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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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YOUR FAMILY IS BIGGER THAN YOU THINK

My Great Grandmother was one of eleven children. My mother was one of six children. After the financial devastation of the Great Depression, my mother and my aunts and uncles moved to Bunyip, a small town in Gippsland Victoria, where my Grandparents started over – again, farming sheep, dairy cows, and crops. In the early 1900s in rural Australia it made sense to have a big family because farming was so labour intensive and every farmer depended upon their children to help out on the farm. Today, families of six or more children is far less common. In fact, some couples are now getting married with the intention of having just one child, and even some are telling me that they do not intend to have any children. I wonder what this apparent trend might do to our culture? I wonder whether some of the problems that beset young men who struggle to interact in a wholesome way with young ladies might be due to their lack of growing up with a sister or sisters? While sociologists who study the effect of family compositions on societies examine some of these dynamics and how they maybe contributing to the “me generation”, I think there is also something deeply spiritual and theological to consider as well.

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THERE’S MORE TO OUR WORLD THAN MEETS THE EYE

It seems that before God created mankind, He had created a heavenly family composed of powerful, intelligent, volitional (able to make decisions and act upon them) created beings. We get a later glimpse of the vast numbers of created heavenly beings who fill the Third Heaven of God’s realm in Revelation 5:11- 

¶ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands
Revelation 5:11

We get another glimpse of a scene of the highest heaven, in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah the prophet is shown God on His throne surrounded by magnificent heavenly creatures who serve Yahweh as heaven‘s worship leaders whose presence invoke great awe of God.

¶ In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” ¶ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-4

But it seems that God also created a special category of heavenly beings who would watch over (they were called “watchers” Daniel 4:13) and guide the future creation of mankind on earth. These incredibly powerful creatures were given appropriate abilities to be able to interact with mankind. They appear to have been trans-dimensional — that is, they could appear in physical form in this dimension in which we exist, and they could translate back into the second heaven (and originally they could each also translate into the Third Heaven to appear before God as alluded to in Job 1). It seems that Yahweh entrusted to each of these Watchers, also referred to as “the holy ones” and “the sons of God” (Deut. 32:8) and as “Elohim” (Psalm 82:6-7), authority over a nation each, and the right to decree certain governmental decisions…

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LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WORLD’S MOST WICKED CITY WHEN THESE GUYS TURNED UP

At our recent evangelism conference, Dr. Malcolm Gill, from the Sydney Anglican Cathedral, shared how the early Christians targeted the most vile, evil, cities in the world as places where the gospel needed to be taken. The three largest cities in the world during the time when the Church being birthed were: Rome, Alexandria (in Egypt), and Antioch. Of these three, Antioch was among the most vile, dangerous, evil, debauched cities at that time. It was a violent, promiscuous city where every imaginable form of sexual immorality was common. To make matters worse, Antioch was one of the world’s major slave trading centres. I wonder how many Christians today would choose to move to such a city in order to raise their families? Not many I suggest. But in the first century, several brave Christians moved to Antioch to share the gospel and what happened as a result literally changed the course of human history! And what they did …

BEHOLD, THE MAN

Paul concludes his ‘first’ epistle to the Corinthians by speaking directly to the men of the Church. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has preserved this for the benefit of all Christian men. It is my hope that the men of our church can exemplify what Paul told these Corinthian men.

¶ Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love.
First Corinthians 16:13

Dr. Gordon Fee notes that the imperative (something which must be done) is written in “military language” to men. Be watchful is a military term. It echoes God’s first command to the first man to guard and keep the garden (of Eden) (Gen. 2:15). Men are thus called to use their strength to protect, not harm, women and children. Secondly, stand firm in the faith is also a military term echoing how a soldier must act when under attack from the enemy. They are to hold their position. Men are to do this when it comes to spiritual truth — despite what the cancel-cultured crowd says. Act like men reinforces the original creation mandate for men to use their God-given strength to muster the courage to be watchful and defend the truth, the right, and the good — especially when it involves the vulnerable. But, Paul concludes, men must not do this in an ugly fashion. They must be watchful, resolute, defending the truth/right/good, by using their strength, in a loving way. The greatest example of this Biblical revelation of manhood was Jesus the Christ, The Man (referred to by Paul in the previous chapter to the Corinthians as “the second Adam” (1Cor. 15:45), “the second Man” (1Cor. 15:47), “the Man from Heaven” (1Cor. 15:48). Jesus is literally, the Man. Every man should look to Jesus as the ultimate example of manhood. And this is my aspiration for my life and my pastoral hope for every man in our church — to act like men! This is something that Count Nicklaus van Zinzendorf and his band of Moravian missionaries were able to promote among the men of the community, which is yet another reason why admire him so much.

WANTED, NEEDED, WELCOMED, APPRECIATED

In C.S. (Jack) Lewis’s best-selling book, Mere Christianity, he described Christianity as being like a great house with a large hallway. Off the vast hallway there are many doors. Behind each door there is an even larger area where a set dining table awaits in front of an inviting open fire-place which complements the aroma of the just cooked roast dinner about to be served. Behind each of these doors in the hallway there are similar rooms yet each with their distinctive differences. God calls, Lewis states, each of His children not to linger unnecessarily long in the hallway, but to actively seek the door that they are meant to enter through into the room where they belong. In that particular room is the place where each believer is wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated. Lewis wrote-

“In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper?’ When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still In the hall. If they are wrong they need. your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”, Harper-Collins

GRIME DUST & US

Sometimes we can feel that things in our life are beginning to get to us. This could be attributed to a number of factors including the 24 hour news cycle constantly pumping out bad news from all over the world, or to the growing practice of ‘doom scrolling’ on our smart devices. This is the habit of continually scrolling down through news stories that relate to murders, domestic violence, assaults, road rage, floods, fires and disease.  Another issue that can reduce our resilience is the almost constant push to create laws that work against members of our society who are unable to protect themselves such as the elderly and the unborn. Little wonder we can feel overwhelmed.

THE UPSTREAM VISION, Part 2

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > August 6th > THE UPSTREAM VISION, Part 2 When it comes to unpacking the Upstream vision, I am reminded of this story -   One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently...

THE UPSTREAM VISION, Part 1

The best way for me to explain to you the Upstream Vision is to tell you a story. A man was walking through the bush with his dog enjoying the outdoors, the fragrances of nature, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the chirping of the birds, the sounds of the flowing river, and — suddenly he heard the panicked cries for help coming from the river. He ran to the riverbank and saw a hapless victim being swept downstream. He threw himself into raging river and eventually managed to rescue the drowning man further downstream. The next day this bushwalker’s heroism was featured on the front-page of the local paper. That day, he and his dog attempted to complete their previous day’s interrupted walk — but it was interrupted again by the cries for help from yet another drowning person being swept downstream!