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The Rocky Soil

The-SowerYou can hear the audio lesson at this link.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus illustrates 4 different types of hearts that people have when it comes to the Word of God. While the Good soil is the one that we all want to be like, we have to understand the other soils and make adjustments so that we either stop being those soils or so that we do not become those soils.

The Rocky soil is a unique and sometimes hidden soil. The issue with this one is that the roots of faith are not deep enough to sustain it during hard or difficult times. Sometimes they are not deep enough to sustain it even in the face of POTENTIAL hard times. However, until those hard times come, it may not manifest itself.

Luke 8:13 ESV  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

A.K.A.  The “As long as it is easy.” soil

Israel faced this problem. When Moses was sent back to deliver Israel by God, Israel rejoiced. They saw the signs that God had given and praised and worshiped God. They were probably thinking “Pharaoh just has to let us go…these signs will convince him that God is God!” And, of course, Pharaoh, not only didn’t let them go, but made their work even harder.  Rather than turning to God for support, they turned on God and complained. (Exodus 4:29-5:21)

Later, after crossing the Red Sea, Israel did another about face. At first they were rejoicing that God delivered them. Then that joy turned to complaining a few days later because they found water that was bitter and undrinkable. Now they were convinced they had been brought out there to die! (Exodus 14:31-15:4ff)

Many other examples can be seen in the next couple of years with manna, quail and other problems but the last straw was just before they were to go into the land of Canaan. (Read Number 13 and 14.) Here Israel was persuaded by the 10 spies that the land, which was flowing with milk and honey, would be a terrible land because the inhabitants were more powerful. And so, the congregation decided it was better to go back to Egypt and were ready to stone Moses. God, on the other hand, had had enough. Ten times the children of Israel had tested Him and He decided that they would NOT go into the promised land until that generation died off. They were to wander 40 years.

As you might imagine the people did not like that. They probably looked at the 40 years wandering on one hand and the giants in the land on the other hand and decided that fighting would be the easiest route to go. They presented themselves to Moses ready to do battle early the next morning and in spite of Moses’ warning that God was not with them, they still went to battle…and, of course, lost.

Israel shows us that Faith does exist which is allergic to conflict and problems. Unfortunately, God’s words and commands often bring conflicts. Mark’s  account of the sower reads this way:

Mark 4:17 ESV  And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Put another way: If it easy we believe, if it is difficult we leave.

What can be done?

This soils needs some special attention and help. It is important to realize that sometimes nothing CAN be done. Sometimes people fall away and they just will not listen. In cases like this, waiting and, in most cases, praying are about the best we can do as we wait until the prodigal comes to his senses. Other times, however, we need to pursue the fallen away brother. We need to look for the lost sheep or lost coin and do what we can to recover them.

Warnings can help!

A good warning ahead of the problem can be a good start. It can prepare us so we are not surprised when it happens. We need to let our fellow Christians know that Satan is not some little friendly guy in a red suit. He is like a roaring lion looking for his next meal. We are not fighting flesh and blood in this life but the spiritual forces of evil. To this end, we need to know that persecution and tribulation and trials/testings of our faith WILL come. Not might. Not maybe. WILL!

2 Timothy 3:12 ESV  Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  (7)  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

James 1:2-4 ESV  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  (3)  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (4)  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Not only do these trials prove our faith they IM-prove our faith. Our faith grows in the midst of these trials and…God’s name is glorified. While discipline and training are never pleasant (Hebrews 12:3-15), they are necessary components of becoming a productive and functional part of society…whether physically speaking or spiritually speaking.

How can we avoid being the Rocky Soil?

We need good deep roots. When you see a tree planted by the waters, you know that its roots are going to run deep. This is the image the first psalm provides and that tree is the person who delights in God’s word.

Psalms 1:1-3 ESV  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  (2)  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  (3)  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

We also need to put on the armor of God. This armor will help us in the inevitable battles we face.

Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  (11)  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  (12)  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (13)  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Perhaps with the proper training and warnings, the rocky soil will change into the good soil. However, it is important that we do realize that we all have rocks to trip over and we should never consider ourselves above stumbling.

Galatians 6:1 ESV  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

What other characteristics do you notice in the rocky soil? Again, you can listen to the 30 minute sermon here.

 

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3 things we can learn from Genesis 6

In Genesis chapter 6, we are introduced to Noah and the promised flood to come. As always, there are many things that we can learn from this chapter but we are going to look at three today. Please comment below with the things in that chapter that stand out for you.

God’s people and the World’s people don’t mix.

It has been said that if you put a boat in the water, it works perfectly. But, if you put the water in the boat, you have a problem.

In this passage, the Sons of God are not just finding the daughters of man attractive but they are taking them as wives and producing children. When those that are righteous allow those who are not righteous to have such an influence on their children (as all mothers do), it should be no surprise when in a short period of time that the wickedness grows. It grows so much that scripture says ‘that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (verse 5).

That is a lot of evil thinking among people who live to be 600 to 900 years old.

Why is it that the Sons of God wanted the daughters of man? Verse two says that they were attractive. I don’t think that this is to say that the daughters of God were unattractive but I imagine that the daughters of man were more willing to emphasize their feminine characteristics, perhaps with braiding of hair, gold or attire, the very thing that woman who seek to please God will DE-emphasize according to Peter.

1Pe 3:3 ESV  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—

There is little doubt that a worldly woman will more often than not turn a godly man from service to God. Even a wise man like Solomon fell to this trap.

1Ki 11:4 ESV  For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

The good news is that a godly woman can turn hearts to God and build up the strength of those already serving God. Sons of God should look for wives among others who will follow God with their whole heart and be more like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31. While there are exceptions (Rahab and Ruth stand out here) most of the time that worthy woman is going to found among the Daughters of God.

Noah found favor in God’s sight-Noah walked with God.

Just like his great grandfather, Enoch, Noah walked with God. Verse 9 tells us that he was a righteous man and blameless in his generation, that he walked with God. These three things are key to why Noah found favor in God’s sight.  When the world is finally destroyed, who will be the ones who are saved? It will be those who walk with God. Those who are righteous. We, of course, will not stand in our own righteousness but rather the righteousness of Christ.

Php 3:9 ESV  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Noah did not stand in his own righteousness either, but his faith, just like all who walk with God, will be counted as righteousness through Jesus Christ.

Noah did all that God commanded.

The book of Hebrews tells us that by Faith Noah took God’s warning seriously and built that ark. Faith is used in Hebrews 11, as it generally is, of trusting obedience. Noah believed and trusted God and then obeyed what God told him to do. We don’t know what kind of wood Gopher wood was but assuming it was Cedar wood, then Noah did not build the ark out of Elm or Pine….He built it to the given dimensions and also with the right number of doors (one) and windows (one) and gathered the animals God sent him.

He did all that God commanded him. When we do things by faith we do them the way God tells us to, not the way we want to or His way if it is convenient for us.

There are many points to make from Genesis 6. What other lessons have you found in this chapter that warns of the flood to come?

Do you still have no faith?

do-you-still-have-no-faith-autosavedWhen confronted with a tempestuous sea, the disciples, fearing for their life awoke Jesus with the question: “Do you not care that we perish?” He awoke and rebuked the winds and asked a question of them. “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-41)  It seems that Jesus was as astonished at their lack of faith as they were at his power to calm the winds and the sea.

The sermon around this question can be heard at this link. However, the main points of yesterday’s lesson start off with the recognition that His disciples had experienced some amazing things with Jesus before getting into the boat in Mark 4. Jesus had healed a lame man and Peter’s mother-in-law, cleansed a leper, and restored the withered hand of a man to normal. He had confronted the Pharisees, taught the people, explained parables to the disciples and basically, just from Mark’s account alone, provided ample reason why the disciples in the midst of that storm should not have been lacking faith.

What is Faith?

In today’s common use of the word, it is little more than “hopium”. Hopium is a made up word that means you want something to be the case without having any evidence for it to be the way you want it. Sometimes you want something IN SPITE of the evidence that it can’t or won’t be that way.

I have heard people tell someone “you just have to have faith” in situations where you realize that businesses will need to close, people are going to die, or tragedy is not going to be averted. This is a legitimate use of the word in today’s usage but it often gets confused with “God will make it work out”

This is NOT the way the Bible uses the word faith and, in fact, from Hebrews 11:1 comes a near definition of faith: It “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is the “assurance” that is lacking in hopium.

Faith is a belief that leads to an action based on that belief.

Jesus had faith

Why was Jesus not concerned about the storm as He slept on the cushion in the boat? Because of the Word of God.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psa 91:11-12)

His mission was needful for the salvation of mankind and He would not perish in a freak accident. His destiny was to die on Calvary’s cross. If you know that you will not perish, then the fear goes away.

The disciples did not seem to have such confidence. Even in awakening Jesus, there does not seem to be any pleading on their part to save them. No, it seems they are only astonished that He can sleep through such a storm. When Jesus asks them “if they still have no faith” perhaps he was wanting them to have faith as shown by the centurion in Luke 7.  (Luke 7 actually happens before the events in Mark 4 so the disciples would have known of this case too!)

Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant….And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. (Luk 7:2-10 edit and emphasis mine)

This Centurion has simply heard about Jesus and, based on these reports, sent to ask for his servant to be healed. Such faith Jesus marveled at.

This is the type of faith that Jesus was looking for in His disciples. Had they come to Him saying “Lord, we have seen you heal the sick and lame and cast out demons, we believe that you can save us from this certain death”….the Question would never have been asked!

There are two things that we can take away from this passage.

One, the disciples who actually spent 3 1/2 years with Jesus had some real difficulties developing faith in Jesus so perhaps we have a little hope, those of us, who were not so blessed to spend time with Him, as we struggle to develop our faith. Still, we don’t want to be found without faith so that brings us to point two.

Two, we need to let our faith grow. Faith starts with hearing God’s word. Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” and from there we begin to let our faith grow.

Passages like the following show a process of growth. The word is our milk but it is also our meat and we can grow to understand it better and as we do, our faith, exercised allows us to see and act properly towards what is good and evil.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1Pe 2:2-3)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:12-14)

Faith requires action.

It cannot exist without it. Well, not the way the Bible uses it, at least. Faith without works is dead! (James 2:17) It is, put another way, Trusting Obedience. You trust and you obey. You believe and you act.

Do you still have no faith?

When you face questions like: Should I read  my Bible?; Should I be honest with other people?; Should I tell a little white lie?; Should I complain and gossip?  The Word of God will give you the answer but only your actions will show if you have faith. If you act appropriately, then you have faith. If you do not, then you do not have faith. Pretty simple.

Jesus wanted to know where their faith was? That is a good question for us to ask ourselves today. Do you still lack faith?

 

Doubting God

So many people live a life of doubting God. They doubt He exists. They doubt He acts. They doubt He cares. They doubt He will punish the ungodly. There are many more things in which people express doubts about God.doubting God

To the Christian however, there is no doubt that He exists and it is not a blind faith that they rely on. They do not doubt that He acts because they know that not only can and does God act, He does it in His time…not man’s. They do not doubt that He cares because God’s Son died for us to show that God loves us and God continues to walk with us showing that He does indeed care. They do not doubt He will punish the ungodly and those who do not obey the Gospel so not only do they strive to live a godly life but they warn those that they can.

When you doubt God, you doubt the one being who is able to help your life be better. The sermon this morning dealt with this topic. You can listen to it here.

Living by faith-Being a good hearer

If Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), then it follows that we want to give everyone a chance to hear the word of God so that faith has an opportunity to develop.

However, the Bible tells us that there are different types of hearers: those who are hard of hearing, dull of hearing, having itching ears, and those who hear with a good and honest heart.

Sunday’s sermon discusses these different types of hearers and offers some suggestions on how to be a better hearer/listener. You can listen to the sermon online by clicking this link.

Living by Faith-Believing God’s promises

Of the many great things we can reflect on about Abraham’s life, his faith in God’s promises is an important one.

Living by faith involves believing what God says will happen. Sometimes, we don’t want to believe the promises and other times, we want to see promises which God never made.. Both are a problem.

Knowing the word of God will help us trust God’s promises. One or two examples will help illustrate.

God promised Abraham a son. That is God’s word. Sarah thought, perhaps, that God might need some help with that promise and so gave Abraham another wife, Hagar. That was not part of God’s promise. It caused more problems

Other times, we think we are acting on faith when God has given us no promise. If we refuse to bow down to an idol and God delivers us (cf Dan 3), the faith is NOT that God will deliver us from a fiery furnace but that God CAN DO SO if He chooses. Our Faith is in God’s word that says “Thou shalt not worship any idols” and previous statements that show God’s ability to deliver the righteous from the unrighteous. The subsequent obedience to God’s command to not worship an idol….now THAT is faith.

Perhaps I could use a modern day example. So many times in today’s sports, you will hear star players occasionally state that they had faith in God that they would win. If God had sent them a messenger and told them that they would win then such would be a true statement. But barring that, it is not true. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17) They surely had a desire but no assurance or evidence from God (Heb 11:1) that they WOULD win. Now playing a game in faith would involve being a good sportsman, playing by the rules, competing lawfully, etc and all of those actions are found in God’s word. One can play in faith and please God and yet not know that they will win-in fact, sometimes they lose.

We need to walk by faith in God’s promises. Let’s just be sure that we know what the actual promise is.

This sermon was presented on February 7th and you can listen to it here.

Living by faith-choose and refuse

In last Sunday’s morning lesson we continued our series on living by faith or walking by faith by looking at the sacrifices Moses made in choosing God.

Anyone who chooses to serve God is going to have give up something and may wind up suffering because of it. The problem is that we are often willing serve God as long as it doesn’t cost us anything….or at least not much of anything.

Are you one who will choose and refuse?  Choose God and His people, refuse the offers of Satan.

You can listen to the sermon by clicking this link.

Living by Faith-Heeding God’s warnings

As we live our life by faith, we need to recognize that part of that life involves listening to God’s warnings! Noah did and we can too.

Noah is our example of Listening to God’s warnings in our life of faith. Imagine building an ark to prepare for something that you had never seen and imagine the reactions of your neighbors.

God does not warn us to stay away from things because he doesn’t want us to have fun, He does it because He wants what is best for us. Will you listen to God’s warnings?

Which of God’s many warnings do you think is most important?

You can listen to last Sunday’s sermon on this topic here.

Living by Faith

And without Faith, it is impossible to please Him. Heb 11:6

What does it mean to live by faith? Are there examples of others living by faith which we can learn from? Of course there are! Tons!

Our afternoon lesson begins a series entitled “Living by Faith” and, after this introduction lesson will look the lives of some who we consider to be examples of “living by faith”

You can listen to the lesson here

What is Gossip?

gossipWhile many questions are hard to answer, this one I think is particularly hard. Because no one LIKES Gossip and no one wants to be guilty of it either.

This post is not to try and tell you what gossip is, the purpose is to ASK what gossip is. I want your definition. When you read this, please take a moment and jot down a comment, even if it is half a thought.   I am going to be preaching a sermon (or two) on gossip and want to see what others think about it.

Let me start with this: In First Corinthians, Paul starts off telling the Corinthians that he has heard bad things about them and he names Chloe’s house as the source of that information. Question: Why was that not gossip?

No, I am not accusing Paul of gossip. I am convinced that it was not and have my thoughts on why but would like yours.

Lord willing, in a few weeks, I will have a lesson together and yes, I will share! 🙂

Thanks in advance for any comments left here or on Facebook.

 

 

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