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DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY LOOKS

Many of us are able to relate to plants. This is probably because they surround us, provide a source of food and oxygen and are a source of great beauty. Jesus was aware of this connection and made references to plants of one type or another during His ministry on earth. The growth of plants is influenced by the environment they are exposed to. Like plants, our growth as followers of Jesus is also influenced by the nature of the environment that we are immersed in. Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew contains plant-based references such as, the parable of the sower (Matthew 18-23), the parable of the weeds (Matthew 24-30) and in a comparison of a mustard seed to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-32). Through the parables of the sowers and the parable of the weeds we should be able to make the connection between desirable plants, undesirable plants and our lives.

 

AN ENVIRONMENT FOR GROWTH

Plum blossoms

Anyone who has a lawn or a garden will have noticed that changes have been taking place in the grass, shrubs and trees that have been largely dormant during winter. After a very wet winter, the edge of spring is upon us. The hope of warmer days and nights can be observed in the flower buds and new leaves that are now appearing on bare branches. The signs of new growth can also be seen in fresh leaves beginning to appear on deciduous trees. These signs represent new growth in response to changes in the environment. More light and more warmth.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY LOOKS

Blue periwinkle and onion grass

There have been two changes that I have observed in my garden as the winter environment morphs into a warmer spring environment. Desirable plants are growing, but undesirable plants are also growing. Invasive plants such as onion grass and blue periwinkle are growing in an attempt to gain a foothold in my garden. The West Tamar Council publication, A Guide to Garden Plants that are Going Bush and Becoming… Environmental Weeds has been produced in a way that helps the reader to identify the offending plants and also provides advice on how to destroy them. The introduction reminds the reader “Don’t be Fooled By Good Looks!” Weeds are plants that become established in locations where they are not wanted. They are also plants that can become invasive and have adverse effects on the natural environment when allowed to get out of control. Examples would include plants such as Blue Periwinkle, Japanese Honeysuckle, Ox-Eye Daisy. These and other environmental weeds often have attractive foliage and flowers. They can been found in many gardens in the West Tamar area. The point to remember about such weeds is that although they are attractive, they are nonetheless harmful to our local environment. In the same way, there are activities that followers of Christ can choose to indulge in that they find enjoyable, and that make them happy. Commonly stated justifications for such activities usually go something like, ‘If it makes me happy how could it possibly be wrong?’ or ‘God made me this way, so why fight it?’. The teaching of Jesus makes it clear that this type of reasoning is flawed. Jesus compares the work of Satan as thorns that choke out growth in a Christian’s path towards becoming more like Christ.

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22

Jesus also refers to weeds that can be sown into our lives when we are not being watchful.

but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
Matthew 5:25-26

 

ELIMINATING UNWANTED GROWTH

The good news about weeds is that there are ways to eliminate them. This is not always an easy process and sometimes requires that the weeds are dug up by the roots and destroyed by fire so that they cannot regrow in the place where they are disposed of.

The good news about sin is that the plan for eliminating it is in play. Jesus has defeated sin and death on the cross. However, until His return we are required to grow as His followers in an environment that still contains thorns and weeds. Jesus lived as a man in the world and experienced temptation. He knows the weeds that can hinder our growth. He has provided us with an instruction manual in the Bible and has provided us with a guide in the person of the Holy Spirit. We also have access to God through prayer. Armed with these resources, it is up to us to use them.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:34-36

 

REMOVING ATTRACTIVE WEEDS

The West Tamar Council expects landowners to regularly check their properties for environmental weeds. Once these are identified we are expected to eliminate them. I believe that as Christians, we should also undertake regular life style checks. This can be difficult to start. One strategy that I have found effective is to find an accountability partner. This involves meeting regularly with a person we trust and asking each other some hard questions. These might include questions such as:

  • Have you been struggling with anything this week?
  • What have you been reading in scripture this week?
  • How have you been relating to others?
  • What habits have developed during lockdown and have become normalised over the previous 18 months?
  • Have you been watching inappropriate content on video streaming services?

This challenge is worth reflecting on. I have found having an accountability partner helps to identify weeds before they get a chance to take hold in my life. It helps to prevent our sense of what is moral becoming dulled.  Speaking at the Princess theatre this week, Martyn Ilse, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) reminded the audience of the importance of being salt and light to a society where many people do not yet know the love that Jesus has for them. This is a message that most Christians are aware of.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Matthew 5:13

Being held accountable by a brother or sister in Christ will help.

 

THE SOWER’S SONG

I believe that the second verse of Andrew Peterson’s, The Sower’s Song, from his album, The Burning Edge of Dawn captures the concept of us having to identify and remove undesirable growth in our lives. He writes,

So I kneel at the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn at the glowing edge of spring
When the winters edge is gone
And I can see the colour green I hear the sowers song
Abide in me let these branches bear you fruit
Abide in me Lord let you word take root
Remove in me the branch that bears no fruit
Remove in me Lord as I abide in you

These lyrics speak of hope that we all have in Jesus Christ who is the Sower of all things good. They also speak of growth, taking root in our God and acknowledging that we need God’s help to keep unproductive and harmful growth under control. However, we also need to be on the lookout for un wanted growth in our lives and take action. Who could you approach to be your accountability partner?

Your Executive pastor,

Tony

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. Vanessa

    Thanks Tony for your message. It is a great reminder that we really must be mindfull of “things” we allow into our lives, that, through what I call a ” slow fade”, take root and draw us away from not to Jesus.

    Reply

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

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