of the heavens;
  • God commanded the waters under the heavens to be collected and set apart so that dry land could emerge, thus creating the earth;
  • God called vegetation to come forth from the newly created earth, separating it into distinct kinds;
  • God then went on to separate day from night, season from season, fish from fowl, and one kind of living creature from another;
  • Then, God created man, separate and distinct from all the other living creatures, and gave him dominion over all of His other works;
  • Finally, God separated the woman from the man in order to provide him with the companion and helper that he would need in life; and,
  • All of this God judged to be good and very good.

This revelation of a God who divides, separates, and then judges, is an extremely important one for us to remember; for it will be a recurring theme throughout scripture, one eventually leading us to the final division and judgment of humanity at the Great White Throne spoken of in Revelation 20:11ff, but it will also prove to be essential to our eventual understanding of the part that trees play in God’s story of redemption.

Now, as for discovering how to use the second tool in our treasure hunting arsenal—that is, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual truths–let’s look at Romans 1:19-20 to see what insights the Apostle Paul can give us on that subject.  There, he says…

For what can be known about God is plain to them [men], because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they [men] are without excuse.  

To me, this is one of the most profound and enlightening verses in scripture because in just fifty-two words, we learn:

  • That God has manifested or made known to us such otherwise inexplicable concepts as His eternal power and divine nature (some translations say “His eternal power and godhead”) through the things that He has made; and,
  • That, in order to do so, God intentionally incorporated things into the natural world that could later be used as living illustrations or object lessons for some spiritual truth or reality.

This is just another way of informing us that God’s method of teaching has always been to take the known and use it to explain the unknown; or, in other words, to use the things that we can see and are familiar with to explain those things that are beyond the reach of our normal comprehension.

As you may recall, this was the same method that Jesus used when teaching His disciples the spiritual truths that they needed to know.  When Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the spiritual realities of who He was, He used such common ordinary things as bread, water, light, darkness, birth and death to make those things known to them.  And when He wanted to teach them what the kingdom of heaven was like, He used parables, or stories about events in everyday life—such as sowing, reaping, marriage, feasts and celebrations—to explain what life would be like in the coming kingdom of God.  Teaching in this way certainly wasn’t new, nor did it originate during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry; in reality, Jesus was just doing what He had seen His Father do since the dawn of time—use the known to explain the unknown.

Now that we have been equipped with a rudimentary knowledge of the tools of that we will be using for the job, it is time for us to begin digging for the treasures of truth that God has hidden for us in the trees–a task which we will undertake when we meet together the next time.

 

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Searching for truth isn’t always easy, as Sanctus Real reminds us in “These Things Take Time…”

 

A Detour Around the Trees

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Although I had planned on using our time together today to try and answer some of the questions that were raised at the end our last visit—questions as to why God would choose to use trees to tell His story of redemption—it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.  The reason is, every time I have tried to organize my thoughts on the subject, it was as if somebody put my brain on “automatic scramble;” and, after being hit with the equivalent of a mental brickbat, not just once but many times, I decided that it would be to my advantage to go with whatever alternative the Lord decided to give me.  This seems to be that alternative—a reflection that I am calling “A Detour Around the Trees”—for all of the obvious reasons.

This detour originally began as a status update for my Facebook page, however, it never made it that far.  For whatever reason, while I was working on this, I didn’t experience the “brain scramble” that I did with the other work. As a result, this update just kept on growing until eventually it looked more like a reflection rather than an update–so that is what I decided to make it.

It was always my intention, once this blog was up and running, to use one of our visits to explain why I had chosen “His Truth, My Voice:  The Reflections of a Reluctant Prophet” as the name for my blog.  But, even though we have been meeting together, on average, once a week for the past five months, it is something that remained unattended to.  I thought that since some of you may have been curious about my choice of names, this would be a good time to offer an explanation for it—plus, it will give my brain something of a break, too.  So, let’s get started by first explaining the “reluctant prophet” part of the name.

This originated many years ago, when I was trying to get a new singles’ Sunday school class started at my church; a class specifically designed for more in-depth Bible study than what was currently being offered.  When I proposed the class to the powers-that-were, though, I was told by the minister of education that I would not be allowed to teach the class because I was a woman who would be teaching adult men.   He explained to me that there were only two other women in the church at the time who were teaching adult men, but it was okay for them because they were married and their husbands were “visible presences” in the church.   When I replied that, as a single woman, I considered Christ to be my husband until He gave me one in the flesh, and that I certainly hoped He was a visible presence in the church, the minister didn’t know quite how to respond—other than to say that he still didn’t want me to teach.

What, me a prophet?

I Don’t Think So…

Interestingly enough, about this same time, I was asked to be the guest teacher in a men’s Sunday school class at another church about a hundred miles away. Obviously, this church didn’t have the same concerns about me teaching men that my home church did.  Naturally, none of this made any sense to me, so while I was out walking one day, asking the Lord what I should do about both situations, He spoke to me, saying, “You need to resolve this issue because I am going to make you a prophet…”

Since that was the last thing I expected to hear, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first thing out of my mouth was, “But I don’t want to be a prophet, I want everyone to like me.  Besides, I have read ‘The Book’ and I know what the ‘people of God’ have done to the prophets of God in the past–plus, I am really not up for being drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, beheaded, or boiled in hot oil.  So, what is ‘Plan B’?”  Although I waited and waited for Him to respond, no answer came.

More time went by and when no “Plan B” was forthcoming, I decided to go back to God in an effort to try and negotiate a better deal for myself.  “Okay, I get it—there is no ‘Plan B’.  But, if You are really determined to go ahead with this ‘Plan A’ thing, at least let’s define our terms; that way I will know exactly what You will be expecting of me as your ‘prophet.’  According to my definition of the term, however, I just don’t see how I could possibly be qualified to be one.  I don’t foretell the future, I don’t give personal words to people, and there isn’t a preacher that I know of who would move over and let me preach the Word from his pulpit.  So, what do You mean when you use the term ‘prophet’?”

After a short pause, all I heard Him say was, “Think about it.” (Mind you, He has told me that on more than one occasion and I really don’t like to hear it because, as far as I am concerned,  it requires just a little too much effort and thought on my part, if you know what I mean.)

Hmmm…think about it, huh?  Well, the thought that came to my mind right away was of the three offices that were mentioned in the Old Testament:  those of prophet, priest, and king.  And, as I began to think about them, I realized immediately that I could eliminate any consideration of the duties of king because gender alone would exclude me from that office.  As for the office of priest, I was aware that it was to be filled by someone who would represent the people before God; someone who would bring sacrifices, prayers, and petitions before Him on their behalf.  Of course, being a Christian meant that I was already a member of the priesthood of believers, so I couldn’t see how I would have to concern myself with that office either.

Thinking Cap

This is too much like work!

With this process of elimination speeding things along, all that was left for me to consider was the office of the prophet.  I knew that this office was going to be different from the others because both of those were intended to be hereditary ones.  The office of prophet, however, was to be occupied on an as-needed basis by the person chosen by God to be His representative before the people; as such, he would be charged with the task of delivering God’s Words to the people,  so that they could come to understand His thoughts, positions, or attitudes concerning any given subject or situation.

As I thought about all of this, suddenly the bells went off—ding, ding, ding—and the light bulb came on—blinkie, blinkie, and I said, “OK, Lord, I’ve got it.  As Your prophet, what You want me to do is to take Your Word to people, and use it to explain to them who You are, and what You want from and for them.  I can do that—in fact, I have been doing that for years!  No problem.”

Thankfully, I did not have to work so hard or think quite so much when it came to the reason for the “His Truth, My Voice” part.  That’s because those words came to me directly from the Lord, in two messages given on two separate occasions.  In a word given to me by the Lord on June 26, 2008, He said,

“Use the voice that I have given you…age is not an issue, appearance is not an issue…the truth is the issue—make that your focus.  Remember, My Truth is your voice.”

And later, in a word given to me on July 28, 2009, He said,

“Remember:  My Word is My Truth, and My Truth is Your Voice.”

His instructions couldn’t have been any clearer so, for once, He didn’t get any back-talk from me—something which certainly must have come as a welcome change!

 

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Selah, with “Press On.”

 

Redemption, a Story Told by Trees

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Trees, Trees, and More Trees

I don’t know why but I have always had a special fondness for trees; and, since most of my life has been spent living in Virginia, there has seldom been a time when I did not have a beautiful one to behold. That being said, try to imagine the shock that I experienced shortly after my husband and I were married, when we moved to West Texas, a place where trees are a rare and very precious commodity.  At first, the fact that we would actually be moving to a place where trees would be so scarce didn’t really sink in; but, as we were driving across country to our new home, and once I saw the trees start to disappear from the landscape after we left Oklahoma City, the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was at that point, as I suddenly found myself surrounded by the all of yellows and browns of the great southwest, that all I could think of to say was, “Where did the green go—and what in the world have I gotten myself into?”

I certainly don’t mean to disparage West Texas, for the area has many special beauties all of its own:  the gorgeous sunsets, miles and miles of big skies, and the chiseled-out beauty of the nearby canyon are but a few—it’s just that my beloved trees were not among them.  As much as I missed my trees, though, I learned very quickly that it was not wise to lament their loss out loud, for I had noticed that whenever any “newcomers” started making comments about the treeless horizon, the locals, as lovely as they were in all other respects, would very quickly and enthusiastically suggest that they go back to wherever it was they came from.  (Oh, by the way—although I had never cared to watch golf tournaments on television before going to Texas, once there, I found myself tuning into to the tournaments every weekend just so I could see the trees and the long stretches of lovely green grass!)

After living in Texas for almost three years, we very happily made our way back to Virginia, where we bought a home in an area filled with some of the most majestic trees that I had ever seen.  They were huge, with canopies so dense that it seemed as if we were chicks being sheltered under the wings of a big green mother hen.  I loved walking around that neighborhood, particularly around twilight, just so I could gaze upward and marvel at the silhouettes created by the treetops as they were set in relief against the dusky sky.  Often, as I walked, I would mentally try to measure the height of the trees in an effort to determine their ages, and as I did, I would silently wonder what tales those trees would tell, if only they could talk.  I was sure that they had seen it all:  all of the comings and goings as one generation passed into another, along with all of the births, deaths, joys, and hardships that life would surely sandwich in between.

Of course, common sense would have us believe that trees don’t really talk, at least not in a language that any of us have been able to understand so far.  But the Bible would have us believe differently, for in the story of human history that it recounts for us, not only do trees speak, but the message that they have to relate to us is of such importance that it has literally meant the difference between life and death for every human being who has ever lived.  And just what is the message that the trees have to tell us?  It is the destiny-altering, everlasting story of love known as Redemption:  a story which began with a choice between two trees, a story whose pivotal point was reached when God’s Son died on a man-made tree, and a story whose ending takes us to a tree of new beginnings, in a brand new dimension of life that we will one day know as eternity.

At this point, and as much as I love them, all I can say in response to all of this is:  trees, trees, and more trees—why trees?  When He could have chosen anything in this wide world to use for the accomplishment of His purposes, why would the all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful God of creation choose to use the humble tree to tell His wonderful story of redemption? Or, to be more specific:

  • Why would He choose to use trees to test the measure of a man’s righteousness?
  • Why would He make the choice of one tree over another to mean the difference between life and death, not only for the one doing the choosing, but also for all the ones who would come after him?
  • Once the choice had been made, why would He make the way to the Tree of Life inaccessible to the very ones who needed the new life that it offered?
  • Why would He allow an ugly, cruel tree fashioned by men be the instrument of torture and means of death for His one and only Beloved Son?
  • Why and how would He make what was a tree of death for One into a Tree of Life for many?

As you can see, we now have lots of questions about the trees, trees, and more trees of redemption—but so far, not any answers.  Therefore, in a quest for those answers, let’s put on our thinking caps, take some time to ponder the questions and search out the answers in the Word, and then let’s meet back here to share what we have learned when the time rolls around for our next visit.  Until then, be sure to seek out a good tree and tell it “thanks!”

 

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Big Daddy Weave tells us what being “Redeemed” means to him…

 

Loose Threads Require Redemption…

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If I had to choose my favorite book in the New Testament, it would be tough to have to choose between the books of Romans and Ephesians but, in the end, I think I would have to go with Ephesians.  That’s because, in its six short chapters, Paul lays out for us God’s grand plan for all humanity and, in case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am all about understanding His “grand plan.” In fact, I am so eager and determined to learn as much as I can about it that I have become very much like the little kid who tags along after her father, nagging him for answers to questions that would drive most dads to distraction; questions which, in the case of my heavenly Father, would sound something like this:  “Papa, Papa, why did you make the world?  Papa, Papa, why did you make people?  Papa, Papa, why are some people mean while others are nice?  Papa, Papa, why do people have to die? and most importantly, Papa, Papa, why did Jesus have to die?”  Although I am getting up there in years now, I am pleased to be able to say that my faith is still of the childlike variety, meaning that when I ask questions, I need answers that are simple, straightforward, and understandable—and that’s just what I get in the book of Ephesians.

Although it is filled with some of Paul’s best run-on and seemingly complicated sentences, when you get right down to it, Ephesians isn’t all that difficult to understand:  in its first three chapters, we are told what God has done in the heavenly realms to make us His children, and then, in the last three chapters, we are told how we, as God’s children, are supposed to behave.  Pretty simple and straightforward, huh?  My favorite passage is Ephesians 1:3-14 and, although it’s a passage that we have looked at before, it is such an important one that I think we need to go over it again a little more thoroughly. For, if I was asking my Heavenly Papa about the who, what, where, how, when, and why of life, I have every confidence that He would direct me to this passage and say, “I’m glad you asked child, it’s all right here…”

Ephesians 1:3-14
The creation of a race of beings who would be predestined—that is, designed in advance to be so much like God, that they could be adopted as His children;I think that you will agree that by breaking down the passage in this way, it makes it much easier for us to pick out the main points in God’s plan for mankind; a plan which was already in place even before God spoke the first “Let there be…” of creation, and one which called for:

  • Children who would ultimately be able to stand before Him holy, or morally pure, and blameless, or free from the guilt of trespasses and sins;
  • Children to whom He could reveal His will and plan for the ages; and,
  • Children who, because of their right standing with the Father, would be entitled to inherit all of His riches; an inheritance which would be guaranteed to them by the Holy Spirit of God himself, once they had come to faith in Christ.

Sadly, in our visits together recently, and as a result of our journeys back to the Garden of Eden, we have seen how Adam and Eve’s one decision to disobey God not only left us with a mess of loose threads to deal with, but it also resulted in the apparent negation of each of these aspects of God’s plan.  For, as a result of his sin, and…

  • In spite of being pre-designed for the glorious destiny of becoming a son of God, man was reduced to a state of slavery to Satan and to the selfish desires of his flesh;
  • Instead of being able to stand before God in a holy and blameless state, man found that he could only stand before Him as a guilty sinner, and as someone who was condemned to death;
  • Instead of being capable of understanding God’s will and plan for the ages, man’s mind became debased while his understanding became darkened by sin; and,
  • Instead of standing to inherit eternal life and the boundless riches of God, man found that the only thing that he could expect to inherit was hell and its torment, the result of his eternal separation from God.

From all appearances, then, it would seem that, as a result of man’s sin, God’s grand plan had been completely run aground.  But wait-things aren’t always what they appear to be! You see, there is still one aspect of God’s “grand plan” that we haven’t discussed yet, and that is the integral part that God intended for Redemption to play!  Yes, redemption–it’s one of the most beautiful words in the all of the world, and that’s because it means:

  • To buy or get back; recover—implying that something has been lost or stolen;
  • To pay off, as a debt—implying that someone owes someone else something that they don’t have the resources to pay off;
  • To ransom, that is, to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price—implying that someone is in bondage but has no way to obtain freedom;
  • To deliver from sin—implying that someone is living an impure or immoral life but has no power to stop or change;
  • To fulfill a promise—implying that someone has given his word to deliver the relief that is needed;
  • To make amends or atone for—implying that someone has broken laws and committed injustices for which he is unable to make restitution; and,
  • To restore oneself to favor—implying that someone has lost his reputation and his relationship with someone who is important in his life.

And, what makes it even more beautiful is that this is exactly what Jesus did for us when He died on the Cross in our places; for, it was through His death that:

  • Jesus recovered all that man had lost in the fall;
  • Jesus paid off the sin debt that each of us had accumulated and couldn’t pay ourselves;
  • Jesus paid the price required to ransom us from our slavery to Satan, sin, and death;
  • Jesus freed us from the penalty of sin, restored our souls to their rightful positions, and gave us His Spirit to enable us to live in victory over sin;
  • Jesus kept the promise God made to Eve to provide a Savior who would crush the head of the Serpent;
  • Jesus’ blood made amends and atoned for all of the laws we had broken and the injustices we had done; and,
  • Jesus restored us to favor with the Father.

Redemption is truly amazing, isn’t it?  When you think about it, though, the most amazing part is not that a loving God would create man and then offer him so many wonderful blessings in return for obedience borne out of faith.  The most amazing part of redemption is that even after man had spurned God’s generous offer of Sonship, and had turned from God to go his own way, God still made a way to take the one who had rejected Him, pay for his pardon with the blood of His only Son, then make that man His son, and give him everything that He had promised in the beginning! That is something that only the God whom I know as my heavenly Father, could and would do.  And in response to that, all I can say is, “Papa, Papa, Thank You so much!Redemption

 

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The Talley Trio reminds us of all that redemption has done for us in…”His Life for Mine”

 

…And More Loose Threads

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Sewing NotionsLoose threads…we all have them in our lives, you know.  Some of them may be hopes, dreams, or aspirations that have never been fulfilled or, as in the case of my mother, they may have been the result of decisions that were made that didn’t turn out quite the way we had intended.  But, just because they show up in our lives, that doesn’t mean that they are always bad things.  As we saw last time, the loose threads in my mother’s life were the results of a decision that she had made and even though that decision didn’t bring the results that she had hoped for, in the end, the loose threads that it created were tied up in a way far better than either of us could have ever imagined.

You may not have realized it but even you and I have developed a few loose threads in our relationship in just the short time that we have been visiting together.  If you will recall, way back, when we were reflecting on “The Way We Are Isn’t the Way We Were,” we found ourselves confronted by a dilemma that has been plaguing mankind since the Garden of Eden—which is, why is it that when we want to do what it is right, we so often find ourselves doing that which is wrong?  As a way to try and find the reason for that dilemma, we took a little trip back to the Garden, back to the place where the human story started, and back to the place where everything started to fall apart.

Since then, we have examined the story of Adam and Eve from a number of different angles, but no matter how we have looked at it, their decision to disobey God in no way delivered the results that they had been hoping for; instead, what they ended up with was a bunch of loose threads that were passed down to their children’s children and beyond; threads which changed forever the way that we would relate to God, to each other, and to the world in which we lived.  So, in order for us to tie up the loose threads that were created for us by our journey back to Eden, we need to go back and take a look at the threads that Adam and Eve left dangling for us—threads which were ultimately tied up so beautifully and completely in and by Christ.

Do you remember what we said were God’s purposes for the people that He created?  In “…But Why Couldn’t We Stay the Way We Were?” we learned that His plan was for them to become His children, and for them to rule and reign over the earth in righteousness.  As the righteous sons of God, they would live in harmony with Him, in harmony with each other, and in harmony with the world that He had created.  Wow, what a plan that was!  Unfortunately, when Adam was tested to prove that he was righteous, he failed by breaking the first law of Sonship, which was obedience to the Father.   We saw this failure acted out for us in, “And Now, the Drama Begins…”, in a scene which revealed how Satan’s cunning assault on the bodies, souls, and spirits of the first humans led not only to their fall from grace, but also to the overturning of the authority and communication structures that had been put in place by God.

Spirit to Flesh Communication Interrupted

Figure 2

Spirit to Flesh Communication

Figure 1

Remember the little diagram (see Figure 1) we used to illustrate God’s system for communicating with man: Spirit to spirit, spirit to soul, and soul to body?  Well, after the fall, and the death or separation of man’s spirit from God’s spirit, that system looked something like this (see Figure 2).  As you can see, once sin entered the picture, the thread that had connected man’s spirit to God’s Spirit was severed, effectively eliminating any communication between him and God.  And, once that thread had been cut, the thread that had previously linked man’s spirit to his soul also became disconnected.  From that point on, when questions arose about how a person should live his life, his soul and body were left on their own to come up with the answers.  And when that happened, the flesh—that is, both body and soul—took over and tried to do a job that could only be done by the spirit.

What a mess this created!  Without instruction coming from his spirit, instead of man’s soul telling his body what to do, his body started telling his soul what to do.  Of course, the body being what it is, this lead to all sorts of physical sins; sins such as sexual immorality, gluttony, physical abuse, and even murder.  And without any Godly direction or power to keep it in check, the soul also ran amok; becoming the breeding ground for such sins as pride, envy, greed, malice, and gossip.  In Ephesians 2:1-3, the Apostle Paul describes the situation that these loose threads created for each of us, when he wrote…

And you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.

You would think that a few loose threads like these would be enough for anyone’s descendants to have to deal with, wouldn’t you?  But sadly, that is not the case here; at least three other ones were created for us as a direct result of Adam and Eve’s one fateful decision to disobey God.  If you will recall, in EXTRA!  EXTRA!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!”—the newspaper article which reported the judgments handed down by God against the serpent and the couple, we learned exactly what they were:

  • In His judgment against the serpent, God declared that there would be constant spiritual conflict between the serpent and the offspring of the woman—creating the thread of spiritual disharmony and warfare;
  • In His judgment upon the woman, not only would her pain in bringing forth children be multiplied, but because she had usurped the leadership role of her husband, she would always be trying to take control away from him while he would always be seeking to dominate and subjugate her—creating the thread of relational disharmony, and more particularly, warfare between the sexes; and,
  • In His judgment upon the man, because he had abdicated his role as leader and provider, that which had previously been easy for him to obtain would now become a toilsome and difficult task, putting him at odds with the natural world that had previously been his source of abundant provision—creating the thread of disharmony between man and nature, and ultimately leading to the exploitation of the earth because of man’s greed.

Did I say before, “What a mess?”  Given the pile of knots created by all of these loose threads dangling down through the generations, it is a wonder that we ever get anything right at all!  Maybe now we can better appreciate some of the agony expressed by Paul in that passage in Romans 7:24-25 that we quoted back in “The Way We Are Isn’t the Way We Were,”  as he cried out, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ”  Yes, thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ our Lord–the One unbroken thread, the crimson cord running throughout all of human history–for He has tied up all our loose threads and woven them perfectly and completely into the glorious tapestry that He calls “Redemption!”

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2    Selah reminds us that there is nothing that will remain…”Unredeemed”

 

Loose Threads…

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Sewing Machine and ThreadsWhen I was very young, my mother took a job as a school bus driver so that she could buy two things:  a Royal typewriter and a Singer sewing machine.  Not long after she bought the typewriter, she enrolled in, and later completed, the typing and shorthand classes which were being offered by one of the local high school’s adult education programs.  Although I am sure she did exemplary work in those classes (my mother always brought home “A’s”), I don’t think she ever got to use her newly acquired skills in any vocational way.  That’s because my mother’s real gifts were in cooking and managing, and it was the combination of these gifts that made it possible for her to quit driving the bus and move on to managing the cafeteria at a newly opened school in our area.

Of course, she excelled at this job and, after serving successfully in this capacity at a number of different schools, she was eventually promoted to the position of Food Service Supervisor; a position which required her to oversee the management of nineteen of the school cafeterias in our city–and a position which she held until her retirement. Interestingly enough, although I can’t remember my mother ever using that Royal typewriter again, it was on that very machine that I later learned to type, using my mother’s old night school books to teach myself when I was just nine or ten years old.

Singer Sewing Machine

A Sewing Machine Like My Mother’s

As for the Singer sewing machine, when my mother first got it, I know she used it a lot because I remember always being under her feet while she was sewing.  Probably as a way of getting me out from under her feet, she started giving me little things to do on my own–actually beginning the process of teaching me to sew, even though I was only about two at the time.

My mother’s interest in sewing started to wane, though, once she took on the full-time position as cafeteria manager, probably because she no longer had the time to sew.  I, on the other hand, was just getting started.  In fact, I took to sewing like the proverbial duck takes to water.  I was making clothes for my dolls and myself before I was eight and, by the time I had reached my teens, I was doing production type sewing–sewing flat-felled seams around all of the other students in my home economics class.

Much later, when I was grown and my first marriage ended in divorce–and I became the single mother of two little boys–I was able to use the sewing skills I had acquired to provide an income for my children and me.  Later still, when I went back to school to study architecture, along with the courses for my major, I took some courses in costume design and history and, once again, it was my sewing skills that opened a new door for me–this time building costumes for the theatre.  Then, the contacts I had made while working in the university’s theatre led me to a job building costumes for a large opera company in the southwest.  Upon my return home, one of the people I had worked with at the opera recommended me to the designer at our local theatre and she hired me to stitch costumes for that company.

Around this same time, a friend showed up at my door, saying she had a “word from God” for me–she told me that I should go to the large television ministry in our area and apply for a job.  I couldn’t imagine what I would do there,  but then, she told me that they had a wardrobe department and they needed a new tailor!  So, I applied, was hired, and that is where I have worked, off and on, for the past twenty-seven years.  Although I was hired initially as a tailor, I ended up doing just about everything associated with wardrobe, from design to maintenance, and was quite content in doing so—that is, until about eleven years ago.

As I mentioned in my reflection, My Journey to the Land of Blog, this was about the time my supervisor asked me to take over the scheduling for our department.  At first, I was very reluctant to take the job on because it meant using a computer and at the time, I didn’t even know how to turn one on and off.  But, guess what?  I took the job and it wasn’t long before I had learned my way around that once terrifying piece of machinery.  Why?  I think, for more than any other reason, it was because of the typing skills I had developed while working on my mother’s old Royal typewriter, when I was only nine or ten years old!

An Old Royal Typewriter

An Important Machine in My Life

Amazing, isn’t it, how one seemingly insignificant decision can make such a big difference in not just one, but in so many lives?  I am sure that when my mother decided to go to work to buy that typewriter and sewing machine, she had no idea of the long range implications of her decision.  No doubt, she thought she would use the typing and shorthand training to get a job in an office somewhere, and was probably planning on using the sewing machine to make her clothes for that job.  She had no idea at the time that, in taking the bus driving job to buy the items, she would learn about the job at the school, a job which would make better use of her gifts.  It was also one that would allow her to work while her children were in school and yet be at home when they were off for the summer, and one where she would ultimately be able to bless a lot more people.  And, as a job where she would only be wearing uniforms, there wouldn’t be any need for sewing!

At my mother’s funeral, I had the opportunity to meet one of the many people she made a difference to in her job when a gentleman, who had been the principal at one of the schools where my mother worked, waited in line to introduce himself to me.   This school had been a model one for our city and he told how, when they were preparing to open it, he had been asked who he wanted to manage his cafeteria.  He said that he had no idea, just to send him “the best”–and, he said, that is what he got when they sent him my mother!

In retrospect, the typewriter and sewing machine were probably just a couple of “loose threads” in my mother’s life—projects or goals that were started but never completed.  Surely, when she bought them, she thought she was buying them for herself; all the while not having a clue that, in God’s master plan, she was really buying them for me–and, that in doing so, she was ultimately setting the course my life would take.  She had no way of knowing then that the sewing machine would be the means by which I would make a living, or that the typewriter would eventually make it possible for me to learn to use the computer–and possible for me to be on-line, sharing with others the things that I have learned about God.  What may have been a few loose threads in her life have, in my life, proven to be the very things that God has chosen to use over and over again, in the weaving of the tapestry which has become my life.

To be sure, those loose threads are just further evidence that…

  • “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and… the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29 NKJV);
  • He works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28); and,
  • “He has made everything beautiful in its time (Eccles. 3:11 NKJV).”

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable [are] His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33 NKJV)

 

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Francesca Battistelli singing, “Beautiful, Beautiful”…