Friday, 12 June 2015

Time To Sit Under Your Tree

We all need to find a good tree to sit under. Lately, I've needed my tree. It was during a fierce military battle in the days of soldiers with guns (rather than drones with satellite guided missiles) when things were not going well, that the platoon's Captain did what Captains should never do: He left the trenches and went and found a tree to sit under. He returned some time later to rejoin the battle in which he and his men prevailed. Upon returning to their base, the Captain was courtmarshalled. But when he explained why he went to sit under the tree, the Military Court not only pardoned him, but commended him.
Each man will sit under his own shade tree,
each woman in safety will tend her own garden.
GOD of-the-Angel-Armies says so,
and he means what he says." 
The Captain told the Military Court that the battle was so intense and the situation was so dire that he couldn't think clearly. In his mind it was obvious that they were losing the battle and the result would soon be disastrous. He needed time to be quiet and to think carefully. That's why he left the trenches and went and sat under a tree. The simple act of taking time away from the commotion and sitting under a tree gave him a completely different perspective. He saw things differently. Do you ever go and sit under a tree? You should. 
Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
John 1:48
The Prophet Micah foresaw the day when Israel would enjoy such peace and bliss that every man would have their own tree to sit under (Micah 4:4). It seems that sitting under a tree is a sign that a person is at peace. We all need a "tree" to sit under. I have discovered a tree in my office-study. Sometimes when my head pounds and my heart thumps and my eyes burn, I go to my tree and sit for a moment. It's so easy to get crowded out by pressure, noise, problems, worries. When this happens it becomes really difficult to see the crux of the battle let alone the true state of the war. This is not my only 'tree'. I have a tree upstairs in my home that I go to each morning. Before the bustle of surprises and duties begin their relentless vying for immediate attention, I take my iPad and open the Accordance app to wade my way through GNT28-T and then change the pace by opening the Olive Tree app to continue my journey through the stories of Israel. Time spent quietly under a tree in the early hours of the morning before the day gets underway can be life-saning.
And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.Genesis 2:9
Our first parents had two special trees in their Garden. One they could draw strength and life from, the other that would bring guilt, shame, and death. Perhaps they were meant to spend time sitting under the Tree of Life. Perhaps its fruit was meant to nourish them. Perhaps its shade was meant to refresh them. Sitting under the right tree can do that for you. Failing to take time to sit under a tree might lead someone to stand beside the wrong tree (just as it did for our First Parents). Many people are missing out on the joy of sitting under a tree and suffer horribly for it. Eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of (Good and) Evil still happens today - and the predictible indigestion of guilt, shame, anguish and torment still results. 
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"

Psalm 46:10
It's time to find your tree and to be still for a moment. By the way, as a result of the Courtmarshall Proceedings against that captain, military policy was changed to actually encourage captains to consider taking time out from the battle to go and 'sit under a tree'. In the heat of our battles where our Enemy uses pesky cultural distractions to keep us from advancing the cause of Christ to save lost sinner, perhaps we need more of our 'captains' to take a little time out and 'go sit under a tree'?
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
the Holy One is here.
Come, bow before Him now,
with reverence and fear.
In Him no sin is found,
we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
the Holy One is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord,
is shining all around.
He burns with holy fire,
with splendor He is crowned.
How awesome is the sight,
our radiant King of Light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord,
is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord,
is moving in this place.
He comes to cleanse and heal,
to minister His grace.
No work too hard for Him,
in faith receive from Him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord,
is moving in this place. 
What does your tree look like? Do you take regular time out from your battles to sit under your tree? In a world that scorns stillness and despises quiet, all tree-sitters are made to feel a little odd - and I suspect that this too is the Enemy's doing. But rather quibble over the joys of zagging in a world that only tolerates zigging, I think I need to go and sit quietly for awhile, not alone but on my own. It's time to sit under a tree.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 5 June 2015


No man ever loved prostitutes like Jesus did. No prostitute was ever touched by any man the way Jesus did. No one ever looked at a woman the way Jesus did. With other men, these women were just momentary objects. Even though participating in the most intimate of human moments meant to be the culmination of transparency, understanding, commitment and selfless-giving-unconditionally-to-another-love ("agapĂ© love"), these women were (and are) generally the least-loved of any people on the planet. Yet Jesus truly loved them. While most men would recoil if they knew the pasts of these women, Jesus looked not at them but into them - and despite what He saw, He loved them. The One who knows you best loves you most. 
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." Matthew 21:31
When Jesus was publicly challenged about what to do with the woman caught in adultery, he alone saw the woman. The men who used her in their pseudo-religious gamesmanship and publicly humiliated her, didn't at any stage see her. But the One who sees all did.

She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."
John 8:11

Far from affirming her lifestyle - Jesus never condoned her sexual sin - He told her the immutable, irresistable, inarguable truth: God does not immediately condemn anyone ... their own sin does. Jesus neither condoned, nor condemned her. He offered her grace and a grace-empowered solution. "From now on sin no more" was not just the standard God-In-The-Flesh expected of her, it (like every other part of God's Word preached) was also the strength to obey. The Jesus who never condoned sin - especially sexual sin - is still the Jesus who alone sees the hearts of those trapped in it, and offers forgiveness and the grace to have a fresh start. Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge others. Perhaps we can learn to see others through the understanding eyes of Jesus? I hope that's increasingly what people experience when they visit our church.
For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.Matthew 21:32
Jesus loved prostitutes. He knew that women rarely choose this lifestyle and those in it nearly always are desperate to get out of it. Significantly two of Christ's Great Great Grandmothers (Tamar and Rahab, both mentioned in Jesus' Family Tree in Matthew 1) were prostitutes. 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:11
Jesus still love prostitutes ... and liars ... and drunkards ... and thieves ... and adulterers ... and drug addicts ... and porn-adicts ... and religious hypocrites ... 
It doesn't matter what you've done
It doesn't matter where you're coming from
Doesn't matter where you've been
Hear me tell you I forgive

You're not guilty anymore 
You're not filthy anymore
I love you mercy is yours
You're not broken anymore
You're not captive anymore
I love you mercy is yours
Can you believe that this is true
Grace abundant I am giving you
Cleansing deeper than you know
All was paid for long ago. 
There is now therefore no condemnation
For those who are in Jesus
You are spotless You are holy
You are faultless You are whole
You are righteous You are blameless
You are pardoned You are mine.
NOT GUILTY ANYMORE, Aaron Keyes, Andy Lehman
No matter what you've done; no matter why you did it; no matter who's done it to you; there is forgiveness and grace on offer from Christ. He can forgive you, cleanse you and give you a new start. You are just one prayer from hope abounding that can begin to unfold sufficiently to get you through today. Jesus loves prostitutes and Jesus loves you, and me.
Ps. Andrew