Parable of the Sower

When looking over the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15), we see that Jesus gives an image of how the word of God (the seed) receives different responses from different people (different kinds of soil). The first three soils do not respond well, but the fourth soil – the good soil – responds well and bears spiritual fruit – thirty, sixty, and one hundred-fold. Two observations:

 1) In this parable, the only thing that changes is the soil. It is not the sower that changes. It is not the seed that changes. It is not the sun that changes. It is just the soil. And the soil represents the person who hears the word. In other words if you are not bearing fruit, you are the only one to blame. You cannot blame your circumstances. You cannot blame the preacher. As long as the preacher is sowing the word of God, the only thing that prevents it from producing fruit is you.

 2) There are only four soils listed here. Did you notice that Jesus did not mention the mixed soil? The partly hard, partly rocky, partly thorny, and partly good soil? Or the sometimes hard, sometimes rocky, sometimes thorny, or sometimes good soil? Or the somewhat hard soil? Or the somewhat rocky, or thorny soil? I know, one of those is probably where you feel like you fit in. But those soils aren’t here.


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What’s your philosophy of life and death?

What’s your philosophy of life and death?   That’s a crucial question, since we all live, and we all die, and how we view life and death impacts both how we do both of those things.  Our lives are a reflection of our philosophy.  Our thoughts and attitudes, our values and priorities, are shaped by how we view life and death.

So, what’s your philosophy of life and death?  If you don’t have one, may I recommend the one written all over the life of the Apostle Paul: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)


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It’s Alive!

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It’s Alive!

 

These days we are very aware of how different people have very different religious views. We are also very aware that even Christians differ widely in what they believe, and these differences are usually derived from differences in Christians’ understanding of Scripture. If people disagree on how the Bible is to be understood, how can we have confidence in Scripture?


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Whose Story Are You Living?

Whose Story Are You Living?

The sermon on March 8th was entitled “Aligning Your Story With God’s Story.” The speaker made the point that instead of trying to make God fit into our lives, we need to see how we fit in the story that God is writing on the pages of history.


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Why We Should Be Bible-Minded

Why We Should Be Bible-Minded

The Providence/New Bedford area received yet another prestigious honor recently. The Barna Group recently rated the Providence/New Bedford urban area as the LEAST Bible-minded urban area in the country:http://cities.barna.org/americas-most-and-least-bible-minded-cities-2/. Only 9% of adults surveyed in our area said that they have read the Bible in the last seven days and consider the Bible to be accurate. This means that in our area there is a considerable amount of social and cultural pressure to stop reading and trusting the Bible.

 

So is there a good reason to buck the local trend? Should we seek to be Bible-minded unlike our friends and neighbors? If so, why? There are two main reasons why we should seek to be Bible-minded:


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Wisdom God’s Worldview

God’s wisdom should be our worldview. After all, the Lord made the universe by his wisdom. “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Proverbs 3:19-20) One of the major implications of this is that the wisdom of God infuses the universe (see Prov. 8:22-31). The entirety of creation fits together and operates according to the wise plan of God.


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Watch Out For The Second Step – It’s A Doozy…

As described in the previous post, faith is a two-step. God asks us to take a step of faith, and when we do, he will often follow it up by asking us to take a second, greater step of faith. However, it is wise to be aware that the second step can often be such a big leap of faith as to seem impossible.

 

This was true in the story of Abraham as covered in our last two Sunday morning sermons (2/1 and 2/8). First, in Genesis 12 God asks Abraham to leave his home and live a life as a wandering nomad all because God promises him great blessings and many descendants. Abraham does all that God asks of him.


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Faith Is A Two-Step

There is a common storyline in Scripture: the two-step of faith. Many times in Scripture God asks someone to step out in faith, and as a result God helps them to take a second greater step of faith.

 

Last week at our Wednesday prayer meeting, we looked at the story of John 4:46-54. A man asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus tells the man to go home, because his son will live. In verse 50 it says that the man believed what Jesus said and went home. When he found out that Jesus had healed his son, it says in verse 53 that the man believed. His second step of faith must have been deeper, stronger, and more permanent than the first. First, the man takes a hesitant step of faith in response to the word and promise of Christ. Then when he sees the word and promise of Christ fulfilled, his faith deepens. It’s a two-step.


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Acts: The Book That Never Ends

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You know the kind of movie ending I’m talking about — the ending that’s not an ending. The credits have rolled but they leave you hanging. There’s something left unresolved: the villain is still loose with plans to strike again, or the guy and girl are not quite together, or even worse, the last frame displays the dreaded words “To Be Continued…”

 

Why would movie makers delight in administering such torture? One reason is they want to leave open the possibility of a sequel. Another reason is that it can be disappointing when a good story comes to an end. By leaving some loose ends, the movie allows us to run with the story in our own minds. The enjoyment continues even after the theater lights come back on. In other words you create your own ending.     


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Mishandling Scripture

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Mishandling Scripture

Just recently Pastor John preached on the beginning of Acts 28. This is the story of how the apostle Paul, a shipwrecked prisoner on the island of Malta, gets bit by a poisonous snake. The local residents of the island keep waiting for him to swell up and die, but he is not harmed at all.

This is one of the three passages used by certain fringe groups to support the practice of snake handling. In some churches they bring out poisonous snakes at some point in the service for people to pick up and handle. They consider the practice of snake handling to be part of their worship.

However, the story in Acts 28 most certainly does not teach this type of snake handling. Paul does not pick up the snake on purpose. The snake jumps out at him while he is putting wood on the fire. The author of the book of Acts appears to relate this story as proof that Paul is innocent of the charges for which he has been arrested. The islanders see that the prisoner Paul has been bitten by the snake, and they think that Paul is being judged by the gods. When Paul suffers no ill effects from the bite, the implication is that Paul is innocent. So this passage has little bearing on the practice of snake handling.  

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What I Heard is a blog in which one of our members (usually Assistant Pastor Randy Curtis) reflects on a thought or two from the most recent Sunday morning sermon [hyperlink to sermon page]. The blog provides a means of remembering, thinking further about, and applying the words of the Bible discussed in depth on Sunday morning.