I want to try to pick up where I left off yesterday morning, due to the power outage, mainly because I don’t want to skip any of the Bible readings. But first I want to recap our day at The Exchange Church. It was a pretty amazing day, beginning with some awesome worship, followed by a great message from pastor Joel Engle, part one of a series called “Jesus Is Not A Racist.” The key statement in this message was, “Jesus wants to tear down the walls of prejudice and build a bridge of love in our hearts.” The message centered around Acts 10:1-23, as Peter is instructed to go and see a Gentile centurion named Cornelius. The main points were that God touches the “unclean,” God shows us our blind spots, and God builds bridges. We are encouraged to examine our own prejudices and obey what the Spirit tells us.
Yesterday afternoon, we had a meeting for people interested in serving in various capacities at The Exchange. Christi and I are both interested in getting involved in the worship ministry. The pastor led that part of the meeting and shared his vision for The Exchange. I was overwhelmed by his vision, or perhaps it was the Spirit overwhelming me, because I must say I was moved to tears several times during the meeting. While we were visiting around various churches in the area, I heard at least two messages that told me that God wasn’t through with me yet. My calling as a worship leader is still valid. God still desires to use me in that capacity, and I still have a strong desire to be used. As Joel shared his vision, I realized that it is no accident that God has led us to this place at this time. I won’t share verbatim what he shared (although I took some good notes), but basically, his vision is to have a worship ministry that has an impact on the world! And by “world,” he means the whole world! One of the ways that he wants to do that is to begin making recordings of original worship music. Okay…I have some of that. So one of the first things I need to do is get working on recording some of my original worship music so I can submit it to Joel for possible use at the church.
He also used the word “excellence” a lot, which I really like. I’m a firm believer that whatever we offer to the Lord should be “excellent” in nature and in content. That means we have to practice. We have to know the songs we are going to play/sing. We need to give the Lord our best. After the meeting, we spoke with a couple of people to get the process started. It looks like there will be a mass rehearsal later this month. I’m hoping to be involved in that, in whatever capacity they need me. The program director told me to bring my electric guitar.
I’m both excited and terrified at the same time. I see this as an opportunity like I’ve never had before, and I don’t want to blow this. So I desire the prayers of anyone who reads this; prayers that I might be diligent and consistent, both in musicianship and spirituality. That means that these devotion times become more important than ever. I also need to start listening to God to hear any new songs that he might be sending my way.
Okay…now I’ll get to my devotional.
Bible readings from Discovering the Bible
, by Gordon L. Addington:
I left off yesterday at Isaiah 10
. If you remember, I was delayed by a power outage, and was unable to finish my devotion time yesterday.
Isaiah 10 starts off with a woe to people who decree iniquity.
1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,
2 to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
God is very close to the widows and the fatherless, so anyone who preys on them will taste his wrath. What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? (v. 3)
God will even punish Assyria. It is interesting, because God sent Assyria to inflict punishment on Israel, but the king of Assyria got arrogant.
13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14 My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”
The king of Assyria thinks it is his own strength that has brought this about. But God makes an interesting comparison.
15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
16 Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire.
17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.
18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.
The tables will be turned on the king of Assyria. And the Lord promises that there will be a remnant of Israel that will return.
More benefits of wisdom are given.
21 My son, do not lose sight of these– keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.
23 Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.
24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26 for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
These are great promises. The Lord will be our confidence! But then the focus shifts, and we are given some warnings.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.
We are to be generous people! And look at verse 30! Have you ever started a fight with someone just because you felt like it? Oh, dear. I’ll admit it…I have. Just because I was feeling mean that day. We are most definitely not to do that! We are to be a people of compassion and kindness; of gentleness and generosity. We are to seek God’s wisdom, and, thereby, inherit honor.
Matthew 13:1-30,36-43 (I’m not sure I like this jumping around…)
This chapter is a group of the parables of Jesus, beginning with the parable of the sower.
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.
7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
This parable has always intrigued me. I’ve gone through various stages of interpretation with it, as well. But where I have landed is this: Only the final soil is “saved.” The other soils may have had an appearance of salvation, but as time went by, it becomes apparent that they were not truly saved. There is one other observation that I have. “Soil” cannot change itself! There is nothing that I can do to cause myself to be “good soil.” That is entirely up to the desires of the Creator. Just as a gardener can manipulate the soil to make it more productive, so can our “Gardener” manipulate us to do the same. However, I cannot change my own heart. Only God can change my heart. Interestingly, it is also God that gives me ears to hear.
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Jesus has to explain to the disciples why he is speaking in parables. He quote a passage in Isaiah that I just read a few days ago. Isaiah 6:9-10, in which Isaiah was given the message to take to the people. The author of the book I’m using stated at that point that “God was not saying that He didn’t want the people to respond to His call. He was telling Isaiah that the condition of the people was such that they would not respond, but they needed to hear nonetheless.” I respectfully disagree with Dr. Addington. He is showing a severe lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty at this point. He most certainly did purpose that the people would NOT heed the message. Jesus told the disciples that their eyes and ears were blessed, for the see and hear. But we have to remember, once again, that it is God who gives ears to hear and eyes to see.
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower:
19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,
21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
At this point, Jesus explains the parable of the sower, reinforcing my belief that only the “good soil” truly received salvation.
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,
25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’
28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
I believe this parable has a very important message for us. The “enemy” will “sow” imposters in our midst. They will look just like us. (The weeds looked just like the good grain.) It is not up to us to weed them out! God will take care of that. The end of the “weeds” is certainly not pleasant, either. Jesus explains this parable in verses 36-43.
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,
39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.
40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,
42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Father, as I get ready to go to work on this Monday morning, I pray for consistency in my walk with you. As I ponder the possibility of getting involved in the worship ministry at this place you have led us, my spirit is moved. I am inspired to follow you more closely. I am inspired to recognize the seriousness of my devotion to you, and to understand that this is most definitely not a game! I pray for wisdom and understanding. I pray for knowledge. I pray for a sense of devotion to you like I have never had before. I want to be on board with Pastor Joel’s vision for The Exchange. Not for any notoriety of my own, but for your name, for your glory.
I pray for this day, Father. Give Christi and me a good day at work as we try to be productive and get everything done that needs to be done. I pray that we will honor you in everything that we do today.
Pray for ears to hear and eyes to see.
Grace and peace, friends.