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july 2019

Good in the Bad


Good in the Bad

Love Your Neighbor Part 4

Have you ever read the parable of the sower? It’s a fairly well known and often overlooked parable found in Matthew 13. It’s pretty solid though, and I think it’s worth a second look.

It reads like this:

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.

The soils are important to look into, but the thing in this parable that really makes me curious is what in the world is up with the sower. It seems like he is being 100% ridiculous. He seems to be flippantly tossing seeds to any and all dirt within his throwing range. The variety of soil that he finds is actually quite impressive!

So impressive, that it almost seems intentional.

The logical thing to do would be to invest all of the seed in the soil that is good and has been prepared for growth, but the sower doesn’t do that. He aims for even the areas that most people would look right over.

The way we treat others should mirror the sower. He purposefully aimed for every kind of soil. I’d posit that this entire parable is a template for how we should treat others.

So then, by choicefully withholding love/grace/gifts from people because of cultural, physical, or ideological differences, we are directly opposing God’s example.

Flash judgments are the enemy of the gospel.

What About My “Soil”?

You don’t get the opportunity to “change” the makeup your soil. However, good soil can be found in the strangest places.

There is nothing in the parable that says all of the good soil was in one place, all of the rocky soil in another, all of the path in one area, and all of the thorns in another. The implication is that these soils are mixed and even intertwined. So you may have a family that has a very thorny background, but quite simply, if you abide back into Jesus, your soil is now “good.” It is not based on you, nor your upbringing, but rather, your personal choice to abide back into the God who is already abiding in you.

I hope you’re seeing a glimpse of the beauty and depth in this parable. Jesus changes the game by breaking away from “what is right” in the conventional wisdom of only going for the “good soil” so that He can reach me. So He can reach you.

You don’t need to worry if your soil is good enough for Jesus. He’s already down in the dirt. Word is that He loves to get His hands dirty.

Some of us may not appear to be fertile soil to the average onlooker, but God knows the heart. He knows that even in the midst of the thorny patch, in the midst of the road, in the midst of rocks, there can be soil that is perfect for a healthy, resilient fruit tree.

Jesus went out of His way in the most painful, expensive way to die for each and every soil so that we may have even the choice of abiding back into Him.

And here’s the secret for you — even the grossest, nastiest things can become the absolute best fertilizer. God doesn’t cause bad things in your life, but He definitely is a master in molding something beautiful out of the bad.

So keep your chin up. Try on the mantra of Romans 8:28.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

P.S. As a bonus, check out this song. Warning: It causes all the feels.

Beautiful things by Gungor.

Jonny has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. He is recently finished the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary and now pastors in north Texas.


If Jesus Went to College


If Jesus Went to College

This past academic year was one that brought many changes to my life. I started my first year of college where I made the big move from Texas to the beautiful cold Michigan to study at Andrews University. Aside from adjusting to new people, classes, and the cold, I was also living in the dorm with 300 other college girls. One thing about Andrews that I loved was I met people from all over the U.S. and even from other countries. It was an eye opener to different cultures, styles, and personalities that I had yet to encounter. That being said living in the dorm brought its challenges as some of these different cultures and personalities are living in the same building and are now my new neighbors. Some of these neighbors may have been a bit more difficult to click with than others.

Throughout life there is no doubt we will encounter people who we just don’t click with. I think it's safe to say Jesus didn’t click with some people while he walked this Earth, but even then, he still shows love to every single person. His sacrifice on the cross is just one beautiful example of this. Looking towards John 13: 34-35 Jesus leaves us with a new command. A command to love one another just as he has loved us. He explains that it is through showing love to our neighbor that others will recognize that we are his disciples.

I would be lying if I said it was easy for me to show love to every person I encountered. There are some I’m still working on. One important thing that I did learn in my adventures of college and living in the dorm is that regardless of my personal feelings towards a person it is important to co-exist in a friendly manner. I may not be a happy camper towards the girls being rowdy nearby, but that doesn’t mean I should be any less friendly towards them. I am firm believer of do to others as you would like done to you. I also think that is something lots of people say, but don’t always follow through with (I myself am not perfect with it). Even so we must keep striving to make improvements. Whether it be at work, school, church, or even the grocery store we must find ways to love our neighbors as not only is it commanded to us, but as James 2:8 says, “If you really keep the royal law found in scripture, “Love you neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

Elizabeth Cisneros is a sophomore at Andrews University studying Speech Pathology.


Kindness is Magic


Kindness is Magic

Love Your Neighbor Part 2

For the past four summers, I’ve spent the majority of my time in Walt Disney World. As a Texas resident, it might sound strange that I am an annual passholder. I am a teacher during the year, and I am going full speed every day, taking care of every little thing for every single student who has a need. In a nutshell, by May, I’m exhausted. I enjoy my summers in Disney World because I get to be pampered, taken care of, and I can unplug. For some, summers in Florida with tons of crowds may sound exhausting all in itself, but I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, that I find peace in it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become a people-watcher in my 30’s. 

Yeah, there is a lot of evil in this world, and every day I witness injustices, travesties, malice, greed, and unkindness. Because there are so many of those moments that when I find the opposite, I take an intentional pause to acknowledge it and appreciate it. I have found such kindness this summer at Disney. And yeah, I get it, it’s a business, and people are paying top dollar to be here, and there are a lot of entitled guests who push and shove. But if you look really hard and take a moment to see past the exhaustion and heat and the hectic nature of some of the traveling guests, there are beautiful “love-your-neighbor” moments that I have learned from. 

I think of the young family with the two children I shared a bus ride with. The littlest was only a baby, crying and screaming in the bus. The mother, looking exhausted, attempted unsuccessfully to quiet the child. It finally took the older girl, maybe only 5-6 herself to captivate the baby. She got down into the child’s face and began to sing, “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” as her little hands clapped the baby’s face lit up, and she stopped crying. The little girl continued to tell the baby how beautiful she was, and how the baby lived in a castle, and that they were headed “home” to take the baby there. “Home” being Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella’s castle. It was simply a gentle moment I witnessed between the two siblings, yet precious all unto itself. That kind of love isn’t taught. It’s something that young girl was “born with,” or created to do. 

I think of my housekeeper at my current resort. She’s deaf and mute, and these past two days she has knocked so gently on my door to clean it. When I open it, she will write down on a pad of paper a simple question, “Would you like me to clean your room?” with the biggest smile. My heart goes out to her. Every time I pass her in the hall, she gives me the biggest smile, and I wish I could give her so much more money than she’s getting paid. 

I think of the special needs boy in his chair being loved on by Goofy. Whatever cast member that was playing that character did a wonderful job. It nearly brought tears to my eyes to see how loving and gentle Goofy was to the small special needs boy. The joy and appreciation radiated from his parents’ eyes. 

I think of the magical moments I’ve witnessed between smiling family members, listening to them converse and reminisce about previous memories. Listening to the stories and connections that random strangers share with each other on buses or boats or monorails. They perhaps will never encounter each other again, and that kind moment of shared experiences may be forgotten. But in these special moments, people aren’t vegged out on their smart devices, but are engaging in honest, kind, conversations with real live human beings. It’s nice to see.

I think of the dad lifting his little girl on his shoulders so she can get a better view of the fireworks, even through his discomfort. 

I think of my server this morning at breakfast who took a little extra effort to ask where I’m from and why I’m traveling, and if I’m okay.

I think of the custodians who work all night long to keep Disney pristine and beautiful.

I think of the parents who save up year after year to treat their children to an amazing summer experience.

I think of the stranger who held the door open for me.

The woman who helped another woman carry her tray for her to her table, even though she didn’t know who she was. 

I think of and see all these things, and I have to praise God for the small moments of human decency that still exist in this horrific world. 

So, maybe you’re not lucky like me to be at Disney World for the summer, maybe your stuck in your daily grind, and hustle and bustle of real life, and your encounters with stressed out people or family members, or your glued to your social media or smart devices . . . 

That doesn’t mean kindness isn’t happening all around you.

Take a moment to look up.

And notice.

Devin Anavitarte is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently the chaplain at Burton Adventist Academy.