#6 and final in series: Contrast
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 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. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
It’s an ongoing discussion in the email marketing world: Do you choose to grow your list via opt-in or opt-out methods? It's an issue that the government has received a lot of backlash over with their decision to implement an Opt-out only system for your 'My Health Record'. Opt-in or Opt-out. Many people see Christianity in the same vein - as something that you can opt into or out of.
But today in the final week of our parable series "Contrast", Jesus uses the illustration of the dragnet to show the indiscriminate, non-selective catch of the Gospel as it moves silently through the sea of life drawing all people, almost without them knowing it, into the shores of eternity. But here’s the catch. There is no opt-in, only an opt out option. But therein lies our comfort, our challenge and the mission of the Kingdom of heaven. We will experience and explore that today.
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. Matthew 13:46
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
We are caught up in the net of God's grace and mercy. Through Christ's death and resurrection God has chosen us in Christ to be part of his eternal joy and a life that never ends. Christ proclaims us beautiful and loved by the Father. So until the net is finally hauled ashore, our task is to live in that grace and let that grace in us love indiscriminately for grace alone can transform hearts and lives.
Of all the parables that we have looked at over the last six weeks, which one caused you to think the most or responated with you the most?
If the net drawing all people to the shores of eternity is drawing closed, who do you need to talk to in your sphere of influence to tell them about the God who will be with them for ever?
#5 in series: Contrast
44 “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.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
“I’d give my right arm for one of those.” Well...maybe not your arm, but every now and then we want something and we want it so badly that we are willing to go to great lengths to get it…emotionally, mentally, physically. Whatever the cost. Whatever the challenge. The length to which you are prepared to go is directly proportionate to the value you assign to it and how high it rates on your scale of what matters in life. Today Jesus tells us that the greatest treasure, what has most value is found right before our eyes, in him and his love and grace. And when you discover that priceless gift…you’ll also find that there is nothing that has a greater value or is worth giving everything in your life to other than that.
“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. Matthew 13:44
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
God gave up what he valued most in this world, his own Son, to get what he treasured most in this world. You!
You are precious and valuable in his sight! Always and forever. Never forget that.
1 What do you value most about your dad?
2 What is your most prized possession?
3 What in your life has the greatest value?
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.
Influence - the art of motivating and changing behaviour - has reached new heights. There is now an App for that! Whether its Apps like 'Good on You' that rate brands according to their ethical performance to motivate your buying habits or 'Track your Impact' that shows which project your Thankyou Water Bottle is funding, or the big supermarkets that send you emails with specials based on your buying habits, everyone wants to exert influence on others. Today in the Parable of the Yeast, Jesus makes use of a well established symbol, widely regarded as a contaminant, an agent of change, disruption and even corruption to show how God's order-upsetting kingdom will infiltrate, infect, disrupt, transform and influence every part of life! Prepare to have your world thrown out of balance!
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
A little grace goes a long way. A little grace changes everything. A little grace will transform this world. Wherever you are remember who you are, for...
The Spirit at work in you will have a huge influence and impact.
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK
Gracious Father, let the yeast of your eternal wisdom work its way into every corner of our lives that we may be a growing influence for good, transforming lives and communities around us with your grace. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen
1 Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
2 What factors motivate, trigger your buying habits?
3 How can the little things you do in Christ’s name exert an influence on others?
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
“From little things big things grow. From little things big things grow.” We hope that’s true about our super. We want it to be true about that business venture we’ve backed. It’d be great if it were the case with that song we uploaded to YouTube. Human aspiration normally points up and to the right; growing profit, advancing prestige, increasing power. From little things…. Jesus says his kingdom looks like one of those little things…a mustard seed. It’s easily missed and overlooked, often disregarded or despised. But when you recognise the Kingdom of heaven for what it is and let it invade, take over and transform your life, you will see and experience God do something so great that it will leave you in awe and lead you to worship.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.” Matthew 13:31
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
God takes little things…insignificant things…seemingly worthless things…to accomplish great things. He takes your stammering lips, your faltering prayers, your acts of grace and generosity and your fragile service and by it the kingdom grows. Improbable? Yes!. But mightily. That's his promise.
1. What is something little that has grown in your life in surprising ways?
2. In the last week, where did you catch a glimpse of God’s presence in the world?
3. How has the Church been a place of rest, refuge or nurture for you?
#2 in series Contrast:
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “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?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Ambiguous: having more than one possible interpretation or meaning; difficult to understand or classify; obscure. So much of life is ambiguous - filled with situations where there are no clear or easy answers. Where taking action in one part of life may cause unintended consequences in another. Where what seems right and good may be harmful and foolish. Jesus' parables are so often ambiguous: multi-layered stories that get under our skin; make us think, challenge our beliefs and make us squirm a bit as they create ambiguity in our lives. But maybe that's the point. For the Kingdom of God is so radically different from the world we live in. So today we ponder the ’Parable of the Weeds’ as Jesus gives us a kingdom perspective on how to live and act in the face of the evil and resistance that will surround us in this life.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Matthew 13:24
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
Leave the weed pulling to the expert. God alone knows the thoughts and actions of every single heart, for he made them all. Your calling is to simply be; be who he has created you to be in all situations; pointing others to the Son of God who gives life in all its fullness.
#1 in series: CONTRAST
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred,sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
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.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
It just doesn't make any sense. A farmer turning on the seeder as soon as he gets out of the shed? It's wasteful, haphazard, indiscriminate, ineffective and a surefire way of going out of business quickly. It's a story that leaves you shaking your head. But maybe that's the point. The purpose of contrast is to amplify; it moves the thing you want to show into focus and here the spotlight is well and truly on God and the aim and scope of his kingdom work. For what seems wasteful, inefficient and unprofitable from a worldly perspective reveals a God whose love is indiscriminate, whose grace is extravagant, whose methods ensure no life, no person, no soil is left unsown and whose work produces a harvest that is out of this world. Join us as we discover this God today in the Parable of the Sower.
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. Matthew 13:16
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
In God’s world wastefulness gives way to hope, inefficiency gives way to love, and profitability gives way to generosity. For his heart is expansive, his love is inclusive, his Word is effective and his grace is generative. For the scope and aim of his mission is clear: to sow his life in yours and the lives of all people.
When it comes to gardening are you a green thumb (everything grows) or a brown thumb (everything dies)? Why do you think this is?
What do you think the Parable of the Sower is all about?
In what ways are you nurturing or nourishing the spiritual seed scattered in your life?
#9 and final in series: Courageous Faith
BIBLE READING - Joshua 23:14-16; 24:14-15
14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Remember those multiple choice quizzes at school when you had to choose the right answer from the options given? You couldn’t sit on the fence; to not choose was to make a choice. So when in doubt, choose B right and hope for the best. But life doesn’t work that way – have a guess and hope for the best. Choosing the wrong option can have eternal consequences.
So as Joshua nears the end of his life and looks back over the years and the options on offer, he stakes his life on the God who has kept every promise he has made. Now Joshua says, it’s your time. You can’t sit on the fence. What you choose and cultivate now will make an eternal difference. So who will you serve? Who will you worship? Who will you stake your life on? To whom will you be fully devoted? It’s time to choose….today.
You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled, not one has failed. Joshua 23:15
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
When in doubt or facing a decision, choose C – choose Christ. For Christ is the only sure thing in this world. Only Christ will deliver on all he promises. Only Christ can give you the courage to live fully and boldly in every situation.
FAITH TALK QUESTIONS:
1. When it comes to choosing or making a decision in your life, do you tend to be decisive or indecisive? Why?
2. What’s a really hard choice that you’ve had to make? What happened and what strategies did you use in making that decision?
3. What is one decision you are trying to make now that you are praying will glorify God?
#8 in series 'Courageous Faith' (Book of Joshua)
Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them. If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought. They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”
So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. East of the Jordan (on the other side from Jericho) they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh. Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.
Life goes by at a hectic pace. It is exhausting and after a while you just want to stop, catch your breath and be still and rest for a time. Everyone has that place they love to retreat to for refuge, whether it is the beach, the mountains or even under the covers of your bed. But when many people think of rest, they are looking for refuge in a place that will provide protection and shelter from danger, trouble or unhappiness. God, who is compassionate, merciful and cares for you, gives you that place. So today we will discover a place where you can find rest even before you are weary!
The eternal God is your refuge,and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27a
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
God cares for you! He always has and always will.
When weary and burdened by life, Jesus offers himself as the place where you can find protection, security and refuge.
Only in him will you find eternal rest that gives a courage to live.
But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai,5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.
14 “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”
16 Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen.17 The clans of Judah came forward, and the Zerahites were chosen. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was chosen. 18 Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen.
19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia,[c] two hundred shekels[d] of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels,[e] I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor[f] ever since.
8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
It's a well-known saying: 'To take one's foot off the pedal." It means to not go as hard or put in as much effort, but to slow, down, relax, and cruise for a while.
You see it with sporting teams that have strung together a lot of victories. They became complacent and over-confident, take their foot off the pedal and suffer defeat in games they should have won. The same thing can happen in our spiritual lives. When faced with large battles, it's easy trust in God and his strength but when it comes to the smaller battles, the temptation is to take the foot off the pedal, underestimate the enemy and think 'I've got this one in the bag.' So when you think you have got what it takes, look out. It can be a small little thing that will defeat you. Today we look at Courageous faith when you sin; it's a faith that keeps the foot on the pedal - focused, prayerful and dependent on God in all things.
…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15
REMEMBER THIS WEEK
A sin problem is first and foremost a worship problem.
You can't cling to God if you are holding on to something else. The victory you have today is not enough for tomorrow. So confess your sin, give it up each day and live with a courageous faith in Christ who alone will give you the victory over every obstacle you face, big or small