Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Tree of Life

photo by Vince Carrillo

     When we first moved in to our house, we thought the trees were so beautiful. After a few years, one of the trees started to die. It was odd, because it was only dying on the left side of the tree. When we looked more closely we realized it was actually two trees, planted very closely together, so they looked like one tree. Each tree was only growing branches away from the other tree.
     It was so weird, because both trees were getting the same amount of water, which in New Mexico is not much. They also got the same amount of sunlight, which in New Mexico is an awesome amount. They both got the same wind, snow, hail and they were planted in the same soil.  So, what made the tree on the left die and the tree on the right thrive? It turned out that the tree on the left had a disease. It was rotting away from the inside out. It looked like the flourishing tree most of its life, but the rot from the inside of the trunk, finally made it outside to all the branches, and the tree died.
     It reminded us of how we are planted next to other people. Some people we are close to, we live close to, we work closely with. Some people, in our family, even look like us. I wonder how many people we are planted next to look fine on the outside, but are dying on the inside? 
     Some people we are planted close to do not have the Living Water that we have. They may look like they are thriving for a while, but deep down they have a disease that is eating them from the inside out. How often do I live my life thinking about only my side of things, not worrying about how people all around me are dying?

Proverbs 3:18    Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Traveling in Tents

Day one of our much-anticipated tour of Israel brought us to an area called Shiloh, (pronounced ‘shee-low’ in Hebrew). This was where the children of Israel parked the Tabernacle when they entered the Promised Land, after wondering in the desert for 40 years. THE Tabernacle, that God instructed Moses to build, and said I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God, in Exodus 29:45.  It seemed like we were out in the middle of nowhere. We drove off the main highway and onto a small road. There were no buildings, no shops, nothing but an open field on a hill. We walked on a white rock path to a grassy area, scattered with large white rocks and millions of tiny pottery fragments. Our guide said that archeologists had discovered that this was the location where the Tabernacle of God had rested.
I don’t know how to explain it, but as I stood there, looking toward this grassy, rocky field at nothing, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was weird, because there really was nothing to see, but just knowing that the Tabernacle, with all its spiritual significance, sat there for years, brought chills down my spine. I had studied the Tabernacle. I knew this was where the Israelite’s most holy possession, the Ark of the Covenant, resided. This was where the priests sacrificed animals to pay for the sins of the people. This was where the people worshipped their God. This was where Hannah prayed for a son, after many years of infertility. This was where her young son, Samuel, would be dedicated to the Lord, and serve Him for the rest of his life. Most importantly, this was where the spirit of the one and only, living God of creation lived among His people.
I could almost hear that old song chorus, “you are standing on Holy ground”, chime down from heaven. Should I take off my sandals? Should I kneel and worship? I would have this same feeling later, standing in the tomb where Jesus was laid after His crucifixion. There is even a sign going in to the tomb, as if we needed reminding, that says, “He is not here. His is risen.”  The Tabernacle was not there. It had been replaced by the Temple in Jerusalem, centuries ago.
I guess it just amazed me that our awesome God chose to live in a tent, so that He could be close to His people, who also lived in tents. He wanted to be close to them. He wanted them to know Him. He wanted to have a personal, close relationship with them, so He moved in close to them, and lived in a tent next to theirs.
These were the same people who had worshipped a golden calf, instead of the God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt. These were the same people who whined and complained to Moses for forty years. Several times they even wanted to go back to Egypt, instead of following God to the Promised Land He had prepared for them. Even after all they did, God wanted to be close to them.
It overwhelms me to know that even after all I have done, the God of the universe wants to be close to me too. Instead of the Tabernacle, His spirit lives inside of His people today. He can’t get any closer than that. Jesus said in John 15:4 “Dwell in me, and I will dwell in you. 
I could have gone home after that. This was our first stop, on our first day, of our first trip to Israel, and after standing and staring at an empty field, I was filled to overflowing, knowing how much God loves His people, and being reminded again, of how much He loves me.

I hope you know how much God loves you today, too

Monday, February 3, 2014

Passing on the Passion

In his book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell interviewed a man who grew up in the Midwest. When the man was young, he went door to door asking the neighbors if they wanted the snow shoveled off their driveway and sidewalk. He then hired other kids to do it and paid them, from what he collected. In the fall, he switched to raking leaves. He was 10 years old when he did this. By the time he was 11, he had $600 in the bank, all earned by himself. This was in the 1950’s, and would be equivalent to $5000 today. If he or his brothers left the lights on in their house, his father would shake the electric bill at them, and tell them they were being lazy by not turning off the lights. He said he did not want to pay for lazy. When the man was in college, he ran a pickup and drop off laundry service for the rich students. Over and over he used hustle, drive, ambition and hard work to attain his goals. He grew up to be a very successful businessman and moved to Beverly Hills, where he is a multimillionaire today.
His problem?
He does not know how to be as successful at raising his kids, as his Dad was at raising him. Multimillionaires do not shake the electric bill in front of their kids and tell them they are lazy. His kids do not go door to door and rake leaves for their neighbors in Beverly Hills. It is hard to teach them the value of a dollar and how to be a hard worker when they already have more than they could want or imagine.
I wonder if this is sometimes how it is trying to raise our kids to love God. If we grew up with a void, because of how we were raised, or our own rebellious choices, we are so grateful that our loving God rescued us from our pit. We are forever humbled and thankful to this awesome God who saved us. We love spending time with Him in His Word. We tear up while singing praise songs that tell how much He loves us, because we feel it so deeply. We love sharing Christ with others, so they can have the adventurous life with the God who has a wonderful plan for them. We never want to go back to that pit, and we love God with all our heart. He is the best thing that ever happened to us.
The problem?
Our kids do not have that void. We have taken them to church every Sunday since they were born. They have gone to Christian camps, have Christian friends and they know all the Bible stories. Where is the void? How can they love God deeply and be humbly grateful for all He has done for them, if they think they have always known Him? How can they fight back tears when singing, “Our chains are gone. I’ve been set free,” if they have never been set free from a pit?  How can they love much, if they do not think they have been forgiven for much?
Just asking the question today.