Fruit From the Vine: Body Parts

 

 
Did you know that we aren’t just individually God’s dwelling place? I know most of us will say, “our bodies are temples of the Lord” (and usually to deter kids from smoking or something equally insignificant (by comparison). But did you know that WE, the CHURCH, are His temple?  The Church, the community of believers, is so incredibly important. TELL ME the church isn’t important and I’ll show you 100 verses just like the verses below that will say otherwise. TELL ME you can love God just as much out in nature as you can by going to church and I will agree. If by going to church you mean showing up to a building on the first day of the week, living life like an anti-Christ all week long up until the moment you step foot in the church doors, then putting on a fake front, getting a muffin and receiving from the music and the message, like the little consumer you are. Yes, then you can do that hypocrisy and worthlessness out in the woods by yourself, too. Or at home or with family, for that matter. But if you mean that you are able to grow, to witness, to glorify, to proclaim, to worship, to sharpen, to obey, to give thanks, to humble yourself, to exhort, to exalt… if that is what you mean by ‘love God,’ then nope. You can’t do that anywhere but in a community of believers.

I know here someone is going to give the example of Paul in prison. Or John on the Island of Patmos. You don’t really want to go there, do you? You aren’t really presuming or stating that you are on equal footing with Paul the Apostle or John the Beloved, are you?  And why were they there, anyway? Oh, right, because they were worshipping God, sharing the gospel, being witnesses out in the world– among a community of other believers.

And you really can’t use them as examples of growing in isolation anyway because look at those four verses that Paul exhorts the Ephesians church with. Well, first of all, he’s writing to a church, which should be our first clue of the Church’s importance. Secondly, look at his language:

“…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you [all- you is plural here] are FELLOW CITIZENS with the saints and MEMBERS of the HOUSEHOLD of God… in whom the whole structure, being JOINED TOGETHER, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built TOGETHER into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19, 21-22
 
“so that through the CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10
 
“to him be glory in the CHURCH and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21
 
“from whom the whole BODY, JOINED and held TOGETHER by every JOINT with which it is equipped, when each PART is working properly, makes the BODY grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16
Words like church, body, fellow, joined together, joint, part. Those words imply connection. They imply community. They don’t allow for the idea of isolation.

God makes his wisdom known to the angelic beings by way of the church. The Church is so dysfunctional most of the time, which makes it pretty hard to imagine why God would use us– collective us– as his means. But it is God’s wisdom, not ours. So there is no place for you to put your wisdom above his and say you don’t need the Church. Or for you to just GO to church.

If an early church father thought that we could grow in isolation, that we could be the church without any accountability, without anyone to speak into our lives, without the availability of exhortation and encouragement, then why did he speak about parts of a body and joints connecting things? Why did he say that the body grows and builds itself up? Why didn’t he speak to an individual believer and say, “as you read the word and pray, you are built up in love.” The church is God’s instrument to display his glory. The Church can only be the church if it is functioning properly. The church, when functioning properly, grows and builds itself up. This doesn’t happen alone. This won’t happen to you while you remain isolated. This won’t happen if you remain invulnerable,  put walls up and don’t let anyone in. This won’t happen even with you just “attending” a church. Like it’s something to check off a list.

So connect, become part of a church BODY. Be a part that works properly. Contribute to the building up of God’s dwelling place. Get involved. Don’t show up on a Sunday morning late to worship and then leave after you have made small talk with one person you don’t know and chatted with your friends about everything– everything but Jesus. Make connections with other believers. Do life alongside one another. Eat meals, share the gospel, repent, see Jesus.

Don’t just GO to church, BE the church.

Book Review: The Reason For God

The Reason for God by Tim Keller is truly an incredible book. Written primarily to the skeptic, it acknowledges and gives answers to some of the most common objections to Christianity, to Jesus, in an anything-but-dry manner.

The book is for believers, too.  In the introduction, he speaks of  two camps: liberalism and conservatism, progressives and fundamentalists, unbelievers and believers, skeptics and those of faith. But he says there is a third camp, “Christians who [have] a concern for justice in the world but who [ground] it in the nature of God rather than in their own subjective feelings.” He calls believers to wrestle with their doubts, to confront them instead of ignoring them. “A faith without some doubts is like a human body with any antibodies in it.” People who don’t “ask hard questions about why the believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”

This book is intellectually challenging but still manages to reach the heart of the matter and to touch your own heart in the process, bringing you closer to God’s heart and the object of our faith: Jesus!

Verdict: Excellent. (Quality on literally every page!)

Weekly Dish: Lentil Chili

No beans in this household at the moment. But it’s Fall and who does Fall without Chili??? So here is a seriously delicious version of traditional Chili. (Of course, you can always just make your own Chili recipe and replace the beans with Lentils)

LENTIL CHILI

1-2 T Butter and/or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped or sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped or sliced
6-7 C chicken broth, homemade
2 1/4 C Lentils, soaked overnight in enough water to cover
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Method: Saute onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery in saucepan over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium-low until lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper as needed.

[You can also saute all the vegetables and then add the whole thing to the Slow Cooker and cook on low for 4 hours or so.]

Top with a squeeze of lime, cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Serve!

Add-ins or Variations:

Use Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
Add a few Chipotle peppers in Adobo
Add a Sweet Potato
Add Mushrooms
Add Beans and/or Corn
Add Meat
Add Green Chiles or Roasted Peppers

 

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday!

Tuesday Tip: Jam

Jam isn’t all that good for you, any way you mash it. Concentrated fructose at it’s best (or worst?). BUT for all of us American babies who still need a little spread of jam on toast (there’s room for small compromises!), Trader Joe’s makes one that uses fruit juice concentrate instead of white sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup, as the sweetener.

Fruit from the Vine: Sacrifice

I love when you read a passage and then read an entirely different passage and they coincide in a way that breaks through and penetrates the tough skin of your heart. Almost like when one person recommends a movie and you’re like, “hmm, I’ll have to check it out” but then you never rent it. But then if your mom and best friend recommend the same movie, it seems worthwhile enough to expend effort to pursue. When you read two similar passages of Scripture, and then a third which amplifies the meaning for you, you think: Wow, I better get this one. I better allow this to soak in, to make a difference in me. To allow Him to turn this stony heart into one of flesh.

This recently happened to me regarding my own sacrifices to God.

Ps 50
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me… The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”

Isaiah 1
“What is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight…my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them… I will hide my eyes… I will not listen…”

1 Thessalonians 1
“…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

God instituted the sacrifice of bulls and goats. So then why does He say He does not desire them? Because they were being done as a mere outward routine and as religious pride instead of an outward expression of an inward reality. The inward reality is that we know we blow it. We are humbled in His presence. We do what He asks out of love for Him, not out of duty to Him (though we do owe Him everything!). They were to sacrifice out of obedience, but with their hearts close to Him all the while, not far from Him. But they weren’t doing this. So many aren’t. Often I’m not.

For example, I have a little sacrificial checklist that my heart, blackened by sin, likes to use to earn favor with God.  Like “completing my Bible reading each morning” and “submitting to my husband’ and “being kind to all those around me”. All these things are great and beneficial, and there are many things like this that we are even commanded to do (not unlike the sacrificial system). Though, all the while I am up at 6:00 am, reading as quickly as possible to get to something I REALLY want to do. And I’m submitting to my husband only after I have tried every possible way of getting my own way in an area, even calling names, picking fights, and disrespecting him, transgressing directly the commands in Ephesians. And while I may be kind to someone’s face, in the wickedness of my heart, I am often so critical and judgmental, leaving no room for an ounce of true brotherly love, but only superficial “nice-ness.”

But ohhhhhh I am SO holy. Right?  I check everything off my list and say “I did it God! Now what are you going to do for me, since I MUST be one of your favorite children. I do a lot of things that you command us to do in the Bible- that I read every day. Everyone else sees that. Don’t you see it, God?”

Blech. Do you ever have those moments where you seem to see things as God sees them and you just want to vomit?

While God doesn’t desire us to sacrifice to earn anything, He DOES desire sacrifice… the sacrifice of thanksgiving. And what do we have to be thankful for? Jesus, THE  sacrifice on our behalf. We can be thankful for the ability (which is a gift in itself!) to turn from our idol of religiously trying to earn God’s love and favor and acceptance. Or whatever your idols may be, before Jesus or now- whatever we daily serve in place of Jesus. We can turn from these to serve the living and true God.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t make sacrifices. We are to die daily. We are to serve, to humble ourselves like Christ, to do things we don’t want to do, and to even do things that aren’t “our gifting.” When I serve at Church, or when I have to make my husband a smoothie for his breakfast the next morning (something I really dislike doing for some reason!), these are opportunities to serve the living God and serve others. But my obedience MUST match my heart or I will have obeyed in vain.

Now don’t read me wrong.We aren’t to disobey or duck out of serving in an area because our heart isn’t right. Get your heart right. Give a sacrifice of thanksgiving for His sacrifice, with a contrite, broken and sincere heart. Serve God and wait for Jesus.

Weekly Dish: Quinoa Bowl

Well, well, well… what do you know… I figured out how to take my own pictures of recipes instead of posting others (though I always link back to them, anyway).

This picture was kind of out of necessity, though, because it wasn’t a recipe. My own creation. Husband loved it. 4 year old loved it. Even 1 year old who will eat ANYTHING on the ground but when you try to feed her from the table, she doesn’t want it… Even she loved it.

It is highly versatile so really, add whatever you want/have on hand! This is what I did for this recipe. You can always use more or less of the ingredients, as desired; I just used what I had in the house.

QUNIOA BOWL

3 C Quinoa
6 C Water
1 boneless-skinless chicken breast
2 red peppers
1 onion
1 head of broccoli
1 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 – 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

Rinse Quinoa to remove the bitter taste, then put it pot or dutch oven with double the amount of water or chicken/vegetable broth. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer until all the water is gone and quinoa is done.

Meanwhile, cook chicken breast in a Tablespoon or two of Olive Oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over Medium High in skillet on each side until browned. 3-4 minutes on each side? Remove from pan, set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Then dice or shred.

Steam broccoli head and chop into small pieces.

Dice red pepper and onion. Add to skillet you cooked chicken in with a little bit more olive oil, another Tablespoon. Cook over medium high until caramelized and tender.

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, just until lightly browned.

Add feta cheese crumbles and all above ingredients.

Pour ACV, Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Worchestershire, season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve!