Daily Verse – Matthew 7:24

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

There are two principle teachings of Jesus about ‘hearing’ his/the word – the sower and the seed and this contrast between two builders.

Everyone who hears – the Greek akouei which occurs in this single instance in Matthew’s Gospel – is to give an audience to, or make a point of listening to. It also relates to understanding and being reported.

Jesus taught throughout his ministry that his words and actions were not just to be treated as an academic teaching but to be acted upon. All throughout his ministy the parallels are drawn between the words of the religious leaders and the actions of Jesus and his disciples.

Here, again, the distinction is clear.

Those ‘who do’ – put them into practicepoiei meaning to make or do – are like a builder who build his house on the rock.

It is hard not to think here of Peter – Petros – and the word used here is the femine form – as the rock upon which the church would be built.

Jesus must be emphasising further the ‘action’ he expects from us all but also the disciple’s example of someone who didn’t always get it right, as we may not do.

Hearing Jesus’ words requires us to take action and in doing so we are on a sure foundation despite the storms of life which are inevitable.

The Daily Verse – John 15:18

“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.” – AMP

‭‭John‬ ‭15:16‬ ‭‬‬

What does it feel like to know that you have been chosen?

Do you think it is possible to ‘bear fruit’ even in difficult circumstances?

In this verse, Jesus is talking to his disciples.

He tells them that he has chosen them.

Elsewhere Jesus prays for these same disciples, declaring to God that he hasn’t lost one of them.

Just as the disciples were chosen, so are we.

Jesus’ final sacrifice of himself gave everyone in the world access to the God of the Jewish people.

Remember when God spoke to Moses he said He was, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ – Exodus‬ ‭3:6

‬But to Abraham, God had promised ‘through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’ Genesis‬ ‭22:18‬ ‭

Jesus continues reminding the disciples that as well as choosing them he had appointed them as Apostles.

They had parables explained to them and saw miracles at first hand.

He tells them that they were placed and purposefully planted.

A gardener plants with with the combination of the right soil and right mix of sunlight and shade for each plant.

Why?

So they might be fruitful. Not just fruitful, but to continually bear fruit.

To this end Jesus leaves them with yet another gift, which will out do all of the others they had received so far – they could approach God in prayer and ask Him for their needs in the name of Jesus.

God would respond as if it was Jesus himself asking.

It is powerful to think that we have been chosen – especially when so many of us probably don’t fell that way most of the time.

God – Jesus – must have got the wrong ‘John or Jane Smith’ when the letter came through the door.

Surely he can’t mean us?

As the disciples were chosen, so were we.

As they had a purpose, so do we.

We have been planted purposefully.

This will again also surprise many of us, as perhaps the current place and position of our lives may seem anything but purposeful.

If we start to view our current circumstances as part of our ‘planting’ we can meaningfully pray for our purpose at this time.

As gardeners know, a plant may get moved around the garden, so don’t despair if the thought of being where you are fills you with dread.

Jesus tells us that we will bear fruit and to continue to bear fruit.

This fruit will be a blessing to ourselves as well as others.

Galatians 5 tells us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

If we can exhibit these fruit, God can work through us in our circumstances.

By blessing others we also bless ourselves.

On top of this we have an extra gift.

Jesus tells us that if we ask (pray) for anything we need to God, it will be as if Jesus himself had asked for it.

Remember a ‘need’ probably isn’t a BMW or a holiday in Monaco.

An immediate need will be for ourselves or for others to do the work of God.

You are chosen.

You are planted.

God listens and responds to you.

The Daily Verse – Luke 13:19

‘It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’ – NIVUK

Luke 13:19

What do you plant in your life?

Can you see your life as a tree?

Jesus has just had an argument with a Synagogue leader because he was criticised for healing a woman on the Sabbath.

The only things you were permitted to do on the Sabbath were to go and pray publicly or at home. Food had to be prepared the previous day. It was to be a complete day of rest.

Jesus took pity on a woman who had had a debilitating illness for eighteen years. He saw this as God’s work.

The Synagogue leader was wrapped up in the man-made laws surrounding this day of rest. He was completely unconcerned about the plight or the healing of the woman.

In response to this Jesus teaches him about the Kingdom of God.

Israel’s expectation was that the Messiah would come in triumph and over throw their oppressors. They expected a military leader who would restore the nation to power and might.

Jesus tells them the the coming Kingdom was starting with the mustard seed – the tiniest of seeds – but would eventually grow into a great tree, whose branches would become home to many types of birds.

He was teaching that the Kingdom would not just consist of the nation of Israel.

Jesus’ continual references to going plants and seeds in his parables was a common ‘language’ for the majority of his listeners. The majority of people lived rurally and would grow some food to eat and also keep a few animals.

For many of us growing is a separation of commercial growing for food, and personal plants for visual aesthetic, if you are lucky enough to have a garden.

We can use this growing metaphor and apply it to ourselves as well.

If we plant the smallest of seeds – if we begin with a positive intention – and tend the soil and care for its growth – attend daily to develop that first positive action – over a period of time the seed will become a tree – the habit will become a strength and be clearly seen by others – eventually providing a home for the birds amongst the branches – and will prove a blessing to many others as well as ourselves.

What seed could you plant in your lives?

Do you want to be more creative or organised? Do you want to learn a musical instrument? Do you want to learn a foreign language? Do you want to learn to cook better?

Do you want to develop the courage to talk to more people? Do you want to find ways to do small positive actions for those in your lives? Do you want to be fitter and healthier?

All of these things will enable you to develop those branches and bless the people who come within their reach.

If you ever get the chance to watch the documentary-movie Skid Row Marathon then I would highly recommend it.

A Los Angeles Judge is a keen runner. He is then asked by a man who he convicted and sent to jail to go down and see the Midnight Mission which was helping him get back on his feet after his release from prison.

The Judge is encouraged to help out with the Mission, so he starts a running club.

Watch the film – it is uplifting and will leave you teary eyed at the same time.

The Judge’s seed was his love of running. The tree grew as the running club developed. In the branches miracles happened.

What is the first seed you will plant?

The Daily Verse – Luke 13:8

“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it.” – NIVUK

Luke 13:8

Are there areas of your life that appear to not be bearing fruit?

Have you decided to cut those areas out of your life or attend to them more carefully?

Today’s verse is taken from the Gospel of Luke and is part of a parable which Jesus is teaching from.

We are told that a man has a fig tree growing in his vineyard but for three years it has not produced fruit. He decides it is time to cut the tree down and do something else with the soil.

He calls to his gardener and gives him the order but the gardener asks for another chance – one more year – for the tree.

He will tend it – dig around it loosening the soil so the roots are watered more effectively – and he will fertilise it – adding in manure to nourish it.

The gardener will put in extra time and effort to that one tree, out of the whole vineyard, to try and get it to bear fruit.

He tells the owner, if this doesn’t work then cut the tree down.

Many commentators state that Jesus is alluding to the nation of Israel here. They have one more year to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’.

There are many other verses in the Gospels which lend strength to his view, but often in parables Jesus has several threads in his teaching.

The owner has waited patiently. Three years is more than generous.

The gardener sees his job as caring and nurturing, not cutting down; although judicious pruning is often needed for a plant or tree to grow more healthily.

The gardener commits himself to put in the extra time and effort to aid the tree.

When the owner thinks it is worthless the gardener sees possibility.

We see this attitude in Jesus throughout the Gospels.

He takes time with people the leaders of society think are worthless. He nourishes them. They produce fruit.

In more recent times the habit of structuring our lives and getting the maximum potential out of them, we are generally encouraged to be like the vineyard owner.

If something isn’t bearing worthwhile fruit then cut it out.

Habits, possessions, use or users of time – if they aren’t productive then get rid of them.

The logic makes perfect sense and can be the right way to act.

This parable contrasts the owner’s attitude with that of the gardener. The former has put very little effort in to the vineyard and the gardener has; and he is willing to put in more time and effort on this one tree.

Is it his superior knowledge that commits him to this course of action? Or is it faith in his ability to effect a change?

If we view the tree as the sinners and the tax collectors and the sick and those who counted for nothing in Jesus’ society, then we see the difference between the owner – the religious leaders – and the gardener – Jesus.

The tree can be us, our lives – habits and actions – or perhaps the people in our lives.

The gardener doesn’t just leave the tree, he commits to the time and attention it needs.

This is how we need to look at our lives on many occasions.

Some areas may not be working that well, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t, given sufficient effort from ourselves.

It needs to be the right effort though.

We need to look at the deficient areas we all have and assess what will improve the growing conditions for our ‘trees’.

If we aren’t sure we can ask another gardener – they love to share little tips and tricks, generally from their own experiences.

So, identify a few fruit-less trees in your life and look at them with a gardener’s eye – what can you do to improve the nourishment to the tree and improve the soil it is in?