My Part to Play

Perhaps it’s just me who wants to have an impact. I wish I could honestly claim that I want that purely for the betterment of others, but I want to have an impact for selfish reasons. Perhaps not only selfish reasons, but they make up part of my thinking and desire to have an impact.

In the “culture” or “economy” of the “Kingdom of God”, it’s not about me, but about the King. The King loves me, He has my back, and I am at His service. He calls me to wait, worship, and walk before Him. And my life is all about Him, in reality. In my imagination, I hold out hope for a “leading role”.

In the “Parable of the Soils” (Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8), Jesus describes a “sower sowing seed”. In the parable, the seed is the word, Jesus’ preaching. The soils are those who hear (“The one with ears to hear, let him hear”). The different soils represent the different ways people receive what Jesus teaches.

A parable, only in Mark also has a sower sowing seed. If the elements relate the same way, then this parable tells the story of the part played by the sower.

He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29 NET

This parable is about the seed growth, but also about the part played by the sower. You and I, we are sowers. We spread about the teachings of Jesus to those who might actually hear. Those who hear, the “good soil”, produce up to a 100-fold of what is sown by you and I. But we don’t make them produce.

Did you catch the phrase in the middle of the parable, “…, though he does not know how.” Even though the “farmer” plows, plants, waters, and tends the crop, he truly doesn’t make it grow. I thought this might be different for modern farms but it isn’t. They still depend on the things they can’t control, like the amount of rain and snow fall in a year.

We try so hard to control our part in the Kingdom of our Savior. Or we avoid His Kingdom because we want to spend our time where we can “have an impact”. We desperately want this world, “our world”, to be about us. And it’s not. What a relief.

I don’t have to be good enough, know enough, or even have mad skills. That’s great, because I don’t have any of those three. And even if I did, it still wouldn’t be about me. I can’t possibly know enough to “save” anyone. It doesn’t work that way. Jesus died for us. He didn’t take an exam for us.

Good enough? I can’t get through a day without being a jerk. And my Savior sits with me anyway, pats my leg as He stands, and says, “Come on, let’s go for a walk.” Really? Why would the One forming stars want to go on a walk with me? I’m a jerk. I’m selfish. And yet, we walk.

What are you? Have you caught that the truth that the Kingdom of God is not about you is the good news? That is the “word” we sow. That the kingdom is about the King, and not about us, our politics, our philosophy, our religion, or our “mad skills” is the content of the word.

Jesus died and rose for us. Jesus did that. He is the central character in this play. Our world, your world, is about Him. It is about Him loving you, how He enables, empowers, and protects your walk with your Creator. It’s about Him. The seed grows, though we are completely in the dark about how.

I walk with my Creator. No other feature to my life truly matters. You can walk with your Creator. No other feature of your life truly matters.

So, scatter seed. Pitch it out there. Sure, it will fall among thorns, you know what it’s like to have thorns in your life. Some may fall on rocky ground. You know how hard it can be to find depth in your life. Some may fall on the hard ground, and be stolen.

But some will fall on good ground. And, when it does, go ahead and do your due diligence. But, the point will still be your Savior’s work in a person’s life. Relax into the peace and joy of all this being about the One who does know enough, is good enough, and Who has “mad skills” we could never imagine.

Perhaps the “Parable of the Secretly Growing Seed” will lead us into authentic worship, into peace, and into joy. When He pats your leg as He stands, and invites you to go for a walk, go. Don’t worry about the seed. He’s got it taken care of.

The Measure of a Person

What is important to you? By what standard do you evaluate others? On what do you base your choices?

There are a couple of places in Scripture where it seems that our Savior uses a measure with us that we choose to use with others. So, what we do to, or with, others, He does to, or with, us. Does that sound weird? Okay, here’s one:

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”

Matthew 6:14-15 NET

This statement is so important, Matthew quotes Jesus saying something like it again in Matthew 18:35. It should be a very sobering thought. Like the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, there’s a balance between ourselves and others in the eyes of our Savior.

Here’s another of those “tit-for-tat” sort of comments by Jesus:

And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

Mark 4:24-25 NET

Only this one has another strange element to it, “whoever has more will receive more, and whoever has little will lose what they have.” That’s just weird. If you have never thought so, have you really thought about it? It is antithetical to the popular approach to society. That’s the opposite direction of redistributed wealth preached by our society.

Of course, this “measure used on others will be used on you” concept has a tag of “and more will be added” feature. That’s not exactly balanced. And, if you are particularly mean, should be even more sobering.

The context of the passage in Matthew 6 is prayer, specifically seeking forgiveness. The context in Matthew 18 is seeking forgiveness also. The context in Mark, though, is hearing and understanding parables. That seems different, yet, this concept of using our measure with us is used in both places.

We have an old cliche which says, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” The idea being that consequences follow our actions. Proverbs is full of this concept. Which, in a sense, is really all that God is saying to us (although read the accompanying parable in Matthew 18:21-35).

Here’s the thing: God, our Loving Savior, instigates the consequences. He is the One “punishing” with the standard we use with others. With the standard we judge, we will be judged (Matthew 7:1-2). The balance, or consequence, is thematic with Jesus, as it is in Proverbs. Which tells me my Creator thinks it is important.

We focus so much on the grace of our Savior, which saves us from our sins when we were incapable of saving ourselves. And we should. The grace of our Creator is truly Amazing as few things are. Along side that, let’s consider the “balance” used by our Savior.

So, when we are angry with another person, family, friend, or co-worker, let’s remember this balance. When we drive from point A to point B, let’s remember the balance with those on the road with us. When we deal with our kids, our siblings, our parents, let’s remember the balance.

I think the recent trend has been to teach “reaping and sowing” to get this idea across. It’s a good topic. It’s a vital life lesson. Keeping this in mind helps us grapple with the right deity, the One describing Himself in Scripture rather than one of our own imagination. And grapple we should. Let’s wrestle with God by the Jordan (Genesis 32:24-28)! We may walk away with a limp, but we will have a new name, and a blessing to go with it.

Balance. The center of our walk with our Creator and with our walk with others comes together on us. Like Jesus, let’s grow in favor with God and man.

Finding A Good Job

The sheer volume of employment services, applications, and supporting services can be overwhelming. I used to be a pastor, and I was surprised about how many sites there were to help pastors find churches, and vise versa. There is an entire industry centered around finding qualified employees and jobs.

You would think that, with such a robust industry connecting people with places to work, there would be no jobless people. But just because jobs exist, doesn’t mean finding a “good job” is easy.

I was recruited out of my first job with Thomson Reuters into my second. I didn’t look for it, it found me. When that position was eliminated during a reorganization, finding a good job where I lived wasn’t easy at all. Suddenly I was left with the challenge of finding any job. I love coffee, and wound up as a barista. From there I “graduated” to coffee roaster, a position I still hold with that company, even after I was rehired by Thomson Reuters.

So, good jobs aren’t impossible to find, but they’re not necessarily easy either. What if you were happily employed, family career, it paid well, your family was happy, and you were offered another job that would take you away from all that? It would depend on the job? Okay, how about one where you weren’t paid much, you had to travel constantly, your employer had no home and had to live with you sometimes, dealt with crowds constantly becoming mobs, and your employer intentionally moved from publicly popular, to a social pariah? Sound like a great job? 

Well, what if you were given specific responsibilities, though, authority, actually. Like this:

Now Jesus went up the mountain and called for those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach and to have authority to cast out demons.

Mark 3:13-15 NET

See, that sounds better, doesn’t it? Can you imagine the “headhunter” pitching that job to someone? “You’ll love it! It includes travel around Galilee, Phoenicia, Samaria, and Judea! There is public speaking involved, and you will be given the responsibility, with authority, to cast out demons! I mean, seriously, where could you find another opportunity like this?”

Let’s just leave out the sleeplessness, missing meals, and crowd control duties. The authority to cast out demons! Who doesn’t want that? It may sound great, but it does sort of make you a “first responder” of the spiritual type. And demons are no fun. Being a fireman or police officer may start to sound more appealing.

And let’s not forget public speaking, that is one of the greatest fears of people in our society. Most people would rather die than speak in public. Isn’t that awesome? No, not really at all.

So, proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand, cast out demons, and heal any disease as proof. That’s the job if a disciple. Oh, and travel everywhere to do it. 

Jesus called a strange group of people. And He called them for a strange job. So, consider the power involved in carrying out that job. What has your Savior called you to do? Where has He called you to go? Notice that “He called for those He wanted.” He had many to choose from, but He called these. And He calls you.

It may not be our dream job, but Kings rarely ask what we want. It may not seem possible, but it is our “Employer” who provides what is necessary. Our part is obedience, and confidence. It kind of gives me the willies.