Ready the Ground 10

Romans 15:12-13

This past summer we learned about bamboo. Bamboo is a type of grass that grows very quickly. If planted in the ground bamboo can flourish and grow quite tall and become very dense. If not held back bamboo can overtake almost all the other plants around it.

We have been looking at the parable of the sower that Jesus taught. It focuses on the types of soil that might represent how we feel at different times. Sometimes we have a hard heart, a heart that has been trampled under foot by others. When we are like that the seed of God’s love cannot thrive inside us.

Other times life has problems we must confront. We may have shallow faith, and again God’s love cannot take root. Other times the worries of life crowd out God’s love and we lose our spiritual focus.

But God wants us to have hearts that are receptive and open to the love He gives so freely. He wants our faith to grow deep within us. He wants His love to fill us up. The love of God should be given the opportunity to grow as fast and strong and thick as bamboo can grow when it is given an opportunity.

Paul makes reference to Isaiah in his letter to the Romans. Who is the “Root of Jesse” Isaiah speaks of? What does Paul desire for the believers?

The Root of Jesse is a reference to Jesus Christ. Jesse was the father of David, and David was the great ancestor of Jesus. When Isaiah makes reference to the Root of Jesse he is talking about Jesus Christ as Savior to the nations.

We must make our hearts and souls the good soil that will allow the love of God to take root. When we accept Christ as Savior, when we accept he love of God that He pours out so generously, then we are allowing the Root of Jesse – the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God’s extravagant love – to take root and grow within us.

When we allow Christ to live in us, when we allow God’s love to grow and fill us, then that love – incredible and powerful – can not only sustain us, but it will overflow from us. We will be able to be strong in our faith and confident in our Lord. And we will be able to show God’s love to everyone around us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you open your heart to Jesus?

Ready the Ground 9

Ephesians 3:16-18

So often the sense of loneliness and emptiness can encroach on our lives. Frequently we can feel that we are all alone. No one seems to care for us. No one seems to want to be our friend.

We begin to believe that we must face all of our troubles and problems on our own. We might feel that we do not have the strength of character or the strength of faith to face difficulties. It is in these times that we have forgotten just how much God loves us.

In the letter to the Ephesians the believers are offered some encouragement. What is prayed for? What desire is expressed for the believer’s heart? What power is desired?

It takes strong faith to face all the trials of life. We must have complete confidence in the presence of God, and that confidence can come from an awareness of how God feels toward us.

When we begin to think that our faith is like the rocky soil from the parable, that our faith simply cannot grow deeper, cannot take good root in our hearts, we need to remember what our relationship with our Savior is. When we worry that life’s troubles will crowd out our ability to love and to hold onto our faith, like thorns that crowd out growing seeds, we must recall that Jesus loves us deeply.

The prayer for the believers in Ephesus is a prayer for all believers. We must remember how deep and wide and broad is the love of Christ for each of us. We can remember how much we are loved when we allow Christ to live in our hearts, when we invite the eternal presence of God to be part of how we think and feel toward life.

With that presence of Christ inside of us we can allow our love and our faith to grow deep. With the presence of Christ we are made into the good soil that allows the seed of God’s grace to take root and flourish.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can remind you of how much Jesus loves you?

Ready the Ground 8

Romans 12:2

It can be so easy for me to have a bad day. Small things start to go wrong – a broken shoelace, a stubbed toe, a spilled drink – and then suddenly I have a very negative outlook on life. At times like these I have allowed the outside world to crowd in on my inside world.

I have allowed the external and material world to push out the spiritual focus I need to have. When that happens I am distracted and pulled away from my focus on God’s love.

But Paul has guidance for us. What should we NOT do? What should we do? What ability would we then have?

In the parable of the sower some of the seed fell on rocky ground and some fell on ground that had thorns. The rocky ground prevented the seed from taking deep root. The seed that fell among thorns were choked out by the weeds. In each case the situations of life kept the seed from growing strong.

In our own lives we can allow the troubles and challenges in life to prevent our faith and love from growing strong. We allow our fears to crowd in on our faith, and we let our worries fill our hearts and minds so that there is no room for God.

But if we will grow deep in our faith we must hold fast to our faith. We must trust completely in the love and grace of God. When the love of God fills us and when we hold to the strength that God gives us for faith we can grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord.

When we keep our faith and the love of God at the center of who we are then we can resist being transformed by the world around us. We can avoid being derailed, changed, tossed around by the things that surround us. Instead we will be transformed by a new spirit of faith and love.

We will grow deeper in our connection to God and in so doing become better Christians. We will be more connected to God and more able to understand the will of God – that which we should be doing in the kingdom of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can your faith keep you from being influenced by the world around you?

Ready the Ground 7

Isaiah 43:1-2

John Wesley, the man who essentially began the Methodist Church, had a life-changing experience as he sailed to America. During a terrifying storm while aboard the ship crossing the ocean, Wesley feared for his life while other passengers – Moravians – were not at all disturbed by the fierce tempest blowing outside and shaking the ship. They had complete confidence in God, and they knew they were safe in the hands of the Lord.

Sometimes life is frightening. Sometimes difficult times come up and threaten our faith and our happiness. Sometimes worries and fears begin to fill our lives and crowd out God.

Isaiah offers some hope and assurance. What assurance does God offer? What is our relationship with the Lord? What does God promise us?

This passage from the Old Testament prophet gives us a great deal of confidence. Although life may have terrible things in store for us – troubles and pain and trials to test our very souls – we have a deep root of faith in God. The Lord loves us and has claimed us as His own.

With that confidence and knowledge we can face the challenges and hardships of life. We can prevent the thorns of worry and troubles from crowding out our faith. We can remain deeply rooted in our faith and in the love that God has for us.

As we face troubling times we can trust that we are deeply rooted in the Lord. He is with us if we will allow Him to be by our side. If we can have faith in God then we can face the trials and temptations of life without fear knowing that God will save us from all troubles.

This may not mean that we will be spared the storms of life. We will need to go through the fires and raging waters of problems. But we are not alone.

We must make our hearts and souls like the good soil from the parable. We must welcome the presence of the Lord and allow His love and our own faith to grow deep within us that we might withstand life’s worries.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can your faith grow into something more confident?

Ready the Ground 6

Romans 5:3-4

I have a daily exercise routine using the Wii Fit. Among other things I do military presses with weights, push-ups and jackknife exercises. It isn’t always easy. In fact, I would say it is never easy. But I keep doing these things because they keep me healthy.

Every time I feel like stopping, every time I want to give up, I remind myself that what I am doing is building muscle. The workout is helping me feel better even if I don’t feel great as I am going through the routine.

Thinking back on the parable of the sower we have seen the different types of soil that the seed has fallen on. Some of the ground was good soil, ready to grow a great harvest. The other soils were not good – too hard, too shallow, too overgrown with thorns.

These represent the tough times in life. Sometimes we feel that we are the hard path, beaten down by life. Other times we are like the rocky soil – our faith is not deep enough to get us through the tough challenges in life. Other times life is like a field of thorns choking out our hopes and resolve.

But Paul has some encouragement in his letter to the Roman believers. What attitude does he have toward suffering? What does suffering produce? Perseverance? Character?

While it may be difficult for us to rejoice in the times when we suffer, we must maintain the attitude that we will get through these difficult challenges. We must remember that the tough times of life – the thorns and rocks, the days when we are beaten down – will ultimately make us better people.

If we can face our challenges and setbacks with confident faith that God is with us and that God loves us, we can emerge on the other side of trials with a deeper and stronger faith. As we endure suffering we build our faith muscles making us more able to face future hardships. And as we face hardships in the knowledge of God’s love we will have hope for our ultimate victory over the pain with God at our side.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you keep a positive outlook in hard times?