Remember the truth… Dig out the lies

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (ESV) 

The passage above is out of the New Testament Gospels in the bible. The Physician and Apostle Luke wrote this account of arguably ‘the’ most complete parable ever shared by Jesus about His coming Kingdom.  (Luke 8:11-15)

Here’s the 30,000 foot view… we have to ‘own’ and take  good care of the promises and truths we receive from God. If we don’t, we risk losing the truth and wandering further and further from what we were meant to be and do.

The word of God is the seed in the parable, it comes from being in the presence of God. (Prayer, Worship, Scripture, Sermons, Dreams, Visions)  When we hear the word of God speaking to us about our life, about who we are, and what He has called us to be… we must ‘receive’ it and keep a firm hold on it. We can’t let it fly by and decide to come back to it later. (Think of the “manna’ in the old testament – good for only one day)

Image Source – Pexel.com

We ‘hear’ with our hearts, not our ears. Yes, our senses work off of vibration and interpretation of the audible sensory organs, but this parable is focused on the ‘ears’ of our hearts. The passions and pursuits of our life come from the desires of our heart. The struggles and destructive habits we wrestle with also come from our hearts. What we believe about ourselves is all important, and what God speaks to us is powerful and unstoppable truth if it’s received and believed. In this parable, when we believe the words of God, the seed of our life is implanted into the soil of our heart.

Here the battle begins – God’s Word is contested at the “heart” level and before it can become implanted deep enough to affect our behaviors and beliefs  we must “receive” it guard it as our own.

We have an enemy, the deceiver and accuser of the brethren and he is strategic and aggressive in his desire to steal our identities and purpose in Christ… he wants to;

  • Steal our faith
  • Dash our hope
  • Distract our attention
  • Prevent us from receiving the Word as ours
  • De-legitimize the word as inaccurate & unreliable
  • To convince us we are unworthy – God’s will and blessing is unattainable for us.

In the parable Jesus differentiates between long-term growth and short-term, in doing so He reveals that to grow and mature we have to not only “receive” the word and claim it as our own (Implant the Seed), but we have to clean up our hearts by throwing out the rocks and tending to the weeds.

Without removing the rocks and tending to our soil we won’t grow deep enough roots to endure and mature. We need our life to grow, for our hearts to expand deeper until we have established a regular access to tap the living water of God’s truth.  (Psalm 1)

source – Pexel.com

Rocks are the hardened spaces and places in our lives where we cannot compromise or forgive – areas of disbelief and hurt, chronic wounds that form emotional walls and barriers between us and God. Those struggles we have given up on ever overcoming, those lies we accept… they block us from receiving the living water. Rocks keep us from growing beyond our wounds into stronger and mature disciples. Men and women who become stronger, more stable, and more consistent in their Christian life.

Weeding our garden = simplifying our lives. Once we grow roots, we gain stability and experience more and more sustained spiritual growth, our faith gains substance and sustainability – we elevate our perspective and see our lives differently.

Take away truths;

1. “Am I tending to the garden of my heart?

2. Have I received and believed what God has told me about Himself, about myself… about others? If not, I may need to remember the truth and dig out the lies.

Peace out, Pastor B.

A uniquely complicated, but very intended individual. 

Disclaimer for this post:  There is/was no anger or fresh personal experience that stimulated this blog post. Instead… I wrote this blog after noticing a series of deep relational issues that kept coming up in my pastoral marital ministry. Couples who were coming to me for counseling exhibiting issues and patterns of verbal / emotional conflict that had specific behaviors in common. It was from these experiences that I began to research the ‘root’ causes of some of this… this blog post was a response to what I felt impressed into my heart and mind. It rang true to me and my prayer would be for this post to help you understand yourself and others better. Marriage is all about seeing ‘past’ the shortcomings of others.

I detest fake people.

You know ones I’m talking about… folks who always have a plastered smile on their faces…, never dropping their guard or relaxing their emotional control.  Always having a “fantastic‘ day or ‘gushing’ about how amazing their career is going, how accomplished their kids are… nothing negative, only awesome all the time!

Pinterest

Or… the maybe even worse…the fake people who rush to breathlessly confide in you. Whispering excitedly about the shortcomings of another in a somber tone of false concern, only to do the exact same bus-throw to you after you leave the room. Flitting from one conversation to another, always pointing out the problems of others, never offering to be a part of the solution, critical and duplicitous.

This is the wounded heart floundering through life. The insecure and insignificant soul reaching desperately to find purchase on the slippery edge of their existence, the ‘fake’ behaviors only symptoms of something much deeper. 

Let’s be honest here, we all struggle with both sides of this. Sometimes we’re the victim… sometimes the offender, all of us affected daily by relationships with people who are struggling to find their purpose.  People secretly afraid to admit their problems are real… hiding their shame in plain sight.

We’re all flawed, broken, and desperate for purpose and identity. We are longing to find the answers to the deepest issues of our existence, the reason we’re alive, the reason we matter.

The world is full of options and offers to pursue… knowledge, pleasure, possessions… honor. All of these can be valid to some degree, but what ties it to us? Where does our deepest identity spring from? Are we athletic, intelligent… beautiful, or spiritual? Do we allow ourselves to fail… or are we pushed to perfection in a wordless cry for value and significance?

Lots and lots of questions…

The Christian faith offers a simple consideration that can bring clarity and conviction to any life. An honest and enduring truth to build your entire existence around and on. 

Jesus Christ is in fact both man and God. His life an ultimate illustration of what life can be for each of us. What life should be for each of us.

The loss of purpose and value, the soul robbing power of fear and uncertainty gone in an instant. If Christ is who he claimed to be… (the one and only path to God) then what he did and why should matter.

It means we’re valuable. 

It means we matter. 

It means we can stop being fake. 

It means that who we are, the way we are… the unique and weak parts of us are all on purpose. They serve a function that’s essential and vital to our purpose as created ones. The things we hate about ourselves… our personalities, feelings, fears, and frustrations… our insecurities and stubbornness are all a mix of us… a uniquely complicated, but very intended individual.

The twist here… in our weakness, God reveals his strength.  That means… ultimately we’re not going to measure up on our own. That means… we’re going to get it (marriage/parenting/relationships) wrong. We’re going to fail each other and flounder around and foolishly fall on our faces.

So what! We are only HUMAN! Not GOD! Cut yourself some slack… cut others some too.

Here’s the punchline… there is only space for one “God” in our life…. and it’s not us. Once that reality sinks in… we’re off the hook. No more ‘pretending’ to be something we’re really not. No more posers trying to convince ourselves and everyone else we’ve got things in our life under control. 

What a relief that could be…

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Stop Apologizing

I find myself “apologizing” for all kinds of random stuff.

I apologize…

For irritating my teenagers when I ask them to get off their smart phone and do the dishes.

For asking for help.

For speaking the truth in a posture of love.

For going back to exchange the right item for my drive-through order.

For being offended by an overtly sinful act or image.

For opening the door for a lady I don’t know.

For praying before a meal at a restaurant.

For not being as passionate about political issues as my friends.

For not praying enough and for feeling like I’m ‘bothering’ God when I do pray.

It seems I apologize frequently.

A sort of social knee-jerk for me when I sense any potential for imminent conflict or uncomfortable tension in a circumstance or relationship.

As modern, culturally conditioned parents and Christians, we’re taught to be über sensitive to others. To do our best to avoid being rude, offensive and presumptuous with our faith or beliefs. As a result I and We often take the ‘high’ road of avoidance in an effort to simply reduce the stress on our own lives. That ‘appears’ to be the right thing…until you really think it through.

uheart.wordpress.com

uheart.wordpress.com

As Parents… we’re called to lead. As Christians we’re called to be distinct in our world, “light” in the dark and “salt”for flavoring ? 

What happens if we simply fade back into the word-work and allow other more vocal and angry folks to paint the context for Christianity or Culture without our voices? What if we refuse to risk rejection in a vain attempt to be conciliatory and safe?

As I study – grow and learn from scripture, I’m captured by the boldness of men and women of Faith. Those who threw off the social ‘norms’ and status quo to embrace a new way of living from an emerging gospel that brought truth and clarity to the lost and confused.

A Pilgrims path of understanding and reconciliation that included openly confessing their beliefs in the Cross of Christ and sharing with others of the ways in which His gift of forgiveness had released them from enduring a life of captivity & shame.

The emphasis in the early church* was of a passionate compulsion to reach out to others, to share, to rescue and to love, not to pull back in restraint and apathetic – distant – contemplation.

God help us to be ‘bold’ and “loving’ followers of Jesus, clearing our minds and hearts from the self-imposed ‘shame’ of an apologetic gospel. Following Christ may cause some confrontations from time to time, but in the end… if we’re motivated by love, it can only heal, restore and redeem those who it touches. Help us to be your ‘hands and feet‘ to a world that continues to spiral out of control.

Parents, lead on!

Oh, and fellow believers….let’s stop apologizing for the clarity that comes from living for and in Christ.

Pastor B.

*for reference, check out the Apostle Paul’s’ letter to the Colossians and Philemon in the New Testament. (Source – BibleGateway)

 

Polite but Deadly

As Christians we have a unique culture of being “polite”.

Ever courteous, careful and considerate, we strive to be tactful and often it seems, we avoid at all costs the discussions or considerations that might be uncomfortable. So we take a very safe but selfish path… we avoid stuff. We cling to our politeness in an effort to justify our shame and shove more of our messed up world under the rug, hoping someone- someday will come along and  fix things.

Polite for sure… but deadly just the same.  

I believe truth matters. Phil_Robertson_Duck_Dynasty-618x400

Living in a PC world, it’s easy to shrink back from defending or proclaiming truth… especially if it’s unpopular.

Living in a Duck Dynasty world, it’s even easier to justify our decision to try to just fit in and be quiet. It makes a whole lotta sense to be careful in what we say, and avoid being mistaken as a hateful bigot or a right-wing  fanatic. Both a serious risk if we dare to speak out and let our Christian values be heard.

But herein lies the problem. The truth of Christ really is offensive. 

If we as “followers” of Jesus Christ are going to have a voice in our culture and our communities, we must move into more uncomfortable territory. We will need to take a stand on the essentials of our faith and quit apologizing for our biblical beliefs.

That doesn’t justify being a jerk or self-righteous idiot, moving past politeness… we need to claim some  “middle” ground culturally. To learn how to authentically act like the people of faith we are, without compromise and without intolerance of others.

The zealous Christians of past generations may have seriously over-emphasized the “truth” part of Christ’s gospel, and way under-stated the “Love” part… leading to a “gospel-shy whiplash effect” for modern believers to try to shake off, but that doesn’t mean we have to repeat their mistakes. church

What if we could live from a heart of genuine love and respect for others, treating them with kindness regardless of their agreement with our beliefs ?

What if that love “compelled” us to share the ridiculous truth of Christ with those who truly needed to know, without picking a political party to defend?  

Ask God to show you when and where to take some personal risks with this. When he nudges you… obey and see what happens. The truth spoken in gentleness and love has a huge influence on those who only see Christians as either fake or fruitcake.

This is especially true of our kids…

Pastor B.

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18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:18-26 (ESV) Biblegateway.com – source

Why Snickers IS satisfying…

I just dug through our office bowl of mini-candies and discarded the Snickers with Peanut Butter, Snickers with Almonds and grabbed for the simple but awesome, “Original” Snickers for a quick snack with my coffee. It’s true, Snickers really DOES satisfy. Made me think a little about the pressure we feel as parents to “modernize” our Christian faith for our kids.

The Original

The Original

After years and years of candy-confection strategic product development, test groups, focus groups and doubtless millions spent on marketing and branding… the ultimate selling point is still the original version of their iconic chocolate, peanut and caramel blend. It’s amazing, especially the smaller mini-bars because they don’t feel like your stuffing yourself with junk. (it’s more polite to graze your junk food)

OK, back to the point.

Snickers really does deliver on its claim. It’s product has stood the test of time, decades of rival candy makers, new strategic marketing initiatives (almonds, peanut butter etc..) all have come and gone, but the original version still is king of the candy-bar mountain for me.

It’s a “sweet” reminder for us as families of Faith, to remember we have the “original” on our side. Jesus Christ is the ultimate “original” that “satisfies”.

We don’t have to keep inventing new variations of the original to keep everyone’s interest, we don’t have to re-dress or update our designs to make the truth more relevant to fit a new generation of hungry folks, we can stick with the tried and true of Life and trust its simplicity and strength will endure the momentary fads and fickle nature of our modern cultures beliefs. When souls get really hungry.. I believe they will look for something tangible in life that truly brings satisfaction. 

In the end, I strongly believe…our families will come back to find that the one original Jesus, is “as advertised”.

Nothing else will really satisfy….

Stick to your faith parents, live it with love and compassion and sensitivity, but when your tempted to put a new wrapper on your faith…or mix it with some new popular ingredient… please don’t, it’s going to be better just as it was and has always been. It’s appeal is bigger than the moment, and it’s going to be here long after we are gone, satisfying and delivering on its promises until all is made right again.

But who knows…maybe, just maybe…Snickers will grow on trees in Heaven, and if that turns out…it would be a “just dessert” ! 🙂

Peace out RTP, Love … pastor B.