What’s inside your Tupperware?

green tupperwareYes I just asked you what is inside your Tupperware. Spoiler alert, I am old enough to still own some of the old 1970’s green and gold classic Tupperware, photo shown left. Although I am not old enough to have bought it myself.

 

I still remember being asked by my mom, “Betsy, what is in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?”

The only way to find out…the only way, was to pull it out, open it and see.

Yup, you guessed it, if I was lucky it was a few days old left overs. No big deal, dump in the trash, no harm done. However, I’m thinking more about the container that’s been in there since, well who knows how long. Everyone in the family keeps hoping that someone else will deal with it so they won’t have to. Days have gone by, weeks, dare I say a month. There is now a serious science project growing, a 20th century bio-hazard to say the worst.

Everyone gets into the fridge, everyone sees that container, we push it aside to get what we’re looking for. We move it from the top shelf to the middle to the back, hoping it will miraculously not be there the next time we go searching. Then it happens… “Betsy, what’s in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?” Oh no, not me, why is it always me?

You walk to the fridge and slowly move some things around, praying miraculously that it won’t be there. Maybe Dad already took it out and dealt with it? Maybe the boys got tired of seeing it and just threw the whole thing in the trash…yea, they’d totally do something like that. Then, you see it, still there, carefully hidden in the back, starring at you. Nope it wasn’t dealt with, now it’s up to you.

How often have we had this conversation with ourselves? How about with God? We know it’s there, the green Tupperware container. It’s hidden in the way back of the fridge. We see it but we just continue to move it around from shelf to shelf. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow, I don’t have time to take care of that today, it’s just going to make a mess and I have things to do…places to go…people to see.” We come up with so many reasons not to deal with it, all the while we’re hoping that one day we’ll open the fridge and the green Tupperware will be gone. Not just gone but emptied, cleaned, put through the dishwasher and sitting on the counter just waiting for us to use it again…it could happen…right?

Here’s the funny thing about green Tupperware, you can’t see through it like a Ziploc bag or a clear plastic container. It’s not a glass jar or plate with Saran wrap. It’s full of toxic sludge that has been there for so long, longer than we’d care to admit, however no one would ever know. There are day’s it’s hidden so far in the back of the fridge, we forget it’s there. When our friends come over all they see is a clean fridge that has some Tupperware in it. Probably last night’s dinner or leftovers from the lunch you had a few days ago. They’d never know what’s really inside.

Green Tupperware can hide a multitude of sins…and no I’m not using that word flippantly. We can often hide it in the deep recesses of who we are, keeping the sludge from being seen by our friends, co-workers, family. The funny thing is, God can see it. He wants to help us deal with it. He wants to take that container of sludge, empty it into the trash, put the Tupperware (yup that’s us) through a holy dishwasher and make us clean. That is the only way He can fill us up with all that He has in store for us. If we’re full of sin, we can’t be full of Him.

My pastor often quotes Jeremiah 29:11, it has become one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord”, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God doesn’t want you to remain full of the old ‘stuff’ that you carry around inside. He is passionate about you and your life and your happiness. He doesn’t want to condemn, embarrass or humiliate you, He wants to clean you out and set you free.

Next time He asks you what’s in the Tupperware, ask Him to help you open it, you might be surprised by what happens.

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

 

Cats in the Garden

Disclaimer #1 – I love all God’s creatures. Disclaimer #2 – my being a dog person does not mean I don’t like cats. But before either being a dog or cat person, I am a gardener. I have roses, wildflowers, honeysuckle, geraniums (BIG ones), succulents (we do live in Tucson), and so much more. Every year my children tell me I have no more room for plants, and every year I find, or make, room for more. While all my plants are special and each has a story, my vegetable garden gets by far the most attention.

Every year in the winter I’m turning my compost bin into the garden to prepare the soil. I spend time getting the soil, space, and fencing repaired, updated, and ready. I fertilize depending on what I intend to plant and then I’m off to the races. However, each spring I have the same problem, neighborhood cats finding a way into my garden bed. It’s like they know just when to come to the yard and dig up all my hard work. I put up nets and confidently plant, only to come out the next day and see my hard work completely torn up. Holes dug, seeds displaced, new plants strewn aside, and little brown presents left in the wake of the chaos. So, I begin again, putting up more netting, filling each hole, and replanting, only to have it happen all over again. This year I GAVE UP! The cats won, I had no more ingenious ideas or energy to start over. I stood in front of my newly destroyed vegetation, shook my head and walked away. There would be no vegetable garden this year.

Instead, I focused on the rest of my yard, the other raised beds, flowers, herbs, and trees. I no longer looked, I no longer fertilized, I did not weed, or water. The garden lay a destroyed empty plot of dirt… or so I thought.

This week when I went out to enjoy my morning coffee and turn on the sprinklers, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Green shoots coming up out of the disheveled and displaced soil. Plants mixed up and misplaced were beginning to sprout and grow in my well cared for and fertilized soil. Gone were the neat rows and straight lines, but the beginnings of the harvest were evident.

My garden reminded me of the parable Jesus told of the Sower and the soils in Luke 8:4-15. The Sower is God, the seed is His word. Both, I was reminded recently, are perfect. The soil is us. The state of our hearts is represented by the different soils, the last being fertile and ready to receive the seed. Funny, it never said the soil is perfect, only that it was good. Good soil is all that is needed for the Holy Spirit to grow in you.

As a gardener I know that the better I can condition the garden space and keep it secure from animals, insects, too much sun, too much/little water, the better my harvest. What I sometimes forget is that I may be the one planting the seeds but its God who ultimately helps them grow. Good seed (God’s Word) can grow in imperfect situations if the soil is ready (good).

All too often I’m afraid we make excuses, we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy enough, we’re still broken, we’re not smart enough, successful enough, we have too much baggage, or we’re just not ready. We think that because we don’t have a perfectly secure garden with straight rows and strong fences that nothing will grow. We’re focusing on the wrong thing! All we really need is an open and willing heart, messy as the garden may be, the soil is still good.

Paul tells us if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved, Romans 10:9. Paul didn’t say we have to be perfect to be accepted, Jesus actually said He came to save the sick, “I came not to call the righteous but the sinner to repentance.” Matthew 9:13. Jesus died for us while we were still broken sinners, piles of unfertilized dirt. The Holy Spirit creates the conditions for the seeds to grow, we need to have faith and know that what God plants in us will bloom when we allow Him to work in our messy imperfect lives.

The cats came and dug up my garden, but the seeds were still there, the soil was messy but good. With water and sunshine, it will yield a crop a hundred-fold. Just like the work Jesus is doing in our lives if we let Him have His way. The seeds will germinate and grow, the seeds are His perfect will and words they cannot fail their purpose, if we are willing.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

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

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Lemonade is best when shared

You just never know when something happens in your life, how God might use it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Our troubles, our trials, our temptations, our pain and suffering, all our experiences pleasant and unpleasant, are never wasted…Not Ever!

Every experience we have, God can, and will use – none of them are by accident or coincidence. They are by our choice, the choices others make, or by God’s design. but no matter how they come about they are no surprise to God. Nothing get’s past Him.

My favorite scripture, the one I quote the most is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Everything in our lives God can, and will work for good, EVERYTHING! There is nothing that has happened, is happening, or can ever happen, that God can not sovereignly craft into good. God is good, He can only bring forth that which He is. God can’t bring forth evil, only good. It’s like the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” God created the trees the lemons fell from, the juicer you used to squeeze them, and the abundant sweetness of His grace to bring out the flavor.

Sometimes those experiences that bring us the most pain and anguish are the very ones He’ll use to bring us the greatest joy, often by being able to help others. Just as the scripture tells us, Jesus comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. I was reminded of this recently when I had the opportunity to share some of my experiences with someone walking a very similar path. I was able to share with them what God did for my family in the situation, how He walked us through a very dark and difficult time. I was able to offer comfort to others in their troubles, just as God had comforted me in mine. He comforts us, so we can in turn, comfort others.

God allows us to walk through hard times so we learn to rely on Him, and then to share that experience as a help – a comfort to others. Just as lemonade is sweetest when shared with others, God’s work in our lives is even more of a blessing when we can use it to help those around us. It’s never about us, its always about Him – Him, inviting us to come along for the ride and be part of this incredible Christian journey – a journey we’re on together.

Next time things get hard, instead of asking, ‘why God, why this, why now, why me?’, ask how can this help others, how can you use this God to help me grow, and what can I learn from this? God will not let any of your experiences go to waste, there are people who will be comforted by you sharing with them how God comforted you.

Let God surprise and bless you in this new year as we walk in the path He created for us!

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

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

You get them for a reason…use them!

Over the past 4 months I have been working my way through 2 seminary courses that I’d like to call Big words Theology I, and Big words Theology II.

In these classes I’ve studied words like Justification, Regeneration, Salvation, and Sanctification. It was so crazy in the beginning, that, no joke, I would be sitting with my text book, a Bible dictionary and a notebook, writing down all these words with their definition, spelling them out three times each, and using them in a sentence…Can you tell my life has also been about helping my children with virtual schooling?

It occurred to me during these classes that, too often in Christianity, we make simple things more difficult than they need to be. We use big church words, straight out of the Bible, but not words we use in everyday conversation. For people who did not grow up in the church, how do we share what Jesus did and who God is, in a way that relevant, and relational, and more easily understandable?

I shared with one of my classmates that to really understand scripture, you have to take what you think you know, deconstruct it down to the smallest, simplest elements to see where your beliefs come from, then let scripture and the Holy Spirit help you to build it back up again.

What you find is that some pieces you won’t use any more, some new pieces get added in, other pieces get a more prominent role, and ultimately some pieces get left out entirely. In the end you have a faith build on a solid foundation of scriptural knowledge you can talk about.

So that was a long-winded way of stating a simple concept. Studying Scripture can kind of be like building furniture from IKEA.

IKEA is an amazing, do it yourself, store. They have everything there. The displays are beautifully and professionally decorated, the furniture seems sturdy, and you can just picture how that new entertainment center, or kitchen hutch, or bunk beds are going to look in your home. So you walk up to the perfectly designed display, grab the tag next to your chosen item  then go out to the warehouse that’s twice the size of Costco, find your shelf, and load a very, very large box onto your cart.

You see the photo on the box that reinforces your belief that what you are purchasing is exactly what you’re looking for. You get in line, pay for your item, then you carefully load it in your car and head home.

Once you get home you open the box, and pieces start falling out, all kinds of pieces, some roll under the couch, others land on your toe, others you’re able to grab before they smash into something else. You carefully collect the pieces, clear a space, lay them out on the floor, and then begin the search for your instructions.

Slowly… laboriously… meticulously you read all the many pages of instructions in multiple languages, in case of translational differences, right before beginning the assembly process.

Ok, so, we jump right in and start trying to re-create the image we saw at the store with all the pieces and parts we have, of course forgetting those that rolled under the couch. Soon we discover we don’t have all the tools we need, so we improvise.

Finally, after what seems like hours (and really was hours) you step back to see what you’ve created and… it really doesn’t look exactly like you remember it, it doesn’t look like it did in the store, it doesn’t look like it does in your friend’s house. What happened?

So, you have some pieces left over, so what, even Lego gives you extra pieces. So, you used some of your own hardware because some was missing (or under the couch). You ask everyone to come and admire your work undaunted by their quizzical looks.

You decide to gently, move it into place, and just as you pick up one side, pieces begin to pull away. The screws you used to replace the ones you lost pull apart and the whole thing comes down with a large crash. But that’s ok… because you really weren’t sure if it would fit there anyway.

Our faith, or beliefs, our walk is so often something that we think is going to make our lives look better, and easily fit right in. Like a new dining room table with all our friends and family joyfully gathering round. When we move forward with our belief, but disregard the instructions, substitute parts, don’t use the right tools, and expect life changing results, when our dream or image of what the Christian life is supposed to look like – when the picture on the box doesn’t look like the picture your built – we say it doesn’t work, it’s not real, it’s not for me, my life is too complicated, too messy, I can’t have nice things… we turn and walk away.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

We can’t hope to have the life in Christ that we all long for if aren’t willing to believe with our hearts, follow the instructions, use the right tools, and leave our old parts behind. When we don’t do this our lives, our faith is like a house built on sand.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

It will not stand, it will come crashing down, and not because it isn’t real, or doesn’t work, or your life is to messy, or complicated but, because we didn’t follow the instructions of the person who designed and created our life. We were given instructions on how to build our lives, we were provided the tools needed to construct, and the parts required. We liked the picture, we liked the idea, we didn’t think it would be so much work.

Living like Christ is not easy; however, it’s not complicated either. Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Simple enough right?

Once you make that decision, the rest is a matter of following the instructions, using the tools, and the parts provided. We have been given everything we need to live the life God designed for each of us to live. The Apostle Peter tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) And we read in 2 Timothy that, “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.”

God wants us to teach and equip us for the work he has for us to do. The box won’t be too big for the car, the pieces won’t roll under the couch, the right tools will be provided. All we need to do is follow the directions and pray. God will take care of the rest.

Friends, scripture is full of words that may not be as common to some as to others. However, we know that the intent of those words is to give us the understanding we need of God and his will for our lives, to have a relationship with Jesus who was the perfect example for us to follow, and be aware of how the Holy Spirit will work in and through us to accomplish Gods plans for our lives and this world.

Unlike IKEA everything is provided for us to build our lives with Christ as the cornerstone, it will be more beautiful, and complete, and fulfilling than you could possibly imagine…just follow the instructions.

Pease help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive more blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

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”.

The Greater and lesser

1900It occurred to me when I was thinking of my role in God’s family, how I still too often struggle with wanting to have my way. I get cranky when I don’t get the recognition I feel I deserve. I feel put upon when my advice is not heeded or listened too. Notice how both these sentences begin with ‘I’? The Apostle Paul was not being figurative when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

We are raised in this world to believe we come first. The truth we’re taught by God is shifted just enough to make it believable, and yet completely off the mark, “we are better able to help others if we help ourselves first.” Can you imagine any teaching more in conflict with what God calls us to?

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

Pondering and

praying through these early morning thoughts, while baking cookies with my son, a scripture came to mind. John states that in order for God to become greater, he (John) must become less…yes pause to ponder. No, that is not actually what it says, but that is what is so often quoted. No surprise, this ‘tweaked’ version makes the statement based on John’s actions not God’s character.

John was being confronted by individuals questioning his relevance, and Jesus’s authority. They wanted to know why John was OK with Jesus taking more and more of his fame, his popularity, his business? To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.(John 3: 27-30)

We don’t have to humble ourselves in order for God’s greatness to be realized, we humble ourselves because God is great. God is God, He is unchangeable, immutable and sovereign. None of that depends upon us, nor anything we chose to do. God is not somehow less great because we chose to humble ourselves and follow him or not. This contrary concept is born of a world where self comes before anything else. The misquoting of this scripture is yet one more symptom of the world we live in. Satan tweaking truth just enough to corrupt it completely.

Dear ones, lets face it head on. Our salvation is not for us alone, our salvation is made complete when we share it with the purpose of helping others to realize it. Our lives exit to serve God and others. Like Paul, we must die to ourselves daily. The single biggest obstacle to our relationship with God is ourselves.

I have not right to recognition for anything I do, because it is Christ in me that accomplishes everything. I have no right to be upset when people don’t listen to me, because it is the Holy Spirit working in and through my words to accomplish His purpose. Everything good in our lives comes from God. What John was referring to in this passage of scripture is that his role served an ordained purpose, Jesus is the one in whom all glory dwells. John’s role was complete, now all focus needed to be on the Son of Man. It was His time to fulfill His role, ordained from the beginning of time.

God is God and God is good. His plan is fulfilled and complete. He must become greater, (not that His greatness is changeable, but our limited view of Him must increase) as is His station and right, we must become less because the story is about Him not us.

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

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

 

Stingy Sowing

sowing reaping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.

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Humpty Dumpty and the Tower of Babel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Old Can’t Contain the New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.