Parable of the Sower [Part 2]

 
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
    When they hear, they won’t understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
 
Newly born-again Christians come into the Kingdom only knowing how to navigate this current world.  They (we) are susceptible to loss from exposure to fleeting attractions that they had fallen prey to.  Christians mature by walking with Christ and over time learning several important lessons:
  • that the things that seem good to you may not good for you.    
  • Money cannot handle all of the problems of life
  • the LOVE of money is the root of all evil
  • Worry and fear are to be dissected and eliminated; they potentially can be crippling
  • No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  I Cor 10:13  [NET]
 
This parable does not require much explanation but some people do seem unable to grasp how deceptive the cares, riches and pleasures of this life tend to be.  We can be deceived and ultimately live beneath our privilege as children of the King.   

 

Conservative Christians Stumble at Their God-Given Freedom

The Coronavirus COVID-19  temporarily closed down the world.  As spring arrived, huge sectors of the population became restless and irascible.  Young and old longed for contact with people outside their household.  
 
Unfortunately,  many “not grown-ups” habitually came out all over the country in rebellion against measures proven to deter the spread of the virus.  Now, conservatives and even churches have jumped on the dangerous bandwagon by holding services in close contact with others and without facial protection.  
 
It is unequivocally unethical for these “not grown-up” conservatives (or any other actors) to promote their right to act when their actions infringe upon the rights of others.  Your right to act ends there.  You are abjectly wrong.  
 
The prime case in point is the facial mask deemed required by most governors and corporations to protect others.  I agree that the masks are a nuisance, bothersome, and obstructive to breathing.  They are however, proven effective to restrict the contagion of this dangerous virus.  
 

What does the Bible say?

Being insistent upon your right to freedom as a U.S. citizen is not justifiable.  Might I remind you that your U.S. citizenry is secondary to your Kingdom citizenry.  As a Christian, you are a citizen of an impenetrable, everlasting Kingdom.  Your first allegiance is there.  
 
Make no mistake, you are free: ” . . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” [II Cor. 3:17b].  But, as it has been said, freedom isn’t free.  The freedom we have was paid for by Christ Jesus.  He is the victor with keys to death and the grave.  We are not free to simply indulge our natural desires, there is caution from Galatians 5:13
  13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. [MSG]
 
We are to be submitted to those in authority:  Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.  [Romans 13:1-5]
 
Another valid word for all who call themselves “born again”:
And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ.  [I Cor. 7:22]

All quotes from [MSG.]

Amos’ Conversation with the Nation [and with us]

It is uncanny that the inspiration of an earlier day re-emerged on the day of John Lewis’ funeral.  This version of Amos’ dissertation to his people.  This version is Eugene Peterson’s translation known as “The Message”.  This version is different from the King James Version that was made famous in Martin King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.  Where Dr. King implores as did Amos ” . . . But let justice run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”  [5:24]
 
The Message Version
This version in its plain, almost colloquial English reveals the callousness of the divided Hebrew kingdom at that time.  But as we’ve learned so assuredly through the years, the word of God is not some vacuous dead declaration.  The Word lives and reaches through the years to speak to an unimagined modern America.  The word lives and speaks to convict those actively working to oppress the people.  
Re-reading these words will speak again to us and will hopefully ignite the passion to fight injustice as it dares rear its head in the year 2020 to vex those in high office in these United States and beyond.  These words don’t stop at international boundaries or wide oceans.  These words stand staunchly against hypocrisy and haughtiness.  These are the words of Amos to us in this present day from  chapter 5 verses 10-13 and 21-24. 
 
 
People hate this kind of talk.
    Raw truth is never popular.
But here it is, bluntly spoken:
    Because you run roughshod over the poor
    and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You’re never going to move into
    the luxury homes you have built.
You’re never going to drink wine
    from the expensive vineyards you’ve planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
    the enormity of your sins. Appalling!
 
You bully right-living people,  
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they’re down.
 Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic.
    Decent people throw up their hands.
Protest and rebuke are useless, a waste of breath.
 
 
“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want.
That’s all  I want.
Amos

Breaking: COVID-19 and Sensationalism! Really?

My In-laws sent me a link from YouTube.com that piqued their interest. They asked me to watch and provide an opinion. The article is named “Breaking Coronavirus & Prophesy: Pope’s Big October Surprise is Coming”.  https://youtu.be/AJJrdasqmgk
I am admittedly a protestant and humbly desire Christian fellowship with Catholic brethen while having serious questions about their dogma and beliefs. Notwithstanding, researching the video exposed the posting entity: Amazing Prophecies. The name gives me pause. The host, an evangelist named Mark Fox from the Dallas area, facilitates the video.  

Mr. Fox walks through several points in the 50+ minute video including:

A discussion on why Pope Francis  believes we have the Coronavirus Pandemic.  According to the Pope, the Pandemic has occurred because Nature is angry

The Pope postponed a meeting he had previously scheduled for May to October where there could be a prophetic announcement

The Pope has created a “false Sabbath” as he has implored people to take Sunday off rather than work 7 days a week.

Mr. Fox’s questions the Pope’s premise on the Sabbath rest

Rebuttal
The first thing to say about social media is that the creators of media aspire to create and certify as much viewership as possible which, over time, translates to money and/or clout. The point is that some purveyors of media do so to simply hear themselves talk – a vain and vacuous motive.

The explanation provided by the Pope that nature’s anger spurred the pandemic is ludicrous. Mr. Fox does explain by saying there will be end time woes. The remaining question is, who is this entity called nature? The bible does not ascribe a personality or character to God’s created work. It plainly says “all things were created for His pleasure.” [Rev. 4:11] The creation is not likely to rebel or protest by disrupting other parts of creation. What would there be to gain? There is no agent by which this could happen.
The last point made is that of the “false Sabbath” which Mr. Fox takes considerable time to argue that the Catholic church declares that it changed to Sabbath to Sunday in its Eucharist literature. Unfortunately, it is written in the book of Acts, that the disciples began meeting on the first day of the week. He then spends the rest of the video preaching a sermon about how the Sabbath (Saturday) is the lawful day of worship and how the Catholic and other churches are wrong about Sunday worship. It should be mentioned that an exhaustive and thorough explanation of the tradition of worship on Sunday is here: https://faithfoundedonfact.com/who-changed-the-day-of-worship-from-saturday-to-sunday/

This point becomes the finale for the video except for more mentions of the Mark of the Beast book and requests to spread the word about the video. Mr. Fox explained that the video needs to be viewed by millions so that the millions can be prepared for the actual Mark of the Beast [a sign of the pending return of Christ Jesus]. There is noting that is starkly wrong here; we just doubt the motive and the sensationalism is offensive. As Paul said, 16-17 So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ. [Col 2:16-17 MSG]

Grounded and Tethered [part II]

 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesian 3:17-19







I took my youngest kite flying and tremendously enjoyed the sun, the breeze and blue sky. I remembered something heard long ago. A kite could go anywhere in the world under the power of the wind. It would survive turbulence, rain and heat as long as there is wind to suspend it. The unfortunate thing about a kite is that it cannot survive without being tethered to the ground. Some wise source of grounding must be there to keep it firmly held in place against the wind.
 
We are considerably similar. We have the option of soaring and floating anywhere we want and being suspended almost to cloud level but, it we are not anchored and grounded, we will find ourselves flopping and floundering, dipping and waving as we have seen kites that were disconnected or torn by the wind. As we have seen happen to the unsaved, those who have no hope.  

grace & peace to you!!
 
Seven years later we are STILL tethered by His love!

It really seems that everything is changing as March used to be the time for kites but, in 2020 we are experiencing severe wind in April and May.  The sequester has made it feasible to fly kites as a solo activity.   We could be floating all over the world but, His love is keeping us tethered – even now!!

Was Judas Right?

My mother bought home the boxed set, black and impressive containing the rock opera album musical released in 1970.  We were traditional evangelicals unsure of the relevance of the newly invented genre “rock opera”.  What did Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber know about Jesus and why would they call him a superstar? 

 

We listened to the records frequently at the time noting that one of the tunes was being given widespread airplay on FM radio.  The soundtrack itself showcased some serious rock guitar solos and riffs.  But what was the message?  I was reminded of all this as I watched the live performance with John Legend recorded last year.  I was also reminded of one of the themes that seems worth repeating now more than ever.

 

One of the protagonists, Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition, was portrayed as decidedly angry and resolute choosing to turn Jesus in to authorities to up-end the movement.  Judas is consistently portrayed as a consummate bad guy.  The easy viewpoint is that he was only interested in fattening his pocket.  But if he was a follower like the others, he had to leave everything he had behind.  I don’t think that explanation tells the whole story.  Judas, like all of us, had some redeeming value.  

 

A point that Rice/Webber seem to make is that Judas must have gotten caught up in the politics of the time and became frustrated with the Messiah’s efforts to overthrow the Roman Empire’s infiltration of Israel.  It wasn’t moving fast enough; it wasn’t gaining ground.  He wasn’t being ‘king-like’.

 

Here’s the message to all those who want their vision or knowledge to supersede what God is doing.  That is, “God’s not getting it done, I’ll do it my way . . . “The Bible is full of examples from Cain to Jonah to Judas and beyond.  Their way did not go well for them.   Judas was right in a very limited sense.  Jesus was not going to overthrow the Roman Empire and reclaim the Hebrew homeland because he had an entirely different end game.   His strategy was to re-connect the world with the Kingdom of God. His strategy is still working, on his timeline.  

 

We cannot expect to know the best way to go about things and we need to stop getting in God’s way as He is healing the nations.  This quote from John MacArthur says it best.

 

Thessaloniki

Paul addressed the church he began in Thessalonika with the epistle known as 1 Thessalonians.  This is the same city he was urged to travel to in Acts 16 that was crying out to him through the Holy Spirit.  According to Matthew Henry, this was the first epistle he wrote to any of the churches being written in 51 A.D.  The significance of this being Paul’s first letter of endorsement and encouragement to any of the churches he started and important to understanding his approach to establishing them.
Paul shares from his heart about how the church began and their progress but the enduring, most memorable chapter is the fourth.  My wife and I heard about an acquaintance who is a Christian and who was reacting very badly to the loss of a loved one.   Yes, the Bible says grieve with those who grieve, but in the fourth chapter we find words that describe a faith-filled reaction to the loss of a saint.  There may be instances in these current times of calamity where some may sleep in the Lord.  What will our reaction be?  We are reminded that this situation was not an emergency in Heaven.  The Father was not taken aback by the virus.  


13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

There is no clear reaction by anyone in a loss. When we lost our mother some years ago, my immediate reaction was that of sheer terror and shock.  She was an absolute sainted woman.  Once reality sets in, we have a chance to react knowing we will see our loved ones again!  No one can say what their first reaction to a catastrophic loss will be but in this we have been assured: 

15 For we say this to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are still alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede [into His presence] those [believers] who have fallen asleep [in death]. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord! 18 Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words [concerning our reunion with believers who have died].
If we are not resting in His everlasting arms, are we flailing about on our own?  Are we like these described in James 1:6b Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. 7 Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything.  [VOICE]

 God is still seated on the throne; we’re going to be alright!

Before You Turn On the News; A Reminder!

With all the coverage about the Corona Virus, there must be people cowering in fear in China, Italy and various places in between. They like the rest of the world need prayer. Prayer for the knowledge to get past this, prayer for those suffering, prayer for those who are helping and prayer for the anxious.

The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the signs of your return? He told them several signs of his pending return.  

See Luke 21:25-26

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
Note carefully that previously in verse 21, He said:  ‘In your patience possess ye your souls‘ [KJV].   Even with the worldwide audience anxious about the Corona virus, the household of faith cannot allow itself to be thrown off balance by signs in the sky or sea.  We are not to be anxious about anything. [Phil. 4:6] as God has made exceedingly great and precious promises for us to hold on to.  For such a moment as this, I place before you dear reader, Psalm 91: verses 1-10 from The Passion Translation:

1 When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.

2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me the only God for me, and my great confidence.

3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse.

His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.

You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you.

Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you.

Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed.

8 you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done!

9–10 When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?

A Long Dark Walk

On a mission trip to Sierra Leone, West Africa, my wife and I left the capital city and traveled east in-country to a tiny village named Yonibana.  It was so small that there were only 3 buildings on the main road.  Off road there were school buildings and churches but mostly traditional huts.  At night, there was one street light.  The light was not mounted so high, so one needed a flashlight to wander about.  Unlike U.S. cities, the area was exceedingly dark.  It was considerably darker than we were used to.  
There was a similar walk that had less light.  The 9th Chapter of John describes a man born blind who encountered Jesus.  In conversation with his disciples, Jesus felt led to work with the blind man. 

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”  6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! 8 His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”   But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”  10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” 11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

He didn’t talk about the inconvenience of going. 

He didn’t complain to Jesus that he didn’t know where the pool was.

He didn’t insist on a “seeing eye dog”

What was it that drove him to make that walk?  It is entirely possible that he had never or rarely been to the pool. How did he get there?

He didn’t come up with all the reasons he couldn’t go.

He couldn’t see but he had a vision of the prize.He was not deferred by the hazards of the journey.  The distance to the pool was more than a mile; where is your faith?

to the memory of Jonny Carr

When the Cloud Lifts (Part II)

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.  Exodus 13:20-21

Some programs illustrate life in the desert where heat from the sun poses parching and dehydrating danger to all life.  In my imagination, I see the great cloud of His presence, several miles long and miles high creating shadow for the entire lot of Israelites.   They doubted him several times while escaping from Egypt, including when they were thirsty, in front of the Red Sea, yet His visible presence, the cloud shone above them, protecting them from the sun.  As we near the end of the book of Exodus, we see the glory [Shekinah] descending on the Tabernacle. 

In all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey on until the day when it was taken up.  For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.  Exodus 40:38-40.

There  must have been days and times when the travelers thought their journey was taking too long (how long, how long?). Believers have been saying ‘Maranatha’ since the first century A.D. – but when will He return?  There must have been distraction in the camp: weapon salesmen, manna burgers, luxury tent sales, waterhole gossip – the resemblance to life today is ironic, so much talk in so many directions that are not forward.  Much like that bait ball of fish or the herd of Wildebeest, everyone needs to get in their place for safety.   The fish follow the pattern and move in synchrony with the currents in spite of incursions by predators. In fact, when sharks attack, the fish get even tighter! 

Sidebar: Christs’ prediction of the end times says “People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken” [Lk 21:26 NLT]. Don’t get distracted and/or fall prey to winds of doctrine.

What the fish don’t do is get frustrated and swim their own separate direction! The cloud lifting is the signal to join in lockstep with the move of God.  As the cloud was lifting, there must have been the sound of a horn in the camp signaling people to start folding the tents, gather the livestock, find the children, all preparations must come together. When the cloud lifts . . .