Start Sowing

Connecting Points

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Today’s Topic: Sow the Seed                                                            

Today’s Text:  Matthew 13:3 (ESV)
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.

I’m sure you are all very familiar with the parable proceeded to tell the crowds after this opening statement. In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s a link so you can read it. Matthew 13:1-9

You’ve probably heard many teachings on this story, and most of them probably focus on the four types of soil that are mentioned. There are good lessons for us personally in such teaching. But today as I prepared some comments on this passage for a radio interview I was doing, the Lord impressed two truths on me that are extremely significant, and I’d like to challenge you with them.

First, in this parable of Jesus, there is no mention of soil preparation. Our human nature demands that we place value on our efforts, and we prioritize our efforts based on return and results. Where there is little chance of success there is little demand for investment. Yet in the example Jesus gives us of a true Kingdom sower, there is no concern for the type of soil into which the seed will be sown.

We tend to predetermine the worth of the recipient before we sow any seeds of truth in them. We make judgments about their fitness for fertilization and then hoard our seed until better soil comes along. Maybe we believe that the seed is limited when in fact there is an infinite supply. It could be that we believe the seed is too precious and cannot be wasted, when in fact the preciousness of it demands that it be spread all the more because of its power to produce fruit. Maybe we are more concerned about our image as a sower than we should be, hoping that by trying to guarantee production we will be declared a wise farmer, when the reality is that obedience is the real definer of image.

So the first point I make today is this – start sowing seed everywhere and to everyone with no exceptions. God alone is responsible for soil preparation and for results.

Second, nothing is ever said in the story about changing the seed. What if the story went this way? “A sower went out to sow…  After meeting together as sowers, the people decided that it would be more productive to produce seed that was resistant to birds, drought, and thorns, so they began to dissect the seed to see if it could be improved. They developed different varieties of seed to match the conditions of the soil and climate where it would be sown so that they could increase the harvest.”

My friends, there is one seed and only one seed – the Gospel of Jesus Christ who grants salvation to anyone through faith in His work on the cross to pay for our guilt of sin and His resurrection from the dead to guarantee us eternal life. There is no way to improve upon that. There is no greater harvest to be realized than the one God produces by faithfulness to that message. We don’t need to change it, compromise it, or condition it so it is more acceptable to the hearer. The truth of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. It is NOT our responsibility to make the message acceptable to the hearer. We are only responsible to proclaim the message, and we are to do so with the compassion of Jesus, speaking the truth in love.

So the second point is this – Don’t try to change the seed you are going to sow. Just sow the truth, and sow it everywhere and to everyone, trusting God with the harvest. Every time you put your hand in your pocket or purse to remove keys, money, or anything else, just imagine that your hand is going into a seed bag hanging from your waist, and then scatter it on someone with words of truth.

Pastor John

 

 

Even When It Hurts

Connecting Points

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Today’s Topic: God of Refuge                                                           

Today’s Text:  Psalm 71:3 (ESV)
3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Okay, I can take a hint. Yesterday, I got in my car three times to go to appointments, and each time the same song was on the radio. Thanks for arranging that Lord. I needed it. Now use it to meet someone else’s need today.

Steady my Heart

By Kari Jobe

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Wish it could be easy
Why is life so messy
Why is pain a part of us
There are days I feel like
Nothing ever goes right
Sometimes it just hurts so much

I’m not gonna worry
I know that You got me
Right inside the palm of your hand
Each and every moment
What’s good and what gets broken
Happens just the way that You plan

But You’re here
You’re real
I know I can trust You
Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

And I will run to You
You’re my refuge in Your arms
And I will sing to You
Cause of everything You are

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmaBhMOXXHg

No Comparison

Connecting Points

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Today’s Topic: No Comparison                                                         

Today’s Text:  Romans 8:18 (ESV)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

I have no comment. No solutions. Only faith in the grace of God and the strength He promises for each new day. The circumstances of your life may be different than mine right now, but the suffering and struggles are shared. We have one hope only – our identity in Christ. We have one resource only – the Word of God. Here is the Word of God for today.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 25:1-3 (ESV)
1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;

Psalm 25:15-21 (ESV)
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. 18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 19 Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. 20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Psalm 26:1-3 (ESV)
1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. 2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. 3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

Psalm 28:7-8 (ESV)
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. 8 The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

Psalm 31:1-5 (ESV)
1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; 4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 31:9-16 (ESV)
9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. 10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. 11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. 12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. 13 For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. 14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! 16 Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

May God fulfill His Word in our midst.

Find Rest

Connecting Points

Monday, September 24, 2012

Today’s Topic: A Personal Invitation from Jesus                              

Today’s Text:  Matthew 11:28 (ESV)  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

What exhausts you? Maybe it’s physical labor. Maybe it’s an emotional crisis. It could be the ups and downs of relationships. Maybe it’s just the constant struggle you have with the circumstances of everyday life. Whatever it is, we’ve all felt it. We’ve been at the end of our rope with barely enough strength to hang on and wondered if letting go would be the best option. Maybe it is, if by letting go we intend to fall into the arms of God and be renewed with His strength.

Jesus knew that life would exhaust us. But he also knew that the answer to the question of what exhausts us the most is probably something we had not considered. When Jesus looked around at the masses of people who were His contemporaries in Galilee, he saw beneath the surface of their physical conditions, their relationship issues, and their political and financial turmoil. Jesus saw the thing that truly exhausted them – their constant struggle to earn the approval of God.

Living under the corruption of a godless political system was nothing in comparison to living in the chains of a corrupt religious system – a system that manipulated and controlled people with laws that could only produce self-declared righteousness. Jesus saw people being suppressed and enslaved with the constant labor demanded by the law with only a glimmer of hope that they could ever achieve a relationship with God. Around every corner appeared a pharisaical inspector of their lives to tell them how they had failed.

It was to these people who Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It is to you and me that He still issues the invitation. You see, we still carry the burden of the need for approval. It weighs us down. It exhausts us. If only we could earn the approval of our spouse, our parents, our bosses, or our employees. If only it was possible to finally be content with whom we are, rather than trying to measure up to the expectations of others. If only we weren’t so addicted to the need for affirmation.

We are exhausted from trying so hard. We are at the end of our rope, with no strength left to hold on any longer.

Now is the time to hear the invitation from Jesus – “Let go!” Stop all your efforts to affirm yourself. Drop all the masks you wear to earn the approval of others. Flop on your face before God in complete weakness and discover His rest, His peace, and His strength. He will prop you up with His promise of grace that is sufficient for every need.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Yesterday morning as I was putting the final pieces of the message for church into place, the Lord reminded me of a song that I had heard dozens of time while growing up when my mother and father would sing it as a duet in church. Never before have the words meant more to me. I pray that they touch your life right now as well. They truly describe the end to your exhaustion.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Consider Your Ways

Connecting Points

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today’s Topic: Consider Your Ways                                                

Today’s Text:  Haggai 1:7 (ESV)
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.”

Lifestyle is the product of priorities.

Priorities are the product of love.

The Lord of hosts challenges us to consider our ways. In context, the prophet Haggai testified to the need in Israel for the people to stop pursuing personal gain and commit to the building of the Temple of God. The truth principle transcends the context to apply to us – we are to consider our ways and determine which choices and priorities are expressing love for self rather than love for God.

What we love we will prioritize.

What we prioritize determines our lifestyle.

Consider your ways!

Pastor John

Oh How He Loves…

Connecting Points

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today’s Topic: Oh How He Loves You and Me                                

Today’s Text:  Psalm 103:10-13 (ESV)

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. “

Some of you who were around in the 1970’s will remember the name Kurt Kaiser. He was a musician and composer, and had a huge impact on the Christian Music scene of that era. From 1965 to 1970 he worked with Ralph Carmichael to create Christian Rock Musicals, although the word “rock” was more of a marketing ploy rather than fully descriptive of their music. Their first musical, Tell It Like It Is, included the song “Pass It On“, and became a classic in the youth movement of the day.

As I read through the 103rd Psalm again this morning, I was reminded of a song by Mr. Kaiser. I know it will be running through my head all day today, and that’s okay. Just read the words of the Psalmist again, and then read the lyrics to the song, and you will hopefully be as blessed as I am. How awesome is the love of God to save us from our sin!

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Oh How He Loves You and Me
by Kurt Kaiser

Oh, how He loves you and me,
Oh, how He loves you and me.
He gave His life, what more could He give;
Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He loves me,
Oh, how He loves you and me.

Jesus to Calv’ry did go,
His love for mankind to show.
What He did there brought hope from despair.
Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He loves me,
Oh how He loves you and me.

Oh, how He loves you and me,
Oh, how He loves you and me.
He gave His life, what more could He give;
Oh, how He loves you, Oh, how He loves me,
Oh, how He loves you and me.

If you want to see Kurt Kaiser leading this song from the piano, there’s a you-tube video of him at the Waco Texas Hymn Sing doing just that. It starts at time stamp 2:14 of the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAr_P7Ss5u4

Or, here’s a version with the lyrics – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmtFxnQsl6Q

Celebrate the love of God today, and praise Him for the forgiveness of our sins!

Pastor John

Who is Lord of Your Life?

Connecting Points

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Today’s Topic: False Worship                                                           

Today’s Text:  Judges 21:25 (ESV)
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

It is inherently true in the very nature of man that we surrender to a ruler – to someone from whom we seek guidance and to whom we grant control over the motives and activities of our lives. That ruler is either someone other than ourselves, or as is true in most cases, it is our self. We are addicted to doing what is right in our own eyes.

The temptation is to think that others are guilty but not me. None of us would be naturally so humble or so brave as to admit that what we are doing is only for our own good. We have developed lots of justifications for the choices we make, and each one has an element of good appearances, but at the very root of it the action is designed to enhance our own measure of self.

In the last five chapters of Judges we read story after story of man’s choices based on the false assumption that we can be in relationship with God and yet make choices that satisfy our fleshly desires. It starts in Judges 17, with the story of a man named Micah (not the prophet) who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. After her curse upon whoever stole it, he admits what he did and returns the silver to her. When she received it back, this is what she said – “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son…”  Sounds great, right? She is giving apparent worship to the Lord for the honesty of her son, and is even going to give her son a reward for his honesty.

But wait, there’s more that she said. She also declares, “…to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” She says she is dedicating the silver to the Lord but in reality uses it to make an idol of false worship. Not only does the son do that, but he uses the rest of the silver to make other items of idolatry, and sets up a shrine in his home. He even goes on to appoint one of his sons as a priest of their newly-founded religion.

The story continues when a Levite is persuaded to serve as a priest, giving even more human credibility to their false religion. From there the descendants of the tribe of Dan capture the shrine and idols and take them as their own to give spiritual support to their attacks of innocent people so they can capture more land for themselves. It eventually turns into an all-out war, and the book of Judges concludes with this statement – In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Four times in those five chapters we are told that Israel had no king. They had made the choice to appoint self as king and serve him wholeheartedly. Everything they did had a fake covering of faith when in reality it was all done for self-fulfillment.

It makes me wonder how true that is of you and me in this modern world. How many things do we say we are doing as an act of worship to the Lord when in reality we are doing what we have decided is best for ourselves?

That’s a serious question to contemplate. Who will take the challenge of such personal and potentially life-changing self-evaluation? The bottom line is this – who is Lord of your life? Everyone has one and is eternally responsible for their choice of who it is. Will it be self, or the Lord of Lords Jesus Christ?

Pastor John