Christianity 201

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.

March 25, 2014

A Time to be Tender, A Time to be Strong

Today’s reading is in two parts. The first is an introduction to Phil McCallum who is a pastor in Washington State.  The second one, you’ll have to click through for; it’s an explanation of how Phil starts his day in prayer.  The first reading for today can be seen at Phil’s blog, Deeper Still, where it appeared under the title Follow, Don’t Wallow.

Scripture

Joshua 7
7Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side!

9For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.

13“Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.

Observation

Joshua was a great leader who made a wrong assessment. Here is his train of thought.
We were defeated by our enemies
It’s my fault for overreaching
I should have aimed for less
I should have been content with little
What matters is what others think
And it’s up to me to give God a good reputation with others

While he is wallowing, God slaps him across the face and calls him to follow him.

“Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?”

God had a very different train of thought.
My leaders don’t wallow. Get off the dirt.
My leaders follow me.
Think like a man of God.
This battle is spiritual, not just physical.
There are demonic powers involved.
There is a hidden sin.
The demonic powers have used this to their advantage.
You won’t be defeated until you have a camp that pleases the Lord.
Then you will be backed by the host of heaven.
Deal with the real problem and you will win.

Application

As a leader, there are times when I am tender when I should be bullet-proof and there are times I’m Teflon when I should be tender. Toward the Lord I must have vulnerability; toward my enemies, I must be tough and clear-minded. In times of defeat, I’m not to wallow, I am to follow God. I cannot allow Satan to lead me into a pseudo-humility, that looks like tenderness, but really offends God. Instead, I am to stand tall, face the facts, and know that even my radical ambition pleases the Lord.

Prayer

Father, where I’m wallowing today, help me to stand up and follow. Amen.


Here’s a link to part two for today: Get to know the writer you just read and how he begins his day with God in prayer.  Click to read How I Start My Day in Prayer.


 

Some days I really struggle with the idea that it seems so few Christian writers are willing to try their hand at writing devotional literature.  But then, this week I discovered this page at CBN. It’s good to know that there are others out there who prioritize the gift of encouragement and the gift of teaching and are willing to take the time to write out thoughts that will strengthen and encourage others.