Tag Archives: North Bible Church

The serious business of gardening


I found myself outside in the pre-dawn darkness of the morning of Sept. 8th, the day of the great flooding in Phoenix. Clothed in a red raincoat, bearing a large blue tarp that the rain and fierce winds tried ripping from my grasp several times, I was on a mission.

Three weeks before, my daughter had decided to plant sunflowers from a little packet of seeds that she had found in our kitchen junk drawer.  A week later, 8 little green shoots began pushing up through the soil of the clay pots they were planted in. It was no longer a small matter; We would have to make a planter box for our seedlings, or the sunflowers would perish in their small containers.sunflowers sprout

An entire Saturday was consumed with trips to Home Depot, the boys cutting boards, pounding nails, and 8 bags of garden soil being poured into their new home. The seedlings, which now stood 12 inches high, were placed with great care into hand scooped holes.

Over the next week, I carefully monitored the hours of sunlight and intense heat. When tiny ants found the tasty leaves, I sprinkled pepper sauce and water at the base of the sprouts. Netting was installed after the imprint of a cat paw was found at the base of a snapped stalk. Then it happened, the news was predicting unprecedented storms for Phoenix.

With tarp in hand, lightning rain and wind overhead, I worked at securing a covering over pvc pipes that arched across the garden. While pounding stakes into the corners of the tarp, the wind whipped it out of my hand. With great effort, the garden was finally covered. It survived two days of storms.

This work of gardening, I was finding, took tedious attention and care. When I was watering the plants this week, I was reminded of the parable of The Sower in Mark 4 from last Sunday’s sermon. I reflected how extravagant is God’s love and care for us as we live our lives. When the stormy sea rose up under the disciples and the winds roared around them, it may have seemed that the sprouts of God’s word were wilting in their lives. The disciples experienced real fear, real difficulties, but they continued to faithfully follow Jesus. They nurtured a deeply rooted faith in Christ that resulted in a harvest that continues to this day. Gardening is definitely serious business. -Tina Stephens


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Considering ourselves disciples

plowed field

Being a disciple means setting a new priority.  In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus meets three eager men, all-willing to follow him.  The response of Jesus to each of them is surprisingly direct.

The first man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  It is as if Jesus is saying, “Are you sure? Because to follow Me means homelessness.”  Jesus was not a Savior rallying his troops, building his base and pulling together the military.  He was a Savior who saves through being condemned, through dying and giving himself to the broken and left out.

Which Savior are we following?  Are we willing to put Jesus before anything else or do we have a pre-conceived idea of how Jesus is supposed to act? Then Jesus speaks to two other men, each concerned with his own family.  To one He says, “Follow me.”  This man explains that first he needs to go and bury his father.  On the surface there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this.  The second man is similar.  He wants to say goodbye to his family and friends.  Maybe he wanted to throw a going-away party. Again, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Do you notice that both men are saying, “I will follow you, but first there is something I want to do”?  Jesus is challenging their thinking.  He must be their first priority, their first thought.  In fact, Jesus said to the second man, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  I have never plowed a field but I know that if you wanted to plow a field in the first century, with first century technology (or lack thereof!) you had to be completely focused on plowing.  To look back while plowing, would result in crooked rows and disaster.

Jesus wants his disciples to be focused on him.  He wants us to be completely committed to Him.  This is what it means to be his disciples.  It is what we were created for, and we will never plow straight unless our eyes are focused on Him.

It is one thing to consider ourselves disciples, and another to be completely focused on Jesus.



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How many Marbles are in that jar?


I can still recall the jar of gumballs on Mrs. Wilson’s 5th grade class desk where it sat in the middle, so that everyone could clearly see it.  Mrs. Wilson was drawing equations on the chalkboard and talking, but I was staring across my wooden desk and the 2 sharpened pencils that rested in their groove at the top, counting and recounting the blue, yellow, green, and red gumballs.  A paper in front of the jar listed the names of students and their guesses as to how many gumballs were in the jar.  It had to do with learning how to equate volume, or something like that.  I was too distracted by the idea that one person would get that many gumballs all to themselves.  I was also sure that the person in possession of this many gumballs could solve many of life’s problems, because who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone in possession of that many gumballs?  Ultimately I guessed a number much higher than the actual number, and someone else, who understood volume equations, ended up with the prize.

To illustrate our church’s theme for the upcoming months, Every Week Matters, the staff at North started talking about another jar, this one full of 936 marbles to represent 18 years.  When Pastor Larry used the jar of marbles during his sermon 2 weeks ago, I felt unsettled.  How was it possible that one jar, held between 2 hands, could hold a representation of the number of weeks in 18 years?  It should be more like a big tractor-trailer bursting from the immeasurable amount of marbles inside.  But there it was, a jar too small, too light, and too fragile, to represent 18 years.

I thought about this over the next 2 weeks while I helped the kids with homework, went to work, and lived life.  Then I started to think about just 1 marble, and 1 week.  If every week matters, I needed to think about this week, the one I was living.  If this week matters than what is important this week?  A verse comes to mind, “God is my refuge and strength”(Ps.46:1).  During a typical week I will encounter parenting issues that I have no answers for, I will get tired, I will become impatient, and unexpected twists and turns will change what I expect from each day, but, I will remember this week that God is my refuge and strength.  I will be thankful and at peace knowing that in trouble or good times, God is in control.  The unsettled feeling in my stomach is starting to go away as I let my control of life fade away and it is being replaced with a settled assurance as I give it to God.

The jar on Mrs. Wilson’s desk was a jar to figure out with complicated equations.  The jar of 18 years worth of marbles isn’t something to equate, but a reminder that we can’t do life ourselves, and that God is our refuge and strength and that He has it all figured out.

Have a great week!

Tina Stephens

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Welcome to the North Bible Church blog.  I hope this will be another tool to encourage you as you grow in Christ.

North Bible Church has a mission.  We are a Christ-centered community equipping every generation to love God, love one another and love the world.  So before anything else we are a Christ-centered community.  Everything we do centers on who Christ is, and his work in the world.  In the simplest terms, we want to grow into the likeness of Christ.  We want to look like Him and we want to love who and what he loves.

In addition, we know that the most effective and meaningful growth happens in community.  We are a fellowship of believers and share a strong commitment to live and serve together.

This has caused the North staff to adopt a commitment of our own.  It is what we call our 80/20 Rule.  We believe that 80% of our ministry is invisible.  Who we are in Christ is more important than anything we do and the effectiveness of the twenty- percent of our ministry that everyone sees will be determined by our preparation and planning.  We want our work at North to flow out of our own personal walk with Christ.  We also want to be well prepared and planned in everything we do.

What is the principle you work out of?  Have you determined to see your work, whatever it is, flow from a life that is full of Jesus?  I think the 80/20 Rule works for everyone not just those of us in ministry.  What do you think?

Bless you.

Pastor Larry

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