Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Matt. 13:31-3 (ESV): “He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’  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.’”
A famous author on leadership (a former pastor) was impressed by how Enron got so huge, very fast (“A decade later . . . the revenues were $101 billion . . . its assets . . . $53 billion”). No one knew then that the heads of this energy company hid, using deceptive accounting methods, enormous debts from bad deals. The oversight made by this author is the kind that some pastors and businessmen make: being mesmerized by anything that grows very fast, and then copying what appear to be impressive methods.
God’s kingdom, however, doesn’t grow like that. Seed and leaven have this in common: its growth is gradual, but once grown, it affects the whole in influence (“all leavened”) and size (“larger than all”). True kingdom growth isn’t fuelled by upgrades or clever ads; instead, it’s predicated upon two things working in unison: God’s word and sacrifices.
Certainly, for God’s kingdom to be initiated, it’s our responsibility to faithfully sow the word; once that is done, “the word of God that is sharper than any double-edge sword” (Heb. 4:12) can grow it all by itself. “This is what the kingdom of God is like,” said Jesus, “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk. 4:27-8). The soil is fertilized by sacrifices of true believers who “shar[e] in [Christ’s] suffering, becoming him like him in his death” (Phil. 3:19) by dying to their agendas and carrying out God’s plan.
A while back, I met a Vietnamese pastor who suffered for 3 years in prison for his faith. But his church, instead of dwindling during his absence, grew; and some 30 years later, it had 423,213 members in 2,388 churches. In China, after the communists drove out all western missionaries following the Cultural Revolution in 1949, many in the West worried that the church would die out under communist persecution; instead, it flourished throughout China: from 840,000 to 100 million believers by 2007.
So, whether it be pursuing career, relationship or ministry goal, stay with God’s word and do the right thing over short-cuts and expediency, even if it results in a loss. That honors God.
O God, I exalt and praise You this morning for your kingdom. I am heartened by the fact that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Lord, remind and empower me to live the life of kingdom through patient endurance. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 30
Lunch Break Study
Read Lk. 16:15 (NIV): “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
Lk. 18:15-7 (ESV): “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”
Lk. 21:1-4 (ESV): ”Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,  and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Question to Consider
- What are some key differences between those things valued in the world and what is valued in God’s kingdom?
- Why are they different? What is the root difference between the two?
- How we should we live when “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight”?
- The children were not welcomed because the disciples didn’t see how they could help their cause. That’s how the world sees people: they look for strong, rich and capable people who can extend “my” cause. But Christ’s kingdom takes the weak and the lowly, and transforms them to be useful for God’s work (1 Cor. 1:27-29). While the amount of the offering isn’t unimportant, the heart behind it weighs more with the Lord.
- The world is about exalting great men defined by power, wealth and beauty; those who do not have these things are not welcomed. In contrast, God’s kingdom is about accepting the weak and the powerless (Rom. 14:1) in Christ, thereby demonstrating God’s infinitive love and grace. Thus, it gives new hope to the hopeless.
- We should constantly examine ourselves whether what we do (even in ministry) is to build our own little kingdom or God’s kingdom. If it is really for God, then we have to use His methods!
Did you experience kingdoms in conflict today? What would that mean to you? Doing it my way versus doing it Christ way? Reacting according to my natural disposition or under the control of the Spirit? Reflect on one or two events that didn’t go so well and ask God to help you do better tomorrow.