Monday, July 06, 2015

Johnny Appleseed

In my many efforts to develop a consistent Bible reading habit I’ve read Psalm 1 countless times, along with Genesis 1 and Matthew 1, as well. I’ve never been great at Scripture memory but due to the number of times I’ve read this Psalm I’ve practically memorized it, so when I read it I run words together or skim over it. My latest reading, however, got me thinking a bit. I didn’t speed read this time. And so, Psalm 1 coupled with current headlines inspired these thoughts.

I love trees.  I always have - from Girl Scout hikes to camping. Many times, when I’ve purchased trinkets, cards or home decorative items I’ve bought things with trees or leaves without even realizing it.  Trees have some pull over me. Maybe it’s my Celtic blood, my inner druid!

In Psalm 1 faithful believers are likened to well-watered trees; productive, standing hearty and strong. But it’s not for just themselves they exist by that riverside referenced in the psalm. They support the surrounding community as well. Trees offer shelter and supply food.  But what I also realized was trees prevent erosion.  A tree’s root system stabilizes the soil preventing runoff, while the leaves and branches protect the ground from the wind and rain.

Our culture is eroding, carried away by torrents of sin. It’s eroding because there aren’t enough trees to stand firm against the wash, and many of the trees that do exist are not well-rooted.
A culture is not merely a collection of traditions or a way of life; a culture is people. The culture being swept away is our neighbors, friends, family. They’re being left to drown in a sea of sin. Erosion is happening at such an alarming rate. What can we do to save them?

The solution is obvious - plant more trees!

So how can we go about planting these trees?

Trees reproduce from seeds from the fruit of the tree. We can plant more trees of faithful believers by producing fruit.  God told us in His Word the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.  Growing more fruit brings more trees.
But it’s not a matter of quantity.  A forest of shallow-rooted trees or young seedlings will be easily carried off by the floods of evil along with the rest of humanity. We need healthy, well-rooted trees mixed in with the saplings to provide protection.

In order to do this we need to be healthy trees ourselves, well-rooted and grounded in the law of the LORD, as Psalm 1 advises.  As Jesus said in Matthew 7 “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”

We become healthy trees by knowing God’s Word. This is more than an intellectual exercise, being able to quote verses and hold our own in theological discussions.  To know the Word is to drink it in and have it hydrate our entire being – our thoughts, words and deeds – the fruit of the Spirit. Regularly reading God’s Word and meditating on, that is thinking about what you read throughout the day is one way to develop a strong root system. By meditating you will know more than God’s Word. You’ll know God, as well. You’ll grow to know His character.

Another way to develop delight in the Law of the LORD is to worship at a church where the Word is preached – the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments.   God is love, certainly and we are saved by grace, for sure! But Jesus and the writers of the New Testament regularly refer to the Old Testament – the Psalms, prophets and history.  Hearing only one portion of Scripture without the context of the entire Bible is like watering a tree with distilled water. Trees might grow but they will be weak from mineral deficiency, unable to withstand storms or drought. And if by chance they do yield fruit it will be of poor quality.

The Psalmist advises us to not take counsel from the ungodly. To cultivate a healthy faith we need to be discerning about from whom we take advice and receive direction.  Self-help books are one of the top-selling genres. Magazines covers entice us with headlines touting “10 Steps to a Perfect Peace”, or the like. Poignant Facebook memes touch our hearts with sentimental quotes expressing pleasant thoughts but poor theology. We are surrounded by ungodly counsel, much of it in disguise. It’s easy to absorb it without even intending.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts. The onslaught of information and misinformation from our hypermedia-driven society can be overwhelming and make us feel hopeless.  But James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” We need to pray the Spirit help us filter out the bad and take in that which is beneficial and encourages good fruit. Paul told us in Philippians 4:7 how God answers such prayers when he said “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our world is fast becoming a wasteland and the Church has no one to blame but ourselves. Yet there is still hope!  The promises of God’s Word are still true; they always will be. One promise was “…I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  He said this to His apostles when He gave them the Great Commission, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”.  We need to plant more trees.

What's one way you helped plant or nurture a "tree" today?