Four ‘Soil’ Conditions in One Heart

See the source image

(Image courtesy of wordpress. com)

I remember a homework assignment from the 6th Grade. Our task was to ask our parents what they knew of our family history, particularly what nationalities we had in our bloodlines. The purpose was to better understand the ‘melting pot’ that has made up our society as we studied the impact and influence of immigration on American culture.

Fortunately for me, both my parents had a passion for where their families had come from and had a wealth of information for me. The combination of my mother and father basically made me into four parts: English, French, Irish and German.

Having four parts becomes a wonderful segue into what I’m writing about today, the four types of soil Jesus mentioned in the parable of the Sower found in Matthew Chapter 13.

Actually, saying there are four types of soil is incorrect: there is only one mentioned by the Lord, though it is represented in four different ways. I had the opportunity to preach a message on the Sower last Sunday evening, and I thought I would share some of what I said with you, Dear Reader.

I have taught/preached on the Parable of the Sower in the past, but the wonderful thing about God’s word is that it is truly living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Each time I ponder it for discussion, Holy Spirit tends to show me something I had not noticed before.

This time was no different in that regard. I have often thought of the four soils Jesus mentions as being separate and distinct from each other. This time, I was reminded that God made the soil (earth) way back in Genesis Chapter 1:9-10. After His work on the third day of creation, God declared the land ‘good.’ One soil, good at creation, now having been affected by the circumstances of the fallen world around it. Jesus then describes it in the following ways, a path, rocky, weed infested and finally good.”

Much as I am the product of four nationalities in my physical make-up, if I am to be honest with you, I must admit that all four ‘soil conditions’ can be present in my spiritual life at any time.

In the parable, Jesus describes the first three as being unable to support the healthy and spiritually vibrant life God wants to sow into each of us. The Lord describes this first as a path. I ask: was it always a path? Had been beaten down by years of being tromped on? Remember, Jesus used parables to help us see and learn things. This picture allows me to see where my heart has become spiritually hardened, having allowed circumstances and troubles to take away its suppleness. In this condition, the goodness of God bounces off, gaining no penetration, just like the seeds did on the path. I must be aware of and looking for any places in me that are becoming hardened. Snap judgments and a lack of empathy are indicators of a hard path developing.

The second soil condition mentioned in this parable is rocky. Here, Jesus said, the seeds fell and germinated quickly but because of the many rocks, there was not enough soil to sustain the seedlings life. The soil was too shallow. For me, becoming shallow is a constant threat. As a ‘fixer,’ if I hear of a problem, I want to dive in and correct it. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I must be careful to treat each opportunity more holistically. More often than not, addressing a symptom is not the only remedy required. To look into something more deeply, however, requires me to spend the time and energy to do so. When I don’t, I am more like the rocky soil Jesus mentioned. May we never be so shallow as to not allow the richness of God and His word dwell and grow in our hearts, especially as we are called to minister to others.

The next problem addressed by Jesus is that of weed infestation. He mentioned that the cares of life and the pursuit of the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out the word He wants to sow in us. I have never had trouble seeing how worry can do this. I have struggled with this all my life. I worry about a thing, usually running through my mind all the possible negative outcomes of whatever it is I am mulling over. The old saying often applies to me: Worry is the interest we pay on things that never come to be. Worry is all about me! I have taken the focus off the greatness of God and put myself in His place. It’s as if I’m saying what I have going on is beyond His ability to help with. That is some weed-infested thinking! It is no wonder I flounder in my spirit when I am cultivating that kind of crop.

The deceitfulness of wealth works much the same way. Either I am distracted in my pursuit of more of it or worried about how I will maintain what I have. Both of these lines of thought are again supremely selfish, as I once more put myself in the very middle of the universe.

Jesus saves the best for last, however! He says that some seed falls on good soil where it produces an abundant crop for the kingdom of God. Earlier I mentioned that all soil was good at creation. This tells me that God knew/knows what He is doing! In my case, and hopefully yours as well, He has used the events and circumstances of life to till our hearts into soft and plant-able ground to be used for His purpose. The parts of my soil (heart) that are good are because of His tender care, not because of anything I have done. My part is to be aware of what He is up to, and then to simply ask for His guidance to make even more of the soil that is me to be pliable in His hands.

The Sower, God, spreads only good seed. Though some falls on places that will not receive it or allow it to grow, you and I can, through humble obedience to His will, be a part of the abundant crop Jesus describes! I pray we all have a long and healthy growing season!

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Read and Heed

See the source image

(image courtesy of LocalLandscapingQuotes.com)

We have a nice size backyard at our house. Since the kids have grown up and moved on, it hasn’t seen much use. That changed last year when we put up a fence to keep our Goldendoodle, Violet, from roaming. Last summer and so far this one my wife and I have spent many pleasant hours ‘out back’ playing fetch with the big black dog or sitting in the shade reading.

At this point (and hopefully toward the point of why I’m writing this, Dear Reader), I must mention that I have never been one to spend a lot of time tending my lawn. I mow and trim it but that’s about it. The backyard has remained quite green under my care, running at about a 60-40 percentage of actual grass to various types of weeds. That it has been green has been good enough for me.

One evening this past week, however, Betsy and I were noticing the increase of some broad-leafed weeds with whip-like stalks growing several inched high. Not only are they unsightly, but also somewhat unpleasant against our lower legs as we frolic with Violet.

I asked one of the groundskeepers at the college I’m helping out at this summer what I should do about the weeds. He suggested Weed and Feed, hopefully you catch how close that is to the title of these jottings. Pretending I knew what he was talking about, I thanked him and went back to my painting. Thank goodness for the internet I thought. I’ll research this when I get home.

I came upon the following from spring-green.com that not only helped me with my lawn issues, but also gave cause to today’s title, Read and Heed:

What is weed and feed? Weed and feed is an interchangeable, universal name given to a wide variety of lawn chemicals that have the purpose of strengthening the lawn by killing weeds. It generally improves your lawn’s ability to absorb water and food and adds necessary nutrients which promote healthy growth.

A healthy lawn, in turn, discourages weed propagation.

Simple enough, I will buy some weed and feed and apply it to the backyard with the purpose of turning it into a healthy lawn (that) discourages weed propagation.

Jesus told several parables that dealt with weeds, thorns and other invasive things. In Matthew 13:24-28 He likened the kingdom of heaven to a field that was sown with good seed only to have an enemy come at night and spread weeds among the good seed.

According to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9), a farmer sows seeds that fall on the path, shallow ground, among thorns and finally good soil. It is only from the good soil that the seed germinates and grows to its completion.

I say all this to ask both you and me: How are the seeds planted in you by Jesus doing? Healthy and multiplying? Being choked by worry? A mixture of both?

What is our personal ‘weed and feed’ solution? May I suggest Read and Heed. I have written before to encourage everyone to read your bible daily. May this serve as yet one more encouragement to do so! In its pages is the very heart of God. There is no better way, in my opinion, to get to know the Almighty than by reading His word.

But, like my weedy backyard, my life needs on-going care and guidance from above. The Bible is unlike any other book, EVER!. The writer of the Book of Hebrews describes it this way: For the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12a NIV). Because it is unique, the Bible is not meant to be simply read once and put away. It is living and active, but I need to not only take it in, I must ponder what it has to say. The timeless truths found within its pages are unchanging; but we and our world are changing nearly every moment.

Read, then pray over what you have just encountered. You do not need to be a biblical scholar before God will reveal more of Himself to you as you do. Remember, the goal is to get to know Him better and that is what He wants too! Jesus has delivered on the promise to send the Holy Spirit. One wonderful function of the Spirit of God is to help us understand the Scriptures (John 13:26).

God wants us to read His word and has provided His Spirit to enable us to get at the heart of His message of love to all. That is the bottom line of the Read part. Perhaps the Heed part will prove more difficult for you (it sure has for me).

To heed God’s word means that you not only accept the truth contained within it, but that you also make your best effort every day to live out His commands in the day to day of life.

Difficult? Sure can be. Rewarding? More than anything! And on so many different levels. Much as my backyard will begin to thrive as the weeds are driven out; I assure you that if you take seriously the commitment to Read and Heed God’s word, your life will become more plush as well.

Let me be clear, I am not spouting some foolish prosperity message to you. There is no huge lottery prize awaiting you if you get through the Book of Leviticus. But allow me to be just as clear, the rewards awaiting are truly amazing and of an eternal scope for those who endeavor to deepen their relationship with the Almighty.

I have found that embracing the Read and Heed approach to God’s Holy Scriptures has indeed been/is a huge blessing to me. It would take many more posts to mention even some of them. But for now let me say it this way, the weeds that threatened to overgrow parts of my mind and heart and been removed. Instead, there is plush new growth as God draws me closer to Him.

And believe me, there is absolutely nothing special about me personally in this regard. I merely came to God with a willingness to be taught/corrected/encouraged by what He has to say in that living document that is the Bible. He is faithfully doing that in me and will for you as well!

Take care of the intruding weeds in your heart and mind quickly and thoroughly, you’ll be so blessed as you do!

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

PS: I mentioned that you need not be a bible scholar to gain access to the Lord through His word. That’s good, because I am not one. However, I have been at this a while and would welcome your thoughts, questions or concerns about what you are reading. I will share my email with your should you want any of those discussions to be of a more private nature.

PC