Take care then how you hear

Have you ever noticed the linkage between Luke 8:4-15 (the parable of the sower) and the verses immediately following it –  Luke 8:16-18?  After learning of some secret sin a friend of mine has been trying to expose regarding her philandering, adulterous ex-husband, Luke 8:17 came to my mind and I wanted to post it as a reply to her heartfelt Facebook post.  I wanted to encourage her.  But now I think I would’ve been taking that scripture kicking and screaming out of context.  As I learned from a former mentor, context is king.  In context, it is inextricably linked to the previous parable.

The parable of the sower, in my theological opinion, is all about genuine conversion to Jesus Christ.  That “Great Exchange” we hear about from C.S. Lewis.  The parable is all about four different hearers of the Word of God:  1. seed that falls along the path 2. seed that falls on the rock and 3. seed that falls in among the thorns. 4.  seed that falls on fertile soil.  The first 3 hearers are not genuinely converted… they are merely hearers that never produce fruit – they never reproduce.  And if the parable itself wasn’t scary enough, Jesus goes on to drive home his point with Luke 8:16-18.

The parable seems to come to an end with Luke 8:15 and in most Bibles with helpful headings and we move into a section (in my Bible, anyway) entitled “A Lamp Under a Jar”.  But in reality, this section is very alarming  part of the prior section and Jesus continues the previous parable by saying the new light you have inside of you will affect EVERYTHING.  The light will increasingly drive out the sin of your former self.  This increasing driving out of sin is called progressive sanctification or, more simply:  change.  I should be different today than I was last year.  Next year I should be different than I am today because of progressive sanctification.

“Take care then how you hear” is a direct reference to the parable of the sower as the soils represent different responses to “hearing” the Word… the gospel… the good news and truth of Jesus Christ.  My ESV (English Superior Version 😂) commentary note says this:  “If believers do not hide the light (message) they have heard (Luke 8:8, Luke 8:15, Luke 8:18) but proclaim it for others to see, then what is hidden (v.10) will be made manifest, and what is secret will come to light.  Jesus is ultimately speaking about the final judgment, but gospel proclamation and gospel ministry in this age are like a “lamp” (Luke 8:16) that illumines and drives away dark area of sin before the final judgment.  The one who already has a knowledge of God’s Word will understand it better (more will be given), whereas the one who does not listen carefully (has not) will lose even what he has heard. ” 

Ouch.  TAKE CARE THEN HOW YOU HEAR.

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” CS Lewis

The SBC Annual Meeting – Not What I’d Hoped For, But Renewed Hope is Present

A few weeks ago I was excited and privileged to attend the 2018 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  About 10,000 of us (Messengers – representatives from our local churches) gathered into an icebox called the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.  I’m serious.  It was freezing in there… you could’ve hung meat and been safe to do it.

I went there excited because this was my second time.  My first was in 2016 in St. Louis and the experience was so exhilarating I couldn’t wait to go to another one.  Since I left this meeting a bit deflated, I was trying to figure out what made my first go-round so good.  And, after reflecting for a few weeks now, I think it was the Spirit.  The palpable Spirit was present 2 years ago, but this time there was no evidence of Him… “the wind blows and you do not know from where it comes or where it’s going, but you can see the leaves move.”  No, this time the Spirit was not present in the same way, but I have no idea why.

Politics, culture gone nuts, churches in grave decline, seminary president fired, the Vice President of the United States spoke… there was a lot going on for sure.  Maybe we were too busy to really get a grip on what we were missing – God.  The ONE spiritual event that got to me was the commissioning of 79 new missionaries going overseas into dangerous places carrying the gospel as their only weapon.  They intend to take hope to people who have no hope!  The problem with this commissioning is that it took place very late on the first night.  Only about 20% of the 10k were present, if that.  Everyone was wiped out or going to dinner or even to bed.  But this service was about what we are or should be all about – THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

On a more positive note, one more good thing happened.  We elected J.D. Greear to be the SBC President for the next 2 years.  JD’s opponent was Ken Hemphill, but I didn’t vote for him for the obvious reasons in the table below.  Please look at it… look at the efforts to evangelize, baptize and grow the Kingdom at JD’s church, “The Summit” church in North Carolina that was established in 2006.  Ken represented the old guard… few baptisms and hardly any evangelism.  Lack of evangelism is the reason the church has shrunk to such low numbers.  Lack of evangelism is why our nation is in serious moral and ethical decline.  Re-discovering evangelism and actually EVANGELIZING outside the walls of our churches is what will bring them back to life.

Storms Are Coming, Are You Ready?

Storm over Culpeper, VA
View from the Shenandoah Mountains of a storm over Culpeper, Virginia. Photo credit: Taylor Riggs

What’s your storm right now?

Life is fraught with storms.  Unexpected difficulties that test our resolve, our character and our hope.  Storms come at us in various forms; sickness and disease, sudden, unexpected death, a car wreck, getting fired or even natural disasters that leave us scrambling to survive.

Other storms are relational – Husbands leave, friends betray us, pastors fail…. people sin against us and we sin against people.  Conflict is everywhere.  Some days it seems like bad news is waiting at every corner.

Storm cause a sand house to be swept away
House built on the sand has fallen

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus takes up the topic of storms.   He warns us of a few things and one of them is to make sure you’ve built your existence and purpose on immovable bedrock so you’ll be able to withstand the storms of life. If you don’t, he cautions, your whole life will be swept away in the raging weather.  Maybe you will die, maybe won’t, but you’ll risk living a wasted life.

Response

And each of us has a choice on how we respond.  I heard somewhere, “If you want to find out what’s in a man, squeeze him.”  Storms of life do that very thing.  Consider the following.

Questions

Read Matthew 7:24-27 then answer these questions:

1.   How many men does Jesus refer to? What does each one represent?

2.  What made one man wise and the other man foolish?

3.  Which one are you?  Maybe you hear.  Many you know.   But these things alone don’t make one wise.

Currently, I’m facing some decisions that involve obedience to God as a wife. God has spoken very directly, plainly and repeatedly about this topic.  I’ve heard and I know what He has to say.  Like Eve had a choice that day when she was faced with the decision to act on what God had told her or what a deceiver had told her, I have to make a choice.   I better be wise.  Or else my home could be swept away in the next bad storm.  What should I do?

God, help me to be obedient. I need you.

Cape… When Reading Your Bible is Hard

This is my second blog post in one day.  But I just couldn’t stand to let this go.

Meet Cape

As I was crafting my last post about the benefits of learning the Bible, I thought of my friend, Cape, and a vision I have of him nearly every Sunday.  Check out this picture.  Zoom in on it and really give it a closer examination.  It’s worth a thousand words, but I’ll share only a few.

He needs a magnifying glass and a flashlight

This is Winston Caperton (Cape), 88 years old.  I secretly took this picture in June, 2017, as he and his wife, Barbara, were sitting right beside me in church in Warrenton Baptist Church, Warrenton, Virginia.   As you can see, he is using a magnifying glass that he brings with him to church because he suffers from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).  This disease causes vision to get increasingly dimmer with time.  But he’s so serious about reading the words of the living God, he is overcoming the barrier the best he can by using a magnifying glass.  He even brings a flashlight and struggles to hold the Bible close enough with the magnifying glass and flashlight all at the same time…… Think about that with me for a moment…. who does that?  Who loves God’s Word that much?

Easily Put Off or Committed to Digging In?

I was thinking how just about anything can derail me from reading the Bible… But not Cape.  At 88 (89 now), as much as he knows the Word already, he’s not done yet.  He’s not done learning and trying to change.  The far easier thing would have been for him to have just sat and listened to the sermon and other people to read the text out loud to him.  But he wants more… he wants to dig, he wants to go farther and learn all that God is saying.

Consistency

And I want you to know I see Cape doing this just about every Sunday, right beside me.  It has had a profound impact on me… it took me an hour to go find this picture I knew I took sometime in the last year.  But I show it to you today as a reminder of the importance of reading God’s Word for yourself.  By reading, you will learn who God is, who you are, how much He loves you, what His purposes are for your life and what’s going on in the world and why.  You’ll learn about sin and how far God has come to rescue you from it.  You’ll read about the creation of the world and the destruction of the world and where you fit into the plan.  Also, if you read and study God’s word on a regular basis, you’ll know when someone makes a false claim about it.

“The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain of all truths.” ~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Turn On the Lights!

Lastly, can I speak up about a slight frustration?  It is common in many church gatherings today to dim the lights, like you’re in a concert or something.  Trying to create a mood… I get it.  But I gotta tell you, I don’t need the lights to be dimmed to worship God.  If you do, you’ll be out of step with the way we’ll worship in heaven.  Revelation 21:22-25 tells us in heaven there will never, ever be darkness and we will worship God just fine.

Yes, keep the lights on folks.  Cape wants to read his Bible.

P.S.  In the last several months, Cape has gotten tech savvy enough to download the Bible onto his iPad to read the Scriptures.  The screen is backlit, which helps tremendously.