Of Trees and Tapestries

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Tapestry

A Beautiful Example of a Tapestry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spiritthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end.  From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet all producing the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified!  What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption story; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.

Weaving on a Loom

At Work on a Loom

Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as ancient Greece.  Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns.  Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.”  The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.

With this imagery in mind, let’s try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption.  To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history.  Having already discussed these at great length during several of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden.  The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.

Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it.  This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.

Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom.  These are the warp, and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame.  White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men have been and will be measured.   It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else…

…the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;  the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
…the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).

Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?

With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway.  What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord which runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design.  This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.

Of course, this cord is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold.  And how was He able to do this?  By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include…

…the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
…the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
…the fruit of many answered prayers;
…the fruit of souls won for the Lord; and,
…the fruit produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God.  Given that joy, let me ask you this question…when, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there?  Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified?  If not, can there possibly be a good reason why?

 

God's Trees of Righteousness

God’s Many Trees of Righteousness

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”

 

Of Trees and Tapestries

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Tapestry

A Beautiful Example of a Tapestry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spiritthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end.  From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet all producing the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified!  What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption story; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.

Weaving on a Loom

At Work on a Loom

Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as ancient Greece.  Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns.  Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.”  The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.

With this imagery in mind, let’s try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption.  To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history.  Having already discussed these at great length during several of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden.  The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.

Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it.  This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.

Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom.  These are the warp, and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame.  White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men have been and will be measured.   It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else…

…the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;  the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
…the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).

Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?

With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway.  What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord which runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design.  This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.

Of course, this cord is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold.  And how was He able to do this?  By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include…

…the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
…the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
…the fruit of many answered prayers;
…the fruit of souls won for the Lord; and,
…the fruit produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God.  Given that joy, let me ask you this question…when, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there?  Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified?  If not, can there possibly be a good reason why?

 

God's Trees of Righteousness

God’s Many Trees of Righteousness

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”

 

 

 

Welcome to the Overcomer’s Club!

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Overcomer

Our destiny is to be an Overcomer–just like Christ!

Hi, and welcome back!  After our last visit, and our previous discussion about some of the more depressing aspects of the Christian life, I wasn’t altogether sure that you would be back.  But, I am glad that you weren’t scared off because today, I want to talk to you about one of the most positive and exciting realities of our Christian experience.  In fact, what I have to share today is so good that we may have to once again resort to the use of sound effects!

Jesus2

Jesus Overcame All for Us!

Before we get to all of that, however, let’s take a moment to review what we talked about last time—which is, Jesus and all of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that He suffered on the way to the Cross.  Although experiences such as these do not make for the most pleasant or popular of topics, we need to recognize them for what they are—as some of the most vital components of a truly successful Christian life.  For it is through experiences such as these that God has chosen to work out His plan for our lives; a plan which is nothing less than the slow but steady refashioning of us into the image of Christ.  As to just what that image is, I believe that if we were to consider for one moment how Christ triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission, a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—then we would have to agree that the image He modeled for us most consistently was that of an overcomer.

I am an overcomer

Like Jesus, We are to be Overcomers

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you became a Christian, you also became an overcomer, just like Jesus.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Christ, you had to overcome three really big obstacles; or, the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”  What that means is that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature , plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

As I was thinking about this initial process of overcoming, an illustration of it came to my mind from the strangest place.   My mind flashed back to one of the old Three Stooges’ routines that my brother used to love to watch when we were growing up; and the one that came to mind was probably their most popular one, the “Niagara Falls” skit.  You may not be old enough to have seen it but every time Moe hears Curly say, “Niagara Falls,” he replies in a long, drawn-out fashion, “S-l-o-w-l-y I turn, step-by-step, inch-by- inch…,” and then, Pow!  he beats Curly to a pulp.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that this is exactly what happens to us on our own treks to the Cross and toward our new identities as overcomers.  S-l-o-w-l-y, we turn…away from the world, step-by-step…we begin to realize how futile it is for us to try to control our sinful natures on our own, and inch-by-inch…we crawl over and around (and maybe even under!) the obstacles placed in our paths by the devil.  Finally, when we get to Jesus and give our hearts to Him, POW POW!  He beats the devil to a pulp—again—and then ushers us into the most unique club of all—The Overcomer’s Club! 

Overcome evil with good...

The Overcomer’s Club Motto

The reason I know that this is the most unique club going is because only those who have been bought with the precious blood of the Son of God can get in; and only those who have passed from death to life and from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light are qualified for membership.  It is also unique in the fact that, as part of the initiation process into the club, each and every member becomes the new dwelling place for, and also becomes empowered by, the Holy Spirit of God Himself; a dynamic reality which makes it possible for them to fulfill their new responsibilities as members and to carry out the mission of the organization.  Their responsibilities?  To overcome the flesh by the Spirit, to overcome evil with good, and to overcome the deception and darkness in the world with the light of the truth.  And the mission?  To bring to Jesus as many new members as possible.

Wow!  What a great club to be a part of!  That being said, though… how’s the overcoming and recruiting going over by you?

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

Like Jesus, we are overcomers, as Mandisa reminds us here…

 

Life is Simple…

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During the course of our first three visits together, you have met and learned a little about me, you have been introduced, very briefly, to the greatest mentor that anyone could have—my mother, and you have learned how I, the least likely of all people, have found my way onto the web.  Now, with all of these social amenities out of the way, I think it’s time for us to get down to the really important stuff, which is the reason that I am here on the web in the first place.  To put it plainly, I am here to talk to you about “THE MEANING OF LIFE”.  (Since I haven’t gotten to the “installation of sound effects” lesson in my Blogular studies yet, but because of the need to emphasize the significance of that phrase, we will have to provide our own effects–so try to imagine that phrase being propelled into the atmosphere by the deepest, most resonant of male voices, and that, as the words are rolling off the tip of his tongue, the last word, “life,” is reverberating out into the cosmos for what seems like eons—like Wowwowwowwowwowwow…!)

Life is really simple...Now, with that echo fading, let me ask you a most important question—have you figured out yet what life is all about?  This question is such a significant one that people throughout the ages have tried just about everything in order to find an answer for it.  In their pursuit of a reason for being, they have studied the stars, scaled the earth’s highest mountains, and often risked life and limb in the exploration of strange and distant lands.  Many have looked for the answer through the accumulation of wealth or political power, while still others searched for it in such hedonistic practices as gluttony, drunkenness, drugs, or sex.  Many thought that they would find it through their devotion to all sorts of religious rituals, or as a result of their charitable works.  And, there have even been some who thought the answer would come to them through the abuse or denial of their bodies, as they lived in caves and deserts, slept on beds of nails, or walked on coals of fire.

It is too bad that they didn’t know that life’s meaning could never be found in such things—that is, in the works of men.  You see, the meaning of life can only be found in the person who is the embodiment of life itself, and that person is Jesus.  In fact, if we review the big picture of life on this planet, we will find that it has been and will always be about Jesus.  Consider that:

  • When God spoke the world into existence—Bam!  The Word that He spoke was Jesus;
  • When man sinned and lost his relationship with God, and God promised that One would come to redeem and restore that relationship—Bam!  The One that He promised was Jesus;
  • Throughout the Old Testament period, when God made a promise, gave a prophecy, made a law or established a rule of worship—Bam!  Each one pointed to Jesus;
  • When God came to earth and lived among men, to teach them what life was all about, and to demonstrate what true love was through the giving of His life for theirs—Bam!  That was none other than Jesus;
  • After Jesus was raised from the dead and went back to Heaven, God sent His Spirit to take His place for the purpose of—Bam!  Bringing men to Jesus, teaching them about Jesus, and making them like Jesus;
  • Even now, as we are told in Romans 8:18 ff, all of creation is groaning in anticipation of the second coming of who else—Bam!  Jesus, for the establishment of His kingdom on earth, where justice and righteousness will at last prevail;
  • Finally, when life as we know it comes to an end, and as we prepare to go into eternity, who will be there to usher us in?—Bam!  It will be Jesus.

Many years ago, my husband surprised me when, one day out of the blue, he told me that I had a very unique gift.  When I asked what it was, he said that I had the ability to take complex things and make them simple.  Although I hadn’t been of aware of doing it before, once he brought it to my attention, I could see that throughout my life, I had made a practice of reducing all of life’s big issues down to their simplest forms so that I could understand them better.  In fact, without even being aware of doing it, I had reduced all of the deep theological doctrines of the Christian faith down to three simple principles, just so I could get a handle on this whole MEANING OF LIFE” thing.  Basically, I had come to the conclusion that:

  • All of the events in our lives fall into one of two categories:  they are designed to either bring us to Christ or to make us like Christ (so once you come to Christ, it’s easy to determine what all the others are for).
  • After we have come to Christ, our sole responsibility is to be obedient; the resources for and the consequences of that obedience are not ours, they belong to God.  So, we don’t have to worry about “how can I?” or “what if?”—that’s God’s job; all we are responsible for is doing the task He has given us to do.
  • Since that is a lot easier said than done, it will prove  helpful for us to remember that, if we choose to live like the devil (the originator of the whole disobedience thing), we are going to look like hell; but if we choose to live like God, we are going to look like Jesus.

That makes life really simple, doesn’t it?  That makes it all about what it has always been about, which is—Bam!  You guessed it, it is all about Jesus!   Now that’s a real…Wowwowwowwowwowwow…!

 

Life is all about Jesus

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

Take a few minutes to reflect along with Mark Schultz upon Jesus as the “I Am.”