Thursday, June 30, 2011

Matthew 15:15-20


15 Peter said to Him, ``Explain the parable to us.'' 16 Jesus said, ``Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 ``Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated ,? 18 ``But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 ``For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications , thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 ``These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.'' What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we actually do, but what we wish in our heart of hearts to do. "Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention."

There is always a natural tendency to externalize everything that is spiritual: 1-The creation of the golden calf 2-Icons and idols out of a variety of religious communities 3-The Pharisaic emphasis upon the externals over the internals.

This is where Jesus took direct aim. He took everything back to the heart of man. Remember, a couple of days ago I mentioned that we tend to build or bring flower pots and planters, while Jesus brings a seed. He is continually saying to us. This thing of salvation? It's internal! This thing of walking righteously before God? It's internal! This thing about religion? It must be internal! You see, Jesus is saying that it's all an INSIDE JOB, because it's all about Him. It truly is JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Nothing can be added to make it any better, but only has the potential to diminish Him.

I'm reminded of the interchange with Jesus: MAN: "Jesus, I have a problem. It's me!" JESUS: "Son, I have the answer. It's me!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Matthew 15:1-14


1 Then some Pharisees and scribes came* to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 ``Why, do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.'' 3 And He answered and said to them,

The Pharisees came to Jesus with all of their add-ons and religiosity, criticizing His disciples for not following the tradition of washing. All of what they bring to Him is a manmade system of do's and don'ts.

``Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 ``For God said, `HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' 5 ``But you say, `Whoever, says to his father or mother, ``Whatever, I have that would help you has been given to God,'' 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother .' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 ``You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 `THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 `BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' ''

Jesus' response was to point out that their manmade traditions did to the truth: 1. Violated the commandment of God

2. Invalidated the Word of God

3. Taught as true teachings of God the made-up rules of man.

10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ``Hear and understand. 11 ``It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.''

Jesus then turns to the crowd around Him and teaches them a valuable lesson. What proceeds out of the inside of a person is what defiles a man and not something he takes in from the outside. In other words, Jesus is tracking on one of His major themes-internal over external.

12 Then the disciples came* and said* to Him, ``Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?'' 13 But He answered and said, ``Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 ``Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.''

Jesus then turns back to His disciples and handles their concerns about offending the Pharisees. He tells them clearly to leave the results to God.

So, what traditions or comfort levels do you make more sacred than the simple commands and desires of God? What do you add on to JESUS PLUS NOTHING? - church - denomination - job - special relationship - things - possessions

Whatever it is that becomes a non-negotiable with God is not only an add-on, but becomes your add-on god.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Matthew 14:34-36


34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.

This is one of those small transitional segments of Matthew that might seem insignificant, however this visit to the region of Gennesaret is very revealing about Jesus. This is somewhat connected to the village of Capernaum where Jesus had performed many miracles and Jesus had recently fed 5000+ people! This activity created the best marketing ever-WORD OF MOUTH. There are several observations of note in this little passage.

FIRST-People were greatly attracted to Jesus and wanted His help.

SECOND-Jesus didn't refuse those who were in need and came to Him for help.

THIRD-In this setting Jesus seemed to heal them all.

FOURTH-Apparently, there is no teaching or preaching mentioned here, just healing.

FIFTH-Jesus taught what God was like by showing them what God was like. He didn't tell people that God cared; He showed them God cared. No one can understand the words of a song until they like and resonate with the music.

Here in its most basic form is the essence of the Gospel-Jesus plus nothing! He was all they needed and wanted! Just to touch Him would be effective, or His robe. [I think this was most likely a superstition that had followed the stories of what Jesus was doing among the people. What's interesting is that Jesus even accommodates their superstitions and heals them in that way, too.]

JESUS PLUS NOTHING. We continually tend to bring decorative flower pots or planters to the world to share with them the Good News and fragrance of God's salvation. Jesus plants a seed in your heart! Jesus is all you need. He will transform you-inside out! Jesus doesn't bring something tangible for you to hold or watch or worship. He brings you Himself. JESUS PLUS NOTHING. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Matthew 14:28-33


28 Peter said to Him, ``Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.'' 29 And He said, ``Come!'' And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ``Lord, save me!'' 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said* to him, ``You of little faith, why did you doubt?'' 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ``You are certainly God's Son!''

So, Jesus comes to the rescue of His disciples after sending them out on a mission to cross the Sea of Galilee on a boat. He came to save them by walking on the water. Peter was caught up in the excitement of seeing Jesus walking on the water and said to Jesus, "Lord, if this is really you, then command me to come to you on the water." Jesus did just that. He commanded Peter to "Come!" to Him.

Now, here's the real key! Jesus is not the only one who ever walked on water, because Peter did, too! Peter walked on water! He actually did it! He got out of the boat, walked on water and came toward Jesus! This is incredible! BUT while walking on the water toward Jesus, Peter took His eyes off Jesus.

1-He became distracted by the wind and subsequent waves. 2-He became frightened. 3-He began to sink.

Now, Peter is in a crisis and had to scream out for Jesus to save him! Jesus then took hold of Peter and saved him from drowning. Then Jesus rebuked Peter for doubting Jesus-for losing his focus on following the command of Jesus to come to Him by walking on water-for being distracted-for not trusting (not faithing) Jesus fully to keep him walking.

Doesn't this sound familiar? We are called to do something for God, we then become distracted by all of the circumstances around us and stop trusting Jesus fully in our mission. Jesus wants us to trust Him fully and totally! To quote a friend of mine, "This 'walking with Jesus' is the toughest thing I've ever tried to do!" It's not the walking alongside Jesus that causes the trouble. It's the "trusting" Him fully that is the problem. I have spent most of my life "doing things my way for God", when He was simply waiting for me to trust His lead, not lead out and asking Him to bless it. But it's so easy to pay too much attention to life's circumstances around me and allow those things to distract me away from the trusting.

We have made fun of Peter for years for being so impatient and impetuous, but Peter actually walked on water! I want to trust Jesus enough to be able to "walk on water." I want to experience that kind of trusting relationship with Jesus. How about you?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Matthew 14:22-27


22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary . 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ``It is a ghost!'' And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ``Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.''

This is one of the most interesting snippets in the life of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus sends His men on a trip and while on this mission from their Lord troubles almost overcame them. Now, think about this. Jesus sent them on this boat ride to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When you believe you are on a mission for God, there is a sense that all will work out alright. No great problems. I mean, Jesus certainly wants us to fulfill this mission, so nothing should be mission-threatening or life-threatening! Yet Jesus must have known exactly what He was doing in sending them on this mission, knowing that there would be trouble along the way. And, just like Jesus, He showed up in the midst of their life-threatening crisis!

Ever been on a mission that you knew was of God and yet all hell seemed to be breaking through around you? Wow, I have! In fact, just today hell seemed to be dumping on me or lobbing out all kinds of bombs and emotional hand-grenades in my path to discourage the mission I was on. I had only one sure solution to these devilish explosives. His name is Jesus. DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT HIM!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matthew 14:15-21


15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, ``This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.'' 16 But Jesus said to them, ``They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!'' 17 They said* to Him, ``We have here only five loaves and two fish.'' 18 And He said, ``Bring them here to Me.'' 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

Within this miracle is the classic progression of being on a mission for Jesus.

1-He gives the orders-"You give them something to eat."

2-Our response is normally to point out how little we have and how impossible it is to do what He is asking-"We only have 5 loaves and 2 fish."

3-Jesus gives the only answer to this impossibility-"Bring them to me."

4-Jesus takes the little bit and puts it into His hands-"He took the five loaves and two fish."

5-Jesus channels His work (His miracles) through His disciples-"He gave them to the disciples." And, "the disciples gave them to the crowds."

6-The people touched by Jesus through His disciples are always full and satisfied-"they all ate and were satisfied."

7-Even after the amazing miracle, there is still an overflow of blessing-"They picked up the leftover pieces. 12 baskets full."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Matthew 14:13-14


13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

Jesus spent lots of time alone or with a few. 1. When He saw a crowd coming toward Him, He slipped away.

2. When He found Himself being pressed by lots of people, He pulls out of the crowd.

3. When He was tired, He rested.

4. Here He hears some bad news and feels the need to be alone.

Jesus continually felt the need to be alone or with a few friends. So much of the time Jesus felt the need to pray. Remember, praying is not just talking away and going through your lists, but listening and receiving. Now, if Messiah Jesus, King of kings, the God-Man, felt the need for so much prayer and alone time, what does that say to us? The principle for us today is: COME APART FOR AWHILE OR YOU MAY COME APART!

NOTE that Jesus didn't remain in a monastic mode, but was moved by compassion for the people and their needs. This is the balance I want in my life. I want to be more disciplined to pull away from the crowds and be silent-seeking and listening and resting before God. Remember, Jesus calls His disciples to HIM in order to REST. On the other hand, I want to be awaiting those Jesus sends to me who need compassion and the healing touch of God. How about you?

RESTING. TRUSTING. WAITING for Jesus to lead us with His orders and opportunities.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Matthew 14:1-12


1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, ``This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.''

Herod believed Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the dead. He was so overwhelmed and obsessed with guilt over what he had done with John.

The Herod of Matthew 14 was Herod Antipas. He was a son of Herod the Great who put to death the babies in Bethlehem following Jesus' birth. He was called Herod the tetrarch because he ruled over one-fourth of Palestine. Herod silenced the voice of God when he beheaded John. Jesus did not give him another chance to hear God's voice. Herodias was the daughter of another son of Herod the Great.

Philip, another of Herod the Great's sons married his niece, and then his brother, Herod Antipas, seduced her away from him. Because of his incestuous relationship with his niece, Herodias. John had great boldness to speak out against such a powerful man. He was imprisoned for speaking out against Herod, and ultimately it cost him his life. They buried his body, then went to the Lord Jesus.

The next few verses are a flashback that Herod experienced: 3 For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, ``It is not lawful for you to have her.'' 5 Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet. 6 But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before, them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever, she asked. 8 Having been prompted by her mother, she said*, ``Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.'' 9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

John's disciples took the body of their teacher by night and honorably buried it and Herodias pierced the tongue of John with a needle in many places and buried the head in an unclean place. However, God's punishment quickly befell this group of evil doers. Prince Aretas, in order to cleanse his daughter's honor, attacked Herod with his army and defeated him. The defeated Herod was sentenced by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile at first to Gaul and later to Spain. As exiles, Herod and Herodias lived in poverty and humiliation until the earth opened up and swallowed them.

Here's a lesson from this story: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Gal 6:7-10

Monday, June 20, 2011

Matthew 13:53-58


53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ``Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 ``Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 ``And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?'' 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, ``A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.'' 58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Here is Jesus teaching in His local synagogue "so that they were astonished!" However, even though they were astonished, they were offended by His confidence and His teaching. He was a local with a family and natural roots, so how could He be anything special? Jesus goes on to say that a genuine prophet will enjoy honor and respect, except in his own home town and among His family. This is why you may not be the best person to reach out to your family and closest friends. They already have you pegged and have great difficulty seeing you in any other light. Don't be discouraged by this. It isn't a hard, fast rule, but a general principle of life.

NOTE a most significant point in the last sentence of this paragraph. "Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief." Jesus delights in showing Himself among His people-those who trust in Him. Jesus operates in and through a community of faith! This is exactly what Jesus was saying in John 6:29: ``This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'' The work of God that you and I must do is to believe (trust) Jesus!

In thinking this through today I find myself moving toward trusting Jesus that He will always come through on my behalf, whether His answer for me is YES, NO, WAIT or MAYBE SO. I count on that. I trust in that and so must you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Matthew 13:47-52


47 ``Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 ``So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There were 3 basic methods of fishing in the time of Jesus.

1. A line and a hook was used to catch one fish at a time.

2. A one-man casting net, used in shallow waters to look for a school of fish.

3. A huge dragnet stretched out over as much as a half square mile. Good fish were taken in and packed up and the bad fish were thrown away. This is the word used here.

NOTE the basic teaching here is that there will be definite judgment for every one. No one will escape it. This reminds me of Who will do all of the judging--Jesus. Jesus is the only One Who counts. He's the only One Who can judge, YET He is the One is spreading all the love around. Check out Romans 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:9-11

Every knee will bow someday, better bow your knee today or you'll be forced to bow later! Jesus always leads with His love and not with condemnation, but some day even the author of Love, Jesus, will have had enough!

16 ``For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 ``For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 ``He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Matthew 13:44-46


This is one of the most fascinating observations about how people actually receive the message of the kingdom. He offers two ways:

44 ``The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 ``Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

BY SURPRISE Here is a person, not particularly looking for it, yet finds it hidden in a field. He is overjoyed with his discovery. He hides it again. Then sells all that he has to buy the land where it is!

BY SEARCHING Here is a merchant who has been searching for fine pearls. He finds a fine pearl of great value. Then goes, sells all that he has to buy this valuable pearl!

Do you know people who are like these two? The one who by surprise discovers the kingdom treasures. The one who never would have imagined being 'caught dead' sitting among a group of believers. This person, along with many onlookers, are quite surprised that this person found it.

OR the one who by searching out truth or the meaning of life or whatever finds himself delighted to have found a satisfaction that no one can take away.

NOTE both have the same response. They each sell all they have and buy their new-found treasure! Now this has nothing to do with purchasing or performing well enough to gain a place in the kingdom. However, it has everything to do with the comparable value of being with the King in the Kingdom rather than rocking along, living a life that is routine and predictable with all of the traditional comforts of life, without the King and outside the realm of His Kingdom.

So, how do you value your relationship with the King and His Kingdom? Is it the most valuable, priceless, place to be, ever? Or, is it a convenient place to visit from time to time? This is the difference between being a spectator and a participator!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Matthew 13:36-43


Matthew interrupts the series of parables by inserting what Jesus said concerning the wheat and the tares (false wheat).

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, ``Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.'' 37 And He said, ``The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 ``So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 ``The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 ``Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

NOTE that it is Jesus-the Son of Man-Who is the Sower of the good seed and the devil is the sower of the seed that is called the tares-false wheat. Jesus is the sower. So, how does He do this through us?

1. Jesus works in us through Incarnation. (Seeing Jesus in you!) You are to take on being like Jesus in everything you do!

2. Jesus works through us through the process of Infiltration. (Seeing Jesus with you!) You're a part of God's movement-kingdom on earth!

3. Jesus works in and through us through a universal Invitation. (Seeing Jesus in others!) Can I help you in any way?

THINK ABOUT IT THIS WAY: #1-Jesus is calling you today! a) You who are interested-Believe in Me!-whosoever will! b) You who are believers-Follow Me! c) You who are followers-Make Disciples of Me!

#2-Jesus believes those He calls are good enough-you can do it!

#3-Jesus believes you can be like Him-to perpetuate His yoke!

#4-Jesus empowers you by His presence as 2-3 gather together in Him!

"The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Matthew 13:33


So, now we are at the 4th of 7 parables. 1. Sower-the kingdom will now be characterized by a massive sowing-an invitation for all to receive the message of the Gospel-Jesus.

2. Wheat & Tares-the kingdom will have many imitations that spring up all around the wheat. This is none of your business, just beware.

3. Mustard Seed-the kingdom enjoy incredible growth. Don't be concerned with a small number at first. The kingdom of God will grow immensely from very small to very great.

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

4. Leaven-the kingdom of God will be irreversible. Nothing and no one can stop it from spreading-not communism, fascism, racism, religiosity, cults, false religions, or churchianty. You see, when the kingdom spreads it supersedes all sorts of movements and organizations. This is why to follow Jesus most effectively, we must be kingdom people first and foremost. To be anything else is to be so much less! This is why your allegiance to a denomination or to a local church (a localized assembly in the name of Jesus) over the kingdom is foolishness and will be proven to be so.

When you meet King Jesus personally, you must sign off as king of your personal kingdom and submit to your new King-Jesus. We then move into 3 natural, action steps:

First-seek His kingdom and His righteousness (Jesus, Himself) before and above all others! You are now in partnership with Jesus.

Second-share in His kingdom with all of the other kids of the kingdom! You are now in fellowship with all other followers of Jesus.

Third-spread His kingdom everywhere by the sowing of seed-being salt & light where you are! You are now into discipleship of those Jesus brings your way.

Partnership. Fellowship. Discipleship. That's the way of the Kingdom as it grows irreversibly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Matthew 13:31-32


So far we know that the primary activity of the Kingdom is the sowing of the message of Jesus, that there will be genuine believers and imitation believers in the kingdom AND NOW the kingdom will enjoy incredible growth.

3. MUSTARD SEED (Incredible growth). 31 He presented another parable to them, saying, ``The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.''

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds of all-almost as small as a grain of pepper. When this seed grows, it will grow into a large garden plant or a small tree. This is what is going to happen now in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is going to experience incredible growth!

This has nothing to do with the mega-churches of the USA. In fact, this is not speaking of the organized church at all. The organized church with its signed-in membership may grow locally, but has no chance of penetrating the culture or the marketplace. This is because the organized church tends to have a "holy" facility that must be used, filled and paid for. Therefore, it becomes a paramount thing to invite people to "come to church" and join it to make it a stronger entity in the community. Jesus' thinking always has to do with "going" not "coming". The only "coming" is to "come" to Jesus, Himself.

The kingdom is a completely different thing. The kingdom of God or the kingdom of Jesus is where the King resides, where the King's presence is. The kingdom is invisible. You certainly don't expect a massive growth, but it occurs silently and covertly, but it is the real thing. The kingdom can penetrate any culture and supersedes any organization, no matter how large or active it may be.

By the way, this is why throughout the book of the Acts of Jesus, there is a constant emphasis and demonstration of two themes-the person of Jesus and the kingdom of God. There is no talk of building the church, well, there is, but it was Jesus Who said, "I will build My church!" What He wants from us is to BE THE CHURCH OF JESUS and to be the church of Jesus is to participate daily with the King, with the King's kids and to embrace the principles and teachings of the King and His Kingdom as a lifestyle.

So you can join a church built by man or join the Kingdom of God, which is the church (assembly or gathering) which Jesus is building!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Matthew 13:24-30


2. Wheat & the Tares (Imitation). 24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, ``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 tares among the wheat and went away. 26 ``But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 ``The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 ``And he said to them, `An enemy, has done this!' The slaves said to him, `Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' 29 ``But he said, `No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 `Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ``First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'''''

The parable of the Sower was the key parable of the seven! The seed is the word-the message of the kingdom-the Gospel. Sowing in those days was done by scattering seed widely, not by carefully placing a seed into a pre-dug hole, hoping to water and watch the plant grow up. Sowing is the only action step Jesus sets up for the Kingdom. Sowing is THE KINGDOM ACTIVITY! In other words, we as disciples are to be sowing the seed of the Gospel indiscriminately in all that we do. The Gospel is the most important thing! And remember, THE GOSPEL IS JESUS, the seed is Jesus. We are to share Jesus-the life of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the light of Jesus-simply Jesus to our world. The 4 soils describe the ways in which the seed is received as it is sown.

Now, Jesus' second parable makes an observation and gives a caution: The observation-When you are doing the work of sowing, you will likely find tares that are sown along side the wheat. Tares are empty wheat pods-chaff without wheat kernels. False wheat looks like wheat, but isn't. He applies this observation in that the genuine wheat are those who believe in the Gospel and the tares are those who look good, but are not true believers. They are all together in the same field and it may be difficult to tell the difference.

The caution-The disciples ask Jesus if He wants them to gather up the tares out of the wheat field-to separate the wheat from the tares. Jesus quickly responds, "Allow both to grow together until the harvest." The reason being that if you attempt to pull out the tares from the what, you are likely to uproot the genuine wheat along with the tares. In other words, it is none of our business who is IN and who is OUT. Only Jesus knows for sure! And, if we try to separate the real believers from those who seem to be but are not, then we will most likely damage the genuine wheat in the process.

By the way, this is a favorite pastime of church leadership and it must be stopped! Jesus wants us to sow the seed and He will take care of the results. It's that simple, yet I find it most difficult for a control-freak like me. I want to help Jesus out a bit. BUT I must discipline myself to stick to sowing the seed of Jesus in the lives of everyone I meet-from the bank-teller to the toll-booth clerk to your superior to the policeman to the store clerk to the cleaning lady to your fiercest competitor. Sow the seed of Jesus everywhere you go! That's the action of the Kingdom!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Matthew 13:3-23


The shift from miracles to parables all revolves around the happenings of chapter 12-the miracle of healing the deaf mute man and the response to it. The response was to say that Jesus' works were driven by the Devil and therefore to be rejected. Jesus came to present Himself as the King and to offer the promised Kingdom to the Jewish people. Now, they reject the King and the Kingdom offer and Jesus, in turn, pulls back the offer.

Now, the question in the minds of the disciples was "What will happen to the Kingdom now?" And Jesus answers this question about what the Kingdom is going to look like since the rejection by the use of 7 parables. I think this is one of the most remarkable sections of Scripture and most instructive for us today as we seek to follow King Jesus and function in the Kingdom. Through the study of these 7 parables we will discover that there is only one parable that indicates what we must do in the Kingdom and the rest are basically descriptive of the nature of the Kingdom. Jesus begins with the parable of the sower.

1-THE SOWER-(Invitation) 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, ``Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some, seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 ``Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 ``But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 ``Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 ``And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 ``He who has ears, let him hear.''

Jesus illustrates receptivity (ears to hear) by the use of four soils-by the side of the road, the rocky places, among the thorns and the good soil. These represent what kind of receptivity you might expect as you participate in the sowing of the seed of the Gospel and these soils also illustrate the various degrees of receptivity we each experience in our own lives.

Now note the interpretation of these soils. (1) Beside the road-no root-no shoot-no fruit. 18 ``Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 ``When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

(2) Rocky places-no root-shoot-no fruit. 20 ``The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away."

(3) Among the thorns-root-shoot-no fruit. 22 ``And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

(4) Good soil-root-shoot-fruit. 23 ``And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.'' NOTE that the entire goal has to do with fruitfulness.

Can you remember the times you were one or more of these soils over your life? Which soil are you now? Beside the road? In rocky places? In the thorns? Or, good soil?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Matthew 13:1-17


1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,

``Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some, seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 ``Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 ``But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 ``Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 ``And others fell on the good soil and yielded* a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 ``He who has ears, let him hear.''

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, ``Why do You speak to them in parables?'' 11 Jesus answered them, ``To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 ``For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 ``Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14 ``In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, `YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' 16 ``But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 ``For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."

After the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus as God's Messiah, Jesus shifts His method of teaching. Jesus begins speaking in parables.

Parables are the simplest of narratives: they sketch a setting, describe an action and its result; they often involve a character facing a particular moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences of that choice. Though not every moral narrative is a parable, many fairy tales would be viewed as extended parables, except for their magical settings. In the Biblical sense, a parable is simply "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning."

Jesus has been clearly presenting Himself and performing the appropriate miracles as the Messiah, but now He is going to move into using the method of teaching by parables. The disciples quickly notice the difference and ask Jesus why He is doing this. His answer was twofold: First, He is using parables in order to conceal and second, He is using them to reveal. They are used to conceal the truth of God from those who are not interested. No matter what Jesus does, these people will not be able to truly see and hear the message Jesus came to give. I see this as an act of grace on His part to not heap up more condemnation upon those who are actively rejecting Him. And secondly, to reveal truth to those who are interested.

NOTE that what is most important to Jesus is that you and I be interested. Well, are you?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Matthew 12:46-50


46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, ``Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.'' 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ``Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'' 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ``Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 ``For whoever, does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.''

For whatever reason Mary and the brothers of Jesus showed up and interrupted His speech to the crowds. Jesus took this opportunity to turn the situation into a most amazing teaching moment.

This is one of those moments in Jesus' ministry that sizzles with intensity, drama, and significance. Jesus words would clearly be hurtful to his physical family that was already struggling to know how to understand his ministry. Also, these words would be freeing and empowering to those who had always felt left out of the political order, pushed aside by the religious elite and disenfranchised by the social structure of their day. Jesus was promising that his family would be determined by faith and obedience-not blood, not genealogy, not politics, not power, and not money. That offer still stands today and the promise is just as true for us as it was for those who first heard Jesus' words.

So, we who trust Jesus and follow Him (do the will of My Father) are family to Him. We are the brothers and sisters of Jesus! Now wait just a minute! That means then that we are also related to one another. You see, this was the shock the disciples faced in the Upper Room experience when Jesus said that He had a new commandment for them that they should love one another as He loved them. The disciples had eagerly signed on to love and be loved by Jesus, the Messiah, but to love one another was altogether different! The disciples must have felt in their hearts, "Jesus, do you mean that I must love this former tax-collector, these fishing industry execs and workers, this one who not only puts his foot in his mouth but changes feet while talking, this doubter who can't seem to make up his mind, this radical zealot who is filled with such anger toward the government, these brothers who are so impatient that they are continually bringing up suggestions for God to strike others with lightning, these New Testament 'nobodies'? You want me to love them?"

In the kingdom we are family members with all of the similarities, differences and peculiarities of family. Jesus wants us to act like it! This fits in so well with what we keep teaching about hanging out with one another-eating, praying, studying and fellowshipping together-AS FAMILY!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Matthew 12:38-45


In Matthew 12, Jesus confronts the Pharisees who couldn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. This entire chapter describes the mounting hatred that the religious leaders had against Jesus. These Pharisees were hard-hearted legalists who thought that Jesus was a Satanic Sabbath-breaker. Jesus is saying some very hard things to these people. Several weeks ago we studied the text where Jesus called the Pharisees an evil "brood of vipers" (verse 34). In today's text, Jesus calls them "an evil and adulterous generation" (verse 39). Some would say that Jesus wasn't being too Christ-like in His response to these people. Jesus was hard with them, because hard hearts need hard truth.

Jesus reserved His hardest words for those who had been exposed to the most evidence and yet had refused to believe in Him. Jesus was gentle, loving, and kind towards those people who knew little of God's truth such as the sinning tax-collector or harlots. These people loved Jesus for His compassion. But Jesus dealt very harshly with the Pharisees who knew much but remained unrepentant. The worst of all these was Judas of whom Jesus spoke very condemningly. Judas had walked with Jesus and ate with Jesus and learned one-on-one from Jesus. But Jesus said, "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24). Why? Because despite all the light that Judas experienced, he ultimately ended in unbelief and betrayal.

This is all about unbelief! NOTE the various dimensions of unbelief. 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ``Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'' 39 But He answered and said to them, ``An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; 1. UNBELIEF ALWAYS WANTS MORE PROOF. This kind of unbelief is certainly prevalent today!

and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 2. UNBELIEF TENDS TO NEGLECT REAL PROOF.

41 ``The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 ``The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 3. UNBELIEF ALWAYS HAS ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY THAT WILL VERIFY. Jesus brings up two historical events-Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon. They will give condemning testimony in the last day.

43 ``Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 ``Then it says, `I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 ``Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.'' 4. UNBELIEF LEFT UNCHECKED WILL MULTIPLY. Even those who heard John's teaching and accepted it somewhat didn't embrace it for themselves and receive this teaching into their heart of belief. And because they did not genuinely receive the truth by faith, they become vulnerable for a multiple of unclean spirits to fill up the void that is left by UNBELIEF.

NOTE that Jesus isn't concerned about "church" or "synagogue" membership or participation in a religious program or organization, but His primary concern is all about faith. He wants you to be interested and follow that interest with personal faith. Personal faith has 3 dimensions:

1-Knowledge of the facts. 2-Agreement with the truth about those facts. 3-Personal trust in that knowledge and agreement. It's the personal trust that makes all the difference.