Mommmm! Not in Front of the Guys!

Reading Matthew 20 today, and I realized that the parable of the workers that I wrote about yesterday, the prediction Jesus gives of His death, and the story of James and John's mom in verses 20-28 all fit together.  I've always kind of broke them up, but they actually go together better.

You've got yesterdays story that culminated with "the last will be first and the first will be last".  Then Jesus predicts His death and resurrection.  Then James' and John's mom comes and asks for Jesus to promote her boys to the front of the line.  I've always chuckled at how embarrassing this is.  I think it's funny that we believe that "helicopter parents" are something new, but here she is 2000+ years ago, hovering over her grown boys.  Humiliating.  But more than that, what is she asking?  I always thought she meant for Jesus to promote them in heaven one day.  But I don't think so.  She's asking about when He becomes King here on earth.  What about the whole death/resurrection talk?  I think they just didn't get it, still.  They are looking for a king here.  I've known that, but the story fits together a little better when I look at it as a whole.

So, I guess the question then is what do I need to hear from this?  What does God want us to see?  A couple of possible questions.  They didn't get the whole point in the resurrection/death.  What big point of God's plan are you and I missing?  Where are we wanting Jesus to rule so that we can take some power of our own?  Is Jesus a means to an end for us?  Or is He Himself the goal?

I'll have to think about that one for awhile.

Coming in First/Last

What does it mean for Jesus to say "the last will be first and the first will be last"?  No, really, what does that mean?  In Matthew 20 He tells the story of the guy who hires people to work for him, and pays them all the same, even though they all worked different lengths of time.  When people complain, the landowner says "don't complain because I'm generous".  What does this all mean?

How do I complain to God about His fairness and grace?  I think personally when other people who don't love Jesus get away with stuff, I get upset.  When people around me whine, or lie, and I am expected to work harder to cover for them, I get mad.  When I have to do jobs I don't like, and other people don't, I get indignant.  It's because I forget maybe the key part to the story.  God is the landowner.  No one else is.  I work for Him, no matter what "field" I'm in at the time.  I mean, I serve as a dad, husband, son, friend, co-worker, pastor, mentor, professor, etc.  Each of those is a different "field".  But it's all for my Boss, who owns it all. 

When I remember that He is the One in charge of every facet of my life, that He is the One who has put me there, I calm my little self down a bit.  It's all fair in the grand scheme of things, because the Landowner who oversees it all is full of grace.  Don't worry about it.  Keep moving forward.  It will all work out in the end.

What's in YOUR Wallet?

It's interesting in Matthew 19:16-30, how Jesus lists off the commands for the rich young dude.  You know the story.  Rich young guy comes to Jesus, wants to know what good thing he needs to do to get eternal life.  Jesus tells him to keep the commands.  Which ones, the dude wants to know.  In the list, Jesus jumps to the 10 Commandments.  But do you catch which one He leaves off?  #1.  You will have no other gods before Me.  He leaves off the very first one.

It's the one this guy struggles with the most.  Idolatry.  The guy has cash, and is very attached to it.  Jesus tells him to give it all away, and the dude walks away sad.

What's going on with this?  Is Jesus playing games with Him, or what?  I think Jesus knows the dudes heart, and wants to help him see what's wrong.  The guy lives a good life of honor and morals, and is still unsettled.  All of his money is not making him happy.  It never does.  So Jesus talks about all the stuff he is doing to try and compensate, and then gets to the core issue.  It's the hold your money has on you.  Ditch it.  Cut it free.  Let it go.

I HATE this story.  It hurts.  There are several things I hold on to that I have a hard time letting go of.  Comfort, stability, my need to please others, money, pride, and a long litany of issues.  God wants them all.  Not to punish me, but to make me more like Him, full of faith and trust.

But I fight it.  And often go away sad.

But then, there's hope: "With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

May it be in my life as you have said, God.

May it be.

It's For Keeps

Divorce. Man, its such a tough issue. I hit Matthew 19 this morning, and Jesus is handed the issue of divorce. The scene is He has been healing a large amount of people, and the Pharisee's come to see what Jesus will say about divorce. They ask, "Is it legal for a man to divorce a woman for whatever reason he wants?" This was a common issue then, just like it is today.

Jesus tells them "No. God created marriage for a reason, and He supernaturally joins a man and woman together physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Once He does that, people shouldn't try to tear that apart."

Then they want to know why Moses said to give a woman a certificate of divorce in the Bible? Isn't that Moses condoning divorce?

Jesus tells them, "No. People were divorcing for all kinds of reasons, and the men would just pitch the women out. They couldn't remarry, and they would starve. Moses said if you were going to do it, you had to give her an official document saying you had ended your marriage and she was now single. He did it because you were idiots and hardhearted, not because it is in God's plan. Divorcing someone and remarrying someone else is adultery. If a spouse is guilty of sexual immorality, then it's not good, but you aren't guilty of adultery, because they have already broken the marriage covenant and left."

I love the disciples response. This is what I saw for the first time today. They look at Jesus, and think about it, and tell Him, "If that's the way God sees it, then it's better not to get married. If you have to stay with someone who is difficult, or hurtful, or a pain, and can't leave them, then it's better to be single and celibate." That just hits me as funny. It's like they are incredulous at His idea of marriage, and suddenly want no part of it.

Marriage is tough. Tougher than any unmarried person can understand. That's why we have to choose WHO we marry SO carefully. We don't. We rush into based on feelings and fun. Those aren't enough. And once we're in, we drastically underestimate the power of our words and actions. It all counts. But we need to work it out. There are always exceptions, but the majority of us need to work it out.

It's a tough teaching. That's for sure.

Guest Post: Scott Linscott

I saw Scott's blog post today, and I am posting it in it's entirety. These are not my words, but I wish they were. This is exactly what we are talking about. Please read it.

Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.


We don't fight fair.

Jesus tells a parable about the dude who is forgiven for hundreds of thousands of dollars by a king, and then refuses to forgive someone else a $50 debt. The dude is thrown in prison and loses everything because he was so selfish.

What I noticed today is that Jesus starts the whole deal by explaining that the parable is about the Kingdom of God, and that God will punish us if we are unforgiving. In fact, we will lose everything if we are not willing to forgive others from the heart, it says in verse 35.

Ok, let's all stop for a minute. Do we believe this? Really? I don't live like I do sometimes. I hold a grudge because it's justified. But here's the deal; in the story dude #1 is owed a bill by dude #2. It's a legitimate debt. Dude #1 technically is in the right. This isn't a story about who is right or wrong, or what is fair. It's a story about ridiculous grace, and the blazing expectation by God that we will live reckless lives full of grace and deficient in fairness.

So do we? I like fair, personally. And not just for the deep fried snickers bars. I like it when things are all even-steven, equal across the board. Jesus says dump that, it will land you in Hell. We are a people of grace. Not equality or fairness.

Who needs a heaping dose of undeserved, unmerited forgiveness and grace in your life? Do you have the belief to give it? It's a huge risk if you don't.

(completely unrelated, I noticed this is my 200th post. not sure what that means, but it caught my eye.)

Go, Go, and Go

As a pastor, a lot of people want to tell me what a lot of other people are doing wrong. It's so funny how I constantly find myself in the seat of someone who is expected to be peacemaker/cop for folks in our church.

I'm not talking about the people who come to me and ask for me to pray for them for their issues, nor am I talking about the folks who come in and tell me about their personal problems, and want help to resolve them.

I'm talking about the people who are mad at someone else, and want me to go fix things for them. This is why Matthew 18:15-20 is so important in our church. It lays out a plan to take responsibility for ourselves. If someone else is sinning, go talk to them yourself. If they won't listen, take a couple of neutral people, and go talk to them again. If that doesn't work, then involve the church and the leadership. If that doesn't solve it, then it is safe to assume that they are not following God and treat them like a friend who doesn't know Jesus.

It's a simple plan. But it takes courage and humility to do well. What if we all lived by this set of guidelines though? Man, things would run so much better.

So, I really want to push all of us, let's make a habit of dealing with conflict among ourselves the way Jesus lays out His plan. It works. I've seen it work. And it gives Him a chance to bring healing.

Well worth the effort.

Getting Jacked by Jesus is No Fun

I admit it. I don't get Matthew 17:14-21. I thought about skipping it, but that's not honest. I look at this story, and am confused. A kid has seizures, and his dad begs the disciples for help. They can't heal him. The dad comes to Jesus and tells Him, and it seems like He goes postal on them. He calls them an unbelieving and perverse generation, and asks how long He has to put up with them.

I simply can not imagine standing there and taking that from Jesus. It had to be heart breaking. He rails on them for their lack of faith. He heals the kid, and doesn't get on the kid about a lack of faith, or the father about a lack of faith. He just heals the kid. But He is all over the disciples.

In other places He shows frustration with them, but not to this level. Maybe it's because it just followed the Transfiguration. Maybe that's why He is so upset. I don't honestly know.

Lord, do you get that mad with me? Do I frustrate you to this level? Clearly it's not sin to be frustrated at them. They were wrong. Somehow their lack of faith was sin on their part. That is what angers God: sin. Please help me to live in such a way you don't have to look at me with disgust. Please help me, Lord. Please.

It's a Private Party, Right?

I think Matthew 17:1-13 might be some of the most understated story telling ever. You have Jesus taking three of his friends out alone on a camping trip. While they are up on this mountain, Moses and Elijah, who by the way have been dead for hundreds of years, show up. Jesus talks with them, and Peter, James, and John watch. Somehow, Peter recognizes who the dead guys are, maybe Jesus called them by name, and decides to interrupt the conversation. Now, I don't know about you, but if Jesus is talking to dead people, who I can see, I'm not interrupting. But Peter decides to. So he butts in and says to Jesus "I know you haven't thought about this, but we'd like to stay here with you guys. This is WAY cool, and we could build some little buildings and just live here, the six of us. We'll even build shelter for the three of you, since living dead people need shelter."

But Jesus' Dad isn't keen on it. He shows up and tells them that Jesus is His son, He's proud of Him, so be quiet and listen to Him. Well, that freaks out the three, and it's not so fun being there anymore. They hit the deck, terrified. Jesus tells them to get up and quit freaking out, and when they look, the whole little paradise is ruined and its just them and Jesus.

The party's over.

No shelters.

No living dead famous people.

No chance of escaping life and living in a private heaven.

Peter, and probably James and John, missed it. They saw something amazing. They were part of it. It blew their minds. They never felt so close to God. They loved it. They wanted to keep it like that forever. I mean, surely this was the logical result of following Jesus, of working so hard to serve the poor, to study the Scriptures, to take misunderstood abuse from others, to sacrificing so much to become who God wanted them to be. It had all lead to this glorious moment. They were there. They were in it. They wanted to keep it!

And God said no.

Because they missed it. The moment wasn't about them. It was about Jesus. He needed to speak with Moses and Elijah. They got to sit on the front row and see what Jesus was doing. But it wasn't about them. It never was, it never would be. It was about Him. And when they tried to claim ownership, it faded from view and was gone.

Yeah, see where this goes. I do THAT all the time. Jesus is working, its amazing, and I want to freeze life in that moment. I want to stay in that sweet spot, and never leave. God works at camp on a bunch of kids, a family trusts Jesus in a tough time and the blessings and miracles flow, God blesses my family in some crazy way, and I want it to last forever. Surely this was the goal all along. This is where I was trying to get to. I deserve to stay here.

And then it's gone.

It's about Him. I'm just along for the ride.

And He tells me, let's go back down the mountain to the poor, the hurting, the needy, the broken. That's our goal. That's where we are supposed to be.

Listen to me, He says. I'm the beloved Son. I know what I'm doing.

Even Jesus Could Stumble

After Jesus feeds the four thousand in Matthew 16, He is talking to the disciples and begins to explain to them the plan to go to Jerusalem, suffer, and raise from the dead after three days. Peter comes in what looks like love and tells Jesus that they can't let that happen. But Jesus says that it's Satan and its a stumbling block to Him because its worried about human concerns, not God's concerns.

What a blow to Peter this must have been! But what is going on with this? Obviously Peter isn't possessed by Satan. But He is listening to Satan and speaking His words, which are disguised as love. Peter was fooled by it, and became a temptation to Jesus to take the easier way out.

Two things I see here. One, Satan will convince us that his way is the way of love, and God's way is a crazy punishment to be avoided. We have to walk carefully and not just trust our emotions and first impulses to show what we think is "love" to others. It might be an evil plan. God doesn't fear pain. He embraces it and uses it to heal. Don't try to pull people from pain all the time. Peter's reply should have been more along the lines of "I will follow you, even if you leave me". Instead it was "You can't go".

Second, Jesus didn't want to die. It was tempting to tell Peter "Ok, I'll stay". But He is so focused on God's plan verses His fears, it scares Him and angers Him. What am I afraid of obeying in today? Jesus understands. He has stood in the shoes of someone struggling to obey.

Long Distance Miracle

The passage in Matthew 15:21-28 is a tough one. You have this woman who is not a Jew come to Jesus and beg Him to heal her possessed daughter. Jesus doesn't answer her. She keeps after them to the point of driving the disciples nuts, and they want her sent away. When they ask Jesus to get rid of her, His answer is interesting. He says "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." That answer would have made sense if they were asking Jesus to heal her daughter, but they weren't. They said "Get rid of her." You would think His answer would be like "You send her away" or "Let her follow us, she is doing no harm" or something dealing with whether or not to get rid of her. Instead, He throws out a "theological" answer dealing with whether or not she qualifies for His help. "I was only sent to help lost followers of God" is what He says.

She comes in front of Him and begs for help. His answer again is based on this idea of who He is there to help. "I am here to help those who are seeking God", at which point she proves with her humility that she is a God follower. He then tells her that her daughter is healed, and He doesn't even go see the daughter. He healed the daughter based on the mom's faith.

It's a really different story. It seems that He loves to work with people who aren't Jews, and heal their kids from a distance. He does it with the centurion's servant, and some others as well. So, what's His point?

It's not about the systems we think God cares about. He is focused on who lives out a vibrant faith, not what their background is. Does a person believe that Jesus is God, and do they act on it? Yes? Great! Drop the rest of the requirements, He will bless them.

The challenge is in digging in my own life and rooting out where I am more traditional Jew than I am Canaanite mom. Where am I counting on my understanding of God's system and not really running to Him, begging and trusting for mercy and power? I don't like this question, because it pokes deep in my soul and brings up long ignored sin.

Why does the Bible have to be such a living book, anyway?

With Jesus in the Boat...

Jesus walks on water in Matthew 14. A hundred books and a million sermons have been done on this passage, and all for good reason. It's amazing! I've caught at different times the importance of prayer that Jesus shows by praying through the night. I've read "You Gotta Get Out of the Boat" if you want to make a difference. I've taught on how Peter sank when he quit looking at Jesus, and we do too.

But today, one little detail came up that I personally hadn't registered with before. Jesus gets in the boat with Peter at the end of the story and the wind dies down. Clearly, Jesus has control over the storms. There's the other story where He's asleep and the storm hits and He tells the wind to be quiet, and it is. So what's the deal here. His feet hit the boat and the storm is over. It would have been more impressive for Him to calm the storm while He was in the middle of it, standing on the water. That would have been a great sermon illustration. But He doesn't. He doesn't even speak to it in this story. Why?

I'm not certain, after all He IS God, and His ways are beyond me. But could it be that the storm was all for the disciples? I mean, it says Jesus immediately put them in a boat and sent them out, then He goes to pray, then the storm hits them. They go through all of this fear (storm, it's a ghost, Peter sinking, etc) but then it all just dies away when Jesus hits the boat. It kind of seems like the storm was engineered in a sense for their sakes. Jesus doesn't respond to a storm that happened to hit them. It kind of looks like He created it and put them in the middle of it.

This goes back to something I learned a while back. Jesus isn't afraid of pain like we are. He embraces it here on this planet as part of the good plan for us. He walks into the middle of it and redeems it. The storm wasn't His worry, the disciples faith in Him was His focus.

I wonder what storms around me right now are here so that I might learn better? Which ones will stop the minute Jesus steps in the boat with me? Never a boring moment with Him, that's for sure.

A Tale of Two Kings

John the Baptist is beheaded. Jesus feeds the five thousand. Why are these stories back to back in Matthew 14?

You've got Herod, ruler by force, living in fear. He makes a rash promise in a setting he should never be in to a girl he shouldn't be around. His power and authority have went to his head, and so John loses his. Herod is a hated king who has everything he could want, and is completely unhappy and afraid. He's so paranoid that He claims Jesus is John reincarnated, even though Jesus and John were the same age. His power corrupts.

You've got Jesus, ruler by God's decree, living in compassion. He sees people hurting, and in the midst of His own pain, He serves them and heals them. His disciples show care for the people, and Jesus gives out of His own heart, allows God to use Him, and feeds them all more than they can eat. Jesus is a misunderstood king who gave up everything, to come serve in love and courage. He knows Who He is and Whose He is. His power transforms.

You and I are offered a taste of both powers. We have money, people, and toys that can try to satisfy any desire we have. We can create kingdoms around us that rival Herod's, and we live with so many resources that each of us can truly create our own kingdom. (You don't think you are better off than a king in Biblical times? Did he have air conditioning, running water, a refrigerator, Internet, or a microwave? He would have paid royally for any one of those items. We are living in our own personal kingdoms today.) But if we live for this power, build these kingdoms, we end up in the same place as Herod; delusional, paranoid, and unhappy.

We can also choose the other Kingdom, the other Power. Christ still offers the same compassion and love to us that He offered them. Now, He gets to be King, not us. But the rewards are amazing. We are loved, cared for, healed, and fed.

Which Kingdom will you live in today? It's a daily choice.


It's so funny to me when I have the chance to go back to my hometown in Covington, VA and talk to people. When my mom still lived there, we would travel back a couple of times a year to see her, and meet up with some of my childhood friends. Often, my pastor would let me do the Sunday morning service as well. Here I was, 15 years after I had left the town. I had been a pastor for over a decade at that time, had a Master's degree in ministry, had served in Chicago, and had spoke hundreds of times. But whenever I stepped in that pulpit in Covington, I became something else. I would pray, and deliver the message as best I could, and once it was over, everyone wanted to discuss one thing: my bike. They wanted to talk about how I was always doing tricks on my bmx bike as a kid, how I was in the paper, did I still ride my bike, how funny it was to watch me ride my bike, etc. I never got past being the 16 year old bmx guy from Covington. I just learned to laugh with them, and understand that it was part of the deal.

Then I read in Matthew 13 where the people in Jesus' hometown admit that He has great wisdom and miraculous powers. They saw the proof, the credentials. But they couldn't get past the fact that He had grown up there, they knew Him as a kid. His mom and family still lived there, for Pete's sake. They were offended that He had the audacity to come in and teach them anything.

I've always commiserated with Jesus, and felt like I understood on a very, very small level how He felt. But reading it today, it hit me that I am more like the crowd in this story than Jesus. Yeah, people in my hometown didn't take me seriously. But who can blame them? After all, it's me we're talking about. But how often do I take Jesus for granted? I see the miracles in my life and in others. I hear Him talk to me, I feel His peace; yet I still blow Him off from time to time. It's just Jesus, after all. I can do what I want here, He'll be okay with it.

But He's King. He's the King OF Kings, actually. And He's the Creator of everything. Everything. He's not someone casual I can dismiss when He makes me uncomfortable. He's the One. The Way.

He's definitely not some kid who we watched grow up. And He's never ridden a bmx bike.

At least not as far as I know...

Grow. Or else!

Jesus really cracks me up in a creepy sort of way. In Matthew 13:24-33, He's telling stories. He tells one about a farmer sowing seeds for a wheat crop, and then an enemy sowing weeds in to ruin the field. They wait until the harvest to pull the weeds and save the crop.

Now, reading it, I'm like "ok, the seeds are God's truth, and I am the field, and I need to beware of the weeds Satan sows in my life to ruin me". It sounds great, but it's almost totally wrong.

Jesus explains in 37-43 that He is the farmer (check), Satan is the enemy (check), and the field is the kingdom of God. The good seed are followers of Jesus, the weeds are people who don't follow Jesus. They are both sown, and both grow. The only way to tell them apart is at harvest time, when wheat will grow, well, uh... wheat, and the weeds won't. Jesus even says if you try to pull them apart before then, you'll confuse the two and pull good out with the bad.

So, what Jesus is saying is the only way to tell a follower from someone who doesn't is what their life produces. It's not about whether the plant claims to be wheat or not. It's what shows up in their life. And at the end, we'll be saved or not based on that.

That's a bit rough in the face of a nice, solid five point Calvinism; or the idea that if we say a prayer, we're in. Our faith will lead to a life that proves we love Jesus, or we're toast. (wheat toast?)

Why is Jesus so much more deliberately obnoxious about the truth than I am? Why does He tell such sobering stories, and I don't? Actually, those are dumb questions. The question is, why am I not telling this side of the truth to students all the time? What is wrong with me?

I'll just have to change that.


The parable of the sower has gotten a lot of attention from pastors over the years. We read it in Matthew 13. Jesus tells about the farmer sowing seed all over the place. He's scattering it everywhere. That alone is a bit crazy. When you're poor, and only have a little seed, you only sow it where you KNOW it will grow. This farmer in the story is so rich He can afford to throw seed everywhere. So he does. Some gets carried off, some grows and dies, some grows but never produces anything, and some does exactly what it's supposed to do, produce fruit and more seeds.

Jesus tells us point blank what the seed story is all about. God is the farmer. The seed is our lives, and the impact of the gospel in it. Often we think we are the soil, but Jesus tells us in verses 18-23 that we are actually the seed. Do we grow and produce fruit? It all comes down to our humility, and how soft we are to what God has for us. If we're really resistant to God, nothing grows. If we are little open to God, we will get interested in Him, but that faith will die quickly. Maybe we really want God's life, and our faith grows up tall. But worries about life and stuff take over, and kill our faith. Or, we can give everything to growing our faith, and it will produce great things!

What matters most to you? Is it being productive for the Kingdom, seeing God use you no matter what? Or is it defending your pride, your stuff, protecting your fears, be in charge?

There's only one way to grow.
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