Apostles Eternity War

apostles-eternity-war.png

“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.

He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.

It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.

The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?

In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “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.”

Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?

God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.

While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Choose Contentment over Resentment

I was watching a Skit Guys video this week with our church youth group. We all love the way they present the gospel in humorous yet very meaningful ways. In this particular episode, they were reviewing the 10 Commandments, which if you know the Skit Guys, is a wealth of wit combined with wisdom. The youth laughed (we all did actually) as they waded through the meaning and relevance of each of God’s commands. Then toward the end Tommy makes the comment, “be content”. So much of what God calls us to do falls into the bucket of be content, with what you have, who is in your life, and how we are called to live.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy on this very subject, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Paul is writing to Timothy about the sickness of this world, the sickness of self and putting ones self before everything else, before God, before others, sometimes we even put our own fleshly desires above what is really good for our own person. When we place our wants, not needs, above all else we become resentful and bitter toward God, others and the world in general. It is only by being content with what we have that we can find any kind of happiness in this world. After all, as Paul pointed out, we brought nothing into this world, and will take nothing out. All we have is from God.

I was going about my day this week when I got a text reminder about a house. It was a house that my husband and I considered buying several years ago, we decided at the time that it was too big of a commitment so we declined. I had forgotten that I had an alert set up if the house was ever up for sale again. Well, it was! And whoever bought it had done a wonderful job renovating it, and fixing, and updating all the things that we had decided were too big for us to handle. Within all of 5 minutes I was talking to a realtor friend of mine, texting my husband and picturing our family moving into this beautiful historic home. It consumed the rest of my day and part of the next.

My family has a wonderful home. We have the space we need, a backyard I have literally bled over. We have built our life there and have no need of anything more (although a 3rd bathroom would be nice in a family of 6). I don’t need a great room with picture windows, Mexican tile floors and a courtyard. I don’t need to become house poor just to host a lovely dinner in my own courtyard with friends who come to my home to visit me, not my house. I became so distracted by the idea of this beautiful, one of a kind, historic home belonging to me that I forgot what was important.  Wanting a new house isn’t a sin! Let me be clear! Obsessing and coveting what I don’t have and don’t need to the detriment of being grateful for what God has given me is.

In this passage Paul is explaining to Timothy that if we have what we need, we should be content, we should feel blessed. It’s when we want more than that, when we allow the temptation to become more, this desire becomes a trap that can ruin people, and lead to their destruction. Paul states that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By this he doesn’t mean cash in hand, although it’s part of it, it means our desire to have more. More than what we already have, more than what our friends and neighbors have, more than our enemies have. And having more, always, ALWAYS, leads us to want more. “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 

Resentment sinks in when we live our lives in constant comparison to those around us. When we see what we have as not being enough. The world tells us we need new cars, new homes, new jewelry, first class tickets and front row seats. There is a billboard that went up this spring in my home town that states, “you don’t need a divorce, you need a bigger house.” It was a joint advertisement for a husband and wife team. One is a realtor one is a divorce lawyer. The world we live in is consumer oriented. Whatever your particular temptation may be, you can bet that there is a billboard along the nearest highway designed to feed it.

Our discontentment with the blessings God has bestowed upon each of us is what causes our resentment, leads to arguments, anger, frustration and from that we have people who will gable, become workaholics, steal, cheat, lie and murder to fulfill that desire for more. When Paul stated that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, he was not exaggerating.

Dear friends, we each have been given riches beyond our wildest dreams. Our salvation is worth more than anything that this would could provide us. What we get here is temporary, yet we spend the majority of our lives energy trying to attain more. If we invested that time, those resources (meaning the gifts God has given us through the Holy Spirit) into the lives of others, into sharing the Kingdom of God with those around us, providing for the poor, weak, sick, widowed and orphans, we’d make life better for so many. Our riches, rewards are stored up in Heaven and we’ll have more people there to share them with.

Our lives here on this earth were not meant to be lived as if that were all we have. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived in a way that brings Glory to God by sharing His love with as many people as we can. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived with our eyes fixed on Jesus and the life we’ll live with Him forever. To do that we need to be content with what we have, where God placed us and use those blessings to bring ore people to knowledge of His love and salvation. When we are discontented with our lives, we grow resentful and that drives people away from us, ruins our witness and will eventually, as Paul states, drive us from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pangs. Our resentment will ruin our lives here and our chance for life in the Kingdom.

Chose contentment over resentment and be blessed with the knowledge that our riches are waiting for us with Jesus.

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

Like, share, comment, and come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

We are not immune!

we are not immune

While I was listening to Jack Graham this morning on the radio, he said something that I loved and feel many of us need to hear, Christianity is not immunity. Think about that for a moment, do we believe that because we have put our faith in Jesus that our lives are now going to be easy and that everything we want is going to quickly fall into place? No, really, think about it. How often have we gotten frustrated or angry because what we thought should happen, didn’t. Or what we thought God should do, He didn’t. If we really take a good hard look in scripture, we quickly see that Jesus never promised us a smooth ride. In fact, He offered up the opposite. And in the midst of it, He calls us to be at peace, without anxiety, full of hope and joy.

Paul tells us, ” You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-4

Consider it joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Being a Christian does not mean our lives will be free from troubles, in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Our very existence is in opposition to the world. What we believe the world considers foolish, and we are told throughout scripture is that we will face trials and persecutions, just as Christ did. It is never a matter of if but when. If we follow Christ, we will have a share in His sufferings. Anyone who tells you differently is not sharing truth.

Being a Christian does not mean we are now immune to the disease of this world, the disease of sin and death. It means we are in a constant battle for our lives, and the lives of those around us. What we are told in scripture is that when we face challenges, we don’t face them alone, we don’t need to be anxious, we don’t need to fear the trials and tribulations of this world because God has overcome the world. What does that mean? Well, it means that we’ll experience some pretty awful stuff in this life, but we do it so that we can have an eternity free from suffering as we share in Christ’s inheritance.

My grandmother used to tell me, “the human mind and body can endure just about anything, so long as we can conceive of the end.” We know there is an end, we know the battle is won, we know that we will finally be in the arms of the savior and the suffering will cease. It is that hope, that confidence that allows us to whether the storms of this life.

The particular challenges that you are facing right now, they are hard, they seem overwhelming, you’re wondering how you can make it one more day. Perhaps it’s your health or that of someone you love, perhaps it’s your finances or your job. I don’t know what your trial is, I do know that it is not insurmountable. I do know you are not alone. I do know that God’s promises are true and can be counted on. I do know that you are not facing anything that hundreds or thousands have not faced before you. I do know that if you hold on to Christ, it will not destroy you.

We are not immune to the sin of this world. Jesus blood is more like Teflon. the arrows of this life will fly at us, Jesus blood empowers us to stand firm against those forces and not be destroyed. They don’t have to penetrate who we are in Him.

Christianity is not immunity; Christianity is the rudder that allows us to navigate through the trials of this life until we can securely anchor ourselves in the Kingdom with our savior.

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

Like, share, comment, and come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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”.

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”.