Some of the seed fell among the weeds, and the weeds grew up with it and choked it.
What is a weed? Do you know the difference between weeds and not weeds? Sometimes it is hard to tell and it is usually left up to the person who is in charge of the garden to determine what is a weed and what isn’t. We had some people helping us pull weeds in Agape Village once and they pulled all the strawberry plants up – a weed to those who don’t know.
So, what is a weed? The word used in this passage for weed is actually thorns. Israel has lots of thorns and prickly plants. When you are walking around in sandals most of the time, you definitely don’t want any thorns around. Officially a weed is any plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, growing where it conflicts with human preferences, needs, or goals. In this parable, however, the weeds aren’t up for debate or left to a matter of human opinion. The weeds Jesus is talking about are anything in our life (according to Jesus that can be the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life) that conflicts with God’s preferences, expectations, or goals for us.
The problem with those kinds of weeds is that we can easily justify them. We can also think we can control them, that we are stronger. But, in the end we are not. Those weeds we let grow in our life, the ones we have justified, actually choke us out and destroy the Truth God has for us. What are you letting grow in your life that is choking out the Truth of God? What is hindering your walk with Him? What is stopping you from maturing and producing the kind of fruit God created you to produce?
Weeds can be anything. Sin is always a big weed – one we need to get rid of. By sin I mean anything that goes against God’s Word, any act of disobedience – either doing what you shouldn’t or not doing what you should. There are also weeds that can be harder to recognize – relationships, habits, attitudes, behaviors, and even some of the things we ‘enjoy.’ If we truly want to live a life of victory and bear good fruit then we have to get rid of the weeds.
Ready to pull some weeds? Ask God to show you what needs to go and do what you need to do to get it out of your life.
Looking for weeds with you,
A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.
How often do you walk the same path? We probably do it far more often than we realize. I know my dogs do, they have walked and run the same path in my backyard enough that they have killed the grass. They have created a trail through the grass. I see the same thing in some places around the church as people cut through the grass heading home – they wear it out they walk the same direction so much. Animals do it in the woods, we call them game trails. Paths are everywhere in life and we tend to always walk the same ones.
Jesus told a parable about a sower who was spreading some seed. Some of that seed fell along the path. Jesus said the seed is the Word of God and the devil was able to steal it from those on this well beaten path before they were able to allow it to do a work in them – before they could be saved. It struck me, how many times do I walk the same path trampling right over the Word God has for me, leaving it for the devil to devout?
We walk these paths because they are easy, comfortable, and known. They lead us in a direction with little effort or even though – we just have to stay on the path. The crowd is in front of us walking the same path – so might as well follow along. The thing is, these paths become a distraction and often don’t lead us in a good direction, especially if we are trampling God’s Word while we walk them.
These paths could easily represent the busyness and distractions in life. All the things, the sin, that keeps us from seeing and hear the Lord. So long as we stay in it or on it, we keep trampling over the seed God has cast before us. Would you join me in slowing down, looking around, and perhaps getting off the well beaten path so we can better hear and see the Word of God? I don’t know about you, but I want to stop trampling God’s Word and start living in it.
Walking with you,
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Repent!! A strong word – a challenging command. It can come off as judgmental and condescending. Who are you to tell me to repent, not like you are any better than me!? When we hear that – repent – it conjures up many different responses and feelings in all of us. But, that was part of the main message Jesus preached – repent!
I want you to read it and hear it in light of the rest of Jesus’ ministry and message. He didn’t walk around shouting at sinners to repent all the time. He didn’t stand in judgment over “those” people. In fact most of what Jesus did was simply invite people to get to know Him, to be with Him, and to follow Him. Jesus did way more inviting than judging. So, when you read that verse above read it as invitation to live the Kingdom Way.
In accepting the invitation to live in the Kingdom you will have to repent. Choosing to live this way means you have to repent – to leave some things behind. You’ll have to leave sin behind. You’ll have to leave yourself behind – you can’t be in charge in the Kingdom. In the Kingdom God is King and life is lived His way. But, what you leave behind will pale in comparison to what lies ahead.
Jesus used parables to describe what the Kingdom is like and once taught an entire lesson on what Kingdom life looks like (The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7). He describes it as the greatest treasure you will ever find, a place where you will find safety and refuge, a place of forgiveness, a place of compassion, a place of love, and most importantly a place of redemption.
To accept this invitation to enter into Kingdom living doesn’t mean you have to wait to experience it. It is an invitation to begin living this life today. He wants you to follow Him and He will help you learn to live the Kingdom Way in every aspect of your life. Through the power of Holy Spirit you will begin to be transformed into a Kingdom Citizen. Which means all the Kingdom has to offer can be yours.
Are you ready to repent and live in the Kingdom? Ready to follow Jesus into this new way of life? Just say yes, and follow Him.
Follow Him With You,
One day Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on Him to listen to the Word of God….So He sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When He had finished speaking He said to Simon….
When I was in high school I played basketball. Sometimes the crowds that came to watch us were small and there were times when those crowds were pretty big. But, no matter the size of the crowd I always looked for the same couple of faces and wanted to know where they were sitting – my parents. I wanted to know where they were so I could see their reaction after my phenomenal play (ha!).
On this day Jesus was preaching to a large crowd. It was so big He had to get into a boat in the sea to have space to talk. He got into Simon’s boat and shared the Word of God. What strikes me is that when He was done He spoke directly to Simon. In the midst of the crowd of people He knew the frustration Simon was experiencing and the lack of fish they caught. So, He took time to be with Simon and then invited Simon, James, and John to come follow Him. Out of that big crowd He knew where they were and what they were going through.
God is in the midst of an even bigger crowd today – every human on the planet. Out of that big crowd God knows your name and knows exactly what you are going through. Out of that big crowd He is extending you a personal invitation to come follow Him – to catch more fish! Think about that – out of the big crowd of people you are the one God is looking for!
I know Jesus performed a miracle here by helping Simon and his crew catch more fish than the net could carry. But, the fact that Jesus took time to get to know and care about Simon specifically is just as miraculous. It shows how much He cares for us.
Know today that God cares about you – He knows where you are – He knows what you are going through. He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to cast your net in the right place – to live your life the right and best way. Listen to His voice and say yes to His invitation to come follow Him. You won’t regret it.
Praying for you!
“Whoever drinks of the water I (Jesus) give them will never be thirsty again. The water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When was the last time you took a different route home or to the store – just for a change of scenery? I’ve done it – just to mix it up. Jesus was on a journey to Galilee and decided to go an unusual way – through Samaria. It was there that He found a well and sat by it, because He was thirsty. While sitting there a Samaritan woman came to get some water and the two had a conversation that would totally transform her life.
Jesus revealed Himself to her as the Messiah and she believed. She went home and told everyone about Him. Then they came out and they too believed. An entire town was changed just because Jesus went a different way.
Life transformation doesn’t have to take much – it just has to take a willingness to go a different way. Jesus is ready and waiting to meet you there too. He is just waiting to have that conversation with you – to tell you about the water He has to offer you, the life you could live. We are all creatures of habit and it is easy to get stuck in our ways, but what happens if you take a chance and go a different way. Just maybe you will meet Jesus by the well and your life will never be the same.
So, where are you headed? Are you willing to try a different direction? Ready to hang out with Jesus and drink the water He has to give you?
Praying we all go the way Jesus is leading and that we meet Him along the way!
So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon.
How would you respond if someone came into your home and took a close look around? What kind of things do you think they would see? What things would you try to hide? What would embarrass you if they saw it?
This must have been how some of the folks felt when Jesus showed up to the temple and did His “inspection.” There were plenty of things that Jesus did see – sacrifices, worship, conversations, buying, selling, and trading. On the surface all these things looked great. What wasn’t good was the things just below the surface, hiding out of plain site.
Jesus entered the temple that day and saw people being taken advantage of. Many had shown up to take care of important business. Like paying the temple tax, offering sacrifices, and worshiping God. But, instead of helping people do that, corruption had taken root. Greed had set in. People were being taken advantage of in their moment of need and charged exuberant prices. The temple wasn’t filled with a sweet aroma to God, instead it was the stench of greed.
In response Jesus threw over the tables and chased the people out. He got rid of the greed and corruption. He cleansed the temple so it could become the place God intended it to be. A place where people could find peace, forgiveness, and hope.
Jesus came to confront this corruption in the temple. But, more importantly He has come to confront sin and corruption in our own lives. Paul tells us that we are God’s temple. If we are God’s temple then Jesus has come and is taking a look around. What are the things in your life He needs to throw out? Are you willing to let Him get rid of the corruption and sin in your hear?
He Is Risen!
Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
The story of Jesus with His disciples at the last super has always intrigued me. I find it fascinating that Jesus treated Judas the same as the rest even though He knew Judas had betrayed Him. He offered everyone a place at the table, offered them all grace, and served all of them the same from Peter who was always overzealous to Judas who wasn’t fully one of them. I think it is a wonderful picture of how God works in our lives today.
God is always with us, all of us, offering us a place at His table. He offers each of us grace and despite the sin in our lives loves us, even to the point of death, even death on a cross. He is truly relentless in His pursuit of us.
Before the disciples ate their meal Jesus did something amazing. He washed their feet. This was a job that was only for a slave to perform. The fact that Jesus was doing it was astonishing. Peter was the only one brave enough to push back – Jesus you can’t wash my feet! But, Jesus knew this was exactly what Peter and all the others needed. They need to be refreshed, the be touched up a bit.
They had spent 3 years with Jesus going from city to city and had no doubt picked up some dirt along the way. So, Jesus set out to remove it. While He was washing away literal dirt, what He was alluding to was the fact that soon He would was away the spiritual dirt as well. Something we all need throughout our lives. Today, sit with Jesus at His table and let Him wash your feet. Let Him refresh you. Let Him cleanse you. It is, after all, what He came to do.
I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.
King Solomon was the wisest King the nation of Israel ever had. But, that wisdom didn’t get him very far. If anything that wisdom led him down a path of destruction. He had searched for meaning and sought gain in every area of life under the sun he possibly could. He gained wealth, fame, and women. But, in the end none of those things ever provided any satisfaction. He gets to a point in this letter where he says we need to find balance in life.
We have a lot of voices to listen to in life and a lot of choices to make. It is easy to get pulled from one extreme to another. Solomon says money can only do so much, even though it is something we need. If we go too far one way or the other we will get lost. We can’t totally do without but having it all isn’t good either. He talks about patience being something we need in order to get through this life. In other words we have to be willing to be in the moment and not try to rush ahead in envy of other seasons or people. He also says, it is good to remember the past, but you can’t live there. If we spend all of our time longing for the “good ol’ days” we will miss the present moment God has us in and the hope we should have with the future.
So, what are we supposed to do? How do we escape this constant pull? Solomon has an easy answer – fear God. Live life with a healthy reverence of who God is. Make Him your focus and trust. It is in that space we will find a healthy balance and find the most joy and peace in life under the sun. So, fear God, that is the first step.
The second step Solomon shares with us in verse 26 where he says we need to please God. He was talking about how he was attracted to seductive women and his only escape was to live in obedience to God. These extremes are attractive. Money is attractive. Power and influence is attractive. The past is attractive. The future is attractive. We want lots of things and they can easily be seductive. We avoid that seduction and find the escape as we live in obedience to God. He leads us out of the extremes and away from the dangers of that seductive woman, but we have to be willing to follow.
Seek balance in life – do so by living in fear of God and in obedience to Him.
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him--but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The verse above is the verse most Christian churches go to for their mission and purpose – the church exists to make disciples – to baptize and teach people to obey God’s Word. That is the charge given to the 11 disciples just before Jesus ascended back to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. It was a pretty surreal moment for these 11 guys.
When I was reading this the other day, I tried to read it with fresh eyes. What really jumped out at me was that some of them doubted! They doubted! They just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, not to mention about 3 years worth of miracles and now they stand before Him with doubts!? At first it blew me away to notice that, but then it gave me a sense of peace and comfort knowing if those 11 men had doubts and were still used by God to launch His Church into the world, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about my doubts.
I don’t know why they were doubting, but I know why I doubt. I often don’t feel prepared enough, good enough, and sometimes I just doubt this entire faith thing. At times my doubt makes me feel uneasy – like I shouldn’t be doubting at all. But, then here, it is, plain as day and mentioned like it isn’t a big deal – the disciples doubted too.
One thing I see though – they didn’t let their doubt stop them. It wasn’t paralyzing. It wasn’t an excuse to not be obedient. Most of them still gave their lives spreading the message of Christ. So, while we may have doubt – we shouldn’t let it stop us. Jesus, in response to their doubt told them – guys I am with you all the way. You may not think you can make disciples – but I will be with you – we got this.
I don’t know what God might be asking of you today – but trust Him, even if you have some doubts – He will be with you every step of the way!
Trusting God despite my doubts!
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself…
Resolve is to settle firmly on a course of action, it is firm determination. What have you resolved to do? Who have you resolved to be? Daniel resolved to not defile himself in a pretty difficult time. But, it was in his resolve that he was able to make it through the chaos and achieve an incredible amount of success and influence.
Daniel made this resolution, this firm course of action, at the beginning of what would end up being 70 years of captivity. You see, the Israelites had fallen into disobedience, again. This time it divided them and destroyed them. The kingdom was divided, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom had been conquered by the Babylonians. Many of the Israelites were carted off to Babylon to live as exiles and slaves in a foreign land. They were basically right back where they started.
During this time Daniel and some of this friends were invited (perhaps forced) into the king’s palace. Here they would be taught, for 3 years, the ways of this culture and kingdom. The king even tried to force them to eat his food. But, Daniel, in his resolve refused the food because it had been offered to idols and never caved in his commitment and obedience to God and God’s law, even though everyone and everything around him was pulling him away. He stood strong.
So, I ask again, what have you resolved to do? Who are you when you find yourself right back where you started (stuck or enslaved in a place you don’t want to be)? Who are you when everyone around you is trying to tell you how to live your life and what to do? Do you give in and do what everyone else is doing? Do you stray form what you know to be right? How is your resolve?
God blessed Daniel’s resolve. Twice in the opening chapter of Daniel we read the words God gave. God gave Daniel favor with his guards and God gave Daniel a ton of wisdom and knowledge. This favor and wisdom is what really equipped Daniel and his friends to be successful and influential in this chaotic time of exile. If we will resolve to not be defiled – to live totally sold out to God, He will give us what we need to be successful and influential. He will give us what we need to be who He wants us to be. So, what will you resolve to do today?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.