The farmer threw seed and some fell on the pathway and was eaten by birds. Some seeds fell on shallow soil, sprouted quickly, but were scorched by the sun. The sower continued to throw out the seed but it fell among thorns and the young plants were choked out before maturity.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each inspired author writes the same story. Their accounts provide additional insights and details but all of them provide the key to every parable Jesus told. Three of the four soils are deadly while only one is capable of producing healthy plants.
The sower is the Savior, the seed is salvation, and the soil are the souls. This particular story is well known by most of the religious world but its implications can’t be overstated or overstudied. Throughout the gospels we read of the multitudes that followed Jesus everywhere He went and the crowd largely consisted of societal castaways. The demon possessed, the terminally ill, the crippled, and the spiritually challenged were more than just a handful.
Jesus Dealt With The Dirtiest Dirt
They were dangerous. On occasion the crowds threatened the life of Jesus and His disciples (Mk. 3.7-10).
The were demanding. Jesus would seek solitude after receiving news of John the Baptists’ death. When the needy crowd learned of His location they swarmed Him (Matt. 14.14).
They were disloyal. In spite of the evidence they heard and saw, many disciples would walk away from the Savior (Jn. 6.59-71).
The ministry of Jesus was a labor of love and it reminds us how undeserving we are to be the recipients of it. Let’s not forget that we’re soil surrounded by soil. People (souls) are not to be seen as an inconvenience, source of frustration, or the cause of our recoil. Let’s sow with our Savior and like our Savior because that’s part of what being good soil is all about.
Forget, “Don’t be grouchy like a rooster!” These days, we are singing, “Don’t be broody like a hen!” In our flock of Easter-Eggers, as Spring gives way to Summer, we have had one of our female fowl think she’s hatching little ones. While this maternal instinct is God-given, our girl is experiencing these urges because of hormones. She is convinced she’s going to incubate chicks, even though they aren’t fertilized. A brooding hen will remain in such a state to her own detriment, neglecting herself to “hatch” what will never hatch. Weight loss and dehydration are common in hens allowed to stay broody. She will growl and even peck when you try to break her of this behavior. The behavior will even spread to other members of the flock. While she is sure she is hatching chicks, she is totally wrong!
I wonder if God gives us such natural illustrations to paint a picture of greater truths He wants us to understand. Concerning some who did not receive the love of the truth in order to be saved, Paul explains, “For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (2 Th. 2:10-11). In that context, he is writing about those who are persuading people to believe untruths about the Second Coming of Christ. Those who didn’t love the truth made their minds vulnerable to false ideas. The fruit of exchanging truth for a lie is being given over to impurity, degrading passions, and depraved minds to do improper things, “being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boasters, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Rom. 1:18-31).
We can be totally convinced that wrong is right, right is wrong, up is down, and day is night. Just because we are sincere and totally committed to that idea does not make it right. We may convince others of it. We may fight passionately for that conviction, yet still be dead wrong! This is true whether the matter has to do with God’s plan of salvation, sexual orientation or identity, acceptable worship, or really anything God has clearly revealed in His Word. A world full of people may be persuaded that something is acceptable or unacceptable despite what God has said. Persisting in such a mindset is self-destructive.
When a hen is brooding, it’s incumbent upon the owners to exercise their superior reasoning and strength to help remedy the situation. They must break the brooding, culling them out of the flock and putting them somewhere (a separate pen) away from the dark and exposed to direct sunlight to snap them out of it. This will take time, but it is the most effective and compassionate way to resolve the problem.
Spiritually, the same is true. Personal attention and exposure to the Son is what corrects those with a good and honest heart from fatal ideas. The process may be unpleasant both for the one experiencing the delusion and those trying to help them. We cannot force anyone to give up destructive beliefs. The omnipotent God does not even do that. But, compassion and concern will cause us to do what we can to help those who “oppose themselves” (2 Tim. 2:25, KJV).
When I was a kid, one of my favorite things about the beginning of June was hearing my mother’s tongue-in-cheek rendition of “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” from Carousel. While some aspects of Carousel are dark, this song is a joyful celebration of the arrival of summer and the blooming of nature. It exudes optimism. In some ways, we can see this song’s themes of rejuvenation and new beginnings metaphorically resonating with Billy Bigelow’s chance to make things right after his tragic death. That theme of new beginnings and seasonal renewal is what I prefer to associate with June.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, I dread June’s arrival. The joyous celebration of the approaching summer season in June has shifted from hope and rebirth to the sinful attribute of pride. Yes, as we all know, it’s that time of year when pandering businesses surround us with new logos that incorporate the misappropriated rainbow, the chosen symbol for 7.1% of the U.S. population’s sense of entitlement. (Jones) The word “pride” becomes so common in June that it causes nausea. And I am not even addressing the matter of the many shades of sexual immorality that it celebrates. People have forgotten that a small amount of pride goes a long way. They’ve also forgotten that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16.18).
When we have healthy pride, we can find satisfaction in our accomplishments. Nothing is wrong with this. Solomon may have thought his overall pursuits were futile, but he recognized that the ability to reflect on the fruits of one’s labor is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3.12–13). Pride can also motivate us to put forth our best efforts, knowing that our work positively impacts our community. For example, the men with Judge Gideon raised a chant of “For the Lord and Gideon” (Judges 7.18). They did so because they were proud of their God and their general. When we show our pride in others, we express our belief in the person we praise. So, when we offer pride on behalf of another, it can be beneficial. However, Paul cautioned Timothy not to show such support hastily (1 Timothy 5.22).
But in June, when we hear “pride,” we don’t think of any of those things. What effort or success does one honor when seeking the approval of others for their way of life? Members of the LGBTQ+ community tell us that their genetic makeup determines their sexual orientation or gender identity. If true, isn’t this the same as a redhead being proud of her hair color or a Caucasian being proud of his skin color? Is it not, in other words, someone bragging about something they have no say in? Why isn’t there a “blue-eyed pride month” if we need gestures like what we see each June to show acceptance of a “minority group”? After all, only about 10% of the population has blue eyes. (Moor) There must be something different about the kind of pride promoted in June.
Yes, the pride celebrated in June is sinful. This display is the harmful pride condemned in Scripture, the same pride that led to the devil’s downfall (1 Timothy 3.6). There is a reason why Roman Catholicism considers this type of pride to be the first of the “seven deadly sins.” Pride is the root sin from which all other sins can spring. The Bible defines sinful pride as an excessive love and admiration for oneself, an exaggerated sense of one’s importance, and a disregard for the worth and needs of others. It entails exalting one’s abilities, accomplishments, and status, which can lead to an arrogant and self-centered attitude. John lists this pride as one of Satan’s three main temptations to get us to sin (1 John 2.15–17).
What about psychology? Excessive pride is viewed negatively in this academic study of the mind and behavior. Organizers ostensibly created “pride month” to raise awareness and signal to other members of the same community who were “closeted” that they could freely be themselves publicly and find support from a broader population who would accept them. However, this has devolved into a show of superiority over those not part of their small community. They used to complain that they didn’t have a voice and were left out, but now they want to push out anyone who may tolerate their behavior in a free society but won’t support and celebrate it as vociferously.
This pride celebration also shuts down all discourse because pride does not allow for perceived criticism. For example, when someone says that specific displays are inappropriate for children, it is automatically interpreted as bigotry rather than an opportunity to discuss how oversexed we have become as a society. It is not a question of one group against another as it is of whether we will allow children to grow up in innocence, free from outside influences, and make these important decisions for themselves. If the “pride community” would listen, they would hear us say that we are also uncomfortable with the flood of sexually charged heterosexual displays. But once again, pride prevents open dialogue. Worse, this refusal to hear causes heated rhetoric on social media with groups like concerned parents being mislabeled things like fascists or terrorists!
As a parting thought, let me say what happens when others impose this pride on everyone in June. The result of such pride is alienation and loneliness. Consistent displays of excessive pride make the proud seem unapproachable, and this makes it harder for them to form meaningful relationships with others outside their small group, stunting their social development. If “pride month” is supposed to make those not part of the LGBTQ+ community accept them, it accomplishes the opposite. It has a chilling effect. It does turn society into “us vs. them.” And it makes some people even more determined to shun and ostracize the LGBTQ+ community when they would have otherwise just left them alone.
Ultimately, disillusioned individuals in the LGBTQ+ community will find themselves feeling even more isolated and depressed because these kinds of excessive displays of pride turn people off. Even though teachers will hide their gender change or sexual preferences from their parents and social media influencers encourage them, these confused youth, whom the devil promises will be like God, only discover their nakedness and shame (cf. Genesis 3.4–7). Consequently, the number of young LGBTQ+ people considering suicide is rising. (Powell)
Once again, I wish to say that this article is not a discussion of biblically permissible sexuality and identity. This article is only about the pride the LGBTQ+ community and their allies praise and celebrate every June and the trouble it causes. In contrast, Jesus left His humble example for us to follow. Paul beautifully describes how Jesus “emptied Himself” to become a servant willing to die on the cross (Philippians 2.3–8). And Paul believed that the only thing he could boast about was his weakness because it highlighted his need for God’s grace (2 Corinthians 11.30). Let us also make June, and every month, a month of affirming humility and acknowledging that in doing so, God can be the one lifting us (Matthew 23.12).
Seeing Paul’s prayer life and how strong it was and how much he relied on it shows me how much I lack in my personal prayer life. A major eye-opener is reading about the absolute and total trust that he had in prayer.
In Philippians 1:3-8, we read Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving. Most often in our own prayers we are not specific in our requests. And it seems like more and more, the only times we pray is when we need something. But this is not the case for Paul. Just by reading through a few of his prayers you can see his genuineness and the true relationship that he had with God.
Not only did Paul have a genuinely healthy personal prayer life, he also didn’t pray for just himself. The next time you read one of Paul’s prayers, notice in how detailed a way he prays for others. In Philippians 1, we read of how he prayed for the Christians there. But he wasn’t vague; his prayers were specific to their needs. He prayed that they would approve the things that are excellent, that they would be sincere, that they would be without spot, for their perseverance, that they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness, and that God would be praised and glorified.
Paul recognized the power of prayer and what praying for others can accomplish. And I think sometimes we can forget just how powerful prayer truly is. Most say, “All we can do now is pray.” But we have it all wrong when we say this. The very first thing we should do in trials and struggles is to pray. We see our greatest example, Jesus, do this before He went to the cross. We read of Paul and how he was always praying for others.
Paul prayed for the Philippians’ perseverance, and we need to persevere in our prayers during trials. Paul says in Philippians 1:3-4, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy…” He says “every prayer” not some or a few of his prayers. He was dedicated to praying. Paul tells the Philippians he prayed that “your love may abound more and more…” And I pray the same thing, that our love may grow more for others and that we might be able to pray for others more and remember their needs when we go to the Father.
Colossians 2 repeats the confidence theme — “I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love, and to have the full confidence that comes from understanding.” We can only get this confidence by sticking to the essentials that Jesus gave us.
2.4 says, “I tell you this so no one can fool you by giving you ideas that seem good, but are false.” Then 2.7-8, “You must depend on Christ only, drawing life and strength from him. Just as you were taught the truth, continue to grow stronger in your understanding of it. Never stop thanking God. Be sure you aren’t led away by the teaching of those who have nothing worth saying and are only trying to trick you. That teaching isn’t from Christ. It’s only human tradition and comes from the powers that influence this world.”
Man-made traditions are powerless and often damaging, since they come from the powers that influence this world. But that wasn’t Jesus’s purpose!
2.13-14 says, “You were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you weren’t free from the power of your sinful self. But God gave you new life with Christ. He forgave all of our sins. Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt — a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross.”
This leads to 2.16 — “So don’t let anyone make rules for you about eating or drinking or about Jewish customs. In the past, these things were like a shadow that showed what was coming. But the new things coming are found in Christ.”
The entire book of Colossians is summarized with 2.18 — “Some people enjoy acting as if they are humble. They worship angels, and they always talk about the visions they’ve seen. Don’t let them cheat you out of your reward. It’s foolish for them to feel any kind of pride because it’s all based on their human ideas.”
The keyword of 2.18 is καταβραβευετω (translated “cheat” in the verse above) — today we might say something like “umpire”. Don’t let anyone try to force you to observe a man-made tradition and then say “you’re out” if you don’t follow it. Paul lists some specific traditions in Colossians — circumcision (2.11) and prohibitions like “don’t eat that” or “don’t taste that” or “don’t touch that stuff” (2.21).
This is after he says, “You died with Christ and were made free from the powers that influence this world. So why do you act as if you still belong to the world? I mean, why do you still follow those rules? Those rules are talking about earthly things that are gone after they’re used. They are only human commands and teachings. These rules may seem to be wise as part of a made-up religion in which people pretend to be humble and punish their bodies. But they don’t help people stop doing the evil that our sinful self wants to do.”
This section reminds us that the power of our faith comes from Jesus, not man-made traditions. In fact, enforcing man-made traditions as important to our faith is sinful. If we follow those enforced traditions, we run the risk of losing our reward. If we want to see God, we need only what Jesus told us and nothing more (2.13-14).
Shortly after I moved to Colorado to preach for the Bear Valley congregation, some unknown prankster gave me one of the coolest gifts I have ever owned. In a large blister card, sealed in plastic with a cardboard backing, there were eight Matchbox cars that had been smashed and semi-crushed. At the top of the cardboard backing was an inscription: “Everybody always prays for the preacher to have a ‘ready wreck collection,’ so here it is. Your very own wreck collection.” That was nearly 17 years ago and it still sits in my office today. What a genius prank!
Preachers greatly appreciate those prayers. Much study and preparation goes into each lesson and we want to remember what and how to say what we plan to present. “Ready” implies we don’t have to struggle. “Recollection” is the ability to recall what is in the mind (or on the page).
Have you ever thought about how vital a ready recollection is for all of us as Christians, as we live our daily lives?
When the world tries to give you a rival, recall that the Lord is God, and there is no other (Isa. 46:8-9).
When you are afflicted, recall the Lord’s lovingkindness (Lam. 3:19-22).
When you are so troubled you cannot speak, remember your song in the night (Psa. 77:4-6).
When you feel forgotten, remember the deeds and wonders of God (Psa. 77:11).
Whether life is going great or poorly, remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth (1 Chron. 16:8-12).
When you are afraid, remember the Lord who is great and awesome (Neh. 4:14).
Before the difficult days come, remember your Creator in your youth (Ecc. 12:1).
When you hit a spiritual low point, remember your sin and hate it (Ezek. 20:43-44).
When faced with the needs of the weak, remember how Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
When looking at your past, remember what you were but thank God for what you are now in Christ (Eph. 2:12-13).
Whatever your circumstance, remember Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:8).
Walk through Scripture and see how often it says to “recall” and “remember.” The Lord’s Supper is instituted as a weekly reminder for us to recall the price paid for us. God knows that we can become lax and forgetful. All of us are served well by having ready recollections. Let’s build our collection of the things we need to remember to spiritually survive this world and prepare ourselves for an eternity in the presence of the great God who has done so much for us!
1 Chronicles 12 describes David’s loyal followers gathering and supporting him as he prepared to become King of Israel. This chapter emphasizes the unity and strength that resulted from the various tribes rallying behind David, laying the groundwork for his reign and the kingdom’s unification.
The men of Issachar stood out among these tribes for their understanding of the times and their knowledge of what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12.32). They understood that God had anointed David as king while Saul was on the throne. Their kinship with their brethren and willingness to support Israel led them to assist David and his men at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12.40). Their leadership in this matter served as a model for other tribes that were still undecided.
We can draw inspiration from the men of Issachar and apply their lessons to our modern world during our current cultural civil war, characterized by fierce rhetoric and ideological conflicts.
We need wisdom and insight above all else. We must understand the complexities of our times like the men of Issachar did while avoiding falling prey to mere sentiment or rhetoric. We must recognize the cultural shifts, ideologies, and conflicts shaping our world today.
A usurper rules the world (1 John 5.19). We recognize that this usurper is a master manipulator who duped our mother, Eve, into sin (Genesis 3.1–7). Jesus referred to him as the father of lies and a murderer from our beginning (John 8.44). On the other hand, Revelation 19.16 reminds us that Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, God’s anointed (Acts 10.38). Yet, unfortunately, many people, including some of our family, friends, and neighbors, still regard Satan as their king.
We must demonstrate the men of Issachar’s willingness to put our efforts into action since we know what we must all do. When making decisions, we must use sound judgment by weighing various options and understanding the consequences. The Gospel’s teachings give us a sound mind, which leads to discipline. These characteristics enable us to face our opponents and carry out our duties without fear (2 Timothy 1.7). Amid our cultural civil war, it is critical to make decisions guided by God’s truth and values, contributing to the well-being of others and the pursuit of justice.
Second, even in discord, we should strive for harmony, following in the footsteps of the men of Issachar, who were instrumental in establishing and maintaining national peace. Even though we offer peace terms to people whose sins have gotten the best of them (cf. Matthew 5.9), they must know that their rebellion against God warrants death (Romans 6:23). Nonetheless, we bring the good news of God’s gift of eternal life through Christ. Regardless of contentious issues, we are encouraged to approach discussions and conflicts humbly, preaching the truth in love (Ephesians 4.5). We can contribute to a more constructive and peaceful engagement with those harboring different points of view by encouraging dialogue and building bridges.
Third, Christian ethics should guide our responses to current issues, just as God’s commandments guided the men of Issachar. God has given us everything we require for life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3). We look to the Scriptures in our cultural context because the words of Christ will judge us (John 12.48). We can apply Christian ethics to issues of cultural civil war by drawing on Christ’s teachings and grounding our engagement in love, truth, and reconciliation. Even during heated debates, our words and actions should reflect Christ’s character (1 Peter 2.23). Peter reminds us that Christ suffered for us, leaving an example for us to follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2.21).
Finally, the example of the men of Issachar encourages us to develop a voice of reason in these contentious times. We must cultivate a reasoned voice that speaks the truth, confronts sin, and offers hope, just as the men of Issachar did.
An event in the divided monarchy’s history illustrates this task. Ben-hadad, the Aramean king, had besieged Samaria, resulting in extreme conditions and even cannibalism. In a twist of events orchestrated by God, the Arameans were frightened into fleeing, leaving their supplies behind. The discovery of the abandoned camp by four lepers resulted in abundant riches and food.
Their consciences, however, troubled them, and they realized they couldn’t keep the good news to themselves (2 Kings 7.9). Likewise, we have information that is too good to keep to ourselves. As a result, we, like Issachar, should provide leadership and point people to the transformative power of the cross.
By incorporating these insights into our understanding of the men of Issachar, we can navigate the challenges of the cultural civil war with discernment, seek unity amid division, apply Christian ethics, and cultivate a reasoned voice. As a result, we can contribute to a more constructive and transformative engagement in our culture, even amid heated rhetoric and ideological clashes.
May the Lord give us the wisdom and courage to apply these principles daily. May we be reconcilers, peacemakers, and bearers of Christ’s transformative power.
Faith impacts every aspect of life and that’s why we should always strive to grow our faith. A quick look at the church and we will see that there is a need for greater faith! We can grow our faith by looking to those who Jesus commended for their great trust.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry he encountered several people that showed great faith. There are only two occurrences in scripture where Jesus “marvelled.” Mark 6:7 says Jesus marveled at their unbelief (lack of faith). Luke 7:9 tells us that Jesus marveled at the centurions great faith. With our faith we have the ability to cause Jesus to marvel. The question is, will Jesus marvel at our belief or our unbelief? Let’s look at a few examples to imitate:
Example #1 Matthew 8:5-10
The centurion comes to Jesus with a faith that caused Jesus to marvel. It’s rare to find someone with this kind of faith. Many today have a hard time trusting others. And for good reason since many have evil intentions.
But we must be careful not to let this impact our faith in God. We can and should trust in the Lord! He cares for our well being and we can rely on Him. We can be wary of the world, but we should never believe God to be a liar. The centurion came to Jesus with a great faith.
Why was it great? Notice what he says to Jesus, “You don’t even have to come.” He believed that Jesus had the power to heal his servant without even being present. Most people in his position would have wanted to see Jesus heal them in person. That way you could watch Jesus do it, and watch the sickness leave. But the centurion was so confident in Christ that he knew his servant would be healed, even though he was separated from him. He saw Jesus for who He was. A man/God with power and authority.
In verse 13 we read the result of this great faith. The centurion’s faith was placed in the right thing. His faith paid off and his servant was healed “at that very moment.” He would go home to a perfectly healthy servant. And that’s the result of a great faith in the Almighty.
Example #2 Matthew 9:1-2
It says that Jesus “saw” their faith. They didn’t speak, they didn’t tell Jesus anything that showed faith. Jesus saw their faith. What did He see? He saw a group of people coming to Him carrying a paralytic. What faith did Jesus see? He saw people that came to Him for help.
They had a problem and they believed that Jesus could fix it. Do we see Jesus as the answer to our problems? Do we believe that He is what we need? Does Jesus see our faith? Do our actions show that we believe in Him?
These people saw Jesus as the master physician and they acted on their faith.
Example #3 Matthew 9:19-22
This woman’s faith was so strong she knew that just a touch would heal this problem that she had been dealing with for 12 years. She didn’t believe it was necessary for Jesus to look at her, lay hands on her, or speak. Just a touch would do the trick. Jesus responds by saying “your faith has made you well.” Jesus had the power, but the woman had the Faith to be healed. If she lacked faith she wouldn’t have been healed.
Example #4 Matthew 9:27-30
Jesus asks the men an important question, “Do you believe I can do this?” When we experience suffering and heartache what is our response? If Jesus came to you and asked, “Do you believe I can fix this?” How would you respond? These blind men came to Jesus and believed that He could heal them.
Vs. 29 says, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Once again their healing was based on the faith they possessed. God rewards those who have faith.
If you read through the accounts where Jesus heals the sick there’s a phrase that keeps coming up, “Your faith has made you well.”
Mark 10:52 “go your way, your faith has made you well”
Luke 7:50 “your faith has saved you, go in peace”
Luke 17:19 “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 18:42 “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”
Based on these verses, what quality saved them? Their faith. Which begs the question…
Will your faith save you? Do you believe in heaven and hell? Will your faith in God cause you to live according to His word? Will your faith save you? Or do you cause Jesus to marvel at your lack of belief?