Scripture reading for January 20th: Matthew14:1-21, Psalms 15, Proverbs 3:29-35
God has an amazing ability to multiply the things that are His. Every seed has an amazing ability to grow and reproduce itself! Corn is a miraculous seed that can multiply at over 1000 fold! Most wheat seeds multiply from 50-100 times what is planted. Soybeans bring back a 40-70 fold return. But God can multiply other things as well as we see in today’s reading!
Jesus’ ministry of compassion began to draw large crowds. He would heal the sick and cast out demons as people were brought to Him. One day, it was getting late and the disciples wanted to send the people home because they were in a remote place. (Matthew 14:15-21) Jesus had compassion on them and told the disciples to feed them. All that was available in the way of food was five loaves of bread and two fish, not much for such a big crowd! Jesus asked that these loaves and fish be brought to Him. He blessed them and broke them, giving them to the disciples to give to the people. When these disciples had finished giving out the broken bread, all the people had eaten and were satisfied! There were over 5000 men in this crowd, plus many more women and children! Not only that, but when these disciples gathered the left-0vers, there were twelve basket’s full!
When we give the little we have to God, we are never losers! God can multiply what was given just as He makes seeds multiply when we plant them in the earth! As the seed dies, it springs back to life with potential to grow and multiply! The same is true when we give money or possessions to the Lord. He can take that which we give and multiply it for His glory and our blessing! (2nd Corinthians 9:8-11)
Jesus was compassionate and cared for the physical needs of the people as well as their spiritual needs. He models for the Church the proper behavior and attitude for giving and receiving. Even a small gift given to God can be multiplied to meet the need! Where do you have or see a need today? Take time to pray and ask God to show you what you can give that God can bless and multiply! It is truly more blessed to give than receive! (Acts 20:35)
Scripture reading for January 19th: Matthew 13:44-58, Psalm 14, Proverbs 3:27-28
As we read these parables, it seems that Jesus used different stories but the message that was within them was the same truth. This is a technique of a good teacher who is trying to impart truth to their students. These parables contained truth that if grasped and understood would enable a person to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Different stories would help people of different backgrounds and culture to relate to the simple message they contained. (Matthew 13:10-11) Let’s look at another parable used by the Master Teacher, Jesus.
“Once again,the Kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full,the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47-50)
Jesus had several disciples who were fishermen and He taught extensively around the Sea of Galilee where fishing would be easily understood. Fish was a staple food of that culture. This simple story about the kingdom being like a net would have resonated with those who caught fish or ate them. The preaching of the message of repentance and faith in Jesus is like casting a net and bringing in a catch of precious souls. The visible kingdom will contain those who are “good” fish and others that are “bad”. The only difference between them is whether they truly have saving faith.
As fishermen would sort out their catch after catching them, Jesus taught that angels would separate the wicked from the righteous. The wicked would be cast into hell where there would be eternal torment. This was a simple truth that Jesus as a Master Teacher was trying to impress upon those who would listen. Disciples are called to be “fishers of men” and cast the “Gospel net”. Angels will separate the wicked and righteous at the end of the age. It pays to be in the company of the righteous! Are you ready for the final catch? Are you casting the Gospel net?
Scripture reading for January 18th: Matthew 13:24-43
Jesus continued His teaching using other parables. Jesus had told them that He was the farmer who was sowing the message of the kingdom of heaven. Those who received the seed of this message and acted on it would produce a crop that He would harvest one day. His followers were still wondering what this kingdom of heaven would look like so Jesus gave them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “An enemy did this,’ he replied.” “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus gave an explanation to those who asked. The enemy was Satan and he sowed his followers into the same field that God had sowed with the good seed. As the harvest ripened, the weeds became evident. Some servants came to God and asked about removing these weeds. God said that He would take care of that at the end of the age. At that time the angels would pull the weeds and bundle them for burning in the fiery furnace. There would be weeping and gnashing of teeth because the weeds were really lost souls under the control of Satan. The righteous would enjoy the kingdom of light in the presence of the Father for ever. Those with ears were encouraged to hear! (Matthew 13:32-43)
Jesus’ message was simple: there are only “wheat” and “weeds”! There will be a final harvest! Angels will gather the “weeds” for burning and take the “wheat” into the kingdom. We who follow Jesus must be busy sowing the message of eternal life, not trying to weed the field! If you have ears, listen!
Scripture reading for January 17th: Matthew 13:1-23, Psalm 12, Proverbs 3:19-20
Jesus loved to tell stories. These stories are known as parables, because the stories have another story hidden inside of them for those who take the time to investigate. Jesus taught in parables because He wanted to communicate deeper truth to those who were willing to listen but hide that truth from those who were unwilling or would mock at the truth. He wanted all to be able to understand but knew that a humble and teachable heart was required.
The parable of the seed and soil is found in three of the Gospels. Jesus explained this parable when his disciples asked Him about the meaning of the story. (Mark 4:10-11) Jesus told them that they were blessed to be able to see and hear what He taught them. The seed was the message about the kingdom of heaven and the sower was Jesus and later His disciples. The ground was the hearts of those who heard the message. When someone heard the message and did not seek to understand it, that man was like seed sown by the path. The birds, representing Satan, would come and snatch away the seed that was sown. (Matthew 13:18-23) Others would hear and respond, but last only a short time. Their hearts had only shallow soil and no room for the message to take deeper root. Still others would hear and respond, but allow the cares and worries of life to choke out the message. They were like the weedy ground that choked the crop. The last group of hearers mentioned received the seed into their hearts and understood the message. They acted on it in faith and produced an abundant crop.
This famous parable has helped believers for many years. It helps us personally to examine the state of our own hearts so we can ask God for help where we need it. It helps us to understand how the state of a person’s heart affects their ability to hear and understand. We need to pray for the hearts of those we share the Word with. Only the Holy Spirit can draw a person to understand. (John 6:44) We can also have confidence that the Word (Seed) has power to bring growth and understanding in the right kind of hearts. Praise the Lord for opening our hearts! May we produce a bountiful crop by sowing the word!
Scripture reading for January 16th: Matthew 12:22-50, Psalm 11, Proverbs 3:13-18
Jesus healed a man who was both blind and mute so that the man could both see and talk again. This miracle brought the charge from the Pharisees that He cast out devils by the prince of devils, Beelzebub. Now this great miracle was an act of compassion and Jesus knew what they were thinking. He spoke to these Pharisees, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:25-28)
His miraculous deliverance of this man came not by using Satan’s power, but by the Spirit of God. If Satan was casting out Satan, his kingdom could not last! There would be rebellion in the kingdom that would tear it apart from within. This principle would apply to God’s rule as well, but God rules His kingdom and no rebellion will be allowed! He has both the power and wisdom to deal with it and His team of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” are always in unity! Satan, himself, was cast down to earth because of this kind of selfish rebellion. (Isaiah14:12-15)
Jesus went on to give further truth and warning. “He who is not with Me is against Me and he who does not gather with Me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:30-32) This warning states that falsely charging the Holy Spirit with doing Satan’s work was very dangerous ground. This sin will not be forgiven now or in the coming age! This warning should cause us to think twice about our words and heart attitude toward the works of the Holy Spirit. Let’s join with Jesus and gather souls!
Scripture reading for January 15th: Matthew12:1-21, Psalms 10:9-18, Proverbs 3:11-12
“Going from that place, He went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:9-12)
The Pharisees were always threatened by Jesus and His simple teaching and miracles. But success or miracles doesn’t always make one receptive to the good news that Jesus is God and came to seek and save lost. These Pharisees had set up rules for behavior on the Sabbath and anything that smacked of “work” was strictly forbidden. They watched Jesus with an accusing eye! Earlier, on a Sabbath, they spotted Him and His disciples picking some grain as they walked along to the next town. This was confronted and Jesus taught them through the Scripture about God desiring mercy, not sacrifice. (Hosea 6:6) (Matthew 12:7-8)
Jesus went to their synagogue on purpose. There he found a man with a shriveled hand. These Pharisees asked Him if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:10) Jesus gave them a practical example of a sheep in a pit and how the owner would surely rescue his sheep on the Sabbath. Men were more valuable than sheep! He then healed the man’s hand! The lesson was simple and powerful and should have convinced anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see that Jesus was showing mercy. This was what God desired!
“But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” (Matthew 12:14) Religion cares more about its rules than about mercy for the hurting. These religious Pharisees would not be taught by Jesus Himself! For healing a man on the Sabbath, these religious leaders plotted to murder the sinless Son of Man, who was Lord of the Sabbath! The moral of this story is to watch out for a religious spirit. How you view Jesus and the Scripture can determine whether you follow Him or plot murder! Learning from Jesus brings Sabbath rest! (Matthew 11:28-30)
Scripture reading for January 14th: Matthew 11, Psalm 10:1-8, Proverbs 3:7-10
Jesus centered his early ministry in the region around the Sea of Galilee where there were big crowds of people who gathered to hear Him. Jesus had performed many miracles of healing and deliverance for sick and bound people but many people refused to repent of their sins and believe in Him. Jesus spoke plainly to the crowds about their condition and the coming judgment on their sins if they failed to repent.
“Woe to you Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24)
Miracles either open a heart to the Lord or harden the heart further when there is no response. They bring knowledge of God’s love and power in a visible form that makes a person more accountable than if they had no personal knowledge. Proud hearts refuse to believe and make excuses for what has happened and bring judgment on themselves in the end. The church of Jesus Christ has been given power to lay hands on the sick and cast out devils as well as to see miracles come from the ministry of the Holy Spirit through His saints. We in the church often feel that this is the answer to all the problems and that great growth would occur if we could just see more miracles. This was not the case with Jesus Christ and His ministry in this part of Israel!
However, for those who will listen and come to Jesus, He promises true rest! “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Repentance and rest bring true salvation!
Scripture reading for January 13th: Matthew 10:24-42, Psalms 9:11-20, Proverbs 3:3-6
Jesus Christ is the “Prince of Peace” according to Isaiah 9:6! Jesus lived a life of peace but preached a message that sometimes stirred up violent rejection and spiritual warfare. In our reading today, Jesus was preparing His disciples for ministry in the world and the warfare that would result from spiritual conflict with the devil and those in league with him.
“”Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36) Jesus offers us peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. In order to obtain this promise, we must repent or turn away from sin (breaking of God’s law) and turn toward God through Jesus Christ. This all comes by faith through God’s grace and mercy freely given to those who believe. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Why does this message sometimes cause violence or division between people and even close family members? The message of the cross is offensive to the human ego and religion’s rules. We all want to work for our salvation or do something to earn it. Religion is based on man’s efforts to do enough to appease God. Even the Jews had drifted into a works-oriented religion instead of “by grace through faith”. Jesus wisely taught His disciples about the conflict that would happen between the flesh and the Spirit. When we turn to Jesus and begin to move in the Spirit, some will be convicted or resent this conviction and react in violence.
The disciples must not react, but keep on loving God and following Him. “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37-38) God’s will is first and our love for God is demonstrated by taking up a cross! This cross represents death to our own desires and even the need for acceptance by our own family. Where is your heart today? Are you worthy of the Lord?
Scripture reading for January 12th: Matthew 10:1-23, Psalms 9:1-10, Proverbs 3:1-2
Jesus first taught His disciples to go out and preach to those who were lost in Israel. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8) They were empowered with authority to take the message of repentance to the Jewish people and to demonstrate God’s willingness and ability to heal and deliver. They had not bought these gifts, but had freely received the power from Jesus and must freely give to all who would receive. They were also to travel light and live off the gifts and hospitality of those that they would preach to. Each worker was worthy of his keep!
Jesus knew that not everyone would receive them with hospitality. Some would reject the message and maybe even mistreat these disciples. He told them so up front so that they would not be discouraged or surprised by the treatment. In fact, Jesus gave them some practical advice for dealing with those who would not receive: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:14-16)
When we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people, we are doing more than we may realize. Every time we share, God is offering eternal life to those that hear. They are accountable for their actions. If they refuse the messengers, they are really rejecting God and bring the eternal judgment of God’s wrath on themselves. If they hear and accept, they bring God’s favor and and eternal life into their being. Jesus told the disciples that they were to shake the dust off their feet upon leaving the homes or town where they were not welcomed. That dust would be a witness against those who rejected the Lord’s messengers. They were not to waste time trying to argue or debate because they must go to others who would receive. Let’s think about this the next time we share the gospel!
Scripture reading for January 11th: Matthew 9:18-38
Farmers know the pressure when the crops are ripe and the weather is just right for harvesting. I speak from years of experience in raising grain on an Iowa farm. Farmers know that the window of opportunity is narrow and they must make haste before the storm comes and ruins the ripe grain. An urgency and focus comes upon them that even deprives them of their desire to eat until their task is finished and the precious grain is in the barn.
“Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. As the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)
Jesus came to earth with a mission to seek and save lost sinners. He likened them to ripe grain, ready to harvest. He quickly went into the harvest field healing the sick and delivering those who were demon possessed. His compassion and power drew large crowds of hurting and hungry people. Jesus was moved by their needs like a shepherd would care for his own sheep. He spoke to His disciples about the harvest and the need for more workers. Prayer for workers must be made to the Lord of the harvest, His Father in order to solve this problem.
Prayer is conversation with God and listening to God for an answer. We ask and then we wait for instructions or the answer and these disciples must have asked for the laborers. It is interesting to note that in the next breath, Jesus was sending them out as the answer to that prayer! “He called the twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” “Go to the lost sheep of Israel”. (Matthew 10:1, 6) This command to pray is needed yet today by the followers of Jesus. There is a ripe harvest and a time of opportunity that needs all the workers gathering it in with urgency! Will you obey?