Thursday, August 27, 2015

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Trees of Hope

It is so amazing to me how God will speak to me through His Word and nature.  He made me a visual person so I suppose this is His way of communicating.

Two weeks ago, I noticed a scripture card that I had placed on my bulletin board over my desk.  To be quite honest, I have several scripture cards pinned to the board and this one was not one that I really noticed until one morning in my devotions. 

Last week, I happened to land in the book of Job.  Amazingly, the scripture that I had pinned to the board was in the scripture reading.  It was Job 14:7-9 NLT "Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. 8 Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays,9 at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling." 

In context, this portion of scripture is during a conversation Job is having with his friends who are telling him he's been disobedient and that is why his life is in turmoil.  Job replies in his moment of sorrow sounding a bit hopeless, yet never turns his heart from God.  

This same week, we took a mini trip up to Northern California.  Little did I know that God was going to use trees to speak to me.  We visited the redwoods in the Muir Woods National Monument.  As we followed the trail, giants redwoods stood hundreds of stories high.  These trees have been there for centuries.  The nature of redwoods is that they are very hearty trees.  Not much can destroy them, which is why they have grown so tall and their trunks are pretty thick.  But what I found interesting was that some had fallen and never removed.  It was at this moment I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Are you going to be like the fallen tree or are you going to be the standing tree?"  Although the fallen trees added to the beauty, they had no life to them and actually got in the way of some of the paths. They had been cut in half so visitors could continue to view the beauty of the redwood forest. 

Over the last 18 months, I have pulled back because of circumstances. I felt I had lost my sense of calling and purpose.  Some, to be honest, I know was my frustration with God as it seemed some "pruning" was going on.  I know pruning is good, but it does hurt!  

On our way home from our mini vacation, we took a detour and visited the Sequoia National Park.  This too was another amazing forest of trees that have stood for thousands of years. These trees, like the redwoods are hearty trees as well.

The "cone" of a sequoia stays on a tree for 20 years.  The only way for the cone to reproduce is with fire.  When a fire comes through a forest, it causes the cones to open and release millions of seeds.  These seeds are best fertilized by the compost left from the burned areas of where the fire has been.  These trees have also built up a resistance to fire and can survive a fire.  During our visit, there was a forest fire happening in Kings Canyon, just north of the sequoias.

What makes this illustration come alive to me is not only can the tree survive, the fact that it is fire that allows it to reproduce and grow.  This made me think about life in general.  We often go through fire storms in our lives that we often let burn us out.  Unlike the sequoia that needs the heat to produce something, we let the fire become a negative and kill what God is doing in our lives. Even worse we let it burn up the desires and dreams in our heart. This reminded me of Jeremiah 17:8 NLT "They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

In the verse in Job, it says a dead tree can bud at the scent of water.  Job had no idea when he said this that he was drawing a picture of salvation.  We are dead in our spirit until we "drink from the Living Water" who is Jesus and then our spirit comes alive. Jesus often referred to himself as "living water." And it's only when we stay connected to Jesus can we see our desires and dreams come to life.

As I close, there is one thing these forests have in common.  It's the fact they are forests and not a single tree.  Even in the redwood forest some of the trees had grown together.

 This is a reminder to me that we can't live our lives alone. God created us to need one another for encouragement and strength.

The Body of Christ should be a beautiful forest of green trees that stand together with one another during the storms and fires of life.  We should look more like the picture below in a green garden because we thrive on the Living Water to keep us strong and healthy.  A dry plant won't blow away, burn down or dry up if it has been watered.

If you are walking through a season of hurricane force winds, fire or drought, first ask yourself if you have received from the one and only "Living Water." If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal savior, you can do so right now by just stating that you believe and receive him.  If you are a follower of Jesus and feel like you have been knocked down, then allow the scent of water to begin to breathe new life into you.  If you are in the midst of fire, allow the fire to reproduce the purpose God has for your life and not burn it out.  If you have not taken root, whether it's committing to a church or gathering with fellow Believers, then do so because you weren't meant to stand alone.  

I'll close with this from Romans 5:1-5 NLT"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."