Is It The Seed Or The Soil?

Grass

(FreeImages.com/MartinBoose)

I have been contemplating Matthew 13 and the account of the Parable of the Sower.  There are so many deep lessons to be learned in it, but for the reader’s sake, I will keep this as simple as possible.

Let’s first read the passage:

Matthew 13

The Parable of the Sower

13 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The Purpose of Parables

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should[a] heal them.’[b]

16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

This passage is one that both challenges us and also clarifies.

1. The first question to be asked is:  “In each example of sowing the seed, which changed — the seed or the soil?”

There is no indication that a different type of seed was sown in each example.  If you look in the Greek for the word seed in these verses, you find 4687 is used, which means seed, scatter, sow.  In the cases of the seed that grew in the good soil, 4690 is used which is derived from 4687 and means offspring.  In each soil, the seed was sown, but only in the case of the good soil did it result in actual “offspring” or an accurate reproduction of the parent.

First truth is: The seed sown didn’t change; the soil did.

2. The second question is: “Was the seed sown in all types of soil, regardless of the outcome?”

The answer as seen above is yes.  I have highlighted the portions of Scripture that address this.  In each case, we see thorny soil, rocky soil, the wayside, and then good ground.

Second truth is: The seed is sown everywhere, regardless of the outcome.

3. The third question is: “What other factors affected the outcome of the fruit from the seed sown?”

In the case of the seed that fell among the wayside, we read that the birds came and devoured it.  Birds, in this case, are referring to the enemy that snatches away the seed that was sown.  Notice that it was easy for the bird to snatch the good seed because of its location: it was along the wayside.  The wayside means a beaten path or ditch.  It implies hard dirt where a seed can’t easily bury.  This explains why it’s even more susceptible to birds coming along, easily finding it, and eating it before it has a chance to flourish.  The hardness is referring to a lack of openness towards God and His Word. Many things can contribute to this hardness.  We find Scripture indicates that a lack of repentance towards sin, an unforgiving heart, unbelief, and pride are all factors that contribute towards a hard heart.

According to the Parable, we also see that the hardness of our hearts will make us more susceptible to the enemy.  He spots our vulnerability and is able to quickly snatch away any truth we have heard before it has a chance to take root in our hearts.

The thorny soil, as explained by Jesus, is soil that has bad things also growing in our hearts that will eventually choke out the growth of the good seed and prevent it from becoming a fruitful plant.  The thorns refer to sins/compromises that we allow in our lives that will eventually choke out the voice, truth, or seed of God in our lives.  We may think we can hang onto “little” sins and also follow God, but as the Word says, “You cannot serve two masters.”

The rocky soil is also speaking of a hard heart.  This heart though isn’t just tough or jaded (lacking belief or trust).  This heart has actual obstacles or objects within it that are completely impenetrable by the seed.  Packed ground is hard to sow into and needs to be tilled up in order to plant seed into it.  Rocks though will only serve to damage the blades of your plow and have to be removed all together in order to plant anything of value within its soil.  I believe, this soil speaks of people who have “strongholds” (places that the enemy inhabits or has a claim) within their lives.  In order for there to be any chance for the soil of truth to actually flourish and produce fruit, the strongholds must first be removed.

In contrast, Jesus calls His disciple, Peter, a rock.  God also calls Himself our shelter and a firm foundation.  Rocks speak of strength and security.  In the case of the rocky soil, it is referring to a place of strength that the enemy has in a person’s life.  Any source of strength that is not of God becomes a “stronghold” that actually makes us a prisoner to deception and bondage.  So interesting!

The good ground is a beautiful contrast to the previous heart conditions.  In the good ground, we see a heart that is fertile or ready to receive.  This means the heart is hungry and receptive (believing and ready to yield).

Third truth is: If we want to see growth in our lives, we need hearts that are yielded to God and hungry for Him, ready to receive His Word.

Note: The soil isn’t the seed and doesn’t have the ability to actually reproduce the offspring.  That “DNA” all is contained within the seed. 

We have no ability to produce righteousness or truth within ourselves.  Belief is a matter of surrender and receptivity.  It is a response of our hearts to God’s Word.  That is what faith is: a response of our hearts to the Presence and truth of God’s Word.

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The Only Thing That Will Remain…

He Loves Me

(FreeImages.com/NatArnett)

 

This morning as I was contemplating love and its eternal nature, some truths struck me.

According to First Corinthians 13, the only gifts and work of the Spirit that will remain into eternity is love.  Why?

In Heaven, there is no need for tongues. We will all be completely in communion with Holy Spirit.  Everyone will understand all things so there will be no communication issues.

In Heaven, there will be no need for prophecy because all will understand and know all things.  All prophesies will be fulfilled at that time.  The written and spoken Word of God will be completely lived in and through us in our perfect, sanctified states.

There will be no need for Bible teaching because we will have full understanding.

There will be no need for mission work because it will be all accomplished.

There will be no need for healing for all will be whole.

There will be no need to cast out demons because there will be no evil in Heaven.

The only thing that will remain is love.  Why?

Because love is the only thing that we need for all of eternity, and Love is Jesus.  God is Love!  We will be forever surrounded by perfect, complete Love Himself.

See this passage:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Pondering love made me also realize that the only fruit that will remain is that which is sown into the fertile bed of love.  I do mean this spiritually.  Love will prepare fertile soil to receive fruit.

The only fruit that will remain is that which is sown in love.

This means that if our ministries, our giftings, and our works are not done in love, the fruit will not remain.  It will wither.

Holy Spirit is referred to in the Scriptures as “water.”  The fruit must be sown with love into fertile soil.  Fertile soil means lushLush speaks of life and moisture.  The soil has been prepared by Holy Spirit, is sown in love with the seeds of truth, and is watered by Holy Spirit to bring forth fruit.  The fruit is righteousness.

We don’t get true righteousness from our own self-efforts or self-reliance.  True righteousness comes from the work and love of God within our lives and Holy Spirit’s “watering” of the seed.  God’s Word is the seed.

I love the analogies we see in creation that reflect the Creator!

How convicting this is to recognize that the only fruits that will remain are those sown with love!

See these verses that compare Holy Spirit to water:

John 7:37-39 

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Isaiah 44:3

‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants;

John 4:14

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Homeschooling And Standing On The Right Legs

I remember those days…  I was a busy mom of three little boys, ages 3, 5, and 6!  Plus, I had a baby girl…, and I was homeschooling!

I enjoyed homeschooling and loved getting to be the one to teach my boys how to read.  I took them on field trips, taught them addition by using Little Fishies, which they then ate once they solved the problem.  We used sidewalk chalk to form groups of letters, and they had to jump on the group of letters that I called out (e.g.: “A’s,” “B’s,” and “E’s,” etc…).  We made letters from play-dough.  We even made letters from cookie dough and pretzel dough.  We used textbooks, played educational games, and enjoyed learning together.  The boys loved it, and I did too.

But…  It was so busy!  We finished school, and my daughter began to crawl that same month.  I really felt that I needed a break so the boys were enrolled in private school the following fall.  By then, I was pregnant with my fifth child, and I felt no pressure to return to homeschooling.

I remember struggling with the decision to put the kids in private school.  I had been raised in a strong homeschooling culture, most of my friends were homeschoolers, and I felt that I was somehow doing something wrong by not homeschooling.  I had to work through the gamut of emotions and finally be willing to do something different.

God was teaching me that He can’t be boxed in and neither can the way He leads me be kept to a rigid formula.

Fast forward a few years past that time, and I knew God was calling me to homeschool again.  I fought Him over that.  Yes, I admit, I “wrestled” in my heart with God over homeschooling.  It felt like I was being asked to return to those years of feeling like a failure because things were crazy, outside of my control.  Yes, I loved much about homeschooling, but it was never easy and never completely always under control (meaning put together perfectly and tied up in a beautiful package with a ribbon on top).

When I know God is calling me to do something and the decision is between obeying God or succumbing to my fears, I will normally choose obedience over my fears. 

In obedience, I pulled my child from private school and began to homeschool him (five years later from when I had first homeschooled him).  There were challenges, but overall, I really enjoyed the time to connect with my child.  I loved the talks we had, the sermons we enjoyed together, learning together, engaging in critical thinking discussions, and watching him regain confidence.

In fact, the experience was so positive that my husband and I decided to take a year to homeschool each child so they would each get that one-on-one time with Mom.

This year, I was on my third year of homeschooling one-on-one with a child and enjoying it, for the most part.

It’s a really, really long story, and this isn’t the time or place, but three weeks ago, we pulled our three kids from private school.  I am now homeschooling all five kids.

If you had asked me just a few months ago if I would homeschool all of my kids, I would have said, “No, that’s not for me.”  It’s amazing what I am willing to do when God is in it!

I cannot even begin to tell you all the ways He moved and how smoothly He worked things out so we were able to pull kids on a Friday and begin homeschooling them that Monday with everything necessary completed!

By Monday, our homeschool affidavit was notarized.  Course Objectives were done.  Medical forms were pulled and ready.  Dentist appointments were done that day!  All paper-work was turned into the school district on Monday.  Curriculum was bought.  Co-op classes were all registered.  Reading partners and helpers were scheduled.  Kids were added to my Wednesday Community Bible Study classes.  It all came together so quickly and smoothly, and I had such joy and peace that I knew it was all God!  Plus, for me to be willing to take this on was such a God thing!  I just shook my head and laughed at the audacity of God.  I am so glad that He loves to move me outside of my own boxes!

There are challenges in all of this, but one of the most important lessons that God had been teaching me prior to homeschooling all five was dying to my need to be sufficient.  Let me explain…

I was led to read the book Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen.  The book is excellent and so full of truth!  It confirmed so much of what God had already been showing me and was just the encouragement I needed.

In her book, Nothing To Prove, Jennie Allen states that we don’t need to be sufficient and won’t because God is the only, all-sufficient One.

When I began to homeschool, I felt peace because I no longer stood on my own abilities.  I wasn’t attempting homeschooling because I thought I was perfect or could do better than anyone else.  I wasn’t homeschooling because I had a “Pollyanna” view of everyone sitting around the table, quietly working on school, while sweetly asking me what next they could study and profusely thanking me for all of my excellent teaching skills.  🙂

I wasn’t homeschooling because I was Wonder Woman and could maintain a pristine house, while serving three delicious meals a day, and being my children’s best or favorite teacher of their entire education.

I didn’t begin homeschooling because of my own abilities.  I began because God called.  I knew that if God calls, He also enables.  I have heard it said before that God doesn’t call the qualified.  God qualifies the called.

Homeschooling is not about me standing on the legs of my own abilities.  It is rather about me standing on the authority that God has given to me as His daughter and as the mother of my five children.  I take that responsibility seriously and also humbly.

The only reason why I can keep standing is because I stand on the legs of His authority, grace, and sufficiency, rather than my own.

The Journey…

Camel Shadows

(FreeImages.com/AmandaRhynes)

The past few days, I have been feeling some discouragement.  The journey of life can be like that.

The Lord then brought to my mind the story of the Israelites.  They had left the slavery and oppression in Egypt, but then after days, weeks, and months of wandering in the wilderness, they started to think that maybe slavery back in Egypt might be preferable to the challenges of their circumstances.  The desert was hot.  They were thirsty.  They ate the same food every day.  They had attacking armies to fight.  They were tired of their bickering neighbors, the noise of so many people, the lack of solitude…

The Promised Land sounded more and more distant.

The Israelites didn’t realize that the journey was part of their preparation for the Promised Land.  They couldn’t reach the Promised Land without first fighting the battles and overcoming their enemies, without learning dependence upon God’s daily provision of Manna, and without discovering that He was their shelter from the blazing sun and their light in the darkness.

I want to skip the battles.  I want to forget that my daily life is dependent upon God.  I sometimes forget that He is my source of comfort, shelter, and light.

The Promised Land is never reached through my own efforts.

The journey to the Promised Land teaches me that I am completely dependent upon God.  As I eat my daily provision, experience His help in my daily battles, and take comfort in His shelter, I learn the greatness of His faithfulness.

Great is His faithfulness!

A View From The Mountain

 

Last week, my family took a vacation to a cabin high in the mountains.  We had an amazing time enjoying the sounds of the birds chirping in the mornings, the twinkling lights from cabins scattered across the mountains, the crisp and clean smell of pine-scented air, and the panoramic views from our mountain perch.

Besides all of the family connection time, I also really treasured the opportunity to sit quietly on a rocking chair with a cup of steaming coffee, cocooned in a warm blanket, and with my Bible in my lap.

They were simple times of quiet reflection — just pondering the passages I was reading, listening to what God was speaking to my heart that day, and basking in the warmth of the sun and His love.

The following Scripture is the main passage I kept reading during my devotional time last week:

Isaiah 57:15

15 For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

There I sat, viewing mountain peaks and reading about God’s “high and holy place.”  I began to cross-reference other passages.  I read the passages when the Israelites were camped at the base of Mount Sinai.  Joshua and Moses were the only ones to climb that mountain into God’s Presence.  The rest of the Israelites were too terrified.

Sometimes, it’s easy to be like the Israelites — to look at God’s holiness and to turn or hide in shame and to think that such an invitation is only for the “Moses’s” or “Joshuas” that we admire.  The truth is that each of us are invited through Jesus to enjoy the “mountain” of His high and holy Presence.

Gazing out over the distant mountain peaks, I could hear the quiet invitation from God…  He was inviting me to go “higher” with Him — to enter deeper into His holy Presence and His love.  He was telling me that there is “higher” or “deeper” to go with Him.

Ascending the mountain also represented an invitation to let go of the things that weigh me down and hold me back.

God’s Presence is pure righteousness.  As I enter “higher” with Him, I, at the same time, am asked to become more like Him and more like the person whom I was ultimately created to be.

Worship is the outflow of being in His Presence — His holy mountain.  Holiness was required to enter His holy mountain.  We need to allow God to purify us.  It’s a pure heart that shall see God.  At the heart of holiness is humility, and at the heart of worship is holiness.

Too Late

waterfalls in paradise

(FreeImages.com/AndrasKovacs)

It is too late to doubt God, too late to run to another, too late to question whether He is good enough or powerful enough, too late to trust another…! I have already experienced the reality of His Presence, His unshakable peace, His lavish love, and His healing grace! I am no longer my own — no longer my own god, no longer my own destiny, no longer my own defense or anchor! He is my Everything!!!! He is the gentle hand that comforts me, and He is the powerful hand that protects me. He is my finish line, and He is my reward!

I am forever and always His…

A Little Valentine’s Day Fun

IMG_20170526_190155IMG_20170527_172731IMG_20170527_190511IMG_20170527_223728

Last night, my husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day (early).

After a GF (gluten free) tasty meal at Chipotles, we drove to the theater to watch The Greatest American Showman.

I don’t know if it was because the movie has been playing for awhile and it was a Monday night, but for whatever reason, we had the entire theater to ourselves.

Towards the end as we were enjoying the spectacular music, my husband leaned towards me and asked if I wanted to dance.  Since there was no one to observe our clumsiness or craziness, I thought, “Why not?!”  With a lot of laughing, tripping over feet occasionally, and lots of pretending to be amazing singers and dancers, we laughed and danced across the aisles together.

This is what I wrote about our time when recalling it:

“When your husband takes you to celebrate Valentine’s Day early, you eat supper at Chipotles, and go to watch a really great movie in an empty theater. Because no one is there to see you, you get up and dance in the aisles of the theater to the music, laugh as you trip on your husband’s feet, get swung into his arms, and you think that you are one really blessed gal. You are right! Then, you decide to end your date with sharing a large dish of Friendly’s ice cream and get to pray for your waitress. You realize that it was definitely one of your favorite dates ever!!!

Life gets busy. The needs everywhere are great. Don’t lose sight of the blessings right in front. Invest in the things that really matter — like marriage and your children. They are your first ministry.”

And in response to a friend:

It was amazing! You have to be willing to be a little cray-cray though and to laugh at yourself, trip on your own two feet, but when it means you land in the arms of the one that has held you through the beautiful and the ugly, then it really is “perfect.”

My husband and I have had our share of disagreements (arguments — let’s be honest).  We have had our feelings hurt.  We have had to apologize to each other at times.

We also though have learned to choose humility, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion.  We have learned to listen more, learned to serve more, learned to apologize more, learned to stand up for what we believe, and learned to love.

Love is more than physical attraction.  Love is more than roses, chocolates, and going on dates.  Love is about commitment.  It’s about loving your spouse even when things get hard and when your vows actually become more than words: “…in sickness and in health, to death do us part…”

My husband and I keep very busy with caring for five kids and their needs.  We are involved with helping many people.  Some days, it’s all we can do to hold it together.

We joke that we have to schedule a time so we can talk to each other.

That’s why we do make the effort to make time for each other, to not be afraid to be romantic when the opportunity arises, and to look into each other’s eyes in order to connect with each other’s soul.

Because it makes the ordinary a lot more fun, we also aren’t afraid to sometimes risk silliness in order to be able to laugh together.

There truly is no one better made just for me…

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to have a little fun, a little romance, and a little soul-connection.  Your marriage won’t mind one bit.

The First Marriage

Beach Romance

(FreeImages.com/GavinSpencer)

This morning, for some odd reason, my mind was drawn to thinking about the first couple and first marriage, Adam & Eve.  I couldn’t help but think how different their marriage was from this generation:

Adam & Eve taught each other the mysteries of marriage.  There was no fear of failure or comparison.

Eve couldn’t call her besties and complain about Adam when he was annoying.

Adam wasn’t tempted by any other woman because Eve was the only woman.

Eve couldn’t call her mom and ask her for advice.  She had to talk with Adam, or if it was about Adam, she might be more apt to talk with God.

Adam didn’t have a TV to sit and watch football.

Eve didn’t have in-laws to complain to or blame for Adam’s annoying behaviors.

Adam didn’t have buddies that he could go hang out with for several hours while Eve took care of the kids.

Adam & Eve didn’t have to worry about STD’s because they had only ever been with each other.

Adam & Eve didn’t have to worry that their spouse might decide to change genders in the future.

Eve was the prettiest woman on earth.  Adam was the strongest and handsomest man on earth.

If Eve wanted to flirt, she would only have her husband with whom to flirt.

If Eve gained a few pounds after babies, Adam would just assume that’s what all women did.  If Eve sagged and dimpled a little more over the years, there wouldn’t be air-brushed magazine models with which to compare.

If Adam grew a gut and went bald, again it would be assumed that’s what all men do when they get older.

Things were a lot simpler in many ways.

On the other hand, Eve had to experience pregnancy and labor for the first time without any supporting stories, advice from other women, or an attending physician.  She had Adam to stay by her side, to comfort, and to assist her.

Adam & Eve would have to spend a lot of time together — working just to survive, raising kids together, and for human companionship.

I imagine, just like in most marriages, there were times they would take a walk just to cool off, or Adam would spend his anger on hoeing more weeds in the garden.

Knowing that there were no other options — that they couldn’t find someone else or even just leave — would have forced them to improve what they had.

Adam needed Eve to survive.  Eve needed Adam to survive.  They needed each other.

The need for human companionship, protection, and procreation would have drawn them to each other.  After all, it’s more preferable to curl up next to another warm body and feel that warm arm wrapped protectively around you than it is to face the cold nights and hungry beasts alone.

Adam & Eve faced a lot together: they experienced the horror of their eldest son murdering their second-born son.  After the murder, their eldest son never returned but roamed the earth.  They lost two sons that day.  The grief, questions, and even guilt they must have faced would have been overwhelming.  I imagine that they learned to comfort each other during those tragic times.

Adam & Eve had experienced everything together: The Garden of Eden, the Fall, the departure from the Garden of Eden, God’s promises, the wonder of walking with God in the Garden, marriage, babies, raising children, dealing with adult children, and growing old together.  They watched many generations raise MANY children.

I imagine that Adam & Eve learned a lot about faith, hard work, sacrifice, and love.

I would love to have their marriage advice, but I imagine it would look a lot like the descriptions above:

  1. Make each other a priority over any other relationship.
  2. Don’t complain to or blame your in-laws.
  3. Don’t complain to your buddies about your spouse.
  4. Don’t compare your spouse to anyone else.
  5. Don’t look for a “way out.”
  6. Work together.
  7. Have babies together.
  8. Hold your wife to comfort, to protect, and to keep her warm.
  9. Flirt with your husband, as if he was the only man on earth.
  10. Flirt with your wife as if she is the most beautiful woman on earth.
  11. Grieve together and comfort each other.
  12. Give each other some space when angry.
  13. Share as many special events together as possible.
  14. Recognize that you need each other.
  15. Walk with God together.
  16. Be vulnerable with each other.
  17. Learn the intimacies of marriage together.
  18. Work to improve what you have.
  19. When angry, take it out on weeds — not your wife– or on cleaning the house — not your husband.
  20. Grow old together, and cherish the memories that wrinkles road-map.  (Wrinkles are the road-map of our memories.)

 

 

Why A Baby?

baby damian

(FreeImages.com/Marco Ojeda)

My thoughts this season have frequently gathered at the sight of the baby, lying innocently and quietly in a manger.

I have contemplated the meaning behind why the Son of God came as a baby and not as a ruling prince in the prime of his life.

Why a baby?

What was God trying to teach us in coming as a baby?

I allude to some of what I was thinking on this subject in a previous blog post (https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/just-a-baby/).

As I pondered the meaning of a baby, something so simple but so profound struck me.

God taught us first to worship before He taught us to serve or to work in His Kingdom.

The angels, announcing the Savior’s birth, appeared to simple shepherds who were quietly watching over their flocks.  The shepherds immediately ran to find the baby and fell at His feet to worship Him.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, immediately sings a song of worship when she hears of His coming!

Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, immediately sings a song of worship when Mary visits, pregnant with the Son of God.

Simeon and Anna were two elderly people who daily visited the temple, waiting the birth and appearance of the Messiah.  When they see Him in Mary’s arms, they immediately recognize Jesus for Who He is and begin to praise God.

Wise-men from the East travel far to present precious and valuable gifts to the baby Jesus and to worship Him.

The Son of God’s arrival was announced by a Heavenly Host, praising God!  His birth resulted in worship.

The work part of His ministry would come later.

God knew that man would always be tempted to first seek a ministry or work before seeking to worship.  Why?

Because, it’s tempting to look to a ministry or work to find our meaning or to make us feel important, but authentic worship requires vulnerability and humility.

Instead, God is looking for worshipers and seems to indicate that worship is always the prerequisite to true kingdom-work.  In fact, worship and service are like threads woven together, and the third strand is always love in the center.

In fact, worship and service are like threads woven together, and the third strand is always love in the center.

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, let’s not overlook the most important part:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men!”

Just a Baby…

Nexus,hand,human,body

(FreeImages.com/Miguel Ugalde)

The background of our story:

Dusty roads; the rhythmic marching of a legion of soldiers; the poor and the infirmed begging for food; the elaborate robes and prayers of the temple priests; the bleating and smells of many animals; the jostle and bustle of the crowds; tables overflowing with dates, fish, and breads in the market-place; the din of merchants and customers haggling over prices; the wail of a child looking for its mother in the press of the crowd…

It was a world where you grew up fast, married young, worked hard, feared the oppressive rule of the Romans and the religious leaders, and feared the numerous diseases that could easily bring death to any family member at any time.

Some chose to “get ahead” by taking advantage of others.  The “some” encompassed government leaders and even religious leaders.  You never really knew who was trustworthy and who wasn’t.  Fear has a way of turning loyalty and integrity away.

There were those who lived in great wealth with a large collection of slaves to do their every bidding.  They lived in virtual palaces with elaborate tapestries, colorful gardens, elegant fountains, exquisite paintings, and magnificent, marble statues surrounding them.

On the other hand, many of the people lived in abject poverty: barefoot, dressed in rags, begging or stealing for food, exposed to deadly diseases, and the looming threat of barbarous punishment if caught trying to survive.

To live under the rule of the Romans was to live with the constant companion of fear and oppression.  (The Romans were known for their cruelty to anyone who was not a Roman citizen.)

It was into this dark and fearful world that we begin our story…

It had been 400 years since a prophetic word had been given by God’s people.  The heavens appeared to be silent.

The people longed and waited for a deliverer.  They imagined someone like David who would easily take on the Roman “giant” and would defeat him without them even needing to lift a sword.

Perhaps, their deliverer would be like Solomon and would bring prosperity and peace to their nation again.

Perhaps, their deliverer would be like Moses and would lead them to some new and promised land where they could live free of oppression.

Their dreams were always of a powerful and strong leader — someone they could rally behind, fight with, who would avenge the oppressed, who would set captives free, who would heal the sick, who would bring peace, who would bring hope.

Our story picks up outside a small town.

The glow of fires dotted the hillsides, while the sound of an occasional sheep bleating, the low hum of shepherds talking, and the lonesome notes of a pipe echoed across the valley.  Here on the hills, for a few blessed hours, there was quiet and an appearance of peace.

Suddenly, the curtain of heaven was pealed back!  Onto the stage of heaven and back-lit by the glimmer of stars and the glow of campfires appeared a shimmering host of celestial beings!

Heaven seemed to be making up for 400 silent years with an entire choir of angels, proclaiming two, coinciding messages: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men!”

Heaven chose to appear to simple shepherds, on a hillside, to proclaim the news and details of their deliver’s birth.

The shepherds immediately left the hillsides and traveled into the small town to find the baby, spreading the news to those who cared to hear.

The shepherds found a simple carpenter, a young woman, and a newborn baby lying in a crude manger on a pile of straw.   Unperturbed by the surroundings, the shepherds immediately fell down to worship this baby.

Perhaps, it was this very reason they were chosen to be the first to welcome the Son of God…

…the shepherds immediately fell down to worship…

The world had no idea yet what a momentous occasion this was!  Many wouldn’t have believed, even if told the circumstances, that a baby could be their promised and long-anticipated deliverer.

How could a simple baby — sleeping for hours and completely dependent on its parents for nourishment and care — be the deliverer?  Why would God present His Son in such a humble form as a baby?

Perhaps, it’s because of what babies represent and how we are to respond to them…  Babies require us to stop, to hold them, and to speak gently.  When you hold a baby, your soul learns to pause and to listen.

The very way the Son of God came also speaks volumes of Who He is.  He didn’t come with a show of power and wealth.  He came with humility and in simple surroundings, telling an entire world that God is aware of even the smallest and most vulnerable.  He sees those that others overlook.  

God was sending a simple but powerful message that peace doesn’t come in outward displays.  God was saying that peace and good will come from Him.  He was saying that His glory can be both celestial and majestic but also wrapped in simple purity.  He was also showing that what He treasures most of all is our hearts and that is from where true worship comes.

The name the Baby was given was Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  God was saying that most of all, He wants to dwell with us.  In the last book of the Bible, God once again reaffirms His purpose for us:

Revelation 21:3

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

As you follow His life, you discover that the way Jesus or Immanuel lived tells its own story.  He was kind where others were cruel.  He was generous where others were greedy.  He was humble where others were haughty.  He was loving where others were lewd.  He was forgiving where others were fuming.  He was scrupulous where others were scheming.

He healed the sick — no matter their station in life.  He raised the dead to life!  He fed the hungry.  He rebuked the arrogancy of the religious leaders.  He played with children.  He helped fishermen.  He recognized and honored women.  He associated with people from all walks of life.  He was never worried about His reputation; He only did what was right every. single. time.

He spoke in parables and said, “He that has ears to hear, let Him hear.”  Jesus was saying that it doesn’t require a degree in religion, science, mathematics, or psychology to understand the most important truths.  He was saying that He loves to bring His greatest truths and greatest insights to those who are willing and humble enough to listen, to be led by Him, and to yield their hearts to Him.

He brought the truest form of peace to those who were willing to receive and see it.  He brought the bread of eternal life to the hungry.  He brought freedom from the greatest oppressors ever: sin, fear, greed, and shame.  He set the captives free because no one can enchain a soul that God has set free!

Ultimately, Jesus’ earthly life ended on a humble and crude note.  He died the death of a common criminal with shame, cruelty, and anguish His final moments.  Once again, the heavens responded by closing the curtain (darkness fell) and the earth itself shook (earthquake).  Jesus’ final words were “It is finished!”  He had finished what He came to do.  His death and resurrection were the means for our entrance into Heaven, eternal life, and fellowship with God.  He removed the sting and hopelessness of death at His death.

Heaven’s curtain is waiting to be lifted to reveal the final act on the stage of life.  It will be an act that will once and for all eliminate evil and will reveal the Son of God in all His glory to us.  At that time, “Every knee will bow…”

This Christmas, let’s take time to reflect, to ponder, and to worship… a simple baby but also a magnificent Savior!