Friday, August 30, 2013

Hope is Given

Scripture: Psalm 78:70-72

He also chose David His servant And took him from the sheepfolds; From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands. 

Insights:  Hallelujah!!!  I am so grateful we have finally gotten to verses 68-72.  For it is in these verses that we find the hope of salvation.  In spite of all the rebellion…in spite of all the sin…in spite of the continual turning away from God…the Lord still had a plan.  He did not abandon His people, His creation.  He finally led them to a shepherd king in David and he brought forth the golden age of Israel.  It was an age characterized by peace and prosperity.  It was an age in which the people truly sought the Lord and His ways.  It was an age in which God was honored.  It was through this king David’s line that the ultimate hope came to be realized.  For out of David’s line came Jesus, the Savior of the world.  In John 10 we are told that He, Jesus, was and is the good Shepherd.  He was the True Shepherd who would lead His people into everlasting peace and prosperity.  He would lead His people to eternal obedience and pursuit of God.  Jesus’ life was sacrificed on the cross of Calvary so that our sins would be atoned.  We would be forgiven eternally for our sin debt.  God would impute His righteousness in us through His Son’s work on that cross and that brings about a great deal of hope.  It is my prayer that you have received this eternal gift of grace.  If you have not, please pray and ask the Lord to draw your heart to Him.  Ask Him to forgive you of your sins.  Ask Him to save you because of Jesus shed blood on the cross of Calvary.  Ask Him to enter into your life and make you a brand new creation.  Become born again this day by receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  It is the most important decision you will ever make. 

  1. Are you grateful God has given us great hope and comfort in His Son, Jesus?
  2. Have you received Him as Your Lord and Savior?
Prayer: Father, thank You that You have saved me and born me a new.  Let my life shine forth as a light in a dark world needing Jesus.  Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Long-Term Effect of Ignored Instruction

Scripture: Psalm 78:56

Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God And did not keep His testimonies, 

Insights:  Like yesterday’s Thoughts by Scott, today’s verse encompass more than just verse 56.  For the full context and insight you need to read verses 56-67.  The synopsis of those verses is that the last thing we noticed yesterday was God granted mercy and grace to the people in the midst of their rebellion.  In His love, God stayed His wrath.  Then you move to the verses mentioned a moment ago and what you end up discovering is the people were sorry they got caught for their rebellious activity, but were not really repentant of the fact they were rebellious from the beginning.  In other words, their lips said, “I am sorry,” but their hearts said, “No I am not.”  God read the heart response and had today’s verse written about them.  When you get to verses 59-67 what you find is that God dispenses even more judgment on the people because of their long-term rebellion to the instructions of the Lord. What a tragic picture this psalm portrays of the people of Israel in the midst of their exodus from Egypt.  Beloved, my fear is that we are standing aloft from a historical stand point and looking down on them with eyes of judgment, but the entire time our hearts are no different.  If there were true biblical repentance taking place in the church of America would it look the way it presently does?  I believe the answer is a resounding, “NO!”  We must climb down from our pharisaical white towers and identify ourselves with the tax collector and cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”  If we continue to walk down this path of rebellion, we will end up like these Israelites.  We will give lip service only to our faith and not walk it out before a watching world. 

  1. Are you foolish enough to keep testing the grace of the Lord God as the children of Israel did?
  2. To what extent does the Lord need to show His grace to you for repentance to take place?
Prayer: Father, as much as yesterday’s verses troubled me these verses today disturb me even more.  For Your grace was given and in modern vernacular, the spit on Your mercy.  Protect me from my own foolish ways.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Consequences of Ignored Instruction

Scripture: Psalm 78:8

And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God. 

Insights:  Today’s Thoughts by Scott encompass a lot more than just verse 8.  For the full context and insight you need to read verses 8-55.  What we learned Sunday was that Ephraim was an example of one who did not accept or receive God’s instructions.  In fact, he went so far as to test God in his disobedience.  Such rebellion leads to consequences and often times those judgments are severe.  Part of their testing of God was the people asking for meat.  So, God sent them birds and dropped them right in the center of their camp.  Instead of showing gratitude to God for this miraculous provision of meat they took it as if they were entitled to it.  This attitude of ingratitude stirred the heart of God to let His wrath fall down on the people and He put to death many of them.  In these verses, however, we also see the hope of the Lord displayed.  For in His judgment, He did not destroy the entire nation.  He dispensed grace and saved many from the judgment they rightly deserved and then God proceeded to tell them of many examples of His grace that He had dispensed on the people.  Tomorrow we will look at how the people responded to such lavished grace.  Here is the point, Beloved, there are consequences to rebellion and sin.  So often we think our sin only affects us personally.  This thought is just not true.  There were many children there that day that lost parents.  There were many spouses that lost the dear mate of their youth.  There is always a payment that must be made for sin and rebellion.  We must do all that we can to keep our hearts pure and pliable in the hands of the Father.  Let Him mold and shape you into the image of His Son, Jesus. 

  1. Are you rejecting God’s instructions in your life?
  2. Are you prepared for the consequences of such rebellion?

Prayer: O Father, this verse troubles my spirit.  May I not be rebellious and stubborn hearted against You and Your commands.  Give me the courage to walk resolutely with You and bring You joy in my obedience.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why Instruction is Given

Scripture: Psalm 78:5-6

For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, 

Insights:  As we learned yesterday, God desires a relationship with His creation.  In fact, we were created for a relationship with Him.  His desire is not just for one individual or one generation of creation.  He desires a relationship with every single person and every person in every generation.  So, we can see from these verses that one of God’s predominant reasons for giving us instructions is for us to pass them on to younger people in order for them to know God as well.  This instruction covers the entire scope of training.  Obviously, it encompasses the gospel of salvation found in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  It is, however, more than the majors that need to be taught.  These instructions even include the minors as well.  For example, Sunday, we had a nursery to “big church” promotion for our 4 year olds.  As parents of these new “big church” participants they need to train their children to use the restroom before church.  If the child acts up in church, these parents need to take the children out and discipline them, but not just stay out of the service.  They need to return and keep following that pattern until the child learns to behave in the service.  The rest of the church needs to be supportive and understanding to these parents because it can be very traumatic for some of them (both child and adult).  The list of instructions could go on and on, but the point is God has given us His Word to teach it to the next generation.  Beloved, we are not doing this well in my opinion and as a result we are losing a generation of future Christ-followers.  Draw the line in the sand right now and ask the Father for the strength to be a faithful instructor of God’s ways to the next generation. 

  1. Whether you have children or not are you helping to pass on the instruction of the Lord to the next generation?
  2. Do you think that we as the church are doing a good job at passing on the instructions of the Lord to the next generation?
Prayer: Father, forgive me for where I have failed to instruct those younger than me.  Give me the grace and wisdom to be mindful of teaching moments You give to me to pass on the truth to future Christ-followers.  Amen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Instruction is Given

Scripture: Psalm 78:1-2

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 

Insights:  I think the most wonderful thing about our Father is His desire for us to know Him.  It was for this reason that He sent His Son Jesus to the earth to die on a cross and pay the sin debt we all owe.  At the death of Jesus the temple veil was torn and access to the Father was no longer limited to once a year and no longer hindered to just one person.  Everyone now has access to the throne room of God.  In relationships we desire to please the other person.  In order for us to please the Father He has given us His instructions.  The Bible, His Word to us, tells us everything we need for life and satisfaction in Him.  He has not left us to fend for ourselves and figure this journey out.  He is right there in the thick of things with us and the entire time He is spurring us on with the wisdom of His Scriptures.  The problem is we often close our ears to His Words and refuse to listen.  I think this is one of the reasons the Lord tells us to incline our ears to His Words.  Beloved, God wants you to know Him and no matter how well you presently do know Him, there is always more the infinite Lord of heaven desires to reveal to you.  Search Him out this day and seek His face.  Ask Him to make His Word’s come to life within your heart and life.  Obediently respond to Him and let His love fall fresh on you.  It will be the greatest joy, satisfaction and decision you could make this day. 

  1. Are you able to hear the instruction of the Lord?
  2. When you do hear, how do you respond to the Lord?
Prayer: Father, open my ears that I may hear and give me the courage to act on what You have commanded.  Amen.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Positive Influence of the Kingdom comes from Within

Scripture: Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." 

Insights:  Today we conclude with the second lesson from the parable of the leaven.  The lesson is the positive influence of the kingdom comes from within.  Remember when I shared with you the word fomenting which means to stimulate, to provoke, to agitate and to generate growth.  Jesus injects us into the world, the massive dough, and we begin foment by bubbling and boiling.  The reason we bubble and boil is because Christianity troubles the world. It influences it for good but it's sometimes painful for the world to endure it.  Think about the city of Thessalonica when they said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”  Or in Philippi they said, "These men are Jews and they are disturbing our city."  The gospel is good, but it has been disturbing, agitating, and provoking people for two thousand years.  Remember from the parable of the wheat and the weeds that Jesus has left us here to influence this lost world.  We begin from very small starts (like leaven) and grow into a world changing force for the Lord God.  Do you realize that when the church met in Jerusalem, it took them seven years before they established the first mission church in Antioch?  Now 1600 new churches start a week around the world (and that is an old statistic as well as the next two).  95% of the population of the world has all or part of the Bible in their own language.  90% of all the tribes on the face of the earth have had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, in spite of the weeds, in spite of the birds that snatch the seed, in spite of scorching sun of persecution, there's some good soil.  In spite of the presence of the weeds which have been over sown, the wheat is growing.  In spite of all this evil opposition, the mustard seed grows and the leaven influences.  These entire thoughts sum up really what our Lord said in Matthew 16:18 when He said, "I will build My church and the gates of hell will not hold it in."  Christ is building His kingdom.  Christianity will win, Jesus will reign, evil will be destroyed, evil men will be sent to eternal hell and the kingdom will come in its eternal fullness.  Beloved, let what is within you shine before the world. 

  1. Are you allowing the power of the gospel to foment within you?
  2. From this transformation are you actively sharing your faith with others?
Prayer: Father, all that matters at the end of the day is You and Your glory.  Let me have boldness in my faith as I share what is inside of me to the rest of the world.  Amen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Power of the Kingdom is Great, Part 2

Scripture: Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." 

Insights:  Let me pick up where I left off yesterday.  We were discussing leaven as an analogy.  You don't take analogies and make them an absolute theological term.  Leaven is only an illustration and you ought not to assign it an absolute theological meaning so that every time you have leaven, you get sin.  If you do assign leaven as an absolute for evil and sin, then you get into real trouble in the O.T. with the feast of Pentecost when the Jews were commanded by God to offer leavened bread to Him.  Read 1 Corinthians 5:6, "Don't you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"  This statement is just a proverb.  To understand the proverb all depends on how you apply the analogy of the leaven.  Again, remember that the point of leaven is that it has a permeating influence on other things.  Now read 1 Corinthians 5:7, "Purge out the old leaven that you may be a new lump."  In this illustration what Paul is telling us is you’re a Christian now, you're a new lump of dough.  Don't put into that new lump old leaven.  Again, remember, that the old leaven comes from an old loaf.  So here is what Paul is telling us, “You're a new creature in Christ. Don't let any of that old stuff from your former life influence your new life.”  We could keep reading verse 7 and jump back into the O.T. to Exodus chapter 12 and see further significance of this old and new leaven, but I think you are getting the point.  We are new creatures and we ought not let our old life influence our new life in Christ Jesus.  So, in this analogy of 1 Corinthians 5 the leaven is not so much the definition of sin, but of the permeating influences that come from your past life without Jesus.  Jesus knew that they understood the analogy of leaven as it related to evil and that they perceived the massive moving spread of evil.  So, Jesus gives this parable of leaven to show in contrasting fashion the speed and unstoppable nature of His kingdom as it begins to penetrate the world.  Beloved, be that leaven in the world for Jesus as you share the gospel with those desperate for its life changing message of hope. 

  1. Are you allowing sins from your past to influence your Christian walk today?
  2. Will you this day put those sins to death and walk in the newness of life you have in Christ Jesus?
Prayer: Father, I am crucified with Christ, strengthen my heart and fill me full of Your Spirit as I walk this faith out before a watching world.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Powerof the Kingdom is Great, Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." 

Insights:  The rest of the week we will look at two lessons we learn from this parable.  Today we will start with the first lesson and finish it tomorrow and that lesson is the power of the kingdom is great.  This lesson is similar to the parable of the Mustard Seed.  In this parable the flour is the world and the leaven is the kingdom.   The leaven is planted right in the middle of the world.  The kingdom starts to foment in the world.  As the kingdom bubbles and spurs with the proclamation of the gospel, the lost world begins to recognize their sinfulness.  To understand why I believe this to be the truth of this parable, we need to understand the structure of the parables.  Jesus spoke the first six parables in couplets.  The first two spoke about the nature of the kingdom.  The next two speak about the power of the kingdom.  And starting next week we are going to start looking at the next two parables which speak about the appropriation of the kingdom.  Some people think the leaven means evil and that what the parable is teaching is evil is going to be in the kingdom.  There are a couple of problems with this thought.  First, it doesn't fit the layout of the parables as I have just described them, because we've already dealt with the evil in the world in the first two parables.  Second, the parable states, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven."  I just don’t believe that heaven is evil; therefore, I believe the leaven refers to good.  What, then, is the major argument of those who make leaven to be evil in this parable?  They say that leaven everywhere else in the New Testament always refers to evil, therefore, here there must be consistency.  So for example in Luke 12:1 Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy."  The leaven there is not so much the hypocrisy itself as the influence that it has.  You see, leaven is only an analogy that is good when applied to a permeating influence.  The point of using the leaven to describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees affects other people the same way leaven effects bread.  The leaven is not an illustration of sin, it is an illustration of permeation and that is very important distinction.  Tomorrow we will conclude this first lesson from the parable. 

  1. Are you amazed that the Father has “hid” you in the world to serve Him?
  2. Are you letting your words and deeds permeate the world for Jesus?
Prayer: Father, open my heat as I study these parables.  Let them encourage me to be more faithful n my proclamation of the gospel.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Parable of the Leaven

Scripture: Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." 

Insights:  Now, we've already looked at the parable of the mustard seed and we've learned three lessons from it.  One, the kingdom will start small.  Two, it will become large.  Three, the nations will ultimately enjoy its benefits. But now we're going to look at a very similar lesson in the parable of the leaven.  As always, our Lord picks His parables out of common life experiences.  As a boy growing up, Jesus would have seen His mother make bread many, many times and to make bread one uses yeast or leaven.  To make bread you take a new batch of dough which is all prepared and kneaded.  You then take a piece of sour fermented dough from a former loaf, which is called a starter, and you place it in that new loaf.  At that point the yeast or leaven begins to foment.  Fomenting was a new word for me this week and it means to stimulate, to provoke, to agitate and to generate growth.  As this fomenting process begins the yeast is bubbling and permeating the whole loaf and as a result the loaf rises.  Now let us look at this parable more closely.  Notice the leaven is a very small piece, but you will also notice that it is hidden in three pecks of flour. Three pecks of flour is a massive amount of dough.  Three pecks of flour is equal to one ephah which is equivalent to 4.8 gallons or 19.2 quarts or 38.4 pints of dry substances.  It was not uncommon for them to prepare that much bread because it was the staple of life.  With this bread they feed their families, the servants in the house and often times others as well.  Now, the large amount of flour is indicative of the tremendous enormity of the task accomplished by a little bit of leaven.  In other words, you have the little tiny piece of leaven ultimately extending its impact and affect to a massive amount of dough.  Let me make just a couple more observations about leaven.  Leavened bread is far superior to unleavened bread. Unleavened bread is flat, hard, dry, and unappetizing.  Leavened bread is soft, spongy, warm, and tastes good.  The leaven influences a massive amount of dough positively and makes it better.  Leaven also has to be hidden in the loaf.  In other words, the leaven has to be inserted; it can't sit on the counter and yell at the bread.  It must be inserted. 

  1. Is your life fomenting the world around you?
  2. What kind of large affects are you having on it?
Prayer: Father, I desire to have a powerful influence on the world around me.  Grow me in Your grace and fill me with boldness that I may stir on those around me.  Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Background Information to The Parable of the Leaven

Scripture: Matthew 13:33

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." 

Insights:  Continue to keep in mind that the prophets of the O.T. predicted that the kingdom of God would ultimately come to the earth and have far reaching impacts and influence.  Yet when Jesus came the first time there was no purging of the rebels, no sitting up on a throne, no throwing out the Roman power, no purging of the world, and no peace in the world.  As a result the Jews and the disciples struggled with doubts because they didn't see the fulfillment of their expectations of God’s kingdom.  Jesus did and does have a kingdom, but it is not perceived as a kingdom as men understand kingdoms.  It is first and foremost a kingdom from within the heart.  Paul wrote in Romans 14:17, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (external), but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (internal).”  You see on another occasion in Luke 17:20, they said to Jesus, in effect, “Well, if You're a King, where's the kingdom?”  Jesus basically replies, “The kingdom of God is within you.  It's in your midst. You just don't perceive it because it isn't discerned by human perception, but I'm a King nonetheless.”  It was for this reason Jesus gave us these parables to describe His kingdom.  The first two parables describe the nature of the kingdom.  We saw through the parable of the soils and the parable of the wheat and weeds that the kingdom would co-exist with both good and evil.  There would be soil that rejects and there would be the true soil.  The second parable told us that the wheat and the weeds ought to grow together until the final judgment, and therefore, we ought not to expect the rebels to be condemned at this time.  The second two parables describe the power of the kingdom.  Jesus was telling us, in essence, in spite of the co-existing natures of the kingdom, in spite of the co-existing of the good and the evil, in spite of the tremendous power of sin, in spite of the power of Satan, in spite of the very massive over sowing of weeds amidst the wheat, in spite of the fact that three of the four soils reject Jesus, the power of the kingdom is very great and the kingdom is going to grow.  From small beginning, great results will occur. 

  1. Do you ever have incorrect assumptions about the nature and character of God?
  2. Are you grateful Jesus desires for you to know Him and provides parables like these to assist in that process?
Prayer: Father, so often I come to the table with preconceived ideas as to how You ought to act.  Forgive me of my presumptuous attitude and help me to trust fully in Your grace.  Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Mustard Seed Describes the Kingdom in Order to Encourage Us

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." 

Insights:  The mustard seed describes the kingdom in order to encourage us.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I get discouraged.  I just think that no matter how hard we try we always seem to be crushed and crowded out by the evil world around us.  If you feel that way, can you imagine how the disciples felt?  Let me make one last observation before I write about the significance of this parable for us today.  What are these birds to represent?  Some people think they represent demons and the reason they think they represent demons is because of the earlier parable where the birds snatch it away and it talks about the bird representing Satan who takes the Word away.  But keep this in your mind, this is a new parable and the birds could represent anything.  I think there are two things to notice regarding these birds.  One, considering the birds live in this bush, the bush must be very large.  Two, the birds live in the mustard bush so they can eat at home.  In other words, the Kingdom of Christ grows so extensive that the nations find their shelter and protection in the kingdom.  Now the birds are not the mustard bush and they are not necessarily part of the kingdom, but they benefit by its presence in the earth.  This truth is important because wherever Christianity flourishes the people, the birds, which climb in the branches, prosper even though they don't know Christ.  Wherever the Kingdom has extended, you have an environment of protection for the people who aren't even in that kingdom truly.  Now this last thought takes us back to the way the disciple felt and the significance this parable would have had on them.  The kingdom will grow so that many will find lodging in its branches.  And what the parable is trying to tell us is that in spite of the opposition, in spite of the three bad soils, in spite of the presence of the weeds, we're going to win.  The kingdom is going to grow and grow and grow and grow and grow.  We're not this little group of people trying to hold the fort.  We're the people on the winning side and the kingdom is growing.  

  1. Are you presently feeling discouraged in your Christian walk?
  2. Will you allow the Holy Spirit to encourage your heart to remain faithful?
Prayer: Father, the obstacles of life often result in discouragement in my life.  Grant me, please, Your presence so I may walk faithfully with You to victory.  Amen.

The Mustard Seed Describes how Small the Kingdom will Start and how Large the Kingdom will Grow

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." 

Insights:  The mustard seed describes how small the kingdom will start.  Can you imagine how important this truth was to the disciple?  Think about it, they were standing in a little group, being literally smothered by oppression, and rejection and blasphemy.  It is as if they were saying, “Well, there are just a little handful of us against the whole world.”  It’s as if Jesus were saying to them, “It's okay. Everything starts from something very, very small, but you have the potential to take this kingdom to the ends of the earth.”  All of disciples put together wouldn't add up to a mustard seed.  They were so small, so inadequate, so inconsequential, so unqualified, so fearful, so faithless, so weak, and yet, they were the kingdom Jesus planted.  Sometimes our lives feel small like this as well.  The mustard seed also describes how large the kingdom will grow.  The prophets in the Old Testament saw a great kingdom whose extent was staggering.  For example, in Psalm 72:8-11, it says, "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and the abundance of peace as long as the moon endures. He shall have dominion from sea to sea from the river to the ends of the earth that they dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him, and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the islands shall bring presents, the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. All kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him."  Isaiah saw the same end result, "Enlarge the place of thy tent, let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitation, spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes (54:2)."  Jeremiah saw it.  Amos saw it.  Micah saw it.  Zechariah saw it.  We could read Scripture after Scripture stating the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, would stretch from sea to sea, from land to land, and cover the globe.  Ultimately the millennial kingdom will come and Jesus will reign like these verses describe over the entire earth.  God wants to take our lives and make something large out of it for His glory.  Not large in the earthly sense, but in the kingdom sense. 

  1. Does your life sometimes feel incredibly small?
  2. Are you amazed that the Lord wants to take your small beginnings and turn them into something miraculously large?
Prayer: Father, so often I pursue my own personal kingdom agendas and choose to remain small.  Break through my sinful stubborn heart and transform me into something large that brings You glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Mustard Seed Describes the External Power of the Kingdom

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." 

Insights:  In this parable we again have a farmer who is planting his crops.  In this case the crop is mustard which normally grows to seven or eight feet, but occasionally grows as tall as fifteen feet.  Jesus was telling them the external power of the kingdom, which results in the largeness, was not dependent upon the smallness of the mustard seed in the beginning.  Many liberal theologians attempt to criticize this parable and say it is nothing more than an exaggeration.  Their argument is that the wild orchid seed is smaller than a mustard seed.  The Greek word Jesus used in verse thirty-two is lachanon and refers to garden vegetables, or stated more plainly garden greens that are grown purposely to be eaten unlike the wild orchid.  Now, of all of the seeds that were sown in the past or present in Israel, to produce edible products, the mustard seed was and still is the smallest.  Jesus, therefore, is speaking within a framework in which what He says is exactly correct. These critics go on further to say that in the parable Jesus says it becomes a tree and everyone knows it doesn’t become a tree.  Jesus is not talking about a timber tree, but of a shrub so large that it has the properties of a tree.  The property He was specifically referencing was birds live in trees.  Botanists tell us that in a certain time of the year the branches of the mustard bush becomes so rigid that birds build their nests in them.  The parable was also speaking proverbially.  Jesus wasn't trying to give us a lesson on botany and people don't need to get so nit-picky about it.  We have proverbs even today.  For example, a person might be said to be as wise as an owl.  We don't mean that the smartest thing in the world is an owl.  The Jews had a lot of parables referencing the size of a mustard seed.  For example, they talked about a tiny breach of the Mosaic Law being defilement the size of a mustard seed.  The Jews also talked about a blemish or a spot on an animal the size of a mustard seed.  Jesus was using this parable in this kind of proverbial since. 

  1. Does your life display the external power of God’s kingdom?
  2. Do you find it amazing how even in a proverbial sense Jesus’ words are accurate?
Prayer: Father, let my speech be like Your Son’s and be true.  Let my life also display Your external power here on earth.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Background to the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Part 2

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." 

Insights:  The first parable Jesus spoke told the disciples about four kinds of soil. Three of them do not receive the message of the King. That tells them that in this mysterious church age portion of the kingdom it will include rejection.  The immediate question that would come into the mind of the disciple would be, “What's going to happen to the rejecters?”  So, the Lord told them a second parable.  Jesus stated that the wheat and the weeds, the kingdom citizens and the rejecters, are going to grow together until the judgment.  He also informs them it is not their job to be the executioners, that's for the angels in the judgment.  Their job and ours is to keep on being the wheat in the world so that we’ll influence the weeds around us.  This second parable led to the next question for the disciples, “If these two things are going along together, isn't that going to choke out the life of the kingdom?”  Does it not sometimes look and feel like we in the kingdom of God are going to get wiped out literally?  The odds seem so unbelievable at times.   And so, Jesus teaches them these two parables that show from very small beginnings, very insignificant starts, the kingdom is going to grow in spite of the opposition to ultimately influence the whole-wide world.  The first two parables talk about the conflict. They talk about the antagonism of evil and good in the kingdom. They talk about the right and the wrong fighting one another.  But these next two talk about the victory of the right. That in the end, the little tiny mustard seed fills the earth, the little piece of leaven, leavens the whole loaf of bread.  Now the Lord does not explain to us these two parables, but don't feel bad. The Lord gave us Somebody to explain them to us, The Holy Spirit.  We, therefore, are not cheated in any way.  Jesus explained the parables to the disciples, but for us, we have the resident Holy Spirit.  And because we understand God, and we understand the mind of God as revealed in the Word of God, we can fit these parables in with His plan 

  1. Do you recognize the beautiful progression of thought concerning these parables?
  2. Are you grateful for the Holy Spirit to grant you understanding of these parables?
Prayer: Father, as I grow in my understanding of this mysterious church age, help me to grow more dependent on Your presence as I struggle through the same issues the first disciples battled.  Amen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Background to the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." 

Insights:  Small things can have very large effects. Lord Kelvin provides us with an interesting insight into this truth by an experiment which he once made. He suspended a large chunk of steel weighing many, many pounds.  It was hanging there in his lab to prove a point. He then proceeded to wad up little bits of paper about the size of a pea and systematically throw the wad at the steel. At first, that rather gentle tap had no affect at all. But eventually the steel was swaying back and forth and back and forth because of the relentless tapping of the little piece of paper.  Lord Kelvin was proving the principle that small things can produce profound results.  And that principle is the point of these parables.  Now let me give you a little bit of background so that you'll be able to feel with the disciples what they felt as Jesus was teaching them.  The disciples believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the King.  And for them, the kingdom had very clear definitions.  There would be pomp and circumstance.  There would be great cataclysmic events. There would be the punishment of evil doers.  They were looking for the music and the horses, the triumph, the wonder, the show, and the publicity.  They really anticipated a blazing display of power, glory, majesty, and might as the Messiah established His kingdom.  But, it didn't happen that way and that's why they kept asking themselves, “Was this the Messiah?”  Jesus would tell them again and again that He was and they would still struggle with it.  All the way into the book of Acts they are still asking, “Will You at this time bring the kingdom?”  They never quite understood because their expectations were so different from what they were seeing. Instead of Jesus talking about what He would do to these evil, wicked people.  He started talking about what they would do to Him.  Instead of Him saying, “I am going to kill them and establish My kingdom,” He started saying, “They're going to kill Me.” And this misunderstanding on the part of the disciples was very, very hard for them to accept. 

  1. Are there times in which you expect a different outcome than what actually occurs?
  2. Are you willing to accept that outcome when it means God will get greater glory?
Prayer: Father, I do not see with eyes of eternity.  Open them, I pray, so I may see with Your eyes and understand with Your mind.  Grant me the grace to fully trust and rely on You.  Amen.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Application of the Parable of the Weeds

Scripture: Matthew 13:40-43

"So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 

Insights:  The conclusion of the parable on judgment is completed with today’s verses and last explanations.  For those who are weeds, children of Satan, they will be harvested and cast into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  People think they're going to be in hell and everything is going to be fine. They're going to be with their friends and they'll love it down there and this verse tells us that not only is hell a fire, but it tells us what the reaction is going to be – grinding teeth and piercing shrieks.  In other words, hell is going to be painful, eternal, inevitable, and inescapable judgment.  It is not going to be a party at all and the love of God, along with His mercy and grace, will be removed from those who will reside there for all eternity.  There is, however, a different ending for the wheat of this parable.  Those who are children of the kingdom, those born again, those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, will be harvested to shine forth with His righteousness as brilliant as the sun.  The last part of verse forty-three gives us the application point of this parable.  It simply means you had better listen up and ask yourself the question, “Am I wheat?”  Are you a child of the kingdom, or are you a child of the enemy? If you're a child of the enemy, then listen. This mysterious church age is a time of patience, this is a time of grace, but judgment is inevitable, eternal, and painful.  You better check yourself and you had better listen to the warning of the parable.  You may be saying, “But I'm not a weed, I'm wheat.”  Then you had also better listen to this parable. You're to coexist in this world and you're to influence the world for good, and not be influenced by it.  You are not to be the judge, but you are to personally share the gospel with the lost.
  1. Will you be one who is burned up at the harvest?
  2. Will you shine like the sun with His righteousness?
Prayer: Father, give me an ear to hear what Your Spirit has to say to me.  Let my life truly shine forth like the sun and may many weeds be turned into wheat as a result of Your work in me.  Amen.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds, Part 2

Scripture: Matthew 13:39

and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 

Insights:  There are only two camps in which a person can exist—Jesus’ camp or Satan’s camp.  The disciples never saw this comingled time in which both would exist.  Let me emphasize a few things about this comingling between the wheat and weeds.  Wheat and weeds breathe the same air, they eat the same food, they drive the same highways, they live in the same neighborhoods, they work at the same factories, they go to the same schools, they visit the same doctors, they entertain themselves with the same entertainment, their under the same sky, they enjoy the same warm sun, the just and the unjust are rained upon in this mysterious church age because it's all commingled until the end.  There is, however, a harvest and today’s verse tells us it will occur at the end of the age.  I think the primary reason the Lord told us not to pull the weeds out of the world was because in the process we might actually pull out some wheat.  Our church history, unfortunately, is full of examples of the church reaping (judging) believers and pulling them out of the world.  I believe, instead, the message Jesus was truly attempting to communicate to us was, be patient and share the gospel with the weeds.  This redemptive attitude was modeled for us by the Lord Jesus the night in which He was betrayed. He took the sopped bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot.  This giving of the sopped bread to an individual was a sign that this person was an honored guest, and who did He give it to? Judas.  Jesus was still wooing Judas with love. Judas and Jesus are an illustration of how it is in the commingling in the age of grace.  Jesus never stopped loving and ministering to him.  Judas was in desperate need of a Savior and so is the world around us.  We need to be diligent in our pursuit of sharing Jesus with the weeds of the world.  We must never forget that at one time we were those weeds.  So, Beloved, be patient and proclaim Jesus and wait for the Lord’s harvest at the end of the age. 

  1. Are you prepared for the reaping at the end of the age?
  2. Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
Prayer: Father, don’t allow me to attempt to take on the role of a reaper (judge).  Rather, increase my burden for the lost and those who would perish if they died right now without Jesus.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds, Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 13:36-38

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 

Insights:  Jesus has left the crowds that were not believers and was now speaking only to those who did believe.  Notice that it is the disciples that ask for the explanation and as we mentioned Monday, they really did need an explanation considering they did not see this mysterious church age ever occurring.  If they had their way, the Lord would burn those weeds right up, right now.  Jesus told them the field represented the world.  Many commentaries say the field represents the church, but it does not.  Jesus knew the word for church and if He wanted the field to represent the church, He would have used that word.  If the field did represent the church, then it would really cause problem with other doctrines taught by the apostles later.  Based on this parable, if the field is the church, then the church would have no right to expose a heretic or deal with sin amidst the Body.  That thought is in contradiction to the Word of God.  If, as it really does mean, the field is the world, then there is no doctrinal confusion.  Jesus explained that He was the sower of the seed and His seed was the children of the kingdom.  Jesus planted Believers into the world at the point in history that He knew they would be the most effective.  You are not here by accident.  You are here to change as many weeds into wheat as you can.  The parable also tells us who the weeds are and who the enemy of the landowner is.  The enemy of the land owner is the evil one, Satan, and his seeds of weeds are lost people.  Beloved, we are to share the gospel with those weeds.  It is important to remember that every human being was a weed before they came to be wheat by the grace of the Lord Jesus.  We must share His love to them! 

  1. Does it bring you comfort to know that the Lord has placed you in the world at this time in history for a purpose?
  2. In what ways are you trying to reach out and share Jesus with the children of Satan?
Prayer: Father, there are times the overwhelming scale of evil in this world seems daunting, but then I am encouraged with Your sovereign hand of timing.  You have placed me in this world for such a time as this to share the love of Jesus with as many people as possible.  May my life bring You glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Parable of the Weeds, Part 2

Scripture: Matthew 13:26-30

"But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' "But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'" 

Insights:  Today we conclude the parable.  It continues on with verses twenty-six and twenty seven.  It became obvious at some point in the growth of the weeds that they are indeed not wheat. These workers are shocked. They would not have been shocked if there were just a few of these weeds because they were common to the area.  It’s a grassy kind of weed and it grows wherever it wants to grow.  They were, however, shocked because the whole field was full of them. Remember from yesterday, the Greek phrase used indicates that the ENTIRE field was planted with these weeds by the enemy.  This vast amount of weeds makes the workers wonder if the master had given them the wrong kind of seed when they planted.  Next we move to verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine.  In these verses we can recognize these weeds now because the heads have matured.  We can tell the difference between wheat and weeds.  The color was even different, they were a slate gray color by now, and so, these workers said, “We can tell them apart now, we'll go through the field and we'll tear those weeds out.” But the land owner said, “No, leave them in the field, because in pulling the weeds, you might pull up the roots of the wheat.”  Then Jesus concluded the parable with verse thirty.  In this verse the whole point of the parable hinges.  There is going to be a reaping.  There is going to be a burning.  It is just not going to happen right then as the workers had thought, but at the end of the harvest season.  Now, that's the narration. A very simple story and easy to understand, but what does it mean?  Well, that's what we will learn the rest of the week. 

  1. Are you shocked when you perceive the amount of evil that exist in the world?
  2. Is your response to pull out that evil or to try and change it?
Prayer: Father, I desire to be a change agent for You.  Give me the boldness to be more proactive in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and perishing.  Amen.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Parable of the Weeds, Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 13:24-25

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 

Insights:  This second parable was an absolute must for the disciples after hearing the parable of the sower.  The reason is because the Old Testament prophets did not envision this mysterious church age and neither did the disciples.  They thought when the Messiah came He would devastatingly judge, punish, put out and destroy the evil individuals.  Jesus, however, just told them a parable that depicted three kinds of lost soil and one kind of good soil.  The disciples needed more understanding about this comingled kingdom.  It was from this foundation that Jesus spoke the second parable which is about judgment.  Jesus likens this mysterious kingdom age as to a man that sowed seed in HIS field.  He OWNED the field.  He was not renting it or borrowing it, he owned it.  This man also did not sow just mediocre or average seed, but good seed.  We also recognize this man’s wealth because he has a large crew of workers that helped him sow seed into the field.  These men were not lazy when the parable describes them a sleep.  Rather, they worked a hard day’s labor and deserved to rest for the night with sleep.  It is, however, while they are a sleep that the land owner’s enemy came in and sowed tares or weeds among the wheat.  The Greek expression used here is very strong in nature and implies that the enemy did not just sow a little bit of weeds, but literally sowed these weeds throughout the ENTIRE field.  There was not a single area of the field that had not been infected by this enemy’s evil activity of sowing weeds.  As I have stated before, I am no farmer and I most definitely do not understand agriculture, but what the commentaries tell me is that this particular weed is indistinguishable from the good seed until it has grown and the truth of its real condition is observed.  If one wanted to ruin his neighbor’s crop, this was definitely the way to do it.  It was also common enough that the Roman government had a law against it which prescribed a certain kind of punishment if one were caught sowing weeds in another man’s field.  We will finish the rest of the parable tomorrow and for the rest of the week unpack the explanation. 

  1. Are you encouraged to know the man in the parable OWNS the field?
  2. Does your life bear the marks of good seed or tares?
Prayer: Father, the world is full of tares and we do have a vicious enemy.  In the midst of this great evil help me keep my eyes focused and centered on You.  You are my only hope.  Amen.