Have you ever attempted to work on your listening? If there is an area in our spiritual or even physical lives that we could all work on, it is in our listening skills. Learning how better to listen to God and others. Take John, he was a key player in paving the way for Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus says in Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) What Jesus is telling them is that He is the King, the most notable representative of the Kingdom of God. He is present with power, and within a week they will see Him transfigured. Jesus reveals to them in glory, a demonstration of the power of God’s Kingdom. 

Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King of all kings, the central figure of God’s Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central person, in that Kingdom who is Jesus Christ. Acts 8:12~But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (NIV) (Acts 19:8-10, 28:23) Let’s take just a moment to knit this to one of my favorite passages, John 15. Where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present. 

This principle is to be applied to Matthew 11:12~From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESV) Even until today, Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical/ verbal assault, affliction, constraint, oppression, and perhaps even martyrdom. Go read Hebrews 11:32-40. This world’s forceful and self-willed people seize that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

This means the kingdom of heaven has been advancing, but violent people are attacking it. Herod Antipas is a violent man and he will take John’s head and will come also for Christ. Matthew 11:13-15~For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him (her) hear. (ESV)

Have you heard the King and accepted His Kingdom? Jesus knows despite the ministry of John the Baptist and even His own miracles, most people will not believe. That statement is so important Jesus repeats it fourteen more times in the New Testament (Matthew 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23: Luke 8:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, and 13:9). It means only those willing to hear with an open mind and heart can understand.

Refining one’s hearing includes listening carefully to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He brings scriptures to our minds when we have doubts. A powerful favorite is found in Proverbs 3:5-6~Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV) 

Take time today (and every day) to acknowledge God. Because this passage begins by telling us to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and not to trust in our own understanding. Learn how to refine your listening skills. Today, after you have praised the Lord, read His holy word and prayed about all that has been brought to mind, listen. Be still and know the He is God, as you listen to what He has to say. Take time to practice Lectio Divina—Divinely Listening or Listening to the Divine.

Trust the process

After saying of those born of women, none is greater than John, Jesus says, in Matthew 11:11~Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (ESV) John the Baptist is a spiritual giant, but his role was unique in human history. No one will ever again do what he did. However, in the kingdom of heaven, the most insignificant person will be greater. John is only an announcer of the coming kingdom, brought to us by the advent of our Lord. Why tell us this? Probably because believers who live after the Cross can give a more profound explanation of Jesus than John could since he was martyred before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. 

John never saw Jesus’ miracles because he was imprisoned early in Jesus’ ministry. While the least of Jesus’ followers were actually seeing His miracles, and hearing the testimonies of lives changed. John was in a damp, dark, dismal dungeon. In His sovereignty. God did not allow John to be a participant in or even be an eyewitness to Jesus’ miracles. John had to take it all on faith. That is why we talk so much about faith because not many have seen the blind eyes opened, the deaf hear, or the withered made whole. Jesus said in John 20:29~Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (NIV) The great commendation of John the Baptist was, that God owned his ministry, and made it wonderfully successful.

God always has a plan, He always has a purpose. John is an example of what God says in Isaiah 55:9~As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV) Life must be lived, by faith. So I ask again, What do you See and Hear? How has it impacted your life? Jesus understands our doubts, and so He draws our attention to reflect on the faithful who have served God in so many ways. I am so grateful that God took the time to fashion a work of grace for each of us to participate in doing good for the Kingdom of God. What will you do today, for the Lord?

Prologue, And God…Proper Worship — Genesis 4:1-26

Ever asked, how to properly                        God? We must understand that sin has                        our relationship with God. Genesis 4:1~Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man. (ESV) Recognizing God is the                        of life Eve understands that divine activity was involved in Cain’s birth. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t get how everyone in the family is so different from you or said how do I belong in this family? Take comfort for the Bible reveals how Cain and Abel, from the same parents, same home are very different, in many ways. Proper Worship has three requirements they are: Sacrifice, Sorrow,                     .

1) The Right Sacrifice (4:3-5a) Apparently,                        were given as to the time, place, and type of sacrifice God desires. Cain’s offering of the fruit of the ground is a sign of the                        &                        he has given. While Able sacrifices the                        of his flock, indicating he trust God to continue to be faithful and provide. Genesis 4:4b-5~And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (ESV) Cain’s offering represents those who try to work their way to heaven. Sin requires the shedding of blood and Jesus has paid that price for us at Calvary. Romans 12:1…offer your bodies as a                     sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship. (NIV)
2) The Right                        (4:5b-16) Cain’s anger reveals how shallow his                        to God really is. If his true desire was to please the Lord, he would have humbled himself and                        of his sin. Again God tries to lead Cain to repentance asking: Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? (4:6) Confess and let’s talk, so we can move forward. Cain is stuck so, God says hears the deal. Genesis 4:7~If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is                        at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (ESV) Bring the right offering, be accepted. Here we discover the seeds of pride are                        &                        . Again the Lord asks in Genesis 4:10~…What have you done? (ESV) 2 Corinthians 7:10~Godly sorrow brings                        that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (NIV) All Cain does is complain, refusing to repent of his sin.

3) The                   Spirit (4:17-26) Cain’s punishment is to lead the life of a vagabond. The people of earth have a growing population and like all sinners Cain desires legitimacy. Cain will                        . If you are asking how? Just as Israel’s children grew from                        in Exodus 1:5 to                        men on foot in Exodus 12:37, there will always individuals who would thumb their nose to God.  Take Lamech, the 7th from Adam who will introduce the world to            . We are to train up our children in  the  Lord’s  way. (Proverbs 22:6) Psalm 116:17~I  will                        a thank offering to you and call (קָרָא qara’) on the name of the LORD. (NIV) Take-A-Step: