Breaking Bread

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:14-25

Recently, my office moved to another location and joined with another department. It has been a difficult transition. The previous tenants had been laid off, leaving only 12 employees in the building. It had been a sad and challenging transition for everyone involved. Now my department and 10 others were coming to take over the building and move into offices that had belonged to co-workers. The building had been closed except for one corner for over three months. Moving in made us feel awkward. The team left behind suddenly was surrounded by new people, a sea of new faces. I can imagine that this was stressful on the team seeing new people in old colleague’s offices and cubicles. There was a palatable discomfort throughout the building.  

One team member from the new tenants called a little meeting and invited the team that we had moved in on. Her proposal, a potluck for the entire building. It was well-received. 

On an ordinary Tuesday, the entire building came together to break bread. The front office was filled with voices and laughter. A cornucopia of food lined the tables along the wall filling the office building with a mouthwatering aroma.  

It was amazing to see how sitting down to a meal, and talking to one another removed the fog of tension. That one person that stepped forward and made the gesture to pull everyone together at a table has made a difference to not just one or two but a whole community. An office is a community, each department bringing their expertise, knowledge, ideas, and thoughts to achieve a common goal. 

Throughout the Bible, we see examples where food and the dinner table have been the center of forming relationships, enjoyment, and communication. In the biblical book of Luke, there are ten references to Jesus and meals. I am going to look at three of those meals.

Jesus dined with enemies. No one was considered an enemy more than the tax collectors, yet Jesus ate with them and invited one to join with him and the disciples. (Luke 5:27-32) That would be like you or me having lunch with a local loan shark.

Jesus welcomed the unwelcomed (Luke 7:36-50) While in a “business meeting” with Simon the Pharisee, an uninvited guest showed up. (enter stage left the “sinful woman” 7:37) Jesus stopped the conversation to receive the woman. He knew her heart, she was seeking forgiveness. Simon was aghast. However, Jesus always stopped and ministered to those he encountered. Schedules and etiquette did not stand in his way.

Jesus used the simple meal to put the disciples and the men from Emmaus at ease. When the men that Jesus met on the road to Emmaus got back to the disciples to tell them that they had seen a ghost, Jesus appeared. (That was a room filled with confusion and fear) They had seen Jesus die on the cross, yet here he stood. What better way to prove he was real and not a ghost than to sit down and eat. But it was much more than just proof, he set them at ease by doing something they had done together for years, share meals. (Luke 24:36-43)

Though these stories have specific lessons to be learned, Jesus shared his meals chiefly to enjoy the fellowship. By spending time at the table, relationships were formed, walls were broken down, and communication was opened. 

Typist for Jesus

New Wineskin, New Wine

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38).

I made some decisions this week about some things that I want to accomplish in the next few years.  These are not new goals.  Instead, they are old goals that I have yet to realize.  For years these items have been on my list but I have allowed circumstances and situations to derail me.  Just as I made up my mind to follow through on the first of this list, a situation popped up.  I began to allow myself to get distracted and in just a few minutes I had begun to talk myself out of following through.  In just a short time, I had already retracted my plans and was convinced that this new situation would not allow me to finish this goal.   I sat alone, disappointed. 

As I was talking with the Lord, later on, I realized that I was just following my Modus operandi.  For my entire life, my MO had been to allow circumstance and situation to hinder my progress.  It is now or never to make a commitment to following through.   I realized I was trying to put new wine in old wineskins.  So, I read up on that particular parable, looking for wisdom.

The parable of the new wine in old wine skin is recorded in three of the gospels.  Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5:33-39.  Because it is mentioned three times by three separate writers, I think there is definitely a lesson just waiting to be learned.  

The parable was spoken by Jesus to rebuke the accusations of the Pharisees, that he and his disciples were not as pious as the Pharisees.  Jesus was anything but conventional.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners.  Spoke to women and lepers and according to these Pharisees, he was not fasting enough. Unfortunately, these men that had devoted their lives to being scholars and experts on scripture and God, just could not get past what they thought was Jesus’ flagrant disregard for the laws.  The legalistic approach was all they knew.  If the Pharisees were going to be able to embrace Jesus as Savior they would have to let go of the legalistic way they viewed their relationship with God.  They were so inundated by rules and laws they had lost the relationship.  Jesus was offering freedom from the legalism and a relationship of grace and love.  Unfortunately, they were unable to relinquish their old ways of thinking.  Jesus never broke the laws, he just followed them as they were intended.  Not with only legalistic focus but with love.

I cannot continue to use my old way of thinking to accomplish my plans.  Obviously, my old mindset has not worked.  If I am going to do something new, I need to renew my thinking.  I do not want to miss out on realizing these goals because I am unable to change my MO.   I got my new “wineskin” and I followed through on the first step to completing my goal. 

Do not allow yourself to miss out on God’s gift of love and redemption because of old ways of thinking.  Do not be denied realizing a desire or a dream.  If they are not working out or coming to fruition, then examine your MO. 

Get a new wineskin and get ready to make new wine.

Typist for Jesus

Clear Boundaries Make Cheerful Givers

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV

I enjoyed lunch with some co-workers at one of my absolute favorite restaurants.  We had taken advantage of the weather and walked to the restaurant. Belly full and spirit renewed from time with friends I suggested we take the longer route back to the office. Though it was hot, a cool breeze made it bearable, and my dining companions agreed.  This route passed through a neighborhood to the foot of the mountain. Beginning up the gentle incline, I heard the barking of dogs but paid little attention. Moments later, the barking became louder, and two dogs came rushing toward us from a house on the hill above.  I realized there was not a fence around the yard and became alarmed. I considered what to do if they came after us and started looking around for a stick or rock. Fortunately, to my relief, the dogs stopped short of the road and stood barking incessantly. That is when I noticed they had on invisible fence collars.  The dogs had stopped three or more feet from the ditch; they knew where their boundary lay.

If only we were as good as they about accepting and enforcing the boundaries in our lives.  In my youth and admittedly, even now, I have often tested, pushed, and crashed through some fences.  I think that many of us look at boundaries as restrictions meant to deny us. Many boundaries are for our protection.  Boundaries are healthy, needed, and biblical, and we as humans have been crossing them since the beginning. Adam and Eve crossed the only boundary when they disobeyed and ate the only fruit they were commanded not to.  A garden full of wonders, a perfect life, the pinnacle of creation, and they couldn’t resist breaking the only rule. However, boundaries aren’t just rules they are boundaries in our lives that we should also erect to protect ourselves and make sure that we are fulfilling our purpose in God’s plan.  

Boundary setting has become something that I have recently begun to explore.  As a southern lady, I find saying “no” feels rude and “not nice.” However, to best serve the Lord and the people that come to me, setting boundaries and saying “no” is the best thing I can do for myself and those in my life. 

As I was preparing to write this Seed, I spent time reading up on the biblical principles of boundaries.  I found that Jesus was very deliberate in his establishment of boundaries. When I think of Jesus, I think of his boundless love for me.  His sacrifice was so selfless that the idea of limitations does not come to mind. However, Jesus set boundaries with the people that he ministered to, the disciples, and to protect his soul and physical health.  Though Jesus is the Son of God and fully God himself, he was also in the body of a human. He submitted to the limitation of this physical shell.  

Points that I realized while studying you may find helpful.  These are just a handful of examples of how Jesus set boundaries and stuck to them.   

  • Jesus made sure he met his physical needs.  He ate healthy foods, took naps, and did a lot of walking. 
  • Jesus enjoyed his time with friends. He often took time to enjoy friendship, meals, boat rides, and hiking with the disciples. 
  • Jesus made sure that he dedicated time in prayer and meditation with the Father.  Jesus understood the need for precious time with Abba (Papa). Jesus separated himself from the crowds and disciples to have quiet time alone.
  • Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry.  He enjoyed the people, the places and he went with the flow.  The only time we see Jesus expressing urgency was when he was traveling to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. 
  • This final one gave me a bit of a shake.  Jesus left the outcome to God. In Mark 14:32-42, Jesus is in the garden, and Jesus knowing what he was about to face, asked God to “Take this cup from me. Not what I will, but what you will.”  He submitted to God’s Will. He did not try to change the outcome or the plan.  Jesus submitted, obeyed and trusted God.

Jesus set boundaries in his earthly life so that he could minister to the people and lead them to God.  For us to emulate Christ and be as effective as we can be, we need to set boundaries and stick to them. You cannot help anyone or be a “cheerful giver” if you are exhausted, frustrated, and drained.  

Typist for Jesus

You Hold the Key

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 ESV

I stopped by my friend’s place of business one afternoon to drop off a package.  I went into the lobby and met her. We talked and giggled as is our usual custom.  I got the car keys from her and headed to the parking lot. I pressed the fob to open her car and pulled at the door.  However, the car door remained locked. I pressed the fob again and tried the door. Still, it was unyielding. Over and over I pressed the fob and pulled on the door.  The front door opened and my friend yelled out, “Fob doesn’t work, you’ll have to use the key.”

Boy, was my face red.  I was standing in the gray and misting rain pressing a button.  It never occurred to me to use the key.

We are not much different when it comes to our spiritual lives.  We carry around the spiritual keys, yet we fail to use them.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Throughout the Bible,  keys refer to power and authority.  To be given keys is to be given authority and power to open and close.  Jesus gave His disciples and in following all Christians spiritual authority.  

Often we feel that we are without authority in this life but that is what the enemy wants you to believe.  Jesus left you the keys. He left you with power and authority. You have been given a great privilege. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, he gained access to God for us through his blood. Therefore there are no more barriers between us and God, we have the keys to open every spiritual door. 

Remember, you have the key, all you have to do is use it. 

Typist for Jesus

Is Your Heart a Clanging Cymbal to God?

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  1 Corinthians 13:1

Scene: Walmart Super Center Saturday early afternoon.

Internal monologue: “Oh my gosh!  This woman is the human equivalent of a sloth!  What in the world is her issue? Just scan the stupid thing, how hard is that?  Just pass it over the stupid scanner! That scanner laser hit her in the eye one too many times!  For saint’s sake! No! I do not care that you think the other brand is better and that your aunt swears by it! OH if she doesn’t get her butt in gear I’m coming across this counter and give her ring up 101!  I could scream and if that woman on the next counter doesn’t stick a passie in that brat’s mouth! I’m gonna put my fist in hers! UGH! I’ve got too much to do than to put up with this! Just ring up the …..”

     On the outside, I was smiling, nodding and behaving in a civilized and proper fashion.  However, on the inside, I was in a full-blown tirade and it continued to escalate into an insult, parentage questioning harangue.  You may be saying, “well good for you for not exploding on the woman”.  “Good for you for keeping it together” but, God was not as impressed. 

 Recently, for a previous class, I read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5)  and in my current class I am reading the book by John Stott, “Basic Christianity.”  These two resources brought an awareness to me that somehow I had allowed to remain unexplored.  

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,  anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  (Matthew 5:21-22)

I was just as guilty as if I had begun shouting and berating this woman out loud when I allowed my thoughts to run on and on with angry insults internally.  We judge each other and ourselves by what we observe on the outside, but God judges the heart. Let me tell you, that Saturday morning, my heart was black as coal.  Throughout the Bible we are taught to be in control and that control extends to your thoughts. Was I irritated and should that lady had attended to her child? Yes, I think so.  However, for me to allow those thoughts to take off was nothing more than fodder for my anger that extended throughout the day. Being angry was not my sin it was how I allowed myself to lose control and wallow in my aggravation. 

We as Christians are to not just be in control of our actions and words but our thoughts.  Yes, you will have thoughts and maybe an internal groan, but when you allow those thoughts to take over, you have lost control.  Or in my case, just gave over control.

God is looking and listening to your heart.  Does He like what He sees and hears? Christian behavior extends beyond what you let people see and it is more than outward action.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1:

  If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Do not be a clanging cymbal. Instead, do not just temper your external words and actions but you internal as well.  Exercise as much restraint on the inside that you do on the outside.  

Typist for Jesus

Where do I find My Confirmation Number?

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13

The blue circle spun…..endlessly on my screen.  I checked my watch, and I needed to go. I waited another moment and reluctantly, I shut the laptop, grabbed my purse, and headed to work. As I drove, my mind continued to return to the spinning blue circle.  Had the payment gone through? Was my car insurance paid for the month? My mind, like the circle, spun out hypothetical scenarios.  

What if the payment didn’t go through and I get canceled?

What if I have an accident or get pulled over?  

What if there wasn’t enough in the account to cover the amount?

My phone dinged it was a new email.  When I got to work and parked, I sifted through my purse to find my phone.  Opening my email, I sighed with relief. My payment was processed, and I had a confirmation number.  I moved the email to my 2019 bill folder. Now I had proof, of payment if any questions arose, I could refer to my email.

Wouldn’t it be nice if when you came up out of the baptismal water your phone dinged, and you got an email with confirmation?  After you repented and accepted Christ into your heart that a registered letter with a certificate of salvation came to your house?  Sure would make it easier. Make you feel more secure. However, that’s not how it works. Salvation is about faith, trust, and belief.  There is no confirmation number or certificate; there is only faith.

One of the most common fears and doubts for a Christian, new or seasoned, is “am I saved?”  I’ve heard it many times, and honestly, I have asked the same myself. Our enemy wants nothing more than to fill you with doubt, fear and anxiety and what better way than to make you doubt the truth and your salvation.

Salvation is not a feeling; it is not an emotion; it is the belief, trust, and faith in Christ Jesus. And these things are decisions, willful, and deliberate choices on your part.  If you are waiting for emotion or feeling to give you confirmation of salvation, then you will always be waiting on that blue circle to stop spinning. There is no certificate or email for salvation because if there were, your faith and belief would be in that tangible proof and not in Jesus.  Place your faith and trust in Him, the one who sacrificed all for you. 

Typist for Jesus

Fearing What They Think

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Hurrying down the hallway, the girl pushed her way into the lunchroom. She found her friends and with a smile as wide and as bright as dawn, she blurted out, “Someone asked me to the dance!”
The table erupted with giggles and chatter and of course the question burning on everyone’s mind. “Well, who is it?”
She leaned back grinning, allowing the tension to build, and when she could no longer contain herself, she whispered his name. Her friends looked from one another and then laughed.
“What?” she asked, her furrowed brow burned with embarrassed heat.
“You mean, you don’t know? He used to eat paste.”
“So all little kids do.” Her voice raised above the din of the midday diners.
“No, I mean like in the sixth and seventh grade. It was weird.”
All the girls begin to laugh. The excitement that just moments ago brimmed drained away replaced by hot tears. She wanted to run back down the hallway and hide. How could she go to the dance with him now? What would all her friends think?

We all care about what people think. We worry about fitting in with people, being accepted. We want everyone to like us, but at what cost?
Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will approve of you, and that is OK. If Jesus had cared about fitting in or making everyone like him, he indeed would have never chosen to die on the cross with common criminals so that you could have eternal life. He would have hung around the Pharisees, but instead, he chose the tax collectors, fishers, prostitutes, a crowd of women, a doctor and a guy that ran around in camel skins and ate bugs (Matt. 3:4).

Proverbs 29:25 reads, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” What does that verse mean? It has nothing to do with being afraid in the sense that we think of the word “fear,” but rather, it means “to fear the disapproval of man.” This verse deals with our insecurities. Worrying about what others think is a snare. The word snare refers to the traps a hunter sets to catch small animals and birds. Allowing ourselves to worry what people think entraps us in fear, doubt, and gags us. Do not focus on what people think. Instead, put your trust in the Lord.

Typist for Jesus

Set yourself free from fear of what they think.

Stolen Joy

andgive no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:27

I sent a text to myparents Friday afternoon.  It read, “Ihave had more wins than loses this week, so I count the week a win.”  I indeed had enjoyed a fairly positive weekhowever, there had been one incident that preyed on my thoughts.  No matter how much I tried to focus on thepositives of the week that one failure kept nagging me.  Before I knew it my mood clouded and I letall my attention fall on that one event. 

How easily we allow our joy to be stolen.  In all that was accomplished, I found no satisfaction because I could not let the one insignificant event go.  That is exactly what the enemy wants.  He wants to refocus my thoughts on the negative, things that encourage resentment, anxiety, anger and frustration.  The weight of these emotions cause my spirit to sink and then the negative voices begin to whisper in my mind.  What do we do when this happens?  We steer our thoughts to Jesus.  Consciously breathe, soften your body, relax and then put up your hand and say, “I’m not going down that road.  I am choosing to focus on Jesus and keeping my joy!” 

Feelings of resentment,anxiety, fear, anger and frustration are not of God.  They are from the enemy and he will dowhatever he can to bring you down and burden you.  If you are burden and your spirit low, youare unable to lift up those around you. If you are filled with joy then it is easier for you to accomplish yourspiritual mission, which is to glorify God by spreading love and light.

Do not let the enemysteal your joy!

Typistfor Jesus!