Doubt

Intro, Purpose & Plan

Who do we look to for help when we seem to be all alone and in total darkness as life tosses us about? Let’s understand that the One who loves us will come to our rescue. Let’s look at the story of a small boat in a stormy sea in Matthew 14:22-33.

Matthew 14:22-23 Go before Him

In Matthew 14:22-23 Jesus told His disciples to “go before Him to the other sideHe went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” Sometimes it’s as if He has also sent us forth alone. As God, Jesus is everywhere at all times, but sometimes it seems like He has sent us on ahead for some reason. Sometimes it’s because Jesus has a special miracle planned for us. The crowd wanted to make Jesus an earthly king. When seduced by worldly promotion that is not in God’s plan, find a solitary place to pray. Ask heaven to keep us from the egotism that leads us away from His will.

Matthew 14:24 Tossed by the Waves

In Matthew 14:24 we read that “the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves.” The disciples were where Jesus had sent them but they seemed in trouble. Shallow lakes are known for dangerous storm waves. Sometimes when we believe with our whole hearts that we are where Jesus wants us, things seem to go wrong. We doubt our calling. Sometimes Jesus sends us to sea even though He knows a storm is coming. We face winds of false doctrine, waves of temptation, and storms of mistreatment. Jesus is not trying to hurt us, but teach us to walk by faith and not by sight.

Matthew 14:25 Walking on the Sea

In Matthew 14:25 we read, “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” The fourth watch was the last night watch, from about 3am to sunrise. Sometimes in Christian life, Jesus allows us to go through most of the night before He comes to us. And when He does, He may come in the form of a miracle, a supernatural event that is beyond any natural explanation, like walking on water. God often chooses to intervene just before we lose hope, so as to not overly try us. In Job 9:8 we read, “He... treads on the waves of the sea.”

Matthew 14:26 An Apparition

In Matthew 14:26 we read that, “when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.” When God appeared on the mountain to ancient Israel they were afraid, and when Jesus walked on water, the disciples were afraid at first. Sometimes we may be afraid to invite God into our situations, yet we need to remember that like with Israel and the disciples, God shows up in such a manner because we are highly favored. As they thought that Jesus was an apparition, we too can think that Jesus is somebody else. But, He comes to bless.

Matthew 14:27 Be of Good Cheer

In Matthew 14:27 after the disciples’ initial fear seeing Jesus walking on water we read, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” In the midst of storm wind and waves, Jesus spoke. He must have been close to them. The boat is an ancient Christian symbol of disciples tossed to and fro with trials of faith, temptations and mistreatment. Yet, Jesus calms the storms and provides safety. In church architecture, the center is the nave, meaning ship. Noah was brought to safety (1 Peter 3:20-21), Jesus comes to our boat and carries us through the storms to eternity.

Matthew 14:28-29 Peter walked on Water

In Matthew 14:28-29 we read that Peter asked Jesus to let him walk on water too, “So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” Some are bold like Peter and jump right in. There is no criticism of that personality here. There is an example of what someone can accomplish with God’s help in their initial rush of faith and desire to be with Jesus. Studies have shown that of all those who rush forward at modern forms of evangelistic rallies, only about 15% join a church and stay. Spontaneity is good. Perseverance is better.

Matthew 14:30 Lord Save Me

After Peter’s impetuosity and Jesus’ granting his request to walk on water, he quickly began to doubt. We read in Matthew 14:30 “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’” There is often a conflict between sight and faith. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Moments like this come to all of us. We begin to sink in life’s stormy waters and realize that we have more zeal than faith. We have had our eyes on our tempestuous circumstances and not on Christ. Then we cry out, Lord, save me.

Matthew 14:31-33 Why did you Doubt

Peter had attempted to walk on water. Jesus stretched out his hand to catch him. So, Jesus said in Matthew 14:31-33, “‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Peter did a good thing, stepping out on faith. He did not continue in faith. This is not the devil’s temptation, a foolish leap from the temple mount (Matthew 4:5-7). That would be wrong. Stepping out of the boat and walking on water begins with a prayer request, followed by an invitation from Jesus to “Come.” Then, like the disciples we cry, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Outro

Sometimes we seem to be all alone at night in a storm at sea. When we are tossed by waves of temptation and doubt, Jesus comes to us in the midst of a dark night and calms the waters.

References

Providence

Intro, Goal and Plan

What can we do with meager human resources? Is there an answer in the Gospels? Let’s understand the invisible dimension of life, Jesus. Let’s examine Matthew 14:13-21, the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and see how it applies to us today.

Matthew 14:13-14 He was Moved with Compassion

In Matthew 14:13-14 when confronted by a large crowd, we read that Jesus “was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” As a Christian, I am ashamed of the sins of the Church. I admit that we too often lack compassion. A common fiction is that people are poor because they are lazy. Yet, honest analysis of the causes of poverty admits many other reasons including the poor being the victims of crime, overpopulation, low wages, inefficient distribution, corruption, bad education, environmental degradation, political oppression, colonialism, disease and war. The miracle of feeding the five thousand is a radical contradiction of selfish religion. Are we moved with compassion?

Matthew 14:15-16 You Give them Something

In Matthew 14:15-16 after the disciples wanted to send the crowds of people away, Jesus simply replied, “You give them something to eat.” Church potluck meals can be traced to Jesus feeding this crowd that had gathered on the north shore of the sea of Galilee. The disciples wanted to dismiss them, just as many of us would. Can we hear the selfish political lies? Kick ‘em out! Can we hear the ancient Greek lie that, God helps those who help themselves? Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Is Jesus inviting us to be givers instead of takers, compassionate instead of mean?

Matthew 14:17-18 We Only...

When confronted by a huge problem, we look at our resources and say, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” Like Elisha we need to lift our eyes to heaven, and behold, the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around. Like Ruth, we throw ourselves at the feet of our Redeemer and know that He will Provide. When everyone thinks we are insignificant, little people and laugh at us, God can give us the courage to slay the Goliaths in our lives with the smallest of weapons. When foolish people threaten to ruin our lives, like Abigail, God provides us with wisdom to save the day.

Matthew 14:17-18 Bring them Here

What does Jesus offer to do with our problems? In Matthew 14:17-18 as with the fish and loaves, He says, “Bring them here to Me.” “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). “Fear not, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13). “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6, 7). “He will feed His flock like a shepherd” (Isaiah 40:11). “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).

Matthew 14:19 He Blessed

In Matthew 14:19 we read that, “looking up to heaven, He [Jesus] blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.” A little boy had a packed lunch of 5 loaves of bread and two fish. He offered it to Jesus. Jesus blessed it and fed thousands. When we give thanks at a meal, we are not asking God to make bad food good. God created all things good. We acknowledge that we need God in our lives, that we live because of His Providence and we give thanks. When Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes, he was preparing an extraordinary Provision.

Matthew 14:20-21 They all Ate and were Filled

In Matthew 14:20-21 as Jesus fed the huge crowd we read, “they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained.” It reminds us of God’s providence in the wilderness. Communion reminds us of the one who provides our daily bread and the bread of eternal life, Jesus. Our weekly offering is like loaves and fishes. We ask God to multiply our efforts to feed way beyond our numbers. God will supply. We cannot provide what our community needs. We can only look to God’s Divine Providence. He allows us to assist in feeding His people and He multiplies our small offerings.

Outro

Our resources are small and the task is huge, but we are in the miracle business. We do not look to what we bring, but to our Lord’s Providence.

References


Treasures

Intro, Purpose & Plan

Do we have any special treasures? Do we own heirlooms from distant lands? Are our families among our greatest treasures?
Do we treat the things of God as our greatest treasures of all?
Let’s look at some special aspects of the kingdom of heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is …

In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus described some traits of the kingdom of heaven. He spoke in parables because the kingdom of heaven was still a well-kept secret. As it grows, it is becoming less of a secret. The kingdom of heaven has become the largest venture of all time, covering about a third of humanity. Jesus rules the largest kingdom on earth, a spiritual kingdom hidden from plain sight. Like yeast it will someday leaven all of humanity. Like a buried treasure not seen by human eyes, it is the most precious treasure of all. It is currently a mixture of good and evil, old and new.

1. Matthew 13:31-32 Like a Mustard Seed

Jesus’ Little Flock will Grow

In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.” What kind of plant was the mustard tree? Some experts believe it was the black mustard, an herb which can grow to three meters (ten feet). The parable of the mustard seed gives the impression that the kingdom of heaven, though once a little flock, will become very large. The mustard seed certainly did correlate to the smallness of the kingdom in the beginning. However, it foretold a far greater, all-encompassing future. Indeed, where Jesus used the term “little flock” He was addressing his disciples, not the eventual size of the Church (Luke 12:32).

Tiny Seeds

In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus called a mustard seed, “the least of all the seeds.” This is conversational speech, like saying, “Isn’t that just the cutest baby!” It is not a scientific or statistical conclusion but an everyday superlative. Those trained in scientific precision may quibble that there are seeds smaller than the mustard seed, but those trained in literary style would be quick to point out that is not the point of the parable. A lot of biblical criticism comes from misunderstanding the genre of speech. Being highly educated in one field we are often totally ignorant of other fields of study. Jesus’ frequently taught with imagery and hyperbole.

Church Growth Jesus Style

In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus said of a mustard seed picturing the kingdom of heaven, “when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Church growth advice is for sale at a price. The effective ingredient of church growth is not for sale at any price, Jesus. He said, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) Is it wrong to get advice? Of course not. Jesus predicted that the kingdom of heaven would grow to be the largest garden plant, a tree. In the garden of world religions Christianity is now the largest.

2. Matthew 13:33 Like Yeast

In Matthew 13:33 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven” (yeast). What about yeast helps us understand the kingdom of heaven? The woman used, three measures, about 27 kilograms (60 pounds). That is far more bread than one family needs, “a woman took and hid [it] in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Could this refer to the three major branches of Christianity: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant? Is it Christianity or idolatry which creates human traditions and doctrines contradicting the teachings of Jesus? Only Jesus has the authority to define the kingdom of heaven, and He defines it as much larger than our narrow views.

3. Matthew 13:44 Like Buried Treasure

In Matthew 13:44 we read, “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” Buried treasure is not just fiction but a historic reality and a business. Treasure hunters include archaeologists and marine salvage operators. Two separate half billion dollar fortunes were recovered in 1985 and 2007. Yet, the most valuable treasure of all is the kingdom of heaven and few are finding it today. The kingdom of God is in this world but hidden. Most people are not like the man who “for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Are we yet ready to sacrifice everything for heaven?

4. Matthew 13:45-46 Like a Costly Pearl

In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls.” Since ancient times pearls have been highly sought after and prized. They are formed by the hand of God. The buried treasure was found by accident. The pearl was found by an individual who was looking. He too recognized the life-changing magnitude of his discovery, “when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” He responded with an absolute commitment to the kingdom of heaven. What is the most prized thing in our lives? Is anything else worth more than the kingdom of heaven?

5. Matthew 13:47-50 Like a Drag Net

In Matthew 13:47-50 Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind.” Like a dragnet, the kingdom also picks up people indiscriminately. Trawlers then separate from the catch the useful fish and throw “the bad away.” At the final judgment “angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire.” Many moderns don’t like to hear about hell, but the Bible does not shy away from it. Angels will only confirm what we have already chosen. Don’t choose to neglect salvation. “There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

6. Matthew 13:51-52 Like New and Old Treasures

In Matthew 13:51-52 Jesus spoke of those who convert from an Old Testament faith to the kingdom of heaven as being “like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” We have treasures from both Old and New Testaments. We have treasures from both old and new music styles. It requires some maturity and education for a church to sing old and new songs in worship. Grandchildren honor grandparents’ music choices and grandparents know it is biblical to “sing a new song” (Psalm 33:3; Psalm 40:3; Psalm 96:1; Psalm 98:1; Psalm 144:9; Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9).

Outro

Earthly treasures will all fade, but the new and old treasures of the kingdom of heaven are forever. Is the kingdom of heaven our greatest treasure?

References


Why does God Allow Good and Evil in the World?

Intro, Purpose, Plan

Why is there evil in the church? What about those who are sincere and have faith in God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ?
Let’s understand that the church is and will always be a mixture of good and evil, but those who are righteous by faith will shine.
Let’s discuss the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and its implications for the church.

Matthew 13:24-25 What are Tares?

In Matthew 13:24-25 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” The weed was probably darnel, called cockle and false wheat. It exists worldwide, looking similar to wheat until maturity. Wheat ears are heavy. It hangs down. Darnel ears are light. It stands tall. The wicked seem to prosper while the righteous suffer. Cockle has a deeper root. Removing it would pull out the wheat. A solution is to let both grow together until harvest and separate them then, when the righteous will shine.

Matthew 13:28-29 Evils in the Church

The Church does much good in the world, like schools, universities, medical care, music, arts, literature, science, human rights, opposing slavery, influencing laws, providing orphanages, care for the hungry and poor. Why is evil also in the Church? Why did Catholics exterminate Waldensians and murder tens of thousands during the Inquisition? Why did Catholics and Protestants murder Anabaptists? Why did Calvinists murder French priests? Why do Orthodox persecute Russian Protestants? Can we weed all corruption out of church? In Matthew 13:28-29 Jesus described evil to his disciples as weeds among the wheat. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.”

Matthew 13:30 Waiting Until Harvest

Do we get upset and angry with wrongdoing in the Church? Should we excommunicate all remorseless sinners until few are left in the church? Should we refuse to have communion with those who are corrupt and unresponsive to God? What if in so doing, we also offend family members and friends who are sincere Christians? In Matthew 13:30 Jesus said, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” Jesus does not ask us to tolerate evil but be patient because the responsibility is not ours but the angels’. The Church has always been a mixture of sinners and saints. We must be patient, praying for repentance and waiting until the harvest.

Matthew 13:37-39 7 Keys to the Parable of the Weeds

Jesus gave 7 keys to understanding the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:37-39. They help us understand other parables. 1) Who really sows? “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” 2) Where is God working? “The field is the world.” 3) Are we God’s children? “The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.” 4) Who are Satan’s children? “The tares are the sons of the wicked one.” 5) Who is ultimately responsible for evil? “The enemy who sowed them is the devil.” 6) How long must we wait? “The harvest is the end of the age.” 7) Who harvests? “The reapers are the angels.”

Matthew 13:38 The Children of the Kingdom

In Matthew 13:38 we read in the parable of the wheat and weeds, “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.” Outward appearances can be deceiving. Only Jesus can truly judge between the wheat and weeds in the world. Even in the church, not all professing Christians are righteous. The visible church has always been a mixture of good and evil (1 John 2:19-20; Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 9:6; 2 Peter 2:20-22). At harvest the righteous will be visible because the children of the kingdom “will shine forth as the sun.”

Matthew 13:41 Judgmentalism & Judgment

We’ve all met people who complain that the Church is too judgmental. It’s true — in part — but the statement itself also judgmental. The Church does not own irrational and snobbish criticism exclusively. It’s common to all. We try to make good judgments by discerning between right and wrong. When is judgment right and when is it wrong? In Matthew 13:41 Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” If someone is condemned or not is not ours to judge? What is Jesus’ alone to judge is not our business.

Matthew 13:40-43 Jesus, Liberal or Conservative

Liberals and conservatives accuse each other of evil. Do conservatives protect mere human traditions, traditions inspired by God or traditions like Moses’ bronze snake that have become useless idols or all the above? Do liberals depart from the Bible or refuse to interpret the Bible legalistically or both? Jesus is described as liberal or conservative on a variety of issues, but He is always orthodox. In Matthew 13:40-43 Jesus used the term weeds, “They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Outro

Righteousness in the New Testament is not by sinless perfection, but by faith. We all have sins we know about and sins we are blind to. The only thing that will save us is faith in God’s forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. It is not our job to judge whether or not a particular person is wheat or weed in God’s field by their obvious sins. That is for the angels and Christ on that great day of judgment. Thank God that he can convert any one of us into wheat. Let us all pray for God’s forgiveness and focus on the future when the righteous will shine like the sun.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolium_temulentum
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Receiving the Word

Intro, Purpose & Plan

Are our hearts downtrodden, like a well-worn path? Are our hearts hard, lacking stick-to-it-iveness or thorny, laden down with worldly cares. How can we learn to become like rich soil that receives the word of the kingdom and produces a rich harvest?
Let us understand where we find genuine Christianity deeply within people’s hearts.
We will look at Matthew 13:1-23 and the Parable of the Sower.

Matthew 13:4, 19 Superficial Christianity

In Matthew 13:4 and 19 the message of the kingdom is snatched away by birds. What happens? If we are careless with the message of the kingdom, it can be taken away. When the word of the kingdom comes, we should take time to understand it, because it is easily lost. We may even call ourselves Christian, but is it only a label, superficial, just on the surface? Is it only an outward show and not a deep Christian life? There is no substitute for the word of the kingdom as a lamp to guide our path (Psalm 119:105-112). Do we take time to understand the word of the kingdom?

Matthew 13:5-6, 20 Shallow Christianity

In Matthew 13:5-6, and 20 what happens on rocky soil that causes the seed of  the word of the kingdom to die so quickly? The seed that fell on the rocks did take root, but it was shallow. It had no deep root and died when hard times came. Shallow Christianity focuses on good times and materialism, but not deep spiritual things. For example, health and wealth are a focus of shallow Christianity. Suffering and persecution are rarely or never preached in such circles. The Bible teaches: blessed are those who suffer and are persecuted for righteousness. Shallow Christianity cannot handle the truth and avoids it. But deep-rooted Christianity lives on.

Matthew 13:7, 22 Anxious & Deceived Christianity

In Matthew 13:7, 22 what happens in the thorns that causes the word of the kingdom to be choked? How do anxiety and wealth suffocate us? Why do we receive the word, and circumstances soon strangle it? Like thorns, worldly cares and affluence suck the life out of us. We are enticed to waste time and effort on worthless materialism. Worldly success becomes all-consuming. Then, important things suffer, like family life and the word of God. The result is that our lives become spiritually dead. On such a treadmill, we have less time to even think about the word of the kingdom. How do we escape our prisons to freedom?

Matthew 13:8, 23 Fruit-Filled Christianity

In Matthew 13:8, 23 what happens in good soil that causes the seed of the word of the kingdom to grow so well? After describing superficial, shallow and worry-filled lives, Jesus described fruit-filled Christianity. What is the difference? One difference is understanding. The Greek implies being “put together” as in the God-given ability to synthesize the word of the kingdom into a whole picture. The Holy Spirit helps us to put spiritual ideas together producing a fruit-filled Christianity. John the Baptist understood this when he chided the Pharisees about repentance. As a genuine change of heart is seen by its fruits, so does authentic Christianity produce a fruit-filled life.

Matthew 13:9 He Who Has Ears

In Matthew 13:9 is a familiar saying of Jesus, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” What does that mean? It means, Pay attention! It does not mean hearing outwardly only, but deep down inside. It means to comprehend. It means to put to use the parables Jesus taught. It is an invitation to think about the deeper, hidden meaning. Why did Jesus paint such familiar farming pictures? Are there morals to His stories? His parables require more than ordinary powers of superficial thought to understand. Jesus said this proverbial conclusion more than once, perhaps to indicate which of His teachings were of greatest importance. Do we hear?

Matthew 13:10-18 Why Parables

In Matthew 13:10-18 Jesus revealed why He spoke in parables. It was because, “whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” So, those who have no interest in learning to obeying God will not understand. Not everyone has ears that desire to hear, but those who have the desire can ask God for understanding. A parable is a story, an allegory that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. To those who really learn to understand, Jesus says, “blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.”

Lesson: Sow Indiscriminately

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven being like an indiscriminate sower. This contradicts theories surrounding church growth of targeting certain statistically measurable demographics. There is no such target audience in this parable. The seed of the kingdom is sown with wild abandon. I like that. It’s more like spreading of the Gospel with faith instead of using man-made formulas. A well-known leader in the church growth movement once said that he could build a church a mile wide but only an inch deep, only a pastor can build depth. Jesus said something quite different. He said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).

Lesson: Fail in Order to Succeed

An old axiom says that failure is the stepping stone to success. Are we afraid of failure? The road to success is paved with failures. Before the farmer in the Parable of the Sower had a successful crop he failed in three areas. We fail in these same areas. We allow the devil to snatch the word of God away from us. We allow the deceitfulness of wealth to choke out the word of God. We are shallow in faith and quit too easily. Paths can be plowed up, thorns can be uprooted and rocks can be pulverized into good productive soil. All our failures can be stepping stones to success.

Outro

At times our hearts may have been downtrodden, like a well-worn path. Our hearts may have been hard because we lacked stick-to-it-iveness or thorny and laden down with worldly cares. May we all learn to become like rich soil of genuine Christianity, allowing the message of the kingdom to root deeply in our hearts producing a life filled with wonderful spiritual harvest.