Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights.
Many of us are experiencing loss and depression during these winter months and the invitation to rejoice in the Lord holds much more weight. This is where the rubber of faith meets the road of life, when we are invited by faith to hold on to God and the promises we have from Him.
- How are you experiencing a lack of productivity or fruitfulness in your life? How has it challenged your faith and/or your joy?
- In what way do you need to lean into the Lord as your strength today?
- Who do you know who is struggling right now? What can you do to help them today?
Gracious God, so many people struggle during this post-holiday season when the days are short. We pray for their well-being and that their needs would be met quickly and consistently. Grant them your peace. And show us how we can help in tangible ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Hosea 6: 3
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.
The prophet is talking to people who have wandered away from God, inviting them back to God’s merciful and faithful presence. In this verse of invitation and promise we are assured that when we pursue God as He pursues us, He will surely appear, just as the sunrise, bringing light to our lives. And He will come as the rain, refreshing us as showers do and watering us so that we might produce the fruit of His presence.
- What does it look like for you to press on to know the Lord?
- For you, Is the dawn of the Lord’s presence a bright, magnificent sunrise or a gentle movement of dark to light?
- Where do you need the refreshment and watering of God?
Gracious God, we thank you that you are infinite and that we never get to the other side of knowing you completely. Renew our desire to continue our pursuit of knowing you and what you are doing in, around and through us, so that we might reflect you and bear fruit that honors you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
12 On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
God is showing Ezekiel the flourishing of trees that are growing beside water that is flowing from the temple. Just as Jesus proclaimed himself as the vine from which life comes, so our time in the presence of God causes us to flourish and provides food for the hungry and healing for the brokenhearted.
- What does flourishing look like in your life right now?
- How is your life providing nourishment and healing to those around you.
- Is there someone you can reach out to today to share the life you have in Christ with them?
Gracious God, it is in your presence that we find our flourishing and all we need to be your people. Help us to grow our roots deeply in you so that we might be your provision of food for those who hunger and healing for those who hurt. In Jesus’ name Amen.
4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
This is familiar parable for many of us, but sometimes we stop at imagining it is about the spreading of the gospel to those who are not believers. However, Jesus continues to lavishly sow his seeds of truth about Himself and about who we are in Him, and our response can be very different depending on the day.
- As you ponder the different types of ground in this parable, how would you describe your own heart these days?
- What emotions are stirred in you as you ask this question?
- What would it look like to write a prayer from this place in your heart?
Gracious God, thank you that you keep on sowing your love and truth in our lives, never growing weary in your faithfulness to us. We confess that our reception to your generosity can change every day. Please help us to find you in those places of hardness, of shallowness, of distraction and of receptiveness, and draw us close to you in your mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
Jesus is patient with his followers as they ask him for the meaning of the parable. His desire is for them to understand the un-understandable by imagining a kingdom that can only be described by parables. As he explains he helps the soon-to-be apostles prepare themselves for being agents of the sower, and faithful regardless of the recipients’ responses.
- Which recipient are you most often like?
- How does understanding of your own resistance to the word of God help you in your sharing His word with others?
- Who can you pray for today, who needs to hear the good news of Jesus?
Gracious God, we come and gratefully receive the word that you desire to plant in us. Help us to practice those things that keep us sensitive to what you are saying to us so that we might bear fruit that honors you and draws others to you. May we never grow tired of your expanding kingdom, in, through, and around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.