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It’s easier to blame others than to accept responsibility for our actions; to dwell on the mistakes made in the past than to build towards the future. Some look on the social, political and physical problems of today and blame God or others. Yet the evil of today isn’t because of divine action but due to the natural consequences of greed, lust, hatred and anger. Fire can’t be fought with fire. More darkness won’t defeat darkness. The smallest amount of light will penetrate the deepest darkness


Sharing a burden helps the burden bearer because his load is lightened and he can gain new perspective on solutions, it benefits the one who comes alongside because he gains an understanding of the burden and the bearer, it helps both because when the task is done there is a sense of accomplishment and a bond between the two is created. You have a new brother or sister.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:32-36

broken chainsOne of the cruelest tricks in human nature is to believe you are free when, in fact, you are in bondage. Likewise, one of the hardest things to admit is that you are enslaved by something over which you have no control. That’s why addicts have a hard time admitting they are an addict. That’s why those in abusive situations have a hard time leaving. The abnormal has become normal to them.

One day, Jesus was talking with his followers and told them that truth would free them. They were shocked! Why would they need to be freed? They were in bondage to no one. The irony here is that while Jesus was talking about the bondage of sin, his followers were in bondage to the Roman Empire. But the bondage to Rome was so ‘normal’ they didn’t even realize they were slaves!

Freedom from bondage requires two things. One is that we are fully aware of our condition. It’s easy to say ‘I’m a sinner’ without carefully identifying each thing in our lives that enslave us. I’m a terrible cleaner. It’s not intentional. I just miss the corners, and overlook the little things. The same goes our spiritual lives. Rather than relying on our own ability to ‘see our bondage’ we need to go to the one who knows us best. That’s why the Psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

The second thing we need to do to ensure we are not in bondage is to realize who we are in God’s eyes. When sin is in control of our lives we are slaves to it and we are blinded to the truth. When we have been freed from sin through Jesus Christ we are as sons, in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Fatherhood has a bad rap these days. Most earthly fathers have a reputation of working too hard to make money, being more concerned about their own needs, wants and egos and ready at any moment to pounce on anyone who makes a mistake.

Your Heavenly Father is the kind of dad who shows up at every ballgame or concert. When you make a mistake he doesn’t remind you of how much of a loser you are, he encourages you and teaches you how you can be all you were meant to be.

A relationship with Christ means we have all the freedoms of sons. As we grow closer to our father through reading his word, prayer and corporate worship we gain new understanding into all that God has for us. When Jesus left us he sent his promised helper, the Holy Spirit to guide us into all things, and to understand all that God has for us.

PRAYER: Father God. Search my heart. Show me the things that offend you. Give me the courage to confess my weaknesses. May your Spirit work a change in me for your glory so that I can be completely, totally and eternally free. In Jesus name, Amen.

As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Matthew 13:4

It had hardened soilbeen a dry summer. The ground was hardened and cracked by the lack of moisture and the penetrating rays of the sun. Then the rain came. It wasn’t just a shower, it was a downpour. Raindrops pelted the ground viciously. Lightning and thunder joined in the onslaught. The ground became a river of mud. Then, it was gone. The sun came out, the skies cleared; the ground dried and once again was hardened.

I talked with an old farmer later that day. I mentioned how nice it was that we finally got some rain. I was surprised by the look of disappointment on his face. He took his hat off and rubbed his scalp.

“Didn’t do much good.” He mumbled as he replaced his hat, “Grounds to hard. Just ran off. What we need is a couple days of soft, gentle rain to soften up the ground so the moisture can get in.”

His words weren’t even out of his mouth when I remembered the story of the Sower and the Seed. Personally, I think the title is misleading. The seed really has little to do with the story. The Sower has some impact of course, but the main emphasis is on soil.

Hardened soil has something in common with hardened hearts. Hardened soil, in particular the hardened soil in this story, became hard because it was part of the roadway. Know what happens with a roadway? It gets trampled on. Day after day, week after week, month after month donkeys and horses and oxen and people walked up and down the path.

Our hearts are like that sometimes aren’t they? We all start out with hope and joy. Watch the wonderment and excitement of infants and toddlers if you don’t believe me. Every event is new. Every object is a chance to explore (and perhaps attempt to eat!)

But something happens to our heart. People, places and events walk all over our soul. At first it hurts. But the more we are trampled the harder we get until we lose all feeling. Then nothing seems to matter anymore.

Hardened soil reminds us of two dangers of hardened hearts. One is a warning of sorts not to become hardened in the first place.  Soil, like the heart, never becomes hard when it is nurtured. The only thing I’ve found to keep my heart soft is the realization of how much I am loved by Jesus Christ. People fail me. I fail people. Jesus never fails.

The second danger concerning hardened hearts is the assumption that once a heart is hardened it can never become soft again. This is a tool of the enemy of our souls. Hardened hearts become soft the same way they stay soft, with nurturing. If you pour a bucket of water on hard ground it runs off with little penetration and you may think the situation hopeless. But slowly run a garden hose over the area and after time the water stops running OFF and it runs IN. It takes time, patience and gentleness to soften hard ground. The heart requires it even more.

The same thing is true of a hardened heart. You may not think your kindness is doing any good but time, patience and gentleness, empowered by the love of Christ, can do wonders on a hardened heart.

PRAYER: Lord, I confess to you that my heart has grown hard by the things others have done to me. At times I’ve even blamed you! I’ve grown weary trying to love those you love because their hardness seems impenetrable. May I experience the gentle, penetrating and softening rain of your love in my heart so that I can share it with others. Amen.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NIV)

Jesus tells the story of a man who was beaten and robbed by a bunch of thugs. Severely injured and left on the road to die, he was without hope. Soon two men came upon his beaten, bruised and battered body. Each of them took stock of the situation and decided it was best if they moved on. The third man, a hated Samaritan came along and saw the man laying there in a pool of blood. Realizing there was no time to waste, he bandaged the man’s wounds and brought him to safety. He had compassion on him.

Compassion. The dictionary defines it as a consciousness of someone else’s distress with an urgent desire to alleviate it. Sympathy is understanding and perhaps even sharing the emotions of another person in distress, but compassion takes that a step farther by seeking ways in which to alleviate the pain.

James tells us, what good is it, when you see someone in need to say “I’ll pray for you, I feel bad about your plight.” (My paraphrase from James 2) Referring back to our example of the story Jesus told. Let’s give the first two men that came upon the victim some credit. Let’s say, for the sake of argument that they stopped, looked and even prayed over the man who was beaten to a bloody pulp. Of what benefit were there prayers.

It’s interesting that Jesus chose the characters he did. The two that passed by were ‘the religious elite’ of the day. The type of people any pastor would love to have on their board or staff. The one that stopped to give compassion would be looked down upon in most churches.

Perhaps you are the one wounded on the side of the road. You’ve had a history of abuse and abandonment. Your wounds aren’t readily visible to those around you, but the pain is unbearable. Perhaps those bruises were given to you in the name of the church, or for your own good.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to remind them that we are to be examples of God. God is the one that not only stops to look at your pain, He’s the one that stoops to our level, bandages your wounds, and comforts you in your pain. You may think you have fallen too far. You may think your wounds too deep. You may say you have nothing to offer.

That’s the beauty of our God. None of us have anything of any value to offer him for his kindness. None of us have the resources to purchase his forgiveness. We are comforted only because of his grace.

PRAYER: Father God. I praise you for the assurance we have that you will bandage our wounds and show us your compassion. We are a needy people. We are a wounded people. Thank you for the comfort you offer us through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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