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The Tree of Life

Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
-Revelation 2:7

What are you hungry for and what's on the menu?  Some people seem to always be hungry.  In this verse, we are told that there is a special tree, that only some people get the right to eat from.

Throughout your life, you have probably tried foods that you never had before.  Sometimes, you might have said, "that's really good".  There are foods that taste exquisite.

There is a promise in the message to the first church, in Revelation, that they will get to eat from the tree of life, if they conquer.  A special food is available to those who conquer.

The word conquer is an odd word for us.  What does it mean?

It means victory or overcoming, which has to do with faithfulness.  And faithfulness is an action.  To be faithful and have victory or be overcoming and conquering, is to take action.

And the context here are people who have been working hard for God, but have abandoned or left their first love.  They have labored, endured, and been intolerant of evil people.  They have exposed the lies of false apostles.  They have specifically endured hardships for Jesus name and have not grown weary.

"I know your works, your labor, and your endurance,and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary."

But in all that, they made the mistake or got off track by moving away from the life of living in Love.  Jesus says that is what they and we started with and they and we too can move away from love, into all sorts of good works.  We can move away from that love and start living is self righteousness, sort of doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

Jesus was not and is not pleased with believers who do the right thing without love.  We learn here that we can not live the life and be pleasing to the Lord, detached from the simple life of love that started our journey in Christ.

The reward for being simply faithful to live in the love of God and be loving because we are loved, is to eat from the tree of life.  Before Adam and Eve fell, they were allowed to eat from the tree of life, in the garden of Eden.  They were forbidden from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

They ate from the second tree and became barred from eating from the first tree.  The phrase 'tree of life' is mentioned in Proverbs and perhaps Ezekiel, before we find it again in Revelation here and later, in the city of God, in Revelation 22.

You could make the case that the tree of life is eternal life through Christ.  The Bible looks backwards and forward to Christ, who stands outside of time, as 'the Lamb who was slaughtered from the foundation of the world' (Rev. 13:8).

The reward or promise and provision for those who stay in their first love or return to it when they stray, is to eat from the tree of life.  It is interesting that if the tree of life symbolizes Christ, what the promise is saying is that if you stay in the love of Christ, you get more of Christ.

The alternative would be that if you leave the love of Christ that got you started, and somehow get involved in religious obligation or legalism, doing the right thing for the wrong reason; Jesus will remove your lampstand.  This is the penalty or result when we do not repent.

What does this mean: "I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent"?  Does it mean you lose your salvation?  I don't know if it means that.  Figuratively, it might mean that you or you all, because it is a church, plural; will lose you light, your ability to shine real light or influence for Christ.

'Lights out', might mean no life or nobody is home.  It might mean asleep.  Maybe it is like Jesus is saying, "If you don't repent, I am pulling the plug on your church".  I don't know.

It is interesting that when we leave the love, the love we had at first, we are already 'pulling the plug' or ceasing to be connected to God in Christ.  But perhaps, Jesus keeps blessing people, ministries, or churches for a while, who become disconnected from the love that they started with; and then at some point in time, he says that this has happened and we need to repent, or he will remove his blessing.

This reminds me of Jesus' saying, "To those who have much, more will be given.  But to those who don't have much, what they do have will be taken away."  The secret is that we determine how much we get and he encourages us to get more.  The person who is passive or purposely does not seek to get more will lose the small amount they do have.

You could make the analogy to food or produce and farming.  You get more by harvesting and planting.  If you don't get out there are pick the produce and plant more and do all the things farmers do, then your crops will shrink from small to none.

Same thing with your livestock.  If you don't feed and tend to your animals, they will die of be lost.

If Christ is the tree of life, then the reward or blessing; the promise and provision from living loved, is more love.  Christ and his love is never boring and it is limitless.  The experience of his love and the love of the Father through him is deeper and wider than we can explore in our lifetimes.

When we come into the love of God through Christ, we have entered into eternal life.  If begins here and now, then continues into eternity.

The simple love leads to a life of deeper and wider love.  It does not get complicated, but is does go into depth, insight, and wisdom.  When we leave love for works or cerebral knowledge, the leaving the love part is a problem.

The tree of life that is promised to the Christians or the church that conquers, is victorious, or overcomes through faithfulness to living in the love that they started with; could be called 'the deeper Christian life'.  That deeper life is more from God that we started with.  And God has a catalogue or warehouse of gifts and blessings that he wants to give us, that are in Christ.

The mistake we make is to somehow leave the love that we started with.  And it is funny that conquering, victory, or overcoming is had by simply staying in the love that got us started.  The tree of life is the Father's love in Christ.  The fruit of that tree is the Father's love that is shown through Christ.

That is the bread of life that we must eat daily.  This is also our greatest weapon that gives us victory and overcoming and conquering in our lives.  Living loved and knowing the love is the key to living and is what sets captives free.

Salvation, deliverance, and life comes from that love.  Wisdom, joy, and peace come from that love also.  To eat from the tree of life reminds us of every good thing that is from him.

Eating from that tree of life brings us into Philippians 4:8, of thinking about what is true, just, pure, lovely, and commendable; of moral excellence and praiseworthy things that are from the Lord.

If the tree of life is Christ and we have Christ within us, we can access it and partake of the fruit anywhere and at any time.  We neither have to wait to go to heaven nor hope for a special spiritual experience or visiting heaven.  We have Christ within us and can eat his fruit, as our daily bread.

His life is our life and that is the tree of life.  Don't think that eating from the tree of life is an unusual gift, showcased is Jesus' word to the Ephesian church of Revelation 2.  It is for all Christians (2 Cor. 1:20).

Back to this issue or word 'conquer'.  The ones who conquer get to eat from the tree of life.  Don't let that sound like a good work or zealousness that is ever outside of our first love or love we started with.

He conquered death and the enemy.  When we realized who Jesus was and when he initiated our salvation, or personal salvation experience, we got involved, through his love, God's love through him; with him.  His conquering was to take action, out of love for us.

Our conquering is to take action, in being faithful to him.  We do this by loving him with the love that started when we were first touched by his love.

Good things can be done, outside of loving Christ.  The problem with this and the problem Jesus has with this for us, is that if we do things and live a certain way that might be good, but it is not from and out of his love, then it is not Christian.  We might identify as Christian and be church people, but we are really humanists or socialists or fill in the blank.

Jesus stern words are that if you want to do good and even hate evil, but it is not from the love that he loved you with that saved you, then he will remove your lampstand or shut off the lights in your church.

He is looking for a people who simply love.  Those who have been saved will love others in that love from the one who saved them.  And eating from the tree of life symbolizes partaking of the life of Christ and becoming deeper and wider in the love that started our lives in Christ.

The way in is the way on.  The love that started us is the love that we go on in.  We never leave the love that started our lives, but take it with us.

There is a tendency we have to let the love grow cold or be taken for granted.  We always need to circle back and revisit that love, rekindle it, renew it, be thankful again for it; and the person from whom it is from and through.  Relationship to Jesus must be nurtured and renewed, celebrated, and made sacred again and again.





Teaching By Asking Questions (Teaching Like Jesus, pt. 8)

I have a question for you...
-Matt. 21:24, Mark 11:29, Luke 20:3

In my opinion, it is good when a speaker, whether it is just your friend across a table, or someone speaking to a huge audience, asks us questions.  It is bad when someone asks no questions, but just teaches you, lectures you or tries to entertain you.

Think about the best comedians or Shakespearean soliloquy/monologues.  They ask the audience questions.  They ask us to enter into the story.

The best experiences are when we are drawn in.  We say, "Yeah, that happens to me".  And the questions draw me into whatever the speaker is talking about, so that we can be together in it.  Saying, "have you ever ran out of gas?", "burned your toast?", "been honked at?", "been given a surprise?"; all draw me into your story or the story in teaching that you are asking me to go on.

If you have ever watched a TED talk, the speakers ask you questions to draw you into the story about what they are sharing or teaching.  That is called compelling.

Everything that we say that is compelling is not a question.  I am not sure if the Gettysburg Address has questions in it or if good eulogies need to have them to be compelling.

According to Hermann Horne, Jesus asked about 100 questions, in the Gospels.  The homework for this study, would be for us to go the Gospels and circle all Jesus questions.

Jesus is the answer.  But Jesus came to ask questions and give answers.  Why?

His questions are meant to stir us up to thinking.  Education is when we think and learn something.

I personally believe that good teaching involves asking questions and I like that style.  I used to listen to a preacher on the radio that began every message with, saying, "Question", then he would ask a question, that was what his message was about.

Questions lead to dialogue, learning, and community.  I would say that in dysfunctional families or relationships, we don't ask questions.  Dysfunctional parents or teachers do not ask questions or encourage questions that educate, cause growth, or nurture community.

Curious people are thinking people who ask questions and are growing.  Great teachers or leaders tell us things, and also ask us great questions.  And the best teachers and leaders also encourage their students or followers to ask questions, and they refuse sometimes, maybe often, to answer them.

This is one of my favorite quotes ever:


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


Rainer Maria Rilke

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Learning to teach Like Jesus series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5