A mustard seed Kingdom

Jesus said that God’s Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, is like a mustard seed – it starts small and ends big.

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mark 4:30-34




If you were a Jewish person living in the first century you may have had a herb garden with a mustard bush. You would have known that a mustard seed is very small, and you would know that the shrub hardly has branches big enough for birds to sit on. You would have found Jesus parable very interesting.

In the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel the superpowers of the day were symbolically referred to as huge trees with braches that even the birds of the air could sit on. Babylon and Assyria were the great kingdoms and indeed superpowers, wielding great strength and influence.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of God may appear weak, insignificant and negligible, but we need only wait. The Kingdom of God is growing as people hear and accept the word about Jesus (Mark 4:1-20) and after the growing is done the Kingdom will be established in all its fullness at the “harvest” at the end of this age (Mark 4:26-29).

Daniel referred to the kingdom of God in a similar way in Daniel 2. He said the kingdom it like a small rock that ultimately destroys all the kingdoms of this world. The small rock grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth!

Of course, mustard bushes don’t have big branches. I think Jesus is saying that the growth of this kingdom is not due to our planning or strategies or programmes, the growth of this kingdom is supernatural, God does it! We are to be faithful and sow seeds, but its up to God to make the seed grow and to that end we must be depending on God in prayer.

The kingdom of God is coming. We will need to be patient. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be fooled into thinking Christianity is worthless. The kingdom may appear weak and inconsequential at the moment, but have no fear! When God’s kingdom finally comes in all its fullness we will be amazed and astounded at it bigness, powerfulness and all-encompassing influence.

Why don’t we pray?

I think there are three main reasons:

1.  Too busy
Our lives are so busy and cluttered.  We tend to schedule everything else, except pray.
We make time to watch rugby, but not to pray.  Perhaps we need to allocate time in our diary or go to bed an hour earlier in order to spend time in prayer.

2.  Don’t believe it makes a difference
Jesus and the early church were convinced that prayer makes a difference.  Jesus often woke up early to pray and would spend the entire night in prayerbefore big decisions.  The early Christians were often on their knees before God and God worked in awesome ways.  We, reformed people, believe (quite rightly) that God is sovereign over all of life.  We have read Ephesians 1:11.  But often we tend to think like this: If God is
sovereign and everything happens according to his will, why pray?  What we should really be thinking however is this:   If God were not completely in charge there would be no use praying!
Think about it! Imagine you prayed, “God please save my children!” and God said, “Well, I tried to but you children are so naughty – they just won’t listen.”   Or if you prayed, “God please give us good weather for the gospel event on Saturday!” and God said, “I tried, but have you seen the weather forecast – just can’t do it. Sorry.”   Or imagine you prayed, “God,  please change my husband”, and God replied, “I really tried but he drinks too much and is too stubborn!”
If God  were not completely, totally and actually in charge there would be no use  praying.
So, if God is sovereign and his purposes and plans come to pass, does that mean my prayers will not change anything? What will be will be?  We see in the Bible the amazing truth that in God’s Sovereignty he uses our prayers to accomplish his purposes:  We are told to pray because God answers pray and we are also told that God in Sovereign and His purposes will never be thwarted.  As Christians, we hold to both these truths.

3. Sin
1 Peter 3:7 is an interesting verse, it says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
A husband should not sin against his wife as that will hinder his prayers. How?  Deliberate sin tarnishes our friendship with God.  We feel ashamed, full of guilt, embarrassed and reluctant to approach the holy God.
We should remember that Jesus has paid the price for all our sins by his substitutionary death.  The solution for us is to confess
our sins before God, admit that we have done wrong and turn from those sins.  Then thank God for the forgiveness we have through Christ, ask our wife’s forgiveness (or whoever else you sinned against$) and get praying!
Be encouraged to pray, for yourself, for your family, for your fellow Christians, for gospel workers and for people who don’t know Jesus.

The Social Gospel

Jesus lived at the time when the Roman Empire was the superpower.  The Romans had built magnificent cities, building and roads.

At our annual Missions Conference this past weekend we were reminded how the gospel spread via these roads.  Roads were the “social media” and “social platform” of the first few centuries AD. People chatted on the roads; roads interlinked towns; roads were used for business and for travelling together (strength in numbers); roads were one of the main public social spaces; roads were very social; roads ideally suited the spread of the gospel of Jesus.  Ordinary people spoke about Jesus to others on these roads and shared the gospel in the various towns these roads lead to.  It was ordinary, everyday, organic evangelism.
New churches, as a direct consequence, were planted all along these Roman roads.
What are our equivalents of the “Roman road” system?  What are the public social spaces open to us in which we can naturally talk about Jesus?
Is it perhaps:
Chatting to other parents at your child’s birthday party?
A Mixed Martial Arts class?
The golf course?
An open home as you invite newcomers to tea after a church service?
A hiking club?
A blog?
A regular morning walk with a neighbour to keep fit?
A college social?
Coffee at Vida e cafe?
What do you think? Any other ideas?

Covenant baptism: Why we baptise some babies and some adults

Who do we baptise some babies and some adults at our church?  Baptizing babies seems to be quite a controversial practise these days and often the baptizers are accused of flouting biblical principles for the sake of unbiblical tradition.

Convinced Baptists argue that we should only be baptising believing adults because there are, they maintain, only explicit biblical examples of believers’ baptism in the New Testament and because, they maintain, baptism is reserved only for those that have expressed faith in Jesus.

I would like to challenge both those assertions.

REACH SA  is certainly not opposed to baptising believers, and regards that practise as biblical and indeed mandatory.  Article 27 of our statement of faith (the 39 Articles of Religion) reads:

Continue reading Covenant baptism: Why we baptise some babies and some adults

Guardian angels and spirit helpers

There is a website where you can find out what the name of your guardian angel is.  It apparently depends on which day of the week you were born. My guardian is  apparently St. Sealtiel, who allegedly “stands before God, with incenser in hand in unceasing adoration of the Most Holy Trinity. As the Archangel of contemplation and worship, his angelic purity transforms the love and worship which we mortals give to God.”  Another world class psychic says, “From the moment of birth our heavenly father assigns Angels to us.  They awaken our consciousness to the presence of the divine that already exist in each and every human being (our soul).”

The Bible teaches that angels are created spiritual beings of high intelligence and able to speak to people (cf. Matthew 28:5).  They do not ordinarily have physical bodies and they cannot be seen unless God gives us the ability to see them (cf. 2 Kings 6:17).  Not only are angels sent by God to guard and protect us (cf. Hebrews 1:14, Psalm 91:11), but they also join with us in worshipping God (cf. Hebrews 12:22).  Angels appeared in bodily form to many people in the Bible.  Two angels – Michael and Gabriel – are the only angels identified in the Bible.

What’s lacking in the death of Jesus?

Suffering must be part of normal Christian living.  Any theology or type of Christianity that teaches that Christians should live the victorious life and not suffer is at best unbiblical and at worst extremely dangerous.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all of life and at times appoints suffering in the lives of his people. 

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering.  He saw suffering as a normal part of Christian living, in fact, he saw suffering as a gift from God.  He wrote in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”.  Suffering is a gift that God gives to those found worthy enough to suffer “on behalf of Christ”.

Continue reading What’s lacking in the death of Jesus?

God wants you to be happy (in him)

God does not want you to be sad and grumpy.  He wants you to be happy.   Or, as Psalm 67 says, God wants you to “be glad and sing for joy” (v4). 

Every single person desires to be happy.  We get married to be happy.  Many get divorced.  We buy furniture.  We sell furniture.  We do all kinds of things to be happy.  Wanting to be happy is not wrong; but wanting to find happiness in the wrong things is.

 Paul said it this way in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.”  We have tried to find happiness in created things rather than the Creator; we have loved the gifts rather than the Giver. 

 A few weeks ago my wife and I bought a cool lounge suite for our braai room.  It was our first furniture purchase.  I envisioned relaxing evening with a glass of red wine.  I imagined enjoying the soft seats while the fire blazed.  I pictured feelings of happiness and tranquillity.  Finally we had our suite.  Well, the dog messed (euphemism!) on the floor which I had to clean up and the fire would not burn because the wood was wet.  The steak turned out to be cardboard and the lounge suit was not quite what we had thought.  My happiness, sadly, went up the chimney.

 C S Lewis put it this way, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

 The problem is not that we seek joy and happiness, but that we seek them in wrong things.   The bible tells us that true and unending and infinite happiness is found in God, not in things.

 Therefore the Psalmist pray in Psalm 67 that God’s ways may be known on earth and his salvation among all nations.  He desires people from all the nations to be happy and glad in God so that they “may praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.”

 Are you happy in God?  Or are you trying to find happiness in mud pies?  Do you desire and pray and plan to share your happiness in God with your neighbours and the nations?