The Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a field

It’s amazing that something as small and seemingly insignificant as an acorn can produce something as large and majestic as an oak tree.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed planted in a field. Although it is the smallest of all seeds it grows into a large tree where birds can nest in its branches (Matthew 13.31-32).

We prefer things to be large, exciting and powerful to begin with but God offers us a kingdom that is born out of meekness and humility.

When serving God, we like to know we have all the resources before we start but God often wants to plant small seeds and for us to take risks as we step out in following him. Watching something grow and seeing life develop is incredibly exciting!

In the fairy tale ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, Jack’s mother is furious that he sells their cow for some magic beans. She can’t understand why Jack has sold something of value for seeds that appear worthless.

Seeds have such potential and power but the trouble is that many of us want quick fixes and instant success rather than waiting for things to grow.

Next time you see or hold an acorn, remind yourself of its potential for growth and that if it is planted and nurtured then it is a picture of what the Kingdom of God is like!

At times it can seem like God’s influence in this world is limited, but don’t be fooled. God’s influence and power are at work and they are GROWING more and more each day.

If you want to think some more about this parable then you can read Growth Is Happening Even When We Can’t See It.

As preparation for a meeting next month, I have been given 19 readings that contain things that Jesus said about the Kingdom of God and I’m hoping to write something about each one as I read through them.

Have you got any thoughts about the kingdom being like a tiny mustard seed planted in a field? If so I would love it if you could share them below in the comments section.

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The Kingdom of God is like a Farmer Growing Crops

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a farmer who planted seeds in a field but as he slept his enemy planted weeds among the wheat.

As the crop grew, so did the weeds and the farmer was faced with a dilemma. Should he rip out the weeds that were spoiling his good and perfect crop knowing that to remove the weeds would be to damage or to destroy his crop?   (Matthew 13.24-30).

The farmer must have been so frustrated! He had done everything right, he had worked hard and planted good seeds carefully. He deserved a good and perfect crop and instead his work had been spoiled by the weeds which had now intertwined themselves with his wheat.

In the end the farmer decided to let everything grow together until it was time for the harvest and at that point the weeds could be destroyed.

These are the things that occurred to me about the parable:

The farmer loves his crop more than he hates the weeds

When you think about God (who the farmer represents) and how much he hates sin and evil (what the weeds represent) then it is amazing to be reminded just how much that God loves his people (what the crop represents) more.

Some people want to portray God as angry and vengeful but God is love!

God has the power to end evil today but he doesn’t because he loves you!

I’m not sure that we will really ever know how frustrating it must be to have the power to change everything but to have to stop yourself from using it because of your love for your people.

God loves his people more than he hates evil!

The crop is more important to the farmer than his desire for his work to appear perfect

Don’t you hate it when you have worked hard on something and it is really good and then somehow the presentation gets spoiled?

In the parable, the farmer could have ripped everything out of the field so it didn’t reflect badly on him (even though the weeds weren’t his fault). Instead, he is willing to be accused of being a poor farmer (even if this isn’t true) because of his love for his crop.

God believes that the wheat can grow even under difficult circumstances

God has confidence in his people. If we rely on him and draw on his strength, perseverance and power then we can grow despite the weeds that are trying to choke us

In the parable of the sower Jesus talked about the things that choke faith:

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

Worry takes our attention away from God and in fact it is the opposite of trust in Him. When we find ourselves worrying we have the option of turning to God to receive his peace, presence and perspective. I’m not sure if we can ever be 100% worry free on this earth but if we can, it will be because we are so focused on trusting in God rather than because we tried really hard.

Wealth takes our focus away from God because we come to trust in it rather than in him. If wealth is our god then we will always feel like we want More for Me but if God is our God then we will become more like him with love at the heart of who we are.

It’s ironic that two of the things that are so dominant in church life are worry (what if it doesn’t work?) and money (worrying if we have enough). In some church meetings I have been in, it feels like people want to focus on these things more than on God!

Do you believe you can grow despite the pressures and challenges of life? God believes that you can!

As we grow amongst weeds, let’s Grow Towards the Light rather than focusing on the difficulties and the darkness.

God is interested in the long-term rather than quick fixes that won’t last

Over the years I have heard so many people ask: ‘If there is a God of love, why does he allow evil?’

The parable of the farmer growing crops reminds us that God allows evil because he loves us. As the influence of evil grows, so does his love which gives more opportunity for people to turn to him and to be saved.

One day there will be justice and God will destroy the powers of evil forever and I long for that day.

As preparation for a meeting next month, I have been given 19 readings that contain things that Jesus said about the Kingdom of God and I’m hoping to write something about each one as I read through them.

Next time I’ll be thinking about ‘The kingdom is like a mustard seed’ (Matthew 13.31-32)

Have you got any thoughts about the kingdom being like a farmer growing crops? If so I would love it if you could share them below in the comments section.

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The Kingdom of God is Near

Have you ever really, really looked forward to something?

I was once in a school staff room where there was a white board with a series of marks that were being crossed off to remind everyone how many days were left to the school holidays.

I remember one of my children pacing around their room on Christmas eve because they were too excited to sleep.

Then there was the excited conversation with a friend whose husband was returning home the next day after months away with work.

I have a friend who has been desperate to see ‘The last Jedi’ since the end of ‘The Force Awakens’ two years ago.

When we adopted our eldest daughter our boys were upset because we got to meet her before they did. They couldn’t wait to meet their new sister!

When we look forward to something it consumes our thoughts and energy.

We have probably all known what it is to look forward to and to long for something to happen really soon rather than having to wait. To wish that we were already experiencing it rather than living in just our ordinary and everyday lives.

Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (mark 1.14-15)

Jesus went around telling people that the Kingdom of God is near and that this was really good news!

The Jews were living under Roman occupation and they would have been so excited about the Kingdom of God appearing anytime because they were expecting a superhero type of Messiah who would defeat all of their enemies. They longed for the Kingdom of God because they thought that it meant freedom from their oppressors and enemies.

Jesus did bring freedom, just not the sort of freedom that the Jews were expecting.

Jesus died on the cross to reconcile the world to God to himself (2 Corinthians 5.18-21). The Kingdom of God and most life on this planet had largely been separated but God’s aim is to reconcile those things to the point where God will reign on a new earth. In this future moment, the Kingdom of God and life on Earth will become completely synchronized and this is a description of what it will be like:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21.3-4)

As I watch the news and I see pain, death and turmoil, it’s hard not to long for the Kingdom of God where these things will be non-existent. The kingdom of God is a place of righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14.17), rather than evil, stress and depression.

The Kingdom of God is breaking in to life on our planet but one day God will rule on a new earth and those who choose to follow Jesus can spend eternity in the Kingdom of God.

What’s not to look forward to?

One of the questions this raises for those of us who follow Jesus is what our priorities really are. It may be that we would like a world without sickness, death and pain but that we also have a relatively comfortable existence and other things that we are focused on we are not in such a rush for it to happen.

When we think about the Kingdom of God being near it challenges us to consider whether we want to live life in a completely new way or whether we are more comfortable as we are?

Is Jesus really our King or do we see him more as a consultant who we turn to for advice when it suits us?

Is Jesus really leading us through life or do we simply make our life choices in a way that suits us?

Is Jesus really first in our lives or does he only get a look in when we have finished what is important to us?

The Kingdom of God is near, how does that make you feel?

This is the first in a series of posts about the Kingdom of God.

As preparation for a meeting next month, I have been given 19 readings that contain things that Jesus said about the Kingdom of God and I’m hoping to write something about each one as I read through them.

Next time I’ll be thinking about ‘The kingdom is like a farmer growing crops’ (Matthew 13.24-30)

Have you got any thoughts about the kingdom being near? If so I would love it if you could share them below in the comments section.

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He’s behind you!

We had enjoyed a great lunch with a lovely view and as we finished our fish and chips I began to wonder where we would put all of the wrappers.

We had already walked along the path in both directions to get to the chip shop and then back again to the bench and I couldn’t recall seeing any bins.

This is a picture of the bench we were sat on at Wivenhoe Quay and those of you who are eagle-eyed will see how ridiculous that it was that I was wondering where the nearest bin was.

That’s right, there was one right behind where we were sitting!

As I thought about this later I wondered if my looking for a bin far, far away when there was one right behind me is similar to the search that some people have for God?

Some people search for God is religious or even faraway places but God really is closer than you think!

God is the God of the everywhere and the ordinary. He inhabits the everyday and is present and at work everywhere.

Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ which is a guarantee that we don’t have to look for him in far away places, we simply have to turn to him and talk.

Knowing Jesus is a matter of faith, not geography! When we put our faith in God only being in certain places then we are turning away from the reality of true God to something more religious.

So, are you going to keep searching for God in faraway places or are you going to simply turn and talk with him where you are?

Some Christians do believe that God’s presence manifests more powerful and tangibly in certain places which are sometimes called ‘thin spaces’. These places are called there is a belief that in these spaces that the barrier between heaven and earth appears to be particularly thin.

I can’t argue with people who have encountered God in special places because the same has happened to me. I guess my way of thinking has moved on to expect that God’s presence can also be encountered powerfully in the ordinary!

‘Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ’. (Ephesians 2.13)

When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that separated the most holy place where God was present was torn in two. Jesus died so that the barrier between us and God could be removed. He didn’t die just so that there might be some ‘thin spaces’ in special places. Jesus died so the barrier between heaven and earth would be broken wherever people of faith are ready to turn around and to encounter God.

God is no longer hiding in sacred spaces, he has broken through and is ready to know you.

Are you ready to know him? He’s right behind you!

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Remember to Rest!

I have had a really busy week and I am still not quite ready for Sunday but today I enjoyed a lovely day walking with my wife.

We walked 12 miles while the children were at school and we really enjoyed our time together. (This was one of the pictures I took on the walk).

Now I know what some of you are thinking, ’12 miles walking! That doesn’t sound very restful’.

I believe that God has given us a Sabbath principle of rest but that this rest doesn’t have to always involve sitting still.

“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of ploughing and harvest. (Exodus 34.21)

Sabbath is God’s gift to us. It’s an opportunity to take a break from our everyday work.

I could have told Tracey I was too busy to walk today but I have come to know and accept that God knows what we need better than we do. He tells us to take a day of rest each week, even in the busiest times of life such as ploughing and harvest.

After my day of rest, I am feeling renewed and restored and ready to continue in the work that God has called me to. Because I have rested, I can continue my work more effectively as I come at it afresh.

It’s wonderful knowing that the same God who calls me to work also calls me to rest and that’s a balance in life that we need to get right.

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What are we expecting in 2018?

What are we expecting in 2018?

There was a man called Moses who went to work one morning expecting just another ordinary day. During that day, he saw a burning bush and met God who invited him to join him in an amazing adventure.

Moses was to lead God’s people out of Egypt and in doing so, he would become a shepherd of people rather than of sheep.

What are you expecting from this new year?

What are you expecting from God?

Are we expecting something new or just the same old, same old?

God wants to do a new thing but is this what we want?

Moses was never the same again and I hope and pray that 2018 would become a year of change and a real journey of faith for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.

Moses met God because he went to see how a bush could be on fire without burning up. May we learn to look for signs of God at work and when we think we see them may we have the courage to go and to have a closer look. As we encounter God, we and those around us will be changed!

So, what are you expecting from this new year?

You can read more about Moses and his encounter with God in Exodus 3-4.

Picture source: Unsplash by Nordwood Themes @Nordwood

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We’re going for a Walk: Our 2018 Adventure!

During the Summer, Tracey and I are planning to walk the West Highland Way which covers 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William in Scotland.

We have talked about walking the West Highland Way for years since we drove through some of the majestic scenery that the route covers many years ago. For various reasons though (mainly the length of time involved) we haven’t been able to make the time to walk it.

Over the past few months we have been trying to walk the kinds of distances that would be involved each day and we have managed average of 12 miles whilst our children are at school. In more recent weeks we have tried to then do some a shorter distance the following day but unfortunately our girls don’t want to walk 12 miles and so it has been hard to make progress with this. In a month or two’s time we hope to cover  30-40 miles over 3 days in order to see what our progress is.

As well as working towards being able to cover the distance, we have been planning the route and how many days we might try to cover the distance in, where we will stop overnight etc. We are researching what clothing and equipment we will need and also whether to camp or to stay in B&B’s (that decision didn’t take very long to make!)

As Tracey and I look forward to our adventure next year, there is so much to do and to plan. The walks we are having in preparation to walk the West Highland Way are a lot of fun and something we are enjoying together. As we prepare to walk ‘the way’ in a sense we are on the way already.

Before we were known as Christians, Jesus’ disciples were known as ‘followers of the Way’ (Acts 9.2)

There are many analogies in the Bible that compare following Jesus to walking. Jesus said that he is ‘the way’ and in following him we find truth and fulfillment in life. We are also told to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ and it is wonderful to know that God’s presence travels through life with us. If we look to God to set the pace and to determine our direction then we will know that we are walking in His ways.

Sadly, many Christians give the impression that they believe that following Jesus actually means Him following them. When our faith is built on us only talking with Jesus when we need stuff then we are treating Him as the one who walks behind us picking up the pieces rather than the one who we are committed to following in His way!

How many of us who say we follow Jesus are really actively following him, looking for direction and trying to stay in step with him?

Planning and preparing to walk the West Highland Way is taking up a lot of time and energy. If we don’t put this time, energy and preparation in then the walk will probably be a disaster, that is if it even happens at all.

How much time and energy are we investing in walking with Jesus and joining him in the adventure that he has for us?

I’m excited about walking the West Highland Way but I am much more excited about walking through life each day with Jesus leading and showing me ‘the way’.

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When Buzz Lightyear met Jesus

Can you spot the character who seems out of place in this nativity scene?

Buzz ended up in the Nativity scene following a recent family activity at the church. As I picked him up, I must have pressed a button (by accident honest!) because he said something like ‘quick, I need to save the galaxy’.

If Buzz or anyone else thinks that THEY need to fix and rescue everything by themselves after meeting with and following  Jesus then they really don’t understand who Jesus is t all!

Buzz has the ambition to go to ‘infinity and beyond’ which is ironic because Jesus has always existed in infinity and beyond but he chose to come down to Earth by becoming human. Jesus left infinity and beyond behind so that he could become our saviour.

Are we willing to let Jesus save us? Will we follow him and let him transform our lives as we do so?

If we feel like we need to be everyone’s saviour, are we willing to let that go in order to join with and to play our part following Jesus as he saves the world?

May we all receive the gift of Jesus as the saviour of the world this Christmas time.

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When the Elf on Shelf met Jesus

Can you spot the character who seems out of place in this nativity scene?

This year we have had an elf on the shelf stay with us. Each day when our children wake up the Elf can be found in unusual places (where we have put him) which make it look like he has been up to mischief in the night.

A few days ago I placed the Elf in our nativity scene for a bit of fun but then I began to wonder if I had done something profound?

You see, even naughty elves (if they were real anyway) are welcomed by Jesus!

Do you feel worthy of a place in the Nativity?

If you have read my Advent Reflections then I hope that you will have realized how much that the Nativity is a story of God at work in the ordinary.

Many of us don’t feel worthy of Jesus but he welcomes us anyway. Jesus was known as a ‘friend  of sinners’ while he walked the Earth and he still loves imperfect people today.

When we encounter Jesus though, we are changed. Jesus is ‘Immanuel’ which means God with us. He welcomes us and he also walks with us through life and as he does so, he longs to lead us so that our lives and the lives of those around us can be transformed into something even more beautiful.

May you know the love, acceptance and guidance of Immanuel.

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Have you ever thought about how tragic the Nativity Story is?

Do we want the Real Christmas story or just a Nice Nativity?

Honest about my faith

The version of the nativity that is often presented in church is a very nice, clean and happy story but have you ever considered how tragic that the Christmas story really is?

Mary was unmarried and pregnant and the punishment in her culture for sex outside of marriage was death. Mary felt privileged to give birth to the son of God but that privilege came with a price as she was persecuted and rejected by the people in her community.

Joseph heard the news that his fiance was pregnant and he knew that he was not the father. He lived briefly with the feeling of betrayal and disappointment until an angel filled him in on what was happening. Although Joseph was convinced that the baby was the son of God, to the wider community that he was a part of, he looked a fool who was being taken advantage of. People would have looked at…

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