PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner – Preparing the Soil

The editing team met for our yearly retreat in July. Our retreats are an opportunity to reset and to refocus on the ministry and its purpose, which is “Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping the People of God through the written word.” During the retreat, we talked about what was pressing in each of our spirits.

 

One editor talked about stretching physically, mentally and spiritually in preparation for what is to come. We become uncomfortable as we are being stretched. Muscles being stretched can be painful but expansion requires stretching.

 

Another editor reflected on how are our minds and hearts connecting in terms of what God is expecting. Who are we listening to? Who are we talking to? What are we saying? Are we imitating Christ or the world?

 

I shared a list of scriptures I have been meditating on. Scriptures like Jeremiah 1:5, Jeremiah 29:11, 1 Corinthians 2:9 and Isaiah 64:4. If you read the scriptures, you will see a common theme in all of them. They are scriptures that encourage me to maintain my journey.

 

As we talked, the conversation turned to gardening. The overarching theme that surfaced was “Preparing for the harvest: positioning ourselves to grow.” We thought the first step to preparing for the harvest was preparing the soil. The imagery that came to mind was getting rid of weeds and adding fertilizer to provide nutrients, which allows roots to grow deep to expand.

 

I consider the last few and the next few years of my life to be a time of preparation. I am on a journey of laying down the ground work for the direction I am heading. I can envision my desired future, and I am trying to lay a solid foundation to build upon.

 

As I reflect on my life and this current season (and think about the preparation work I feel I am doing now), I often wonder about the phrase “due season.” I wonder when due season will arrive. But perhaps I am taking the term out of context. In Leviticus 26:4, the Bible says, “Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” Then in Galatians 6:9 it says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

 

In some ways, I want my envisioned future to manifest right now (well actually yesterday). My current struggle is resisting weariness as I impatiently wait for the shoots of my labor to spring forth. I occasionally catch myself fretting. I must remind myself to breathe and remember to trust in God’s timing, which is so much different than my own. This can be difficult when the journey of life takes those odd turns that leave me asking, “Why?”

 

In the end, I just need to continue laying down the foundation. I must believe that every situation that comes my way is a lesson that I needed to learn in preparation for my future.

 

I believe that many of us are working toward our hopes and dreams. All things will come to pass, “if we faint not.”

 

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” Jeremiah 29:11.

 

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PCC: Word of the Quarter – Parable of the Soils

To illustrate lessons on life, Jesus often told parables.

 

In Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:1-15, we find the Parable of the Sower, which is also referred to as the Parable of the Soils.

 

In verses 3-8 of Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable to His disciples and the multitude. “…Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”

 

It isn’t until verses 19-23 of Matthew 13 that Jesus explains the parable to His disciples. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

 

Although this parable refers to the conditions of men’s hearts when they hear the Word of God, we can also use the analogy to illustrate the importance of preparing our soil as we position ourselves to grow in God and grow in ministry.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but unsure of our direction and filled with unbelief, our efforts can fall by the wayside and be devoured. Unfortunately, the fowl can also represent people in our lives who don’t understand our futures and can sometimes become a stumbling block.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but become discouraged by setbacks, then the stony ground of our hearts could cause us to walk away. Our gifts must be allowed to take root, or they will wither away at the first sign of adversity.

 

If we are preparing for future growth but become distracted by “all that glitters,” the cares of this life could choke out our fruit. We have to have the maturity to be able to stand where our gifts and talents might take us.

 

This is why it is so important to invest in preparing good ground. When planting seeds, it is important to allow space for roots to expand. It is important to pull away weeds that will compete for nourishment. And it is important to add fertilizer that adds nutrients to the soil and helps plants grow.

 

We invite you to prepare your soil.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Adam

Here is an article I wrote for Men of the Bible.

Name: Adam

Meaning: Human being or humanity

His Character: When Adam was first created, he lived in harmony with God and nature.

His Sorrow: Due to the sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. Adam spent his days in hard labor.

His Triumph: Adam learned to toil the earth he was given. He was the first of many things.

Key Scriptures: Genesis 2-3

On day six of creation, God made Adam. Adam was made from the earth, and God breathed life into him. He made a place for Adam to dwell in called the Garden of Eden.

 

Adam, who was made in the image of God, was the first of many things. He was the first human and the first man. He was a caretaker, farmer, gardener, landscaper and zoologist. He was a husband to Eve. He was a father to Cain, Abel, Seth and others.

 

In the garden, Adam enjoyed a personal, close relationship with God. God gave Adam freedom in the garden, and Adam was responsible for caring for it. God allowed Adam to name the animals and birds. Adam lived in harmony with God, the animals and the earth. The only thing that was off limits was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

 

God decided it was not good for Adam to live alone. He put Adam in a deep sleep, and He created Eve out of Adam’s rib. They lived together and worked in the garden. And they communed openly with God. They knew no guilt or shame. They lived in peace and innocence.

 

Their innocence was interrupted when Eve was persuaded by the serpent to try the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She then gave it to Adam. It was after Adam ate of the fruit that they were aware of and ashamed of their nakedness, and I think that is significant. They then covered themselves with leaves. Because of their guilt and shame, they also attempted to hide from God, not knowing that God was already aware of what they had done.

 

In the garden, we see the consequences to sin. The serpent was cursed to crawl on its belly in the dust. Eve was confined to painful childbirth and that Adam would rule over her. Adam was sentenced to toil the land where thorns and thistles would grow from. Adam and Eve were forced out of Eden, never to return. And through them, sin and death were introduced into the world.

 

One of Adam’s weaknesses was that he avoided taking responsibility and blamed Eve for his actions (while Eve blamed the serpent). This is after trying to hide from God. Instead of admitting the truth, he made excuses. From this, we gain two life lessons. One, it is impossible to hide from God. Two, it is important to take responsibility for our actions.

 

Like Adam (and Eve), we are often drawn to that one thing we can’t have, the forbidden fruit. Then when we partake and suffer consequences, we still have a hard time taking responsibility for our actions.

 

In the end, God has given us the same free will that He gave Adam. God wants us to choose to do what is right because of our love for Him, not because of fear of punishment.

 

Paul, the apostle, emphasized the connection between Adam and Jesus. Through Adam, mankind was given the sentence of sin and death. Through Jesus, mankind was given eternal life. We are given the free will to choose which path we follow.

 

PCC Scroll: Your Money Matters

Here is an article I wrote about planning for retirement.

As we enter fall, we are entering the time of harvest.

 

In the spring, we planted. In the summer, we cultivated. In the fall, we harvest. In the winter, we will enjoy the fruit of our labor.

 

What happens in nature is a great analogy for the steps we take in preparing for retirement. Depending on your age and where you are in your career, you could be in spring, summer, fall or winter. It is during the winter, or our retirement, that we enjoy the ultimate fruit of our financial labor.

 

As they say, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Still, when it comes to your retirement, you must plan. In retirement, my desire for myself and for you is that we are able to enjoy the fruit of our long years of employment and retire in comfort (with all of our needs met) and in style with (with some of our wants met).

 

AARP has an article that suggest 10 things to do when planning for retirement.

 

Define Your Retirement

AARP recommends writing down your top five objectives and being specific and realistic. So instead of writing down “travel,” write down “travel to Cairo, Jerusalem and Casablanca.” Instead of writing down “volunteer,” write down “volunteer at the neighborhood foodbank.”

 

Take Stock of Your ‘Assets’

Focus on traditional assets, but the article also suggests thinking about talents and skills you can use for extra income in retirement. For example, teaching piano, giving singing lessons and writing/editing.

 

Evaluate Your Health — Now

One thing we rarely think about in planning for retirement is investing in our health, now. The quality of your health will have a major impact on your retirement. Make sure you are going to your checkups and exams now. Eat right, exercise and get enough rest. Also, don’t forget your mental health. Stay sharp by reading, playing games and doing puzzles.

 

Determine When to Collect Social Security

They give a hint that later is better, and they have a social security benefits calculator on their website. Social security is a crap shoot that I assume will be there. I also assume that the benefit will kick in later in life.

 

Network Through Social Media and Other Methods

Having a strong community is so important as is networking. Be sure to connect with people who have similar interests. It is also a way to keep your mind fresh and could provide a way for you to find ways to volunteer your time.

 

Decide How Much You Want (or Need) to Work

This is why having a financial planner can be beneficial. You can set goals that will have you on track to retire when you choose and you can calculate different scenarios. For example, an early retirement from corporate America into a job that pays less but is more rewarding. But since you have planned, you will be all set when you retire.

 

Create a Retirement Budget

The budget needs to include your income streams, your expenses and factor in any debt. Having your mortgage paid off could be huge.

 

Find New Ways to Cut Your Expenses (Start Saving More)

Keeping your expenses to a minimum is always a good habit. Balance living today with preparing for tomorrow. Perhaps you could get rid of your cable bill and use a cheaper alternative.

 

Prepare for the Unexpected

Many people have higher health costs than they expect when they retire. Keep that in mind as you are planning. If you own a home, be mindful of costly, reoccurring expenses like roof and siding replacement.

 

Stick to Your Plan

You have worked hard. You deserve to enjoy your retirement!

 

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

This is a piece I wrote for the summer “Editor’s Corner” of the PCC Scroll.

I used sections from the piece I wrote earlier about Chris Cornell.

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/say-hello-to-heaven/

When I heard Chris Cornell had died, I was shocked. I had fallen in love with Grunge during my high school years when I first heard it. Pearl Jam. Sound Garden. Nirvana. Mother Love Bone. The shock of Chris Cornell’s death further increased when I learned his death had been ruled a suicide. Cornell struggled with depression and anxiety, and he was quite open about it. His death made me think long and hard about the internal battle that each of us face daily, often silently.

 

I remembered a young girl who committed suicide some years back. I remember someone saying that we should never make a “permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.” I wondered at her age if she knew that life has ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Nothing is permanent, though in the middle of some seasons it seems like the season will never end. And the sad truth is that people end up at the point where they don’t want to experience the extreme ebbs and flows anymore.

 

Internal battles and struggles can be exhausting and the temptation to give up is very real. The level of despair can get so high. High enough that family, friends and community are not enough to hold a person to this life. Regardless of where you are in life and regardless of your current trials and tests, I beseech you to endure. One of the definitions of the word endure is, “to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding.”

 

There is a quote that I love. It says, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” The saying may be a mesh of two quotes. One is attributed to author James M. Barrie that says, “Be kinder than necessary.” The other is a quote attributed to Plato that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

One thing I find beautiful is that we were designed for community. None of us are meant to walk alone. We are all fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made and there is a community that needs our unique gifts and talents.

 

At the end of the day, people are trying to cope and play the hand they were dealt. Some cope with drugs and alcohol as addicts. Some cope as functioning alcoholics and addicts in nine-to-five jobs. Some cope with sex. Some cope with food. Some cope with God. We all find ways to cope and cling to some hope. We find ways to numb ourselves and numb our pain.

 

One of the beauties of my walk with God is that I have hope. I have hope in this life and in the life to come.

 

In the end, what I am trying to say is be kind. It doesn’t matter how successful a person may seem on the outside, or how happy a person may seem on the outside. You never know what a person is dealing with or going through. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. And above all, endure. Fight because the gifts within you are valuable, sacred and needed. Fight because your life, presence and being are precious. Fight.

 

 

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

The “Word of the Quarter” section from the summer PCC Scroll.

In this issue of the Scroll, we are concluding the overarching theme of “How Do We Arm Ourselves without Giving into and Operating Out of Fear.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Changing Our Viewpoint.” In the winter issue, we continued with the theme of “Where is the Real Battle?” In the spring issue, we continued with the theme of “Get in the Fight.” In this summer issue, we complete the overarching theme with the theme of “Enduring the Fight.”

 

When the editing team met to write the “Word of the Quarter,” we discussed that to endure the fight, you needed to be equipped with the correct tools and have a strategy for endurance.

 

Imagine yourself as a boxer in a match. You must pace yourself to fight 12 rounds that will last three minutes each. It is rare that a fight is won in one blow, so you must be prepared and trained to fight the entire match. Between rounds, you will be given advice from your coach. Your coach may have noticed a weakness in your opponent they want you to exploit. In some cases, your coach may have to re-strategize because your enemy has shown moves that were not anticipated and are very effective against you. All the while a team of trainers and medical staff are tending you. They are giving you Gatorade, encouragement and treating any wounds.

 

But before you even stepped into the ring, you prepared with your coach and trainers. You watched film on your opponent. You studied their weaknesses and their strengths, and you saw their tactics. You practiced on when to advance on your opponent and when to retreat. You trained on how to block their shots and learned which of their punches had the most power. You repeatedly rehearsed doing jabs and uppercuts. You learned how to lead with your entire body to produce a powerful blow. You surrounded yourself with a team of people who gave you advice. You secured all the necessary equipment, like your mouth guard and your gloves.

 

Guess what? Your opponent also analyzed you. Your opponent also trained and secured their equipment. Your opponent learned your weaknesses because they studied you. Your opponent will attack and come after you in these areas. Just look at the example of Job. The devil attacked his wealth, family and health. You must equip yourself with the armor of God, and keep your armor on! Sharpen your awareness of the devil’s tactics, discerning when to advance and when to retreat. Sharpen your ability to recognize the voice of God so that He can direct you, and yield to His direction and lead.

 

Develop an understanding of your own personal weaknesses so that you can guard against them. Also know that you are not meant to fight alone and choose your community/team wisely. It is important to protect yourself and surround yourself with people who are praying for you, believing in you and rooting for you. Exercise spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service, giving, solitude (in the presence of the Lord), meditating on the Word, etc. Stay in shape, and stay strong in the power of His might!

 

We invite you to study the following scriptures about endurance: James 1:4, Matthew 24:13, Isaiah 40:31, Revelation 3:10-11 (NIV) and Ecclesiastes 9:11. Above all, we invite you to endure.

 

PCC Scroll: Men of the Bible – Paul

The Men of the Bible section from the summer newsletter.

Name: Paul

Meaning: Little

His Character: Paul had an intense, strong personality. This intensity was evident in the mercilessness of his persecution of Christians as well as the passion of his strong faith and love for Jesus Christ after his road to Damascus experience.

His Sorrow: Paul was an early persecutor of Christians, and he was a witness and approver of Stephen’s stoning. Because of his past behavior, his initial conversion was met with skepticism and suspicion.

His Triumph: After his encounter with Christ, Paul was a force in the early Christian church. He wrote most of the books of the New Testament and strongly believed that the Gospel should be preached to Gentiles.

Key Scriptures: Acts 7:58-28:31, the Pauline Epistles

The Apostle Paul was one of the key figures who shaped early Christian history. Because of his belief that salvation should be offered to the Gentiles, he is known as the Apostle of the Gentiles.

 

Paul’s story had an interesting beginning. He was born in Tarsus and trained as a Pharisee. Paul was a Jew, and he was educated in Greek culture. He was also a Roman citizen. All of this would be used later in life.

 

Then known as Saul, he was a Pharisee (and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin), and he knew the law. He felt that Christianity was a threat to Judaism, so he relentlessly set out to destroy it. Saul’s mission was to end the Christian church. He was responsible for many Christian men and women being imprisoned, persecuted and, in some cases, put to death.

 

Saul was a persecutor of Christians until he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After that encounter, he had a name change from Saul to Paul. Paul’s intensity remained the same. It just shifted to telling the world about Christ. He would make three missionary journeys across the Roman Empire during his lifetime. Paul went from being the church’s greatest persecutor to the leader in spreading the Gospel, especially to the Gentiles, throughout the empire.

 

People were amazed by his transformation. Saul, who had gone to Damascus to arrest Christians, ended up preaching about Jesus after several days with Ananias and other believers in the city. He left Damascus as Paul. He had to be smuggled out of the city because Jews now sought to kill him. He went to Jerusalem where he spent time with Peter. As was to be expected, he was greeted with suspicion because of his sudden change in belief, but his transformation was true and complete.

 

God used Paul’s Roman citizenship, knowledge and weaknesses to the glory of His Kingdom. He is a great example that none are beyond the grace of God. Paul mentioned dealing with a “thorn in his flesh.” What this thorn was has been debated. What we do know is that Paul continued despite whatever it was. Paul faced his persecution with faith and courage and was an example to other Christians to do the same. He was very open about the hardships he endured as he sought to preach the Gospel. Paul was beaten, imprisoned and his life was threatened.

 

Even when imprisoned, Paul kept the faith. He wrote letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and to Philemon. He also wrote letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Romans and Thessalonians. He was also a mentor to Timothy and others. 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributed to him.

 

It is believed that Paul was beheaded during the Emperor Nero’s persecution of the church. Paul ran his race and kept his fight. He endured until his end. He is a great example of enduring the fight.