Sold Out

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The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, 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 13:44-46

In February 2013, while walking their dog on their land in California, John and Mary saw an old, rusted can sticking out of the ground. John pried the heavy can loose and managed to carry it back to their house, where they discovered that it was filled with gold coins.

Brainwashed or Transformed?

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The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. Matthew 13:33

Kim Joo Il was a soldier in the North Korean army for eight years, serving the dictates of the “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung. As he recalled, a third of his studies in school had been about the Great Leader. In the army he was beaten once a day, hungry 24 hours a day, subject to constant dehumanizing humiliations. Yet he felt honored to be in the army in a country that he thought was paradise.

The Power of a Seed

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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 seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32

One major seed company’s most popular tomato seed is called the “Big Boy.” This hybrid tomato is a plant that can not only grow to five feet tall, but also yield tomatoes that can be one pound or more. Yet the seed from which the “Big Boy” plants come is tiny. Its almost imperceptible seed has the potential to explode into fruitfulness.

Jesus spoke about tiny seeds and big things.In his parable of the mustard seed,

Soul Soil

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But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:23

In gardening and farming, soil cultivation is an intentional practice designed to improve the condition of the soil. Similarly, cultivating the soil of the soul is an important dimension of Christian experience.

In the parable of the sower,

Ready for Mystery?

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The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables. Mark 4:11

The realm of the mysterious can both fascinate and frustrate people. Depending on your disposition or personality, mysteries can either represent challenges to overcome, or grace and wonder to be pondered. Albert Einstein, though a professed agnostic, once wrote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He… who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

The first followers of Jesus were puzzled by his parables and told him so. Jesus responded by referring to the secret of the kingdom of God. The word translated “secret,” musterion, means mystery. In ancient times mystery referred to hidden things,

Want to Understand the Bible Better?

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Do you wish you understood the Bible better?

Maybe you’re new to the Bible, unsure how and where to start getting to know God’s Word. Or perhaps you’re a long-time Bible reader with the sense that your Bible reading should be more engaging and spiritually rewarding.

Next month The Brook Network partners with Bible Gateway for a free weekly series of simple, practical lessons that walk you through the incredibly rewarding experience of reading and understanding God’s Word. It’s called How to Understand the Bible: Guidance for Ordinary Bible Readers. 

To receive the weekly lessons via email, you must sign up at the Bible Gateway site.

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For group or class leaders and pastors…

For group or class leaders and pastors…
So many organizations have concluded in recent years that biblical illiteracy is one of the greatest limiting factors in the lives of believers and in our churches. I’ve been working with Bible Gateway for the past year in preparing a new resource called “How to Understand the Bible.” Early next month Bible Gateway will be sending out the 30 short pieces I wrote, one a week via email and their blog, answering questions about Bible reading, translations, interpretation, and brief introductions from Genesis to Revelation.
If you know of anyone, or your group or congregation, who would benefit from this, Bible Gateway has a page describing it, and a place where anyone can sign up to get the weekly emails. Perhaps you’d like to encourage the members of your group or your congregation to individually sign up. Week 1 is coming soon, so it would be good not to delay.
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What Children Teach Us

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People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:13-15

Third- and fourth-graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School were asked to complete the following sentence: “By faith, I know that God is…” The responses included:

“Forgiving, because he forgave in the Bible, and he forgave me when I went in the road on my bike without one of my parents” (Amanda). “Providingful, because he dropped manna for Moses and the people,

Your Kingdom Come

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Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

Reading the morning newspaper can be hazardous to your health. Consider these recent stories from one day: Cyberbulling law being considered. Taliban prisoner exchange fuels debate. France sells Russian warship amidst U.S. protest. Martial law considered for Eastern Ukraine. Attack on Yemen checkpoint kills 14. Manhunt as police shot in Canada. Charges detail chilling plot to kill 12-year-old classmate.

No wonder Jesus taught us to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Scriptures speak of heaven as the dwelling place of God,

Born Again

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Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…. Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. John 3:3,5

Chuck_ColsonWhen he went to federal prison in 1974, Charles Colson, the infamous Watergate conspirator and “hatchet man” of President Richard Nixon, was a defeated and empty man. An ex-Marine and accomplished attorney, he had been favored by Nixon, given free-reign to undermine political opponents even through acts of violence. Now he had fallen from the height of that power.

In Colson’s best-selling book, Born Again,

Right Here, Right Now

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Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21

What is the “birthdate” of The United States of America? July 4, 1776, is when the Declaration of Independence was signed, but that was to document the unanimous vote for independence by the Continental Congress that happened two days earlier, on July 2. John Adams considered that to be the birthdate of the new nation. Britain, of course, disputed that a new nation had been formed at all, and if Britain had won the war that followed, there would have been no new nation—only a temporary rebellion.

We Have Been Liberated

HarvestfestGraphics_2But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28

One of the rare moments of complete jubilation during the years-long carnage that was World War II was the liberation of Paris on a late summer day in 1944. It was decisive, complete, and stunning. Masses of people streamed to the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

A photographer for LIFE Magazine, Ralph Morse, recalled “the feeling of certainty in the air. Everyone knew it was over. And I don’t mean the battle for Paris. I mean the war. We all knew there was a lot of fighting left. The Battle of the Bulge a few months later proved that… But [on that day] we all sensed it was now only a matter of time, and not much time, before we took Berlin.”

Healing and Faded Bumper Stickers

HarvestfestGraphics_2Go! . . . Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 10:3a, 9

While waiting for a stoplight on his way to the hospital to pray for a sick member of his church, Pastor Mark noticed a van in front of him with a faded bumper sticker. The words were barely readable, but as he squinted, the words came into focus: trust in jesus. The fact that the words were faded struck Mark as ironic, as he often wondered why prayers for healing often seem unanswered. Indeed, when it comes to many of our prayers for healing, our level of trust is about as apparent as that faded bumper sticker Pastor Mark encountered on the way to the hospital.

Words and Deeds That Restore

HarvestfestGraphics_2Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:22-23

Twenty million emails were written in the time it took to read this sentence. That’s a lot of words. We live in a world where information and words can invade and clutter our lives through tweets, text messages, Facebook posts, emails, and countless other media.

Jesus’ days were much less cluttered with words. Yet he had something to say.

The Decisive Moment

HarvestfestGraphics_2In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:1-2

When we talk about “a voice in the wilderness,” we mean someone who is alone in expressing a particular opinion, although later it becomes obvious that the person was right.

How different things might have been if financial experts had foreseen the economic collapse in the U.S. and in other parts of the world in 2008.