His Mission, Our Mission

Read 
Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23 
“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.” Verse 19 (NIV) 

Reflect 
The title of this devotional should be creating some memory cells to be firing in some of your minds. For many years this was the vision statement of our denomination: His Mission, Our Mission. It was a call to be like Jesus and to serve like Jesus in the task of bringing the Good News to our world. 

This parable is very well known. Jesus tells the story of a farmer spreading seed – good seed at the time of planting. The good seed falls on a variety of soils: fertile soil, rocky soil, pathway soil and weedy soil. 

Though Jesus explains this parable to his disciples, we still wonder about many things. What exactly does it look like when the seed falls on good soil and produces a crop, “yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”? We really want to know if we are the good soil, producing the bountiful harvest Jesus describes. Are we good enough to produce 100-fold or just 30fold?  

Throughout his ministry Jesus gives many clues on what a life that produces a significant harvest might look like, but we can also consider the mission Jesus claims in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” 

What we need to concern ourselves with is not how large the harvest is but rather that we are called to be like Jesus; his mission is our mission. And the Holy Spirit has been given to us, so we are called to go out and do the same. 

Pray 
Jesus, thank you for your Word! Thank you for your Spirit! I pray that my life will produce an abundant harvest for you, and that I may serve in your name. Amen. 

But Not Them

Read 
Matthew 13:10-17 
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” Verse 11 (NIV) 

Reflect 
I remember well spending extra evenings at language school trying to figure out some of our lessons. Naomi caught on right away, but Kiswahili was going to take some time to sink into my brain. When we got to Nygezi, Tanzania, where we would work and live, the constant exposure to the language finally made the lessons from school understandableEven though I became quite comfortable conversing in Kiswahili, I realized in a short time that I would not be able to preach in Kiswahili because Biblical terminology  (things like sin, righteousness, grace, redemption, etc.) was not part of everyday conversational speech and the flow of a sermon was completely different than having a conversation. 

Our verse for today is stated in a slightly different way in the gospel of Mark. In Mark 4:11, Jesus states, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.” 

Jesus called his disciples, and they followed along with him as their teacher. They were willing to spend time with him and learn from him constantly. In fact, they spent all their time with him, and eventually they learned and began to understand his purposes. They knew what it meant to live continuously in his presence. 

To those who are willing to live fully in his kingdom, Jesus gives the secrets of the kingdom. But all who are not willing to turn to Jesus, and to ask and learn why he has come, will stand at the edge of the kingdom, unable to understand the nuances, the mysteries, the fulness of love that flows from the Father in heaven. 

Do you need to press further in? Do you need to spend more time listening to the whispers that Jesus speaks to your heart? He wants us to turn to him and be forgiven, and to have life to the full! This is the only condition for life in his kingdom. 

Pray 
Lord Jesus, help me to press into you and immerse myself in the full life of your kingdom. In your name, Amen.

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness 

Read
Matthew 5:1-12    Ps. 119:2 – Blessed are those who keep [the Lord’s] statutes and seek him with all their heart. 

Reflect 

There are many examples of people who lived and walked by faith in God’s word. Moses was a man, that in time, listened to God and walked by faith. Joshua was noted for his courage and obedience.  The author of Psalm 119 clearly provides a portrait of someone with a passion for God’s word.

The psalmist treasured God’s words in his heart. He sought the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength to apply God’s commands to his life. He does this despite the many challenges he faces, including some intense opposition of his enemies. But as the psalmist himself also admits, he is not perfect; he must continue to dedicate his life to seeking God in his Word and striving to live according to God’s righteousness.

Jesus—God’s Word in the flesh—uses language similar to the psalmist to commend people who want to follow God’s way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Although we don’t know who wrote Psalm 119 or how his life turned out, Jesus’ words of blessing assure us that the psalmist’s striving to please God was not in vain. As Jesus promises, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness “will be filled.”

How about us? How about you? Are we, like the psalmist, hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness? If we are, God will satisfy us.

Pray 

Lord fill me with passion to be a follower who will faithfully seek your righteousness; help me to seek you with all my heart. Amen.

God Have Mercy on Me

Read 
Luke 18:9-14 NIV
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Reflect 
Very often when performing a funeral of someone I do not know, a friend or relative begins to tell me all the good things the person had done. I hear about all the good organizations they belonged to and what good the organizations had done. 

I think most of us want to think we are pretty good citizens of the earth and that God likes us.But then I look at what it takes to please a perfect God. I know that not only my actions, but my thoughts have to be right all the time. I think about times when I could have done good things but didn’t get around to doing them, and I just shake my head. How could God like me when I have messed up so many times and in so many ways?

Jesus told a parable about someone who was confident in his own righteousness, and who was apparently a pretty good guy. He had done all the right things according to his position in life and perhaps even beyond. From an observational standpoint this guy had done it all right.  Strangely enough that’s not the person Jesus commended. Instead, he commended the person who said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

That’s the person I want to be, and that’s actually the person I am. I am a sinner. I realize this, and I throw myself on the mercy of God. I trust and believe that he has declared me to be righteous through the life and death of Jesus, and that’s all I need. I am blessed to stand right with God, humbled and exalted.

Pray
Thank you Jesus for your incredible gift of forgiveness. God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.

Prepare

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
 make straight paths for him.'”
– Matthew 3:3-6 (NIV)

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Reflect
God gave John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord’s first coming by preaching that people should “make straight paths for him.”

Prior to the late 90s the roads in Mwanza, Tanzania, even in the city, were all dirt or gravel. There was no asphalt to be found. Then one day in 1990 the road from the airport and coming into town was being paved. Asphalt eventually covered the road all the way to the Catholic Cathedral in the city. Shortly afterwards I learned that the Pope was coming to Mwanza. The city was preparing for the coming of the Pope.

Prepare is still an important message for us today. We prepare ourselves for Christ’s reign in our hearts and for seeing him at his second coming by believing his Word. We focus each and every day on Christ and are filled with the peace that he paid for our sins. God gave John the role in the first century. From the time that Jesus died and rose again he has called his followers to be the ones to prepare the way for his second and final coming when he comes to rule and reign forever more.

When people came out to hear John’s message, they were moved to confess their sins and they were baptized. The baptisms that John performed were “for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). The Bible says, “Be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Christians can look back on their baptisms and be assured that God has washed away their sins. If you have not been baptised it is a great milestone in your Christian life and a reminder of God’s promise to forgive you and bring you into His family.

Pray
Lord God, thank you for giving us your Son. Preserve us as loved ones of your family and help us prepare our hearts every day for you to live there and bless us. Amen.

Knocked Down for the Sake of Being Raised Up

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10 (NIV)

Reflect
I don’t know anyone who wants to be persecuted. James says we should consider it all joy when we face trials and persecution (James 1:2-3). But James is looking past the actual persecution to the positive and good results that can be gained from such encounters. Perhaps that is the key to understanding the text today. As a matter of fact, that concept makes the idea of looking positively upon persecution as a real possibility. Getting knocked down so that I can be raised up to be a better follower of Jesus may not be desirable, but it may be something that brings glory to God and others to Jesus.

As we approach Good Friday we remember that Jesus the perfectly righteous One, suffered more than anyone. The Old Testament prophets foretold of his suffering and called him the Suffering Servant of the Lord (Is. 52:13- 53:12). Thanks and praise be to the Lord God Almighty who raised Jesus from the dead and placed him at the right hand of the Father. One day the one who was knocked down, mocked and scourged will rise above all, will be exalted to the highest place and his name will be above every name and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that JESUS is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

He may have been knocked down in the eyes of the world, but he has been raised eternally as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Pray
The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.