Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Twenty Tons of Yellow Trees

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 10, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

It was a beautiful September morning as we headed west out of Denver on I-70. The mountain views were impressive as we drove along. When we turned onto Highway 91 heading toward Leadville, there were colorful stands of quaking aspen trees that seemed to stretch for miles. Aspen trees have a golden-yellow fall foliage color and on rare occasions turn to orange. The fall foliage was incredible. Several locals that we talked to said the color was the best it had been in years.

Aspen trees are called "quaking," because the foliage of aspens shimmers or "quakes" when there is a breeze. My wife, who grew up in Colorado, loves the quakies. The smell of an aspen grove and the rustling sound that the leaves make when the wind blows through them are some of her favorite things. The scenery on our drive that day was incredible. There was a deep blue sky, and the groves of golden aspens shimmered on the hillsides. The slender, white-barked aspen painted the mountains with their beautiful yellow, gold, and orange colors.

Aspen regenerate by shoots rising along long lateral roots. Root sprouting causes many genetically identical trees, called a clone. All the trees in a clone have identical characteristics and share a root structure. Each aspen grove includes one or more aspen clones. The aspen trees of each clone will change color at the same time because they are genetically related. Aspen clones can be less than an acre and up to 100 acres in size. The largest known aspen clone is over 100 acres in size and weighs more than 14 million pounds.

The fall color was amazing as we made our way towards my brother-in-law’s cabin above Leadville. Along the way, we stopped at the headwaters of the Arkansas River, where you can jump across the river. Not many people in Arkansas can say that they have jumped across the Arkansas River, but I can. When we arrived at the cabin, the little valley that it sits in was awash with color. The view from the cabin includes three 14ers, that is mountain peaks with an elevation above 14,000 feet.

My seven-year-old granddaughter was with us, and she enjoyed taking pictures with her tablet. After seeing so much beautiful fall color, we asked her how many yellow trees she had seen. She said, “I have seen two tons of yellow trees.” After a night at the cabin, we headed towards the Grand Mesa. Our drive over Tennessee Pass was even more beautiful than the drive the day before. Everywhere you looked there were massive groves of beautiful golden aspens. By the end of the day, as we were stopping once again to take photos of the trees, my granddaughter decided that she had seen enough yellow trees. We asked her how many yellow trees she had seen, and she replied, “I’ve seen twenty tons of yellow trees.”

As beautiful and amazing as the fall colors were, she was tired of looking at yellow trees. She was no longer excited about taking pictures of the trees with her tablet. What had been exciting at first had become boring for her. After seeing “twenty tons of yellow trees,” she had become indifferent. It made me think about my life and how some days I am indifferent to God and everything that He does for me.

The Bible describes this as being lukewarm. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15, 116 (NASB) Jesus isn’t happy with lukewarm followers. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who was lukewarm in their feelings towards you?

Following Jesus doesn’t mean believing in Him and then living your life as though He doesn't matter to you. Being a Christian means to follow Him completely every day; not just when you are in the mood. Spending an hour a week worshipping Him is not enough. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 (NIV)

In 2 Timothy 3:5 (NCV) Paul describes lukewarm Christians, saying that they “will act as if they serve God but will not have his power.” Mature Christians follow God with all their heart. Jesus said, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 (NIV)

Lukewarm Christians sit in churches and believe the message of the gospel but are not meaningfully engaged in its mission. Lukewarm Christians don’t really want to be saved from their sin, only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. Lukewarm Christians think that they are “wealthy and do not need anything,” but “are really miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17 (ICB) Lukewarm Christians act like a believer and do “good” deeds to increase their self-esteem, but until they realize that they are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, God can’t save them.

Gentle Reader, Christians often become lukewarm because their Christianity has become routine and mundane. They look at all of the amazing things that God does for them, and they say “I’m tired of looking at trees. I’ve already seen twenty tons of yellow trees.” We are often totally unaware of how God is blessing us. When things aren’t going well for us, we are very aware, but when things are going smoothly, we don’t stop to think about God and how He is blessing us. Don’t be lukewarm, remember that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)

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