The Trees Are Singing!

The leaves are beginning to fall to the ground, and it makes me smile so big that my face hurts. Am I the only one who will walk 15 feet out of my way in order to just simply hear the satisfying “crunch” of fallen leaf underfoot?

As I look out my window this morning I see trees that are bursting with vibrant colors set against a gray cloud-covered sky. Perfectly beautiful.

There are so many things that I look forward to in the fall. Walking outside and seeing my breath. Jumping in piles of leaves. (Yes, I am still 5 years old.) Eating apple cider donuts. Spending time together with family and friends. Huddling around a bonfire. And of course, eating turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, and rolls.

As I sit here gazing out at the incredibly beautiful leaves a Psalm comes to mind. Psalm 96 to be exact. The Psalm focuses entirely on worshiping God who is oh-so-worthy of all of our praise.

I would highly encourage you to stop reading this post right now and go and read Psalm 96. It’s not long, only 13 verses. So, go ahead and read the Psalm now, I’ll wait.

You back now? Wasn’t that awesome!

I particularly love the wording used in verses 11-12.

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy…”

The whole earth cannot help but declare the greatness of our God.

When I was younger I remember wondering why the leaves on the trees would change color and then fall to the ground. It’s a question that all of us have wondered at some point in time. The answer is pretty incredible.

When temperatures drop the heartier parts of the tree, the branches, roots, etc. can endure the colder temperatures. However, the fragile leaves of broadleaf trees cannot. They are thin and filled with water and sap cells that will quickly freeze during the winter months. Therefore, any part of the tree that is unable to survive freezing temperatures is sealed off and eventually will detach from the rest of the tree.

I am not here to remind you of a lesson that many of us learned in elementary school. But what I do hope to remind you of is this simple yet incredible fact, God designed trees to function in this particular way. That’s pretty neat.

God is infinitely wise, infinitely creative, and infinitely knowledgeable in order to design, create, and maintain trees in the way that He did.

The forest does indeed sing for joy because of its Creator.

We need to remember that every time we see a tree change colors, or a squirrel bury an acorn, or a bird feed its young, or rain fall from the sky, or waves splash onto the shore…we are witnessing creation do exactly what it was created to do.

Creation glorifies God when it does exactly what it was specifically designed to do.

You and I were also created for a specific purpose. And when we fail to do what God designed us to do we are effectively robbing God of His glory. God designed us to know Him, worship Him, obey, Him, love Him, and tell others about Him. I have no intention of robbing God of His glory.

So, let the heavens declare, the leaves fall, the sea roar, the trees sing, and let the people trust in Jesus.

“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised…” Psalm 96:3-4

Continuity Errors

Have you ever been enjoying a movie or T.V. show, perfectly enthralled in the moment? Your mind has been transported to a distant fantasy land, or perhaps you are helping the detectives to solve some sort of incredible mystery. Then an image dances across your screen, even for just a brief moment, and suddenly you are woken from your daze. Something is just kind of, off. You may have just witnessed a continuity error.

These lapses in consistency occur often. In one shot an actor is eating blueberry pie, then in the very next shot, the pie is now apple. Or perhaps you see your favorite actors driving in a white car, but in the next wide frame shot the car has changed not only colors but also brands.

Most normal people do not get overly frustrated with continuity errors, but I tend to be highly observant, and I certainly am not normal.

It is hard to believe that any continuity errors would slip past editors in post-production given how many people there are closely examining the film. But there are always a few that inevitably slip past. Perhaps the editors allow them through just to annoy folks like myself?

Anyway, back on topic.

I have come to think that the main reason why continuity errors frustrate me so much is that consistency is so vitally important. Not only do we expect consistency, in many cases we actually desperately need it.

Now, if consistency is important in films, it is infinitely more important in our real daily lives.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has ever acted inconsistently with who I hope to really be. Even Paul, the Apostle, struggled with staying consistent. In Romans 7:15 Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” If there were continuity errors in Paul’s life that he wrestled with, there certainly are some in our lives as well.

But, thankfully, the story does not end there. Later, in the next chapter Paul explain that we who believe in Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. God not only puts up with our continuity errors, but He also, more importantly, changes us from the inside so that there will be fewer and fewer errors, and instead, more consistency.

In another New Testament book that Paul wrote, he says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God makes us better than we once were.

The incredible work of the Holy Spirit, sanctification, is the awesome process of making us more and more like Jesus each and every day. (Romans 8:29, Hebrews 10:10, 2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:6) As we grow more and more like Jesus the continuity errors in us start to fade away. God does amazing work in us.

But that does not absolve us of any responsibility in the process. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us, “do not quench the Holy Spirit.” Instead, we ought to be actively allowing God to work in and through us on a daily basis.

Each day when we wake up we need to actively choose to follow Jesus, and we need to do this on a consistent basis.

I dislike continuity errors in movies. I hate continuity errors in my life, and I hope you hate them in your life too.

God, make us more consistent in our love, obedience, and commitment to you.

When You Bump Your Head

Do you remember the feelings of frustration, determination, and excitement as you took your first steps?

Of course, you don’t. Well, more than likely you don’t remember that far back.

For those of us that don’t remember learning to walk, it’s good to remember that it was a bit of a bumpy and difficult process. God really knew what He was doing when He created babies to have a little extra junk in their trunk in order to support all the falls.

My nephew has been walking for about a month now. It has been awesome to see his legs become steadier and his falls become a tad less frequent. But he still trips, he still stumbles, and he still utilizes his built-in cushion quite a bit.

It is neat to see his confidence grow though. We have this game we play, I walk somewhere and he follows me, it’s simple and silly but it’s the most fun thing in the world to him.

I was watching him follow me down the hallway, and when he saw that I was watching, his smile grew, and he began to pick up speed. He was booking it! Faster and faster straight towards my open arms. It was at the exact moment that he was just barely still out of my reach that he suddenly swayed back and lost his balance. Normally this would not be a big deal but because of his excess speed, he went down harder and faster than expected. His little legs went flying up in the air as he tumbled backward and all I could hear was the gut-punching sound of his head hitting the floor.

A half a second later, tears.

I scooped him up, grabbed an ice pack, and hugged him tightly.

After a few moments he calmed down, tears/snot was wiped away, and he snuggled into my arms. I thought, “ok, well that’s the end of that for now.”

But what happened next surprised and inspired me. He started to wiggle.

With a smile, he wiggled until I finally put him back down on the floor. The instant his feet touched the ground he was off again. He triumphantly power walked right past the spot he had fallen and continued to move undeterred and unafraid.

A few minutes later he fell again, but that beside the point.

The point is, he didn’t let a hard fall take him out of the game.

Too often in life, we let hard falls take us out of the game.

Life is messy and frustrating and hurtful. It is pretty much guaranteed that we will bump our head a time or two or hundred. But what really matters is how we respond to that bump.

Do we shrink away? Do we get angry? Do we blame others? Do we feel sorry for ourselves? Or do we trust in God to pick us back up and keep moving forward?

In the book of Philippians, Paul, who was knocked down plenty of times, by the way, talks about pressing on towards the ultimate and final goal.

“…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had been broken and beaten down time after time again, but he did not allow bumps on the head (or even his accomplishments for that matter) to keep him from straining towards the goal. He got back up and continued to be used by God. He got back up, kept his eye focused on Jesus, and shared the good news of God’s love.

When you bump your head don’t give up. Allow God to scoop you up. Keep moving forward. Keep straining forward to what lies ahead. Press on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Pride Comes Before The Card Game

I am not perfect.

I hope that is not ground-breaking news to you.

Each week, and day for that matter, it is apparent that I am still in process. Thankfully God loves to work in and through us, in-process-people. God will use small things/events in our lives in order to refine us and develop our character.

Ultimately, the goal is that each day we look more like Jesus than we did the previous day.

Just a few days ago my wife and I were invited to a good friend’s house for a game night. Our friends introduced us to a new card game we have never played before. We were all a bit hyper and having loads of fun. After the first round, I still didn’t fully understand the game, but there was one thing that was crystal clear. I was winning….by a lot.

Now, I need to explain something for a moment. I am a tad bit of what you might call a “competitive person.” With that being said, for a couple of years now I have been working very hard to become less competitive. Sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. The other night was one of those “not so much” nights.

After I won the first round I made sure to let everyone around the table know about it. We were already having a fun time, but I made sure to let everyone know that I was, in fact, having just a bit more fun than everyone else. After the next round, I was still in the lead and it seemed near impossible that the outcome would be anything but my ultimate victory.

I was feeling good, I was bragging, my pride was oozing out.

And that’s when it happened. I lost the next three rounds. And when I say “I lost the next three rounds” I really mean to say, every bad and negative thing that could happen to someone in the game only happened to me during those three rounds.

In a matter of minutes, I went from “there is no way I can lose” to, “there is absolutely no way I can win.”

As I began to sulk I remembered Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And also, 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” And Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

Talk about a wake-up call. If I was able to get so prideful of a couple of short rounds of a game, what other things in life am I capable of becoming prideful in an ungodly and unhealthy way? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, I’m not the only one who has had a realization like this.

Pride is so dangerous because it leads us to think that we can stand on our own strength, and it causes us to selfishly keep glory that we do not deserve. Well, we cannot stand on our own strength, we are incapable of doing anything of eternal significance on our own strength alone. Additionally, God alone deserves all the glory and honor, there is nothing that we are, or have done, that hasn’t been given to/done for us by God.

Pride lies to us and tells us that we are doing okay and don’t need anyone else. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are so much weaker than we realize. We need others and above all, we need God.

There is no room for pride in the life of a person who is fully devoted to God. We need to do better. I need to do better. Thankfully, God gives us little reminders and teaches us small lessons during card games to show us how we need to grow. Let’s pay attention to those lessons and allow God to be at work in our hearts.

Lord, tear down our pride and make us more like Jesus.

“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” -1 Timothy 1:17