Clear Communication Can be a Tricky Thing to Get Right

There’s a Reason We Have Two Ears and One Mouth

Too often we think we know what some is saying without bothering to even listen. Good communication takes twice as much listening. This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.

We’ve seen a lot of miscommunication in Luke and Acts over the past several weeks as we’ve been going through these books. This was a problem between the Jewish leaders and Jesus then, and this is still a problem for many church leaders today.

A good example of how miscommunication can cause problems happened in Sunday School this past week. We were talking about the new book The Great Dechurching. Bradley Gamber has started reading it, and he described it as “wonky”.

I asked him what he meant by “wonky”. His definition of wonky is something that has a lot of detail and statistics.

I told him that’s not what wonky means to me. It means that something is out of whack, leaning, or crooked.

This led to quite the discussion about the word “wonky”, and we discovered that there were a variety of thoughts on this. I’m glad that I asked the question because otherwise I would have assumed that Bradley didn’t like the book, but this isn’t what he was saying.

What’s even more interesting is that after doing some research…both definitions are correct.

Wonky according to the Cambridge Dictionary means “knowing or showing that you know a lot of details about something, especially politics or science”. This sounds like the way Bradley was using the word.

Wonky also is defined as “askew, cockeyed, lopsided, rickety, shaky or wobbly”.

It’s no wonder that there’s such a problem with communication.

This brings me back to the Scripture in Acts 5-7 and Pastor Lisa’s message this week. The focus was on Stephen and his arrest and stoning. This story is full of miscommunication.

As followers of Jesus were gaining more and more popularity among the people, the Sadducees were becoming jealous and had some of them arrested. Then after the apostles were released by an angel, they went back to the temple and were teaching. Then the apostles were called before the council and again told to stop speaking about Jesus. (Acts 5:17-28)

Stephen was a man of great faith and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was one of the men chosen by the apostles to help spread God’s message to many more people. (Act 6:1-7)

Then Stephen is arrested because there were men who started arguing with him and accusing him of saying terrible things against Moses and God. These lies turned more church leaders against Stephen. Stephen begins to give the church leaders a history lesson about Abraham, his descendants, Joesph, and Moses bringing the slaves out of Egypt. (Acts 7:1-47)

The church leaders didn’t like what Stephen was saying so they covered their ears and started shouting.

Doesn’t this sound like a child who’s not getting their way.

The members of the church council get so mad that they attack him, drag him out of the city, and stone him to death. In order to throw the stones, the men that brought the charges give their coats to Saul to take care of. (Acts 7:54-58)

Check back next week to see what becomes of Saul, the coat keeper.

As Stephen is dying, he calls out to Jesus to welcome him home and asks Him to not blame the men throwing the stones because they don’t know what they’re doing. (Act 7:59-60)

There was no question what Stephen was saying as he spoke to the leaders of the church. He didn’t mince words, he said what he believed. This took boldness and courage in his willingness to stay true to what he believed.

We need to be willing to speak what we believe in love. We need to open our ears and listen. We need to discuss and learn.

Stephen was clear on what he believed and was willing to die for it.

A faith worth living for, is a faith worth dying for.

Are you clear about what you believe and is it a faith worth dying for?

On a side note – My amazing personal assistant, Dori, recently shared a link with me of Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary speaking at a recent chapel at Cedarville University. In addition to the great message presented by Dr. Mohler, I was impressed with the number of students and their focused intensity.

Maybe there is hope for the future of our country and our world.

What Does Living with Boldness Look Like?

How We Do it is Just as Important as Doing it

Being bold can be perceived as being pushy and overbearing…like being a bully. I think this is why many of us are scared to say what we think. In reality, these two things are quite different. A bully is someone who seeks to intimidate or coerce someone else into their way of thinking.

Boldness is not the same as being a bully.

Boldness is not hesitating or being afraid when facing our fears. It’s about being clear about what we believe and being willing to stand up for those beliefs.

What we believe individually is different. This is where the whole thing can get kind of tricky.

Pastor Lisa shared a story of being in a doctor’s office waiting room last week. When she went in, there was already a woman sitting there, so Lisa sat down with a chair between them. Then another woman came in and sat in the chair next to Lisa on the other side.

This wasn’t a problem, but Lisa thought it odd that she sat down next to her when there were other empty chairs.

Then Lisa got a magazine and lady number three asked Lisa to get one for her too. So, Lisa picked one out, hoping it was one she would like. Then the lady started talking about what she was going to have for lunch.

Later Pastor Lisa was talking with her daughter about her interaction with the lady in the waiting room. Her daughter said, “I’m never like that. I just don’t talk to other people in the waiting room. I’m just not that bold.”

This got her thinking about Peter’s increasing boldness that we’ve been seeing as we move forward into the first part of Acts. (Acts 1-4)

At the end of each year, Lisa picks a word to focus on for the upcoming year. This topic of boldness reminded her of her word for last year…moxie. Moxie is having a courageous spirit and determination. Or as Lisa explained it…

Moxie is boldness with a little bit of sass.

I found it interesting that Moxy is the name of our dog. I think boldness with a little bit of sass describes her to a tee. This is exactly why she is named Moxy. Sometimes, in her aggressiveness to get to a varmint, she will tear bark from trees or metal siding from trailers. This is taking boldness a little too far.

Some people are naturally shy, and this makes boldness hard for them. But boldness is about facing our fears. Remember that we can change if we choose to.

Boldness is a choice.

Let’s look at Peter’s boldness and how he got to where he is in in Acts.

Remember back in Luke 22:49-50 when Peter in his boldness cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest. This sounds a little like our dog.

Then shortly after that, in his fear he went the other way and lost his boldness in Luke 22:54-62 when he denied Jesus three times.

This brings us to Peter’s increasing boldness in the first part of Acts. In chapter 3 verses 5-10 Peter and John heal a man in front of the temple. Then in verses 11-24 they are boldly speaking in front of a crowd in the temple. In chapter 4 verses 1-22 they are brought before the council. Next, Peter prays for courage in verses 23-31. We may be bold and do and say things before thinking like Peter did when he cut off the servant’s ear. Or maybe we’re shy and scared to speak up about what we believe like Peter when he denied Jesus. Either way…like Peter, with the Holy Spirt, we can be bold and speak the Biblical truth.

Live in boldness with a little bit of moxie!

Peter Becomes Bold and We Need to Do the Same

The First Next Step in Building God’s Kingdom Here on Earth

Last week we discussed Jesus’ earthly journey coming to an end and how Peter got scared and denied knowing Jesus. Admitting to knowing and following Jesus can be a scary thing still for us today.

I also told you that Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of the story…just the beginning. In Acts, Luke tells us how the followers of Jesus were scared and lost and didn’t know what to do.

They were feeling lost and wondering “where do we go from here?”.

This is something that is common for us still today. We wonder what to do, where to go, and how to get there.

As some of the followers were together, Jesus showed up and shared God’s plans for building His kingdom here on earth. (Acts 1:4-8) These plans are still the same today. Just like the followers of Jesus then, we have everything we need.

After Jesus finished giving them the instructions, He went up into the sky while they watched. (Acts 1:9-10) Then two men dressed in white told them that He would come back.

Then, when about 120 followers were meeting and praying, focused on a single purpose, the same Peter that had denied Jesus, stood up and began speaking. He shared how the Holy Spirit had told David about Judas and what would happen. (Acts 1:16-19) Peter went on to say that…

“We need to tell others that Jesus was raised from the dead.”

On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.

Many religious Jews from every country in the world were in Jerusalem. And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. They were surprised because they were hearing everything in their own languages. They were excited and amazed, and they said:

“Don’t all these who are speaking come from Galilee? Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages? We are from a lot of different places, yet we all hear them using our own languages telling us of the wonderful things God has done.”

Everyone was excited and confused. Some of them even kept asking each other, “What does all this mean?”

Others mocked the Lord’s followers and said, “They are drunk.” (Acts 2:1-13)

Then, the “not so scared” Peter stood up and spoke in a loud voice to the crowd. “You are wrong to think they are drunk, it is only 9:00 in the morning!” Then he told them what the prophet Joel had said about the Holy Spirit being given to everyone. (Acts 2:14-21) The followers continued meeting and worked together to build the church and God’s kingdom.

We are still presented with the opportunity to continue building God’s kingdom today.

We have everything we need to accomplish this. We have the Bible which is the blueprint for building God’s kingdom. We have the workforce, otherwise known as the church. This workforce provides all the different skills needed. We can communicate directly with the Architect through prayer.

Now like Peter, be bold and don’t be afraid to do your part in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Peter Says He Doesn’t Know Jesus…What Are You Going to Say?

Going Through the Last Days of Jesus’ Life

Sorry about being a day late getting this post published. I would like to blame it on this being a short holiday week, but that wouldn’t be totally true. The short week may have played a small part, but it’s more to do with simply being busy.

The past several weeks we’ve been going through the Book of Luke. This week we finish up Luke going through chapters 22-24.

In these chapters, Jesus’ journey is coming to an end, and these things take place –  

  • Judas betrays Jesus.
  • Jesus shares the Passover with His disciples.
  • Pilate and Herod look for a way to set Jesus free.
  • The people want the murderer Barabbas set free instead of Jesus.
  • The sun stops shining for hours during the middle of the day.
  • The curtain in the Temple is torn in two.
  • Jesus is killed.
  • Jesus is buried.
  • Jesus returns and appears to His disciples.
  • Jesus opens their minds to understand.

There are a lot of people involved in the chapters.

  • Judas – Satan enters Judas (Luke 22:3), and he goes to the chief priests and the officers of the church to help them arrest Jesus. Satan couldn’t come into Judas’ heart without Judas letting him in. Judas had to allow this. The same is true for Jesus. He won’t come in if we don’t let Him. Just like Judas, this is a choice that is ours to make.
  • Peter – Jeus is telling His disciples that they will be tested. (Luke 22:31-34) Peter tells Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to jail and even to die with you.” Jesus replied, “Peter, I tell you that before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” You know the rest of the story. After Jesus is arrested and Peter is standing in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. (Luke 22:54-65) Just like Peter, this is a choice that is ours to make.
  • Pilate and Herod – Neither of these men thought Jesus was guilty or deserved to be put to death. They weren’t willing to stand up against the people and set Him free. (Luke 23:1-23) Pilate and Herod were persuaded by the culture. Just like Pilate and Harrod, the choice to let culture persuade us is ours to make.
  • Barabbas – Upon the demanding of the people, the guilty Barabbas was released in place of Jesus. He was forgiven for his wrongdoing and set free. Then the innocent Jesus was killed on the cross in his place. (Luke 23:24-25) There are some that believe that after this Barabbas became a follower of Jesus. This is the same thing Jesus does for us. Just like Barabbas, Jesus paid for our wrongdoings and it’s our choice whether to follow Jesus or not.
  • Simon – As Jesus was being led away, some soldiers grabbed Simon of Cyrene and made him carry Jesus’ cross. This was not Simon’s cross. For all we know Simon may not even knew who Jesus was, but yet he carried Jesus’ cross for Him. (Luke 23:26) This is what Jesus will do for us. He will carry our cross.
  • Men on the cross on either side of Jesus – There were two criminals nailed to the crosses on either side of Jesus. One of them was insulting Jesus by saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!” But the other criminal told the first one off, “Aren’t you getting the same punishment as this man? We got what was coming to us, but he didn’t do anything wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me.” Jesus replied, “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43) Just like the criminal, we just need to ask Jesus and we can be in paradise with Him.
  • Joseph – Joseph was a church leader from Arimathea and member of the council but did not agree with what was decided. He believed in Jesus and was looking forward to God’s kingdom coming. Joseph went to Pilate and asked if he could take Jesus’ body down and bury it. He wrapped Jesus’ body in fine cloth and put it in his tomb that had never been used. (Luke 23:50-53) The fact that no other bodies had been buried there makes the empty tomb a big deal. Joseph believed and acted on that belief. Just like Joseph, we need to believe and act on that belief.
  • The women – On the day after the Sabbath the women prepared spices for Jesus’ burial. When they got there the tomb was empty. Suddenly, two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The men tell the women that Jesus is risen and is not there. (Luke24:1-12) In that time women were seen as second-class citizens. This is partly why the apostles did not believe them until they went and looked for themselves. Just like the women, sometimes people won’t believe you but we still need to share the truth anyway.
  • Cleopas – Two of Jesus’ followers were walking and talking about what had happened. Jesus joined them and asked what they were talking about. With sadness in his voice, Cleopas answered, “You must be the only person from Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened over the past few days.” “What do you mean?”, asked Jesus. They told Him the whole story and then Jesus asked them, “Why can’t you understand?” They asked Jesus to stay with them and when they sat down to eat Jesus broke some bread and He disappeared. The two men went back to tell the others what they had seen. (Luke 24:13-49) Just like the Cleopas, if we listen and learn, our eyes will be open to Jesus.

We are all these people. We are Barabbas. We are set free even though we don’t deserve it.

This isn’t the end of the story. Just like Peter’s story doesn’t end with his denying Jesus.  Our story is still being written. Remember the tomb is empty.

We’ve come to the end of Luke and now we’re going into Luke volume two…Acts.

The book of Acts picks up where Luke left off, providing us with a front row seat to the birth of the church, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the spreading of the Gospel and the growth of the church.

We Need to Build Our Lives on a Solid Foundation Using the Right Cornerstone

The Problem is That Most Amateurs Think They Know More Than the Builder

As a builder I understand the importance of building on a solid foundation. Sure, it’s harder and takes more work than building on sand. Amateurs often look at the quicker, less expensive way of constructing. The problem is that the short-term gain isn’t worth the long-term cost.

The same is true for building the best life.

In Luke 6:47-49 Jesus tells us that listening and obey Him is like digging down and building our lives on solid rock. But anyone who hears what He says and doesn’t obey is building their life on sand. When the storms of life come, they will be washed away.

Over the past several weeks Pastor Lisa has been taking us through the book of Luke. This week’s message is focused on Luke 20-21.

Throughout the book of Luke, the Jewish leaders of the day were continually trying to trap Jesus.

The same is true in this week’s Scripture. In Luke 20:1-16 we see them once again questioning Jesus. They ask Him who gave John the right to baptize. Of course, He, being Jesus, knew what they were trying to do so he answered their question with a question. Either way they answered it was going to get them in trouble with somebody.

Jesus went on to tell a story about a man who owned a vineyard and had rented it out. When it was time to harvest, the owner sent a servant to pick up his share of the grapes. The renters beat him and sent him away without the owner’s share.

After having the same thing happen to a second servant, he sent his son. The renters, thinking they were smarter than the owner, decided to kill his son thinking that they would inherit the vineyard.

Jesus tells those listening that the owner will then have the renters put to death and rent the vineyard to someone else.

Like the renters in this story or the amateurs building on sand, we often think we’re smarter than God.

The people listening to this story were outraged at the renters and said, “This should never happen.” Jesus looked right at them and said, “Then what do the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘The stone the builders tossed aside is now the most important stone of all’? Anyone who stumbles over this stone will get hurt, and anyone it falls on will be smashed to pieces.” (Luke 20:17-18)

Here we are, back to the importance of a solid foundation.

This most important stone that Jesus is referring to is called the cornerstone. A cornerstone is the first stone laid in a foundation. All other stones will be set, referencing the cornerstone to determine the position of the entire structure.

The Jews listening to Jesus would have had the Psalms memorized and would have immediately thought of Psalms 118:22 and the stone that the builders tossed aside.

This sounds a little like the renters above, doesn’t it?

We can choose to be like the renters and the amateur builders, or we can build our lives on a solid foundation using Jesus as our Cornerstone.

A Map is a Great Way to Figure Out Where to Go

The Problem Is That It’s Much Harder to Get There if You Don’t Follow It

If you want to go from here to there, maps are a great way to figure out the route you want to take. They can show us the roads to drive, rivers that have to be crossed and mountains that we need to go around.

When giving directions if we say going up, we are referring to North on a map. Going down is South. Up and down directions when using a map aren’t about elevations.

Determining elevations with a map is hard. Even though you can see the drawings of rivers, plains, valleys, and mountains, it’s hard to get the full effect of the differences when looking at a flat piece of paper.

As we’ve been going through the book of Luke over the past several weeks, Jesus and His disciples have been traveling. Starting near the Sea of Galilee, they were going through portions of Samaria and headed to Jerusalem. Today’s adventure starts in Jericho which is near the Dead Sea.

It’s about seventeen miles from Jericho to Jerusalem on the map. What the map doesn’t show is the elevation difference. Jericho is 864’ BELOW sea level…Jerusalem is 2500’ ABOVE sea level. This is a 3364’ elevation change. This is almost ¾ of a mile up.

This unseen uphill elevation is going to make the journey harder than it appears on the map.

This is why it is important to read and study the whole map and not just look at the pictures. The information you need is there if you just use it.

The same thing is true for the Map for life, the Bible. Just looking at the popular stories and verses doesn’t give you the full picture. You need to read it and study it so you can be prepared for the elevation changes.

Going through this journey of life without even looking at the Map (Bible) is sure to make the adventure more difficult.

In this week’s portion of the Map (Luke 18) we are given a lot of valuable information for our journey.

We learn that –  

  • Like the widow’s persistence in going before the judge, if we pray day and night God will hear our prayers. (Luke 18:1-8)
  • Thinking too highly of ourselves and putting others down is not pleasing to God. This is shown to us in Luke 18:9-14 when the Pharisee prayed out loud how great he was and how greedy, dishonest and unfaithful the tax collector was. On the other hand, the tax collector only asked to be forgiven for his sins.
  • In Luke 18:18-30 our Life Map shows us how to get to Heaven in the example of the rich man who isn’t willing to put God ahead of his earthly wealth. We all have things that we do the same thing with. Whatever that thing is for you, you need to make it less important than God.

The Map doesn’t say it will be an easy journey, but it makes it clear it’s the right path.

  • The final directions given to us in Luke 18 are in verses 35-43. Here we are shown how having faith in Jesus will open our eyes. The blind beggar heard that Jesus was passing by. He shouted out to Jesus to give him his eyesight and his prayer was answered.

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, the disciples were having trouble believing what Jesus was telling them about His upcoming death. They believed that Jesus was the Savior, but His death was not their vision of how He would conquer the world.

The disciples’ hearts were in the right place, but their heads weren’t.

They finally figured it out after His death and resurrection.

They disciples had preconceived ideas and were having trouble focusing. In Sunday School, my sister compared this to when her son was a young boy. She would try to get him to focus on what she was telling him by putting her hands on each side of his face and getting him to look her in the eye. Then she knew she had his focused attention.

We need to make eye contact with God and give Him our focused attention.

Read and study the Life Map. Realize that there will be highs and lows. Life is not going to be a paper smooth journey, but it’s worth the effort.

Having Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed Can Move Mountains

What Do One Sheep, One Coin, and Two Sons Have in Common?

This sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it. But in reality, there’s an important message here. Not that jokes can’t have important messages.

Jokes are a form of stories, and we can all relate to stories. Stories help us to see things from different perspectives or witness things when we aren’t even there. They can let us see things that we can’t physically see. They allow us feel things that we can relate to.

Jesus used stories to help us understand and relate to things.

As Pastor Lisa has been going through the Book of Luke, we’ve heard a lot of Jesus’ stories. This week was no different. These stories are commonly called parables.

A parable is an illustrative story, by which a familiar idea is cast beside an unfamiliar one in such a way that the comparison helps people to better understand or grasp the unfamiliar one. A simple story is told, certain features of which are similar or parallel to the points or principles one wishes to drive home.

Back to the one sheep, the one coin, and the two sons.

In Luke 15, Jesus is hanging out with a bunch of sinners (this would be all of us). And once again the Pharisees and teachers of the law are grumbling about this. Then He tells them a story about a single lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and the importance of finding it.

Then He tells them about a lady looking for one lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and how she looks and looks until she finds it. Then she celebrates and the shares her excitement with her friends once it’s found.

We’ve all heard the story about the two sons, commonly called the “prodigal son”. (Luke 15:11-32) The younger son is given his share of his father’s money and after squandering it, comes back to be welcomed by his father. Then the older son is upset about him being welcomed home with a celebration.

We can all relate to the different people in these stories at different times.

Both sons in this last story made mistakes. Like the sons in this story, we’ve done stupid things as well. The father forgave both of his sons for their errors. One wasn’t better or more deserving of forgiveness than the other. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us.

In Luke it is clear that Jesus was looking for the least, the last, and the lost. From the first chapters until the end. Luke is always drawing attention to the ways in which, as Mary puts it in the Magnificat, God casts down the proud and lifts up the lowly. 

Forgiveness is something that we need to both give and ask for. It is one of the most powerful weapons we have. We need to forgive those who do not ask for forgiveness. Forgive those who criticize us unjustly. Forgive ourselves.

Forgiveness is a secret that is hidden in plain sight. It costs nothing and is worth millions. It is available to everyone and used by few. If you harness the power of forgiveness, you will be sought after and regarded highly. And not coincidentally, you will also be forgiven by others!” (6th Decision from The Traveler’s Gift)

It doesn’t matter who we are, we can be forgiven.

Forgiveness requires faith. We must have faith in God. We must have faith in others. We must have faith in ourselves. Having faith in ourselves is one of the hardest things to do.

We make faith harder than we need to. In Matthew 17:20-21 Jesus tells us, “I can promise you this. If you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to move from here to there. And it would. Everything would be possible for you.”

The mustard seed is tiny. When our faith is smaller than a mustard seed…it’s pretty much non-existent.

Learn from Jesus’ stories. Forgive yourself and others. Have mustard seed sized faith.

What’s the Best Way to Navigate the Difficulties of Life?

This Life Expedition is Made Easier with a Good Leader and a Good Plan

This past weekend our area was hit by a strong wind. I’m talking about a really, really strong wind. I’ve heard reports ranging from 80 to 100 miles per hour. I don’t know what the exact wind speed was, but what I do know is this…there was a lot of damage, a Ferris wheel blown over at the county fair, and a widespread electric outage for around to 24 hours in some areas.

The upside is that I haven’t heard of any serious injuries and witnessed neighbors helping neighbors.

Being without electricity for that amount of time brought to light how spoiled we are.

Don’t get me wrong…I love being spoiled with electricity and don’t want to go without it. But the disruption this caused to our everyday routines was evident. No electricity meant – no air conditioning, for those of us with well water…no running water, no charging of cell phones, thawing of food in freezers, etc.

This meant starting my day without my normal morning shower or coffee. ☹

I love routines and am much more productive when they are followed, but sometimes things happen that upset those routines. The question is how are we going to handle these disruptions?

Sometimes these routines can become so prominent that we become rigid and don’t look outside them. Jesus pointed this out to the Pharisees in Luke 14:1-6. Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were stuck in their rules and laws. Jesus pointed out to them that if their son or ox fell in a well on the Sabbath, they would help them out.

When we get so set in our ways we don’t want to change. This leads to making excuses. In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus shares a story about people who were invited to a banquet but made up all kinds of excuses not to go.

It isn’t like they were being asked to do something that was hard or unpleasant…it was a banquet after all.

We are like the people in this story. We’ve been invited to an eternal banquet with Jesus, but we get caught up in our daily routines and make excuses for not accepting the invitation. We put it off.

When things like storms and power outages happen, we need to be clear about who we are and what things are the most important. We need to be flexibly rigid.

Life is an expedition and like any big undertaking there are going to be difficulties and hardships along the way.

The question is how are we going to handle them?

If we have a good Leader (Jesus) and a good plan (Bible) the adventure will be much better.

How Do We Find the Balance of Leading and Following?

Most People Just Drift Through Life Because It Seems Easier

Leading and following can both be scary. Leading means you have the responsibility, and if things don’t go well, you can get blamed. Following requires you to give up control, and we don’t like that either.

Drifting through life without any responsibility and doing whatever we want sounds like the better easier option.

Part of what makes drifting seem like the better plan is not having a bunch of rules to follow. One thing that pushes people away from the church is all the laws that God gave us. They can seem overwhelming.

We all know about the Ten Commandments. But what about the other 613? That’s right, there are actually over six hundred commandments in the Bible.

Whether or not 613 is the exact count is not that important. What is important is that the purpose of the law was to point us to Christ. Galatians 3:24 says, “In fact, the Law was to be our teacher until Christ came. Then we could have faith and be acceptable to God”.

No one can perfectly obey all the commandments, no matter how many or few there are. In fact, no one can obey the Ten Commandments completely. The Law makes our sinfulness evident (Romans 7:7). God gave us the Law to define sin and demonstrate our need for a Savior. Jesus is the only one who has perfectly obeyed the Law. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He fulfilled all of God’s righteous commands (Matthew 5:17-18).

Drifting through life is not God’s plan for us here on earth.

He has given each of us a purpose. Fulfilling this purpose requires taking responsibility. He has given us everything we need to succeed, but it’s up to us to do it. We all have a unique purpose.

It’s up to us to figure out who we are and take the lead to fulfill our purpose.

So, who are you?

You are a unique combination of things that make you, you.

Like me, you may be a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a business owner, a township board member, and a raft of other things. But whoever you are, you are unique.

In Luke 9:18-20, Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. Some said John the Baptist, some said Elijah, others said a prophet from long ago. Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah sent from God.”

Jesus knew who He was. Peter knew who He was. The disciple knew who He was. The problem was that they had a misconception of what that meant. They thought He was going to be a powerful worldly king and ruler.

There is no question that Jesus was a popular item and people wanted to be a part of it. These people would say, “I will follow You anywhere.” Then Jesus would lay out the plan for them, and they would come up with all kinds of excuses. Luke 9:57-62

We all do this. We get one thing in our head and then we are disappointed when things aren’t what we expected.

If we believe Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior, then we need to not question Him, but follow Him. It’s all about priorities and what you choose to make most important.

The balance of leading and following is to follow Jesus and lead others to do the same.

The Right Soil Makes All the Difference in How Things Grow

But Regardless, Nothing Will Grow if Nothing is Planted

The property where my wife and I live was my grandparents when I was a little boy, and my grandpa farmed it. Then as I got a little older my dad began farming it, and I was privileged to drive a tractor and work the ground. I loved farming. It’s one of my fondest memories growing up.

The problem with the ground is that it’s hard and consists of a lot of clay. Grandpa used to always kid about it. He would say that there was 30 minutes when it would be just the right moisture content and would plow great. That time was between being too wet and being too dry, and the perfect time would always happen while he was eating lunch.

Pastor Lisa’s sermon this past Sunday was about the farmer and sowing the seeds in Luke 8:4-15. Most of us are familiar with this Bible story where the farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While he was doing this, some of the seeds fell along the road and were stepped on or eaten by birds. Other seeds fell on rocky ground and started growing. But the plants did not have enough water and soon dried up. Some seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants.

The rest of the seeds fell on good ground where they grew and produced a hundred times as many seeds.

This Scripture is such a good example of how we are to be aware of the different soils around us, understand them, and improve them so that we can produce a hundred times more than we thought we could.

As she was sharing this story I was reminded of the soil at home and a conversation I had last week with Alex Gottlob from Gottlob Lawn and Landscape.

This conversation centered around replacing a tree that died this past year and planting some additional ones in the hard clay soil at home. He gave me some great advice on how to improve the soil and the odds of the trees living in this kind of dirt.

The first thing to note is…soil can be made better.

Clay soil is much more than simple dirt but when it comes to clay soil – it can be complicated. It’s not as difficult as you may think; improving clay soil involves mixing organic materials, such as bark, sawdust, peat moss, composting materials, or manure, directly into the soil.

Alex suggested mixing cotton burr half and half with the dirt that we dig out. Cotton burr compost is a byproduct of the cotton fiber harvesting process and consists of cotton plants’ leaves, stalks, and seeds. It is an all-around compost high in both macro and micronutrients. It’s great for amending heavy clay soil.

Another suggestion was a root stimulator. Root stimulator encourages root development, specifically the fine root hair development. Root stimulation promotes the fine root density and adds a beneficial fungus, called Mycorrhizae. It also helps the tree transition from fall to winter, which is a good thing considering that we’re going to be planting them in the early fall.

The last and maybe the most important is watering. The trees we’re getting ready to plant vary from 8’ to 14’ tall. Trees of this size will need 10-20 gallons of water per week each. We also need to spread mulch around the trees to reduce evaporation and provide insulation for the roots.

This hard clay soil is not ideal for growing but can be made better if we put in the work.

This is the same for us. We can be made better with work.

Today’s Bible story tells us how the seed is God’s message and the seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message. But the devil comes and snatches the message out of their hearts, so they will not believe and be saved.

The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it. But they don’t have deep roots, and they believe only for a little while. As soon as life gets hard, they give up.

The seeds that fell among the thornbushes are people who hear the message. But they are so eager for riches and pleasures that they never produce anything.

Those seeds that fell on good ground are the people who listen to the message and keep it in good and honest hearts. They endure and produce a harvest.

Where we plant seeds makes a difference and may require different actions and applications. But we can change our dirt if we choose to. More importantly, nothing will grow if nothing is planted.

Go out and plant some good seeds and watch them grow.