I can honestly say that I am not ready for the new year. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s coming anyway. Every year we talk about starting something new, changing some behavior, losing weight, learning a new thing or maybe getting started on that book we’ve always wanted to write. The problem is…there are so many weeds we’ve left unattended for so many years. These weeds, or as we discussed Sunday, “Spiritual Suckers,” stand in our way. They pull the life out of us and prevent progress. When we talk about, going to church more, praying more, spending time with loved ones more, we hamstring our efforts by not, first, pruning all the Spiritual Suckers in our lives. When I say Spiritual Suckers, I’m talking about all those:
self-defeating thoughts; “I’ve tried to change before and failed, so I’ll just fail again…”
Or, the habitual use of words like “can’t, won’t, don’t, or because” that keep us from moving forward. “I can’t because....”
Or, how about the stories we tell ourselves? The Victim Stories like, “It’s not my fault!” Or, Villain Stories like, “It’s YOUR fault!” Or the Helpless Stories, “I can’t and there’s nothing I can do about it…”
Or, what about all those relationships with people who may be toxic to our health, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
If you’ve been thinking about trying something new for 2020, I’ll give you a suggestion: Prune Yourself. Write down all your Spiritual Suckers. (There are more than you think.) Take that list and start pruning! Remember, the gardening rule: Pruning makes healthy, hearty, robust and fruitful plants. Pruning work exactly the same way for us!
Jesus the Real Vine John 15:1-2 Good News Translation (GNT) 15 “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit.
Some of you have the opportunity to sleep in on Sunday mornings. Personally, I love Sunday afternoon naps. That time, for me, seems still and quiet like the world is at rest after a long hard week. Some of you may have that Sunday morning time to get out and about, do some shopping, or just gets things done. If you do get out of the house at that time, take some notice of the small churches you pass by. Those parking lots that once were full now have fewer and fewer cars. The church bells that once rang out loudly still do, but today they’re just background noise in a busy life. The world is changing. Church and God are becoming less and less relevant. According to Dan Kimball, the author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church; people are still “spiritual.” They still have an innate connection to God but for multiple reasons, they want nothing to do with the Church. He cites two primary reasons for this disconnect. The first being that they see Christians as judgmental and intolerant. The second is that it appears all of us are more concerned with power and political agenda than loving people the way Christ tells us to. The term Evangelical has turned into a word that means a gun-toting, judgmental, jerk. One of the people Kimball interviewed for his book said, “I wish I would have known earlier that not all Christians are such jerks. I had no idea. Maybe I would have believed in Jesus earlier.” The fact is that what we say and do as Christians can literally prevent people from finding Christ. We can actually dig a new chasm between the people we need to reach and God. People who know Jesus only see who he is by what they see in us. What we post on social media tells them who Christ is. And in a majority of cases, Christ is NOT what I see posted on social media. Christ, through his words and action, showed us how to serve and love. We are not to be consumed with power or control or getting our way. If the Lord of the Universe could come down to this earth and wash his disciples’ feet, we can humble ourselves and follow his lead. We are to love and serve, not control, and condemn. John 13:12-17 New International Version (NIV)12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Every one of us came from something so small you’d need a microscope to see. Our imagination is limited when we think of cell division, multiplication and how large some of us have the potential of becoming in relation to our beginnings at conception. God has planted us in this world. And in each one of us, he has planted great potential. Some of us, due to uncontrollable circumstances, never have the opportunity to explore that potential. Some of us have plenty of gifts, tools, and opportunity to achieve and grow, but do nothing with it. Some of us have very little opportunity, but with grit, determination and laser-like focus, reach beyond and achieve more than anyone could have dreamed. The fact is this: We are created in God’s image. If that is the case, we should have within us the potential to do absolutely anything we set our minds to. And we have the ability to do it well! Granted, as we all know, some are innately gifted more in one area than another. Some are skilled artistically and some analytically. Some make fantastic councilors and some incredible leaders. What seed has God gifted you with? Everyone has one, two, three, or more. Everyone. Find that seed, run with it, put it to work with focus and determination. Use it to serve and glorify God, the one who gave you this chance, this life, this opportunity. We all get just one time around in this life. Turn off the TV, get off the couch, and make the most of it. Plant your seed, water it, feed it, put it to work!
Habakkuk 3:18-19 New International Version (NIV) 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.