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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What Fills YOUR Heart?

Matthew 12

matthew 12 34 b

We find in Matthew 12 that Jesus hasn’t slowed down. In fact, all the surrounding naysayers,  the Pharisees, are turning the criticism up. They were obviously feeling threatened. What I find most interesting though in these 50 verses is how familiar it all sounds. Just like then, the Pharisee in many of us now is also killing the mission and effectiveness of the church too.

 

Not uncommon in today’s age is to view a Pharisee as bad, yet the Pharisees were, to some extent, well-meaning people. They studied the law and knew it as well as anyone. Some were sincerely seeking God. After all, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both Pharisees, arranged for Jesus’ burial. They were sympathetic to Christ and, from what I can tell, ultimately ended up following him. The mission of the early church was radically advanced by a converted Pharisee – Paul. The irony is the people who declared to love God the MOST ultimately killed his offspring when he showed up to heal and teach the nation.

 

Rightfully, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their pride, lack of compassion and hypocrisy. Observe some of their exchanges in this one chapter alone and you might find it leaving a bad taste in your mouth, too. They were always trying to trip him up and I can’t recall one time where he was praised for his tireless work.  In verse 34 Jesus compares the Pharisees to a cluster of snakes and remarks “for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” How all too often do I find myself under pressure or stressful situations looking to my own self-justification and self-importance, just like the Pharisees. Denying God is exactly what I do when my attitude justifies me more than reflecting the heart and love of Christ.  

 

The religious leaders of the time were obsessed by their rules and detailed interpretations of the Old Testament law but they had largely ignored the key points of it – justice, mercy and faith. Oh that we learn this lesson in our congregations today opening wide the doors to welcome in the broken, bruised and hurting. Jesus is interested with reality. It is easy to pretend that everything is okay and that we have everything together. If we want to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t that is up to us, but we shouldn’t expect other people to live up to the standards that we are pretending to live by.

 

The gig is up for me. I won’t do it anymore. My heart is full and declaring just like Paul that “but for the grace of God go I.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) I am imperfect and Jesus is restoring me everyday. Use me, Lord, as you will to build your church.

 

-Julie Driskill

The Weight of Sorrow

Matthew 11

Matthew 11 28.png

 

There is a destiny that makes us brothers:

None goes his way alone;

All that we send into the lives of others

Comes back into our own. —Markham

 

Today’s chapter is a solemn one for me. Jesus just finished the send-off of the 12 disciples out into the proving grounds and I imagine was watchful about the results. As word of the disciples broaden, John the Baptist hears about the Messiah’s latest turn of events and sends a question to Jesus in (verse 3): “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 

This question intrigues me because of what it doesn’t ask. “Why won’t you help me? Do you not care that I sit suffering in this prison cell?” John the Baptist was the cousin, a dear friend, and a mentor of sorts who baptized Christ himself. He knew Jesus and Jesus knew John. They most likely grew up together. Jesus simply replied, (verse 4-6)  “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

 

While this is a message of good report for the current gospel cause, what strikes me is what isn’t said to his friend. John would surely have known by this response that Jesus was referring to Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6, or 61. These were the credentials of sorts that the coming Messiah would fulfill. Isaiah 61 is one of the most famous passages using phrases of comfort  like “ bind up the brokenhearted,” “proclaim freedom for captives,” and “release prisoners from darkness.” Yet, Jesus doesn’t convey any of THOSE phrases in the reply to John because he knew they couldn’t be upheld. Silence often speaks louder than words.

 

Have you ever had a friend or family member truly in sorrow and are unable to comfort them due in part to the schedule you must maintain? Maybe they were grieving a death, consequence, job loss, betrayal, or abandonment. You want nothing more than to stop everything and sit with them in their sorrow and to share the load. I have to believe this is what Christ wanted more than anything with John the Baptist, but his circumstances made this impossible and he ultimately knew that freeing John from prison was not the will of the Father. John was soon to die. Jesus sent a loving message of “omittance,” perhaps suggesting that he had not forgotten John, nor his sufferings. The tribute upon which Jesus bestows upon John in the next 14 verses following this makes me believe he was hurting for his brother. He wanted nothing more than to comfort, but his schedule and AGENDA would not allow.    

 

Jesus models a very important lesson here and later in Matthew 14 upon reaction to the terrible death of John the Baptist. SOMEtimes the best way to ease heartache is by getting back to work. Use your grief to empower your ministry. Rather than turning in on yourself and thinking “woe is me,” turn outward to serve and to love the crowds. It is ok to cry. It is ok to mourn for lost people or situations, but we must not let our emotions turn inward for long, lest it becomes pity. In our brokenness God is able to use us mightily. In desperation our dependence on Him will serve as a powerful testimony to a lost and dying world.

 

Is your heart broken today? Does life seem empty? Do you feel like giving up? Take hope in the example of Jesus. Take up whatever duties lie before you and dedicate them to God. Refuse the luxury of self-pity. Do something to lift the burdens of others and Jesus will strengthen you.

The final verses (28 – 30) of Matthew 11 confirm this truth. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.”

 

When you serve others you will find yourself.

 

-Julie Driskill

 

matthew 11 29

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

His Compassion

MATTHEW 9

matthew 9 36 redo

In this chapter we see that Jesus and the disciples are continuing an active pace proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. This lively passage not only records 6 healing incidents, but also shows 3 incidents where the teachers of the law are becoming rattled by the actions and rising popularity of Jesus.

Ready for anything and everything, the action rolls out as follows for Jesus and the disciples: 1) heals a paralyzed man, 2) calls Matthew the tax collector, 3) stops a hemorrhage in a woman, 4) raises a dead girl, 5) gives sight to 2 blind men, 6) and loosens the tongue of a mute man

Not only was Christ seemingly running a mobile emergency room, he was “hiring” new workers, contending with naysayers, and stopping to notice the big picture of the work ahead.

Verse 36 takes my breath away. “He saw the crowds and had compassion on them.” We are not lost in a crowd to Him. He knows our name and our needs. There is no end to His goodness. No bottom to the well. You can’t wear Jesus out. He’s not running on low. He’s not in a bad mood because it’s you again. “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

then he said to his disciples, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

The biggest problem in these 38 verses is that Jesus needed assistance to support the needs of the “harassed & helpless.” Nothing’s changed. May God stir your heart and mine this day to be a worker fit and ready to support the hurting. Let God’s “grace upon grace” compel us to action to not overthink but DO!

-Julie Driskill

Overthink & Under-do

matt 8 27

Day One of Ramblings on Matthew 8-14

 (I promise that Day Two will NOT be this long.)

Matthew 8 – 14 are interesting and BUSY chapters. When asked to write a devotion on these passages I considered many responses to the behaviors, wisdom, and wanderings of a few weeks of action from the life and times of my fascinating, jaw-dropping Jesus. Which therein lies the problem or the solution, I guess it all depends on how you want to look at it. “Overthink and Under-do”- a reoccurring, self-inflicting disorder that tends to roost, set up shop in my head, and consistently sabotage my intentions of greater good and productivity. When I cannot deliver on my promises, it literally turns me into the mother of all Grumpy Cats. Meow.

 

So, for the love and spirit of a new year’s endeavor, I have decided to take a stab at defeating this affliction that I’ve affectionally deemed, Thought Diarrhea, and use a different approach this week for the FUEL devotion writing campaign that might trick me into greater productivity and bundles of happiness. Consider yourself warned. I will simply be drafting thoughts over the next week regarding the chapters of Matthew 8 -14 that would be worthy of a daily Facebook post.

 

I am not a scholar, nor ever professed to be. I promise to be real and I’ll try to be interesting. I might be occasionally witty with undertones of sarcasm, but no promises. Would I love to spend several hours daily pouring over commentaries and exploring other viewpoints from most-worthy authors, 100% YES! Do I have the time, energy, or mental focus to pull that off this week or any week for that matter in the next projected 15 years of my life, 500% NO!!

Hence, proceed with viewer discretion.

 

****Disclaimer****

While I often enjoy kind-hearted (if spirited) debates, please be advised that Senora Grumpy Cat transforms into Mrs. Malevolent Raging Lioness who hasn’t eaten in a “month of Sundays” when smart people start stupid arguments, especially when others are disrespected. Disagree with me all you want, but please don’t intimidate others into submission if you choose to sound in on what I have intentionally or unintentionally implied. Everyone deserves an opinion- a voice. I will defend it with wild abandon. Roar.

 

And now, without any further ado, Matthew 8:

 

Jesus is literally coming down from the mountain when he steps into the saga of Matthew 8.

The mountainside where he delivered the longest, most radical speech and teaching of his life. A speech that the last two verses of Chapter 7 says “astonished the crowds.” They were lit. (That means “beside themselves with amazement and wonder” for all those over 25 reading this post.) And who could blame them? They had never heard anyone speak or teach with his manner or authority. After delivering this brilliant, thought-provoking discourse he is besieged with the needs and requests of his ever-growing crowd of fans. This is the backdrop for the action of the next 34 verses of chapter 8.

 

Buckle up. In the first seventeen verses we find these healing ventures: 1) a leper who didn’t follow directions, 2) the paralysis of a servant for a non-Jew (a Roman centurion, no less) that rendered him nearly speechless, 3) a fever in a woman who jumped from the bed and then finished cooking dinner and tending to their needs, 4) a crowd of demon-possessed people who forced Jesus and his disciples to catch a boat to the other side of the lake in order to find some peace and quiet. And I thought I was busy.

 

Amid the next 5 verses is an interesting piece of dialogue that transpires. Perhaps my favorite. No one would deny it is tough to follow Jesus, but the cost sometimes is unimaginable, inconceivable, and quite frankly, a little harebrained. This crowd that had formed wanted more and more of Jesus. One of the groupies told him he would “follow him wherever he would go,” (verse 19), but Jesus saw through his zeal and delivered a mic drop response. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (verse 20) No home. No RV. No tent or park bench. Not even a stinkin’ memory foam pillow. Just a ticket to ride that consisted of hundreds of miles by foot and an occasional boat or donkey if they were lucky. All, or any aboard? (Funny, we never hear about that man again.)

 

If this isn’t hard enough, one of the disciples sensing the tone of Jesus then turns to him and asks that he might be excused to return and bury his father before continuing. Jesus’ response; “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (verse 22)

 

Whoah, kinda harsh. “Uh Jesus, take two? Sure you don’t need a little caffeine, or how about a short nap before the next swarm of people arrive?”

 

Many traditions and duties were followed at this time that could have possibly waylaid this man’s service with Christ, especially when it came to burial. Jesus was most likely stressed from all the latest activity and found it as another teachable moment with an exclamation mark at the end! He let the disciples know in no uncertain terms that following him meant putting your own desires second to his. Jesus is to come first. It is an extraordinary sacrifice to show a sincere attachment to Jesus. Jesus wants followers, not part-time workers or even managers. He wants those who are spiritually alive to be instruments of the gospel preaching and reaching the people of the world. Nothing is more important, and nothing ever will be.  Step up and strap on if you are serious about this Jesus thing. Son of God don’t play, especially after a day like this one.

 

We find at verse 23 that they are finally on the boat crossing the lake. Jesus gets to take that long-deserved nap and suddenly, the plot thickens. A “furious storm” sweeps waves over the boat, terrifying even the most seasoned fishermen among them. Jesus is snoring. Horrified, they wake Jesus hoping he will save them before they all drown. He turns to them and pans, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (verse 26) He casually turns to the wind and waves, ushering them to “cut it out.” All is well.  I assume this is where he resumed his nap. Disciples are picking their jaws up off the bottom of the boat and they arrive on the other side of the lake.

 

As if the past 27 verses aren’t packed with enough action and wonder, we round out this chapter with the last bizarre 7. Two freakishly violent demon possessed men run from a cave to “welcome” Jesus and the crew. The demons in the men beg Jesus not to torture them and instead ask, “Drive us out by sending us into those nearby grazing herd of pigs.” (verse 31) The rest is history. The poor disturbed pigs become so frightened they charge down the steep embankment and drown their sorrows and themselves in the same lake. This has been an exchange of odd proportions, but we’re not done yet. Verse 34 remarks that the townspeople were so outraged by the events and Jesus that they PLED for him to leave their region. I have experienced “hangry” before, but these people leave me scratching my head. I guess they preferred to live with the two violent demon-possessed cave dwellers and needed Jesus to get out of the way before he cursed any of their other livestock?

 

In conclusion, Matthew chapter 8 is remarkable and perplexing. It leaves me with more questions than answers. The certainty with how Jesus governs and the lengths he endures to seek and save the lost inspires me to keep pressing, even when it gets weird. Not everyone is going to understand. Some people will walk away from you and others will ask you to leave. I can guarantee a life of service to Christ will often be supernatural, strange, swarming, and yet, eventually sure. Following Christ is the best thing I have ever done. The uncertainty and risk pales in comparison to the joy set before us. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Tallyho!

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lost heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

-Julie Driskill