Connecting Three Bible Trees

How are The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life, and the cross of Jesus connected?

Genesis opens the Bible with two prominent trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first allowed continued existence and the second an opportunity to exercise free will in rebellion against God. Adam and Eve ate of the second tree and lost access to the first. They came to know good and evil and also came to know separation from a unique fellowship with God and the pain of death.

Revelation closes the Bible with access to the Tree of Life restored, its life giving fruit, and a unique fellowship between God and man .

What connects these scenes of rebellion and peace, restraint and restoration? The cross of Jesus where the Savior was hanged upon a tree, cursed to redeem us from a curse (Galatians 3:13).

The cross became a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for it informs us of the great evil that could crucify the Son of God, the exceedingly high price of sin, and the cost to redeem man. We also are taught of the exceeding love, mercy, and goodness  of God who would make such a sacrifice to redeem us (1 John 5:20). We come to know God in a special way through the cross.

The cross is also a Tree of Life through which the death of Jesus brought righteousness and life (Romans 5). The cross lifted Jesus so that even those who look to Him today can find salvation and eternal life (John 3:14-15).

Engaging Videos on the Life of Christ

Appian Media has made freely available a series on the Life of Christ filmed in the places where the events unfolded.

Appian Media has created an engaging and educational video series “Following the Messiah” that traces the life of Christ through the places where he lived and worked. Hosted by Barry Britnell, who regularly leads tours to these places, and Jeremy Dehut, an enthusiastic preacher of the gospel, they bring the history and meaning of the scripture alive as you look at the places where these events unfolded.

It is a series of short videos that would be useful for evangelistic studies of the life of Christ and Bible studies for all ages at home or in Bible classes. You can watch the videos for free on the Appian Media web site.

5 Things Preachers Need to Know About PowerPoint

Some preachers are able to use PowerPoint tools effectively to help illustrate points and provide a clear organization to sermon points and how they are connected. It can especially be helpful to parents of young children who may have attention taken away periodically during the lesson to keep the thoughts connected.

However, when PowerPoint is used ineffectively it can distract from the message, frustrate the audience, and confuse instead of clarify. Here are five things that preachers need to know to use PowerPoint more effectively.Television and internet production technology concept

  1. Don’t copy your outline to your slides. Few things are more frustrating than a sermon read-along. I’ve seen some preachers who will preach word for word from their “eye chart” PowerPoints. PowerPoint should not be a teleprompter or shared outline. It is a tool to help convey your message. The practice among professional presenters is no more than four bullet points of five words each (4×5 rule though some teach a 6×6 format). Simplicity is the key. PowerPoint is for main points not every point or every word. What is the takeaway? What is the key?
  2. Pull out quote highlights or use multiple slides per quote. Another challenge to reading is projecting a lengthy Bible or supporting quote. This is often very helpful but it can, like the OutlinePoint, be an eye chart. It is better to read the quote for context and put the smaller focus of the quote on display. If you feel that the complete quote should be displayed, consider breaking up the quote across slides so you have smaller sections in larger, more readable type. An easy way to do this is to copy the entire quote on one slide, clean it up, then duplicate the slide (Ctrl-D) multiple times. Edit each of the slides to show its part of the quote.
  3. Ctrl-Enter is the friend you didn’t know you had. I don’t know the Mac equivalent, but in Microsoft Office, holding the control key while hitting the enter key will add a soft return, that is, it shifts down to the next line without creating a new paragraph or bullet point. Using Ctrl-enter will allow you to clean up orphans (words that are alone on a line) by sending another word or two down to provide balance. It is also helpful when you want to balance the words in a multi-line title or subtitle.
  4. A slidedeck is not a handout. I know it is easy to dump the outline onto PowerPoint with the justification that you can give it as a handout but they are two separate presentation methods to accomplish different things. Better to handout a copy of your outline and use PowerPoint for communication assistance. Better yet, develop a handout for special lessons that have additional information that you cannot address in the sermon or links to other information. Failure to do this means your PowerPoint doesn’t have sufficient information to provide as a meaningful reference later, is not optimized for presentation during the lesson, or will be so long that you will have to kill a small forest to print it.
  5. One point per slide. PowerPoint doesn’t charge you by the slide. It doesn’t cost anything to create a new slide for a new point. You can even duplicate slides to match format styles to ease slide production. New slides signal a transition in thought as you progress through the sermon. Obviously, you may have a summary slide that brings together main points, but it can be confusing and hard to read a slide that has the three point sermon on one slide at all times.

An additional consideration is to ask if you need a PowerPoint slide at all. Most of the time when I preach I do not use PowerPoint unless I am using graphics, maps, or pictures as part of the lesson. I have an article, To Preach With PowerPoint or Without? that discusses some of my considerations when using this aid.

Used wisely it can be very helpful. Used ineffectively, it can distract. If it is a tool that we use for teaching, we need to make sure we can use it as skillfully as a carpenter uses a hammer.

I Thought You Were A Christian

Those words stung hard as they slammed me deep in my chest. The look of disappointment in her eyes and the sword of truth from her tongue hit its mark. “I thought you were a Christian.” I thought I was though it was obvious I didn’t act like one. Remember, saying “God knows my heart” to a concern does not address the fruit in your life that led someone to express that concern. Perhaps if you knew your heart as God knew your heart you wouldn’t be doing some of the things that cause godly friends to be concerned.

Those words stung hard as they slammed me deep in my chest. The look of disappointment in her eyes and the sword of truth from her tongue hit its mark. “I thought you were a Christian.” I thought I was though it was obvious I didn’t act like one.

This scene took place after a trip home from church to the college I attended. I usually had students ride with me to the church I attended about 20 minutes away. This Sunday morning there were a few friends and this girl who I didn’t know well but needed a ride. During this time Purple Rain by Prince was popular and I had both the soundtrack and a loud stereo system. This was probably the tamest of Prince’s work but that is not a high standard. As we were driving home we were blasting the tape (yes kids, a cassette) and sheSad Man Silhouette Worried On The Beach was obviously not enjoying it. My friends were enjoying it, singing loudly and I recall her voicing some displeasure and requesting a music change. Being an arrogant twit at times (mostly to cover my anxiety and low self-esteem) and in a somewhat dark place emotionally, I turned it louder and made some smart remarks. A particularly rude song came on and I didn’t change it and was more of a jerk.

The short trip was over and we made it to campus. We got out of the car, she came around, cocked her head as if asking a question and in a tone that was neither hurt or angry, but matter-of-fact said, “I thought you were a Christian.” I don’t remember if I mumbled an apology then but I remember feeling the impact of the much needed rebuke.

How I didn’t react

I could have bowed up and said, “Are you perfect?” I could have cited anything I knew about her (I didn’t know her well) that might indicate that at sometime she didn’t make a perfect choice. Then I could have said that we are all broken and that none of us are going to live perfect and the grace of God would cover our sins. However, whether she was perfect or not didn’t matter to my sin under discussion and we shouldn’t continue in sin that grace might abound.

I could have taken her to task for judging me. “Judge not…” I could quote and certainly show her the flaw in trying to tell me how to live my life. Yet I would have to hope that she wouldn’t quote the rest of the passage or other passages that encourage Christians to make righteous judgment and to make attempts to rescue our fellow Christians who are wandering away from God, which requires judgment based on the fruits of their lives we can see that sprout from the heart that only God sees. I was a jerk and she was being a loving fellow Christian asking me to consider how my actions contradicted my claim.

I didn’t ignore her.

How I did react

I don’t remember who it was but I remember what she said even now about 30 years later. I thought about my actions and her words and knew she was right. I don’t remember if I apologized to her then but I believe I apologized to her later (or both times). I remember feeling sorrowful for my sinful behavior, conceit, and not being considerate to her. I resolved to make better choices and ultimately made different friends that were more encouraging of what was right.

I never forgot the words. Maybe she knows who she is and remembers the event and the conversation and might read these words. If so, she can reach out or remain anonymous but she can know that I never forgot her loving rebuke and I think about it when I am tempted to act in a way that does not represent Christ or glorify the Father. For this I am grateful.

How will you react?

How will you react when someone sends you a text, message, email, calls you, or confronts you in person about something they think you are doing wrong?

  • Are you going to turn on them for trying to turn you back to the right way?
  • If you think you are not in the wrong, are you going to calmly discuss this with them with an open heart and open Bible to determine whether you are in the wrong or not?
  • Will you be sympathetic if they didn’t have all of the information or perhaps jumped to conclusions to give them the whole story (perhaps helping them to have better judgment) but thanking them for having the courage to confront you about it?
  • Are you going a berate them and flame them for daring to say a negative thing about you (note: this is a good way to drive away anyone who can help you be a better person, even if their concern is wrong)?

Remember, saying “God knows my heart” to a concern does not address the fruit in your life that led someone to express that concern. Perhaps if you knew your heart as God knew your heart you wouldn’t be doing some of the things that cause godly friends to be concerned. Your friends could be wrong, but you could be wrong.

I’m thankful I listened to her and that I had someone who cared for my soul more than they cared for my feelings.

Book Review: Hoof Prints to HIS Prints: Where the Woods Meet the Word

Hoof Prints to HIS Prints: Where the Woods Meet the WordHoof Prints to HIS Prints: Where the Woods Meet the Word by Jeff May

As a non-hunter, I was surprised at how much Jeff drew me in with vivid descriptions of hunting trips and seamlessly related experiences to important spiritual truths. I have known Jeff and long respected the depth of his love for God, the passion in his preaching, his faithful living, and engaging storytelling ability. I bought this book as a gift to a Christian hunter who could use some encouragement and I trusted Jeff’s ability to relate to him through this world they share.

Jeff had me in the tree stand, walking on chilly quiet mornings, and seeing the majestic beauty of bobcats and whitetail deer. Most of my male friends are hunters and I don’t object to hunting but devote my time to other interests. I appreciate their love of nature, the hunt, respect for the food they harvest with the gun, and enjoy hearing stories behind the trophies. Like Agrippa to Paul, Jeff “almost persuades me to be a hunter” and I have several friends ready to bring me into the brotherhood should I change my mind. The stories will resonate even more with experienced hunters as Jeff takes them into a world in which they love.

The power in the book is in the spiritual applications from the stories. Jeff clearly and frankly discusses issues from worship, godly service, living through struggles, prayer, pornography, suffering loss, salvation, and the joys of heaven. He shares stories and lessons about a man’s role as a husband, father, son, friend, Christian, and citizen. I know his son and can tell you that he reflects the faith of his earthly and heavenly father, and it is obvious Jeff is devoted to his wife and she loves him dearly. I’ve heard Jeff teach often and he draws from the depths of God’s word but presents the truth in its beauty and simplicity. Like his hunting arrows, he has the focus to know how to pierce the heart with the truth.

This book is perfect for strong Christian hunters as it may give words to meditative thoughts they experience in the woods. For hunters who may not be strong in their faith, like Jesus’s parables it provides a bridge from something they know to important spiritual concepts. I think even non-Christians hunters would enjoy the book as it presents truth without flinching but respectfully and the the language of hunter to hunter might push through barriers to considering God. And, as I have found, even a non-hunter can enjoy the stories and learn important truths along the way.

Buy at Amazon (affiliate link)

%d bloggers like this: