Friday, September 13, 2013

Misconception #8: The Christian Life Can Be Lived Alone

[This is the 8th in a series of Top 10 misconceptions some MKs face.]

The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. Yes, I often think I can do things on my own. And the American culture ingrains in us the need to be independent, to not depend on others, and to be self-made people. Now, the balance to this is that we need to learn to be responsible adults.

I remember moving to Lafayette in the fall of 2000. I was 22 and just out of college. I didn't really understand what went into setting up housekeeping. I had never had an apartment before, never had to set up a home phone, pay bills, or provide furnishings. Yet my desire was to have my own place where I could be away from people to recharge my batteries. I'm not big on labeling people, but I have to say I would tend to be an "introvert." However, I've discovered that isolation can lead to discouragement, making me tend to think that I'm alone in the world, that like as Elijah said in 1 Kings 18:22, "I am the only one left."

Yes, there are things we need to do on our own. But living for God is NOT one of them. Positionally as Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. And Jesus alone IS truly enough. But we are human. God has created us to live alongside other people. We can be "iron sharpening iron" to the fellow Christians around us. I have found that I need to be engaged in the lives of other Christians (personally I have found what works best for me is a Tuesday night ladies' Bible study).

Reality: I need the fellowship of the body of Christ. It's called the BODY of Christ for a reason.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Misconception #7: "People Are Problems."

[This is the 7th in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

As much as I don't like labeling people, it's just a fact of human nature that we tend to categorize people. And I'm sure we all have "those people" that we can put into the category of...shall we say..."needy"?

Growing up in a pastor's home, I discovered that pastors end up helping a lot of "needy" people. And sometimes the whole family gets involved, whether it's inviting people into our home, giving someone a ride to a doctor's appointment, giving people a place to stay, etc. And it IS important to help people with their problems, but we shouldn't view "these" people AS problems.

Why would I view a person as a problem? Again, I need to ask myself the "why" question. If I am honest with myself it could be because I value my own personal comfort instead. Spending time with a needy person may involve getting my hands a little dirty on occasion. This may be uncomfortable. I remember times when I was younger and I just wished people would just leave us alone and we could have our house and our family to ourselves. (As long as we're labeling, I tend to be an introvert so I value my alone time.)

We need to find the balance in our priorities. I remember hoping at some times that we as pastor's kids could be just as important to our parents as the people they were "ministering to" in our church. I'm not saying this always happened, but this may in part be why I have so many fond memories of our family vacations growing up. We were away from the pressures of the church and were able to have the undivided attention of our parents. I think it is so important that the pastor's family makes their family a priority so they can be a good example of what an intact family can and should be. This means that we ARE involved with our congregation and with those who are hurting, but we also realize that we cannot be God in another person's life. We can't just drop our family responsibilities. One practical example of this is turning off your phone during supper and making that a time for your family to have uninterrupted time. I have a pastor who makes it a priority to attend his son's baseball game, even if it happens on Sunday. It can be easy to be so busy "serving" and "meeting needs" that the needs of our own family sometimes go unmet.

For myself I find that I like a scheduled life. In my busy schedule, I can also tend to view people as interruptions. Ironically I also find that I want to help people. You can't help people without spending time with them. One practical thing I've recently been trying to do is to "schedule in" free time in so that I can take a few minutes between things/walking down the hall to talk to someone who may need a listening ear. I need to schedule enough "down time" for myself away from people to recharge, but then listen to the Holy Spirit's leading in what opportunities He makes available to connect with people.

Of course I've had to learn this for myself through trial and error. When I first moved out on my own I was sure I did not want to share my living space with anyone else. I like to be independent and do things on my own, and it gets confusing when you add roommates. When I purchased a home in 2005, I took the step to make my home available for renters, as well as trying to make my couch available for those who needed a place to stay. And I can say that yes, it does add a layer of uncomfortableness, but it has also given me such a good opportunity to put into practice what God has been teaching me in my own life.

I had one roommate a few years ago who was dealing with some things. And I remember thinking that I really needed my sleep and there was no way I could talk to her, help her, and be coherent myself. What I learned was that God will give you the strength you need if you are willing to be used. Also it helped me to grow in my knowledge of God, because when you have people asking you questions about Scripture it causes you to dig into it more.

I've also learned that I've discovered that in my own thinking I tend not to want to get involved because I think it will be a long-term situation. When I feel God prompting me to do something, I just need to do it. For example, I saw a post from an acquaintance on Facebook that she wanted help getting a real Christmas tree. I had done that for a few years myself so I decided to invite her to go with me, and we had a nice time together getting to know each other better. This only took one evening.

God convicted me of my lack of love for others. The two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." I am working on growing in my love for others. When an idea comes to mind (send a card to someone, send a text, bring coffee to a coworker, write a note of encouragement), I think that could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Find ways to connect with people. I need to portray the love of Christ to others without trying to BE Christ to them. My job is not to try to fix them, it's to come alongside, spend time with them. Get to know their interests. Listen to other people.

Here are some practical ways I've been learning to get involved in my community and DO LIFE with the people in my church. I am a member of the local music teachers association. I have volunteered at the Community Center. And I got a dog. Walking my dog has encouraged me to get out into my neighborhood and meet my neighbors.

People are opportunities for me to grow in my walk with Christ.

Reality: God wants to use me in other people's lives to ultimately bring glory to Himself.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Misconception #6: "I Will at Some Point Cross the Line into Being Spiritually Mature."

[This is the 6th in a series of 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

I've wanted to be a Christian leader. I am a Christian school teacher. In positions of leadership it is easy to make the assumption or feel like you should "know it all." I guess that's kind of what I expected my Bible college education to get me: a pass into "I'm-Spiritually-Mature Land." But the more you learn, the more you realize that there is to learn. And God does want us to keep seeking and learning Biblical answers. It is also a good thing to want to help others with their problems. We want to use our spiritual knowledge and apply it to everyday life. But it can become easy to become proud and to want to just "fix" other people. You tell me your problems, and now that I'm "spiritually mature" I can assess the situation, slap a Scriptural "bandaid" on your issue, and send you on your merry way.

Positionally I know about progressive sanctification. I know we will never be perfect until we get to heaven, but it is still easy for me to live my life in a way that is not evidencing the fruit of what that means to my individual life. Practically I want to live my life without realizing I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. I have just as much potential for sin in my life as the next person. In fact, I had gotten to a point in my life where it felt like I had pretty much nothing more to work on. How proud is that!? I had a "breakthrough" moment when I read a Nancy Leigh DeMoss article talking about the sin of unbelief and doubt, and I was actually quite relieved to find that I was struggling with that because then I had an issue in my life to work on.

The Christian life takes maintenance. I own a home. I own a car. Both of those things require maintenance. As a young car owner, I remember it came as somewhat of a shock to me to realize that not only did I have to pay money for this vehicle, now I had to pay money to register it, put fuel in the car, get oil changes, and pay for maintenance! My house also requires me to mow the lawn, paint it, etc., etc. The dishes don't do themselves, the laundry will not wash itself...and I have special appreciation for stay-at-home moms who have to maintain all these things and keep the kids going too! Everything wears down. If you don't maintain your Christian walk it will also fall into disrepair. I need the accountability of a church family and godly friends who will steer me in the right direction. In my life that has really come into play through my Tuesday night ladies' Bible study. When I am tempted to think I am alone in the struggle, they are there to remind me that there are others with me. I need to keep making DAILY choices for good and not for evil. Otherwise I can get caught up in the lie that I am good enough.

Honestly, growing up in the church it is easy to get the impression that some people are better than others. (Now, my parents did NOT teach me this.) I learned a lot of things in Sunday School and church, but practically we often learn the most by watching the lives of other people. And we watch how people act at church and how they live throughout the week. (I'm really trying to avoid the word "judgmental" here, but that's a topic of its own for another post.) My parents did a good job of making the Bible applicable throughout the week, but it is still easy to think that church is just something you do on Sundays and Wednesdays. Especially in ministry, it is easy to make it feel like church is just something you DO. I need to get to the point where worship is something I take with me throughout every day. And make it a part of what I LIVE and live out in the lives of other people.

It's ok for me to want to be a Christian leader and to help point others to the truth of God's Word, but there will never be a point in my life where I am "more spiritual," because in reality we are all in just as much need of a Savior as the next person. I am just one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. I am just a tool to be used by the Savior. As I allow others into my life they will see my faults and failures and hopefully learn how to respond. I am nothing in and of myself.

And I guess that is the pitfall here. It is tempting to think that any good I do is in my own strength, but anything of any value in my life will be because it is a gift from the Father of lights. I have had to learn the hard lesson that I can't make decisions for someone else. I need to be coming alongside others and joining them in our path to godliness. I don't want it to be a "do as I say, not as I do" thing. I need to get down and dirty in the daily aspects of a person's life so that they can see how much I care. The old adage is true that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Along with that, I've also come to realize that I need to grow in my love for others, which will be the focus of my next point.

Reality: We are all in the sanctification process.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Misconception #5: Everyone is Like Me.

[This is the 5th in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel and see other parts of the country and other churches. I have very fond memories of traveling with my family growing up--we went to the East coast and the West coast for a couple of weeks on different occasions. In Bible college I was privileged to meet friends and missionaries from around the world. I traveled on a ministry team to other churches in the country. In Lafayette, I work at a Christian school that has over 70 churches represented. I also get a chance to travel with the Faith Ministry Team (high school ensemble) to visit other churches--some of different nationalities. We aren't all the same. In a church context, we don't all worship God in the same way.

My church has a worship band. Some people raise their hands to worship, some sing with just a piano and a song leader, some don't use any instruments, some have a worship band. I am responsible before God with the talents and abilities He's given to me. My role in my church now is to be a faithful helper to my pastors in whatever capacity they need me to serve--even if it's playing piano or keyboard in a band.

My siblings are different than me. My housemates are different than me. I need to not compromise my beliefs yet still show love and compassion for those who are different than me. It can be a long process to figure out why something might bother me. I need to question myself, "what is it about this that bothers me? Is it because it's violating a Biblical principle or is it just because it's different than what I'm used to?" Jesus was the ultimate example of showing love by associating with those whom the Pharisees considered "unclean" or "worthless." Am I being as loving as Christ?

Yet it is easy to have a hard time associating with people who are different than ourselves. I started to ask myself, "Why is that? Why do I feel more comfortable with some people than with other people?" Or even, "why does my church do things a certain way?" Of course I am thankful for those who are "kindred spirits"--those who are very similar to me. But I think it is important to realize that just because someone's application of a Scriptural truth is different than mine doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. There are some things it's ok to "agree to disagree" on. (Obviously the gospel & other Scriptural commands are non-negotiables.) Not everyone is like me. God created me uniquely with my own story, background, and personality. What is important is that I am closely associating with people who are headed in the same direction I am--closer to God--and reaching out in love. We need to be of the same heart and same mind in wanting to become more like Christ and showing Jesus to the world.

Reality: God creates us to be unique. I am to love others.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Misconception #4: Follow Jesus and You'll Get What You Want.

[This is the fourth in a series of Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

Psalm 37:4 says "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Of course, we have been taught to positionally know that this means that God will turn our desires into His desires, but practically I find myself thinking that God will really give us what we want. And you don't realize you think that until you don't get something you thought you wanted. Even if what you want is a good thing.

My plan for my life was to be a pastor's wife, stay-at-home mom, and teach piano lessons on the side (out of my home). But what I've learned is that God's plans are truly BEST for us, in bringing glory to Him. There are so many things I can do right now as a single person that I would not be able to do if I were married, such as teaching at the Christian school and playing the piano for church. If I find myself in the process of thinking "why don't I have these things?" what I'm really saying is "I don't trust God to provide for me and to know what is best." If my BIG GOD could lead the Israelites across the Red Sea, save Jonah in the belly of a big fish, and place Esther into the kingdom "for such a time as this," how can I not trust Him in every detail of my life?

I've heard quite a few talks about the "idols of the heart." We do the things that we do because we want the things that we want. Why do I want the things that I want? I have found that it is so easy for my deceitful heart to get in the way. My heart is an idol factory. What is an idol? It is something that I am willing to sin in order to get, or something that I respond sinfully when I don't get. How you respond reveals your heart. My heart is deceitful. It will lie to me. Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." I can be doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

Even if I start doing things for the right reason, it is so easy for my sinful heart to change its motivation mid-stream. Just yesterday I was mowing the lawn, and I like to go over and above by mowing part of my neighbor's lawn. I can do this out of the motive of wanting to share the love of Christ with my neighbor, but it's so easy to slide into thinking, in the middle of doing it, "I sure hope they appreciate the fact that I had to move their trashcan to mow their grass." Once I start thinking that way I've immediately put the idol of pride, or wanting to do things for the motive of being seen by others, on the throne of my heart.

When I was in college, I dedicated my life to be used by the Lord in full-time vocational service for Him. I want my life to count for Christ, but sometimes I know that I lose sight of my identity in Christ. If my identity is found in my role in life, I am doomed to disappointment. I think a lot of people struggle with their identity. I am the same way. I have for years been identified as a preacher's kid, a church pianist, a teacher...and when you are on your own with no dependents it's hard to find your role and easy to think you don't matter or aren't needed. And it's true. God doesn't NEED me. But He does want to use me. It's easy to get a "Martha" complex: "I'm doing all these things for Christ. What is He going to do for me?" Positionally I know my salvation is not based on works, but practically I sometimes still feel like I need to please God by being His "helper." I can become lonely and depressed if I am focused on ME. I need to focus on who I am in Christ, and preach the gospel to myself daily. I am no longer mine but am His who died for me.

Reality: God wants to conform us to His image, and the purpose of life is to bring glory to God.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Misconception #3: The Christian life is black & white.

[This is the 3rd in a series of 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.] 

I wish the Christian life were black and white. When you are growing up in a Christian home it's easy to start to think some things are just common knowledge, and that all Christians believe the same thing. Now I'm not talking about how Jesus is the only way to heaven and how the Bible is true--those things of course are non-negotiable. I'm thinking more along the lines of going to movies, playing cards, what music you listen to, what clothes you wear. Why do we choose to believe the things we do? 

Part of it is the culture in which we grow up. If we want to have an impact on our culture around us, we have to be involved in our culture--"in the world but not of the world." This is a hard distinction to make at times. I see two extremes in the culture: living exactly like the world with no distinction whatsoever or...being Amish. I am not Amish. I am a Christian, and I started to meet other people who said they were Christians but did not draw the "line" in the same place my parents did. So how do we tell and where do we draw the "line"?

I think this is why it is important to teach Biblical principles and the reasons why we do what we do. I think a lot of times, we as Christians are afraid to ask questions. We don't want to hurt someone's feelings. We don't want to cause a rift. But sometimes I think it might be that we don't want to ask the questions because we don't know all the answers. But that's ok. It's ok to not be perfect and to not have all the answers, because we have a BOOK (the Bible) in which God has given us everything we need to know that pertains to life and godliness. If the Christian life were just a list of things to do or not to do, we would not have to be Bereans and search the Scriptures to learn and grow and get to know the Lord in a closer and deeper way. 

Find ways to communicate and respectfully question why we do the things that we do. (Using the four rules of communication from Ephesians 4.) And don't be afraid to BE questioned. When I moved away from home, I moved to teach at a school that has over 70 churches represented. I also get a chance to travel with the Faith Ministry Team (high school ensemble) that visits other churches (sometimes of other cultures) and schools. And I've been privileged to visit churches around the country. We don't all do things the same way.

For example, when I grew up we learned that we didn't go to movies in the theater. I understood the reasoning to be that Christians needed to be careful with who they associated with and what we put into our minds, but honestly I didn't really understand why. And I didn't question the rule. So when I was about 22 years old and was asked as part of a babysitting job to take the kids to the movies, I had to figure out what I believed. Since this apparently wasn't an issue for the people I was asked to babysit, I did my due diligence and researched the movie via Plugged In, thought it was probably a very family friendly movie and I enjoyed the experience. What I learned from that personally was that yes, I do need to be careful with what I put into my mind, but this can happen with a movie I watch in a theater, a movie I rent and watch at home, or a show I watch on TV. The medium is not as important as the state of my heart.  

Reality: the Christian life has a lot of gray areas. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Misconception #2: Follow the rules and life will be easy.

[This is the 2nd in a series on the Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

I am the oldest of 4 children. I liked to be my parents' helper. I enjoy helping. Partly I think it's because life was easier when you were an obedient child. As I've grown in my understanding of myself over the years, I've discovered that I enjoy being comfortable. (I would assume most people do.) I've also learned that I am a perfectionist, and I like to have a checklist and rules to follow.

I've found that it's relatively easy for me to follow the rules--"do this," "don't do that," check the boxes, do the right things, "don't drink, smoke, or chew or go with those who do" but ultimately I started to realize that maybe I'm doing these things just because life is easier that way. Of course, it is important to train children to do the right things, but ultimately it means nothing unless it gets to the HEART.

God never promised us an easy life. His ultimate goal for our lives is to bring glory to Himself. That may include some hard things. His path for our lives can be filled with hard circumstances, but that's not where our joy comes from. Maybe these hard situations in our lives will reveal a need in our lives that we never would have faced had we not been confronted with this hard situation. As I've heard Amy Baker say many times, "Hard is hard, but hard is not bad."

1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I need to be constantly evaluating my heart's responses and question, "Why do I do the things that I do?"

Reality: We need proper heart motivation.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Misconception #1: MKs are unique.

[This is the first in a series of the Top 10 Misconceptions some MKs face.]

Missionary's kids are not different from other kids. Yet in the church it is easy to feel as if people in the congregation, or even our parents, have different expectations for us than "regular kids." The reality is we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Pastor's kids are the same as everyone else's kids. We should all be learning and growing. I should not be expected to obey because it makes my parents look good, but I should learn to obey because I want to please Jesus. Along the same lines, pastor's kids deserve the same grace as the other sinners in your congregation. Sometimes, it can seem to a pastor's kid that their parents are willing to forgive everyone else, but they themselves will not be forgiven. Just like other children, MKs need to feel the unconditional love and acceptance from their family and have a safe place to be pointed to the love, mercy, and grace that come from an understanding of our position in Christ because of the gospel.

On the other hand, there are similarities that MKs share with each other, and it is fun to find those common bonds between other MKs. This is probably one of the reasons I have so many fond memories of our week-long CBM family conferences in Iowa with other MKs.

I had to accept Jesus as my Savior just like anyone else. I was saved at the young age of 4, but I am thankful that I still remember the occasion. My mom must have just started homeschooling me, because I remember I was sitting at my desk in our basement schoolroom, and my mom went upstairs to fix lunch. She told me NOT to move my desk. Well, I remember wanting to move my desk. In that instant I realized that I was a sinner who wanted to do wrong things. I knew I was on my way to hell, and I imagined hell as an evil place with jail bars, and I would be stuck in a roaring fire forever. Right then I prayed and asked Jesus to be my Savior, then I told my parents about my decision.

Reality: We are all sinners.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

CBMK Reunion

Lately I've had the opportunity to think about the impact my family heritage has had on my life. This is in part due to the fact that I was asked to speak at an MK reunion this summer. (MK is short for Missionary Kid.)

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents have been missionaries with Continental Baptist Missions since 1975, which is a mission agency that plants churches in the continental United States. So before I was born, my dad became a pastor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in the city of Ishpeming. I am the oldest of 4 kids. I have a younger brother and 2 younger sisters. We all grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was born in 1978 (you can do the math and figure out I’m 35 years old), and so I grew up as a pastor’s kid. We were in the same church all through my growing up years. It was (and is) a small church, about 80 people, but I learned a lot from my parents about being faithful to a church and how important it is to find ways to serve in the church. I am so thankful for my godly heritage and I am thankful that God placed me in my family. 

Since I was asked to speak at a workshop this summer, I began to think about what I was going to speak about, and how growing up as an MK shaped my outlook on life. As I grew up and moved away from home, I began to realize I may have had misconceptions about Christianity, and life in general. So I came up with the TOP 10 Misconceptions I had (as an MK) and how I have grown in my knowledge of God and myself.

I will share my top 10 list over the next 10 days. 

If you are interested in some pictures I put together for this summer's CBMK reunion held at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, IA, check out this link

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Be a Spoon

I was asked to give my testimony and an object lesson for a Women of Faith ice cream social on Sunday, July 21. Here's some of what I shared. 

When Denise Fox asked me to speak, my first instinct was “NO WAY.” Speaking is not really in my comfort zone. I love working one on one with kids, I like being a teacher, but speech class was definitely my least favorite class. Give me a piano to hide behind, and that’s a different story. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to share some of my story with you. And the more I thought about what I wanted to say—or what God wanted me to say, I realized I just want to share how God has taught me to be an instrument that He can use for His glory.  

When you are using your abilities for the Lord, it’s amazing how content and joyful you can be. Even though I hadn't planned on being a piano teacher at a Christian school in Lafayette, IN, now I can’t imagine a better plan for my life. I think we all go through seasons of life where we are trying to figure out how we fit in. We wonder what God is doing in our lives. We start looking at people around us, maybe thinking, “I wish I could do what she does.” “I wish I could cook like her, I wish I had her body, I wish I had her kids, I wish I had her home, etc.” But what I want to focus on today is that God is the Creator. He knows best. When I give my desires and talents to the Lord, He can use me.

Now, God has not given us all the same abilities. We can always use more people involved in the music ministry at church, but maybe that’s not where God has gifted you. And that’s ok. We need people involved in teaching, working in the nursery, fixing meals, cleaning, greeting, and a whole lot of things that I probably don’t even know need to be done.

To transition to the object lesson, let's read Jeremiah 18:1-10 (from the Message).
God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”
3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.
5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel.

God is the Potter. We are the vessels, the Creation. I hope you have an imagination, because I want you to imagine something. Imagine God is not only a Great Potter, but also a Great Chef, planning an elaborate meal for all the people on the earth. He’s creating beef stew, chicken & dumplings, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, green beans, and for dessert: bowls of ice cream of course. He’s got the buffet line ready to go, the people are assembling, and grabbing bowls to start the main course. There is all this scrumptious, calorie-free goodness laid out in front of them. So in this illustration, use your imagination that this food is an example of God’s blessings. His Words. And He wants to give it to us, and make it available. In this wonderful display of food, we’re actually going to start with dessert first. God the Great Chef already has the ice cream dished up into glorious serving dishes, and says go ahead and eat. But it’s just ice cream in a bowl. Something is missing. What do you need to eat a bowl of ice cream? Of course, a SPOON. And He’s also created “vessels” to get this nourishment into our bodies through our mouths.

You may never even think about spoons—unless you didn’t get one with your ice cream!

So in this illustration, I want you to imagine that WE ARE THE SPOONS. God the Potter has formed us and shaped us to be used by Him. He wants us to be His vessels, His spoons, as tools for Him to use. He wants us to be the ones that are bringing encouragement, nourishment, and blessing to each other. (This illustration isn’t perfect, because if we are to be nourishing others logically we’d be spoons feeding other spoons, so we’ll have to use our imaginations and pretend we can morph back and forth from spoons to humans.)

What is the purpose of a spoon? What does it to do? A spoon just brings something from one place to another. It is just the tool that brings the nourishment, the blessing, from the bowl into the place it can be used—the mouth/the stomach.

So I want you to imagine that YOU ARE A SPOON that God has created. Since God is the all-wise, all-knowing Creator, He knows each of us and has created us each for a purpose. There are different spoons for different purposes. Remember that imaginary buffet line? Soup, stew, mashed potatoes, corn. How do we get that on to our plate and into our mouths?

We all know how important it is to have the right tools. What tool do you need to eat ice cream? Just a regular spoon. But God didn’t create us all the same. In one sense, we are all just regular spoons. On the other hand, we can use our imaginations again, and think of the different tasks we can do. God has given us each different abilities. It could be said that we are different types of spoons. Different spoons serve different purposes. If you are eating ice cream, a regular spoon works. However, if you are serving mashed potatoes, you might want a bigger serving spoon (or maybe you want that for your ice cream too). For gravy you would need a ladle. But if you are feeding a toddler, you would probably be better served with a baby spoon.  Soup requires a soup spoon. When you are serving corn or another vegetable, a slotted spoon comes in handy. For picnics, disposable plastic works. And when I make bread, I like to use a wooden spoon. I’m sure you can think of more illustrations that work.

When God is shaping the slotted spoon, He may have to remove pieces that leave holes. It may hurt. It may look like that spoon is incomplete. But when you want to serve vegetables, a slotted spoon is very useful. Maybe the silver spoon begins to tarnish, and God uses His polishing cloth and begins to wipe it away. It may feel abrasive, but if we trust God to know what He’s doing, ultimately we’ll see the finished product: that spoon will shine brighter than ever.

Now the spoons don’t (or shouldn’t) look at each other and say, “I wish I were like that spoon.” But sometimes we do. “How come I look different than that person?” “You have holes and I don’t.” “You’re shinier than me.” “How come my handle is black and yours is silver?” “You’re made of different material than I am?” Guess what? Can we trust our Creator? We are just responsible for the job that God has given us to do. We are not responsible for the other spoons in the drawer. It may be that that “spoon” is serving a different purpose. And ultimately we need to be accountable to the hand that’s holding us—our Creator God who knows where we can best be used.

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

We all start out as dirty spoons. Maybe even dirty lumps of clay that are NOTHING. Would you eat with a dirty spoon? Of course not. Just as the Potter can shape us, he can remove that dirt—that sin—in our lives. God wants to Redeem us, and take our imperfections, and reshape us into vessels that He can use. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior He makes us clean. We are washed in the blood of Christ. God sees us in the righteousness of His Son, who died on the cross for us. Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are instruments that He can use. We just need to be tools that God can just bend and shape to His will.

And a spoon is only as good as the hand that holds it. I have a 1-year old niece. If we gave her a spoon, she wouldn’t know what to do with it. Food would be flying everywhere. As spoons, we want to let God control our lives. God wants to use the talents He’s given us. The talents we have are actually just stewardships from the Lord anyway. I can get pretty proud in my own accomplishments. “Did you see what I did? I fed that Scripture to that person, and now she’s eating and growing?” And we forget that we can do nothing apart from God. Without the strength and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are just spoons lying on the table. We have no power in and of ourselves. Two pitfalls of a spoon can be that first, I can think that it all depends on me ("God has no other spoons in His drawer." Or secondly that I think I’m not needed. ("When God has all these other spoons, why does He need me?") But God is the Creator and He knows what He needs and what my unique purpose is.

As I look back on where God has taken me and led me so far, I am so thankful that I serve a great God who can use me. I need to let myself be used by God for whatever purpose He wants me to serve. I just want to BE A SPOON used by God wherever He puts me, however He wants to use me. So that’s my challenge for you today: BE A SPOON in the hand of your Creator.