"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

Wheat or Weeds?

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 

 

The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat

24 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
 
 

Wheat or weeds? You never know. You never know.

We again get the benefit of not just the parable but Jesus giving the disciples a teaching lesson on it. The wheat and the weeds grow up together. Our job isn’t to sort them out, but to let God take care of that.

An interesting note about this passage: the Greek word used here in the scripture for permit, or letting alone, is also the word for forgive. It could be said that the landowner is not only telling his workers to let the weeds alone, but to forgive them for their actions as well. The evil that surrounds us is not for us to judge, but instead to forgive. Jesus used this same word on the cross, “Father forgive them.”

Everyone thought Zaccheus was a weed, and he was a weed in stature and in morality, but Jesus saw that the true Zaccheus was wheat ready to burst into a golden head of good deeds. 

Everyone thought the thief on the cross next to Jesus was a weed, only fit to be thrown into the garbage dump of Jerusalem. Jesus saw otherwise: this was a man who would be with him in paradise. 

Every Christian thought Saul was a weed hunting down Christ’s followers, watching on as Stephen was stoned to death, but Jesus saw in him wheat that would be scattered throughout the world as he took Gospel far and wide.

In each of these examples, a hasty and early judgment by God would have meant they would have been cut off from his grace. Instead, Jesus didn’t ignore them or disregard them as hopeless. They may have looked like weeds, but in fact, they were wheat.

The parable is telling us to write no one off as hopeless, lost, irredeemable, or worthless, because he/she looks like a weed. That person may look like a weed and our gut reaction is to treat that person as a weed, but in truth, he/she is precious wheat of God’s kingdom.

That’s the way God views each one of us. We readily admit that we are “weeds” – the evil in our hearts and minds takes control. But, God refuses to write us off. He even refuses to write off the person who defies God, denies God’s existence, and allows evil to run his/her life. There is always grace.

Duane was a kid in my first confirmation class. He was a thorn in my side. He didn’t pay attention, his answers on tests and quizzes were filled with answers like, “Who cares,” and, “I don’t know,” or he just left things blank. He was disruptive and rude.

He was one of those kids that every pastor has had at one time or another that you just want to confirm and be done with him or her. Don’t believe me? Ask any pastor who has had the task of teaching a few classes!

I thought I was done with Duane. But over my years in that call, Duane grew up and became involved in some wonderful outreach ministries in the church and community. What I once thought was a thorny soul to be thrown into the fire turned out to be a rich harvest of God’s love.

God so loves us, that he gave his son for our lives, so that we might be seen in God’s eyes as wheat worthy of harvest. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven, welcomed and accepted into God’s warm embrace forever!

When I announced to that church that I had accepted a call to another congregation, it was Duane who was the first one in my office to thank me for my ministry.

Wheat or weeds. You never know. You never know.
 
Pray with Us: 
Remind us again that we are not called to do the weeding. Instead we are called to cast forth your word, in all we say and do. May we bear good fruit for you! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Too Good to be True

Matthew 7:15-20 

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
 

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Back in August 2018, I had hip surgery. Because of my age and good health, the hip replacement was an outpatient surgery. Yes, outpatient – I went home the same day.

To many, it sounded too good to be true. Even my mother-in-law was skeptical. She questioned whether it was a hip replacement or just a partial repair. Many others asked how this could be possible.

The wonder of the surgery is that it is less invasive than the traditional method. Most hip surgeries over the years have been posterior – in other words, going in from the back of the hip. This procedure cuts through muscles to get to the area that is cut out and replaced.

The procedure I had done is anterior. The incision is made in the front of the hip, around the place where your front pocket is on your pants. This method provides the surgeon access to the hip by moving the muscles instead of cutting them. The procedure to cut out the damaged bone and fasten in a new ball and socket area takes about an hour.

I walked out of the surgery center about 10 hours after I arrived.

PBS ran an hour-long program on this procedure if you want to see it for yourself.

I am a believer! I am living proof that it is true.
 

How do we know what is the truth when someone speaks to us about who God is and how God operates?

Does it sound too good to be true?

Unconditional love, absolution of our sins, mercy and grace beyond measure – it sounds too good to be true.

Other voices may speak words that sound like they could be true. How do we know?

Jesus says, check out the results. What fruit is this tree bearing? What is the result of the prophetic word being shared?

How do the words hold up to Jesus’ answer of the lawyer who asks what is the greatest commandment?

Do you remember Jesus’ response? “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Check out the results.

When it comes to hips, you can see what I said is true.

When it comes to God, look for the results. Look for the love. 

Let us Pray: 

Dear God, what you give us is beyond amazing. Your love, your forgiveness, your mercy and grace are more that we could ever fathom. May we listen to your word and follow in your way. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.