The Most Powerful Parable of Jesus

The Most Powerful Parable of Jesus

A farmer went out to sow his seed.  Matthew 13:3

          For me personally, the most powerful parable is the parable of the sower.  In this story, a man goes out to scatter seeds during planting time.  They fall in four different growing environments.  Three of them fall in poor soil conditions and good results are impossible.  Ah, but the fourth produces something stunning.

         This parable has spoken to me so powerfully for the past several years that the truth of the soil types is on my mind constantly.  I’ve almost become obsessed by the fourth soil type and I’ve grown to covet its germinating environment.

         For the next week, I want to write about this parable, taking my time with each part of the story.

         Jesus related this parable to a crowd in Judea.  As He spoke it, they sat on a hillside – probably watching people sow seeds because the hills around the Sea of Galilee were ringed with fields.  Jesus knew how to bring a point home by relating a story in a context people understood.  As they watched it, He would reference it, and then go on to make His kingdom analogy.  Can you picture yourself sitting there before the Storyteller?  Is your heart childlike to drink in the meaning? Continue reading

Minimizing My Light

MINIMIZING MY LIGHT

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before others around you that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”      Matthew 5:15

         I’ve noticed that really good lighting costs money. How many times have I purchased a cheap desk lamp only to lament, “I still can’t see!” There’s nothing like a quality light fixture. It reduces eyestrain and makes work a joy.

         Why would we, as light-bearers, want to give off invisible or ineffective light? It is inadequate to do its job. The world has eyestrain as it tries to look for our influence against the backdrop of their darkness. It isn’t to be found. Or, it’s so faint that the light makes God appear anemic.

         Each of us was given a gift and the gifts, used correctly, radiate perfectly. There are three ways I can handle my gifts. Continue reading

Do My Efforts Make a Difference?

DO MY EFFORTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

He said, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32

         I can give superhuman effort to something and make little difference. Yet, at the same time, I can give small efforts to something else and make a huge difference. Is there insight beyond this parable to help me gauge where my energies should be expended? Yes. Continue reading

Why I Teach Personalized Prayer Mapping

WHY I TEACH PERSONALIZED PRAYER MAPPING

I am getting to do for you what I wish someone had done for me.  I was imprisoned for forty years, and suffered privately from issues for which I had no hope of resolving.  People who loved me looked on helplessly.  They were mostly sympathetic, yet unable to equip me with the keys necessary to lead to my freedom.  I languished for spiritual direction, for someone to help me assess how I reached such a hopeless place and then help me discover the way out.  I also longed to engage in a kind of intercession that would loose the chains that held me captive.  None of these were to be found.

God said, “Enough!”  He accelerated my process by destroying all my props and bringing me to the end of myself.  Through intensive time in the wilderness, the Holy Spirit became my spiritual director.  He gave me the keys to rebirth during a three year period.  That was 1997.  Since He wastes none of our pain, He equipped me to define this process and package it.  Prayer Mapping was born.

Each of us knows places in our lives that are characterized by disappointment and powerlessness.  Each of us wishes we had the tools to see our situations from God’s perspective.  If we could, we would have hope.

Prayer Mapping is not a formula. It’s all about strategy – and to pray strategically – there are foundational concepts about the soul, residual effects of sin, Satan, and God’s kingdom that are critical to understand.  With knowledge comes new facility in prayer construction.

Overall, Praying Mapping does three things.

1.   It exposes fractures within a person’s relationship with God and tells him/her how to repair the breach.  Throughout the day’s teaching, the reasons for fractures surface and someone’s trust is restored.

2.   It trains a person to discern divine strategy for circumstances, or people, for whom they’ve given up hope.  The strategy enables them develop a customized prayer map, targeted specifically for .

3.   It launches a child of God into a deeper dimension of spiritual life – equipping him/her to live a different way.

As the Spirit of God breathes over each Prayer Mapping Event, the teaching becomes a catalyst that moves a person out of their current box into a spacious place of faith and freedom.  Oh, how I love to teach it and see people come alive to hope.

Prayer Mapping – Learn The Language For Life

Using What I Learned From a Religious Past

USING WHAT I LEARNED FROM A RELIGIOUS PAST

He [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52

         Every child of God should be constrained to share their faith and to tell the story of their relationship with Jesus. The storylines differ from person to person. Some have come to Jesus with no history of Christianity whatsoever. They have had no teaching and must get to know their Lord without the benefit of familiarity. This has its benefits though. Their heart is a clean slate upon which God can write.

         Others, like me, have come to Jesus with years of Christian history under their belt. We have been saturated in church culture. We know a lot of scripture and can espouse many of the doctrines. Much of this was learned under the heavy hand of legalism, and let’s face it ~ Hasn’t it been tempting to throw it all out and start fresh with Jesus?

         In this short parable, Jesus makes it clear that the most effective teacher uses the new and the old. He reaches into the archives of the teaching he was given and realizes that even though the teachers were flawed, the doctrines were usually sound. And if sound, they are treasures. Continue reading

Clutching What Is Not Really Mine

CLUTCHING WHAT IS NOT REALLY MINE

“There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” Matthew 21:33-46

         Those who heard Jesus tell this parable understood it well. The hills of Galilee were full of vineyards and it was customary for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Though the Pharisees understood the illustration, they were offended at Jesus’ implication. They understood it to be prophetic and a direct warning because they knew that God considered the Jewish nation to be the ‘vineyard of the Lord.’ Isaiah 5:7

         The message to them from Jesus was clear. You are not in line with God’s purposes. Though you are proud of your positions and believe you are functioning well as religious leaders, you are really failures. You are abusing good servants and on top of that, you are rejecting me, the very son of the Vineyard owner. My rights threaten your territorial reign.

         Jesus has been so generous to entrust His kingdom to us to rule, in his absence. He has conferred upon us the authority to do so. When He left, He made sure He modeled how to care for it. He set everything in motion for His business to function perfectly. Instructions were complete and all tenants are without excuse. We understand that His leadership style is to serve and His paradigm is always relationship instead of religion, heart over intellect. But are we Pharisaical as tenants?

         I am a tenant of the vineyard. When Jesus, the owner, returns, will He be pleased with the way I handled the assignment? Continue reading

Becoming a Legitimate Fruit Inspector

BECOMING A LEGITIMATE FRUIT INSPECTOR

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

         Jesus offers this parable to His audience just after warning about judging others. That message, plus this one, addresses what is one of the most misunderstood messages of our Christian culture ~ that under no circumstances should we judge others.

         So is all judging wrong? And if wrong, why would Jesus bother to tell us about false prophets being bad trees? He obviously wanted us to beware of them and He gave us signs to identify who they were. I contend that this is righteous judging.

         My husband’s father, a well-known evangelist, when calling a spade a spade, was often accused of judging. His answer was both comical and truthful. He said, “I am not judging. I am fruit inspecting.” That’s biblical.

         What I can learn from this parable is that wolves do exist and with God’s help, I can recognize them. A righteous person bears good fruit and a wolf, as well as any unbeliever, bears bad fruit. If I believe that good fruit is defined as simply doing good things then I am spiritually immature and run the risk of being deceived by people with an agenda.

         Good fruit is to do good things for the sole purpose of glorifying God. As a child of God, I am to do everything to the glory of God. Period. I don’t do anything good for my own reputation and self-gain.

         This definition is critical and clarifying because I see unbelievers (and wolves) doing good things all the time. But if I possess Spirit-driven intuition, I realize that they are incapable of doing anything good with the intention of giving God glory. That is not their intent. They are, either, driven by human compassion at best or driven to the desire for power and recognition at the very worst. I must be a prayerful fruit inspector to tell the difference.

         What is a good example of a wolf in the Gospels, according to Jesus? The Pharisee who stood up to pray in public and said, “I’m glad I’m not like other people.” He then listed all the other people’s sins. (Luke 18) Not only was he unaware of his own innate sinfulness, he thought himself better than anyone else, and he wanted others to know through the use of public prayer. Jesus was clear that this was unrighteous. Bad fruit.

         Can I truly identify good fruit and bad fruit? Do I know myself well enough to know the difference in my own heart? I need to start there or the deception that goes that goes with my own sin will blind me when I need to understand others in a way where I am protected from spiritual wolves.

Foster and birth greater fruit inspecting skills. In Jesus’ name, Amen