“Sitting Around Won’t Win the Battle!”

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“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat,” Proverbs 13:4

 All of us have goals and dreams, or at least, we should.  All of us “desire” things we would like to see accomplished in our lives.  But, desire can only get you so far.  There has to be a proactive approach in order for one to see the fulfillment of these aspirations come to pass.

I love the Bible because it gives us so many true to life examples of these valued lessons.  For instance, in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat and his people were getting ready to be attacked.  The enemy had come against them and “Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord,” (vs. 4).

I want you to look at this picture Scripture represents.  It’s one of great sadness.  In verse 13, it describes “All Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.”  It’s as if they were saying, “If not for us, Lord; then please remember our wives and children.”  Awwww!!!

God’s response was, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s,” (vs. 15).

“That’s what I’m talking about!  We don’t have to fight!  Woo-hoo!  Let’s go home and watch some TV!”

I’m playing.  We all know they didn’t have TV, but what they probably had was a sense of relief that they didn’t need to proactively do anything to win the battle.  Time to hit the couch!

Wrong!

While God did declare the battle was His, He has never been the promoter of laziness.  Too many people want the victory without ever really doing anything.  Too many people want to reach the next level without ever having to walk up the stairs to get there.

It’s too much work!  Too many people get in prayer lines and the like; want God to do everything without themselves ever putting a hand to the plow to till something up.

God works in miraculous ways.  God is a prayer answering God.  Jehoshaphat and his people will find both of these to be true.  He’s going to work a miracle and they are going to get a tremendous answer to their prayer.  But, God has something that He wants them to do.  He said, “To morrow go ye down against them . . . ye shall find them,” (vs. 16).

GULP!

Then God reiterates, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle,” (vs. 17).

Yeah!

Then, He proceeded to tell them, “set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you… go out against them…,” (vs. 17).

Hold up!  Wait a minute!  If the battle belongs to God, I don’t understand why I have to go down there and set myself up like I am sure enough going to fight these people.  Huh?

Because God said so.  That’s why many of us lose out.  We want to sit on the couch instead of getting up and following the instructions He gives.  The “sluggard” wants the glory without the work.

In opposite of that, he that is diligent pushes forth to follow through.  Sometimes it’s a hard thing to do.  These people were put in the terrifying position to get in battle formation before the enemy; in front of people who were ready to annihilate them.  Gulp is right!

Yet, they maintained their ground believing God’s promise.  Verses 18-22a tell of the people actively praising God.  Then, the tables turned on the enemies, (vs. 22b).  “Every one helped to destroy another,” (vs. 23), and “none escaped,” (vs. 24).

The result they received was due to their diligence to follow through with the Lord’s instructions.  “Jehoshaphat and his people came to take  away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days gathering the spoil, it was so much,” (vs. 25).

You may not have to go fight an enemy but you have a goal to reach that will only come by diligence and obedience to God.  I’m not promising you riches, but know this; any time you are diligent to work with God you will see success at the end.

Seek the Lord, He will help you to receive that “expectant end” Jeremiah speaks of, Jeremiah 29:11.  Then, we can rejoice like Jehoshaphat because we saw the fruition of hard work pay off.

“The soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

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“My Promise is Coming!”

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall
speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come,
it will not tarry,” Habakkuk 2:3, KJV

I’m excited!!!! It’s coming!!!! It can’t hold off too much longer!!! It’s almost here!!!

I see something that has me positively giddy.  BUDS!!!  That’s right, tree buds!  Oh, does it get me worked up.  When I see those pretty little things start to form on the end of barren tree branches it sets my soul soaring because I know spring has sprung.  The season has come.  It couldn’t hold off forever no matter how dim and dismal the weather may seem right now.

This anticipation is much like our spiritual lives.  We know the promises of God.  We read them daily in His Word.  We have rehearsed some of them.  Bound them in our hearts.  Hold with a death grip on them.  Yet, they are not here at this moment.  But, it’s coming!

Often times the branches of hope in our lives can seem so barren as if no fruit or leaves will ever produce on them again; dry and lifeless things just blowing in the wind.  But, it can’t stay like that forever.  There is hope on the horizon that the promise of new life and productivity will once again blossom for you and me, bringing to pass the vision that God has for you in your life.

The Bible tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  We don’t know why we often seem to be in a holding pattern but we can be assured that during the process God is working out His purpose in the midst of it all.

“Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come!”  When God appoints the process to be done and the vision plan to initiate, it CAN NOT hold off.  It has to COME!  I know, I know!  It’s the waiting part that’s hard – tell me about it!  But as a mother carrying a child, the vision has to be birthed when the term is up.  It can’t stay in that holding pattern for long.  It has to come forth.  It’s coming!

Do you want to know something else?  One day I heard the birds chirping.  A sure sign that Spring has arrived.  Pretty soon I’ll be planting flowers and such but right now I’m giddy over the fact of the potential for what’s on the way.  It’s coming!

What are you waiting for today?  The Bible says, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” Psalm 84:11.  God is not our magic genie but He is a promise keeper.  “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations,” Deuteronomy 7:9.  If it’s in His will and we are doing what we are supposed to be doing – It’s Coming!

We have a hope to hold on to today.  Though we may not see it at this moment, the signs are around us.  My promise is coming!  “It will surely come and will not tarry!”  Don’t Give Up!

SAY TO YOURSELF, “MY PROMISE IS COMING!”

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“Greater Is He!”

Photo: Pixabay/go_see

Greater is He that is in me!

The life inside that I cannot see.

Only feel with the passion and the burn

Love from the cross that flows unearned.

 

Glowing embers His spirit unfolds.

Power inside of stories untold!

Ripping away all the fear and frights;

Layering on His love’s holy light.

 

The life inside has been swept and cleaned

By the Master who defeats enemies unseen.

Foes tremble, their strength can’t compare,

‘Cause greater is He now resides there.

“Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” 1 John 4:4

Sunday School Lesson – “Zacchaeus Meets Jesus” Luke 19:1-10

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 19:1-10 (KJV, Public Domain)

Can wealth make you happy?  Many people seem to think so.  They pursue it as if this will be the answer to all their troubles.  While money in and of itself isn’t bad, one’s attitude toward it can be.  If it becomes the main focus of life and is managing you more than you are managing it, then it’s a possibility that there’s a problem.

The fact is many people every day look at money, prestige, titles and the like as a gold access card to carry them through life; depending on it to be there to fill every need imaginable.  For some, it may not be money rather it may be certain people and vices that have this hold on them.  But, when the truth of it all boils down to nothing, often the pursuer of such things still find they have an unanswered void that remains in their life.

Material things and people can only take you so far in life.  Not until we meet Jesus face to face; not until we see Him for who He is in our own lives and depend on Him for salvation and to fill that void, do we find the peace and rest that our souls so desire.

Zacchaeus was such a man in today’s lesson.  He had money.  He had a title.  But his life was not all that it cracked up to be.  On the outside, it may appear that he had everything going for him.  But, on the inside, there was something still missing; something that drew him to want to be where Jesus was on that day of their meeting.

No matter how bad a sinner someone is considered to be, or the negative way people view them when they meet Jesus with a surrendered heart, their life can be changed.

Lesson Summary

Luke 19:1-4 “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”

Being a “publican” (tax collector) is a title that left an awful aftertaste in the mouth of the ancient Jewish people.  Due to their role in extorting monies from their fellow countrymen and working side by side with the occupying forces of the enemy Romans, this made them especially despised in the eyes of their own people.  And, he who would dare to be considered “chief” among these could be looked on possibly as a chief sinner as well.  His sins against his people were even greater considering he most likely came to that position through bidding with the enemy for the right to tax his own people and to hold back monies for himself adding to his “rich” status.

Yet, it is the same man such as the one described above who hears of Jesus coming to town and wants to get a better view of Him.  The Bible doesn’t specify his cause for wanting to be near to Jesus when He comes, but the fact that he went through great lengths to gain a bird’s eye view is nothing to sneeze at.  Something (as we say, but know it had to have been the Lord), was working on the inside to draw this man closer to where the Savior would be for a divinely appointed encounter that would change his life forever.

“He sought to see Jesus who he was.”  At this point in His ministry, Jesus is coming to the end of His course on this earth.  By now many people in many cities have seen or at the very least heard of this man who teaches with such power and authority; a man who raises the dead and opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf.  Some identified Him as a man who restores the lepers to a whole state and frees people from spiritual bondage.  Some thought of Him as John the Baptist come back to life or Elijah or one of the prophets (see Mark 8:28).  Very few saw Him for who He really was – the “Christ,” the Son of God (see Mark 8:29), who came with a divine mission to save mankind from his sins.

With such a reputation preceding Him it is not surprising that when He comes to town people want to clamor to at least get a glimpse of Him to see “who he was,” even this publican.  Was it mere curiosity or was there something more going on in the heart of Zacchaeus?  We may never know what started his pursuit to be near Jesus, but we are sure told how the story ends – and that, my friends, is the best and most important part of it all.

With the crowds forming Zacchaeus’ size posed a problem in his desire to see Jesus better.  It is recorded that he was “little of stature,” meaning he was shorter than the average males present there.  We are not told exactly how tall he was, but it had to have been significant to point out as a hindrance to see Jesus.

With that, “he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”  Although I am a girl, climbing trees used to be one of my favorite things to do as a child.  I mean, literally, almost every day we were climbing trees.  We would pretend this tree was my house and that one was yours and so on.  Oh, for the imagination of youth…

Yet, it was not imagination that drove Zacchaeus, but a real-life desire.  Determined to not let anyone or anything get in his way, in the most undignified fashion imaginable for a grown man who had the status of “chief publican”, he acted as a school-aged boy and climbed a tree just to see Jesus.

What lengths do we go through to be near Jesus?  Our western culture offers us opportunities that others may not be privileged to, and yet how do we use our unrestricted access of the Lord?  Perhaps if we were forced into hiding just to worship, we would understand the simple desire to climb a tree to see Jesus.

A clear vision of Jesus, no matter where we find ourselves in life, is imperative to our Christian faith.  It requires determination and commitment to be where He is.  The question is, “How bad do you want Him?”

Zacchaeus didn’t know Jesus personally, yet, but from what he heard he, a sinner, had a made-up mind to find out more, even if it meant suffering the scoffing of others.  Not caring what they thought, he mounted the “sycomore tree” branches that went out some, giving him the perfect place to perch himself for a better vantage point to see Jesus.

Luke 19:5-6 “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.  And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.”

Jesus has always had an amazing focus for people.  He had a perspective of souls that others couldn’t possibly see on the outside.  When they looked at Zacchaeus all they saw was his sins and with condemning attitudes brushed him off as not being worthy of their time.  After all, he consorted with the enemy, so why should they.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t see him or us that way.  Outward markers that try to identify us are not what He’s most concerned with.  I have always said that He is more interested in what goes on inside.  Jesus pays attention to the needs of the inner man that the whole man might be saved.  Inside every real person is a real soul that needs to be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.

What would it have been like to be the most unwelcome guest at the party, but the honoree comes along to point you out and elevate you above all others in attendance?  Sweet!   This is something akin to the way I believe Zacchaeus must have felt when, despite the crowds of “worthy” people in the press, Jesus centered on him alone, saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”

I love this because it really personifies what Jesus taught when He told the parable of the lost sheep saying, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” (Luke 15:4).  This was a picture of Jesus caring enough about each individual to go after that one soul.  Make no mistake about it, Jesus cares about you personally.

It was simply unheard of for a rabbi or a holy man to go to the house of a sinner such as him.  Being the Savior that He was, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of other’s opinions in a desire to draw people closer to Himself.  This was not the first time His actions upended other’s views.  Earlier, explaining His choice to eat with sinners, Jesus taught, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick,” (Luke 5:31).  Jesus was not, and has never, and never will entertain sin.  Please get that right.  However, Jesus knows that people from all manner of life need a Savior regardless of how the rest of the world views them.

Sticking to His guns, as we would dub it modern terminology, Jesus invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.  Zacchaeus surely knows how people viewed him.  He probably would have never thought to ask Jesus to come but Jesus has opened the door and called to him out of the crowds.  Quickly he came down from that tree and “received him joyfully.”

He had something to be happy about.  Jesus chose to be with him out of everyone else.  The world had written him off as a no good, no good.  But, not Jesus.  There’s a phrase that most are familiar with called “carpe diem,” which many interpret as “seize the day.”  It means don’t let this moment go by.  Take hold of what is presented before you before it slips through your fingers.  It may never come around again.  He must take a step of faith now.

Zacchaeus saw Jesus before him.  Zacchaeus received Jesus’ beckoning to allow Him to come to his house.  There are a lot of spiritual underlying references here.  The Bible tells us to “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near,” (Isaiah 55:6).  The time is now.  The day is at hand.  For anyone who wants to be saved, tomorrow is not promised.  When Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, right now is the time to open it and let Him in; to receive Him joyfully.

The Bible also lets us know, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12).  What would have happened if Zacchaeus would have denied Jesus’ request?  Little did he know that Jesus was making His way closer to the cross to be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind past, present, and future.  Jesus would not come through here again.  This was the time to receive Him.  It was not going to come around once more.  He would have missed out on the best life-altering experience there is.  Don’t let it be said too late.

Luke 19:7 “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”

The others in the crowd complained when they saw the interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus.  It is amazing, that despite the grace of God in each individual life, how we can get selfish and nick pick when God wants to do something for someone else.

People talk about what they don’t understand.  God said in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD,” (55:8).  They couldn’t understand why Jesus would want to even talk to the likes of this tax collector, better yet, why He would want to go to his house.  They couldn’t understand that Jesus looks beyond what people are right now and sees what they can become.  They couldn’t comprehend that love, grace, and mercy were at work there that day and every day to any and all who would receive Him joyfully. He might be classified as a “sinner” right now, but before this event is over with, he shall be called a child of God.

Luke 19:8-10 “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

A changed heart is reflected by changed actions.  What people witness in your life will resound more than the words that are coming out of your mouth.  Something remarkable transpired there that day between Zacchaeus and Jesus.  We don’t know exactly what, but at the end of the day, Zacchaeus was a new man.  The art of greed and getting over on people to make a quick buck were no longer his priorities.  His priority now was living right before the Lord.  And with that, he seeks to pay back some of the wrongs he has committed toward his fellow man.

He offers, of his own accord, to give half of his goods to the poor.  This was not something that was required but wholly testifies to the new nature his heart has undergone.  You can never be saved by your works, but faith without works is dead (James 2:17,20,26).  What has transpired on the inside should be made manifest on the outside.

For this man, who gained his wealth by stealing and extortion, sought means along those same lines to recompense his wrongdoings.  Therefore, anything he had taken from any person through the means of “false accusation” Zacchaeus promised to “restore him fourfold.”  He was ready, and his heart was in proper position, to go above and beyond what was necessary to work to undo some of the wrongs he had done.  

Jesus, the true teller of a true heart transformation proclaims, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”  True repentance is an inside job.  Faith is personal and Jesus knew, not from his giving, but because He is the only one who can see where man can’t, that this man is a new creature with a new nature.  Jesus knows this man is fit for salvation, and as Zacchaeus received Him with joy into his home, Jesus gladly welcomes this repentant man into the family of faith.

Isaiah tells us, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” (55:7).  And, this is what we see play out in Zacchaeus’ story.

God has from the beginning always sought the side of pardon.  Man has often gone in the opposite direction.  But, when one wants to make that spiritual U-turn in life and gets back on the right path where He is, God does not reject him.  God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9).  And, “He that believeth on him is not condemned,” (John 3:18).

The murmurers and complainers had condemned him already, but Jesus saw more.  He was still a child of promise, the seed of Abraham (compare to those of us who are now in Christ, who through faith are now the seed of Abraham as well – see Galatians 3:7,16,26), just as they were, and if he was truly repentant, he deserved another chance. Earlier Jesus taught, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” (Matthew 9:13; compare to Paul’s personal testimony in 1 Tim. 1:15).  And, judging by Zacchaeus’ outcome, I’d say, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Changed hearts and changed lives are what Jesus’ ministry is all about.  He didn’t wash His hands of him and consider him out of the game.  Rather, He sought for that lost soul, stating, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

Jesus’ life was marked with the undeniable cause to save men from their sins; to redeem a people unto God.  The ministry that He operated in would heal; bring peace and deliverance, eventually fulfilling all through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved,” (John 3:17; see also 1 John 4:14).

Conclusion

Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”  Zacchaeus joyfully received Jesus with faith.  Will you?

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Zacchaeus Meets Jesus

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Word Search: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Search  Answers: Zacchaeus Meets Jesus Word Search Answers

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The Anointing Breaks the Yoke! | An Isaiah 10:27 Prayer

Father God, we know Your Word declares that it is the anointing that destroys the yoke that tries to bind Your people (Is. 10:27). We are praying that You would rain down Your anointing this day and break every chain that tries to hold Your people down. We pray for release to walk in the power of all You have declared for us over our lives. We believe in You! We know that You are at work on our case even as speak. You are our hope and confidence in everything we face. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Text Free Photo Credit: Pixabay

“Again!”

 

God can do it again!

God can restore again!

God can touch your land again!

God can cause fruit to grow in your life again!

God can turn your captivity into prosperity again!

God can do it for you even when it seems all hope is lost again!

Our God specializes in restoration, healing relationships with Him again!

He majors in turning the ashes of our lives into something beautiful again!

Turn to God because He can do it for you again!

“For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:15)

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Sunday School Lesson – “Parable of the Great Banquet” Luke 14:15-24

Photo: Pixabay/FotografielLink

VERSE DISCOVERY: Luke 14:15-24 (KJV, Public Domain)

15) “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

16) Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17)  And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

18) And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19) And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20) And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21) So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22) And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23) And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24) For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

Introduction

“We Request Your Presence,” “You’re Invited,” “Let’s Party,” and “Join Us” are just some of the ways an invitation may express that you are welcomed to come to this special event.  Not everybody is allowed, but you are because you received an invitation.

That’s the wonderful thing about invitations, they make you feel special because the event you were invited to is special.  Once one responds with an affirmative answer that they will be there, the host of the event can start preparing for the number of people who promised and are expected to be in attendance.

But then the day arrives and those who said they would be there, aren’t.  Rather, excuses are made to why each couldn’t follow through on their commitment to the invitation that was given, how is the host supposed to respond or feel about this sudden change of plans?

You see, excuses are exactly that, excuses.  Barring any valid emergency or tragic calamity, most excuses are just reasons that people make up for not doing something they don’t want to do.  Although they obligated themselves to be there, now they wish they didn’t, and want to be excused.

How many today is allowing their eternity to hang on the hinges of excuses?  They have a lot of reasons why they can’t respond to God’s heavenly invitation through our Lord Jesus Christ, but eventually, the day will come, and that heavenly celebration will begin.  All those who refused the invitation will not even get a taste of what it will be like at that glorious time in that heavenly feast.

Eventually, the time of all excuses will run out.

Lesson Summary

Leading up to today’s lesson text, Jesus finds Himself dining at the house of a certain chief Pharisee (Luke 14:1) on the Sabbath, where His actions were under a microscope (especially in regard to healing on the Sabbath – see Luke 14:2-5), as this was usually the case when He was in the presence of these men.  They watched Him and looked for their own reasons of why Jesus could be dismissed and disregarded about whom He claimed to be.

It was during this particular dinner when Jesus noticed how ambitiously people sought to sit in the greater seats of notoriety and position.  How they wanted to be noticed and therefore fought to be the ones seated in the “chief rooms” (vs. 7).  From that, He teaches a parable on humility (see vss. 8-11) and who exactly they should invite to a dinner or supper (vss. 12-14) and that anything they do for others, they would be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just,” (vs. 14).

Listening to Jesus’ illustrations about proper dinner etiquette and protocol, one in attendance couldn’t help but wonder and voice his opinion of what it would be liking dining this way with a heavenly perspective, “at the resurrection of the just.”  He said, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”  Did he automatically assume that he, as well as those present at this dinner, were to be shoo-in residents of the “kingdom of God” because of their social status and natural heritage?  Was this why he remarked in such a way?  If that were the case, Jesus would shortly set his thinking straight.

Regardless of his motives for the statement, surely, he was right.  The Bible explains repeatedly the rewards and blessedness of those who are in the kingdom of God.  1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” and Matthew 16:27 tells us, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works,” (in addition to many, many more biblical references).

In other words, that will definitely be a very blessed time for all who are invited to and attend that heavenly feast.

But who exactly will be there?

Using another parable, Jesus explains who it is that will be attending that heavenly feast.  He says, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.”  There was a great occasion on the horizon and “many” people were invited to come, which meant that this would be a grand affair.

I know you’ve heard the expression, “The more the merrier,” and it’s usually true.  When one is celebrating, they want as many people possible in attendance.  People want these special occasions to be full of fun, full of joy, and full of well-wishers, and that happens when the party is alive with people.

To invite so many meant there were also just as many preparations that had to be made.  After all, a good host wants to make sure that when their guests arrive, there is enough food and places to accommodate everyone.  To slight anyone in this area after they committed to come to your dinner would be wrong.

Therefore, when he originally “bade many,” that can be viewed at the first invitation.  This is the one that would have been sent out plenty of time before the event was to take place.  This is also the one that the proposed guests would have responded to, assuring the host of their commitment to come.

In this parable, after all the necessary preparations had been made according to how many people previously said they would be there, the host sent “his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.”

The day of the grand affair was now upon them.  It was time for the “supper” to begin.  The feast is in order, and now all that is needed is for the people “that were bidden, Come.”  The only thing missing from this glorious event were those who previously received the invitation and promised to be there.  With that, the servant was instructed to go out and collect the guests and let them know it’s time; let them know “all things are now ready.”  The work has been done.  The preparations have been a success.  There is a seat for everyone.  There is enough food and fun for everyone.  It’s time for the celebration to begin and now all we need is you!

Can you sense the excitement in the air the host must have been feeling waiting for that first guest to arrive; that first knock on the door?  But they didn’t show up.  No one who said they would be there was there yet, and he was about to find out why.

“And they all with one consent began to make excuse” (compare Matthew 22:6).  To put it bluntly, they all refused to respond positively to the second invitation that asked them to come because the time was now ready.  Now that, my friends, was a serious social faux pas that had some serious consequences to it.  Illegitimate excuses will take one out of step of what they were designed for or committed for, causing not only insult to the one who was welcoming them in, but it also breeds an opportunity for missed blessings as the latter part of our lesson will tell.

In regard to excuses, especially when dealing with our spiritual walk, the Bible reminds us, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment,” (Matthew 12:36).  Every excuse that flows from our lips will be answered for.

I don’t know the true, inner thoughts and reasoning of these excuses we are getting ready to explore, but regardless of what was behind their motive of not staying committed to the answered invitation, their reasoning was wrong and fell flat on the floor of useless excuses as they all had one mind, “one consent,” that they were not going to attend.

Excuse#1: “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it.”  The purchase of property is expensive, to say the least.  In ancient days, as well as in ours.  And, with the purchase of any property, there are questions that will have to be answered.  Is the land good for building, planting crops, or whatever purpose he was looking for when considering buying that property?  Is it near an area that one can readily reach resources that are needed such as water?  Are there concerns with the property that he needs to be aware such as enemies, animals, thieves, etc.?

These and many more questions would have and should have been answered BEFORE even considering purchasing a piece of property.  The best way to make sure the property has all you need before laying down a sizable amount of money on it is to go and examine it carefully PRIOR to purchase.  To purchase sight unseen is not good business.

But, this man, with his excuse, tried to convince the servant that it is imperative to go and see land and examine it AFTER he already purchased it.  This was a ridiculous concept and the mere thought of it falls flat on the floor of bad excuses as he refused the invitation: “I pray thee have me excused;” please let my poor reasoning be found sufficient in your sight.

Excuse #2: “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them.”  Although in our modern day it is possible to buy a car without actually test driving it, it’s not a concept I’m comfortable with.  Even if the car has everything it says and does everything it advertises, until I get into the driver’s seat to feel the fit of it on me, I won’t really know if it will do.  I need to test drive it first.

The same concept is behind proving the oxen.  This excuse teller is laughably stating that he hasn’t “test driven” his oxen before buying them, so on this day of this auspicious occasion, he must do so right now and cannot come to the affair that he had committed himself to attend.  Thus, he refused the invitation responding as the first, “I pray thee have me excused;” please accept my excuse for standing you up.

Excuse #3: “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”  Now, unless this wedding was an unusually hurried affair, this should not have been a problem.  Just like the feast he is invited to, the groom and the bride would have spent a considerable amount of time planning and preparing for their nuptials.  Ergo, this groom would have been aware of, way in advance, if his impending or new marriage and whether or not it would hinder him from attending a planned event he already committed to.

Again, we must remember, that in each instance given, they already accepted the original invitation which means they knew they would be free from other obligations that may have been a hindrance from attending.  If that were the case, he and they would have or should have responded that they wouldn’t be able to attend this time at the receiving of the first invitation.

Rather than praying to be excused as the first two responded, this third excuse user simply said, “I cannot come.”  He just wasn’t going to do it.

But now the that the time is at hand all of a sudden each has found a “reason” of why they can’t come at the host’s bidding.  Everything mentioned could have been taken care of after the feast and was not a legitimate cause for missing this engagement.

Rather, they let other people and other things became a distraction against their commitment.  These things vied for the attention of the men then, and people every day today and too often they win out, temporarily that is.

When the “servant” returned, he came bearing bad news: no one was coming.  It’s didn’t matter that the host did everything He/he promised.  It didn’t matter the care that went into making this day special beyond belief – they refused the invitation and they were refusing to “come.”

Upon hearing the news, the master of the house became very “angry.”  It’s not even totally about the amount of time and money that went into getting such an event together, but it’s about the disrespect for the host, for the master of the house, when his kindness was thrown back in his face at their refusal to come.

So, he commanded, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.”  “Quickly” speaks of the urgency to find guests who would be willing to come because remember, everything was now ready.  Time would not wait.  Preparations would not wait.  The party and all its trappings would deteriorate unless there be guests to fill the rooms, eat the feast, and partake in the event.  And, since those who were previously invited refused, others would be more than willing to take their place.

This grouping of individuals was some of the same whom Jesus previously stated (see verses12-14) should be invited to the banquet despite their inability to repay. This grouping of individuals all had something wrong with them (boy, doesn’t that sound familiar).  They weren’t of the pious social order and they were definitely in a different social class then the previous invitees, therefore they would have been overjoyed at finally knowing what it’s like to be behind the doors of such an occasion; of being a part of and feeling like they belong.  The others who refused the invitation were being replaced by people who had a receptive heart.

Please Note: Some believe or represent Christianity as some starchy, perfectly pressed people with nary a deficiency or mark on their record.  This is so far from the truth.  In God’s house, all are welcomed and invited to come.  The rejects, the castaways, the last to be picked are all invited.  Those who are not perfect, but have some faults are invited.  Those who may not have been original members of the family but have now been grafted in are invited.  Background, socio-economic status, race or ethnicity – none of that bars a receptive heart from being invited.

So, to the “streets and lanes of the city” the servant was commanded to go; to the places where the undesirables and the unlikely were usually found, he was to go and invite guests to this great banquet.  YOUR ADDRESS ON EARTH WILL NOT STOP YOU FROM GETTING AN ADDRESS IN HEAVEN WITH THE RIGHT HEART.

Once the servant did as he was commanded, it was found that there is still “room” for more guests.  The supper is not yet full.  Then, “the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”  Go beyond the borders of the city, go beyond the borders of this people, and find others who are willing to come, who are willing to be receptive to the invitation the Master is giving.

Please Note: God established a relational covenant with His people Israel.  It started with Abraham (Genesis 12-17) and traveled down through his family line.  On Mount Sinai, God once again stated through the Mosaic Covenant His desire to be their God and for them to be His people; to be in a relational covenant with them (Exodus 19).  He said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all the people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation…” (Exodus 19:5-6a).  They accepted the first invitation and heard for centuries through the prophets to be ready for the second one; to be ready for when Christ comes on the scene.  And, when He did, they refused the invitation.  They refused Him and would not come.

Also, Please Note: This in no ways implies that God is officially and completely done with His chosen people because He is not.  And, as was spoken to Abraham way back then, God always had a plan that all the world be reached (Genesis 12:3).  So, let us not focus too much on the Jew/Gentile difference, rather let us focus on any, and all hearts, that say yes to Him and respond with a committed life.

So, we see in our lesson the servant reaching out to those who dwell beyond the borders.  Many see this as the inclusion of the Gentiles who respond to the invitation with a receptive heart through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“That my house may be filled.”  There is still room for more.  Go out and convince and preach that others may accept the invitation and fill the streets of heaven (compare Matthew 28:19-20).

Those who were previously invited and refused the invitation “none… shall taste of my supper.”  They will not partake of that heavenly feast.  They have rejected Me, and now they are rejected, and those who put other things and people before Me shall lose out on their reward (read Matthew 10:33-42).

Conclusion

The invitation is still opened and, on the table, today.  Won’t you come?

It won’t be opened forever.  Today is the day to say yes to Jesus!

There is going to be a feast in that coming day; a great celebration for those who answered the invitation and responded with a commitment.  There will be a celebration of the redeemed!

The idea of a feast correlating with the celebration of God’s people in a future heavenly home is nothing new to us.  When Jesus said, “That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 8:11) He was referring to a heavenly feast (see also Luke 13:29; 22:30).  In Luke’s account, one who sat by said, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God,” (Luke 14:15; as today’s lesson notes).

John brought a similar picture to us when he revealed to us his vision of the marriage supper of the Lamb wherein, he says, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb,” (Revelation 19:9).  One after one, those images show the everlasting reigning of our God and the celebration of the saints with Him.

WOW!  Saints of God, we have something very wonderful to look forward to.  Jesus, through His death and sacrifice, has already made all things ready.  All we have to do is respond properly to the invitation given.

I implore you, if you have not already done so, answer the invitation with a life of commitment today!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Parable of the Great Banquet

Suggested Activities:

Draw the Scene: Parable of the Great Banquet Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Parable of the Great Banquet Memory Verse

Word Search: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Search Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Search Answers

Crossword: Parable of the Great Banquet Crossword Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Scramble Answers: Parable of the Great Banquet Word Scramble Answers

Blank Journal Pages:  Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages

From a previous lesson: “No Excuses Church Fan Craft”: No Excuses Church Fan Template (Use this PDF for accurate printing) Print out on cardstock or glue to construction paper, cut, color, decorate, tape or glue to a craft stick, and enjoy! Although this is from a different verse, it highlights that we are to have no excuses unlike those in today’s lesson.

 

 

“The Parable of the Great Banquet”

“Parable of the Feast” 

“The Parable of the Great Supper” (With directions for an easy, handmade craft that only requires paper and crayons or markers, that highlights the excuses that were made in this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“Don’t Make Excuses Feat Pennant”

“Excuses! Excuses!”

 

“Be Wise In the Choices I Make”

 

Photo: PixabayArtsyBee

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes . . .,” Proverbs 3:5-7a

“Oh, that could have gone better than that!” Hindsight is a kicker. I’ve heard it said before that hindsight offers perfect 20/20 vision. I don’t remember where I heard or saw that phrase but I could not agree more. Staring down the road once traveled, seeing it littered with the trash of mistakes and bad choices changes one’s perspective.

What if we looked back and the view looked a little neater? What if the pathway that has led us to where we are today is paved with more order rather than chaos? Unfortunately, for most of us when we turn around to see where we have come from our humanness shines through. All of the frailties of life in this flesh mar the perfection that we wish to see. The good thing is you and I am not alone in this one. For only one man has been born with this perfection and lived it to the fullest, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the rest of us, it remains a goal. A pursuit for the life where the good and wise choices we make outweigh the bad and disastrous ones. Oh, what a day that will be!

The thing is that goal is not far off. God has given us assurances in His Word for a better outcome. As long as we remain on this side of glory we will continue to struggle with our flesh and the mistakes it makes. But God has given us a five-step plan to help keep us on the right track less littered. First, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” Some mistakes are made through lack of trust. The urge to jump in and do something often hinders God’s plan and miracles He wants to perform. Not only that, when situations become so intense for someone and when the tendency to jump in is there, there is usually little thought given to the actual outcome or consequences which in and of itself births more mistakes. Ask Sarah and she will tell you her story of trying to help God fulfill his own promise, Gen. 16.

Secondly, Scripture says, “Lean not unto thine own understanding.” When someone leans on something it is for support. It is to help them steady their own self and to keep in balance. But, here in this verse, it shows one who has a self-sufficient nature and refuses to believe that help can come from anyone other than themselves. Not only is this way of thinking against God, but it also gives individuals who possess it a limited view of the world. This, in turn, causes mistakes to be made that could have been avoided had they had a broader view of things with a little outside help.

Third, it states, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.” God is Sovereign over all creation. He was and is and is to come, (Rev. 1:8). In other words, He is everything that we have ever needed and still do. Acknowledging Him is a respect issue which actually ties in with the trust we see in the first step. The respect comes from recognizing that no matter the plan or goals we set, He has the final say. He can bless it and move it along or veto it right where it stands. But, because we are acknowledging Him and bringing it before Him, we are saying, “Lord, I trust you with this.” Boy, does He love that! For instance, no natural child should go out, be gone all day and all night and into the next day and never bother to “acknowledge” to his/her parents their plans. It’s a respect issue that helps bind together the trust in that relationship. The same is true with God.

Fourth, it says, “And He shall direct thy paths.” He will show you the good way, the blessed and prosperous way because the proceeding steps were followed through. One thing is for sure if God is leading the way and we are following His directions that pathway is going to look a lot more orderly. Direction in life means everything. There are already too many people wandering aimlessly without a point of destination or purpose. They’re headed nowhere because they have no direction. God wants better for us. When He directs, go that way.

Finally, a re-assertion of the main problem, “Be not wise in thine own eyes.” Don’t look at His directions and think that you can come up with a better plan. I can tell you this, we may not always understand what He is doing, but our job is to “be not wise in our own eyes,” and follow His marching orders. Think back, what if the children of Israel had not marched around Jericho as instructed. Entrance in the Promised Land would have been prohibited again!

Just because we don’t understand what the plan is to bring down these walls before us, it doesn’t mean we can’t see success in the end. Our victory will come in following His directives. And that, my dear, will help us every day to be wise in the choices we make.

“Jesus, My Healing Sanctuary!”

Text Free Photo Source: Pixabay/cowins

Most often, when one thinks of healing, the mind automatically seems to focus on physical healing from an ailment or disease.  While that is true, there are other areas of life and of the person that needs healing as well. Any area where there is a deficit or lack, any area that experiences brokenness and is need of restoration is a place that needs the healing touch of the Lord in it.

I am moved by the many times I see Jesus’ real concern for what people are going through and dealing with when He reaches into their lives with His healing touch.  From the time when sin and brokenness entered into this world, God has been in the healing and fixing business.

In Ezekiel 47, we see a future prophecy of a river flowing from the sanctuary that healed the places where it flowed (vs. 6-12).  While that healing will come as a result of us stepping into eternal life to live with God forever, when I see those mental images of Jesus healing people throughout the stories represented in Scripture while still here on earth, that leads me to believe that what’s flowing from the sanctuary in our future is available to us now in our present circumstances or crisis.

Christ is the source of everything we need for our future and present healing, for both physical, and all the not so physical ailments we deal with (emotional, spiritual, etc.).  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).  

In Matthew 11, Jesus invites us to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vs. 28-30).  

For every burden, Jesus has become our sanctuary from where all our healing flows.  He told the woman at the well, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.  But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 14).

No matter what area of our lives need healing and restoration, Jesus Christ is our sanctuary from which all the answers for our brokenness flows.

“Walking on Dry Land”

When the seas are raging and the enemy is
chasing, walking through on dry ground is a
wonderful concept. To have the God of all
creation move creation to see you to safety
shows not only His strength and power to work
in one’s life, but it also shows His love at work
in a very real and tangible way.

I don’t know what you are facing today, but I
pray that the waters will part for you. I pray and
believe that God can make a way where there
doesn’t seem to be a way. I pray that oceans
of adversity will move from their place and
make way for the children of God to walk
through on dry land. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!