I’m a Tree

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NIVUK

Have you ever attended or watched a military parade, particularly of those nations who favour the “goose-step” mode of marching? Hand picked men and women march flawlessly, totally synchronised in their steps. Their polished boots, identical uniforms, marchers all in line, make an impressive spectacle. To someone like me, never good at keeping in step with anything, such a sight I can only watch in amazement. But the Psalmist, right at the start of the first Psalm of the Book of Psalms, straight away declares a counter-cultural way of life. One in which personal blessings can be found only by avoiding the temptation to march in step with the society around us. You see, most of the Western world system in this age is anti-God. Our society and culture is becoming increasingly secular and adopting the Psalmist’s description of being “sinners and mockers”, and keeping in step with such a way of life, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, neglecting God and His ways, leads to destruction, as the Psalmist writes in the last verse of this Psalm.

The Psalmist encourages us spend our time in God’s presence, reading His Scriptures, hearing His voice, aligning our thoughts to His thoughts, whenever we have the opportunity. And by doing so we will be “blessed”. God’s blessings are priceless, and they lead to a prosperous and healthy life. The psalmist uses the analogy of the blessed person being like a tree planted next to a stream of water. In his society, desert regions and parched land with stunted tree growth would have been common. But the fortunate tree planted next to a stream never failed to provide all that a tree should – imagine the fruit in season – possibly figs or something similar. The blessed person also produces fruit in the seasons that God has for him or her. Fruit appropriate for God’s Kingdom.

What is this fruit? In the early days of the Charismatic Renewal I once heard a message in a Christian Conference from an international speaker warning against the dangers of being caught up in the excitement of what God was doing in His church, but failing to produce the fruit of a renewed life in God. What is this fruit? What is the spiritual equivalent of a fat, juicy fig? We read about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But there is also the fruit of fulfilling Jesus’ command in Matthew 28, of making disciples. So we can see that today’s equivalent of meditating on the Law of the Lord will involve personal renewal, a personal orientation towards the Kingdom of God in a way of life appropriate to being a spiritual tree next to His streams of living water.

This year the Elim Movement in the UK is encouraging people and congregations to do a spiritual reset, where they evaluate their lives to see if they are growing fruit or just a few leaves. But we don’t have to be an Elim member to re-evaluate our spiritual lives, checking out how we measure up against God’s demands. In my morning prayer walk today I observed a dead tree, no longer producing fruit as it decayed to join the detritus on the forest floor, helping fungi to grow as it did so. Around it is a thicket of saplings, growing tall and strong. And I said to God in my prayers that I don’t want to be a dead tree amongst such evidence of God’s grace.

Lord, Please help me always to have my roots deeply embedded in the life-giving streams of Your Spirit, this day and forever. Amen.

The Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1-3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

These three verses have been a tremendous comfort and support for many people over the years. They are often quoted in times of stress. They are the go-to verses read and uttered by God’s people when facing into some calamity or other. Look at the words the Psalmist uses; “Refuge”, “Strength”, “Help”, “Fear” and the very descriptive picture of an apocalyptic scene as our planet’s infrastructure collapses. Look at the contrast between the security of being in God, and the potentially disastrous state of being away from Him.

The contrast is between two kingdoms – the spiritual and the physical. Two worlds that we can access but so often we ignore the one and only dwell in the other. Of course this is perfectly understandable because we are physical beings with our feet firmly located on the home where we were born – Planet Earth. And we therefore try and look at everything around us through physical eyes and discount the spiritual world because we can’t see it. But it is there nevertheless, as many people over the ages will testify. How else do God’s people sustain themselves when tortured, imprisoned, and ill treated, all because of their faith in a God who one day will welcome them into His Kingdom, His world?

The wonderful and amazing thing is that we have an opportunity to be present in both worlds. Now. At this very moment. We can draw on the resources of God’s spiritual Kingdom to help and support us in our earthly world. God is inviting us to be part of His Kingdom, not just when we are facing into a calamitous situation, but all the time. And the access door is open this very moment – through God’s Son Jesus. Message me if you want to know more.

Although we start our life in the natural environment around us we will transition one day into a totally different spiritual environment, which itself consists of two worlds – God’s world, and another place where He is not present. Far better to enjoy the benefits of being a part of both God’s spiritual world and the physical world where we live while we have the choice. Because one day that choice will be removed from us.

The picture of an impregnable place in God that not only protects us from all dangers, but also resources us and strengthens us to face into impossible situations seems too good to be true. But it’s too good not to be true. Join me there today.

Light and Care

“Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalms‬ ‭43:3-4‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Have you ever been somewhere where there are no street lamps, even close by? No cities lighting the sky in the distance? Not a glimmer of light anywhere? With a clear sky overnight the visual presentation of celestial bodies is breathtaking – there are just so many of them. But if the stars are obscured by clouds it can be a scary place, because literally you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Spiritual darkness is a bit like that too. With a view of the spiritual Heavens, God is visible and tangible. Blessing us with His presence. Communicating Spirit to spirit. But when obscured by the clouds of our rebellion and sins, God isn’t visible to us anymore, and our prayers bounce off the cloud’s underbelly, falling back to our lips answered.

The Psalmist prayed that God would lead him through His light, dispensing His faithful care in the process, revealing through the spiritual gloom His presence and His home. The Psalmist knew that once there He would find joy, delight and a place of praise. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, O Lord, I pray that through the light of Your Word, with a thankful heart because of Your faithful care, I would find You dwelling in my heart where I can praise and worship You. Amen.

Taste

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” Psalms‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Tasting is one of our five physical senses. Touch, sight, hearing, smelling and tasting. And they will all, or in part, interrelate to help us build a picture, an image or thought in our minds, of whatever we are encountering in our daily natural life. We have spiritual senses too, but, sadly, in most people, these remain largely undeveloped, forgotten or ignored. Our verse today seems ridiculous when viewed from a natural perspective because people fail to understand or appreciate that there are spiritual senses that parallel our natural ones, and consequently they will reject the possibility of a spiritual world because the application of our natural, physical senses will not find it. And so, most people will reject any thought of God out of hand, without ever having undertaken a spiritual ‘taste’ test, without even considering that He even exists. 

The Psalmist, David, knew better and his life was lived in both the physical and spiritual realms. To him they weren’t two separate worlds, but one integrated whole. And his relationship with God never faltered because his natural/spiritual combo was so real to him. He could say, with total confidence, that God is good and by keeping close to Him, he will experience a joy unknown to natural man. In this verse David encourages us to try the God taste test. To switch for a moment from the natural to the spiritual. And as we come to God, openly and honestly, we will experience something incredible. We will find that God is good, and we too will find amazing joy in His presence.