More Than Seedlings – Part 1: Making a Difference by Being Different

“…The kingdom of God is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field…” Matthew 13:31

Christ used this illustration as part of a series of parables where He was communicating the nature of the kingdom of God. He offered this comparison right before He gave his parable about the wheat and tares.

wheatandtares

I’m no farmer. In fact, when I was a kid my mom tried to get me to help her weed her garden, but I couldn’t tell the good stuff from the bad stuff. Worse, I often trampled the good stuff. One day it got so bad my mom finally lost her patience and said: “Glenn! Glenn! get out of here. You’re killing everything!” Then she made my brothers help her. (Hahaha! Win-win for me!) Anyway, if I were a farm hand on a place that grew wheat, there’s no way I could tell the difference between the wheat (pictured above on the left), or the tares (shown on the right). That’s the point that the Lord was making, too. In the parable it was probably experienced farm hands asking their lord if they should pull up the tares and the lord said, “No,” because not even the pros can always tell, and even if they could they’d run the risk of uprooting the wheat in the process. The lord instructed them to wait until both the wheat and the tares reached maturity.

Did you know that tares can grow everywhere that wheat can? It’s kind of like hypocrites can show up in the same churches as godly people. It’s practically unavoidable. Did you also know that you can create flour out of tares just like you can wheat and make things like bread out of it? The only problem is that bread made of tares can kill you. Hypocrisy is the same way.

Christians and hypocrites seem a lot alike because they do a lot of the same things: They go to church; they sing in the choir; they go on visitation. The only difference between the godly and the hypocrites is why they do what they do. Hypocrites do what they do to be seen of men (Matthew 6:2). The godly do what they do for the glory of God.

The point the Lord is making here is that it is not our call to decide who’s a hypocrite and who is not because we’re likely to get it all wrong and uproot good people. The only way to really tell is by what they become as they mature.

When tares (also known as darnel) becomes mature, the head of the grain turns black. When wheat matures, it turns a golden brown. (Ever hear of “amber waves of grain?”) Once that happens, the difference between the two becomes really clear.

So what does all of this have to do with that mustard seed illustration? Simply this: It’s not about staying a seed; it’s about maturing into what God intends you to be. When Christ shared that mustard seed illustration His focus wasn’t really on how small the seed is. It was on what it becomes. That’s how God always sees us: He sees us for what we can become in Christ.

So what’s the take away? God wants us to be maturing Christians. We’ll never be fully complete in this life, but we should always be maturing toward greater and greater Christ-likeness so even an amateur can see the difference between us and everyone else!

Acts on Prayer — Praying Through the Pain

Acts 20:36-38

(36)  And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
(37)  And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,
(38)  Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

I like football. Anyone who knows me, knows I like football. (American football, that is.) It’s the only sport I watch with any kind of regularity. I enjoy the strategy, the athleticism, and the plain old excitement of the game. When you watch a game, it’s not uncommon to hear a commentator say that one or more of the players is playing with an injury. They call it “playing through the pain.” I admire that because I am not sure if I would have the same grit or determination. But you know something? As admirable as it is to play through a game when you’re hurt, life is tougher than football. Continue reading

Acts on Prayer – Prayer in the First Person

Acts 19:13-17

(13)  Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
(14)  And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
(15)  And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
(16)  And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.(17)  And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

While this is not specifically a prayer passage, what we see here is mock prayer, prayer in which someone is just going through the motions in hopes of getting some sort of answer. We’re quick to criticize these men for doing something so foolish, but how often do we do exactly the same thing when we pray before a meal, or pray for a need? How often do we just “go through the motions?” Prayer can’t be half-hearted. It must come as the outgrowth of a personal relationship with God. It must be first person. Continue reading

Acts on Prayer – Does Your Real Life Back up Your Prayer Life?

Acts 16:25-26

(25)  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

(26)  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for practicing their faith. In the verses before, Luke records how Paul, in the name of Christ, cast a demon out of a young slave girl. This girl had “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (16:16). When Paul cast her demon out “her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone,” and they had Paul and Silas arrested.

During the brief “trial” that followed, Paul’s accusers said that the apostle was teaching unlawful customs that were potentially harmful to the Roman Empire. Funny, they never mentioned how Paul had run them out of business and that’s why they were upset.

Unfortunately for Paul and Silas, their accusers had home field advantage, and the multitude, rather than digging into the real facts of the case, believed the hype instead. Riding on that wave of popular opinion, the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.

In response, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise to God. They prayed and they praised! It’s important to note that their songs weren’t songs that pined away over their predicament. They were songs that glorified God and the other prisoners heard it (16:25).

As hard as it may be to do, we need to be in the habit of counting it all joy when we fall into manifold trials (James 1:12). Why? Because the world is watching. They need to see what a difference Christ makes. We also need to be of that mindset so that we can maintain an attitude of prayer (instead of despair) when trials come into our lives.

1 Peter 4:19 “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

Paul and Silas could pray and sing because they knew their lives were in God’s hands. Their job was to continue serving Him wherever He put them. If that was in prison, then so be it. So often we allow our circumstances to dictate our actions and attitudes. We especially let it affect our prayers. “Oh, I can’t pray now, I’m too depressed, or too discouraged, or too….” It’s exactly those times we should praying!

Now the miracle that followed was the earthquake God brought to free Paul and Silas, but equally miraculous was the fact that none of the prisoners left (16:28). Had that happened the jailer would have had to pay with his life and it would not have been a pleasant death. It’s why he opted for suicide over the much more slow and painful state-imposed death penalty (16:27).

But really the greatest miracle was the response of the jailer after the earthquake and the almost-prison-break: “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

We can tell the world about Christ all day long – and we should – but what the world really needs to see is lives lived all out for God so that they see the words really mean something. Why do you think God sends us and not angels to spread the Gospel? Because people need to see that this is really life changing!

You know who else needs to see our words of faith lived out in our lives? God. Do you think just anyone could have prayed and sang praises to God and gotten those kinds of results? No. It was men who were completely sold on God who got those results, men whose lives backed up what they professed.

So, we need to ask ourselves: does my real life back up my prayer life?

Acts on Prayer – Super Powers

Luke 10:19 “Behold, I give unto you power…over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

Christians are powerless because they fail to claim what they already have in Christ. This is either through neglect, ignorance, or unbelief. Paul had no such hesitations because he was completely “sold” on God. The fact is, we have no excuse to be just like Paul. Continue reading

Acts on Prayer – The Macedonian Call

Acts 16:7-9

(7)  After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

(8)  And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

(9)  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

While this is commonly known as the Macedonian call, it didn’t happen without some Macedonians praying. It’s how missionaries get to the mission field:

Matthew 9:38 “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” Continue reading

Acts on Prayer – And Fasting

I have to admit, praying I can do. Fasting is a difficulty for me. So this post was a difficult one to put up. But in Scripture fasting and prayer go hand in hand. Those who did it, did not always fast and pray. It was usually reserved for times when real guidance was needed. In the book of Acts there are at least three occasions when fasting and prayer are specifically mentioned: Continue reading

Acts on Prayer – Have a Crisis? If You Have God, Problem Solved!

Acts 12:1-3

(1)  Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

(2)  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

(3) And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

Peter was on death row for his faith. Because he was imprisoned during the Passover (the time of unleavened bread), his execution was not immediate, but as far as Herod (Agrippa) was concerned, it was certain. In response to the crisis, the church held an all-night vigil, burned candles, and alerted the media in order to raise awareness of Peter’s plight. Oh, and thankfully, they had their lawyers on speed dial. (They has Sprinticus.) No. That likely would have been our response today, but for Peter “…prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). Continue reading