Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Put down the Chainsaw and Pick up the Shovel - by Doug Hunt

So I hate yardwork. Hate it. I consider grass cutting day one that should be avoided even with the lamest of excuses.  I get mad at my neighbors because they have nice riding lawnmowers and I have an old 21 inch push mower.  I don’t like trimming the bushes or pulling weeds. I don’t plant flowers unless I am in the mood to watch something die.  I assume the worst when it comes to my ability to nurture anything in my yard.

I’ve actually thought about paving over my entire front yard just so I wouldn’t have to deal with time consuming “dirty work”.  Flatten it. Kill the grass. Cover it. Move on to something else.  After all, who has time to do the hard, dirty work of growing things when you could move on to more productive things that don’t require patience and attention? Like I said, cut it all down and pave over it.

There is a short and powerful parable Luke 13 that reminds me of my feelings about yardwork. From it there is a HUGE lesson for us as we help connect people from all walks of life to life in Christ.

There is a tree that has been fruitless for quite a while and the man who owns it gets fed up with it and tells the vineyard worker to cut it down.  He says, “I’ve waited three years still no fruit!”  Cut it down!  Move on! Kill it!  “Why should it even waste the soil?” He obviously feels like me when it comes to yardwork.

But then the vineyard worker gives an unexpected response.  He didn’t say, “Where’s the chainsaw?” He didn’t say, “It’s about time we cut this down.”  He says, “Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.”

Pay attention to what he is saying.  He is saying, even though we’ve seen no results yet, I am willing to get down in the dirt with manure and keep trying.  I am willing to get on my knees with my shovel and keep digging. I will get dirty and smelly but I’m going to keep digging. I am willing to take more time and not just chop it down. I believe fruit is still possible. What a hopeful perspective!

Here is an important thing for us to consider.  As we invest in people, it is often far too easy to be like the man who wants to chop down the fruitless tree.

We will have people in our lives who seem fruitless and as the man in the story says, “a waste of soil”.  They annoy us.  They never seem to “get it”.  They can’t overcome that thing in their life. They seem fruitless, so we quit on them. The “tree” is not doing what I WANT, WHEN I WANT, THE WAY I WANT. 

So we pick up the proverbial chainsaw and cut it down. We give up. We determine, whether we realize it or not, that they are a hopeless cause and waste of time. We judge them as useless and move on

I call it being people of the Chainsaw of judgement.

I believe as disciples of Jesus and leaders, we are called to be more like the vineyard worker.

I call it being people of the Shovel of Grace. 

When we pick up the shovel we are saying “I’m going to get down in the mess with you and dig”.  Now, when you pick up the shovel you need to know that it takes work.  It may stink.  It doesn’t ignore the things that don’t line up with God, but gets involved in them with care and love. It will be messy.  It will be hard.  It will be slow.  It will be humbling.  It’s tiring.  No glamour. It’s selfless. But, we dig with hope, faith and love.

Think about it like this.

·      The chainsaw of judgement takes life.
·      The shovel of grace gives life.
·      The chainsaw of judgement can’t see past the past.
·      The shovel of grace digs into the future.
·      The chainsaw of judgement is a selfish act of pride.
·      The shovel of grace is a selfless act of love.
·      The chainsaw of judgement says “God can do no more!”
·      The shovel of grace believes “you can bear much fruit.”

At our church we use the phrase “All walks of life”.  When we truly embrace people from all walks of life, we have plenty of opportunities to choose between the chainsaw and shovel.  I pray we would choose the shovel.

Maybe as you have read this you have thought of someone who needs the shovel of grace in their life.  Maybe you are being called to pick it up and dig awhile.  Perhaps you will see fruit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Teacher, The Learner, and The Classroom - By Eileen Knowles


I drifted off to sleep last night thinking about the word disciple and the words from a devotional I read not too long ago came to mind:

 “The word disciple means ‘learner,’ so a disciple of Jesus is a learner of Jesus...a continual process of absorbing and practicing the teachings of Jesus." Personally, I think I actually prefer the word learner over the word disciple.

For some reason, the word learner has a way of humbling me. In order to be a learner I must be teachable and in order to be teachable I must show up for class (so to speak) with a pliable heart. Learning and knowing and understanding is a life long journey of choosing to be a student. As we learn and as we wrestle, we grow. Yet, we never reach a time where we graduate and stop attending classes or meeting with our teacher.

 From the moment we wake until the moment we sleep again, we are in the classroom where Professor Jesus comes alongside us to help each student make sense of all the material.  And, as we learn, we are given opportunities to encourage others to become learners and to sign up for this life long adventure of learning.

 “Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Together they were discussing everything that had taken place.  And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them.” Luke 24: 13-15

Here are some thoughts that stood out to me after reading this passage not too long ago: The students were in the “classroom”…together.  They were discussing and arguing over the class work…together. And as they wrestled and questioned, guess who shows up to help them understand the material?  The teacher!   I love how this translation puts it, “And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them.”

I loved this reminder today: the Teacher, Himself promises to be in the classroom with us. When we make a commitment to show up for class, our teacher will be there to journey with us through all the challenging questions.   

Today, I want to show up for class.  I want to learn from the teacher.  No matter how confusing or how many questions arise, I want to remember that all the answers I am seeking are found in the classroom and near the Teacher.

“The 11 disciples (learners) traveled to Galilee, to the mountain, where Jesus had directed them, When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples (learners) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember,I am with you always to the end of the age.”  Matt 28: 16-20

A few more thoughts about those first 11 learners of Jesus we read about in Scripture:

They were far from perfect after their decision to become life long learners of their teacher Jesus. 

Sometimes they argued. Sometimes they doubted. Sometimes they stuck their foot in their mouths. Sometimes they were confused. Sometimes they were scared. Sometimes they were proud and stubborn.

And then sometimes they trusted. Sometimes they listened. Sometimes they walked on water. Sometimes they had faith that moved mountains, set captives free and prompted the lame to dance again!

Lord, help us to be learners today.  Your desire is to be in the classroom with us. Your desire is to teach us, grow us and love us...even on those days when we get it wrong.

Lord, give us hearts eager to learn from you today!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BE before DO! - A Cure for Burnout

We hear all the time stories of burnout or breakdown, or people who just give up on something huge in their lives.  They give up on their faith.  They give up on their supposed “mission” or maybe even worse, their marriage or family.  They just give up.

What causes this?  What causes good, faithful people to wear out and give up?  More importantly, what's the cure?

Let’s listen to the story of Mary and Martha, and their encounter with Jesus told in Luke 10:38-42.

While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”  

Doesn’t this happen to all of us?  We have been working hard, being responsible parents or workers, or spouses, etc.  Even responsibly serving in the church.  SERVING, doing the right thing.  And we see others who aren’t carrying near the load we are.  And maybe we even judge them…  “They don’t have a clue how irresponsible they are, and what they could do if they would actually get to work.”  And part of that assessment is true….  Someone needs to serve.  Someone has to get things done.  

But in this case, something else was going on, because Jesus was there, and Jesus was teaching and revealing Himself to the people in the house.

The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”  

You know those airline safety videos that they always show you before flying?  Remember the air mask part: please put your mask on before you help others put theirs on.  Jesus was in effect telling Martha: You need to put your mask on.

BE before DO.

At Rock Bridge we have a saying we try to live by: “Be before Do.”  What does this mean?  It means before I get to the task, I need to be fueled by my King.  I need to BE His Child, BE in love with Him, BE filled with joy and energy and FILLED with the Holy Spirit’s presence and life.  

Lovers out work workers every time.
I recently heard that said, and it is so true.  When a boy falls in love with a girl he does some of the craziest and reckless things ever to win her attention and affection.  And those who love what they do are fueled with energy and passion.  As a father, my love for my children gives me the energy to change diapers and wipe noses.  My love allows me to give comfort at 3 AM for bad dreams, and I will clean up vomit and all sorts of things I would never have done for someone else’s child!  Love FUELS US! 

We are fueled by our hearts.  
Our hearts need to be inspired.  
There is no greater inspiration than LOVE!  

There is no greater inspiration than love, and there is no greater one to love than Jesus our glorious savior and king.  He is worthy of our love and affection.  When I have a clear sense of the love and grace that has been extended to me, when I have a sense of the hope I have in Jesus, and His promise to be WITH me and IN me…  I can’t help but be fueled!

And Mary saw this, and wanted more… And Jesus affirmed that this was the  ONE THING that was necessary, that was needed.  

Are we running on love today?  Are our hearts fueled by the love of our God and the love of Jesus Christ?  Or has that relationship become one of activity and duty and obligation?

Go back to Jesus…  Sit at His feet and listen to His heart FOR YOU.  Do the ONE THING that is needed, and BE His child before you DO anything else!!!