Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Parable of the Mustard Seed and Yeast


Today I want to talk to you about The Parables of Mustard Seed and Yeast

My Scripture Text is from Matthew 13.31-35

‘Great oaks from little acorns grow.’ I am sure you have heard that saying before and I am also pretty sure many, if not all, of you fully understand what it means. From humble, small, insignificant beginnings great things can grow and materialize in this world – hence great oak trees many hundreds of years old and reaching to the skies began life like this, an acorn. An acorn which dropped from an oak tree and was buried in the ground, hidden and unseen by human eyes until one day a small shoot sprang up and over many years a tall, strong, majestic oak has grown.

Remember the context in which Christ is speaking and remember the context into which Matthew is writing his gospel of Christ. For Christ there are a small band of genuine followers. He has just been rejected by the religious leaders of the day and has begun his public teaching ministry out in the open air. He has begun to turn his back on Galilee and to turn towards Jerusalem where he will be crucified and rise again. Matthew is writing his gospel of Christ to a small persecuted fledgling church, mainly of Jewish believers. To this small, insignificant at least to the Roman world around, Matthew recounts these words of Christ as a means of encouragement.

Let’s talk first about the tiny Mustard Seed

At the time of Christ to say something was the size of a mustard seed was to say it was no great significance, that it was very small indeed. It was a common proverbial saying of the day. No doubt to the followers of Christ the church did indeed seem small and insignificant – certainly if you measured it against the might of the Roman Empire or the edifices of Judaism or some of the pagan cults of the day. In answer to the question: Why is the kingdom of God so insignificant? Matthew reminds his hearers of these two sayings or parables of Christ.

A mustard seed is indeed microscopic and yet when it is fully grown it grows into a plant that is some 4 meters in height. Compared to the seed from which it grew that is phenomenal growth. Yes to the world around the figure of Christ and his followers might indeed seem small and insignificant – they appear as a mustard seed, the weak things of this world. Zechariah 4.10 says we are not to despise the days of small things. And it may well be that the followers to whom Matthew writes were indeed like the lambs described in Isaiah 40.11 – that needed to be carried around close the heart of the shepherd for protection and warmth because of their frailty at that moment. Yet, despite of all of this there is growth going on and in time the growth would be phenomenal. Even though the mustard seed is small, it is still a seed. A seed full of potential to grow into a 4 meter tall plant to which the birds of the air would flock to roost in the shade of its branches. To those listening to Christ or hearing the reading of Matthew’s gospel this picture of birds coming to roost in the branches of this tree would have jarred with them. Birds in the OT, especially in Ezekiel 17.23 and Daniel 4.20-22, spoke of the Gentile nations. Jesus is hinting that not only will this little seed grow to a remarkable size but that its branches will spread beyond the narrow confines of Judaism and provide a home for the Gentiles. Here Christ speaks of the spread of the kingdom of God beyond the Jewish people to the Gentile nations. Please note they come to the tree to roost – that is they come to Christ and in him alone they find salvation and rest.

It is a seed whose purpose and disposition is to grow and given the right conditions it will grow into the greatest of all garden herbs. It will grow and it will mature and it will amaze with its strength – beyond all expectations of what was thought possible when that little mustard seed was in their hands. At present the seed looks small and insignificant, just as the kingdom of God looks small and insignificant. But it will not stay that way. Remember…..Significance is not measured in numbers or size.

Now let’s talk about The Yeast.

Leaven had a bad press in Judaism. All leaven had to be scrupulously removed from a house before the Passover could be celebrated. So Jesus’ hearers would have been surprised to hear him liken the kingdom of God to leaven. Maybe, just maybe, that is how the followers of Christ were viewed by the Jewish religious leaders and people of the day – like leaven that had to be removed from the house. After all his disciples were uneducated fishermen, tax collectors, etc. and he freely associated in their eyes with drunkards and sinners, not to mention prostitutes whom he allowed to wash his feet, and worst of all he had women amongst his disciples, something no self-respecting rabbi would have done. So maybe leaven wasn’t really such a surprise after all. Christ tells them that a woman took the leaven and mixed it into a large amount of flour. In the original it says into three measures of flour – that would be the equivalent of 40 kg of flour, enough to feed around 100 people. This is no ordinary amount of flour but industrial amounts of flour. The amount of flour is in contrast to the amount of yeast. Yet without the yeast the making of the bread would not happen. The small amount of yeast is hidden or kneaded into the flour and it permeates right through the lot. It transforms the whole dough. It is this transforming act that Christ wishes to emphasize to his hearers – hence he says the ‘woman hid the yeast in the dough.’ It works unseen to the human eye and out of all proportion to its size, especially in relation to the amount of flour into which it is hidden. Jesus here reminds them that the work of the kingdom of God in their lives and the life of their community often goes on unseen by human eyes and that God, since the start of creation, has been work his yeast into the dough of this world. One day it will become apparent in my life, your life and the life of this community.

You know if you put yeast into un-ground wheat it has no effect at all – there must be flour, water and yeast for the transformation to take place. The gospel (yeast) similarly will have no spiritual affect whatsoever in the life of one whose heart has not been broken or humbled by and before God. Also the dough needs to be kneaded, moistened and the yeast worked into every area of the dough to have the maximum affect. The same is true if the kingdom of God is to come to full fruition in your life and mine. The word of God must be worked into every area of our lives so that the leaven of the gospel can have affect in every area and not be limited to a few areas. When the woman hides the leaven in the heart of the flour it is with intention – that it might transform the dough. The same is true of the gospel – we hide it in our hearts with intention – not for secrecy but for transformation purposes. Thus when the gospel comes into our hearts it works a change, not in the substance of the heart, the dough remains the same, but in the quality - it makes us to savor things we would have before rejected or ignored. It works throughout all areas of our life and transforms that which it touches. The change is such that it makes the soul partake of the word just as the dough partakes of the leaven. Just as the leaven transforms the dough unseen, secretly but with lasting affect so the gospel by grace does the same to our lives. It changes, transforms us to take on the likeness of Christ just as the flour is transformed by the yeast.

So in each of these, the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus wants his hearers to understand the significance of that which the world views as insignificant. He wants them to understand the paradox of the insignificant or hidden beginnings and a triumphant climax. Jesus is impressing on them that the mustard seed has been planted and the yeast mixed into the dough and the transformation is going on, even if they and the world fail to see it. No matter how unpromising it looks and despite the opposition it will face the transformation will come to pass. Little is great where God is at work.

The greatest thing is that For us the lessons are simple.

Do not despise the day of small things. We should not despise the small things in our lives or in the lives of others. Numbers are no measure of success in the kingdom of God. You know on the night that Charles Spurgeon was converted, probably one of the greatest preachers ever to live, there were only 10 people in the church. Christ only had 12 disciples but they grew to 120, who all fitted in one room on the Day of Pentecost – but from these the gospel has reached around the globe.

The gospel begins small in all our lives. It may be an invitation to a church service or event. It may just be an act of kindness that has brought us this far. Each of us should remember that and also remember the potential significance in the lives of others of the small things done for the sake of the gospel. Plant the mustard seeds and watch the phenomenal growth occur.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Finish

It is Lisa Jo Baker's last couple of weeks hosting us on Five Minute Friday so I guess Finish is a good word to end with.  Kate Motaung will be taking up the torch officially on August 8th.  The rules have not changed.  Write for 5 minutes without editing, rethinking, or rewriting.  Write what is in your heart.  Link up here and then comment on the person's post that comes before your post. It is pretty simple.  Today's word is Finish....Ready, Set, GO!


My summer vacation as a teacher is finished.  In two weeks I will head back to school and welcome in another school year.  This year will be different than any others, because this year I will finish twenty-five years of teacher and retiring.....but there is more.  July 29th the Board of Education in Randolph County will be deciding if they want me to teach for the system for the county I live in.....so I will finish up my time at Benjamin Russell.  Finishes are sad sometimes.  When you are ending a race or a project you have worked hard on they can be fun and exciting.....but in this case it will me mean leaving special peers I have grown to know and love.  I always think of the word finish at the end of every school year as the seniors get ready to walk across the field and finish something they began in kindergarten.  Sometimes I am sad because I feel as if they are moving on....and I am stagnant.  Other times I beam with pride when I see what they have overcome or accomplished in their four years with me.  The result is the same....they finish....and now I will be finishing.  I am reminded of the words of Christ upon the cross.  In John 19:30 we find the end of Christ's life near and "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."  I believe that is why the word finished has such a sad connotation to me.  It means time is done.  Yet, as I sit here today and think about the word I find myself smiling.  I will be finished with teaching.....and beginning a new life as a retiree.  I guess that is the good thing about the word finish...it usually implies that something else will be beginning.  For that I am grateful!  How about you?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What I Wish You'd Told Me

About The Book:  Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster) and Indie Finalist Kaylee’s Ghost (Amazon and Nook) presents What I Wish You’d Told Me, a collection of three stories of women of various ages grappling with the wacky and the tragic in their lives. “Secrets,” set in the ’60s, is the gripping story of a teenage girl whose illusions about her best friend’s family are blasted along with her faith in Kennedy’s Camelot. “A Sympathetic Listener” is the hilarious and heartbreaking story of a 24-year-old woman with cancer who, on her healing odyssey, finds connection and support from a most surprising source. In “Great-aunt Mariah and the Gigolo,” a 70-something widow rocks the family when she brings home her young beau. This is a short e-book published by Shebooks--high quality fiction, memoir, and journalism for women, by women. For more information, visit http://shebooks.net.

About The Author:  Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s first novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Her novel Kaylee’s Ghost (Amazon and Nook) is an Indie Finalist. She’s published essays in the New York Times and Newsweek and in many anthologies. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared in the Coe Review, Compass Rose, the Griffin, Inkwell Magazine, the Iowa Review, the Los Angeles Review, the MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, Negative Capability, Pennsylvania English, the Carolina Review, and more. She won the Brandon Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Shapiro is a professional psychic who currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension. Find out more about her at http://www.rochellejewelshapiro.com.
My Thoughts About The Book:  I enjoyed all three of the stories in different ways.  Shapiro is really good at adding twists and turns to a story especially when you think you have figured out the plot.  I enjoyed A Sympathetic Listener the most.  I found the story one I related too.  I read the book in one sitting and it was an easy, pleasurable read. 
 Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Shebooks and Net Galley to review in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Out Of Dublin

About The Book:  Out of Dublin, a survivor’s captivating story of loss, abuse, and resilience, is a stunning short memoir told with startling honesty and vulnerability. Perhaps what’s most arresting about this work, above its unique voice, above its call to end silence, is the depth of its author’s capacity for compassion, love, and forgiveness.    This is a short e-book published by Shebooks--high quality fiction, memoir, and journalism for women, by women. For more information, visit http://shebooks.net.
About The Author:  ETHEL ROHAN was born and raised in Ireland and now lives in San Francisco. She is the author of a short e-memoir, Out of Dublin, and two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the latter longlisted for The Story Prize. Winner of Ireland's 2013 Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award, her work has or will appear in The New York Times, PEN America, World Literature Today, BREVITY Magazine, Tin House Online, and The Rumpus, among many others. Visit her at ethelrohan.com.
My Thoughts About The Book:  This was one of the saddest reads I have reviewed in a while.  The story is heartbreaking.  It was very short and I really felt there needed to be more.  Not one of my favorites.
Disclaimer: This book was given to me to review in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday and Hodge Podge

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge! Grab your coffee or your tea or your ice water with a slice of lemon and settle in for a chat.  Be sure to add the link to your own answers at the end of Joyce's post.  Here we go-


1. When I look at the sky I feel ______________________________________.
...like a child.  I love to lay out in the grass and see what I can find in the clouds.

2. If you had to run for political office, which one would you run for? Do you have any real desire to actually do this?
Right now I am very frustrated with most of the politicians in office.  I truly do believe term limits are a must because it seems the longer they seem to forget why they are there and who they represent.  I would run for State School Board.  I would like to believe that I could make a difference in the lives of our children.
3. What scent makes you think of home?
Freshly cleaned linen (especially when it was dried outside on a sunny day) and the spice smell associated with apple pie and pumpkin pie.

4. How often do you take a step back to think about where you're headed in life? Do you need more or less self-reflection?
I self-reflect for sure every year as the new year begins. I also self-reflect at the end of every school year. I always ask myself these three questions:  Did I accomplish what I wanted to?  Did I make a difference?  Am I doing the right thing?
5. July is National Ice Cream Month...besides a cone, what's your favorite food item to top with ice cream?
Apple pie..  

6. What might your autobiography be called?
I am actually working on one and it is going to be called...right now that is.... "Have I Got A Story For You."

7. Your least favorite mode of transportation? Why?
My least favorite mode is a plane.  Even though you can get where you are going faster.....you cannot enjoy the trip along the way.  My favorite is a Car - so I can stop, get out and enjoy the scenery when I want to.   Have camera will travel is my motto and in a car I can pull over at any time and drink in the beauty.

 8.  Insert your own random thought here.
Kat and Brian made it to Moldova and hit the ground running.  Keep up with them on their blog.  I know they would love the visits from home.

 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To My Precious Daughter and Son In Law On Leaving For Moldova

When Kat left for college I wrote a poem for her called To My Daugher on Leaving For College.  I actually submitted it to Blue Mountain Arts and they bought it from me for a whopping 50.00.  Many years have gone by and I found myself struggling with words for Kat and Brian as they embarked on their new mission - missionaries to orphans in Moldova with Philip Cameron Ministries.  So I sat down and wrote To My Precious Daughter and Son-In-Law On Leaving For Moldova.  I gave it to Kat last Thursday night at the prayer service with instructions not to open it until the wheels of the plane were up.  They are in Moldova.  They are eight hours ahead of me right now.  I won't see them for a long time.....but my heart....my heart is with them. 

Today is Sunday, July 20th and I know the day will be dawning bright and glorious for you.

Yet, there will be a storm brewing in my heart

You and Brian have loaded the last of your life in the suitcases

And will be heading to Atlanta to begin the next journey in your life. A journey that has been three years in the making.

It is one that the two of you will go on with God.

I have watched you both grow from children to adults and am one proud momma

The mother of missionaries is a new role for me, but I know God will train me in it well.

I have done all I was supposed to do as a parent.

To quote you, “Moms are great, moms are grand, moms are everything but a man”.

So here I am now, giving you to God and setting you free again.

Just like when you went to college I was sad.

Today I find myself sad again, but for me.I am glad for you.

I am bursting with pride at the life choice you both have made.

You have amazing life partners in each other.

But then I think I knew that when “B” was just in the 9th grade.

Your new journey is on the other side of the world from me.

You both are destined to do great works in the Lord.

And although you have not lived in my house for a long time

I find myself missing you already.

You are embarking on a spiritual journey of a lifetime.serving God.
A thousand thoughts flood my mind as I sit here writing this for you guys.



Have I told you this? Have I taught you that?

Moldova will love you both.  Stella’s Voice is lucky to have you.  Hug those babies(and teens) real  good.

On my way to church.to do MY calling I know my eyes will fill with tears.

But I promise you they will be happy tears.

You know, the day you were born I knew I was beginning the process of letting you go.

The fact that I am letting you go with God as your pilot is an awesome feeling.

Know that you will always, be in my heart, and will only be as far away as Skype, Facebook , and email.

I want to be part of your experiences.so be sure you keep your blog updated.

Enjoy this experience, grow with this experience.  Know that I am praying for you both.

With much love and God’s many blessings,
Remember Isaiah 6:8.  It was the verse I thought God had given me about you.that turned out to be specifically for me. 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Evergreen



About The Book:  An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris?  Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.  As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.
About The Author:  "Growing up in Minneapolis and attending the U of MN, I learned to love city life, although I'm a woodsy girl at heart. Or maybe I'm an adventurer -- having lived and traveled all over the world, including Siberia Russia as a missionary for eight years. Probably that's why my characters can't sit still, and seem to get into one scrape after another -- they're too much like me! I love God, my family, my country, my church, and feel privileged every day to be able to write stories, that I hope inspire and entertain!"
My Thoughts On The Book:  I love reading Susan May Warren.  This book was no exception.  It is another delightful story of the Christiansen family.  From the moment I began reading until I reached the last page I was hooked.  I was actually sad that the story had ended.  Warren is a wonderful character builder and you feel as if this family lives next door to you.  This is a must read.
Disclaimer: This book was given to me to review in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts are entirely my own.  Thank you for this opportunity.