O Christmas Tree

If you decorate with a live Christmas tree, when do you typically throw yours out?  Usually we wait until well after the new year, but this year will be a little different... Since the early days of our marriage, we have always had a real Christmas tree.  Well, aside from that year when we lived in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and our van got stuck in the mud at the Christmas farm and we gave up...but aside from that, we're "real, not artificial" Christmas tree people.

Because we've had close to 25 years of experience with actual conifers, you might think that we've seen it all.  But this year was different.  This year we had the most beautiful, fat, green, aromatic tree of them all.  We loved this tree.  We admired this tree.  In fact, I'll even show you a picture of this tree: tree

The shape--just glorious!  But, alas, this post is not to brag on my perfect Christmas tree.  Because, in fact, it was anything but...

For that tree, when touched, was brittle and dying.

gift with needles

These photos were taken at that stage where the tree could still pass for beautiful, and even THE perfect tree, but it hadn't taken water for three days and a slight touch revealed the truth about it.

While I observed my Christmas tree this past month, I couldn't help but make some spiritual observations about this whole thing.  How many times do we look perfect to others...but are dying inside?

We put on the make-up, we wear the trendy or beautiful clothes, we smile big and play the part...but we're struggling inside.  Maybe some women reading this don't have hope or peace.  Maybe others know the Lord but are fighting a battle they don't think they can share with anyone else.  Perhaps we've just been trained to "look perfect" as this surely indicates a great spirituality.

But, ladies...learn from The Tree.  We might all be able to fake it for a time, but eventually the truth will be revealed.  If your heart is empty and you are living apart from the Lord Jesus, this will be known.  If you're losing the battle against sin, it will wear on you and the perfect mask will crack.

And, frankly, our spirituality is Christ's perfection...not our own.  In fact, it had to be Christ's perfection because God knew we could never be perfect and He provided His one and only Son to take our place.

So many of us know this and yet we still try to keep up that perfect facade.  But, the facade is short-lived.  The truth will eventually be revealed. dead tree

Apart from Christ...

apart from the love and care of the Body...

we become empty shells.  Even if we maintain our beauty well into our old age, this dead tree is a picture of our hearts if they are never made alive through the Holy Spirit.

As we enter a new year, remember that God's mercies are fresh.  In fact, every new morning He pours His fresh mercies upon us!  Surrender to Him.  He is good and His love endures forever.  If you look all good on the outside, but your heart is ugly and dead, now is the time to repent and follow the Lord!

If you know Him, but you struggle with feeling like you need to look or be perfect...or you are struggling with sin all alone...understand, really understand, that only Christ is perfect and the Body is a beautiful provision from God to help you and care for you.  Consider someone in your church whom you can trust with your struggles.  Fight your sin valiantly.  Get help now.  Throw out that "old tree" (Ephesians 4: 17-24; Colossians 3: 9-10) and trust God to build a new one, a perfect one, through His Son, Jesus.

One of my favorite scripture passages may be just the one you could meditate on as we enter 2016.  I pray that this is a picture of my life and that the 'clean water' from the Lord would nourish and grow me more and more in holiness this year and always.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.  Ezekiel 36: 25-27

Happy New Year!  Love, Wendy

 

 

The Greatest Race

Here is the verse that keeps ringing in my ears as we enter into 2014...

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1-2

Seems like everyone is developing their new year's resolutions, but as I've gotten older, I've found my resolutions are fewer and fewer.  I suppose I figure I'll just not follow through again so why bother with the new year?  However, this year I can't get a friend's comment at bible study out of my head...she said it several years ago...something about how we need to be constantly examining ourselves and moving forward or pretty soon we will piddle the years away and never really grow in our spiritual walk.  You may bristle at that thought.  Surely, we are more diligent than that!  But, I challenge that idea.  Consider if we become more and more lax in our prayer life, in our bible reading, in our church attendance, in our helping those in need.  Do we then, say five years later, just automatically start seeing everyone in need and helping them generously with all that extra money we've accrued?  Do we suddenly take up reading many chapters in the Word a day when we've barely been able to read anything at all?  We fall into habits that are hard to break...and my desire, as I enter into 2014, is to develop habits that will strengthen my faith walk.  Taking the Hebrews verse, here are some ways we can grow this year:

  1. Remembering.

 As I go through my days this next year, I want to remember my God and what He has been faithful to do from 2013 back to the beginning of time.  Reading His living Word reminds me of His faithful promises that are never broken, of His faithful provision to those in the Bible and to us now.  And, as the first phrase of the Hebrews passage says, I want to remember that I'm not alone.  God is with me and we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses!  We have a cheering section of faithful saints who have gone before us!  How often do we feel all alone...and in that alone feeling we give up, we sin, we become discouraged.  But, that feeling is a lie.  We Are Surrounded.

2.  Slaying sin.

Just as violently as David slayed the giant, so we must go forward into the upcoming year slaying the sins in our lives.  Every time I hold onto those 'wicked pets', every time I get distracted by stroking those evil desires, every time I trip up over the lures of my sin, my faith walk is hindered.  If I'm not examining myself regularly, I may think I'm going along just fine.  We all tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but the reality says that our sins are making this race toward heaven full of pits and obstacles that are only delaying our focus on Christ and our work in the Kingdom.  Fight the battle against sin hard and daily.

3.  Looking to Jesus.

As we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we are strengthened to run this race.  We are strengthened to fight our sin.  He is One who has 'been there and done that'.  He gets our troubles and temptations.  But, just as we have that cheering section of saints, we also have the One who gave us this faith and Who will complete our faith and He is the One who is sitting at the right hand of God interceding on your behalf!  As you're running the race and you're side-lined by the enemy's accusations, remember that Jesus is telling God that you are clothed in HIS righteousness now.  If you're going along in this faith walk and you become weary and want to give up, look to Jesus who joyfully endured the weariest of all walks up the hill of the Skull.  And, the sin that threatens to ensnare you?  Even that is understandable to our Savior because we are told that we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses; He was tempted in every way as we are, yet He did not sin.  Look to Him.

I hope we can all reflect back a year to 2012 and see the spiritual growth God has done in our lives.  Hopefully, we can look back to 2008, five years ago, and hardly recognize ourselves spiritually compared to now.  Time goes so quickly.  Be earnest to grow and to soak in all that God has to teach you.  Do not waste a single moment.

 

Happy New Year!  Love, Wendy