[re-truh greyd] (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)
[re-truh greyd] (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 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 13:31-33, ESV
These are perhaps the three most potent verses in the entire Bible. And whenever you find “potency” you will find a strong possibility of exponential growth. It may be a steady synergy, or an explosive fission. Either way, it’s going to grow!
Both the seed and the yeast have so much in common. They are two sides of the same proverbial coin. And they represent explosive growth. If they are unleashed, watch out! They are both “pep and power” and now set loose they will take off.
The seed is put in the ground and the yeast in the flour. And the farmer and the baker both do their initial work of planting or kneading, and then they just stand back, their work is pretty much done. They now just let “nature” take its course.
These parables Jesus taught here are small— but hardly less significant because of their brevity. These two can bury you with all they imply and mean. When we think clearly about yeast in your cupboard and that single seed in its package, we should see the “life” that resides in them, and the potential that waits.
I think much about the Church. At times, I admit I get frustrated with it. I get judgmental, and fearful that it won’t survive into the next century. I truly understand that I can be critical. At times my friends must deal with my “ugliness,” but still they put up with me. (They are true friends.)
The kingdom is growing, and advancing. I love the wonderful promise in Isaiah 9:6, (usually read at Christmas time only. A mistake.) But Isaiah 9:7 is also pretty amazing too,
“His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!”
Let it grow, let it grow!
All quotes are from A.W. Tozer
“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”
Matthew 26:75, NLT
Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.
“A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend. Peter is known for:
Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature effecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.
Out of our own confusion, we realize that we deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. A denial has different intensities and different situations. And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.
We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior. Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.
Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”
1 Peter 5:2, NIV
The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so much of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90 foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, that all would fall down and worship.
There are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty; but that doesn’t deter the three. Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.
They are resolute. The first, second and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There was no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God. Dan. 3:16-18:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The king is enraged. Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before. Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (v.v. 24-25).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little. They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.
Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)
The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.
We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.
“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.“
Rev. 3:1o-11, NLT
The crown you wear is vulnerable. Sorry. But the truth is that the crown we wear can be snatched, and taken away from us. The dark enemy would love to lift it up, and the hoards of evil would rejoice over their victory in a dark demonstration of their power over you.
Jesus has issued a command. His instruction communicates to us an awareness of what evil is about to do. He tells us that there is a testing, and that there is the need for endurance. We can so easily be led into darkness, and the enemy is pressing us with all his might.
Our crowns can be taken. They will not be returned, at least not without issues. Evil will come from this failure to keep watch. Our spiritual life has been harmed and weakened. Our crown becomes Satan’s trophy, and he gloats as shows off his collection. We will become destitute of spirit, and our life starts to reflect the darkness. Evil repeatedly does this, and we should realize that this. We cannot give in to this intimidation.
Remember, the crown the Holy Spirit gave you is extremely important. It has a significance. We look at our crown, and we can draw conclusions. First He has given us an authority, and a place in his kingdom which is secure. He meets our needs as we work out the kingdom in this world. He works hard to turn us into a ‘marvel’ of grace. We are royalty; princes and princesses of the High King. We serve Him alone.
My dear brother or sister, you wear a crown that sets you apart. Wear it, with a spiritual awareness that you are special. You are of a kingly lineage. Rub shoulders with all that is good. Become a companion of all those who are friendly to the truth. Walk humbly, yet boldly. You must hold on to everything that belongs to you.
The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is painful. It ranks as one of the saddest tales in Biblical history, and reading it through again only frustrates me. Have you ever seen a piece of fraying cloth. Threads have worked loose and the edges no longer hold together. The mid section maybe fine, but hem is coming apart. The issue is one of integrity.
That is what I think the judge Samson was like. Incredibly gifted, but irrevocably flawed, he was ordained to be a deliverer. Think of him as a “freedom fighter,” called and equipped to set his people free. He was a man of intense contrasts:
You might say he could never conquer himself. Forbidden things became permissible. He never could really say the most important word– No! Lust drove him as often as the Spirit of God did. Samson became a tragic figure in the history of Israel, known more for his failures than his victories.
“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20, NIV).
This is perhaps the most tragic verse in Scripture. Samson had compromised to the point of being released from his gift. His attitude was that it would always be there for him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They would gouge out his eyes, and chain him to a millstone to grind out grain.
Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:32 Samson is mentioned as an example of faith. But how much pain was afflicted on him, and how more brightly would’ve been if he would’ve learned to resist his appetites.
I have a tendency to fray at the edges myself, leaving me with an unsettled feeling. The hems don’t always hold. They come apart. The story of Samson reminds me of my need to watch myself closely. The lesson is loud and clear. Perhaps there is a Samson in everyone of us.