Tree of Life
While praying over the new year to come, I saw an image in my heart and decided to create it. I saw a branch with golden keys growing on it, just as fruit would grow on a tree, and knew the title should be “Tree of Life.” The keys represent wisdom from the Lord, just as we call answers to a difficult situation, "the key."
Scripture speaks about the Tree of Life in several places: the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible. I found it a fascinating study and a great place for us to look at as we prepare for a new year!
The first mention of the Tree of Life is in the Book of Genesis when God placed the sacred tree in the Garden of Eden for His children to eat, but they chose the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil instead. The last is reference is found in Revelation as God promises to reinstate access to the tree for those who obey His commandments. (Genesis 2:9, 3:24, Revelation 22:2) This makes a good history lesson and future promise, but what can the Tree of Life offer us today? In the middle of Scripture, we come to four references that can apply to us right now.
As we prepare for the year ahead, let's ask the Father for the keys of wisdom for our journey!
Father, I ask You for the wisdom that You have promised. Please show me how to RECEIVE the keys You have for my life and BE a source of healing and life for others!
A Gift that Counts
Merry Christmas! In the midst of the season of giving, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of gift Jesus likes...
Sometimes people tell me, “Oh Rebecca, think what you could do with a huge crew and a million dollar budget for your films! You could accomplish so much more for God's Kingdom with your talent.” It's natural human reasoning to think that, but only if you believe that talent is a gift that pleases God.
The truth is, God doesn't need our gifts. I believe God is not interested in my talent-- He's interested in my heart. He doesn't anoint talent: He anoints obedience. Obedience is the seed that grows great faith. (In fact, the things He chooses to use are often the things that I think are the most ridiculous or least “talented!") This is why we are called to surrender our gifts and talents to Christ-- because without the component of obedience, they are unusable in the Kingdom of God. No matter how “talented” we are, He looks for a heart that follows hard after Him and puts Him first. God wants to do amazing things with people who choose to say "yes" to Him!
Last year I was working on my first film about the Celtic saints, and I couldn't figure out why on earth God was asking me to do this film! There were so many other people who were more knowledgeable, skilled, and better funded than I for this project. I tried to figure out if there was something in my skill set that qualified me for the task, and I finally shared my question with my prayer team,
"Why is God calling ME to do this film?"
One of my prayer partners responded,
"Because He knows you'll do it."
I laughed-- God wasn't giving me this assignment because of my skill set, rather, He was calling me to do something so big that He would get the glory... because I had very little to offer other than simple obedience. God is simply not interested in our talents (although I believe He honors those who refine their craft) but what He really wants is our obedience to dare to follow Him into adventures of faith!
The beauty comes when we learn that God wants to partner with us in creativity, and that He's able to co-create with us in ways that defy imagination. Repeatedly I've watched Him rearrange weather patterns in order to stage the perfect conditions for a film shoot. Sometime He brings people into place just a few hours before a shoot, including the costumes, props, and skills that are just right for the scene. One time He sent a stunt choreographer for a pirate scene in Alaska just when we were shooting a “fight” scene-- this man just happened to be visiting the church I was speaking at one Sunday morning and heard the call for extras that afternoon. Other times He puts rainbows in the sky in a perfect place, or sends a weaver to donate a special length of hand-woven cloth to the film shoot. At times, I've felt angels on site while filming.
Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
This Christmas, I challenge you to give your life to Christ as a gift, surrender all your talents and dreams to Him, and then follow His lead. He might just use you and a camera... you and a laptop... or you and an idea no one has ever thought of before to change the world. You never know where life with Jesus will take you!
Prayer: Lord, I surrender every gift, talent, resource, and idea to You. Show me how to follow You in the mundane things, and help me to trust if You ask me to take a leap of faith to pursue Your call on my life!
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for 2018 to be finished so I can “turn the page” and start a new year! I created this photo with the idea that the Bride of Christ is sleeping, but midnight is about to strike and a brand new day will begin. This bride has become pretty comfortable with her current position, but the time that is coming that she will need to arise and prepare for the new day so she can meet her bridegroom in it.
Notice the clock in this photo: it's nearly midnight- just on the verge of a brand new day.
A quick study on the word “midnight” in the New Testament paints an interesting picture.
It's the most inconvenient time of day: Then, teaching them more about prayer, he [Jesus] used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ Luke 11:5-7
It's easy to fall asleep: Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight... As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Acts 20:7,9
Breakthrough happens at midnight: Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! Acts 16:25, 26
The Bridegroom arrives at midnight: "At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!' Matthew 25:6
We're on the verge of a new year, and I believe God is about to release new things into the earth. During this “almost new day” season, I feel like this poses the same challenges and opportunities that these scriptures reveal about the midnight hour:
-There's lots of inconveniences. People sometimes display more needs at Christmas time, and since there's often a lot of un-met expectations, it's easy for our lives to take on added drama.
-It's easy to “fall asleep” spiritually because there's a lot of extra options and demands on our time.
-Breakthrough happens when we worship and pray!
-It's the time when the Bridegroom calls us to go out to meet Him! God is getting ready to meet us for the new year with new dreams, strategies, and open doors!
As the Bride of Christ, let's make the decision to be “awake at midnight” so we can tap into the blessings of this season! Here's a few ideas:
-Stay intentional about spending time with Jesus in your personal prayer time. It's easy to get so caught up in the glitter of celebrating Christmas, that we forget to spend time with Jesus!
-Remember how Paul and Silas received freedom as they worshiped and prayed at midnight: I believe this can be a time of great break though! Let's make time to worship and pray, even in the business of the season.
-Listen for the Bridegroom's voice. He is ready to give fresh direction, strategies, and insight for the new year. Let's keep our ears open and listen for His wisdom!
Prayer: Lord, show me how to prepare for the year ahead. Tune my ears to hear Your call, and give me the wisdom for the new season, so that I can be ready for what you have created for us to do together!
Over the last few days, I've been astounded by the faithfulness of God. Sometimes He brings amazing people into our journey in a way that's deeply humbling, and opens our eyes to see His hand even in the most difficult of situations. It's a beautiful reminder that He wants to be a part of our lives even more than we want Him to, and He really is working on our behalf. 'Though the wind and waves crash, we can rest assured that our God is faithful.
Often the things God wants to reveal to us cannot be seen with our human eyes. In fact, if we only see with our eyes, our perspective will often lead us astray from God's plan. Sometimes it takes closing our eyes to a situation in order to fully see what God is doing, and peaceful clarity comes when we seek God's vision in prayer.
Seven times in the Old Testament, God asked the prophets, “What do you see?” (Jeremiah 1:11, 1:13, 24:3, Amos 7:8, 8:2, Zechariah 4:2, 5:2.) One of these times Zechariah was even awakened by an angel “like a man awakened from his sleep,” and his eyes were opened before the angel asked what he saw. Jeremiah was blessed by the Lord for reporting what he saw, and was told “you have seen beautifully/well.” Each time, God wasn't asking for their perspective on current events or what they saw with their natural eyes, but rather if they were seeing the specific thing He wanted to show them. Each time they saw what God was revealing, God brought revelation that was specific to their circumstances, and unveiled His plan.
I created this picture to remind us that the unseen world is mostly where God speaks. For many of us, He doesn't show up with a bold of lightning or write in the sky the answers we seek. In fact, we may discover Him in the most unusual of places. When thinking of this, I recalled how the Apostle John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos when he saw a door opened in heaven (Revelation 4:1). John had been exiled for the gospel's sake to this remote island, and I'm sure there was nothing comfortable about his surroundings. Then one day, traditionally while in a cave, he suddenly saw Jesus, who told him to write what he had seen and was about to see (Rev. 1:19). A door opened in heaven, and John was invited to see wonders that would unfold God's perspective about life on earth. When Jesus invites us to “come and see,” He invites us into heaven's perspective.
Many of my greatest experiences with the Lord have happened in "cave" places of solitude where I've just been crying out for an answer in prayer. Sometimes it's when I'm pacing in the bathroom (which is a nice, quiet place to pray!), or recently it's been when I perch on a cliff overlooking the beach, armed with a notebook to journal and write out my prayers. My situation may look bleak, but suddenly I have a "come up here and see" moment, where the Lord gives me a perspective that suddenly changes my entire outlook on the situation. Mountains become molehills and impossibilities become possible when He shifts my perspective and I begin to see through a new lens-- and none of this happens through my natural eyesight. Sometimes it happens with a thought impressed on my heart, and other times it occurs as I read the Scriptures, like King David who prayed,
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
Maybe this week we won't be caught up to heaven like John did, but we can still seek the Lord's perspective on situations that happen to us every day. Like this photo, sometimes it means deliberately choosing not to look on things with our natural eyes, but to kneel before the Lord on prayer and seek His perspective. We have open access to heaven, and God longs for us to see like He sees!
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes so I can see You! Show me Your perspective as I lay situations at Your feet and desire heaven's plan.
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