Story About Seed & Dirt

One day Jesus taught the people beside Lake Galilee, using a story about different kinds of dirt to present his message (89).

vg-sower

“Once there was a farmer who went out to plant some grain seed.

  • As he spread the seeds over the field, some of them fell along the hard path, and the birds came and ate up those seeds right away.
  • Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was very little dirt.  The seeds sprouted, but because the dirt wasn’t deep, the sprouts were soon burned up by the sun.
  • Some of the seeds fell among thorn bushes, which eventually grew up and choked the plants, so they didn’t bear any grain.
  • But some of the seeds fell in good dirt, where the plants sprouted, grew, and bore fruit; some plants had thirty grains, others sixty grains, and others a hundred grains.”

Jesus concluded, “Listen to what God is saying to you!”

Later, when Jesus was alone, some of the people asked him to explain why he used stories to teach. “As you understand my stories you are receiving the keys to living in God’s kingdom here on earth,” Jesus said.  “But many people, who don’t care about God’s kingdom, will hear my stories & never understand them at all.  It is very important for you to understand these stories.

“The farmer is anyone who shares God’s message.

  • Some people are like the hard path; as soon as they hear the message, Satan comes and takes it away. It’s like it goes in one ear & out the other.
  • Some people are like the rocky ground. As soon as they hear the message, they receive it gladly. But when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they forget the message immediately.
  • And some people are like the thorn bushes. They hear & receive the message, but the message is gradually choked out by their worries, by love of money & by other desires, so they never bear any grain but instead remain unfruitful.
  • But some people are like good dirt. They hear the message, receive it & live their lives by it, and so they bear fruit —  some a little grain, some even more grain, and some a lot of grain.”

Jesus wanted to emphasize that it’s important for his students to share God’s message, just as it’s important for the farmer to sow the seed.  So he said, “Does anyone ever put his lamp under a basket or under the bed? Doesn’t he put it on the lamp-stand? In the end, God will be the judge of how people share his light.”

light-under-a-basket

Jesus again added, “Listen to what God is saying to you! Pay attention to what you hear. The same rules you use to judge others will be used by God to judge you — but with even greater severity.”

Jesus concluded by emphasizing that God will reward diligent faith, just as he rewards the diligent farmer with a good crop: “The person who makes continuing effort to live in God’s kingdom will grow into a stronger relationship with God. But the person who makes no effort to live in God’s kingdom will find his relationship with God withering away.”

Sovereign God, please help to love living in Your kingdom, now.

(89) Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-25, Luke 4:4-17

Forgiveness & Freedom

Simon, a very religious Pharisee, invited Jesus to have dinner with him, and Jesus accepted the invitation (88).

A woman of that town, who had lived a very sinful life, heard that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house.  So she came to the dinner & went directly to Jesus, crying over her many sins.  She began to wash his feet, wetting them with her tears & drying them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet & poured perfume on them from an alabaster jar she had brought with her.

Alabaster

When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If Jesus was really a man of God, he would know what a sinner this woman is & he would keep his distance from her!” At that very moment, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “All right,” replied Simon, “go ahead.”

“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred dollars, and the other owed him fifty. Neither of them could pay back what he owed the moneylender, so he forgave the debts of both. Which one, do you think, will be more grateful?” “The one who was forgiven more,” answered Simon. “You’re exactly right!” said Jesus.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your home, and you gave me no water for washing my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t welcome me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since she came. You provided no olive oil for anointing my head, but she has covered my feet with perfume.

“Her great love for me shows she believes her many sins are forgiven. But anyone who shows little love for me does not believe his many sins are forgiven.”

Then Jesus assured the woman, “Your sins are forgiven!”

forgiven

The others sitting at the table began to say to themselves, “How is it that Jesus even forgives sins?” But Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you from your sins. You can be at peace now.”

(Please note that continuing faith brings continuing peace, as indicated in Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27 & Philippians 4:6-7).

Later, as Jesus traveled through the area telling people the good news about God’s kingdom, his twelve chosen witnesses went with him.  Jesus was also accompanied by a group of women.  Some had been healed of diseases by Jesus, and he had expelled evil spirits from others.  Among these women were: Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had expelled seven evil spirits; Joanna, whose husband Chuza was an officer in Herod’s court; Susanna; and many other women who used their own resources to help Jesus and his students.

Forgiving God, please help me to love being forgiven by You.

(88) Luke 7:36-8:3

From Death To Life

Later, a teacher of the law of Moses came to Jesus (87). “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” Jesus took this opportunity to teach the teacher more about the cost of living for God.  “Foxes have holes,” Jesus said, “and birds have nests, but children of God have no home here on earth.”

foxhole        birdnest

Another man, who was a friend of Jesus, begged to bury his father before following Jesus.  “Follow me now, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus replied,

Soon afterward Jesus went with his students to a town called Nain, and a large crowd followed them.  Just as they arrived at the gate to go into the town, people attending a funeral were coming out of the town. The dead man was the only son of a woman who was a widow.

When Jesus saw her, his heart was filled with compassion; he comforted her & said, “Don’t cry.”

Then Jesus walked over to the litter on which the dead man lay.  He said, “Young man, get up!”

Amazingly, the dead man got up and began speaking!  And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Nain

All the people there were filled with respect for God.  “A great prophet has come among us!” they said; “God has come to save his people!” The news of what Jesus had done spread all through that region & the surrounding regions.

Living God, please help me to love being raised from death to life in You.

(87) Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 7:11-17

The Respect Of A Roman

When Jesus had finished teaching the crowd, he continued his journey toward Capernaum (86).

A Roman officer who lived there had a servant who was very dear to him, but who was sick & about to die. When this Roman officer heard that Jesus was coming, he sent some local Jewish elders to ask him to heal his servant.

The Jewish elders came to Jesus and begged him, “You should really help this man. He loves our people and he personally paid to build a synagogue for us.” And Jesus agreed to help.

As they were approaching the Roman officer’s house, other friends came with this message for Jesus from the Roman officer:

“Sir, don’t take the trouble to come into my house. I’m not worthy for you to come to me, and I’m not worthy to come to you. Just give the order, and I know my servant will get well.

“I believe that you have the authority to do this, and I understand authority. I serve under superior officers, and I have soldiers who serve under me. I order one to go, and he goes. I order another to come, and he comes. I order another to do something, and he does it.”

Roman

Jesus was impressed when he heard this; he turned around and said to the people following him, “I’ve never found faith like this, even in Israel! Many faithful people, from every nation, will be welcomed to sit with the first people of faith — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — & feast in the kingdom of heaven.

“But many of God’s chosen people — who should be faithful & who should be at that feast — will be excluded for their lack of faith. They will be sent out into the darkness, where they will cry & grind their teeth in perpetual pain.”

hell_forever_and_ever

Then Jesus sent word to the Roman officer, “What you have believed will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed at that very hour!

Trustworthy God, please help me to love trusting in You for all things.

(86) Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10

Radical Obedience

Jesus continued teaching his students, still emphasizing basic themes he had taught them on the mountain (85):

If you don’t judge other people, then God won’t have to judge you for judging them. If you don’t condemn other people, then God won’t have to condemn you for condemning them. Best of all, if you forgive other people, then God will forgive you.

Also, if you give to other people, then God will give to you. You will receive a full measure of his blessings, more than you could ever need. The measure of blessing, which you give to other people, is the same measure of blessing which God will give to you.

Jesus paused to illustrate the necessity of following a good teacher in order to get to know God: One blind person cannot lead another blind person; if he tries, both of them may fall into a ditch.  At the same time, Jesus added, no student is greater than his teacher; good students, as they complete their training, aim to become like their teacher.  (The big idea is simple: Follow the best teacher.)

Then Jesus returned to his main message: Don’t criticize a splinter in your friend’s eye, when you have a log in your own eye. That’s hypocritical! Instead, take the log out of your eye; judge yourself according to God’s standards. Then you’ll be able to help your friend deal with the splinter in his eye.

beam-in-eye

Jesus concluded by emphasizing that believing means obeying. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a sick tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree is known by its fruit. Thorn bushes don’t bear grapes, and briers don’t bear figs. In the same way, you can be sure that a person who says & does good things has a good heart, and a person who says & does bad things has a bad heart.

This is important!  Actions speak louder than words!  Even if a person says good things, yet still does bad things, that person is not really living for God.

Anyone who hears these words of mine, and obeys them, is like a man who dug deep & laid the foundation of his house on rock. The river flooded over and hit that house, but it wasn’t shaken because it was built on rock.

rock

But anyone who hears these words of mine, and does not obey them, is like a man who built his house without laying any foundation. When the flood hit that house, it fell right away with a terrible crash!  And then it was washed away . . .

Sovereign God, please help me to love obeying You as radically as You love me.

(85) Luke 6:37-49

Radical Love

Then Jesus again taught his students who were gathered there, emphasizing basic themes he had previously taught them on the mountain (84).

These things are essential to gain all of God’s blessings:
• Admit your self-inflicted spiritual poverty. Admit that there is some part of your nature that resists being controlled by God’s Spirit.
• Mourn for your self-inflicted spiritual poverty. Regret your self-inflicted separation from God.
• Desire to live God’s way, as you realize that your way is not working.
• Expect & accept the trouble that living God’s way will bring in this life. God will greatly reward your faithfulness in the next life.

Living for yourself in this life will never lead to God’s blessings in the next life:
• If your goal in this life is to be rich, you’ll be poor in the next life.
• If your goal in this life is to be full, you’ll be hungry in the next life.
• If your goal in this life is to be happy, you’ll be sad in the next life.
• If your goal in this life is for other people to speak well of you, no one will speak well of you in the next life.

Living for God in this life means you need to have different goals. For instance, you must love your enemies.

mlk

As children of God in heaven, you must be good to people who hate you, you must bless people who curse you, and you must pray for people who mistreat you.

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek, too. If someone wants to take your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Whenever another person asks you for something, give it to him. Whenever another person wants to borrow something, lend it to him. Do for other people what you would like them to do for you.

Why should God reward you — if you only love people who love you? Even sinners do that! Why should God reward you — if you are good only to people who are good to you? Even sinners do that! Why should God reward you — if you lend only to people who are likely to repay you. Even sinners do that!

Instead, as children of God in heaven, love your enemies & be good to them.

2098231107-abraham_lincoln_-_i_destroy_my_enemies

Lend & expect nothing back. God offers blessings to bad people, as well as to good people.

Instead of being like everybody else, God wants you to be merciful, even to bad people — just as God himself is merciful, even to you.

Loving God, please help me to love people as radically as You love me.

(84) Luke 6:20-36

Family Matters

Then Jesus started home to Capernaum (83). Very large crowds followed, so that Jesus and his students could not even take time to eat.

crowds

Jesus’ family members heard how his ministry was exploding.  People had begun spreading wild rumors about him; some people in the crowds were even saying, “Jesus has gone mad!” His family members were concerned & they wanted to get Jesus under control .

Certain teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem, tried discrediting Jesus by saying, “He has Satan in him! It is by Satan’s power that Jesus expels evil spirits from people!” Jesus gave them this reply:

“You know the evil spirits that torment people are sent from Satan. And now you say that I expel those evil spirits by Satan’s power? But how can Satan drive out Satan?

“If a country divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that country will fall apart. If a family divides itself into opposing forces which fight each other, that family will fall apart. It is the same with Satan; if his forces are divided & fight each other, they will fall apart and Satan’s power will not last.”

Then Jesus concluded with this telling comment: “In order for anyone to expel evil spirits which have been sent from Satan, it is first necessary to restrain Satan.”

SatanDefeated

Still, some of the people in the crowd kept saying, “Jesus has an evil spirit in him.” Jesus replied to them this way: “People can be forgiven all the evil things they may say or do. But whoever refuses to be led by the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven & will be condemned by God.”

Then Jesus’ mother & other family members arrived. They sent a message through the crowd, asking for him. Someone in the crowd told Jesus, “Your mother & brothers are outside, and they want to see you.” Jesus answered with a question, “Who are my real family members?” He looked at the people sitting around him and said, “My real family members are right here. Those of you who follow the Holy Spirit & do what God wants are the real members of my family & God’s family.”

obedience

Father, please help me to love all the varied members of Your family.

(83) Mark 3:22-35, Luke 8:19-21