A Kingdom Like a Mustard Seed

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).

When I was in Israel, our guide showed us a mustard plant, a weed. The center of the flower was powdery. She said, “Mustard seed,” and she picked a flower and the wind blew the seed everywhere. It reminded me of when I wore powder foundation. No matter how I covered my clothes, the powder got on everything–not just on my clothes but on the counter and the floor. I saw fields of mustard in Israel and I understood how the seed scattered and how quickly a field could grow from one plant.

Think what this means if a mustard seed is like the kingdom of God. Jews and Christians are scattered all over the world. The disciples scattered after Jesus’ crucifixion. It seemed at the time as though they abandoned Jesus in His darkest hour. But when the disciples finally understood, they were eyewitnesses to what they had seen and heard when they were with Jesus.


At Pentecost Jesus’ followers were in Jerusalem, all together in one place. Three thousand were saved when the power of the Holy Spirit filled the temple; well that is the only place I can think of where more than three thousand would be in one place. The disciples were empowered to speak in other languages so people of other nations would hear the good news of Jesus’ salvation. What had been scattered and separated by language reunited multitudes so people might be scattered again to tell the good news, and the kingdom of God would grow and keep growing.


Thank you, Lord, for Jesus and His work of forgiveness and salvation. Empower each of us to be scattered to speak the good news to those who need to hear it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be the Gift

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Christ is the greatest gift we could ever receive. He left Heaven to come to earth as a baby and grow up to be our Savior.

God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16). God is Holy and the only way we can know Him in a relationship is to accept His amazing love demonstrated to us, that while we were stuck in our sinful behaviors, He sacrificed His life on the cross to bring about our forgiveness. It doesn’t stop there. Once we believe Jesus did this for us, we begin a daily habit of reading His word and talking with Him in prayer. Then we will know new blessings and mercies every day. Sounds too good to be true, right? No, it is true and wonderful and when you experience this, you want others to experience it.


Paul said to the Romans, “I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (Romans 1:11). We have opportunities to strengthen those in our families, our friends, co-workers and fellow Christians. Our focus changes from receiving gifts from others to giving gifts or being blessings to others.

We discover a great Bible principle when we choose to be givers, not takers. “Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Yes, blessings come back to us so we can keep on giving. We are blessed to bless and keep on blessing.


Father God, teach us to be compassionate as you are compassionate. Help us to be blessings so you will be glorified in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Jesus walked the road from Samaria to Jerusalem, a road known to be treacherous with bandits. As He was going into the village, ten lepers met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When Jesus saw them, He said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were healed on their way to the temple. One of the men who was healed, a Samaritan, returned praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the others? Has no one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:13-19)

Leprosy is very contagious, and during the time of Jesus, the lepers had to live outside the community. They could not be close to anyone, even their own family. They could not hold their children or teach them or sing with them. These ten lepers were rescued from isolation in a moment–their lives given back to them. Why didn’t the other nine show gratitude?


What about you? Do you show thankfulness when you are blessed or do you go on your way as most of the men in the story did? The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder for us to show thankfulness for all God has done for us. Make it a time of rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).


O Lord, our Lord, all we have comes from you. Thank you for loving us and blessing us. Help us to show others the compassion and generosity you have shown to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keys to the Kingdom

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Have you ever wondered what the keys to the kingdom are? In response to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock (his confession) I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).

The keys to the kingdom were not only for Peter. They are for every believer who abides in Christ and in whom His word abides.


The person who abides in Christ has God-shaped desires. He knows the character and will of God from being in a relationship with Him. That is the person God gives the keys of the kingdom. Could the keys be our prayers? Jesus said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 16:7).


Holy God, wonderful Father, thank you for Jesus. Through His sacrifice we have access to you, our Lord. Thank you! As we abide in you, teach us your ways, will and purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

No Other Gods

The first commandment says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:6-10).

In this first commandment is God’s covenant of love–those who reject God will be punished to the third and fourth generations, but God will show love to those who love Him and keep His commands for a thousand generations. How foolish it is to choose an idol made by man to worship instead of worshiping the God of all creation!


Unfortunately people worship what they can see over what they cannot see. Instead of trusting a living God, although unseen, they choose to worship manmade idols. Idols have eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, and they have no power to help in times of trouble. People who worship them become as worthless as their items of worship, yet those who worship the Creator God, become loving, merciful, forgiving, compassionate and helpful to others.

We may not think we worship manmade gods, because they do not look like the picture above. But what do you spend your time doing? Is it serving others or yourself with pleasure or hobbies? God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. Relationships take time, so spend your time wisely–God and others or self.


O Lord, send your Spirit on us to spend our time wisely. Help us to become more like Jesus. In His great name we pray, Amen.

5 Loaves for 5,000

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded at Herod’s birthday party, He withdrew by boat to a solitary place. He looked up and saw a large crowd following Him. He had compassion on the people and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples asked Him to send the crowd away so they could go to the surrounding villages and buy food for themselves. Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). A boy offered them his lunch of five barley loaves and two fish, but how far would this go? Jesus said, “Bring them here to me,” and He directed the people to sit down on the grass. He took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks and broke the loaves. The disciples distributed the food to the people, and all ate and were satisfied–about 5,000 men (not counting women and children).


It seemed like Jesus asked the disciples to do the impossible when He said, “You give them something to eat.” Yet, He participated in serving the people. God intervenes in times when we feel inadequate to do what we think is impossible. We will never do great things if we limit ourselves, but if we trust God, He will help us do more than we can imagine.


O Lord help us to carry out your will and plan in our lives, even when we think the task is impossible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Best of Prayer

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Do you want the best you can think of or the best God can think of? Do you find it difficult to pray as Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)?

We live in an instant gratification culture. If we want it, we get it, but prayer often involves a waiting period. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Consider the story of Lazarus in John 11. When he was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. “Lord, the one you love is sick.” The sisters were close friends with Jesus and had seen how He healed people. They thought sure He would come immediately when He got their message, but He didn’t. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days” (John 11:5-6). What?

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Martha and Mary said to Jesus if He had been there, their brother would not have died. He followed them to the tomb and asked that the stone be rolled away. Martha said, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days” (John 11:39). The Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” They rolled the stone away and Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out and Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (Luke 11:44).


Do you see how God was glorified in the waiting? A great number of people had come from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to comfort Mary and Martha. These people saw what happened and believed. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their brother Lazarus, but He gave Lazarus back to them. For two women who probably had no other means of support, this was the best God could think of. This was a greater miracle that what they prayed for or expected.


Thank you, Father God, for Jesus. Help us to pray that He would be glorified in our lives. Help us to pray in line with your will and to persevere–to wait for the best you have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The World Needs a Rescue

A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the question with a question. “What does the law say?” The lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus agreed with him. Then the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responded with a story about a Jewish man who traveled on a rocky path through the mountains from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. They stripped him, beat him up and left him for dead. A priest walked by the injured man on the other side of the road. A Levite also walked by the injured man, but a Samaritan came by and took pity on him. He bandaged up his wounds pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and said, “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have” (Luke 10:35).

Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”


I have been convicted about busyness in my life, and like the priest or Levite, I would probably be too busy, too committed to stop and help anyone, something of which I’ve had to ask God to forgive me. There is more to this story than meets the eye. It’s called a parable. Compared to the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem was a place where man met with God and Jericho was the cursed area outside the garden. The world today is like the man who fell among thieves and needs our help. The world needs Jesus who is not only able to rescue us from drowning; He teaches us to swim. This gives greater depth to the situation of the man who fell among thieves. Mankind needs to know about the amazing love of Jesus. Helping others in trouble is a good way to initiate a discussion that will lead to their need of a Savior. Who will tell them? I hope you will answer as Isaiah did when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).


Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Jesus and His amazing love. Create in our hearts a willingness and availability to serve others by recognizing opportunities to share your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Look to Things Above

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Since you received God’s amazing love, set your minds on things above, not on earthy things. Get rid of your anger, rage, malice, slander and bad language. Do not lie to each other. Don’t live in sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. You used to do these things, but now as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. Bear each other’s problems. Forgive each other as Christ forgave you. And love each other because love unites all these together in perfect harmony (my paraphrase of Colossians 3).


Living for God and not ourselves is very different for new believers, but God has put His guidelines in His word, the Bible. He wants us to shine as beacons of His light in this dark world so we will lead others to experience God’s love, which will give them peace over their anxiety, hope in place of discouragement and lives of purpose in place of confusion or frustration.


Heavenly Father, be in us today to overcome the world–to love and serve others. Empower us with your love and a love of your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Heavenly Minded

Heaven is the hope of every believer, but heaven probably has as many definitions as there are believers. At creation, however, God made everything with eternity in mind. It is a real place. I imagine the Garden of Eden with beautiful skies, waterfalls, flowers and trees. The Bible describes the New Jerusalem as a precious jewel. The wall is made of jasper, and the city of pure gold as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, ruby, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, turquoise, and amethyst. The streets are of pure gold as pure as transparent glass. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Revelation 21:3-4).


Too many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good, but if Heaven is our hope and it is a real place, shouldn’t we live to glorify God on earth as we would in eternity? Whatever we do for God will last forever. It will have an affect on people before and after we are gone from earth and will continue to be part of God’s plan in Heaven. Randy Alcorn said in his book HEAVEN that man’s creativity and technological advancement will not be lost in Heaven. The God who gave people creativity surely won’t take it back, will he? The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

So how should we live? Although God is interested in our work, He is more interested in how we live. He calls us to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live our lives with love, light and wisdom (Ephesians 5:1-2). This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).

So, since Jesus gave us all He had, His life, let us give our lives to Him in response by loving each other.


Heavenly Father, help us to be more like Jesus–to love as He does and to show compassion as He does. Fill us with your Spirit to fulfill your plan on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.