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Posts Tagged ‘Luke 8’

This past week, I met up with an old friend for lunch. As we sat chatting (for over two hours!), we reminisced about our high school years together. At one stage, I shared how I had caught up with a mutual friend while in Queensland recently. I was book signing in the town where this mutual friend lives and she came to find me. Despite the forty-eight years that have elapsed since we were at school together, we recognised each other immediately—and what a joy it was to share our spiritual journeys right there in the middle of the bookstore!

At that same two hour lunch with my friend, I also updated her on another mutual friend I had seen recently. All four of us had been involved in a Christian group at our high school—at least in our final two years. After high school, our lives took different directions. One married a grazier and lived on remote properties, with little opportunity to meet with other Christians. But God watched over her and she would head over to a neighbouring property whenever the pastor from this family’s church came to visit. Another moved overseas with her husband and was reconnected with church via some Americans in Germany. After having one child, she then had triplets, but sadly her husband passed away when the triplets were quite young. Yet God kept his hand on this friend and today, she is a vital part of her local church. The final friend married a minister, as I did, and has served faithfully alongside him in country churches for many years. God has sustained her through times of ill health and challenge and enabled her to serve others with patience and grace.

Yes, God has indeed watched over us, throughout the twists and turns of our lives. As a result, here we are today, still loving and serving the Lord with all our hearts. Yet while God has been so faithful, there is another important aspect here too.  All three of my friends have hung in there through some very tough times. They have reached out to God and the Body of Christ and have continued to grow in their faith. They have chosen to keep following the Lord, despite discouragement from family members, despite deep grief and loss, despite loneliness and disappointment. They have chosen to love and serve others and to remain faithful to the end.

I thought of my three friends as I again read this week the parable of the sower from Luke 8. Through all these years, they did not allow the devil to take away God’s word from their hearts (v 12). They did not fall away, but let this word take root in their lives (v 13). And they were not ‘choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures’ (v 14). Instead they heard the word, retained it, then persevered—and bore wonderful fruit in their lives as a result (v 15).

It’s so true we are saved by grace and not works, but persevering is pretty important too, don’t you think? Surely, in the light of God’s amazing love and grace, this is what we are all called upon to do?

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P1000421A few years ago, while travelling with a friend in Central Turkey, I saw something that caused me to stop in my tracks. We had just left the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusa, an amazing UNESCO World Heritage listed site covered in ruins from around 2000 to 1000 years BC—possibly from before the time of Moses. As we walked back to the village where we were staying, we noticed a farmer in a nearby field doing something that seemed to come straight from the pages of the Bible. He was walking slowly across his ploughed ground, scattering seeds by hand from a large bag he wore across his body, just as his ancestors had no doubt done for centuries.

I thought of that Turkish man as I planted some seeds of my own a few days ago. My seeds came from a friend’s pretty, flowering plants called ‘four o’clocks’ which I was assured will grow anywhere. This sounded good to me. After all, anything would be better than the weeds currently thriving in my garden! So with great hope and optimism, I took my bag of seeds, cleared out those weeds and poked in one seed after another wherever there was a spare spot. I had no idea how deep I should plant them—but in they went anyway. Surely with so many, at least a few will make it?

Alas, I suspect some of my seeds at least will meet a similar fate to the ones Jesus talks about in Luke 8. I suspect in my awkward scrambles around our garden, a few were dropped and trodden on—maybe even to be eaten by the birds that feast on the grevilleas nearby. I also suspect some were planted too near or even on top of the rocks that line the terraces in our backyard, so will never germinate. As for some falling among thorns and weeds that will choke the life out of them—well, that’s the most likely fate of all in my garden. But … but just maybe some will land on good soil and produce a myriad of pretty bright red and yellow flowers in the cooler, late afternoon air around four o’clock each day. Then as their seed forms and drops, even more flowers will spring up and fill my garden. And I will be so delighted!

I wonder how God feels as he watches how the precious seeds of his very own words fare in our lives (Lk 8:11)? I wonder if God grieves when so many fall by the wayside and disappear or bounce off our hard hearts like some of my round seeds did off those rocks in my garden? I wonder if God longs for the weeds and mess in our lives to be cleared out so his words can take root and flourish? And I wonder if God claps his hands in delight when he sees those first small green shoots appear and flourish in our lives, to be followed by beautiful blossoms or sweet fruits that give joy to others and sustain them along the way?

How patient our God the perfect gardener is, always planting those precious seeds in our hearts, faithfully speaking to us, never giving up on us, loving us to the end!

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:7-8

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This Christmas, among the many beautiful gifts I received was a small silver and gold tin from one of our daughters. Judging from the wonderful, gardenia-like perfume I could smell even before I opened the lid, I knew there was something special inside. Yes, to my delight, it turned out to be a precious cake of soap.

I love receiving such gifts, but this particular one seems almost too good to use. At the moment, it lives beside me on my desk so I can open it and enjoy its beautiful perfume from time to time. And that’s how I recently noticed the fine gold lettering on the back of the tin.

Housed in a collectible tin, I read. Yes, it is a pretty cute container. Each precious soapette is made from a rich vegetable base … to create a decadent lather that leaves the skin brilliantly refreshed, it went on. Yes, my skin could definitely do with such refurbishment, I decided!

But it was what I read next that dumbfounded me. There was the word ‘DIRECTIONS’, written in capitals, just as I have here. Yet … wait a minute! What special instructions could one possibly need when it comes to using soap?

I read on with interest. Add water and massage onto body for a creamy lather. Rinse thoroughly with water. Really?! I checked again to make sure there was no hidden gem here I was missing. After all, perhaps I’d being doing it wrong all these years. One never knows. But in the end, I decided that yep, that’s pretty much what it boils down to—adding water, then rinsing!

I laughed out loud. Who could possibly need such simple directions? Doesn’t everyone know that? But then it occurred to me that perhaps cakes of soap were a novelty to some people. Perhaps they always use liquid soap or gel. Perhaps not everyone is old-fashioned like me.

Then I began thinking a little more about it all. Are there other instructions in life I laugh at because they’re so simple or commonplace? What else might I decide not to read because I know all about it already? How often have I jumped in and done something, without bothering to take the time to read the directions or do the necessary preparations?

I’m a bit like that at times when it comes to the Word of God, I decided. I skim over so much, thinking I know all the wisdom contained there. I see and hear the words of Jesus to his disciples and think to myself I’ve heard it all before. Of course I believe it all and try to put such things into practice in my life. Who wouldn’t? But then something—perhaps God’s Spirit—pulls me up short. Are you hearing me, Jo-Anne? Are you really putting into practice the things I am asking you to do here?

Then I remembered the simple story of the sower Jesus told (Luke 8)—and took it to heart. What riches from God have a trampled on in 2012 and simply left for the birds? What wisdom did I not cultivate? What things did I allow to crowd into my life and crowd out God?

In 2013, may we have ears to hear what God says to each of us, however simple and familiar it may seem. And may we have the courage to put it into practice in our lives.

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