In The Weeds

Weeds

Weeds

I hate them.

They’d taken over the backyard to such an extent I was ready to cement it. Patches of weeds sprouted between decorative stone and invasive Bermuda runners held the flowers captive.

I abandoned yard work when I started on my master’s degree. Thankfully, my husband thrives on such projects while I’m holed up writing theology papers. He’s been working since March to clear the weeds. He’s moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rock, set down thick black plastic, and covered it with rock again. The black felt the landscapers used? The weeds shot through it years ago.

The darn things shouldn’t even be here. They’re part of the curse handed out when Adam and Eve sinned. Thanks, guys. So, today, we’re training in the weeds:

  • Pull them: Weeds come with the territory for the unsaved, but if you’re a believer, they need to go. It amazes me how even a weed can be attractive. Many have the tiniest of flowers and who doesn’t love dandelions? But—they’re still weeds. They don’t belong in your heart. They take up space, food, and water that should go to something fruitful. So, pull them—and get the roots.
  • Cultivate fruit: Weeds grow anywhere. Fruit, however, requires cultivation. There’s another reason we work so hard to get rid of the weeds and maintain a perfectly landscaped yard. A well-kept lawn, blooming flowerbeds, and carefully staked gardens not only give edible goodies, but also add a touch of beauty and joy to life. Who doesn’t love to sink their toes into a carpet of St. Augustine, breathe in the sweet smell of honeysuckle, or bite into a homegrown tomato? How much better is spiritual fruit? Weeds make me groan.
  • Choke them: In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of weeds, “The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22 NIV) But Neil Sperry says the choking works both ways. A healthy lawn will choke out the weeds. Cultivating a godly character, walking closely with Him, and practicing spiritual disciplines will choke out the bad stuff. Much of sin can be killed by starvation. Feed what’s good, and let the weeds die.

Clean up your spiritual landscaping. Address your weed problem. Pull the large ones. Cultivate fruitful plants. Choke out the rest with neglect. Take your workout into the yard this week.

Nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: In the Weeds

Memory Verse: “The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22

Meditation Passage: Genesis 3:17-19

Just Do It: Choke out the weeds.

Tweetables:

Clean up your spiritual landscaping. Click to tweet.

Temple Cleansing

Temple Cleansing

Sheep bleated. Doves fluttered. Tables slammed to the ground. People scattered before the man like the coins clinking and rolling across the courtyard.

Within minutes, the crowded market fell silent before the solitary figure.

“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13 NIV)

Jesus’ issue?

Holy ground had been taken over by commerce.

Whose commerce?

That of God’s chosen ones. The ones who were to lead the world to God by their faith.

Gulp.

Temple access was limited. Restricted. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies. Once. A year.

Priests served in the Holy place where the table of showbread and altar of incense rested.

Priests served at the sacrificial altar and basin. Levites and Israelite men also had access here.

Israelite women could go as far as the court of the women.

The outer court was open to everyone. Here, foreigners could pray to and learn about the God of Israel. Creator. Ruler of all. The great I AM.

Except they couldn’t.

The outer court had turned into a combination of stockyard, superstore, and bank. Any Israelite coming for worship could change his money for temple currency—for a small fee. He could buy supplies for offerings. There were even birds and animals for sacrifice. All conveniently located on the Temple grounds. Other merchants used the outer court as a shortcut from one part of the city to another.

No wonder Jesus was ticked.

Jesus accused the people of making the temple courts a den of thieves.

A hiding place.

A safe refuge for criminals. The context of the verse in Jeremiah is that, though Israel practiced idolatry, they clung to the temple. It was their lucky charm. Their four-leaf clover. Their rabbit’s foot. A safeguard against harm.

Today, our New Testament tells us we are the temple. The Holy of Holies. Where God’s Spirit lives.

And that’s true. (1 Cor. 3:16)

So, how does my temple shape up?

Am I keeping the holy places pure while the outer courts are full of, well, everything that goes with a stockyard?

Am I living any way I please and expecting my daily quiet time to protect me from the fallout of bad choices?

Let’s consult the Trainer:

  1. If I’m a temple of the Holy Spirit, in what condition are my outer courts?
  2. Have worldly things replaced godly ones?
  3. Is there blatant sin where there should be holiness? What’s been corrupted and how?
  4. Will I work with Jesus on the cleanup? I’d rather work with Him than have Him come in and ransack the place because I was too stubborn to yield.

This passage convicts me. I strive for consistency with God in the Holy places, but if I’m honest, what people see in the outer courts isn’t always pretty.

Jesus, let’s flip some tables.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Temple Cleansing

Memory Verse: ” ‘Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:11 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

Just Do It: Flip some tables.

Tweetables:

Jesus, let’s flip some tables. Click to tweet.

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

Bang! The gun sounds. Runners burst from the blocks, and the race is on. All begin on equal footing, but soon the field spreads. Some surge ahead; others fall behind. Competitors battle for every inch, but, really, only one thing matters.

The finish.

A strong start or a bravely-fought middle mean nothing if you don’t finish well.

Here’s an interesting bit of Bible trivia, courtesy of Dallas Theological Seminary: Out of 400 leaders mentioned in Scripture, only eighty finished well.

Twenty percent.

One fifth.

That’s it.

Why? Because, as Olympic runners can testify, a stumble in the middle can cost you.

Let’s examine David, a man after God’s own heart.

David’s sin? Adultery, rape (I doubt Bathsheba consented), abuse of power, and the premeditated murder of a friend and loyal warrior. Oh, did I mention the pride and attitude of entitlement that spawned it all? (2 Samuel 11)

Let’s look at the ramifications of David’s sin. When confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12), David’s own verdict was to pay four-fold.

God’s sentence: God accepted David’s four-fold payment of four lives for Uriah’s one. The sword would never depart from David’s house. David’s wives would lie with someone else in broad daylight.

Here are the highlights as David’s sin baton is handed off and passed again and again through his family:

  • David’s verdict of four-fold payment comes true in four deaths. The son born as a result of the sin dies. (Death #1)
  • David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. Tamar’s full brother Absalom kills Amnon. (Death #2)
  • Absalom later tries to usurp the throne from David. David flees for his life. Absalom sleeps with David’s concubines in full view of the city. Absalom is later killed by David’s general. (Death #3)
  • Another son, Adonijah, claims the throne for himself as David nears death. He is killed by Solomon, David’s chosen heir to the throne. (Death #4)

This doesn’t touch the emotional and spiritual wreckage of David’s sin. Let’s start with Bathsheba. She’s been taken by the king against her will. David’s friendship with her husband has been betrayed. Her husband has been murdered. David brings her into the palace as his wife. Then, she carries to term and loses the baby that resulted from David’s lust. Great basis for a marriage.

Let’s move to Tamar. David’s daughter is raped by her half-brother. The passage describing how David dealt with his rapist son, who behaved just like Dad, and his scarred daughter? Not there.

Because David does nothing.

Can you imagine the message that sent to David’s other children? If I’m a royal princess, I’m beyond concerned. If I’m Tamar, I’m devastated not only from the rape, but also from the fact Dad didn’t care enough to defend me and to administer justice. Tamar’s brother gets the message loud and clear. Dad is passive, so Absalom kills his sister’s rapist and cares for her himself.

David’s authority in his own household has vanished due to his sin, his unwillingness to publicly make things right, and his consequent unwillingness to hold his children accountable for their sin. We see a record of David’s conviction before God, but nothing regarding the other relationships impacted by his choices other than bringing Bathsheba into the palace. Sons Absalom and Adonijah both reject David’s authority and attempt to usurp David’s throne.

We haven’t even touched on the effect this had on David’s friends and fellow warriors who thought their fearless leader had their backs, only to find he had seduced his friend’s wife and then had him murdered. Morale issues in David’s military? I think so.

David’s sin with Bathsheba marked a turning point in his story. B.B. (before Bathsheba), one saw a man walking closely with God, and blessings flowed over his house and his nation. A. B. (after Bathsheba), David’s story became a hot mess, leaving a trail of wrecked lives.

Granted, few of us will find ourselves in David’s sandals, but he never thought he would compromise either. In Psalm 51, David teaches us how to get up again after a fall. That David did get up and finish his race is significant and is not to be overlooked. David finishes by placing Solomon on the throne and by doing the groundwork for the Temple his son would build. Yet, the man after God’s own heart limps to the finish line of his race. Make no mistake, David’s relationship with God was solid, but he was humbled, and his legacy to his family and nation was tainted.

Sin matters. “Small” ones morph into “big” ones, but each speaks of our independence from God and a departure from His will. Stay close and finish well.

Questions:

When have you been negatively affected by another’s sin?

How has your sin affected others?

Was there a ripple effect?

How did you make it right?

Does your sin make you more or less likely to call it out in others?

Tweetables:

Competitors battle for every inch, but, really, only one thing matters. The finish. Click to tweet.

A strong start or a bravely-fought middle mean nothing if you don’t finish well. Click to tweet.

Out of 400 leaders mentioned in Scripture, only eighty finished well. Twenty percent. One fifth. That’s it. Click to tweet.

As Olympic runners can testify, a stumble in the middle can cost you. Click to tweet.

The man after God’s own heart limps to the finish line of his race. Click to tweet.

Sin matters. Stay close and finish well. Click to tweet.

Sin: It’s Illogical

Sin: It's Illogical

Not for the first time, one of my children stood before me, caught in sin. Lines of Hershey’s syrup striped the beige carpet running the length of the couch. When faced with the question “Why?” or the ever popular “What were you thinking?” he answered, “I don’t know.”

And you know what?

That’s a scriptural answer.

Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 4:17-19.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Paul’s scenario depicts a lifestyle of sin, so don’t wig out when your child makes the occasional mistake. However, Paul gives us insight into sin’s effects as it becomes a habit and eventually a way of life.

Dark Thinking

My ability to understand becomes muddy. The clarity between right and wrong fades into fuzzy edges, like the small print on the eye exam. Consequently, my decision-making abilities are compromised. Paul uses the word ignorance. One of Webster’s definitions for ignorance is “unaware.” Others see the issue. I do not.

Separation

God never leaves the believer, but the closeness of my relationship with God is impacted by sin. Just as conflict affects relationships with friends and family, sin grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders intimacy with God.

Hard Hearts

Hard is good when it comes to hats at a construction site. With a heart, hard is not so great. A hard heart is calloused. It has lost sensitivity to the things of God. To what is pure, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy. This loss of sensitivity leads to a loss of control. Paul tells us the hard heart is driven by lust—the desire of the moment—be it food, alcohol, or Facebook. Lust says I must have it now.

Samson depicts this person to a T. Three times Delilah sets him up for capture. The fourth time brings success.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

But four times? Seriously!

That Samson, the one who was called by God from birth, should end up captured by the enemy, blinded and in chains, is illogical.

Because no logic supports sinning against a God who loves us perfectly.

Questions:

What leads you to sin? You may have different drives or motives for different sins.

What is God’s answer to that?

Family Application:

Does sin make sense?

Look at James 1:13-15. (Save vs. 16-17 to wrap up.) Talk through different sins and how each one eventually leads to some type of death: physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.

Tweetables:

No logic supports sinning against a God who loves us perfectly. Click to tweet.