Have dirt, will grow
If you plant seeds in good soil, stuff'll grow. Of course there are other variables. If the ground is thorn infested, your crop might get choked out. If the soil is too shallow, there will be no roots and the sun (instead of contributing to the plant's growth) will scorch the crop. If a bird eats the seed before it gets into the ground, there will be no crop. You likely recognize some of these concepts from Jesus' parable of the sower. We need hearts of good soil, plowed up, prepared, ready to receive the seed of God's word whenever it is sown.
It's much easier to have soil that's receptive to other kinds of seed. Maybe you've found that it's hard to profit from hearing the word of God preached, but to soak up the latest gossip is no trouble. It's easy to fill your heart with the mindless drivel from TV, but to sit down and study the scripture is hard. The lies of the devil often find fertile ground in our minds with little difficulty, but we struggle to cling to the promises of God. Why are our hearts too often good soil for the wrong kind of seed?
There's a reason farmers have a job. If the right kind of plants just grew, they wouldn't have to cultivate the soil, pull and kill weeds, irrigate, fertilize, and so on. But "cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread." (Gen. 3:17-19) Interesting; the reason farmers have to work hard to produce a crop is the same reason you have to work hard to profit from the Word - the curse of sin. So to prepare your heart for God's truth, you'll have to do battle with the sin that remains. That's hard work: prayer, meditation, mortification, ripping out the weeds of anxiety and the love of money, wielding the shield of faith. But it's worth the hard work that we can only do by God's strength. Psalm 126:5-6 "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
Thankful for what?
Just a quick thought from this morning. We opened our windows last night and turned off the air. The house was actually chilly this morning! According to the Weather Channel this is our 10 day forecast. If you don't bother clicking the link. The highs range from 77 to 82. The lows from 57 to 64. After some pretty oppressive heat and humidity, I am thanking God for the cooler weather! Which got me to thinking why wasn't I thanking God during our week of 100 + heat indices (which is minor compared to the heat my family and friends to the south have been dealing with most of the summer). Now
we certainly don't have to like all weather (or food or colors, etc.) equally. It is good for us to thoroughly enjoy a low humidity 77 degree day where you're comfortable inside or outside. I loved taking a family bike ride to prayer meeting last night and not breaking a sweat!
The question comes, however, do we thank God for the weather we don't like so much. Does my complaining about other weather reveal a heart that is not certain that what God has for me is best? I believe in a sovereign God. That being so, I should be thankful for all that comes to me - good or bad (from my perspective). Whether I understand or not, his plan is best for me and you. But don't stop with the weather; think bigger. Easy to thank God for health; harder to thank him for illness, pain, surgery, and suffering. Easy to thank God for financial prosperity; more difficult to thank him for hard times. May God give us grace to see our trials through the light of Scripture. James 1 is especially helpful. God uses the trials for our good, our growth and steadfastness. So let's thank God for the cool weather. And the hot. What are you thankful for?
Who is the worst of sinners?
Stop me if you've heard this or something like it before (or said it yourself). From a person raised in the church: "I wish I had a more radical testimony like so-and-so. I think that if I came from a more outwardly sinful background I would have a greater appreciation for the blessings we enjoy here." There is something inherently wrong about such a sentiment. Were Jesus strongest words of warning reserved for really outwardly wicked sinners like murderers or adulterers or for religiously raised, self-righteous folks? The latter! D. Martin Lloyd Jones (who got me thinking about this) says, "You can be innocent of all gross sins and yet be guilty of this terrible thing, of being satisfied with your life, of having pride in your achievements and of looking down on others and feeling that you are better than others. There is nothing worse than that because you are saying to yourself that you are somehow nearer to God than they are, and yet the whole time you are not." (from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure - a great resource whether you suffer from spiritual depression or not!). Is that you or me?
Lloyd-Jones' point and the one I am trying to make here is that if we don't comprehend the depth of our sin and are always comparing ourselves with others who are 'worse sinners,' we won't see the glory of Christ's sacrifice for sin. Compare yourself with God's standard. You must love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Have you? Sure, I've never murdered someone, but I have been full of self-righteous pride. My sin is ugly. It's only when we truly feel this that we will experience the joy that comes from resting in Christ. Lloyd-Jones says, "If you have never realized your guilt or guiltiness before God you will never have joy in Christ. It is impossible. 'Not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to save.' 'They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.'"
It may be counter-intuitive to think that contemplating our sin will lead to greater joy, but if we skip this part, we'll miss the true joy Christ affords all who find refuge in him. Only then we will see the greatness of the Savior who died to forgive all of those sins. If you are in Christ, you are forgiven and free and therein is true joy. So make sure you see the depth of you sin, but don't stay there. Move quickly to the cross and find the joy that comes from deliverance through Christ our Savior!
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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