Hiking in a remote forest Lake Arrowhead, CA a few days ago I saw a great pine tree that’s over 100 years old and just to the side of it was a much smaller pine tree. I heard a still small voice in my mind, “Stay in the shadow of the great tree.”
I knew it was the Lord. I stopped walking and stood before the great tree and prayed, “Yes, Lord, I want to be like this young tree. Planted by the Great Tree, kept in it’s shadow, following it’s example of reaching up to the heavens in praise to you.”
I gave thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Great Tree — the perfect human being and the eternal Son of God — the One who has given his life to me, protects me in the shadow of his wings, and shows me how to live a good life that gives glory to God and minister’s God’s love to the people around me. Then I prayed for Kristi and the 14 pastors, pastors’ wives, and other ministry leaders who were with us for our first five-day TLC Retreat, that they also would “Stay in the shadow of the Great Tree.”
TLC in the Shadow of the Great Tree
At TLC each day we practiced staying in the shadow of Christ together as a community and in solitude and silence. TLC means “To Love Christ.” TLC is our life purpose, joy, and source of fruitfulness. “Abide in me and you will bear much fruit,” Jesus promised us. (John 15:5, paraphrase.) Abide.
Together we abided in Jesus through Scripture meditation, conversation, and praying for one another. We learned about life with Jesus in the Kingdom of the Heavens. We spent up to five hours each day in solitude and silence. We breathed in God’s words with the fresh mountain air. We prayed Psalms and read from the classic books of devotion to Christ. We had lunch alone with Jesus and lingered over relaxing dinners together. We studied and took naps. We cried and we laughed.
We were refreshed and renewed in Christ! We heard God’s voice!
What a blessing it is to be mutually strengthened To Love Christ in daily life, ready to take the hand of the person next to us and say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
How is Your Christ-Following Going?
In Jesus’ day the way to follow him was clear. Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men [and women]” (Matthew 4:19, ESV). Those who wanted to be his disciples (including not just the twelve, but dozens of others too), “Left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11, ESV).
How do people do that today? To follow Jesus is to become his Apprentice. It’s to re-organize your whole life around learning to be with him and become like him. In the words of Jesus’ best follower, who never walked with Jesus in flesh, but only in Spirit as we do, to follow Jesus means, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).
Apprentices go into training. Going to church, having daily devotions, and tithing are beginning steps, but our training program needs to go far beyond that. We need to re-think how we’re living life. We need to open our hearts to God and one another and work God’s words into our souls. We need to learn a variety of spiritual disciplines as pathways to be transformed by God’s grace.
Sadly, this kind of soul training for apprenticeship to Jesus is hard to find in our world today. You can go to seminary and not get it. In TLC Kristi and I offer this to ministry leaders over a two-year personal mentorship. It’s the most important ministry that Soul Shepherding offers.