Oak Leaves, Dead Trees, and the Gospel of Christ

Guest Blog by Wes Stenson @falllineridge (Facebook and YouTube)

A deer stand experience always has a way of evoking feelings of awe and wonder. For me, those feelings show up as amazement at a setting sun, a gentle breeze through the trees, or the intricacies of an oak leaf. Most of my hunts occur in the evening. Sometimes, I do manage to drag out of bed and sit in an early morning stand. When this happens, I get the delight of looking at the stars through the treetops. 

The wonder of it all is no accident or coincidence. Take the example of the oak leaf. A glance at thousands of leaves on a majestic oak is remarkable enough, but have you ever really looked at a leaf? One leaf contains a seemingly uncountable number of veins and other structures that my lay eyes cannot identify. While beautiful, all of the structures serve a purpose. Sunlight is converted to energy, carbon dioxide to oxygen, and dead leaves into mulch for the tree to reuse. From top to bottom, a tree is a brilliant organism. In the same way that a brilliant painting stands as a testament to the painter, the design of a leaf stands as a testament to the Designer.

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Even with all the beauty present in nature, we see disruption and imperfection. One of the greatest struggles for a successful food plot is weeds. Seed quality makes no difference when weeds grow and steal all the nutrition and moisture from the plot. Deer are beautiful creatures, but some areas struggle with Chronic Wasting Disease. The tree your stand is in might be in a perfect location, but if the tree dies your plans must change. So what makes us so drawn to the beauty in a world full of disease, weeds, and dead trees? Consider the words of Paul in Romans 8:20-22, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” Paul here lays out the basic condition of humanity. We have been subjected to “futility.” We see the beauty of creation. We long for a time where the weeds don’t choke out the clover, the deer don’t get sick, and the trees don’t die. We long for the original condition of the world. A time that existed before sin entered the world and brought with it the difficulties we face.

Ultimately, the greatest difficulty we have is that our sin separates us from God’s glory. We frequently talk about how good God is. And He is. He is good. He is the standard of good. There is no evil in Him whatsoever. He is so good that His goodness creates a problem for us. Since we are not good, we cannot live up to God’s standard of goodness. Just take a look at the Ten Commandments and you’ll see that it’s impossible to live up to God’s holy standard. I can list several of the Commandments right off hand that I’ve broken myself…today. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Hand in hand with God’s goodness is God’s justice. He is a just God (Deuteronomy 32:4). Romans 6:23a tells us that the wages of sin is death. At a glance, that might not seem like a fair setup. If God is good and loving, why can’t He just forgive me outright for my sins? It’s because He is also just. Imagine a murderer going before a judge. The judge says, “Yeah, you’ve done some bad stuff, but I’m a good and loving judge so you’re free to go.” We wouldn’t say that judge was good. We would say he was evil and corrupt. In the same way, God cannot simply dismiss our sins. As Romans 6:23a tells us, death is the wages of our sin.

But herein lies the glorious good news of the Gospel. Consider the rest of Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The futility of our current situation in this world, the dead trees, the weeds in the turnip patch, the sick deer, and our own separation from God was provided for in Jesus. One day the weeds will be gone, all disease gone, and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4-5). Right now, however, God offers us a relationship with Him through Jesus. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8 that “… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” As the old hymn goes, “And on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” Jesus paid the wages for my sin…and He did it while I was still a sinner. Here we find that our God is also merciful. Our part in all this comes in the old, familiar promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s the glorious news of the Gospel: Jesus came to save sinners.

Wes Stinson

****To see more of Wes Stinson content and videos, visit his YouTube channel called FALL LINE RIDGE showing adventures in sawmilling, homesteading, gardening, and simple living.