The Sower and the Seed

Matthew 13

matthew 13_23 a

Please don’t let the author’s name shock you from reading his crafty prose.

Nailed it!

 

Parable of the Sower

By Spock the Vegan

 

Jesus told of a certain man

who planted seeds in his land.

Some seeds were seen where they lay

by birds that came and ate them away.

Some fell where they had not much earth

and sprung up, but water was dearth.

when the sun came up they were dried,

and without much root, they died.

And some seeds fell among the weeds

the weeds sprung up and choked those seeds.

but others fell into good ground,

and brought forth the best fruit around.

 

The seeds are your testimony of God and his word.

The birds are evil people who change what you heard.

The shallow earth is the tribulation that is brought,

and without good root your testimony is naught.

The weeds are temptations of riches and power

that give your testimony no support or bower.

The good ground is the nourishment of friends and God’s word.

The fruit is good deeds by your testimony stirred.

 

Submitted by Julie Driskill

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The 5 W’s of Coaching the Dream Team

Matthew 10

matthew 10 32 33

 

WHO will go?

Peter

Andrew

James

John

Philip

Bartholomew

Thomas

Matthew

The other James

Thaddaeus

Simon

Judas

 

In today’s reading we observe Jesus delivering the ultimate pep talk to the “Dream Team” – excluding one. (Spoiler alert: by the end of the Book of Matthew it will be abundantly clear that one of these gentleman will be ejected from the team.) This pre-game speech comes on the heels of Jesus overwhelmed with the needs of the people he’s encountered in the past few weeks. He needs help, so he enlists these 12 with quite a rallying cry. They will soon be experiencing “on the job training” and his instructions are enduring.

 

WHERE will they travel?

Jesus makes it explicitly clear just where the “Dream Team” is to deliver his message: the lost sheep of Israel. (verse 5) “Don’t go to the Gentiles or any Samaritan village.” It was not quite time to take this radical message to the other communities. Perhaps Jesus thought the message would be better received first within Jewish circles since prophecies had been foretold for HUNDREDS of years regarding his coming? (Or not.) Doesn’t take long before the hometown crowd turns from cheers to jeers as the game progresses and one of those “Dream Team” players plots to sabotage the whole tournament.

 

WHAT will they say?

“The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (verse 7) This is the message the disciples are to deliver. They will proclaim this message of power and authority given to them by Christ himself when they demonstrate these actions: 1) Heal the sick. 2) Raise the dead. 3) Cleanse those who have leprosy. 4) Drive out demons.

 

Sure Jesus… Need anything else?

 

As you might imagine, this is quite a directive, and he wasn’t quite done instructing. “Travel light” was just the tip of the iceberg. For the rest of the chapter Jesus spells out what to keep an eye out for. He tells you not to get discouraged even though you should expect to be unwelcomed, flogged, arrested, hated, persecuted, abandoned and lied about by your family, and most likely, killed. Where can I sign up?

 

WHY & WHEN will this occur?

My favorite verses of why this is all to occur shoots from verses 16 & 17. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Beth Moore, a renowned Bible teacher recently tweeted it best,

“What I think has happened here is that in our discipleship, we are not teaching what is normative in the believing life. When we carry our cross and we follow Jesus, we are walking into a storm. We were told that in Matthew 10 we will be ‘sheep among wolves,’ not wolves among sheep.”

Beth goes on to further tweet that “sheep among wolves” means Christians will be “persecuted,” “criticized,” “imprisoned” and even killed for speaking the truth.

“We have been very proud of the fact that we have not subscribed to a prosperity gospel. But what we have subscribed to is a pampered gospel where we are so afraid of suffering and we are so afraid someone is going to criticize us and hurt our feelings.”

 

Hello. That sounds just like January 15, 2019, and speaks to WHEN. Once again we see that God’s word is timeless and a double-edged sword for all generations cutting to the heart of the problem. Whatever it takes, no matter how unpopular, we must contend for the gospel. Just like Jesus called the disciples to move out of their “comfort zones,” we too must grow a thicker skin. Beth’s final tweet about this subject sums it up:

“All that stands between us & an astonishing work of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Quit being scared of rocking a boat that has run aground on an island of compromise. Walk on water.”  

 

What would our lives and our futures look like if we invested our earthly time and resources into eternal values?  How would you live if you were completely confident that every act of love, service, or unselfishness would carry reward where it mattered (and lasted) most – even if nobody in your neighborhood, church, or community ever noticed? “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Verse 42).

 

We are now mid-January. How many of us have long forgotten our resolutions for the New Year? Jesus was trying to teach his “Dream Team” to not focus on the here-and now. Instead of looking for New Year’s resolutions we can keep, what if we tried finding some that could actually keep us.

Sign me up. Lord, please teach me to play on your team!

-Julie Driskill

I Want to Know What Love Is

1 john 4_16

At this time of year, I usually think about the resolutions that I want to make and mine usually include some method of time management so I have time for the people and things that I truly love.

I love the scriptures.  Why? Because through these scriptures God reveals who He is and He is amazing. The Bible is a message from God. This message is essential for every human being. After all we are created in His image so it makes sense that He wants us to understand what life is truly about.  He also explains why He created us in the first place. What purpose we should fulfill as we live out this life as His children. He also provides us with the message of our future, our hope.  The scriptures explain why God gave us His Son and what Jesus did and said. God explains how we can receive some present blessings while we patiently wait for future rewards including immortality in His Kingdom. Wow!

Why does God offer us all of this? He loves us. Now I know at this point we would all say, “Of course He does, we all know that”. But we need to be constantly reminded because while we face the struggles of life, we can forget that message of love. Christ warned us that in the last days because of the increase of wickedness, that the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:12), but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. So how do we keep our love for others and God strong?

In 1 John 4:7&8 we read, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So we can rely on God to provide us with His love. A love from God gives us the ability to love God with all that we are – to love with our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).

Lets return to 1 John 4, verse 16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

So the Word of God is important to me because it is a message of love. A message that God loves us so much that he wants to live with us eternally.

-Rebecca Dauksas

God’s Word in My Life

isaiah 55 11

                I grew up in the Church.  From the time I was a baby I’ve been in Church.  I’ve been taught the Bible my entire life.  As a preacher’s kid I sat and listened to my dad preach every Sunday.  I remember as a child sitting in Sunday School and being captivated by the flannel graph stories (look it up, it’s a real thing).  I would see the picture of the ark, and the different animals gathered 2×2 going into the ark.

                I still have my first Bible.  It was an illustrated children’s Bible, it had a zippered case.  I read the Bible stories and enjoyed looking at the pictures.  When I was six my mom taught me to say the 66 books of the Bible in order.  It made it much easier to follow along and look up verses.  I could also easily win the “sword drills” a kind of contest to see who could look up various verses the fastest.  I even learned to memorize some verses.  John 3:16, Psalm 23 and John 11:35 were some of my early favorites.  I like John 11:35 because at church camps they often had you quote a verse from memory as you were in the lunch line.  John 11:35 was the shortest and easiest verse in the whole Bible to memorize: “Jesus wept.”

                I was baptized when I was eleven and I began to take my Bible study more seriously.  I would read whole chapters and whole books of the Bible.  I became aware that not all people read the Bible exactly the same way.  The Church I attended came to certain conclusions about what the Bible said, and people of different denominations came to different conclusions.  Sometimes their conclusions didn’t make sense to me and I wondered why they didn’t see things the same way that my Church did.  I puzzled over this for many years.

                When I graduated from high school and began college my goal was to become a doctor.  I wanted to help people, and make a decent living.  Doctors checked off both those boxes.  But while I was in college I got a part time job working in a Christian bookstore.  I had some friendly discussions with my boss who was a Christian but from a different denomination.  As I shared with him what I believed he shocked me by saying that he didn’t think what I believed was right, and he wasn’t convinced that it was Christian.  Now I had a job on my hands.  To show from the Bible that what I believed was indeed Christian.  He and I spent the next year debating the Bible.  Literally, he would make a premise and give his defense.  I would read it, and write my response.  Then I would make a premise and give my defense, and he would read it and give his response.  Over the next year we traded hundreds of pages.  I found myself staying up late every night pouring through the Bible looking up verses (this was long before internet searches).  I was thinking about the Bible day and night.  So much so that I wasn’t really spending much time reading the class material at college.  Somehow economics, biology, philosophy, psychology and sociology just weren’t as interesting to me as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

                One night I realized that what I really enjoyed doing was studying the Bible.  Then I realized that if this was my passion then it didn’t make sense to study to become a doctor, I should study to become a pastor.  I made my decision to leave the university and to attend Bible College. (By the way, you don’t need to become a pastor in order to make the Bible central to your life.  We need good doctors, lawyers, teachers, carpenters, mothers and ditch diggers who immerse themselves in the Bible as well.)

                As I was getting ready to leave for  Bible college I said my goodbyes to my friends and co-workers.  After a year of studying and debating the Bible with me my boss said, “You haven’t convinced me to believe as you believe, but you have convinced me that what you believe is Christian.”  I felt I had achieved a small win.

                For more than 30 years I’ve been reading, meditating upon, teaching, preaching, writing about, and counseling others with the Bible.  It is the foundation of my whole life.  I’ve read small passages slowly and repetitively so they could sink deeply in (lectio divina).  I’ve read large portions quickly to see the grand sweep of God’s story.  I once read the entire Bible in a two week period of time.  (8 hours a day for 2 weeks and you can read it cover to cover).  It was amazing!

                Do I regret choosing to be a pastor instead of a doctor?  Well, I make less money as a pastor than I would have made as a doctor.  But I realize something very important.  Doctors are very important but they don’t have all the answers.  This came to light several years ago when I became a hospital chaplain.  One day I was called in to sit with a young mother  whose husband had been in a serious accident.  The doctors were trying to save his life.  She was in the waiting room with two small children hoping that he would survive.  I sat with her and prayed with her.  Eventually, two young doctors came into the waiting room.  They were residents,  which means they were young in their practice.  They stood before the woman and told her that they had done all that they could, unfortunately, they couldn’t save her husband.  They then looked at each other, and then looked at me and said, “We’ll leave you to talk with the chaplain” and they left the room.  I realized that this was what God had called me to be.  The one who people turn to when all else had failed and their world has fallen apart and not even the best of science and technology can fix it.  When all that humanity can do comes up short, we are left with God and God’s Word.  And that is by far the most powerful thing in all the world.  God’s Word Never Fails.  A passage of the Bible that has been important all my life comes from Isaiah 55.  God’s Word will accomplish what God desires.  May you immerse yourself in the only truth that can truly save.

Isaiah 55:6-13

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

J.Jeffrey Fletcher, MDiv, BTh, CSD,  Chaplain, Valley Health

Where’s the Truth?

John 17 17

 

Building off of what a very wise woman shared yesterday in this same FUEL Bible Reading blog, I would also like to focus on the truth of the Bible.

This is what I appreciate most about God’s word. We can trust that it is true.

Culture, morals and laws are always changing. Things that were once taboo, largely in part because of God’s word, are now celebrated. How can we know if those things should be accepted morally or not? God’s word.

Many scientists believe that the entire universe exists only because of an accident, billions of years ago, and that each one of us is a result of billions of small built-up accidents over the last several hundred million years. In other words, there is no purpose or thought behind our existence. How sad is that sentiment? How can we know how we were created and if we truly have a purpose? God’s word.

There are many today that say that once you are dead, that is the end of your existence, and thus, we have no hope for a better future. And there are any numbers of world-ending scenarios that exist as well. But how can we know what our future truly holds? God’s word.

Truth, in the secular world, is always changing, always “evolving.” What is “truth” for one person may not be “truth” for another. That should clearly reveal that at least one person’s “truth” is not truth at all. We obviously need to all have a standard of truth when it comes to such things as morality, our origin and purpose, and our future hope. Thanks be to God that He was so wise as to have others write down and keep for all time the truths of His word.

How can we know that scripture is true? Proverbs 119:160 says that all of God’s words are true. Jesus confirms that God’s word is true in John 17:17. And we can know that Jesus does indeed exist and that God’s word is indeed truth because it has stood up under historical scrutiny, it has correctly predicted hundreds of specific prophecies, and as Hebrews 4:12 says, “…sharper than any double-edged sword, [God’s word] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…”

As yesterday’s devotion pointed out, we need to constantly be in God’s word so that we KNOW the truth that it contains. This is both for our benefit, and for others that we can then share that truth with, as God’s word instructs us. I encourage you to begin and end each day in God’s word, so as to not be swayed by the untruths of this current age.

-Greg Landry

 

Today, we are pleased to have Greg Landry writing on the importance of God’s Word.  Greg and his wife Susan (who wrote yesterday) are active in many ministries.  Greg has a great passion for researching and teaching on the lies of evolution.  His website, https://onegodsixdays.com/, offers readers many opportunities to become better informed on this important topic, which has sadly become a great stumbling block for many young Christians.  Susan has a great blog (https://thesparrowshome.com/) with a good variety of content for faith, family, food, games and homeschool. She has also started a website called http://onelegacy.net/ where she works to provide resources for Biblical Unitarian homeschoolers, families and churches working to actively instill a Godly worldview in their children.  Greg and Susan are a delight as they love and apply God’s Word in their own lives – and help grow that love in others.

The Truth, the Full Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Psalm 119 162 163

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Let’s pray it will be a great year of growth as we strive to follow Him well, relying daily on the truth of His Word.  Today, we welcome Susan Landry with her words of truth, encouragement and challenge as we look to begin our Bible reading plan with Matthew 1 on Sunday, January 6!

 

One of my favorite things about Scripture is my reliance upon the fact that it is totally, completely, absolutely, supremely TRUE.  I’ve become convinced over the years that my feelings lie to me.  As I’ve come to this conclusion, I’ve also come to realize that when my feelings lie to me, the best way to combat that is to tell myself the truth.  This has kind of been my mantra for some time.

But it got challenged recently.

I was feeling discouraged and the thoughts that were running on repeat through my head wouldn’t quit.  I tried my usual weapon of pausing and assessing my feelings to see if I could find the lie and then find a truth to combat it with.  But what I kept coming back to was that what I was feeling discouraged about WAS true.  It was a fact, in fact.

And so I wallowed in my discouragement for a few days, feeling rather hopeless, before God placed a verse in my head…a verse that was also true.  A lightbulb went on as I saw that what had been running through my head was a HALF-truth, it was not the complete truth.

Psalm 119 18 43

I may have screwed up, but the full truth is that God can work with that.  He can bring something good out of it, even.  And because I know His word is true, I can trust that and have hope even when it doesn’t feel true.  My story doesn’t end with a half-truth…and neither does yours.

 

Friends, this is why it’s so important to be in God’s word regularly.  He can’t bring verses to mind if you haven’t read them.  You can’t know the full truth if you aren’t reading it.  I’m so excited to start this New Year of reading the Bible together!

The full truth:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

-Susan Landry

A New Thing for the New Year

Jer 29 13

I thank God for you – the readers who are reading today.

I thank God for those who have written devotions for us for the past two and a half years – and for those who will commit to writing a week in the New Year ahead.

I thank God for what He has done and what He will do!  For me.  For my family.  For the Church of God.  For God’s World and for His Plan for the Ages.  He is always at work!

I thank God for revealing himself through His Word!  How incredible that He has chosen to share Himself with me – and you – there in each and every page, chapter and verse of His Inspired Word.

God can choose to reveal himself in an earthquake, fire or thunder from heaven.  And, sometimes He has and He does and He will.  But more often – each and every day – He is ready to reveal Himself – His love, His faithfulness, His majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His wisdom, His commands, His Son, His plan of salvation, His light, His life, His Coming Kingdom.  God reveals himself to those who seek Him in His Holy Word.

I am excited about a New Year starting this week and I would love to encourage you to join with us at grow16Biblereading.wordpress.com in reading through the New Testament (as well as Proverbs and various theme weeks).  We will be reading one chapter from the Bible every day and you can sign up to receive daily devotions based on the chapter assigned for that day.  Each week we will get to hear the thoughts of another Church of God writer to guide us in seeking Him in His Word.  If you wish to sign up for the daily emails visit https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/.  On your computer – click on the follow button in the right hand column.  On your phone – click Menu, About and then the follow button.

The rest of this week we will be looking at the importance and benefits of God’s Word, and then on Sunday, January 6 we will jump into Matthew chapter 1, reading one chapter each day.  We chose a Bible reading plan that would not be too challenging or daunting for any age or experience level, and could still be combined with another plan for those already committed to a different Bible reading plan.  So grab a friend or family member, youth group or small group to help motivate and build accountability to together spend 2019 seeking Him in His Word.

Praying for Your Faith Walk,

Marcia Railton