The soil of your heart

What type of soil do you have in your backyard garden? Rocky, clay, thorny? Any avid gardener can tell you there won’t be much of a harvest without the right kind of soil. Well-tended gardens produce the best results because the soil where seeds begin their growth needs to be fertilized, conditioned, and hydrated with nutrients. It’s a no brainer, right?

In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13: 3-9, Jesus describes the four types of soil representing the condition of people’s hearts when first hearing his word. Unfortunately, the seed of his word that falls by the wayside or in stony or thorny ground never receives the proper nourishment necessary for growth, and one’s spiritual garden suffers as a result. After a scorching sun or a blustery wind, the sprout withers or is uprooted at the first signs of stress.

Whether one plants seeds in an outdoor garden or in the soil of one’s heart, the same ingredients apply. In order to grow in sanctification as a Christian, the seed of the Word of God needs to reside in receptive, nourished soil. One where the Holy Spirit is alive and quickened and heard above the fray… one where the aim is to apply God’s principles and doctrines in an effort to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)… and one where we desire to glorify God above self.

 

What path will you take?

When we walk with the Lord as David did, we can rest assured of our security and safety in this world. No other anchor is needed to keep a believer’s head above water than when we hold onto the blessed rock of our salvation, our savior, Jesus. The winds of defeat may blow and buffet while the everyday storms of life may threaten to take us down, but holding onto the Lord will be our refuge in times of trouble.

In Psalm 16, David seeks the Lord and flees to him for protection from the threats of Saul. “You are my Lord,” he says. “Apart from you, I have no good thing.” David’s desire to cling to the Lord through his adversity is an example for believers today. “I will set the Lord continually before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

David, like all believers, knew that God was his security and would never leave him. When we walk with the Lord and place our trust in his hands, we can rest knowing that he’s got our backs. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure because you will not abandon me to the grave (Sheol) nor will you let your holy one see decay.”

On earth, there will be trials but by abiding in God’s word, we will not fall into the pit of destruction nor will we be shaken with every wind of trouble. If we stay on the path he ordains, we can rest in knowing he’s there… guiding us every day… directing our steps and blessing our ways until the hour he wishes to take us home where our inheritance awaits.

Like David, we, too can say, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

 

Going down with pride

As Christians who walk humbly with our God, we know our place here on earth is to be used by God as his instruments. Essentially, his hands and feet. Oftentimes, as did the disciples, the concern of “Who is doing the most good for God?” comes into play while a sense of pride and self-importance arises.

In Mark, some of Jesus’ disciples grumbled about who would have the place of honor of sitting on the right and left side of Jesus in glory, primarily, James and John, the sons of Zebedee (a.k.a. the Sons of Thunder). Their pride yearned for a higher place, that showy place of importance and greatness. Jesus replied to them that these positions were “for whom they have been prepared” and added in vs. 45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Let’s face it, God cannot be impressed with anything we do. Even worse, he loathes when pride, one of the seven deadly sins, takes root and settles into an inflated view of our own self worth when taking an overly zealous stock in our accomplishments. When rulers or slave owners lord over their subjects with exalted power, God is not pleased and we are wise to remember that “pride goes before a fall.”

In God’s economy, it’s the more humble and self-effacing person on whom God smiles. In Philippians 2, we see that even Jesus did not seek the high places or to elevate himself but rather humbled himself to the point of death. Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but he lowered himself in taking the form of a bond servant and being made in the likeness of men… After that, God elevated him to bear the name above all names.

Being a servant is not an easy task in a world full of pride. It’s not glamorous or flashy. For the most part, the life of a servant is one of sometimes doing the lowly grunt work and not one that calls much attention to itself. It quietly and ardently works behind the scenes and does not care who is watching because the work is being done for the Lord. Oftentimes, the Lord’s servants are thrust into greatness or a prominent place not because they necessarily want it but because the Lord grants it. He honors them. The position is not for one’s own seeking of glory, honor or riches but rather just the opposite. Servanthood is best performed when we empty ourselves of self and put on Christ.

 

Building God’s Kingdom

We, as believers, are called to witness for Jesus Christ and to spread the good news that our sins are all paid. This message of redemption should be our focus every day as we set our sights on things above and fulfill our earthly purpose. As the scriptures say in Mark 16:15, Jesus tells his disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” What a great calling we have!

Psalm 96:3 says, “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” This should be a natural extension of someone who loves the Lord. We talk about our earthly possessions, gifts, and joys with pride and gratitude, yet the Lord is responsible for every one of those blessings! As the Lord’s beloved, our hearts should overflow with love for Jesus and we should be ready to give an account for the joy with which He’s blessed us. If not for Him, we would not have fellowship with God, the Father.

Building God’s kingdom is important because it’s our calling and also because God’s kingdom is the only one that will survive throughout eternity. While men work to build their own kingdoms on earth of self, status, power and money, all of these things will be gone one day. Only God’s kingdom will stand, and we will be there to be a part of it.

We have the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us His return is imminent. Let’s utilize everything in our power to reach as many as possible and tell them of what Jesus has done for them.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Free Speech

The role of prayer in our schools is a hot button.

One year ago, I observed this issue coming to a head at a local school district meeting regarding the district’s stance on public prayer, particularly regarding the school’s valedictorian, who wished to include prayer as part of his valedictory speech. His prayer never saw the light of public hearing because the school district took a stance to prohibit the prayer. Not much has changed since then.

Why? Because of judicial overreach in the Supreme Court.  The justices have taken a bridge too far with applying what the founding founders meant in their drafting of the Constitution and have used the 1st ,10th, and 14th amendments to suit their own subjective ends. Now schools across America are taking their cues from the federal courts.

Some would argue a school’s mandate to prohibit prayer is because there should be separation of church and state, or that there should be neutrality of religion in schools. This mindset is not what the founding fathers had in mind.

True, the founders wanted freedom from the vice of a tyrannical king and also did not want to impose any undue mandates or strictures on the citizens of the new republic. By logic, it would follow that our founders wanted a secular government. Coming from an imposing, heartless despot who forced his own whims on his people, this would be a reasonable conclusion. However, this premise is totally off base.

No, the founders did not encourage a secular government for the sake of keeping the church separate; they just did not want to advocate for a particular religion. Theirs was not to enforce freedom from religion but rather no establishment of any particular religion. They didn’t believe it prudent to endorse a state sponsored religion.

Not to allow freedom of expression of a religion is where the judicial overreach and school districts that wish to silence tongues should come to task. To not be able to express what is on one’s heart or mind for fear of sounding “religious” is obstructing the 1st amendment.

The 1st amendment of our Constitution guarantees that Congress shall make no law to either establish nor to prohibit the free exercise of religion as well as the 14th amendment that establishes, among other things, that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of its citizens.  While the 10th amendment guarantees the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So where is freedom of speech in all of this? What happened to the federated part of our republic where states may use their jurisdiction? What happened to the valedictorian’s right to speak his heart at his own graduation?

Whether one is religious or secular, the following facts are aimed at the person of reason: To be able to think and speak our thoughts and what we believe is all part of our mental “property” and is protected under the Constitution. To shun or censor someone from this is violating that person’s rights under the Constitution.

The right of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is guaranteed to us by our Creator, which is clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence, and goes hand in hand with the Constitution. The former document declares the “why” and the latter, “how” the people, as a new nation, would guarantee its citizens their rights from God, their Creator.

Should anyone be offended by hearing the prayers of a valedictorian on his graduation day would best be served by remembering that the Constitution does not guarantee one’s freedom from discomfiture at the expense of someone else. The law of the land endorses life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which also includes prayer in the public square. Those of rational thought and mind ought to see plainly what the Constitution actually stands for.

As far as secular government, our founders all agreed with John Adam when he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

 

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