Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sea-side Story-time, Soil Analysis. Listening?

 Sea-side Story-time, Soil Analysis. Listening?

Heavenly Heart Checks from Kingdom Parables,
 from Matthew 13

            Oh those sneaky stories Jesus loved to tell. Just when you think they are fun little tales, they turn into a mirror, showing ugly truths, asking hard questions. Parables (παραβολή - to set beside) both reveal and conceal. For those who listen to God’s word, so they can obey, Jesus’s stories direct, correct, and bring hope. For those who have no plan to practice what He preaches, Jesus’ parables confuse, convict, and powerfully disclose the “listener’s” hard heart.

            Jesus’ first parable in Matthew 13 tests our soul’s soil. It is a heart check, a hearing test for the stories that follow. Leaving a crowded house, Jesus heads to a spacious beach, crowds in tow. Sitting on a ship, He sows a string of stories at the sea-side (vs. 1, 2). He starts off speaking of soils, showing His students’ spiritual state (vs. 3-9). When His disciples ask why He uses tales to teach, He tells of two distinct heart diagnoses (vs. 10-17). Listeners who seek to obey His word, are blessed with more truth through them - they “get it”. Hard-hearted hearers, who plug their ears, close their eyes, are found out and called out. Which are you: a fruitful listener or part of the curious, but callous crowd?

Sea-Side, Boat-deck Disciple-making  (12:46 – 13:3a)
·         What makes one His true family, disciples? Matt. 5:1, 2; 7:24-29; 12:46-50
·         Hear AND Do: Josh 1:6-9; Psalm 81:11-13; James 1:19-24; John 13:17
·         “Then he told them many things in παραβολαῖς / parables…”(vs. 3a)

The Stage-setting Story of Soils. Listen! (vs. 3b-9)
·          “Consider the sower who went out to sow.” (vs. 3)   Wise Words!
1)      “Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.” (vs. 4; cf. Mark 4)
2)      “Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it grew up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.” (vs. 5-6)
3)      “Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it.” (vs. 7)
4)      “Still other seed fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown.” (vs. 8)
·         “Let anyone who has ears listen.” (vs. 9 - CBS)

His Sovereign, Soul-Exposing Strategy (vs. 10-17; Is. 6:9, 10)
·         Give His True Family, Fruitful Ones More Truth (vs. 11, 12, 16, 17)
“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”  John 13:17

·         Befuddle Mere Listeners, Reflect their Rejection (vs. 12-15; Is. 6:9, 10; 53:1)
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:8

Which Soil / Soul are You, a Forgetful or Fruitful Hearer:
·         Rebellious, obstinate, rejecting, fruitless  (Matt. 25; Lk 8:9, 10; Rom. 11:7-10)
·         Shallow commitment, lacking endurance  (Matt. 9:19-22; 26:31, 56; Psalm 1)
·         Mixed affections, worldly, idolatrous (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Tim. 4:10)
·         Fruitful via obedience, an effective hearer (James 1:25; 1 John 3, 4)

            “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.”  (James 1:22-25 – CSB)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Don't forget the Christmas Snakes!

Don't forget the Christmas Snakes
Kerry S. Doyal 

           Can you imagine the fear, the terror of nightfall? No candles, no flashlights. No doors to shut, or windows to latch. No beds with which to be up off the floor. No doctors, no antibodies, no 911: just snakes. Poisonous snakesSnakes that seem to be seeking people to bite.

Friends are grieving the loss of loved ones. The Elderly, who did not see or hear them approaching, are dying. Loving Moms and Dads who were afflicted have died. Children who knew no better than to get near the snakes perish. Others linger, writhing in pain, suffering.

"Moses", they cry out,  "Moses". This time it was not to sinfully complain. This time was to confess. They had sinned. Sinned against God, against Moses. They had grown impatient  - been discontent. Having spoken against the Lord and Moses, they were being disciplined by the Lord.

"Why?" they had sinfully cried out, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread. There is no water. And we detest this miserable food. Why? Why?”

God's very own gracious provision had become wearisome to them. Familiarity had bread contempt for these pouting pilgrims.

"Moses, pray for us. Talk to God for us. Ask Him to remove these snakes."

Moses, being meek, heard their plea and pleads to God for them. God, being gracious, hears Moses plea and provides a remedy.

"Moses", God calls out to him, "Moses, make a serpent. Make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole. Take this bronze serpent on the pole and lift it up for the people. Lift it up for the people to see.”

"Moses, tell the people that those who are bit and look to the serpent will be saved. Tell them to look to the serpent to live.”

So Moses did as the LORD told him. He gathered some bronze and fashioned a snake. A snake that looked like thesnakes that were biting the people.

Yet this snake did not contain poison, did not cause death. Not a snake of condemnation, but of salvation.  Not a snakeof judgment, but of deliverance.

Moses gathered the people and told them God's answer. God had seen their plight and heard their penitent plea. "I will be lifting up this serpent in the midst of the camp," Moses said. "All those who have been bitten and look to it will be healed"

Lifted up: an image of the source of the suffering. Lifted up: God's solution to the punishment for their sin. Lifted up: God's serpent to simply be looked upon.

Some must have thought, might have grumbled: "Look upon that? Look to a snake? How can that help? That makes no sense. What good does looking do? What must we do to undo our wrongs?”

Others, undoubtedly, ran home to tell loved ones to look, to look and live.  Loved ones too sick to gather for Moses' good news. Loved ones near death themselves. Loved ones who it was feared would not make it through the night.

"Look!  Look! The serpent has been lifted up! On the pole, on that stick. There, on that simple piece of wood is God's cure, God's remedy, God's sign of  love and forgiveness. Look! Look and live."

And some did!

Some 1500 years later - now in the land Moses lead the people to - a man named Nicodemus came by night to speak to a Teacher. Nicodemus was himself a teacher, a respected leader of his people the Jews.

The Teacher that Nicodemus sought taught like no one else, and did things like no one else. "Rabbi / Teacher," Nicodemus said to Jesus, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform these miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus did not refute or deny these lofty claims. In fact, He would confirm that He was the one who came from heaven.

After telling Nicodemus he needed to be born again - somewhat confusing and befuddling Nicodemus  - Jesus told him the mission God sent Him to accomplish.  He, like the snake, must be lifted up. He must be lifted up on a pole and looked to for life.

As the snake brought healing, brought God's mercy, so too would the lifting up of Jesus. The cruel crucifixion of Christ Himself was God’s remedy.

So Jesus said to Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so too must the Son of man be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life”  (read John 3).

Those bit by the snake and healed would face death again: old age, illness, war, disease. Those who look to God's Son - God's lifted up Son – show faith in God’s cure. And that belief is met with a gift of eternal life.

Will you look? Do you believe there is a need to look? Do you know you have been bitten, that you too are under God's righteous judgment for sin? "Look to Me" the Lord calls out. "Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth."

God has set us all under rightful judgment due to our sins. God did not send Jesus as further condemnation, but as One in the image of the condemned - yet sin-free. He took our well-deserved damnation.

Sadly, those who refuse to look to the Son stay under condemnation. They - like all of us – are already bit and are dying. Sadder still, those who look only to mock - to scorn the Son - face deeper condemnation.

But those who look in faith, admitting their sinful state, believing God has provided, calling out to Him  - these are redeemed, rescued, restored, reborn. Have you looked? Will you look?

Will you share this good news? Will you go to those who do not know? Will you relay the good news to those sick in sin, those writhing in pain of soul?

Jesus was sent by God to be lifted up, so that He could looked upon, looked to and bring salvation.  Look and live and spread the good news!
Kerry S. Doyal 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Help Me, LORD!! Psalm 16

Help Me, LORD: Our Refuge, Inheritance & Joy

What  a  plea!   
Psalm 16 is brief, direct request for help, followed by testimony and praise.  

Once again, Israel’s King David is in peril.  
Thankfully, a life of following and knowing God has taught Him to flee to the Lord.
  • After asking God for deliverance (vs. 1),
  • David rejoices in God,who He is and what He’s done and still does (vs. 2-11).

Psalm 16  (ESV)  A  Miktam of David.
1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will ot pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  

Help me, LORD!  I Trust in You.

  You are My:
  • God  (vs. 1-2a)
  • Good   (2b-4)
  • Gift  (5, 6)
  • Guide  (7)
  • Guard & Glory  (8-11)

Psalm 16 reminds me that:
 God is...

 I should ...

 God will ...

KSD / CCF  April 19, 2015

Friday, April 14, 2017

Dear Locked-horn Leaders!

Dear Locked-horn Leaders!
by KSD 

Dear Locked-horn Leaders,
Listen up!

You -  stuck in what now seems mortal combat, painful conflict – hear me.
You, facing down former friends who seem now foes, going toe to toe
Both protecting, seeking the good of, for…
Listen up, you locked-up servants turned samurai.
Yes, to me.  

But not just to me, but to that other brother now fellow-battler,
the one that you need to hear you.
It hurts to be unheard.
Just ask him.
He too has experienced futility in attempts to communicate.
Yes, with you.
Misperceptions have calcified.
Clarifications are seen as spin, insincere damage control.
It is truly the parabolic dialogue of the deaf.

Hearing helps breaks the stalemate.
Slow down. Yes, shut up.
Pull up close again and try to hear, listen, grasp.

In the many distorted, misrepresented things hurled at you, about you,
He has also served up some painful truth.
Yes, served it in an ugly, brutal, unfair manner.
But mixed in the mangled messages is truth.
How do you discern the difference?
Brace yourself, warrior:
Which ones have friends and family mentioned?
Which ones have a sting of pain that is different?
I know, who is HE to critique YOU after all you… he…
Yes, pray for his hearing and you yourself listen afresh.

Dear Locked-horn Leaders, take a note.
You know how he needs to humbly submit, to learn…
He does – no doubt; and of so much.
And now seemingly too late.  

Well, just like him - yes, I’m going there – you too need to learn, grow…  
It is painful, but you are both right about a few things.  
And, you are both wrong about some matters.

Oh that you could agree about which ones.
But, alas, you are two hard-headed rams whose horns have lock-up.

Humility helps untangle horns.
Though it feels like a defeat, yielding, submitting is a winning move.

Locked horned leaders are scary.
They not only hurt the other brother, now seemingly foe
They hurt themselves
And, no denying it, others nearby are wounded as well.
The closer they are, the deeper the blow.
The damage is dense, diverse and damnable

Look up, Locked-horn Leaders.
Get some Eternal perspective
Yes, His, the Eternal One.
And, a view that is informed, influenced by time.
Take a long-haul view.
It is not all or nothing.

Live to fight  - better – another day
Leave the results to Him
Love everyone throughout the process
Lead with grace, gratitude and a guarded-heart

Shed the rack. Hurl the locked-up horn.
Drop the weapons

Oh to be locked, arm in arm, as loving fellow-laborers!
Side by Side, not face to face.
You want that.
You have been that
Allow, invite, promote that

If it is rejected, grieve that. It is sad, painful, confusing
Learn all you can from this painful season.
Listen. Keep listening.
Love, retool, repent and re-engage in the calling.


When King Jesus Sends, His Disciples Go and Do.

When King Jesus Sends, 
His Disciples Go and Do.

Serving Him Makes Even the Menial Meaningful. – from Matt. 21:1-11

“So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.” (NKJV)

In the middle of Matthew’s telling of the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, we read: “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them” (21:6 - NIV). That is pretty straightforward. Even the Greek is simple: πορευθέντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ καὶ ποιήσαντες καθὼς συνέταξεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς. (Don’t be too impressed, I cut and pasted.)

 “The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do.” (The Message)

This is not just filler, or merely some literary device to move the narrative along. This simply profound verse could be one’s life verse. Hardly incidental, it is monumental. Jesus gives the orders. We go and do. What a wonderfully basic, bottom-line, bare-boned life-mission statement.  Does this describe your discipleship? 

“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.” (ESV)

            Jesus regal entrance to Jerusalemfinally - is about celebration & expectation. After years of trying to keep His Messiah-ship secret – “don’t tell anyone” - Jesus now parades His identity for all to see. “Here I am." This palm branch parade has many powerful points.  Jesus proclaims His:
Ø  Messianic Majesty: “your King comes”, cloaks & branches (Is. 62:11; 2 Kings 9:13)
Ø  Praise Worthiness: “Hosanna!” Lord Save! (Jer. 31:7; Lk. 19:37-40)
Ø  Surprising Humility:  “on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9) A horse later! (Rev. 19:11-16)
Ø  Salvation Has Come!  (Ps. 118:25, 26; Mt. 1:21; Rev. 19:11)

Let’s be clear: the Disciples are NOT the point of this story, or any story; nor are the adoring crowds, adorable donkeys, or the palm branches. Jesus is. As has been said, history is His Story.  Yet…

To be faithful in our supporting role in His story:

Ø  Do even the odd, awkward:  “Go heist two donkeys.”  Not really, but may have felt awkward.

Ø  Do the seeming menial: “Bring them to Me.” Not a bad way to live! (Col. 1:16-18)

Ø  Go Where He sends you: They went, untied, brought them & prepared for His parade. His will, His way: how, when, where, what…  (compare 1 Sam. 3:7-11; and 15:1-35)

When we go and do just as Jesus instructs, We:

Ø  Prepare for His presence:  Matt 5:13-16, Acts 1:7-9
Ø  Proclaim Him “Lord”:  Matt. 21:6-11; Read Acts 1-28!
Ø  Fulfill His Word:    2 Peter; Jude; 2 Thess.
Ø  Are doing what should be assumed of us: Luke 6:46-49; 17:7-10
Ø  Are in good company: Noah, Abram, Moses, friendship with Jesus (Gen. 6:22; 12:4; Ex. 40:16; John 15:14; Heb. 11)

Lord, let it be said of YOUR disciples at CCF, that we
“did as Jesus commanded.” (NLT)

Friday, November 04, 2016

Consider Jesus!

Consider Jesus! 

Talk about courageous! At Easter a few years ago, a well-known Italian journalist who was a Muslim was baptized by the Pope at the Vatican. He publicly abandoned Islam and embraced Jesus in an international way. His extended family may not have been thrilled with this dramatic crossover. It is not hard to imagine the threats and attacks he might face. Bowing to Jesus means bowing out of other faith commitments. He is a rightfully jealous Lover. 
For some disciples - like many in India, Egypt and China - a "yes" to Jesus means serious persecution, economic hardship, ostracism and maybe even death. Christians are still suffering and dying for being faithful to Jesus. First century Jews who bravely and obediently submitted to Jesus as their Messiah knew such trials. Confessing Jesus as Lord meant one might get to go to heaven a lot sooner than they had planned. 
They had a powerful temptation to turn back to Judaism and away from Jesus to end their pain. Who wants to have to choose between life, one's livelihood and loved ones and the Lord? Thus the book of Hebrews was written; to encourage and bolster embattled believers. 
Their hope? Their help? Their need and ours? To "consider Jesus" - look afresh at the One who also suffered. He stayed faithful, He knows. Look to Jesus. Learn of Him, lean on Him. He is a faithful, merciful and powerful helper to those hurting for His sake. 
Hear Hebrews 2: 
"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 
"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 
"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him..." (Hebrews 2:14, 15, 17-18; 3; 1, 2 ~ ESV). 
Let's pick out a few encouraging reminders from that packed passage for when we are tempted to turn back, to compromise our commitment to Christ. 
First of all: your walk with God may provoke the Devil, but fear not, he has been de-clawed, neutered. Jesus shared skin - became human - so He could share in our sufferings and thus skin the serpent, end his claims and control over us (vs. 14). We are now able to resist the tempter as we stand firm in the faith. We draw near to God so He can draw near to us and the devil will flee (1 Peter 5, James 4; Eph. 6). Our sympathetic Savior - who is in us - is greater than the one that is in the world (1 John 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:13). 
Consider this: since Jesus, our Apostle and High Priest was faithful to God unto death, He can set free those enslaved by fear of death. If the worst someone can do to you because your faith in Jesus is send you to heaven - where is the threat in that? 
The process of dying doesn't thrill me. But, in Jesus, death itself is nothing to fear. Where is your sting, death (1 Corin. 15)? Jesus has the keys of Death (Revelation 1:18). It is in His control. Make me a slave with a fear of death? Not any more, I consider Jesus. 
Saint Patrick wrote some 1500 years ago: "Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere." I think this missionary to Ireland was considering Jesus! 
Matthew Henry, an English pastor of the late 1600's commented: "Here the wonderful love of God appeared, that, when Christ knew what he must suffer in our nature, and how he must die in it, yet he readily took it upon him. And this atonement made way for his people's deliverance from Satan's bondage, and for the pardon of their sins through faith...Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to out-brave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death." 
To help us be faithful in our faith-race (ala Heb. 12:1, 2), two key opponents have been dealt with: the Devil and Death. Both lost their power to dispirit or defeat us. Jesus, our brother and priest, hammered the Devil and dealt death a deathblow. To stay faithful like Jesus was - and is - look again at Him. He displayed and defined fidelity to the Father. He now emboldens and empowers faltering and fearful followers. Consider Him, all ye scared and suffering saints! 
When trials, tiredness or timidity tempt you to give up, consider Jesus. He was faithful in His sufferings to bring us into His family: steady to the Father, staying the course. We must stay true. And we can as we consider Him! Consider Jesus! 

Friday, April 08, 2016

Need Encouraging? Want Hope? Behold Our God!

Need Encouraging? Want Hope? Behold Our God!

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
    double for all her sins….

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:1, 2, 28-31 - ESV)

            Thankful the LORD restores and renews rebels, like us,


Be Comforted by our Great God
Behold, Our God Renews and Restores Rebels - Isaiah 40

                How does God treat those whom He has chastened? Does He give us any hope of getting out of His doghouse; even serial idolaters, spiritual adulterers?  Isaiah 40 more than answers that. This first chapter of Isaiah’s third section is a peak among peaks; Everest!  Written to restored-rebels, it is a hurricane blast of hope, comfort, and encouragement. The Lord – who has every right to be done with His erring people – gloriously keeps His word; He forgives and renews them. Unlike idols, Our mighty Creator, judge of all the earth, revives those who trust in Him. Take comfort in and from Him.  

Be Encouraged by our Gracious God!  (40:1, 2 & 28-31)
  • God calls:  be tenderly comforted (cf. Matt. 11:28; 23:27)
  • Receive His peace, pardon, restoration  (Rom. 5:1-11; 8:1)
  • Hear the Calls, the Voices of His Comfort  (vs. 3, 6, 9)

Ø  His Glory Will be Revealed; again (vs. 3-5;  cf. John ---6)
  • Get ready, The King is coming – back - in glory! (Ezk. 43)
  • Jesus! His birth and return (Matt. 3:1-8; John 1:23; Rev. 20-22)

Ø  His Good Word Will be Accomplished (vs. 6-8)
  • Our lives, glory is fading, temporal, in His hands (1 Pet. 1:24, 25)
  • His Word, His will is eternal, will be accomplished (cf. Is. 55)

Ø  His Greatness is Unequaled (vs. 9-31;  cf. 43)
  • Here is our God! The powerful, sovereign LORD (vs. 9, 10)
  • He is a tender Shepherd; sensitive (cf. Ps. 23; Jer. 31; Ezk. 34)
  • Who has…?  He is unequalled in: (vs. 12-20; Job 38-41)
                “Size”, power, ability
                Wisdom, knowledge  (cf. Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16)
                Rule, weightiness, glory  (Is. 43)
  • Don’t you know…? He is incomparable! (21-26)
  • “He doesn’t care?” He gives strength and hope (vs. 27-31)

  Be encouraged by, comforted in Him!  Who is like Him? (Ex. 20:1-7)
  Receive His chastening AND restoring; out of the doghouse!  (Heb. 12:4-11)
  Does Isaiah 40 sound like your view of God; His grace, greatness...?
  Wait on Him; have eager, confidence in Him  (29-31; Ps. 37:1-9)
  Trust in Him & trade your tiredness for His empowering (vs. 31; Ps. 9:10)
  Jesus makes the same offer!  See Matthew 11:28; 23:27;  John 15:1-7