Monday, February 1, 2016

20160201 Good Seeds and Nasty Weeds

Good Seeds and Nasty Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30 NLT Here is another story Jesus told: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.  (25)  But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.  (26)  When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.  (27)  "The farmer's workers went to him and said, 'Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?'  (28)  "'An enemy has done this!' the farmer exclaimed. "'Should we pull out the weeds?' they asked.  (29)  "'No,' he replied, 'you'll uproot the wheat if you do.  (30)  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.'"

Later in this chapter Jesus explains much of this passage. Therefore, I’m going to focus on verse 27 and 28. To get a clearer picture it is necessary to show verse 27 in another translation. Matthew 13:27 NKJV So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'

There is a question in this verse and though questioning can be good it should be tempered with faith. When we question we must understand that our Father in Heaven is indeed, good. James 1:17 NLT Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

The servants here seem to be asking, “Are you sure the seed was good?” This bites at asking, “Are you good?” When evil comes into our lives our faith is tested. We begin to ask, “Is God good? If so, then why this evil? Why do children starve? Why are there wars? Why is there suffering? Pain? Sickness? Murder? Cruelty? Selfishness?”

In these times we must hold onto faith that He will indeed work all things to together for our good. Romans 8:28. We must understand there is another player at work in all this, an enemy, the enemy of our souls who has come to do only evil. 1 Peter 5:8 NLT “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44.

When the weeds intermingle with the wheat it gives the idea that these weeds are people who feign Christianity and are a part of the church. The thing is we do not recognize them for what they are until the harvest gets closer. We can judge their fruit, but even that at times is difficult to see. 1Corinthians 11:14. Our more urgent matter is to make our own calling and election sure. 2Peter 1:10. We must ask ourselves this, “Have I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I a child of God and do I live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

Father in heaven, search our hearts. See if there is any wickedness in us. Show it to us that we might, by the power of Your Holy Spirit confess it and forsake it. If any who pray this prayer are not Your children show it to them and grant the gift of repentance and salvation to them. Let the good seed of the Gospel sprout and grow deep into us making us Yours. And as believers may we live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In His Holy Name, AMEN!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

20160123 The Seed is Good

The Seed is Good

Matthew 13:18-23 "Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: (19) The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don't understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. (20) The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. (21) But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word. (22) The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God's word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. (23) The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"

Please note that the seed is good. It does what it is meant to do. All but that which fell on the foot path sprouted. When we share the Gospel we cannot know what kind of soil in which it lands. We do not know the hearts of other men and women. We barely know our own hearts. But we can be assured that what we share will accomplish the Father’s purpose.

Isaiah 55:8-11 "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. (9) For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. (10) "The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. (11) It is the same with My word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. (Emphasis mine.)

God has a plan for His word, for every time we share our faith. Our job is to share, to spread the word, the seed, if you will. And we are to do this sincerely and as we do there is a promise of harvest. Psalms 126:5-6 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.  (6)  They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

One Christian group I belong to has a saying, “Talk to God about your friend before you talk to your friend about God.” This is good advice to prepare our own hearts and hopefully to prepare our friend’s heart to receive. But once we have shared the Good News then we must trust God to do with it what He will.

Back to the “snatched away” seed: In my yard we have several little garden areas. We are pretty specific about what we plant in each one. We have noticed, however, that random plants pop up from time to time. Plants we did not place. Of course the wind carries seeds, but also birds carry seeds to unexpected destinations… unexpected by us.

My Point: We may share our faith with someone and it seems they completely missed it and maybe even rejected the Good News. Keep in mind, your job is to share your faith. That seed, even though it may be snatched from that person may well land in another garden of fertile soil.

One more thing, some people are evangelists. They have a special gifting for sharing the Good News and they often see many come to Christ. That does not exclude any of us from sharing our faith. Nor should we compare ourselves with others in this matter. Our Lord Jesus Christ gets all the praise, honor and glory for every soul that is saved. Revelation 5:12 And they sang in a mighty chorus: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing."

Father in heaven, may we be found faithful in telling others the Good News of Jesus, both with our words and our actions. Grant that the seed we sow finds some good soil and produces a harvest for Your glory. In Jesus Name, AMEN!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

20160121 Ears to Hear

Ears to Hear

Matthew 13:10-17  His disciples came and asked Him, "Why do You use parables when You talk to the people?"  (11)  He replied, "You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.  (12)  To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.  (13)  That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand.  (14)  This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, 'When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.  (15)  For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'  (16)  "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.  (17)  I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn't see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn't hear it.

In my last writing I pointed out the importance of listening, really hearing what is being said. This is especially important when the speaker is our Lord. But listening will produce action that proves what is said has indeed been heard. Listening and not acting is actually sin. James 4:17

Furthermore, it is foolish… Matthew 7:26-27

There is another problem that arises out of not following the teachings of our Master and Savior. Our ears become dull, our hearts become calloused, we get set on our own stubborn paths that lead to destruction. Stubbornness breeds more stubbornness. We get to the point that the words of Jesus become like the drone of a fan. We get used to it and don’t really hear anymore. Our eyes become blind to the truth and we begin to make up our own ideas about what is true and what is false. Jesus becomes just a good teacher with some good ideas instead of our Master who has and is The Truth, The Way and The Life. When all of that happens we can no longer discern truth. When we recognize our need to hear from God we cannot because we are spiritually deaf and blind.

So what can we do? If you have found yourself in this condition, even a little bit, repent now. If there is something the Lord has told you to do, but you have not done it, do it now. Start down the right path now before it is too late. Because there comes a point when, “they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.” Only our Father in heaven knows who has reached that point. Seek Him with all your heart now.

Father in heaven, this is frightening because I know my own heart. I know how easily I can choose my way instead of Yours. Please protect our hearts. Help us to truly follow You in all ways, always. Holy Spirit forgive us when we have grieved You by not listening to Your leading. Lord Jesus, we plead Your blood. That is our only plea. In Jesus Name, AMEN!!!

Monday, January 18, 2016

20160118 Pay Attention

Pay Attention

Matthew 13:3-9 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: "Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.  (4)  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.  (5)  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.  (6)  But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn't have deep roots, they died.  (7)  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.  (8)  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!  (9)  Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand."

Earlier today I had a conversation with a representative from my mobile phone provider. She ended the call with this request, “Please don’t text and drive.” What she was telling me was, “When you’re driving pay attention to driving. Watch out for obstacles and other drivers. Obey the road signs. Be aware of what is going on around you. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your phone while you’re doing something as dangerous as driving.”

What does that have to do with our passage today? The words of Jesus are life. John 6:63.

The word translated in verse 3 as, “Listen” is often translated as “behold.” We are being called to pay attention to what is about to be said. Today we find ourselves easily distracted, by our own thoughts, by our gadgets, our schedules and a myriad of other things that vie for our attention.

Think about how often you don’t really hear what your spouse or co-worker is saying even though he or she is in the same room with you. I don’t know about you but that has caused some pretty serious contention for me at times. How much more important is it for us to hear what our Lord and Savior says to us?

Jesus ends this short parable with the same warning, “listen and understand.” He wanted His followers to really get what He was saying.

What distracts you? How often do you look at your phone in one day? Track it for a day and find out. I challenge you to set times for checking email and social media and only check them at those times. Have some times during your day that are “No Tech” times. Turn all the gadgets off and really listen and strive to understand your loved ones.

Father in heaven, give us ears to hear and hearts of understanding. Fill us with Your love for You and for our fellow man so we desire to really hear. In Jesus Name, AMEN!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

20160114 The Will of God

The Will of God

Matthew 12:46-50 As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him.  (47)  Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and Your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to You."  (48)  Jesus asked, "Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?"  (49)  Then He pointed to His disciples and said, "Look, these are My mother and brothers.  (50)  Anyone who does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother!"

We do not know the reason for His mother and brothers visit to the Messiah. There is much we could speculate about, but that would not aid us in being disciples. What we do know is that Jesus chose to do the will of the Father over pleasing His fleshly relatives.

He asks and answers the question. Who is my mother and who are my brothers? The answer, “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Okay, so what is the will of the Father? How often I’ve heard people ask, “What is the will of God for my life?” For years I thought God’s will for my life would be revealed to me in some magnificent way and I would then go do some great deed. Then in one reading through the scriptures these verses all stood out…

John 6:40  For it is My Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day."

1 Thessalonians 4:3  God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 10:10  For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Ephesians 6:6-7  Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  (7)  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

What is the will of God for all of us?
1.   Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 6:40)
2.   Stay away from sexual sin. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
3.   Be thankful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
4.   Walk in the holiness that was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:10)
5.   Do what you do for the Lord (rather than for people) and do it with enthusiasm, or with all your heart. (Ephesians 6:6-7)

So you see the will of God for all of us is very plain. And according to Romans 12:2 when we get these down we will learn the rest of the will of God for us.

Romans 12:1-2  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.  (2)  Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

1Peter 4:1  So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.
1Peter 4:2  You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.

How do you get a desire to do the will of God?
1.   Change the way you think. Agree with God on what is important and be a living sacrifice. Don’t copy the world. Copy God.
2.   Have the attitude of Jesus. Be ready to suffer for the truth.
3.   In that you will be finished with sin. It will lose its luster and appeal. You will see it for the lie that it is.

Father in heaven, help us to walk in Your perfect will today. May we be found walking in faith and purity and holiness gratefully and with enthusiasm. May our thoughts agree with You. May we be ready to suffer for the Gospel and may we be done with sin. In Jesus Name, AMEN!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

20160113 Evil, Adulterous Generation

Evil, Adulterous Generation

Matthew 12:38-45 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want You to show us a miraculous sign to prove Your authority."  (39)  But Jesus replied, "Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.  (40)  For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  (41)  "The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.  (42)  The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.  (43)  "When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none.  (44)  Then it says, 'I will return to the person I came from.' So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order.  (45)  Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation."

The request, “Show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority,” is met with a strong declaration. First of all, he had just performed a miracle and they accused Him of being possessed of a demon. Second, Jesus is not a side show for anyone’s entertainment pleasure.

He starts and finishes His answer by declaring they are an evil generation. In the beginning He includes the term, “adulterous.” When the Bible uses the term “adulterous generation” it is talking about idolatry, worshipping something other than God. He still promises them a sign, but it is one that was planned from before the beginning of the dawn of time. It is His death, burial and resurrection. He leaves it vague enough they do not understand at the time and perhaps they didn’t understand until their own demise and judgment.

He then reminds them of people who listened in the past. One group listened to a prophet who did not want to preach to them but did and they repented. Another, a queen who traveled many miles to learn and to gain wisdom.

Then He throws a curve ball and starts talking about evil spirits leaving and returning and matters becoming worse for the one possessed… Did you catch that? He turned the table on them. He is now telling them they are demon possessed, or at least have been and will be again. Take a peek at 2Timothy 3:1-5.

They acted religious… had a form of godliness… but they denied the power that could bring about real change in their hearts and lives. They wanted to see a miracle but refused to let the Miracle Worker do a miracle in them.

What or who is at work in your life? What is more important to you? Is time with God important? I’m talking about time where you shut everything else out and listen and let the Holy Spirit search your heart and bring conviction for sin. I’m talking about letting the Miracle Worker work in you, change you to be what He made you to be. Ephesians 2:10

You see the Pharisees, for the most part were just putting on a show. Inside they were dead. Outside they had the rules down, they looked good, they spoke the right jargon, but inside they were void of real life.

Jesus offers abundant life. Have you received Him as Lord and Savior? Or are you just going through religious motions? Here is a link to Lifeway’s ABC’s of Salvation.

Father in heaven, perhaps someone will read this and realize their need for Jesus to make a miraculous change in them. Please draw the lost to Yourself. And show us the truth of our own hearts. Are we…, am I more in love with You or this world? Bring Your Holy Spirit conviction to our hearts and grant us the gift of repentance. In Jesus Name, AMEN!!!

Monday, January 11, 2016

20160111 Evil Hearts, Idle Words

Evil Hearts, Idle Words

Matthew 12:31-37 "So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.  (32)  Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.  (33)  "A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.  (34)  You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  (35)  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  (36)  And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.  (37)  The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

It’s been several weeks since I last wrote here, so let me remind you what the Pharisees had said. Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, "No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons."

In verses 22-30 Jesus sheds some logic on their thinking. In this passage He sheds some frightening light on their dark hearts. Those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Jesus explains it clearly here. It is speaking against the Holy Spirit. It is calling the work of God, demonic. For that reason, we must be careful about judging another man’s work. Romans 14:4 Who are you to condemn someone else's servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

We have discussed this before. We can judge an action as good or bad, sinful or righteous, but we cannot judge the motive of the heart. And, in the case of good works, we cannot judge the power behind them. God often used wicked people to accomplish His works.

What we should really concern ourselves with is our own hearts. I must ask myself and you must ask yourself, “What is in my heart? Is my heart wicked? What pours forth from my mouth?

In verses 36 and 37 Jesus takes it back to our words. It is with words that we blaspheme. It is with words that we praise and give thanks. It is with words that we condemn our fellow man. It is with words we criticize, gossip, encourage, console, bless.

What do your words reveal about your heart? Jesus said we will be judged for every idle word. Strong defines “idle word” as a word that produces no good effect. Are your words producing good? Are they building someone up? Encouraging someone? Bringing joy to someone?

I know I quote this passage often, but it should be the cry of our hearts and today it is my prayer for all of us.

Father in heaven, Psalms 19:14 May the words of my (our) mouth and the meditation of my (our) heart(‘s) be pleasing to You, O LORD, my (our) rock and my (our) redeemer.

And Father, put a guard on our lips. Let no blasphemous words escape us. Cleanse our hearts of all evil. Fill them with praise for You and Your marvelous works. Fill them with encouragement for our fellow human beings, especially those of the household of faith. In Jesus Holy Name, AMEN!!!