Saturday 25 February 2023

The Parable of the Soils

Faith allows us into the Kingdom where the King can reveal to us what naturally we cannot accept or understand
Being part of a farming community, looking at the parable of the Sower, the different types of soils drew my attention. When the Lord explains the meaning of the parable it compares the soil with our hearts.

The parable is told in Matthew, Mark and Luke and there are four types of soils described. All of them give us glimpses of how it relates to the heart.

The Lord came to the world offering a Kingdom, talking, teaching about it, calling people to acknowledge Him as King.  

The people of Israel, descendants of Abraham were to be the channel through whom the world would be blessed, through whom the Kingdom would come, by whose King it would be ruled. But they refused the King and His Kingdom. So in chapter 13, the Kingdom is postponed to a future when the people of Israel will accept the King acknowledging His Kingdom and receiving it in its fullness. The time between the rejection and the return is the time the Lord calls "the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven" (13:11). Peter also refers to it (1 Peter 1:10-12). So the period between the rejection of Christ and His return to set up His Kingdom is described through the parables in Matthew 13. We are still in that period of time.

The parable of the Sower represents the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world. The context of Jesus' time was agricultural in that part of the world. Everybody understood about sowing seeds. There were four responses to the preaching of the Gospel.  

1.  13:3-23 The seed that fell along the path. People initially rejected it. In Israel at that time there were no division of fields, no stone walls or hedges. There were paths across the land for people to walk through and for farmers to use. The soil in these narrow waysides would be hard packed, uncultivated, never loosened. Through continual use and the dryness of the climate it would be compacted as hard as pavement. What the birds didn't eat was trampled by men.

2.  Stony soil (13:5). The soil in Israel has running through it strains of limestone rockbed. In many areas this rockbed rises up close to the surface, so right beneath the soil is this hard rockbed. As the seed falls and begins to germinate the roots hit the rockbed having nowhere to go. The moisture and sun generate life upwards, springing up probably higher that the other grain in other seed bed which is going both ways. It flourishes immediately, but when the sun comes out, it dies because its roots aren't strong enough to maintain moisture or to find it. The plants die in the heat of summer.

3.  Seed falling among thorns, choking the plants (13:7). Weeds are in the soil. This soil looks good. It's deep, rich, turned over, tilled, cultivated, clean and ready, the seed falling down into that area begins to germinate. But the weeds choke the good seed out.  

Weeds are natural to the soil, belonging to it. Because of Adam we are born in sin.  The sowing of the grain is a foreign element just like the sowing of what is pleasing to God is foreign to our human nature. It has to be carefully cultivated. The weeds in their natural soil just totally dominate and strangle and choke, growing faster, sending leaves and shade, starving the plants of sun or moisture. There's not enough room for everything to share the nutrients of that soil. So the good seed dies.

4.  Good soil (13:8). Producing a crop a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Unlike the pathway it is soft. It's deep unlike the weed infested soil. The seed has room to burst into life bringing forth a tremendous harvest. The average harvest would be 7.5 fold. A good crop would be tenfold. So we are talking about a tremendous crop.
The interesting thing is that the disciples didn't understand what the parables meant and being alone with the Lord they asked Him why He spoke in parables or riddles.  The Lord answered: Matthew 13:11-15

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

Only the ones who believe in the King, the redeemed who are in the Kingdom, can hear, see and understand. Faith allows us into the Kingdom where the King can reveal to us what naturally we cannot accept or understand. The amazing thing is that no matter what type of soil our heart is, God can change it.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:26

This process of regeneration of our heart involves Father, Son, Holy Spirit and us.  

The Father: John 6:44. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day."

The Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26, 34. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 

We, ourselves. Hosea 10:12. Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.

Author: Betty Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and other

Saturday 18 February 2023

Thy will be done

When we pray ‘Thy will be done’ we should be committed to knowing God’s will is in His word
My mother gave me the name ‘Thelma’ because her best friend, when she was 9 years old, had that name. Apparently, they had made a pact that if they had a little girl when they were married, they would call her by each others name. My mother’s family moved to another village when she was 11 years old and she never saw her friend again. She kept her side of the bargain but sadly never knew whether her friend Thelma ever had a daughter called ‘Molly’. Growing up I had some negative reactions to my name, especially in the early days of my teaching career. However, fortunately for me, in 1991 the film ‘Thelma and Louise’ became very popular and I have never had any trouble since. 

When I was deciding on the theme of this blog, I had felt I had to write it on the words ‘Your will be done’ from the Lord’s prayer. I was looking up the word ‘will’ on the internet and one of the commentators said, ‘Will’ is translated ‘Thelma’ in the Greek!! I then looked up the Lord’s prayer in the Greek and this is what it said for ‘Your will be done’ - genêthêtô to thelêma sou. That was it!

As most others of my generation, I was brought up to repeat this prayer everyday of my school life in morning assemblies. It is alarming to think of the millions of people, myself included, who have said ‘Thy will be done’, day after day, without ever intending to find out what the Father’s will was, let alone carry it out. 

We often pray as if we expect God to change His will just to accommodate ours. We make our petitions known and expect God to sort it all out our way. The truth is that often the unrest, frustration and unhappiness in our lives can be put down to our own self-will. Many of our failures come down to the fact that we really want our own way. When we pray ‘Thy will be done’ we should be committed to knowing God’s will is in His word. It makes sense that we read His very own instruction manual on how to live our lives, if we truly want to know His will. Here are just some of the scriptures that tell us of His will for us:

Ephesians 4:29-32: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Micah 6:88 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Proverbs 3:55 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Philippians 2:14-15: Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.

Those are just a few of the instructions that the Lord has given us in His word. The whole thing is summed up in Romans 12, where we are told not to conform to the ways of the world mentioned in the above passages and only then will we be able to know God’s will for us.

Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We have a great example in our Lord, who often said that He was doing the will of the Father and of course in Gethsemane in Matthew 26:42 He says, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ In the original Greek text these are the exact same words as in the Lord’s prayer: ‘genêthêtô to thelêma sou’

Unfortunately, even in many churches, the will of God is not being carried out. We have let the world into the church and have ‘conformed to the pattern of this world’.

Alan Redpath said in his study on the Lord’s prayer: ‘Both the outward look and the inward look reveal that the will of God is not being done. Because it is not being done in the Christian, there is no blessing in the church. And because there is no blessing in the church, the world is unreached, untouched, going to hell, lost for time and eternity.’ What a terrible indictment that is, but how true!!

C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘THY will be done.’ All that are in hell, choose it.’ 

So let us remember it is God who wants to bring about His desires in our life. Our own desires will sometimes be in conflict with God’s. When there is conflict and we pray ‘Thy will be done’ we are asking that God’s will will prevail over ours. If we pray the Lord’s prayer without meaning it, then it is worth nothing but if we pray it sincerely amazing things can happen. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, we may not really want some of the things God wants but we have to kneel before God and say ‘Nevertheless, ‘Thy will be done’ You are my Lord and I will do it.

I am going to finish with a poem, whose author is unfortunately unknown.

The Will of God
The will of God will never take you, where the Grace of God cannot keep you,
where the Arms of God cannot support you, where the Riches of God cannot supply your needs, where the Power of God cannot endow you. 
The will of God will never take you, where the Spirit of God cannot work through you, where the Wisdom of God cannot teach you, where the Army of God cannot protect you, where the Hands of God cannot mould you.
The will of God will never take you, where the Love of God cannot enfold you,
where the Mercies of God cannot calm you, where the Peace of God cannot calm your fears, where the Authority of God cannot overrule you.
The will of God will never take you, where the Comfort of God cannot dry your tears, where the Word of God cannot feed you, where the Miracles of God cannot be done for you, where the Omnipresence of God cannot find you.

May the Lord bless you this week as you seek to do His will in all things.

Author: Thelma Cameron

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and other

Saturday 11 February 2023

Do the Work of an Evangelist

We are to travel alongside each other to ensure that those we travel with do not veer off the path, to ensure they become disciples, not just get them going on the path and then leave them to it
Recently our pastor recommended that we watch an animated version of Pilgrim’s progress by John Bunyan. I was a little dubious because it was an animated version but I had always wanted to read the story of Pilgrims Progress so I did give it a go, and was surprised by what the Lord said to me as I watched it. Many things spoke to me about my life and where I was at the moment. But one thing that struck me was the character of the Evangelist. In my experience an “evangelist“ is the guy who stands on street corners, or in large auditoriums, large tents, or even football stadiums and preaches the gospel about Gods love and salvation, with passion, drawing many to believe and commit their lives to Jesus. But in the film the character of the evangelist does point Christian to God and the celestial city, but he also pops up at other significant times to instruct, challenge or even redirect Christian when he veers off the path or is discouraged. 

This got me thinking. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry".  The NLT puts it this way "But you should keep a clear mind in every situation, don`t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News and fully carry out the ministry God has given you…" Fully carry out the ministry God has given you. What is that? For all of us that will be different. We have all received the great commission from the Lord recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you (NLT).  But does it stop there. In the film the Evangelist is there at the start of his journey telling Christian about the Celestial City – he gives him the good news about God, salvation and how he can get rid of his burden and points him in the right direction. But he also shows up at other significant times in the story both before and after Christian loses his burden at the cross. He redirects, challenges and encourages him when he has drifted off the path or has faced big challenges.   

This made me think of the times the Lord has sent people into my life to encourage or challenge me at significant times.  

My dear quiet shy friend - who took me to church and introduced me to the Lord- did the work of an evangelist.

The wonderful lady I met on holiday - who sat with me at the back of the church and quietly explained how salvation worked and led me in the prayer of repentance and then prayed with me till I had received assurance of salvation - did the work of an evangelist.

The wonderful couple - who encouraged us while on holiday when we were so distraught about our son. Who prayed for us, befriended us and encouraged us - did the work of an evangelist.

And a dear friend - who when I went to her with worries and issues would sympathise but also challenge and correct me if I was in in the wrong or encourage me to look at things through the Lords eyes - did the work of an evangelist. 

And many, many more children of God going about the ministry God has given them to be an evangelist (bringer of the good news) and continual support to the people they meet.
The thing that impressed me the most is that I have always thought that an evangelist had a `one off` job, telling the Good news about Jesus to someone and bringing them to the Lord. But it would seem that the Lord has a different plan. We are to travel alongside each other to ensure that those we travel with do not veer off the path, to ensure they become disciples, not just get them going on the path and then leave them to it. Instead we are to be available to for the Lord to use to help them along their journey. Now it might be we are a link in a chain of many people helping them or at times a more intense period of support. In other words, to be responsible.

I have never thought of myself as an evangelist, I’m not very good at sharing my faith and tend to feel a bit shy and tongue tied when trying to simply tell people what the Lord has done for me. But even though I may not be a very successful Evangelist in leading people to the Lord (as some are gifted to be) I can aim to be a good supportive evangelist on their journey. When Paul says to Timothy do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry it’s a cry for Timothy to be vigilant in all parts of the Evangelist role. He is pointing out that its not a one stop job, but a continuing ministry to people making sure they don’t stumble on the way, fulfilling whatever the Lord may direct him to help them with. We can see from the life of Paul that he was a terrific Evangelist in sharing the Gospel and establishing churches etc. its recorded that over his ministry he travelled more that 10,000 miles and established at least 14 churches. He continues guiding them through his letters to them and by empowering leaders to lead them. He often had plans to revisit them to encourage them and some he did. He fulfilled his work as an evangelist both to lead people to the Lord and to ensure they didn’t flounder on their journey.  He fulfilled his ministry. 

I found this both a challenge and an encouragement. A challenge because sometimes we know people need encouraging but we feel low, distracted or busy ourselves and it is easy to think someone else will contact or encourage them, it is good to remind us that God calls us all to be evangelists and thereby if he calls he will equip us. So, we can rely upon the Lord both to prompt and to equip us to help someone along the path so they don't veer off or get discouraged. And encouraged because when we reach out to help or encourage in whatever way that’s needed, spiritual, emotional or practical we can be assured we are fulfilling God purpose for our lives too. Being an evangelist is a lifetimes work. Because when all else fails and we cannot support our brothers in person or practically etc through age or circumstance, we can call them and pray for them. Continuing to encourage them along the path we travel together.

May God bless you today as you do the work of an Evangelist in whatever way The Lord has called you to fulfil your ministry.

Author: Jan Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and other 

Saturday 4 February 2023

Bird Blog

Jesus declared that every human being, being made in God’s likeness, is far more valuable to Him than any other part of creation
This last weekend in January is the ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ organised by the RSPB. My wife is the one who will keep an eye on the garden for an hour to do a spot of ‘birding’. It’s always a delight on a dry bright morning to see a few of our garden birds. They flit in and out. Maybe they take a few steps along the top of the fence or to hop around the branches on the bare apple tree. I often find myself singing (humming) ‘All things bright and beautiful’, as I glimpse their antics. For those readers who are not familiar with that wonderful hymn written for children, here is the first verse:

Each little flower that opens, 
Each little bird that sings
He made their glowing colours, 
He made their tiny wings.

Many of our garden birds do not stay still for more than a second or so, we might call them busy-bees. Do they have a to-do list tucked under their wing, or a nest planner pinned up somewhere? We do see some remarkable photography and research about them on our media, revealing new secrets about their lifecycle or distinctive features.

Jesus used the example of birds when teaching his disciples about the cares and worries of life. Here is Matthew 6:25-26
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

In the UK, the months of January, February and even March can be lean for many of our native birds. Conservation groups and government policy have encouraged the public, farmers and land-owners to help our birds through this hungry gap. But prolonged blizzard conditions are still a challenge to the bird population which relies on daily provision. You may have seen the black and white documentary about the 1963 great freeze which decimated bird populations by an estimated 50%. We have to recognise that there are difficulties in sustaining the many beautiful and varied bird populations, but the words of Jesus remind us that ‘our heavenly Father feeds them’. And here I want us to recall our collective original raison d’etre as we read in Genesis 1:26 
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God repeats his mandate as a blessing over Adam. Here is the Message translation (paraphrase) of Genesis 1:26-28 

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

Let us take time to reflect on this responsibility for our Father’s creation. I need to change the way I think about ‘all things bright and beautiful’. But finally, I want to return to those words of Jesus.  

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 

Jesus declared that every human being, being made in God’s likeness, is far more valuable to Him than any other part of creation. Think about your neighbours, the homeless, the rich, the starving, each one bearing God’s image. What value do we put on them?

Author: Richard Windridge

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and other