Day 112: The Ways of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 18:1-17

Key Verses

1 Samuel 28:17
The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

Luke 18:16-17
But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

David aligning with the Philistines… Saul seeking out a medium… The spirit of Samuel predicting Saul’s death… and David escaping the dilemma of fighting against his countrymen.

It’s all very exciting. And filled with irony and poor decisions from both David and Saul.

I believe David has lost hope to be king. Why else would he prepare to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel? If David had entered the battle on either side, the result would have been disastrous. But God, in his sovereignty, used the Philistine lords to prevent David from entering the battle. God has used all of David’s hardship to prepare him for the throne. He is a seasoned warrior in a humble position. He is ready.

Jesus’ teachings in the beginning of Luke are some of my favorites. The parable of the persistent widow encourages me to persevere in prayer. The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector reminds me of God’s disdain for self-righteousness and love for the sinner. And Jesus’ care for the children shows me that God values the small and insignificant of this world.

It all reminds me of a scene from The Hobbit. I think Gandalf’s words epitomize the way of God’s Kingdom!

Galadriel: Why the halfling?
Gandalf: I do not know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found that is the smaller things – the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid. But he gives me courage.

Day 92: Diluted faith

Judges 6-8; Luke 8:1-21

Key Verses

Judges 8:27
And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Luke 8:21
But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

In the time of Gideon, the people had fallen so far away from the Lord that Gideon was threatened by his neighbors for destroying the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole. No longer did the people fear the God of Israel.

God showed amazing grace to Gideon – stooping to fulfill Gideon’s requests for signs and compensating for Gideon’s fear. Gideon was so tainted by his culture that his faith was diluted and weak at best.

In spite of himself, Gideon was used by God to defeat the Midianites and the people enjoyed rest from oppression for 40 years. Truly, Gideon showed great heroism…but in the end, Gideon gave in to pride and led the people away from true worship of their God.

With each subsequent judge, the people fell further and further away from the standards of the Mosaic law – and became even more addicted to “whoring” after other gods.

Judges should serve as a warning to us… How diluted is our faith because of the culture in which we live? Do we compromise our beliefs to avoid conflict or hardship? We will be held accountable for our actions and choices.

Listen to the parable of the sower in Luke 8 and ask yourself… What kind of soil am I? Only by God’s grace can we be the good soil that upon “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

God, I ask for the privilege to hear your word and the grace to obey it. Please, open my eyes to see how the culture dilutes my faith. And grant me the patience to persevere and the discipline to worship you alone.

Day 53: The Word at work

Numbers 7; Mark 4:21-34

Key Verses

Numbers 7:89
And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.

Mark 4:33
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

The Kingdom of God… it’s one of my favorite topics. In an earlier post I defined the Kingdom as a place with a ruler, a law and a people.

Today’s parables define another aspect of the Kingdom… the Word. The Word is the means of growing the Kingdom. What a person does with the Word will determine if he’s in the Kingdom or out… The Word is the picture and message of Jesus. The Word is the call to repent. The Word is the gospel – the good news that Jesus is the sacrifice.

  • The Word sheds light on the human heart – just as a lamp lights a dark room (Mark 4:21-22).
  • The Word will increase in a heart that is teachable, but to a hard heart, it will be taken away (Mark 4:23-25).
  • The Word is sown as a farmer sows a field, and just as the plant grows slowly – almost invisibly at first – so does the Kingdom grow… slowly and steadily until one day its branches will cover the whole garden! (Mark 4:26-34)

The Kingdom is invisible. But one day, we will see the place and the Ruler – face to face… Moses was only able to hear God speak. God would speak from above the mercy seat in between the cherubim (Numbers 7:89). Moses didn’t go behind the veil to the Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwelled. No. The veil had not yet been torn. The way had not yet been opened. The all-sufficient sacrifice had not yet been given.

Jesus comes and opens the way for the sinner to go behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. There will be no tabernacle in the new earth – for God will not need a veil to hide his Glory – Rather, his Glory will shine like the sun and his home will be with… his people.

I take great comfort in the promise that though the Kingdom is invisible and grows slowly – that one day it will be so vast that it will be seen by all! The same principle is true of the Word at work in my heart. It is my responsibility to sow the Word in my heart – to read, meditate and trust. And slowly, steadily the Word will produce fruit in my life. This is the way of faith. This is the way of the Kingdom!

Day 52: Inside or Outside?

Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

Key Verses

Numbers 6:22-27
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

One of the more offensive tenets of the Christian faith is that there is a distinction between those inside the Kingdom of God and those outside the Kingdom. Let’s face it, our culture values inclusiveness…. and at first glance, both of today’s passages seem to paint an exclusive picture of the Christian faith.

In Numbers, we continue to read about the people making preparations to enter the promised land. Today’s passage describes the “cleansing” of the camp (for more information on how to interpret OT cleanliness laws, see Day 42). Those who were “unclean” had to live “outside the camp.” One of the purposes for removing unclean people from the camp was to set Israel apart from other nations, but another reason was to create a picture of purity that pointed forward to God’s Kingdom… The physical act of “cleansing” the camp symbolized the spiritual purity of God’s future Kingdom.

Fast forward to today’s teaching in Mark…Jesus teaches in parables to further emphasize this principle of “insiders” vs. “outsiders.” He says that those who are in God’s Kingdom will understand his teaching, but those outside will not. In today’s passage, the very point of the parable was that there will be those who hear the word of the gospel, and will reject it. In other words, there will be outsiders.

But notice a very important subtlety… Who is the one doing the rejecting? Is it God? No. When Jesus comes, he opens the door of the Kingdom to people from ALL nations and tongues. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave or free.

What the Old Testament and Jesus both teach is that entrance to the Kingdom is absolutely exclusive because it requires perfection. Everyone would be outsiders if Jesus hadn’t paid the price of admission on our behalf. But because of Jesus’ sacrificial payment, all are invited in; therefore, the Kingdom becomes all-inclusive :) Sadly, we know people who choose to reject the invitation…

But. Jesus holds out hope even for those least likely to enter the Kingdom…

Mark 4:12
[For] those outside, everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.” 

There is always hope for the unbeliever! Lest they should turn and be forgiven! Do you think of the Christian faith like an exclusive club – thus making the unbeliever feel judged and uninvited? Or do your words and actions make people feel welcome and safe? Remember, apart from God’s grace… we would all be outsiders!

Day 187: A few tidbits

Ezekiel 17-19; Acts 9:23-43

Here are some tidbits to consider as you read :)

Ezekiel 17: This is a parable describing Zedekiah’s dealings – first with Nebuchadnezzar and then with Egypt. The chapter ends with a beautiful Messianic prophecy, Ezekiel 17:22-24, one of my favorites so far…

Ezekiel 18: The Israelites were so accustomed to their identities being defined by being a part of a family, tribe, clan or nation. The idea of individual accountability was a bit foreign. This chapter teaches that each person is responsible for his own actions and ends with an important plea for repentance (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

Ezekiel 19: Another parable of Judah (portrayed as the lioness and vine) and her kings (portrayed as cubs and branches).

Acts 9: We learn from Galatians 1:18-19 that Saul went to Jerusalem 3 years after his conversion. So there is a three-year gap from when Paul was in Damascus (vs. 23) and when he first went to Jerusalem (vs. 26). And finally, Acts 9:31 is a transition verse as the focus now turns to Peter and his acceptance of the Gentiles.

I hope these tidbits help clarify the text as you read today!

Day 112: The ways of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 18:1-17

David aligning with the Philistines… Saul seeking out a medium… The spirit of Samuel predicting Saul’s death… and David escaping the dilemma of fighting against his countrymen.

It’s all very exciting. And filled with irony and poor decisions from both David and Saul.

I believe David has lost hope to be king. Why else would he prepare to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel. If David had entered the battle on either side, the result would have been disastrous. But God, in his sovereignty, used the Philistine lords to prevent David from entering the battle. God has used all of David’s hardship to prepare him for the throne. He is a seasoned warrior in a humble position. He is ready.

Jesus’ teachings in the beginning of Luke are some of my favorites. The parable of the persistent widow encourages me to persevere in prayer. The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector reminds me of God’s disdain for self-righteousness and love for the sinner. And Jesus’ care for the children show me that God values the small and insignificant of this world.

It all reminds me of a scene from The Hobbit. I think Gandalf’s words epitomize the way of God’s Kingdom!

Day 92: Diluted faith

Judges 6-8; Luke 8:1-21

In the time of Gideon, the people had fallen so far away from the Lord that Gideon was threatened by his neighbors for destroying the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole. No longer did the people fear the God of Israel.

God showed amazing grace to Gideon – stooping to fulfill Gideon’s requests for signs and compensating for Gideon’s fear. Gideon was so tainted by his culture that his faith was diluted and weak at best.

In spite of himself, Gideon was used by God to defeat the Midianites and the people enjoyed rest from oppression for 40 years. Truly, Gideon showed great heroism…but in the end, Gideon gave in to pride and led the people away from true worship of their God.

With each subsequent judge, the people fell further and further away from the standards of the Mosaic law – and became even more addicted to “whoring” after other gods.

Judges should serve as a warning to us… How diluted is our faith because of the culture in which we live? Do we compromise our beliefs to avoid conflict or hardship? We will be held accountable for our actions and choices.

Listen to the parable of the sower in Luke 8 and ask yourself… What kind of soil are you? Only by God’s grace can we be the good soil that upon “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

God, I ask for the privilege to hear your word and the grace to obey it. Please, open my eyes to see how the culture dilutes my faith. And grant me the patience to persevere and the discipline to worship you alone.

Day 53: The Word at work

Numbers 7; Mark 4:21-34

The Kingdom of God… it’s one of my favorite topics. In an earlier post I defined the Kingdom as a place with a ruler, a law and a people.

Today’s parables define another aspect of the Kingdom… the Word. The Word is the means of growing the Kingdom. What a person does with the Word, will determine if he’s in the Kingdom or out… The Word is the picture and message of Jesus. The Word is the call to repent. The Word is the gospel – the good news that Jesus is the sacrifice.

  • The Word sheds light on the human heart – just as a lamp lights a dark room (Mark 4:21-22).
  • The Word will increase in a heart that is teachable, but to a hard heart, it will be taken away (Mark 4:23-25).
  • The Word is sown as a farmer sows a field, and just as the plant grows slowly – almost invisibly at first – so does the Kingdom grow… slowly and steadily until one day its branches will cover the whole garden! (Mark 4:26-34)

The Kingdom is invisible. But one day, we will see the place and the Ruler – face to face… Moses was only able to hear God speak. God would speak from above the mercy seat in between the cherubim (Numbers 7:89). Moses didn’t go behind the veil to the Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwelled. No. The veil had not yet been torn. The way had not yet been opened. The all-sufficient sacrifice had not yet been given.

Jesus comes and opens the way for the sinner to go behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. There will be no tabernacle in the new earth – for God will not need a veil to hide his Glory – Rather, his Glory will shine like the sun and his home will be with… his people.

I take great comfort in the promise that though the Kingdom is invisible and grows slowly – that one day it will be so vast that it will be seen by all! The same principle is true of the Word at work in my heart. It is my responsibility to sow the Word in my heart – to read, meditate and trust. And slowly, steadily the Word will produce fruit in my life. This is the way of faith. This is the way of the Kingdom!

Day 52: Inside or Outside?

Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

One of the more offensive tenets of the Christian faith is that there is a distinction between those inside the Kingdom of God and those outside the Kingdom. Let’s face it, our culture values inclusiveness…. and at first glance, both of today’s passages seem to paint an exclusive picture of the Christian faith.

In Numbers, we continue to read about the people making preparations to enter the promised land. Today’s passage describes the “cleansing” of the camp (for more information on how to interpret OT cleanliness laws, see Day 42). Those who were “unclean” had to live “outside the camp.” One of the purposes for removing unclean people from the camp was to set Israel apart from other nations, but another reason was to create a picture of purity that pointed forward to God’s Kingdom… The physical act of “cleansing” the camp symbolized the spiritual purity of God’s future Kingdom.

Fast forward to today’s teaching in Mark…Jesus teaches in parables to further emphasize this principle of “insiders” vs. “outsiders.” He says that those who are in God’s Kingdom will understand his teaching, but those outside will not. In today’s passage, the very point of the parable was that there will be those who hear the word of the gospel, and will reject it. In other words, there will be outsiders.

But notice a very important subtlety… Who is the one doing the rejecting? Is it God? No. When Jesus comes, he opens the door of the Kingdom to people from ALL nations and tongues. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave or free.

What the Old Testament and Jesus both teach is that entrance to the Kingdom is absolutely exclusive because it requires perfection. Everyone would be outsiders if Jesus hadn’t paid the price of admission on our behalf. But because of Jesus’ sacrificial payment, all are invited in; therefore, the Kingdom becomes all-inclusive :) Sadly, we know people who choose to reject the invitation…

But. Jesus holds out hope even for those least likely to enter the Kingdom…

[For] those outside, everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

There is always hope for the unbeliever! Lest they should turn and be forgiven! Do you think of the Christian faith like an exclusive club – thus making the unbeliever feel judged and uninvited? Or do your words and actions make people feel welcome and safe? Remember, apart from God’s grace… we would all be outsiders. Just something to think about ;)