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.

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

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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.

 

 

Love you the best…I Win!

I love you this muchMy children and I play a game, it’s one of those quirky things that you come up with your kids that becomes part of the daily routine. I’m not sure how it started but one day, after telling Marcus I loved him, he said, “I love you more”, then I say “no, I love you more”, and on, and on it goes. Well, one day my highly competitive, then 4-year old ended the non-stop game of one-up about who loves who the most by exclaiming, “I love you the best…I win!” He was so triumphantly emphatic that I had to laugh and agree he did indeed win!

This fast paced competition of who can get to ‘I Win’ spread to all of my children and is now part of our morning and bedtime rituals. It reminded me of a book I had been reading to my kiddos since they were very small. I actually bought it for our oldest daughter when she was four (she’d now be 25), miraculously it has survived relatively unscathed.

The book is called, “Guess How Much I Love You“, by Sam McBratney. It’s a wonderful story about a father and son Hare. The son keeps telling the father how much he love him. Then the father replies with an even larger illustration of love. The book ends with little nut brown hare telling his father that he loves him “right up to the moon”, as the father tucks his son in to bed he replies, “I love you right up to the moon – and back”.

This is such a great illustration of God’s love for us, one that we often have a very difficult time comprehending.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

There is no love so deep, so pure and so complete as the love I feel for you. There is no place you could ever run to that I would not find you. There is nothing you can do that could ever cause me to love you less or more than I love you right now.

My love for you is deeper than the sea, wider than the skies and more infinite than space and time. You may turn your back on me, hide your face from me, run from me and fill your life with false images meant to replace me; my love for you will remain and I will wait for you to return.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b

Our understanding of God’s love is so limited that we content ourselves with quoting scripture like John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Not only did God save us from ourselves, He did so while we were still a mess and in a such a way that our salvation could never be taken from us.

Then He wrote to us… yes, He wrote to us. He wrote us love letters. Letters to share His deepest desires for our lives, His great despair at our disobedience, His provision for our restoration and His unfailing commitment to our future in Him.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

No matter how much we’ve been shown love, understand love or our expectation of love, it is nothing compared to what God feels for us, expresses toward us and freely gives us. He loves us to eternity and back, the proof…He was willing to leave paradise and sacrifice Himself that we could be restored to Him.

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

Listen with Jesus ears

dtv4yo0w0am4ovmGod holds up my life?

Driving home after a bowling trip with my two youngest, my son made a random statement while looking out the window, “God holds up my life”. I quickly replied, “yes, son He does.”

I’m not sure why he felt prompted to make that simple statement, but it got me to thinking. How often do we hear statements from people, but don’t really listen to them? My son just made a profound statement and I thought it was cute.

I remember a time when my oldest daughter, who was then all of 4-years old, tell me that she wanted to accept Jesus as her Lord. I smiled down at her and said, “that’s wonderful Alex, we can talk about it more when we get home.” We were at a youth rally, I was serving at that time as the youth pastor and trying to corral 12 teenagers. My pastor walked up to me and simply stated, “are you going to take her down to pray or am I going too?” Yup, I assumed she was just repeating something she’d heard someone else say, but when my daughter got down to alter she sat in a circle with a few other younger children and led them (didn’t follow them, lead them) in the sinners prayer.

Our children are an incredible source of inspiration, they have amazing discernment and they speak the truth…always, even when we really don’t want to hear it.

Jesus knew how special children were when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.Matthew 19:14

I am amazed on an almost daily basis by what comes out of my children’s mouths; both solicited and unsolicited.

This week during Friday Night’s at Tucson Central; our youth were reading John 3:16-18. Of course we all know this as the most popular verse in the bible. We learn it almost as early as we learn how to say Amen and or interrupt the pastors sermon at the most inopportune time.

I asked the youth to try and explain to me why this verse is so popular. I got all kinds of answers ranging from; it’s short, it’s easy and it’s written everywhere to it’s cool and Pastor say’s it a lot; then my 14 year old son says, “it explains the whole gospel”. WHAT!!!

It was yet another wake up call or at the very least get the wax out of your ears. We are surrounded by people who ‘get it’, we constantly read scripture and yet miss so much. Are we really listening or in our straining to hear God are we failing to hear the tree falling in the forest.

I want to be open to all that God has for me. That means that I need to be open to all He says to me. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through my children, through strangers sleeping on the sidewalk, through scripture and even through individuals who make us uncomfortable or we don’t particularly want to listen too. The thing is, if we want to hear God we need to be prepared for his voice to come from anyone, anywhere at anytime.

Jesus didn’t just listen to the people around them, He  heard them with ears full of love and compassion and mercy. Several times, even Jesus was surprised by what He heard.

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”  Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.” Matthew 8:5-13

I want to listen with expectation of how the Holy Spirit is going to speak to me today, I hope you do too.

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Hands and Feet

selfless-11-638I was driving to work this morning, on the rare occasion that I was not making multiple school drop stops. I was thinking through my day, and planning some upcoming events, praying and asking God for guidance and discernment. I pulled into my office parking lot about an hour earlier than normal and I got out of my car. To my surprise there was someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag lying on the sidewalk, blocking the door.

Complete transparency, I did not react the way I would have liked. My thoughts were uh oh, what now? They could be dangerous, they could be mean, they could yell at me if I disturb them…I could go around to the other door? Wait, I have to run to the store because I need to get flowers for one of my staff for their birthday. Ok God, I’ll go to the store and if they are still there when I get back, I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to the store, got the card and the flowers and returned to the office…yup they were still there. OK God, I’ll walk around to the other door and put all my stuff in my office, and come back down. If they are still there I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to my office and put my things down, and plugged in my computer. I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked down the stairs to the door…yup they were still there. OK God, I get it.

Trying to open the door, there was dead weight. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I panicked, what if they were hurt, or sick or dead. “Excuse me, are you OK?” I Pushed the door a little more, “are you OK?” A man sat up, and began to apologize for being there.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep that long, I’m so sorry it was just so cold last night.” He sat up and began to put on his shoes and continued to apologize. I noticed he didn’t have any socks as he put his shoes on. “Really I’m so sorry I’ll move, I was robbed and I have a job but they took my cell phone, I’m so sorry, really, I’ll go.”

I was so wrecked! “Please don’t be sorry, come inside and get warm the building is now open.”

“Really, thank you, my name is Tony.” He reached up his hand to shake mine, I took it.

Tony is down on his luck, he’d had a rough night and was cold. He just wanted to be warm and my response was fear, excuses and procrastination. I took a few minutes to talk with Tony, who was from Tucson and was coming home from California after his job had ended. He told me that each day since he got back things kept getting worse, the culmination was the previous day when he was robbed, loosing his lifeline to his job when his phone was taken. He was sober, articulate, appreciative and polite. After giving him some food, hot coffee and some money. He went on his way, to his job.

I’m not making any claims to the truth or validity of his story, but to mine. I was praying in the car for discernment on what youth curriculum to use, my parent’s upcoming anniversary party and whether to spend money on a new or used drum set for my son.

Tony slept in the cold, on the sidewalk out in the open, and had no socks. My response was not Jesus’, it was the worlds. As I began writing this, a Micah Tyler song came on. He sings:

“I want to be different,I want to be changed,till all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright the whole can see, that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.”

How can we claim to be God’s hands and feet if we’re too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone?  We pray for God to give us opportunities to reach people, to help in tangible ways, then when it happens we come up with every excuse.

God wouldn’t want me to do something dangerous. Didn’t God send Ananias to Saul, the self proclaimed destroyer of Jesus Disciples? (Acts 9:10-19)?

God wouldn’t ask me to jeopardize my standing at work. God was clear that all we do we should work as if for him not men. (Colossians 3:23)

God wanted me to meet Tony, to help him, but more than that to show me…yet again…that His will, His good and perfect will  will never fall short of His glory. God loves all people, and not in an out there, for other people to act on, kind of way. Each and every person is precious to Him, so each and every person MUST be precious to us.

Regardless of what they’ve done, NO ONE is unredeemable! We are Jesus to this world, to every person we meet, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not, if they are rich, poor, clean, dirty, sick, healthy, young or old. That is who we are called to be, period!

The wold is full of Tony’s, full of people who need what we have, it’s time we shared with everyone.

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

It’s not about the bread!

bradIn Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.”  Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?

Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.

Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”

WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.

King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.

The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.

One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.

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

 

Don’t let them live rent free

for_rent_free

“Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods’ will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

It was an ordinary day, my alarm clock went off at 5:00 am, I hit snooze, (I can actually hit snooze 3 times and still get out the door on time). I get up, feed the dog, go into the boy’s room and turn on the light then the girl’s room, making sure everyone’s eyes are open and they are moving out of bed before heading to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

I continue to keep my cadre of kiddos moving so we can get out of the house on time. During all this activity, as I keep myself and the family moving you would never guess that something ugly has taken up residence in my mind…and I’m letting it live there…rent free.

How often do we allow thoughts in our head to take up residence and literally consume our brain to the point that our thoughts spin out of control and eventually take us with them? Perhaps it’s something that happened during the day that you haven’t been able to get past, or a conversation you had with your spouse, or the flirtatious comment from a coworker that you can’t seem to stop replaying in your head. In my case it was something that I took to heart, that probably wasn’t meant the way I took it, but it made me doubt myself, question every action I had taken. So I second guess every decision, replay conversations in my head, how should I have said this or done that. Before you know it, not only are you questioning that interaction but every subsequent one. You begin to question yourself, your value, your very viability…sound familiar?

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:22-27

When we allow (and yes, it is a choice, we do allow it) our minds to be consumed by worldly thoughts and cares we are not following Gods will for our lives. Not to mention, we are giving Satan the reins.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-44

This is NOT how Christ wants us to live! He wants us to live free from the thoughts that enslave our lives and hold us hostage to the past, to sin, and to death. However, we seem all too willing to allow these thoughts to take up residence in our minds and control our lives. They are the thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t loved, that we are beyond grace, and that we’ve fallen too far for God to redeem. Guess what, they are LIES!

While talking with my son and some of his friends at church, one of them asked me, “how can you tell if it’s God talking to you and not the devil?” It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. A very wise man once told me that the best way to know God’s voice is to know God’s word. The Bible tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability, and will always provide us a way out, (1 Corinthians 10:13). It also tells us that we need to focus our thoughts on higher and nobler things, (Philippians 4:8).

It’s not just a matter of keeping broken thoughts out of our minds but filling it with whole thoughts. Thoughts that are uplifting, holy and pleasing to God. “Well gee Betsy what does that look like?” Well I’ll tell ya, when we focus our thoughts on the gifts God has given us, our lives, our families, the many blessings and promises He has made, who He is and His love for us, then there is no room for doubt, lies and shame.

I have found that in those times when my mind is bombarded with doubts, that focusing on who God is, and who I am in Him, works as the best eviction notice.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Knowing God’s word helps me to recognize His voice. Being able to recognize His voice enables me to know when it’s Him in my thoughts. Christ wants us to know Him, to recognize His presence in our lives. He wants residence in our hearts and minds, and He paid the price to be there.

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

 

 

Consider it pure joy when losses are wins!

downloadIt’s one of those verses… we quote it, pastor quotes it, everyone quotes it. They quote it at you, to you, near you. Do we really know what it means?

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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Talk about what seems like the ultimate contradiction, “consider it joy…whenever you face trials”? Yea, cause when I’m facing trials, I’m going to be joyful…that’s gonna happen!

I was driving to the office a couple of months ago, like I do every day and I got a phone call. It was a good morning, kids got out the door on time, hitting green lights, coffee in hand, KLOVE on the radio, I was feeling it. Today, only good things were going to happen to me.

“Good morning, this is Betsy”, I answered the phone. On the line was a woman I had been working with on a very large project. To clarify, winning this grant would be the equivalent of my entire fiscal year’s revenue budget. We had been working together on this for months. Today was the day we would hear who won the grant. Only good things were going to happen today, I could feel it.

As I heard her voice, I could tell it was not the news I was hoping for. The disappointment was palpable in the sound of her words. I think she felt worse having to give me the bad news, than she did receiving it herself. I was stunned for a full 30-seconds, perhaps more because she pulled me out of the silence, “Betsy are you still there, did you hear what I said?” “Yes, sorry I heard you. I am so sorry, it was a great proposal and we can try again for the next cycle (in three years)” She agreed, and we talked about how much we enjoyed working together, we wished each other the best of luck and hung up.

So much for only good things happening huh? The projected represented an enormous amount of time and resources invested. As I pulled up to my first red light of the morning, this verse popped into my head. Thank you, Holy Spirit! In that moment, I had an opportunity to decide. I could mourn the loss, spend time (in my case hours if not days) spinning in my head about where I went wrong, what more I could have done, what more other people could have done. I could have looked for who to blame and been angry. Or I could take a moment to consider God’s greater plan for my life.

God was NOT trying to ruin my day. There was a reason we were not selected. It would have been a HUGE investment in time and resources, embarking down a road we’ve never been before. Could we have effectively executed the plan, living up to the expectations laid out in the proposal. Did I really have the time, along with my other responsibilities to lead the project? In that moment, I took a deep breath and felt an unexpected calm. In that moment, the second part of the scripture came to mind, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

I can think of a dozen reasons that I didn’t get the grant, but that doesn’t really matter. My getting the grant was not in God’s plan. I know that working outside of God’s plan for my life is disastrous. No, seriously been there done that, not going back! I was joyful in that moment that God is in control, that He has so much more for me than this one grant that served to exalt me in my career but not Him in His Glory.

The joy in this scripture that James talks about is Joy in the Lord. Not joy in our circumstances. God shows us His hands-on involvement in our lives through our circumstances, that is where our joy comes from, not in the circumstances themselves.

The storms of life will come, full force and try to knock us down. It is in those storms that God shows us His glory, His intimate involvement in our lives and His love for us, for our future and wellbeing. That is our joy! God knows and loves us, He wants what is best for us and use any and all means, (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28) to achieve His purpose for our lives.

Next time, you feel knocked down by the circumstances, take joy in the knowledge that God is actively working through them to make you more like Him.

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

 

#Parentingishard … #GodisGood

#Parentingishard“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11

Can you imagine how it must have felt for God to experience His children’s extreme disobedience? To take it one step farther to have His children completely turn their backs on Him. After He created the world for them; He rescued them countless times from their enemies, blessed, raised up, and set them above…they still turned their back on Him, denied Him, cursed Him and turned their hearts toward that which is death. They chose death over their creator? It’s mind boggling, or is it?

For those of you with children, I want you to think about all those times our kids thought they knew better, turned their back on what they knew (because we taught them) and turned toward the unknown because their friends encouraged them, or a teacher encouraged them, or they were dared too, or we just aren’t as cool as whatever shiny object in the world is calling them. Yup, we’ve been there!

Recently my 8-year-old son has been going through a ‘phase’. Which basically means he knows better, and he wants what he wants, and he isn’t afraid to tell me so. In fact, more than once in the past few weeks I’ve been told how inadequate I am at parenting by this lil man. I will own however, how much it hurts.

This past weekend was particularly difficult, he had made some poor choices at school with regards to him listening and participating in class which led to him not being able to play Madden on Saturday (he’s preparing for football season to start and this is the ultimate consequence). This did NOT go over well. The conversation quickly turned in to a shouting match, which then turned in to him throwing everything at me he could get his hands on…primarily shoes. He’d yell at me about how mean I am, I would tell him that I love him, he would retort that if I loved him I’d let him play, I responded that I love him so much that I am not willing to reward him for bad behavior. On and on it went until we reached the apex of, “I hate you mom”, yup he said it, my heart was broken, I cried and told him one more time that I loved him and had to walk away.

To be clear, I know my son loves me, I would never doubt that. He is an 8-year-old who is trying to flex his muscles and find his way in the world. No throwing shoes at your mom is NOT ok in our home and was quickly addressed. That is not the point however, the point is that we as parents have a small glimpse of how God must have felt and now still feels toward His rebellious children. He loves us, he won’t give us everything we ‘want’ because it is often not what is best for us. And, like I tell my son, throwing a temper tantrum, is not going to change that. Giving in to their every whim is only going to make it worse and the important life lessons we want to teach them will be lost.

I love my son so much (all my children but this particular tale is about him), so I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to give in, I want him to be the amazing man that God has created him to be. Sometimes that means my patience is tested, my heart will ache, and my temper will rise. It’s all worth it because I KNOW that when he stops for a moment (usually takes about 20 minutes in his room), he’ll accept that what I tell him is true, that it is out of love, and that I only want what is best for him. He’ll see how I handle the situation (they notice EVERYTHING) and will learn from my responses that they are motivated by a genuine love for him.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (along with many many other places throughout the bible) he shares the epitome of God’s love “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God didn’t wait for us to get our act together to show us love, he didn’t abandon us to our own devices, no, in the midst of our pain and brokenness, in the middle of our sin and disobedience, he sent Christ to die for us…to show us the way, to bring us back to him, to fully express the depth of his love.

I will always love my son, forgive my son and be the best parent I can for him. Sometimes however, that means not giving him what he thinks will make him happy but giving him what will make him whole.

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

What are we waiting for?

Jesus billboardDo not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Driving home today from our family vacation, I thought I was going to grab a pillow and nap while the children were sleeping…that didn’t happen. So, I decided to work on my lesson plan for our Wednesday night bible study…yea that didn’t really happen either. So I sat there, half wanting to sleep, half watching the clouds roll in for yet another breathtaking monsoon storm over the desert and half (yes there are three halves in this story I don’t do math on Friday’s) feeling like I should do something productive, I see the words JESUS SAVES pained in huge 8′ tall letters on a billboard by the side of the freeway. Then further down the road a billboard advertising “The Cool Church”, and no its not referring to the temperature in the sanctuary.

I counted around half a dozen various signs along the freeway over the course of about two hours. There were even a couple of large empty train cars with Jesus name painted on the side of them.

This got me thinking, REALLY? This is how we proclaim our Savior to the world; billboards, hip messaging (can’t use the word cool twice in the same blog, that is not cool apparently), talking about our houses of worship as the newest cutting-edge option to hearing the gospel? What happened to being set apart? What happened to not conforming to this world? I get it, we want to stay relevant, we want to get the word out and a billboard on the side of the interstate with literally hundreds of thousands of people driving by each month, seems like a good way to do it…doesn’t it?

What happened to discipleship, what happened to authenticity, what has happened to genuine relationships? I think I need to state this is not a treatise on the evils of modern communication or technology, I love my smart phone and social media and being connected. Nor am I saying that billboards on the side of the road are a bad thing. We know from scripture that God can use anything, anyone and any mode of communication to spread the gospel and to further His kingdom.

I think it’s important to remember that real relationship begins face to face and person to person. Relationship is the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other. Relationship can’t happen outside of interpersonal interaction. I think kitschy signs are funny, and finding new ways to get the word out about who you are is fine. However, if we are not actually touching people where they are with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are just words flying by at 65 mph.

The truth is Jesus didn’t write a bunch of scrolls and send them out to the masses asking for them to attend synagogue. He went to the people who needed him most. What seems to be a trend with some churches, as they experience attrition they advertise, doing whatever they can think of to ‘get their name out’, then hoping people will walk through their doors. Since when has our example ever been waiting for people to come through our door?

Jesus came to earth to save us, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:38-39

Jesus came to us, just as he came to the woman at the well, the blind, the lame, the broken and the dead in body and spirit. Jesus came…He didn’t wait for us to figure out how to save ourselves and fix our brokenness (as if we could). He came and found us in the gutter, living in spiritual squalor and gave us His hand and pulled us out of the mud, and washed us white as wool.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

He sent us out to make disciples of all nations…but here we sit waiting for people to walk through our doors.

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