Blessed… A Plant No One Loved

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’ “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered, “The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn” ’”

 Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied, “The one who plants the good seed is the Human One.  The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one.  The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels.  Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age.  The Human One will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin.  He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Those who have ears should hear” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Common English Bible).

I know I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. The pressures of Holy Week just really hit me pretty hard and something had to give. It ended up being the blog.

We are going to spend a couple of days on “The Parable of the Weeds.” I have preached this text many times and have a few things I would like to share with you.

Tyler, Texas is small city in northeast Texas, about an hour and a half east of Dallas. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful parts of the state. I served one of the congregations in Tyler from October 2001 through December 2004. I still have deep connections to Tyler as my youngest son and his family still live there.

Tyler is best known, at least historically, for its rose farms. It is a place where you can buy roses cheap because they don’t grow the plants for the flowers, they grow them for the plants. At the time I was there, you could buy a dozen roses from a roadside vendor for as little as $2.00. My wife loved it.

One Sunday, while serving there, I preached the text that is our lesson today. I don’t really remember now what I said. It wasn’t anything earth shattering. As I remember it, it wasn’t one of my best sermons but it wasn’t the worst either.

The thing I remember now so fifteen or so years later is what one man said to me on his way out the door. The man was one of Tyler’s rose farmers. He was generally a pretty quiet man, didn’t have a lot to say but when he did speak it was usually worth remembering. Such was the case on this particular day. He said, “Preacher, always remember, a weed us just a plant nobody loved.”

In the light of “The Parable of the Weeds,” I got a new idea of what Jesus was saying. We look out on weeds in our lawns and thing they’ve got to go. We look at the weeds in our lives, the temptation is to root them out as well. Yet these are the people Jesus is talking about when he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They may not look like us. They may not act like us. Yet, they too are children of God.

What weeds are you pulling?

Have a blessed remainder of your Easter 2017.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed…What is Your Dirt (Part 5)

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

“Consider then the parable of the farmer. Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 – Common English Bible).

This week we are focusing on “The Parable of the Seeds.” Monday we began this subgroup of our Matthew devotionals by talking about farmers spreading seeds. We specifically talked about how when using a broadcasting method (the most likely method of spreading seeds during the Biblical era) most of the seed will end up in the places you want, but some will end up in the wrong places. The end result is usually a waste but sometimes God is at work in the end result.

Tuesday we talked about the seed that landed on the path and how the birds would come and eat the seed. Still, even though the birds eat the seed, at least you are feeding the birds.

Next in our lesson, Jesus talks about the seed that falls in the rocky area. The lesson says that because the soil isn’t deep it sprouts quickly but just as quickly wilts away when the sun comes out and the plant experiences the heat of the day.

Our fourth lesson from this parable tells us that some of the seed fell among the thorny plants and was choked out. Jesus says this refers to the those who hear the Word but get caught up in life’s hustle and bustle. They worry money to the point that it is their primary focus and as a result, the Word becomes choked out in their lives.

Today we are concluding our series within a series on the Parable of the Seeds. Today we see the seeds that fall on good soil. Jesus says these are the seeds that fall into fertile soil, take root, grow, and produce fruit.

For so many in the Church, we are planted in the middle of good soil. It is nice a fertile. Its good dirt, dirt where we can take root and grow. And, we do. But then we stop. We never quite reach our full potential because we never bear fruit.

Perhaps the best way to close out this parable is by recalling another. In Luke 13, Jesus tells of a man who owned a fig tree. For three years the man came looking for fruit. After finding none for those years, he instructed his servant to cut down the tree so it wouldn’t deplete the soil. The only thing that saved the tree was the gardener’s request for giving the tree special treatment. If it still failed to produce then it would be cut down.

The point is this. Jesus still wants us to produce fruit. One day He will hold us accountable just as the fig tree and just as the seeds that grow in fertile soil.

What fruit are you producing?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving.
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed…What’s Your Dirt (Part 4)

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

“Consider then the parable of the farmer. Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 – Common English Bible).

This week we are focusing on “The Parable of the Seeds.” Monday we began this subgroup of our Matthew devotionals by talking about farmers spreading seeds. We specifically talked about how when using a broadcasting method (the most likely method of spreading seeds during the Biblical era) most of the seed will end up in the places you want, but some will end up in the wrong places. The end result is usually a waste but sometimes God is at work in the end result.

Tuesday we talked about the seed that landed on the path and how the birds would come and eat the seed. Still, even though the birds eat the seed, at least you are feeding the birds.

Next in our lesson, Jesus talks about the seed that falls in the rocky area. The lesson says that because the soil isn’t deep it sprouts quickly but just as quickly wilts away when the sun comes out and the plant experiences the heat of the day.

Our fourth lesson from this parable tells us that some of the seed fell among the thorny plants and was choked out. Jesus says this refers to the those who hear the Word but get caught up in life’s hustle and bustle. They worry money to the point that it is their primary focus and as a result, the Word becomes choked out in their lives.

I don’t know a lot about gardening and yard work. To be brutally honest, I am not particularly interested in learning it either. I have always disliked yard work. It is not my thing. I have cut the grass many times in my life. I have pulled the weeds from many flowerbeds. I have even watered and a couple of times fertilized the grass.

While I don’t know a great deal about the science of having a lawn, one thing I picked up along the way is, if you have weeds growing in your yard, the best way to eliminate them is to choke them out with healthy grass. You fertilize your grass so it becomes really healthy and it will choke out the weeds.

Jesus is saying, in essence, the opposite is true as well. If the thorny plants are healthy and the other plants are not, the thorny plants can choke them out.

The same can be true for us. If we don’t keep ourselves healthy through prayer and personal Bible study, the world can choke us out. We can become so overwhelmed with the world and the things of the world that we become consumed by other things rather than being focused on the things of God. Whatever you feed will choke out what lacks health in your life. If we want to have a healthy spiritual life, we must feed that life. If we feed the worldly life, we will always be consumed first and foremost with the things of the world, including money. What we have will never be enough because we have choked out the blessings of a spiritual life.

What things are threatening to choke out the things of the spirit in your life?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… What’s Your Dirt (Part 3)

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

“Consider then the parable of the farmer. Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 – Common English Bible).

This week we are focusing on “The Parable of the Seeds.” Yesterday we began this subgroup of our Matthew devotionals by talking about farmers spreading seeds. We specifically talked about how when using a broadcasting method (the most likely method of spreading seeds during the Biblical era) most of the seed will end up in the places you want, but some will end up in the wrong places. The end result is usually a waste but sometimes God is at work in the end result.

Yesterday we talked about the seed that landed on the path and how the birds would come and eat the seed. Still, even though the birds eat the seed, at least you are feeding the birds.

Next in our lesson, Jesus talks about the seed that falls in the rocky area. The lesson says that because the soil isn’t deep it sprouts quickly but just as quickly wilts away when the sun comes out and the plant experiences the heat of the day. In the explanation part of the lesson Jesus compares this seed with people who don’t have deep roots in the faith. They can start out like gang busters but fade away when the stresses of life in the faith come into play.

Many years ago I came to know a man who had a sudden experience with God. With this experience he was all in. He worked hard in the church and in ministries outside the church. In a short period of time he also experienced one of the clearest calls to ministry I have ever seen. Then his work forced him to leave our area and our influence. I was able to stay in contact with him for a while. He got with a new church fairly quickly. He was involved but he also got together with a group of old friends who continued to have influence over him. In the end, the friends won out. With his shallow roots, he was unable to stay strong in his faith.

I lost contact with him. Ten years or so later, I ran into him in a local store. He shared with me that he rejected his call and was no longer part of the church. While he still believed in God, all the “religion stuff” just wasn’t that important to him.

It makes me sad. I wish there had been the opportunity for his roots to grow deeper while we still had influence. When the seed falls on the rocks, it is tough for the roots to take hold. I absolutely get it.

What are you doing to insure your roots grow deep?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… What’s Your Dirt (Part 2)

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

“Consider then the parable of the farmer. Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 – Common English Bible).

This week we are focusing on “The Parable of the Seeds.” Yesterday we began this subgroup of our Matthew devotionals by talking about farmers spreading seeds. We specifically talked about how when using a broadcasting method (the most likely method of spreading seeds during the Biblical era) most of the seed will end up in the places you want, but some will end up in the wrong places. The end result is usually a waste but sometimes God is at work in the end result.

Jesus says, in this parable, when the farmer was scattering the seed, some fell on the pathway. If I was to broadcast fertilizer around my yard, some of it will inevitably fall on the sidewalk, the driveway, the patio and the porch. It probably wouldn’t be large quantities but I know I would miss. In the end, the product landing on the concrete would be wasted.

Jesus says the birds came and ate it. I doubt the birds would eat my fertilizer but they would eat the seeds. I recently bought a bird feeder to put out on my patio. In the process of trying to fill it, I spilled some of the birdseed. Some is still there but the birds have carried much of it away.

Jesus likens that to spreading seed that when spread winds up with a person who doesn’t understand it. Evil then takes over because there is little to prevent its growth.

I have learned something in recent years, however, even that seed that is planted in a person who doesn’t understand still has great possibilities. Through prevenient grace, God is calling and wooing us into a relationship. If God is omnipotent, God can change hearts and change lives. Yes, God does give us all free will and we can decide to accept the offered grace or reject the same. Still, God doesn’t give up. God continues to call. Relationships can still happen. And, when they do, that seed is no longer wasted.

How do you tend the seed that lands along the path?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… What’s Your Dirt? (Part 1)

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

“Consider then the parable of the farmer. Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 – Common English Bible).

Over the next five days we will be looking at “The Parable of the Seeds” or “The Parable of the Soils” or “The Parable of the Farmer” depending on who is writing the commentary and therefore giving this parable its name. Today we are looking at the first part of the parable, “A Farmer went out to scatter seed…”

Several years ago I served a church that had just built a new parsonage. My family and I were the first people to live in this house. Cindy joked, “Brand new parsonage, never been prayed in.” It wasn’t literally a true statement. The house had been consecrated prior to our arrival and I feel pretty certain there was a prayer or two said as part of the the consecration service.

As often happens with new construction homes, there literally was no grass in the yard. In an effort to change that, one of the men in the church bought a large bag of Bermuda grass seed and went out and scattered the seed for the lawn. It did work. By the time we arrived to move into the house, there was a really good start on a yard with a lot of Bermuda grass. Over the course of that summer, it became a beautiful yard.

The man who scattered the seed used a fairly ancient technique. It was probably, at the very least similar to the method the farmer used in our lesson. I am not sure if there is an official name for it, but I was taught it was called broadcasting. You grab a handful of the product you need to spread, fertilizer, weed control or in this case seeds and you, moving your hand back in forth in front of you spread the seeds.

It is a method that has no cost to it because your hand and perhaps a bucket are the only tools needed. And, it is a pretty effective way to get the job done. That’s the upside. The downside is, much like the farmer in the parable, the seeks went into places they weren’t needed. I feel pretty certain that some of the seeds went on the sidewalks, the driveway and the patio. Some may have landed in the street and the porch. That part isn’t so bad. If there is a problem with it, you can sweep it up. The other place the seed landed was in the flowerbeds. As a result, I spent the next two years pulling Bermuda grass out of the flowerbeds. Do you know what they call grass in a flowerbed? A weed! But, more on weeds when we finish talking about dirt and seeds.

The point here is, the farmer was bound to scatter some seek in places he never intended it to go, in my case, the flowerbeds. Still, most of the seed hit the desired spot and it made a significant impact.

When we scatter seeds in life, faith seeds, they may not all hit in the right spot, but some will land in the right place and they will make an impact.

Where are you scattering seed?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… The Parables

NOTE: During these next few days the blogs are going to look a bit different. Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus beginning teaching parables in earnest. In this chapter Jesus tells the parable and then might go into something else, perhaps teach another parable and then comes back to the first to explain it. For the sake of continuity I am going to keep sections together. Today’s readings are the first two verses of the chapter paired with why Jesus taught in parables. When we get back to more sequential passages I will move back to a more standard presentation.

That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore…

 …Jesus’ disciples came and said to him, “Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?” Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand.14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them:

You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeingFor this people’s senses have become calloused,  and they’ve become hard of hearing, and they’ve shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them. “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear. I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t (Matthew 13:1-2, 10-17, Common English Bible).

I love Jesus’ parables. Sometimes they can be difficult to understand the point but I really do love them. They are some of my favorite preaching passages. I think that the Beatitudes and the specific parables Jesus tells in Matthew are the biggest reasons why Matthew is my favorite of the Gospels.

In today’s reading, Jesus is telling the reason he taught in parables. At least to my ear this sounds a bit cryptic too. But, what I think Jesus is saying here is, he teaches in parables because only those whose hearts are ready will understand the parables. When a person’s heart is ready, then they will understand.

What that idea says to me is, we have to be at work through prayer, Bible study, worship, giving, service and more to build our hearts to better understanding of what God has for us.

Through prevenient grace, God is already at work in our lives. God builds us up and prepares our hearts and minds to be disciples. As fellow travelers on the way, we in the Church, the people charged with making disciples, are the instruments God uses to open hearts and minds to change lives in the world around us.

How do you allow God to use you to build hearts and minds to understand the parables as well as all the Gospel?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved