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TWO MEN, TWO SOILS
Two of the men have impacted my life. Both of them died of cancer. For many years one of these men allowed his CIRCUMSTANCES to harden him towards those in his family and towards God.
I thought my dad was about as far away from God as he could be. He seemed to be represented by footpath in the parable of the sower that Jesus relates in Matthew 13:4,19. Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God.
The other man also had cancer. Before he died, Bill (not his real name) said to me, "I'm an atheist and I intend to stay that way!" INTENTIONALLY RESISTANT to considering that the message of Christ might have had any relevance. He was also like the footpath in the parable but it seems to me that he had allowed the cancer to be like a PNEUMATIC SOIL COMPACTER and His heart had set like concrete.
My Dad also got CANCER and it was clear that he was going to die. I think he could have responded to God in one of 2 ways. He could have allowed the cancer to harden his heart even further towards God like Bill, the atheist. Instead he allowed the cancer to be a like a PNEUMATIC JACKHAMMER. Yes, it shook him up but it also broke up the hard places of his heart and enabled God to get through to him. Everyone of us has that choice.
In Matthew 13:19 Jesus says, "The seed that fell on the FOOTPATH represents those who HEAR the message about the Kingdom and DON'T UNDERSTAND it. Then the evil one comes and SNATCHES AWAY the seed that was planted in their hearts."
Jesus says His message is planted in their hearts but there's an AUTHORITY issue here. Two KINGDOMS in conflict. What King Jesus wants to GIVE, Satan wants to STEAL. The "message about the Kingdom" speaks of the RULERSHIP of Christ. The degree that things grow in my life is determined by who has AUTHORITY over my ears and my heart.
Acts 28:27 (NLT) says "For the hearts of these people are hardened, ... so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'"
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
— Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador
A LITTLE MORE
An interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It was an interview of six top executives, all of them making six-figure salaries. That means that they made somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million a year.
Now you are probably thinking , “If I made even $100,000 a year, I’d be in great shape. No worries, and no problems.”
But in the interview each was asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Each answered pretty much the same, using different words. Their greatest fear was that they would not have enough. When they were asked, “How much is enough?” they always answered, “a little more.”
SOURCE: Pastor Steve Dow in "The Parable of the Sower" on www.sermoncentral.com
Neil Orchard was talking with a farmer about his soy bean and corn crops. Rain had
been abundant, and the results were evident. So his comment surprised him: "My crops are
especially vulnerable. Even a short drought could have a devastating effect."
"Why?" Orchard asked.
He explained that while we see the frequent rains as a benefit, during that time the
plants are not required to push roots deeper in search of water. The roots remain near the
surface. A drought would find the plants unprepared and quickly kill them.
Some Christians receive abundant "rains" of worship, fellowship, and teaching. Yet when stress enters th...
SOWING THE SEED: A COMPARISON
In the 13th Century, Nicolo Polo (father of Marco Polo) was visiting the court of the grandson of Ghengis Khan - Kublai Khan.
Kublai Khan was the Emperor of China and he had never met Europeans before. He was delighted to meet this visitor from Venice AND he was strongly impressed by the religious faith of this man; therefore, he sent a letter back to Europe urging that some educated men be dispatched to instruct his people in the teachings of Christianity.
But, because of political upheaval and infighting that was taking place in Europe, there was a long delay in anybody coming. In the end, only 2 representatives of Christianity were sent and even they lost heart soon and turned back.
Because of the failure of the church of that day, Kublai Khan turned instead to Buddhism and that has been the predominant religion in the area from that day to this.
By contrast, just last Sunday, we baptized a father and son into Christ – Bill & Isaac. Bill was not the most promising of candidates for salvation. Most people pictured him more as the stony or weedy soil. He’s lived a hard life and had held God at bay for a number of years. His wife had faithfully planted seeds in his life, as have others in this congregation. But until last Sunday it seemed fruitless. But now he’s surrendered to Christ, and tonight he’s bearing fruit.
In Bill’s neighborhood, there have been a number of boys that Bill had created a “paintball” club for. But once Bill gave himself to Christ, he wanted to give Christ to these young boys he’d been working with. Three of them are being baptized tonight, and more may be turning to Christ in the near future.
SOURCE: Jeff Strite in "You Can’t Reap them All" on www.sermoncentral.com
"MAYBE IF YOU LISTENED..."
In the middle of an argument, my Mum would say something like this - "Maybe if you LISTENED for a change, you would understand what I am trying to tell you!" So often I am not so much listening but simply waiting for the other person to finish so that I can get across my point of view. Not really a very teachable position to be in.
In Matthew 13 Jesus says "LISTEN!" with even greater authority than my Mum, and that's saying something. He addresses this problem of how different people are responding to Him. I can get caught up in all the arguments, but the real issue is to do with LISTENING. MAYBE IF I LISTENED... He is obviously about to mention something important, but as I read, it doesn't seem all that significant. Just a simple story. The question is "Am I going to miss what He is trying to tell me because of my preconceived ideas about Him or my own points of view?"
Hal Niedzviecki in his book "We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and Reinvention of Mass Culture" - Has identified another type of culture that exists today which he calls "Lifestyle Culture" defined as "the triumph of our leisure lives over the things we are supposed to be paying attention too."
BY THE SEEDS YOU PLANT
"Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."...
Jonathan Edwards wrote: “I suppose no one will doubt that some natural men do reach out to the evidence of the truth of the Christian religion on the basis of rational proofs or arguments. Doubtless Judas thought Jesus was the Messiah on the basis of things he saw and heard. Yet he was a devil all along. We read in John 2:23-25 that many believed in Christ’s name when they saw the miracles that he did. Yet Christ did not trust them. Simon the sorcerer believed when he saw the miracles and the signs which were done, yet he still remained bitter and in the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:13,23). So too we read of those who believe for awhile and were greatly affected, even joyfully receiving the word, yet their religious affections were not spiritual.”
DUNGEONS AND MANSIONS
She is not deaf but her heart is a fortress, cold, hard, defensive. The gates are huge, old and impenetrable, bolted with fear and pride that slide across into their iron brackets at the mention of Christ. She sits in a dungeon of her own making, alone, critical of the world, of God, of life. This morning as I approach her to say "Good morning, Margaret," she waves me off, saying "Go away! I don’t want anything to do with you! I don’t believe in that religious nonsense! Go away! I don’t want to talk to you!" I retreat from her and give her the distance she demands. So does God. He will not force her to believe. Maybe Margaret is the FOOTPATH person described in Matthew 13:4,18-23.
The concrete footpaths and hallways of the Shalom Aged Care Centre are closed off and if I were a resident I could walk around the fenced garden area in relative safety and eventually arrive back where I started or face a locked door. In Matthew 13:19 Jesus speaks of the pathways of our lives, of CONCRETE HEARTS and closed minds that go nowhere spiritually. I see this parable all around me being lived out in the people I meet everyday.
George and Bill (not their real names), are talking at the door after the Church celebration. I hear Bill say, "I’ll get baptized today if you will." So that day a millionaire and a politician are baptized in the river after the service by full immersion.
I guess George’s life seems complete. He has a million dollar mansion, money, a wife, kids, a luxury yacht parked at his jetty on the river. He is named among the rich and famous. He speaks at various functions and lives a celebrity lifestyle, available to an exclusive few, travelling extensively around the world staying in places of luxury. He is a millionaire afterall. He even has religion now that he is baptized. His life looks like the fertile soil Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13. He says the right things and does the right things.
The real trouble I have with the thorns in my garden is an underlying root system that is almost impossible to trace, and if I let them grow, they will take over and choke the life out of other plants. If you look closely, very closely, what appears to be genuine growth in George is being choked by the trappings of his lifestyle of wealth and fame. The roots of this thorny ground are growing alongside the seeds of Jesus’ message and it is clear which lifestyle is taking precedent. Jesus isn’t so much Lord of his life but an optional extra. Is George’s heart THORNY GROUND, choked by a whole range of distractions in the world? His affair and divorce are the fruit of something deeply disturbing in his life. The deceptive tentacles continue to strangle his life. Don’t misunderstand me. Having money is not the issue. It’s what I treasure. Jesus says in Matthew 6:21 (NLT) "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."
Whether I live in a DUNGEON or MILLION DOLLAR mansion I can still be DEAF to the message of Christ.