Gardendale Nazarene

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Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

God's Small Things

This morning, I'd like to look at two small parables. You can find these parables in Luke 13:18-21.

"He said therefore, 'What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.'
And again he said, 'To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.'"

There are some similarities in these parables. We see both including a human character. However, the main characters are the mustard seed and the leaven.

Both of these items are small items. In today's scientific world, we know that mustard seeds are not the smallest seeds. They were common in the New Testament Jewish world and would have been the smallest common seed.

There is a significant similarity that I would like to highlight. Both of these parables are metaphors for the kingdom of God. This brings a significance to these one verse parables.

Think about it for a moment. God's kingly reign was embodied in Jesus– a poor carpenter from Nazareth. Then, He leaves His mission to a ragtag band of former fishermen, a tax collector, and the like.

Isn't that exactly the way God works? God takes the insignificant and does something great. This is the way God works- from creation to today. He tells us, "Don't miss the little."

My challenge for you? In a world obsessed with 'bigger is better', the followers of Jesus plant mustard seeds and hide leaven. Why? Because we know God can do more with little than we can do with much.

I pray that you trust God with whatever seed you are planting- no matter how small you think it might be.

Go quickly into the streets

Today, we will look once again at Luke 14:15-24.

Last week, we focused on the basic premise of the parable and the excuses of the guests. For today's devotional, I'd like to look at the actions of the host of the great dinner and our response.

As I mentioned last week, a quick reading of the parable shows us that God is the one throwing the banquet. There are a couple things worth noting here:

First, we see that the host desires for his guests to attend his lavish party. Yet when they refuse, the host sends out his servant to the streets to bring in all who would come. We are met with the host's graciousness and his severity. We see that God is calling all who will come, to come. We also see that there is a time when He is finished with the excuses.

Second, we must take a moment to pause and think through those who came to the banquet. Look at the verses that precede this parable, "[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, 'When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just'" (Luke 14:12-14 ESV).

Brothers and sisters, this parable calls us to celebrate God's kingdom in a way that all people hear the good news of our Lord. When I place myself into this parable, I pray that I am one who was invited in off the street. Coming in the poverty of my spirit to join the feast of the ages. I believe, those of us who find ourselves at the table are quickly turned into servants are asked, "Go quickly into the streets and lanes of the town and bring them in..."

May we celebrate God's kingdom that all people hear the good news!

Pastor John

Come, for everything is now ready

Today's parable is one that will take us a few weeks to explore. It is found in Luke 14:15-24.

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

This week, I would like to focus on the basic premise of the parable and the excuses of the guests. A basic reading of the story will show us that God is the one throwing the great banquet. The imagery of a meal as an end time celebration of God's people is a standard Jewish and Christian thought. It is time for the celebration and the servant of tell everyone the banquet is ready.

What happens next is designed to be both absurd and pathetic. Look at the excuses:
  • I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.
  • I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.
  • I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

What do these three excuses have in common? They are lame. There I said it– lameness is the common denominator.

Now, why would I say this? Let's put the first two in our context:
  • I have bought a house, and I haven't seen it yet.
  • I have bought a car, and I need to go check it out.

Both of these excuses involved someone buying an item 'sight-unseen'. They are literally saying, "I made a serious purchase and didn't have time to examine what I was buying. Now after the purchase, seeing this item a priority."

None of these excuses are priorities (I'm not saying that marriage is not a priority. In this story, it is not a priority that would keep you from attending the banquet. Why would he not bring his wife with him?).

The question for us at this point in the parable is, "What priorities do you put over the reign and rule of God in your life?"

Take time and think about this question. It is a serious question that deserves serious time.

Now, take a moment to hear from the parable– as important as those items seem to you right now, in the light of the kingdom of God and in the light of eternity, are they really important? Or is there a ring of lameness?

As your pastor, I hope you hear the invitation of the His servant, "Come, for everything is now ready."

Are you going to join in the celebration?

In Christ,

Pastor John

Let the Darkness Fear

Greetings this morning in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I know you share a heavy heart with me this morning. As we watched the news last night, both Heather and I thought back to the chorus we sang on Sunday.

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

On Sunday, I walked through a few of these lines. I told you I personally feel as though the darkness is winning when the attacks across the world seem to increase in severity and frequency.

As the body of Christ, we are challenged to sing, "Let the darkness fear." We are not to be afraid, rather the darkness should fear.

As we work through the parables, I would like to remind you of two little parables this morning.

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

–Luke 13:18-21 ESV

These two little parables have some similarities:

  • Both of these parables describe the Kingdom of God.
  • They are both dealing with very small items in New Testament culture (a mustard seed and yeast).

I know you might be thinking now, "Pastor, I'm not sure how this relates to our current situation? Mustard seeds and yeast?"

I think Jesus' challenge in this parable for us is not to miss the little things. Kingdom work is in the little things.

Take a moment and think about the life of Jesus.
  • From the cry of a newborn in a stable
  • to men walking away from their boats and nets one morning
  • to the touch of a robe by a hurting, lonely woman
  • to the words spoken over Jarius' daughter
  • to the feet washed in an upper room
  • to the One hanging between two criminals
  • to the women carrying spices to anoint a body
  • to a couple confused guards at an empty tomb

These stories were all technically 'little' things. These 'little' things are some of the most significant stories in our faith- and that is my point.

The Kingdom of God doesn't measure 'little' the way our world does.

God's Kingdom is in the prayers we pray. It is in the tears we shed. It is in the hugs we share. It is in the truth we proclaim.

Lord, build Your Kingdom HERE
Here- in the mess, in the hurt, in the loss, in the tears, in the little things
We pray.

Discpline- Love or Punishment?

I was reminded this week of one of my favorite passages in Hebrews. Living in a part of the country where college football is very important, a similar news story plays out periodically. It goes something like this:

  • College football player (or players) do something they shouldn't do.
  • They get in trouble by law enforcement.
  • The media outlets run to the coach for a reaction.

This story played out this week. The story itself didn't stand out to me- it was the reaction of the coach that stood out. The media surrounds the coach prior to a round of golf and asks for a statement.

This is what caught my attention. The coach replied (this is not an exact quote), "You want to know what we are going to do to discipline these players. To you, discipline is punishment. For me, discipline is how we are going to help these young men make the right decisions for the rest of their lives."

When I heard this response, I turned to Heather and said, "That was a rather biblical response."

Take a moment to read Hebrews 12:7-11:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline might require an aspect of punishment. The goal is not punishment, rather holiness. A parent disciplines out of love. A parent seeks to break the bad habits and replace them with 'the peaceful fruit of righteousness.'

May you be encouraged. If you are a parent, know that you are shaping young men and women that they might bear fruit. If you are living in a time where you feel God's discipline, know that He sees you has His child and acts only out of love.

May His discipline shape in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!