Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Preparing the Soil

Those of us who have been in church have heard the parable of the seeds and soil. One of the places you can find it is in Matthew 13.

I know when I have read it before I focused on the soil...and I would identify where I was in my walk. Or I would look at others and think about where the seed was planted for them.

But when I was brought here again recently, my focus shifted. It shifted to the farmer, the one sowing the seed. God spoke to me and wanted me to think about how careful have I been when I do what He has called me to do...sow the seed. He reminded me like one of the verses says, "though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (Matt 13:13) I need to plant with discernment and wisdom.

I can not be careless just throwing out the message of hope without a plan. I honestly worry when we talk about "programs that are the quickest, easiest way" to share Jesus. I worry that those seeds could be this seed, "As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up." I see this being the times where we just scatter the message to multitudes. We may pass out fliers or tracks. With nothing alongside the message, it will mean nothing. With no explanation, no teaching, no love....that message has no value. "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches it away what was sown in his heart." When we plant seed in this manner, there might be a spark of hope, something to reach for...but with nothing else, it will be gone just as quickly.

Then there are the times I might have sown the seed and walked away. I saw they accepted the message and appeared to understand it and I thought my job was done. There was no follow up, no discipleship, no plan. When I do that as the farmer, the roots will be shallow. They won't know what to do when trouble or temptation comes. They won't have someone there to turn to. I would have planted those seeds in the rocky ground with little soil or among the thorns and weeds. My seed wouldn't be fruitful, it wouldn't benefit others. "But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution come because of the word, he quickly falls away......the worries of this life, and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."

So what does God expect from us as farmers, sowers of the seed? We should place it in good soil..and that takes work. I am not a gardener, and it is probably because of the work it takes. The ground must be prepped and prepared. Tools are used to dig and loosen it. It is fertilized. Seeds are planted a specific distance and at a specific level, at a specific time and in specific sunlight. The garden is tended to, cared for, watered and weeded. So what does that look like to a disciple who is planting the seed of salvation in this world? It isn't a quick and easy unplanned message. As always we must look how Jesus planted His seed.

I believe he fertilized by meeting the needs. He prepared the soil by feeding, healing and loving them. When he planted he was so in touch with His father, He knew the right time and place and didn't allow anything to get in the way of that. He asked them to follow and He taught them and He prayed. He kept them close, and walked them through.

Christians, we need to be busy at loving and helping those around us. We must prepare the soil before we plant. We need to be mentors, prayer warriors, and discipling once we plant the seeds. Then and only then will there be growth and we will produce other farmers to sow correctly and the crops will multiply.

"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." Matt 13:23

May God use my words to bring salt and light to my readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Faith...Always Changing, Evolving

If I were to find one word that defines my "religion" or "belief" about God, that word would be faith. It begins simple...the faith that He is there, that He exists. But then comes the time where that just isn't enough.

The step that took me from just the belief to a relationship was a different kind of faith. It is the kind of faith that is a surrendering, a releasing and relying on that same God I knew existed. It was about really understanding who He is, and how much I needed Him.

So, I moved from just believing, and with that surrender, I entered into a relationship. Putting all that faith into giving up on myself and giving in to His will, His ways and trusting my life with Him. But I had (have) a lot to learn about what that surrender really means.

At first I still tried to control things...I would pray for things I thought He would want for me. As time went on that faith evolved. I began to understand that real faith, is a true surrender. My prayers changed. I learned to just let go...a true surrender. Or so I thought.

But then I see real faith in action in others. Real faith I believe is seen in service. When someone's life is totally released to His will....and allows God to use them. We completed watching a video in our youth group that showed a group of people in Vietnam. I saw a kind of faith I have not seen or experienced in our culture. Their lives are focused totally on their relationship with God.

Sometimes I have to push myself to open my bible in the evenings. I squeeze in my preparation for teaching. I set aside my writing for months because of how busy I was. I am proud that I spend 30 minutes each morning for a devotional time. My faith....pathetic, as compared to what it can and should be.

I have more surrendering to go...more faith to build. But that is the beauty of that faith I hold. It has a beginning...but there is no end. It will continue to grow and build. He will continually push me forward if I am willing. He will reveal what I need to do to grow this faith and my service will also grow.

There are many that miss the key to who He is, and what He wants. The faith gets all caught up in the wrong things. When we do...we give a false picture to the world of what faith really is. They want no part of it. I'd love to see a revival occur in our culture. A true surrender and let our neighbors see what our walk in faith is really about. I know revival must begin with me...

"The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith." 1 Timothy 1:5

May my words always be salt and light to my readers.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seeking Praise...Giving Praise

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about seeking praise from others. She asked me if I felt it was a sin...and my immediate reaction was that it isn't. It made me think more about it though...in fact I thought about it a lot.

For me, I still do not see it as wrong. The bible teaches us we are made in the image of God. I would say that means we have a lot of his characteristics as well...or at least an innate desire to be like Him (knowing we can never get there). I say that to say I think he understands we want to be praised for a job well done. In fact, that is one of the things we seek....when we meet Him we desire to hear Him say, "well done".

I believe it could become a sin...if we are doing things to receive praise, and THAT is our only motive. And that's where I need to be careful...and I am sure I am not alone. I think that is where pride gets in our way. There can be such a fine line between things!

The more I thought about the praise, the more I wondered, are there humans that don't seek it? I think about how we teach our children...as they are learning and growing and they do something...they get a "wow" "big boy" "look at you". Then we enter school, and we loved getting the big stickers or stars on our papers. Or to see the words, "great job" "excellent".

And then we grow up....and we miss it. We still seek out those 'atta boys and pats on the back. We want to know we are doing well at what we do.

So, is it a part of us, or has it been taught to us? And if we seek it...why don't we give it out? There are so many people around me doing incredible things...at work, at home, in the church, and I ask, how often do I hand out the praise? I don't think enough.

I think we would make our world better...our homes, our workplaces, and our churches if we handed out more praise. Lift up what is good in this world...

My final authority on this would be the word of  God...and praise of course is a word found throughout. We know our Heavenly Father seeks praise, and there is no one who deserves that more constant and purely. But there are scriptures revealing we are okay in seeking praise...it is a reward to us.

Proverbs 31:31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

And then there are scriptures which give us some warnings...
Proverbs 27:2 Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth--a stranger, not your own lips.

We must always remember, whose praise we should  seek more than any human praise? And our works should show that.

John 12:43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

Just some random weekend thoughts about a conversation that had me thinking. I would love to know what you think.....
May my words be salt and light to you as you read them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Our Testimony

We each have a testimony. We each can tell of a journey God has taken us on. We can talk about our mistakes along the way and the consequences that followed those choices.

But how often do we? We seem to want to keep those mistakes quiet. They aren't pretty, and if we are trying to please God, we don't like to talk about our sins. The further we move from that life, the more distant we want to keep it.

I have to ask myself though, who could benefit from it? I believe if we were to be more open and honest about our journeys, we could help someone who is on that same journey, ready to make the same wrong choice.We can show compassion, and the wisdom we gained through those lessons. I believe that it is a way to disciple others.

I look back on my journey, and because I held a lot back, kept it quiet and only dealt with it between God and myself, I often failed. I have to wonder if I had someone who already walked the path walking beside me, how could they have helped me? Could it have provided me more accountability, more biblical counseling and wisdom to help me with the burdens I walked with?

But the greatest thing...when we share what God has done, He is glorified. Our sin is not glorified, or lifted up...but God is. It is time we reach out to those who walk a difficult path. Share what God has done for us. Be open, he honest. We need to remember when God entered in, our flesh remains. We all continue to build a testimony, God continues to work on us. We remain as sinners until we unite with Him. We need to walk in love...and sometimes that means sharing one another's burdens. And what burden is greater than our sin.

Galatians 6:2 "Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

May my writing always be salt and light to my reader.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flying High

Don't you love a mountain top experience? If you think about any you ever had...what happened there? For me, it is a focus. When I think of the mountain top experiences I have experienced they seem to have one thing in common. A total shift of my attention off of everything else and placed on one specific thing. It seems like in those moments or periods of time we are lifted up and away and placed onto that mountain top. The rest of the world is pulled or pushed far away.

It is no wonder we are unable to sustain that altitude. Eventually, the world and reality seems to scream out to us, pulling back our attention and before we know it, we are back at the base, remembering the visit, but our feet and our minds are planted right back into the distractions of reality.
So, how can we sustain the altitude?

For me, I need to remember the focus that had me there. As I have to allow some of those distractions to come back, I need to remember not to lose the balance. I seem to sway like a pendulum sometimes and slip into these places so far from the mountain.

My mountain is God. He stands firm, steady and always there. He stands with His promises, unchanging. The experiences that I have that are fulfilling, life altering and filled with love are always involved with being in His presence. To sustain the altitude of those moments, I can't remove myself from His presence. I can't allow my world to become so packed with the things of this world that I lose sight of Him.

What about you? Have you slipped away, slipping away, or have you not been there yet? We walk in a broken world. So many things to pull us from the presence of God. Let us turn our eyes, our hearts and minds back to Him. Let us be aware when we start to move from the mountain, that we catch ourselves and turn back to Him. I can only imagine what would happen in a broken world as we all shift our attention from this world and focus on the wisdom of God...

"Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fools eyes wander to the ends of the earth." Proverbs 17:24

May my words always be salt and light to the reader.....