Avoiding the Thorns

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed…Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants…
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
From Matthew 13: 3-4, 7 & 22 Parable of the Four Soils

(The parable of the four soils highlights the sewing of seed in 4 different places, I chose to focus on only one: the seed among the thorns.)

What happens in this scenario? What happens when someone has heard or understands the word and allows himself or herself to be distracted? The very thing that we are doing is taking our mind off of God and directing all of our attention to our situations in life. We completely lose focus and our priorities are thrown into total disarray.

The alarming part about this is that when this happens it’s to somebody that has heard the word and understands it. It can happen to the extent that you still hear from and agree with God, yet have intention of following and obeying him. We are giving lip service to our Lord by realizing and denouncing our own ways and still we do nothing to change the situation.

That could be so important in our own lives that we would jeopardize our relationship with the only one that grants us eternal life? When these choices are placed on a scale, what could possibly be worth this? How desirable do the “things” of this world look when you place them in this balance? To quote the old adage “what good is it if a man gain’s the world yet loses his soul in the process?”

Naturally, the answer is that nothing is as important as our relationship with Jesus. No amount of wealth, or anything else, will ever amount to what we have in Him. What we must do is to find a way to keep our focus on Him and not allow our minds to dwell elsewhere. We have to pray to Him earnestly when we feel our focus slipping (and at all other times). Finally, when we start recognizing this beginning to happen we must not dismiss the Word we hear from him. Instead, we have to use it to foster change in our thinking priorities. We must hold on to Him and hold on to His Word and the worries of light will soon be overtaken in the balance of our lives.
~Kenny Stahl

Photo Credit: Austin Ban

Filthy Talk

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.. ~Ephesians 5:4 ESV

Crude Joking

All of my life, I’ve liked to joke around. I have told tons of jokes and my sense of humor is pretty dry. But, for some time now, I’ve been trying to catch myself with my “crude” joking. I don’t joke crudely on purpose. But, this particular scripture has been on my mind a lot because I believe the Holy Spirit is convicting me in this area.  I need to remember that if I wouldn’t tell a joke or joke with my daughters with the joking I’m saying, I shouldn’t at all.

Crude joking can be hurtful to your friends, and others you may not even know (depending on where you are). Not only that, it can have a negative impact on your ministry. More than even that, you could be staining someone’s impression of who Christ is. As a believer, you’re representing HIS kingdom as an ambassador from there. Represent well.

 

Think About Your Words

When you’re with your friends and family, what type of voice do you use? Do you use words that are encouraging and uplifting or words that tear down and discourage? Does filthiness come from your mouth? Do you joke crudely?

What steps can you take to correct this? If you’re feeling the Holy Spirit convict you in this area, you should prayerfully consider asking Jesus to help you in this area of your walk with Him.

God bless you today!

 

Photograph by: Joshua Earle

Forget About It

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. ~Micah 7:19

How difficult can it be for any one of us to not only forgive the transgressions of another but to also forget about them? Forgiveness itself can be problematic at best, let alone just forgetting the incident or wrongdoing ever took place. So often we all want to hold that grudge against another even after we have said we forgive. The difficulty to forgive and especially to move on is simply our human nature as usual.

However we are capable of achieving this based on one supreme reason: we are made in Christ’s image. Much like him we have the ability to have compassion towards others showing them tenderness and grace despite our will to seek revenge. We have the ability to show ourselves like Christ and to pardon the guilt thereby rendering sin powerless. Finally we can hurl all of these iniquities into the depths of the sea. Normally we would keep an account of things, a record of the ALL the wrongdoing done against us. This scripture quickly reminds us of what He does and therefore what we should do.

The only other thing I can say is that by no far stretch of the imagination is any one of us perfect. While we sit reading this and thinking about the sins we have personally forgiven and need to let go of we have to consider the opposite. We are hoping that others take this same stance towards us. We have all wronged somebody in our lives and so we are asking for the very same, and that is to have our sin forgiven and forgotten. We are asking Christ to do this and we are asking our fellow man to do this. I pray we can all take this path and save ourselves from the power of sin.

Get a Check Up!

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5

How many of us really relish in the thought of taking a test or exam? How many of us look forward going to the doctor for a checkup? I know there are some people that probably aren’t as bothered by these notions while many of us would prefer to avoid them at all costs.

Whether it be a test we are required to score well on for a curriculum of some sort or a doctor’s visit that could yield good or bad results it all means the same thing….we either pass or in some way we fall short and possibly fail. In any case the obvious understanding is that nobody enjoys failure and certainly nobody wants to receive bad news. We all want to succeed in what we strive for and also live prosperous lives in every way possible. Whether it is academic accolades or a clean bill of health we all desire to achieve our goal or status.

So what about in our faith?

In this scripture, Paul is urging the church in Corinth to stop and examine themselves. He’s not doing this to get them to go for a doctor’s visit or get an A on their chemistry exam. He’s reminding them that if they genuinely have Christ in their hearts and are living for God and that they should take and pass that spiritual test.

I believe what he is also trying to say (and what we should all strive for) is to live in such a way that the presence of the Lord is apparent in our lives. If we’re not able to pass this test of faith then it could be a sign that instead of growing in Him we are growing away from Him. So, if we truly want to live for Christ we must periodically stop and analyze ourselves in regard to our faith. We must take the test…we must go for the check up…

~ Kenny Stahl

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

A Crystal Ball

Have you ever read something in the Bible and felt like someone was looking into a crystal ball, and then writing about what our world looks like today?

Almost 2,000 years ago, Paul wrote amazing letters to young Timothy. As I read these words a few days ago, my heart ached because it was like I was watching a news story about what our world has become.

Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Ugh. It looks and sounds familiar.

And what is Timothy (and us) to do? Paul continues in 2 Timothy 4:2-5

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not up up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

After reading these verses, I’ve been in prayer all week asking God to guide me through these uncertain times like He did Timothy. I want Him to teach me to respond in a way that is honoring, and that will show what Jesus expects a Christian to do.

Will you join me in the same prayer?

Sleeping Through the Storm

Most of us are very familiar with the story of ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:23-27‬. Take the time to read it before you start here. Jesus gets on a boat with his disciples and proceeds to sleep through a storm. The disciples reaction was different. They were terrified for their lives. They woke Him up and asked him to save them. He woke and immediately calmed the storm.

This is a simple story of trust for most, and I think we all struggle with simple reminders and stories like this sounding fresh. Of course we hear this story and we think “yes, I know. Have faith in the storm”. But both Paul and Peter say it is good to be reminded of these things even when we are firmly planted in the truth.

The storm is absolutely a symbol for us to represent our hardships, but the importance of Jesus’ reaction is just as true today as it was then. He wasn’t next to the boat, he wasn’t on the phone talking them through a disaster or praying for them. He was literally “in the same boat”. And his reaction was to sleep.

Our natural inclination when things happen that we perceive as bad and out of our control is to panic and worry. But just as the disciples didn’t actually need to have Jesus calm the storm to stop worrying about it, neither do we. All we need to do is look to His reaction and mirror it.

Are you worrying about something that Jesus is not? This week I implore you to look to your Saviour’s reaction. Ask for the same peace that He received from His Father: a peace so great that it not only removes the fear, but shows you that in comparison to how geat your God is that this storm is so small you may just decide to sleep right through it.

Don’t Put Yourself on the Shelf!

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” ~ Ephesians 4:23-24

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the Bible. As with many that get quoted and used for Inscription this verse is a pretty familiar one. I can remember it being the theme of entire series of sermons or seasons of study as well as being a close and very personal scripture. I believe the reason for its wide use is because of the many different aspects of Christ it presents us.

First, I love and think we can all identify with the freedom this verse (like so many others) gives us. Any of us can renew ourselves in mind and spirit any time we choose to. It points to the access that we have to Christ. He is truly our personal Lord and Savior. He is not a god hidden away in a temple for only certain people to see. We do not have to be dressed a certain way or say an exact phrase to enter into His presence. We can renew ourselves in Him anytime we want and see the change in our mind and spirit. We have to only take him up on this free offer.

I believe this verse also reminds us to show the world this change. If I renew my mind in Him but keep it to myself I am doing my Lord a huge disservice. I am also failing not only those around me, but also myself. Much like we have said in the past- we should be so excited to share the news about Christ that we can hardly contain ourselves. This also makes me think of how my renewed mind and spirit is not only something I can talk about but that the world sees on me. It should be obvious to the world that I, or we, are truly different.

I am truly excited that we can all be renewed in the spirit and be able to show this wonderful change to those around us.

Photo Credit: Matt Artz

Laundry

(I really debated with whether or not I would write about another experience I had on vacation. So, let me preempt this whole story: This is not about my actions or what I did. This is clearly about how God can work through us if we listen to Him.)

I like doing laundry. I like the smell of clean clothes, and the warm feeling of towels just pulled out of the dryer. I like for the laundry basket to be empty, and I feel a little stressed when the clothes almost reach the top. (I don’t, however, like putting the laundry away. That’s where the kids come in!)

When I’m frustrated, I’ll go start a load of laundry. When I need a few minutes alone, I’ll fold clothes. After a few days of traveling with the family this summer, imagine my excitement that our hotel had a laundromat! Ahh…The smell, the steady hum of the dryer, the time alone. I definitely needed this.

I hauled all of our dirty clothes down the elevator and sorted them into two washing machines. I sat down for a few minutes to soak in the smell of Tide and the rhythm of the dryers. I noticed that the six dryers were all full of clothes, and there was one with 20 minutes left on it. Perfect. My two loads would be finished washing around that same time, and I could put all the clothes in one dryer.

I came down about 45 minutes later, and that one dryer had stopped, but the clothes were in it. What to do? What to do? Laundromat etiquette dictates you don’t pull another person’s clothes out of the dryer and replace them with yours. That’s rude. But…it was already 9:00 at night, and I really needed this dryer. So, with my heart racing like I was committing a felony, I pulled the clothes out and put mine in.

There was a folding bench, so I very neatly folded the small load of clothes. I folded two size small ladies t-shirts, a pair of size 5 denim shorts, a baby blanket, two onesies, and some baby socks. My mind began to picture a young mom. She probably threw the clothes in the wash because her baby son had spit up all over them. Now it was late, and she was probably desperately trying to get him to sleep. Maybe she wanted to come get the clothes, but there was no way she would leave him in order to do so.

Oddly, my heart began aching for her. I prayed over each piece of clothing. I prayed for the sweet boy whose tiny toes filled those socks. I prayed that God give the mom patience and peace. I remember those hard, baby days. I also prayed that God would give her strength.

I put our clothes on to dry, went back upstairs, and came down an hour later to get them. The small pile of clothes was still where I had left them. When I laid down that night, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I prayed for her again before dozing off.

When I woke up, she was the first thing on my mind. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me–prompting me to let her know about God. I felt it so strongly. I knew God wanted me to write something to her.

I grabbed the hotel notepad and wrote:

“God sees you and He loves you. He knows you are going through a hard time
right now, but He is there for you. Just turn to Him. I am praying for you.”

John asked what I was doing.

“I just really feel like God is wanting this lady to know He hasn’t left her. I’m writing her a note, and if the clothes are still there, I’m supposed to leave it on them,” I responded.

“You think the clothes are still there?” he responded. I just shrugged my shoulders.

We gathered all of our bags and headed downstairs to load the car and eat breakfast. My heart began to race as I opened the door to the laundry room. I paused and turned to face the folding table. There lay the small pile of clothes. Yep…God for sure wanted her to have this note. So, I placed it halfway in the shirt on top, said another prayer, and left.

Although I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see her response, that part wasn’t for me. I did my part. God wanted to speak to her, so I did.

The deeper my relationship grows with God, the more I am obedient to Him. And the more obedient I am, the deeper my relationship grows. Two years ago I never would have written a note, and I don’t know that I would have felt the Holy Spirit nudging me. Spending time in God’s word has changed me. Are you ready for it to change you too?

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14

Jill

 

Photo Credit:  Kristopher Roller

Choosing Joy

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” ~ Colossians 3:16

Of late I have continuously felt like I’m the world’s most perfect example of a broken record. Not only in the same things I’ve felt and expressed but also in the polar opposites of my attitude and how they reoccur. I find myself constantly saying, “I don’t know what my problem is today, I can’t get anything done,” or “I feel so tired today and just can’t get into it.” These notions are immediately followed a day later by “I had the best day today,” and “I just felt excellent and had such a blessed day.” Back and forth, over and over, the sentiment has been the same. As it continues to happen time just goes by.

So what changed from day to day? The more I thought about it the easier it became to pinpoint. I changed. I chose to let myself get down and just as quick I chose to pull up my boots and not let the circumstances of the present make me feel so dejected. Now I’m not saying that some days aren’t going to be difficult because that itself is just a part of life. What I am saying is that we have the power and control in our lives to choose how circumstances affect us and how we respond. We can do this on our own but sometimes the effect is little more than just “putting on a happy face.”

OR

We can take this feeling and also look to our Heavenly Father in order to find true joy and happiness. When I read this scripture and thought of His word in me I couldn’t help but smile. His word in me…richly in all these things to the point that I sing with grace in my heart to the Lord. The thought of having this wisdom and teaching that overwhelms me to such a point that I had to convey that via psalms, hymns and songs with someone else sounds almost too good to be true. The reality though is that it’s not. God is His word. If we have His word in our hearts we not only have Him in our hearts but it creates in us such a joy we are truly overwhelmed.

My suggestion for myself (to avoid the broken record syndrome) and for anyone else is to bury His word into our hearts. To let Him be the source of our joy and rejoice in that with everyone around us. I know this will do far more than just put a smile on our faces, it will change our attitudes completely.

~Kenny Stahl

No Sweat!

And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Luke 22:44

Inscription and inspiration both tend to come from some very interesting places for me lately. I have to be honest in the fact that this week it came from cleaning out a drawer of old t-shirts in my closet. I came across a shirt that I remember buying when I was a sophomore in high school. It was at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat and I have always held on to it remembering those days with fondness. Unfortunately, the years and frequent wearing have rendered the shirt into tatters with so many holes in it so enormous you can hardly read the words.

The shirt depicts an advertisement if you will for “The Lord’s Gym.” On the back it reads “No Sweat, Yeah Right!,” and then has the scripture from above.

When I started reading more of Luke 22 the verses really began to make me think. The chapter depicts some of the last hours Christ spent before His crucifixion. It takes us through the administering of the Last Supper and His journey into the Mount of Olives. Knowing what the next hours would bring Christ says in verse 42 “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”

I had to ask myself how often do I pray and leave that last part out? I can only imagine the number of times I have simply asked for my circumstances or those of others to change for personal reasons. I have begged for that cup to pass from me without acknowledging His lordship in my life and that His will, not mine be done. I don’t believe it is wrong to ask for something, but if I am following Him as a believer it should all be asked for and done according to His will.

After recognizing this and how He shows us how to pray I then thought of the strength and dedication in His prayer. The utter agony He was in knowing what was to transpire but the resolve to accept it as “thy will be done.” The turmoil to sweat as great drops of blood is something hard to imagine and yet it should also be mine. If I consider myself a follower of Christ, I have to be willing to sacrifice and pray as earnestly as He showed me. It made me want to pray harder than ever before. It made me want to be a true prayer warrior according to His will and seek only that. I hope we can all do this in our own lives as well as the lives of others.

Sounds like no sweat huh?

~ Kenny Stahl