For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Matthew 13:13 HCSB

A parable is a brief story or illustration used to make an analogy and convey a message. I have several sermons where I use an object to teach a spiritual principle. In one sermon I use several different lights. In another I use a collection of watches. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” People remember about 60% of what is taught if an object lesson or some type of visual is used in addition to lecture.

Jesus is explaining to His disciples why He taught with parables. Often the disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching and would later ask Him to explain what was meant by His teachings. Jesus explained that He used parables so people could better understand what He was teaching. This particular verse is a play on words that means they see but do not grasp what they have really seen. They hear but do not grasp the significance of what they have heard.

Challenge: Use parables or stories to teach spiritual principles to your children. Watch for teachable moments when you can teach a spiritual truth to your child. If you are a Bible teacher, use visuals and parables to teach your lesson. In so doing, you will be a much more effective Bible study leader.

Have You Got Your Ears On?

Anyone who has ears should listen! Matthew 13:9 HCSB

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s just about everyone was putting a CB radio in his or her car. This was before cell phones. I can remember putting one in my green Oldsmobile. The antenna was on the back and I ran the cord to the CB unit mounted under the dash. A person could talk to others on the highway as he traveled along. Each person would select a “handle” or name. My handle was “Kentucky Wonder” because I was from Kentucky and I was tall and thin like a Kentucky Wonder green bean. There was certain lingo that was used with a CB radio. One of the favorite phrases to ask was, “Do you have your ears on?” which meant, “Do you have your CB radio on and are you listening?”

Jesus told the people “Anyone who has ears should listen!” He was not talking about their physical ears with which people hear sounds; rather He was talking about a deeper type of listening that results in spiritual understanding. If one earnestly seeks God’s will and wants to know Him, he will have “spiritual hearing” to be able to listen and learn from God’s Word.

Challenge: Do you have your “spiritual ears” on? Are you listening for God’s small voice to speak to you and give you wisdom and direction? Listen to God and He will give you understanding of some of the deepest spiritual principles.

Parable of the Four Soils

As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. Matthew 13:4-8 HCSB

As a teenager I was a member of the Future Farmers of America. I served as the chaplain and on the parliamentary procedure team. I also competed at the state fair judging cows. One activity I really enjoyed was having my own garden and learning how to plant, cultivate, fertilize, and harvest vegetables. I learned the importance of preparing the soil before planting. Soil that is hard and has not been cultivated will not produce very good vegetables. It is also important to water and fertilize the soil so the plants get the proper nourishment to grow.

The people would have been very familiar with planting and harvesting crops. Jesus used this familiar experience to teach an important spiritual principle. The different types of soils represented the lives of different people. Some hear the Gospel but never respond like the seed that falls on hard ground. Others hear the Gospel and receive it but they don’t have any real roots, and when hard times come they are not strong enough to withstand the temptations of our world. The thorns represent the evil people of the world that too often lead people astray and keep them from becoming all that God intended. The good soil represents those who receive the Gospel and then grow in their relationship with Christ and impact the world.

Challenge: If Christ were to assign a soil to you as representative of your life, which soil would He say you are most like? Pray that you will be one who produces a crop 100 times more than what was sown.

Story Time

Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore. The He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow.” Matthew 13:2-3 HCSB

I recently had the privilege to teach a class of teenagers. The lesson was on the sin offering and the guilt offering that God required of the Israelites. To illustrate the need to be clean and pure like God, I presented the group with two forks, one that was clean and one that was dirty. I then asked them which fork they would like to use to eat with. Of course they selected the clean fork. I used the forks as a way to illustrate that God desires for us to be spiritually clean and pure just like He is. We must be clean and pure if we want to spend time with Him in heaven. Our sins make us unclean and we need an offering or sacrifice as a way of paying the price for our sins. Because Jesus is our unblemished sacrifice, we no longer need to sacrifice a goat to pay the price for our sins. Through Jesus we are made clean and pure. No matter how hard we try to be good, we cannot be good enough to be clean and pure in God’s eyes. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can have a
right relationship with God.

Jesus constantly used parables to make a point and teach people spiritual principles. A parable is a brief story for the purpose of making or illustrating a point. Many teachers could learn a few things from observing how Jesus taught. Instead of lecturing, He often used parables to illustrate His main teaching points.

Challenge: Use stories to illustrate what you are trying to teach. Stories and parables can be very effective in teaching your children spiritual principles. Thank God for the many different parables and stories in the Bible that help you understand what Jesus was trying to teach.

Reflection Time

On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Matthew 13:1 HCSB

Each year my family goes to the beach for vacation. We all enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches, the waves rolling in the beach, the seagulls flying overhead, and the sand crabs scurrying to find their hole in the sand. There is nothing much more relaxing than time at the beach. One of my favorite activities is to get up early to walk the beach as the sun rises. It is a great time to think, reflect, and talk to God.

I have read this passage many times but had failed to notice this verse about Jesus going and sitting by the sea. I have always just passed on over it and read about the large crowd that gathered around him and the parable that He told. I believe Jesus needed some time to think, reflect, and talk to God. I can just imagine Jesus sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee looking out across the blue water with its gentle waves. He may have even picked up a pebble and tossed it into the sea to see how many times it would skip across the water.

Challenge: Just as Jesus needed some time to think, reflect, and talk to God, we all need to take time each day to spend some time with God in prayer and reading our Bible. Take some time to just get away from the hustle and bustle of life to spend time talking to God and listening to His voice of direction and encouragement.

Something Greater is Here

The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look – something greater than Solomon is here! Matthew 12:42 HCSB

It is amazing to watch the cell phone advertisements. One of the first smart phones was the Apple iPhone. With each new version there was increased advertising enthusiasm about what the new phone could do and how much better and greater it was than the previous version. People would pre-order the phones and stand in long lines for hours just to get the newer and better phone. Now there are other smart phones on the market and the competitor’s advertisements are always trying to provide a case that their phone is better than the iPhone. There always seems to be something bigger and better coming soon whether it is a phone, television, car, etc.

The queen of the south most likely referred to the queen of Sheba (see 1 Kings 10:1-10). She heard of the wisdom of King Solomon and traveled a great distance to hear the wisdom of this man. Verse 7 proclaims that Solomon’s wisdom far exceeded what she expected. Solomon had been given great wisdom from God, but it did not hold a candle to the wisdom of Jesus Christ. His wisdom was and is far greater than Solomon’s.

Challenge: If the wisdom of Solomon is inferior to Jesus’ wisdom, then we should seek wisdom from the teachings of Jesus. Many of the people who heard Jesus did not recognize Him as a person of great wisdom and rejected Him and His message. Do not make the same mistake. Something better is here! Spend time learning about Jesus and understanding His great teachings. Pray for wisdom in every situation you face.

HaveYou Repented?

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look – something greater than Jonah is here!” Matthew 12:41 HCSB

On November 7, 2015, Billy Graham celebrated his 97th birthday. His son, Franklin, wrote that his father was not able to physically preach anymore but that his mind was still sharp. He said that his father’s greatest desire is to see people come to Christ and make Him the Lord of their lives. Billy Graham preached the Gospel message around the world and thousands if not millions of people have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Lord as the result of his preaching.

The people of Nineveh were a wicked and evil people and Jonah was afraid to go and preach to them in fear of what they might do to him. Consequently God forced Jonah to deliver the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. As a result, the people repented of their sins and turned to God. Jesus was far greater than Jonah and had performed many miracles, but many of the people refused to repent and follow Him as their Lord and Savior. If the wicked people of Nineveh repented, then how much more should the people that had the opportunity to hear Jesus proclaim the Good News have repented.

Challenge: Possibly everyone who is reading this devotion has heard the message of Jesus Christ, but some still refuse to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness of their sins. How many times have you heard the Good News of Jesus Christ? Have your repented and turned to Christ? Thank God for His love and forgiveness and for providing the opportunity for you to repent and turn from your sins.


For Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40 HCSB

There is a new movie called “Risen” that is coming to movie theaters soon. It is the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the eyes of an unbeliever. A Roman soldier is confronted with the reality that Jesus actually rose from the dead. I have not seen the movie and I cannot recommend it, but it sounds very interesting. I am always interested to see if Hollywood movies hold true to the Biblical account.

In these verses Jesus used the analogy of Jonah being in the belly of the whale for three days before being spit up on the beach and His own death, burial, and resurrection three days later. The “heart of the earth” referred to Jesus being buried and in the tomb before His resurrection. The “Son of Man” is the term that Jesus most frequently used to refer to Himself. The “Son of Man” referenced His humanity while the term “Son of God” referred to His divinity. “Son of Man” used in Daniel 7:13 also described the exalted one that would play a major part in the redemption of mankind.

Challenge: Thank God that Jesus is both human and divine. His humanity made it possible for Him to experience temptation without sin and to serve as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His divinity made it possible for Him to rise from the dead and defeat death for those who believe in Him. Jesus rose from the grave and is alive today.

You Can Believe Scripture

But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:39-40 HCSB

Many people question the reliability and inerrancy of Scriptures, especially those stories that may be hard to believe such as the parting of the Red Sea, the killing of the giant Goliath by a small boy named David, three men being thrown into a fiery furnace and surviving, or Jonah being swallowed by a whale. Some people even try to explain such miracles by natural causes rather than believing in the power of God. The reality is that God’s Word is true from the first word in Genesis to the last word in Revelation. God used human writers but He inspired every word, therefore we can believe every word.

It is remarkable that Jesus referred to the story of Jonah from the Old Testament. Obviously, Jesus knew the Scriptures. Jesus affirmed the reliability of the story of Jonah. This helps us to know for certain that God’s Word is true and it is not just a collection of fictional stories. Jesus used the story of Jonah to illustrate and predict His own death, burial, and resurrection.

Challenge: You can rely on the the accuracy and inspiration of the Holy Word of God. In what ways does this give you hope for the future, knowing that you can trust what Jesus said? Thank God for His Holy Word that has stood the test of time. Every year there are more copies of the Bible sold than any other book. It is the best seller of all times.

Give Us A Sign

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Matthew 12:38 HCSB

Next year, I plan to travel to Israel with my pastor and a group from our church. My passport has expired and I will be required to get a new passport with a new picture. The passport will be proof that I am who I say I am and that I am a citizen of the United States of America.

The scribes and Pharisees wanted a “sign” or proof that Jesus was the Messiah. It appears that they wanted Jesus to perform a miracle as a way to prove that He was the promised Messiah. They had already witnessed Jesus healing a paralytic man (Matthew 9:1-8) and the healing of the paralyzed hand of a man (Matthew 12:9-10, 14). They had already received their “sign” but they refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Some people seem to have the attitude, “I have made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts and truth.”

Challenge: In today’s world there are those who still ask for a sign, saying, “If God is who He says He is then He will . . . (fill the blank). We may not have seen Jesus perform miracles, but we have plenty of evidence that Jesus is who He says He is. He is the Son of God who was born of a virgin, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Stop asking for a “sign” and accept what God has already given you. Believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Have faith and accept His offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal life.