I was scanning through my Facebook feed this morning, and as I often do, I checked out my memories function. I found that on this day, on year ago, I posted this scripture, ” Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25
My attention was captured by the words, unswervingly and spur. Not sure why, but these words aren’t common in my daily vocabulary, and they caught my attention. So, I spent some time this morning looking up what the meaning of them are in Greek. What I discovered created a sense of urgency from this passage that I had not grasped before.
Unswervingly, in generic English translation it means to follow a direct path, to never turn aside and to be steadfast and loyal. In Greek, the word is anthistemi, which means to set against or withstand without giving up or letting go. We are to withstand without giving up on the hope we profess. We cannot turn or be turned aside from that hope. We must hold to it with a single-minded belief that this hope we have in Jesus, that which we profess is based on God’s promises which are unfailing.
How often do we get derailed by the frustrations of life? If any of you are like, me right now you feel like you’re in a batting cage with a rogue pitching machine, no bat, no glove and the door is locked. The fast balls of life are firing you at you, and they keep getting faster and faster and you are getting tired of dodging and swerving and trying to get out of the way, desperately trying to not get hit in the head and knocked out. We are called as Christians to hold fast to the hope of God’s promises without being turned aside, to set against all that life throws at us without giving up or letting go. Easier said than done sometimes…
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We will face all kinds of trials during our lives in this world, but God has overcome the world. We must stand fast, without giving up or turning aside from the hope we have in Jesus. We have the Full Armor of God, and it can withstand any fastball!
The second word that grabbed me here was, spur. Being from the Old West this word has an entirely different meaning, or so I thought. When I hear or see the word spur I think of an attachment to my boot which is meant to get my horse moving with a bit more urgency… Spur also means to provoke or stir up, to goad in to action or to incite. It also means to urge or encourage to action, to move in vigorous pursuit of an object, to stimulate, to impel, to drive. We are to spur each other on toward love and good deeds and not to neglect meeting together. Spur does not mean suggest, imply, or consider. It does not mean that we should think about it or wait for the right time or even to hold off till it’s convenient.
The sense of urgency here is clear. We are to stand firm without turning aside, setting ourselves against all that comes at us in the hope of God’s promises. Additionally, we are to drive and incite each other toward love and good deeds. This is action! As I read this scripture with new eyes, I don’t see it as the warm fuzzy that I once did, encouraging me to remember God’s promises and to make sure I continue to meet together with the Body.
This is a call to action. A call for us to stand firm in our beliefs and to encourage one another to act as Christ has taught us. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
When we are sharing the negativity we hear on the television, radio, internet; are we spuring one another on to love and good works? When we put our wants before the needs of others under the guise of ‘preparing for the future’ are we unswervingly holding to the hope of God’s promises?
What is our witness to the world when we are acting like everyone else? Hoarding material comforts, spreading slander, taking political sides, and ignoring the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world? This is not who Christ called us to be.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, build others up according to their needs (not our circumstances), get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, slander, and every kind of malice. Be kind and compassionate, forgiving as Christ forgave us. This is who we are, this is what we are called to be, this is what the world needs right now.
Together, let’s be unswerving in our hope, and spur each other on toward love and good works.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!
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“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.”
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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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We 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.
I’ve been studying 1 Corinthians and came across a portion of scripture that brought to mind my latest backyard project, my ‘she shed’.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any one builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-13
Paul, of course is speaking of the foundation he laid with the Corinthian church, that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Revealing to them the mysteries of Christ as they were able to receive them. He explained to them that you can only lay a foundation once, (all you contractors and builders out there shaking your heads, bear with me for a minute). The foundation on which we build, not only stabilizes the structure, it also helps to form the structure. So yes, while you can lift a building and place it on a different foundation, it will not replace the original. The form of the building will always be based on the original foundation.
This all brought to mind my new shed. Yes I have been planning for the past year or so to replace my Tuff shed, with a new ‘she shed’. Over the past several years my ever faithful Tuff shed has weathered the Arizona desert heat, wind, storms and more heat. It has stood the test for 10 years. A few years ago I noticed that the wooden frame foundation, that we built for the shed to stand on, had begun to rot. In fact it was rotting, being eaten away by squirrels, pack rats, bugs, you name it, the foundation was falling apart. Not long after I noticed the foundation, I began to notice the doors not closing properly, the roof no longer square was beginning to lift and the whole structure was starting to come apart.
There is a lot you can take from this. Why did I build a wooden foundation? Why did I wait so long before trying to fix the shed? Both good questions I’ll share my thoughts. The foundation was wood because it was cheap, easy and fast. I didn’t fix it sooner because the changes were so gradual over time that it wasn’t until I could barely open the door (it became inconvenient for me) that I really stepped back to see the dilapidation that my hasty building practices and lack of investment had caused.
Our foundation can not be cheap, fast or easy. Our foundation in Christ is tempered with time, testing, and trials. It is based on our relationship with our creator and comes at a cost which can not be valued. When we invest the time and make the sacrifices necessary for a solid foundation, nothing can uproot, or destroy it. “Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:6-8
We must continually check for cracks and crevices, making sure to keep our foundation strong by keeping it free from what would chip it away, eat at it or wear it down. The best test of the strength of our foundation, is our building. Is it straight, and strong? When we find something out of alignment, do we bring it to the Light and work with the Holy Spirit to repair and replace where necessary. When we are good stewards of what God has provided us, and we build with the best materials, only then will our house stand strong against the winds blow and the rains pound; it will stand strong against the forces that work to bring it down.
Our lives will only be as strong as the foundation on which we build them. Nothing can substitute for that. If we have our foundation in Christ, in His teachings, on His Word, nothing can shake you. While our foundation is strong, we must also build wisely. Using materials that are proven to stand the test of time; as Paul mentioned gold, silver and precious stones which do not rust, wear or burn; as opposed to wood, hay or straw, which are weak and easily consumed. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4;8:9
What are the things that gnaw away at your foundation? Is it the way you spend your time? Is it the people you chose hang out with? Is it what you watch on TV or read in your free time. What is slowly chipping away at your foundation, at your life? God is faithful and will shore up those areas in your life if you give them over completely to Him. Having Christ as your foundation means that EVERYTHING in your life is built on Him, everything! Not some things, not most things, everything.
My ‘she shed’ will be built, hopefully this year. I will invest in a solid foundation and strong materials so that I will be able to enjoy it with my family for years to come.
I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.
Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.