Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mark 4:24-25 - More To Those Who Have

Mark 4:24-25
24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

Message: More To Those Who Have

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

I have noticed in the reading of Mark that the discipline or activity of 'hearing' is being mentioned often. In this chapter of the parable of the sower, each surface heard, but only one accepted. In order to accept, one must hear. In verse 24 is the admonition to take care what you listen to. It is important to be concerned about what we hear. The tongue is a sword as Paul and James and the Psalter mention often. It has a way of speaking that can be encouraging as well as encouraging so I need to be careful what I listen to. That can be hard. In my work place, this is tough as I am often privy in various settings to unwholesome talk or talk that is not edifying. As is mentioned by Jesus what is important is "ears to hear." I think this is his way of emphasizing that our ears are perked up and we are listening in order to make a response.

In regards to hearing the response obviously it was is of most importance. The good soil heard and accepted the seed and in return it multiplied the fruit. How often do I sit in church or listen to a message and walk away unchanged. Over the years, I think adding a prayer and promise to each of these writings is my way to conclude and in the prayer it is sometimes a call to action. I don't want to simply invest in education as I read God's Word, but I want to be in training constantly for application.

The phrase that Jesus uses is By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. In this country in which I live the access to God's word is so easy and so accessible. Thus, my sense is I have a greater accountability to its reading and application in my life because of how accessible it is versus a person living in a country that does not even have the Word of God written in their own language or maybe a Christian that is new to the faith. The longer I am a Christian, the more I will be measured on my faithfulness.

I think of this often. I think of the first 1000 years of the time after Christ (AD) and how many did not have access to the Bible as it was only read in church and thus application was somewhat basic and primitive, but as technology has increased people have greater responsibility for its use. Thus, it will be measured to you based upon your standard of measure. I think this is what the passage is referencing.

But I think it also speaks of how willing we are to submit to his Word. For whoever has, to him more shall be given. We acquire more by the way in which we listen. I've noticed that over the years my sinfulness is more apparent. Some think I am faithful but I can only often see how unholy I am before God. We often read a prayer in church on Sunday mornings as a confession. I appreciate that because it reminds me that I am a sinner. So, I have greater responsibility to God's word now and I should have understanding to those that receive it in a different manner. Many people are at different stages in their walk and I must remember to be sensitive to this.

But if we don't respond then He may not continue to bless us: and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. This is a sobering truth. When we are in a life behavior of not responding then how can we conversely expect the Lord to continue to lavish us with gifts.

Promise: From TableTalk: God blesses us with the light of the revelation of His kingdom not so that we can be indifferent to it but so that we will respond to it in faith. However, He will not offer the kingdom to us forever. If we do not trust and follow Him today, we may not get the chance to do so tomorrow. Our goal should be immediate trust and obedience, but as only God can grant that, so let us pray for His Spirit to give us that gift.

Prayer: Lord, I am responsible. You have shown me, for your truth and your message to me. You give me the strength each day to live and live to the best of Your ability. Lord, forgive me for often taking a different road, but I want to live for you always and hear you say, "Well done." Help me to be sensitive to those around me and be the man of God you have called me to be. You are great. Thank you for giving me Your Spirit to live in me and lead and equip me to be great as well.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mark 4:21-23 - Secrets Made Manifest

Mark 4:21-23
21 And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Message: Secrets Made Manifest

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Following the explanation of the parable of the sower, Mark provides words from Jesus that emphasize the seed (the Word) that the sower drops. He calls to mention the Lamp and in Psalm 119:105 it says Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet. Jesus here remarks on the purpose of the lamp - Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? It's purpose is to light our way. It is placed in our life and meant to light our way throughout each day. The sun provides us light during the day, the lamp during the night, thus we have a light with us all day. A lamp is brought to us. The Word of God has been carried to us, passed on through generations and has a valuable place in our lives.

As Jesus did in the parable of the sower, he presents the sower, but doesn't name the sower. And here in these verses he also doesn't name any person specifically but instead makes a general statement and then concludes with if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. That last statement seems to mean that this is a statement that is meant for all people. It doesn't just explain Jesus' mission on earth.

This is second time he mentions the phrase he who has ears, let him hear. As I remarked previously, some peoples ears are there to respond, to defend, to correct, but here Jesus says specifically some ears are there to hear.

Verse 22 is a verse that has been dissected over the years and taking a very full meaning. It says For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. I believe I have heard the JW's and other sects teach that this means we are to understand every tit and tattle, every word of our Bible and they have worked to do this. But Solomon said that everything is appropriate in its own time and I think there are times and seasons for the understanding of God's word. As Jesus speaks of the lamp shining our way I think this verse speaks to the fact that God's word has application to every area of our life. We often will say, "The Bible doesn't speak on that subject" and yet I think that is wrong. Everything has something that will come to light through the reading of the Word. The Word can be trusted.

And also the Word of God is not meant for just a few, but for all. It is not to be a secret book for certain people, but application for all of our lives. I think there is a reason the 10 commandments were put up before our courts at the beginning of our country - because they realized that even with the separation of Church and State, the Word of God, it's commandments have application to every human person. The breakdown of society is intensified as those commandments are ignored.

We can also be thankful for the way in which the Word of God has been translated throughout our globe, often by Wycliffe Bible Translators, into so many different languages, because it is to be revealed to all people. It is not a secret to certain groups. But the rich help the poor and give them greater understanding. How exciting to see that the Word of God continues to have an impact on people's lives.

Promise: Jesus is the lamp that has entered the world in order to preach the gospel and provide illumination to the people - everywhere.

Prayer: Lord, help me to never think that I have graduated from the reading of Your Word. There is always something new to behold. Thank you for the way in which your Holy Spirit speaks through the Word and provides Christian authors insight concerning it. I want to always be a tutor of Your Word.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mark 4:18-20 - The Thorns and the Harvest

Mark 4:18-20
18 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

Message: The Thorns and the Harvest

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

Now I look at the next 2 surfaces:
3. Among the thorns
these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
4. The Good Soil
they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.

3. The second surface received a temporary message and then when hard times came, the message faded from their lives. Here, the distraction is in the form of the worries and pressures of the world. In addition, there is the quest for riches above all and the overall desire for other things to the point that it is unfruitful.

I remember a friend making a comment once that he went to church, followed the Lord, but good things didn't happen to him. He didn't get the Christian wife, he didn't get the good job, religion didn't merit the results he had in mind. And he sort of punted the faith. We live in such a world of comparison where our eyes are constantly viewing what our friends have, our other family members, and we often get distracted. I get distracted. I have been provided everything I need and yet, all too often, I act like it isn't enough. Because others have something I think I must have it. Money isn't the key to happiness, but it sure is nice to have plenty of it. There is that deceitfulness of having lots, of riches. Do my desires for other things prevent me sometimes from seeking God and His word and telling others about him? Do I ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit because I am more concerned about other things?

The temptations of the world are compelling. They are most attractive. I am often thinking of my correspondence with James Lumbuku in Tororo Uganda. His life is about survival, working hard, and ministry. They have a simple goal often and that is to not go hungry and yet they often have long periods of starvation (months). They live in a hot climate and yet they are farmers, again, for the purpose of survival. I just checked and on this January 14, 2018 day it is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There crops are basic - corn, potatoes. Perhaps these two items can somewhat make it in the heat. He has real struggles and yet he is so focused on ministry. He is a pastor, a shepherd of his flock, so that would make sense. As I listen to his stories, I am at times compelled to give him money. He desires to get his children through school. One of his children is a Compassion funded child. While they struggle for survival, they are rich in love and mercy toward one another and the temptations of the world don't even seem plausible.

4. They hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. Something different has happened now - these hear the word and accept it. The turning point is acceptance. They receive it into their lives and make it a part of themselves. By accepting it, something happens, they bear fruit. It is automatic, it happens. If the plant is watered appropriately and receives the nourishment it needs, there is no more effort, but waiting to see the fruit. This last surface is rather simple, actually.

Promise: The result from the word landing on good soil and being received is a harvest. None of us can anticipate the size of the harvest that will be produced, but a harvest will come. We may not even see the result in our lifetime. But, fruit is inevitable. It will come.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the clarity of your message. Thank you for calling people to yourself. It is thrilling to see the harvest take place and the way it does multiply. Continue to change hearts and uproot soil so that many more can come to accept your truths.




Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mark 4:13-17 - The Path and Rocky Soil

Mark 4:13-17
13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

Message: The Path and Rocky Soil

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

This chapter is interesting. I already see a consistent message in this parable of the sower and that is that God chooses and calls people to himself. There seem to be more that do not respond than respond. In the parable there are 4 surfaces, but only 1 with good soil. The other 3 are beside the road, on rocky ground, among thorns.

It reminds me of the ministry of apologetic's that has grown very strong over the last several years. It is a ministry I think that has always been present, but perhaps more well defined today. However, at times I have struggled to understand its purpose. I say that because as I now study these 4 surfaces in which the seed (the gospel) is being dropped, while there are characteristics of these surfaces I have often thought that apologetic's is helping to change 3 of those services to the fourth, the good soil. And based upon my experience, that process is not easy. It requires a lot of work. It seems similar to my desire to change the grass in my backyard that is Bermuda to Fescue grass. That is a process that will not come easily. I will have to uproot all of it, not just the grass, but the soil and roots underneath what I see. Thus, as I talk to people and use apologetic's, I notice a similar process. It is difficult and uprooting something or someone that already thinks they are healthy and growing is a difficult process. Convincing them that the Fescue grass seed is better is not easy. In fact, I can't convince them, but instead it takes an agent outside (of both types of grasses) of both persons to intercede. That agent is God. God changes hearts, not man.

I am reminded of a book I was reading called Christ-Centered Apologetics by Joel Furches in which he states that the chief audience for apologetic's is not the multitude, but rather the followers. Apologetic's can and should be studied, for the purpose of confirming God's truth to His followers. Yes, it can be part of our toolbox when talking to people that we consult, but that is not its chief aim in studying.

Picking up this passage, verse 13 says And He said to them. I believe 'them' is the same as His followers in verse 10. He is addressing His followers. This is a message to them first for they have been given the mystery (v. 11). Then He says - Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? This is interesting. Jesus is saying that understanding this parable is key to understanding all the parables he will offer. And he says Verse 14 - the sower sows the word so immediately we know that the seed is the Word of God. It is his message to all.

Today's passage looks at 2 surfaces:
1. The path beside the road
These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.
2. The rocky soil
These are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

As I read this, I am immediately thankful that Jesus is telling us about all of the different sources and he is telling us what happens to the seed, the word, when it falls on those surfaces. We are called to preach and the reality is different soils we receive the message differently. I don't know why, but that message is startling to me, somehow in a new way. Almost, as if God does not want us to ever get discouraged because he wants us to understand that outcomes are never our responsibility. Obviously, it is normal for me to take training classes and improve on my delivery because I want to do my role as a speaker in the best way that I know. However, this preparation and training is not so that more will be saved. As my boss at the City said a number of years ago in describing the work that we do, "Focus on the presentation, not the result."

1. It is interesting the audience and the description of those beside the road. It resonates for I see these people often. The word is sown. The word is preached. They hear, but they immediately are taken away some place else. And they are lured away by Satan. The word was trying to take root in them for that is what the Word does, it takes root in us. That is its purpose, but they have been distracted. Who knows how long they are lured away. This doesn't appear to be a permanent luring away, but rather momentary is possible. The word will be sown again to them and perhaps at another time they won't be lured away.

2. For the seed that is sown on rocky places, these individuals receive it with joy. They like it. They could even make a decision for Christ. I think of Christian concerts when I was younger and the altar calls or revival services or crusades. Many received the message with joy, but often it was temporary. Something else that is interesting is Jesus says when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. Affliction and persecution arises because of the Word, because of the Gospel, because of the message. The gospel is not all about providing us good times and no problems. Rather, affliction and persecution are a necessary part of our growth. Yet, we are conditioned to think that affliction and persecution are contrary to God working in our life and what God wants of us. The problem here is not the affliction and persecution, but that when it hits, the person falls away. The person rejects the seed, the Word. The person no longer believes the message. What an amazing truth for our lives, for this time, when the world is telling us only "Let the good times roll."

Promise: True conversion is proven over time as people stand for Christ even under much suffering.

Prayer: Thank you again Jesus for saving me. Thank you Holy Spirit for speaking to me and calling me to be yours now and forever. Help me to be sensitive to people, continue to preach the word, even when it seems they are on shaky ground. You can change hearts at any time. Thank you for taking the time to explain these truths and giving me complete understanding so that I will not be discouraged.




Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mark 4:10-12 - The Purpose of Parables

Mark 4:10-12
10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”

Message: The Purpose of Parables

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

I loved that first message in Mark 4:1-9 and maybe its true that the Gospel of John doesn't have many teachings, but rather presents Jesus in all his wanderings and dealings with people, but I love texts about teaching and uncovering truths versus chit chat, but it is all good.

Here, he has just taught a large crowd, going out on a boat, possibly to project his voice better, possibly also because of the size of the crowd, but in this time has taken to share a parable. He will now speak of the purpose of the parable and then take time to explain it further.

As soon as he was alone - verse 10 begins with this, as if, once again, after speaking to a large group, Jesus desires to be alone, to take a moment and pray possibly, rest, go to the Father. This seems consistent, like in 1:35 it speaks of him going to a lonely place in the dark. In many of the texts, Jesus is going some place and then many come to him. Jesus has a mission and people are following him, going to him, rather than he looking for a crowd to speak to.

His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. This is interesting as we know there were 12 disciples/apostles called by Jesus and following him, but here there are also followers mentioned that seems different from the very great multitude mentioned in verse 1 that Jesus is speaking to. Thus, there is some sort of an inner circle that isn't just made up of the 12, but also includes others. While there is an inner group, there are others that simply keep following Jesus around. It is to these individuals that Jesus is speaking directly to and that are asking him about the parables.

And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”

First of all, to his followers and twelve, he says - to you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God. In other words, you have been given the unveiling of the gospel of truth and you have have been called. Also, Jesus is clearly speaking about 2 groups of people. The group that heard the parables was the 'great multitude' which is different from his 'followers and disciples.' I think he is explaining that those who seek after Him, who are not just there to listen and perhaps only seek a healing touch, to that group - his followers - they have been given access unto the mystery of the kingdom of God. The text says that the mystery has been given. Mystery seems also to be a way of saying the gospel or salvation or saving knowledge has been given. To have this knowledge of God and who He is obviously requires a passing down, a grafting in, of this knowledge by God to man.

But those who are outside get everything in parables. The KJV says but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Are the parables there to prick the ears of the crowd? Each set grouping -- the multitude and the followers -- receive the same message, but to the followers it is given, and to the multitude it is done or presented. I think this is a distinction. They obviously have a familiar reading to them, a story, and yet they also have a deeper meaning. As this one says, we need to seed on good soil. That has multiple applications to it, but for the followers of Christ, it has a more specific meaning.

Second, Jesus further clarifies the meaning of the parables. After he has put forth the audience of the parables, which is everyone, but perhaps more chiefly the great multitude that have come to Jesus for many different reasons - some true, some not -- Jesus now quotes from Isaiah, which is the most quoted book in the New Testament. The context of the quote is the calling of Isaiah and his commission. Here is the full text of Isaiah 6:8-10:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
This is a rather interesting passage that I heard preached last Sunday in service. The Lord calls Isaiah and Isaiah responds. And then the message that the Lord gives Isaiah to preach is perhaps a little shocking because the Lord lets Isaiah know that his ministry will not be met with a lot of positive response. At first it sounds sarcastic: the people will listen,  but not understand. Their ears will be dull from your preaching and their eyes dim. Otherwise they might see and hear and understand and be healed. I like Matthew Henry's comments on this passage:
God sends Isaiah to foretell the ruin of his people. Many hear the sound of God's word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it. But no humble inquirer after Christ, need to fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins. Let every one pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, that he may perceive how precious are the Divine mercies, by which alone we are secured against this dreadful danger. Yet the Lord would preserve a remnant, like the tenth, holy to him. And blessed be God, he still preserves his church; however professors or visible churches may be lopped off as unfruitful, the holy seed will shoot forth, from whom all the numerous branches of righteousness shall arise.
So bringing it back to this text, Jesus seems to acknowledge that many will be around him. They may see, but not perceive. They may hear, but not understand.

There is a sober reality that the preaching of the Word does not always merit converts. Man is born a natural man, with a sin nature and bent towards things not of God. Throughout life, the ruler of this world puts forth his message of tolerance, conformity, indoctrination, selfishness, always questioning the events of life, dissatisfied, that life is about complete freedom from trouble, danger, risk and each persons path is to live long with little trials, and that we each create our own destiny. These messages are everywhere in our world and they really contradict the message of God. Some will be given the mystery, but many will just hear messages.

Promise: God calls people to himself. Man is called to preach the gospel. Some will listen and receive. Some will just listen.

Prayer: Lord, how can it be that you have saved me. How can it be. Keep me humble and gentle toward others. Help me to have sympathy. Thank you for the wonderful treat it is to be able to experience the fullness of joy from reading your word and hearing you speak to me throughout my life. Life is full of meaning because you are in me, speaking, directing. Forgive me for ignoring you all too often. Forgive me for too often committing adultery and not choosing my marriage with You, but rather being a friend to the world. Lord, I am a sinner. There is no changing that here on earth. I have a sin nature. And I am a filthy rag. But, you are holy and you have chosen to live inside of me and take up residence and breath holiness in me. Lord, if I had it my way, all would know you. But, I am not here God to ask you 'why' as the clay does not ask the potter 'why have you made me this way.' But rather I am here to trust you and believe that your authority over me is right and true. To have the peace that I have is a wonderful thing. Once again, keep me humble. I thank you and praise you God.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jesus Calling: January 22

STRIVE TO TRUST ME in more and more areas of your life. Anything that tends to make you anxious is a growth opportunity. Instead of running away from these challenges, embrace them, eager to gain all the blessings I have hidden in the difficulties. If you believe that I am sovereign over every aspect of your life, it is possible to trust Me in all situations. Don't waste energy regretting the way things are or thinking about what might have been. Start at the present moment--accepting things exactly as they are--and search for My way in the midst of those circumstances.
     Trust is like a staff you can lean on, as you journey uphill with Me. If you are trusting in Me consistently, the staff will bear as much of your weight as needed. Lean on, trust, and be confident in Me with all your heart and mind. 
Psalm 52:8
English Standard Version
But I am like a green olive tree
    in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
    forever and ever.
Proverbs 3:5-6
Amplified Version

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,
And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].


My Prayer
Lord, so many times in my life you are there, simply saying "I got this." In turn, all that I need to do is trust You. You remind me to not worry, but instead pray about everything and you are teaching me that when I pray it is turning the control over to you. Why is it that prayer is too often the last thing I do when faced with a difficult situation? It's like I try to solve the problem my way and then when I can't, I say, "Well, I guess God is going to have to care of this." Lord, forgive me for putting you second or third or even last. I want to put you first, instead.

When I pray it is often simply asking to remove something in my life making me anxious, and yet you remind me that these are the instances when I often grow the most and even experience great blessings. My problem Lord, I admit, is that I don't trust you in every aspect of my life; too often, it is me that is saying "I got this." But, yes, it is possible to trust You in all situations.

Yet Lord, as Daniel Amos sang, don't let me take only trip down memory lane. Instead, I can start afresh and anew each day. I can pray, "Thank you for a new day." I can begin again. I can start at the present moment.

I really do want to trust in You Lord with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I want to acknowledge You for the promise is real that you will remove obstacles in my life as I do and keep me on a straight path.


Note: The devotion and scriptures are from author Sarah Young. If you haven't already, please purchase the book and support the author. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Mark 4:1-9 - The Parable of the Sower

Mark 4:1-9
He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2 And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” 9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Message: The Parable of the Sower; Why we should not ask "Why"

Time: Mark's personal connection with Peter gave him the source material for this book. This book was composed probably between AD 57 and AD 59. It's a book that is on the move, leading to the cross. 39 times is the word 'immediately' used. Mark reveals Jesus as God's servant, reaching into the lives of people and effecting physical and circumstantial change.

What the Lord is Saying:

He began to teach again - This is the ministry focus that I think Mark wants to communicate to us, I believe, is the key to Jesus and his time on earth. After getting baptized, this was the first thing that Mark mentioned as Jesus went into the synagogue, teaching. And Mark continues to show us that Jesus was radical and controversial to the teachers of the synagogues, had many followers, some of who just wanted to be healed, but Jesus really wants people to take hold of the message he has. And yet, through the first 3 chapters not so much has been really said, other than repent and believe. Forgiveness of sins, His authority over everything, and His mission have been shared, but perhaps now here is a message, through a parable, to convey to a very large crowd gathered to Him. 

I wonder if Mark is wanting us to hear the messages of Jesus, but also let us see how Jesus relates to people. While his mission of teaching repentance and believing is His mission, we walk with Jesus through those messages, between them, and get to see him relating as well to people as they come along.

This parable seems rather easy in its prose. Here is a sower who has the purpose of growth. The sower is dropping seed and it ends up in 4 places: (1) Beside the road, (2) on rocky ground, (3) among thorns, and (4) into the good soil.
(1) as it fell beside the road, it simply became bird seed and that's it, nothing else is said about that.
(2) as it fell on rocky ground, we see that, almost like a weed, it sprang up; so it looked good from the ground up, but when the sun came out it got scorched because it had no root.
(3) as it fell among thorns, it did grow, but the thorns kept it from producing fruit (perhaps unequally yoked (2 Cor 6:14)).
(4) as it fell into the good soil, it grew, it increased and it yielded not just fruit, but an abundance, multiplying. 
Today, I will simply provide a basic commentary on this because Jesus is going to explain this parable more fully later in the chapter.

It's interesting that Jesus uses the parable to show us the danger or the result of different ways seed is dropped, perhaps different audiences to whom he is speaking. He doesn't simply give us the optimal place to drop seed, the good soil, but takes the time to explain the other ways it gets dropped. It happens. As the seed goes forth, it hits different surfaces. And we have seen this so far. He has been teaching, but the scribes and Pharisees receive it one way, followers desiring to be healed receive it another way, disciples one way, and then others who are there to listen to the message. But the point is the seed is received in different ways. And the ground will determine its growth. The seed is a nutrient, but what is key, is the ground. Has the ground been prepared? I Corinthians 3:6 - I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

Thus, his conclusion to the parable is apt - He who has ears to hear, let him hear. We have all been given ears, but those ears have different meanings to different people. Some peoples ears are there to respond, to defend, to correct, but here Jesus says specifically some ears are there to hear.

There is truth in this message and in some ways, this truth is unsettling. There is a principle I've noticed in my life about people and how they often respond to life's events. It is generally with this question - "Why?" For me, it speaks to the first sin of the Bible. After God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree in the garden except for one, the serpent comes on the scene and I believe says to Eve, "Why?" God has given Adam and Eve an abundance, and yet the serpent expresses to Eve, but "Why not that tree?" What was God's purpose? For Adam and Eve to trust him. He wanted them to trust him, so that they could see they have everything they need.

This question has invaded our lives. Often the question is "Why do bad things happen to good people?" "Why did that person die?" "Why did so and so suffer?" "Why did I get sick?" "Why did I get paralyzed?" -- unfortunately the "why" question is everywhere in our society today and it is being asked to a greater degree, to the point that people are now abandoning God because they can't get an answer. My thinking is there is no answer needed because I don't need to ask the question. I could. I could say "Why do my kids not live in big mansions already?" "Why did my youngest child pick up smoking weed at the age 14 and now over 2 years later still have the habit?" "Why did my only daughter already get married and leave home?" "Why did I get that kidney stone last night?" "Why did my mom get lung cancer when she never smoked?" -- the Why question could be asked in my life in many ways and at many times, but I actually believe it is a question that should not be asked. It's not a God question. It's a serpent or Satan question. Accept the parable and realize the key is that there is good soil. So, put forth seed, sow, and let God take care of the outcome.

Promise: God gives hearts to believe. There is good soil, yet often there is more soil out there that is not good. But, it don't matter, speak and let him take care of the outcome.

Prayer: Thank You God for this message, that is simple in its delivery and application, but I admit, hard at times for me to accept because of all of the numerous voices in the world. Just as in the parable, the side of the road, rocky road, and thorns are more than the good soil. So, the voices of the world are great. But, keep me centered on you and trusting in you and believing in you. Your way is not simply the best way, but rather it is the only way. You are the Way, the Truth, the Life. That's it. Lord, I need more faith each day to trust you. Thank you for giving me life. I don't deserve it and never let me see myself as greater than anyone else. The one who is greater is You. So keep me praising You all my days. This is my desire.