Why a mustard seed?

Mustard seedsAlthough theologians and even botanists disagree about exactly what variety of plant Jesus was alluding to in this parable (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-21), one theory I read recently struck me. In the Holy Land at that time the mustard seed, although small, could grow as high as ten feet under the right conditions, so it could be considered a tree, unlike the mustard plants most commonly seen today. Moreover, it is was an aggressive plant which might be compared to the Star Thistles of the western United States in its ability to invade and spread. Like those pesky thistles, wild mustard was considered a weed, popping up, uninvited, and crowding out other cultivated plants.

Looked at in this way, our Lord may have been saying that if our faith holds the potential of this seed, believers could spread far and wide and truly move mountains, rather than implying that even a puny amount of faith could do so.

We’ve all seen people of weak faith lose even the faith they have in the face of adversity and wondered, in light of the mustard seed parable, why that small faith wasn’t effective, but if Christ’s words were speaking of the quality of one’s faith, rather than the quantity, it explains a lot.

When allowed to run rampant, insinuating itself into every part of life, even a seed of genuine faith could indeed change the landscape of our current culture.

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The Burden of Blessing

I love those cute Russian matryoshka nesting dolls, don’t you? It’s such fun to keep opening each one to find the next little treasure.nesting dolls

Sometimes I think blessings are like those little dolls. Each precious blessing contains an equally precious burden.

We’ve often heard that with great fortune comes great responsibility and I’ve found this to be true with all forms of blessing. If you own a large house or fancy cars, you have the burden of maintaining and protecting them. Getting your dream job means you must work hard to keep it and prove yourself competent. Beyond material blessings is a life filled with good friends…worth more than the things you can amass… but those friendships, like all relationships, require work to stay healthy. And then, there is the even greater blessings of children and grandchildren, and any mother can attest to the added burden of care which accompanies these treasures.

But what about the greatest blessing of all? Surely God’s great gift of Salvation doesn’t contain a burden? I think it does. While on this side of Glory, our gift of salvation carries the burden of obedience. We are tasked with taking this blessing seriously and doing all we can to share the love of God with others.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Only in Heaven do we open the ultimate blessing to find not a burden, but only eternal Joy.

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Why study the Bible?

I’m starting a new Bible study this fall and recently attended the orientation meeting. The facilitator asked each of the members our reason for joining the study, which is one requiring a real commitment of time during the week as well as the weekly meetings.

Considering my answer while listening to the others’ responses, I realized the real question should be, “If you are a Christian, why wouldn’t you be devoting yourself to study of God’s Revealed Word?”

mp900443601If you are a professed believer, you already accept the validity of the Bible and the reality of God. You already get the value of the Eternal as compared to the Temporal, right?

So, professing Christians (you know who you are), since God exists, is anything more important than learning about Him and His wishes? Are you reading and really studying His Word?

Life is full of distractions, of course. Inconsequential things crowd our days and occupy our thoughts, so staying focused on the really important matters takes effort. We need the discipline and accountability of commitment to group study and discussion.

I encourage you to join a church Bible Study group or start a home study of your own. There are numerous high-quality study guides available for your use.

Why study the Bible? Because nothing is more important than your relationship with our Creator God.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. – Psalm 1

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The stones cry out

Last year many in the U.S. observed a once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse, when the moon came between the Earth and the sun, plunging a wide swath of the county briefly into the darkness of the moon’s shadow.  This happens because the moon has no light of  its own, but only reflects the light of the sun. Therefore, when the moon gets between the Earth and the sun it eclipses the sun’s light.

eclipse def

Just as the moon is meant to reflect the sun, Christians are meant to reflect Christ, spreading the Good News of His life and love on everyone in our path.

Does your life reflect Jesus, or do you sometimes get between Him and others, blocking the light of salvation? Do your actions blot out His glory? Do you try to hide your faith, concealing it for fear of ridicule or offense? Do you try to upstage the Savior with your own self-righteousness?

All of creation speaks of God’s glory and reminds us of our responsibility to Our Lord, if we will listen.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40

 

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First love

Musing on the familiar passage (below) in the New Testament book of Revelation brought to mind my own “first love” in my early teens. I thought of summer nights with my sweetheart when breezes scented with the heady aromas of orchards and new mown fields perfectly complemented the new sensations of young love and when the “accidental” touch of our fingertips could send a bolt of electricity shimmering up my arm.

First love can overwhelm every other consideration. Entering a room, it is our beloved’s face we seek. We want to stay close, to touch him, to listen to his words, and learn everything we can about him. This fresh emotion colors everything else in our life. However, such infatuations, no matter how intense, eventually fade away if they do not ripen into mature love.

In Revelation 2 the church at Ephesus was admonished for letting their first love fade. The Church of today seems to be suffering from the same malady. How have we gotten so far from our First Love?  One of the techniques used by some marriage counselors is to have couples reminisce about what brought them together in the first place. Often, these sweet memories rekindle a flickering relationship. Perhaps our churches need to set aside times in worship to remind each of us what we love about our Savior and why we call ourselves Christians.

 

heart love sand

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. – Rev. 2 (NIV)

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Keeping focused

Before the electronic age made it possible to send messages around the world in a matter of seconds, people could go about their business completely unaware of momentous or catastrophic events happening in another part of the world until long after the fact when there was no need for an immediate response.  Today, we witness horrific events in real time and often feel like we need to react, to ‘do something’ even though we are impotent to impact what plays out before our eyes. I suppose this is what leads so many to post impulsive reactions on social media.
     We develop a variety of defenses against the frustration we feel from the constant awareness of events beyond our control. Some of us become calloused and fail to react appropriately even to happenings in our own neighborhood. Others turn away from all real-world news and escape into entertainment or fantasy.
     While this response to news overload is understandable, it is an abdication of our responsibility to ourselves and society. Ignoring current events, rather than doing whatever we can to make them better, hurts everyone.
     Keeping our focus isn’t easy in the modern world, but when we allow distractions to divert us from our responsibilities and our possibilities, we fail to accomplish our goals.

This applies to Christians who allow worldly distractions to pull our eyes from our main purpose of pleasing God.

Hebrews 12:1 CEV
Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.
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The cover of my newest Christian fiction novel is in the running to be August Cover-of-the-Month

If you like this cover, please vote below to help get my writing before more readers.

Cover of the Month

Mrs. Thistlethwaite and a Shadow of Doubt: A Tillamook Tillie Mystery

My book has been nominated for Book Cover of the Month on AllAuthor.com. It would be greatly appreciated if you could take a moment to vote.
Vote Now »

Thank you for your support,
J.B. Hawker Turek

 

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It’s time to wake up, Church

[Originally posted in May of last year, but worth repeating.]
We read in the Book of Acts how the Apostle Paul, knowing he was leaving Troas the next day, and wanting to teach these new followers all he could before leaving them, preached past midnight. He was teaching in an upper room of a three-story building. As the night wore on in the crowded room, not everyone was paying close attention to his words.
A young man by the name of Eutychus was sitting on a window sill. While Paul was speaking, the young man got very sleepy. Finally, he went to sleep and fell three floors all the way down to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead.- Acts 20:9
Eutychus
Even without the distractions of modern technology, this young man’s attention span had been stretched to its limit. He had taken a seat on the the ledge of one of the room’s large, open windows, perhaps only leaning against the sill, at first, but eventually, seeking greater comfort, he sat within the opening. This was a precarious perch at the best of times, and exceedingly dangerous for one as drowsy as Eutychus.
Fortunately for this young man, his lack of attentiveness was not permanently fatal. Paul was on hand to restore him to life and the story has a happy ending.
         The story of Eutychus has application to the church today in that many believers are paying little attention to God’s word and His teaching. Our attention span is so short that, even in those churches where the Bible is being taught, the people forget it as soon as they leave the sanctuary. Some of us have become bored and are leaning against the edge of the window sill. Others are quite comfortably settled on their precarious perch overlooking the abyss.
       The Church is in danger of falling asleep.  It is time to stand up, shake off our lethargy, pay attention, and become Christ’s vigorous body as the Gospel admonishes.
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It’s scandalous!

Even before the printing press, it was human nature to prick up our ears to hear the latest misdeeds of others, especially those who seemed to be better off in some way than ourselves. The masses ate up the latest scandals and misfortunes of the ruling classes and also leaned over the garden gate to hear whispers about the naughty neighbor down the street. As communications techniques have advanced from word-of-mouth through print and into social media, this penchant for salacious gossip has only grown.

Chinwaggers.png

Why are we so eager to hear tales of the sins and suffering of others? And why are we so eager to believe every bit of tittle tattle without any proof, at all?

It’s in our baser nature to want to feel more virtuous than others. If we know we are falling short of our own behavioral or material goals, it makes us feel better to be able to point at someone who is worse. If someone is more successful, we want to believe they must have done something shady to achieve their success or else we want them to be suffering in the midst of their fortune. This is human nature left unchecked.

There are good reasons to try to rise above these selfish attitudes, though. First of all, the Lord commands it. On a practical level, for those who reject Biblical admonitions, the insatiable consumption of bad news and nasty gossip taints us and those around us.

Here in Northern California wildfires are raging. There has been loss of life and many people are being forced from their homes. While communities farther from the firestorm are not in direct peril from the flames, the ash and smoke from the conflagrations cloud our sky and fill our lungs. Our lives are curtailed by the effects of the fire.  Those who surround themselves with scandalous tales and rumors are affected in a similar manner: they begin to see everything through a haze of suspicion, thinking the worst of everyone.

In order to see clearly and breath freely, we need to distance ourselves from the constant stream of bad news, rumor, and innuendo.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8 King James Version (KJV)

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Fear Not

After the past week’s events and resultant panic, it seems a good time to revisit this post from November 2015. The Cubs had won the World Series and Donald Trump had been elected president. Were these signs of the End Times? Perhaps, but then, as now, we have no need to fear, for God is with us.

As we read in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the young pastor, Timothy:

You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. – 2 Timothy 3

Sound familiar? There are indeed warning signs everywhere we look that the times prophesied in Scripture are growing near. Does that frighten you? If so, don’t panic.

coffee prayerWe may be headed for difficult days and hardships, but take heart.  Even in these tumultuous times we can remain thankful, for God has everything under control.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

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