Ready the Ground 5

Luke 6:43-45

When I was very young my mother had a small flower garden at the side of our front porch. One spring some showy plants began to sprout and grow, so she tended to them – watering them, fertilizing them and pulling the weeds around them. Soon they grew to be strong and hardy plants towering above all the other flowers in the garden.

Then one day a friend stopped by the house to visit. Since he was good at gardening my mother asked him if he recognized what type of flowers those big plants were. He did. Weeds.

We may consider ourselves to be good people when in fact we may be lacking in our spiritual goodness. We may think that we are good enough – not really bad people – when in fact there is room to improve in our faith.

What does Jesus say about the fruit that different plants produce? What does a good person bring to life? Where does this goodness come from?

It is plain from the parable of the sower and from this statement from Jesus that God desires that we produce goodness in our lives. If we will be good, holy and righteous people then that goodness will be in our hearts. And if there is holy goodness in our hearts, that goodness will flow out from us as the good spiritual fruit we are called to produce.

Goodness and holiness is not always an automatic thing with all people. We may not be aware of what is truly in our hearts. In our heads we may think we are good, but in our hearts we may be lacking the goodness God desires.

To accept the love and grace from God and then have that goodness grow and flow from us, we must tend our spirituality. We must prepare the soil of our souls to receive God’s goodness. And when we receive the goodness from God we must tend it like a garden, growing that goodness, increasing our ability to be holy and caring.

If we can live a life that more closely follows the teaching of Christ we can become the good people we should. And if we become those good people then that goodness will be the good fruit of love for others flowing out from the abundant garden of love within us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you produce good fruit?

Ready the Ground 4

Matthew 13:8

The first house I bought was across an alley from a family who loved to garden. In their back yard they had a large plot of ground which they tended throughout the year. They spread fertilizer and compost on the ground in the winter. They weeded the garden almost daily in the spring and summer. They cared for the garden by tying up the vining plants and watering the ground whenever it was needed.

The result was a very productive garden year after year. Their garden was so full and thick by late summer that it was sometimes difficult to see the back of their house.

As Jesus concludes his parable of the sower he speaks of the best type of soil. What type of soil is it? What was the result?

If we will be productive children of God we must have good soil in our faith. Our hearts must be attentive to the grace and love of Jesus Christ. And as we receive the love and blessings of God we must allow this gift to grow within us so that we might produce the good fruit of God’s kingdom – care and compassion for others, generous giving, devout worship, and so on.

What is essential is that we prepare our faith to be that good soil mentioned in the parable. Just as our neighbor worked so much to produce a garden that grew a great bounty, we must work within our faith to prepare the soil. We must keep ourselves from growing hard in our emotions – becoming like the path. We must work to bring depth to our faith, to grow closer to God through prayer and study of the Bible. In this way we will nor be spiritually shallow like the rocky ground.

We must learn to trust completely in the Lord. In this way we will prevent the thorns of life from choking out God’s goodness.

Having good faith is more than mere chance or coincidence. It is the result of intentional and fervent efforts on our part to become better Christians.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you make your faith productive?

Ready the Ground 3

Matthew 13:7

Although it is important to us to have a nice flower garden in the front of our house we have found that we are far too busy to maintain it. About once a year in the summer we will all go out to the front garden and attack the weeds. They usually grow very tall and thick and it takes a great deal of effort to pull them all out so the flowers can be revealed.

Such can be our spiritual life if we allow it. As Jesus continued with the parable of the farmer sowing seeds, what is the third type of ground that the seeds fall on? What did the thorns do?

Keeping in mind that the farmer represents God and the seed is the generous grace of God, we see that sometimes the soil of our faith is filled with thorns and weeds. These thorns represent all the cares and worries of our life. They represent all the temptations and sins we face each day.

In the parable the thorns grew up and choked out the good seed that was sown. Just as our life may be blessed by the good things God gives us – His presence, His love – we sometimes allow the worries of life to choke this goodness. We claim to have faith in God but we have trouble handing over all of our fears and concerns. We believe in God, but often we are weak in our faith and fall prey to the lures of temptation.

When we let worries control us, when we let the temporary, earthly pleasures fill our minds and draw us in, then we are allowing God’s goodness to be limited in us. We let the troubles and pain, the sin of life to crowd out the grace of God. God’s love has no opportunity to grow in us. We fail to make the blessings of God and the love of God part of who we are.

We must tend the ground of our faith. We must care for the garden of our spirituality. It is up to us to pull out the weeds of faith – those earthly fears and desires – that push out God. If we can remove the tendency to worry, if we can learn to trust God, if we can learn to rely on the Lord’s strength, we can keep out those things that block the Lord’s blessings. We can allow God’s love to grow in the soil of our faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you pull the weeds of faith in your heart?

Ready the Ground 2

Matthew 13:5-6

In my years of performing in college plays I was always intrigued by the illusion that a good stage set can present. From the audience it may appear that there is an entire house on the stage. But from behind the scenes you can clearly see that there is no depth to the structures. There is nothing behind what you see from the front.

Jesus continues in his parable about a farmer (God) sowing seed (love). What is the second type of soil mentioned in verse 5? What happens with the seed? What happens to the plant? Why did it fail?

At first glance there seems to be a success story going on here. The seed has found some soil in which to grow. Despite the rocks there is enough dirt that the seeds grow into plants. Success!

But then the sun comes out and burns very bright. The weather heats up. The environment becomes harsh and the plant cannot survive. It withers and dies.

The reason the plant cannot sustain itself is because it has no depth. The root system has not developed to give the plant the strength to endure the harsh environment.

And this is all due to the soil. Because the ground is rocky the dirt is shallow. It has no depth and therefore cannot allow the plant to have depth.

How is this soil like the human heart? Some people get very excited about the good news of God’s love. They may appear to become very devoted believers. However, for many people they have not allowed God’s message to take firm root in their hearts. Their beliefs are shallow and not at all developed.

When the harsh reality of life strikes, when there is temptation and trial, their faith cannot withstand it all. They are swept away by the problems they must confront.

If we will be strong in our faith we must prepare our hearts to receive God’s message of love. We must allow the time for our faith to grow strong. We must make our faith a deep part of who we are and how we behave. Then we can have strong faith in God’s grace and we can remain faithful even in the hardest of circumstances.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can your faith grow deep and strong?

Ready the Ground 1

Matthew 13:3-4

There have been several occasions when Peggy and I have attended a banquet or reception where there is a great deal of nice food. Often I will return to the table with a plate of food only to discover my wife has something really delicious on her plate, something I did not get. In these cases I will ask where those particular items were and she points them out, but by the time I get up to the serving table the good stuff is all gone.

It can be very frustrating to miss out on something really good. And what makes it worse is the fact that I just wasn’t attentive enough to see the good stuff.

Today’s passage is the beginning of a parable from Jesus. What is happening in the story? Where does some of the seed fall? What happens to it?

Often times when this parable is preached the focus seems to be on the seed and the farmer. But it has been pointed out that the focus of the parable is neither the farmer nor the seed. The focus is on the ground.

In the parable God is the farmer scattering the seed of love and grace. We are the ground. And so, the question arises, what type of ground are we?

The first ground presented in the parable is the ground of a path. It is hard ground, dirt which has been trampled under foot and walked all over. Because of this nothing can easily penetrate the surface, and thus the seeds of love are taken away.

We may find ourselves having a heart as hard as the path in the story. We may feel that life has walked all over us, or other people have walked all over us, taking advantage and using us. We have been hurt. We become hard. We refuse to allow anything to penetrate our hard, outer shell.

But when we do that we are missing out on the blessings of God. If we go through life with arms crossed and ears stopped up so that we don’t have to listen to what is being said, we miss out on the generous love God sows for us.

Is your heart like the hard path? If you have been hurt or you feel that you must protect yourself from further hurt, you may need to soften your heart, open your soul and your mind to the blessings God offers.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you soften your heart so that it is ready to receive God’s grace?