Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

I went hunting for an impressive oak tree to photograph and found this one along a stretch of highway south of Daisy, Georgia. It is impressive. My purpose for the quest was to illustrate one aspect of faith: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2nd Corinthians 5:7 ESV.

I don’t think this oak came about from a squirrel dropped acorn. I think someone planted this tree a century or more in the past. I have no proof of that, so that’s just a deduction from the other oaks up and down the road that appear to have been placed in particular locations. There probably was a house here then, but it probably wasn’t this one. (Could have been remodeled through the years, though).

The tree wouldn’t have become impressive during the lifetime of its planter. It’s likely it didn’t even reach “noticeable” status. And, it’s an absolute that the planter is not still around to see it become this mighty tree. But, that didn’t matter – they walked by faith. They knew what would happen far in the future. Their small efforts would become established and grow into a massive tree that would provide food and shelter for animals, and shade and comfort to people. I don’t know if they had the thought that just the sight of the tree would give a sense of wonder at God’s Creation, but I know that’s what I felt as I came around the curve and saw it.

It is just a deduction that someone planted this tree many years ago but the concept stands. Anytime you plant a long-lived, slow growing tree, you probably won’t see it reach “impressive” size. But, somebody will.

When the Apostle Paul wrote about walking by faith, not sight, he was noting that we don’t see the Lord, but we know (by the faith that God gave us and the Holy Spirit within us) we will see Him face to face one day. Paul then states that because of that, our aim in everything is “to please Him”

And that’s where I think another aspect of “walk by faith” comes in. It’s not planting trees (although I consider that a good thing), it’s doing things to please the Lord, even though we may not see the results (perhaps not even in our lifetime). As Jesus told us: Give someone who is thirsty a drink of water in His name. Feed the hungry. Welcome the strangers. Visit the sick. Make disciples.

Got faith? Then walk in it. Plant an oak tree. Or, better yet, spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Like the Wind Spinning Windmills, The Holy Spirit Keeps Working

Windspinner Whirling

Windspinner Whirling

Windmill Spinning

Windmill Spinning

With the brisk winds lately, it’s been pleasant to look in the backyard and see the Holy Spirit working. Actually, not exactly that. But, it has been pleasant to pass a window, look toward the garden and see the windmill and wind spinner whirling away. Sometimes they are spinning so fast I wonder if they won’t go flying off into the air.

I usually smile and feel thankful for the blessing of these contraptions, and God’s creation silhouetting and surrounding them, and working with them.

Then, as I’ve mentioned before, I think of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in John 3:8 (ESV) “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In addition to hearing, we can also see the effects of the wind like that on these spinning gadgets.

And in many ways, we can see and hear the effects of the Holy Spirit working in this world. When we see or hear about people whose hearts and lives have been totally changed; when we see mercy given and received; When we hear someone praise God and know they really mean it.

But, often the most significant times we notice His presence are when it is personal. When we know our heart has been changed and we understand that Jesus is our Savior; When we give mercy and realize that wasn’t what our selfishness would have done; When we praise God and know we really mean it.

Those are the special times I think of when I look out my window and see the wind causing something to move.

Fog on the Blog

Fog 1

Fog 1

Sharon took some neat fog pictures around the house and we thought we should put the fog on the blog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those are cotton modules in the just harvested cotton field across the road. As you see, they are huge (like a tractor trailer) compared to what you see of the old cotton bales of years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:6-11 ESV

We Sinners Sometimes Need an Electric Fence to Keep Us In.

Electric Fence Around Pasture

Electric Fence Around Pasture

My cousin began shimmying, shook his shotgun in the air, and let out a yelp that sounded like a turkey gobble. We were walking through a section of tall grass and I was afraid a snake had bitten him. But, as I cautiously stepped closer, I saw a thin wire in a clear spot about two feet off the ground. The shock of walking into an electric fence caused his gyrations.

Several years later, I discovered what he felt like when I cut across our neighbor’s cow pasture. The electric fence that surrounded the pasture was clearly visible so I easily avoided walking into it. One spot had insulators in the three wires as a “gate”. The insulators formed a handgrip you could move from one side and hang on the other while you went through.

But, I didn’t notice one insulator was installed incorrectly. The wire wrapped around the end, as it should, but there was an extra inch or two that curled behind the handle. As I grabbed the insulator to open the gate, I touched that protruding piece, got a good jolt, and quickly dropped it. I don’t think I shimmied, but a yelp or two did escape.

An electric fence keeps animals in a pasture, most of the time. The three or four strands of wire attached to insulators on stick-like fiberglass posts, are less expensive than a full fence, and are simple to rearrange when necessary. The shock received when the animal touches the wire is usually enough to keep them contained (My cousin and I understand why.)

But, having observed the cows next door, I can say sometimes they will suffer for an instant to gain what they want. Once, I watched a calf stand before the fence, hesitate, and then walk back and forth a bit, appearing to be making a go-no go decision. Then, he stuck his head down, pushed his nose through, stretched the wires out, and walked through with a jerky motion as the intermittent jolts hit him. After coming through the other side, he shook himself from head to toe like a retriever coming out of the water, then put his head down and started munching the clump of grass that had apparently been his target outside the fence.

One night my wife, Sharon, and I heard clomping on the side porch. When I opened the door to check, two huge cow eyes stared back at me. The full-grown cow they belonged to moved toward the open door, but thankfully stopped when I yelled and slammed the door. That night the animal apparently decided to leave the pasture and meet the neighbors, no matter how painful the shock of the fence might be.

Christians are sometimes described as being like sheep, but, from those incidents, it seems we can be like cows too. God’s Word gives us boundaries, and the Holy Spirit guides us to stay within them.

Yet, like the cows, we sometimes push our way through anyway. We think we just have to get to that greener grass promised on the other side. But, rather than barreling through the boundaries, our responsibility is to take heed of the first tingle in our conscience, or especially react to the shock that makes us shimmy and yelp a bit, and turn around, and stay “inside the pasture.” After all, God’s pasture has the greenest grass and is the safest and most secure place to be.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…” Psalms 23:1:2 ESV

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalms 4:8 ESV

Bible Study – Cherish the Knowns, Work on the Unknowns

Three unknowns

Three unknowns

Since I’ve started a bit of “birding” in the backyard, I’m discovering just how many unknowns I have. Here are three unknowns that decided to get a bite to eat at the same time. I thought I was fairly knowledgeable from my Boy Scout days (which I admit was quite a while ago), but, I’ve gone beyond my knowledge level of the cardinals, mockingbirds, and bluebirds – and realized my ignorance.

When I say “gone beyond”, though, I don’t mean I’ve forgotten them. I have learned that we have the Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, and Eastern Bluebirds. But, whether I knew the more specific name or not, the bright red of the male cardinals will always make them a favorite of mine. The songs of the mockingbirds are beautiful, and the blue of the bluebirds is amazing.

It reminded me of Bible Study. As we’ve heard and read the Bible through the years, we’ve probably had more exposure to the well known, and appropriately well loved, verses and passages – “For God so loved the world..”, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, the Christmas and Easter stories, etc. But, it’s also probable that even though they are familiar, the Holy Spirit has given us additional insight, understanding, and application of these passages at different times. By continuing to study and listen, we learn more about what we thought we knew completely.

And, if we expand what we read and hear to include the whole Bible, we learn more about our glorious God. Things we may have had in the back of our mind become clearer because there is wisdom throughout the entire Bible.

Thanks to help from some of you, I’ve learned of the Pine Siskin and the Chipping Sparrow, and now can enjoy my knowledge of them also. But, the red of the male cardinal will always be a favorite and the blue of the bluebird will always be amazing. As we search the Scriptures, we will discover more verses that will become cherished – but we will always rejoice and be comforted and amazed that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16 NKJV

Keep the Paths of Righteousness Open, for His Name’s Sake

English: Back Walk, Wymondham. Looking east al...

“The way to keep a path open is to walk on it”. When you first read this proverb, like many of them (including some in the Book of Proverbs) it seems obvious and not very deep. Of course the way to keep a path open is to walk on it – what’s so significant about that? The significance is not in the statement of fact, but in our reaction to it – from our thoughts on what it means in relation to our lives.

When I first heard this, I thought of a path through tall grass along the edge of a lake. Here and there the path veers off to a clear fishing spot on the bank. Over time if you don’t walk on it and keep it open, it will become covered with grass, weeds and thorns. At some point, trees can even start covering up the clear spots.

Several other “paths” in life came to mind:  The path between me and God; The path between me and my wife and family; The path between my house and the Church; The path between me and my Brothers and Sisters in Christ; The path of service; The path of obedience; The paths of righteousness.

All of these paths must be travelled constantly to keep them open. If we neglect them they can become covered in weeds and thorns, making them more difficult to walk. If we neglect them too long we may find that trees have grown up and obscured the paths completely.

The mention of the “paths of righteousness” is meant to bring to mind the 23rd Psalm: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake” (v3). I believe that tells us why we are to continue walking these paths to keep them open. Not just because they’re “good” things to do, but we are to keep them open for God’s name’s sake. All that we do should bring glory to God. Allowing weeds, thorns and trees to cover a path we should be walking doesn’t bring glory to Him, especially if it is the path between us and God.

The Fragrance of Christ – Part 2

English: Perfume burners lampes Bergers França...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“But, thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV

Last week I used this verse in reference to the fragrance of four-o’clocks in the garden. As I thought more about it, another fragrance came to mind – women’s perfume.

Not all women’s perfume is pleasingly fragrant to me. Some is too strong (or applied too heavily) and is overpowering. Some has what I consider a strange smell – but that’s just a matter of taste.

But, I do have a favorite perfume that other women wear (other women being all who are not my wife, Sharon). My favorite perfume that other women wear is any one that reminds me of Sharon. If their perfume is one that Sharon uses, the fragrance takes my mind immediately to her.

That seems to be the way to spread the fragrance of Christ. Our actions and words should remind others of Jesus and take their minds immediately to Him.