"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 15, 2015
At our family property in Lampe, there is a tree, which I believe is an oak, that sits at the edge of the yard. At one time, a mimosa tree sprouted up right beside it. Daddy hated mimosa trees because new starts grow quickly and will take over, if you don't keep them cut back. I'm not sure if it was him or someone else that cut the mimosa out. But it caused some damage to the oak, which was wanted for shade. The tree trunk looks strong, until you look around the trunk and see a hole on one side. Over the years, it has caused the tree to begin to die back. There is still life in the tree because each year there are branches that bear bright green leaves; but there are also dead branches that are barren. One tree contains both life and death.
Psalm 1:1-3 says, "Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."
Spiritually, we can be saved and be a Christian and be living our life for Jesus; yet, have areas in our life that are dead -- or at least in the process of dying. We can be planted by the riverbank and be bearing some fruit, but yet have barren, dry limbs on our tree, so to speak.
Verse three says that when we delight in the law of the Lord, then we will be like trees along the riverbank, that bear fruit each season. Our leaves will never wither, and we will prosper in all we do.
Fruit trees only have one growing season per year. Granted, different varieties of apples or peaches may bloom and produce fruit at various times, but yet each tree only bears fruit once a year. They don't continuously bear fruit in every season.
But it is different for Christians. We don't just have one time per year that we bear fruit, but should do so throughout each and every season. But that is only going to happen when we stay by the river of life and continuously drink from that life-giving water.
Jesus is teaching the disciples (John chapter 15) and says these words: "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more..... Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me. Yes, I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers."
There can be areas of our life that either have never been fully committed to God, or areas where we lack trust. We have repented of our sins, but struggle with completely surrendering certain things to God. That very likely may be different for each of us.
For instance, someone may have something in their past that they're ashamed of, so they have a hard time forgiving themselves and letting go of guilt. For someone else, it may be a lack of trusting God regarding finances. There may be those who feel that they're not good enough, and struggle with feeling inadequate. Others may struggle with gossip and speaking negatively about others. Someone else may struggle with keeping their thoughts pure. These are just a few examples of various strongholds that have a grip on people's lives. There are so many different areas that people struggle with and have a hard time fully surrendering to God.
I will use myself for an example: I often have a struggle with speaking negatively. When I don't get it under control, it begins to affect other areas of my life. I may begin to judge others and how they're handling situations wrongly. Someone may be excited about having a prayer answered and I'll think (sarcastically), "Well, goodie for you! I've been praying for something a lot longer than you have and God still hasn't answered my prayer!" I allow jealousy to enter my thoughts. I may become critical of others. I've been in that same rut, over and over again. When I hear myself speak at times, I get upset with myself for having become so negative and critical. That's when I have to stop and say, "Okay God! I'm doing it again. Please forgive me and help me to overcome this. I don't want to be like this, and I need You!!" I've found that each and every time, God is there waiting and willing to help me. He doesn't say, "Three strikes and you're out! I've given you too many chances to change already." No. His mercies are new every morning! When I sincerely repent and desire to change, He is there to help me. I've found that when I'm at my worst is when I've been neglecting my time with God; neglecting to pray and read His Word. When I make God a priority in my life, then my attitude and thoughts change.
Often one thing, that may seem small and insignificant, will lead to another... to another... to another... until we come to the place where we repent and allow God to prune that area of our life. The pruning process can be hard and it may hurt and may require a lot of trust on our part, but the end results are always worth it.
Trees that have dead branches mixed in with the green are not nearly as attractive as those that are completely alive and flourishing. If you went to a nursery to buy a tree to plant in your yard would you choose the one that looks the healthiest and has the strongest branches on it, or would you pick one that has some dead limbs mixed in?
People are going to be drawn more to the christians who are fully trusting God in every area of their life and are bearing fruit, than to those who have dead limbs in the mix.
Here is my prayer, and may it become yours as well: "Father, create within me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Prune away all the old attitudes and areas of my life that are not bearing fruit. I want to flourish and bear fruit in every season. I want to drink from Your life-giving water. I want to fully trust You in every single area of my life. Help me to let go of those things that are unpleasing to You. Show me what is preventing spiritual growth and all the areas that are withering away. I'm tired of the struggles; I'm tired of being in the same old ruts of not trusting You and trying to do things on my own; I'm tired of allowing my flesh to cause me to sin. Forgive me and help me daily! God, I surrender my thoughts, my actions, and my spirit into Your hands. May every area of my life be pleasing unto You, O Lord! Protect my thoughts, my heart, and my spirit. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen."
The tree Loretta mentioned already had a huge hole at the base, on one side. Before last summer, the rest of it looked pretty good. But last year we had a drought. Most of the bigger trees made it through with no problem. But the damaged one barely survived, and only on one side.
We had a pecan tree in our own yard with some lightening damage. I'd guess the lightening came when it was about 50-60 years old. And that was around 20 years ago. The tree was very strong, and from the outside, it looked like it was recovering. The limbs were still full of green leaves. Except for about 4 feet of gap only a few inches wide, the trunk looked great. And through that gap, we could see that the heartwood had all rotted away. The only thing left of the trunk was a few inches around the outside. So, before it fell and risked damaging power lines, fences, our shed, and (very unlikely) our house, we had it cut down.
We saw a similar tree about a mile from our house, that the owners didn't have cut down. The trunk looked a little stronger than our tree's trunk had. It looked like the tree damaged their fence, and maybe a lot more.
There are several points here. For one, someone can look great, and strong on the outside, but if their heart has rotted, they are doomed to fall. Second, the damage may not be easy to see, until they go through a drought. And third, if it isn't taken care of, it can cause a lot of other damage, and hurt others.
Spring Time Salad
1 head cauliflower
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 bunch broccoli
1/3 cup sugar
1 small onion, sliced and cut into rings (optional)
1 cup Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise
1/4 pound bacon, fried and crumbled
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Separate cauliflower into flowerets; cut flowerets into pieces. Chop broccoli and separate into bite-sized pieces. Combine cauliflower, broccoli, onions, bacon,and cheese. Mix sugar and Miracle Whip together. Add to vegetable mixture; salt and pepper, to taste; stir well. Refrigerate overnight.
My great-nephew, Jax, is very curious about things and asks really tough questions at times. And you can't just use big words to try and explain it to appease him, because he will ask you the meaning of the words he doesn't know, then use them again in the right context.
Recently his mom (my niece), Janee', had the following conversation with Jax:
Jax: So, do clouds move?
Jax: Does the earth move?
Janee': Yes. (Then she explained how the earth rotates to make a day and year.)
Jax: If the earth moves, how do you know the clouds are really moving and it's not just the earth?
Janee' then explained to him what a cloud was made up of.
Jax: So when it rains, it's kinda like the clouds are sweating?
Janee': Yes, rain is cloud sweat.
Jax: EW! You let us play outside in cloud sweat?!"
"Sometimes life is weird.... unexplainable.... hard. BUT I trust!
I trust in a love that is strong and faithful.
I trust the One that sculpts His good from my bad.
I trust......" - byLuke Lang
We love you!
Loretta & Jon