Christianity 201

March 5, 2018

Vertical Devotionals

There’s a story here. My other blog runs a feature every week where we do a news and opinion roundup called Wednesday Link List. This week, we’re running edition #400, so we went looking to find #1. We located it in early January, 2010, and decided to try the links. One of them was to a blog called More Than Useless, written by Thom Fowler who pastors two churches and also works full-time in retail. There we found he has continued to be faithfully writing ever since, even though we’d lost contact over the years.

So we emailed him (which we don’t usually do) and told him how it all came about and asked if we could use his material here at C201 and asked him to select a few pieces. Today we present you with two of them which are vertical in orientation, in other words, prayer-like in their composition. He describes his process as, “Basically, my blogs are taken from my journal, typed just as I have written them. I open with a short prayer and then read a passage of scripture. After that I usually write whatever I feel the Lord saying to me about the passage.” Click the titles to read at source.

I Have a Tree

Father, thank You for getting me up this morning. It was very tempting to remain in bed but I cannot, my spiritual fitness suffers if I do not take time to regularly meet with You. Thank You for caring so much about my spiritual health, not just this morning but for everything You have done so I can find salvation in You.

20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

1 Timothy 6:20-21

I would ask, Lord that you would help me to guard what You have entrusted to me. Please give me the strength and the courage and the wisdom and the love to proclaim Your Good News to everyone I can.

Our world is replete with “godless, foolish” notions and there is so much banter back and forth. Help me to invest my time, thoughts and efforts wisely – putting my efforts into things worthy of eternity and Your kingdom.

In my mind’s eye, I see an orchard. I have my tree and everyone else has a tree, too. Each of our trees bears a regular harvest and that harvest is impacted by those things with which we feed and nurture our tree. We water and fertilize our trees but we can also graft in branches from other trees as well. All of these contribute to the kind of fruit we will glean from our trees and for that matter, the kind of fruit others will glean as well from our trees.

Lord, my tree is a gift from You – it is my life. I have done good and bad things to my tree but it is what it is. I have freely chosen to do with it as I will. First of all, I am grateful that I have given my tree back to You. You know what is best for its growth. You have trimmed out dead and diseased patches. You have grafted in branches that strengthen me and help me to produce better fruit. I still, quite often, have to interject things that hinder my growth. But You are patient and help me little by little rid them from my life. Lord, help me to guard what You have entrusted to me. Help me to be very careful with what I nurture my tree. My greatest desire is for the Master Gardener to use my tree as He sees fit and that its fruit will nourish others for years to come.

Swept Up into Your Arms

When I call You, Father, that denotes that I am Your child…and there is no better place to be. Life is a big thing. It is full of good things. It is full of bad things. As a child needs a parent to navigate through all the good and the bad in life, I need You.

Prior to writing this morning, I have already processed many things, good and bad. I’ve read of people’s love for each other, the joy of welcoming children into this world and the anticipation of the same. I’ve also read of people’s disregard for the preciousness of life and the audacity they have of expressing that mentality to others…and unfortunately the pain that such words can bring.

As I sit here, I need You Father. Not to just to hold my hand or to pat me on the head but I feel the need to be swept up into Your arms and to bury my face in Your strong shoulder. To be held tight. To feel Your strength…and Your love…Your understanding…Your comfort. Those are the things we so often need. These are the things we crave.

So many of us go through life and we never experience these things. The last part of James 4:2 states,

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”

Father, I am asking and I want to encourage others to ask, as well. You are willing and You are more than able. You can meet every single one of our needs. You can strengthen us for the paths we must tread. And much of that strength is in knowing that You are by our side. May we never forget what a great and awesome Father we have. Amen.

April 28, 2014

The Parable of the Soils, Revisited

Matthew 13:1-9 (NIV)

The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Today we introduce a blog that’s new to us, and fairly new itself. Ernest blogs at Sincere Son of the Sanctifier (it’s alliterative and makes you think) where you’re invited to click through to read Lord Prepare the Soil of my Heart.

The parable of the Sower as recorded in Matthew 13:1-9 with its explanation by Jesus later in vv. 18-23 is one of my favorite parables. Yet even with Jesus explaining the basic meanings of the soil compositions of path, rocky, weedy and good, I believe that there is even more to glean from this parable.

As Jesus presents the allegory, the soil appears to be static. Yet considering that the soil is representative of our hearts and how receptive we may be to God’s word, I know that God works in our hearts to make us better people as time progresses as we submit to Him. I believe, therefore, that this allegory is more about knowing our hearts and taking heed to watch for weeds, packed soil and stones within ourselves that we may always be ready to receive the Word of the Lord into our lives.

Yet is it the work of the soil to pull weeds, till, or to cast out rocks? Is it not the work of the farmer to work the field? What, then is the responsibility of the soil? I believe it is the soil’s responsibility to be receptive to the plow, and not treasure the rocks and weeds. There is a tool that Satan uses upon us that is most likely to thwart the work of the farmer. That tool is Pride. Pride is hard soil that will not easily submit to the work of the plow or hoe, or allow the farmer to easily work a rock free and will hang on to a weed so fastidiously that removing it would be to the detriment of the good seed that the farmer seeks to grow within us.

So pride would be the very thing that Jesus, the Lord of the harvest is warning us against. Pride keeps our hearts from being tender and yielded. Pride treasures the things in our lives which keep us from having good relationships with God and each other. Pride seeks to isolate when we know that others do not approve of our actions, or when we are ashamed… Umm… what?

Yes, there is pride in the isolation we harbor our souls in when we should be pressing in to God and to each other through the humility of confession. So again, it is the farmer’s job to help us even with our pride. The act of being truthful to God and His other children (carefully chosen confidants, of course) about that which shames us is the beginning of that humility which will prepare our hearts to receive the farmer’s preparation for that which He would grow within us: Grace, Love, Hope and Faith in abundance.

So what shall we say, then? Shall we hang on to those areas of our hearts which are hard, or full of care and desire for worldly gain or lusts, or let the rocks of suffering and persecution work in us bitterness?

Dear Lord, let us humbly come to You to submit the soil of our hearts to the work of Your hand. We desire to hear Your Words in such a way that they penetrate, germinate, and become a product worthy of the labor of your nail-scarred hands.