The Kingdom of God is Like

Luke 13

Then he told this parable

During this time of year, you can simply feel it in the air — people buzzing like bees, quickly moving from place to place, passing off presents, sternly shaking hands, embracing each other, even some merry kissing under the mistletoe.  All humanity grows a bit closer in this glorious time of the year – flu season.  That is right – the flu — the microscopic menace spreading like wildfire, which we can only hope to contain.  Yet the flu is like the Kingdom of God.  Wait. What?

To see the comparison, we started with the question Jesus poses in Luke Chapter 13, “What is the Kingdom of God like?  What should I compare it to?”  He points to two tiny, but curious, examples from nature that illustrate the uncontainable and incurable makeup of the message of the Kingdom of God: the mustard seed and yeast.  Two of the smallest items that can be seen with naked eye can easily work their way into their host with seemingly no offense.  Once mustard seeds are sown, it would be an impossible task to remove them from their soil.  Additionally, if you were to knead yeast into a dough, it would be equally difficult to eradicate.  In just a small matter of time each grow (for lack of better biological terms), changing the landscape around them.

I am by no means a scientist or theologian when I make the claim that the Kingdom of God is like a virus, but I see it as an alike analogy to the yeast and seed, present in today’s known world.  When we become infected by a single strand of a seemingly insignificant substance it almost immediately multiples.  Our body’s biology begins to react by reprioritizing processes and protocols.  Even the most cautious of host cannot help but spread the contagion to others.  Similarly, the hope we have in the Kingdom of God starts merely as a few words that come in through our eyes or ears, terribly trivial when placed within the context of the hundreds of millions we will experience in our lifetime, yet they knowingly or unknowingly work on our hearts differently.  As these words begin to work in us, our priorities shift, our behaviors change, and our effort increases.  The virus begs to be shared in every encounter inside and outside the body – passing of presents, sternly shaking hands, embracing each other, or even in merry kissing under the mistletoe.  It becomes the definition of our existence.

You will undoubtedly be sharing space with the suffering in the coming weeks. As you hear the coughs, sniffles, or maybe even some of the more unsavory sounds of the infected this season, remember that you too, suffer in a similar way.  The eternal infection – the Kingdom of God – is the longing placed into the hearts of all men by God who made them incomplete without it, but this virus is the cure for the condition of humanity, not the sickness. Work it into the dough, sow the seed, and spread the disease, to help others to know what the Kingdom of God is like.

-Aaron Winner

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Shaken Out of Complacency

Weekly Summary – Luke 7-12

Luke 12_8

These chapters in Luke show us some of the core parts of Jesus’ ministry on earth and are overflowing with good lessons and teachings for us today.  The Israelites of Jesus’ time had grown complacent and worldly.  Their leaders used the Mosaic laws and rules they had invented to serve their own pride and greed and had therefore prevented many others from learning the truth of God’s will.  Jesus had the monumental task of taking a group of people who were rooted in worldliness and shaking them out of their complacency and sin, showing them the path to salvation, and then preparing them for long term life as the Church with the Holy Spirit to guide them.  This is the most recent and greatest act of God to reconcile the world to himself in order to save us from our sins.  Each step in God’s plan has prepared the way for the next, and just as John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus’ ministry, so too the Holy Spirit is working today to prepare us for Jesus’ second coming.  Today we have many of the same societal issues that Jesus dealt with in his first coming.  Our culture today idolizes the greedy and prideful while openly encouraging blatantly sinful lifestyles.  There are a lot of lessons in these chapters that will help us see the world as God sees it so that we can turn from our worldly ways and live a changed life for Christ.  It takes a lot of hard work, and the world will not reward you for it, but that is why we have the Church, to help us through.

 

I have enjoyed going through these chapters this week, and I hope some of my thoughts made sense and have helped you.

 

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”   Luke 12:8

-Chris Mattison

Live a Changed Life

Luke 12

Be PreparedforHis Return

In the Old Testament God set up the Jewish religious system through Moses as a way to set them apart.  By the time of Jesus the Israelites had turned away from God so many times it gets hard to count, and they had turned the law into something unrecognizable from its original intent and had given into greed, hypocrisy and selfishness.  Jesus spent much of his time on earth battling and rebuking the Pharisees who epitomized all of the flaws with the Jewish religious system of the time.  Knowing that the church will have a strong Jewish culture with these traditions and tendencies and that they will be persecuted after he is gone, Jesus gives the advice found in Luke 12.

First in Luke 12:1-3  he warns them against hypocrisy because that is the quickest way to errode the witness and testimony of the church.  Similarly for us today, if we want to reach those around us for Christ, then we have to be consistent in our actions and words.  If you are a different person on Sunday than the rest of the week, or if your friends outside of church are genuinely surprised that you are a Christian because they cannot tell by your actions, then you need to evaluate your heart.

 

Then in Luke 12:4-12 he warns them to fear God more than the world and the government and people who are persecuting them.  We are also given a promise that when we boldly stand up for Jesus despite the physical consequences he will stand up for us before God.  As believers in Jesus we cannot stand idly on the sidelines.  Now that we have the knowledge of our sin, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins and requires us to live a life set apart we have to make a choice and stand up for it every day.

 

In Luke 12:13-34 Jesus warns his disciples against greed, and being bad stewards of the things that God has given us.  Of those who are given much, much will be required.  This is true for riches as well and talents and abilities.  If we knowingly put ourselves before the Kingdom and spend all our time and talents on ourselves and buying worldly items and position and popularity then we will be held accountable for those actions.  If we are living a truly changed life for the gospel then we should be using our money and talents to further the gospel in any way we can.  If we put God first in this then he will take care of our physical needs as well.

 

Finally in the rest of the chapter he tells them to be watchful for his return, and to not grow complacent.  The entire Old Testament led up to the ministry of Jesus and everybody in Israel knew the scriptures and should have known that Jesus was the Messiah, but they did not interpret the events correctly, and their hearts were not ready.  Similarly we have been given a promise of the return of Jesus in the future and need to be always ready for his return.  We cannot grow complacent in our Christianity.  We cannot let sin creep back into our lives and we cannot allow our passion and fire for the gospel to dwindle.   We should also be familiar with the prophecies of his return so that when they start to be fulfilled we can be prepared for his return.  We do not want to miss out like many of the Israelites of Jesus’ time did.

-Chris Mattison

The Lord’s Prayer

Luke 11

Luke 11 2

In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus how to pray and he gives them the Lord’s prayer, which you probably heard before.

 

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins,   for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

There are several parts of this prayer that are important and that I think we sometimes miss.  First he praises God and asks for the kingdom to come.  I think it is important to start our prayers by focusing on God, because he deserves the respect and it helps to remind us that he is more important and greater than our problems.  Then it is important to remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and that we need to forgive others as well.  Also, when praying for ourselves we need to keep it simple, by only asking for the basics of our physical needs and for God to guide us spiritually.

Then later he goes on.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

God is very good at giving gifts, and he is not looking to hide himself from us.  If you need something then ask for it.  If you need more wisdom or patience to deal with an issue in your life, then ask God for it, and keep on asking God for it. Just make sure to check your motives as it says in James 4:3.  If you are asking for your own selfish reasons then you may need to rethink your request.  But if you are asking for something for the reason of helping to further the kingdom and the gospel then God is excited to give to his children.

-Chris Mattison

Living Simply

Luke 10

luke 10 2

In Luke 10 Jesus is appointing 72 of his followers to go out ahead of him and to spread the message and to see which towns will be open to his message.  Now I think that his instructions to this group of believers is unique to their purpose in aiding Jesus’ earthly ministry, but there are also some useful instructions for us today.  In verses 2 and 3 he tells them to pray that God will send his missionaries into the world, and then tells them that they are the ones that are being sent, but that it will be dangerous.  At that point in Jesus’ ministry I think that some of the disciples had been living in a bit of a bubble and hadn’t yet realized the kind of persecution that they would undergo in their lifetimes, and Jesus was preparing them for what was to come.  I think that similarly Christians in America, and especially those who have grown up in the church have been living in a bubble.  We have been a predominantly Christian nation for several generations, but our nation is quickly moving away from God and I personally believe that within my lifetime we will start to see a lot more persecution of the church.  So those of us that plan to be bold with our beliefs and plan on spreading them to those around us need to be ready and understand that there are dangers associated with being a Christian and being different from the world.

 

In verses 4-8 Jesus describes how they should move about and how they should act while they are staying in these towns they are visiting.  The summary of these instructions is that they need to move with haste and purpose and while they are staying as a guest in these towns they need to live simply and humbly.  They were to take whatever was given to them gladly and not complain about any food or accommodations.  I think that for us today we need to remember to live with a purpose and to not let ourselves be distracted by fancy living or money or other things of this world.  Our lives are relatively short and there is a great deal of work to be done for the Kingdom.  I’m not saying that we should go around without a wallet or purse or shoes like these disciples were instructed, but that we should lead simple lives so that we have more time for God.

 

At the end of Luke 10 in verses 38-42 we have the story of Mary and Martha, sisters who hosted Jesus while he was traveling and teaching.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to all that he said while Martha ran about getting food and things ready for all of the visitors.  Finally Martha had enough and told Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the housework.  Jesus replied.

 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

Again a lesson to live simply and to put spiritual matters ahead of physical issues in our lives.

-Chris Mattison

God’s Worldview

Luke 9

luke 9 26

So I want to start today’s devotion with a short story.  The past two weeks or so I was in China on a business trip.  While there my local guide/coworker asked me if I was a Christian and went to church.  Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I have heard about persecution of the church I think about the countries in the 10/40 window, including China, where Christians have been very persecuted.  This always leaves me with a bit of anxiety in the back of my mind while I am in China. When my guide/coworker asked me this I paused for a split second and was reminded of a passage from Luke 9:23-26.

“23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

 

So I unashamedly told him about my church and explained some very basic parts of church to him.  He then told me about the government’s attempted control of churches in China and the persecution that he knew of.  It wasn’t much, but I tried to bring up church with him a few other times during my trip.  I hope that I helped to plant a seed as we looked at yesterday in Luke 8, we’ll see.  I encourage you to never be ashamed of Christ and to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15.

 

The other part I want to look at is a passage that I find funny, but it also can hit close to home.  It is Luke 9:51-55.  As Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world he tried to stop in a village, but the locals did not welcome him, so the disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven just like in the good old days, and he rebukes them and they move on.  The disciples asking Jesus to nuke a town of people that he is ready to lay down his life for is so jarring and odd that I find it funny at first.  I’m sure the disciples looked back on this moment in later years and shook their head, and laughed at themselves.  I remember praying for silly things when I was less mature, and then wondering why the things I prayed for didn’t happen.  If you ever feel like you are a little out of sync with God, that is OK, even the disciples missed the mark sometimes.  But I encourage you to work hard at figuring out where your worldview differs from God’s, by reading the scriptures, praying, and asking for advice from more mature Christians.  Maturity and wisdom take time and perseverance to develop.

-Chris Mattison

Return Home

Luke 8

Luke 8_39

Luke 8 is a pretty fast-paced chapter.  Jesus is in full ministry mode at this point and going about performing many miracles and teaching a lot of parables.  Here are a couple that jumped out at me.

 

Jesus tells the parable of the Sower, a farmer who is spreading seeds. The seeds grow based on the quality of soil that they are planted in.  The disciples do not understand the parable, so Jesus explains it in more clear language in Luke 8:11-15.

 

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

I think it is important to realize that the gospel is not directly injected into our hearts (metaphorically) but is presented to us.  It is up to us to make the decision to accept it, and then to purposefully fill our lives with the word in order to change our hearts.  As Jesus said, only through perseverance will we grow.  You cannot be passive about your relationship with God.

 

Later in the chapter Jesus drives out many demons from one man and they go into a herd of pigs, which immediately drown themselves.  Which is kind of weird.   But anyway, the man’s life had been completely changed by Jesus and he wanted to serve Jesus, and here is Jesus’ response in Luke 8:38-39.

 

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Instead of hitting the road with Jesus and spreading his testimony all over he is instructed to stay in his hometown and to give his testimony to the people in his hometown.  When a lot of people think about spreading the gospel they think about people far away that haven’t heard the gospel, and some are called to travel great distances as some of the disciples were, but many more of us are called to stay home and tell our story to unbelievers in our home towns.  Either way it is very important to share what God has done for you in order to help strengthen the faith of other believers.  For my family God performed a mighty act of healing in my Mom with her cancer and I try to share that as much as I can to show the power of prayer.

So I encourage you to “return home and tell how much God has done for you”.

– Chris Mattison