We Like What We Like

problem-with-idols-the_std_t_nvHowever, they would not listen but continued practicing their former customs. These nations feared the Lord but also served their idols. (2 Kings 17:40-41a)

Yes.

That’s us today.

Even those who acknowledge God and even try to follow Him well also like their own comfort zones, looking to and trusting their own idols of their lives, of culture, of this time or place.

Listen to yourself today. What do you focus on even more than God? What do you trust, perhaps more than Him? Who do you immediately run to? What do you prefer to do in your own strength? How do you rely on yourself or others more than Him?

Be honest. Until you are, you will not change and grow as God intends.

Fields of Obedience

What I noticed as a change in the fields throughout Israel was a sign of obedience.

But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. (Leviticus 25:4)

During my first visit, I saw many lush fields, growing many different crops.

11.3.14 drive to Bethsaida
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

This time, most fields were empty…except, of course, the fruit trees. After all, it’s difficult to tell a tree to stop producing fruit! (I learned there are “ways around” the seventh year rest for those who want to observe the laws yet don’t want to let their trees go a full year without attention.)

I initially missed the beauty of the patchwork fields. Then, I realized I had the opportunity to see another kind of beauty: the beauty of obedience.

Sometimes our lives look desolate and unproductive. We feel wasteful, as if we’re not taking full advantage of what’s around us. We feel idle and unproductive. But action and busyness do not equal growth. Sometimes, stillness is much more productive.

Obedience doesn’t always make sense to us. We want to do things the way that seem logical to us. We rationalize we’re doing it to grow and be productive, and we even infuse God’s name into our efforts, claiming to do it all for Him.

But if He didn’t tell us to do it, our effort cannot be for Him.

How is He directing and instructing you right now? How well are you listening? How well are you responding?

Obedience is beautiful. And, in the long run, it is productive and fruit-bearing.

How’s Your Community?

“It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

Walt Disney was referring to EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Disney’s vision was to create an ever-evolving community which would continually use the latest ideas and technologies. It’s not the use of latest and greatest technologies that caught my attention as I watched a television special featuring Walt Disney’s life. It was the idea of a “community of tomorrow that will never be completed.”

I’m won’t argue with the fact that Walt Disney was a visionary genius with creativity and energy of monumental proportions. But the concept of an ever-evolving community isn’t new.

It’s biblical.

The church everywhere in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace and became stronger. Respecting the Lord by the way they lived, and being encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the group of believers continued to grow. Acts 9:31

Continued to grow. How is the church doing at the “continued to grow” thing? I’m not talking about numbers. I’m not even talking about the specific church you attend (or don’t attend). We’ve skewed God’s meaning of the church – all believers and followers of Jesus – to our own meaning – a building and the people who are involved in the group within the building.

Oh, I know there’s been a huge push in recent years to break out of the four walls of the church building and reach people outside the walls, getting into the community more and even (gasp!) partnering with other churches. The church where I’m involved is soon beginning a churchwide study of The Hole in Our Gospel in hopes of stirring a passion within people to get outside their comfort zones, listen to how God wants to use their lives to impact others’, and then step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

The truth is “the church” is made up of individuals. You. Me. Etc. And as a whole, we’re not doing a world-changing job at being “a community of tomorrow that will never be completed” in Jesus’ name.

(1) We can become complacent with the status quo. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing good things. We can be very effective in a program or ministry and celebrate with a longstanding tradition of repeating the same approach for years even after the effectiveness has died. I’m not suggesting change for change sake is the route to take. Some who have chosen the cutting-edge approach find that while they attract a lot of attention, they struggle with commitment. Drawing people in with entertainment and consumer-mentality frequently fosters increased consumer-mentality. Building relationships with people so they become invested and committed can be done, and there are churches who are doing it well, but if there’s not intention behind the process or program – whatever the process or program is – its effectiveness will be minimal and short-lived.

One size doesn’t fit all in ministry. It’s great to learn from others. God gifts us all, and his gifts are shared among his entire church, not just the one you attend. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to know what God’s calling your church to accomplish within his big picture and then continually assess – based on God’s standards – whether you’re being effective. You’re not going to complete the entirety of God’s will. That’s God’s job. Your job is to fulfill the purpose he’s planned for you.

(2) We can forget to give God all the credit. We’re involved in ministry in Jesus’ name, right? Has your church or ministry’s name been hoarding some of the credit? Do you personally take some of the credit? Make no excuses. It’s all about glorfying God. All credit-hoarding is going to do is slow down the growth of your relationship with him. God’s still going to get the glory. His creation, his community, his will = his glory.

I encourage you to stay (or get) involved in a community of believers in your area. No matter what your past hurts or negative experiences with the church is, it’s God’s will for you to do life with others. It’s messy, because people are messy (including you!), but God has no intention or desire of you living life in seclusion with him.

Let your challenge to impact and live in the “community of tomorrow that will never be completed” begin with you – not so that you can judge everyone else for how they’re falling short and not so you can judge yourself for falling short or excelling. But you need to evaluate how you’re doing because your passion and service will overflow onto others. People will believe what you say because they see what you do and who you are. 

Let God stir a passion within you to get out of your comfort zone. Listen to how God wants to use life to impact others’. Step out and do faith instead of just talking about it.

What will you put your whole heart into today for God?

Christmas Trash

Thanks to my guest blogger for today…my husband! I asked him if I could post the communion meditation he shared on Sunday. It’s definitely worth your time and thought. (Thanks, Tim!)

Have you ever opened a gift and overlooked something? With 12-15 people exchanging gifts, our Christmas family gatherings provide many chances to overlook something important. My mother-in-law, Nancy, has developed a plan for this. All leftover gift wrapping trash goes into bags that she keeps around for a few days – in case anything comes up missing.  When my wife was young, her parents gave her a nice necklace – and after all the gifts been opened and the trash taken away, there was no necklace.

Sometimes we miss, or misplace, the main thing and have to go back and find it.  My mother-in-law knows we sometimes miss the main thing and she has a plan.

Sometimes we get so caught up in comparing our stuff to others’ stuff that we miss the main thing. Or we get so focused on spending time with friends and family that we miss it. Or we grow so tired of all the commercialization that we step back from all of it and miss the main thing.

While I enjoy our Christmas traditions, sometimes I have to step aside and go through the wrapping paper of my spiritual life, of my busyness, and come face to face with Jesus. 

Don’t throw the baby out with the wrapping paper.

Tradition

tradition noun \trə-ˈdi-shən\  an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.

When does a tradition begin? How does a tradition end? Which do you prefer? Isn’t it odd how we each react to traditions differently? Some of us thrive on tradition. We’re comforted by routine. We want dependability. We seek the familiar. Others are energized by change. We want to try something new. We like adventure. We seek variety.

Many of us like to balance between the two. That’s me. I get bored doing the same thing over and over. I thrive on the challenge of balancing many different types of tasks, travelling to new places, finding solutions to new problems. Yet I like some things in my life to be consistent…so I keep my house clean, walk almost every day, and have (somewhat) predictable eating habits. I don’t need every family gathering to be exactly the same as the last one, but I like some familiarity.

…and today I experienced some of that familiarity.

The “tradition” didn’t begin as a tradition at all. My mom was simply feeding her family. But Mom’s fried chicken and french fries became a favorite as we were growing up on the family farm. Perhaps it was because she could make a lot for people helping in the fields or because the chicken tasted good, hot or cold, when she delivered it to my dad during harvest. I know it wasn’t a favorite because it was quick and easy, because it made a mess, and the fried food odor permeated the house for the entire day! 

My memories of many family picnics and gatherings include fried chicken and french fries. Yum!

Then the three of us daughters grew up. We didn’t want to eat fried foods as we watched our weight. We weren’t at home as often, so Mom didn’t need to make big meals. We had other favorites we requested during family gatherings. Fried chicken and french fries were misplaced in the shuffle of childhood memories…until recently.

I don’t know who mentioned it first, but I think it was at the girls’ gathering this Summer, which has become another family tradition, where all the girls from three generations spend a Summer weekend together. Once the memory seed of the scrumptious meal was planted, the campaign was on!

I’m not going into details, but suffice it to say several of us have varying perspectives of what transpired over the past couple weeks. A couple of us decided to employ persuasive techniques such as encouraging everyone in the family to text, call and Facebook Mom to “request” fried chicken and french fries at the upcoming dinner. Involving the grandchildren was genius. After all, what grandma says “no” to her grandchildren’s requests, such as…

“I’m so excited for the chicken! I can’t believe you never told me about fried chicken, how sad. And the fries sound AMAZING.  If you need any help, I’d be glad to help. I can’t believe I’ve been deprived of this family tradition for so long.”

and

“Grandma, I cant wait till the famous fried chicken-yum !!!! And your homemade ice cream!”

Not everyone perceived our tactics as creative and encouraging. I’m not naming any names, but one person in the family accused us of being “whiney and pushy”! Humph. But no one can deny our campaign was persuasive.

Yes, the house smelled like fried foods, and we probably all still smell like a fast food restaurant. Yes, we could have eaten a much more healthy meal (fortunately, none of us have doctors’ visits or blood tests scheduled for this week!). Yes, we could have eaten something much more simple to fix. But in typical Mom and Dad style, they went above and beyond and added to the menu: freshly harvested corn, homemade apple sauce, and much more, including fresh fruit pies and homemade ice cream.

(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Dinner was delicious. While I don’t expect a repeat menu soon, it’s okay. What’s more important to repeat is an even better tradition…getting together with my family. My favorite memory of the day is of Mom turning away from the hot, greasy stove with a huge smile to face the three of us daughters. Despite the exhausting work, she was just happy that most of her family (missed you Caitlin and Ian!) were together for a couple hours. And for that moment, we were actually getting along!

It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong. Proverbs 24:3