Is it hard to be humble?

The Parables of Jesus

March 23, 2022

“Is it hard to be humble?”

Luke 14:7-11

Many years ago, one of my assistants at Alberton’s Supermarket would often sing a song by the late Mac Davis. The first few lines go like this:

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble

When you’re perfect in every way

I can’t wait to look in the mirror

Cause I get better looking each day

To know me is to love me

I must be a hell of a man

Oh Lord, It’s hard to be humble,

But I’m doing the best that I can

Reading the verse from the song gives you some insight into my assistant’s personality. He was a nice guy a hard worker, but he struggled with humility.

Unfortunately, the word of this song ring true for far too many of us today.

The Oxford Dictionary describes humility in this way:

a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

This brings us to today’s Parable.

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Jesus at the Pharisee’s house – Part one

(We’ll be looking at part two tomorrow)

“When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this Parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 7:7-11

The best way for me to describe this Parable is to say, “Always be humble, lest you be humiliated.” Jesus explains to those in the Pharisees’ home, including His disciples, that we should never look to be acclaimed over others.

In Jesus’ Parables, His example of a wedding feast is the same as saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven.”

Jesus isn’t telling us to always take the lowest place in everything we do so that we might be raised up. Instead, he admonishes people like the Pharisees who think they’re better than others. If the Pharisees weren’t using there’s ears and hearing Jesus, He hoped that his disciples would learn from this example and always practice humility.

One of the most common forms of humility I can think of is allowing someone to get in front of you at a check-out line or holding the door for someone as you enter a store. All of us are busy people in our own way. But, should we allow ourselves to be so busy that we can’t show kindness and be humble before others?

Jesus said, “The first will be last, and the last will be first.” I choose to be last in favor of my fellow (man/woman). What about you? Or is it “Hard to be humble” for you😊?

Dear Jesus. You showed your love for mankind by being a humble servant to all when you sacrificed yourself for our sins. Help us follow in your footsteps and have a humble attitude towards everyone. Amen.

The Good Samaritan

The Parables of Jesus

March 22, 2022

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37

I would guess that many of you have neighbors that you either don’t speak to at all or when you see them, or you occasionally wave and say, “Hi, how’s it going?”

Our next-door neighbors, John and Janet, exemplify the true meaning of the word neighbor. Here are just a few examples:

When Janet bakes or John smokes meat, they drop some off to us. (I do reciprocate by bringing baked good off)

When I was in the hospital a couple of years ago, John installed a security light for me.

Janet always cuts a portion of our lawn because she knows it’s hard for me to do with my bad knees and, just to be nice.

Just yesterday, I was going out to the mailbox. John and Janet pulled into their driveway, just as our new neighbors across the street did. John saw me, waved, and said, “Hi Joe, how’s it going.” At the same time, our new neighbor came over and said to John, “Can you give us a hand with something really quick.” John didn’t ask what it was or how long it would take. Instead, he quickly replied, “Sure, not a problem.”

John and Janet are great examples of “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”

And that brings us to today’s Parable.

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Let’s read the story and the dialog between Jesus and the expert in the law:

“On one occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” He replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’10:27 Deut. 6:5; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’10:27 Lev. 19:18.”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this, and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii10:35 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer (see Matt. 20:2). and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37

Who is my neighbor? That’s quite a question, isn’t it? But when you read today’s story, that answer is straightforward. Everyone is your neighbor.

Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews. They were considered spiritually corrupt, and half-breed foreigners comprised Israelites and Pagan foreigners.

So, when Jesus used a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbor, it must have raised a few eyebrows not only amongst the experts of the law but also with His own followers. Among the Jews of the day, a neighbor was described as a fellow countryman of the same race.

The expert in the law was looking for a legal answer to who is my neighbor. But, Jesus gave him much more. God wants us to go beyond the racial division surrounding us and love the neighbor, whoever they might be.

Here’s the point: Everyone is our neighbor, no matter who it is, no matter their race, creed, or color, and yes, even political view. In Christ’s eyes, we are all brothers and sisters.

We live in a society that “preaches” things like “Me First” and “You’re the most important person in your life. None of this is true. Jesus put the needs of mankind ahead of His own and gave the ultimate sacrifice. His life for our salvation. Perhaps, making others more significant than ourselves, isn’t such a bad idea.

Dear Jesus. Help us to remember that everyone is our neighbor. Let your words, “The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served,” be our guide as we emulate your love for others. Amen.

I Forgive You

The Parables of Jesus

March 21, 2022

“I Forgive You”

Matthew 18:21-35

Saying, I’m sorry, or, I forgive you is difficult.

It’s difficult on two fronts. First, it’s hard for you to go to someone you’ve wronged and say, “I’m sorry.”  It takes courage to come forward to say those words to someone.

But, it’s just as difficult, perhaps even harder, for you to forgive someone. You’ve been hurt, abandoned, gossiped about, cheated on, verbally abused, and now someone who has wronged you asks for forgiveness.

I know more times than I can count on my fingers and toes, I’ve come to my wife and said, “I’m sorry.” My wife, Kathy, is one of the kindest, most considerate, and forgiving people, you may ever meet. So, every time I ask for forgiveness, she says, “All is forgiven.”

It’s essential to not hold on to grudges against others or transgressions committed against you. This brings us to our following Parable.

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The Unmerciful Servant

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (18:22 Or seventy times seven )

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this, the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Peter’s question to Jesus sets the stage for this Parable. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-35

In Greek, the better interpretation is seven times seventy, or 490 times. It’s best not to get caught up in the numbers. Jesus’ answer to Peter is telling us to forgive indefinitely. We should never keep score, thinking, “Well, I already forgave ________ four times before, because he/she spoke unkindly of me. I’m just can’t forgive them anymore.”

No, we forgive, again, again, and again. “To Infinity and beyond.” 😊

Occasionally, I do get caught up in numbers. I like to know the value is of something today as opposed to, say, sixty years ago. For example, in 1960, the average salary for a male was $60 per week. In 2022, the average salary for a male is $715 per week.

So, I looked up what Talents were worth in real money today, as well as what the value of a Denarius (silver coin) is. In the reading above, the servant owed his master 10,000 bags of gold (or 10,000 talents).

The servant owed his mater the equivalent to 3-5 Billion dollars in today’s money. The other servant who owed the servant whose debt was forgiven, 100 denarii, owed him the equivalent of about $1,100 in today’s money.

The difference in the debt owed is astronomical. But, the real point of the story is one of forgiveness. The servant begged for more time to pay his master. But, his master took it to a different level. He didn’t give his servant more time; he forgave the debt.

But when the servant whose debt had been forgiven came upon a fellow servant who owed him very little, by comparison, he was merciless. He physically choked the man and had him thrown into prison. But, of course, the first servant paid the price for being unmerciful.

This Parable is a commentary on the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
You see, it goes both ways. God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. As a result, our debt was wiped clean. Jesus expects us to treat our fellow man the same way. Forgiving them as we have been forgiven.

I often find that I can’t say something better than another author did. So let me leave you with this statement.

“We forgive because we have been forgiven by God, and no offense against us can remotely compare with the incalculable amount we ourselves have been forgiven.”

(New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, 1994. Matthew 18, Pp. 928.)

Dear Jesus. We are forgiven because you died for our sins. Let us be merciful and loving to others and forgive them of their trespasses against us just as you have forgiven us. Amen

“Don’t let Temptation rule your life”

The Parables of Jesus

“Don’t let Temptation rule your life.”

March 20, 2022

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

(This is the Epistle reading for the third Sunday of lent.)

When I think of the word temptation, the old saying, “I got my hand caught in the cookie jar,” comes to mind.

This saying means that you got caught doing something wrong. In many cases, the phrase is connected with someone stealing from their employer.

If someone is caught stealing, then they have given in to temptation. We’ve all been tempted to do something we shouldn’t. As adults, we’re tempted by the allure of what money can buy us, or we may be tempted to be promiscuous.

We’re tempted to take a playmate’s toy as a child because we want it. Or, we may accidentally break Mom’s favorite vase and be tempted to lie and not confess we were the one who broke it.

We have all been tempted. But, there have undoubtedly been times when we’ve given in to our temptations and done the wrong thing. As always, we may, “Get away with it.” But as Christians, we all know that we really never get away giving into temptations. God knows and sees everything we do.

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Today’s Epistle lesson deals with temptation and how God works with us to avoid and get through it.

Warnings from Israel’s History

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now, these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, (10:9 Some manuscripts test the Lord) as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation (10:13 The Greek for temptation and tempted can also mean testing and tested.) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

1 Corinthians 10:13, is one of my favorite passages from the Bible.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

In his letter to the people of Corinth, Paul sets this passage up with the temptations and sins of the people of Israel; during their Wilderness experience. Paul points out that they, the citizens of Corinth, are doing many of the same things.

They worship idols, such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. They were sexually immoral, and they grumbled against God. They were mimicking the temptations and sinfulness of the Israelites.

Here’s Paul’s point. We need to learn from prior generations how to live and how not to live. Our ancestors were tempted by the world/Satan. So are we, and so will our children and our children’s children.

When Paul says, “be careful that you don’t fall,” he’s warning us. We will face temptations.

But, with God’s help, we can withstand the temptations that we encounter. He encourages us and promises a way out. Our way out may be that we can withstand the onslaught of temptation. Why? Because we have our feet firmly rooted in the Word of God because we have faith in Jesus. And, because God promised He will never give us more than we can handle.

Remember, God never breaks His promises.

Keep yourself rooted firmly in the faith, and with the help of God, you can fend off an onslaught of temptation.

Dear Jesus. You spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. You were able to resist an onslaught of temptations by Satan. With your help, allow us to have your strength to keep away from temptation. Amen

“Don’t Get Cocky!”

The Parables of Jesus

March 19, 2022

“Don’t get cocky!”

Luke 10:1-7

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you remember the scene. It occurred in the first Star Wars movie back in 1977. Episode IV.

At this point in time, Luke Skywalker has already met Obi-Wan, and they are on Han Solo’s ship, The Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately, the ship comes under attack by tie fighters. Han tells Luke to operate one of the gunnery chairs as Chewbacca is injured.

Luke is not familiar with sitting in this gunnery seat that moves in what seems every position as he attempts to shoot down an enemy ship. But he finally gets the hang of it and destroys a tie fighter. Luke yells out, “I got him.” Han Solo turns around and yells to Luke, “Great shot, kid, don’t get cocky!”

What does Han Solo mean when He says, “Don’t get cocky.”? Luke was looking for affirmation. Instead, Han tells him to not look for praise when you do your job and accomplish it.

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Jesus was not one to hold back when speaking with His disciples. So let’s check out today’s Parable.

The Master and His Servant

 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that, you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So, you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”             Luke 10:1-7

First, Jesus says, “Suppose one of you.” That’s His way of saying, “Imagine this.”

After reading the passage from Luke, what did you imagine about the relationship between the servant and his master?

The master may come across a bit hardnosed. The servant has been working all day in the fields. Then he comes back to his master’s house where, as the saying goes, “There’s no rest for the weary.” His master tells him to prepare supper for him, and only then he, the servant, may eat.

Think of it this way. Jesus tells us to “Go and make disciples.” So, as obedient servants, we do what He says, and we “Go.” Then, Jesus tells us to plant the seed of the Gospel. So, we tell others about God’s saving Grace and the sacrifice His Son Jesus made for everyone.

Don’t expect a bunch of “Atta, boys” because you are following your master’s directions. Jesus is telling His disciples, including you and me, not to get all pompous and cocky by comparing ourselves to others.

Just because someone doesn’t read and share the Bible as much as you or I may do, doesn’t make us better than them. Just because I’m a retired church worker and could speak before scores if not hundreds of people about the Gospel doesn’t make me a bit better than my neighbor who shares God’s Word with a friend.

No matter how hard we work for the Kingdom, we are still all sinners no matter how much we accomplish. And I, just like my neighbor, being saved by God’s Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ.

So, do your job, and spread the Gospel to the world. Just don’t get cocky 😊

Dear Jesus. You owe us nothing, while we owe you everything. We know we are saved B.G.T.F. (By Grace through Faith). So, lead us into the harvest fields as we sow the seeds of the Gospel for you. And, let us never think too highly of ourselves for doing the job God has given us to do. Amen.

“The Lost are right in front of us”

The Parables of Jesus

March 18, 2022

“The Lost are right in front of us.”

Matthew 18:12-14;11, Luke 10:2-3

A new commercial hit the airwaves several weeks ago. After watching it, my wife Kathy looked at me and said, “That’s you.!” Of course, she was correct; it was me.

The commercial had a man searching for something all over the house. Finally, he comes into the living room, where his wife is watching television. As he opens his mouth to ask his wife a question, your focus goes to the top of his head. That’s where his glasses are, similar to the photo above. Then we see the guy on his knees looking under the sofa’s cushions next to where his wife is sitting. He says, “Have you seen my glasses anywhere.” She looks at him with a sly smile and says, “They’ll show up.”

I’ve lost my glasses on my head, in the bedroom,  kitchen counter, and the workbench in the garage. I’ve gone through every room of the house multiple times and just given up. Then in a little while, I’ll come across my glasses, right where I left them, or I’ll hear my wife in another room yell out, “Found ’em.”

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This brings us to today’s story. The Parable of the Lost sheep.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off And, if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Today let’s focus this discussion on the lost sheep and the importance of pursuing people who are lost. But, first, let me add another verse that is not found in all of the manuscripts of Matthew. Here is verse 11, possibly borrowed from Luke 19:10.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Matthew 18:11

Jesus is always seeking to save the lost. The Parable of the lost sheep tells us that God’s Kingdom is available to everyone, even people who are sinners and have wandered off of God’s chosen path for them.

You may have noticed that I named this devotion, “The Lost are right in front of us.” I was not necessarily referring to my lost glasses or my wallet that I misplace just as often.

When I read the Parable of the lost sheep, it reminds me of the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus sends out the 72.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10:2-3

You and I are the workers; the harvest field is the world. Although we will undoubtedly face problems when bringing the Gospel message to the world, that’s our job.

Jesus said to His disciples, “GO.” We see this instruction again in Matthew 28, in Jesus’ Great Commission, when He tells the disciples to “Go and make disciples.”

Nothing has changed in 2000 years. As followers and believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we must follow His directive. We are to go out into the world and find the lost sheep and bring them the message of Good News of Jesus. As I mentioned earlier, God’s Kingdom is available to everyone. There are lost sheep all around us; all we need to do is plant the seeds of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Dear Jesus. We know that it brings you great joy when even one lost soul returns to you. May we be your hands and feet in the harvest field. Guide us as we bring the message of redemption, forgiveness, and God’s love to all of the lost sheep that will hear. Amen.

“Being Persistent”

The Parables of Jesus

March 17, 2022

“Being Persistent”

Luke 11:5-8; 9-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Do you remember how difficult it seemed to be to learn specific skills when you were a child? The one skill I can remember trying to master the most was using a Hula Hoop.

Getting a hula hoop to rotate around your mid-section by rotating your hips seems like it would be easy to accomplish. But, as most of you know, it’s not; it takes practice. It takes you being persistent. You swing the hula hoop around your stomach/waist, and it drops down over your legs to the ground. You pick it up and try again, and again. Suddenly, you start to figure out how to move your hips just right, and now the hula hoop keeps going around your waist as long as you keep the proper hip movement. You did it!

You were persistent. You tried repeatedly and finally learned to hula hoop, just like your friends. (I had a young lady named Lauren in my youth group many years ago. She could keep a hula hoop going around her waist for an incredible amount of time. She never lost a hula hoop contest.)

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Today’s parable also deals with being persistent, in this case, as it pertains to prayer.

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity11:8 Or yet to preserve his good name he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Luke 11:5-8

It’s essential to set the scene for this parable. Just before Jesus said these words above, He had taught His disciples what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Like in Matthew 6, one of Jesus’ disciples comes to Him and says, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1b

As Jesus’ parable deals with bread and knocking at your neighbor’s door at a late hour asking for some, you might think He was changing subjects. But instead, the point Jesus is making is that persistence pays off. So let’s look at the following two verses, where Jesus reiterates the importance of being persistent.

 “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. Everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10

Here’s the point. Jesus is telling us to be persistent in praying. Because persistent prayer pays off.

“How much more likely that our heavenly Father will respond when we come to Him again and again with our needs. Our asking, seeking, and knocking will not be in vain. What he heavenly Gather grants in response to our persistent prayer will be good for us.”
(Peoples Bible Commentary, Luke. Victor H. Prange. 1992, Pp. 131.)

Another verse that connects well with this parable about praying persistently is:

pray continually” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

In the Thessalonians passage, the Apostle Paul tells us to pray continually. He does not mean to pray every moment of every day. Instead, Paul is telling us that prayer should happen throughout our day.

Remember this. Prayer is not just about being persistent and praying for our needs and wants throughout the day. Prayer is also a way to say thank you. Too often, people forget to thank God for prayers fulfilled, even if they are not answered to our liking.

Be persistent in prayer. Ask, seek, and knock. God will answer your prayers in His time and in a way that is good for you.

Dear Lord. So often, I fail at being persistent with my prayers. So many times, I don’t pray at all, trying to resolve problems and situations myself without your help. Lord, help me to always come to you persistently in prayer. Thank you for the many prayers you have answered in my life. And all of the answered prayers that are yet to come. Amen.

“Giving it all up to have it all”

The Parables of Jesus

March 16, 2022

“Giving it all up to have it all.”

Matthew 13:44-46; 4:18-22

I was brought up in the Catholic religion. So it was unheard of not giving up something for lent when I was young. The idea of giving something up during lent is to make a sacrifice by doing without something you really like. I remember my family members, or myself, giving up things like sweets, chocolate, and even smoking for the 40 days of lent.

Nowadays, I don’t know many people who give up something for lent. But, I do know people who have given things up. For example, I know several people who have given up drugs, alcohol, and over-eating. Not easy tasks. But they are better people today because they faced their addictive problems and walked away from them (Albeit many times with help and support from others).

I also know individuals and families who have given up everything they have to follow Christ’s calling, to go, and make disciples. For example, one of my former students (Youth) moved to England with his wife and are Evangelists there. Another good friend of mine moved His entire family to Russia, where they currently serve as Missionaries for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. (Please keep both families in your prayers.)

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Today, we’ll be looking at two short Parables that Jesus shared. They both discuss, giving it all up.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46

Did you notice that in both of the above Parables, both the man and the merchant give up (sold) everything they had for something greater?

Back in Jesus’ day, it was common for wealthy people to divide their wealth in three ways:

Cash: Which was readily available for necessary items, like food and shelter, to live and invest.

Precious stones or jewels: These could be taken wherever they went

Bury it on their property: Sounds odd, but there was no interest on investments back then. So, people would bury part of their wealth somewhere on their property when they traveled.

(Unfortunately, if you never came back to your home/property, there was a possibility that it could be lost forever. Or it might be found by accident, as in the case of the treasure hidden in the field.)

Both the found treasure and the pearl of great value represent the Kingdom of God or Christ who established His Kingdom on earth. When the two men sold everything, that is literally everything. They gave up everything they had in the world for the riches that God has to offer us.

The best way to understand this is to return to the calling of Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 4.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.

 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

At once, they left their nets and followed him.

From there, he saw two other brothers, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22

These disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus. They left their livelihood and even their family. This is the point Jesus is making in the Parable of the treasure and pearl.

Jesus is telling us that His Kingdom, our righteousness, and the promise of eternal life are much more important than the things the world has to offer. Therefore, it’s essential to evaluate what we have and decide how it helps or hinders our work in God’s Kingdom.

Remember how the two men in the Parable gave up everything they had to purchase what they found? It’s something you and I can’t do. We can’t buy our way into eternity. We are sinners, and no matter what we do, it’s not good enough in the eyes of God. So, He sent His Son Jesus as a sacrifice. He paid the price for our sins.

God offers us His Grace, and we are now righteous in His sight. And, He wants us to share His love with everyone freely. God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, and Christ’s love are all free. So, pass them on to others so they too may know their Savior and experience eternity.

Dear Lord. For most of us, it’s challenging to give it all up for what you have to offer. We love our money, houses, positions, and other possessions. Please continue to have your Holy Spirit work within us to “Let it Go.” Help us always to put you and your love for us first in our lives. Amen.

“What’s the big deal about Parables?”

The Parables of Jesus

March 15, 2022

“What’s the big deal about Parables?”

Matthew 13:10-17

Several years ago, I published my first book, Adventures in Youth Ministry. The book could partially be looked at as a memoir. But the real reason I wrote it was to share my experiences in youth ministry with the hope others would gather ideas from it.

One of the critical points that is woven throughout the book is that of storytelling. I emphasized how important it was to incorporate personal stories into Bible studies, devotions, and outreach. In addition, I discussed how “There’s a story to be shared in almost anything.”

Hopefully,  you’ve been following my devotionals over the last several years. In that case, you’d know that I often use a personal story that ties into the devotion’s main points.

People in general, young and old, love to listen to stories. And when we as Christians can tie a story to lessons, devotions, and or conversations, it can better open up the Gospel story to others.

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During this Lenten season, I have been sharing with you a series of devotions titled “The Parables of Jesus.”

Many people believe they know, or do know, what a Parable is. Is it a way of getting the point across using a story? Yes.

According to Merriam Webster, a Parable is:

“a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle, such as the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan”

The word Parable comes from the Latin word parabola, from Greek parabolḗ, meaning “comparison.” 

Jesus’ Parables are considered metaphorical analogies. Although Jesus’ stories are all called Parables, you could get technical and break them into three categories.

  1. Similitudes: In my research, I found that Matthew Henry’s Commentary occasionally uses this word when referencing Christ’s Parables. When Jesus says things such as: “Heaven is like” or “The Kingdom of God is like,” He is telling a story from real life to help the hearers understand.
  2. Parables: are generally longer than similitudes and don’t tell a real story from life, as they are fictitious. When Jesus says, “A farmer went out to seed His field,” or tells the story of “The Prodigal son,” these are examples of Parables.
  3. Exemplary story: where similitudes and Parables are analogies, an exemplary story gives an example in its account. The Good Samaritan story exemplifies how we should love our neighbor.

Don’t be disillusioned; it’s still okay to refer to Jesus’ stories as parables. All I was doing was breaking them down into categories.

So, we come back to the why. Why did Jesus speak in Parables? Part of that answer is pretty evident. By using analogies and stories, He could get His message across easier.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

After Jesus related the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the following occurs:

“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have, will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;

though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Matthew 13:10-17

For Jesus, speaking in Parables had two reasons. The first was to reveal the Word of God. And the second was to conceal it. That might sound odd, but it’s true. Jesus’s Parables disclosed the truth of God’s Word to believers but withheld it from some unbelievers.

Parables are easy to remember. Jesus’s stories were relatable and spoke to things people knew about farming, families, servants, and perseverance.

Jesus wants everyone to understand God’s Word, to know His love, and be saved. But, unfortunately, to this day, some refuse to listen to the Gospel message. Even though God gives people opportunity after opportunity to listen, God will withdraw His Grace from them if they continue to refuse.

Unfortunately, many people continue to harden their hearts against God’s Word. Yet, it is not up to us to give up these people. As Christians, we continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ wherever and whenever we can. If people refuse to listen, God will make the final decision about their destiny.

At the end of the passage above, Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples when he says,

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Jesus is telling His disciples that they are truly blessed because they not only see Jesus but they take His teaching to heart. He knows they will continue to do so. This praise from Jesus is for you and me too. In the Bible, we can or have learned that Jesus is the promised Savior of the world. We see Jesus in the scripture, and we must continue to spread the Good News to others.

And when you do tell others God’s Promise and Jesus as its fulfillment, don’t be afraid to add a story. Perhaps the story of how you came to be a follower of Jesus.

Dear Jesus. You were and are the master of telling stories that we call Parables. Help us follow in your footsteps and continue to spread the Good News with your stories (Parables) as well as our own. Amen.

“Just watch it grow”

The Parables of Jesus

March 14, 2022

“Just watch it grow.”

Matthew 13:33

Baking homemade bread has become a bit of a lost art. It’s so easy nowadays to just go to the supermarket and pick up a loaf of packaged bread or bread from the bakery department.

My wife Kathy bakes bread at least twice a month. One of her favorites is a honey/oat bread recipe. My favorite is the one you see pictured above that she baked about a week ago. It’s a knock-off recipe of the bread you’re served at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

I’ve helped my wife with the ingredients when she makes bread, but generally, bread is her thing. I bake the cakes, sweets, and cheesecakes😊

What’s especially interesting when watching Kathy bake bread is to see what just a tiny amount of yeast can do. For the Carrabba’s bread recipe, she adds two cups of flour, salt, a little water, and one and a half teaspoons of yeast (there are more ingredients, but for my purpose here, this will do). I’m always amazed to watch after she adds the yeast to the water. Kathy waits for the yeast to begin bubbling slightly before adding the flour.

Without the yeast working in the dough, you’d have what the Bible calls, Unleavened bread. Tortillas are unleavened bread. And because they have no yeast, they do not rise.

Kathy’s bread needs to rise twice in a slightly warm oven. During the summer, we use our laundry room which is unairconditioned and very warm, to allow the bread to rise. Then, it’s in the oven for about 30 minutes, and you have the bread shown at the top of this devotion.

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In today’s Parable, Jesus uses yeast and its effect on flour in baking as an analogy for growing the Kingdom of God.

“He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds (Or about 27 kilograms) of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33

The above reading is taken from the NIV (New International Version)

Let’s take a look at the ESV (English Stand Version) as well:

“He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:3

The original terminology for yeast was leaven. Three measures were not 3-cups. It is believed that three measures were 40-60 pounds of flour.

Sixty pounds of flour, when baked with yeast and other ingredients, would make approximately five dozen loaves of bread.

The word “yeast” used in this Parable shows us how Jesus works and the power of the Gospel. God has given us one thing to grow and broaden His church here on earth, and that is the Gospel.

Just as in the last three Parables I’ve presented to you discuss spreading the seed of the Gospel; here, Jesus tells us to spread the yeast of the Gospel. Just like someone adds yeast to flour to cause it to rise, our sole job is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and watch it grow.

You and I are messengers of God’s Word. We are charged to deliver the message of Hope, Love, Forgiveness, and Righteousness found in the Gospel. From there on in, the Holy Spirit will grow and reap the harvest of the seeds and yeast (Gospel) we have sown for God.

I find it exciting to watch people grow in the Faith because we have shared God’s word with them, just like a loaf of bread rises because of the addition of yeast.

Dear Jesus. Help us to continue to spread your Gospel message to the world. We are always filled with joy as we see it grow and change people from the inside out. Amen.