Every Thought Captive

How is your mental health lately?

One of the silver linings of this past pandemic year has been the number of people seeking mental health care. I think that’s a joy and a win for Christ’s kingdom. 

Recently, someone recommended the book “Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the battle in Your Mind” by Joyce Meyer to me. It was an interesting read, and though I don’t one hundred percent agree with all her arguments, I did find several ideas in the book helpful and interesting. 

(The link above is an Amazon Affiliate link.)

One of the passages she cites has been on my mind a lot recently, and it’s about taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. Here’s the passage:

 

Paul’s Defense of His Ministry: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

 

I have a very active imagination. My dreams are vivid and I daydream A LOT (feel bad for poor Jonah, who has to try to get my attention when I’m immersed in thought!). When I read scripture, I sometimes get visual images that help me put things into perspective. This passage, for whatever reason, reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean and walking the plank.

Walk the Plank

The mental warfare that is going on in our minds is just as real as the warfare we see playing out in the world everyday. The difference lies in the types of weapons we have at our disposal to fight those battles. We’ve got spiritual armor to defend us, and one amazing weapon: the Word of God.

As someone who battles daily with negative thinking patterns, I find it extremely helpful to visualize making every negative thought I have walk the plank. 

Is your thinking, not just your behavior, obedient to Christ? When you find yourself overgeneralizing, jumping to conclusions, entertaining made-up scenarios and conversations with people who frustrate you, can you arrest that thought and make it walk the plank?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this passage. After reading it, what is your main takeaway? Leave a comment below!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Lessons Learned So Far from the Jubilee Garden (+ Pictures!)

Next Sunday: Knit Together – Psalm 139

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things

Well… we had a baby this week! Our second daughter is here and we are over the moon! Things this time around have felt so much easier (knock on wood), from the labor, to managing things around the house, to nursing, to coping with the sleepless nights. Life is really, really good right now. 

When I set out to write this post, I was going to include information about some of my favorite things for the garden. But I’ve just been hit over the head time and time again this week that some of my favorite things aren’t things – they’re people

Having a baby is a time in life when you realize that there’s so much you CAN’T do on your own. Birthing and caring for a baby requires help from others – nurses, doctors, friends, neighbors, family, your spouse, your other children, your church. This week, we’ve been witness to (and beneficiaries of) our community rallying to help us. Meals, much-needed coffee, and delicious bread have magically appeared on our porch. Gift cards for last-minute baby items and meal delivery have shown up in our inboxes. Friends have thrown together a Meal Train for us so we won’t have to worry when the flurry of offers to help have died down. Friends have shared baby clothes, garden produce, and their time – even cutting our grass unannounced!

Weeks like this remind me that there is so much goodness in this world – people who are the salt and light of this world. Salt preserves what is good. Light shines and shows the way. 

To all of you who have helped us and been salt and light to us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We love you!

 

Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

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The Importance of Rest

Now that I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy with baby #2, I’m starting to realize that rest is kind of a big deal. There’s nothing like carrying around another human for 9 months while chasing a toddler to make you realize that woman does not live on caffeine alone (the Bible says that, right? :-D).

It’s not that I don’t want to rest. In theory, rest sounds GREAT.  It’s putting it into practice that is so tough. I’m a night owl by nature – I used to routinely go to bed at 2 AM until I started working a 9-5 job. Now that I work a 24 hour job (#momlife), I frequently find myself up at strange hours due to insomnia, a crying child, or street noise.

night-owls-can-i-get-a-hoot-

Anyway, today, I read the story of Jesus calming the storm in the children’s Bible we have for our toddler. Here’s the version from Mark 4:35-41:

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, Quiet! Be still! Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

For whatever reason, it just hit me funny that Jesus was straight up sleeping in the middle of a storm that made a bunch of experienced fishermen think they were going to die. I’m guessing the disciples had seen their fair share of bad storms, but here we see next-level wind and waves. I’m envisioning something out of movies like “The Perfect Storm”, “Deep Impact”, or that awful Russell Crowe version of “Noah”. Don’t waste your time. It’s horrible.

Perfect Storm Movie Poster Noah Movie Poster

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but you get what I’m saying. It was scary!

First off, I envy the fact that Jesus is such a deep sleeper. Where can I get some of that quality shut-eye?!

Secondly, when would He have woken up? It says the waves were crashing over the boat so it almost swamped. You’d think the water splashing on Him would have woken Him up, right?

Thirdly…those disciples (shaking my head over here). Can I just say, I love whenever the disciples appear in scripture. They give voice to everything I feel and would probably be thinking myself in these crazy situations with Jesus. Frequently, they play the role of “Captain Obvious” or the ancient near east equivalent of The Three Stooges. I love their comment: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Well said, disciples. Well said. That’s a question I’ve definitely brought before the Lord on MANY occasions. It’s not always phrased like that, but the sentiment is the same.

“Don’t you care about me?”

Maybe you can identify with some of these variants of the same question:

Don’t you care that…

    • ….I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over two years? 
    • …I’m overworked, overtired, and at the end of my rope?
    • …my loved one isn’t well and is dying?
    • ….this storm of life is swirling around me and I’m going to drown?

Notice what Jesus does next. 

He first deals with the storm.

Then, He addresses the disciples’ lack of faith.

Jesus is not disturbed by our storms. He can sleep and rest right through them, because He is fully in control of the wind and the waves.

When we cry out to God in our storms, He addresses the things that are paining us first. Then He helps us work on our faith.

We could have been resting that whole time in the boat instead of panicking about drowning! Why aren’t we doing just that? Why aren’t we letting Jesus rebuke the wind and waves for us?

Lift up a prayer to God about this today. If you don’t know what to say, here’s something to get you started…

Father God, teach me to trust you and to rest confidently and securely in you. Remind me that the wind and waves recognize your voice and submit to you. Help me to submit to you also. Help me enter that deep, wonderful rest that Jesus enjoyed. I thank you that you allow me to witness you calming the storms of my life each and every day. You are good!

Special Note: Since baby girl is due very, very soon, the next few posts will be a bit lighter than usual. But lighter doesn’t mean lesser! Check back in for a good laugh this Wednesday and some of my other favorite things in coming posts. Catch you on the flip side!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Wild Card Wednesday!

Next Sunday: These are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

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Why So Much Garden Imagery in the Bible?

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is chock-full of gardens? Well, maybe you didn’t, but now you’re not going to be able to unsee it! 

 

  • The Bible both starts AND ends in a garden. 
  • The tabernacle & later the temple are modeled after Eden
  • Old Testament prophets frequently use planting parables to explain coming judgment and deliverance (Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, Psalm 80:8-16, Isaiah 37:30, Isaiah 65:21-22, Jeremiah 29:5 & 28, Ezekiel 28:26, Amos 9:14).
  • Old Testament wisdom books use garden metaphors to explain prosperity and disaster.
  • Jesus tells parables about fields and gardens non-stop. 
  • Jesus goes to Gethsemane (another garden) before he is betrayed by Judas Iscariot to the Jewish leaders. 
  • Jesus tells the criminal next to him on the cross that today he’ll be with Him in paradise (translated “garden”).
  • Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener after He is resurrected. 

… and that’s just scratching the surface.

 

Heck, you can even buy a green-letter Bible that highlights all of the instances of God’s care and concern for creation. I’m not making this up! I’m intrigued by this (and might have to get myself a copy sometime!).

 

(this is an Amazon Affiliate link)

 

So why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

That’s a good question. In searching around I found a few different ideas:

 

  • Gardens and agriculture were kind of a big deal in Ancient Near-Eastern Culture.

It wasn’t just the Israelites who were into their gardens. Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) believed in a creation story (Enki & Ninhursag) that focused on a garden. Plus, both cultures were positioned in the Fertile Crescent, an area known for the birth of agriculture / the cradle of civilization. Ancient hearers and readers would have understood a garden metaphor pretty well because they lived it (tilling the land) everyday.

 

  • Gardens were kind of a big deal in mythologies of other cultures worldwide. 

Check out this interesting video from Crash Course Mythology to see how pervasive they are (Crash Course’s other video are great, too, by the way):

 

  • Tending a garden is a great metaphor for creating order out of chaos.

We see this in the story of the Garden of Eden. Everything is pretty soupy and primordial, and then becomes more ordered as God creates.

 

  • Gardens are a great metaphor for spiritual growth and growing the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls God a gardener and compares us and/or the Kingdom of God to plants/vines/weeds

 

  • Everyone can understand gardens as a symbol, because everyone has probably experienced a garden in some way. 

 

As it turns out, there are many possible explanations as to why gardens are mentioned so frequently in the Bible. Some of these explanations have a lot of research and backing, and some are speculative. The truth is, we just don’t know 100% why God reveals His word to us in garden form! 

Or maybe, just maybe, God likes to garden. 

I think that’s the explanation that I’m going with. I’m just sayin’!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Weedling vs. Seedling – How to Tell the Difference

Next Sunday: 2021 Goal Check-In

 

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What does it mean to be an Easter People?

If you’ve attended a church service on Easter, you might have heard the pastor say that Christians are an “Easter People”. What exactly does that mean?

First, did you know that Sundays are NOT technically the Sabbath? Nope! Christians gather to worship on Sunday because it’s the Day of Resurrection – AKA the day of the week Jesus was raised from the dead. The Sabbath, according to Jewish tradition, is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a whole lot better about sleeping in on Saturdays and doing a whole bunch of nothing. 

Jumanji: when you wake up from your 3rd nap of the day - "what year is it?"

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/fq1x0l/quarantine_naps/

Second, did you know that Easter isn’t a one-day celebration? It’s actually a 50-day church season that starts on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost. 

Easter isn’t just a one-time celebration or feast day. It’s ongoing. Every Sunday is, at its core, a mini-Easter, and there’s a good chunk of the year that we should be celebrating as Easter. Whether we do or not is a different story.

As Easter People, we are supposed to be celebrating. Living the most alive, flourishing, vivacious, liveliest, vital, (insert your favorite synonyms for alive here) life of anyone on this planet. We have the opportunity to live a resurrection lifestyle. A lifestyle Jesus embodied throughout his life and ministry. Case in point:

Jesus YOLO? Speak for yourself

http://christianfunnypictures.com/2016/03/14-hilarious-easter-memes.html

The disciples got to witness this resurrection lifestyle firsthand when Jesus was living with them. I love this cool scene from when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies and he chats with Laz’s sister Martha (John 11: 17-27):

 17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d] down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 

Can you see this scene playing out? I have to laugh because it’s just so ironic. Martha is one of those people who can’t read subtext well. We all know a person like this. She’s the one at the party who doesn’t get the punchline of the joke. Here, the joke is on her. Jesus reveals the truth to her in such a dramatic way… I imagine him saying to her, “don’t you get it? I AM the resurrection! Resurrection is here, NOW!” Jesus and Martha both must have face palmed in the biggest “DUH” moment in recorded history.

Double Face Palm - for when one face palm doesn't cut it

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2013/which-episode-is-the-double-facepalm-image-macro-from

 

Let’s live like resurrection day is everyday, because IT IS! Let’s live like Easter People.

What do you think it means to be an “Easter People”? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below and let’s chat!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral

Next Sunday: Why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

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Happy Easter!

The Resurrection

16 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning,a] just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,b] who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.c]

 

Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

You can use this as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that He is Risen!!!

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday:  Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

Next Sunday: What does it mean to be an Easter People?

 

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Palm-Waving Groupies

Happy Palm Sunday! I’m going to be completely unoriginal and take a look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem for this week’s devotional. So let’s dig in!

Context


Jesus has just traveled from Capernaum to Judea. It’s approximately 85 miles, so it would have taken several days to hike from Capernaum to Jerusalem (located in the region of Judea). Here’s a map:

Map of Capernaum to Judea

Map Courtesy of https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

He’s also just schooled the Pharisees on divorce, blessed some kids, encountered a rich young ruler who was too attached to his possessions to follow Jesus, predicted His death, schooled the disciples on what greatness really means, and healed a blind man. You know, a typical week for Jesus. 

Why is Jesus moving towards Jerusalem? Because He’s about to go there to celebrate Passover. Plus He knows what He has to do in the coming week – die for the world’s sins.

Now, onto our reading for today.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Translated for Today

What an odd entrance! Riding a baby donkey over top of peoples coats and random tree trimmings? 

I tried thinking about this in a way we could picture today. Imagine this:

Instead of a limo or motorcade, Jesus decides to take a borrowed razor scooter into the city. No bodyguards, just a bunch of palm-waving groupies who can’t cobble together a decent red carpet. Instead, they lay the best they have to offer on the ground – their means of warmth and protection (coats) and a traditional sign of victory (palms). 

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.
https://www.gq.com/story/razor-scooters-are-not-cool-tom-brady

 

Now that’s just my imagination, but I bet you can come up with something similar. The point is, it’s not a fancy entrance. Jesus comes into the city in a humble, almost humiliating way.

And then we hear what the people are shouting. They’re quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem (how fitting). It’s about victory and deliverance. Then, they implore Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means…

SAVE US Now!

So in effect, the people are saying:

“Save us now!”

“God’s blessed you to come and do this!”

“David’s kingdom is going to make a comeback!”

“For God’s sake, SAVE US!!”

The Jewish people were looking for a political leader. With this humble entrance, Jesus showed, once again, that God’s kingdom looks VERY different from how we sometimes want it to look.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! - Mark 11:9b-10

Use this as your phone wallpaper this week!

 

Reflection

As you celebrate Palm Sunday today, think about the following:

  1. What do you need saving from?
  2. How is Jesus currently challenging your ideas about what His kingdom should look like?
  3. Beyond palms and coats, what can you lay down at Jesus’ feet to help pave the way for his entrance into your life?

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Next Sunday: Happy Easter!

 

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Good Soil

As I was preparing this devotional, I opened the She Reads Truth daily devotional I keep up with (shereadstruth.com). Can you guess what the topic was? The Parable of the Sower, from Mark 4! Exactly the same scripture that I had planned to do this devotional on weeks ago. I love it when “God Moments” like this happen! Coincidence? Not with our God!

Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Mark 4, all record this parable and the accounts are very similar. Here’s the Mark version for you to take a look at and then we’ll dive in:

1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

3 Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they see what I do,

    they will learn nothing.

When they hear what I say,

    they will not understand.

Otherwise, they will turn to me

    and be forgiven.’[b]”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”


It is really hard for me to not just glaze over while reading this story. Familiar Bible passages, especially parables, are like that. I usually find myself approaching them in one of three ways:

  1. I do a superficial read, pat myself on the back since I apparently completely understand the entire Bible (that’s a joke, by the way), and revert to whatever easy/common understanding I have of the passage.
  2. I give up trying to understand because I’m lazy and don’t want to exert the brainpower/effort/time to re-examine the passage.
  3. I stop and re-read, consult commentaries, and pray that God would reveal what He wants me to see in the passage because clearly, I’m not getting it on my own.

This week, option #2 was by far the most appealing. I felt a very strong connection to what the disciples say in verse 10 – what is the point of this parable, Jesus? 

On doing some additional read-throughs of the passage, verse 13 is what sticks out to me most:

 

“If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 

 

Great question, Jesus. I’m not sure if He’s suggesting that this is an entry-level parable, like Parables 101 or Parables for Dummies, but that thought did cross my mind and made me chuckle. If the Parable of the Sower is a watered-down parable, then I’m in deep doo-doo.


Here are some other ideas of what this verse might mean. It could be that…

  • Jesus is exasperated and just beside Himself with the disciples’ lack of faith or understanding.
  • The Parable of the Sower is a sort of template or key that helps unlock our understanding of other parables.
  • This is Jesus’ first (or one of the first) parables, so it carries extra weight/importance.
  • It could be that this is flat out the most important parable.

I’ve sat with this passage all week. I’ve consulted with Jonah, friends in my Bible Study, and commentaries. I’m not going to lie, this is a tough one. Here’s what I think verse 13 boils down to:

The Parable of the Sower is the most significant and basic parable because it’s all about our response to the Gospel. Everything else Jesus has to say builds on how we receive, or don’t receive, the Good News that he’s the Messiah. If we don’t have a response, we’re dead in the water when it comes to understanding His teachings. 

When we’ve heard about who Jesus is, we have four basic options on how to respond:

Parable of the Sower - Soils and Response to the Gospel. Options: Footpath, Rocks, Thorns, Good Soil

 

How will you respond?

 

What are your thoughts on the Parable of the Sower? What do you make of verse 13? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and let’s start the conversation!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

Next Sunday: Palm-Waving Groupies

 

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Spring Forth!

Isaiah 43 is a deep passage. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of quotable verses come from it, including the ones I want to focus on today – Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Isaiah 43:18-19: “Remember not the former things,     nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness     and rivers in the desert.

Save as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that God is always doing something new!

 

What’s happening in Isaiah, generally? 

First, let’s take a look at the context – always a good place to start. The book of Isaiah records the prophecies of Isaiah, who lived around the time when Israel fell to the Assyrians. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are prophecies and events recorded during Isaiah’s lifetime (~700 B.C.), regarding the Assyrian invasion that’s about to come and the events that occur once it’s happened. This section is mostly about judgment for Israel’s and other nations’ sins. 

Chapters 40-66, which is the context for our passage today, are generally thought to be prophecies fulfilled around 500 B.C. during the Babylonian exile, PLUS messages of hope and comfort for the faithful remnant of Jews dispersed after the exile. Lots of hinting at Jesus Christ as the Messiah in this section. But we’ll cover that some other time. 

Fun fact: “Isaiah is the most cited prophetic book in the New Testament and rabbinic literature.” (Moody Bible Commentary, 2014, pg. 1009)

 

What’s happening in Chapter 43, specifically?

So let’s look at Chapter 43. I’ll let you take a minute to read through it yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Okay, read it? Great! Now, the purpose of this chapter is to give a message of comfort and assurance to the remnant of Israel that survives and returns from the exile. God will protect His people. We see callbacks to God’s provision for the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt (v. 2, 16-17). Then we get to our verses for today:

18 “Remember not the former things,

    nor consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

The point of these verses is to not dwell on the past (AKA the Exodus and Exile), but to look at what God is doing now and what He will do

It’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that the Bible is our own little Magic 8 ball – that each and every verse holds some personal application. Yes, the Bible is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds of Jesus’ words (John 14:26), BUT the Bible isn’t all about us

No – it’s about who God is and what He has done.

 

Critical Thinking / Application

With that perspective in mind, here are some questions about this passage to get you thinking:

  1. What do today’s verses reveal about God’s character?
  2. …about God’s actions/what He has done?
  3. What would the original audience (Jews returning from exile) think/feel about these words? Would they take on a different meaning for them than they do for us?
  4. What do you think “it springs forth” means? What is the “it” referring to?
  5. What’s going on with the imagery in this chapter? Do you think it’s a physical representation of things to come? Symbolic? If symbolic, symbolic of what?
  6. Look at verses 22-28. This is God’s response to sin and disobedience. What does this section tell you about God’s nature?

I’m interested to hear your answers to these questions! Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

I’m praying for you this week! Leave me a message on the contact page or as a comment below if I can pray for you in specific ways. See you on Wednesday for more gardening goodness.

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Next Sunday: Good Soil

 

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Pruning Time!

John 15 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The imagery is SO good:

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Before I got into gardening, I’d look at this passage and say, “Hold up a minute! Why are BOTH the unproductive AND productive parts of this plant [or me] getting cut off?!” 

But now that I’ve been in the garden and made those tough cuts on productive plants, I get it.

It’s super easy to remove a dead twig. You can usually just snap it off without using pruners. Dead wood breaks easily – it’s brittle. But cutting live, green growth seems counter-intuitive. However, if pruned correctly, the plant becomes even more productive. I’ve witnessed this myself, year after year. You should see our fig tree the summer after a hard prune… it’s so full of figs that we can’t give them away fast enough!


Pruning does a lot of great things for a plant:

  • It redirects growth, so limbs can be trained the way they should go
  • It rejuvenates the plant, triggering new growth
  • It strengthens the plant – poor structure can lead to cracks and limb or total plant loss when snow, ice, or wind do their thing
  • It produces more flowers and fruit – by cutting off branches, more energy is available for reproduction (AKA flowers and fruit!)

The pruned plant is one that is living its best life. 


Back to the spiritual side of things, how are you being pruned right now? 

Maybe you’ve been upset about the ways you’ve been “cut off” – changes in areas of your life that were once thriving and now just aren’t. 

Stop and consider the following:

  • How might this redirect my growth? Might the changes I’m experiencing draw me closer to Christ? Or at least point me towards Him?
  • Before this change happened, were things becoming kind of stale? Did I need a fresh start or rejuvenation?
  • Can I learn something from this experience that will make my faith stronger?
  • What unexpected fruits might come from this change?

The last part of the John 15 passage shows us how we can consistently and reliably produce this fruit:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (v.4)

Remain in Jesus! Even after the pruning is done (maybe especially after the pruning is done). 

I’m praying for you this week, that you would identify areas of pruning in your life and see them for the blessing they will become!

John 15:1-2: I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Use as your phone wallpaper or lock screen this week as a reminder that pruning leads to fruit!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for Pruning – It’s Not that Hard!

Next Sunday: Spring Forth

 

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