Musings from the Garden

The parable of the sower is a familiar one for many: 4 kinds of soil with 4 results. Only 1 seed = gospel (good news of Jesus) yet there are two categories of the results: the saved and the unsaved.

Matthew 13
18 “Listen then to the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one sown with seed beside the road.

20 The one sown with seed on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately he falls away.

22 And the one sown with seed among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, and the anxiety of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

23 But the one sown with seed on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces, some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times as much.”

I used to wonder a bit about what is the difference between soil 2 & soil 3. One thing is similar: both are affected by the concerns of the world = affliction, persecution (v.21) and anxiety of the world (v.22). The difference is soil 2 falls away. The person received the good news with joy but he turned away from his belief when hardships come. Soil 3 becomes unfruitful. This person is like the plant that grows with the thorns. The cares of the world prevent him from bearing fruit:1) fruit of the Spirit; bearing fruit like 2) sharing the gospel to make disciples of people.

To be like soil no. 3 is to be like a believer of Jesus yet not bearing the semblance of Jesus. To be unfruitful is like having no joy, no patience, no love, no peace, no faithfulness, no gentleness, no goodness or kindness and no self-control. To be an unfruitful Christian is because his focus is on the “anxiety of the world” and the “deceitfulness of wealth” not on the ‘Power of the Word.”

To be fruitful, I need to ‘hear’ (really listen, read and study) the Word, ‘understand’ (really live and apply it to my daily living). To be fruitful is to bless my neighbor as I obey God’s command to love him with all my being. How do I bless my neighbor? I love them like Jesus loves me. I forgive as I am forgiven. I give as Jesus gives. I multiply the gifts and make more givers out of my giving = that is making disciples of all nations. That is the great commission of being a fruitful follower of Jesus. So help me God.

Today is another day to bear fruit and be fruitful, dear friend.

When Silence is Gold…

Have you ever been accused of anything? I have. How did you respond? I had the need to explain myself – to defend myself. I felt wronged. I had to right myself.

Jesus too was accused. He was put on trial, accused wrongly. And what did he do? What did he say? Let’s see..

The Inquisition of Jesus
Matthew 27:11-14
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.

Whoa! How did he do that? He did not answer (v. 12) He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge. (v.14) Not a word, not a sound!

So the governor was quite amazed.

Ahhhh.. Jesus’ silence amazed his accuser. Jesus did not need to explain or defend himself because he knew he did no wrong. He knew he was sent to do the Father’s will.

Bottom line: There is sense of quiet confidence in solitude, standing alone even when everything and everyone is against you. There is assurance of self-identity. Who am I? I’m the beloved Son of God. There is confidence of a purpose-driven act. What do I need to do? I have to obey my Father in heaven. In this, I rest my case. I can be quiet. No need for words.

The Call

The Calling…

Have you ever been called to answer a difficult question in class? What happens when a teacher asked ‘Where and when was the treaty of NATO signed? Who signed them?’ Would you raise your hand or bow your head and pray the teacher calls someone else?

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah had a call. God called him to do a difficult task.
God called him verbally in a challenging place and time to be a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah 1
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

(Jeremiah’s appointment was planned long before he was conceived (v.5). How does it feel to know that God’s plan for me is so well in advance – long long time even before I came to be? It is well-thought of. It means I am of great importance to him. It means he has an important job for me to do. To be set apart means to be called for something special – a unique purpose.)

6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

(To be a prophet is to be God’s messenger to the people – to speak on God’s behalf. Jeremiah’s excuse was ‘I am too young, inexperienced. I am not eloquent.’ Sounds like the excuse of Moses (Exo. 4:10) or perhaps yours?)

7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

(God’s assurance: No excuse and no fear – for I am with you and I will help you.)

9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

(God’s action: God enables those he calls. He assures Jeremiah He will give him the words to say. God speaks very specifically what Jeremiah will do.)

11 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

(God’s accommodation: God asked: What do you see, Jeremiah? God starts with what I see. God knows what I am seeing and what I will see. He knows the answer before he asks. He asks because he wants me to tell him.)

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

(God’s assurance: God said you are correct. I am watching with you. You are seeing what I see. And I will see to it that all I say, I will do.)

13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”

“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”

(God assures again and again: He wants us to practice seeing and telling him what we see.)

14 The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. 15 I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.

(God explains further. He tells Jeremiah exactly what is going to happen.)

17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

(God’s armor: God himself confirms and affirms the calling. He enables and equips. God calls Jeremiah to get ready to accept the challenge, to stand up and speak out bravely – not to be afraid of the enemies. God himself will make Jeremiah strong to stand up against people of power. God assures him that he will win in spite of resistance because God himself will be with Jeremiah. God will rescue him from all that is against him.)

When I was in high school, the most popular topic or question among my peers was How do I know God’s will for me? It is like asking What is God calling me to do? How can I be sure it is the right thing to do? What if I hear it wrong? What if I cannot do it well enough? What if I am not good enough?

When God calls:
1) He speaks clearly: through his words in the Bible, through fellow Christians around me, through the Holy Spirit when I pray and listen attentively.
My calling to write a book came through friends over a long period of time. I procrastinate with excuses – I do not know how to write a book. I need an editor. I do not know an editor.

2) He assures strongly: Do not be afraid. I will be with you. I will help you.
When God provided an editor, I was overwhelmed with anxiety how to start the journey. God continued to encourage me with his Word. He gives me the words to write. He answered my prayer when I was feeling helpless and wordless. When I was feeling lost, he showed me the way.

3) He affirms these promises through circumstances. Pathways open one step at a time. Even when a door is closed, windows open. Even when my book proposal was turned down, the process became a stepping stone for the journey. I wrote a testimony in compliance to the proposal requirement of the publishing company. This testimony became the cornerstone of my book – 4 standing stones on which to build the structure of my book. Because the initial proposal did not become a book, God showed me a better one. He sent me an editor to give discerning guidance – turning my words into a better channel for his glory.

Indeed, his thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways higher than mine. When God calls, he accompanies all the way! Praise His name.