In the Shelter of His Branches
Posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 by
“I’ve got the love [of Jesus]/I’ve got the peace [of Jesus]/I’ve got the joy [of Jesus]/And it’s deep down in my heart.”
--“Deep (Way Down)”, T. Smith/N. Smith/Hall/Smallman
Time’s march forward can never diminish the memory of a believer’s soul-changing claim of YES to Jesus. A lifetime’s passing, a decade, a June, a day: it’s of no consequence. No rust tarnishes the recollection of the inward elation of claiming for eternity the Bright Star of Bethlehem. The extraneous may dim but the feeling—the unsurpassed and purely perfect JOY that floods the soul like a magnificent wave—can be recalled in an eye’s blink. The reality of the lyric “I once was lost, but now am FOUND” (“Amazing Grace” - Newton/Rees, emphasis mine) must surely resonate as nothing before or since that “yes” moment, the exact instant of touching the very hand of God.
Do you recall with nearly supernatural clarity the hope that infused you as you knelt before the cross—that astonishing, miraculous, ghastly, gruesome symbol of God’s love and his Son’s sacrifice—and claimed Jesus as Savior? Doubts dissipated and shadows scurried: there was only sun and Son. You were made instantaneously new, and though the path before you angled upward at an incline at once daunting and strength-sapping, the reality of the hand that took yours, the gentle push from behind, the encouraging whisper in your ear, was a forever thing: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) God through Christ spoke to you that day and gave you an eternity-promise. All things became possible. When at nightfall you rested your head upon your pillow and your thoughts turned toward the future, you felt the strength of Jesus’ indwelling spirit guiding you toward tomorrow. The sense of belonging to something far more enriching and sustaining than the world heretofore had offered blanketed you in warmth and reassurance. Alone, the years forward beckoned with indecision, perhaps fear; linked with Christ, there remained only anticipation of a future shared.
Can you not, even today, hear the word of God as he revealed to Ezekiel his Old Testament promise, “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays” (Ezekiel 34:16)? In contemplating your “yes moment,” whenever it might have occurred, did you find yourself in desperate circumstances, unable to find a way out of a mess of your own creation? Had you strayed from a family whose Christ-centeredness excluded you? Was there within your heart a vacuum that refused to be filled by a cold and loveless world’s promises? Were you, conversely, taking a progressively bold step forward on the path to your personal spiritual maturity?
Before doesn’t matter much, does it? It’s what comes afterwards that holds both consequence and weight. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” the Almighty makes clear to Ezekiel (36:26). That new heart pumped new blood throughout your mortal body at the moment you bowed before your King. A new focus captured your eyes. Your desires changed. There was more to consider than simply yourself…what benefited you, what made you look best. A strain of servant hood took hold: others mattered. In representing Someone far greater, you became less. And it was good; it was right.
Jesus never promised a trial-free life if you claimed Him and followed Him. That upward path of choice is strewn with boulders. The unwelcome and the unexpected lurk along the road’s edge, waiting to pull you off course. The guiding force of Jesus, however, sustains you. There is peace and contentment in His care. He makes all things doable. The blood that dapples the soil at the foot of the cross proves His love AND His promise. As believers, we shelter as birds in the shade of God’s tender sprig come to fruition through Jesus.
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In celebration, recall your “yes moment.” Relive the love, the peace, and the joy of transformation! It is a contagious memory, meant for every searching soul and every beating heart. As WMYFC prepares for another camp season, ask yourself how you might be used as the hands and feet of God. My prayer is that you will feel compelled by recollection to aid in offering a life-changing “yes moment,” and its attending and never-to-be-forgotten feeling of purest joy, as young people of our community come together under the banner of hope to hear the GOOD NEWS of Jesus, the CHRIST!
Among His branches, amidst His shade, I pray the blessings of Jesus be yours!