Square peg

Read: Number 14-15, Mark 6:1-32

You may have heard the term, like fitting a square peg into a round hole. No matter how hard you try, those corners are not going to magically round off so that the square peg can fit into a circle. Sometimes, the way we minister is the square peg and those we’re ministering to are the round hole. No matter what you say or how you say it, the message isn’t going to get through. Jesus had some advice for his disciples for such a time as this.

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.

Mark 6:11 (NIV)

As I’ve been turning this verse over in my mind throughout the day, I’ve come to several conclusions.

  1. This is not an excuse to leave when things get difficult. There is a difference between difficult and not being received altogether. Sometimes ministry—our Christian lives—is hard. A lot of the time it’s hard. But that doesn’t mean we’re just supposed to give up. Welcome and comfort are not always equal. My pastor said this morning that complacency is the greatest stifler of the church. When we get all cozy, we do nothing.
  2. Leaving someone or some place that doesn’t welcome you is not giving up. Notice that Jesus didn’t tell his disciples that they had to stay in one place until everyone accepted the Good News. He didn’t expect them to stay in an unwelcome place. He wanted them to be where the Gospel would be received.
  3. The Gospel spreads faster where it is welcome. Our Great Commission as believers is to share the Gospel with every nation. That doesn’t mean we have to start with the hardest ones first. I think Jesus actually wanted his disciples to start with the easy ones. Do you want to know why? More people get saved in the easy ones and the more people who are saved, the more people will get saved. I believe that some of those cities who scoffed at the disciples, after hearing of the miracles that followed them wished they’d have been more welcoming.

Mark 6-12-13.jpg

The disciples went where they were welcome, where they were made to fit. They didn’t stick around as square pegs in a round hole trying to make something work.

If God has told you to be where you are, stay. I don’t want to tell someone that, because something is hard, they should leave. Sometimes God asks us to stick around through very difficult situations and I believe that He can and will work through them.

And I’m also not saying that the path of least resistance is the one we should all be taking. The Bible is full of seemingly contradictory teaching and it is up to us to read through it carefully and depend on the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is right for each of us.

Sometimes that peg will never fit. Sometimes the peg needs to be whittled down to fit. Sometimes the hole need to be chiseled to accommodate. And sometimes, we just need to light it all on fire with the power of the Gospel.

One thing at a time

Read: Numbers 7, Mark 4:21-41

It’s winter where I live. Usually, living on the southwest coast of Canada, we don’t get much for winter but buckets of rain. Today, the temperature is below freezing and there is a thin layer of crunchy snow on the ground. Though some bulbs have managed to push their shoots through the cold ground, no seeds will be planted for months yet.

Many of us Christians, myself included, act as though we are in a perpetual spiritual winter. We withhold the seed in our hands claiming the soil isn’t ready. Or maybe it is, but we either don’t know how or just plain refuse to scatter it.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.”

Mark 4:26 (NIV)

Who is the man in this story? I am. You are. What is the seed? The Word of God. What are we supposed to do with the seed? Scatter it. Then what?

Mark 4-27.jpg

Too many of us hold on to our seeds unsure of what we’re supposed to do once we scatter. Sometimes it’s nothing at all. But what if it doesn’t grow? What if it does?

When you go out and plant seeds in the soil, aside from a bit of water, there is very little you can do to ensure your plant comes up. You can’t dig down and check on it. You have to wait and trust that the seed you planted was a good seed and that it will sprout at the right time.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NIV)

You have a seed to plant. We all have seeds that can be planted. And we all have water to help those seeds to grow. And still, we all have the tools to harvest those plants once they’re mature. It is rare that one person will plant, water, and harvest the same seed.

The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9 (NIV)

Instead of worrying about a whole field, focus on one thing at a time. Plant the seed that’s in your hand right now. Share the Word of God. Keep planting. You may find you encounter someone who’s already received a seed. Water it. Keep sharing the Word of God. Keep watering. You may come across a person who’s received a seed and had it watered. That’s your harvest. Keep harvesting.

This is not just the job of pastors and teachers and church leaders. It’s your job. Ephesians 4:12 says that all of those people were given to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith. We are all to do works of service.

One person doing their work may be able to change their circle of influence. But if we all do our work—just one thing at a time, we will change the world.

Life isn’t fair

Read: Exodus 19-21, Matthew 20:1-16

Life isn’t fair. How many times did you hear that growing up? You’d complain to your parents or teacher about someone receiving something you felt they didn’t deserve, but you did. “But, it’s not fair,” you’d plead to no avail, because life just isn’t fair.

Like many things in life, this attitude often carries over into our faith.

Jesus tells a story about a man who owned a vineyard. At the beginning of the day, he went to the marketplace to find men to work his fields. They settled on a wage for the day and the men went to work. At various times throughout the day, the vineyard owner went back to the market to find more workers. Each time, he settled on a wage and they went to work.

At the end of the day, the men who’d started last were first in line to be paid. They got their promised wage. The men who started at the beginning of the day also got their promised wage, yet they were upset because all of the workers, no matter what time of day they started, received the very same pay. Was this unfair in any way? It certainly seemed so to the men who had been working out in the heat all day long. Yet they hadn’t been cheated out of anything. The landowner gave them exactly what he’d promised.

I’ve heard some Christians say that they haven’t received as much grace as others. God didn’t give them as much as He gave someone else. After hearing a testimony of someone who was brought from the brink of self-destruction, one could very well decide that God had given that person more grace than another who had been raise in a Christian home. But it isn’t a matter of more or less. It is a matter of equality. God takes us all—no matter where He finds us—and places us on equal footing.

Matthew 20-16

Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.

Matthew Henry

The Kingdom of God is not a grand hierarchy. Sometimes we look too closely at how certain churches or denominations are organised and decide that is how heaven must be. But in the eyes of God, a brand new believer still struggling with sin is on the same level as the pope himself. There is no more or less. There is simply grace.

Just because we may perceive someone as having received more doesn’t mean that we ourselves have been cheated out of anything. God’s grace is not something to be divvied out according to seniority. It is something to be multiplied, bringing everyone under it to the same place.

I cannot do it

Read: Genesis 41, Matthew 13:1-32

I cannot do it. To most, these words are a signal of great weakness, but they can be the most empowering in the English language.

Having spent years in an Egyptian prison for a crime he did not commit, Joseph was called before Pharaoh because of his skill in interpreting dreams. When Pharaoh asks him to demonstrate his ability, Joseph immediately announces that he cannot.

Genesis 41:16

Now, the man who had brought Joseph to Pharaoh’s attention knew what Joseph was capable of, having received an interpretation for his own dream. Imagine how he felt having vouched for the man who says, “I cannot.”

What would the outcome have been had Joseph taken credit for the ability God had given him as a boy? Would he have been able to tell Pharaoh what the dreams meant? Would the omission of the statement “I cannot” have changed the course of history?

What more could we accomplish with God on our side if we, like Joseph, would simply admit our shortcomings and allow God to work through us? How much more could God do on earth if we would only lay our egos aside?

Joseph’s humility landed him as second in command over an entire nation. Through him, not only Egypt was spared through famine, but many other peoples, including his own family were saved.

I cannot do it could very well be the most powerful phrase we could dare to utter because we have to set ourselves aside in order to do it. And, once we are out of the way, God has room to work.

God wants you!

Read: Genesis 27-28, Matthew 9: 18-38

All over Israel, Jesus went with his disciples. He taught and he healed. There are no accounts of Jesus refusing healing to anyone who asked. Everywhere he went, crowds followed and Jesus had compassion on them. So he told his disciples to do something. Pray. Pray for workers because the harvest is plenty.

Matthew 9:38

We can assume that they prayed.

How often have you prayed this prayer? How often has your pastor asked you to pray this prayer? We all know that there is a great harvest of souls out there in the world and the only way that they can be brought into the body of Christ is if people go out and get them. So we pray. And we pray. And we pray.

But take a look at the next verse:

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Who did Jesus ask to pray for workers? His disciples. Who did Jesus send out as workers? His disciples.

When he told his disciples to pray for workers, he wasn’t asking them to pray for a group of complete strangers. They were praying for each other. They were praying for themselves.

Chances are that, if you feel a burden to pray for workers to reap the harvest (and even if you feel no burden whatsoever), you are the worker God wants in the field.


Read: Genesis 9-11, Matthew 4

You’re a professional. You own your own business and you’re looking for a succession plan. You want to train someone in your line of work to take over the business when you retire. Where are you going to start looking? Most people will go looking in a similar environment. If you’re a carpenter, you’ll go looking at construction sites, cabinet shops, or a furniture builder. If you’re a baker, you’ll go looking at a bakery or restaurant. If you’re in insurance, you’ll go looking at an insurance office. If you’re a pastor, you’ll go looking in a church, seminary, or Bible school.

As Jesus began his ministry, he knew he only had a few years to get his job done. He needed a succession plan right away so he went looking for men he could train to take his place. Without knowing the story, most people would have him looking in the synagogues. If you’re going to be a Jewish minister, wouldn’t you want someone trained in Jewish ministry?

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.

Matthew 4:18 (NIV)

Instead of doing the expected, Jesus did as he always did—the unexpected. He didn’t go looking for help in the temple where he’d find learned—but idle—men. He went to the lake where he found men at work. Archaeologists believe that, at the time of Jesus, the Sea of Galilee had been overfished. Those who made their living on the lake were used to long hours and hard work. They would have had to come up with creative ways to do their work and repair their equipment. These are the men Jesus went to find.

Matthew 4:19-20

In a culture where very few left the family business, these brothers jumped at the opportunity to leave a failing venture. Some believe that the draw of Jesus was too strong to resist.

Jesus calls us all. Will he find us idle? Or will he find us at work? Will he find us willing? Or will he find us hesitant to leave behind the only thing we’ve ever known?

Jesus isn’t looking for people who know everything, but those who are willing to do anything. The only qualification you need is the call. And you’ve already got that. What are you waiting for?

No earthly good

On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen!

Zechariah 16:6-7a (NLT)

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshipped.

Zechariah 14:9 (NLT)

And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.

Revelation 21:23 (NLT)

He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.

Revelation 21:4 (NLT)

As Christians, we should all long for the day when the Lord returns and evil is banished from this world forever. We will live in the glorious eternal light of the Lamb and can be confident in this if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our names have been written in his Book of Life. But, as wonderful as that day will be, it cannot be our only focus.

There is a saying of those whose focus is not on this world: they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. These people spend all of their time looking at the end and have lost touch with the present.

I can’t wait for the day when all of us saints will join with the angels around the throne singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” But that day is not today and, until that day comes, I have a job to do. We all have a job to do and it may not—and probably won’t be—all sunshine and roses.

I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘There are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’

Zechariah 13:9 (NLT)

The days of glory will not come before the days of fire and refinement. Things are going to get a lot more uncomfortable before we are able to walk through the pearl gates and onto the streets of gold. If our only focus is the end, we will miss out entirely on the process. If you’re still here, God is not done with you. And if God is not done with you, your main focus should be the job at hand so that you can earn your reward at the end.

It’s okay to be heavenly minded, but you still have to be good for something while you’re still on earth.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 13-14, Revelation 21