The Peoples Plot

Psalm 2

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A desire for fame, power, or wealth has led numerous nations, peoples, kings, and rulers to disregard God’s word, and commit evil acts. These acts are questioned by the author of Psalm 2, likely David. He asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” (Psalm 2:1). Further, the “kings of the earth” and “rulers” are against not only God, but against “His anointed” as well (Psalm 2:2). Those that God anoints, ultimately and most significantly referring to Jesus, share a common desire and goal with God, so those that go against God’s anointed ones go against God Himself. 

David continues the Psalm by describing how pointless it is for the earthly rulers to act against God. Back in verse one he mentions how the plotting is in vain, so the people are constantly unsuccessful in overthrowing God’s plans. David suggests that God even laughs at them for trying (Psalm 2:4), as He is omnipotent and already had a plan for a new king. God’s plan involved David as King and his eventual descendants. He promised to David that “[his] house and [his] kingdom will endure forever before [God]; [his] throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). David paraphrases this prophecy in verses 6-9 of Jesus coming as a descendant of David to rule over the world. There will be a time when evil is destroyed, and God and Jesus will reign forever in the Kingdom of God. 

Most of the rest of the chapter is a warning to kings, rulers, and leaders to follow God and those he anoints: specifically, Jesus, the Son of God. Following God requires dedicated service to God and His Son. David uses the phrase “Serve the LORD with fear” (Psalm 2:11), which could be interpreted as genuine service to God with knowledge of His amazing power, mercy, and grace, and not simply an action to check off a list. The idea of serving God is modified to include serving and following God’s Son who would come after David.

The chapter ends with a reflection of the beginning of Psalm 1. The book of Psalms begins by stating “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” (Psalm 1:1-2). Psalm 2 questions the logic of the nations and kings that don’t follow God, but rewards those that do follow God by explaining that “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). 

Psalm 2 was written mainly as a reminder for the people in the time of David to follow God and “take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12), but it has many applications to other people. For example, in Acts 4, believers quoted the first two verses of Psalm 2 after Peter and John were told by the Sanhedrin to not “speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). They recognized that those in charge of the Sanhedrin were going against God’s word, and Peter and John decided to continue following God’s way. They, and all the believers with them, prayed for God to “consider their threats and enable [God’s] servants to speak [God’s] word with great boldness”, in addition to prayers for healing and miracles (Acts 4:29-30). God quickly responded to their prayer and “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). God gave them the courage and strength to continue serving Him, even with threats against them. 

In today’s society, there are some who “conspire”, “plot in vain”, “rise up”, and “band together against the LORD and against His anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2), but it is still possible to remain faithful to God. Prayer can help to develop a relationship with God and “take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). Those that do will be blessed and the nations will be the inheritance received according to Psalm 2:8. Similar wording is used in Revelation 2:26-27 when Jesus states that, “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’” (Revelation 2:26-27). Following God and Jesus throughout persecution while others are rebelling against God will result in a blessing in the Kingdom of God of eternal life ruling under God and Jesus after evil has been destroyed.  

-Josiah Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. At whom or what do you think God may currently be laughing – scoffing at their actions? (In other words, what in today’s world is evil, rising against God? And is God scared?)
  2. How will you serve the Lord with fear amongst those who rise up against the Lord?
  3. How will the story end?

A Scary Word

1 Corinthians 2

June 3

Here at the Oregon church we have really been focusing on evangelistic outreach. No other word puts quite the fear in the heart of a Christian like the world evangelism. There are many anxieties that come with the idea of evangelism: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There is the fear of rejection. There is the worry that you might look foolish. There is maybe a concern that you won’t say the right things. Maybe there’s a worry that you don’t know enough about the Bible and therefore you aren’t qualified to reach out to people about Jesus and the kingdom. There is just a lot of worry that goes into it.


A lot of the fear and anxiety that comes from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people is that we can make it about us. Look above at what was said about the fear of sharing the gospel: every fear and anxiety that was mentioned about sharing the gospel is because we focus on how it affects us. We make it about our rejection, or our feelings or our knowledge. God has made the gospel so simple and yet we can be so afraid of it. And when I say we are afraid, I’m talking about me too. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear and anxiety about sharing the gospel. You don’t need a PhD in theology to share the gospel with people. You don’t need to have a deep understanding of Levitical dietary laws, or a complete understanding of ancient Greek. The gospel was made understandable so that no matter who we talk to they can grasp it. We tend to make it more complicated than it has to be.


Paul makes this very point in 1 Corinthians 2. He says: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).


Paul was an extremely well educated man. He was well studied and well read. He knew the Hebrew Bible in profound detail. He was someone that could have really made the gospel presentation more complicated than it should have been. But instead of making a mess of things he says to the Corinthian church that he didn’t come with lofty speech or wisdom. He decided to know nothing besides Christ and him crucified. What Christ accomplished on the cross is of chief importance. Christ died as a substitute for you and me and he rose on the third day. He did this so that one day we can be in the kingdom of God forever. The components of the gospel are easy to remember this way: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection. The other doctrines of the Bible are important but only believing the gospel is what saves us. The good news of the kingdom of God and our entrance being purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus is what matters above all else.


Paul continues in the section by saying that we don’t use lofty wisdom and persuasive arguments in order that we aren’t relying on the wisdom of man. Wisdom is important, but ultimately the best and truest wisdom comes from God. The gospel is simple in order that we can fully rely on the power of God to work through us to share to those around us. God is saving the world through His gospel and we should want to be a part of that.


We don’t need to make the gospel more complicated than it is. The simple message of the death and resurrection of Jesus purchasing our gift of eternal life if we believe in him is as easy as it gets. Sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be scary either. It comes from the concern and urgency of wanting people to be in God’s kingdom. It comes from the outpour of our lives as a demonstration of the saving power of God working wondrously through us. Let’s choose to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and share that to a hurt and broken world. Let’s be the people that God works through to reconcile His creation back to Himself.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. To remember that the gospel has been made simple so that we can share with everyone: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection.
  2. To realize that God is the one who is working through us to share the gospel to the world. It’s His power and not our wisdom that makes the gospel effective.
  3. To realize that the gospel is the power of God and it is of chief importance since believing the gospel is what saves us.
  4. To pray about our anxieties and fears about sharing the gospel and to ask God to give us the strength to share even when we are afraid.
  5. To recognize that when we share the gospel we are making an eternal difference in the life of the hearer.

Watch Out!

Romans 16

June 1

One of the best ways to say “I love you” in the midwest without using those words specifically is to say, “Watch out for deer” when someone is leaving your house in the evening. This is a phrase that is so common, especially in the summer months when deer are more willing to wander further distances before there are plenty of crops to munch on. Ask anyone who has ever hit a deer: the damages to any vehicle can be severe. It is devastating. So, although it is obvious that it is not ideal to hit a deer, nor would anyone want that, we still remind one another to watch out for them. It’s a simple way to show concern to something that is an all too common experience.


The Apostle Paul does just this when he is closing out his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16 he says to the church, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites” (Romans 16:17-18). We all know instinctively that division is not a good thing. Division causes pain and strife in any family, but we see this specifically in the family of God. Just like in the summer months we ought to watch out for deer, so we need to be on guard against people whose goals are to cause divisions and create obstacles. This type of behavior is found in a person who is not interested in growing God’s kingdom by sharing the gospel. Rather, this type of person is interested in dividing God’s kingdom into different sections. Paul further explains the type of people who are always dividing: they are interested in serving themselves and not the Lord Jesus.


We live in a time where politics and culture are always in the forefront of people’s minds. It is hard to take in any form of media without having some type of political statement attached to it. The division that is caused by the polarizing view of politics is something that can be avoided in the church almost altogether. I say almost altogether because there are issues that Christians should vocally stand for such as being pro-life. A majority of political issues fall under the category of “opinion” however. I heard it said well recently that the Apostle Paul could have filled his letters with news concerning the Roman empire. But he didn’t. He spent his time and efforts sharing the good news of the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus. We need to be on guard from anything that divides the body of Christ, and to seek unity in the body of Christ. Especially when the divisions are created over opinions, and not because of a dissent in sound doctrine. Division should be avoided as best as we can. We should never roll over because it is easier, nor should we have a church split because it would be easier. We should make every effort to keep the family of God in a unified stance. We are stronger and better together. The kingdom grows because of our common faith. Let’s grow God’s kingdom together and not divide it into smaller pieces.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. Seek to build in unity with those around you and don’t become divided away from other people on the basis of opinions.
  2. Watch out for people who seek to make divisions in the church for their own gain.
  3. To remember Christ wants us to be unified in his body and to rejoice in the unity
    in faith that we all share.

So Much to Share

Acts 20

May 8

Paul has so much to share and so little time to share it.  His ministry has taken him from Ephesus to Macedonia, to Greece, to Troas.  It’s a farewell tour.  He preaches all night, knowing it’s his last chance to convey the essentials of salvation.

I’m struck by the caring urgency that Paul has.  He’s spent weeks (even years) with these people and developed relationships.  Shared joys and sorrows.  He wants to be sure they “get it”; the truth of the kingdom of God.   The shared hope of eternal life binds us together over time and distance.

Blessings abound when God’s people gather.  Whether for a long weekend at a retreat, a few days at a camp or a conference, we build friendships that last. “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.”  We’ve all experienced that pang of parting.    But oh the joy of knowing we WILL see each other again as we reign with Christ in his glorious kingdom.

Feel the urgency!

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What do you most admire about Paul?
  2. What attachments have you made to Christian brothers and sisters that have bound you together through time and distance?
  3. How would you rate your “Caring Urgency”? If it’s a little low, what can motivate you to bump it up?

Scatter and Preach It

Acts 8

April 26

Acts 8:4 – Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

I once went on a mission trip that included an evening of street evangelism. It was one of the most overwhelming and intimidating experiences I’ve had. For some people, walking up to strangers and asking them “How’s your relationship with God?” is exciting and effortless. For me, it was incredibly awkward – I stumbled over my words, I felt panicked and I just wanted to run back to our bus. 

As I read through Acts chapter eight, verse four caught my attention. My imagination runs wild with scenes of the disciples speaking with random people at the market, or attending a synagogue to share the radical gospel of Jesus Christ, or even standing at the center of the town square and preaching to anyone and everyone who passes by. 

I don’t think that I would employ similar evangelism tactics as the disciples did back in the day or even as some continue today in our modern culture. 

For me, it’s about building authentic relationships with others. Getting to know others and letting others get to know me. And while this is much more in my zone of comfort, I still sometimes get hung up on how much I share with others about my faith. I greatly admire people who seamlessly weave the gospel into their daily conversations with others. It’s an area of growth for me, I know. But if I genuinely care about others, I must get over my own insecurities in order to share the best news of all – the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God! 

We have been scattered into the workplace, schools, community organizations, as well as our online associations with others for a purpose. Let’s not waste the opportunity to preach the word wherever we are!

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Why share the gospel? Is that just a preacher’s job?
  2. How would you rate yourself when it comes to how often or how well you share the gospel? If you want to improve in this area, what 2-3 specific steps can you take?
  3. Consider your circles (work, school, family, church, community & online). How can you share God’s love, what Jesus means to you and your kingdom hope in each of these circles?

Object Permanence

John 16

April 13

Object permanence is a milestone babies hit when they begin to understand that an object still exists when they can’t see or hear it. When their mother leaves the room, she still exists; when their favorite toy is hidden under a blanket, it still exists, too. 

Object permanence is a skill Jesus reinforced in his disciples on their final night together, before his arrest and subsequent death. 

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16).

The disciples mourned Jesus’ death, and they rejoiced at his resurrection just three days later. Even though they could not see Jesus, he wasn’t gone forever. Just like a baby’s favorite toy hidden under a blanket, Jesus was merely out of sight for a little while. 

You and I have never seen Jesus, yet the disciples’ hope is our hope, too. We can’t see Jesus now, but we will someday—when he brings his Father’s Kingdom down to Earth. We have faith that even though we cannot see him, he is real and he is working. After all, faith is the certainty of the things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). 

Although we’ve never seen Jesus, we can see the impact of his life all over our own lives—the freedom of forgiveness, peace in unfathomable situations, victory over temptation and sin. 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 

We have the same hope as the disciples. We can’t see Jesus now, but we will soon. 

Jesus is coming soon. 

We will see Jesus face to face. 

-Mackenzie McClain

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Even though you’ve never seen Jesus, have you seen evidence of his existence in your life? How so? 
  2. How would you live your life differently if you were constantly reminded of Jesus’ coming return? 

Who Gets the House?

2 Samuel 7

March 9

I love David’s heart to serve and honor the Lord. He decides it is time to build an impressive temple for God to replace the tabernacle tent which had been the symbol of God’s dwelling since the time of Moses. He tells Nathan the prophet his thoughts and Nathan gives him the go-ahead. It truly sounds like a generous and highly appropriate way to honor God. Both the king and the prophet agree – it’s time for God to get a house!

However, that night God revealed to Nathan that, no, that was not what God needed, wanted or had planned. Rather than David providing a house for the Lord God, God said “the Lord himself will establish a house for you (David):  When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.  But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11b-16 NIV).

That’s an unexpected twist.

God doesn’t want David to build him a house. David could be disappointed or even a bit offended at God rejecting his offer and plan. Except that, God revealed a bigger and better plan. David’s son would build the house for God, but even greater, the house, kingdom and throne of David, passed down to his son would endure – forever! This was big news! A king certainly has dreams of creating an impressive dynasty – but none of them expect it to last forever. Not too many years ago David had been a shepherd boy, the youngest and least of his family line. And now he was being told he and his descendent would have a kingdom and throne that would endure forever. That’s a plan of God you don’t argue with. David gets the house.

And the really great news is that this forever house and kingdom and throne wouldn’t just benefit David and his son – but all generations could be blessed by this, including you and I and our children. For this promise for David (often referred to as the Davidic Covenant), was pointing to the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of David. His coming was prophesied as fulfilling this covenant (Isaiah 9:6,7). The virgin Mary was told, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33). Born in the line of David (Matthew 1:6), Jesus was worshiped as a king by the wise men (Matthew 2:2, 11). He taught of a kingdom, and he was crucified as the King of the Jews. But that is not where the story ends. Forever is still coming.

Before his death, Jesus said – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 25:31). The disciples were looking forward to this time and after his resurrection, just before his ascension, they asked him if that was when the kingdom would be restored. Jesus replied that the time was not for them to know – but that in the meantime they were to be his witnesses. Then Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds, and the angels promised he would return in the same way. (Acts 1:6-11)

We are still waiting for the return of the Son of David/Son of Man who is also the Son of God. At Jesus’ spectacular return to earth, all the final steps will be set into motion – resurrection of the dead, judgment, the defeat of the Evil One, and the beginning of the perfect kingdom prepared for the resurrected, faithful children of God which will last forever. Can you imagine the smile on resurrected David’s face and the joy in his heart when that day comes? God’s plan and timing is always better than man’s. No – David didn’t build a house for God as he wanted. But, God is building a house through David’s family line, through Jesus Christ. Will you have a place in this house, in this kingdom that will last forever?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can you think of any time (past or present) where you were wanting to honor God, but perhaps it wasn’t the way He wanted you to be serving Him at that time? How do we avoid serving God the way WE want to serve Him, rather than the way HE wants us to serve Him?
  2. Do a little Bible research on the kingdom that will last forever. Where will it be? When? Who is reigning? Who is included? Who is not included? (If you want some specific verses to start your research, leave a note in the comments.)
  3. As we wait for Jesus’ return, how will you be a witness? Who else needs to hear about the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant?

A Mountain Top Experience

Matthew 17

January 17

When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top). 

That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.

Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.  

The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
  2. Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
  3. The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
  4. Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?

Master Storyteller

Matthew 13

January 13

I was excited to see that Matthew 13 begins with the Parable of the Sower because that is definitely one of my favorite parables. And then there was the Parable of the Weeds – oh that’s a great one, too. And, the Mustard Seed and Yeast. As well as the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl and finally, the Fishing Net. I believe Matthew 13 is the home of more parables than any other chapter of the Bible -but please correct me if I am wrong. It’s been a long time since I was in junior high, but I still remember Joyce Knapp, my junior high class Sunday School teacher, describing parables as earthly stories with heavenly meaning. Jesus was a master at telling stories about common, everyday things everyone listening would know about (fields, farming, seeds, yeast, weeds, fishing nets), and creating out of it a deeper spiritual, godly lesson. He didn’t give long confusing lectures filled with mile long words that you need a masters level degree to understand. He wanted to make it as simple as he could so that anyone willing to listen with an open mind could learn, even while knowing that many would not get it because they didn’t want to change or didn’t think they needed what Jesus had to offer.

What was it Jesus was offering? What was the point of all these earthly stories with “heavenly” meaning? It is interesting that Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like…” to introduce many of Jesus’ parables. In fact the term “kingdom of heaven” is only found in the book of Matthew (31 times – and 8 of those are in Matthew 13). The other gospel writers, as well as Paul in his letters, refer instead to the kingdom of God (even Matthew uses this term 5 times). When Matthew was writing with the Jews in mind he knew they took very seriously the commandment to, “Not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) So, in order to remain guiltless it might be better to not use his name at all. So, when speaking of God and godly things, Matthew often replaced the word God with heaven as that is the throne of God and it would be understood that he was speaking of godly, holy matters belonging to God, without having to risk misusing his name or offending a Jewish listener. These parables are not about being whisked away to heaven when you die. Indeed, they are very much grounded in what is happening on earth both now and in the future judgment. These parables of the kingdom of heaven/God are down-to-earth stories illustrating spiritual/Godly matters.

Take some time today reading and even rereading these parables. Each one has a gem hidden for those who will listen and seek. Each one reveals a little more about what Jesus found most important, what God is preparing, what is required, what is most valuable, what the evil one is up to, what is promised, what are dangerous challenges, what is worthy of sacrifice, what judgment will look like, what is to come, what will be. It’s a treasure hunt in Jesus’ parables. What does the Master want you to find in his stories?

There is one verse that really struck me as I read and re-read Matthew 13. It seems to say perfectly what discussed earlier this week about not throwing away the Old Testament but adding to it the love and beauty of Jesus and what he taught and what he has done and will do. After telling 7 parables Jesus asks his disciples if they are getting it. They reply yes. Then, “He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.'” (Matthew 13:52 – NIV) The teacher of the (Old Testament) law who learns and lives by these (New Testament) principles spoken by Jesus and recorded by Matthew as the kingdom of heaven parables and teachings has double the treasure – both old and new.

What treasure in His Word will you find today? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in your life? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in someone else’s life?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Which of the Matthew 13 parables is your favorite today? Why? What is the lesson Jesus was teaching? Why is this important? How can you apply it or put it into action today?
  2. Jesus chose perfect illustrations for his parables. Even 2,000 years later, even if you are not a farmer, you know what happens when a seed is planted. Even if you have never been fishing, you understand how a net works. But consider how you would create a parable with one of these same teachings using a modern day illustration.
  3. Consider the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23). What 4 types of soil did Jesus mention and what do they stand for? What happened to each of the seeds? Have you seen these 4 instances occur to others? What kind of soil best describes you right now, and in the past? What lessons can you learn for evangelism from this parable?

The Opening Act

Matthew 3

January 3

The prophecies foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament continue in chapter 3, but this time in regards to a man known as John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesied that there would be, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him'” (Matthew 3:3, and original thought in Isaiah 40:3). This John is a relative of Jesus, born to Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth. See Luke 1 for more on his family and the events surrounding his own miraculous birth about 6 months before the birth of Jesus. Even as a pre-born baby in his mother’s previously barren and aging womb John reacted with joy at Mary’s greeting when she came to tell Elizabeth about her encounter with the angel Gabriel and the child she would carry. These young men, Jesus and John, have quite a connection. They go way back – not just to their days in utero, but going back 700 years to Isaiah’s prophecy.

John had a job to do. A job that had been waiting for him for 700 years – prepare the way for the Lord. He was the opening act. His job was to prepare the audience. Pump them up. Get the crowd ready to listen to and appreciate and adore the one who would come after him, the one who is greater than he is, the one who is the main act, the show stopper. He got to introduce the crowd to the one who could be their Savior.

John definitely had a way of getting people’s attention. But not in a flashy way at all. I don’t think he would be found in the mega church today. He was the preacher out in the desert. The one wearing weird, worn and outdated clothing and also known for his curious all-natural diet. He wasn’t about gaining popularity points or fitting in. He knew it wasn’t about him. It was about Jesus. And he had a job to do.

His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). With Jesus’ earthly ministry now ready to start, it was time to make changes. They were closer to God’s kingdom now than they ever had been before. A kingdom needs a king and they were about to get their first look at the king chosen by God to rule His kingdom. But were they ready? No.

Repent of your sins, turn your life around. Stop using your religion as a show to look better than others. Stop relying on your impressive family tree for salvation. Repent of your sins, turn your life around. Start producing good fruit that shows you have changed. Start preparations for the coming judgment day. It’s closer than you think. Repent of your sins, turn your life around. For the Kingdom of heaven and the judgment day that comes with it is closer than you think. Let me introduce you to God’s chosen king – His Son Jesus!

-Marcia Railton

Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. Repentance is not just feeling sorry or regret for doing wrong, but also a commitment and action for change, turning from your sins to do right. In what ways have you sinned and need to repent? What will it look like to turn in the opposite direction and do right? What good fruit is God wanting to see in your life?
  2. Jesus, even though sinless, was baptized by John to set an example for believers. Baptism is a physical act to show your need for repentance and your acceptance of a Savior. Have you been baptized? If so, what does it mean to you? If not, do you have questions about baptism you would like to discuss with a spiritual mentor or pastor?
  3. What was seen and heard at the end of Jesus’ baptism? What do you think Jesus was feeling or thinking at this moment? What do you think God was feeling or thinking at this moment? How do you feel, what do you think, as you envision this scene?
  4. Who has been a John the Baptist for you – someone who helped point the way and introduce you to Jesus? If you know Jesus now, who will you introduce to Jesus?
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