Weeds

Even the best garden needs to have the weeds pulled to remain healthy.  Even the best grass seed may contain a few weeds.  Jesus taught that the Word of God is a seed that will grow the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11).  He went on to teach in another parable that an enemy would also be planting seed at the same time.  This seed planting would be an effort to intermingle the good crop with a useless crop.  This is Jesus teaching us that our world is intermingled with good and evil.  The devil is trying his best to disrupt the kingdom of God by planting weeds that infiltrate the church.

“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”  Matthew 13:24-25 (NIV)

In this parable, the landowner’s workers ask if they should pull the weeds but he directs them to leave the weeds in place.  The problem is that these weeds are so insidious they are impossible to remove without disrupting the good crop.  The solution is to allow the weeds to grow and then remove them at the time of harvest.

“No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”  Matthew 13:29-30 (NIV)

This parable gives us an insight into the cat and mouse game being played by God and the devil.  God can destroy the devil at any time, but for reasons we may never fully understand He is allowing him to play his game.  In the end the devil’s disruption will be destroyed and the Lord’s harvest will be undamaged.

Jesus wants us to know He is allowing evil to flourish to some extent in our world; He also wants us to know that he is in full control of these weeds and will eradicated them in the end.  While there is no precise explanation as to why God has designed things to work in this way, it seems safe to assume there ultimately is some benefit for those of us who endure this cross-contamination.  Our eternal existence must somehow be enhanced by the experience of sorting through good and evil on a daily basis. Repetition is one of the best teaching tools.  Navigating around evil as a matter of routine is the kind of repetition that will likely help us develop a clear understanding of the dark side.  Apparently, the ability to easily identify evil will be useful to us in the world beyond.

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Germination

The Word of God is the seed that grows the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11).  Evangelists, preachers, and mature Christians use this seed that God has provided to grow new believers that will make up the kingdom of God.  In the book of Mark, Jesus uses a simple parable to illustrate this important point.

“He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.”  Mark 4:26 (NIV)

The process of growing the kingdom of God begins with a man sowing seed.  What our Lord wants us to fully grasp in this parable is the miraculous nature of the seed.  The Word of God, when properly planted, has an astonishing ability to sprout and grow committed followers of Jesus Christ.

“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”  Mark 4:27 (NIV)

Precisely how a tiny seed grows into a large plant, flowering bush, or towering tree is beyond our full understanding.  What we do know is that the ability of the seed to produce its final product has nothing to do with us – it has everything to do with the seed.

“All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”  Mark 4:28 (NIV)

When we bring the Word of God to someone who is open to hearing the message, that person is a fertile field in which the seed will grow.  The Word of God is the mechanism that brings about the transformation.  We who sow the seed are merely gardeners spreading God’s miraculous truth.  The harvest produced is the result of seed, not the efforts of the sower.

“As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”  Mark 4:29 (NIV)

The moment a new believer blossoms into a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, God is quick to gather that ripe fruit into His kingdom.  This is an ongoing process that has been in daily operation since Jesus first began His ministry.

The parables of Jesus are wonderful illustrations of how God’s creation is full of lessons that reveal His methods, His truth, and His connection to all of us.  We don’t have to go far to discover how God works.  Step into your garden and plant a seed.  That is how the kingdom of God is being built.

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Bible Study

Jesus often taught using parables.  This simply means he would use examples to paint a picture of the topic at hand.  When the disciples asked Jesus why he taught using parables, He told them it was because He only wanted His true followers to fully comprehend some aspects of His teaching.

“He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”  Matthew 13:11 (NIV)

Jesus used parables so that the complexity of His message could only be understood by true believers.  To help the disciples understand more completely, Jesus told them what is known as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9) and then offered a clear interpretation.  This parable told the story of a farmer who planted seeds that each fell in different types of soil and yielded different results.  When Jesus later interpreted this parable (Matthew 13:18-23), he explained that the seed in the parable represented the Word of God and the different soils represented the different circumstances in which people are exposed to the Word of God.  Some hearers will not understand, some will soon forget, some will allow their life to overpower their understanding, and finally the person who listens carefully and understands the Word will greatly prosper.

Jesus wants Your Full Attention

There used to be a popular test distributed in high school classrooms that was intended to gauge how carefully students were studying the material placed in front of them.  The instructions at the top of the test told the students to read all questions before beginning.  Those diligent students who read all the questions before writing any answers would discover that the last question instructed them to only write their name on the test and turn it in without answering any of the other often ridiculous questions.  Those students who were not careful readers would spend the entire class trying to answer a list of questions that were totally useless.

Jesus is not interested in followers who take short cuts or are so distracted with other endeavors of life they are not fully devoted to His teaching.  Jesus wants the good students who carefully follow the instructions.  Jesus wants your full attention and for that reason He teaches in such a way as to leave those less attentive unprepared.   We have been greatly blessed with access to the Word of God in many forms.  It is our responsibility to take advantage of this knowledge.  God is not going to spoon-feed this information to us.  He wants us to demonstrate our sincerity by actively pursuing a comprehensive study of His Word.

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Resurrection

A major turning point in the ministry of Jesus was the day the religious leaders known as the Pharisees accused him of being a tool of the devil. On this day, Jesus healed a man who was possessed by a demon.  The man was blind and mute, and Jesus extricated the demon so that he could both talk and see.  Those who witnessed this miracle were astonished.  They turned to the Pharisees for an explanation.  The Pharisees were powerful religious leaders and many would not accept Christ without their approval.  Unwilling to give up their power and control over the people, the Pharisees attributed the works of Jesus to the power of the devil.

This was clearly an illogical and misguided position to take and Jesus illustrated this with three undeniable facts.  First of all, Satan would not be interested in driving out his own demons.

“If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?”  Matthew 12:26 (NIV)

Second, the Pharisees had already acknowledged other exorcists of that time to be a manifestation of God’s power; hence, they should admit that Jesus was sent by God.

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Matthew 12:28 (NIV)

And finally, Jesus clearly demonstrated power over the devil by removing the demon.  Jesus could not be under the devil’s control if his actions were used to overpower the devil.

 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.”  Matthew 12:29 (NIV)

Regardless of this irrefutable evidence, the Pharisees did not change their point of view.  It was at this point that Jesus warned them that rejection of the power of the Holy Spirit that He was demonstrating, sealed their final judgment.  They were given the Word of God, followed by the manifestation of God in the form of Jesus Christ, and now this final sign – the miracles of the Holy Spirit.  There would be no further sign.  Rejection of this final sign was unforgiveable.

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”  Matthew 12:32 (NIV)

Jesus wanted those watching this debate between the Pharisees and the Son of God to fully understand the nature of the two sides.  Jesus was delivering miracle after miracle.  The Pharisees were doing nothing more than making a long list of rules and regulations.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  Matthew 12:35 (NIV)

Our response to Jesus Christ determines our eternal destiny.  At this point in the ministry of Jesus, the Pharisees stood their ground in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.  They had rejected Christ and in essence sent him to the cross.  This was not the demise of Jesus.  This was the demise of the Pharisees.  Jesus would soon rise from the dead and take His place at the right hand of God.

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My Yoke is Light

President Bill Clinton’s birth name was William Jefferson Blythe after his father who died in a car crash.  Later in life, Clinton’s mom remarried and William Jefferson Blythe took on the last name of his step-father Roger Clinton, thus becoming the Bill Clinton we remember as the 42nd president of the United States.  It can be said that if you know William Jefferson Blythe, you know President Bill Clinton.  And if you know President Bill Clinton, you know William Jefferson Blythe.

Jesus made several claims to his deity and in one instance in the book of Matthew, he makes it clear that He and God the Father are one and the same.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Matthew 11:27 (NIV)

The only way to know God is through Jesus Christ.  If you reject Jesus, you are rejecting God.  The only way to know God is to trust Jesus.  Unlike Bill Clinton and William Jefferson Blythe, Jesus Christ and God the Father are two distinct individuals; however, they are also one-and-the-same.  We come to know God when we take refuge in the comforting arms of Jesus.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

When Jesus preached this message he was making a direct contrast to the burdensome rules and regulations administered by the religious leaders known as the Pharisees.  Jesus went on to talk about His yoke being light. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece fitted over the necks of two animals from which ropes are fastened to allow for efficient pulling of a plow or cart.  Taking on a yoke implies one is freely submissive and deliberately yielding to the one holding the guide ropes.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)

Jesus wants us to know there is no long list of rules and regulations to follow.  When you take on the yoke of Jesus you are making a commitment to follow His teaching.  Jesus was able to boil his teaching down to one rule.

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5:14 (NIV)

That makes for a very light burden.

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Sharing the Good News

When Jesus sent his apostles out to begin their own personal ministry, he empowered them with the ability to heal the sick and drive out demons.  He also spent some time offering them clear instructions on what to expect along the way.  Some of these instructions are important lessons that apply to our own relationship with Jesus and to our efforts to share the gospel.

If you are a Christian, much of the world is hostile to your point of view.  The devil is in control of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and he is doing everything in his power to challenge those who follow Jesus Christ.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

As followers of Jesus, we have to be on our guard.  Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit with us to guide the way.  As long as we maintain our connection to Jesus, we will be protected and acknowledged before God.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 10:32-33 (NIV)

As harsh as it may seem, our family ties can be infiltrated by the devil.  Jesus makes it clear that our family relationships are not as important as our relationship with Him.  Our love for Jesus is equal to our love for God and this should be the foundation of our affections.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Matthew 10:37 (NIV)

Finally, when we venture out to share the gospel with anyone we are traveling with Jesus.  And if we are traveling with Jesus, we are doing God’s work.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”  Matthew 10:40 (NIV)

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is paramount.  There is nothing more important.  Our eternal existence depends on our connection to Jesus.  This is why we should be diligent about sharing that connection with others.  Those closest to us should be first on our list.  This is not about banging anyone over the head with the Bible.  This is about letting your light shine in such a way that those around you will want to know the source of your joy.  When that question comes, it is the duty of every Christian to be ready with an answer (1 Peter 3:15).   Praise God for empowering all believers with the Holy Spirit.  Praise Jesus for walking with us every step of the way.  Like the apostles, we also are called to serve God by serving others.

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

The Harvest Field

Jesus began His ministry with the Sermon on the Mount in which He painted a graphic picture of the kingdom of heaven.  He demonstrated His authority by His miracles – healing the sick, driving out demons, and raising the dead.  As word got out, the crowds grew and there were more people eager to hear His teaching than He could possibly attend to.  For this reason Jesus anointed his twelve disciples to begin teaching on His behalf.

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

The disciples were to proclaim the coming kingdom of heaven.  This mission is the same mission assigned to all believers today.  Jesus Christ came to earth to gather His sheep and shepherd them into His kingdom.

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”  Matthew 10:7

During the ministry of Jesus, the disciples were given the same miraculous powers of healing that He had.  This was to be their calling card and a powerful demonstration of their authority to teach on His behalf.

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”  Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Unfortunately, we no longer have these miraculous signs with which to identify true teachers of the gospel.  What we have been left with, is the miraculous Word of God.  We have the complete Biblical text that includes the New Testament’s word-for-word teaching of Jesus.  We have the documented evidence of His miracles and the miracles performed by His disciples.  Today, we identify true teachers of the gospel by their adherence to a strict interpretation of the Bible.

Jesus also instructed his disciples to travel light.  They were to essentially take nothing with them on their journey.  They were to remain in total dependence on the Lord.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.”  Matthew 10:9-10 (NIV)

This is another indicator of a true follower of Jesus Christ that we can look for today.  It is quite obvious that some people who proclaim to be teachers of the Word seem to be more dependent on personal wealth than they are on God.  Of course, we can’t see inside anyone’s heart, but a lavish lifestyle may not be the kind of advocate Jesus would employ.

Finally, Jesus made it clear that His message was only to be delivered to those willing to listen.  The disciples were not instructed to force the good news on anyone.  Today we sometimes see street preachers shouting through a bullhorn to an uninterested crowd.  Based on the instructions of Jesus to His disciples, this would not likely be a method that would receive His approval.

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  Matthew 10:14 (NIV)

The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few today.  Is God calling you out into the field to seek and save the lost?  Jesus teaches to leave your money behind and depend completely on Him.  He also teaches that you are to take His message only to those who are willing to listen.  Your authority is the Word of God.  If you keep these three things in mind, there is no doubt you will reap a bountiful harvest.

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Rock Foundation

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the first major sermon that Jesus delivered, He gave a few tips on what we need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Much of what Jesus shared in the Sermon on the Mount was in contrast to what the religious leaders known as the Pharisees were teaching.  The Pharisees had a long list of rules they believed needed to be followed to enter heaven and they did not accept Jesus as being the Son of God.  Even today we have many religious leaders who espouse misguided regulations rather than depending solely on the work Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.

As we listen to Jesus teach, we discover the path to heaven is far less cumbersome than the Pharisees or today’s legalistic religious leaders would lead us to believe.  Jesus began by encouraging those listening to engage in persistent prayer, expressing their needs to God.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

The pathway to heaven begins with regular communication with God.  Jesus continued by explaining that all the laws found in the Bible can be summed up in the simple understanding that we need to love our neighbor.  If we approach every human interaction with love, no one will ever be mistreated.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

Next, Jesus pointed toward the one and only way into heaven – faith in Jesus Christ – not the long complicated path prescribed by the Pharisees or today’s legalistic religious leaders.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

We find this simple explanation of what the Pharisees were missing given in the book of John:

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  John 6:29 (NIV)

In order to drive His point home, Jesus essentially described the Pharisees as false teachers who had nothing to show for their misguided rules and regulations.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”  Matthew 7:16 (NIV)

Jesus was at this time performing extraordinary miracles to demonstrate the authority of his words, but the Pharisees offered nothing but useless thorns.

In conclusion, Jesus tells us if we following the wrong teachers our path to the Kingdom of Heaven will be washed away and destroyed because it is built on unstable ground.  The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  When you stand firmly on that, understand your salvation is secure.

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

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The Plank in Your Eye

During the time of Christ, the religious leaders known as the Pharisees were well known for judging the actions of others.  Jesus was not against judging between good and evil.  Jesus was against assigning motives to someone else’s actions.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  Matthew 7:1 (NIV)

Jesus used a somewhat humorous parable to demonstrate how people often assign false motives to others simply to distract from the glaring misdeeds in their own life.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  Matthew 7:3 (NIV)

Most of us have seen this kind of judgment at some point in our lives.  The guy at work who complains about someone taking home paper clips from the office supplies turns out to be embezzling thousands from the petty cash.  Or the lady next door who complains about clutter in your driveway is a hoarder with a home stuffed full of useless trash.  We all have something we are guilty of and for some reason there are some who want to use that very thing as a weapon of disgrace for others.  In the end, when all is revealed, that kind of person will be judged much more harshly.  Jesus taught that the solution is to avoid that kind of behavior.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

Jesus taught that the real value in life is found when positive reactions to others are the focus of our interactions.  Rather than judging others, we are far better off to offer understanding and actually provide assistance of some kind.

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38  (NIV)

Finally, Jesus made one more important point when providing this important lesson.  Jesus made it clear that those who participate in this kind of judgment will likely not be interested in hearing the truth about their behavior; therefore, it’s useless to try to educate them.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.”  Matthew 7:6 (NIV)

Jesus was directing his distain directly at the Pharisees who consistently acted in a manor contrary to this teaching.  The Pharisees were religious leaders who allowed their own self-interest to cloud the true desires of God.  There is no religious leader or set of rules and regulations that can provide you with righteousness.  Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can cover all your sins and render you acceptable to God.   Praise God for sending His Son!

All scripture references are linked to Bible Gateway so that you can read each verse in context.  Bible Gateway allows you to change the verse to your favorite translation and compare it side-by-side with multiple translations.  In addition, you can select to hear an audio version of any verse by clicking on the speaker icon.  Keep the Bible Gateway App on your phone so that you can visit the Word of God at any time during your day.

Trust the Pilot

When we get on an airplane to fly across the country, we have to put our trust in the pilot and the airplane in which we are flying.  We may not understand how spinning fans can lift a machine weighing several hundred thousand pounds off the ground.  We likely have no clue what kind of training the pilot had or how many years he has been flying.  We have not looked over the maintenance record of the aircraft.  And we have not given the pilot a full medical exam.  Typically we just buckle our seat belt and try to enjoy the ride.  An airplane ride is not a significant part of our life – it is just a form of transportation.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made the point that obsessing over the daily necessities of life and the accumulation of wealth is a distraction from what is really important.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”  Matthew 6:25 (NIV)

On the airplane ride, there isn’t any amount of worrying that will cause the craft to fly better or give the pilot additional wisdom.  Worrying in the passenger’s seat of an airplane is useless.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

The airline company you are flying with, keeps a maintenance record that assures your airplane is mechanically fit and they also have a training routine that keeps your pilot fit.  Even if these things have been neglected, there’s nothing you can do about it.  It is a much better use of your time to focus on the reason you are making the trip.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Jesus taught that we are to trust God.  The kingdom of heaven is our ultimate destination and we are to focus on that goal.  When we worry about our personal wealth we substitute that for focusing on serving God by serving others. Jesus taught that we are to dedicate our lives to serving God and allow Him to fly the airplane.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

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