By Stefanie McGowan
Happy 2017! How’s your New Year?
Does it feel fresh and new?
Is it starting messier than you’d planned?
The new year in Southern Oregon started with record-breaking snow – more than we’ve seen in almost 100 years! We don’t usually get snow, and the weather is insane. But it reminds me that the little-by-little adds up and that seasons have a powerful purpose for building upon each other, and making room for new growth. It has me excited for Spring. For garden planning, and a chance to dig in the dirt. It’s the perfect time to start planning what seeds you’ll sow and what crops to grow.
Gardening’s good for the soul! It can teach us about God’s character, and help gauge the condition of our heart. It keeps us prepping good soil, and reminds us to dig out the weeds and rocks that get in the way of producing good fruit. Planting seeds can remind us to stay well-watered in the word, and teach us to prune and make room for growth.
Are you ready to make room for new growth in 2017?
Whether or not you grow this year matters.
Because the condition of your heart matters to the Lord.
Whether you make room to plant the Word in your heart, or whether you’re just too busy now – matters. Because the gospel changes EVERYTHING! And no one can spend time with Jesus and remain unchanged.
Our heart condition is so important to God, that He warns us about it in parables throughout Matthew 13.
Jesus shares with the crowds as they gather around him at a lake, and as they gather, He climbs into a boat, so his voice can carry across the water. It was important to Jesus that they really hear Him:
“Listen!” he says.
“A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among the thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Whether your heart is hard, or tender enough to plant in, matters to Jesus.
His disciples came and asked Him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
Jesus replied, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be give, and they will have an abundance of knowledge…
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand…”
Why was it important to Jesus that you and I have ears to hear?
Why not just skim over the Word? Or read it once in awhile?
Why is understanding scripture important?
Because YOU matter to Jesus.
His heart is that yours doesn’t stay the same.
He wants you to be able to sit in awe, and marvel at how He reveals himself to you through scripture.
The Lord doesn’t want you to live as easy prey to the evil one, who will snatch up the truth in your life and trade it for a lie. He wants you and I to be rooted in Him, anchored in truth, growing in wisdom and fruitful. Our heart change matters to The Lord.
Jesus went on to explain how His words fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10,
“For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear…
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’”
Hard hearts are hard to penetrate. They become a footpath, where the seed of the word can’t enter. They rob our desire for understanding, and keep us distant from the Lord. They make us jaded and hard of hearing, and we slow in our reception of Jesus making himself known in our lives.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.” (Matthew 13:16-17)
Their hearts were already hard. They heard but weren’t listening, saw, but weren’t seeking. Their ears didn’t hear, because they weren’t listening to know God.
Our understanding is critical to the Lord, so he explains on:
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds:
The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.” (Matthew 13:18-19)
The message is heard, but not understood, so “the thief comes to steal, and kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10) This is the condition of the first soil, the one without ears to hear.
It’s time to change the condition of our soil, and cultivate our messy hearts. It’s time to overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). That we might press in to know the Lord, and make Him known.
Friends, keep growing! Keep digging into the power of the Word!
Beg God for understanding. Hide it in your hearts.
Remember your Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will teach you and guide you in all things. He will comfort you, and remind you of all the Father has said.
Get rid of the distractions that hold you back from chasing after God’s heart.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, and your thoughts on what’s eternal.
He is our strength, and apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Will you replace our stony, stubborn hearts?
Give us new hearts and a tenderness for The Holy Spirit.
Let us be receptive vessels of your word, where it penetrates down deep
and grows and satisfies us in our drought.
Father, keep us from going astray,
from falling off this long and narrow road that leads to everlasting life in you.
Lord, give us ears to hear your word, and teachable hearts that want to obey it.
Father, would you give us powerful intimacy with you, Lord!
That we would KNOW you, and seek your face always.
That we would talk with you constantly, putting you first, above all things.
Lord, you are good! Thank you that we get to come boldly before your throne of grace. We praise you for your gift of the Holy Spirit to help us when we need it most. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
 Hebrews 4:12;  Proverbs 2:6;  Psalm 119:11;  John 14:26-27;  Hebrews 12:1;  Hebrews 12:2;  Colossians 3:2;  John 15:5;  1 Corinthians 3:7;  Isaiah 55:11