Seeds grow… it’s their nature

DaAndMuleIt’s the nature of seeds to grow (see Mark 4:27-28).

The farmer doesn’t really know how, but if he sows seed in the ground, the dirt makes the seed sprout and grow. Then the farmer takes advantage of that process and harvests the crop. That somewhat explains the earlier verses in Mark chapter 4.

Picture the planting season: The farmer takes a sack of seeds down to the field. Some seeds fall out along the roadway, not the designated place at all – hard, packed down dirt. Still, those seeds sprout!

Further along, the edges of the field are lined with stones, probably gathered out of the field to prepare it for planting. Some stray seeds fall into the stones, and they too sprout.

A bit further along, the farmer crosses the perimeter of the field where the thorns and weeds still exist. Here too, some seeds drop out and here too, they sprout.

Finally he gets to the plowed land. He sows the seeds where they are supposed to be, in the field where the ground has been cultivated. The stones, briers and weeds have been carefully removed so there’s nothing to prevent the seeds from getting plenty of nutrients and water.

Eventually the farmer harvests a good crop, even discounting the seeds that sprouted in all the wrong spots.

Why? Because it’s the nature of seeds to grow. No farmer can create seeds, or dirt – but the smart farmer knows how they work and he takes advantage of them.

Jesus relates the seed to his word. If we’re as smart as farmers we’ll take advantage of this principle.

(Originally posted February 17, 2008.)

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Work out… part two

Memorizing“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” Part Two.

Being “occupied until Jesus comes” means some of our time must be spent learning how to spiritually feed ourselves, strengthen our faith, and learn “best practices” in living in a world that grows ever more hostile to Christians.

Books, magazines, devotionals, sermons on CD or internet sites can be added resources, but they are not our primary source for God’s life.

God’s word is.

Jesus said, ” … the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63 NIV)

Meat and milk, our spiritual food for life, health and growth, is contained in his word. It’s also our faith producer, faith exerciser, armor and weapon against the enemy.

Having God’s word on hand in your memory isn’t just a good religious idea, it’s life-preserving. Basic survival gear. So, how to get it into our memory? Here are some practical tips.

  1. Read it regularly.
  2. Think about what you’re reading. Pray for clarity and listen to the Lord as you read.
  3. Write out verses you particularly want to remember.
  4. Read them out loud as you write. Index cards can be useful tools, one or two verses per card. Keep the ones you’re currently working on handy – in your kitchen, your office, even in your pocket or purse.
  5. Re-read them every chance you get, out loud when possible, and occasionally re-write them. Every time you work on the same verse, that memory is reinforced and becomes easier to recall.

Memory is a complex brain function but not that complicated. Each individual step in the process of learning is stored in its own memory cell. Plus, each combination of those steps is stored in a different memory cell. For instance,

Seeing a word = 1 memory cell
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Combination of seeing and thinking about the word = 1
Total = 3 places that word is stored

Seeing the word = 1
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Speaking the word out loud = 1
Hearing the word spoken = 1
Seeing and thinking = 1
Seeing and speaking = 1
Seeing and hearing = 1
Thinking and speaking = 1
Thinking and hearing = 1
Hearing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and hearing = 1
Total = 12

Hope I didn’t miss any combinations… When you add any element to this process, such as speaking out loud (movement of your lips and tongue), or writing (movement of your hand, gripping the pen, putting the pen to paper) you add each step and each combination of steps — multiplying many times over the places in your brain that memory is stored.

Every time you do this with the same word (or verse), other memory cells store that same information and the ones where it is already stored are reinforced. If you include background elements such as music playing, fragrances wafting through the room, or walking around while reading, the memory effect is multiplied exponentially.

Here are some excellent verses to remember, and why we should remember them.

  • “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  (Ephesians 5:15-17)
  • “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Peter 2:1-3)
  • “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)
  • “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (II Peter 1, v2)
  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (v3)
  • “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (v4)
  • “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;” (v5)
  • “and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;” (v6)
  • “and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (v7)
  • “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v8)
  • “But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” (v9)
  • “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” (v10)
  • “and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v11)

Learning and remembering the scriptures is essential for increasing our knowledge of God’s word and will, and with it, increasing our faith.

For part one, see Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Really?

Sozo – salvation, faith and healing

Testimony, part two

Sozo – salvation, faith and healing

Getting the job as the very first secretary of the Nursing Department of Florence-Darlington Technical College was the easiest thing I ever did. My current job was ending and I needed a new one, and one of the other parents at my children’s daycare told me about this new position being created. I called, went by and filled out an application form and was set up with an interview with Billie Boette, R.N., the new department head.

The day of the appointment I found her surrounded by box after box of loose papers, files, print-outs, student records, instructional materials, office supplies, and other assorted odds and ends.

There was a large outer room, a glass-walled inner room, two desks, two chairs and an empty file cabinet, all nice and new, and all stacked with overflowing boxes. Adjoining this yet-to-become office space was a completely furnished ward room featuring two rows of neatly made-up hospital beds, bedpans and rolling sphygmometers (blood pressure machines). One bed was occupied by Resusci-Annie, a full-sized dummy used to teach CPR.

Classes were set to begin in just a week or so. We had little time to make sense of all the confusion in those boxes, set up for-real offices for Billie and me, plus have all the student records organized before they descended on us en masse. I must have looked capable for the task because I was hired on the spot. Billie just pointed to the mass of boxes and said, “That’s your first job.”

I don’t know how we did it but by the first day of class we looked like we had it all together. Both desks were organized, mine with pens, scotch tape, paper clips, white-out, and a nice new typewriter, Billie’s stacked with student and staff files. Trash cans were half-full, pot plants were dropping a few wilted leaves, and hand-outs were being typed.

I answered the department phone, typed instructional material and generally did whatever anybody wanted or needed to make the nursing department’s first quarter run smoothly. I stayed very busy those first months on the job. I met a lot of people, learned my way around campus and thoroughly enjoyed my work.

But then came a day when I had nothing to do, literally nothing. There were no papers to type or file, the phone didn’t ring, no-one stopped by, and after I dusted, polished, emptied trash and did everything else I could think of, I opened my Schofield Reference Bible. I usually brought it with me to read during lunch.

I had promised myself to read the Bible all the way through in a year but my tendency to get distracted was interfering — I’d read a couple of verses, see something interesting and run all the references. Some days I only got through three or four verses that way.

This particular day, with no-one coming, going or telephoning, I picked up the Bible and turned to the index. I was curious about something.

Mr. Charlie Smith had given me several audiocassettes to listen to a few days earlier. On one tape Jerry Savelle was giving his testimony at a conference, vividly describing an accident that had happened to his baby daughter. Jerry and his wife were at a Kenneth Copeland meeting, the baby in the nursery. Suddenly someone came running up the aisle shouting, “Brother Jerry, Brother Jerry, come quick!”

Crawling around the floor while the nursery attendant was tending to another infant, Jerry’s daughter had her little finger underneath the rocker when the attendant rocked back. The end of her little finger was mashed completely off behind the fingernail. Blood was pouring, the baby was screaming and the nursery worker was hysterical.

Jerry wrapped the baby’s finger up, held her tight against his chest and ran back into the auditorium, straight up to the platform. He said, “Kenneth had been preaching that God still heals today, and I was going to find out if that was true or not, right now.”

Kenneth prayed for the baby and Jerry and his wife headed to the hospital. They had the end of the finger wrapped in a cloth but the ER doctor said it was too mangled to reattach. He sutured up the wound and said it should heal up okay, but that finger would never have a fingernail again. Jerry replied, “It’ll grow back.” The doctor patiently explained that since the entire nailbed was gone, there was no way for the fingernail to grow back.

Jerry just insisted, “It’ll grow back.” They took the baby home, and sure enough, within a few months she had a healed-up finger, complete with brand new fingernail!

I was astonished. I’d never heard a story of healing like that before, or a story of faith like that before either. I played that tape again, then listened to several others like it. Jerry Savelle, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and others, all gave healing testimonies. They accompanied these accounts with scripture about God’s unchanging word, how salvation contains everything necessary for life and godliness, how healing is still for us today if we will just believe it.

Now I’d heard multiple sermons before about the scriptures containing all we need for godly living. But I had never heard any about this kind of healing being for today. Everybody I knew got sick now and then, and every sick person I knew went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics or something. Nobody I knew just believed God and got healed.

No church I’d ever attended really prayed and believed the sick person would get healed, just that the doctor would give them the right medicine or treatment and eventually they’d get better. Of course a lot of them didn’t get better, they got worse. Some died from heart disease, cancer, or stroke.

And the way they were prayed for got everybody off the hook. “Lord, if it be thy will, heal this poor sick brother.” So if they weren’t healed, why then it must not have been God’s will. Makes sense, right?

But these people were saying it is God’s will to heal, you can know it’s God’s will to heal, and you yourself can experience God’s willingness to heal.

Okay, here I was with a completely work-free day. Here was my chance to examine the Bible and see for myself. I turned to the index and made a list of every verse that had the word heal, healing, healed or health in it. It was a long list. Then I started in, carefully writing out all those verses from Genesis to Revelation in a notebook, getting more and more persuaded as I went that the tapes had it right.

By the time I gathered up my Bible, notebook and purse at the end of the day, I was convinced. I was also sad, disappointed, and a little angry — angry at all those preachers and Sunday School teachers who had not told me that healing is for today. Angry at myself for waiting so many years to study for myself what the Bible said about healing.

I drove home that day without really seeing the road. Disappointment and anger soon turned into joy, thanksgiving, praise and worship. And determination to apply the scriptures to myself, prove God’s faithfulness to myself, and demonstrate in my own life the truth of his Word.

I had a new study goal. Now that I knew God provided sozo-salvation-faith-healing in Jesus, I needed to know how to transmit that to 20th century sickness, disease, injury, pain, in my own life and my family’s. How did Jesus do it? How did the disciples do it? How did Jesus tell us to do it?

If you read the other articles on this site, you’ll learn what I found out.

Magnify the Lord… how

Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me…”

How? How can you make the Lord bigger than he already is? That question popped into my head the other day for some reason, when I was thinking about the little chorus based on that verse.

The creator of the universe and everything in it, and everything outside of it – how big is he?

Not very big in some minds. Not big enough to care about little things. Like a parking space. A cell phone signal. A sale on groceries.

Or caring enough about the bigger things. Like a job. Or a heart attack. Dishonest banker. Crooked politician.

God doesn’t need magnifying in his person, he needs magnifying in our thinking.

He is big enough to design the most beautiful artwork in the galaxies, in a starfish, in a baby’s smile, and caring enough to listen to any believer’s prayer. I believe that, but some folks don’t.

We need to magnify his grace, his mercy, his compassion, his power, his patience, to the world.

It would be good to magnify him in the hearts and minds of his own people, too, who sometimes think he’s not paying attention to our hurts and lacks.

Today is a good day to start.

Dreams, visions, the Holy Spirit is at work

This is exciting! The following news reports are from several mission updates I received by email April 17, 2008:

(1) Many reports have been received of Muslims who are finding Jesus through experiences of dreams and visions.

(2) Over the past few years Burma’s Buddhist monks and nuns have invited Christian missionaries to come share the gospel in the privacy of their monasteries. “It appears that the Holy Spirit had urged these monks and nuns to call our evangelists to come and share the gospel of hope and love.” Several thousand Buddhist monks have now been led to Christ as close to 80 percent of the monks in each of the monasteries prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. [Adapted from MISSIONS INSIDER, 18 March ’08.]

In Acts 2:17 Peter quotes verses from Joel chapter 2, about visions, dreams, and the Holy Spirit being poured out – in the last days. Those days, and these days!

When in Rome…

Praying and meditating before going to sleep last night, the Lord asked me a strange question – have you considered Rome and Romans? The apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans, that much I knew. I had read and studied, even taught about the book of Romans, but had I ever considered – really considered who these people were, that the book was originally addressed to?

Well, no, I can’t say that I had. Weren’t they all Christians who lived in Rome? That’s about all I could remember. I guess to instigate more study on my part, the Lord told me a little bit about these people.

Some were immigrants to the city. Some were natives. Some were Jewish. Some were not. Some were born there. Some were not. Rome was a “melting pot” (like America) of many ethnicities, cultures, traditions, religions, societal level, education, morals and ethics.

Some had parents who had immigrated there from Israel, others had grandparents who had immigrated there from Israel, and those parents and grandparents were orthodox Jews who kept the Jewish traditions. Thus, their adult children were not integrated into the pagan Roman culture.

But for many or most of the others, they had been integrated into the local culture, politics, business, religion, society, legal and moral systems.

Into this multi-faceted Roman society came the Gospel. How? What happened next? That’s all the Lord told me. It’s as if He was smiling, knowing my love of Bible study and innate curiosity would take over from there. And of course it has.

So this morning I looked in my NIV at Paul’s introduction to the book of Romans, to see who he addressed and why he said he was writing. That gave me a little information — he didn’t know these people but he planned to come there for a visit. He wanted to impart some spiritual gift to them, to make them strong, and for them to mutually encourage each other. He also wanted a harvest from among them, I assume he meant new believers.

Of course, he wanted them to know who he was before he arrived, and what he believed, so they would know he was legitimate. Okay, so far, so good.

But those introductory verses didn’t describe the Roman believers to me very well, so I went to the internet to see if I could find a bit of historical information. I did, and this information will help me understand why Paul included all he did in his Epistle to the Romans as I begin a new read and study of it.

If you like history too, keep reading. The following is from the online Catholic Encyclopedia, April 11, 2008:

“ROME

After the sixth decade B.C. many Hebrews had settled at Rome, in the Trastevere quarter and that of the Porta Capena, and soon they became a financial power. They were incessantly making proselytes, especially among the women of the upper classes. The names of thirteen synagogues are known as existing (though not all at the same time) at Rome during the Imperial Period. Thus was the way prepared for the Gospel, whereby Rome, already mistress of the world, was to be given a new sublimer and more lasting, title to that dominion — the dominion over the souls of all mankind.

Even on the Day of Pentecost, “Roman strangers” (advenœ Romani, Acts 2:10) were present at Jerusalem, and they surely must have carried the good news to their fellow-citizens at Rome.

Ancient tradition assigns to the year 42 the first coming of St. Peter to Rome, though, according to the pseudo-Clementine Epistles, St. Barnabas was the first to preach the Gospel in the Eternal City. Under Claudius (c. A.D. 50), the name of Christ had become such an occasion of discord among the Hebrews of Rome that the emperor drove them all out of the city, though they were not long in returning. About ten years later Paul also arrived, a prisoner, and exercised a vigorous apostolate during his sojourn. The Christians were numerous at that time, even at the imperial Court. The burning of the city — by order of Nero, who wished to effect a thorough renovation — was the pretext for the first official persecution of the Christian name. Moreover, it was very natural that persecution, which had been occasional, should in course of time have become general and systematic; hence it is unnecessary to transfer the date of the Apostles’ martyrdom from the year 67, assigned by tradition, to the year 64 (see PETER, SAINT; PAUL, SAINT). Domitian’s reign took its victims both from among the opponents of absolutism and from the Christians; among them some who were of very exalted rank — Titus Flavius Clemens, Acilius Glabrio (Cemetery of Priscilla), and Flavia Domitilla, a relative of the emperor. It must have been then, too, that St. John, according to a very ancient legend (Tertullian), was brought to Rome.”

What is Truth?

(From the Esther’s Petition archives.)

Disciple – that’s who an often misquoted, quoted out of context and misused scripture verse really applies to. Jesus said (John 8:31-32) “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

You won’t know the truth if you aren’t his disciples. You won’t learn it, acquire it, or discover it, except by holding to his teaching. Only when you are his disciple, holding to his teaching, will you know the truth. Only when you are his disciple will you know the truth and that truth will then set (make in the KJV) you free.

Hmmm. Disciple, what is that, exactly? To me it’s one who follows/obeys the leading, instruction, example, principles, teaching of his master. Holding to it. Clasping, owning, adhering, sticking to it.

Truth? There’s a word with weighty, explosive, controversial definitions sometimes. What is truth? People ask. Pilate asked (John 18:38). Don’t we all want to know? Jesus said there was a way to know the truth, just hold to his teachings and thus be his disciple. We’ll know it, recognize it, experience it, be able to define it and enjoy it, once we’ve gotten to that point.

And then the truth we know at that point will make us free. No other way will we know the – not a, not some, not a kind of, but the – truth. No other way will we be made free.

Free, now there’s another interesting word…