Years ago a seminary professor wove a gripping modern version of Jesus’ parable of the treasure found hidden in a field.  In his version, a metal-detecting hobbyist from the big city stops at what appears to be an old ball field in the foothills.  When his metal detector screeches over a large object in the ground, he digs to discover a very large buried trunk.  After an hour of working dirt away from the lid, what he sees when he opens it takes his breath away.  In my seminary professor’s version, the city-slicker  covers it quickly with his mind racing how he can make the field and the treasure his own.  Scanning, he sees a wisp of smoke coming from an old cabin on the hill above him, and with pounding heart approaches the door and knocks.  When a white-haired mountain man opens the door, he and the treasure-finder have a discussion about the little abandoned ball field down near the road.

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The parable of the soils is repeated by Matthew, Mark, and Luke – one of seven recorded parables picked up by all three writers.  It is also unique in that, while most parables are simple stories with one central point and few details, Jesus makes this parable an allegory, giving significance to each detail.  In essence, the Sower (God) sows the seed (the Gospel) in the hearts (soil) of people, and gets four kinds of responses – seed swiped by Satan, seedlings withered by weather, plants chocked out by cares, or a bumper-crop harvest.

Get a bunch of people who follow Jesus in a room to unpack this parable, the central topic of discussion will quickly become, ‘How many of these people are ‘saved?’  In other words, what kind of a response can a person have to the Gospel God sows and still get through the Pearl Gates of Heaven?

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When we become a follower of Jesus, is it more like getting an upgrade on life or is it more switching operating systems completely?  That’s an important question to answer.  If we were really honest, most of us talk as if is a whole new operating system and live as if it is simply a life upgrade.

We talk new operating system because we can’t get away from a number of passages that meddle with our normal lives. 

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The summer of 1992, Michele and I took 13 middle school students to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe area.  We should have known we had bit off more than we could chew when 24 hours prior to departure, a parent insisted their foreign exchange student who spoke excellent English (she didn’t) also go on the trip, or when one of the five boys asked if there were pop machines at the campsites.

However, the biggest problem on our trip was not the naïve students.  The biggest problem was our outfitter

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Pastor John scared the Hell out of his congregation.   Some say literally.  As he preached, Pastor John described sinful men as hanging perilously over the mouth of Hell, held up solely by a single thin thread of the grace of an Almighty, offended, angry God.   Before his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was over, screeches of anguish and outright panic swept the pews, with people crying out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

Preached 272 years ago next Sunday (July 8, 1741),  historians point to this sermon as a key element in fanning the flames of a revival in Colonial America called, The Great Awakening.

Was Pastor John right or wrong to put the fear of God in his flock?  Is the fear of offending God Almighty a valid tool to motivate the aggressive pursuit of holy attitudes and actions in those He created?  Is it wise or even right to suggest that a person can go to the well of grace too many times?

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The Annual Darwin Awards are given each year, saluting those whose actions demonstrate that the human genome is not always improving.  One such Darwin Award nominee are five inebriated Michigan men and a hunting dog who, intending to duck hunt, attempted to open up an ice-covered pond with a stick of dynamite.  After consulting with each other about the safest way to explode the dynamite, they decided that the man with the best arm would launch it once lit.  Which he did.  When he did, the dynamite thrower’s hunting dog, a retriever, bolted to fetch the stick.    When the dog’s retrieving instinct overruled his master’s frantic commands to stop, the master pulled his birdshot-loaded shotgun from his new Jeep and shot his approaching dog.  More startled than hurt, Rover kept on coming.  When Rover was shot a second time, he sought refuge to lick his wounds – under the new $30,000 Jeep.

In this case, no Darwin Award was issued, as it was determined this was a classic urbane legend.  But that exploding stick, the inebriated men, and the bewildered dog are a vivid example of the danger and damage of anger. 

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Say what?  It’s Greek to me.  Precisely.   Jesus took two Greek words and coined a new word by joining them together.  Oligos means little or few.  Pistos means faith or trust.  OligopistosLittle-faith.  The New Testament tells us Jesus used the coined word a handful of times, and only when addressing his disciples.

In Matthew Chapter 8, Jesus has just finished giving his greatest sermon we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”  As he walks off the hill near Capernaum, he meets a leper and rips the dreaded disease of leprosy right out of him.  Entering Capernaum, he restores the spinal cord of a paralyzed man who lies dying across town.  Entering Peter’s home, he finds dinner is not on the table because Peter’s mother has a fever of 105 and climbing.  Jesus takes her by the hand and apparently has the fever pass into him (see verse 17).  His long day still not over, he burns the midnight oil battering on the Gates of Hell, hurling demons out of those they tormented.  Through it all, the disciples waddled wide-eyed behind him like ducklings.

It may be been the very next day Jesus used his new word, oligopistos (Little-faith) – to describe His disciples.  He told them to follow him into the boat because they were going to cross to the south side of Galilee.  In they waddled.  But in the middle of the lake, a whopping storm struck.  Waking up a napping Jesus, they squawked, ‘Lord, save us, we are perishing!” (You’d think with at least four career fishermen in the boat, somebody would have learned to swim.) That’s when Jesus hit them with his coined word.  Little-faiths!  “How is it that you are Little-faiths?”

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My childhood friend and and college roommate, Todd, got married the summer he graduated.  As his best man, I got an inside peek behind the scenes.  And one scene stands out in 3-D clarity from that weekend.  The rehearsal, groom’s dinner, wedding ceremony and reception were over.  Todd and his bride, Cindy, and their two sets of parents were in a side room off the reception hall.  It was time to head off with his bride.  Past time.  In fact, way past time, and Todd had a problem.  A BIG problem.  Leaving his mother.  His beloved mother.  The mother that had nursed him and pampered him and made sure he had his cold cranberry juice cocktail poured and sitting alongside his hot bacon and eggs every single morning since he could remember.  In Hollywood fashion, he hugged her, and held her, then hugged her again, then walked toward his new wife, then looked at his teary-eyed mother and walked over and held her again.

I literally had to pull him away.

I think this is what Jesus meant when he taught his apprentices, “No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and wealth.” 

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Reflection:  Curing Hurry Sickness

 ‘You can’t follow Jesus at a sprint.’ – John Ortberg

‘Hurry is not of the Devil, hurry IS the Devil ‘– Carl Young

The practice of fasting, solitude, and Sabbath  can help apprentices of Jesus ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.  Jesus knew that a life of hurry can destroy our souls.  Hurry makes an apprentice of Jesus skim over life rather than actually living life.

Hurry sickness is a disease of our day and culture.  Hurry sickness is a continuous striving to cram more and more into less and less time.  Hurry will keep us consumed by the riches and pleasures of life, preventing the way of Jesus from being cultivated in our hearts.

Jesus was often very busy, but never appeared to be in a hurry. 

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In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus taught his apprentices (disciples) to pray like this:

“Our Father in heaven,may your name be honored.  10 May your Kingdom come soon.  May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.  11  Give us our food for today,  12  and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. 13  And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.   14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Now, fellow apprentices of Jesus, how do we pray that prayer and live it out.  Consider his statements and my follow-up observations and questions one-by-one and let’s sharpen each other…

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