Monthly Archives: July, 2020

God knows we choose

Romans-6-1

While spending time this week thinking and praying over what to write, I was brought back to a conversation I’d had recently.

I was having a conversation with a friend, on a variety of things when they made a statement that stuck with me. We were talking about some recent decisions they’d made, and they said, “God already knows what I’m going to do and loves me anyways, so why does it matter?” This statement reminded me of another friend who made a similar statement that, “If God wants me to die from COVID, it doesn’t matter if I wear a mask or not.” I’ve actually had several conversations, over the past few weeks, where individuals are relinquishing accountability for their choices to God’s foreknowledge, (and in some cases believed fore-planning) of them. I want to share something with you today, that as I write, I pray it will be received in the spirit which it is intended.

God’s Omniscience does not affect our choices – our relationship with Him does.

Just because God knows us completely and knows all things, knows how we’ll react and respond, this does not excuse us from our accountability for the choices we make. God’s knowledge does not equate to His approval. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility on the basis that God knew we’d do it, and He let us do it anyway.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2

God created us in His image, we chose another road. God sent Jesus to die, and redeem that decision, not so we could relinquish responsibility for our choices, bu so we could make better ones. Jesus showed us the way. He showed us how to live.  As we read in Romans 6, God’s grace is not a license to drive off a cliff, it’s a get out of jail free card; for the mishaps of life – kind of like your auto insurance company’s accident forgiveness program. It’s there if you need it, but unnecessary if we practice good driving skills.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

We all need accident forgiveness for the things that we’ve done. Here’s the rub, knowing that God knows we’ll do it, and knowing that God will forgive it, does not give us God’s permission for it.

Our choices can’t be ‘blamed’ on Gods foreknowledge and acceptance. That’s like saying it’s a parent’s fault that a child sneaks out of their bedroom at night to steal ice cream. The parent may expect it to happen, they’ve established rules and guidelines so the child knows they should not do it, but in the end the parent also knows that the stomach ache the child may feel in the morning may be the best way for them to learn. As a parent there are choices, I could prevent my child from making, but then how would they learn? Allowing them to make, and learn from their mistakes, does not mean I approve of them, it means I’m giving them the space to learn and grow.

The flip side of this coin however, is that my child’s relationship with me, and my relationship with God, can (and will) affect their choices. Demonstrating the way, reading the Bible and praying with them, teaching them how to make Godly choices, will help them make better choices.

How can we claim to know God, to know Christ and have a relationship with Him, if we don’t know His word? How can we claim to know God’s direction for our lives when we don’t go before Him in prayer? How can we claim to follow Christ when our words and actions degrade, demean and devalue ourselves and others?

Our relationship with God, and His son Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can influence, affect and change our behaviors. Just like the single greatest influence on our children’s lives is their relationship with us. The single greatest influence on our Christian walk is our relationship with Christ.

We face down decisions every day, now more than ever our choices are so polarized that it seems almost impossible to chose wisely. The world is full of advice on what to do, what to think, how to act, who to believe, which side to chose and which side to hate. We keep looking to the world for answers, mostly because they are easy, plenty and familiar. When the stakes are highest and the decisions hardest we throw our hands in the air and claim, not my responsibility; God planned all this out, He knew what would happen, it’s His will, it’s His decision, doesn’t matter what I do.

Friends, it does matter what you do, you were given a will of your own, a chance to choose God or the World. God’s knowledge of you (like a parent who knows his child) does not absolve you from the responsibility to use the mind soul and strength that He gave you. Yes His grace is sufficient, but it is not an excuse.

Your relationship with Christ is the single largest influence on your choices; it can save, redeem, restore and complete you. Your choices, and the outcome of your life is a product of your relationship with Him. A relationship which is always present, unchanging and available when you decide to turn to Him.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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This isn’t Mr. Rogers neighborhood

good-samaritan-wordle“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher”, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”, and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”” Luke 10:29

Who indeed?

Over the past three months or so this question has popped into my head with both frequency and urgency; who is my neighbor? Does the person screaming profanity in a ‘peaceful’ protest count as my neighbor? Does the individual who posts racist ideas on social media, then incites further controversy with their responses count as my neighbor? Does the politician who touts their integrity to the whole world, then gets indicted for embezzlement and gross negligence count as my neighbor? The short answer is, yes.

Even in this time of highly polarized conversation and opinions, everyone is your neighbor. Scripture is very specific on how we are to treat others; we are to treat them how we would want to be treated. I don’t believe I know anyone who would want to be yelled at, called stupid, demeaned, lied too or beaten. All of us want to be respected, valued, and loved, all of us want to be treated like we matter and are important.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are given so much with regards to how we are to interact with one another. We are reminded of the greatest commandment, “He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Love God, and love others as you love yourself.

Scripture also tells us in Ephesians 4:32 to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. In John 15:12 Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us. In Romans 12:10 Paul tells us to love one another with brotherly affection and to outdo one another in showing honor. We are to bear with one another, build each other up, have one mind, be sympathetic, humble, bless, speak well of, and hold them in higher regard than ourselves.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

Scripture does not tell us to repay, revile, revenge, slander, cheat, lie, anger, take sides, bear false witness, demean, devalue, crush underfoot, show favoritism, destroy, devour, take pride in division, or gloat over our enemies. It does not!

How much pride do we take in a well landed jab, or in our witty, albeit cruel, sarcasm? Since when do we measure intelligence by how quickly someone can cut down or put someone in their place? Our world is overfull of hateful rhetoric, slanderous jabs, and divisive politicking. I wonder if we even see those on the receiving end of our vulgarity as our neighbors.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21

There is no excuse, or reason for Christ followers to speak like we are right now. If our neighbor has a different political opinion, that does not make them stupid. If our neighbor does not share our opinion on child rearing or infant baptism or basic traffic laws, that does not make them ignorant, evil, uninformed, or incapable of reason. It simply means they have a different opinion, one that is derived from their lifetime experiences and upbringing. None of this precludes any of them from being our neighbor. In fact, even them being our enemy does not (per scripture) preclude them.

Our witness to the world has never been more tested than now. Nor has it ever been more important.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 1-:36-37

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Where did the weeds come from?

wheat_weedsWhile preparing for a children’s message this week, I noticed something in a familiar scripture I had not noticed before. I love how scripture does that, reveals something new to you amidst the familiar. I was reading Matthew 13 to talk to our kiddos about the Parable of the Weeds. Tucked into the middle of this story is a subplot having to do with the servants of the Sower.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

Right in the middle of this story we see the Sower’s servants get snarky with Him, “didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” I can actually hear the voice of my youngest son here. Sarcastically stating, “mom what did you do, cause this is not what’s supposed to happen.”

Like a spoiled child, when something happens that was not expected…weeds growing in the midst of the crop, we blame the Sower. We doubt Him who promises us everything, who is always faithful and who always keeps His word. When something unexpected or unpleasant happens, we assume it must be God that caused it through His action or inaction.

The Sowers response is simply, “An enemy did this.”

How often do we attribute the bad things in our lives to Him who saves and provides for us in all things? When situations arise in our lives, why is our immediate response to blame God? Why to do exclaim, “why did You do this to me?” or “Why did you allow this to happen?”

An enemy did this. Why is it easier for us to believe that our loving God would respond or act in an unloving way as opposed to believe that the evil one who comes to steal and destroy would be responsible for our troubles (that is who he is), or that indeed we are responsible for them ourselves?

The scripture states, “But while he was sleeping, his enemy came and also sowed weeds among the wheat, and went on his way.” Matt 13:25 Unlike God, Satan can’t be all places at once, he sneaks around when we aren’t paying attention and sows weeds in the middle of our fields, then runs away to do more elsewhere.  He sows discord, hatred, malice, envy, and jealousy. These sprout up with the good fruits of our labor, but often we don’t seem them right away, we don’t see them until it’s too late.

After the Sower responds that an enemy has sown the bad seed, the servants immediate response is, ‘how can we fix it?’ They jump to the conclusion that these shoots should be torn out.  I like the way the Amplified Bible states the Sower’s response, “But he said, No, lest in gathering the wild wheat (weeds resembling wheat), you root up the [true] wheat along with it.” Matt 13:29

Wow! God’s grace here is so humbling. God hates sin, can’t bear to be near it, sent His son to bear it, but in this instance He allows it to sprout up, making sure that in the process of weeding, He doesn’t loose any of His harvest. He didn’t sow the weeds. He didn’t create the problems. However, he will always give us what we need to endure till the harvest.

“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Weeds will be sown in life. Our loving and gracious Father will never let them destroy us. He will always provide a way for us to endure and grow and flourish among the weeds and thorns of life. Satan may sow discord, Christ will not allow it to destroy us. In the end He will send His angels to reap the harvest, first taking the weeds and burning them, then bringing us into His barn.

God will not give up His people. He may allow weeds to shoot up and try us, but He will not prematurely weed us out along with our troubles. He will provide us all we need to endure until the proper time, then our troubles will cease and we will be with our Savior.

God is not the cause of our troubles, He is the solution to them.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

A little bit goes a long way…

maxresdefault (1)“He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took an mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matt 13:33

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”…then they understood He was not telling them to guard against yeast used in bread, but against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matt 16:6-12

These two verses both use yeast as an analogy for the Kingdom of Heaven as well as the pervasive teaching of the religious elite, demonstrate that a little bit can go a long way. Whether it’s a little bit of Jesus or a little bit of the world, it makes a big difference.

This week while I was going about my morning routine, as best as I could since the children and I are camping in the back yard which doesn’t make for a great night’s sleep #staycation2020 #COVIDsafefun. I sat down with my coffee and checked my social media accounts. I came across a post from an individual I know from our church. They decided that all the negativity, political rhetoric and deviciveness on social media was too much and affecting them in an unhealthy way. So, they decided to take back their time from what had become a worldly distraction. They chose a better way.  Since then I have seen many others follow in that decision. To be transparent, I too have felt a desire to pull away from the cowardly commentary and political rhetoric that has taken over my social media feeds.

I was struck by how they recognized that this one little distraction was robbing them of their joy. Recognizing it for what it is, yeast of the world, and chose not to let it work it’s way through their life. This stand made me think about what other areas of our lives are we allowing the yeast of the wold to permeate who we are and change us in ways we that align us with the world and not with Christ? “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the wold becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

What things do we allow, that may seem innocuous enough, but end up becoming a part of who we are, our very identity?

  • Are we gamers
  • Are we metalheads
  • Are we Trekkies (ouch!)
  • Are we techies
  • Are we conservative, liberal, moderate, republican, democrat, independent, black, brown, white, Indian, European, Canadian, Russian or American?

Have we let these identities permeate who we are to the point that we identify with them first before; Christ follower, Jesus Freak (my 16-year old son’s favorite), or Christian? Have we allowed the yeast of the world to so completely work through us that we don’t see it for what it is?

Dear friends, each of the above named ‘identities’ (and it is not an all inclusive list) serve one purpose. It is either intentional or subliminal, they serve to divide. There is ONLY one identity that unites, one person that brings peace, and accepts and loves all…Jesus!

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with Gods’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 16-17

What kind of witness are we when we are quarreling with each other about the same things everyone else is? How can we say we follow Jesus and call ourselves Christian when we look, act, and sound like everyone else; when we identify ourselves like everyone else? We are called to be set apart, to look different to be different.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, it will also work through us and thoroughly permeate every part of our lives, become our true identity. There will be no part of us that remains unchanged, but we must add it in! We can start by identifying ourselves with Christ before anything else. We can get to know Jesus by reading God’s living word and we can ask to be transformed into His likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Isn’t that more important as your political or national affiliation?

I follow Jesus! I am a Christian wife and mother. I am a called teacher of the Word of God, set out to share the good news of the Kingdom to anyone who would listen and be saved. Everything else my, my friends, will fade away…

Who are you?

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Church Closed for Cleaning

closed_church_shutterstock“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-26

Recently we did a lesson with our youth on spiritual gifts. We wrote them all out on pieces of paper. One side had the name of the gift and the other side had the definition of that gift. We taped them to the walls of our youth room, with only the name of the gift showing, and asked the youth to go and stand beside the one they feel best represents their gift.

I was not surprised that gifts like serving, helps, giving, mercy and hospitality remained vacant where those more well known and coveted gifts, wisdom, teaching, leading, evangelism, and apostleship each had one or two youth standing next to them.

In turn the youth would state why the felt they belonged with their identified gift, and then I asked them to turn the paper over, read the definition and then state if they still felt their choice to be true. In several cases we had a reshuffling of youth, however those seeming ‘less important’ gifts remained empty.

Paul is very clear when he shares with the Corinthian church that all gifts are from the same Spirit and all are from God. He goes on to say that all gifts are given for the common good (the church) and that we, together are one body. Each gift serving as a functioning piece of that body. Why then do we see some gifts as ‘better’ or ‘more important’ than other gifts?

Our church, like most if not all of yours, shuttered it’s doors for a time this spring due to COVID-19 and the subsequent public safety rules that were enacted. As churches around the world took a huge leap forward to provide virtual worship services, small groups, youth meetings and do whatever was possible to keep people connected, behind the scenes, church leaders were making plans for how to reopen.

Strangely enough, those plans did not rely heavily on the worship team performance, sermon topics or Sunday school teachings. Everything hinged on who would keep the church clean. Looking at the type and frequency of cleaning, what chemicals are best to use and what days it should take place; these discussions permeated church board meetings week after week. Who would step up to serve, to help and to give to support this ‘ministry’? The church reopening was hinged on those gifts that we consider ‘less important’.

We put out a call for help, and every Friday a small army of masked heroes arrived at the church to prepare it for Sunday services. They mopped, dusted, disinfected every surface. Their gifts made it so we could reopen.

Sunday morning another team of masked heroes arrived, those who would hold doors open, greet and seat the people of God. With smiling eyes and a joyful voice the welcomed people back to God’s house.

Early risers, sincere smiles, joyful hearts, strong backs, masked faces and gloved hands; their service, help, gifts and sacrifice made it possible for our church to not only gather, but to not invest large amounts of church funds into hiring a professional cleaning service.

Living through this pandemic has taught me many things, one of the more important lessons is that we are all one body. We all have God given gifts. Each gift is as important and valuable as another. The pandemic of 2020 has demonstrated, in no small way, that the gifts of service, helps, hospitality, giving and mercy are more needed now than ever. \

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”

I want to thank God for those people out there serving in their roles,  in the medical field, education, transportation, law enforcement and fire prevention. Thank you to store clerks and mechanics and all those people who day after day get up, show up, give thanks and keep the Body moving forward. Without you, where would we be.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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