Progressive Refinement

 

Today’s Reading: James 1:19-27

Good Morning,  I apologize for the delay this morning.  Last night we didn’t have internet access, so this morning I made a 25 mile trek to the city to send off this post.  One amazing aspects of this journey is I saw my first moose ever. This was awesome.   Let’s get into the reading.

In the letter of James, the apostle is writing to the new church and reinforcing the teachings of Christ.  James is now an elder in the church and is witnessing some of the same issues that had been present before Christ in Judaism to continue in the new church among the Christians.   The issues that are presented are: 1.) Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 2.) Be doers of the word and not only hearers, 3.) Anyone who is doing the work of God, but doesn’t control his words is not doing true works of God.  In these issues presented there is a progressive refinement movement present where you cannot only do part of the process, but you must continually strive to get better.

In the first issue, we are called to listen and allow this to guide our thoughts and actions.  We should be proactive and not allow the situations or our feelings dictate our responses.  This is an area that is more difficult to harness without practice.   It seems that many of the early church leaders would allow their own personal opinions and perceptions cloud their judgement and this would lead to frustrations and conflict.  How many times in a day can you allow your own emotions to interfere your service?  How many times are you not fully listening to others and assuming you know what the other person is wanting or how to react?  This is an area that I am continually progressively refining in myself. As I write this, I am reminded of a situation today where I helped my son to rethink his reactions to his sisters. Progressive refinement.

The second issue, is to be doers and not only hearers of the Word.  We can listen to all the newest sermons, bible talks, podcasts, and other outlets; but if we are not actively engaging and being intentional in our service we are no better than those who do not know the Word.  In the first issue, we were not hearing the word.  Then James tells us since you are listening and hearing the word, you must continue to move forward and now be active in the word.  There are times that we have listen to the word and then we get excited and start to become active and motivated.  After a while we are back to where we began or sometimes further than where we started.  We should be intentional about the service and the way God moves in our lives.  We must engage God, through the Spirit to actively be a part of our lives and work in us for the Glory of the kingdom.

The final issue, you are doing these works that you have heard from God to be active in His works, we must be careful to not allow our own ambitions and desires cloud the true objective.  God is in search of you and desires you to promote the kingdom which is the true objective.  We should seek God, do His will, and remember that it is not us that is in charge. Sometimes, I forget that this is not my life and my hopes and dreams, but it is God’s purpose for me that allows me to be here and serving him.  Again James makes it plain and simple,

James  1:27  “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their afflictions”

 This is true religion.  It is not who is better than the other, it is not about who can speak better than the other, it is not about who can out do the other.  True religion is love others unconditionally, without the expectation of acknowledgement in return.   When we have question if the works that we are doing are pleasing to God, we should ask ourselves “Are we taking care of those that are not able to assist themselves and are we doing it with love?”

As we look at these issues, we must see that it is not a finite and limited progression of growth, but a constant changing and dynamic process.  We have a glimpse of the road map, but we need to continually ask for direction and clarification of the directions that Christ has for us.  Progressive Refinement.  James continues to give us insight if we are receptive to the Word.  Be Blessed.

The Big-ness of God

Image result for watch for god

Today’s Reading: Psalm 90, Luke 19:5-23, Mark 13:35-37

Good Morning it’s another Monday and I’m so blessed to be back with you! Mr. McG has been covering for me due to some travel and I’m so grateful! As your Monday hostess, I have the honor of introducing a new series we’re beginning on the character of God. As a newer Christian, I think this concept can be one of the most complex aspects of a living faith. As we mature in our faith we begin to deepen our interaction with God just as we do with our parents. Today we have three separate readings that highlight the big-ness of God. After studying each of them, I’d like to just focus on them separately today in our study together and allow you to draw some connections as you consider the character of God in your own faith journey.

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses, this Psalm speaks of the sovereignty of God over creation, life and death. When I first became I Christian I really struggled to understand the meaning of the word sovereignty. The dictionary defines sovereignty as: supreme power and freedom from external control. Moses reminds us that a thousand years are like a day to God. He is not limited by time. It’s easy to get so very discouraged when situations don’t seem to change when days, weeks, months or even years go by. Sometimes we wonder if God can see into the future. But what we learn from Psalm 90 is that God is completely unrestricted from time. Because of his sovereignty, God knows all of our sins.

“You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” Psalm 90:8

This should encourage us to come to him rather than trying to cover our sins from him. The end of the psalm reminds us that our time here on earth is so very finite. By loving and serving God we can weather the difficult times knowing our desires can only be satisfied by Him! If you’re going through a hard time that seems endless right now, this Psalm is for you. Take time to read it again, He’ll be with you when you do.

Luke 19:5-23

I love this story about Zacchaeus the crooked tax collector and his change for Jesus. It shows us that each of us have the capacity for change and the call to believe the best in others. Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the ten servants. If you are a part of the Eastview Christian Church congregation, you may have experienced this parable first hand with our Serve Project. Jesus followers are commanded to use the resources we are given to build and expand God’s kingdom. Understanding that there is no wealth that is truly ours is the key to a life in discipleship with Him. While we await the coming of Jesus again we must do Christ’s work.

 Mark 13:35-37

Finally, we arrive at Mark 13, the cornerstone of our readings for today. The message is simple; watch for God. I was reminded of a little yellow bracelet my children wear from VBS when I read this passage. The bracelet literally says, “Watch for God” The intent was to give the kids a tangible reminder that God is always with you and that one day Jesus will come again. At the end of each day of VBS, the children were encouraged to share a moment in which they saw signs of God in their lives. They wrote them down on little post it notes and covered a wall with them by the end of the week. Mark is essentially giving us a bracelet that says, “Watch!” Sometimes I think it may be helpful to us as adults to write down our God sightings and post them on our wall. I know that I can get caught up in the day to day and miss the opportunity to see Him. Jesus tells us through this parable that we must stand firm by faith and not be surprised by persecutions. We must stay alert and be guided by our moral compass until he comes again.

 

Have a great week!

Two Sons

 

Today’s Reading : Matthew 21:28-32; John :19-20Psalms 130

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

 

 

Parables are great teachers of hidden truths and realities.  The message of the “Two Sons” is a direct answer to the direct affront that Jesus was being subjected to by the Chief priest and the elders of the temple. This was a manner in which Christ was redirecting and questioning the true intentions of his accusers.  In the passage before this parable, Christ is questioned on the authority that he teaches in temple and he redirects the elders with the question of John the Baptist’s Baptism.

 

In this parable, Christ is using a similar style where he uses their own beliefs to hone in to the critical point of the essence of the elders.  In Jewish tradition similar to our tradition of respect and obligation, when a person gives their word or promise, that is the correct manner of respect. But the true essence of respect is not only to commit with words, but also to complete the action.  By completing the action, you have completed your duty to the requestor.  In the parable the chief priest and the elders are the proverbial “second son”. They commit by words, but their actions are not aligned with the request of the father. The tax collectors are the “first son” where they have heard the request of the father and deny at first, but submit to the will of the father later.

 

Being a father and a son, I can see both aspects of this parable in my life.  There were many times as a child and young adult where I submitted to the request of my parents, but there are also times where I didn’t submit to the request.  As my wife and I raise our three children, there are times that the children comply with our request and at times they submit to their own devices.  But as reading this passage, I have the realization that these two sons’ roles are present in each of us on a daily basis. It is dynamic in nature as well. If we are in Christ, we are ever searching to be aligned with God, but sometimes we may do something that is not aligned with His will. Sometimes we may say, “ God direct my path” and decided to keep our own Mapquest at hand.   Other times we may feel the need to serve and will start wherever we are. These two scenarios are ways that we can see God working in us.  We are imperfect beings with access to a perfect being.  We will not always do the correct choice, but by grace we will have the chance to grow in Him.   Be Blessed.

;  Psalms 130

 

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Parables are great teachers of hidden truths and realities.  The message of the “Two Sons” is a direct answer to the direct affront that Jesus was being subjected to by the Chief priest and the elders of the temple. This was a manner in which Christ was redirecting and questioning the true intentions of his accusers.  In the passage before this parable, Christ is questioned on the authority that he teaches in temple and he redirects the elders with the question of John the Baptist’s Baptism.

In this parable, Christ is using a similar style where he uses their own beliefs to hone in to the critical point of the essence of the elders.  In Jewish tradition similar to our tradition of respect and obligation, when a person gives their word or promise, that is the correct manner of respect. But the true essence of respect is not only to commit with words, but also to complete the action.  By completing the action, you have completed your duty to the requestor.  In the parable the chief priest and the elders are the proverbial “second son”. They commit by words, but their actions are not aligned with the request of the father. The tax collectors are the “first son” where they have heard the request of the father and deny at first, but submit to the will of the father later.

Being a father and a son, I can see both aspects of this parable in my life.  There were many times as a child and young adult where I submitted to the request of my parents, but there are also times where I didn’t submit to the request.  As my wife and I raise our three children, there are times that the children comply with our request and at times they submit to their own devices.  But as reading this passage, I have the realization that these two sons’ roles are present in each of us on a daily basis. It is dynamic in nature as well. If we are in Christ, we are ever searching to be aligned with God, but sometimes we may do something that is not aligned with His will. Sometimes we may say, “ God direct my path” and decided to keep our own Mapquest at hand.   Other times we may feel the need to serve and will start wherever we are. These two scenarios are ways that we can see God working in us.  We are imperfect beings with access to a perfect being.  We will not always do the correct choice, but by grace we will have the chance to grow in Him.   Be Blessed.

What’s at your Core?

Parable of the Dishonest (“Shrewd”) Manager

Luke 16: 1-8 

 1-2 Jesus said to his disciples, “There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’

3-4 “The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg. . . . Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do . . . then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’

“Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’

“The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now—write fifty.’

“To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’

“He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’

“He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’

8-9 “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”

The definition of shrewd is complex in nature.  In the Oxford Dictionary, the term shrewd is used to describe a person that is wise and clever in a particular way.  Shrewd is derived from shrew, which means “an evil person or villain”.  So depending on the context being shrewd could be praise or an insult.

In the parable, it can be seen from both perspectives. First, the manager was evil by doing ill and deceitful management of the Masters estate.  Second, when called to report his actions he uses his cunningness to settle the owner’s debts and also gain praise in the midst of correcting his folly.

This makes us understand that at the core of the manager: his primary interest was his own survival by any means necessary.  This parable echoes some of the previous teaching of Christ in Luke 11:10-13

11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 Even the evil person knows how to do the right thing and also know how to do good.  At the core of each individual the ability to do good is present. The core of a person can be exhibited in many forms, but it is reviled in times of survival. Now the questions to ask ourselves are: How can we be clever and not “shrewd” as managers of what God has given us?  How can we allow the Spirit of God be our core?  What type of managers are we of the riches and talents His has give us?  Can we allow Him to be the owner and we the managers of this life He gives us?  We are the managers of His wealth, His houses, His marriages and relationships, His children, His everything.  Can we be accountable for all that He has entrusted us? What is our core?

 

Which Seat?

 

My children took part in Vacation Bible School last week and it was some of the most enlivened and exhilarating and anticipated parts of the kids’ summer.  Since the early part of May, we have been rehearsing the songs in each car ride with the program CD.  The church that hosts the VBS is also the church that houses the Pre-School that all of our children have attended over the past several years.

A couple of weeks before VBS started my son and I had an interesting conversation.  As we are driving, he starts telling a story of his time in Pre-school.  “ Dad, you know that I really like VBS and preschool at Noah’s Ark.  But one thing that I remember is the seating at preschool.  I really didn’t like where I sat.  At the beginning of the year, you have to choose a place to sit down, and then that is your place for the remainder of the school year.  I really didn’t like to sit in that same seat each day.” As the dad, I followed up with the usual question “Could you have asked to move?” and his reply was  “I didn’t ask.”    In this little conversation, I was able to see that his mind still associated the place with a feeling of questioning and a feeling of familiarity.  How interesting that this particular event would still play a vital role in his memory 4 years later.

Luke 14: 7-14

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

In the reading and parable, Jesus allows us to analyze ourselves and listen for guidance of our proper placement in life and in service.  We cannot arbitrarily create a place of honor and prestige for ourselves above others.  God is the giver of goodness of life.  He is welcoming to all that are in search of Him and He wants us to give to our brothers and sisters that are in need as well.  We have to be aware that we can at anytime be the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind, so we must be patient and loving to others because we will be blessing God in turn.  We must ask if we are seating in the right place or is there a different place to sit.

 

Be Blessed in Steadfast love.   Psalm 118

 

Come Back Sheep

Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:12-14 and Psalm 112

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Have you ever gotten lost as a small child? Most of us can remember that helpless overwhelming sense of fear as we searched for our parent in a store or at a busy outdoor festival. Even as an adult I can recall that visceral feeling of my heart pounding, my eyes welling up with tears as I shouted for my Mom or Dad. As a parent, I’m now standing on the other side of that equation. Every time I take my three children to a public place I find myself endlessly counting to three as my eyes dart around looking for each little head curls. Of course as a child you believe that when you grow up you’ll leave all that fear and dependence behind. You believe that adults are in command of their world and can control their own circumstance rather than be controlled by external forces. It’s laughable, right? If only children knew just how much less control we have as grown-ups! If only they knew that we too experience the fear and the reality of being lost. That like them we experience abandonment, isolation, persecution and loneliness.  We don’t share that part of ourselves with children because it’s our job to protect them. We shield them from the worst of things and show them the best of things. And, in turn our Father does the same for us.

A lost sheep is totally defenseless. Having no weapon or benefit of speed, all he can do is cry, which signals his enemy to close in. The sheep has no sense of direction or gift of scent. He is surrounded by enemies; whether predators or simply the elements of nature. And when that lost sheep is separated from its herd it is all the more vulnerable to the cunning wit of his enemy. Just as our children are like our sheep, so are we the Father’s. When wander off from Christian life, we are vulnerable. The predators of our world close in, and all we can do is cry out to God. What are the bright and shiny things that can lure us away from our Christian flock? For me, it’s getting out of the habit of being in His word each day and getting into the habit of sleeping in, watching too much TV, too much focus on materialism and money. Suddenly, I find myself far far away from the place I want to be in my journey with Jesus Christ. Although I am just about as defenseless as a baby sheep in God’s eyes, I do have a sense of direction. I do know the way back to God. Jesus tells us that God “rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray…” Matthew 18:13. What that means is that there is everlasting grace for those who are lost. If you are reading today, and you feel like you are a sheep on the mountain, cold and alone, call out to Him. Follow that path that has led you back to Him before. And if you are reading and you’ve never found God, start in His word. Read, and He will find you.

~have a great week sheep

 

 

Seed of Faith to Extraordinary Outcomes.

Today’s Readings: Matthew 13:31; Mark 4:30-32; Luke13: 18-19; Psalm 106

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is a tale of small faith with extraordinary outcomes.

Matthew 13:31

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.

Mark 4:30-32

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Luke 13: 18- 19

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

 

In the ancient Jewish culture, there were many things that were common and widely known.  Everyone was aware of and some practiced the Levitical practices prescribed by the Torah, for example abstaining from work on the Sabbath.   Another common topic was gardening and harvest. Many people during this time relied on producing their own food through means of planting and harvesting or shepherding or fishing.  The parable of the Mustard Seed is one that utilizes the commonness of a “weed” to make an important point of faith and transformation.  The mustard seed that is mentioned in these stories, was considered a weed and not suitable for cultivating.  The size of the seed was among the smallest seeds known at that time. The plant was not as desirable to eat or cultivate.  The normal size of the plant would be the size of a regular bush.  Jesus uses this example to illustrate the immense power of transformation and glory of God and His the kingdom.  He shows that the purpose of this small and somewhat insignificant seed can be transformed from the small bush to one of the trees that can be houses for birds.  In this context it is aligned with the olive tree and fig trees, two of the largest trees during this time period.  The parable demonstrates that no matter how small or insignificant we might think of something, God has the ability to change it into something monumental and awe inspiring.

 

I am continually awed by the grace and wonderfulness of God.  Throughout our life, we have the fortune and opportunity to witness the newness of life and the tenderness of the delivery process.  In the hospital setting, we witness countless births that take place on a daily basis.  A week ago, some close friends of mine where expecting their second child to be delivered through a regular process.  Within hours of the delivery process, there were some complications that arose and the life of the mother and child were compromised.  Emergency procedures were done to revive the mother and deliver the child.  The mother and child were place in critical care and the odds of full recovery seemed dim and uncertain.  But God has used this situation to show demonstrate His  awesome grace and healing. The mother was released from the critical care area and released home this weekend.  The baby is stable and making progress.  God has used this situation to show that in the midst of “common” processes, He has the control and the power to make it extraordinary.    Lets ask God to reveal the extraordinary in the common and regular activities of our life.

Watchful Servant

Today’s Readings: Mark 13:33-37, Luke 12:35-40, Psalm 100

Good Morning! I hope you have the day off for Memorial Day and you are able to devote some of your free time to prayer and study in God’s word. Often, when I write for Bible Journal I take a few hours during the week to study my assigned passages in depth before I start the process of writing to you. I like to read several Bible translations, various commentaries and research the author and historic context. Well friends, I didn’t do any of that today. The thing is, this week has been sort of a mess! A heavy blanket of worry and anxiety has settled over us that we can’t seem to shake. This afternoon, I sat down and just copied today’s parables from Mark and Luke onto a piece of notebook paper. I asked God to speak truth into my heart and to help me share that truth to you. The first words we hear in Mark 13:33 say:

“Be on guard! Be alert!” You do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:33

Did you see that? Jesus said, “you do not know WHEN the time will come” he did not say, you do not know IF the time will come. That’s a promise that we can trust in Jesus to keep. How often do we spin our wheels trying to solve our problems or take control of a situation without asking Him first to work in our lives? In this passage, Jesus is urging his followers to look for a future event. Our culture invites us to indulge in immediate gratification and concentrate only on the present conditions. Instead, Jesus is calling us to stay alert and engaged in our faith. He’s encouraging us to be always at the ready for his return:

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” Luke 12:35-37

So what does it look like to be dressed for action as modern Christians? How can we remain awakened to the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives? I think it starts with a commitment to prayer and a willingness to be vulnerable with Him. I think it looks like serving Him and worshiping Him even in the midst of a storm. I think it looks like going to Him and believingthat He is the only true healer that can restore us. Worship is the glue that holds us together in the most difficult times. God is present in each situation and when we can awaken ourselves to His promise to restore us, we can let go of our own expectations. When we are stripped of all else, God offers us the power to endure through the Holy Spirit.

Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:35-37

Lord, help us to stay awakened to your presence in our life. Help us to always be ready to invite you into our life and allow you to intercede. Lord, give us the patience and the wisdom to be faithful to you and await your return. -Amen

 

 

 

 

 

New Wine in Old Wine Skins

 

Today’s reading  : Matt 9:17, Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37-38 , Psalm 94

Matthew 9:17

17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This particular parable has been one that is a constant reminder for me throughout my life.  I have heard this spoken on, debated over, preached on for at least 30 years.  I find myself again with a new take on the parable now.

In the scriptures, John the Baptist’s disciples are questioning Jesus on fasting and Jewish laws. Jesus uses the parable of the wine skins to state that His followers were not trying to get into commune with God and seek unspoken answers. But by being in His presence His disciples were with God, in the form of Christ, and were being filled physically and spiritually.

Jillian and I have recently moved into a new house and this has been such a blessing.  The children are able to have play dates across the street and the people are really warm and welcoming.  A couple of days after moving into the house, we receive a notice that our water main system would be completely remolded and the project would take place between May 1 and August 31, the entire summer.  This was a new issue as a new homeowner that we were not ready, but it is a needed update. The old system seems to have been placed about 70 to 80 years ago and the pipes were 4 inches wide.  The new system is 8 inches wide, which will decrease the current flow by half and increase the efficiency of the system.   The city was looking forward to the future and anticipating the stress of the system with the growth of the community and decided to make the proper plans and mitigate the situation before there are worst complications from the existing pipes.   As with Christ’s disciples, he was making new connections and understandings in the midst of mature and solid doctrine.  Christ didn’t completely destroy the beliefs of the disciples, He upgraded them to hold more capacity and be able to work more efficiently.

With the guidance and direction of the Spirit, I have been mentoring a young man who has had a history of violence and brokenness.  We have on several occasions visited with each other and have created a space of connection and healing.  As we have visited the Spirit has allow each other to come together in peace and understanding.  If we had met several years ago and under different circumstances, we would never have this connection.   As we fellowshipped, the Spirit was physically and spiritually changing both of us, the Spirit was creating New Wine Skins in us. This was truly palpable and awe inspiring.  A young man who has been hardened by life, choices, and circumstances allow the Spirit to transform him into something different and something stronger.  He and I, together have allowed God to transform our Old Wine Skins (the manner in which we perceive people and life) and form New Wine Skins (a renewed life in the Spirit and not allowing others to influence the newness of the change).

New wine skins and Old wine skins are not necessarily talking about people (the Pharisees or John the Baptist’s disciples or others), but the refocus and realignment of our thoughts on how we see and recognize Christ.  If we continue with our old habits and refuse to change, we will not be doing God’s work [Old Wine Skin}.  We would become unfit because we will negate our transformation and testimony.  We have to continuously allow the Spirit to renew our old wine skins to reflect the new and awesome wine that is given to us, [New Wine Skins].  This is essential to increase our efficiency as His Workmanship.  Be Blessed.

False Prophets

Today’s Reading: Matthew 7:15-20 and Psalm 88

Jesus told the crowds, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus speaks to us in rich tangible images today. The one and only perfect author writes to us in words that pierce the veil of truth. The primary message Jesus has for us today is to beware of false prophets. As a new Christian, this is something I’ve certainly wrestled with. When I made a dramatic change in the way I worship God, my friends and family questioned whether the pastor at my church was “the real deal.” I was ill equipped to satisfy their concern about stages, sound, lights and the absence of rituals, ordained priests and incense. Jesus commands us to beware of false prophets but how can we spot that wolf in sheep’s clothing? How do we see the rotten apple within when the skin is shiny and red?

Paul writes about the fruits of the spirit to the Galatians in Chapter 5:22-23. He lists love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as evidence of God’s work. We can use these very practical guidelines as tools for our discernment. We are called to use discernment when evaluating the prophets we choose to direct our spiritual life. As we draw closer to Jesus in prayer, we realize that he is the ultimate source of truth and meaning. Other leaders may inspire and encourage, but I trust Jesus as the truth. Those prophets that speak truth will produce good fruit. When I challenge myself to respond to Jesus in the same rich images about my spiritual health, what are the illustrations I can use to describe my life with Jesus? Is my church community thriving like a lush green rainforest? Is my pastor a firmly rooted tree, shading his congregation with broad healthy leaves and feeding them with firm ripened fruit? Is my small group leader demonstrating those fruits of the spirit described by Paul? Jesus calls us to take this inventory not only of the prophets in our life but also to examine our own heart. We can often identify a bad spirit taking root in another but are we able to turn that discerning lens inward?  Lord, strengthen us in our desire to grow in discipleship with you. Strengthen our character and bless us with the fruits of the Spirit we so crave. Help us to see your truth so that we may come and live a life with you. Amen