Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shopping for Rings

Today was errand day, and I had a long list. In one of the stores, I passed the jewelry counter and noticed a young couple looking at rings. As I watched, the young man pointed to a ring, which the smiling sales clerk quickly brought out. When she reached out to place it on the bride-to-be's ring finger, the girl's eyes were as big as saucers. She looked up at the soon-to-be groom, who was smiling like crazy, and started shaking her head no. "It's too much," I saw her say. Her beaming young man laughed and gave her a little hug. He was smiling and shaking his head, "No, it's not too much. It's just right," he said. It was a beautifully intimate moment, and I quickly moved past.  

There was something unutterably sweet about that young man lavishing his love on his bride, and I've thought about it all afternoon. When I saw him say, "No, it's not too much," I thought, "That's exactly what Jesus said!" He looked at His struggling bride-to-be, the disciples that would become the church, that night in the garden, and though it was a hard fought battle, He emerged ready to do what must be done. He lavished His love on His bride and poured out His own blood to redeem her. 

More than two thousand years later, I'm afraid we've forgotten what our redemption cost Him. We should be the ones shaking our heads, saying, "No! It's too much!" We should be weeping in sorrow at the price He paid, overwhelmed with love for the gift He gave. But are we? 

This evening, spend some time considering the imponderable, inconceivable grace our bridegroom has bestowed upon us, and live, and love Him, accordingly. 

It was too much, but He did anyway, because He loved His bride. 

Good Soil: Part 4 (Luke 8:8,15)

And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:8, 15 KJV

The fruitful, good soil of the heart is much more than simply being a nice person. It is even more than being pure in heart. The good soil of the heart is only possible because of the work of the Word of God in that heart. The word translated "having heard" is akouō and indicates hearing with your ears and your heart. It indicates both hearing and understanding. 

It is not enough to simply read Scripture, or even to memorize a mountain of verses. Knowing what the Bible says is of limited value if you do not understand what it means. This "good soil" heart, however, goes further than just understanding in general. The one who is fruitful also understands what is meant in terms of his/her own life. 

It is one thing to understand that "fret not" indicates we should not worry and fret about troubles. It is another thing entirely to read those words and understand that you personally are to stop dwelling on and agonizing about a specific situation, and to know with certainty that those words are meant for you. When we "akouō", the Scripture becomes real to us, the literal Word of God for us personally. 

Hearing and understanding bring us to another critical point. Keeping it. The original word is katechō and does not at all mean we understand the Word and keep it to ourselves. Katechō means that we seize the truth we understand and hang on to it for dear life, just as a drowning man clings to a life preserver. It means we do more than hear, more than understand, more than recognize its truth in our lives. It means we embrace the truth and obey that truth, even when it is difficult. 

Is that how we approach Scripture? Do we read the Word of God to understand what it means and how it applies to our lives? Do we read it with the intention of not just understanding but also obeying?  

Pray today that we and our loved ones would have an akouō heart that understands and a katechō will that obeys. 
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Friday, July 4, 2014

The Good Soil: Part Three (Luke 8:8,15)

And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:8, 15 KJV

There is an interesting point in the translation of this verse from the original. The word translated as "good" when used to describe the ground is kalos, the same word used to describe the "honest" heart. The word translated as "good" when describing the heart is agathos. It indicates the goodness of God but it is also translated as "kind" and indicates a heart that is not just morally correct, but unfailingly kind. 

This does not mean one who exhibits kindness toward family and fellow believers only. This kindness is displayed toward everyone.  This good heart demonstrates kindness toward its worst enemy and towards the one who is enmeshed in the worst sin imaginable. 

This little word, agathos, is also used sometimes in another way. It can be used to mean "happy" or "joyful". Can you see that this is one of those pivotal phrases that is so often neglected in the church today?

Fruitfulness is a product of seed that lands in good soil. For the disciple of Christ, that "good" soil of the heart is not only beautifully pure of heart and life, but unfailingly kind to everyone. This incredibly kind heart will be blessed with overwhelming joy as well! 

To be sure we understand this, let's take a look at unfailing kindness once more. This is kindness when we don't want to be kind, kindness to those society has cast away, and kindness to those organized religion might shun. 

The question of either/or is completely eliminated by the little word kai, translated "and". It means "and" or "also".  That beautiful purity of heart does not exist alone. For it to be a part of the "good soil" of the heart, purity always co-exists with unfailing kindness and joy. 

As we examine our own hearts today, consider whether we have the "good soil" in our hearts. Are we both pure of heart and unfailingly kind? The two traits together are not optional for disciples. 

Pray today for a heart that is so beautifully pure that it is manifested as unfailing kindness to all and accompanied by overwhelming joy. 
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Declaration of War

This post was written 10/8/2001 and was published on a "prayer web" that I wrote and shared in the days before blogs were invented.  I thought you might find it interesting.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
                                                                                                       Ephesians 6:12 nasb

Ryan and I had just gotten home from church when my neighbor, Sam Wiley, stopped by.  "They said at the store that we had declared war and were bombing Afghanistan," he said.  "Did you hear about it?"  "Declared war? I thought we were already at war," I replied.

As I thought about that part of our conversation later, I realized we were both right.  It IS war, and it WAS declared more than two thousand years ago.  Our battle, however, is not with Osama bin Laden, though he is the obvious target.  The one who has threatened our liberty and stolen life and peace is the same one who tried to defeat Christ at the cross more than twenty centuries ago.  It is the same enemy who defeated Adam and Eve in the garden.  

As believers, we are all soldiers in the battle for the hearts of humanity.  Now, more than ever.  Commit to remain faithful to our Commander-in-Chief in the skirmishes you encounter today.  We have to make it through the battles but, praise God, the victory has already been won!

The Good Soil: part two (Luke 8:8,15)

And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:8, 15 KJV)

The good soil represents the kind of heart we want to have, so a closer look is in order. The first description of the "good soil" kind of heart is that it is "honest and good". The word translated as "honest" is kalos, and is can also be translated as fair, excellent, or honorable. Vine's Expository Dictionary defines this word as "fair, right, honorable, of such conduct as deserves esteem". lists a usage of the word that is particularly enlightening. Kalos, it says, can be used to mean "beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life, and hence praiseworthy". Isn't that a lovely description?  Beautiful because of the purity of heart and life.  Imagine that. It is the kind of heart we are supposed to have in order to be fruitful in the kingdom of God. 

The question all of us must answer is whether or not our heart is beautiful because of the purity there. Is our heart so pure that it manifests itself in purity of life?  How can we know? The lifestyle we choose, the choices we make, the things we do when no one is looking, the way we treat others, are all products of our purity of heart, and they all demonstrate the truth of our heart. 

If we want to be beautiful by reason of the purity of our lives, we must start by having purity of heart. But how? How do we achieve purity of heart? We can't buy it. The psalmist found that he could not achieve a pure heart on his own at all. In fact, he found that there was something very important that prevented a clean heart. "Create in me a clean heart," he prayed. (Psalm 51:10). The creation of a clean heart, however, only came after an acknowledgment of sin. 

Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. (Psalms 51:2-3 KJV)

Can you see it?  The way to have this beautiful life of purity is to admit our sins, confess them, and ask God to cleanse us. Purity of life comes only from purity of heart, and that comes only by the forgiveness of God. 

Is there something in your life that needs to go? For what do you need to seek forgiveness from God? 

Pray today (for ourselves and our loved ones) that our sin would be "ever before us" and that it would propel us to the only One who can forgive and cleanse. 

Link to last night's post:
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tracking Storms and more

After leaving the office this afternoon, I picked up the dogs from grooming and headed home. We were stopped at the stoplight, wondering why it was suddenly getting so dark. I asked my smartphone if it was going to rain, and the smart-aleck British accent replied, "I'd say it was likely," and gave me a weather report screen full of raindrops. 

Just as I looked up, a truck came barreling around the corner, in a hurry. There was a big sign on the side of the truck. "STORM TRACKER". I was really glad it was going in the opposite direction from my house. 

As I was driving, I thought about trackers as hunting guides, and considered the possibility that the STORM TRACKER might be some kind of storm-hunting guide. If that is the case, I reasoned, someone must want to catch a storm. That led me into an off-key rendition of "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket" (the only part of the song I remember) and back to the question of what to do with a storm when you catch it, as putting it in your pocket seems like a really bad idea. 

In my usual rambling way, I wondered why someone wants to catch a storm anyway. Catching a storm would be worse than catching a cold. The desire to watch a storm is almost understandable, but if I caught a storm, which would definitely be by accident, I would let it go.
As you might have recognized by now, I can keep myself entertained for hours with this meandering mind of mine. 

At last, my consideration of catching storms brought me to the thought, "But God was not in the storm". The idea comes from 1 Kings 19:11, which actually says, "But God was not in the wind."  Elijah was having a whiny day and was hiding in a cave when he encountered God. There was a storm, an earthquake, and a fire. Elijah was actually having a bad day and a whiny day! Anyway, God was not in any of it. Finally, Elijah encountered God in that Still Small Voice that very gently spoke to him. 

If you ask me, if you are going to track something, it should be the Still Small Voice. Forget tracking storms. That Still Small Voice is the thing you should be seeking. And that reminds me of something else. When you seek the One who speaks with the Still Small Voice, you find more than you expected, but you are really glad you did!

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

The Good Soil (Luke 8:8, 15)

Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:8, 15 NASB)

The good soil. What a wonderful analogy!  This soil is fertile, watered, and free of rocks and thorns. The imagery is one of rich, well-tilled garden soil. When the seed lands in this rich earth, it sprouts quickly, grows rapidly, and produces both a lush, healthy plant and an abundant harvest. 

Our lives of faith are supposed to be like the seed that lands in fertile soil. Everything we need to be successful and productive in our faith has been provided. Our job is to keep our heart free of those rocks and thorns, keep the living water flowing, and allow growth to occur. It's our job to stay close to Jesus so that we can become all He intended. 

Note that it is success in our faith and productivity in our faith that is the goal, not success by the world's standards. We who are so abundantly blessed in material things can easily forget that most of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world walk out their faith in far different circumstances. Many of them would say that the relative poverty and persecution they face allows fewer distractions and a closer relationship with Christ. 

At the end of our lives, the question will not be how much "stuff" have we accumulated, but how much faithfulness have we exhibited and how much fruit have we borne. 

Let's take a look at our own lives today. Do we have "fertile soil" in our hearts? Are there thorns, rocks, or drought that hamper our growth? Are we bearing fruit?  What changes do we need to make?

Pray today that we and our loved ones would have such fertile, well-watered soil that we would consistently, constantly bear fruit. 
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Most Important Vaccination

As usually happens when I head home after a day at work, I started thinking about the topic for tonight's blog post as soon as I sat down in the car.  I couldn't think of a thing that would be a good topic for an "evening confession" and, as usual, I offered a brief prayer.  "What do You think, Lord?" As quick as a flash, the answer came.  "Tetanus shots."  I laughed so hard the people in the next car looked at me like I was nuts!  "Really?  Tetanus shots?"  

Since tetanus shots was the only suggestion I got, I began to ponder the whys of it.  Perhaps there would be many people stepping on rusty nails and they would need a tetanus shot to protect them. That did not sound right at all.  "What could it be?" I wondered.  I remembered recommended a tetanus booster earlier today.  I had seen a patient who had been injured on a rusty piece of equipment and was late for a tetanus booster.  I recommended the vaccination, then (as I usually do) explained that I had been a part of the team treating two separate cases of tetanus some years ago, and it was such a horrible disease that I never want to see it again.  "There is a simple prevention, and you want it," I explained.  "You may not know you want it, but you do."  

Tetanus is a dreadful condition and a description would not enhance your evening.  Just believe me when I say it is the very worst.  You don't ever want to have this.  You don't even want your enemy to have tetanus.  Perhaps the reason tetanus shots is our topic tonight is because, bad as tetanus is, there is a deadly condition that is much worse.  SIN.  The sin condition leads only to sorrow and more sin.  Even for disciples of Christ, sin is an ever present threat, and a constant battle.

Wouldn't it be so nice if we could just get a quick immunization against sin and be done with it?  Maybe a booster every year or two to keep us safe?  Yes! That would be the best! 

I have bad news for you.  There is no sin vaccine.  There is also some good news, though. There is a preventive that works extremely well, and it has been known for thousands of years.  It is a tried and true remedy, and is found in Psalm 119:11.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, 
That I may not sin against You.
Ps. 119:11
It sounds too good to be true, but it is true.  When we study Scripture, store it in our hearts, and fill our minds with God's Word, it helps us not to sin.  When we memorize Scripture verses, the Holy Spirit is sure to bring them to our minds just in the nick of time to help us avoid wrongdoing.  Sure, we can still sin, but if we listen to the Word within us, we are much less likely to do what we will wish we had not.  

Tetanus vaccines are essential, and if you haven't had a booster recently, maybe you should have one, but the sin vaccine is the most important of all. As I said earlier, "There is a simple prevention, and you want it.  You may not know you want it, but you do."  

Bible study.  
Scripture memory.  
Treasuring His Word.  

The sin prevention.  Do you need a booster?  Get it quick, before you wish you had!

A matter of priority (Luke 8:7,14)

Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.

The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:7, 14 NASB)

The outcome for this seed was sad, sad. The seed fell in fertile soil and grew. It had everything it needed, but thorns were growing around it. Jesus compared those thorn plants to "worries, riches, pleasures of life". Thorns are distractions, and significant ones, that do require attention but are allowed to take priority in our lives. When the pursuit of riches or pleasure is allowed to become more important and of higher priority than the pursuit of holiness, no fruit is produced. No godly fruit, that is. When the worries of life, valid though they may be, are allowed to take priority and focus over faith, there will be no spiritual fruit. 

There is no doubt that responsibilities, finances, and relaxation are all important areas of our lives and demand considerable attention. Jesus was not implying that they should be neglected. He was teaching that those areas, when allowed to crowd out the pursuit of holiness, can choke our faith and stop all growth, preventing any fruit-bearing. How tragic! The goal of the Christian life is maturity and fruit. Disordered priorities can completely halt our progress!  

What you might not realize (unless you have some experience with weeds and thorns) is that the growing seedling can easily be overlooked in the midst of the thorns. If the thorns and weeds are dealt with from the beginning, the growing plant will be healthier and grow much faster. The really nice part of dealing with thorns and weeds is that, once all the weeds are dealt with initially, a constant vigilance will allow any additional weeds to be removed quickly and before injury to the plant develops. 

Do you have thorns that are choking your growth? If you are not sure, do a survey of the fruit in your life. If you are not bearing fruit (making a difference in the Kingdom of God), perhaps you have some "thorns" with which you need to deal. It's a matter of priority. Make sure yours are priorities that matter. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will recognize those thorns in our heart that crowd out growth in our Christian walk and that, seeing, we will deal decisively with our priorities in order to become the mature men and women of faith we were saved to become. 

Today is the deadline to volunteer for "eight days of hope" and help build homes for Tupelo's tornado victims. Their website is
Link to last night's post is here:
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Working Together: The Denim Chair

They lost everything in the tornado. Well, not really everything. They still have the clothes they were wearing and their lives. Just about everything else is gone, and it is a heart-breaking situation. 

A local organization is scheduled to build them a new home, and I'm praying it will be a safe and lovely home where they will be happy for the rest of their days. There is, however, the small problem of furnishings. It's a big job, and the only way to handle it was to give it to God and  wait.  

A friend of mine called. She was moving and had a few things she didn't need. Did I know anyone who could use them? Yes, I did! Those things included an older chair and ottoman. Another friend knew a man who did upholstery. I found a coupon for 40% off of one piece of upholstery fabric, and all I needed was one piece, albeit a big one! I chose blue demin. Blue is their favorite color and demin is the mother's favorite clothing. That's not usually the way I pick fabric, but it's the explanation I gave. The truth is that I saw the denim and knew it was right. When the upholsterer came to pick up the chair/ottoman, I explained what we were doing and that there was no rush. We just needed it by some time in July. 

He arrived with the chair and ottoman today. (His price was insanely low. He, too, wanted to be a part of the fun!) I still find this hard to believe, but the mother and her son just happened to arrive at the same time, and the upholstery man got to be part of the excitement when they saw the chair, as did the friend who introduced me to him. I whisked her into my office, saying I wanted to show her something, explained that the chair and ottoman were for her new home, and how many people had been a part of the gift. 

She was afraid to sit in it, for fear she might get it dirty. Once she did, she settled in for a moment and sat, just rubbing the fabric. That denim chair feels like the most comfortable pair of jeans you've ever worn. She understood the denim perfectly. In a flash, she had her arms around my neck, sobbing her eyes out. There wasn't a dry eye in the room, nor a single Kleenex! The tears finally stopped when I brought out a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom, laughing and saying it was the best I could do. 

At eighty-five years old, it is the first "new" piece of furniture she's ever had. Thrilled, astounded, grateful, shocked. There aren't enough words to describe her beautiful response. "No one's ever done anything like this for me," she said. 

She's not accustomed to getting help. She wanted to pay something. I laughed and told her that all the people involved had given what they did to Jesus and He had given it to her. She needed to take her thanks up with Him. It was the absolute truth. 

It was so much fun! I could not have bought that much fun for any amount of money, and it has left me smiling all day. We've all smiled all day, and that is because it is more blessed to give than to receive. As thrilled as she was, I was way more thrilled, way more blessed. In the end, it seemed like I was the one receiving the gift, and she was the one doing the giving.  

I've had great joy in the giving, but I've also been ashamed of how much I take for granted in the midst of all the blessings God has given me. I'm ashamed, too, of how many opportunities to help I have let pass me by. Really, most of us could do more. We could help more, do more, get by with less. If we reused instead of replaced, we could use the money we saved to do something amazing. Something like help someone who is truly in need. 

I'm not telling you this story to make you think I'm a great philanthropist or to tout my good deeds. In fact, I fret that telling you will steal my blessing in the giving, and I know LOTS of people who are much more generous than I. The reason I'm writing this is to share the experience in such a way that you, too, will want to find a need and meet it. 

Jump in and join the fun! You'll be glad you did!

Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:40 MSG)

The Problem of Rocky Soil

Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

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, 13 NASB)

The soil for today's consideration is rocky soil. Rocky soil is great for allowing drainage, but bad for holding water. In an arid land with little rainfall, rocky soil is deadly for seeds. In this particular soil, there is enough nourishment and moisture in the soil to allow sprouting. If extra water were provided, the seed could likely make it to fruition. Without extra care, however, the sprout will wither and die. When the withering begins, there is a point where an infusion of water can still revive the plant, but the window of opportunity is small. 

Jesus compared the seed that fell on rocky soil to those who hear the word of God, receive it joyfully, and are full of enthusiasm about their salvation. They do not develop firmly anchored roots, however, and succumb to temptation when it comes. 
They are like a withered seedling in desperate need of water. Used to symbolize a variety of things in Scripture, water likely symbolizes the Spirit of God here. In John 7:37-39, Jesus speaks of living water by which men would never thirst again as a description of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that, the reason for the withering becomes apparent, doesn't it? The new believer embraces his new-found faith with enthusiasm but never allows the Holy Spirit to help him grow or help him resist temptation. Without the aid of the Spirit's indwelling, it is impossible to have victory over sin, as he soon finds. 

Once withering begins, an infusion of the Spirit can bring refreshment to his soul and joy back to his heart. Unfortunately, that early foray back into the "old life" can be very difficult to leave. I'm not sure we, as the church, have done all we should to help new believers access the Spirit-aid they need to grow to fruition. 

What about us? Have we allowed the withering to begin in our own lives? Are our loved ones "withering"? 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will get still before The Lord and allow Him to send streams of Living Water to refresh our souls. 
Link to last night's post (first in the Praying for Terrorists series) is here:
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Praying for terrorists: Ayman al-Zawahiri

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 NASB)

The topic of terrorists goes hand in hand with the topic of persecution of the church, simply on the basis of their close proximity. It's hard to have persecution without persecutors. 

Tonight, we are praying for one of the most prominent and most feared terrorists in the world. His name is Ayman al-Zawahiri, and he is an Egyptian surgeon who is now the head of Al-Qaeda. According to Wikipedia, he grew up in a prosperous and prominent family, and was a good student who loved poetry and hated violent sports. It wasn't long, however, before he began to get involved in the Muslim Brotherhood, and soon moved into increasingly radical organizations. 

One of his wives and two of his children died as a result of US bombs in Afghanistan. He may carry anger toward the US because of this, and almost certainly does, but he was a terrorist long before their deaths. 

al-Zawahiri is believed by the FBI to have been involved in terrorists operations on at least four continents, including North America, and is considered to have been involved in the 1988 US Embassy bombings as well as the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attack. He is on the FBI most-wanted terrorist list. 

In 1998, he merged his Egyptian jihadist organization with Al-Qaeda and steadily gained power in that combined organization.  After the death of Osama Ben Laden, he became the head of Al-Qaeda. 

In his early 60's, he continues to spread terror and destruction. Most recently, he has called for the kidnapping of Westerners in order to exchange them for imprisoned Al-Qaeda operatives. There are some who believe the recent prisoner exchange may serve as fuel for the fire and trigger increased kidnappings. 

In April of this year, during a taped interview, a call for an increase in kidnappings was issued. (The taped voice was believed to be al-Zawahiri, but was not confirmed). Regardless, he poses a tremendous threat to the safety of people around the world, not only to the US. 

As we pray for him tonight, let us begin by praying that his reign of terror would come to an end, that the destruction he causes would be limited, and that his followers would seek a more peaceful leader. Pray especially for his wives and children to be protected from the evil he propagates and that his sons would not follow him into greater terror. Do not fail to pray that al-Zawahiri would have an encounter with the Most High God and would be transformed by that same grace by which we have also been saved. 

As you go about this next week, pray for Ayman al-Zawahiri on a daily basis, as well as for those who have been victims of his tactics of terror. It is hard to believe that this violent terrorist who is responsible for untold numbers of deaths was once a quiet and studious boy who loved science and poetry. Pray that he would grow weary of fighting, rediscover the remnants of that young boy still in his heart, and be drawn to peace. 

You are invited to share this post and encourage friends and family to join in the effort to fight the terrorists on our knees. They may be strong, but we serve One before whom every knee will one day bow, and He is able to conquer and deliver. 

The Roadside Seed (Luke 8:5,12)

"The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up.

Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:5, 12 NASB)

Here begins the first soil-type. The sower went out to sow the seed (the Word of God), sowing as he went. In my mind's eye, I see a man with a big bag of seed, reaching in for handfuls and casting them out as he walks along the path. Some of the seed lands well away from the road, in the most fertile soil, but some of the seed falls along the roadside. Before the seed can find root, however, it is trampled by passersby and snatched up by the birds. None of the roadside seed lands in enough soil to grow easily. 

Jesus explained to the crowd of disciples that this represented the people who heard the Word of God but never believed. They never believe, He said, because the devil steals it from their heart before they have time to consider it and accept the truth. A quick snatch and the chance is gone. Whispered suggestions to a seeking heart like, "Later" or "How out of style!" can be just enough to delay a decision indefinitely. 

One might think the roadside seed was not important because plenty of other seed fell on good soil, but every seed is important because seed that takes root represents a life that is changed. The concerning thing about roadside seed is the proximity of their resting place to the sower. The seeds that land along the roadside are the seeds that land closest to the sower. How tragic to have those closest seeds snatched away!

Roadside seed can sprout and bear fruit, but only if it is protected and allowed to remain. Although not traditionally considered a parable about prayer, this parable suggests the absolute imperative of protecting the closest seed from the enemy of the sower. Protection from the wiles of the devil begins with steadfast prayer. 

What kind of reception do the seeds of the Word of God find in our hearts? Are they easily snatched away?  What about the hearts of those closest to us, our dearly loved ones? 

Pray today that every seed will find a welcoming reception in fertile soil, especially the roadside seed in the hearts of those we love the most. 

Link to last night's post: