Enrich Your Soil: Preparing Your Heart To Be Fruitful For God

Jesus told a parable about soil once. He said there were four types of soil that the farmer threw seed upon. Three of them had serious problems and never produced a crop. Just one of the soils received the seed of the Word of God and produced a crop.

We see examples of this all the time. Kids can grow up in the same home with many of the same influences and yet one will follow the Lord and another will turn away. Two people can hear the same message with God’s call for salvation and one will accept this word and another will reject it.

How about you? What kind of soil do you have? Based on Jesus’ words in Mark 4, here are ways you can guard against a failed crop and enrich your soil:

  • Be on your guard against the devil’s schemes (Mark 4:15). We really do have an adversary in the devil. He likes to snatch the seed of God’s Word from the hearer. Ephesians 6:10-18 is a great passage to turn to and learn about God’s armor that is provided for you to take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
  • Develop deep roots (Mark 4:16-17). Jesus says that the person with this second type of soul soil will fall away when persecution and trouble come because of the Word. Note Jesus says when and not if trouble and persecution come. You can develop deep roots with the recipe given in Psalm 1: don’t walk with the wicked and meditate on God’s Word day and night!
  • Avoid the big three temptations of worry, wealth, and ungodly desire (Mark 4:18-19). On worry, Jesus said worrying can’t add a single hour to your life. On money, He said if you’ll store up your treasures in heaven they can’t be stolen or destroyed by moth and rust. On desire, Jesus said to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first and all these other things will be added to you.

I want to produce a crop for the Lord and I suspect you do too. We’ll both do well to guard ourselves in the above three areas and then fertilize our soil by reading God’s Word and obeying it, talking to Him through prayer and gathering with the church.                                                (MATT RAINES)

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Embracing New Thing

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (ISAIAH 43:18-19)

The wilderness is where God brings forth a fresh move of His Spirit. Of course, this fresh move of the Spirit is not new to God, but it is new to us. We have yet to arrive at a place where we know God as He knows us. This relationship is described in 2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

In order to know God better, we must change. Changes that brings us closer to God are not always easy, but they are always good. Often we resist change because it affects our comfort level. We are creatures of habit. Once patterns are established, it becomes uncomfortable for us to move outside our familiar lifestyles.

Religious traditions especially are formed early and run deep. Not all traditions are wrong, but when a person responds to God out of tradition rather than from the heart, that person is going through lifeless motions. How can you guard against this? Evaluate yourself through this lens: A person who has a religious spirit is one who has only an outward form of godliness, holding fast to what God did while resisting what God is presently doing.

Is God moving in your heart right now? Don’t resist Him, even if the change is uncomfortable or costly! Don’t be afraid of the changes God has for you as He leads you through a wilderness. You are destined for great and mighty things, and God will use your present circumstance to shape you for His glory!

Meditate on this verse today: And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6) (JOHN BEVERE)

 

 

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Treasure Of The Nations

6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”
(HAGGAI 2:6-9)

The book of Haggai was written to those who had returned from Babylonian to rebuild the destroyed temple of God. It was an encouragement and a call to rebuild amidst rubble, hope despite desolation, and believe even during times of hardship and disappointment.

In verses 6 to 9, Haggai spoke of a time to come when the world would be shaken up as it had never been shaken before. Ironically, this was intended to be a comfort for people who were standing in rubble! While this may seem difficult to understand at first glance, the writer of Hebrews took comfort in the shaking of this world, as it “indicates the removal of things that are shaken … in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain … a Kingdom” (Hebrews 12:26-28).

At the heart of Haggai’s declaration that all of creation (v. 6) and all nations (v. 7) would be shaken, there is the promise that “the treasures of all nations shall come in.” “Treasures” is a Hebrew word that can function as a singular or plural noun. In other words, not only will the treasures of the nations be brought to the house of God in tribute, but there will also be One, the true Treasure, who fills the house and is to be prized above all the wealth of the world. For Haggai, it was only when the world was shaken that we could see what really will stand and which treasures will endure.

When your world shakes, are you shaken with it, or are you unshakable in spite of it? When the treasures of your heart disappoint you, does your heart fail, or does it take hold of the Treasure of all nations?
(REDEEMER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH)

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Who Are My Mother And My Brothers?

You’ve probably heard the proverb, “Blood is thicker than water.” It means that while we may argue and even fight with our family, we’re still bound to them in ways that we will never be bound to our friends. So, no matter what state of relationship we’re in with our family members, we’re still likely to do things for them that we wouldn’t do for anyone else.

Which is why Jesus’ statement turns heads when He says: “Who are My mother and My brothers?… Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35). He’s asserting a whole new way of relating to each other. In God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, we’re not joined to each other by birth. We’re not bound to each other by traditional kinship. We’re not knit together primarily as a biological family. Rather, we find our identity, kinship, and community in and through the relationship we share in God. All those who live in and work for God’s Kingdom are family.

It’s easy to imagine Jesus is using this as a clever turn of phrase to engender loyalty among His followers – “Trust Me, you all are way more important to Me than My family.” Except that He goes on to live it and in this way prove it. Again and again in Mark’s Gospel Jesus breaks down barriers and breaks the rules about who can associate with whom, inviting more and more people – and as we’ve already seen it’s usually the most unlikely people – to join His family, His fellowship, His new community formed not by the blood of biological birth but the water of baptism and the sweat of those willing to toil for the ideals of the Kingdom.

Which means that Jesus is starting the original “blended family,” drawing people then and now from all different walks of life, ethnicities, backgrounds, nationalities and traditions into one large family, the family of God. So, I guess, at least when it comes to the Kingdom of God, that “water is thicker than blood” after all. (DAVID J. LOSE)

REFLECTION AND APPLICATION:

• Review my own family relationships, both by blood and by Jesus blood. Do I love and care for those in the local and greater church body, reconcile with them if necessary? Do I love those I do not like, till I like them?

• How would Jesus respond to our world? As Jesus demonstrated in the passage in Mark 3:31-35, where do we need to be countercultural to be faithful disciples?

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Easter 2019 – Good Friday & Maundy Thursday Services

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Easter Service 2019 – The Witness

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Where Are You, God?

Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. (Habakkuk 1:5)

Cancer steals the ones we love. Babies die before they get a chance to live. Police officers are charged with murder. People riot in the streets and burn cities. Christians are beheaded for their faith.

If God is a good God who wants good things for His children, why do bad things happen? Where is the justice?

When devastating circumstances rock our lives, even the most faithful among us can be shaken with doubt. Where is God? Why is He allowing this? Is He really good? Does He even exist?

God is not scared of our questions, and He is not surprised by our doubts.

Even the prophet Habakkuk had doubts and questions for God. In Habakkuk 1:1-4, surrounded by violence, injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, strife and conflict, Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2).

The Lord doesn’t condemn him for asking. He answers and gives him hope. God explains to Habakkuk that He has a plan so amazing that Habakkuk wouldn’t even believe it (Habakkuk 1:5).

When devastating and confusing circumstances cause us to question God, we can be assured He cares, has a plan, and is working it all together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We may not understand because we only see part of the story, but God sees the big picture and has a plan greater than anything we could imagine.

God is working in your life and in our world in ways that if He told us, we would not even believe.

For Your Reflection:

• What is one thing in your life, or our world, that causes you to doubt or question God?

• When was one time that you have seen God work a bad situation for good?

• What is one of God’s promises that you need to cling to today?
(NEWSPRING CHURCH)

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The Scandal Maker

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him (Mark 2:15)

This evidently was a farewell dinner Matthew gave for his friends, his tax-collecting buddies. He was saying farewell to his work and friends and leaving to follow Jesus. It was also an opportunity to introduce them to his newfound Lord.

What a collection of rascals must have been there that day! All the tax collectors of the city, all the sinners, all the despised social outcasts were sitting there. As the scribes of the Pharisees passed by and saw Jesus in the midst of it all, they were absolutely scandalized! It was obvious that He was the friend of these men. He was not lecturing them. He was sitting among them and eating and drinking with them. The scribes were simply appalled at this and called the disciples aside: “Why does He do things like that? Doesn’t He know who these people are?”

Jesus’ answer is very revealing. He actually agrees with their remarks. He says, in effect, “You’re right, these are sick, hurting, troubled men. Their style of life has damaged them deeply. They don’t see life rightly; they are covering up many evils; they are false in many ways. You’re right, these are sick men. But where else would a doctor be?”

He says something to them that turns their gaze back toward themselves. He says,” I came to call not the righteous, but sinners.” That is, those who think they are righteous, as these Pharisees did, are actually more needy than those they regard as social outcasts. These Pharisees were actually more deeply disturbed than the tax collectors and sinners, but they did not know it. But Jesus was saying to them, To those who think they’re righteous, I have absolutely nothing to say. But to these who know they’re sick and are open for help, I am fully available as a minister to their souls.

Our Lord made several things emphatically clear by this reply. First, He indicated strongly that when people think they have no need of help from God, they are in no position to be helped. There is nothing to say to them. But our Lord always put His efforts where men and women were open to help, where they were hurting so much they knew they needed help.

The second thing our Lord reveals is that people are more important than prejudice. Prejudices are preconceived notions formed before we have sufficient knowledge, usually mistaken or distorted ideas with which we have grown up. When prejudices are in opposition to the needs of people, they are to be swept aside without any hesitation. We Christians must learn to treat people like Jesus–regardless of what their outward appearance may be.

Do we need to repent of the self-righteous judging that separates us from God’s forgiveness for our own sins, and from caring compassion toward other sinners?
(RAY STEDMAN MINISTRIES)

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