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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bridge in Zamora Spain (Photo by Bill Jackson)
Bridge in Zamora Spain
Photo by Bill Jackson, a missionary friend to Spain.

(click for larger image and Scripture text)

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening Plan:  This suggested 40 day reading plan began Sunday and if you are just reading this and want to participate it's not too late to begin! (These links will open to the selection to be read and a built-in listening device.) More information of the Scripture reading plan is below the daily message.)
  • Today's reading (April 5): Matthew 13-18 beginning here.
  • Tomorrow's reading (April 6): Matthew 19-24 beginning here.  

"He told them many things in parables" (Matthew 13:3).

For those reading through the New Testament in our reading program we find in today's reading the first reference to the word "parable" in Christ's teaching. It is an interesting feature of Christ's teaching that He is well known for. Jesus often connected with His listeners using parables.

Matthew 13 is a series of parables dealing with the Kingdom. These parables have often been called kingdom parables and in fact most of them are introduced by this phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is like…" "Parable", by the way, is a direct transliteration of the Greek word, in other words it sounds the same in the English as it does in the Greek, so if you can pronounce the word, parable, you know some Greek!

The most memorable and simple definition I ever heard regarding a parable is the way we explain it to children. "A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Jesus told these parables not only as an illustration to support His teaching, but at times it was His complete sermon! The crowds went home and pondered the meaning of the parables, perhaps discussing them together, which created spiritual interest for additional teaching. These parables were essentially bridges between the natural stories to which the listeners could relate and the eternal truths Christ wanted to convey.

Wood carved covered bridgeSeveral years ago I met a retired man who enjoys a rather unusual and interesting hobby. He carves small covered bridges from blocks of wood. At the time I talked to him he had made over 2,400! In our conversation I mentioned that he could use his skill to advance the Kingdom of God. He eagerly responded that he in fact often uses his carvings as object lessons, using the bridge as an illustration of God's salvation for mankind (see the link below for further insight). 

I regularly challenge earnest followers of Christ to seek to impact their world for Christ. I do so again today! I believe that God has given each of us natural giftings that enable us to creatively spread the Gospel message. There are many who will never enter a church building or sit and listen to a sermon. But they may share a mutual interest or talent with a believer, thereby giving opportunity for  a witness for Christ.

There is an excellent illustrative evangelistic tract titled "The Bridge" which is used by a ministry called the Navigators. It's actually available on the web (see link below). I challenge each of you to consider Biblical illustrations/parables based upon your line of work or personal interests. I believe that as we pray and seek the Lord He will reveal appropriate, personal parables that we can use to effectively communicate His truth.

As Christ's representatives let us use our unique God-given gifts in blessing others and also in spreading the Gospel!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, we’re so thankful for the parables Jesus spoke in the gospels where You connect listeners in their everyday living with the teachings that have eternal impact. Since we're often perplexed by life's experiences and need supernatural understanding or wise counsel the parables provide wisdom and guidance to direct us in the daily events of our lives. Thank You for presenting heavenly truths in a format that helps us to relate and grasp spiritual meaning for our lives. The parables of Christ, though presented over 2000 years ago, have not diminished in their application because You are speaking to the spiritual and physical needs of Your creation. We continue to need Your divine intervention and Biblical instruction for daily living as we walk this pilgrim pathway. Thank You for Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen.

The Bridge  An online explanation of the Gospel using the bridge as an illustration.

Today's photo of the bridge in Zamora Spain was taken by Bill Jackson, a veteran missionary to Spain. About 25 years ago Bill visited our church in northern Pennsylvania when he was first sharing with churches regarding his call to missions. He is involved in evangelism and church planting in a remote part of Spain. He also runs a Spanish website with an evangelistic intent at www.comoiralcielo.com. (the name means "how to get to heaven" in Spanish!)

Personal note: When we first moved to Lancaster County ten years ago we rented a rambling old farmhouse that overlooked a covered bridge and old stone mill. Sadly, three months after we moved from that farmhouse to our present home arsonists destroyed the bridge. Covered bridges are a great part of Lancaster County heritage and I have driven through most of them. I'll even drive a bit out of my way for the pleasure!

Schenck's Mill Covered Bridge in Lancaster County PA
Schenck's Mill Covered Bridge in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Pets 4/4/11
I looked out our office window and saw both Roxie and our new puppy, Mollie, tormenting our cat Dottie, who will soon turn 10 years old. As I took the photo Roxie saw me and came toward me but Mollie continued to corner the cat.  No pity needed for Dottie as she can easily stand up for herself, and does so!  Roxie knows she rules, but she's got to teach the young pup the same thing.  Give her time.

40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening Plan

"You've Got The Time" Bible reading planOn Sunday April 3 we began a forty day program of reading through the New Testament and we encourage Daily Encouragement Net readers to consider joining in as we read/listen through the entire New Testament in 40 days. This takes about 30 minutes per day. Prior to each message we will provide a direct link to the Scripture portion to be read and listened to each day (and several links for the weekend daily readings).

The daily encouragement message for each weekday during the forty day period will be based on a portion of the text in the Bible reading for that day
(or, on Mondays this may also be from a Scripture portion read over the weekend.)

Here's an overview of the plan I have prepared with practical tips (pdf)

Here's a schedule for the entire 40 day reading period along with discussion questions. This is especially suitable to bookmark during this period as it contains links that will open directly to the passage to be read for the day.

"You've Got The Time" Bible reading planThe reading links open to Bible.is, an online Bible with audio player and additional apps that you may find useful. For those who may prefer the KJV it is available. For international readers there may even be a version available in your native language. Just click the small tab directly below the Bible.is logo on the top left to see available versions. 

This Bible reading plan is a partnership of Daily Encouragement Net and Faith Comes By Hearing, a ministry which provides Bible listening resources all over the world. We will share more about this ministry in future messages.

Daily Encouragement on Facebook Join our Daily Encouragement Bible reading group on Facebook. You can read and listen to the material directly on Facebook.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Finding songs specifically on parables was a challenge but Brooksyne suggested a song she heard on the radio.

"I Thirst"  Video  Ernie Haase and Signature Sound  

In the course of looking for this song I found this one by the same title
. I continue to hear hymns I have never heard before.

"I Thirst" Video  Brian S. Reed  This is a hymn written over 200 years ago by John Wesley. Here are the outstanding lyrics.  May it touch your heart as it did mine.

Thank God that He continues to gift musicians to sing His praises, both in writing new songs and singing old songs. I had never heard of Brian S. Reed prior to coming across this song but I see he is a worship leader in Tennessee.  Here's his website. Click on the "More Love To Thee" image to open up songs available and a beautiful version (mp3) of "More Love To Thee".

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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