As I walked my usual morning route, I could not help but notice by the appearance of my neighborhood, how many of my neighbors do not seem to value caring for their lawn and garden. My father and grandfather taught me the importance of mowing the lawn weekly, caring for the flowerbeds, removing weeds, sweeping, raking, etc. They showed me that there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from keeping your home and your property looking good.
While navigating past a heaping mess and nearly slipping on the wet lawn clippings a few times, I reminded myself that I need to keep my attention off of my neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. My first agenda should never be to try to make a person manage their lawn care better and I should not rush to judgment as I’m passing by the unkept property.
This reminded me of how we are in life at times with our “neighbors.” Remember, the Bible tells us that everyone is our neighbor. And we are to love everyone. Yet we spend a lot less time loving, and a lot more time focused on our neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and point out their flaws. We even look to those who have not yet come to know Jesus and point out their flaws too. It is easy to mention the overgrowth of weeds that has infiltrated someone’s life. We want to make every person our project. Then we put ourselves in charge of the “project” because we have such high opinions of ourselves and believe we have the true answer to make the person better. Sadly, we do this so regularly that we miss what needs addressed in our own lives. Plus, we look like a hypocritical proud Pharisee along the way.
Today, as you look to your brothers and sisters, and as you engage with “outsiders,” be reminded again of our true calling. We are to love God and love others. As my grandma would say, “Mind your own plate.” If we each would spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and more time asking God to pour out His grace upon us and allow Him to move in us and through us—if we would simply love, with no strings attached—the overgrowth of weeds would slowly change as His love and grace transforms. Imagine if we recognized our own shortcomings. Imagine if we saw each person as God sees them. Mind your own plate.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 [CSB]
The other night I left the van windows open. It’s so easy for me to overlook as I’m not sitting back there. Of course it rained that evening. Thankfully it did not rain inside the van. I did not learn my lesson. Last night, I left the van windows open again. This time, the outcome was different. At the end of the day, I understand that it is not good for me to keep the van windows open at night. Perhaps practicing this bad behavior does not have any consequences most of the time, but there comes the moment when the downpour arrives.
We live in a world where most people believe that every road leads to God. I won’t argue that statement. I agree. Every road leads to God. At the end of your life here on earth, you will in fact meet God. For some people, this meeting will not be pleasant. Judgment arrives. After all of those evenings of leaving the van windows open without much consequence, the final judgment comes. And without Jesus Christ, the road leads to hell. Why? Because every road does NOT lead to heaven. Only through Jesus Christ do you receive the free gift of salvation. Only through the grace of God do you receive eternal life. This is why they call the road to heaven a narrow road.
Today, consider how you are living your life. Consider also the lives of those around you. You can leave the van windows open every night, but one day the downpour will arrive. Don’t wait for the downpour. Close the van windows at night! Ask Jesus into your heart. Begin to do life with Him and then write His Word on your heart. Treasure His commands. Embrace His presence.
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:14 [ESV]
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 [NIV]
When Elisha gathered around with the sons of the prophets, there was a famine. Barrenness, sickness, affliction and famine were seen as judgment from God for sin. As we read again and again, the curse of sin is judgment and death.
These people were in search for food. When they went around to gather something to eat, they gathered wild gourds. From the text, it did not seem that they knew what the food would bring. They simply wanted to fill their need for food. But when they added this unknown item into the stew, it became deadly. They cried out, “There is DEATH IN THE POT.” Elisha had to add flour to the stew for it to become safe to eat.
We often try to add things into our daily lives to fill voids. We are facing a famine – the curse of sin. Through Christ alone the curse is no longer. We grab anything we can to fill our needs; however, we do not always understand what we truly need. Elisha poured flour into the deadly stew. In the same way, we can seek to eat from the Word of God, and become blessed by the “meal” of Christ. Through prayer and God’s Word we are sanctified. In 1 Timothy 4:4-5 we read: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (NASB). It doesn’t matter how deadly the stew of your life has become; nothing is too dead for God to raise back to life. He will repair. He will revive. He will restore. He will redeem.
“One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.” – 2 Kings 4:39-40 [ESV]
If you read the instructions to Noah, they were very specific. One of the instructions was in Genesis 6:16 where God told Noah to have a door on the side of the ark. One door. This door, this single door, was the only door to pass through to escape the judgment of God.
From this door we see two great things. First, Noah and his family by faith had to enter through the door. This demonstrates man’s responsibility. The second thing we see is God shutting the door. God alone could shut the door so Noah and his family could escape judgment. When God shut the door no one else could enter.
Salvation. We see it here with Noah and his family. We see how God spares them all and keeps them safe and secure in the ark. He shuts them in. This same salvation is offered to each of us. We too have only one door, one gate. Remember, Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7 NIV). He continued, “Whoever enters through Me will be saved” (v. 9 NIV). When we enter His gate, when we give our life to Him, He promises that “no one can snatch [us] from the Father’s hand” (John 10:29 NLT). Safe. Secure. Salvation.
“And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.” – Genesis 7:16 [ESV]
I am not a fan of blueberries. I will admit that if there’s a fruit salad, I’ll try my best to not grab too many blueberries with the serving spoon. I pick out the bits and pieces that I like and leave the blueberries for those who like blueberries, or for those who happen to approach the bowl after I took all the good stuff. Sometimes that means someone gets stuck with a lot of blueberries.
The problem with picking out the bits and pieces is you then do not get all of the benefits of the fruit salad. In the same way, we cannot pick out bits and pieces of God’s Word and think that is enough. Too often people want to select particular passages, certain beliefs, only some things to live by, only certainly things to follow, and leave the rest. Everyone loves grace. Everyone loves blessings. But God’s Word speaks of things like obedience, humility, sacrifice, loving those who hate you, and judgment.
If you are opening your Bible only looking for bits and pieces of what works for you, I pray that you will come to see that the Bible is not a bag of trail mix where you pick out what you like. God’s Word, every single word of the Bible, is amazing. Let us be grateful for each bit, each piece, every single word. Psalm 63 is one of my favorite. Read it right now and pray for that thirst of which the Psalmist speaks.
“One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.” – Romans 16:17-18 [MSG]