The Ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles believed that all matter was comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. He was way off on the number; but, assuming he was basing his belief on how important these items are to humanity, he definitely got three out of four right on target - We couldn't survive without earth, air and water (we might be able to get by without fire).
Most will immediately agree that we can't survive without air and water; but, a few might question the importance of "earth."When Empedocles spoke of earth, he was talking about soil... dirt.Most of what we eat depends on dirt.All plants obviously depend on the soil and most of the animals we consume could not survive without food that grows from the earth.As important as that is, the dirt itself would be useless to us without the seed - and the seed is useless unless it takes root and grows.
The people of Jesus' time understood the relationship between the earth and the seed - most of them were farmers.However, Jesus went beyond the simple sowing of the seed and addressed the conditions that determine if the seed will take root and produce.Jesus said:
"A farmer went out to sow his seed.As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matthew 13:3-8)
Then Jesus explained this parable saying: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.This is the seed sown along the path.The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.But the one who received the seed [Let it take root and grow] that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."(Matthew 13:19-23)
Jesus explained this parable to make sure we understood that the seed isn't the problem; it's the dirt - our hearts.What kind of dirt are you?
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
September 27, 2005
"What are we?"
How often are you asked, "Where do you go to church?"Most of the time, the person doesn't really want to know the location of your church; they want to know the denomination.
They have a row of boxes on a shelf, each containing a pair of glasses.If you tell them you're a Baptist, they'll know you look at the world through the glasses in the "Baptist" box.If you're a Catholic, you wear the "Catholic" glasses.Your "glasses" determine how you see the world.The "prescription" and "tent" of your glasses is determined by your "denominations" particular set of beliefs.
Once they identify your denomination (and your set of glasses/beliefs), they know how you're going to react to certain situations.
So, back to the original question, ""Where do you go to church?"What if you simply replied that you are a follower of Jesus; a child of God; or, a citizen in the Kingdom of God? (Actually, you could say that you're all of those.)Since all Christians agree on these points, you can safely identify yourself this way; but, the person asking still can't identify your particular set of glasses.
Why am I suggesting this tactic?Most of us agree on what I'll call the "essentials."We agree that Jesus is God's Son, born of the Virgin Mary; that He died on the cross for our sins; that He rose on the third day; that He ascended into Heaven; and that He will return (maybe very soon).We agree on the Trinity; that there is a Heaven and a real hell.We agree that the Bible is the Word of God.We agree on many other things; but, you get the idea.
When you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ; a child of God; or, a citizen in the Kingdom of God; you only identify yourself with these essentials.In that way, you can talk to any other Christian in unity - as a brother or sister.Perhaps if we begin to focus more on our areas of agreement and less on our differences, Christians all over the world could begin to work together more effectively for the Kingdom of God.
I love my church and I am proud of our traditions and our beliefs.So should each of you.Still, Jesus tells us to love each other.Maybe it's time to focus more on the love we have for each other and less on our differences.Be proud of your church; be proud of your church leaders; but, be even more proud that you have Jesus in your heart and that He is your Lord.What are we?We are His!
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
September 28, 2005
"It really hurts..."
Have you ever wanted someone's friendship only to have them tell you they were not your friend?Have you ever wanted to help someone who didn't want your help?Have you ever tried to find words to say to someone who is hurting only to have them tell you to go away?If not, I'm truly glad, because it really hurts...
Have you ever loved someone who didn't love you?Have you ever sacrificed for someone only to have them turn against you and curse you?Have you ever been betrayed by someone who said they were your friend?If not, you're truly blessed because it really hurts...
Have you ever saved someone from harm only to have them reject you?Have you ever given someone everything they ask of you only to have them turn their backs on you when you have a need?Have you ever given your life for someone who didn't even know you?If not, be thankful, because it really hurts...
Jesus prayed, "...let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me... You loved Me before the creation of the world.(John 17:23-25)"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."(John 15:13)"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."(Romans 5:8)Jesus loved us first and sacrificed everything so we could have the free gifts of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.Have you accepted those gifts with thankfulness and gratitude?Or, do you cherish the things of this world above His free gifts?Have you refused to obey all of His commands?Do you rationalize His Word to fit society's current views?I hope not because, it really hurts...
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 2:5
September 29, 2005
"Embrace Your Storms"
The Gulf Coast has entertained two unlady-like visitors this summer, Katrina and Rita. We will not forget the destruction and displacement they left behind as homes and lives were destroyed, and millions of families fled in fear of their arrival.The mass exodus from the Houston/Galveston area caused massive traffic jams.One man told me that it took him and his family 32 hours to travel 60 miles, only to be forced back to ride out the storm with friends on the north side of Houston.A mother and son who tried unsuccessfully to get away spent nine hours in their vehicles with a sick grandmother and two dogs who don't like to travel.They turned back after going only 40 miles and faced the 90 mph winds of Rita in their home.
While a large segment of the population was trying to avoid the last hurricane, Jay Carnes of Texas City, TX, loaded his van with two generators, a chain saw, tow straps, 60 extra gallons of gas, a Global Positioning Satellite system, a television and a week's supply of food and water, headed straight for it.While some people chase hurricanes to gather scientific data, some to make videotapes they can sell, Jay chases hurricanes for fun!
"I've always been fascinated by unusual weather, the act of God and how weather can change structures, how it can destroy structures and change the landscape and view of an entire city and county," he said.
Carnes said he rode out Hurricane Rita in a concrete casino parking garage in Lake Charles, La., and videotaped the roof exploding off the Isle of Capri Casino. (Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, September 27, 2005)
People don't like storms.We typically try to avoid them whether they come as a hurricane or in some other form.Sometimes the worst storms come without wind, thunder and lightening.They come because we are a part of the human race and through them God is either attempting to CORRECT US or INSTRUCT US.Of this you may be certain, you have either just left a storm, you are in one now, or you are headed for the eye of the next storm God is allowing you to experience.Storms are an inevitable part of life.
When the disciples were faced with an unexpected storm (Mark 4), they feared for their lives!I love to see their humanity in that verse, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (v. 38).
Yes, Jesus cares if you drown!When there is no other answer, when you have come to the end of your strength and the storm is sweeping over you, Jesus cries out to those waves of despair, "Quiet!Be still!" (v. 39).Even nature itself cannot overcome you because you are a child of the King.
Beloved, there were some of us who awoke recently to hear that we were going to be hit with the "dirty" side of Rita, where you get the fiercest winds and the worst flooding.Science told us through the weather forecasters that it was going to devastate the Houston/Galveston region, that this was the big one we have been avoiding.We sent a prayer request to the GospeLines Prayer Warriors and they prayed that the GospeLines headquarters would be spared.
I stand as a witness, that in the face of all the scientific data, the GospeLines PW's and thousands of others who prayed, changed the course of history!I cannot say with certainty why storms spare some and hurt others.But I know that Rita missed us because of the prayers of the faithful.And your storms will spare you the misery through prayer, even those which God intends as correction.Oh, I implore you to believe in a God who changes things!He stands ready to alter the course of your life, too, if you are headed down a road of destruction.Call unto Him and be spared!Amen and amen!
Tommy Harrison, D. Min
September 30, 2005
"What Would Jesus Do?"... EVACUATE!
If you had been in Galveston, TX last week you might have seen a new twist to the WWJD question (What would Jesus do?).Scrawled on the plywood which covered the windows of a beach house were both the question as well as the answer.
A Bermuda Beach homeowner spray-painted his answer to this much-repeated question in the area prior to Hurricane Rita's landfall."What would Jesus do?EVACUATE! " the sign said.
Christians struggle with that issue, especially in the face of impending danger.
What are our options when we get the breath knocked out of us and we feel that we are going down for the count of ten?Here we lie, bloodied and bruised from the battle, left behind in the heap of our own misery.You and I have been there before and will probably find ourselves in that predicament again one day.Maybe it will come from a well-meaning, albeit judgmental Christian who knows all the answers and has decided that you cannot consult the Father without their input.You know who I mean; they wear the robe of self-righteousness proudly, and walk around with a two-by-four projecting from their eye while magnifying the speck you have in your eye.
Sooner or later, every Christian who is doing what Jesus has called him to do is going to feel the agony of defeat.Not everyone to whom we witness is going to receive us well.In fact, there will be times when we are subjected to cruel words and hateful stares.We will be ostracized at work and in our families because of our faith.Loneliness will become common place and the only one who will stand beside us is the Holy Spirit.When that time comes and we are flat on our spiritual backside's looking up at the world, we will have a decision to make.Do we stay down, do we get up and run, or do we get up and fight?
What would Jesus do?What DID He say to His disciples?
In Matthew 10, Jesus instructed His disciples to evangelize, but His instructions also came with a warning to beware of evil men."If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town" (v. 14).Beloved, there is a time for running away from a problem that is too big to confront right now.We are directed to be smart and uncompromising in our approach to spreading the Gospel.
Jesus said it like this, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (v. 16)What does this mean?A Christian is to be like a snake?Like a dove?Huh?
The serpent is viewed to be shrewd, the embodiment of intellect.To the Christian, this translates that we are to use insight, common sense and wisdom to do what is right.A serious attempt should be made to always discover the best way to achieve the highest goal, without taking unnecessary risks.Is this the best way to handle this problem or is there a better way?
And we are to be as innocent as a dove.In everything, we are to be as pure and gracious and gentle as a dove.It symbolizes that we are uncompromising toward evil, led by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit in our dealings with people.We are not to naively entrust ourselves to men, but it is our duty to avoid angry confrontations while praying for the grace of God to give us the right words to say in difficult situations.
In the face of danger, it is sometimes appropriate to evacuate rather than fight.Pray that God will give us the wisdom to discern the better course of action the next time we are confronted with evil.Amen and amen.