Category Archives: life challenges

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.

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“Prodigal Son Wins Mega Millions”

nypost_lotteryIn our youth group recently we have been getting the teens involved by encouraging them to pick our study topics. Each week one teen is selected and they work with one leader to pose and answer, from scripture, any question they may have. I will admit I was afraid aliens, dinosaurs and other silliness would claim the forefront, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the questions asked. Questions about homosexuality, where is God when bad things happen, and most recently, why do so many have to hit rock bottom before turning to God?

Needless to say we’ve had some amazing conversations, and it has been a huge growth opportunity as our teens dig deep to get answers to questions that really matter to them. This most recent question we discusses in the context of the parable of the Prodigal Son. As many of have done, he prioritized the wrong things, went all in and found himself at rock bottom. He was faced with the decision of turning to his father or death.  It took him hitting rock bottom to turn to his salvation. It’s a beautiful story and one we can all probably identify with.

I got to thinking this morning, what about those that follow the same path; seeking self promotion at any cost, placing fame and fortune above all else. What happens when the prodigal son spends his last dollar on a lottery ticket…and wins? Because, we see this happen as well. People who put themselves and their interests and their happiness above all else, often to the detriment of many…succeed and get all they want in this world. What does that story tell us? Where is God when good things seem to happen to not so good people?

We read about these people throughout the Psalms, the wicked prospering and mockingly stating that God either doesn’t care, is asleep or doesn’t see their actions. Since the begging of time people have called out to God to bring ‘justice’ on the wicked. However, the wicked still seem to prosper, the wicked still seem to triumph over the oppressed, the wicked still seem to win.

Let me bring your attention to another story in the bible, also found in the book of Luke, just one chapter later. This is a story about a poor, sick, oppressed man who dies in abject poverty and pain, Lazarus, and a rich man who had every good thing in life, neglecting the needs of those around him. Both men die, and as such have very different experiences.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:22-24

Lazarus, was one of the least of men and so received a mighty reward in heaven. The rich man, on the other hand, who had not used his blessings on earth to bless others, who had used his blessings on earth to glorify himself by satisfying his fleshly desires, went to Hades.

Yes, people in this world, who chose to help themselves first, will be last in the life after this one.But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Luke 16:25-26

The story continues with the rich man’s plea for Abraham to send Lazarus to the home of the rich man’s father to warn his brothers to change their lives so they will not suffer the same fate (sounds very Charles Dickens). To which Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31

If the prodigal son won mega millions, his outcome would be of his making. Would he use his blessings to bless others, or would he continue down a path of selfishness and waste? We obviously can’t say. What we can say, is if he chose the latter, his rewards, all his rewards would be used up in this short lifetime. There would be nothing for him in the next. Yes, good things happen to bad, or wicked, or selfish people. Or perhaps it’s better stated that good things seem to happen to wicked people. The truth of it is, that they may seem to have all they want for a time, but our lives here on this earth are short compared to our eternity with Jesus. That short moment of pleasure will cost them eternity. Where our short moment of suffering will yield us an eternity of glory with our savior.

Good things, bad things, here on earth doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with what we have while we’re here. Did we give God the glory by placing our faith in Jesus and blessing others with thanksgiving, or did we live to glorify and please ourselves? Mega millions mean nothing in the light of eternal salvation.

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

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Who (or what) is your King?

maxresdefault“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5

The Israelite’s asked Samuel, the Prophet of God to appoint them a king to lead them, “such as all the other nations have.” They wanted to be like everyone else, like any other nation on earth. The wanted the blessing of being ‘chosen’ but not the responsibility.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Leviticus 20:26

God chose His people, He chose them to be His own. He hand picked this small band of people to be holy and set apart, and what did they do? They rejected Him, over and over, and asked Him to set up a puppet of himself to rule over them. Instead of the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Universe they wanted a visible, worldly, imperfect man to be subject to; they asked God to make an idol of Himself and have it rule over them.

The dictionary defines an idol as, an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. There is however, a tertiary definition, a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered. Israel wanted someone they could see and touch. Someone they could look up to and revere…but they didn’t want it to be God, they wanted it to be more like them.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but yell, “what are you doing?” Why would you want some guy to rule over you when you have the Sovereign God of the Universe tripping over himself to raise you up and give you everything you could ever want? WHY??? Reading scripture it often feels like Israel spent more time running, disobeying and outright denying God, than they did worshiping, praising and honoring Him.

Why do we, (yes I said we) have such a propensity to ignore, disregard or downplay the eternal in lieu of the immediate, finite and temporal? Why do we chose idols over God? Why do we chose now over forever, even when we know that what we chose now may cost us forever?

Who is your king? Matthew tells us that, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 Your King is that person, place or thing in which you invest your, time, money and heart. It’s what you revere, worship and place your trust. Does God have that place in our hearts? Is what we chose on a day to day basis going to last us into the eternal Kingdom?

Samuel was rightfully upset when God’s people told him that they wanted a king to rule over them, God’s response was equally upsetting, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” 1 Samuel 8:7-8

Reading through the Old Testament, God made sure that the people knew and understood his frustration at their behavior. I have been asked so many times recently if all the tragic happenings in the world today are because we have turned our backs on God. I don’t believe it is. I believe we live in a fallen world, where sin is rampant and commonplace. Diseases are everywhere and natural disasters are becoming more the rule than the exception. I believe that we are reaping the consequences of our actions. Disease more easily defeats us because we are unhealthy, as a society we eat what we want, don’t go outside and live as if we’re immortal. The environment is wreaking havoc because we have treated God’s beautiful creation as our trash heap and polluted every part of it as best we can. Sin destroys lives because we allow it (yes I said allow it) to rule and reign in our world.

No this is not God’s wrath, but it is our choice. If we made better ones, if we chose to put God in His rightful place, our world would be better, our lives would be better. Is God causing it, no! If we followed His commands and lived according to His word would it get better, YES!

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All Means ALL

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“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

In this short passage from Paul to Timothy we get a very clear message from God. “Who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” That Truth is Christ. People will come to this knowledge and salvation not by our loud words and strong opinions but by living our lives peacefully and in godliness and holiness.

The instructions given to Timothy are equally relevant to us today. Pray, petition, intercede and give thanks for ALL people. Believe it or not, He means ALL. Whether we like them or not, as Christians we are to want ALL people to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and be saved.

We are to do the same for Kings and those in authority over us. We are not told we have to agree with them, we are not told we have to like them, we are not told to take sides or to perpetuate propaganda. We are told to pray, petition, intercede and give thanksgiving for ALL people.

Pray for them (our leaders) to hear God. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct them, stand before the throne and ask Jesus to bring them to a knowledge of Him. We don’t do this because of our agreement with their policies or actions, but because God want ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. We do this so we can live peaceful and quite lives in ALL godliness and holiness.

It seems like our world is anything but peaceful right now. I find myself challenged to fall into step with what the Holy Spirit is telling us through the Apostle Paul. I’m angry at decisions being made, the violence and senseless loss. I’m fearful of what I see happening outside my doors.

In the midst of all of this, I hear the Holy Spirit, “first of all pray, petition and give thanks for ALL people.” Do this for those across the street and across the nation. Pray for them to know Him. If everyone would stop and pray for one another, perhaps we could regain some perspective on our lives as Christ followers.

Our aim in life is to glorify God and to bring those around us to a closer relationship with Him. Our goal is to live peaceful and quiet lives in ALL godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I would encourage each of us to think before we speak. Will the words we are about to say help us achieve this goal? Will our words help to bring people closer to God or divide us even further? Will our actions help us to live peaceful and quiet lives or encourage hatred and violence?

Pray for ALL people, especially our leaders that we may live peaceful, quite, holy lives and work to bring ALL people to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus.

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

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Stingy Sowing

sowing reaping

I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8

When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.

The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6

God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47

What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.

Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.

We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.

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Humpty Dumpty and the Tower of Babel

humpty dumptyWe all know the rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses, and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The image of something so silly as an egg, sitting on a wall, falling down, and being smashed into an irreparable state, made us laugh as children, who would come up with such a sad silly story, without a happy ending?

Similarly, in Genesis we read a story about how all the people in the world spoke one language and how they came together to build a tower to ‘reach the heavens’ and ‘to make a name for themselves’.  Like a silly round bottom egg sitting on a wall, their pride drove them to take actions which ultimately led to their being scattered across the world, unable to be unified as they once were. There was nothing that could bring them back together like that again, irreparably broken they went their separate ways.

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

God saw that the people, (all as a group), had great pride. Pride that drove them to believe themselves His equal. A pride that will continue to drive the human race to attempt feats that bring us renown, and make us feel godlike. “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of the people of God, driven by pride, to take action in direct opposition to Him, serving only to glorify themselves.

Why would Humpty sit on the wall? To have the best view of the military parade passing by, to be seen as clever by attempting the impossible, balancing so precariously on a wall. We don’t know why he did it, we do know that he fell, and his pieces were so completely shattered that no one could repair the damage. Not even the people he sought so hard to impress.

This moment in Genesis, the people were of one mind, one language, working together for a common cause; the cause however was not God’s, it was their own. We as a race, instead of using our unity for good, wanted to use it to glorify ourselves and try to reach the heavens, we wanted to be god’s in our own right. Sound familiar, how many times in our history have we done something we thought was so smart, only to reap the horrible consequences of those actions? From that moment, we were scattered, never again to be so unified in purpose. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” No longer able to communicate the people lost interest in their project and went their own separate ways.

What happens next you ask? Well, instead of working together we fought each other; for land, for money, for ‘love’, for every reason you can imagine. The unity we knew, the unity we were created to have, was destroyed by our pride.

God knew what we were capable of accomplishing together, we are, after all, made in His image. We have His capacity for love, compassion, joy, peace, hope, patience and kindness encoded into our very DNA. But pride won over.

Then one day everything changed. He provided a way for us to again be unified. Christ is our universal translator. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that when He came to indwell in the hearts of the Apostles and all those who would believe, we could again be unified in heart and purpose.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:2-4

From Babel to Pentecost, God did not provide us a way to reunite, doing so would only have led to the same outcome. Our lives being about us. But Christ’s selflessness and sacrifice brought us all together; Jews, Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free people. We are ALL united in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks in and through all those who believe. God not only gave us the ability to be unified as His Church working together for one purpose, He also gave us the purpose.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Babel to Pentecost; confusion to clarity, separation from God to unity in Christ. God’s plan reflects His character, He is Sovereign, loving and compassionate. His plans will never fade, fail or falter.

It was man’s choice to give into our pride, it was that pride that led to our confusion at Babel, it was God’s love and compassion that, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were again brought together and given a common purpose.

Yes, we all speak different languages, compounded exponentially by the number of people and cultures and countries that exist in our fragmented world today. But God (two of my FAVORITE words in the Bible) provided us a way, through belief in Christ, to come together. Will we use this blessing to serve His purpose, or our own.

 

 

The Old Can’t Contain the New

new and oldI have often read and re-read the parable of the wineskins, it’s one that serves as a reminder for me to renew my thoughts daily, to keep aligned with the mind of Christ, and not with that of the world. This parable is taught by Jesus in 3 of the 4 gospels, however I had not paid as much attention to the passage which immediately precedes this. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.” Matt 9:16

I find it funny, as someone who sews regularly, that this point didn’t pop out to me first. As a young girl learning to sew with my mother, the first thing we had to do after bringing home our fabric treasure hoard, (and it was often a hoard) was wash it. You should never create your masterpiece out of unwashed fabric, or after washing a completed garment, it may shrink, tearing the stitches, pulling away from the zipper or, even worse, end up smaller than you’d planned. The point being made here, is if you try to patch something old with new, unshrunk fabric, it doesn’t work. It’s the same with trying to patch holes in old ideas, legalistic views, or worldly habits, with Christ, they don’t fit. One will pull away at the other until the whole garment is destroyed.

This concept of not patching the old along with the new is woven throughout the scriptures. We read that we must loose the old dead self, we can’t fill old wineskins with new wine, unshrunk cloth to old garments. We can’t continue to live our old life once we become a new creation in Christ.

There is a level of dissonance that will keep us from enjoying all the fullness that is our inheritance with Christ. When we have an encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and give him our lives, we can’t continue to live as we did. That is the whole point! Why would we reach out for Christ to free us from the death trap of our lives, then chose to live a life unchanged. We’re robbing ourselves of Christ’s promises. That kind of life, isn’t really a life at all, in constant battle with one’s self. This is what Christ meant when He spoke about being hot or cold, cause lukewarm He’ll spit you out (Revelation 3:15-16).

This internal warring can only lead to corruption and death. When we continue in our old ways not only are we missing out on God’s best for our lives, we aren’t being a good witness to those around us, we will not live in peace, we will not grow in Christ and eventually get discouraged and fall prey to the pulls of the flesh. Jesus, when responding to the Pharisees claim that He had cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposed himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end  has come.” Mark 3:23-26

If we, as followers of Chris,t continue to pursue our fleshly desires, our end will come. We can not survive in a state of division against ourselves. We will either chose to give Christ our all or chose to follow the world, there is no in between. Also, if we are indeed all members of one body (as we are told in scripture) and you are still choosing to live as part of the world, what effect will that have on the body? How can we perform the function God created for us, if we are still choosing to live in world?

Unshrunk cloth destroys old garments, old wineskins burst from new wine, a house divided against itself can not stand. We have a daily choice, to design our garments with new fabric woven from threads of scripture, stitched together with prayer and cleansed by the blood of Christ.

We can’t continue to try and cover the old with the new, the old must be completely thrown away, that is the only way we can walk anew with Christ.

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

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Cultivate your inner gardener

An open book sitting on a bright red modern chair.I think it’s possible that each of us have had some kind of awakening or epiphany recently. Whether it’s discovering time for a new hobby, rediscovering what it’s like to spend real time with our family, or even reconnecting, in new ways, with people whom we’ve lost touch. This time of uncertainty in the world has wrought many challenges and at the same time brought many renewals, and revivals. Disclaimer: I would never want something like this to happen in the world and I am completely in awe each day by the stories of people who are demonstrating a level of bravery and sacrifice that is just plain remarkable. I continue to pray for all of us during this time for protection,  healing and provision.

What I have seen in my own life and in the lives of many of my friends, and family is a desire to know God better. A desire that cannot be quenched by binge watching Netflix, or reading the entirety of Oprah’s book list, or having a weekly Zoom meeting with everyone I know that doesn’t live in my house. Nothing can fill the space in my life that has been created for God alone. Yes, I said a space in our lives that was CREATED for God alone. For those of you asking, yes, it is a space in every person, everywhere regardless of their beliefs. We are all children of God, created in His image for His glory, so that space is in all of us.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity) We simply cannot fill the space created for God with anything other than God. What I am hearing a lot of, is people running out of things to try, and looking for what will work. People are hungry for that which can only be satisfied by Jesus.

Talking with my Pastor this week, we were discussing how there are more people watching Sunday service than normally attended pre-quarantine. With so many people in the world  looking for something to fill that space, our Sunday attendance has continued to grow. It’s a wonderful thing technology, how it can help connect people to each other and even to get out the message of our Lord. People are coming to know who Jesus is and why He came and what He did for each of us! It is a glorious thing!

Herein lies the challenge, and it’s one Paul faced with the church in Corinth. ” Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are sill worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV)

Paul preached Jesus and Him crucified to the Corinthians, they came to believe and formed a church. Paul shared with them all he knew about Jesus and the life of a Christian. However, when we are spiritually young we can not come to understand the deep things of Christ that He wants us to know so we can be more like Him.

OK, Betsy, what are you trying to tell us? I am trying to say that spiritual growth is a participatory sport, not a spectator sport. Yes, ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us that causes growth. However, we can not sit back in our lazy-boy and expect God to move us.

I love listening to sermons and messages from amazing Godly preachers. This week while I was listening to Priscilla Shirer, I was so engaged and inspired and I found myself wishing I possessed the knowledge of scripture that she had, her ability to know and understand and share the truth of God is anointed! Wow, I caught myself, I was (unconsciously) counting on her to pour scriptural knowledge into my head, instead of seeking it out for myself.

Let me be clear, God created and called people to be teachers and preachers. However, that does not relieve us of the responsibility to lean into God for ourselves. That was part of what Paul was facing with the Church in Corinth. They were arguing over who had the better teacher, were they followers of Paul or Apollos or Cephas? Our teachers are doing what they are called to do and they will be held to account according to that calling. Each of us, also will be held to account for what we have done with what God has given us. We won’t get to point to someone else and say, “they never told me that!”. No, we have been given a precious gift, a gift that the people of the first century Church didn’t have, we have the inspired word of God! We have NO excuse to stay in a place of spiritual immaturity.

When you think, and this goes for me as well, of the amount of time we spend trying to fill the space created for God with things created by God, we could probably have read the bible 5-times over by now.

There will always be things to do, people to see, and work to be done. Our lives are very full, (even though we can’t leave our homes or go to school or to church or the movies…you get the picture), the space is calling to us and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, will fill it except Jesus.

I love that we are finding ways to continue to share Jesus with the world. We need to also find ways to help people connect with Him in a real way outside of that initial experience. We need to find ways to grow spiritually with Christ, so that the birds of the air can’t come and snatch away the precious gift that has been planted in the lives of new believers.

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We need to cultivate the ground. Where possible we need to help others do the same, lead by example, show the way, lend a hand, cultivate your inner gardener. Get out of your chair and participate, you will not be disappointed.

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

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

High Anxiety

High AnxietyDo you remember the 1977 Mel Brooks movie? If not I’ll shed a bit of light, it is a satire on several Alfred Hitchcock movies where the scariest scenes, ones that have terrified us for decades are turned into hysterical (and a bit irreverent) scenes where knives are replaced with newspapers and blood with ink. It takes us to the edge of anxiety, ramps it up a few notches then lets us fall down laughing at how we were taken in by what seemed to be something terrible, and turned out to be nothing at all. Sound familiar?

Proverbs tell us, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good words makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) In the amplified Bible it expands the meaning to anxiety weighing a heart down. Anxiety can weigh us down, cause depression and ultimately whatever we’re obsessing about becomes the lens by which we see everything else in life.

While reading recently I was reminded, “worry comes when we lose our awareness that God is our Father. That He created us, and He cares…deeply loves, that which He created. If we are truly aware of who we are in Christ, we should be more confident than any other people on earth. Here’s the stinger…does that mean that we’ll never experience any kind of fear or anxiety? Does that mean that we will walk through life, and no matter what is thrown at us, we’ll just shrug our shoulders, and think ‘it’s all good’, and move on unflustered? Does it mean that if we do experience a moment of anxiety that we are living in sin?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) This is a verse we’ve all read…but have we understood? In Luke we read, “ The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (8:14) Allowing your fretting, anxiety, fear to drive the direction of your life is a sin and can choke the life out of you, but experiencing a moment of stress or anxiety does not mean you are sinning.

I recently had a situation at work where I was faced with having a difficult conversation with a colleague. The thought of having this conversation was both freeing and anxiety provoking, I had knots in my stomach. You never know how the other person is going to respond, will it negatively affect our working relationship, how will it change our team dynamic? All these things were running through my head and heart as I was preparing myself for the conversation.

I sat down to pray, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.” I gave the situation to God, not with a heart of vengeance (this was not about me being right and they wrong but of clarification), I asked God to be in the conversation so we could hear and understand each other, move forward together, to be stronger and more effective in the future.

I believe in God’s word and the power and freedom that we find in obedience. I believe that we can life a life that is not weighed down by anxiety where our joy is choked out by the cares of this world. I do not believe that our lives will be, in this lifetime, free from anxiety provoking situations. In all the scripture I’ve read it states that when we experience anxiety, it is our response to that situation that determines the outcome. The scriptures say, ‘be anxious for nothing’ it does not say ‘you’ll never experience anxiety about anything’.

I will own that I struggled with this as I prayed about having the conversation. Did being anxious about the conversation mean I was in the wrong, that I was sinning? Did that mean that I was being sinful in the situation? Was the situation caused by my sin? Perhaps the anxiety was due to my being in the wrong. No! You can be completely in the right and still feel anxiety about a confrontation! It’s how you deal with that anxiety that determines where your heart is.

When Jesus sent out the disciples He said, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father  who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19) Jesus did not say, ‘you will not experience fear’ He said do not let fear overcome you and thus choke out your ability to hear the Holy Spirit.

We will all experience fear, anxiety, and stress in life; anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, that happens a lot, especially in these seemingly uncertain times.  Experiencing anxiety does mean you are sinning! When you allow those feelings to become a state of being, a driver of your live that affects all areas of your behavior, feeling of self worth or belonging, then you are living contrary to God’s will.

Be anxious for nothing, knowing that anxiety will happen. But, hand it over to God through prayer, and thanking Him for all the times He has stood by you, saved you, guarded and protected you. Remember who you are, and whose you are, and anxiety will not be able to control your life.

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

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Perspective…You are NOT your job

In-Christ-I-Am-640x226Your identity is in Christ.

That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.

In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.

No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.

Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.

God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.

All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7

I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.

Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.

Lauren Daigel has a song out that I have gotten in the habit of playing over and over. You Say, has been a call to me when I feel like my priorities are beginning to get out of balance.

“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17

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