Devotionals

What is of Greatest Value to You?

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Matthew 13

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

These have to be some of my favorite parables of the Lord Jesus.  The pictures that he drew to explain the value of his eternal kingdom are vivid and bursting with meaning.  In his series, The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn has enacted the parable of the treasure in the field.  It is worth watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd29Dmba1k4

My imagination runs wild with these parables.  I imagine walking through a deserted field and stumbling on a treasure of immense value.  Its’ been hidden and forgotten maybe for centuries but I cannot take it out, it belongs to whoever owns the field. My life just changed. Whatever was on my to do list just got erased.  Whomever I was supposed to meet just got cancelled.  I need to find out who owns the field and then find a way to raise the money to buy it.  There is no limit to what it will cost me for the treasure far exceeds what I will spend to get it.

Then Jesus tells the same story of a pearl merchant.  All of his life he is searching for valuable pearls to sell to his rich clients.  One day he sees the pearl of a life-time.  He knows that this pearl is of greater value than all of the pearls he has ever owned.  He has to have this pearl for whoever has this pearl will be wealthy beyond measure.  He goes home and takes every pearl of his valuable collection, the ones he has saved and the ones he has kept; he gathers them all and goes to his customers to sell his life’s collection.  He knows that whatever it costs, owning this one pearl will set him up for life.

Jesus used these great stories to define the gospel. The gospel has no equal in this life. There is nothing in our lives that is of greater value than the gospel. The gospel is worth selling all that we have; it is worth changing our lives to get. When we understand the value of the gospel nothing will get in our way to get it and hold on to it.  The gospel is a treasure and a pearl beyond price.

I am so thankful to God for giving me the gospel.  I am so thankful to possess the gospel as that which has enriched my life beyond any human treasure or any human value. I won’t trade it for anything; it means everything to me.

Of what value is the gospel to you?

 

Between getting ready for my class next week and working on the house my days begin early and end late.  I apologize for not getting to the devotionals as I have in the past.  Hopefully, in August, we will slow down to a more normal life. 

 This Sunday we will be observing the Lord’s Table and I will be bringing a message from 1 Corinthians 10 on the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  This is an amazing passage that has some wonderful truths and some striking challenges. 

 Tomorrow, Illinois Family Institute is using our church building for a conference on Radical Islam.  The conference starts at 10:00.  Go to https://illinoisfamily.org/event/panel-of-experts-on-responding-to-islam-2/ for more information.

 Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

The Smallest Ingredient has the Greatest Effect

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Matthew 13

33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

 

This parable of our Lord was given to encourage us as to the power of the gospel.  I remember as a child watching my mom make bread. While I don’t remember all of the ingredients I specifically remember her small yeast packets that she would add to the other ingredients and then I remember watching the bread rise in the pan before she baked it.  It did not take much yeast to effect the entire loaf.  There have been times that bread made not rise and either the yeast was bad or the yeast was forgotten in the mix.  In a very short parable, Jesus uses this simple example to explain how the gospel works.

 

We live in a big world with billions of people. How much of the gospel does it take for the entire world to be affected?  According to Jesus, just a little bit of gospel seed can affect a great amount of people.  There were 120 in the upper room, only 120.  Sometime later, a mob in Thessalonica accused this small group of turning the world upside down!  (Acts 17:6) When people are filled with the Holy Spirit and the gospel, this good news of salvation spreads throughout the culture like yeast spreads through a loaf of bread. We can testify to one person in a family coming to Christ and before long the entire family is saved by God’s grace.  My mother-in-law heard the gospel as a young teenager, today her entire family of children, grand-children, and great grand-children know the Lord and continue spreading the gospel.

 

Consider this, yeast is the smallest ingredient in the mix and we often feel like the smallest influence in the room.  But the power is not in us – it is in the gospel. The yeast only needs to be released into the dough for it to be effective. We only need to release the gospel for it to bring men and women under conviction of their sin and their need of the Savior.  The yeast does its work all by itself and so does the gospel; it just needs to be released.  Paul asked in Romans 10 how people could be saved if they never heard and concluded that they could not.  It is therefore our responsibility to release the yeast, the gospel message, into the culture; it is God’s job to make it work.

 

When we get to heaven we will understand this parable better.  There will be people who will thank us for our witness but we will have no recollection of ever telling them. Simply because we released the gospel to someone they released it to someone else and the spread of the gospel from our efforts won’t be fully known until eternity. The travelling pastor who preached in several rural churches in West Virginia, has no idea how far the yeast he planted in young Jean Harris went. It is still spreading.

 

In a day of continual bad news, what a joy to hear of the rescue of the twelve boys and their coach from a Thailand cave.  The testimony of this rescue is that at the core of who we are, we are lovers of life. This is a testimony of how we are made in the image of God.  Satan could care less if these boys lived or died in that cave. Satan is the destroyer. In the image of God is the love of life for He is the creator and sustainer of all life.  I thank God for putting into mankind a love for life and a determination to save life.  Part of this story is the farmers whose rice fields were flooded to the destruction of their crops while salt water was pumped out of the cave.  The farmer said that the lives of these boys were of greater value than his crop. Take note today that all of us, made in God’s image, are lovers of the life. Our talents and abilities are to ultimately be used to save lives for God’s glory and for His kingdom.  May these rescued boys one day hear the gospel of God and know that their salvation was from Him.

 

Please pray for Edna and her pained back.  They need great medical wisdom to find God’s plan for her healing.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Apparent Insignificance is Very Temporary

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Matthew 13

31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but 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.”

When a mustard seed is compared to other seeds, you might think that it just won’t do very much. That was the point of this parable of Jesus.  It just seems like an insignificant little seed. But in that little seed is the potential for a great tree that will provide wonderful shade  and a home for many birds.

Jesus then compares this little, seemingly insignificant seed, to the kingdom of God, to the working of the message of the gospel.  In comparison to the “great world religions,” the gospel of Jesus seems small and insignificant.  In fact, any message that required the death of God on a human cross must be a really weak religion.  A gospel message that calls its hearers to give away wealth, leave family and friends, walk away from good jobs, and to live lives of poverty while spreading the “good news” just doesn’t make good human logic.  It appears to be an insignificant message in the sea of humanity that is crying out for significance.

But the opposite is true here. (Thanks Dave for the riddles)  The seeming insignificant message of the Cross is the seed of every man’s eternal kingdom.  As the rich man and Lazarus discovered, it isn’t our significance in this life that matters.  One moment after death what matters is the significance of the gospel seed.  What is significant to you?  Only when we make the seemingly insignificant gospel message of Christ important do we really understand why we are here and what our future really holds.

 

Yesterday morning I prayed and asked the Lord to give us some help on our house projects.  It is overwhelming us at times.  Joey was coming over to tile the downstairs bathroom but I did not know that he was bringing his uncle Tony along.  Tony plumbed the sink, did the trim in the bathroom and the trim on our landing.  I told him that he was an answer to my prayers.  Last night we emptied my parent’s apartment and got that room ready for carpet.  Whew. 

Tomorrow is our prayer breakfast at Denny’s at 7:30 and then Stefani’s graduation party at 1-5. Please feel free to drop in at any time for her party, it is an open house for her. 

Sunday morning I will be bringing a message from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 on foolishness and power in the church.  Read the passage before you come to help you be ready for the message.  We have a church meeting after the reception for Pastor Bill and Kit.  The church meeting will be discussing the immediate future of our church and is an important meeting for all members and regular attendees. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The Enemy of the Seed of the Gospel

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Matthew 13

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

The last devotional came from the parable of the sower and emphasized the need to wrestle for the souls of those who hear the gospel.  In this parable, Jesus emphasizes the enemy of our souls with greater clarity.  We who know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ seek to plant the seed of the gospel into the hearts of those we know and those we don’t know. We care for their souls by planting the gospel seed into their lives.  Satan, the great enemy of the souls of men, plants seeds of weeds and tares into the very same souls.  As the seed of the gospel grows in the lives of men and women, they will find that those into whose souls the tares were sown are going to struggle against them their whole Christian lives. Some who hear the gospel will reject it and receive the seeds of Satan instead.

For a while, the wheat and tares grow together and you cannot tell them apart.  But before long, the core of who they are becomes very clear and God’s children can be seen to be different from the seed of Satan.  Let me make a clarifying point here: Satan does not care about anyone; Satan only cares to damn souls away from God. Satan may come across as a good drinking buddy or a good fishing buddy, or a friend at work who just seems to have it together, but Satan’s goal has nothing to do with people having a good time, no, his end game is damnation.  So when Satan sows seeds of weeds and tares into people’s lives, he is sowing seeds of destruction.  At the end of this parable, the tares are gathered and burned.  Do not be deceived by Satan’s smile, his end is your destruction.

As we care for the souls of those around us, remember this, in God’s field of this world, tares can become wheat, lost people can be saved, evil people can become righteous, and Satan’s children can be adopted into God’s family.  We long to see the tares of this world be transformed by the grace and love of God.  Pray today for someone you know who needs to be saved and ask God how you can sow the seed of the gospel into their life.

This Sunday there are two events taking place at church.  We will be having a cake reception for Pastor Bill and Kit, thanking them for their years of service here.  (While we will try to get them back for Sunday services, it is going to get harder to do so now that they live in Rolling Meadows.)  Please bring a card with a written testimony of how they have ministered to you or a memory you have of them.  At this point in their lives a written comment is better than a spoken one. 

After the reception, we, as a church, will gather again in the East Room and have a church meeting looking forward to the future of the church.  These meetings are going to be important for the decisions that need to be made in the very near future.  Your input in these meetings is vital.

Saturday morning is our men’s prayer breakfast at 7:30 at Denny’s. Join us for an hour of food, Word, prayer and fellowship. 

Saturday afternoon we are having Stefani’s graduation party here at the house.  All are invited. If you have time on Friday to help with setup, we could use your help.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Wrestling for the Souls of Others

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Matthew 13

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

The interpretation of this parable of the sower matters so much to our understanding of the spread of the gospel.  The first three examples given show that the seed of the gospel can be unfruitful, which means it never germinates to the giving of life.  We would say that the first three examples of the seed sown are examples of people who remain in their unsaved condition.  This should deeply concern us.

As we have opportunity to spread the seed of the gospel we must pray that God will bless the sowing of the seed.  In the first example, Satan himself takes away the seed.  We must notice the spiritual battle taking place here.  The gospel seed is good. It is given, and then Satan takes it away.  Not all of those who reject the gospel are doing so of their own volition; Satan does not want them to hear, receive, be saved and bear spiritual fruit.  In the second example there is reception of the gospel but not deeply into the soul to bring about life-changed fruit. They like the sound but not the surrender. The flesh of men and women is the enemy in this example.  They don’t really want to change. In the third example, the enemy of the gospel seed is the world around us. Because someone loves the world, its pleasures, its draws, and its glory, they cannot pull themselves away from the entangling and chocking cares around them to be saved.

When we give the gospel seeds we must give them out in the power of God with prayerful preparation and prayerful continuation. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation yet Jesus said that the enemies of the gospel effect 75% of those who hear it.  I used to be a wrestler giving all that my mind and body could give to pin my opponent or to not get pinned by my opponent. Wrestling is an all-out sport for three two-minute periods. I have never been as exhausted as I was after a grueling match. Have you ever wrestled for someone’s soul? If you have then you know it is laborious prayer, laborious discussions, and a wrestling for the spiritual well-being of another person. When we understand the spiritual battle behind sowing the gospel seed, we will take this with the seriousness of the eternal battle that it is.  Who needs you to wrestle for the germination of the gospel seed in their soul?

 

Last night we took the teens to a park, played, ordered pizza, sang and talked about preparing our hearts to listen to God. I took them to Matthew 13 where Jesus said that there were those who would hear but not understand what he said.  Pray for our teenagers that when they hear the Word of God that they would understand, ask questions, and want to know what God has for them to hear and then to live.  We have several teens who seem to be falling by the wayside or be being choked by the world around them.  Pray for these today that they would hear and follow the Word of God which they know.

 Sunday is our dinner day.  Please plan to bring some food and to stay and fellowship around lunch.

My parents are moving into Plum Creek Assisted Living on Monday. It will harder to get together with them up there.  If you have been making plans to stop by be sure to do so between now and Sunday night. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

We hear and we are able to understand

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Matthew 13

16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Jesus spoke in parables so that only those hungry enough to come to him and to ask for explanation understood in full.  In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry he was headed to the Cross so it wasn’t time yet for the multitudes to hear, believe, and be saved.  While the multitudes heard Jesus teach and preach, they seldom understood the full meanings of his messages.  Their spiritual blindness needed to remain until after Christ was crucified as the Lamb that was slain.

It should not be surprising to us then that the twelve often came to Jesus after his teachings asking for explanations of what he said. Notice with me that Jesus did not rebuke them but told them that it was important for them to see and to hear with understanding. The disciples of Christ were the ones who were going to forsake him temporarily in the Garden of Gethsemane but would return to him with fullness of faith after his resurrection.  They were the ones who were going to speak the truths of God with clarity and power in other languages on the Day of Pentecost.  Peter was going to preach messages about Christ that brought thousands to faith in him.

How does this affect us today?  Our Lord has given us his teachings and he has given us his Holy Spirit to bring his teachings to light and understanding.  He has given us the faith to believe in Him and in his teachings.  With the indwelling Spirit of God we now read the parables and their explanations and our faith increases, our understanding of the kingdom of God broadens, and we are better equipped to live in this life to the glory of God.  Our Lord still says to us today: “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.”  Let us make the Word of God our daily bread, our sustaining drink, and that which continually builds up our faith and power in Him.

 

We were not able to go to Victory this year for our annual camp-out.  In lieu of this we are going out to a farm in Leland this Friday afternoon and evening to shoot, ride horses, and grill out.  All are invited.  If you can make it, just let me know so we can have enough food to go around.  We will be leaving the church at 11:00.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Have we heard this parable?  What are we doing with it?

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Matthew 13

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Matthew 13 is a familiar passage to any maturing Christian.  This parable of the sower explains much to us about sowing the seed of the gospel to the world; a simple overview is our goal this morning.  The key players are the sower, the seed, and the soil.  We are the sowers of the seeds of the gospel. It is God’s gospel, his message not ours.  We are to scatter the gospel seed throughout our lives regardless of who receives it and who doesn’t.  The seed, once put out there, might be plucked away by Satan who doesn’t want the gospel to be heard. The seed might be scorched by the pressures of this life again never taking root in the person’s life.  The seed might become tangled with the cares of this life and choked out before it comes to fruition.  Or, the seed of the gospel might take root in a life, mature and bring forth gospel fruit.

We see in this parable a battle between the power of the gospel, Satan, and the cares of this life.  There are many enemies to the gospel of God’s grace and we who plant this powerful seed do so with prayer, with love, and with compassion for the ones in whom we desire to plant the precious seed.  We grieve when the seed is plucked away, scorched, or choked.  We rejoice with the angels in heaven when the seed germinates and bears the fruit of faith, repentance, and more gospel seeds.

The last words of Jesus get our attention today.  Jesus concluded this parable as he did many of the parables stating that those who had ears to hear would understand. Besides being familiar with this parable, do we have ears to hear and to understand it?  Do we who know the seed and the soils pray for greater opportunities to successfully plant the gospel seeds into good soil?  When was the last time you planted the gospel seed into anyone’s heart and life?  If they rejected it remember that Jesus said some would. So we keep on planting looking for that receptive soil. Do you have ears to hear and to understand this parable of the Lord Jesus?  Ask him today to give you an opportunity today to plant the seed of the gospel into the soil of someone’s heart.

 

We ended VBS with a wonderful night of fellowship with the parents and the children together.  The children quoted the verses from every night (I think there were 8 verses in all), they sang the songs for the week, and then we invited the parents to come out and to sing with their children.  It was a thrilling moment to see the parents and the children doing the motions of the songs while they all together lifted up the name of Jesus.  We are thanking God today for doing such a great work through us for His kingdom.  Again, a great big THANK YOU to those who came and volunteered every night of the week.  This was an investment into eternity as the seeds of the gospel were sown every night into hearts that were so receptive to the messages of Christ and the true treasure. 

Have a great day in the Lord ,
PS