A Change of Scenery

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately and my poor front bed has been begging for attention. It’s got several bushes that, although beautiful, were just planted helter-skelter thoughout the location; neither blossoming well nor growing as abundantly as they should. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are dying, none are not NOT blooming, none are really doing poorly.

They’re just not thriving.

And they’re not in a place where they can truly showcase their blossoms for the world to see.

I mean, I want traffic from a block away to notice them. The potential is there, but their location is not ideal.

So the other day, I did what all gardeners just luuuurrvvve to do- actually more accurately, I had my dear husband do it- I transplanted three of them to three different spots.

And all of a sudden they were NOTICED. Their blooms seemed more vibrant. They complemented the beds we put them in like they’d been there all along. And I swear two of them have doubled in size. I even had a few neighbors comment on them- asking where we’d gotten the ‘new’ bushes.

Funny how that works. Plants we’ve had since we bought the house, that no one has ever noticed, are now thriving.

And all because of a location change.

It was a good call in the gardening department for sure. But it was not without some effort. I’m sure if those bushes had voices, none of them would have been too thrilled about the transplanting process. Getting dug up, uprooted, pruned back, transplanted to a whole new location I’m sure is not the plants idea of a good time.

I can certainly empathize. Changes in scenery aren't always fun.

Last year God took something very dear to me. Rather He forcibly moved me out of something dear to me. Cutting my roots, digging up my heartstrings, transplanting me to a new place. To put it bluntly, it sucked. It hurt. It was unexpected. And I’m still working on re-establishing my new root system.

My change of scenery was not welcome and I certainly didn't like the new view.

These last few days even as I was marveling at how much better my bushes were doing, God has been gently letting me see the parallels.

I wasn’t doing poorly at my other location. I was blooming and growing. But the Master Gardener saw a need to put me in a new spot. A BETTER spot. One where I would grow better, blossom more, and glorify Him from blocks away more brightly.

And just as my bushes didn’t get a ‘say’ in their move, neither did I. Furthermore, they didn’t complain or question me as their gardener, so neither should I question or complain about where my Gardener plants and prunes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:4-6 ESV

Today I encourage you to know that God’s got this. He’s got you, your circumstances, your soil, your sun, your rain, your flower bed, your pruning schedule- all of it- He’s got a master plan for. It may not make sense. It may hurt or feel super uncomfortable. It may involve new locations, new people, new ministries, or new calling. He may prune away even good growth in order for you to more fully thrive. But it’ll be more than worth it.

So please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t question. Please don’t complain. Don’t wriggle or argue. My bushes didn’t do that to me so we shouldn’t either. Rather simply enjoy your new view and the wonderful, God-given change of scenery.

When Ringpops Stand Between Heaven and Hell

I Was Teaching A <Rather> Competitive Class Of 4th Thru 6th Graders In Our Wednesday Night Church Program a few years back. When I Was Met Head-On With The Very Real Phenomenon Of This Current 'Everybody Wins' Culture. We Had Been Playing What Amounted To An Elementary Version Of The $10,000 Pyramid (An Oldie But A Goodie) With 2 Teams; And, As All Competitions Tend To Have... There Was A Winning Team And A Losing Team. You Know? Like Has Been For Thousands Of Years... WINNERS And LOSERS.

Before We Started I Had Promised The Class That The Winning Team Would Get Ring Pops When The Game Was Over. Obviously With Such A Prize On The Line This Was Serious Business. Holy Moly These Kids Were Ruthless! In An Attempt To Enable The Teams The Ability To Give Grace, There Were Multiple Instances Where The Answer To The Question Was Not <Quite> Right But Was Pretty Close- In These Circumstances I Made The Team Unanimously Decided Whether To Bestow A Point To The Other Team Or Not.

In One Instance Team 1 Decided To Give Team 2 The Point.

Later Team 1 Lost.

And Just A Bit Of Chaos Ensued. The Vast Majority Of The Team 1 Members Were Mad They Lost, And Even More Furious That They Had Given That Extra Point To The Opposing Team... A Point, That In The End Caused Them To Lose. I Had Every. Single. Teammate. Come Up To Me Within The Next 20 Mins And Ask For A Ring Pop Too. Down to the last member, they all fully expected a prize.

"Can't We All Just Have A Ring Pop?"

It Became Somewhat Comical (and alarming!) chorus Of 'Broken Hearts' That Followed Me Around.

Because I'm Mean, I Told Every Single One Of Them "No." No, Children, You CAN'T All Have A Ring Pop. The Rules Were Set At The Beginning, You Knew What They Were, You Played The Game, You Lost. You Don't Get A Ring Pop. They Were Scandalized That I Would Deny Them The Prize (And I'm Not Entirely Sure There Aren't A Couple Still Mad At Me...)

But, As I Stated, I'm Mean. I Laid Out The Rules And I Kept My Promise In Upholding Them.

As A Mom Of Four young kids I Am Increasingly Alarmed By Our Culture Of 'Everybody Wins', 'Everybody Gets A Prize', 'Participation Awards For Everyone!' I see the culture, even within the Christian community becoming more and more willing to bend rules (or in some cases break them altogether)- however macro or micro. But more than anything, I Fear That We Are Setting Our Kids, Our Teams, All The Next Generations For Absolute Spiritual Failure. ETERNAL FAILURE PEOPLE! I'm Talking HELL Here....

This Is Not Simply that We're Raising Generations Of Soft People, Or That They're Weak, Or That No One Has A Back-Bone Or Knows The Meaning Of Hard Work. I do not necessarily think that and it’s missing the point. No, This Is MUCH Deeper And The Root Of WHY We Can't Allow This Culture Of Prizes To Continue.

Because The Cold, Hard Truth Is That from an eternal perspective God Doesn't Give Out Participation Awards, He Doesn't Give Second Place, He's Not Planning On Changing The Rules Of Heaven And Hell.

We Either Play By The Rules He's Set And Go To Heaven Or We Go To Hell.

It's That Simple.

We Can't “All Get A Ring Pop” If We're On The Losing Team.

I Know It Sounds Harsh, It's Sounds Judgmental, I'm Sure I'll Get Some Flack For Writing About This. But Scripture Is Clear Dear Ones! There Are Rules, A Way To 'Win' And A Way To 'Lose'. There Is No In-Between. There Is Heaven And There Is Hell.

Romans 3:23 ...For All Have Sinned And Fallen Short Of The Glory Of God.

Romans 6:23 ...For The Wages Of Sin Is Death, But The Gift Of God Is Eternal Life.

The most confounding thing about this for many of these youths, and honestly much of the modern-day church in general is that God set it up like this because He loves us. His perfect love is also perfectly just- and regardless of how we like to define ‘love’, His particular brand of love (the only one that matters) will win out in the end. And it will most definitely have eternal consequences for everyone.

The rather alarming theology that is sweeping the American church of “Love Wins” and “everybody will get to heaven in the end” (of which this idea of “everyone gets a ringpop” supports in practice if not in theology) belies a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of God. His perfect love IS perfect because it is also completely just. His love needs be absolute in it’s adherence to rules, to the guidelines He’s set in place, to the very Scriptures He’s put before us. To change such rules would contradict Himself with Himself- which of course is not gonna happen. Real love doesn’t have no boundaries, real love doesn’t bend or break rules, real love disciplines for the sake of the greater (i.e. eternal) lesson, real love sacrifices pleasure for integrity, being liked for being Biblical.

Romans 5:8 But God Demonstrates His Own Love For Us In This, While We Were Still Sinners, Christ Died For Us. 

Romans 10:9-10 If You Declare With Your Mouth, “Jesus Is Lord,” And Believe In Your Heart That God Raised Him From The Dead, You Will Be Saved. For It Is With Your Heart That You Believe And Are Justified, And It Is With Your Mouth That You Profess Your Faith And Are Saved.

Romans 10:13 ...For Everyone Who Calls On The Name Of The Lord Will Be Saved.

For those who may bemoan the seeming unfairness of this all, please take a look again at those verses. You See What The Bible Is Doing Here? It's Laying Out The Rules Of The 'Game' The Rules Of Our Eternal Life. It Tells Us How To Win. The Really Nice Thing Here Is That EVERYONE Can Be On The Winning Team. It's Simply A CHOICE To Be On It!

But Stay With Me Here, I Want To Speak To Why It's So Dangerous If Our Children And These Generations Of 'Everybody's A Winner' Don't Get A Clear Message From Us. Be Perpetuating This Fallacy, We Encourage The Idea That People Will Eventually Get The Reward, Even Just For Showing Up Or For Simply Participating in The Game; That At The Very Least There's A Door Prize At The End. That's Simply Not True When Eternal Consequences Are At Stake.

God Doesn't Give Participation Points at the doorsteps of heaven- at least not where spending eternity is concerned. Sitting In Church, Doing Good Deeds, Volunteering To Worthy Causes, Living A 'Good' Life, Giving That Extra Point To The Other Team To Be Nice- They Don't Count Towards Getting Into Heaven. They Just Don't.

Showing Up Doesn't Count.

Participation Doesn't Count.

Not everyone will be getting their eternal ringpops.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter Through The Narrow Gate. For Wide Is The Gate And Broad Is The Road That Leads To Destruction, And Many Enter Through It. But Small Is The Gate And Narrow The Road That Leads To Life, And Only A Few Find It.

We Have To Show Our Children That Playing By The Rules And Making The Decision To Choose The Right Team (Eternally) Is Of Utmost Importance, That Losing Will Have Some Fallout, That Not Everyone Can Be A Winner All The Time Necessarily. These Lessons Can Have Eternal Ramifications! We Have To Exemplify And Model That There Are Consequences To Losing (We Can Only Hope It's As Minor As Losing Out On A Ring Pop!) (And Also Keep In Mind That On This Side Of Heaven There Are Some GREAT Lessons To Be Learned In The Face Of Loss!) There Are Times When We Don't Get The Prize- No Matter How Hard We Worked For It Or Practiced Or Played. There Is Always Fallout From Losing- Whether We Choose To Acknowledge It Or Not.

There Will Be A Time When God Will Judge Us And Either See Christ, His Son, In Us Or Not. He's Made It Easy, He's Told Us Which Side To Choose, He's Laid Out The Rules Crystal-Clearly, There's (Thankfully) No Practice-Makes-Perfect Involved. It's Simply A Gift And There's NO Losing On God's Side!

And THAT, Dear Ones, Is The Ultimate Win. The Ultimate Prize. The Ultimate Ring-Pop!

BUT We Had To Have Played By The Rules And Picked The Winning Side.

So Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Friends, And Neighbors- Don't Give Out The Ring Pops To Everyone. Let Your Children Fail And Feel The Consequences (No Matter How Light Or Harsh) Because In The End, Their Eternities Will Be Molded By Letting Them Feel And See The Results Of The Games They Play- The Winning And The Losing. Each Has It's Own Lesson To Learn; And Those Lesson Will Follow Them Into Eternity.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:5-11 NIV

This is a timely reblog from several years ago. Read the original one here!