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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Supplies



Confession time- I love new school supplies and school supply shopping. I love everything about it. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new, unused crayons. I love notebooks that are clean and have no writing in them. I love organizing new binders with beautiful dividers. Call me a nerd, I don't care. I've had an affinity for school supplies since I was a child. I always loved the week before school began when we would get new supplies and I would spend hours organizing them. I would smell them and enjoy the newness before they would be defiled by school work over the next few months. To this day, outside of book stores, office supply stores are one of my favorite places to linger. I love a new pen and clean notebook. And, now that I have school-age children, I get to live vicariously through them as they school supply shop. Of course, we have piles of half used pencils and stacks of partially written in notebooks at home. But, I wouldn't send those to school with my kids the first week. No, they have to have brand new supplies. The new school year needs to begin afresh. There is plenty of time for them to use supplies that aren't new as the year progresses. The first week of school is the time for new supplies.

I'm going somewhere with this if you were wondering. Jesus also had something to say about newness and the use of new supplies. Listen to what he says in Mark 2:21-22, "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (ESV)

Let's talk context for a second. Jesus has just healed a paralytic which awed the crowd and then He called a sinning tax collector to be one of his disciples. The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) are starting to get a little annoyed. Who does this man think that He is? Healing people in the name of God? Inviting sinners into His ministry? They decide it's time to approach Jesus and tell Him how wrong He is and how He's not following the law. They do this by trying to trap Him. They ask him why His disciples don't fast as prescribed in the law like John the Baptist's disciples. They try to pit the Son of God against the law of God and against a prophet of God. In typical Jesus fashion, He turns their questions and accusations back on the Pharisees. 

The Pharisees were so entrenched in the law and how things were supposed to be done according to tradition, they couldn't see the new thing Jesus was doing. They were so stuck on following the law and convincing themselves that they could make themselves righteous through their own efforts, they couldn't see the grace and new covenant that Jesus was ushering in through His ministry. They were trying to make Jesus conform to the old ways of tradition and how things "should be done". They were blind to what God was trying to accomplish.

And, Jesus calls them on it. His new ministry and the new convenant He was activating could not be sewn or poured into the old cloths and containers of the law and tradition. It was brand new. What He was ushering in needed to be put on new garments and in new wineskins. 

When we begin our new walk with Jesus, the old has to be put away. Our old thoughts, worldview, behaviors and practices have to be done away with so that we can start afresh with Jesus and be the people He's called us to be as His ambassadors. We can't start this new life with old supplies. Everything has to be made new. We can't try to infuse the new with the old. No, a main aspect of the Christian life is to continually, day by day, with God's help put away our old self so that we can walk in newness of life with Christ. Only then, can we be the men and women He's called us to be and minister to others in the ways He's designed for us.

As you enter this new school year or new phase of life or whatever new thing God has called you into, remember that we can't put new ideas into old mindsets and we can't get new results with old behaviors. As we replace the old thoughts, behaviors and patterns with God's word and the love of Christ, we will be able to walk in a manner that reflects that we abide in Jesus and our life won't be able to be anything but a pleasing fragrance to those around us. 

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:9-10, 12-17 ESV)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home

Before I sat down to start writing and working this morning at my favorite coffee shop, I decided to take a walk around my town of Smyrna, GA to clear my head. I was immediately struck by thoughts of what the term home means to me. I love my current town of Smyrna. It has a small town feel while sitting on the edge of the very large and bustling city of Atlanta. Even though Smyrna is growing rapidly, it has managed to keep most of it's small town charm. 

This got me thinking about "home" and all the places I've lived. Last week we were in Texas visiting family. Every time I go home to Waco, I feel homesick and consider that maybe we made a huge mistake not staying in Texas. It will never cease to feel like home.

But, during my walk today, I realized Smyrna/Atlanta is home, too. And, when we lived in Cambridge, MA I loved it so and it felt like home as well. How can all these places feel like home? Isn't just one place supposed to feel like home? At that moment it struck me, home is wherever we are that is exactly where God wants us at this time in our life. God chose for me to grow up in Texas and He called us to Atlanta and to Boston and back here to Atlanta. This is exactly where He wants us and sitting in the center of that is where home lies. 

Acts 17:26 says, "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live..." (NSRV)

God, even though my parents grew up in New York, planned from the beginning of time, the plan for my life and where I would live. He had a reason for me growing up in Texas and He had a plan concerning all the moves I've made in my life, and He has me here, in Smyrna, GA, for a purpose. He has a will and a plan for you where you live, too. And, whenever we are in the center of that plan and His will, where we are will feel like home.

The Bible also tells us that even though God has set up the places where we will live on this earth, this is not our ultimate home. A sliver of our heart will always long and be homesick for our ultimate home which is heaven. Yes, we are called to live at home in the world where He has placed us. We are called to bring His kingdom to the place where we've been dropped at this moment in time by His sovereign hand. But, we are also called to live as one who longs for our eternal home. 

Hebrews 11:16 tells us, "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (ESV)

So, to answer my earlier question, yes, we can feel at home in multiple places at the same time. That is our calling as Christian sojourners on earth. We make a home here in the world, encouraging His "kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven", while at the same time longing for that day when we will live in our forever home prepared for us by God Himself.

Oh, that I would find that balance- how to live in the here and the not yet. God, help!