Experience the Holy Spirit in Contemplation | 03

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

READ:

Read or listen to Genesis 2:8–17; Revelation 22:1–5.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he placed the man he had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river went out from Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became the source of four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon, which flows through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. Gold from that land is pure; bdellium and onyx are also there. The name of the second river is Gihon, which flows through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which runs east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.

How are the garden in Genesis and the city in Revelation related? How does God reveal his salvation story through nature?

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.

FOCUS:

Read or listen to the blog. What is one thing you learned about what it means to lovingly gaze on Jesus? How can you incorporate what you learned into your daily routines? For example: I will meditate on Psalm 1 today during my run.

Contemplating God Through Nature: What Trees Teach Us About God

By Nathan Miller

 

The biblical story begins with a tree, ends with a tree, and finds its very climax with Jesus on a tree. As I sit outside right now, on one of those rare 60-degree winter days, I marvel at the trees around me, and I’m thankful that God loves these trees even more than I do. God loves trees. They’re beautiful. They’re useful. They’re also instructive. Like all of creation, trees can teach us a little bit about God, his world, and the lives he intends us to live.

If possible, position yourself so you can look at a tree. We’re practicing the spiritual discipline of contemplation—slowing down long enough to contemplate the deep things of life, and today, I want you to contemplate a tree. More accurately, I want you to contemplate God by contemplating a tree.

 

Contemplation #1: God Is Beautiful

When I look at a majestic tree, I see the beauty of God; his creativity and wisdom. I’ve been brought to tears by certain trees in my life, struck by the artistry of the greatest artist. Their beauty is on purpose. In Genesis, we read about the Great Artist in his studio designing such a masterpiece. I imagine him hard at work, considering options, and with a twinkle in his eye: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed. (Genesis 1:31)

The Scriptures describe the invention of trees like this: The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food…. (Genesis 2:9) Pleasing in appearance. Not just good for food. They weren’t just productive trees or necessary trees. They were beautiful trees.

As you look at the tree before you, write out a few brief descriptions of it. Maybe even sketch it. How big is it? How would you describe it? Consider for a moment how beautiful God must be to create such a beautiful thing. Also, consider that we’re made to be like God, in his image—made to enjoy beauty and made to create beauty.

 

Contemplation #2: God Is Inventive

Now consider for a moment how inventive God is. We serve a God of creative abundance, don’t we? In the passage above, the trees were also good for food—beautiful and productive. Take a moment to write out just a few ways trees demonstrate the generosity of God. What are some of the ways we humans have benefited from trees throughout history?

A couple of years ago we moved out to the country, on just over an acre with lots of trees. When a tree dies (or one of my neighbor’s trees), I get out my chainsaw, cut it down, split it into smaller pieces, and then burn them in our fireplace for warmth. I get more delight out of every step of this process than any human ever should. I’ve also replanted trees to complete the cycle.

Sometimes when I’m enjoying the heat from my crackling fire, I marvel at this. God invented trees to convert sunlight—energy—into matter. Trees, by their own natural processes, turn sunlight into wood. Can you do that? Turn energy into matter?! That alone should keep us in awe as you look at your tree.

Tree can grow into a whole lot of matter. The largest tree is General Sherman, in Sequoia National Park. He is 2,200 years old (already a big tree when Jesus was born), 275 feet tall (the WW1 Memorial is 217 feet tall), 36.5 feet in diameter (that’s roughly 4 parking spaces across), and weighs 1,385 tons (that’s about 600 minivans). It’s made out of sunlight.

Trees convert energy into matter, but it works backwards in my fireplace, for my benefit. That matter is reconverted back to energy—heat—as I warm my home. God invented that and just imagine how we humans would have struggled throughout the millennia without trees. God is inventive, and as his image-bearers, when we invent something or find new and creative ways to use certain things, and do so responsibility, we’re acting like the God who made us.

 

Contemplation #3: God Is Almost Never in a Hurry

Finally, as you look at your tree, write down how fast you see it growing. Good luck with that! You can’t do it. Even our fastest growing trees seem to take forever, and many of them are designed to far outlive us. Every time I plant a tree, I think about the people I’m planting it for. Sure, I hope to enjoy it some, but it’s the next generation who will really benefit. Planting a tree is always an act of faith, trusting that there is a future beyond me.

And if you thought General Sherman was an old tree, you should meet the bristlecone pines in places like Bryce Canyon or Great Basin. The oldest is estimated at 4,854 years old. The stories it could tell! Trees are never in a hurry. Trees are patient. They always take the long view.

I, on the other hand, often get caught up in my own little world. I’m always in a hurry, always believing that whatever is necessary must happen right now, and often, that I’m responsible for the weight of my little corner of the world.

Then I look at a tree, especially a really old one, and I often think, it’s probably going to be ok. God has designed his world to outlast me, and he far outlasts me. Nothing surprises him or catches him off guard, and if God is willing to move slowly, then perhaps I can slow down a little bit, too.

As you finish the contemplation of your tree, and your contemplation of God by contemplating a tree, contemplate these words:

Lord, you have been our refuge
in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity, you are God.
You return mankind to the dust,
saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.”
For in your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night.
Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (Psalm 90:1–4, 12)

PRAY:

Lord, open my eyes to see you in your created work—in trees, streams, the humming of birds, and my neighbors’ faces. 

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Week 3 of 5 Contemplation

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