DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

The Kingdom is a Mess (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Big Idea: The Kingdom's a temporary mess.

Purpose: To understand why the Kingdom seems to struggle alongside evil.

Every Thursday night, police and pastors go out on a community walk just north of here. I joined them last Thursday night. We walked through a park just off Dixon Road. The place was packed with kids and families.

As we walked, I saw pictures that looked a little like the Kingdom:

  • Police playing basketball with youth
  • Kids going up and laughing and asking about all the police gear
  • Pastors knowing Somali kids by name
  • Smiles exchanged between strangers looking at these strangers going through, wearing police uniforms and clerical collars

It made me realize how much work has gone on in our community already, and what God is up to. You see evidences of the Kingdom wherever you look.

But you also see other things:

  • Banana leaves on the ground, discarded from holding khat (a drug)
  • Kids that keep their distance and don't make eye contact
  • Reports that this is a high-activity area for police enforcement

You have to wonder how the Kingdom can exist side by side with evil. No matter how much the Kingdom advances, it seems that evil always manages to keep up. A lot of the times it looks like evil is ahead.

Why? If the Kingdom is so powerful, why does evil always seem to be neck-and-neck? It's easy to give up, to accept that evil is just as powerful. This leads to discouragement and sometimes even makes you want to quit. At worst, it leads to a crisis of confidence in God.

You need to listen to this, because you and I can get so used to evil and the Kingdom co-existing that we think that's the way it is. We don't even feel the tension any longer because we've given up on the power of the Kingdom.

Jesus told a story about this tension. It's part of the passage we began looking at last week - stories about the Kingdom. When Jesus wanted to teach about the Kingdom, he knew the most powerful way to communicate what the Kingdom is like is to tell stories.

Jesus said:

Jesus told them another parable:"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30)

Strange story! Think about the story for a minute, assuming that's all you have. What does this mean? The only hint we have to its meaning is"The kingdom of heaven is like..." How is the kingdom like the man who sowed seed and had an enemy plant weeds?

Evidently the listeners didn't get it either. They asked Jesus for an explanation. He gives one in verses 36-43:

  • Farmer = Son of Man (Jesus)
  • Field = world (not church as is often assumed)
  • Good seed = people in the Kingdom (us)
  • Weeds = people of the evil one
  • Enemy = devil
  • Harvest = end of age
  • Harvesters = angels

Note: the field belongs to the farmer. Or, the world belongs to Jesus. The world's not a mess because it belongs to the devil. There's got to be another reason.

If the world belongs to Jesus, and he has begun his Kingdom, why is the world such a mess?

1. The Kingdom exists alongside evil (25-26)

This is the tension. Why do bad things happen? Isn't God in control? Why does the Kingdom look like it's in trouble so much of the time? Jesus tells us: there is a devil, and he is still at work. The Kingdom exists alongside evil. God's people live side by side with people who aren't part of the Kingdom. Satan is active.

2. It's hard to know how to react (27-28)

First reaction: bewilderment
Second reaction: Do something!

3. God delays judgment for the sake of those who will believe (29)

There will be a day that God deals with evil - but that day has not come yet.

4. That judgment will separate evil and good (30, 41-43)

This raises the stakes. Even though things look pretty equal right now, the future couldn't be more different when God judges. See the current reality through harvest eyes.

Don't lower your expectations! The Kingdom will outgrow evil. The Kingdom's a mess - but it's a temporary one.

It looks like evil and the Kingdom are in a neck-and-neck race, but the Kingdom will prevail. We are to be patient, and never underestimate the Kingdom of God.

When someone walks through a park and sees evidence of the Kingdom but also evidence that evil is keeping up, remember - the enemy is working overtime as well. But only because God is holding back on judgment so the Kingdom work will continue.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

The Kingdom's Worth It (Matthew 13:44-46)

Big Idea: What is the Kingdom like? It's like a treasure buried.

Purpose: To imagine what the quest for the supremely valuable Kingdom might look like today.

You may have heard of Steve Vaught, a man from California. You may not know his name as well as his nickname, Fat Man Walking. Steve writes:

My Name is Steve Vaught, (born Stephen James Liller in Youngstown, Ohio). I am a 39 year old, happily married father of two great kids and I have a pretty good life here in Southern California. You would think that I would be happy because of these things, but I am not. I am not happy because I am fat and being fat makes every day unhappy.

Consider Carefully How You Listen (Luke 8:1-18)

Big Idea: Why is how we listen to God's Word important? Because how we listen determines whether we will receive more, or whether what we have will be taken away.

How we listen to God's Word determines our spiritual future.

Purpose: To re-sensitize our hearts to what's at stake when we hear God's Word.

We do a funny thing here. Every week, roughly the same group of people (the congregation) come to hear the same person (the preacher) speak.

If the average preacher speaks 100 words a minute, that means you'll hear 3,000 words a sermon - maybe around 150,000 words a year. What difference does all that make?

Many today question whether preaching works. We become so familiar with it, and even with reading God's Word, that we forget what's at stake whenever we hear or read God's Word.

There have been times for most of us that God's Word crackled with life. And there are other times that we don't read it, or if we do, we forget what we've read or heard soon after we've read it.

There's a danger that we will forget exactly what's at stake every time we read or hear God's Word. For this reason, Jesus tells us a story.

The Parable of the Sower

Luke describes the scene:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable... (Luke 8:1-4)

You've got quite a diverse group of people following Jesus and listening to him. I'm guessing that those mentioned at the start of the passage - those who had been cured or had demons cast out, or who had recently started following Him - were eager to hear and receive God's Word. Others in the crowd may have become familiar and less hungry. In this context, Jesus tells a story in verses 5-8:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."

When he said this, he called out,"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

The story is about someone scattering seeds. He's got a sack of seeds and is sowing them in a field that hadn't been prepared. It had some areas where seed could grow, but it also had rock areas and paths.

I would be fired for preaching like this! It looks like Jesus just tells a story and then pronounces a benediction and dismisses everyone. It seems like nobody was able to figure out what Jesus meant by this story:

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said,"The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

"'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'" (Luke 8:9-10)

This is our first hint that something is happening below the surface. Jesus is illustrating, even in the way that he tells the parable, that different types of hearing take place when people hear God's Word. Even when Jesus himself preached, people hear differently.

Jesus explains the meaning of the parable in verses 11-15."This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). God's Word has life within it, just as a seed does. When it is read and preached, it has power to bring life - but that depends on how the Word is received.

Jesus says that there are four different ways to hear and read God's Word:

One -"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12) - Some hear God's Word and never receive it. Jesus himself says that the devil is active when God's Word is preached, causing some to question it and reject it even before it begins its work.

Two -"Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." (Luke 8:13) - I have a book in my library signed by some of my friends years ago. One of of the inscriptions is incredibly sad. It's written by someone who was the most spiritually alive of my friends at the time. She was a passionate believer, but soon after fell away. It's possible to hear God's Word in a superficial way, but to not really hear God's Word so that it takes root and produces lasting change in our lives.

Three -"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." (Luke 8:14) - This happens a lot. We hear God's Word, but get distracted by life. All of us have at least one of the distractions Jesus mentions: worries, riches, or pleasures. When these things keep us from really hearing God's Word, we"do not mature."

Four -"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15) - Only one of the four ways of hearing God's Word produces lasting change.

Jesus tells us how to hear God's Word so that it affects our lives:

  • Prepare good and noble hearts - Not perfect hearts, but hearts that are prepared to hear or read God's Word. The disciplines of preparation are important here: to believe that God's Word is so important, that we need to adjust our lifestyles so we are prepared whenever we come to read or hear God's Word. This is your contribution as we come to worship.
  • Hear the Word - As we read or listen, actively participate in receiving it. Hearing is not passive! We can work to hear and read God's Word even in sermons that aren't well delivered.
  • Retain it - To take it home with you, meditate on it, search for ways for that Word to find its place in your heart.
  • Through perseverance produce a crop - this takes effort and perseverance!

What's at Stake

The point of this passage, and what's at stake, is found in verse 18:"Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Those who have will be given more; as for those who do not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."

This is a fork in the road. Ever wonder why some people become more spiritually alive and mature over time? Because"Those who have will be given more." Ever wonder why some people don't mature? This is the danger we all face, the default setting -"those who do not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."

That's what is at stake when we hear and read God's Word.

Gandhi said,"You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world. But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else."

"Therefore consider carefully how you listen." (Luke 8:18)