On Wednesday I had a lot on my mind after putting the kids to bed. My mind was all over the place. I’ve heard it described like having monkeys playing around in the head and call it “monkey brains”. Well I get that a lot and need to find ways to step away and process it all. I often take walks but on this night it was raining so I went down to the church gym to play some basketball. As I was shooting and praying and processing life, I got to singing. Now I don’t know most Hymns by heart so I tracked down a Hymnal and with a Hymnal in one hand and a basketball in the other I got to singing. I sang, “How Great Thou Art” and then made up my own verse.
“When thro’ the hood and all the streets I wander and hear the train blaring down the way. When I look down from Highland Park’s grandeur and see the city in all its shiny lights… then sings my soul my Savior God to me….” Yes, in our city surrounded by what people made and not the beautiful forest and nature described in the original Hymn. But are not all these human creations and institutions an expression that we are made in the image of God, yearning to create and express ourselves on this world? Are there not images of God simply walking around us if we have eyes to see and the ears to hear? Are there not as many wonders in this concrete mixed forest as there is in Brown County State Park?
So I sang How Great Thou Art in the gym, I played basketball, I prayed and all the while I was drawing near to God.
Much of my connecting with God is simply getting myself to a place of surrender (in a good way)—receiving God’s grace and love— then to simply trust and obey…
In our first message of our series Pastor Ron talked about how we can move past mental barriers- when we don’t understand God’s word. Then he addressed emotional barriers- what do we do when the feelings are gone, then the worries barrier because when we worry more, we worship less.
Today as we look at the last seed illustrated in the Parable of the Sower where God’s word is received into good soil we see a simple picture. The seed lands in good soil and finally grows to produce a crop. Our faith in God is also not very complicated. Receiving God’s word is simply to trust and obey… The Christian life is not that complicated, but it can’t be broken down into a list of rules and regulations to follow. When we say trust and obey, we are trusting and obeying a living Lord that is actively speaking into our lives with his word. Following Jesus and obeying him is not a check list but a continual relationship of listening and obeying… Letting the seed put deep roots into our lives.
Remember the song… Trust and Obey, say it with me…. For there’s not other way to be happy in Jesus then to trust and obey.
Now… What’s the two questions Ron is challenging us to ask?
What is God saying? What are we going to do about it?
After the first message, about the seed that fell on the path and the bird ate the seed, I asked my son Samuel, “What is God saying to you?” He said, “It went in one ear and out the other.”
Yesterday our family had morning devotions and we read the next parable to this farmer scattering seed one in the book of Mark. It’s called the Parable of the Lamp and is found in Mark 4:21-25 in case you want to read it later. The last two verses say, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given- and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
To this devotion time, Samuel said, “It went in one ear and is doing this.” (waving hand around the brain)
We also talked in yesterday’s family devotions about how there is two different kinds of listening. There’s one kind where you are hearing what someone says to understand their perspective. There is another type of listening where you may be listening to you parents, God, a teacher and you hear what they say, understand it, then follow the instructions.
When we disobey God’s instructions we miss out on what God has for us. Disobedience can slowly chip away at your relationship with God and sense of his love… When we could be enjoying a rich relationship with God, disobedience can lead to depression, as the Psalmist said, a feeling like you are rotting away… but then the Psalmist mentions the joy of confession and turning back to God and finding that his arms are open to receive you.
Even the devil understands aspects of God, right? He’s heard it before but it’s the believing and obeying part that he lacks. Instead, he fights to prevent us from believing and obeying. He wants to challenge God’s authority in our lives.
In our culture as well, we are often taught to challenge authority. A healthy skepticism is often helpful but if we don’t learn to trust and obey God’s authority we will never grow in good soil.
Too often the words we hear go in one ear and out the other. Some of this is good because much of what we hear is not worth listening to anyways, it’s just background noise. It’s a challenge in this fast-paced society to slow down and be present to the voices that matter and are not background noise. Hearing the voice of God is also hard. We live in an age with an abundance of information but not so much understanding. When there are so many voices screaming at us how can we hear the still small voice of God? I find it helpful to disconnect from Facebook or other forms of media so I can hear God better. Is God telling you to do the same thing? It’s an art really to learn to hear from God when the world and information are flying by at a record pace. Too often the words we need to hear go in one ear and out the other.
Don’t you find it amazing how little the disciples understood of Jesus while he was walking and talking with them. Even at the last supper when Jesus said, “ I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” It wasn’t like they seemed to get what he was saying. It took time for them to process it and for the seed of his words to grow and shape their understanding.
Also at the last supper, Jesus said a beautiful thing about what obeying God’s word does in our lives.
John 14:21, “Those who accept my commandment and obey them are the ones who love me and because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
This verse explains how spiritual growth happens… Ron calls it Invitation and Challenge…
First, we hear the words of Jesus and his invitation to life with God, which we were created for though we may not have even known it. (Gospel)
Then there’s the challenge part, which in John 14:21 we are challenged to accept and obey Jesus’ command…
And at this point the verse gets really interesting… What happens as we obey? I will love them and reveal myself to them… Jesus deepens our identity in him. This is a beautiful description of spiritual growth… Jesus invites us into his love and we are challenged to obey… as we obey he reveals more of his love… it forms a type of perpetual triangle… God to our identity in God, to obedience to God revealing more of himself and his love.
What does this look like in our lives? It looks like lives that are empowered through trials and tribulations to honor Jesus and walk in his strength. Jason, Stephanie, Vincent, Marianne… others not see in themselves… Dave and Claudia
In the end love is the defining attribute of our spiritual growth and obedience… It starts and ends with love… that is the crop God desires which is the very seed he plants in the soil of our hearts through his word.
Here’s some questions to reflect upon. How do you find ways to hear God’s voice everyday? What gets in the way?
What is God saying?
What are you going to do about it?
Most of us have probably heard Billy Graham passed away this past week. I think Billy Graham’s greatest legacy is not the amount of people that came to rallies, it’s not the number of people he led to the Lord, or even his powerful preaching. His greatest legacy, faithful obedience. A long walk in the same direction. As he obeyed, the Lord revealed more and more of himself…. We may never produce as much fruit as Billy Graham but that’s not what Jesus is calling for us. If we could follow Billy Graham as he followed Christ I believe the defining quality to that walk would be obedience. That obedience would bring a further revelation of God’s love through the Holy Spirit as Jesus reveals himself to us.
I heard yesterday an illustration I hope to take to the grave with me. Is he in us like a pebble is in a glass of water…. No…. Or is he in us more like a chocolate chip in a cookie… no… He’s in us like the ocean is in a wave…
Let’s let the ocean of God’s love and presence shape us as we obey, grow, and through us may God produce a mighty crop.
What is God saying? What are we going to do about it?