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When tragedy happens, don’t judge

Posted by on Nov 13, 2018 in Book of Luke | 2 comments

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? Luke 13:1-2

We’ve all seen it, heard it, and experienced it. Disaster strikes; we see images of suffering, destruction, and death. The pain and sorrow of these images sear into our very souls. We wonder “What happened? Why did it happen?” The horror and vulnerability we feel triggers revulsion, and to make sense of it all, we create reasons why tragedy struck “them”; reasons why tragedy won’t strike “us”.

Jesus’ followers evidently viewed the horrific slaughter of their fellow Galileans in a similar manner. Vivid memories filled their minds: Countrymen dying at the hand of Pilate who brazenly used their blood to desecrate the holy sacrifice. Jesus knew His followers were grappling in their minds with the event—so He targeted a near-universal coping mechanism—judging the afflicted and fallen.

Do you find yourself doing the same? When calamities—such as the recent fire storms, hurricanes, mass murders, etc.—befall an area, do you wonder if the sin in that region finally elicited judgment from God? Does the thought, “We’re not as bad (or stupid) as them” cross your mind?

Driving home His point, Jesus asked another question: “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4.)

Why was Jesus targeting this all too common defense mechanism of judging the victim? Was He attempting to scare people with the randomness of tragedy? Was He mocking their sense of vulnerability? NO! In a sense, He was telling them, Mind your own business. The “why” is privatebetween the victims and their God.

Twice in these remarks Jesus made a statement revealing the antidote to judging others. He asserted, “I tell you, no, [the victims of these tragedies were NOT the worse sinners (my addition)] but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (verses 3 and 5).

That doesn’t sound very edifying, does it? Was Jesus loading a guilt trip on them all?

In our modern mindset, unfortunately we’ve equated the directive to repent with narrow-minded bigotry. But quite the opposite was the Lord’s intention. Instead of heaping judgment on them, Jesus presented them with a valuable aid to help them keep on track when others faced destruction, tragedy, or death: Don’t judge the victim—you’re not God. Concentrate on your own heart, behaviors, and life, and God will take care of you.

When tragedy happens, mourn with those who mourn—don’t judge. And while showing compassion to the hurting, mind your own business!

Dorothy

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

“So Peter seeing him [John the disciple] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” John 21:21-22

© 2018, Dorothy Frick

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Concerning mob mentality: What would Jesus do?

Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 in Book of Luke, Prayer Perspective | 2 comments

…the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. Luke 11, last two verses

Take note of three phrases in the final two verses of Luke 11:

  • began to be very hostile
  • plotting against him
  • to catch Him in something He might say

Under these circumstances…[of targeted hostility and ill-intent] He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Luke 12:1

Under the circumstances of blatant resentment and plots of violence against Him, what did Jesus do? Did He acquiesce with the demands of the mob—did He think perhaps He’d been too harsh, and in His loving way, wonder if they had a point? NO. He boldly exposed the root of this brazen hostility:  Bona fide, Grade A hypocrisy.

The Lord uncovered a principle here: Targeting an individual with hostility propelled by an intent to destroy his reputation or life reveals more about the character of the “targeter” than it does the one being targeted—they are a bald-faced hypocrite.

The Oxford Dictionary defines hypocrisy this way: “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.” It’s the old speck in the eye caution—if you seek to remove (or expose!) a speck in someone else’s eye, get the log out of your own, first. (See Matthew 7:3-5.)

Do you passionately seek to expose someone else as flawed or evil, worthless or unfit? Then first take a checkup from the neck up yourself! When you engage in undermining the reputation of someone—no matter how righteous you feel about it or how much satisfaction you derive from it—you are placing yourself in a precarious position before God.

The leaven of hypocrisy

Jesus likened hypocrisy to leaven.

Many of us consume a little leaven—or yeast—every day in baked goods. That bit of yeast added to recipes gives the whole loaf, cake, or batch of cookies a fluffy, chewable quality. Most dictionaries define leaven—in addition to its use as a fermenting, rising agent in bread—as a pervasive, permeating influence of change for the better.

Yet when Jesus stated, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”, He was highlighting the subtle, negative influence of hypocrisy—the outward display of a moral high ground which masks raw ambition and hatred toward anyone who dares to stand between them and their secretly held lust for power. Jesus knew that mingling and mixing with such power-driven hypocrites would infect the culture with unthinking, blind corruption…and the whole lump of connected humanity would “blow up” with hypocrisy, hostility, and attempts to destroy anyone who remained “unfermented” by the prevailing trend.

What would Jesus do? Quite simply, expose hypocrisy. He didn’t seek to destroy hypocrites; He didn’t shout over them or call for their humiliation or demise; He simply revealed Truth concerning them.

Cover ups

But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops. Luke 12:2-3

Jesus recognized that these religious/political leaders wanted nothing other than to destroy Him, His message, and His influence on the world. Despite all of that, He maintained His peace; a higher principle was at play and He knew it:

All cover ups would be revealed. Hidden things would be made known. Conversations in dark, private meetings would become public knowledge. Whispered secret agendas would soon be broadcast on the airwaves far and wide.

What would Jesus do? What should you do?

First, beware the leaven of hypocrites. Is something trending that grabs the minds, emotions, and passions of the many, transforming cultural thought into a lump of rage, hostility, and indignation? Beware of it. At its root is hypocrisy—the mask of moral superiority covering someone’s unseen lust for power, manipulating those with good intentions to destroy a manufactured enemy…and in Jesus’ day, that manufactured enemy was Him.

Secondly—and this is my passion—use the mind God gave you. Question mass movements and popular trends, especially the ones that seek to destroy others. Ask yourself, “Where did this start? Who ultimately benefits? What is the end game?” God never demanded that you check your brain at the door of the church, school, university, or evening news. Invite Him to reveal the agendas behind societal thrusts; compare trending ideologies to the Word of God. If it doesn’t feel right, you have the right to question it and ask God about it.

And third, pray. You may not discern who or what is behind everything going on in prevailing movements, but God certainly does. Therefore, if it feels weird to you, take Jesus’ lead: Pray for cover ups to be exposed; ask that hidden intents will be made known; request God to cause private meetings in which participants plot someone’s ruin to be uncovered and become public knowledge; and pray that all whispered agendas will be exposed and broadcast on every available media.

Again, you have the right to question. You have the right to take an unpopular stance. You have the right to use critical thinking concerning every movement and ideology that comes along. And you have the right to go God’s way even if everyone else throws in with the “lovely” façade and hidden agendas of hypocrisy.

Beware the leaven of hypocrisy!

Dorothy

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 Timothy 3:1

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:13

But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all… 2 Timothy 3:9a

© 2018, Dorothy Frick

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Four life-changing insights from Luke 11

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Book of Luke, Prayer Perspective | Comments Off on Four life-changing insights from Luke 11

Jesus is the most profound, well-grounded Human in the history of the planet, and Luke 11 is chock-full of His wisdom. The fifty-four verses in this chapter reveal a universe of Truth; here’s a sampling:

Insight # 1: Developing a deeply personal, intimate prayer life isn’t as tough as you think.

Lord, teach us to pray…Luke 11:1b

The disciples had a ringside seat to the compassion-packed power and wisdom of the Master. Wherever He went, amazing things followed; whenever He was absent, they knew He was off praying. As a result, it wasn’t surprising when they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray like You do.”

His answer was simple but powerful; the expected in-depth dissertation never came. Instead He shared a short set of priorities for them to pray about, and with this, the well-known Lord’s Prayer was launched. He told them:

  • Honor God as your Father and treat Him and His name as holy (vs. 1).
  • Ask for God’s will and kingdom to be established in your life and in the world around you (vs 2).
  • Ask Him to provide your daily needs (vs. 3).
  • Acknowledge your need for forgiveness in the specific areas where you’ve fallen short (vs. 4).
  • Purposely forgive others who have wronged you in the same way you’ve asked God to forgive you (vs.4).
  • Request that He lead you away from the things that tempt you (vs. 4).

Realize this: Jesus never expected His disciples to rattle off this little prayer, line by line, day after day, clocking in and clocking out. The Lord didn’t present this targeted outline to be used as a magic spell, mantra, or fix-it elixir. Instead, He provided these simple prayer points as springboards by which anybody could launch into prayerful intimacy with God, just by talking to Him about these things. And in this way, He opened the door for His disciples to get as personal as they possibly could with their Father.

The Lord invites you, too, to use the “bullet points” from the Lord’s Prayer to enter into deeply personal, very specific communications with Him. His door is always open; His welcome mat will never be pulled out from under you. And as you enter in, know that you’re praying just the way He prescribed.

Insight #2: Persistence pays off.

…because of his persistence he will…give him as much as he needs. Luke 11:8b

I’ll bet you’ve heard someone say, “I don’t want to bother God about that.” Maybe you’ve said it yourself, hoping the Lord would appreciate your humility. So you back away from praying about those needs you’ve hoped forever that God would take care of, and you tell yourself that you can get by without. And all the while you feel more and more distant from the One you long to know.

But then Jesus goes and tells a parable that flips your “don’t-bother-God” humility on its head!

You see, Jesus told a tale about a persistent man who pounded relentlessly on his neighbor’s door at midnight. A visitor had unexpectedly arrived; the man was out of bread and needed to feed his guest. The neighbor had already gone to bed; climbing out from under his cozy blankets was the last thing he wanted to do—friend or no friend. Surely Jesus was about to rebuke such loud, demanding racket; how very impudent of this man to expect his friend to get out of bed merely to help him out of a self-inflicted jam! You can feel it—you just know what Jesus’ punchline will be: “And YOU? Don’t you DARE bother God about your petty little needs! Don’t you know He’s busy running the universe?”

But wait! Jesus didn’t condemn this man’s boldness; He commended it! “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:8).

Could it be true? Is Jesus actually saying to YOU, “Don’t you dare NOT bother God about your needs! And while you’re at it, stick with it until you get your answer!”? Believe it; your bold persistence doesn’t bother Him—it blesses Him.

Insight # 3: The lit lamp and the clear eye.

The eye is the lamp of the body…watch out, then, that the light in you is not darkness. Luke 11:34a, 35

Paul once wrote, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).

Jesus said it this way, “No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar or under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 11:33). Why would anyone put a brilliantly glowing lamp in a cellar or under a basket? Could it be that they feel ashamed of the light?

Paul’s attitude toward the gospel was the opposite of shame; he embraced it as the power of God for salvation to everyone who believed. Jesus likewise highlighted what a normal, healthy attitude toward the Light looked like: Not hiding it; just letting it do its thing—SHINE.

Interestingly, right after Jesus taught about displaying—not hiding—the Light in your life, He said, “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this section in Luke, but this time, I saw it differently. Could it be that Jesus linked our approach toward letting His light shine in our lives with the health of our vision? Could our perspective about the Light of Jesus—whether we hide it or let it shine—affect the clarity of our perception?

When you allow the Light to shine brightly in your life, do you safeguard your vision? By the same token, is your vision mucked up when you’re ashamed of the very Truth that once set you free?

If you are currently experiencing overwhelming darkness, confusion, or oppression, make tracks back to the Light of the world, soak up His rays, and allow His brightness to radiate boldly once again through you. His Light is unquenchable; the only one who can block it in your life is you.

Go ahead—pull that lamp back out from under the bed or basket where you’ve been hiding it. Bring it on up from the cellar and let its beautiful radiance once again be a beacon of Life to the world around you.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Insight # 4: Cleanness—major on inner; minor on outer.

When the Pharisee saw it [that Jesus had sat down for lunch without washing up], he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. Luke 11:38

Some of us seem to place top priority on how we appear to others, whether physically, socially, intellectually, or spiritually. We want to “get it right” on the outside no matter what might be happening on the inside. As long as we look good to others, that’s all that matters. Or is it?

Jesus, frustratingly so to the religious folks of His day, wasn’t too concerned at all about the externals. Oh, He nitpicked, but not about how people looked. He pointed His laser light on the inner workings of the heart—pride, ambition, kindness, and humility before God and manmotivations of the heart.

He said to them, Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness” (Luke 11:39).

Imagine offering your friend a steaming cup of coffee or tea in an exquisite, sparkling cup. As they gratefully receive it and start to sip the contents, they notice crusty leftovers growing mold inside just below the lip of the cup. Then they notice something wiggling around, making figure eights in the brew. A critter surfaces and winks at them.

“What are you trying to do to me???? Are you crazy???” they yell as they toss your beautiful cup aside.

But you blink with astonishment and say, “But that cup is gorgeous! It looks so clean and sparkling in your hand!”

This is, in reality, what we are doing when we place all our focus on how we appear to others—whether physically, socially, intellectually, or spiritually. We may be a beautiful, stylish, with-it looking vessel, but beneath the surface—where it really counts—we’ve let leftovers accumulate, growing mold and attracting critters. If this describes your situation right now, don’t be surprised if someone says, “No thank you” to your offered cup of tea.

Jesus declared, “You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you” (Luke 11:40, 41).

When you pay more attention to the climate inside of you than you do to how others think you look, your outer appearance will reflect a pure heart sooner or later.

Then when you offer your cup of brew to someone, they will find its contents wonderfully refreshing and mold- and critter-free.

May you walk freely, simply, and boldly with your Friend, the Light of the world.

Dorothy

 

© 2017, Dorothy Frick

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Concerning snakes and shoes and authority

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 in Book of Luke, Snakes | Comments Off on Concerning snakes and shoes and authority

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Luke 10:19

…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace… Ephesians 6:15

I had a ringside seat to an unthinkable feat when I was five—a literal, but very unintentional, snake-treading. And like all stories coming out of the early 60’s, this one had a happy ending…for everyone, that is, but the villain—the snake. But unlike other heroes of that era, our heroine’s “white hat” was a pair of sturdy boondockers.

Concerning snakes and shoes:

When I was a little girl, my mom took my sister and me shoe shopping. Easter was around the corner, but we weren’t looking for Easter shoes. We weren’t looking for sandals; we weren’t looking for Keds; we weren’t even looking for saddle shoes. We were shopping for what my folks called boondockers—leather hiking boots that came up over the ankles.

My parents had just leased a cabin in the woods for weekend excursions, and the land around there was “snaky”. Dad and my brother already owned boots, but we girls were bootless and needed to shop.

I remember the consternation of the salesman as he measured our feet for the boondockers. He was beside himself, trying to persuade us that what we really wanted were cute little patent leather shoes for Easter.

“No,” my mom insisted. “My girls need boondockers.” She would have been more thoughtful had she explained to the “Mr. Whipple” look-alike serving us that we needed snake protection for our country place, but I think Mom rather enjoyed shocking him. It was 1960; little girls didn’t wear such footwear.

After much hemming and hawing on the part of our flustered salesman, we were outfitted with our boots; and as we left the shoe store, my five-year-old mind imagined snakes snapping at the thick leather and I hoped they would respect the boundary at the top of my boot and politely limit their strikes to below the line.

I was faithful to lace up my boondockers every time I wandered out into snake country. Everyone in the family was. One day the five of us went out to pick the blackberries which grew wild all over the place. Each of us was armed with a cleaned out, empty paint bucket in anticipation of the bounty awaiting us. (I always ate more berries than fell into the bucket on these excursions.)

A huge patch of them twined chaotically by the side of a dirt road running down to the river. I was by Mom’s side as the family spread out, picking and plunking away, when suddenly she squealed, sucking in a lung-full of air and leaping sky high.

“I just stepped on a cat’s tail!” she gasped. “Jinks didn’t follow us out here, did he?!” She was referring to our big black and brown striped feline family member who always accompanied us on our country weekends.

My dad started poking in the berry brambles, “Here, Jinks! Kitty, kitty, kitty!” And then he jumped back. “Freda, you stepped on a copperhead!”

Sure enough, hidden under the blackberry brambles was a large copperhead with a squashed head. Dad poked it with a stick to make sure it was dead, and it was dead. Very dead. Terminated. By Mom—or rather, by her highly lethal, boondockered foot.

Awed, we all huddled around the carcass for a closer look. There it was, beautiful copper body with telltale dark brown hourglass-like markings up and down its spine, with a smashed—and very dead—copper head.

I am often reminded of this snapshot from my childhood. You see, I am witness to a literal serpent-treading. Mom was outfitted in the proper footwear, and although she had been unaware of the viper’s presence, she hit the bulls-eye. With one step she stopped the serpent, dead in its track.

Concerning authority in Christ:

We have authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm us. We just need to keep our feet shod with the proper footwear—our authority in Christ and the preparation of the gospel of peace. As we live our lives mindful of the truth, we will do damage to the enemy simply by obeying God.

So often we fear the “what if’s” of life and become incapacitated: “What if I miss God?”. Do you belong to Christ? Have you prayed? Are you in the Word? Do you walk in love? Then step out without fear. Your Father will lead you, and if you miss it, He’ll guide you out of that place and over to the right place. It’s far simpler than we believers of the 21st century have made it.

And I believe concerning you—an everyday Christian—that it’s very likely you have a trail of viper carcasses littering the path behind you. You have been outfitted to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and as you’ve obeyed God in your life—even in the everyday, mundane tasks—I believe there’s a good chance that you have destroyed demonic schemes without even realizing it.

Next time Satan attempts to debilitate you with “what if’s” and seeks to intimidate you away from your adherence to God, just remember my mom’s boondockered feet and the squashed copperhead: Step out, obey God, and know that He will be faithful to guide you and to bring light to your path.

But don’t forget your boots. It’s snaky out there!

Dorothy

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20

 

© 2014, Dorothy Frick

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Concerning rejection of the message

Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 in Book of Luke | Comments Off on Concerning rejection of the message

Jesus was frequently misunderstood. In fact, when He taught His disciples how to deal with those who rejected His message, the strength of His directive was enormously misinterpreted by a couple of His disciples.

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. Luke 9:1-2

Jesus commissioned His disciples to hit the road and proclaim the gospel sometime in the midst of His three year ministry. Matthew’s gospel cited Jesus’ charge this way, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7).

“…As you go, preach…” Whether formally sent out by a commissioning ministry or merely on the go in everyday life, the directive from the Lord was clear: “As you go, preach.” In other words, be on the lookout for assignments from God.

and [He] gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Luke 9:1b

These anointings were specifically imparted to the twelve, not to everyone following Jesus at the time. However, just before Jesus ascended to the Father, He intentionally included every believer in His charge when He stated, “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).

You and I are commissioned as ambassadors for Christ. Jesus relegated that authority to you and me. As you go, preach…and these signs will accompany those who have believed. This is not meant to pressurize anyone; it is meant to inspire and direct every single believer.

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.” (Luke 9:3-4)

During His ministry, Jesus charged His disciples to travel light—no money, food, or extra clothes. He was training them to trust God for their every need.

However, right before He was crucified, He adjusted this directive: “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one’” (Luke 22:35-36).

The only explanation He gave for this modification was this: “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37). Evidently, Jesus knew that some people’s perception about His death would make daily life tougher for His followers. And with this redirection, He continued to make provision for them.

But what about those who didn’t want to hear the message? Check this out:

And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. Luke 9:5

Not everything would be kittens and sunshine for followers of Christ. Some people would reject both the message of Jesus and those who proclaimed it. In response, did the loving Jesus admonish, “Be tolerant of the folks who don’t like My message. Try to see things their way and compromise”?

Not on your life. Instead, He told them to leave the unwelcoming city and shake the dust of that place from their feet.

Aware of Jesus’ firm stance on this issue, a couple of the disciples stepped it up even more when, on the way to Jerusalem, a certain Samaritan village refused to receive Him (see Luke 9:51-53).

When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:5

Hey,” they said to Jesus, “Let’s show them—let’s call down fire and watch ‘em fry!” After all, He did give them authority, didn’t He?

But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…”  Luke 9:55-56a

Wonder if—during the days of the guillotine and the stake and the handling of “heretics”—any of them ever studied this Scripture? Jesus said, “Protest, indeed; but make it short-lived—and non-violent.”

When believers are upfront but peaceful with those who don’t receive them, they leave room for God to do His thinghowever He sees fit.

…And they went on to another village. Luke 9:56b

What do you do when you’re rejected as a believer? You go on your way. Don’t fixate on the rejection; leave it with the dust you shook off back in that city…and then go about your Father’s business.

Dorothy

 

© 2017, Dorothy Frick

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Concerning rocky soil

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Book of Luke | Comments Off on Concerning rocky soil

Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture…Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. …Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:6, 11, 13

I have a confession to make: Whenever I read the parable of the sower, I’m not very concerned about rocky soil. Instead, my attention is usually riveted on what Jesus said about thorny ground…the type that grows lots of distractions…and worry. Yep, that’s been my personal Achilles heel. Distractions. Worry. And Jesus made it perfectly clear—those things, if not pulled out of your heart and mind as soon as you identify them, will choke God’s Word. And if the Word is choked in you…good luck trusting the Lord to move on your behalf! It is what it is.

This time, however, as I read this parable I couldn’t stop thinking about the rocky soil…and I wanted to dig deeper (pun not intended).

Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy…

There’s something about rocky soil people that is wonderfully endearing. Their eagerness for new adventures and concepts just oozes out of them. When they hear about Jesus and all He provides, they don’t hesitate—they jump right in and get excited about everything they hear. Come on—who doesn’t want to share the Gospel with someone so willing to grab it up?

and these have no firm root…

We want to see results. We want to see receptivity and growth in those with whom we share the gospel. But according to Jesus, what we see on the surface isn’t necessarily an indicator of success; even more significant is this: What’s going on beneath the surface?

Under a shallow layer of topsoil in some people’s hearts lies rock-solid hardness. The composition of that hardness varies from person to person (even as the composition of rock varies, depending upon the circumstances and environment in which it was formed—multiple types of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks exist, each formed in various ways), but unfortunately, that hardness serves as a formidable barrier to healthy root-growth. Tiny roots start to sprout, but they are restricted to the shallow upper layer of soil; the rocky ground below blocks deeper penetration of root systems.

they believe for a while (Luke 8:13)…but are only temporary… (Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:7)

For a while: Impermanent. Momentary. Brief. Passing. Short-term. Temporary. Such an outcome of hearing the Word is, sadly, all too common…but is there a remedy? I am certain there is. But first, we need to understand the results of rocky soil faith so we can address its remedy more effectively.

and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:13; … when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. Mark 4:17

We’ve all seen it; some of us have experienced this sad phenomenon in our own lives. This rocky soil faith, without intervention, will sooner or later create a case of backsliding.

Three environmental scenarios create the conditions in which our more “rocky soil” brothers and sisters fall away according to Luke and Mark.

Temptation. By grace and the Word of God, you are equipped to resist the temptations that come your way; with every one, God prepares a way of escape for you—and as you resist the devil he has to flee from you. However, there are times, for whatever reason, that you are tripped up by temptation and yield to that lust, greed, rage, self-absorption, sloth…whatever it is that you may be more vulnerable to. At some point, maturing Christians recognize their attitude/behavior as sin and ask God for forgiveness and cleansing—and then they get back up out of sin with a repentant heart…because of God’s abundant mercy.

But for our rocky soil faith friends, that’s easier said than done. Somehow the ability to access the grace of God to resist temptation or the mercy of God to receive forgiveness after yielding is found in deeper soil—soil unencumbered by rocky barriers. When temptation arises, a rocky soil person lacks the roots to withstand and trust God to make a way of escape.

And, unlike a deep soil person who has also yielded to temptation (but after facing up to it, repents), the rocky soil brother or sister starts to wonder if following Jesus is worth all the sacrifice of fun, comfort, or peer acceptance. Hence, while one believer looks to God for forgiveness, repentance, and restoration after falling into temptation, the other thinks, “Why bother?” and falls away.

Affliction. Affliction means “trouble, tribulation, oppression, and anguish”. Bad stuff. Stress. Whatever it is you don’t want to happen…like the bumper sticker back in the 80’s stated (my paraphrase!), “It happens.” Jesus said it this way, “[God] lets rain fall on [people] whether they are just or unjust” (Matthew 5:45b, GOD’S Word Translation).

Although a deep soil believer hates affliction as much as the next guy, he purposes to let his roots dig even deeper into the soil of the Word so he can draw up the strength, wisdom, and Bible nutrients to deal with whatever is coming at him. Even when trials seem to persist and afflictions grow more severe, he stands with his deep roots wrapped around Jesus Himself and he refuses to throw away his confidence in God.

But the rocky soil believer has a different experience. When affliction arises—sickness, lack, loneliness, disappointment, frustration, or pain—he falls away. The rocky soil prevents his dwarfed, dehydrated root system from obtaining the rich sustenance available to the deeper soil individual. Because of that blockade, his faith withers, and he no longer sees the sense in believing. If he doesn’t feel better immediately, then just as immediately he falls away.

Persecution because of the Word. Satan hates the Word of God; it was by the Word (“It is written”) that Jesus effectively sent the devil packing when the enemy tempted Him in the wilderness.

Because Satan hates the Word, don’t be surprised if persecution—slander, rejection, or worse—smacks you in the head from time to time. It’s just the devil, and don’t ever forget—he’s a defeated devil.

Again, no one enjoys persecution; if they say they do, I wonder seriously about their sanity! That said, when it arises, the deeper soil believer digs down into God, finding comfort and shelter under the shadow of His wings despite the chaos leveled against him. Unfortunately, the rocky soil believer finds only impenetrable hardness barricading his shriveled roots from the subterranean waters of God just below the surface; as a result, he immediately falls away.

Is there help for a believer who begins his walk of faith with a rocky soil heart? I believe so; but it will require diligence both on the part of Mr. or Ms. Rocky Soil and on the part of those believers who love them and want to help them.

When you interact with someone, you may not know for quite a while what lies beneath the surface. However, despite the type of soil upon which an individual enters the kingdom of God, we can’t forget this important Truth: We are co-laborers with God in laying foundations (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-11)…whether that ground be rocky, thorny, or good.

So what might the work of laying good foundations look like? How could this help rocky soil believers survive and eventually grow a decent root supply?

  1. Teach them foundational truths: Who God is; what He did for them in Christ; and who they now are in Christ. Teach them this concerning their new birth: The great exchange has taken place—God has removed from them a heart of stone and has replaced it with a heart of flesh.

 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT).

The good news is this: Rocky soil believers can learn to count on the promise that God has created a tender, responsive heart in place of the stony heart they’ve grown accustomed to. When they feel their faith shaking and can’t seem to find their way, help them to remember what God has done in them—they can take comfort and draw strength from this.

As their lifeline, the more mature Christians in their lives (including you) will likely need to be more hands on with these precious believers, walking and praying them through the inevitable shakings that arise. Keep it simple and remind them—they are God’s property now, and He will cover them. Pull out those wonderful Scriptures that remind them of who they are in Christ and who their God is. Pray with them, and then let them know you will be praying for them (and do it!).

And remind them—God’s given them that new heart, and He longs to help them with everything that concerns them.

  1. God’s Word is a Hammer

“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” Jeremiah 23:29

Rocky soil is, by definition, hard, and it is a barrier to seed growth. So when you know that the Word of God is a Hammer, you can let it break down the rocky soil, while you bring comfort and support to your friend. But how?

Lead your rocky soil friend to a daily discipline of Scripture reading. Whether they start in the book of John or the Psalms or somewhere else, continue to encourage them to prioritize their Bible time daily. Perhaps you can get them a Bible-based devotional book and have them look up the Scriptures they see in it. Maybe hook them up with solid online devotionals and encourage them to stick with reading them daily. (I would recommend veering them away from Christian prophecy sites or books that are all over the place now; these rocky soil believers need the Bible itself.) All the while, the Word will be hammering away at the rocky soil, causing cracks for the tender roots to find their way down to the deeper ground.

During this process, they may be tempted to fall away, nonetheless, as pressures arise. But the Word has been hammering the rocky soil, and your prayers for them have been watering the soil. Stick with them, love and encourage them, and in most cases, they will emerge with deeper roots and a sense of victory on the other side of their trial.

  1. Break up fallow ground

Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12

What an excellent exhortation for every one of us! I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone through cycles of “hardness” in my Christian walk—anything from harshness and a critical attitude to dullness of heart and lethargy. And I’ll bet I’m not alone in this.

Under seasons in which we go through the motions of our Christianity, lash out judgmentally at others, cower in fear, or drift into complacency, the soil of our hearts grows hard…even for those of us who started this walk with good soil.

And like our friends, Mr. and Ms. Rocky Soil, we, too, must then go back to the basics of our first love…soaking up the truths about Who God is, what He did for us in Christ, and who we are in Him. As we feed once again on these powerful truths, the Word, as a Hammer, breaks up the hardness of our once lush soil, and restores our souls.

I have found a sure way to break up the hardness of my soil when once I recognize it. Here it is: I overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb, the Word of my testimony, and I love not my life even unto death (see Revelation 12:11).

The blood of the Lamb: I’m not in this alone! I’m not expected, by my own power, to overcome this hardening! When I realize that Jesus’ shed blood not only cleansed me of my past sins but is also my present great help and antidote in any kind of trouble, I fall in love with Him all over again. I realize that He went through agony, shedding His blood for me, so that I can walk through whatever circumstances come my way with His help, tenderizing my heart, and leading me by His Spirit.

The Word of my testimony: I have experienced times of near-devastating hopelessness and heavy depths of oppression that stubbornly refused to let go. I’ll bet I’m not alone in that, either. The soil of my heart seemed to harden by the minute. But one day, during a particularly dark season, I decided to look away from my despair to the Lord. I said to Him, “Lord, I’m going to tell you my testimony—all the things You have done for me from way before I was a Christian to now. Lord, act like You’ve never heard it before, because that’s the way I’m going to tell it. Here goes.” Then I proceeded to reach way back to the days when God started making Himself known to me and told Him my story, details and all.

And what do you know? Before I got very far, the oppression started losing its hold. I continued, and joy started bubbling up in my soul. I continued, and soon tears of gratefulness and laughter of great freedom filled my home. And the fallow ground was broken.

I love not my life even unto death: Not many of us will die a martyr’s death. But this verse, nevertheless, applies to every one of us. Remember the verse that reads, “The fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25a)? If you refuse to let go of what others think of you, allowing yourself to let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould (see Romans 12:10, JBP) so you don’t get singled out by them as “weird”, then you may escape man’s heat momentarily, but you put yourself at odds with the Lord…and you harden your heart.

On the other hand, when you choose to obey God despite the cost to your reputation (whether outside the church or in it), He will honor, vindicate, and deliver you;—and you will have guarded the fertile soil of your heart.

God is faithful both to us and to His Word. When we are faithful to His Word, He will provide amazing support.

Trust the Lord as you minister to others to bring about depth of connection to Him in their lives; and trust Him to empower you to be wise with the soil of your own heart, keeping it broken up and prepared for His harvest.

He is faithful.

Dorothy

 

© 2017, Dorothy Frick

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