Risk

           “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” ( 1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

I thought for a moment about choosing a different title for this week’s blog. Maybe “mediocre” or “status quo” would work instead of “risk”, but what am I really trying to say here?  In the end I hope always to encourage you to move forward. So, it seems “risk” would work better.

What has set me on this path today is my daughter. She has been working on researching our family tree. Over the weeks, she has made some impressive discoveries about who we really are. I shared earlier about the puritan movers and shakers in my family tree and of those who were locked in towers and faced beheading for their beliefs. Recently I have learned of knights and of Ladies and Lords in the family tree. A big surprise this week has been finding that John Locke was a relative. John Locke has been credited with ideas that would later shape the United States. He was the great grandson of one of my great, great great (etc) grandfathers -a mover and shaker who once fled to Geneva to keep his head attached to his body in fear of Queen Mary, who was seeking to take his life.

Which made me think about where we are today as a culture.Are we a culture of movers and shakers? Of thinkers? Of philosophers who change countries? Of country builders? Are we so concerned with technology and sciences, that we have forgotten to think for ourselves? Are we leaders or followers?

Recently,  I asked some younger people just what is important to them in today’s culture. Their answer; acceptance, and of fitting in. Which decidedly is not something exclusive to generation Z or  the millennials; its all of us, every generation We all want to feel like we fit in and are accepted, its how God has wired us for relationship with others and with Him.Yet, for many keeping the status quo becomes more important than seeking change. No one likes to stand out and fear rejection by friends and colleagues. When the status quo changes or shifts, so do we and are swept along with the crowd.

I included the quote from Paul’s letter to Timothy as a reminder that status quo was a thing in the first century too. Here, Paul reminds Timothy to live out what he has come to believe for it not only affected him, but those he was teaching. Paul told him to persevere in what he taught and model it in front of those he was teaching.

It is easy to go with the flow of the crowd and to let others think for you. It is harder to think for yourself and go against the current of trends. I am proud to come from a family tree that included those who thought for themselves and refused to go along with the crowd, even risking death for upholding the truths of the Bible, in opposition to what was being taught by the state church. They sought to persevere for their faith and move across an ocean so their children could have a new life, free of religious corruption.

I thought about what this means for me. Am I willing to go against the current? Have I settled into acceptance of popular thought? Even popular christian thought? How does my own doctrine, my own teaching stand up to the criteria of Biblical truth? Do I want acceptance from the status quo, or am I willing to risk standing out from the crowd because I believe the Bible? Standing out might be uncomfortable for a moment, but I am so thankful that those in my family tree did just that. I would not be here if they hadn’t, living in a country where I am free to worship apart from a government controlled church.

So, I encourage you to step out and follow what God has been putting on your heart. If it a little different than what others do, but still compatible with what the Bible teaches, than take a chance. Have you been told you’re too young or too old by culture? Or its just not done by everyone else?  You don’t have to follow the crowd, just follow Jesus. Some day your descendants just might thank you for not accepting the status quo, but on taking a risk, their lives might be impacted just as mine has. I like to think that I have inherited some of my ancestor’s tenacity and stubbornness and maybe even their intellectual keenness as John Locke had, who knows? But I do know that I will not settled on being mediocre or status quo, but will attempt to persevere in my life and doctrine.  -God Bless -Nancy

Lighthouses and Labor Day, So What’s the Connection?

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain the connection. Is there really any connection? Probably not. But both provided for me a great reflection of the church in America. First of all, please don’t bash me for my opinion of churches. It’s merely my observation and how God has been speaking to me about the subject.  Yesterday was the first Monday of September when Labor Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States. It recognizes the labors and hard work of the American Worker and provides a day off from their labors. Banks are closed, no postal deliveries are made, schools are closed. Most people are off work, so they take in those last minute summer pastimes, like going to the lake, camping, picnicking and beach going. My husband was off work as well, so we decided to visit one of the beaches nearby. Of course, so did everyone else in the four surrounding states! Needless to say, we kept driving along the beach road, looking for a parking spot. This beach in particular has strict rules for where you can and can’t park. Believe me we know now, after receiving the gift of a parking ticket the first year we visited. So, we drove and drove and kept on driving, much farther than we had anticipated, until the road suddenly ended at a convenient turn around spot with a gated road. No, this was not a gated community, which had sprung up and taken the best beach access, but it was the beginning of a road to access a light house. There was a parking spot free along the roadside, so we decided to stop and walk to the lighthouse.

We were familiar with this lighthouse having spotting it from another beach along the coast, but we were never sure of how to access it. Well, let me explain, there actually is no way to access the lighthouse without swimming to it. It basically sits in the middle of the water probably a half mile or so off the beach. But…. it didn’t always. At one time it sat on the land and could be accessed by car. So, what happened? Erosion. Over time the land eroded and storm after storm probably aided in that erosion. There are multiple efforts to save and preserve the lighthouse and money boxes for donations are found as you pass the gates, that now prevent car traffic. It is eery to walk on the road and come up to an empty parking lot. There were plenty of people there yesterday enjoying the beach, after walking their way in, but sadly no way to really get close to the lighthouse. My husband and I have visited other lighthouses up and down the coast of the United States and even one in Cozumel, Mexico. All were accessible, and if you are in great shape you can climb up to the top.

So, what does this have to do with church? Well, I was thinking about what to write today to share with you about rest, Labor Day, etc. and the verse that came to  mind is from the Book of Matthew,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28, NIV). These are Jesus’ own words as He was talking to the crowd gathered. Some of you might have heard this before. It sounds great, Jesus wants me to rest, take it easy, you know not got worried about stuff. Maybe it will motivate me when I’ve feeling stressed out or over- worked. Well, kinda, but not exactly. See what Jesus was talking about is resting from religious burdens.  The Pharisees were like church managers in those days, and they were hung up about everyone following the Laws of God perfectly, that they sought to come up with 600 more to add to the originals. Yes, 600 just to clarify what a person could do on their Sabbath Day, which was the day God had given them for rest. Today, Christians rest on Sunday. But, do they? Recently I attended a gathering of believers and as I sat there, I began to sense an uneasiness. As I looked around, everything seemed okay, perfect even. But, that’s when I realized that was the problem. I have seen it in other get- togethers  in Christian circles. We all look perfect. From the outside anyway. We all look the same. Wait a minute, aren’t we supposed to be reaching the lost, you know the ones who aren’t in Christian circles and attendees in church services. Jesus, met people where they were and their lives were changed. Not on the outside, but the inside. You see, we who are believers are supposed to be changed into the image of Christ, but I don’t believe that means outside. Urban renewal has been popular for several years. Often the word “gentrification” comes up when talking about the renewal of old neighborhoods. It’s great to see old buildings reclaimed and houses fixed, but sadly, many of the original neighbors, can’t afford to live in these new homes. It’s out of their price range. Sadly, I see the same thing happening in the Western church culture. We try to fit people in to the church mold, remodeling the outside, but not really promoting inward change. We have created a hidden set of Sabbath day rules in regards to what we wear, how we should talk, how we should worship. But God looks at our hearts, not our outside appearances. Let me be clear though, I am only talking about church customs, not the Bible. We are to adhere to God’s Word. What I mean to say is we are called to shine the light of Christ, like that lighthouse I visited. But, have we walled ourselves off too much? Are we throwing money into the church to save it? But yet it still remains inaccessible to those who need it the most. Those who are being thrown by the storms of life and are drowning in despair? The church needs to consider whether our hidden customs are keeping people out. Are dresses and suits more holy than ripped jeans? Are Sunday services more anointed than Saturday night services? Is the King James Bible the only real Bible? Are men the only ones God calls? I know all these issues have been addressed before, but I just wanted to share what is on my heart. Jesus labored on the cross for all. We can enter His rest when we put our trust in Him as Savior. We do not need to make keeping the religious laws an entrance exams for those who want to trust Him too. Especially when there are just about customs and culture.Jesus is our rest from trying to be good enough or look good enough in church circles. As someone has once said, Jesus died to give us a relationship, not a religion. God Bless- Nancy