2020 has been full of surprises, to say the least. It is really beginning to seem like God might be trying to get our attention. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, and in His perfect timing, He has seen fit to give us ears to hear what He can always hear- the terrible weeping and groaning against the injustices committed, in both attitude and action, by the peoples of the world. God hears the cry of every heart, in every street, in every land, and is deeply grieved. Injustice is not imagined nor is it a problem of the past; it is very real and terrible and painful, and very present in modern times in so many ways.
When we are forced to face this problem as we are right now, and not just ignore it or pretend it is not there as we so often do, it can seem overwhelming. What can any of us actually do? The problems of society here in America and across the world seem so immense and devasating that we can be tempted to freeze into inaction, or to play the blame game and shift the responsibility for help somewhere else.
As we find ourselves in a time of upheaval, we recognize that injustice is not limited to America, but is rampant throughout the world. Again, God really does hear the cry of every heart, in every street, in every land; He is moved with compassion and His unexpected answer is to send help through His people who respond to HIs call. The great love of Christ compels us - not just to hear the cry and to see the need, but to be like Him and do something about it. As followers of Jesus, we must live our lives in such a way that we bring not just empty words, but real solutions, and we know that the beginning of real change starts in the heart of every human. Jesus alone can bring healing and hope, restoration and reconcilliation; “He died for all, that those who live in Him should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor 5:15)
The problem is the human heart - filled with selfishness, sin, and pride.
The solution is a heart change - through Jesus, who alone can give us new hearts. He takes away our bondage to sin and selfishness and fills us with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17)
Where do we start? Of course, we must all start with our own hearts. We must surrender our own wills to God, have our own burden of sin lifted, and receive forgiveness and a new heart. That is a good start, and probably everyone reading this has already done that. But then what?
Jesus told a great story about this…
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13: 3-9
This is a story about the Kingdom of God. When the good seed, which is the good news that Jesus has brought salvation, lands in good soil, it produces a beautiful, bountiful crop that has far-reaching impact. When Jesus changes one good-soiled heart, an entire family and community and even nation can be impacted. Sadly, when the seed falls on unprepared ground, it often just dies.
Here is the point - there’s nothing wrong with the seed, and we cannot believe that only the smallest minority of hearts will ever accept the truth. Someone just needs to take the time to prepare the soil.
It brings to my mind the myriad stone fences found in the part of New England in which I spent my childhood. Everywhere you look, there are miles of rugged old fences made of big stones, surrounding beautiful farmland. Someone, sometime had to dig up all of those rocks so that the land could produce fruit. This could not have been easy work; in fact, it probably included a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and time.
In agricultural terms, very few fields are ready to farm right away; rather, they need to be tilled and prepped and the trees, roots, stones, and thorns must be removed to ready the soil. In human terms, very few hearts are ready for the good news right away. The layers of hurt and bitterness and the carefully constructed walls around their hearts have to be broken through so that the seed can flourish.
How can we prepare hearts to hear the good news? In decades of university ministry, we have noticed that many hard hearts can be softened when we can show them real love and laughter - these two things can plow the hardest of hearts. Here are some thoughts along those lines:
May God help us today to renew our committment to Jesus and His Kingdom. May He grant us strength and wisdom and vision to stay the course and see hearts won for Jesus in the places He has sent us. May the Spirit of God fill us afresh and anew today with power to be His witnesses and with hope for the people we meet. May we boldly declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, and may we have the patience to gently till the ground of hard hearts all around us so that the work of God can flourish in their lives.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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