Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 29, 2012

"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 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. " Luke 8:4-15

God's love is amazing! You have been reminded of that in powerful new ways during this study. And God's love is available. That, too, has become evident during the reading of CRAZY LOVE!

Now all that is left is to understand how to receive it and Jesus provides a powerful insight through His parable of the sower and the seed. To receive God's love and have it take root in you spirit you must cultivate good soil in your spirit.

For the longest time I saw this parable as representing four different people with four different spiritual conditions. I guess that can be one of the interpretations, but more helpful to this study is the understanding that in order to produce good soil you must deal with the thorns and the hard places and the shallow spots in your spirit.

Hard soil will not allow the seeds of God's love to take root unless you break it up. Hard soil is the result of disobedience. When you hear God's Word but refuse to heed it your heart gets hardened. Be careful when you go to church Sunday after Sunday and hear the messages but fail to mind the Holy Spirit's promptings. Obedience cultivates good soil, disobedience does the opposite.

Shallow soil allows seeds to sprout but not to put down roots. Without roots there can be no lasting growth and never any fruit produced. The purpose of seeds is to produce fruit not roots. What does shallow soil signify? It represents a disinterested approach to faith - a religious observance rather and a relationship. To cultivate good soil you have to engage your heart, not just your head.

Thorny soil is overgrown with weeds that compete with the seeds for moisture, sunlight, and nutrients. If you have healthy weeds you will have struggling seeds that will eventually be choked out. Thorny soil repesents the distractions of life that keep you from focusing on things that produce growth. The only way to get a fruitful harvest is to pull the thorns out by their roots. Weed grow quickly and require constant attention, attention that should be given to spiritual growth.

Good soil requires great effort! If you don't obey God you won't have good soil. And if you don't pray you will have shallow soil not good soil. And if you don't stay focused you will be choked by the thorns of stress and distracted living.

So, the better your soil, the better God's love will take root in your soul!

How is your soil?

Which soil best represents the condition of your soul?

What do you intend to do about it?

March 28, 2012

"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”  John 21:15-19

How many times do you get a second chance at love? When it comes to people, there are no guarantees. With God, there are ALWAYS second chances (and third and fourth and fifth....)! That is the big amazing truth you are wrapping your heart and mind around over these past five weeks. Even though it will take all of eternity to fully understand His CRAZY LOVE, the more you know about it the better it looks.

God's love is unchanging and unconditional. It is not about who you are but Who He is! His love is rooted in His Character, therefore it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! He will not love you more when you act like Mother Teresa nor will He love you less when you act like Charlie Manson. HE JUST LOVES WITH A CRAZY LOVE!

You don't have to earn this love you just need to receive it! Over the past two weeks we have been learning how to clear obstacles from your life to create more space for His CRAZY LOVE to occupy.

In this Scripture text above you see one of the more poignant moments recorded in the Bible. The resurrected Jesus has come seeking some quality time with His closest followers and hoping to restore Peter after his monumental denial of His Savior. In this revealing encounter between The Master and Peter, you can gain some insight into how love grows and develops within a believer's heart.

After they had enjoyed a breakfast on the beach, Jesus found some alone time with Peter and immediately questioned him three times about his love for Him. It is probably significant that he asked Peter three times because Peter had denied Jesus three times.

This encounter is rich in great truths about the love of God but I want to zero in on the three answers Peter gave to Jesus' three-fold questioning of his love. The significance is in the different words used for love in the original language of the New Testament.

Each time, Jesus asked Peter if he loved (agape) Him but each time Peter answered, "You know I love (phileo) you."

"Agape" love is CRAZY LOVE - it is unconditional supernatural love like God has for you, while "phileo" is a fondness like the love you would have for a friend or a family member.

So, Jesus was asking Peter to commit to a CRAZY LOVE commitment but all he could get was a casual love. For purposes of this lesson I want to trace the process of learning to love Jesus like this:

Loving God begins with a fondness for Jesus when you receive Him as Savior. That is how Peter responds - "I like this feeling!"

From that beginning love grows to a friendship with Jesus as you learn to walk with Him and talk with Him. That is essentially how Peter responds - "I love this fellowship!"

Love should grow to the next level when Jesus asked Him the third time hoping that Peter would confess to a full and holy love - "agape". But Peter's response was more like this - "I love this faith and I will try to live it".

Peter, still smarting from the pain of having denied Jesus and disappointing himself was very hesitant to over-promise to Christ and fail again. But I believe he answered as sincerely as he could and I think he did love Christ as much as humanly possible. And I think that traces the progression of love for Christ: from a feeling level to a friendship level to a faith level.

There was a day that Peter was finally able to confess "agape" love! But it wasn't because of anything he did or anything he stopped doing, it was on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of God fell upon him and filled him with "agape" (CRAZY LOVE)! That changed Peter forever and empowered Peter to change the world!

What is most crazy about CRAZY LOVE is that you cannot love God as He desires to be loved and deserves to be loved - at any level unless you receive His love. And you can only receive it to the level that you have prepared your heart through denying self and dying to selfishness.

Are you ready to stop trying to earn His love and just let Him love you?

Have you prepared your heart to receive His love at a deeper level?

Are you ready to move from "phileo" love to "agape" love? Will you renounce your shallow love and receive His supernatural love?