Mark 7:14-15 (MSG) Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Listen now, all of you—take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit—that’s the real pollution.”
What is coming out of you? This is not a “too much information” conversation. This is a conversation that deals with our fruit. YES, I know that none of us are fruit trees. That is not what I mean by that. I mean that you can tell if we are putting negativity in our life. Bitter fruit and negativity is visible in all of us at times, at times it runs deeper and stronger in some. How so?
Have you ever known someone that is negative not due to circumstances but almost it appears as a choice? They are easily annoyed. They are angry at all. Nothing seems to please them it appears. There are others that seem to be gloomy. The remind you of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore. “Oh bother!” “I don’t know why but things never seem to turn out...OH bother!” The list includes and is not limited to the angry person, the pot stirrer, and on and on and on.
YOU can choose JOY! You really can. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. REJOICE!
In our home we tell each other the best part of our day. We do this because we want to feed the joy in our lives and not the negativity. We could sit at the table and bash all that went wrong in our day or those that made us mad, been there done that. It just produced more negativity. We can instead choose to rejoice in the good. At times it is the meal we are sharing, praise God for the time together. At times it was a small thing, saw a great friend today...highlight of the day. At times it is that you arose without pain, no small feet as you get older and older!
This small act is a game changer. We choose to feed the good so the good will reproduce. If we choose to feed the bad...then bad, negative, and more will continue to breed the bad stuff. Life will have bad moments. Life will have angry moments. I am not saying that is not true. What I am saying is that do not let that have the final say, search for the joy.
In my study this week I have been studying what it means to trust God at all times. In the beginning of the drama it might be easy to cling to God. After the drama is over, you can reflect and exhale knowing or seeing clearly how God was helping, holding, and sustaining you. What happens in the middle?
I read something along those lines this week and immediately drew some from what I know. Middles can be hard. Life is swirling around. Chaos can be terrifying. There is a praise song that is popular right, its lyrics deal with just this thing.
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
Powerful lyrics! For the love of everything holy how do we do that???? It sounds so trite to say one foot in front of the other yet, that is just it! As you take your steps there are some verses that can help you focus,
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
These are just a few of God’s powerful words that we can hold onto during a storm. Words are not just what we have in the storm. We have an open line of communication to the Lord. What does this mean? It means that we can trust that He will help, Help may come in the form of opportunity. Help may come in the form of a friend, sent by God. Help may come with a closed door. I know you just stopped trusting me. The truth is there is power in the yes and in the no. Some of God’s greatest works in the middle of the storm for me, have been no’s. Hard to understand. Painful to swallow. Yet, life changing.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Making Room to Grow
“Other seeds fell among thorns that grew
up and choked out the tender plants.”
Jesus, Matthew 13:7 NLT
Several years ago, while Debi and I were serving at Cromwell UMC, we planted marigolds along both sides of the sidewalk leading from the street to our front porch. I have always liked marigolds because they are bright yellow and being a colorblind guy I can easily distinguish the color of marigolds. (They also seem to be a pretty hardy flower.)
This particular year after planting the marigolds, Deb and I didn’t do much with them for a few weeks and then we noticed that they really weren’t growing like we thought they should. Upon closer examination we noticed that the grass from the yard had encroached on the area in which we had planted the marigolds. The grass was actually threatening to take over the flower beds where the marigolds were planted.
Now there is nothing wrong with grass when it is in the yard but we didn’t want it to take over the flower beds. So, Deb and I went to work one day pulling up the grass in the flower beds. It took some work and some time but when we finished the flower beds looked a lot better.
Also, something happened that I hadn’t realized would take place. (Confession: I really am not much of a gardener.) The marigolds began to spread out over the flower bed and grow like never before. What we had done was that by weeding the flower beds alongside the sidewalk we had made room for the marigolds to grow.
Jesus, in the parable of the Sower & the Seed, reminds us that there are things in life that can choke out the spiritual growth that God intends for us. Jesus said it this way when He explained the parable to his disciples…
“The seed sown among weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart, and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit.” Jesus, Matthew 13:22 TPT
So here is a question for you. What do you need to weed out of your life in order to grow into the person God wants you to be? It may be something that is bad, that is destructive to you and those around you. It maybe something not bad in and of itself (like the grass in the marigolds) but it is taking too much of your focus away from God and the Kingdom.
God’s great goal in our lives is that we grow in our relationship with Jesus and our knowing how to walk in His ways. In order see God’s goal for us realized we do need to make room to grow. The Master Gardener ((Father God) can and will make clear to us what needs to be weeded out or pruned back in order for us to grow.
What is true of us as individuals is also true corporately. God’s intention is for us to grow together as a church. The problem is that we try to do so much and our focus is so broad that we can miss the truly important. As a church, we can fail to make room to grow.
May all of us be making room to grow! May this be the best growing season we have ever experienced in knowing Jesus more and more and learning to walk in His ways!
In my mind one of the most powerful chapters in all of Scripture is Romans 8. Here are a few of my favorite verses from this chapter…
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” v. 1-2
“So, you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’”
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example,
we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the
Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be
expressed in words.” v.26
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” v. 28
In the last part of chapter 8 in the New Living Translation the phrase “...for us” appears several times. I noticed this the other day while having my devotions. Here are the verses…
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” v.31
“Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up
for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” v. 32
“…for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” v. 35
Know this today and remember this God is for us!!! God is for you!!! The story of Jesus shows that God is for us, not against us!
Sisters and brothers, if God is for us what does it matter who is against us! Because God is for us, may each of us live wholeheartedly and passionately for Him!
Most of us live as if we have endless days in front of us. Even though we know that to not be true. The temptation here is to belief that time is endless here on earth. That is not the case. Most of us live like our choices are limited in scope. What I do or say does not affect anyone else. I have discovered that we can harm others with words. Wounds that take a lifetime to heal.
What if we lived not as the world that awakes to judge the news, judge the service of the person that gives us a coffee, judge our coworkers, and on and on. Wonder if we awake and live differently? This will not be easy. Not impossible but not easy.
We have to begin by realizing that we were created for more. More than just earning money. More than just working every day. More than an endless array of going to bed and arising the next morning to do the same thing over and over.
So what is the more?
John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
What exactly does that look like? Those that we love, we stay in relationship with. Those that we love, we care about their feelings. Those that we love, we apologize when we hurt their feelings. Those that we love, we look out for.
So, when we see the cashier we should remember this is someone’s loved one. How would we want you to speak to our loved one? When someone cuts us off in traffic, how do we respond? We have no idea if they had a momentary lapse in judgement and did not realize we were near them. We have no idea if they just got the worst news of their life. But we can choose to treat them like we would want to be treated if we did the same thing.
This is not always easy. We are taught to strike back. We are taught to but our own needs, wants, desires before others. We are taught that if you are a Republican and and I a Democrat, we are at odds. We are taught if you are liberal and I a conservative, then we cannot possible love one another.
We can love one another.
We can see others and love even when it is hard. We can accept people that are different than us, embracing that we are created to be unique. We can because Christ showed us how to love. He encountered difficult people, he did not cuss them out, punch them, call the disciples to tell them how they wronged him. He loved humanity so much that he laid down His life for us. There is not other way than to honor Him with how we love.
There are those that believe to question God is wrong. The Psalms are full of probing and questioning. We cling to verses about having the faith the size of the mustard seed. When life is good that verse is a breeze to believe. Yet when we have something on the horizon that causes fear, the times when life is not good, that seed looks even smaller. It continues to be a promise to hold onto though. A visual reminder that if we have faith the size of that small seed we can do impossible things.
Matthew 17:20 “He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Then I turn to the Psalms and say “WHY?” Why does a friend pass who we covered in prayer, they loved you, and others, why not earthly healing? WHY? Why ? I think of Psalm 42: 8-10
By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
I then remind myself, that God’s ways are not my ways. That I do not see or know everything nor were we promised a life of no pain, perfection, or answers to all our questions. We were promised a life everlasting and told that we would have trouble in this world. (John 16:33). We remember too that Jesus had emotions here on earth. He mourned, we know this because he wept. (John 11:35) He became angry, we now this because he flipped tables in the temple when he was disgusted by behavior. (Matthew 21:12-13) Since Jesus has experienced all the things that we too will face we can with confidence KNOW that our Savior not only lives, He understands.
Life will continue to have ups and downs. There will be pain that I do not understand. There will be losses that are shocking and horrifying to me. I will crank my praise, cling to the word digging into Psalm 23 or 121, and remember that my faith can be the smallest and God can still do mighty things.
Continue to probe, question, and search for answers. Continue to look for the Lord in His Word. Continue to cry out when life hurts. Knowing that we serve a Savior that understands!