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.