In Due Time

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, the weeds also appeared” . . . 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 root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.'” – Matthew 13:24-26, 28-30

It is easy to wonder why the Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side. Wouldn’t the world be a better place, if the Lord would uproot everything evil and allow only good to exist?

This might be an easy assumption to make since I consider myself to be “good.” Unfortunately, I tend to forget the Lord’s standard of good is different than mine. This is why I need to understand why the Lord does allow both to exist.

One reason is fairly obvious. If the Lord would rid the world of everything evil, where would that put me? As I look at my life according to his standard, I am resigned to accept what the Lord declares: “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3).

The Lord allows good and evil to exist side by side as a result of his undeserved love for me. Instead of dealing with me immediately and justly, he provides a time of grace through which I can come to know Jesus and his gift of forgiveness, and then enjoy living in the peace of his forgiving love.

Another reason why the Lord allows good and evil to exist is his gracious good will for all people. “He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The same time of grace he gives me, he offers to all. He wants no one to perish. This is why he sent his Son Jesus to be the Savior of all.

In due time, however, when his time of grace comes to an end, he will separate the good from the evil, namely believers from unbelievers. This promise of divine and eternal separation exhorts me to daily repent of my sin, and focus on Jesus to strengthen my trust in him as my Savior. It is this life of faith which gives me the confidence to know, that also in due time, the Lord will gather me to himself and bring me into his heavenly kingdom.

The Measure of a Mustard Seed

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31,32).

What is America’s tallest mountain? Largest lake? Largest city? Most populous state? If you answered Mt. McKinley, Lake Superior, New York City, and California, you’re part of the proof that Americans pay attention to big things. We live in bigger houses, eat larger meals, and work longer hours than almost any other people in the world.  We tend to live by the maxim, “Bigger is better.”

But Jesus takes the “less is more” approach.  He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.” Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It’s so small that you could hold thousands in your hand. Why would Jesus tell us this? Because it’s possible to be so focused on what looks big and impressive that we overlook him and his blessings.

It’s a common mistake. At first glance, there was nothing big or impressive about Jesus. When he came to establish his kingdom, he arrived as a child of a poor girl in a conquered country. He was born in a barn. He grew up in an obscure village. His followers were nobodies. He never wrote a book or held a high position. He never lived in a palace or even a house of his own. After a few years in the public eye, he was killed on a cross like a common slave. On Good Friday he looked small and powerless.

The measure of a mustard seed is not its tiny size, but the huge plant that it grows into. In the same way, the measure of Jesus’ humble life and death is not how many people missed its meaning at the time, but what he accomplished. By his perfect life and his innocent death, Jesus has freed the world from the guilt of sin. When Jesus rose from his humble grave to conquer death on Easter morning, he proved that what seems small and weak can be amazingly powerful.

Countless millions who have put their trust in him have become part of his eternal kingdom. What about you?

Searching For What Was Lost

Jesus told this parable, “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10).

My wife works with a lady who buys her lottery tickets every now and then. One day, a rumor spread that our local grocery store sold a $100,000 ticket. We both thought, “Are we winners?” How would we spend it? Then I said, “Honey, where’s the ticket?” After a brief panic, and a 20 minute search of the house, we found it. The ticket was a loser.

When we lose something that we hold to be valuable, we search for it frantically. That’s what Jesus described in this short story about a woman searching for a coin that she lost. Without Jesus you and I are like that lost coin. Our lustful thoughts, hurting words, and loveless deeds—everything we think, say, or do that fails to be perfect—are sins that separate us from God. How frightening to be lost in sin!

Thankfully, though, there is good news! Jesus came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). God sent Jesus to find us and reconnect us to God. Jesus did that by loving us so much that he paid for all our sins by his death on the cross. That’s how much Jesus loves us!

Jesus searches for us and finds us. The angels in heaven rejoice! Jesus comes to us through his Word and takes away our fear by comforting us with the forgiveness of sins. He assures us that he has made us dearly loved children of God. Through Jesus, heaven is our inheritance.

God loves us so much that he stopped at nothing to find us and save us from eternal separation from him in hell. Through Jesus, we have the gift of eternal life, which is a whole lot more valuable that winning the lottery. How fortunate we are! We will never be lost again when we cling in faith to Jesus, our Savior.

Like heaven’s angels, we can rejoice over all that Jesus did to find us and give us life with God.

The Perfect Pearl

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).

When someone you love is celebrating a birthday or another special occasion, you try to give them the perfect gift. But what makes your gift perfect? Is it perfect because it’s unique? Is it perfect because it fits the personality of the individual for whom you bought it?

What if you find the perfect gift only to discover that it’s beyond your budget? Would you sell your car, your house, everything you own to obtain THE perfect gift?

Jesus once told a parable about a pearl-dealer whose goal was to find the perfect pearl. When he found it, he sold all that he owned so he could buy his treasured find.

The perfect pearl represents the message of salvation found in the Bible. This message is perfect because it tells us everything we need to know for this life and the next. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and deserve God’s eternal punishment in hell. But the Bible also says that Jesus came to take that punishment. Because of Jesus our sins are paid for and forgiven!

This message is not only perfect; it’s one of a kind. There are plenty of places you can look for the answers to life’s questions, but the only place you’ll find the perfect pearl is in the Bible. The Bible appears to be like any other book, but within there is a precious message that exceeds everything we’ve known. It’s like the person who pries open an ordinary oyster shell and finds a glowing pearl nestled within that’s worth more than any other.

A pearl in an oyster shell! That’s often how God works. He comes to us in unlikely places to give us his love—places like a barn where the Son of God was born to be the world’s Savior, and a cross where Jesus willingly gave up his life to pay for our sins and win us a place in heaven. This message is God’s priceless, perfect gift for us!

Real Wealth

Jesus told this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop . . . he said, ‘ . . .  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God”(Luke 12:16-21).

“I need money!”
“How much money do you need?”
“Lots! Start with one and keep adding zeros till I say, ‘Stop.’ ”

Did you ever have a conversation like this? At times we dream about being very wealthy. What would we do? Quit our jobs? Buy a new car? Travel?

While it is fun to dream, the reality is that we are richer than most people in the world. Yet we may not feel rich, even though we have almost everything for maintaining a fairly comfortable lifestyle.  So why don’t we feel rich?

The main reason is because there’s something wrong with all of us. We have a sinful nature. It likes to twist things around in our minds so we constantly want more. And when we get more, our sinful nature still isn’t satisfied.

Jesus illustrates this in a story about a farmer who had a bumper crop one year. Instead of giving away the surplus to feed the hungry or to proclaim how generous God had been with him, he thought only of himself. He planned to build bigger barns and take life easy. But soon he died. All his accumulated wealth went to someone else, and he had to face God.

Acquiring a lot of wealth in this world is finally worthless without Jesus. He is our real wealth. The Bible says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus, the eternal Son of God, left heaven and humbled himself to become a man. He bore the punishment of our sin, including the greed that lurks within our sinful nature. The result of his poverty is that we are freely given the riches of forgiveness and life with God.

When we think about our lives, we have so much for which to thank God. Though we may not have all the worldly riches of our dreams, we have real wealth in Jesus!

Lessons From a Fig Tree

Jesus told this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:29-31).

The newspapers report a lot of bad news: war, robbery, murder, corruption, domestic abuse, even the abandoning of little babies. Life just seems to be one bad thing after another. Will there ever be an end to all this?

“Yes,” Jesus says. In a short story that speaks volumes about life, Jesus teaches us about his coming on the Last Day.

Our loving God has put a schedule in place for this earth. Only God knows exactly when these things will take place. In his divine wisdom, though, God sometimes lets us know when things are about to change. Jesus said when trees sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, Jesus tells us when we see things such as wars, talks about wars, and earthquakes, we know his kingdom is near.

We can’t just ignore the bad news, and we shouldn’t. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of these sad events. Rather, he wants us to look past them and see that they are signs that tell us Jesus is coming again. Just as the trees welcome the summer months, so believers will welcome their time with Jesus in heaven.

The second coming of Jesus will bring an end to all that is wrong with the world. It will be a day of final judgment. For those who reject Jesus, there will not be another chance to believe. There will be no escape. Christ is coming back once more and that will be the Last Day.

Those who trust in Jesus don’t fear that day. Believers know that Jesus has forgiven them and promised them eternal life. They simply wait for him to come and take them to the paradise he has promised. They wait patiently and put up with the world’s troubles, knowing that Jesus will change things forever someday.

The lessons from a fig tree tell us that Jesus is coming again and that life will be far better. Come and learn about all the wonderful things waiting for those who believe in Jesus.