Christianity 201

September 13, 2017

The Wheat and the Weeds

On the Wednesdays in September, we’re going to look at a few of The Kingdom Parables as interpreted by Charles Price, Minister at Large and former Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto. Some of his takes on these may be just slightly different from what you’ve heard or thought. Find more devotions like this at Living Truth.

The Wheat and the Weeds

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in the field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25

This second parable tells us that if the Son of Man is sowing His seed in the world, an enemy is also sowing his seed in the same field. Jesus explains to His disciples, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil” (Matthew 13:37-39).

Wherever God is at work in this world we can be sure the devil is also at work. His purpose is to counterfeit the work of God, tempting us with something that looks real but is unreal. Within the kingdom of God, the devil will offer an attractive alternative to Jesus Christ, and it is not always easy to distinguish between the real and the counterfeit. This is conveyed by Jesus when the servant asked the owner about the weeds, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” His answer was: “No, because while you are pulling the weeds you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:29-30).

Jesus tells us there is going to be a harvest time at the end of the age, and there will be harvesters, the angels whom Jesus will send to sort the weeds from the wheat. This parable is not about false teaching so much as it is about false Christians, people who present themselves as part of the real thing but are counterfeit. False Christianity will inevitably lead to false teaching, but at the harvest when the fruit is evident, it will be easier to identify and handle. This means we are not to set out on a crusade to purify the church of any false ingredient, because if we attempt to do so, we may disrupt the good.

On the day of separation of the wheat from the weeds, the real from the false, the bad seed will face the prospect of a fiery furnace where all will be lost and destroyed. The good seed, the righteous, will face the prospect of shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:41-43). In the end, the kingdom will be pure, but in the meantime, it is infiltrated with false Christians. Were we to look over a fence to the field where weeds were growing among the wheat, we would not be impressed. This is the picture of the kingdom of heaven as the world perceives it.

PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for these parables that teach us the importance of being genuine in our Christian faith, so that at harvest time we will be among the wheat.

 

September 6, 2017

Sown Into The World

On the Wednesdays in September, we’re going to look at a few of the parables as interpreted by Charles Price, Minister at Large and former Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto. Some of his takes on these may be just slightly different from what you’ve heard. Find more devotions like this at Living Truth.

Sown Into The World

“Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:8

The Shallow Seed: This seed is sown along the path and the birds come and snatch it away. This is the person who hears the Word of God but does not digest it, understand it or appropriate it. He or she is vulnerable to losing it all as “the evil one snatches away what was sown in their heart.” Truth has to be combined with faith in order to become experience, but this seed has never taken truth into the realm of experience. This person is shallow and their being planted in the world comes to nothing.

The Superficial Seed: This seed is sown among rocks and is the person who hears the Word of God and 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. In the right atmosphere they can coast along, but will blow with the prevailing wind. This person is superficial and their planting in the world comes to nothing.

The Secular Seed: This seed is sown among thorns that choke the plants. This is the person who hears the Word of God and starts off well, but “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” He or she has never been weaned from secular world views. They are deceived by wealth and seduced by worldly things. This person is secular and their planting in the world also comes to nothing.

The Successful Seed: This is the seed sown on good soil and is the person who “produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Like the first seed, they hear the Word of God, like the second seed, get excited by it, and like the third seed, live in a secular world subject to all its temptations, but their roots are deep. They survive and are successful. Their planting in the world accomplishes its purpose.

The intention of this parable is not to show how some people respond to the Word of God and are converted while others are not, but it is to show how the kingdom of God is to be advanced. Each of us who belongs to Jesus Christ is planted by Him for the purpose of producing fruit. If we were to look over the fence to the fields in the first, second and third planting of seed, we would not be impressed. This is a true picture of the church of Christ, the physical manifestation of the kingdom on earth as seen from the vantage point of those yet outside of the kingdom.

PRAYER: : Dear Lord, I pray that I not only retain, digest and understand Your word, but that it grows and flourishes in me so that I may be used in producing fruit for You.

June 10, 2013

The Fruit of Ministry: Lives Changed and Growing in Christ

Col 1 : 10( NIV)  …live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

Balanced Christian LifeOne of the frustrations of online ministry is you don’t always get a lot of feedback; neither do you see the people who are being influenced by what is posted each day. Statistics report that several hundred people land here each day, but I have no idea if the readings are helpful; if they like the videos; if they enjoyed checking out a particular writer’s website.

It’s also possible that many readers find a website which especially resonates with them and end up making that their daily habit instead of this. Of course, that result was built into the design of this page. There is so much Christian writing available; some of it relates more to intellectuals than those less educated; some to women more than men; some to people of certain denominational persuasions more than others.

I was reminded today of this passage in I Corinthians 3:

…4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it…

(continue reading full chapter in the NLT)

Matthew Henry writes:

…Both [people, i.e. Paul and Apollos] were useful, one for one purpose, the other for another. Note, God makes use of variety of instruments, and fits them to their several uses and intentions. Paul was fitted for planting work, and Apollos for watering work, but God gave the increase. Note, The success of the ministry must be derived from the divine blessing: Neither he that plants is any thing, nor he that waters, but God who gives the increase, 1 Cor. 3:7. Even apostolic ministers are nothing of themselves, can do nothing with efficacy and success unless God give the increase. Note, The best qualified and most faithful ministers have a just sense of their own insufficiency, and are very desirous that God should have all the glory of their success. Paul and Apollos are nothing at all in their own account, but God is all in all…

We know a lot about Paul, but when we connect the dots of scripture, we actually know a lot about Apollos as well.  ChristianAnswers.net tells us:

This is the name of a Jew “born at Alexandria,” a man well versed in the Scriptures and eloquent (Acts 18:24). He came to Ephesus (about A.D. 49), where he spoke “boldly” in the synagogue (18:26), although he did not know as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Aquila and Priscilla instructed in “the way of God”, i.e., in the knowledge of Christ. He then proceeded to Corinth, where he met Paul (Acts 18:27; 19:1). He was very useful there in watering the good seed Paul had sown (1 Cor. 1:12), and bringing many to Christ. His disciples were very attached to him (1 Cor. 3:4-7, 22). He was with Paul at Ephesus when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians; and Paul makes kind reference to him in his letter to Titus (3:13).  (Scripture reference links are KJV.)

One of our former pastors would constantly say, “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” In today’s world, it also takes all types of websites, blogs and forums to reach out to an internet-wired world. But as I write this, I long to hear reports of the fruit of this ministry in the lives of readers.

I believe strongly that while we all may be instrumental in the discipleship process of people in our sphere of influence, we should also be know the joys of being reapers of the fruit of ministry. We should all experience Paul-Timothy mentoring relationships. We should all know what it means to reproduce ourselves in the lives of others and even the next generation.

Furthermore, we see Jesus’ attitude toward fruit-bearing ministry in Matthew 21’s story of the fig tree:

18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. (NLT)

Ask yourself: Are my efforts for the Kingdom of God bearing fruit, or just putting out leaves?

~PW


Practical Christian Living: Here’s a tip some of you might want to consider or even need to consider. My 21-year old son was convinced he was spending too much time watching videos on YouTube. So he simply uninstalled Flash player in his computer.

In Matthew 5:29 we read Jesus words:

29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (NIV)

but Jesus apparently repeated these words, as Matthew records them again at 18:9

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. (NASB)

To which we might add the following paraphrase:

If part of your computer causes you to waste time; disable it…

May 18, 2012

What God Wants To Know — Is You

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. NIV 2011


Matthew 25:31-33“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

41-43“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

46“Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”31-33“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.The Message Translation


Luke 13:22 Jesus was teaching in every town and village as he traveled toward Jerusalem. 23Someone said to Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Jesus said, 24 “Try hard to enter through the narrow door, because many people will try to enter there, but they will not be able.25 When the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you can stand outside and knock on the door and say, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’26 Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in the streets of our town.’27 But he will say to you, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Go away from me, all you who do evil!’28 You will cry and grind your teeth with pain when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s kingdom, but you yourselves thrown outside.29 People will come from the east, west, north, and south and will sit down at the table in the kingdom of God. 30 There are those who are last now who will be first in the future. And there are those who are first now who will be last in the future.”The Message Translation


These are the “depart from me” passages as rendered in the KJV, presented here in more modern translations.  In the first, Jesus is saying that it’s not enough to hear His words, but to do what they say. In the second, He clarifies that doing such things may take unexpected forms, and that when we do good works that benefit other people here on this earth, we’re doing His work and doing it as though we were doing it directly to Him. In the third, busy-ness about so-called Kingdom business does not necessarily equate truly knowing Him.

This is what matters.

Nicolle Cottrell has written the following piece, 14 Questions God Will Never Ask You, which appeared at ChurchLeaders.com   Copy and paste this section that follows and send it to that someone in your email contacts that God shows you might need this…

God will not ask you…

If you read Blue Like Jazz or Desiring God

If you voted for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney

If you referred to yourself as “missional,” “emergent,” “intentional,” or “purpose driven.”

God will not ask you…

If you were a supporter of gay-marriage or an opponent of gay-marriage

If you homeschooled your children or chose public or private school

If you preferred an open theist approach or a classical theist approach

God will not ask you…

If you were a Mark Driscoll fan, Rob Bell fan, Brian McLaren fan, or John Piper fan

If you subscribe to a belief in Evolution, Evolutionary Creation, Intelligent Design, or Creationism

If you were a registered Democrat or a registered Republican

No, chances are God will not ask you any of those questions when you are standing before Him. Instead, He will have another set of questions. Most likely, He will ask you something else…

He will ask you…

Do you love Me?

Do you know me?

Did you serve Me?

Did you clothe those who were naked?

Did you feed those who were hungry?

Did you take care of the orphan and the widow?

Did you love the unlovely?

He will ask you…

Did you bless those who cursed you?

Did you resist repaying evil with evil?

Did you make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Did you take up your cross and follow Christ daily?

Did you lay down your life for your brethren?

Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind?

Did you love others more than yourself?

~Nicolle Cottrell

April 25, 2012

The Man I Don’t Want To Be

Many times at Thinking Out Loud, I pick up on news stories that are making the rounds and try to offer some fresh exposure or a fresh take on what is happening. I enjoy playing journalist, and I think it is significant that here at WordPress, when you’ve finished writing something, you click a button that says “publish.” It certainly gives me a sense of self-importance.

But I really haven’t come that far from when, 30 years ago, I was writing for CCM, a Christian music magazine based at the time south of Los Angeles.  My final column gave my reason for quitting, “While it’s one thing to write the news, it’s a far better thing to make the news.”

Today, I would have qualified that sentence a little better!

The Christian internet is full of people with ideas to share, but I’m reminded of this verse in James:

NLT James 1:22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

The context is sin and obedience and the transformative power of God’s Word, but the application is still valid: We’re to be evaluated not on the basis of intention, doctrinal conviction or knowledge, but on what we actually do.

I just bought my wife an old Dilbert book titled, This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value.  Sometimes in my blogs I tell readers I want comments where they are truly adding value to the discussion, not just saying, “Thanks, I really enjoyed that.” (Though some days I really need that encouragement, too.)

But ultimately, we don’t add value to God’s kingdom by just blogging, or just preaching, or just getting doctoral degrees in theology or divinity. We contribute more with our hands and our feet than with our mouths or our computer keyboards.

Here in North America, we face an economic crisis because nobody makes anything anymore. We ship out our raw resources, but our consumer and industrial products tend to come from somewhere else, often involving other countries shipping those same resources back to us. Our gross domestic product consists of trading and exporting knowledge and technological expertise, when the greatest needs in the world continue to be food, clothing and shelter.  (And medicine, transportation and security.)

I have to ask myself,

  • What am I adding to God’s Kingdom?  Am I producing fruit?

Note: They were a decidedly non-industrial community when the Bible was written, so fruit may not the metaphor of choice today, but the problem is I can’t think of a better one.

Another thing that occurs to me reading the Christian blogosphere for the past five or six years is that there isn’t a lot of the love of God evident. There are breakthrough days to be sure, like the day Jon Acuff’s blog, Stuff Christian Like raised $60,000 in 24-hours to build two kindergarten classrooms inVietnam. Why is what Jon did so rare?

Also, there are times an interaction in the comments section really touches your heart.  But mostly there just a lot of opinion flying back and forth, some of it quite heated.  If our key pastors and leaders were to be evaluated on the basis of their blogs by people outside the faith, what type of character could they infer from our discussions?

MSG I Cor 13:1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

I’m not saying that Christian writers and bloggers aren’t loving people. I just don’t see a lot of context online to demonstrate the love of God and the outworking of grace. Our web-surfing should take us to places where what we read brings tears as we read it. The stories should stir us. The information should mobilize us.

I have to ask myself:

  • Do people see in my writing a reflection of the God’s grace and love?

Finally, all this writing online has produced some superstars, though some are just known for writing.  We all like to read our stats, and there’s even a Top 200 list that’s crammed full of more stats than you knew were being tabulated.  There’s a human cry to be recognized, to be known, to be honored; and though we try to deny it, we all want just a tiny bit more attention than we’re currently getting.

CEB: Phil. 2:3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.

I’ve quoted this before: “There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.” 

I have to ask myself:

  • When someone says they want my help with some ministry project, do I envision myself serving at the front of the room or at the back of the room?

Summary conclusions:

  • Less talk, more genuine actions
  • Fewer opinions, more love
  • Reduced self-promotion, more humility

~PW

Read more on this topic at Chasing After Words

NLT = New Living, MSG = The Message, CEB = Common English Bible

February 19, 2012

Church Year in Review

The church annual business meeting is a both longstanding tradition, and requirement

Over the next few weeks, several churches in my part of the world are holding their annual meeting.  Though required by law, it’s also a good opportunity for churches to step back and see the ‘big picture’ of church life, consider what God is doing through their efforts, thank God for His provision and look forward to the future.

The danger of course is to reduce meetings like this to statistics; to pie-chart and bar-graph church life to extremes. I doubt the first century church did this kind of record-keeping, and the Apostle Paul — who had a great mind when it came to understanding justification and atonement — was somewhat fuzzy on if or when he had baptized people.

Ohio pastor Paul Clark at the blog Vision Meets Reality doesn’t post very often, but back in December he linked to his church’s annual report which begins with 13 measures of a healthy church:

1. People are coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Our missions program is expanding locally, nationally and globally.
3. People are making public professions of faith through baptism.
4. Attendance in worship services is increasing.
5. The worship experience is vibrant, enthusiastic and intergenerational.
6. There is broad participation in serving throughout the ministries.
7. New ministries are beginning as God imparts vision.
8. Guests are being connected to church life.
9. Covenant membership is increasing.
10. Our budgetary needs are being met.
11. Leaders are being developed and placed in ministry roles.
12. Scripture is central to our message.
13. Staff relationships are healthy.

That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of; though I think the eleven hour round trip would take its toll after a few Sundays. Although he pastors a larger church, I believe these goals are viable at some level for churches of all shapes and sizes.

What else does a healthy church look like?  Here’s how The Message translates two familiar passages:

Acts 2:38-39Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”

 40He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”

 41-42That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

 43-45Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

 46-47They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Acts 4:31While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence.

 32-33The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

 34-35And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.