Have you feasted your eyes on all the beautiful Christmas plants in the stores? One particularly interesting one is the Christmas cactus. Its unique form consists of hanging branches made up of flat, green segments. The flowers appear on the tips of the branches and have tiers of petals in a multitude of colors: red, white, pink, purple, yellow or a combination of these colors. Unlike most cactus that grow in dry desert climates, this plant is native to the Brazilian coast where the atmosphere around the plant is humid.
Another interesting feature of the Christmas cactus is that it is an epiphyte or air plant. Like orchids, they grow primarily on branches or trunks of trees. They are called air plants because "they have no firm grip in the earth." The web site "Gardeningknowhow.com" tells us this: "One of the amazing adaptions of epiphytes is their ability to attach to vertical surfaces and capture their water and much of their nutrient needs from sources other than soil." The name epiphyte comes from the Greek word "epi," meaning "upon," and "phyton," meaning "plant."
It is common to find aerial roots growing from the branches of the Christmas cactus. These roots serve several purposes in helping the cactus grow in its native Brazil. They help the plant attach to the tree branches. Tree bark and the crotches of branches collect organic debris that is rich in nutrients for the plants' roots. In addition, the entire plant, including the roots, also gathers the moisture it needs from the air.
Let's take the information we have on the epiphytes to see how it corresponds to our life in the Spirit. Go back to the fact that these plants have "no firm grip in the earth." Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world...But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36) Like Jesus, our inheritance is in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 25:34) Hebrews, Chapter 11, describes our fathers of the faith. "They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (Verse 13) And, Peter writes, "I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul." (1 Peter 2:11) We must not sink our roots into the soil of the world for we belong to the Kingdom of God. Our tenure here is temporary. Like the epiphytes, we must gather our water and nutrients from our source of life--The Spirit of God. "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7)
Living water and the bread of life come from Jesus. He came to earth to demonstrate how to drink and eat from Him and His Kingdom. A song called "Breathe," written by Marie Barnett, comes to my mind. She wrote it to describe the life-giving presence of our Lord:
"This is the air I breathe; This is the air I breathe--Your holy presence, living in me.
This is my daily bread; This is my daily bread--Your very Word spoken to me.
And I'm desperate for You. And I'm lost without You."
That is it, dear ones. We must spread out our roots and attach them to the Tree of Life. Like the epiphytes, be fed and watered from the true Source of Life.
How does one live an abundant, joy-filled life? Do we understand that each of us was created uniquely to impact the world around us? Have we discovered what brings us satisfaction and freedom? Life is a journey that is meant to help us discover the treasure God has placed within us to bring joy to our lives and the lives of others. As I contemplated these questions I was reminded of a story or allegory written by Richard Bach called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Jonathan, the gull, found himself caught in a dilemma. His flock spent their days searching and fighting for food, a lifestyle he found completely unsatisfying. However, he discovered, more than anything else, he loved to fly. His passion for flying grew as he perfected his techniques and became an expert at it. Jonathan was so thrilled with flying that he told his friends he discovered "there's a reason to life." This alienated him from his friends, so they cast him out of the flock.
Since Jonathan could not continue in the meaningless gull lifestyle of conformity and limitations, he returned to his new-found love of flying, practicing until he reached the pinnacle of his abilities. Just as he thought he could go no higher, he met two gulls who took him to a "higher plane of existence." Here a society of gulls spent time perfecting their flying skills. He was told, "You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way." Jonathan fine-tuned his own flight skills, learning much from his primary teacher. As his expertise increased, so did his desire to return to earth and share what he had learned with other gulls. His teacher explained that there is a key to success: "Keep working on love." Jonathan could not be free without the ability to forgive and shed any hurt feelings. Before he could help others, he had to be released from the bondage of unforgiveness. A new Jonathan Livingstone Seagull returned to earth and found other gulls who desired to know the freedom he was experiencing. He became a coach and mentor as he taught the fine skills of flying and helped others have a sense of their own freedom.
How does this story speak to the family of faith in God? Jonathan understood that there was something different inside of him that he needed to pursue. It became his passion. We too have unique qualities in our lives that are meant to help us live the abundant life, full of joy and freedom. Jesus spoke to his followers about this lifestyle. I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!" (John 10:10 -TPT) Only as we live out our purpose will we be able to soar. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31 - KJ)
As Jonathan lived the way he was intended to live, he punctured the ceiling that held him down and lived in a place with like-minded gulls. The apostle Paul reminds us of our true home. "So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19 - TPT) We live as aliens in this world; our home is in heaven. It is up to us to live accordingly.
Joshua Silverberg, musician and producer, once said, "God has created us uniquely to touch His heart.
We have a unique worship to give Him." I would like to suggest that one of the ways we touch Him is when we use what He has placed within us to help others grow in their freedom and identity. This was the outcome of Jonathan's journey to live the way he was created to live, soaring in the heavenlies. May I encourage you to ask yourself, "What makes my heart sing?" In discovering this, you will find the pathway to follow that will bring you joy and freedom.
If we were to study the growth cycle of different kinds of plants, we would be in awe of the systems that God developed for them to mature into beautiful specimens. Such is the case for the sunflower. Have you ever driven by a field of sunflowers with their golden heads all facing the same direction and wondered why? There is an internal mechanism in these plants that enables them to turn to the sun. The scientific term is "heliotropism"--"helio" meaning sun and "tropism" meaning turn. This is also called "solar tracking."
The sunflower only has a single blossom so its goal is to grow a head that can produce as many seeds as possible. Inside the green parts of the plant is a hormone called "auxins" that are sensitive to light. The auxins migrate to the shaded part of the stem and behind the bud head to stimulate cell growth so that the shaded side of the plant grows longer and faster than the rest of the plant. Then the flower head follows the arc of the sun. At night, it repositions itself so that it is east facing and can begin the process of following the sun all over again in the morning. Note that even on a cloudy or rainy day the sunflowers still follow the sun.
By turning its face toward the sun, the sunflower takes full advantage of the light for photosynthesis, the process whereby it obtains energy for growth. Once the flower matures, it no longer tracks the sun but faces east all the time. By facing east, the flower is warmed by the morning sun and attracts pollinators, primarily bees, who travel from head to head and fertilize the centers so that they produce seeds. Is this not fascinating?
I see a correlation between the sunflowers and our growth as Christians. First, God planted each of us in the ideal place for relationship with Him. "...He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27) Then, He placed within us the desire to worship. Everyone has their own "auxins," so to speak. David recognized this and expressed it in Psalm 27. "My heart says of you, 'Seek His face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Verse 8) In Psalm 105:4 it says, "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Even when we go through dark times and the Lord is not so visible, we need to turn toward Him to help us in our time of need.
As we seek the Lord and find Him, we will be growing in the likeness of Him. God delights in watching us produce the fruits of His Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) It is through our growth in the Spirit that we will begin to plant seeds in others so that the Lord will have a magnificent harvest. When seed is planted in good soil it "produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matthew 13:23)
One day the Lord will return for His harvest. Scriptures tells us He will come from the east and all of us will face toward Him, our Lord and Master. Matthew describes how it will look: "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthews 24:27) What a glorious day it will be! We must keep facing the Son to be ready for that day.
Those of us who grow house plants know how important it is to fertilize them regularly, especially during the growing season. We do this so that they receive the minerals and nutrients they need to produce healthy leaves and flowers. The plants that grow outside receive these needed elements through rain and snow. That is why I have a bucket on my balcony deck ready to receive the precious liquid to pour onto my houseplants. This past spring and summer we have been receiving such a consistent amount of rainwater that even the grass remains green in the heat of the summer.
The key to collecting the precious rainwater is having a container strategically located in the right place at the right time. Remember the story of Elisha and the widow in 2 Kings 4? The widow had been married to one of the company of prophets. Her husband was in debt when he died, and his creditor was going to take her two sons as slaves to satisfy the debt. She told Elisha that the only thing she had in her house was a small jar of oil. He instructed her to ask all her neighbors for empty jars, as many as she could gather. The widow was to take all the empty containers and pour oil from her jar into the empty jars. As long as there was an empty jar, the oil kept flowing. As soon as there were no more jars, the oil stopped flowing. The widow could sell the oil to the people of her community who used it for cooking, lamps and fuel. The Lord made her small blessing into bountiful provision because of her faith and willingness to obey.
The oil could not have been collected without a container to hold it! We read in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 that we are vessels of the Lord. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor, and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." (NKJV)
Just as God blessed the widow with oil for every one of her jars, He wants to bless us with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Without this anointing we are ineffective for the Kingdom of Heaven. God wants us to collect enough oil of the Spirit so that we can burn brightly for Him and stand out in a dark world.
How do we become those vessels of honor, sanctified for the Master's use and prepared for every good work? We must make ourselves available to Him so that when He is pouring out the anointing, we allow ourselves to be filled up. Just like my bucket had to be placed in a strategic location during periods of rain, we must place ourselves in His presence through worship and quiet meditation. This is the way to give the Holy Spirit unhindered access for Him to do what He desires. Only in the presence of God is their fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and abundant love (Psalm 86:5) and provision. (Psalm 132:15)
Tragedy has struck our nation again! Anger, chaos and disunity have followed. We ask, "Can the darkness get any darker?" We must answer "Yes." It is part of what is expected during end times. Jesus warned His disciples about the end of the age. "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars...Nation will arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places...You will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved, and this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:6-14)
The love of many has grown cold and deception is rampant. There is a demonic spirit working in our midst that has the power to intimate and control. Violence and lack of compassion for others is at the forefront. It seems the darkness is getting darker. Can we have any encouragement amid this situation? Again, we can answer "Yes!" Everyone who has confessed Jesus as Savior has the light of Christ within. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
Let us remember, as the dark gets darker our lights shine brighter. When I recently went to see fireworks over the Delaware River at Lambertville, NJ, the people shooting them into the sky waited until 9:45 pm to begin setting them off. The light of the fireworks is most effective in the darkest sky. Likewise, stars in the sky at a location where there is no light pollution seem extremely bright. It is the night season that reveals the stars.
Proverbs 13:9 says, "The light of the righteous shines brightly..." This is our greatest hour of opportunity, dear ones. God placed His light within us so that we can dispel the darkness and shine His love to many. Daniel encourages us with his words: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)
My dear friends Heather Keller and Kathy Ulrich, worship leaders at the Washington Crossing United Methodist Church, wrote a beautiful song that seems perfect for this time in our lives. Here is the chorus to "Shine In:"
"Shine in, Oh Lord, to the darkest place. Shine in, Oh Lord, on us. Shine in, Oh Lord, make us bright and new, with Your redeeming grace, with Your redeeming grace."
"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10) This is the Scripture that came to my mind as I looked at a video posted by Franklin Graham, leader of Samaritan's Purse. Every summer this organization invites wounded veterans and their spouses to a three-week stay at their camp in Alaska. It is a time for these vets to enjoy the majestic surroundings of Alaska, heal from pain and trauma of their past, and draw closer to God. One of the groups of vets came across a wide, fast-moving stream with a bear stationed right in the middle of it. A multitude of salmon were jumping up stream. As the bear opened his mouth a fish jumped right into it.
Let's look at the context of Verse 10 in Psalm 81, a poetic Psalm written by Asaph. There seems to be four streams of thought in this Psalm. It begins with a note of celebration. I like the way The Passion Translation describes what is happening: "Lord, just singing about you makes me strong! So, I'll keep shouting for joy to Jacob's God, my champion. Let the celebration begin...Blow the jubilee trumpet to begin the feast...For God has given us these seasons of joy." (Psalm 81:1-4)
Next, the Psalm reminds God's people of what He has done: "He has given these feasts to remind us of His triumph over Egypt." (Verse 5 - TPT) God says through the Psalmist, "You called to me in your trouble and I rescued you...I came down to save you." (Verse 7 - TPT) Then comes a warning from God interspersed with instructions and promises. "Hear, O my people, and I will warn you--if you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Verse 8-10 - NIV)
The problem that the Lord presents next is that his people were not listening to Him or following His ways. They were being put down by their enemies because they had not followed the ways of the Lord. God was telling His people that if they would obey Him, their enemies would be subdued, and they would be rewarded. The last verse of Psalm 81 says, "But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." (Verse 16 - NIV) Now let's look at Verse 16 in The Passion Translation: "But I will feed you with my spiritual bread. You will feast and be satisfied with me, feeding on my revelation--truth like honey dripping from the cliffs of the high places."
The interpretation of Verse 10, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it," is further explained in Verse 16. It is interesting to note that the New International Version seems to have a physical bent, while The Passion Translation has a spiritual one. The Lord is a god of more! He wants to fill us with riches from heaven that come in the form of physical needs (e.g. wheat and honey) and spiritual truth that builds us up and gives us the strength we need to overcome, and the desire to worship the Lord as described at the beginning of this Psalm.
What is required of us? Listen to the Lord. Have no other gods before Him. Follow His ways. Then, we must station ourselves in the strategic place of worship and wait for our mouths to be filled with delicacies from heaven.
While attending an out-of-town wedding, my husband and I were treated to an unexpected, magnificent display of beauty. Our hotel room faced the east side, and our bed was next to the window. At 5:45 am we awoke to see the horizon "painted" in a deep reddish orange. As time went on, the colors changed so that the skyline had a peach hew and the sky was dotted with peach-tinted clouds. We watched the sky transform until the golden-orange sun began to rise from the horizon at 6:40 am. As the sun traveled higher into the sky it turned a dazzling white and became so bright that we had a hard time looking at it directly. Eventually, the sun covered the earth with its warm light.
Habakkuk 3:4 tells us that the splendor of the Lord is "like the sunrise..." He is described uniquely by Matthew, Mark and Luke in the passages titled "The Transfiguration." Peter, James and John go with Jesus to the top of a mountain where they saw Moses and Elijah. Mark describes what happened:
"...There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." (Mark 9:2-3) Here is Matthew's description: "There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." (Matthew 17:2) Luke 9:28-29 says, "...He took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning."
When I contemplated these verses and the way the sun rises in order to illuminate the earth, I remembered that the higher the sun rises, the more area it impacts. By mid-morning the sun is high in the sky, and the land below is being warmed by its rays. The same manifestation takes place when the Son of God is lifted high. The higher we raise Him, the more impact He has.
Do you want to impact the world around you for the Kingdom of God? We can do this by lifting Jesus high. How do we do this? Worship! Exalt the Lord! Here are some admonitions from King David in the Psalms: "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy." (Psalm 99:9) "So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord," (Psalm 102:21-22) "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth." (Psalm 108:5)
We can partner with God in changing the world around us by exalting the Lord. As we lift Him high in worship, the rays of His glory shine down on us to transform us so that we become glory carriers, changing the atmosphere wherever we go.
I heard it right before Valentine's Day. Usually it begins at the end of March, but this year the cry of the dove started early. For years the mourning dove has been a consistent presence at our home in the spring. I so enjoy hearing the melancholy call of this bird! It is most frequently heard first thing in the morning (before the dove begins its daily activities) and last thing at night (before it settles down to rest).
The male dove uses his voice to attract the female and starts with one soft coo-oo, followed by two or three louder coos. He will also use his voice if there is a threat or to announce his territory. The females sometimes coo while sitting on their nests. A unique characteristic of these birds is that they can produce their own "milk." They feed their young regurgitated, partially digested food known as pigeon milk. The birds are self-sacrificing for the sake of their offspring. They stop foraging for food just before their babies are born, temporarily starving themselves so that they produce a purer "milk." This is produced for the first four or five days of their babies' lives.
The female lays two eggs, 12 hours apart. Those who observe the doves as they incubate their eggs say that the male and female take turns sitting on the nest, each taking a 12-hour shift. About two weeks after the babies are born their wings are developed, and the parents begin teaching them to fly. After their first solo glide to the ground, the babies and parents remain on the ground, hiding in the bushes until the young ones can master flying and fend for themselves. During this time, it is the father who feeds them and trains the babies to be strong and independent. It is interesting to note that doves mate for life.
Consider all this information about the doves. It is significant, in my opinion, that the dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark and Luke talk about the Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove just after He came up out of the waters of Baptism. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to freedom in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:16-17) Once we have received salvation, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who becomes our guide, counselor, encourager and intercessor. He wakens us in the morning and quickens our spirits in the evening to commune with Him.
Just as the male dove uses his coos to attract his mate, the Spirit of God calls to His Bride (The Church) to come to Him. The Spirit is available to us to bring us into intimacy with the Lord. The Triune God willingly sacrificed His life on the Cross so that we could have eternal life with Him. It is a forever commitment just as the doves commit to one another for life.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to protect and nurture us and teach us how to soar and live a victorious life. They feed us life-giving food from the Living Word that will sustain us in any situation. In Song of Solomon 2:13-14 the Bridegroom calls His Bride a dove. "...Arise, come my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. My dove in the cleft of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely."
So often, what happens in the natural is mirrored in the spiritual. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is calling to us early so that we can prepare for the Presence of God? As I write this letter, I hear the cry of the dove outside of my window. May our ears be open to the cry of the Spirit as He call us into intimacy with our Lord.
Arbor Day in the United States and Australia, New Year of the Trees in Israel, National Tree Day in South Africa--Several nations celebrate a day set aside to acknowledge the blessings of the trees. There are many! Trees produce fruit and nuts, give lumber for construction, take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, are beautiful to look at, and the tree's leaves provide shade and the roots help stabilize the soil. In the United States we celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April. The holiday celebrates the role of trees in our lives and began in Nebraska in 1872 at the request of J. Sterling Morton. He suggested a day set apart for public tree planting. He commented about the purpose of the day. "Arbor Day is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future."
Every year the nation of Israel sets aside the 15th day of the month of Shevat (Tu Bi Sh'vat) as the "New Year of the Trees." In Hebrew this would be Rosh Hashanah La'llanot. On our 2019 calendar, this day begins at sunset on January 20 and ends at sunset on January 21. The three main activities and purposes of this day are as follows:
1. Jews often eat some of the fruit of the seven species that are associated with the Holy Land. They are listed in Deuteronomy 8:8. "...a land with wheat, barley, vines (grapes) and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey (dates)." Eating these fruits reminds them that God has provided for them and of their connection with the earth. They play a role as caretakers of the environment.
2. This is a day to plant trees. Doing this brings benefits for the present and the future. This ecological holiday is a reminder to the tree planters that they are providing for themselves and the generations to come.
3. The 15th day of Shevat is the cut-off date for calculating the age of fruit-bearing trees. God gave instructions to the Israelites about how to live when they entered the Holy Land. "When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:23-25) For the first three years, the fruit on the trees is called Orlah or "uncircumcised fruit." The requirement is for each year's tree crop to be tithed separately. With everyone using the "New Year of the Trees" to determine the age of the tree, there is understanding on how to tithe and consistency in counting the age of a tree.
Before the fruit of a tree can be eaten, a blessing is said giving God the glory for producing the crop: "Baruch Atah Adod-nai Elohai-nu Melech Ha Olam boray pri ha-aitz." or "Blessed are You, God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree."
Rabbinical teaching often compares God's people to trees. We would do well to pay attention to the Scriptures that give us guidance on how to live like a fruitful tree. We must be like a tree rooted and grounded in the Lord in order to grow and produce good fruit. "Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him. strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7) Like a tree, we will go through different seasons in our lives and must be flexible and resilient to go through them but still yield fruit for the Kingdom. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." The Psalmist paints a similar picture, saying that as we delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night we will be "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever we do prospers." (Psalm 1:2-3)
An interesting visitor comes to our Maple tree on a regular basis. His colorful feathers stand out in the drab winter landscape. His head and throat are bright red and are surrounded by black and white stripes. His back is a mottled black with markings of white. He gets his name, yellow-bellied sapsucker, from his dull yellowish belly. The sad part about our visitor is that he comes to drill holes in our tree. Over the years he has weakened the tree, and we see branches slowly dying from the impact of his feeding habits. He bores 1/8" holes into the cambium layer or inner bark of the tree, causing the sap to ooze out. With his long, brush-tipped tongue he laps up the sap. It is common for these birds to drill several holes in a perfect row around the trunk. Too much of this will kill the tree. The holes provide entry points for insects or diseases which also contribute to the weakening of the tree.
Once the yellow-bellied sapsucker discovers a good feeding spot, he returns to it again and again. In order to discourage these birds, one must wrap the tree trunk and larger branches with burlap, particularly where the first holes are drilled. This keeps the bird from reaching the sap in the tree. It is critical to stop the path of destruction before it goes too far.
We have an enemy who would like to destroy us. He comes to "drill holes" in our minds. He wants to destroy our clarity of thought. Frequently he comes as a whisperer to whisper an idea or bad thought into our minds. If he finds "fertile ground" he will return with more lies. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for serpent is Nahash, which literally means whisperer. King Solomon, known for his wisdom, made an interesting observation in Proverbs 16:28. "A whisperer separates close friends." (ESV)
The serpent first appeared on the scene when he whispered into Eve's ear. He put thoughts that are counter to God's truth into her head. Once these thoughts prevailed, she sinned by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree and giving her husband some of it. Consequently, Adam and Eve died a spiritual death and became separated from God.
Just as burlap protects the bark of a tree from the yellow-bellied sapsucker, the Word of God protects our minds from our enemy--the one who whispers lies. We must not allow him to continue his litany of lies. Every whisper that turns into a thought must be taken captive so that it is obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Both King David, in Psalms, and King Solomon, in Proverbs, write that "Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." (Psalm 18:30/Proverbs 30:5)
Indeed, not only is God a shield, but He is our Redeemer. God sent His Son Jesus as a "second Adam" to restore and redeem us from the curse of the enemy. He came as the Living Word to bring light and life to us. John 1:12 tells us, "To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." Victory over the enemy is ours as we shut down the whispered lies by declaring the truth of our God and Savior.
Joan E. Mathias