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

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy

Handling The Press

What do you think of when you hear the word press? Probing news reporters asking pointed questions trying to trip up or incriminate a politician? Or maybe you picture the paparazzi trying to catch a scandalous photo of the Hollywood celeb. We’ve all seen the tabloid pictures staring at us at the grocery store check out lines. There is always a picture of a celebrity donning a hat and sunglasses out an about in public without hair and makeup done to perfection. They are usually trying to avoid having their photo taken.

But, the press I want to discuss today is the press necessary to keep moving forward. Not long ago I heard a message on the subject of Paul’s pressing on as found in the Book of Philippians. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he had established there ten years prior, he himself was in prison in Rome. He had gotten word that the church he had planted there was still meeting and growing. They had, however been facing opposition, but not from where you would have thought-the secular world. Instead it was from fellow believers who were attempting to make the new believers follow the customs of the Jewish synagogue. Paul’s letter to the church was to encourage them and use his own life as an example for them. Paul wrote “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12b, NIV). He had explained his standing as a firm Jewish leader prior to his conversion and how now he considered it rubbish. He left that all behind and much like a runner in a race he was pushing himself toward the finish line.

Without an object to press against there would be no effort, no pressure required. For Christians today as in Paul’s day, there will always be a pressing on needed. We will all experience opposition in our faith walk. And unfortunately, that will sometimes come from others in the church. What kept Paul looking forward? Many scholars believe he had experienced a near-death or death experience in which he saw Heaven. We know form the Book of Acts, that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. He had seen the future and was certain of it, so the momentary discomforts and sufferings were not as difficult. They still required pressing against, but he kept his focus on the goal, on the finish line.

We likewise can keep our eyes on the goal and keep pressing forward whenever we face pressure. There will always be naysayers, trying to discourage us or trying to get us to change our goals to become more like their’s, but we can handle the press, when we keep our focus on Jesus and what he has called us to do. But, just like diamonds that only form when lumps of carbon are put under pressure, we too can become diamonds for God as we press on.-God Bless-Nancy