Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What Kind of Tree Are You?

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God” (Palm 92:12, 13).

“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8).

Have you ever taken a quiz to determine what kind of animal, flower, or celebrity you resemble?  These results are based on fun, imagination, and opinion. But Scripture says that believers are like certain trees.  So what is the significance of these trees, and how can we apply these concepts to our lives?

We are cedar trees.  In Biblical times, the cedar tree was used for cleansing and purification.  It was a symbol of glory, growth, and might.  As our trials help to cleanse our hearts and purify our faith, we can help others by sharing our examples and testimonies. We can also continue to grow spiritually through the many Christian resources available today.

We are palm trees. The palm tree was used for shelter and food and was a symbol of righteousness, beauty, and victory. We can provide a place of shelter to others by offering empathy and encouragement.  We can feed the Word of God to a spiritually starving world.  We can have victory over despair and fears by claiming God’s power in us and reflecting the beauty of Jesus through our words and actions.

We are olive trees.  The olive tree was used for cooking, beauty products, and temple service.  It was a symbol of health, flexibility, endurance, and peace.  Although our bodies may not be physically healthy, anointing our minds with God’s Word maintains our spiritual health.  We can serve the Lord with the temples of our bodies through prayer and praise.  And Christ’s strength enables us to endure whatever suffering may come and maintain peace through it.

So no matter how we look or feel, let’s see ourselves as God sees us, branch out in faith, and live as the trees we are!

Prayer: O God, many times my pain and problems distort my view of the purpose and potential You have given me.  When I am feeling weak or useless, I pray that Your Spirit will bring these trees to mind – a beautiful description of what I am as Your child.  Amen.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Being Blessed with Less

“Praise the Lord, O my soul . . . who satisfies your desires with good things” (Psalm 103:1, 5).

I once read the story of the great financial loss the Englishman William Wilberforce faced because of his efforts to abolish slavery.  He missed his books and gardens most of all, but when he walked through someone else’s garden, his heavy loss led to “the solid and great increase of (their) enjoyments”.  In other words, he gained greater appreciation for them as a result of his losses.

I thought of this as I read one of Charles Stanley’s devotionals.  He mentioned that Christians typically associate God’s blessings with more, but sometimes God blesses through less.  Stanley wrote, “In some situations, the best thing He can ‘give’ is to take something away”.

It is very easy for me to dwell on all the “lesses” and losses of my health problems, but blessings have come with them.

Years ago I didn’t think twice about walking around an amusement park for hours, sitting on a chair all day in class or at work, or reading and studying for long periods of time.  Now, when I am able to take a short walk, I’m much more observant of God’s handiwork.  My sitting issues have driven me to my knees – quite literally!  I’ve learned to let go of my pride, carrying my seat cushion to public places and entertaining friends on my knees. Since my eye problems limit my reading time, I am more careful to read what is positive or edifying.  I am continually learning humility, contentment, and dependency on God.

Do I still want to be blessed with more?  Yes. Do I still envy the “mores” of others?  Sometimes. But God has and is showing me that the “lesses” and losses of pain and illness can bring their own unique gains and blessings.  And the greatest blessing of all is that of hopefully becoming more like Jesus.

Prayer:  O Lord, how often I assume that You can benefit me only by giving me more of what I want and enjoy.  Change my way of thinking, and make me more aware of all blessings that come through the lesses and losses in my life.  Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Who Are Your Stretcher Bearers?

This post is in honor of my mom, who at 89, is one of the strongest stretcher bearers I know.

“Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ ”
 (Mark 2:4, 5).

I recently finished a book on the life of Jesus called The Way by Adam Hamilton.  The chapter on Jesus’ healing ministry referred to the story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed.

The passage doesn’t say it was “his” (the paralytic’s) faith that healed him.  Rather it says “their” faith, which may have included the paralytic himself, but certainly included his friends.

This man’s friends had faith enough to do whatever it took to bring him before the Lord.  They carried him, and they were not discouraged by the obstacles in their path. They dug a hole in the roof and lowered him right in front of Jesus.

Do you have any stretcher bearers in your life – people who have expended effort and time to carry you either literally or spiritually through your health challenges?  I do, and I thank God for them. 

During my worst season physically, mentally, and emotionally, I asked my mother why things weren’t getting better if people were praying for me.  She answered, “You don’t know how bad it would be if they weren’t.”  I made it through those agonizing months due, at least in part, to the faith and support of my stretcher bearers.  They carried me before the throne of grace when I lacked the faith and ability to carry myself.  And they continue to do so.

Not only do I have stretcher bearers, but I can be one.  Although I am not physically able to help these people because of my own health issues or distance between us, I can pray for God’s strength, comfort, and healing, believing in faith that God will carry out His perfect will in their lives.

Praise God for the stretcher bearers who carry us. And praise Him for the blessing we have of carrying others.

Prayer: O God, thank you for the stretcher bearers in my life who have carried me to You in faith when I have been unable or unwilling to carry myself.  Bless them Lord.  Show me how I can be a stretcher bearer to others, even through my own weaknesses, and give me the strength and desire to do so.  Amen.