Hometown Hero

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


Good coming-home stories take us back to the place where it all started. The rags-to-riches stories of successful athletes, business owners, physicians, or musicians that nobody thought would make it, all defy the limits. We often learn of the teacher who believed, or a coach who saw the talent beyond the circumstances at home. These redeeming stories of hope inspire the soul and are an all-out assault on labels placed on people.
When Jesus went home He was not the same person who left. Now He was a rabbi, a healer, and hope-giver who has followers. He knew what He was about, and His reputation preceded Him. But this is the latest download and update for those at home. They knew who He was; they knew His sisters; they knew the house He grew up in, but who is this guy? No, at His homecoming, Jesus received no celebration, pats on the back, smiles and waves from the neighbors, or a key to the city. Even the homies from around the way didn’t bother to throw a party.
Instead, they doubt and question Jesus. Mark writes the story this way in chapter 6:
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” (ESV)*
In other words, “Who is this guy?”
He is the founder, CEO, and lead attorney of earth’s Innocence Project with the sole mission to be an advocate for those who have sinned, and to save through His grace those who come to Him in faith. He is unbeaten on the road, flawless in His execution, and has found His niche.
Don’t hate, He is simply about His Father’s business. Being on the road changed Jesus, but doing His Father’s work, and living His purpose changed Him more. He was unrecognizable. And that was a good thing for the world.

The “haterade” flowed like water at home though. Who do you think you are? How dare you return home and speak like this?

It is out of our emptiness that we fill ourselves with the blood of others who we have limited, and even killed with labels we have placed on them. Humans were labeling pros in the time of Christ, and today we carry on the tradition. We even do it to ourselves. Labels on birth limitation, and they often shackle their captives emotionally without the possibility of parole. We limit each other. We incarcerate each other. Those who take the risk of a prison-break are sometimes tried by a jury of peers and found guilty of attempting to exceed expectations. Jesus had broken free, and wanted the people in His hometown to be free as well. They, however, could not be. They would not be.

Who is this guy?
Deeper yet, what happens when the blessing we need does not appear the way we expect? Jesus simply came to be a blessing, and the limits of his community, and His home stood in the way because He is not Jesus talking with a manwhat they expected. We treat our retuning children this way. We miss blessings because the person or vision did not fit the description. Too young. Too bold. Too much. Labels. Limits. We are missing out! How many years will we waste because we have no faith in the generation that is coming home? How long will we let our best minds, and most talented give their best outside of the city walls?

Who is He we ask?
An earlier chapter in Mark says that while in a storm that threatened shipwreck, and the lives of all aboard, Jesus is sleeping. He is labeled as not caring. All they could see was imminent destruction, but Jesus reminds them that He is not limited by storms and waves, and the fear of losing His life. He simply says, “peace be still.” Who is this guy? He speaks and nature listens.
Jesus then steps on the shore and strips off the label of “crazy demon-possessed man” from an outcast who was living among the dead. Jesus gave this shackled man unfettered freedom of life. Who is this guy, that even demons obey Him?
Jesus then rips the label of “incurable” from a woman by the mere touch of her hand to His garment. He is not done yet, because He deals with the biggest label of all, death. He rips the label of death off of Jarius’ daughter and she is brought back to life.
If I were there that day, I hope that I could say, “Jesus I want you to do your thing right here. You are always welcome here. Here is the key to the city, and I can’t wait to see what you will do right here at home.”
Who would He be then? The Savior of the world, the slain Lamb of God, and the coming King. The One who can free us from our limits and labels. Jesus/Savior.

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Baron A. Sovory is a pastor, husband, father, and youth leader in Southern California.

*Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Too Much Jesus

Too much religion. Too much church. Too much Jesus? For many it is hard to drive to the store without running into some sort of ministry. Steeple after steeple, cause after cause. It seems as if someone is always trying to find a way to spread the “Word.” Have you ever wondered if someone could have too much Jesus? Can you be around Him so long that you get weary of His presence? Let me ask a question that may be more relevant: Is there a time when you can get so familiar encountering Him that He no longer influences your life in the miraculous way He is capable of? As we continue exploring the different encounters people have had with Jesus, let us look at those who were exposed to Him the most.

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Day 1 - Read Mark 6:1

Sometimes it is hard to think about the reality of “God with us.” This verse uses a very interesting word when it comes to describing where Jesus was going: hometown. Can you imagine what it was like to live in the same town and see the development of the One who was to save the world? Have you ever wondered? Tell us what you think about this. We at Message would love to hear it.


Day 2 -Read Mark 6:2

I must admit that in writing this, it just dawned on me that Jesus not only had a hometown, but also a home church. To get a real feel for the amazement that those who were in the synagogue experienced, the next time you go to church, look at one of the children in your congregation and try to see them as the King of the universe. Envision them as having all power and authority. Tell about this exercise. Can you do it? Does it make you chuckle? Tell us about it.


Day 3 - Read Mark 6:2,3

From the last section, are the questions that were asked truly preposterous? There is something to be said about the effect of familiarity. Has God become familiar to you? When was the last time Jesus truly blew your mind, or caught you off guard? Read Hebrews 13:8, Romans 11:34, and Isaiah 55:8, 9. How do these fit together? What do they say about being “familiar” with God?

 


Day 4 - Read Mark 6:4

It seems as though the hardest setting to share and live the Gospel in, is around those who call you family. The ones that know you the best are often the hardest to reach, because either they know your story, or are not open to what you have to say because of history. Jesus seemed to experience this also in Nazareth. The people believed they knew Him so well that it was a foreign possibility for this man to be the Messiah. Is there someone who has been trying to talk to you, but you do not listen to them because you are close? Is there someone God has put on your heart to reach out to, but you are hesitant to do so with because of the nature of your relationship? Write out a prayer. Do not say their name if you do not want to, but write it out, and if you are willing, share your prayer so we at Message can pray with you for that situation.


Day 5 - Read Mark 6:5

It may amaze you, but you have the power to stifle God’s power in your own life, and those around you. The people of Nazareth somehow found a way to get the Bible to say “He [Jesus] could not . . .” Is it possible that God has intended to do some things in your life, but your expectation of Him is that He will be and do what He always has? And has that perspective limited what actually happens? Can you by the power of the Holy Spirit identify something you may be limiting God from doing? Let us know here at Message. We would love to pray for you in this.

 


Day 6 - Read Ephesians 3:20

Make a list of the things in your life you are looking for God to show His power in. Then make a list of what you think the best outcome would be. Read the verse above again and erase, or rewrite your answer. I am convinced that no matter how fantastic our scribbling get, God can exceed them. In your own way, praise God for what He is going to do with your list. If your praise takes the form of a song, poem, picture, or anything else that is shareable, we would love to be blessed by your praise here at Message. Share it with us.

Day 7 - Read Mark 6:6

I pray that God takes you and me to a place that our name can never appear in this verse. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, I look forward to God dispensing His word in such excess that we will amaze Him with the abundance of our faith.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 





Who’s Who? And Why You Don’t Have to Worry About It

This month’s Experience is an excerpt from the book Christ’s Object Lessons, written more than 100 years ago. The chapter entitled “Tares” presented this parable of Jesus in a fresh light. It’s still fresh.


“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” ’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30).

Christ’s servants are grieved as they see true and false believers mingled in the church. They long to do something to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder, they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ says to them, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.”

Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.

There is in the Savior’s words another lesson, a lesson of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. The real character of these pretended believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who but for this would have remained steadfast.

The teaching of this parable is illustrated in God’s own dealing with men and angels. Satan is a deceiver. When he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully discern his character. This was why God did not at once destroy Satan. Had He done so, the holy angels would not have perceived the justice and love of God. A doubt of God’s goodness would have been as evil seed that would yield the bitter fruit of sin and woe. Therefore the author of evil was spared,  to fully develop his character. Through long ages God has borne the anguish of beholding the work of evil, He has given the infinite Gift of Calvary, rather than leave any to be deceived by the misrepresentations of the wicked one; for the tares could not be plucked up without danger of uprooting the precious grain. And shall we not be as forbearing toward our fellow men as the Lord of heaven and earth is toward Satan?

The world has no right to doubt the truth of Christianity because there are unworthy members in the church, nor should Christians become disheartened because of these false brethren. How was it with the early church? Ananias and Sapphira joined themselves to the disciples. Simon Magus was baptized. Demas, who forsook Paul, had been counted a believer. Judas Iscariot was numbered with the apostles. The Redeemer does not want to lose one soul; His experience with Judas is recorded to show His long patience with perverse human nature; and He bids us bear with it as He has borne. He has said that false brethren will be found in the church until the close of time.

Notwithstanding Christ’s warning, men have sought to uproot the tares. To punish those who were supposed to be evildoers, the church has had recourse to the civil power. Those who differed from the established doctrines have been imprisoned, put to torture and to death, at the instigation of men who claimed to be acting under the sanction of Christ. But it is the spirit of Satan, not the Spirit of Christ, that inspires such acts. This is Satan’s own method of bringing the world under his dominion. God has been misrepresented through the church by this way of dealing with those supposed to be heretics.

Not judgment and condemnation of others, but humility and distrust of self, is the teaching of Christ’s parable. Not all that is sown in the field is good grain. The fact that men are in the church does not prove them Christians.

The tares closely resembled the wheat while the blades were green; but when the field was white for the harvest, the worthless weeds bore no likeness to the wheat that bowed under the weight of its full, ripe heads. Sinners who make a pretension of piety mingle for a time with the true followers of Christ, and the semblance of Christianity is calculated to deceive many; but in the harvest of the world there will be no likeness between good and evil. Then those who have joined the church, but who have not joined Christ, will be manifest.

The tares are permitted to grow among the wheat, to have all the advantage of sun and shower; but in the time of harvest ye shall “return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18, KJV). Christ Himself will decide who are worthy to dwell with the family of heaven. He will judge every man according to his words and his works. Profession is as nothing in the scale. It is character that decides destiny.

The Savior does not point forward to a time when all the tares become wheat. The wheat and tares grow together until the harvest, the end of the world. Then the tares are bound in bundles to be burned, and the wheat is gathered into the garner of God. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

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Why do good things happen to bad people? Why do bad things happen to good people? What is a “good” person? What makes a person “bad”? It is natural to have either a high or low opinion of someone based on personal interaction. Jesus calls His followers to use the same standard of good and bad as He does. In the parable of the sower Jesus makes some very powerful and relevant assertions about who is good and bad. I invite you to join us in seeking the mind of God in this study entitled “Till the End.”


Day 1 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Jesus routinely starts His parables with “The kingdom of heaven is like. . .” In preparation for this study it would be helpful to get to a place where we are mindful of the kingdom of heaven. Go to YouTube and search for “Will You Be Ready?” by Commissioned, or input the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U93vR8R3qFI. While the song plays, read Matthew 6:33 and meditate on what the kingdom of heaven is. Take note of the various similes Jesus uses for the kingdom of heaven in the book of Matthew. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 2 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

The parable of the wheat and the tares is among a number of stories that assume an understanding of agriculture. Very few people in technologically developed places know the ins and outs of farming. Before going further it would be profitable to research wheat and tares. Search for a picture of a comparison of wheat and tares. What do you see? What does it reveal? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 3

Have you ever been misjudged? Has your gender, race, or status ever caused you to be treated a certain way? I would suggest that one of the methods that God uses to teach us to be gracious is to allow us to go through situations in which we yearn for grace. In his book A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado explores “The 7:47 principle.” You can learn about the 7:47 principle by reading Luke 7:36-48. What does verse 47 teach you about love and grace? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 4

Did you notice when you looked at the pictures of wheat and tares that they look exactly the same? Jesus implied that those who are good and bad are almost identical. Think about this implication, that those who are good and bad in the present are nearly identical. What makes a person good or bad? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 5 -Read Matthew 13:30

My church recently had a conversation about what a person can do to make them hard to be around. The answers ranged from someone who steals to someone who is a pedophile. Some talked passionately about how they couldn’t stomach being around people who have been involved in certain activities. The reason this is significant in the context of this study is because of the treatment the Master tells His servants to give the tares until the harvest. He does not tell them to sort and segregate them. He does not order them to be harsh or decisive. Instead He orders that they receive the same treatment that the wheat gets. It’s amazing to think about the fact that the tares received the same attention and care that the wheat did. How should this revelation affect how we treat people? What does this mean when it comes to those who sin openly? Should we change how we view those around us? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 6

Now, you are wondering what the determining factor or difference is with wheat and tares. The only way to know the difference between wheat and tares is that at harvest, wheat bares a light brown kernel, tares bare a black kernel, and you can barely tell the difference until the plant has fully matured. Is it possible that when it comes to people that we do not know if they are good or bad until they have fully matured? If we determine that someone is a tare before they have fully matured, do we not run the risk of stunting growth, and pulling up something that was meant to be in the Master’s barn? Is it possible to truly look at everyone we come in contact with as a potential kingdom dweller? Tell about it if this is something that is feasible in your mind. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 7 Wrap Up

Sometimes it is not “till the end” that we know if even we are wheat or tares. How then can we go about our lives looking at people as such if we don’t know what we are ourselves? I want to encourage you to go about life dispensing grace, love, and mercy, for that is what God has given to you and will continue “till the end.”  


 

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RASHAD BURDEN is a youth and young adult pastor for the Buckhead Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.


 




PRICELESS!

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).

You may have seen some of those awesome credit card commercials where the receiver’s reaction to that something special is considered to be more “priceless” than anything money can buy. Their memorable slogan, “There are some things money can’t buy, but for everything else there is . . .”

One of my favorites includes a toddler who considers a cardboard box more fun to play with than the costly gifts therein. And yet it is from this child’s simple but imaginative perspective that I wish to examine the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price, quoted above in Matthew 13.

Most biblical scholars agree that the essence to understanding this parable is when we seek and find Jesus, that priceless pearl, we realize the Lord is all that we will ever need. While I support that interpretation of the texts by such exegetical scholars, I cannot help feeling there is so much more to this seemingly passing mention.

Taking a page from the world of sales, we find an all-important concept. Sales guru and author Kelley Robertson of the Robertson Training Group states that “the value of a product or service is determined not by the seller but by the buyer.”

So it is when it comes to Jesus and our salvation. What does Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price, really think of us? The writer of Hebrews 12:2 gives us a clue. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Did He not forsake everything that even money couldn’t buy to purchase our salvation? Did He not become our Buyer, our Sacrifice, and our Redeemer? And now we in turn have become His own coveted pearl of great price. Are we willing to sell or give up everything we have to possess Jesus and while in so doing experience exactly how He feels and demonstrates His love toward us?

When I think of the love of the Father and the ministry of the Son and the Holy Spirit, I must agree: “There are things that money can’t buy, but for everything else we have Jesus, and He is simply priceless.”

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KINGSLEY O. PALMER serves as the assistant to the president and director for African American Ministries for several churches in Phoenix, Arizona, and Reno, Nevada.



Day 1 -Read Luke 14:25-30

While reading Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman, I was struck by an observation he made in the preface of his book. He said that whenever Jesus attracted a large crowd, He would find something to say to make them go away. What does this mean personally? How could this have worked evangelistically? Look at some of what He says in some other situations (Mark 5:18-20; 10:21, 22) and share some of your thoughts with us here at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 2

Sometimes you can be in church and around the things of God so much that you get desensitized to how holy, great, and exceptional He is. He is a radical, nearly unpredictable, spontaneous God who is consistently loving, compassionate, and gracious at the same time. Can you talk about Him? Tell us about the “radical” Jesus you have experienced. Tell us about how He’s pushed you to the limit and beyond. Let us know via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 3 -Read Matthew 18:18-22

If you would allow me, I would like to push our understanding of what it can cost to follow Jesus. When Jesus asserts that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (verse 20), do you realize He was telling someone who was looking to join Him that He was homeless? Do you see how He was telling the next person that following Me puts your family affairs on the back burner? Do you see Jesus as One that is ready to turn you away from following rather than fully inviting? Let me ask what He did: are you ready to be homeless for Him? We’d love to hear from you and converse with you concerning these things. Talk to us via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 4 -Read Matthew 13:44-46

Just a heads up that I am setting you up for the next portion of the study. Can you tell us how you searched for the invaluable treasure of Jesus Christ? Can you list all you “sold” to enter into the kingdom of heaven?

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Day 5 -Read Revelation 3:21

Would you consider this quote?

“There are some who seem to be always seeking for the heavenly pearl. But they do not make an entire surrender of their wrong habits. They do not die to self that Christ may live in them. Therefore they do not find the precious pearl. . . . Almost but not wholly saved means to be not almost but wholly lost” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 118).

What keeps you from getting the pearl?


Day 6 -Read Zechariah 9:16 and Malachi 3:17

“The parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls has a double significance: it applies not only to men as seeking the kingdom of heaven, but to Christ as seeking His lost inheritance. . . . He collected all the riches of the universe, and laid them down in order to buy the pearl. And Jesus, having found it, resets it in His own diadem,” (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 118).

Tell us, what comes to mind when you realize that, to God, you are a pearl of great price?

I’ll never forget hearing Pastor David Asscherick preach that the kingdom of heaven is not about what you gave up for God but what He gave up for you. In fact, listen yourself. You can listen to it all or skip to minute marker 50:00: http://hopevideo.com/streams/David_Asscherick-Friend_of_God-4-What_Wondrous_Love_is_This.htm

Day 7 -Read Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus came for you and me and did not think His life was too much to pay because we are treasure to Him.


 

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RASHAD BURDEN is a youth and young adult pastor for the Buckhead Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.


 




Scattered Seeds – Meaning you may have missed in the stories Jesus told

As a child I would often be invited by my mother to do gardening with her. I was anything but interested. Playing in the dirt was one thing, but gardening was not on my list of fun things. So I opted for playing with the water hose and watching cartoons. I had no interest in seeds. Besides, everything I ever planted seemed to die. Luckily, Jesus had a different perspective.


As a child I would often be invited by my mother to do gardening with her. I was anything but interested. Playing in the dirt was one thing, but gardening was not on my list of fun things. So I opted for playing with the water hose and watching cartoons. I had no interest in seeds. Besides, everything I ever planted seemed to die. Luckily, Jesus had a different perspective.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed,” Jesus began to speak from the boat, His audience so thick that He had to teach out in the water. The people sat around the shore and listened intently,
immediately seeing themselves in the story—farming was familiar. Their hands had roughened from field labor. Their shoulders could identify with the weight of the bags carrying seed. Jesus continued, “As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where they produced a crop” (Matthew 13:3-8, NIV).1

I can imagine that those listening were empathetic with the farmer who had lost his seeds to birds, heat, and weeds. But I also wonder if they questioned the farmer’s gardening skills. This farmer did not seem to be intentional about where he was throwing his precious seeds. Maybe he should have inspected the fields better. Maybe he should have buried the seeds deeper. His methods may have seemed unorthodox, but this story may have a missed meaning for us.

In this parable we usually like to take the role of the sower. We like to be the ones sprinkling seeds of gospel, spreading Christ throughout the unpredictable soil of the world. We like to be the farmer. But what if we aren’t? What if we aren’t the ones in control of spreading the seed, but instead we are the seeds—people being spread by God, the heavenly farmer, across various circumstances with the expectation for us to grow where we are. Like the seeds, we may find ourselves scattered in hard situations, questioning the farmer’s planting skills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried out to God, asking, “What are you doing with me?” From our limited ground perspective, the world may seem like rocky, weed-infested soil. Yet, with what looks like unorthodox methods to us, there is a skilled and patient farmer scattering us exactly where He needs us.

God wants us to produce fruit wherever we are. However, if we have not allowed ourselves to be rooted in Christ, our spirits can wither under the heat of the scorching sun of our trials. The thorns and weeds of bills, relationships, balancing life, and demanding jobs threaten to choke out the fruit of the spirit budding inside. Often we want character growth and development, but not at the cost of self-sacrifice or discomfort. Christ’s Object Lessons says this: “The life must be cast into the furrow of the world’s need. Self-love, self-interest must perish. But the law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation.”2 We may look at our situations and ask, “Why was I planted here?” However, Jesus wants us to grow where we are scattered. He promises that the seeds He sows will not be in vain, but will grow and flourish in peace. (Isaiah 55:10-13).

  Maybe, like the parable, birds have come and snatched a seed from your life. You may have lost a loved one to violence, cancer, or tragedy. History has cast us into many difficult furrows. Although we have found ourselves scattered among the gravel of slavery, buried under poverty, and choked out by injustice, we have the option to change our perspective. A perspective modeled after the life of Jesus. There is hope. The Master farmer wants to do something in you, where you are. We can be like the seeds in the parable that were eaten, burned, and buried, or we can choose to be like Christ who grew where He was planted, dying to self and dying for us, under the worst conditions.Planting seed in soil

Ripe & Ready

Historically, societies don’t reach their full technological, economic, and political potential until after they first master the art of sowing and reaping crops, according to science historian Jared Diamonds book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

Likewise, we don’t develop full spiritual potential until connecting with Jesus to reap spiritual fruit (John 15:5). That fruit includes knowing God, obeying His commands, and having a loving and good character (Matthew 7:15-27; Galatians 5:22,23; Ephesians 5:9).

As an adult I have come to respect my mother’s gardening skills and her ability to grow things in various types of soil. And now, I have a deeper respect for gardens, and God the sower, who scatters seeds and patiently waits for the results in our lives. God can, and will, do incredible things in our lives if we would submit ourselves to grow where we are scattered.

Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright  © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

2 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 86.

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Kimberly Pearson, is a chaplain in the office of spiritual affairs at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.


If you were to take a personal inventory of some of your best days, you would realize that there were some truly joyous days that you have experienced. Maybe it is a golden moment from your childhood, or the moment you met the one you were to be with the rest of your life, or even some academic or occupational accomplishment that you longed for. Whatever it may be, we find in Scripture a very sobering lesson from the one called Jesus Christ.


Day 1 -Read Matthew 13:10-13.

Jesus spoke in parables for spiritual and practical reasons. For this study we will focus on the practical reason. Jesus intentionally used examples that His hearers would run into on an everyday basis. He often started with “The kingdom of heaven . . .” and in that moment made the link between the everyday and the kingdom of heaven. Have you had an experience that seemed to have nothing to do with God but taught you so much about Him? We would love to hear about it. Please tell us about it via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 2 -Read Matthew 13:18,19.

This is one of the few parables for which Jesus gives a detailed explanation. He starts off talking about the seed sown in the road. He says that when one does not understand, that is when it is snatched from them. Have you ever heard a message that was from God that literally made no sense to you? Have you ever been in a place where it seemed everyone was being blessed but you? Tell us about it here at Message. We want to know how it made you feel. Were you disappointed? confused? How did you respond? Please tell us about it via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 3

It may seem intimidating to think that something that wonderful can be snatched. I find that while being cognizant of spiritual opposition I can focus on the love of God in Jesus. I encourage you to watch this video on roundedyoutube YouTube entitled “In the Words of Satan.” It will start off in an unorthodox way, but stick with it—I’m sure you’ll be blessed: 

Day 4 -Read Matthew 13:20, 21

Jesus is dealing with the fickleness of churchgoers and those who claim to be followers. He points out that some will receive His word with “joy,” but when the honeymoon of spiritual high wears off, and the rubber meets the road, they fall off.  Implicit in His words is that “trouble” in the life of a Christian tests the depth of his or her relationship. It is easy to be in jubilee in times of comfort, but the fortitude of your relationship is tried in “trouble.” Has there been a troubling but transformative time in your life that amazed even you? Would you be comfortable sharing with us? Has the progress God mapped out for you ever caught you off guard? How did you respond? Please tell us about it on  roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

roundedtwitterbird Twitter, or roundedpinterest Pinterest.

Day 5

Go through this list of Bible texts and write out any comparison to your life. Let us know if they are too good to be true, or so good they’ve got to be true!

James 1:2

Psalm 34:1

Philippians 4:4


Day 6 - Read Luke 14:21-24

A friend of mine forwarded me a video from roundedyoutube YouTube entitled “Skit Guys—God’s Chisel Remastered.” Sometimes we need an inspired reminder that we are a work in progress. Even in that process we are God’s original masterpiece. Be blessed 

Day 7 -Read Matthew 13:22

Former hip-hop artist turned evangelist Ivor Myers once said in a sermon that “for every authentic there is a counterfeit.” It is a well-known device of the devil to take the blessings of God and make them a curse to us. When we get the example of the thorns, Jesus explains “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word.” Life and wealth are blatant blessings of God, but they have become tools of constriction. Have you seen in your own life where the blessings have morphed into burdens? Answered prayer transformed into distractions? Write out a list of what God has blessed you with and evaluate if maybe something on that list is eclipsing God. We at Message would love to see your list. Share it with us via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

roundedtwitterbird Twitter, or roundedpinterest Pinterest.

We at Message believe that God wants all to fall on “good soil.” We believe that Jesus promises that the Word will not return unto Him void. Whether we are the sowers, reapers, or receivers of the gospel, know that the outcome is in the Lord’s hands. That means that we need not be self-conscious or insecure about the outcome, because it’s a refection on Him and not us. It also means the glory fully belongs to Him and not the dispensers of His message of grace. Let us give glory to the only One to whom it is due.  

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Rashad Burden is associate youth pastor at the Buckhead Fellowship church, in Atlanta, Georgia.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 





The Life of Young Jesus

I recently spent two weeks in the heart of Los Angeles. As I walked the neighborhoods, the smell of marijuana and tobacco danced from the streets and into my nostrils. Girls in mini- skirts and fishnet stockings winked and waved at men in their cars. I watched homeless men carry “help me” signs, and every so often they scratched at their soiled beards. Over a loud- speaker I could hear a voice screaming Bible verses and calling down fire upon sinners.

Farther down the road the scenery changed some. Celebrities in sunglasses, carrying small dogs in their purses, roamed in and out of stores. Wealthy businessmen and aspiring actresses whisked by. What caught my eye, though, was a group of church folk passing out tracts. A peculiar sight indeed.

In the work of redemption Jesus laid a bold and profound foundation for His ministry, even after He attained near-celebrity status. Jesus didn’t wait for the lost to come to Him; had He done so, He probably would never have reached them. No, He came to the lost. It was Jesus’ model to go after them. He was less concerned about His image and His reputation, and He was more concerned with reaching sinners. Are you willing to go boldly where no one wanted to go before?

In the midst of the lights and the grittiness, among the graffiti and the botox injections, I wondered if this was right where Jesus would have been? I wondered if He would have walked the streets as I did?

With Scripture as guide, my answer to those questions has to be a resounding yes! The difference, however, is that Jesus would not have been like me, or that voice over the loudspeaker. He would not have been a passive observer. Jesus clothed Himself in the darkness and muddiness, the smells and tastes, of the city—just so He could be with us where we are.

DAY 1:
READ MARK 2:15.
kids. The key for sharing the good news of salvation is having a good balance between the message and tangible love. Some of the things I stated may not be possible where you are, but tweet something that you can do to exhibit tangible love with #theexperience #tangiblelove. It wouldn’t be fair, though, to suggest that Jesus ministered only to “sin- ners and tax collectors.” Jesus didn’t focus His ministry just on the slums or those who were poor. He mingled with rich and poor alike. Please read John 19:38-42.

DAY 2
READ John 1:45, 46.
Jesus grew up in a small town called Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town that held little to no significance in the eyes of many people. He came from nothing, and He grew up in the eyes of the great men as nobody. In the words of one that was soon to follow Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We must come to the realization that nothing God does is insig- nificant: not the city in which He was reared, not the parents He chose, nor the womb that He was to inhabit. It all had deep significance. Jesus ministered to everyone, but it seemed as though His ministry connected most with those who were considered insignificant.

DAY 3
READ JOHN 1:43.
Rabbis did not just come up to prospective disciples and ask them to fol- low them. More likely the disciple had to prove his worth for the rabbi by exhibiting his abilities to read and quote Scripture. Jesus picked people who were rejected, never deemed capable of having a rabbi to teach them. Survey your culture. What people group is being passed over? What can you do to stop the negligence?

DAY 4
READ MATTHEW 9;10-13
In the work of redemption Jesus laid a bold and profound foundation for His ministry, even after He attained near-celebrity status. Jesus didn’t wait for the lost to come to Him; had He done so, He probably would never have reached them. No, He came to the lost. It was Jesus’ model to go after them. He was less concerned about His image and His reputation, and He was more concerned with reaching sinners. Are you willing to go boldly where no one wanted to go before?

DAY 5
READ MARK 1:21-33

Jesus had two powerful qualities that drew people to Him: His tangible love and His message. He did not try to stir argument, nor beat the Pharisees over the head with it. Truth is, the ones who stirred controversy and beat people down with what they believed were the Pharisees. Truth alone creates controversy. Love your family members and friends who do not have the truth that God has given you. Do not be offensive to them, but if you have offended them in the past, message them and apologize.

DAY 6
READ MARK 1:21-33

Tangible love is more than handing out food, paying light bills, or going on prayer walks. It is helping struggling parents with their kids, sponsoring drug addicts through rehab, starting scholarship funds for community kids. The key for sharing the good news of salvation is having a good balance between the message and tangible love. Some of the things I stated may not be possible where you are, but tweet something that you can do to exhibit tangible love with #theexperience #tangiblelove.

DAY 7
READ MARK 6:3 and MATTHEW 13:55. THE WAY JESUS WORKED

Read the following Bible verses. When you’re finished, ask yourself these questions: In what way were the people He ministered to different? What did His ministry show us about the way we should minister? You can post your answers on Facebook, Messagemagazine, or in a journal for your own reflection. Jesus is traditionally accepted to have been a carpenter. Though it is never really specified, we can be sure that He did not have a prestigious occupation and that He did strenuous work with His hands. Sometimes we can think our jobs have nothing to do with our relationship with God or our spiritual growth. But it is no coincidence that Jesus’ occupation was both strenuous and devoid of honor. He would in His life and ministry have a strenuous task that would yield Him very little honor. Can you see the purpose in your posi- tion? Can you see the worth in your work? Share it with us here at Message via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and tag it #messagemag.

DAY 8
READ JOHN 15:15. FRIENDS

We see in the life of Jesus that there were those who were “closer” to Him than others. We see instances in which He singled out Peter, James, and John. There was obviously a deeper relationship between Him, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Is the common thread the fact that He remembers who He is and that His purpose is to save? Do you prioritize the salvation of those who are closest to you? Is it easy or difficult? Share it with us here at Message via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and tag it #messagemag.

DAY 9
READ MARK 3:35 FAMILY

Jesus makes a radical decree. The implication is that anyone who does the will of God should receive the same favor and treatment of blood family. A stranger who does the will of God should have the same status as a brother or sister. What does this mean about the way we should treat other believers? How does that affect the way our homes operate?




When Jesus Prays

Day 1

Read Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16.
Have you ever been so disturbed or drained by problems that you needed a break? If so, how did you deal with it? How did Jesus respond to such chaos? In the verses listed above, we note that Jesus spent time by Himself, on a mountain, at the seaside, or in a garden to restore His soul. He understood the importance of letting God lead Him to green pastures, places where He could be nourished.

Day 2

In Matthew 14:23-34 after Jesus finished praying, He saved Peter from drowning, and taught every one of His disciples about faith. In Mark 1:35-45 after Jesus finished praying, He preached the gospel, cast out demons, and healed a man of leprosy.

In Mark 6:46-56 the Bible says that after Jesus prayed, He crossed the lake, and people ran throughout that whole region, carrying the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

I’m sure that during those solitary times Jesus laid His entire heart before the Father in prayer, and because of this, God strengthened Him. I am sure He prayed for the people He would minister to, and for His disciples’ faith. It becomes evident that had Jesus not taken the time to get away and spend time in prayer, His ministry would have looked much different.

Day 3

As Jesus entered Bethany all eyes were fixed on Him. Honestly, it was because He was the only one who was capable of preventing the tragedy. Lazarus, His friend, died, and Jesus did not intervene. When He did arrive, His prayer started off oddly. He thanked God for hearing Him, but failed to mention Lazarus or His family members. The purpose of His prayer was to thank God for the death of Lazarus because it was an opportunity for the family to come to understand Him more clearly.

Take a moment to examine your own situation that is way beyond your control. Is it possible that Jesus is now offering a prayer of thanks for this seemingly impossible situation in order that He may receive the glory for what He will or will not do? Find a song that is custom made for your testimony that can be credited only to God doing something amazing for you.

Day 4

Read John 11.

In Mary’s mind death was the end. Her understanding of what happens when people die and her understanding of the resurrection at the end of the world was so strong that she probably had not considered asking Jesus to raise Lazarus. With a limited understanding of God, our faith limits the extent of our prayer. This, however, does not limit our God. Do not be dismayed. God has your best interest at heart even when your best interest is indiscernible to you.

Day 5

Read John 17.

The final prayers of Jesus are astounding. Though He was soon to be crucified, He prayed for those whom God had given Him. Understand that we are special to Jesus. And though we do not know how to pray or for what to pray, our Brother prays with pinpoint accuracy. If we were aware of the many unforeseen blessings, we would never cease praising Him. Post something simple for which you are thankful.

Day 6

Read John 17.

We gather from the other Gospels that while Jesus prayed, His disciples did not. They were fast asleep and unaware of the danger to come in just a few hours. By the time we realize it is time to pray, it is often too late to prevent an unavoidable pain. Have you ever taken a second to think that maybe things were not as bad as they could have been because Jesus prayed for us before we drove into that storm with blinders on? The next time you find yourself caught off guard by Satan, take a moment and thank Jesus for praying the right prayer on your behalf.

Day 7

Read Luke 22:31, 32.

Tension in the room was so thick that I imagine you could see it in the clenched fist of Peter. You could feel it blowing out of the flared nostrils of Judas. You could sense it in the shifty eyes of James. Jesus knew to pray for His disciples because of His foresight, and He was also keenly aware that Satan had demanded to test them. The Greek word for “you” in verse 31 indicates a plural, so He was not speaking just about Peter, but about all of them. He did not beg for him to overcome temptation; instead, He begged for Peter’s faith not to fail.

WARNING: this may cause you to shout hallelujah repeatedly. Sometimes God allows you to fall prey to temptation because His chief concern is your faith, not your record.

Day 8 Read Luke 22:31.

I invite you to Google a song by Laura Story entitled “Blessings,” and let us know what that song brings to your mind about the prayer that Jesus prayed.

Day 9

Read Luke 22:32.

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus Himself is praying? Do you believe that He prays for you? What does that mean? Go to http://crazylove book.com/videos.html and watch the video entitled The Awe Factor of God and let us know how this affects your thinking about the reality that Jesus prays for you.

We have already noted the significance of that for which Jesus did not pray. But look at what He did pray for—faith. Why is it so important to Him? In your personal walk with God and in your reading of His Holy Word, have you found any texts or experienced something that shows why faith is so important to God? We would love to know what God has shown you about faith.

Day 10

In His prayer Jesus implicitly revealed that there is a difference between following Him and being “converted.” Is it possible that our prayers, like those of Jesus in this passage, could focus on the faith of people, rather than their convenience, comfort, or conversion? Many people can testify to the fact that their conversion followed a supposed downfall. Will you prayerfully consider sharing with us a time that you “fell” and actually found yourself closer to God afterward?