Disturbing, Yet Full of Grace

Everyone has asked the question “If God is so good, why does He allow pain and suffering to exist?”

Today’s reading gives us one look at answering part of this multi-faceted question: Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Weeds

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

OBSERVATION / APPLICATION
Jesus uses this parable of weeds and wheat to show us humanity. This is disturbing in the sense that here we see two types of people. God sees us and determines/judges whether we are wheat or a weed. One simple way to treat this text is to ask yourself, “Which am I?” It’s too simple of a treatment. There is a deeper understanding of God and the world around us seen in this text.
This text answers some important questions. ‘Why not just get rid of the weeds? Why are there weeds in the first place?’
When the weeds are young they look too much like the wheat, so uprooting them is not an option. On the other hand, when they are fully grown they are too intertwined with the wheat that to remove the weeds at that time would mean that the wheat too would be lost. So, the response is wait until the time of ‘harvest’. In this case the day of judgement. Disturbing, right?
This passage shows us that God will not purge evil, otherwise hurting the ‘good’ in a considerable way.
Think about it like this…
We are all a little bad. Right? Admit it. We’ve all ‘sinned’. We’ve all possibly lied, or taken when we shouldn’t have, held a grudge, and the list can keep going. We are all a little bad.
If God were to purge ALL evil from this world, He’d have to get rid of us all. Yet, God loves you and I dearly!
This offers tremendous HOPE! Not only do we grow in our patience as we love and wait till the ‘day of harvest’. We also get to see from God’s vantage point… somewhat.  We get to see what He sees, and love what He loves and be on Mission in the same vein of Jesus. We can also see how amazingly Good God is verses, how evil evil can be… not only in us but as a whole [this helps answer the question ‘Why are there weeds in the first place?’ — there are other ways to answer this: freedom of will, God didn’t create pre-programmed puppets that say ‘I love you God’, thus the option not to love Him and to  love self which quickly leads to greed and inward focused living – evil].
Most importantly we see how amazing God’s Grace really is… He is patient and waits and works and woos and relentlessly loves us! Helping us want to love Him and those around us, helping us weed the gardens of our heart.
He does that by sending us the Holy Spirit to work in us, guiding us and leading us.  Let’s be open to Him!
PRAYER
Jesus, help me to always be thankful for your goodness, to be attentive to your Spirit and to be sensitive to His leading. Give us strength to live by Your Word. Help us to honor You in all we say, think and do! Amen.
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3 Things to Newlife

I’ve been watching how people in our church love, serve, give, laugh, and grow. Here are 3 things I’d like to comment about and encourage you in.

1.   The Barnabas Factor

Look up Barnabas! He was the encourager of Paul when he was converted to Christianity! Barnabas was a key catalyst to Paul’s credibility in ministry (Acts 9:27-31).  Let’s continue to build the Barnabas factor at Newlife. Here is what I’ve seen many of you at Newlife do:

  • You are Encouragers: You Breath Life Into People    Proverbs 10:11  “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”
  • You Speak Highly of Each Other:  Word comes back to me about ‘OUR Church’ and all I hear is people speaking highly of ‘YOUR Church.” This means that some of you Barnabases are speaking highly of YOUR family. Keep it up.
Those that are weak in their faith and identity in Christ will often be the ones that tear down and speak negatively/harshly/belittling, either at an/or to others.  But those that have the courage to see what Jesus sees in others will always build others up and love others even when it is difficult. Let’s be strong in faith, identity in Christ and lets breath life into others!

2.   On the Faith Journey with ‘Simon, Paul and Timothy’ –>  Best Formula For Growth

  • Do you have a Paul in your life? The Pauls in your life are the ones that have gone ahead spiritually. Followers of Jesus that have ‘been there, done that’. Men and women of the faith that can challenge you in your faith journey. Pauls that will listen to you, but not afraid to speak the truth to you. A Spiritual Mother (for ladies) or a Father (for the men) that will help guide you and pray for you. You can be the Timothy to someone who is like a Paul. Do you have at least one Paul in your life? Let them know it! (It’ll bless them to pieces!!)
  • Do you have a Simon in your life? These are the men and women in your life that are peers to you. Same place in life, learning the same things as you, process the same things you’re processing. Who is a Simon in your life? That can relate to you and both of you can encourage one another and keep each other accountable? You gotta have a Simon!
  • Do you have a Timothy in your life?  It doesn’t matter how much you know there will always be someone that knows more than you do, and it doesn’t matter how little you know, there will always be someone who knows less. Those are your Timothy’s. People in the Journey with Jesus that can learn from you. Who is your Timothy? Paul poured his life into Timothy like a father would. Who are you pouring into, what you know about Jesus?

An Amazing Formula for Growth!

3.   Testimony

What do you say when someone asks you about your faith? Is it tough to articulate? I bet it might be since our faith is in everlasting flux (growing, week to week). In the next few weeks I’m going to do my best to teach you how to share your faith or ‘testimony’ with people. Your own personal journey with God that helps people see what you see and possibly help those listening start their journey.

Be thinking about your walk, your story and how that might help others get to know God!! What’s Your Testimony! 

Not for the Timid

1 Samuel 14:6-7

Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor. “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us. for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few. And his armor-bearer said to him. “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.”

OBSERVATION

The Israelites are severely outnumbered by the Philistines. Jonathan and his armor-bearer are traveling by night scouting their oppressors. As you read the story, it happens as Jonathan says; they route the Philistines! Here are a few observations we can pick up on and then apply to our lives.

  • Jonathan has an Audacious, Intrepid Faith. God can do anything!  God + you = Majority
  • Jonathan’s Faith was Quickly Followed by Action.
  • Jonathan’s Action was Modeled, respected by the Armor-Bearer
  • The Armor-Bearer is willing to die alongside Jonathan; this speaks volumes about both men.

APPLICATION

Here’s how this can apply to us.

We face countless ‘enemies’ of our hearts, time, emotions, resources and love. Often, I know you feel alone! [Takes one to know one]. Jonathan gives us a great example! In the face of calamity, he trusts that God will deliver them from peril and chronic oppression (for some of us depression). The question for us; Do You Believe and Have the Faith that God Can Bring (Heal, Restore, Redeem) You Out of Your Difficulty?

Jonathan believed and he did something about it. Don’t stand Idle, GO! God is with you. Cover that Audacious Faith with Audacious Prayer, that Moves You Into Audacious Action!

The cool thing is that as you move in your faith, others will see that and be inspired by your life that they might do the same thing. They face great ‘enemies’ too! Why not join together as you march against the things that come against you!

PRAYER

Jesus, help us to have faith in You! You’re much larger than the circumstances we face! Holy Spirit guide us as we navigate through life. Jesus, help us to always have you at the center of our lives; you conquered death, and because of that so can we! Amen.

A New Romance

I’ve often heard and even enjoyed the word BIBLE as a quippy acronym for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Although catchy, I don’t think it gives a good definition of what the Bible is. For one it’s anything but basic. Secondly it’s not all about the preparation of leaving earth and thirdly, the Bible is not a set of instructions.

The Bible is not a 1-2-3, A-Z book for life. I’d say it’s more like an everlasting relational time piece, a love letter that never ends. That and more. I see it as an invitation to commitment with the eternal King. Simple, right? (Note really).

I do see it like peering into a new romance that keeps going.

I remember when I first met my wife Laura. When we met, how did it go? Did we craft out each step of the relationship, like putting together a BBQ or a shed from Lowes? No.

We slowly became aware of one another. Likes, dislikes, passions, dreams, goals, joys, memories, hurts, humor, quirks, disfunction’s, talents, weaknesses, strengths, …

And we learned to love one another. I think that this is the same way it is with God. We acquaint ourselves with the God of our souls. Jesus. Through His Word we learn about Him and His love for us. All the while He (the Holy Spirit) is walking with us. It’s a new romance. Sounds girly and kind of strange to think of God that way. But Romance can be seen in different ways: Adventure, Song, Story, and Quest.

Go on that Journey, take that Challenge and Taste and See that the Lord is Good!

Before you are king…

SCRIPTURE

[1 Samuel 8-10, 2 Corinthians 10]

1 Samuel 9:22-24  Then Samuel took Saul and his young man and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who had been invited, who were about thirty persons. And Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion I gave you, of which I said to you, ‘Put it aside.'” So the cook took up the leg and what was on it and set them before Saul. And Samuel said, “See, what was kept is set before you. Eat, because it was kept for you until the hour appointed, that you might eat with the guests.” So Saul ate with Samuel that day.

OBSERVATION

This seems like an obscure passage. But in it lies an important truth for us all.

Saul will be the first king over Israel. He will soon be anointed and pronounced king by Samuel the lead prophet of the land, in the presence of many, but this meal with these thirty people is the core of what Saul will become or what God is calling him to become. Samuel does something really important here, he makes sure that Saul receives for his dinner the leg (“So the cook took up the leg and why was on it…”). The ‘leg’ is meant and set aside only for priests. Samuel was making a very important statement here.

He is essentially saying, ‘Saul, before you become king, you must be a priest.’ This is not in the catholic sense, but ‘you must become first a priest, a man of God in order to lead well.’ Who you become on the inside determines how well you lead on the outside.

APPLICATION

Anyone of us can relate to this! We all lead people to some degree, in our homes, in our careers, in our neighborhoods, in our church, etc. Before we take upon ourselves the crown of our leadership platform, we are to take on the cross reflecting the king of kings. Before we lead people, we must first realize that we are under greater authority, Jesus. He is King over us and if we are too lead we must be priests [men and women of God, who represent Him, who resemble Him, who are reincarnate Him in us]. That is the role of a priest, to represent God and as leaders in any capacity, we are to represent Him there in the same manner. Who you become on the inside determines how you lead; your family, business, relationships, anything on the outside.

PRAYER

Jesus, before I am father, husband, friend, pastor or anything else. Before I am, I am priest — a representation of You. Help me Jesus to be like You, to lead like You, to Love like You, to laugh like You, to have joy like You, to have compassion like You, and to daily cling to You. Give me strength, hope, boldness, and courage to live this way. Amen.

Honor Gives Itself To Honor

SCRIPTURE

Ruth 2:12-13

The LORD repay you for what have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wing you have come to take regufe.” Then she said, “Ihave found favor in your eyes my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

OBSERVATION / APPLICATION

These two are smitten over each other!

He loves her loyalty, love, determination, and humility. And Boaz is admired for his leadership, strength, character, who values her virtue of honoring Naomi.

That’s the easy observation! Here is the principle to grab. Honor, honors honor. It reciprocates. Honor finds itself and really relishes in itself. Honor gives itself back to honor.  If I honor you and keep doing so, sooner or later you’ll honor right back. Honor, honoring itself is inevitable.

Honor is key! Part of a strong DNA in an organization ESPECIALLY in a church, is a strong DNA of HONORING one another. My goal as a pastor is that we all GET this, I as a man, father, husband, friend, neighbor, and co-worker I MUST LIVE this out! To Honor ALL people around me! This is a tough exhibition,  because we are always so into ourselves. I battle myself all the time. The goal is to honor others, like Christ does the church. He died for the Church (His bride). Therefore, my goal should be like Christ; to honor my wife, family  and people around me like Christ does. Sacrificially, patiently, lovingly, gently, unconditionally, with grace, truth and wisdom.

PRAYER

Jesus, help me to ALWAYS honor others, that they might some day honor You! Amen.