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Posts Tagged ‘the Parable of the Sower’

Jo 17I could not believe it. Early one morning, I went to check out our little garden just beyond our balcony. At least, it isn’t really ‘our’ garden, because the village gardeners look after it and have planted shrubs there. But I recently added some small, purple lobelia plants a neighbour gave me when some of her garden was dug up to allow for plumbing repairs nearby. I felt sorry for her and wanted those little plants to flourish, for her sake. But this particular morning, I discovered three of them had been dug up and were lying on top of the ground looking extremely forlorn, their roots dangling in mid-air.

How could this happen? I knew it hadn’t been our grandchildren—or the gardeners—or any of our neighbours. Then I noticed our big, local water dragon nearby, scratching the ground with its sharp claws. Could he (or she) be the culprit? Perhaps it was my imagination, but I suspected that cheeky lizard looked a tad guilty as I glared at it! Or could the real culprit be that even cheekier brush turkey who occasionally struts along the bushland corridor beside our unit? One day, my husband even saw it head upstairs to the units above ours, as if it owned the place!

Whoever the culprit might have been, those little plants needed rescuing. I stuck them back in the ground, held up their limp leaves and watered them carefully. And as I watched their progress (or lack thereof) in the ensuing days, I was reminded forcibly of the parable Jesus told about the farmer who went out one day to sow seed (Luke 8:1-15). Some fell along the path and was trampled or eaten by birds. Some fell on rocks, but the resulting plants soon withered because there was no water. Some fell among thorns, which also grew and choked those new plants. But some fell on good soil and yielded an amazing crop.

Jesus explains to his disciples that the seed along the path represents those who hear the word of God, yet never truly believe, because the enemy quickly tramples on their faith or snatches it away. The seed on the rock represents those who receive the word with joy, yet their faith soon withers, like my plants did when their roots were exposed. The seed that falls among thorns represents those whose faith does not mature because their worries, along with the riches and pleasures of life, choke it. Then Jesus says:

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (15)

How quickly that new life drained out of my little plants, as they lay in that hot sun! One day they were happily growing—and the next, they were not. What a stark reminder to me how easily we can die spiritually when, for one reason or another, our roots do not go down deep into God, so that we can withstand any attempts to trample on or snatch away or dry up or crowd out our faith!

May we not only hear the word, but retain it well—and may we persevere, ever maturing and producing the most abundant harvest possible, as God enables.

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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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