May 25, 2015

Just a Little Bit

Devotion for the Week...

I love spending time in the kitchen. I enjoy chopping things, mixing, tasting and creating something yummy. I love when people walk into the house and say, "Mmmm, smells good in here. What did you make?" Whether it's spaghetti sauce, brownies or peanut butter blondies, I like making food to share.

I do most of my baking from scratch, stirring flour, sugar, cocoa and more together to create the chocolate cake I've made so many times I don't need the recipe anymore. I've given up on making a single batch of muffins because 12 just doesn't stretch very far when you're feeding a family of 5 and we all love muffins.

I love making breads too. I don't make our regular everyday bread because...well, we're a family of 5 and we love bread too! I don't even want to think about how many loaves I'd have to make to keep up with the demand. I do make the bread we use for garlic bread, though. I make our pizza dough from scratch every week and I make challah bread (which is delicious as toast).

Have you ever noticed that Jesus used regular, everyday examples of things when He taught? He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough" (Matthew 13:33). A woman making bread. Every person listening to Him would have either made bread themselves or they'd have been around a woman making it. It's easy to see, isn't it? I do confess I have trouble imagining needing sixty pounds of flour at one time, though! It wouldn't have taken nearly as much yeast, of course. My pizza dough recipe calls for about 2 1/2 cups of flour, but only 1 tablespoon of yeast. Yeast is quite amazing, when you stop to think about it. Such a tiny amount, and yet it makes the whole batch of bread dough rise so beautifully.

How is the kingdom of heaven like yeast? First of all, let me say that the kingdom of heaven is, right now, within the hearts of believers. We who have the Holy Spirit living within us, who have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are the kingdom of heaven. Being compared to yeast makes me think of the influence yeast has on the rest of the ingredients in the recipe. It's only a little bit of yeast, but it is enough, and it makes the whole batch rise. Without the working of the yeast, the bread would be hard, dense and not at all something we would want to eat.

As Christians, our influence should work like yeast, lifting and raising the society around us to look more like the God we serve. We influence the people we are around each day, the ones who see how we handle different situations, what sort of language we choose to use and how we talk about other people. Are we, by our Christ-like behavior, being a positive influence on those around us? Though believers may be outnumbered, we, like yeast, can change our society for the better if we truly follow Jesus' teaching to the best of our ability.

Unfortunately, there are some Christians who feel the need to badmouth anyone who doesn't agree with them, or who doesn't follow the same set of rules they follow. Some of those Christians are so loud and disagreeable that they have given all Christians a bad reputation for being judgmental, narrow-minded and arrogant. That's not at all the influence Jesus wants His followers to have.

Jesus compared that sort of religious people to yeast too, but that comparison had a different tone. "Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6). The Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of Jesus' day, were very strict. There was only one right way to do things and it was their way. Their way had no compassion for people, no grace, no kindness. Jesus' harshest words were directed at these people who should have been closest to God, who should have been the first to recognize Jesus when He came, but who were actually the farthest from God because of their self-reliance.

Just as the kingdom of heaven (believers who live the way Jesus intends) can positively influence society, so those who profess to believe but cling to man-made rules (and insist everyone else must follow them too), can influence negatively. Either way, it takes only a little influence to spread throughout a whole family, or church or community. The question is, which sort of influence are we spreading?

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