bread, discernment, discipleship, faith, field, grain, Holy Spirit, kingdom, our hearts, seed, sower

The Parable of the Growing Seed, #21

Mark 4:26-29

 “The kingdom of God is like this,” he said. “A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how.” 

“The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head. 29 As soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

From a seed to a plant. We have no idea how this happens, it just does. This is a “kingdom” parable, one of several that explain what God’s realm is, and how it happens. In this particular story, we’re told how the Holy Spirit works. It also explains our role in this (which isn’t a whole lot).

The farmer puts the seed in the ground—and that’s it. He’s done his work, there’s nothing more he can do. He doesn’t do anything else from this point, and honestly he can’t. And yet the soil needs to be prepared—plowed, fertilized and tilled again. You might say he creates the conditions (that’s what makes a good farmer, I guess) for something to happen.

He doesn’t massage the seed, coaxing it to grow. He doesn’t sing to it, or tell it about the wonders of being lush and green. He does zero. The seed grows on its own. He goes to bed, and gets up. After several days, bingo! That seed turns into a plant—something green and alive. He doesn’t do a thing. Life occurs without his work.

The point is this. God’s work is done invisibly within us (and that’s a relief)!

“The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature.”

Robertson’s Commentary

God’s kingdom works pretty much like this. The farmer doesn’t cause the seed growth, all he does is go to bed! He sleeps and waits and watches. It grows and he hasn’t the slightest. It’s a complete mystery. He has done everything he can, and God has done the rest. He “shares” in this amazing transformation, but the father has done it all.

We trust in a process we cannot see, or really understand.

We don’t dig the seed up every morning to see what’s happening. We just let the (super)natural happen. And it does!

The farmer has faith in the process (after all, he did plant the seed), but that’s it. There’s a verse in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the should be considered. It gives us confidence and a definite trust in this process of growth. The Apostle Paul understands this “principle of growth.”

“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.”

We must trust God completely to grow. We’re responsible for tilling and planting. But you need to understand what happens after that is up to him. The kingdom of God is supernatural. It’s exactly how the kingdom happens—and we must be patient and wise.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

Arnold Glascow

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bread, discipleship, faith, kingdom, our hearts, prayer, work

The Parable of the Midnight Request, #15

Luke 11:5-8, CSV

“He also said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 

I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

This parable is known by some as “the Importunate Neighbor.” That’s an excellent description. Importunate is defined as being persistent, especially to the point of annoyance or intrusion. It’s tenacious and stubborn–not giving up even when being ignored. That describes what’s happening here.

What proceeds this parable is Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer, which the disciples requested. They wanted to understand the methods and mechanics of praying–perhaps the Pharisee’s prayers weren’t quite up to snuff–they wanted more; and they insisted that Jesus instruct them. They wanted to do it right.

A typical Jewish home had sleeping quarters (one room!) located on a raised platform. A ladder was used to access that level (which could be crowded, sometimes two to a bed.) Often their livestock were brought inside. And when it was time to get up, everyone got up. That explains the homeowner’s reluctance to give bread to his neighbor. To get up, light a lamp, wasn’t a solitary affair.

He’s obviously unenthusiastic to make an effort.

The word used here to explain the neighbor actions is ἀναίδεια “anaídeia,” which is only ever used here–it’s translated as impudence, shamelessness, audacity or “chutzpah.” It’s a Greek word that explains the knocker’s rudeness. He won’t stop. He knocks and pounds until he gets his bread. Not to have bread for his guest is unheard of, it violates the unwritten law of Jewish hospitality. 

This is part of Jesus’ view on prayer. It means we must be inappropriate sometimes–even to the point were we are being rude.

Immediately following this parable (the very next thought) are the following instructions:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10

Perhaps it’s this intensity that’s lacking.

We “pray” but don’t insist. We desire but don’t demand. Maybe it takes a certain shamelessness to make prayer work. Jesus emphasizes a necessary component to praying God’s way. It’s never automatic, a simple phrase or two that moves the father’s heart, and loosens his hand. In Jesus’ teaching, prayer means effort.

“There is neither encouragement nor room in Bible religion for feeble desires, listless efforts, lazy attitudes; all must be strenuous, urgent, ardent. Flamed desires, impassioned, unwearied insistence delight heaven. God would have His children incorrigibly in earnest and persistently bold in their efforts. Heaven is too busy to listen to half-hearted prayers or to respond to pop-calls. Our whole being must be in our praying.”

    E.M. Bounds

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bread, kingdom, our hearts, yeast

Hiding the Yeast, #4

Mix it up and watch out!

Matthew 13:33 (context, vv. 33-35)

 “He told them another parable.” 

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

One version says 50 lbs (or 40 liters for you metric fiends) of flour. Crazy, why that much is beyond me–some figured it out and it would be enough bread for 100 people at least. Far more flour and yeast that was close to normal used. The parable that Jesus taught would certainly be humorous to the listeners. I suppose their imaginations were in overdrive.

What Jesus taught in these stories was truth that engaged the listeners. They would leave and the stories would stick.

These parables, or stories, were like bombs that would eventually explode in the hearts of the people. Sooner or later, maybe when they least expected it, these parables would suddenly make sense. A lightning strike. Very seldom did they connect immediately. We can see this by the disciples desire to have them explained. They didn’t get it at first. But when Jesus illuminated them, they understood.

Back to verse 33. Lots and lots of flour, and just a bit of yeast (leaven). It doesn’t take much to make bread rise.

Notice she “hid” the yeast. Perhaps she didn’t realize the power they had when they mixed–and why the secrecy? What was going on with that?

I’m starting to think that the kingdom of God has a definite power. It works secretly, it’s not visible to anyone. It just does its stuff. The yeast, combined with the flour is a hidden process–something that isn’t observable. Perhaps that’s the way God’s kingdom comes, quietly, secretly but powerfully. Once the flour and yeast are come together it’s pretty difficult to stop it.

The kingdom is working in our lives.

And most of the time it’s a hidden work. We can’t understand the process, or grasp how it’s happening. We seldom know what God is doing. We may concentrate on being a witness to our neighbor, (which is a good thing, please do) but perhaps the Holy Spirit is working instead on our patience, or love.

What we think is going on escapes us. I’ve been in ministry almost 40 years now, and I’ve tried to be faithful and worked on my discernment. But it seems I don’t quite grasp yet what the Father is doing inside of me. And I admit, I’m not really sure what’s going on in the lives of those I teach and counsel. Most of the time, I have no idea what he’s doing.

And that’s alright. I know he loves me very much and I trust him to work in me.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

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