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photo credit: Harvest via photopin (license)
photo credit: Harvest via photopin (license)

Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;

He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers.
Each one was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit.

My very own vineyard is at my disposal;
The thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
And two hundred are for those who take care of its fruit. 

Song of Songs 8:11-12

There is a shift in speakers between verse 11 and 12. We were hearing the voice of the narrator telling us about the arrangement the King has with those who steward His vineyards.

Last week we talked about the fact that the Lord expects us to be fruitful. In verse 12 the bride is speaking and we’ll learn how she feels about the king’s demands.

If you remember the center piece of this Song, right at the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 the Shulamite gave her garden over to the Shepherd King.

Awake, O north wind,
And come, wind of the south;
Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
Let its spices be wafted abroad.
May my beloved come into his garden
And eat its choice fruits!"

Song of Songs 4:16 (emphasis mine)

This is the point where she goes from thinking in terms of her garden to understanding that all she has belongs His. [You might like this post.]

Today, in similar fashion, she still thinks of it as her garden because it is her charge. But she doesn’t begrudge the King his payment. Not only that she pays others to come and harvest in her garden.

You see, working in the Lord’s harvest pays well.

Now you’re thinking I’m really crazy. How many missionaries, itinerant ministers, pastors and other full-time christian workers can live on what they are paid.

OK - I don’t want to discuss who should get paid for what in the church structure—let’s not jump in that puddle today.

What I want to consider is how abundant the harvest is.

If she was just trying to get by, and pay the taxes—the thousand shekels—due, she certainly would not have labor’s working in the field with her. She would find a way to get by through her own sweat and blood.

But that’s not the case here.

She has enough to meet her own needs.

She can give that which is required of her, and does so gladly.

She has abundance to the extent that she has to hire help to bring in the harvest.

Why such success?

When you give yourself to kingdom living—kingdom occupation—you’ll find the fruit of the kingdom abounds. [Tweet This]

I know that at the top of the page I talked about jobs that are commonly considered “full time christian work.” But any work done by a citizen of the kingdom is kingdom work. There is no such thing as secular in the life of a subject of King Jesus. If He is your Savior, then He is your King, your Boss, your Master, your Lord. Oh, and He is also you Husband, the Lover of your soul, your Friend, and your Brother.

As to the abundance the bride finds in her/His vineyard, David puts it this way:

How blessed is the man who
does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3 (again, emphasis mine)

Do you see it? When you give yourself to the kingdom—yoke yourself to the Lord—you’ll find you work fruitful.

We serve a Great King!

Since our prosperity does not always fit the world’s scale of success, we often don’t recognize the abundance. If we keep our eyes on their prize, we’ll likely miss ours.

The simple solution is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by today.

Don’t tire of the good work He has called you to and created you for.

Ben

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Kingdom of Heaven

Yesterday we looked at repentance, and how Jesus expected repentance as He brought the Kingdom to His people.

One thing we looked at yesterday tweaked my spirit a bit.

We read,

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. - Matthew 11:20

It seems that Jesus expected repentance as a response to miracles.

Let’s read on,

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you. - Matthew 11:21-24

Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. As we observed yesterday, it came with a call to repentance.

It also came with miracles.

Don’t miss this.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23

When Jesus brought the gospel, He brought a message of deliverance for the whole man, body, soul and spirit. He came bringing life—shalom—whole life—abundant life—to all who would hear and receive Him.

When He came to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even His adopted home town of Capernaum, He brought healing, just as He did throughout Galilee, Jerusalem and all Judea.

Do you think it took Him by surprise that these great cities of Galilee did not repent?

Why does Isaiah 53 call Him the Man of Sorrows? This is it right here. Because light walked into darkness, and darkness put out the light, rather than risk exposure. It broke His heart.

The kingdom of heaven had come near to them, and them rejected heavenly citizenship to hold on to the fleeting pleasures of this life.

How is it with you? (Yes Ben, I’m looking at you.)

First—have you turned from your own path to The Way and followed after the One who brings life?

Next—do you bring the good news with the expectation that God will confirm the word preached with signs—wonders?

Finally—do you expect to see repentance. Do you call for it? Do you nurture it either in those to whom you are preaching, or in your own life?

Lord, teach me to preach the good news, as I go, in such a way as to foster repentance, and please bring signs and wonders as the word goes forth. Thank you for the promise of Your presence as we go and preach.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for stopping  by. Sorry this was a bit of a ramble today.

Be a blessing today,

Ben

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Kingdom of Heaven

When you start digging into the concept of the kingdom of heaven, the first thing you hit your head on is this:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. - Matthew 3:2 & 4:17 NASB

The first two times the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ comes up it’s linked to repentance.

The first is John the Baptist and the second is Jesus the King.

Clearly when Jesus came on the scene He brought the kingdom with Him. Wouldn’t you agree? I know—that seems obvious.

But it’s striking to me that with the approach of the kingdom there comes the need for repentance.

John stood on the banks of the Jordan in the wilderness and called the nation to repentance. Once John was in prison Jesus took up this message and began preaching that same sermon all over Galilee and the regions there-bouts.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. - Matthew 4:23

Though we don’t hear Him say it on every page, we know He kept up this message, because in Matthew 11 we read,

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. - Matthew 11:20

What is Repentance?

Today’s wisdom, when it hears the word repent, quickly marks it out and writes in ‘change your mind.’ Others might tell you repentance is sorrow and tears at an altar. But I’m not sure either is a big enough definition for repentance.

Paul gives us a definition for repentance that will turn sorrow into victory, because repentance preps you for the kingdom of heaven.

Check it out:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. - 2 Corinthians 7:10

First notice that there is a difference between sorrow and repentance. Tears at the altar are supposed to produce repentance. Notice this phrase too—'sorrow that is according to the will of God.' There are some circles in the church where you’d be tagged a heretic for simply suggesting that God would will sorrow at all.

But sorrow over our own sin, which leads to repentance and then to salvation—that is the will of God without a doubt. It's the very core of God's will for all men and women.

Let’s read on,

For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:11 KJV

It’s almost a recipe for repentance:

  • Sorrow
  • Carefulness
  • Clearing
  • Indignation
  • Fear
  • Vehement Desire
  • Zeal
  • Revenge
  • Victory—Freedom

In my mind, when Jesus starts out the Beatitudes with,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3 NASB

He’s talking about this repentance that runs so deep in your heart that it purges every inch of you, inside and out. This poor spirit that sorrows over the sin in his or her heart and life gains entrance to the kingdom of heaven.

We’ve got to stop thinking of repentance in negative terms. The only thing that we lose when we repent is the hold hell has on our heart.

There is life available—life in the kingdom of heaven. And you don’t have to wait till you die to get in.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

For more detail on repentance you might want to read this article:

Repentance - the Path to Victory!

BenHeadshotThanks for coming by,

Keep the light on!

Ben

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Kingdom of HeavenI know I said we were going to be poking around in Matthew, but we need to take this one detour over to Luke. Luke gives us the only look at Jesus’ childhood, and in Luke 2 we have these two statements concerning Jesus and His coming of age.

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. - Luke 2:40

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. - Luke 2:52

Our young King had to spend time growing and learning. These are striking verses to me. They stand with what Paul tells us of Jesus:

… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:5-8

We see in Galatians that a son begins as a servant. Even The Son of God came as a servant and lived, not as the Master He was by birth and blood, but as a servant and minister. He didn’t spend His time demanding obedience, or ordering people around. He gave His life—even before the cross—to those He encountered.

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. - Matthew 20:28

Yes, His death was a gift, given for the salvation of all mankind. But His life was also a gift. He gave His time, His heart, His power, His authority to those He came in contact with.

How often have we thought about what we would do if we could just get a touch from Him. If His power could be played out in our circumstance. He could fix my body, fix my finances, fix my relationships.

The mind of Christ thought differently. He did not think, “How can I use the power God has given me to solve my problems.” Instead He was always looking toward others. How would the Father touch this need or that brokenness.

The training for Kingship is service.

I’m hoping you’ll consider taking on this ‘mind of Christ.’ After all, we are sons and daughters of this same King. We are in training for royalty too. Rather than spending all our spiritual currency trying to receive our “due” from God, let’s see God’s heart for others and begin spending our spiritual dough giving into their lives. We might find out that miracles come way more easily when we are giving rather than striving to get.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgHope that helps.

Shine folks, shine.

Ben

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Kingdom of HeavenOur king, Jesus lived under protection of special forces—God’s own secret service—from His earliest days.

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." - Matthew 2:13 NASB

Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus—God incarnate—Creator of all things, stooped so low as to put himself into the hands of a carpenter and his bride-to-be? Jesus was a flesh and blood toddler and vulnerable to any of the dangers we might face. So His Father sent a royal guard to watch over Him. His angelic watchers would get a heads up from heaven that there was trouble brewing, and give the intel to Joseph. He would then pack up hearth and home and head out-of-town.

What follows Jesus’ exodus to Egypt was one of the most gruesome acts of terrorism in the history of humanity, Herod’s boy-hunt. It’s horrific.

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

"A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” - Matthew 2:16-18

History is full of men who killed and slaughtered innocents for their own gain. But this story makes me so sad. While these magi—these wisemen—walk away from their lives, and follow a star to honor this king, Herod, who had been raised as a Jew, was willing to kill his own nation's future to preserve his own power base. It would be decades before a child king would be any threat to him or to his throne. Still he slaughtered all the male children in this suburb of Jerusalem.

Horrible.

But when it was all over, Jesus’ secret service got the ‘all clear’ from headquarters, and passed the word to Joseph.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, "Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." - Matthew 2:19-20

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for stopping by.

Keep the light on.

Ben

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Kingdom of Heaven

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. - Matthew 2:11 NASB

Matthew is making the case that Jesus is the king of heaven. He’s going to focus on Jesus and his kingdom teaching, but before he gets to that he takes time to establish Jesus as the rightful king of Israel, and the rightful king of all the earth.

An entourage from the East come to visit Jesus sometime in the neighborhood of His second birthday. There’s lots of intrigue surrounding their visit. King Herod (in no way the rightful king) hatches a plot to capture and kill the child king. Angelic visits give them lucid dreams warning them of his intentions.

But the end of it is that these foreigners come from afar and bring gifts to the king. They give him four things. (Were you thinking three?)

1 - Worship

These travelers give the child Jesus their worship. I suppose you could argue that all the gift giving could fall into the category of worship, but it explicitly tells us they “fell to the ground and worshiped Him.

Does that strike you. Stop and picture that in your mind. Stand up and act it out. Go ahead—I’ll wait while you experiment with it a bit.

Do you see them down on one knee?

Did they drop to both knees?

Did they kneel slowly, or dive down fast.

Where they on their face before this toddler?

The Greek word here 'pipto' has among its meaning to fall down prostrate. Prostrate means lying face down on the ground.

I’ve never seen that on a Christmas card - have you?

Sometimes we get them kneeling, but the picture I get when I read what the Bible actually says is three grown men, who were deserving of honor themselves lying on their faces before a young child.

How casually we approach the thrice holy Son of God.

2 - Gold

Now there’s an a gift suited for a king. The gold given is specifically an acknowledgement of Jesus’ royalty. How these Magi knew is a mystery, but they came seeking a king, and gave him this gift of gold as an honor to His majesty.

3 - Frankincense

While gold points to Jesus as king, frankincense points to His deity. His kingship knew not earthly limit. These wise men traveled from afar not to give gifts to a foreign dignitary. They came all that way to acknowledge Him as their own king—king of all the earth—king of ALL. Frankincense says Jesus is king of heaven and earth.

4 - Myrrh

This last gift posed a mystery to the givers, no doubt. Though very valuable, it was associated with death, not birth. Certainly not the sort of gift you would normally give a child, nor a gift you would give a king. It was a prophetic declaration. Jesus would live a life pointed directly at death. He came to die, and the Myrrh given to Him in His first days foreshadowed that death.

The wisemen’s worship began with the giving of their lives to seek Him, falling on their faces to honor Him, giving of the substance to speak into His life, and declare His majesty, deity, and His moons path to all who would hear them.

Will you fall on your face before Him?

Hail Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

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Kingdom of HeavenWho is the rightful king?

I’m setting out to study one of the main themes of Matthew's gospel—The Kingdom of Heaven. The exact phrase “kingdom of heaven” only appears in Matthew’s gospel, and it does so thirty-one times. Twenty-nine of those times in red letters! Four more times Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God in Matthew, and Matthew records the word kingdom without either tag another twenty-four times for a total of fifty-five mentions of the word kingdom in this gospel.

It’s by far the strongest theme of Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus, so I thought we would spend some time digging into his story to see what we can find.

Matthew starts his telling with a genealogy. Every kingdom needs a king, and Matthew is out to prove that Jesus is the king of heaven.

I know, if you’re like me, your eyes glaze over as you read the first half of Matthew’s introduction. Much has been written and said about first lines. They tell me if you want to write a killer book, you need a great first line.

Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five(1969)

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. —God,  The Bible

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. —The apostle John, The Gospel According to St. John

(For more first lines check this out.)

Matthew—not so much. In fact—judging by his introduction, you might think Matthew’s real theme was begetting! Begat is used thirty-nine times in the first sixteen verses of this book.

Why the boring front matter?

He’s going to be talking about a kingdom, so he needed a king.

Matthew, tax collector by trade, may have had a thing for records, but what he does in these first sixteen verses is give empirical proof that had Israel still sported a throne, Jesus should occupy it.

He traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham the father of the faithful to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly and legal father. The interesting thing about Matthew’s telling is all the colorful details he includes in this family tree. Nothing but names with two exceptions. There is one comment for time frame about when they were carried off into Babylon. The only other thing we learn is in verse six.

Jesse was the father of David the king. - Matthew 1:6 NASB

Matthew begins with this one fact—Jesus was (is) rightful king of Israel.

There’s an interesting article here about why Luke and Matthew have different genealogies for Jesus. I’ve always gone with the idea that Luke traces Mary’s line and Matthew traces Joseph’s line. Jesus was Joseph’s son as far as the law was concerned, so He stood to be his heir. Mary’s blood line—therefore Jesus’ blood line also goes back to David, making Him heir by blood and by law.

Jesus was King of the Jews!

But He said in John’s gospel,

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." - John 18:36 NASB

He is king of another kingdom—the kingdom of Heaven.

For the record, He’s also the King of me.

How is it with you friend. Is Jesus your King?

BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

Come back soon,

Ben

For more on this Kingdom of Heaven series click here.

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Kingdom of HeavenYesterday we looked at the verses in Matthew’s Gospel that told us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Before we start the deep dive into the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus talked so much about there’s one more list I want to put out there.

Let’s look at the entrance to this kingdom. I’m picturing a castle gate. What is this gate made of, and how will we pass through? Seem a vital question, doesn’t it? Who will enter? Who won’t?

Here’s what Jesus says:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:10

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:20

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. - Matthew 7:21

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; - Matthew 8:11

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. - Matthew 11:12

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:3

This is going to be interesting - don’t miss it.

BenHeadshotHave a great weekend

Shine where your screwed in.

Ben

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Jesus in Matthew’s gospel speaks about the kingdom of heaven more than any other theme. I'm quite intrigued as I look at what He has to say about it. I want to spend some time here at Another Red Letter Day digging into some of these statements and pictures Jesus makes and uses to describe it.

What is the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ like?

Jesus said it’s like:

a man who sowed good seed in his field. - Matthew 13:24

a mustard seed - Matthew 13:31

leaven - Matthew 13:33

a treasure hidden in the field - Matthew 13:44

a merchant seeking fine pearls, - Matthew 13:45

a dragnet cast into the sea - Matthew 13:47

a head of a household  - Matthew 13:52

a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. - Matthew 18:23

a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. - Matthew 20:1

a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. - Matthew 22:2

ten virgins - Matthew 25:1

Where is He going with this? I’m intrigued. Are you?

BenHeadshotCome back again soon.

Don’t forget to shine.

Ben