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Lenten Bible Study – Day 12

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 – Day 12
Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears[g] listen!
This is the beginning of the “Kingdom of God” parables. This parable is great because Jesus explains who each person is in the parable, well except 1 group. Jesus never tells us who the slaves are in the parable. The slaves first challenge the master, asking if he sewed good seed. The second thing they do is ask the master if they should go and gather up the weeds. The master tells them no, because they might pull up some wheat as well. We don’t know who the slaves are, but we do know they are told not to pull the weeds.
It is important to note that Jesus tells us that the angels are the ones who will come and reap the harvest. It is not any human being that is charged with pulling the weeds. So many times in this world I see some Christians who want to be overzealous weeders. They want to identify who the weeds are, and they want to get rid of them. Jesus doesn’t call us to be weeders, the reason is because we cannot do it without hurting others. In fact, many times in the Bible when it talks about judgment many people are surprised.
Jesus lets us know that we can’t responsibly decide and pull weeds. We are not responsible for pulling weeds, lets leave that for the angels. Let’s concentrate on our mission, to love God and love our neighbors.
God there are times when we feel judgmental towards others. Let us always remember that our purpose is to love others, not separate or divide. Amen. 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 11

Monday, March 1, 2021- Day 11
Matthew 13: 3-8; 18-23
3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? Myers Briggs comes to my mind. The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a questionnaire designed to determine how people perceive the world around them and make decisions based on personality traits. There are four principal traits – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and all impact how a person interacts with others though one of these four traits is dominant. According to the Myers Briggs website: “Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.” The benefit of knowing your “personality type” is that you understand the way you perceive and interpret the world.
In some respects, that is what Jesus is describing in this parable. Only Jesus’ description of the important personality traits is based on a different question: 
“What kind of soil are you?”
Are you the kind of soil that is so cynical that you not even listen to or try to understand what Jesus teaches? Maybe you need to soften your skepticism.
Are you the kind of soil that is so excitable and impulsive that you accept what Jesus is saying without any effort to make his words a part of your everyday life? Maybe you need to spend time seeking a deeper understanding and application of what Jesus says.
Are you the kind of soil that is easily distracted by all the things in the world that seek your attention and divert you from what Jesus would have you do? Maybe you need to spend some time in quiet contemplation of Jesus and his words.
Jesus says that if we seek understanding of the word, apply it to our lives, and remain focused on it, we will bear good and abundant fruit in our lives.
Which soil are you? It might be different every day. But by spending time devoted to Jesus, his word and the life he calls you to, you can become better soil, over time. That is one purpose of these daily readings during Lent. Make daily devotional time a habit and bear spiritual fruit in abundance.
Dear God, I confess that I sometimes do not listen or seek to understand what you are saying to me. There are other times that I enthusiastically hear your instruction but do not apply it to my life. And often I allow myself to be distracted by the diversions of the world around me. Help me to be contemplative and to devote time to hearing, applying and focusing on your word so that I can bear good and abundant fruit. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 10

Saturday, February 27, 2021- Day 10
Luke 13: 6-9
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’
There are 2 things that strike me when I read this parable. The first is that we are supposed to bear fruit. That is, we should be changed when we accept Jesus in our lives. The “fruit” should be born in a way that is loving and pleasing to God. This should be delivered in loving God and loving your neighbor. We recognize the grace we have received from Christ and in turn love and worship.
In many ways this is a great parable for the Sunday after Easter. We go through this time of lent and we keep our minds a tune to the sacrifice of Jesus. During holy week we mourn the death of Jesus, but then celebrate the incredible resurrection. Through all this we know that we now have grace, a way to get past our sinfulness. This gift is not for us to keep for ourselves. It is our job to share the gift and all of our gifts with others. We are expected to bear fruit, we are expected to care for others, it is our purpose.
The second thing I notice is the tree is given another year to bear fruit, even though it has not in 3 years. This seems odd, there would be no logical reason to expect a tree that has produced nothing to produce in the future. The point is God does not give up on you. It does not matter what type of life you lived or what you have done, God still loves you. I was at a funeral home a few months ago when a man came up to me in tears. He had wandered over from a different room in the funeral home looking for a priest (I guess a pastor was close enough). All he wanted was for someone to pray for him. I asked him what he wanted me to pray for and he just said I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. My prayer for him was letting him know God loves him and that it was never too late to accept God’s love. It may sound weird to some of us but not everyone knows God loves them, we should be telling them. Many people think it is too late for them, we should be reminding them it is not too late. Lastly, you should know God loves you and if you were wondering, it is not too late.
God thank you for loving us. Let us be reminded to bear fruit in our lives. To be humble servants caring for the people in our lives. 

JMPC Sunshine 01.21.2021

I am not a morning person. I have a hard time waking up. Which means I have sort of a love/hate relationship with my alarm clock. Every night I turn it on so that it wakes me up in the morning. When it goes off, I know it’s time to get the day started. Some people wake up to the alarm refreshed and ready to go. They are the people depicted in the TV commercials who wake up with a smile on their faces, give a quick stretch and are ready for the new day. I tend to hit the snooze button several times until it’s imperative that I throw the covers off and slouch to the coffee maker for a cup of caffeinated beverage that gets me ready for the new day. There are other alarms that result in quick action. Some announce the need for quick action to prevent or avoid a danger. A smoke alarm fills that need. We know what to do and are ready to do it. Some end a time of toil and free us to go play. A bell at the end of the school day is such an alarm. The kids know what to do and are ready to do it. Alarms tell us that it is time to act. The action called for depends on the type of the alarm. Whatever the alarm tells us it is time to do, we are best ready to do it. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he announced that the time was fulfilled. That was the alarm. Time to do something! Do what? Repent and believe in the good news. Why? Because the kingdom of God had come near. But there was something else that needed to be done. Were we ready to do it? Want to hear more? Join us at the John McMillan Presbyterian Church Facebook Live stream of Pastor Jeff’s message “Game Time” on Sunday January 24 at 10am. Set your alarm!

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