TREASURE HUNTING

Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God.  Say that as many times as it takes to believe it from the inside out.  What valuable information to have and to cling to in time of distress, confusion, and concerned worry about our futures, right?  But do we really believe this statement of Truth?  Do we really believe what we say we know about God to be really real?  What we truly believe seems to show up in the dark.

What are we seeking?  Who are we seeking?  How much time is spent in the seeking?  These are all good questions for thought when we stop to evaluate where we are going and who we are really following in this life.  Who do we trust with our lives?  “If my life depended on it, I would trust ________ first and only.”  Fill in the blank with your first thought. 

When our kids were very young, we visited a cave in Missouri with friends from that part of the country.  We followed a guide who took us many steps down into a wide crevice underground where there was a small lake.  Lights were glowing all around so we could find our way down.  We were warned by our friends that in the guide’s “talk” he will turn off the power switch and all will go dark for a few moments so we could experience total darkness.  We warned our kids.  Randy lifted the youngest one up in his arms to hold.  I took the hands of the other two before it all went dark.  It was only for a few seconds but the darkness was eerie. Absolutely no light was visible in depths of the earth. I could feel the hands of our kids go from limply holding on to grasping my hands tightly and felt their bodies move as close as possible to mine. Our kids clung to us in those moments, trusting us to keep them safe.

In our dark moments, who do we run to, reach for, cling to and trust?  There is Someone who wants you to trust Him completely.  When all does dark in our lives and we can’t see the light, reach for the Hand who loves us most, has compassion for what we’re are going through like no one else can, and is already at work providing for all your needs—if you allow Him.

IN OTHER WORDS…

If we knew of someone who had all power, all knowledge, all ability to transform creation to all that is good and right with the wave of His hand or the mere sound of His voice wouldn’t we give all we had to know him?  Wouldn’t we move where we are in life  closer and closer to be nearer to feel His touch and hear the still small whisper of His voice to us?  Wouldn’t we give everything we have to gain access to the One who’s greatest desire is to save us from death and give us life for eternity? 

Think about it…take all the time you need.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:44-45, NLT

Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Our dark times reveal what we are feeding our minds and storing up in our hearts and souls as we reach for help to guide us.  Get ready for dark times by storing up complete trust in God.  Love God and others like your life depended on it—because it does.  Run from the enemy who wants to destroy our seeking and deplete our storehouse.  Give everything we now hold on to and cling to in tight fists as we reach for the Hand of God.  We will not regret taking His hand as we walk through dark times, reveling in the Light of His love, mercy and grace, while celebrating our freedom and joy in finding the treasure who keeps on giving.

Jesus is indeed the “pearl of great price”, God’s Son who shows us The Way to God’s Truth with the bonus of Life eternal.  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for taking my hand in dark times and leading me to your Light.  You do this over and over again.  When we are unsure of what is going on around us, you reveal who you are to us and lead us out of trouble and confusion with Truth and clarity.  You provide wisdom when we need it most along with more understanding and insight because of your teaching lessons along the life’s journey. 

You are indeed the “pearl” of great price AND the price has already been paid in full for all of us!  Amazing!  I am forever grateful to you for giving me life now and for eternity.  I’m yours.  I’m never letting go.  All that I am and all that I have belongs to you.  I live expectantly for where you will take me, what you will do in me and through me as I take Your Hand.  I will hold on a little tighter when darkness comes, but you expect that, don’t you?  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul, Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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SEEDS AND WEEDS

A few days ago, I planted a new crop of seeds in a new place.  I tilled the fresh ground, making it ready for new growth.  I was so hopeful and expectant! There were no weeds in and around where I planted the seeds.  Perfect! I then protected the seeds with mulch, placed around them.  I watered and waited.  I’m impatient.  I actually expected to see change in day or two!  Then heavy rains came to our area.  The steady rain didn’t hurt the seeds or wash them away as feared.  Instead, the rain provided quick growth to the seeds who grew into tiny plants, clinging together, all in a row like soldiers.  I was thrilled to see their progress as if I had anything to do with it!  God provided the soil, the seeds and the rain.  I just planted them.

The rains also spurred the growth of weeds!  Ugh, where did they come from?  They weren’t there before I planted!  Weeds seem to come out of nowhere to choke out and take over the soil that was meant for the beautiful growth of all that is good.  I can pull them out but I have to be careful that I don’t hurt or pull out the baby plant that is trying to grow taller and stronger.  You see, the roots of my plants can get tangled with the root of the weeds!  Frustrating.

In much larger fields, wheat that is planted over miles of acreage, weeds are there, even with the best of pesticides.  The farmer does not take time to pull out the weeds, that would be time wasted and futile because you would most certainly pull out the good with the bad.  So, it is sorted at harvest.

Here in lies the parable of the farmer of our souls, explained simply and perfectly by Jesus… 

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:36-43, NLT

Parable of the Wheat and Weeds Explained

36 Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

TWO CHOICES

Are we weeds or seeds?  Sometimes we behave in weedy ways.  We don’t like it when we do.  So, we ask ourselves, do we belong to Jesus, or not?  Do we follow what He teaches for our best life?  Do we hear with understanding what He is saying to each one of us?  Do we really believe what we say we believe about God and His Kingdom living really real?  Our daily lives will reflect what is in our hearts.  Every.  Time.  Guard what’s been planted within us.

Friends, in other words, we must guard our hearts of the weeds thrown into our lives by the evil one meant to choke out our faith, hinder our walk and destroy what we have with God—a loving, unconditional, relentless, forever relationship.  Mm, it might be time to do a little “weeding” personally to get rid of what might be trying to choke the life from us.  Be alert to what are weeds and what are growing plants of beauty and grace.

Pray.  Let God do His work in us.  Don’t worry about other weeds growing among the good seeds in the field of the world.  That is not our work as growing plants.  In the end, the Farmer (Jesus) will sort it all out.  For now, the seeds will grow into plants among the weeds and will bear the fruit intended.  The weeds?  Well, they will later be torn away and cast into the fire.

We have only two ways to go as Jesus explained.  One way is life eternal.  The other direction leads to death eternal.  Who do you belong to, right now, at this moment?  We must cling to the Farmer of our souls, as if our lives depended on it, (because they do!), and grow mightily among the weeds until He comes for the final harvest.  Weeds or seeds?  That is the question we must wrestle with daily.

Seed of Promise

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (I John 4:4, NIV)

Abba, Father in Heaven,

I’m yours and you are mine.  I cling to you for nourishment.  I need you every hour of every day to help me grow into who you intended for me to be.  Not a weed, but a growing plant of your love, mercy and grace that reflects the fruits of Your growing character in this willing heart.  Sometimes, weeds try to entangle me.  Prune all that is not right and good and make me holy before you.  Then help me to live upright among the weeds until you come to harvest.  My life goal is you.  Teach me and I will grow in your ways.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD PERMEATES EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES!

I love making bread!  It is a hobby, not a routine, so I’m hardly a professional.  Homemade bread takes a lot of time when made from scratch.  It all begins with a good dough.  The dough is made from all kinds of flour varieties you can choose.  Then you add heated butter, milk, a bit of salt, sugar and the most important ingredient of all—yeast.  You will not have bread that “rises to the occasion” into beautiful golden loaves to slice if you don’t add the yeast.  It only takes a relatively small amount but it effects every part of the dough.  The yeast is the catalyst for success! 

Jesus must have watched his earthly mom, Mary, as she made the daily bread for the family.  He related quickly to his female audience by adding this parable about yeast to his repertoire of illustrations.  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast…it permeates EVERY part of the dough.  Every.  Part.  Mixing and kneading is also an important process in bread making.  If the yeast is not mixed into the dough, the dough will not rise to become bread to eat that is good and tasty. 

So, it is with our lives. EVERY part of our life belongs to God.  We must give it all to Him so He can transform us from dough to sliced bread!  It is a process of allowing Him to mix in His growing character traits of mercy, grace, humility, gentleness, kindness, compassion and most of all His love.  Love is the basis of our faith in Him.  His love for us is the yeast that causes our faith to grow to be more and more like Him.  His love in us and our faith in Him will permeate our lives if we allow it.   We will be transformed!  No loafing around!

I have observed that too many of us compartmentalize faith.  We only pull out the “faith card” one day a week, if that.  We completely turn our lives over to Jesus ONLY when we have problems that we cannot solve with questions we cannot answer.  What if we stop putting our faith in a box and let it permeate every part of our lives—like yeast in the dough?  What would that look like?  I have learned that it begins each morning as we wake for the day.  Paul explains how to add the “yeast” to daily living;

Place Your Life Before God” – “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”                   Romans 12:1-2, The Message

We give ALL our lives to Him.  Not in part but the whole.  Then we allow God to permeate every part of our being.  Walk with Him, talk with Him, listen to Him.  Allow all of God to permeate all of us.  Every. Part.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:33-35, NLT

Parable of the Yeast

33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

34 Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35 This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables.
    I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

If I want to think and behave more and more like You, I must give all of me to You.  Here I am, doing just that.  I cannot do anything of significance in this life without You.  You are my everything so I give every part of me back to you.  Transform me to be and do all you want which I know will be Your best for me.  Help me to love like you love. Change me from the inside out by permeating every part of my life.  May your glory be seen in my life so others will know you, too.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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SIZING UP OUR FAITH

“Well, she won’t account for much.”  “She must be the runt of the family.”  “Look how small she is.”  “Her family will probably have to care for her all her life.” 

“He is not very good looking; he will have a harder time in life.”

“She is so shy; it will be a miracle if she finds work or even marries someday.” 

“He has the attention span of a gnat!”  “He’s going to have a rough go at life.”

“She is afraid of her own shadow!”  “Her fear will hinder her.”

“They married way too early in life; they will never make it.”

“He can’t catch or throw a ball to save him; he will have a hard time making any team.”

These are just a few of the small seeds that are planted in our minds as children.  We can either believe what others say about us with their limited worldview of what they can only see on the outside or go with God’s words, His Ways, with His Voice that tells us the complete opposite of what “they” say.  He has plants a small seed on the inside that can grow into fulfilling His purpose in us.  It begins with our small faith that is willing to be nurtured with growth.

Our attention and focus must be on the size of our faith?  Jesus teaches that our faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can blossom into all that God wants for us, all they HE wants to do in us and through us for His purpose and glory!  Stop and read this again, I am.  Spend all day long on this thought.  What God has planted in you can be accomplished with just a small seed of faith in Him–the size of a mustard seed!  Have faith in the One who created all, is in all, controls all and wants His best for all.  Have faith in the One and Only who died to save us and rose again to prove He lives and stand ready to help us!  Use this small size of faith to move mountains of problems that overwhelm us.  Use small seeds of faith to pray, believing God WILL indeed answer.  Small seeds of faith can and will bring us closer to God through Jesus, His Son in the most important relationship we will ever have.  In fact, all relationships we will have on earth with others are affected by the relationship we first have with God, the Father that Jesus provided by way of the cross.

Be one with the Father in Heaven by believing in Jesus Christ, His Son and be saved.  Faith in Him will open our eyes to “seeing” and understanding Who God really is and what He can do.  Mustard size seeds of Faith grow into mighty trees of lifegiving wisdom that help others find and follow Him, too!  Come to God’s garden where seeds grow into giant trees of faith.  Ah, the Garden of Life!  “Come”, says Jesus.  “Bring your small seeds of faith and I will grow it.” 

Reminds me the old hymn…In the Garden…

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing…

What is the size of our faith?  Wrong question. 

Is our faith growing?  Right question.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:31-32, NLT

Parable of the Mustard Seed

31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

You have reminded us again that it is not the size of our faith so much as it is in the growing of our faith.  Growing faith can indeed move mountains of worry and concern, problems and circumstances beyond our control.  Growing faith is a result of a growing intimacy with you in relationship where you talk and we listen.  You show us the way and we trust it is the right way.  You warn us of trouble ahead and we heed your words. When we fall, our small faith in You calls out to you and You hear us.  Yes, we are grateful for Your Holy Spirit that feeds and grows our small faith that lies within us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  May your glory be seen in us and all around us even today.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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“LOVE…I’LL SORT THEM OUT LATER” –JESUS

I was given great advice over the years from several sources of God-loving-and-living men and women.  Some were known for their speaking abilities of God’s word along with wisdom for explaining what His word meant for us.  Some were known by their communities for loving like God loves us, unconditionally with forgiveness.   Some of my mentors were within my own family growing up.  I listened and tried to follow what I had learned because on their “best days” it matched what I was learning from God’s Word.

My dad was one of those mentors.  He knew all the “dad jokes” along with his closest brother.  I’m pretty sure that together, they were the origin of most dad jokes you hear today for I have heard them all my life!  When he was quietly serious, bearing his heart for his family and his relationship with them, his advice was golden.  At first, I didn’t understand it fully.  Now that I am much older, going through what he had gone through with faulty family relationships, I “get it”. 

As life-long believers, we long for everyone we know to know Christ and follow His teaching.  We long for our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles to know Him intimately, to hear His voice above all other voices and follow His leading to all that is good and right for us.  We want our kids and grandkids to love the One that brought them into this world in growing relationship to God as well as to us.  But, when they do not.  It is devastating.  Our hearts are broken to watch them fall in the weeds the enemy has thrown into the soil along with the wheat.  The enemy has them and we feel at a loss to pull them out.  But we cannot.  The root of our relationships are entangled together in this world. 

All of God’s created have free will to choose good or bad, to have their own way and even turn their backs on their Creator.  As believers, what we do, according to Dad, is to continue a loving relationship with our beloved at all costs.  Without that, there is no hope. Our deep love may or may not pull them out of the weeds, but our love is evident in the way we live before them.  Our love for them does not change.  We will always want God’s generous best for our lost loved ones but we cannot and will not stop our love for them.  That’s how God loved us.  We are to be imitators of God’s love so clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Love God.  Love Others.  Jesus states over and over that these two commandments are the greatest.  Love is what causes growth.  Love is the basis of forever relationships that are based on truth and integrity. 

Real, loving, lasting relationships with God and others is what God wants.  To wonder and worry if we see our loved ones in heaven someday is not up to us and is not a healthy activity for us.  Jesus warns us not to “uproot” the weedy relationships we have but to continue to live a life among the weeds with love, care and compassion.  Jesus, the “farmer of our souls” will sort, separate, bundle at harvest.  Those who have believed in the Farmer, lived and loved based on His love in them will be taken to the barn.  I want to go to the barn.  Jesus says He is preparing a place for me there.  How about you?

Dad also said, “We might be surprised when we get to heaven, of who is there and who is not.  God knows our hearts.”  “He decides based on our hearts.”  I know this is not your predictable “sermonette” based on this passage, but it is what God is writing on my heart today as I mourn the losses of my past mentors on this Memorial Day.  I am remembering those who have gone before me who enriched my life.  I also think about the lost among my family and friends who have said no Jesus, our Savior and Lord.  Both are equally heart wrenching but love is stronger still. 

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-13, NLT

Matthew-The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:24-30, New Living Translation

Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

24 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.’”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

You are indeed Love, Truth, Mercy and Grace.  You are Forgiveness.  You are the Peace we seek.  You are Wisdom for living as we learn from your Word.  Thank you for all the mentors in my life that you sent to me to help me know you more.  I have always had a desire to trust in you alone for my life because you never fail or leave me.  It is hard for me to see people turn against You so blatantly and fearlessly.  But in my brokenness, you remind me that it is you that will sort it all out and we are to adhere to love for you then love for others.  To know you is to know real love for you ARE love.  Thank you for loving me the way you do.  Help me to love others in rich, growing relationships that stem from my growing, intimate relationship with you!

In Jesus Name, by Your power living in us, Amen

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WHY STORIES?

I confess.  I am a storyteller.  I loved to tell make-believe stories to console, distract or redirect my own children from doing silly things like fighting with each other or getting into situations that would hurt them.  I especially used storytelling while our family drove many miles on vacations or church trips.  I remember making up a particular story about the legend of the Hubangees.  (No, you can’t google this!  They don’t exist!)  Years ago, when our kids were very young and very active, the idea came from seeing huge grass like plants along the side of the road.  See, that kids?  Those are the tops of the heads of the legendary Hubangees.  You see, they were buried feet first in the ground.  We now only see the tops of their heads.  That got their attention.  Then the story was built, bit by bit, to my wide-eyes very young listeners.  The fighting and messing around in the van stopped for a few moments to really listen to the story of the Hubangees. 

Years, before marriage and children, I was called by God to be completely His.  No matter what vocation or task He might lead me to in life, my desire was to follow Him while doing it.  One of those mission tasks was to be a public school teacher.  As God began to equip me for this, I took cues from Jesus, the Master Teacher, to form my philosophy and practice of teaching along with all that my local University would teach me.  Yes, storytelling was a huge part of the teaching process.  Begin with what they know in their own lives to be real and relevant, form a story around this knowledge, then extend what they know with what they need to know to grow.  Jesus is a storyteller.  I’m in good company.   

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 13:1-15, NLT

Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 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! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

10 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.

18 “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!”

WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM JESUS’ STORY?

  •  “Those who truly listen will be given the understanding” to learn from Jesus about Kingdom of God living. 
  • The more we listen the more knowledge will be given!  YES, it’s true!
  • Prophecy fulfilled once again.  (Thank you, Matthew!) The prophet Isaiah wrote that many will listen but not hear with understanding so they will walk away not knowing God.  They will walk away, turning their backs of God, not knowing the benefits of walking with Him in His Kingdom way of life.  Hard hearts result in harder living.  God cannot heal an unyielding, hard as stone, heart.  We have two choices.  Be wise, gain more wisdom from listening with understanding as we follow God to eternal life or be foolish, refuse to listen, lose what you little you have in understanding, and live foolishly that leads to death. 
  • Life or death? I choose life.  How about you?  Isaiah’s words still describe many.
  • “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear…”  The disciples were the “seeds” of faith in Jesus, answering the unconditional call to “Follow”, leaving their former lives behind, to learn from the Master Teacher.  These “seeds” were thrown into the fertile soil of the knowledge of God by Jesus the farmer of our souls.  Wow!  What a thought!
  • Jesus shares the results of what the harvest bearing disciples will accomplish later on their journey, “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!”  Wow!
  • Evil is the enemy who wants to take our seeds of faith from wherever we have been planted and destroy our growth.  He will send “angry birds”, those demons who like to work through people of little faith to peck us to death in our walk with God so we will turn away from God.  He will send his demons to work through people to speak lies to us to throw us off from the real work, because Satan is a liar.  He will grow weeds of frustration right next to us as those “thorns in the flesh” of our daily lives.  He will put rocks in our path to make us stumble.  HOWEVER, if we believe in Jesus with ALL our hearts, minds and souls, God will remain with us, feed the soil of our faith, grow us, build our faith, equip us and multiply our faith if we listen to hear and understand what He is really saying.  May our harvest be productive in His Kingdom!

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed and great are you, Lord, God of all!  You teach us still because we want to learn.  Give us wisdom to hear with understanding as we come to you with Cheerios and Coffee to have “breakfast” with you daily.  I love sitting at your table of grace as I adore you, confess my sin, thank you for all you’re doing in my life and ask for more knowledge to live well with my soul.  Yes, Lord, Feed my soul.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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REAL FAMILY

Every single one of us is on a unique journey on earth.  In challenging times along with life and death moments, we learn very quickly who will stay by us through thick and thin.  These people literally run to us and not away from us.  They listen first, then act or just listen.  They love without condition.  They know us so they know instinctively what to do for us.  And we call them family.  Real family.  They may or may not be “blood kin” but they are those who love, respect and care about what we are thinking and how we are doing with life stuff.  They will come alongside you to cry or laugh with you.  We love, cherish and appreciate them as real family.

Jesus’ mom and brothers are checking up on him.  As any loving, Jewish mom might do, Mary worries if He is eating and getting enough rest.  His brothers, some of whom, have not quite believed Jesus to be the Messiah, have questions.  They want to see him, speak to him, away from the crowd.  I don’t think Jesus is admonishing his mother and brothers as much as He uses this opportunity as yet another teachable moment.  He extended “family” to be anyone who does the will my Father in heaven as brothers, sisters and mother!  “Anyone” means us!  We are brothers and sisters with Christ when we believe in Him, follow in His ways, abandon ourselves to God and listen to what He wants to do in and through us.  This is such amazing news for all of us! 

Paul picks up on this family relationship and explains…

“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”  Romans 8:17 NLT

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase expands the family idea…

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!”  Romans 8:17, The Message 

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 12:46-50, NLT

The True Family of Jesus

46 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 standing 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!”

This is who we are in Christ!  Believe and be saved.  Believe in Jesus and become children of God.  Believe and follow the will of our Father and we become brothers and sisters with Christ.  We are real family–forever!  This is amazing love, mercy and grace. 

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for allowing me to be your child for no reason other than by your grace and mercy given freely by what Jesus did for me and for our brothers and sisters who believe.  Thank you for continuing to help us grow in our relationship with you and each other in Your family.

In Jesus Name, Amen 

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REFUSING TO BELIEVE—THERE’S YOUR SIGN!

In the old days, we looked at a huge paper map to go to a place we had never been. Once the map was unfolded, it was almost impossible to fold it back the way it was.  Remember? We used this tool to follow roads we had never traveled to get to our new destination.  However, we realized as soon as the maps were printed, they were out of date.  The maps would not indicate road construction or delays.  The printed maps would not be able to tell us if a road had suddenly been removed, so we would have to rely on signs to show us the way around the roadblocks and detours. 

Now we have GPS!  But guess what, even GPS does not always tell us of impromptu delays and detours of road closures.  We still have to watch for physical signs as we travel.  The GPS, however, can guide us to a new road when we get lost along with following the physical signs.  We love clear signs.  It settles our building anxiety.

Travel in unknown areas can be troubling and fills us with anxiety when we travel without knowing for sure where we are going.  We catch ourselves doing ridiculous things such as turning down the radio or shouting at the kids to be quiet so we can see the signs when we come to a place that isn’t on the map or doesn’t agree with GPS.  My parents did it, we do it.  “Be quiet, so I can see!”  Even if no one is in the car, I still turn down the radio as I maneuver on unfamiliar roads.  Are you laughing?  I hear you laughing…because you probably do this, too.  We all do it.  We want to turn off everything that distracts us so we can see to understand.  Ah, there it is.  There’s your sign—seeing to understand.

The religious “powers that be” in Jesus’ time on earth asked for a sign “to prove His authority”.  Jesus had already given ample signs but they refused to believe.  They could not see the signs with understanding.  He healed multitudes of people, spoke with authority and had a dedicated following because of doing the will of God, His Father.  Yes, Jesus had given them many “signs” of who He was, but they could not see the signs with clarity.  There was too much noise interference and distractions of greed, envy, pride, self-serving with self-importance along with political aspirations.  They had been in control until Jesus came along with signs of change.  The refused to believe in the signs before them.  Jesus was taking them down unfamiliar roads to the Kingdom of God that would upset their self-made way of life.

So, Jesus reminds them of the experience of Jonah to tell the unbelievers of His story that would happen very soon.  Here’s your sign.  “…the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”  Jesus gives them more information as signs to prove his authority.  There is one greater than Jonah and Solomon among you and you refuse to SEE and understand, listen, repent and believe.  There’s your sign.

Oh friends, turn down the noise of the world to stop, look and listen to the signs and glories of God each day.  We need not ask for signs.  Jesus already was, is and is to come.  See and understand.  Believe and be saved.  Don’t allow evil to take the place of Jesus in our hearts, minds and souls.  There’s your sign. 

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 12:38-45, NLT

The Sign of Jonah

38 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.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

You are God, most Holy and we are not.  We look to You for your blessed assurance and you freely give it to us each day we ask.  When we are anxious in unfamiliar places, you show us the way.  You are always with us.  You are our supreme GPS!  You know what was, is and is to come.  Why trust anyone else but you?  I don’t.  To trust anyone or anything else makes me anxious!  You have given us more than enough signs in Your Word to guide us through all kinds of circumstances.  You have given us your Holy Spirit to lead us through and around the detours of troubled circumstances.  Oh Lord, I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  Thank you for speaking to our hearts, allowing us to hear your voice over the noise of the world.  Continue to help us see and hear to understand.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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HEARTLESS, IDLE WORDS

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”  This childish taunt we used to say while playing with others in our childhood games is a huge lie.  Words do hurt, maim and destroy a person’s core being if they do not have help to overcome mean words said idly as “trash talk” in a game or said in mocking each other.  Words can be as abusive as physical harm.  If you have ever been spiritually abused inside the church by people who wanted you to be more like them to be accepted then you are probably still feeling the pain from that experience.  Jesus knows what you are feeling. 

Harmful words escalate in powerful ways as we get older. Driven by fear of loss of power, job, status or position in the family or workplace, a heartless individual driven only by this fear will lash out with words that can bring another person to their knees.  If you stop to think about it, there are probably a few phrases or words said to you that you have never forgotten.  You may have forgiven the person for saying them, but what was said is still embedded in your memory bank.  Words, good and bad, affect how we treat others.  Wounds left by hurtful words drive how we respond in certain circumstances. Jesus knows and understands.

Jesus says our words come directly from our heart.  Matthew, the former tax collector, calls it the “treasury of our hearts”.  Jesus makes a serious statement concerning the account we store in our heart’s treasury that produces what we say.

The Pharisees were on the attack with their words from impure hearts that rejected Jesus and all that He did.  They refused to accept him as Messiah and accused Him of being directly opposed to God.  We see their foolishness of opposing God in flesh as not being God at all, but we know the whole story. To call Jesus the “Prince of Demons” was a slap in the face of God Himself!  Jesus made them see that these words flowed from their hearts of fear, pride, selfishness, afraid of losing their position in the religious structure—all the “fruits” of heart treasuries filled with evil. 

PAUSE TO PRAY

We can be disgusted with the Pharisees who could not “see” that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they read about but all but forgotten and put aside for their own power and glory.  They lorded their desires and wants over the people, but we know “all have sinned and fall short”.  Do we really believe that what we believe about God and His Son really real?  What is in the treasury of our hearts?  What are the fruits that flow from this treasury?  What does the “ledger of our accounts look like?  I am pausing to look inside my own heart and take account of what has been stored up.  I repent for I am ashamed of some of the words said.  Because with Jesus, words that flow from our hearts  is serious business.   

“And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”–Jesus

Here’s a thought…Idle words lead to idolatry of self.  Yikes!  I’m praying right now for forgiveness of all the idle words I have spoken that offend our Lord I love and serve, Jesus Christ my Savior.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 12:22-37, NLT

Jesus and the Prince of Demons

22 Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. 23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”

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.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

30 “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.

31 “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.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be your Name!  May your Kingdom come and reign supremely in us, from the inside out!  May Your Will with your words flowing from repentant hearts be expressed in the most excellent way by your love, mercy and grace.  Yes, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who hurt us with words.  Help us to be more gracious with less unkindness.  Help us all to speak words that build each other up, not tear them down.  Help us to avoid “civil wars” in your church built upon You, dear Jesus.  Help me to be all you want me to be.  Help me then to do all you want me to do.  One day at a time.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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ARROGANCE IS NOT WHO HE IS

I know what arrogance is and I know I don’t like it when I allow arrogance in my speech or body language. I work hard in my life to rid myself of all arrogance in my talk and walk.  I cannot do this by myself.  God’s Holy Spirit must help me daily.  Arrogance does not fit in the believer’s life and is not one of God’s fruits of His Holy Spirit.  Arrogance is not who Jesus is and should not be a part of who we are in Him.  Arrogance comes into direct competition with humility, one of God’s requirements in our walk with Him as written by the prophet Micah, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8, NIV)

We cannot hope to bring others to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Hope of the World with a “know it all” heart if we want to be like Jesus in His way of bringing people to Himself.  Jesus came to serve, not to be served.  He served driven by love and compassion as the foundation of every miracle that changed lives but was done ultimately for the purpose to bring glory, honor and praise to God, His Father and also Our Father.  Not to Himself directly.  “I do what the Father tells me to do” Jesus reminds the people throughout the gospel writings.  God sent Jesus to seek and to save lost people.  People came in droves.

This passage of Matthew dips back to the prophet Isaiah who describes Jesus Christ as God’s Chosen Servant.  Look at all the characteristics, as written by God through this prophet many centuries before Christ came to earth!  Arrogance is not found in Jesus, only hope as a Servant with Humility.  If I want to truly be like Jesus, all arrogance must be deleted. I must be reprogrammed with humility, mercy, with fairness to others.  I must serve as Jesus served to please God and bring Him all glory, honor and praise.  That’s is all that matters. Our new birth with a new attitude is what will bring others to Jesus through our acts of humble service.

Matthew—The Law Fulfilled

Matthew 12:15-21, NIV

Jesus, God’s Chosen Servant

15 But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, 16 but he warned them not to reveal who he was. 17 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him:

18 “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
    He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not fight or shout
    or raise his voice in public.
20 He will not crush the weakest reed
    or put out a flickering candle.
    Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
    of all the world.”

Abba Father,

People followed Your Chosen Servant, Your Son, because of Your character in Him as an example for us to live.  Thank you for reminding us that the drama of fighting, shouting at each other to get people to come to you is not your way.  Being arrogant in our walk just does not fit.  Being as if we are more “spiritual” than others is certainly not the goal of living either!  “All have sinned and fall short of your glory” as Paul reminds us.  No one has all the answers.  No one is righteous but You.  So, I humble myself before you, desiring what YOU want for my life.  Show me your path, your ways and your will for I am your servant.  One day at a time.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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