How Things Happen

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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! 

*

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

God’s Gift to the Broken Ones: Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, 
      for the LORD has anointed me 
      to bring good news to the poor. 
   He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted 
      and to proclaim that captives will be released 
      and prisoners will be freed.
 2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn 
      that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,
      and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 
 3 To all who mourn in Israel,
      he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, 
   a joyous blessing instead of mourning, 
      festive praise instead of despair. 
   In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks 
      that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”

Isaiah 61:13, NLT

Jesus is presently speaking. Isaiah the prophet, has developed an understanding of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would read from this scroll, and publicly announce that it is speaking exclusively of Himself. He owns it. The kings of Israel had been anointed, and Jesus now wears this anointing. He is the son of David. He is the real King.

There is a unique presence, that has saturated Jesus’ ministry. He is as full of the Spirit as you could possibly get. Jesus has been immersed and soaked in the Spirit. When you touch Him, He spills God all over you.

These verses in Isaiah 61, funnel His presence unto the most unfortunate. There is the poor, the brokenhearted and the prisoner that benefit from His work. The margins of society are suddenly electrified by His presence. He simply lights up those who have been passed over.

These sweet verses in Isaiah 61 carry a gentleness and kindness, to the extent we aren’t used to. But they also carry exceptional authority. The “Isaiah Jesus” declares freedom. A new kingdom has just arrived. An emphasis on “the mourners” here in v.v. 2 —3 gives us a sense of direction. Mourners are sad, they weep over what could have been. All they can really see is a painful loss.

Jesus’ work is “zeroed” into these dear ones who are full of sadness. His work among men will gravitate to these who are in anguish and despairing. But He speaks of a healing or a restoration. Grace has now come, and something quite significant and alive is available. Healing, focused on the “inside” is now actively working us to a wholeness.

There is something more. There is not just a negation of the bad, but a terrific step to what is quite good. His new kingdom has been honed down to work in our confused hearts. This kingdom now enables us to wear crowns. And to be joyous in the middle of sadness.

He really wants us, to exchange our gritty ashes, for beauty. The idea here is elegance, and gracefulness and goodness. He insists on completely removing the darkness and the nastiness. He very much intends for us to become best friends with goodness and kindness.

In verse 3, we are given an understanding of oak trees now planted in good places. We exist now for people to be directed to God’s glory and honor. That dear one, is a great description of us being redeemed ones. We are oaks who declare God’s goodness and healing.

Good Hygiene

 

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”Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,”

Isaiah 1:16, ESV

 ”Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

A Christian’s life should never be boring or mundane. For us who are disabled we are challenged in ways that others will never understand. As if normal life wasn’t enough, we’ve got issues that exceed the norms. Perhaps the most basic are areas of hygiene and cleanliness. I once went without a shower for five weeks when I was clinically depressed. (Somehow letting water pelt me seemed too violent of an ordeal.)

We are responsible for not only physical cleanliness but of a mental or an emotional one as well. I think we’d all agree on the essential need to maintain a certain level of physical health, but what can I do to stay mentally together? Are there standards there as well?

A soap dish can keep our hands clean after using the bathroom, but what of our hearts? It would seem to me that certain levels of being truly healthy apply to not just clean handsHygiene-Health but a healthy soul as well. Isaiah spoke to his generation and declared they needed a spiritual bath. The people needed to become clean again. ”Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;”

This is a path of a ‘holy hygiene’ that we are all on. We are each responsible for keeping our hearts clean before the Lord. One of the principles of being  spiritual hygienic is that of separation from things that contaminate or defile. We are to be a distinct people. This is challenging.

Holiness is often misunderstood. It’s rare to find a believer who has something other than a legalistic idea of what it means to be holy. (This is a grievous thing.) We should be holy and loving at the same time. “A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself” (A.W. Tozer). It seems that holiness, like hygiene is not ever attained, but only maintained.

“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,”

2 Corinthians 6:17

Staying clean and becoming clean should be a realistic pursuit for the broken believer. We are to be sanitary people that can touch others without contaminating them with our personal sin. You were meant to instill holiness to others for God’s glory. The Holy Spirit can do this.

“Let it be your business every day, in the secrecy of the inner chamber, to meet the holy God. You will be repaid for the trouble it may cost you. The reward will be sure and rich.”

Andrew Murray

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Chosen People of Faith

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Shepherd of Hermes, (catacombs c. 160)

The Shepherd of Hermas, written c.125 AD, repeatedly declares that the Church has always existed, since the beginning of creation. The Old Testament believers are joined by those in the New Testament Christians in one single community of faith. Paul asserts that this faith unites us with each other; that we all have a common calling. (Hebrews 11.)

It seems you share a familiar bond, perhaps closer than you think, with Abraham, Noah or Isaiah. All of the OT saints are welded to us as we walk out our faith in Jesus. Personally I find that comforting.

God has always had a people who have been “chosen.” As a broken believer I will take all the godly encouragement I can. We are pulled in so many different directions; it’s hard sometimes to cope. Knowing I walk in an “unbroken line” of the faithful gives me “vim and vigor.”

I can now more deeply relate to guys like Joseph, who faithfully followed God from slave-to-prince. Or the three Hebrew children who walked around in the fiery furnace. By faith we possess the same hope as they did, we have the same God and Father. I believe it wouldn’t be off-base to call them family.

The nuances become clearer as we reflect on our mental illnesses. Noah built an ark. I’m constructing a sane mind. He went through the jeering abuse from his neighbors. I have to decide to get out of bed. All must be done through faith. Faith in God unites us. Faith is that which gives us “a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7.) Faith in God connects me with Noah.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.”

Hebrews 11:1-2, NLT

Hebrews 11 connects our faith with theirs. It even hints that our own faith enhances their own.

“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”

Hebrews 11:39-40

I didn’t mean to dump a load of “dry theology” on you. But I suspect that there could be healing for us if we venture to take it up. Good theology can be like good hygiene, if you don’t have it you will notice. (So will your friends.) I have come to see that the things we believe, affect us in significant and profound ways.

Your 21st century struggle of faith is as significant as David’s own battle with Goliath. It’s something to consider anyway. Read Hebrews 11.

“Faith makes all things possible… love makes all things easy.” 

D.L. Moody

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