Daily Devotional; formerly Chaplains Corner

Discussion in 'Religious Discussions' started by ampaterry, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…good seed in a world of weeds

    In Matthew 13 Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

    Once again, Jesus “decodes” the parable for the disciples.

    36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to 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 is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons 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 gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

    To recap: The good seeds are sons of the kingdom, true Christians. Jesus is the one who plants us in the world. The tares, or weeds, are sons of the evil one. The devil is the one who plants them in the world, right beside the true Christians. God allows both to grow together until the final judgment when the tares are collected and burned and the wheat is harvested.

    Jesus warned us about these “weeds” among us when he warned about the false teachers. For example in John 10 He talked about the thief that comes in by some other way than the door. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

    He said many would try to mimic real Christians by doing lots of good works in Matthew 7. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

    In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about how He will separate the sheep from the goats at the final judgment; the sheep will go to be with Him, the goats will go to eternal punishment. Time and time again Paul warns the new churches about false teachers and false Christians. These weeds, tares, will insist on occupying the same space as true Christians. Just like weeds, they will compete for the attention, the resources that should be going to nourish the wheat, the real Christians.

    Some will try to distract from Jesus as in, Mark 13 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

    Others are out to do as much harm as possible, as in 2 Peter 2: 1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

    These are the kinds of things Jesus warned the churches about in Revelation 2-3, and He told the churches to weed them out. Today we see this happening all too often in churches around the world, as religious leaders are calling on people to abandon God’s Truth and follow humanist, PC ideas and conform to the world’s standards.

    Now the interesting thing is this: Jesus is going to allow these weeds, these tares, to continue growing side by side with the good seed until the final judgment. The reason? 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.

    So He wants to give us Christians, the wheat, every chance He can to mature, to produce a full crop before separating the weeds out. He is allowing every last chance He can to give the good seed a chance to sprout and grow.

    See what God says in 2 Peter 3: 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

    Time and time again God has warned us about these tares. Time and time again throughout His Word He warns us and teaches us how to deal with them.

    Jesus is giving us an overview of what His kingdom is like in this parable. In God’s Kingdom, God has planted us in the world. The devil has planted his seed alongside us. They are not citizens of God’s Kingdom but they are sharing the same space in the world. Weeds will compete with us for nutrients, resources, and try to crowd us out but as long as we are deeply rooted, taking our nourishment from God, we can’t be pushed out. When the time is right, there will come a time of harvest, the final judgment, when Jesus will have His angels root out the tares, separating them from the good plants, and destroy them.

    May God bless us as we would put our roots deep down into the nourishment of God’s Word. May we be like the tree in Psalm 1: 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
     
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  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…a Mustard Seed

    Mark 4 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

    The next time you are in a grocery store, look in the spice aisle for a jar of mustard seed. They are not the smallest seeds on the market, but they are small enough, about the size of a pinhead. Jesus says that when it is sown it grows into one of the largest of the garden plants. A mustard plant is an annual, meaning it matures, seeds, and dies in a year. In that year it can grow to be 10 feet or more high with branches large enough to support a bird’s nest. Birds love the seeds so they can make their homes right in the middle of their restaurant.

    According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Mustard plants are easy and inexpensive to grow; they flourish on many different types of soil, suffer from unusually few insect pests or plant diseases, and tolerate extremes of weather without serious harm.” Mustard seeds have an extensive list of medicinal uses, starting with mustard plasters. One alternative medicine website lists uses for mustard for ailments from head to toe.

    So Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed.

    Both start out small and get very large. Starting with the small seed of Jesus and his band of disciples, the evidence of God’s Kingdom here on earth, the Church, has grown and spread throughout the entire world. Philippians 2 says 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    The mustard seed of His Kingdom has grown and will continue to grow to infiltrate the entire earth, all peoples, all places, all times. Acts 1 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

    Mustard seeds survive and even thrive in many different weather patterns and soil types. God’s Kingdom, again evidenced by the Church, has not only grown, but has thrived in some of the most hostile political and religious and social “climates”. The Church in China is alive and well. The Church in various other countries has grown in strength, in faith, and in numbers despite persecution. Where the “climate” and “soil” is favorable, the Church also grows. Jesus reassured us in Matthew 16 that where people confess Him as the Son of the Living God, 18 …upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In Matthew 18 He said 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Both can be sources of shelter. Just as the birds build their nests in the shelter of a mustard plant’s branches, so people have found shelter in God’s Kingdom. The book of Psalms is rich with references to how God shelters us, protects us, is our refuge in tough times.

    Both can act as healing agents. When people apply God’s principles to their lives, to their communities, to their countries, God gives His peace, His healing to relationships and conflicts. Jesus said in Matthew 11 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    Both are sources of nourishment. Mustard plants provide physical food for birds; God’s kingdom provides spiritual food for Christians, nourishes us, provides strength. Jesus says in Revelation 2 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna. In Hebrews 10 God says 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Jesus feeds us; and His Church builds us up, making us stronger.

    Mustard is a spice. It adds flavor to food. God’s Kingdom adds flavor to our lives, makes them interesting. Oh, how it makes our lives interesting if we give God free reign to do with us what He wants. Paul’s life, Abraham’s life, David’s life was anything but boring. It affects how we interact with the world. His Kingdom adds its unique flavor to communities, to cities, to states, to nations. Jesus said in Colossians 4 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

    Mustard seeds are small, but potent. The seeds themselves provide nourishment and healing. They start out small, but become great plants. The same is true with God’s Kingdom.

    And as for us? Consider what Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 17: 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

    May God bless us as the mustard seeds of His Kingdom would take root in our lives and grow in us.
     
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  3. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…yeast

    Luke 13 20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

    Most of us know about baking bread. You take some flour, some water and a few other ingredients, mix them together to make dough, then add some yeast and knead that yeast into the dough, and let it rise for a while. Then you knead it some more, let it rise some more, put it into the oven and get very hungry as the aroma of baking bread fills the house. The yeast makes that lump of dough into fluffy, tasty bread.

    Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is like that yeast, or leaven. Think about how that yeast works. There is a biological reaction that goes on as the yeast digests the starches in the bread and turns them into bubbles of carbon dioxide that give the bread its lightness. The yeast works silently, and from the inside. And as it works, it is multiplying. A little yeast soon permeates the entire lump of dough. That’s how God grows His Kingdom in us as individuals and also throughout the entire world...quietly, from the inside out. No violent reactions or riots or explosions, no street marches, no agitated speeches. It doesn't necessarily happen all at once. It takes time for that yeast to change the lump of dough into bread, and it takes a while for the yeast of God's Word to change our lives into "living stones". (1 Peter 2:5)

    When we become Christians, we receive Christ into our lives. He starts working in our lives like yeast works on that lump of dough, quietly working into every area of our lives. He changes the character of our lives. Where we were once just a dead lump of dough, He breathes life into us, like the yeast creates bubbles in the dough. Just as is impossible to strain the yeast out of the dough once it is mixed in, so it is impossible to strain Jesus out of our lives once He has come into our lives. He permeates our entire lives, becomes part of our very essence.

    He does that through His Word, the Bible. As we read, hear, study, memorize, meditate on God’s Word, those little living yeast cells of Bible verses start working in our minds, in our hearts, to change us from the inside out. Remember what He said to Simon, to Abram, to Jacob and others? You are…You shall be. God changes us, makes us what He wants us to be. The change comes from the inside out. When you read through Psalm 119, the phrase that keeps popping up, almost like a refrain, is give me life according to your word!

    What a difference that is, compared with how religions work. They invade a land, and get people to convert to their religion at the point of a sword. ISIS captures people and gives them an ultimatum: say some words to become a muslim, or die. Other religions tell us to do certain things to achieve nirvana, or whatever their idea of salvation or heaven is. Those things are externally imposed, forces that try to change a person from the outside.

    Those external laws only demand conformity to an external pattern of behavior. They don’t change the most important part of a person—his heart. Jesus said in Luke 6 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

    It’s what’s inside us that matters, not how we look. What’s inside us will affect how we look. Check out Matthew 23 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

    God’s Kingdom works from the inside out, not with armies that invade and fight and kill and conquer. Jesus told Pilate his kingdom is not of this world, otherwise his servants would have used their swords to beat Christianity into people. They would have fought and killed to protect His life.

    And that’s how God’s kingdom spreads throughout our communities, our countries, and throughout the world. We become those yeast cells of God’s Kingdom that land in our communities, our work, our circle of friends; we share the Gospel, plant the living yeast cells of God’s Word in other lives, and God’s Kingdom starts growing in them, from the inside out. Jesus said it would work this way in Hebrews 4: 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    And He told us to not be shy about planting His living Word into the lives of others in Matthew 28: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    So God’s Kingdom is like a little bit of yeast, that spreads first through our own lives, changing our character. Then God spreads His Kingdom through us into the rest of the world. Quietly. From the inside out.
     
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  4. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…hidden treasure

    Matthew 13 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

    How many times have I seen something like this in the “What have you bought (firearms related) in the last 48 hours?” thread: “I was just browsing in the store and discovered this gun…and it just followed me home.” We happen across some treasure that has been on our “bucket list” for a while, or stumble across something that is too good to pass up. Maybe we go over budget to get it, but we’re proud of our new acquisition. We didn’t intend to get a new gun that day, but this bargain just sort of jumped up and said “Take me!! Take me!!”

    That’s kind of like what Jesus is talking about in this parable. Some man is walking across the fields, minding his own business when something catches his eye. A splash of silver, a glint of gold, a gleam off of a gem, or maybe it’s a box that has somehow been partially unearthed. He looks around to be sure nobody is watching, investigates, finds a rich treasure trove, and immediately covers it up. He liquidizes all his assets, finds out who owns the field, makes the owner an offer he can’t refuse, and now he owns the field…and the treasure in it. Great return for his investment. He has been freed from his burden of poverty. He is taken care of for life.

    That’s how Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in this parable. We’re wandering along through life, minding our own business, maybe thinking how pointless this rat race has become, and that when the rat race is over the rats will have won. Then we stumble across the Gospel…maybe just happened to catch something on the radio or TV, maybe read an article or a book, maybe heard someone talking.

    What we hear is that there is more to life than just day to day living, going to work, eating, sleeping, recreating. We hear that Jesus gives meaning to life, and that we can have a real purpose in life, something more than just getting things, more than just wandering from one achievement to the next. We hear someone say that Jesus said in John 10 10 … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

    We hear about how Paul had a purpose in life that went beyond life itself. He says in 2 Timothy 4 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

    We hear about the chance encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4. She left her bucket at the well and her old lifestyle with it at the feet of Jesus because He could free her from her burden of…not poverty, but of sin. She ran back into the village and told everyone 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She had a shady background, so when they heard there was someone who could tell them all about her, they came running. She had stumbled on a treasure in Jesus that was well worth giving up everything she had thought important and dear in order to gain this new life, this “spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

    Jesus was talking with the disciples one day and this is how the conversation went in Matthew 19 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Peter and the others with him had sold all they had to buy that field, and the treasure in it.

    Jesus said the same thing a little differently in John 12: 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

    You remember the rich young ruler in Mark 10, don’t you? 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”… 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

    The Kingdom of God demands total commitment. We jump in with both feet, with no holding back. I don’t think it necessarily means we need to put our homes, businesses, cars, and other things up for sale and go live in a monastery or something. David and Lydia and Solomon and Abraham and Job and a lot of other people were totally committed to God’s Kingdom. They were rich, but they didn’t let their things get in the way of “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

    May God bless us as we would not allow any thing we own, have, are, or do, to come between us and the Kingdom of God. When we acquire this treasure, we are taken care of for life, and for eternity.
     
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  5. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…a pearl

    Matthew 13

    45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

    This is a lot like the parable of the hidden treasure but this time it is no accident that the merchant finds what he is looking for. He is out looking, hunting, much the same way I am when I get to the stores in the US. I have a shopping list…and places to go to fulfill that list. That merchant doesn’t just stumble across the pearl of great value. It’s his life work to research the best dealers and sources, he knows how to value pearls, which are everyday ones, and which are valuable, and the qualities that make them valuable.

    The Kingdom of God is like someone searching, honestly, for answers to the real questions of life. Francis Schaeffer developed L’Abrie ministry in Switzerland and it has spread to several nations around the world. Students come to these centers of ministry to sort out honest questions they have about life and the meaning of life. Here they find that pearl of great value when someone shows them how God gives them real purpose in life, how God has the answer to their questions in His Word.

    Or look at Solomon. He asked God for wisdom and God gave it to him by the truckload. He took the time to write the book of Ecclesiastes, in which he goes through a large number of approaches to life, philosophies of life, evaluates them, and talks about their merits and failures. He discusses a number of pearls, some more, some less valuable. But the punchline, the pearl of great value in all these approaches to life comes in the final verses of the book (Ecclesiastes 12): 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

    Or look at CS Lewis. He was an Oxford professor and liked to wrestle with problems. He started out to prove that this Christianity thing is a load of fertilizer. What he found as he began looking into Christ and God’s Word honestly, was that pearl of great value. He wrote a book about his search for joy in life that traces his progress from atheism to theism to Christianity. The book? Surprised by Joy. He then sold it all, as it were. He dropped the wrong philosophies of life and spent the rest of his life helping others to find this pearl of great value that he had found in Jesus Christ.

    Do you remember what happened with that Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8? He was travelling along through the desert, his chariot on cruise control while he was trying to understand the scroll he had picked up in Jerusalem, where he had gone to worship. He was searching for pearls. The scroll he was reading happened to be the book of Isaiah and when God literally dropped Philip in his chariot, Philip was able to help the Eunuch understand the passages he was reading. Bottom line, the eunuch became a Christian then and there. He had found the pearl of great value.

    Hebrews 11 says 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

    God rewards those who seek Him. He sells His pearl of great value to those who look for Him. The price? All that we have. The reward? All that God has.

    Luke 12 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
     
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  6. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…seeds growing

    Mark 4 The Parable of the Seed Growing

    26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

    Science has come a long way since Jesus’ time. It offers explanations for how seeds germinate, push roots down and shoots up, how genetics determine which cells become root cells, how the blade develops chlorophyll, how the roots absorb nutrients from the soil and the plant converts carbon dioxide into oxygen and nutrients for the plant. But science still can’t describe how those seeds were designed, or who designed them to grow that way.

    Well, the farmers and gardeners among us plant seeds and watch the plants emerge from the soil, and gradually start to grow, and eventually produce fruit. We don’t really care how it happens, just so it happens. Sure, we can enhance its growth with fertilizers, regular watering, weeding, and de-pesting. Then we can harvest that fruit—tomatoes, beans, squash, corn, wheat, whatever. If it’s our kitchen garden, we harvest the produce when it’s ready. When it’s ripe. If farming is our business, we bring the combine harvesters in to reap the crops. But we cannot force the plants to grow any faster than God lets them grow. They produce their harvest in God’s good time.

    The same thing is true with the Gospel. We plant God’s good news in the minds of people. We can “tend the garden”, and watch for signs of life, of interest or curiosity about what it means to be a Christian; we can watch for the “blade” to emerge from the soil. We can watch for “the ear” as maybe they start coming to Bible Studies or church regularly, or start asking serious questions about what it means to be a Christian. Then the full grain in the ear matures and they commit their lives to Christ, become Christians.

    We have input, but it is God who makes that seed germinate, grow, and eventually produce a new Christian. Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 3: 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

    We plant the seeds of God’s Word in people’s minds. Then we pray for them. We water the field by keeping the conversation going as and when we can. But God causes it to take root and grow. I remember one Christian leader who decided to go back to his roots. He had led a checkered life, going off the rails for a time, but someone had led him to the Lord. He went back to his home town, found his old Sunday School teacher, and discovered she had been praying for him daily since he had been in her class. She had planted, someone else watered, but in God’s good time, God gave the increase.

    On a larger scale now. God had built the church in Indianapolis. The church leadership understood that the sign of a healthy church was that it would multiply. One becomes two, two become four, and so on, per 2 Timothy 2:2. The elders were asking God where to go next, and settled on a town 50 miles south. We went down, found some people who wanted to meet in Bible study on a regular basis, and for a number of years planted seed there. But there was no desire to form a new congregation on the part of the people there, so we let it drop. They were happy with their own church arrangements.

    The seed was sown, we went about our own work, “sleeping and rising night and day”. It was in God’s hands now. A few years later we got a panic call from some of the people in that town. The church they were in was destroying their families, and was preaching things contrary to God’s Word. How quickly could we help them form a new church? God had made the harvest ready. Planting that seed was hard work; lots of travel, plenty of late nights. As the church was being organized there was again lots of travel, and many weeks we started Sunday at stupid o’clock in the morning and finished late at night. But today they are a vibrant congregation. Psalm 126 describes what we went through as we saw that happen: 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    Isaiah 55 says this: 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.


    May God give us the patience and endurance of farmers as we sow the seed of His Word into the lives of people, and wait for Him to produce the harvest. And may God bless us with a rich harvest in His time.
     
  7. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…rewarding faithful servants

    In Luke 19, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Minas.

    11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”

    Several things jump out at me from this parable.

    1. God’s Kingdom is not a democracy. He doesn’t rule by the popular vote of the people. His decisions are not based on popularity polls. He has absolute power and authority to reward and to punish. History has shown that this kind of authority is tragically dangerous for human rulers, but for a righteous, just, holy, incorruptible God, it is not only appropriate, it is good. God has the wisdom to know right from wrong, and the ability to stamp out the cancer of rebellion to keep it from spreading. God who gives life is the One who can take it away. Proverbs 14 says 34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 25 describes the action of this king: 5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness. This king acted ruthlessly to squash rebellion in his kingdom, and God does the same.

    2. The king went away to receive a kingdom. Jesus was heading into Jerusalem for the last time when He told the disciples this parable. He would be leaving them, to receive His kingdom from the Father, and He was telling them what He expected them to be doing in His absence.

    3. The king in the parable was to be gone for an indefinite period of time. Jesus said in Mark 13 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” He will be gone for an indefinite period of time, but we need to be ready always for His return.

    4. The king in the parable gave his workers minas ten minas to work with while he was gone. A mina was worth around $25,000 so each worker had a good sum to invest while his master was away.

    5. Jesus has given us resources—abilities, physical resources, to work with while He is away receiving His Kingdom. He will reward us based on how we have invested those resources He has given us. The servant who brought him10 minas from the one he had been given was given 10 cities to rule over. The servant who brought him five minas was given five cities. How we perform in this life determines how God will reward us in His Kingdom. Remember how Paul talks about striving for the crown God has for him? God gives us abilities, resources. We need to find ways of investing those gifts He has given us. He has maybe given us an ability to study, maybe make money, maybe we have people skills, or mechanical skills. Bezalel in Exodus 31 was not a priest or theologian, but God did give him skills as a craftsman that were put to full use in building the Tabernacle.

    6. Did you notice what the master said to his servants at the reckoning? $25,000 seems like quite a bit of money, at least to me. But the master says ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ $25,000 is chump change to him. To God that isn’t even worth looking at.

    7. How many times does God talk about the return on investment that He gives? Mark 10 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

    8. I think the parable gives a glimpse of what living in Heaven will be like. We will have responsibilities, things to do. We won’t get bored just sitting around on clouds twanging away on harps for eternity. God will have tasks for us to do, perhaps based on what we have done here on earth during our lives, and how we have done it.

    There’s a lot more in this parable worth thinking into, but tomorrow we’ll look at a similar parable Jesus told in Matthew 25.
     
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  8. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…investing talents part 2

    Matthew 25 14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    Now that just doesn’t sound fair, does it? The master took the one talent from the poorest servant and gave it to the one who had the most, and then had the poor servant thrown out. But think about it. At the outset the master appraised his servants. One had lots of ability, so he gave him five talents (each talent was worth about $25,000). Another had middling ability, so he received two talents. A third, in his judgment, had little ability so he received only one talent.

    This man didn’t get rich by giving everyone the same responsibility. He knew which people would turn the best business deals, and which the worst. But he did give them all an equal chance to prove themselves. The one who failed to produce a profit had only himself to blame. He should at least have put his money in the bank to gain interest. Instead he buried this treasure in his back yard and went about life as usual, while the others hustled, worked hard, to double their wealth.

    It reminds me of The Apprentice. I’ve only seen snippets of that show; can’t be bothered to watch much of that kind of program, but as I recall the poorest performer always hears the fatal words “You’re Fired!!” and he’s out. In this parable the master is in business to make his business grow and to make a profit. He sets a test to see how his servants perform in his absence, and the ones who do the best get promoted. The one who did the worst got fired.

    This all reminds me of Proverbs 14 35 A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.

    Back in those days a talent was an amount of money. But every time I read this I can’t help but equate “talent” with “ability”, or “aptitude”. God is in the business of building His kingdom, and he sets us a test by giving each of us abilities, aptitudes, capabilities. We can just be happy and lazy and stay at whatever level of ability we start out at, burying our talents in the back yard, or we can work to develop those capabilities, and use them for building up God’s kingdom during our lives here on earth.

    When I was much younger, I decided to wire speakers from the stereo in our living room into the kitchen so mom could have music while she was doing kitchen things like cooking or washing dishes. A couple of years later there was a need to set up a sound system in the church so mothers in the nursery could hear the service, and so we could record the sermons. I set up the sound system and it served well for a number of years until someone else took over and rebuilt it more professionally. Those tapes were duplicated to go to people who couldn’t make it to church.

    A friend of our family had the ability to make money, and from time to time he would go to another Christian and tell him about someone who wanted to go out as a missionary. He would suggest they each go halves to support this fledgling missionary. Each time he did that, he was investing a little more in God’s Kingdom.

    Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2 to 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Paul was never content to maintain his status quo with God. He says in Philippians 3 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

    Bottom line: We need to take stock of the talents God has given us, and invest them wisely. We need to use it or lose it. Will God promote us or fire us when He returns to settle accounts?
     
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  9. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like...being prepared

    Matthew 25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

    It has been a number of years since I was in the Boy Scouts, where I learned many important skills that have lasted the test of time. One of those lessons was to be prepared…for whatever. So over time I have accumulated a number of items that I carry with me every day. Some I use frequently, others come in handy on the odd occasion. We all do that to a greater or lesser extent. We try to think ahead about what we will need for a day’s activities and take the things we’ll need.

    Now Jesus is telling us to be prepared for His coming. Psalm 45 and the last four chapters of Revelation describe Jesus as the groom and the Church as His bride. He said in Matthew 24 that nobody knows exactly when He will come, just like those ten girls knew the groom was coming, but not exactly when.

    So the Groom, or Jesus will come when He is ready, and we are waiting for Him to come. Our lamps are burning brightly, we are “letting our light so shine that others may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven”, but…some of us are wise, with an extra supply of oil on hand, and some of us are foolish, and didn’t think to bring a reserve supply. What does that mean?

    I think it means the difference between people who are “religious” and people who are Christians. Both do the same things—go to church, help others, “love our neighbors as ourselves”, and so on. We all have lamps, but not all have that reserve of oil to refill the lamps. The ones who are religious will run out of oil, will lose their energy for doing good after a while. They will get discouraged; their lamp will go out. The ones who are Christians have God’s Spirit living in them and He keeps on giving them the oil to keep the lamps burning bright. It’s maybe like the difference between a sugar/caffeine boost to energy, and a protein/carbohydrate boost to energy. The sugar/caffeine boost is great, but it doesn’t last and leaves us feeling washed out. Religion is the sugar/caffeine boost. The protein/carbohydrate produces energy over the long haul. Having Christ in our lives gives us a lifetime of energy to keep going to the end of our days.

    Jesus said in John 6 35“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. He said in John 4 13“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He is an unending source of nourishment, of “oil”. If we have Him living in us He will make sure we never run dry.

    It’s a little like the parable of the different kinds of soil—some seed landed on rocky soil, it sprouted, but never came to maturity because it was in shallow soil. These are people who “get religion”, who appear to be doing and saying all the right things, for a while, but don’t really have God’s Holy Spirit living in them. Other seed landed in prepared soil and grew to maturity, producing more seed.

    These are people who have received Jesus into their lives, who have enacted Romans 10:9-10 in their lives: 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

    God living in us gives us the reserve of oil to keep on burning bright until Jesus returns.

    Another thing is that salvation is non-transferrable. The wise girls would not share their oil with the foolish girls for a good reason: there wasn’t enough to go around. Salvation doesn’t come from just associating with other Christians. Salvation comes from having our own personal relationship with God. God gives each one of us His salvation, our own personal reserve of oil. We can’t be God’s salvation for someone else. I cannot do for my neighbor what Jesus did for me on the Cross. I can’t take away his guilt for sin. My neighbor needs to get his own forgiveness, his own supply of oil from God; he needs to have his own salvation, his own personal relationship with God.

    A third thing: there will come a time when it’s too late. The foolish girls were locked out because they didn’t have their oil reserves with them.

    Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” May God grant that each of us would have God’s reserves of oil to keep us burning brightly for life in this dark world, until He returns. That’s the only way we can be prepared for His return.
     
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  10. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…a wedding feast

    Matthew 22 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

    11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    I have seen weddings in the US and in the UK. One difference between the two cultures is what comes after the wedding. In the US there is a reception, with lots of socializing, cake, punch, peanuts, and mints, and almost everyone at the wedding goes to the reception. It lasts for an hour or two. In the UK there is a sit-down meal for those who have been invited, followed by speeches, dancing and a general good time. It lasts for several hours, often into the wee hours of the morning. In fact, in Shetland, it can last into the next day and even the day after that!! In this parable the wedding feast resembles the UK kind of wedding, with a sit-down feast following the wedding ceremony.

    Christ is the groom, the Church is the Bride. God has a list of people He invites into His Kingdom—His Wedding feast. The trouble is, those invited can’t be bothered to get out of their regular routine of life to come to this feast. They would rather go about their daily business and ignore the invitation. So God gives them another chance to come, sends out another invitation, other messengers. This time some of the invitees seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

    Now isn’t that what we see around us today? We present the Gospel to people, and they just can’t be bothered to respond to this wonderful gift of salvation. They are too tied up in their own affairs. Some try to actively persecute God’s messengers. That has been happening here in the UK, when street preachers have been arrested. The police have asked people to record street preachers so they can find some excuse to prosecute them. Evangelical Churches are coming under increased pressure to toe the PC line or be punished both in the US and in the UK. These people have willfully excluded themselves from God’s Kingdom and will face His wrath in due course. His wrath will burn especially fiercely because they have killed or tried to hurt His servants.

    So God has opened up the invitation to His wedding feast, His Kingdom, to anyone and everyone. Whosoever will, may come. And come they do. Jesus talked about having other sheep not of this fold in John 10: 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

    All kinds of unlikely people accept the invitation. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6? 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. These people are the ones who came in from the highways and byways. They have gotten rid of their old clothes and put on the wedding clothes God has provided for them when He washed them, sanctified, and justified them.

    There is a rotten apple in the barrel, though. Someone in this glad gathering has not done what it says in Galatians 3: 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There are lots of people who try to gate-crash God’s party, try to come into God’s Kingdom on their terms, instead of receiving God’s free gift of Salvation. They are not wearing His wedding garments of salvation. They are trying to get in on their own merits, wearing their own “righteousness”. They hope the good they did in life outweighs the bad. Isaiah 64 says 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Those people get short shrift, as God kicks them out without ceremony.

    We have an open invitation to come to God’s wedding feast, to come into His Kingdom, but we do it on God’s terms, not our own. Those who reject the invitation can expect God’s wrath. They brought it on themselves.

    Meantime, may God bless us who have accepted His invitation and let’s enjoy the feast and the fellowship He has laid on for us.
     
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  11. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…giving as good as we get

    Matthew 18 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Jesus had just been talking about how to deal with people who offend us in the earlier verses of Matthew 18. First, tell him about it. If he listens, all is well and good. If that fails, confront him with two or three witnesses. If that fails, take it through the church courts and if he rejects the counsel of the church, treat him like an outcast. Then Peter raises his hand and asks the question about the real klutz of a brother, who is always messing up. 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

    And then Jesus tells the disciples this parable to drive the point home. A servant owed his master 10,000 talents. Each talent was worth about 20 years’ wages, so one estimate puts this debt at around $10 million. The master called the debt in, and the servant went to pieces, groveled, and eventually persuaded his master to not sell him, his family, and all he had to try to recoup the debt. The master graciously wrote the debt off and turned the servant loose.

    This servant showed his gratitude by turning around and finding a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii. Each denarius was worth about 18 cents, a day’s wages back then. He demanded payment and showed no mercy, throwing his fellow servant into debtor’s prison for a measly $18, after he had been forgiven that $10 million debt. What an idiot!! If he had any idea of trying to pay back his debt to the master by oppressing his fellow servants for the pittances they owed him, he had no realistic idea of how much he really owed.

    Of course the master got wind of these shenanigans and gave the first servant as good as he had given. He made no bones about telling that servant that he should treat others as the master had treated him by forgiving that $10 million debt. Surely he could afford to forgive a measly $18 debt.

    So here we are going around on this earth. We have an entire lifetime worth of sin behind us. We become Christians and God has forgiven us that $10 million debt of sin that there is no way we could ever repay. Then someone, one day or over a period of time, offends us once, or several times. We have a choice. We can show them the same grace our Master, God, has shown to us and forgive him, or we can try to get our own back, make him pay for how he has hurt us. That debt he owes us is not even a drop in the bucket compared to what we owe God, yet God forgave us. If we are really God’s children, we should be showing His character, His mercy, His love toward our fellow servants, our brothers in Christ, and forgive them that $18 debt. Not forgiving means holding a grudge which leads to bitterness, which leads to divisiveness.

    Hebrews 12 says 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

    Ephesians 4 says 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    And when Jesus was teaching us to pray in Matthew 6, He said one of the key points in our prayer life must be 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others around us. He will forgive us the same way we forgive others.

    May God bless us with new freedom in our relationships and in our lives as we learn to give forgiveness as we have received forgiveness from Him.

    We give to others around us as good as we get from God.
     
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  12. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…doing what God tells us to do

    Matthew 21 28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

    Jesus is talking with the church leaders here, and he is blunt with them. He is also talking to all of us. Dad has two boys, each capable of doing a good days’ work on the farm. He asks the first one to do some work. The first one is honest, says he won’t work in the fields today, for one reason or another. So Dad goes to the second son and asks him to do the work. The second son says “sure, I’ll do it”, and for one reason or another never gets around to doing the work.

    Meanwhile, the first boy has second thoughts and decides maybe what he had planned wasn’t so important, so he goes out to do the work. The second boy paid his dad lip service, pretended he would do what his dad wanted him to do but ultimately disobeyed his father. The first boy is the one who delivered.

    So now we have a lot of people who call themselves Christians and church leaders who are effectively doing the same thing as the second boy. They sing and proclaim “I will follow Jesus to the ends of the earth”; “I give my all to God”; “I will do whatever God wants me to do”; “I will be a faithful witness for the Gospel”. And they sit at home, watching TV, enjoying all the comforts of home, going about their own personal lives. Too many churches get caught up with lots of activities, trying to save the world with “green initiatives”, “social awareness” programs of one type or another. Sure, some of these activities may have started out with some idea of passing on the Gospel, but they lose sight of that and get caught up in the activities themselves. Instead of teaching English as a second language so they can witness to immigrants, they just settle down to teach English as a second language. They get caught up in political correctness instead of carrying out God’s instructions.

    Instead of being a light shining in the darkness to draw people to God, they are trying to shine a light into the world to draw attention to themselves, to bolster falling church membership and attendance with lots of social activities and politically correct programs. They are so occupied with their own activities that they neglect to do the one thing God asked them to do in the first place…to go work in His field. To tell others around them about Jesus. They are paying lip service to God but in actuality are disobeying Him. Some church leaders have abandoned God’s Word altogether and are preaching some humanistic social gospel that promotes “churchianity” that sounds nice and warm and fuzzy. They tickle the ears of their listeners with things they like to hear.

    On the other hand, there are people in the world who are like the second boy. At first they balk at the task God wants them to do. Telling someone about Jesus is a frightening task. I’m afraid. I don’t know how to do this. I’ll make a mess of it. I’ll look stupid. They will make fun of me. I might offend someone. The excuses are legion, and mostly based on fear.

    Then they have second thoughts. We can sit on our hands or we can get on with the job God has given us to do. Fear? God says in 2 Timothy 1 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. And in 1 John 4 He says 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. God’s love in us overcomes that fear. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 that He would be with us as we go out to obey God.

    Jesus said in John 4 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. God says in Romans 10 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? If we don’t do the “preaching”, who will? God gives each of us unique opportunities. If we don’t say something, they may never hear, never have a chance to respond to the Gospel and have the opportunity to enter God’s Kingdom and instead spend eternity in hell. They won’t thank us for that.

    So what are we waiting for?
     
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  13. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is…being taken from some and given to others

    Matthew 21 33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

    42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

    43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him. 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.

    The master had planted his vineyard and set it up to be a productive enterprise, complete with a fence around it to keep the bad guys out, a press to process the grapes when they were ripe, and a tower for the tenants to live in and keep an eye on the place.

    God has planted His vineyard, His Church here on earth. He has put His protection around it, His fence. He has set up a tower, so the tenants, the keepers, the church leaders, can keep an eye on the place. He has set up a wine press, maybe the way the Church is supposed to make disciples of new Christians, following Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Then he installed some tenants to care for His Church. The church leaders are supposed to take care of the vineyard and hand over to God His dues when the time comes.

    Jesus was describing how the church leaders and national leaders had treated the prophets, when God sent them to “collect his dues” and what would happen to Him. The tenants, the church leaders, killed some of the prophets, and beat or stoned others. They did the same to the next batch of prophets God sent. Then God sent His Son, and they killed Him.

    That was then. The story hasn't changed much in 2000 years. Too many tenants, church leaders to whom God has entrusted the care of His vineyard, have rejected God and His Word. While paying lip service to religion, they have tried to “kill Jesus” again by questioning the authority of God’s Word, denying the deity of Christ, and condemning those who obey God and call on people to obey God’s Word.

    The ones who should be most anxious to keep the vineyard for the master are the ones who have become the most greedy. Whether they say so or not, they want to take over God’s Church for themselves, run it by their rules, take the profits and the power and the glory for themselves. So we see today in too many churches. The people in the pulpits, the church leadership, are leading the people astray. The seminary professors who are teaching new pastors are all too often first in line to deny the deity of Christ and to try to destroy the authority of God’s Word.

    Jesus is blunt about their fate. The leaders he was talking to signed their own death warrant when they said “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus agreed with them, adding 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

    These leaders are some of the people He was talking about in Matthew 7: 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

    God will take away their place in His Kingdom and give it to others who honor Him, who obey Him, who produce His fruits, the fruits He describes in Galatians 5:22-23.

    Friends, that place is reserved for us if we prove to be honest, trustworthy tenants who produce God’s fruit and honor Him with it. May God bless us with a rich harvest and a place in His Kingdom.
     
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  14. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…fishing

    Matthew 13 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    We all like fishing. It’s relaxing, gives a sense of accomplishment and pride when you land that monster fish, and it puts food on the table. It gives us a chance to look around and enjoy God’s creation as we pull away from the hassle and hustle and bustle of the world around us for a while. We feel the tug on the line, work the fish in to the boat, and see if it’s a keeper. If it is, it goes in the live box. If not, we throw it back.

    The kind of fishing Jesus was talking about here was more on the commercial scale, with nets. Now fishing is one of the major industries in Scotland, and especially in Shetland. For these fishermen this is work, and they have to endure all kinds of weather, wind, and waves to make their living. Technology has helped them to make a science out of it. They take their trawlers out, let the nets out, and bring them back in to the boat with all kinds, shapes and sizes and even species of fish. Before they come into port they sort the fish. Because of European Union fish conservation laws, they are only allowed so many of each species of fish. If they have filled their quota for cod or halibut or other fish, they have to throw these fish back. If the fish are too small they have to throw them back. Usually they are dead, but the fishermen cannot bring them into port or they get fined, so those fish are wasted.


    Jesus was describing how many people may respond to the gospel, get caught in the net so to speak, but there are some bad apples in the net. These will be separated out and destroyed. It’s like separating the sheep and the goats that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25.

    These bad apples may respond to the gospel for the wrong reasons.

    They may see it as a way to get rich. Jesus said in Mark 10 29 “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. They focus on the hundred fold return on investment and go for the money. We have seen many so-called evangelists get caught up in the money end of things only to get caught up in sex scandals and other problems. They bring disgrace to the name of Jesus, rather than glorifying Him.

    Jesus warned about these types a few times. He called them false shepherds who were in the ministry for the money. He talked about the thief that comes in by some other way than the door in John 10.

    Some insinuate themselves into the church so they can lead the people astray. We see this happening all too often in the major denominations today, as “pastors” lead their flocks down the garden path to destruction with teachings that are humanistic, politically correct. Jesus talked about the wolves in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7. He warned the churches in His letters in Revelation 2-3 to get rid of the false teachers that they were harboring or else He would come and destroy them Himself.

    Some see Christianity as a way to get power over other people. Simony is a term used to describe this kind of person. It refers to buying positions or power or privileges in the church. It comes from an incident in Acts 8 where a magician named Simon in Samaria who heard the Gospel, became a Christian, followed the disciples to Jerusalem. There he saw Peter and John laying hands on people so they could receive the Holy Spirit and wanted to have this power himself.

    Here’s what happened. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.

    There are probably many other reasons the wrong people get caught up in the Gospel net and turn out to be bad fish that get discarded. The bottom line this: Jesus said in Matthew 7 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    Remember the parable of the wedding feast we looked at a couple of days ago in Matthew 22? The gate crasher who appeared in his street clothes rather than wedding clothes got kicked out of the banquet. He was trying to get in based on what he thought was OK to wear, rather than what the host said was the prescribe dress code. We enter God’s kingdom on God’s terms, not our own definition of what we think is good enough. We wear His wedding garments of righteousness that we receive when we receive Jesus into our lives, ask Him to forgive our sins, turn our lives over to God. Jesus’ last remark in that parable was 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    God does take the bad fish out of His church. He may well wait until the last judgment to do that, but it will happen.

    As for us? We need to be sure we are one of the good fish, that we are genuine Christians, not just some interloper that happens to be in the shoal of God’s chosen fish. We should also be alert to the bad fish in the net and be wary of them.
     
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  15. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    The Kingdom of God is like…speaking softly but carrying a big stick

    For the last couple of weeks we have been looking at some of the parables Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God. Mark 4 says 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. Then He checked on how well they were picking up the lessons. Several times throughout the Gospels it says Jesus sent the disciples out on field trips to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

    His Kingdom is so radically different from anything we normally think of as being a kingdom that He had to use parables to describe it. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. It is not a physical kingdom. It is a kingdom that is not limited to physical, geographical boundaries, and it transcends time, extending from eternity past to eternity future.

    Several of the parables talk about things like how God separates the wheat from the tares. He has a strict border control. The gates of His kingdom are open to any and all who want to enter, but as in the case of the gate crasher at the wedding feast, all who enter must come in on His terms, not theirs. They must be clothed in His righteousness, not their own idea of what is good or bad. Romans 14 says 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

    In several of the parables Jesus talks about how plants grow. They grow quietly, without large explosions, or lots of show or loud violent demonstrations. They just…grow. It is possible to step on them and crush them, to pull them out of the ground and destroy them fairly easily. Yet as plants thrust their roots down and grow up they are capable of cracking granite. We have all seen trees growing out of cliffs. In their frailty they have great power. The roots absorb nutrients and water, swell, and exert enough force to widen any cracks in the rock they grow down into.

    So Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 4: 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. As Christians we have God’s Spirit living in us, delivering His infinite power in our lives. But we need to absorb the nutrients and water of His Word into our roots, our lives. We need to be constantly drinking God’s Word and absorbing it into our lives so we will be like the tree in Psalm 1 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

    His Kingdom is not built by armies going out to conquer other lands and peoples and forcing them into submission at the tip of a sword or bayonet. God’s Kingdom is built by us carrying out His Great Commission—to go and make disciples of all nations. Winning people, not conquering them. As we make that same confession Peter made in Matthew 16, “16 …“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Jesus says 18 …on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The tender roots of that confession will crack the very gates of hell.

    Those words need to come from a rock solid conviction, though; the kind of conviction in our hearts that causes us to make the confession with our mouths that God talks about in Romans 10 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

    As Christians we grow quietly, we speak softly, but we have all the power of God behind us. We carry the Sword of God’s Word that cuts deeply and precisely (Hebrews 4:12) . We speak softly, but we carry a very big and powerful stick as we go around representing His Kingdom here on earth.

    May God bless us as we learn to wield that stick effectively in advancing His Kingdom.
     
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