Harvest Time

I know that it is different in other parts of the world but here is Texas it is already harvest time.  The temperature is in the 90’s and will get hotter.  About a week ago I picked the first picking of green beans.  My wife, Darla, cooked them in butter with a little garlic and they were delicious.  Yesterday I picked the first picking of peas and we will eat them this evening.  I also picked a few turnips, which I like to eat raw.  I also noticed that the tomatoes are setting on and I even found three that were the size of golf balls.  Not bad from my small garden in a subdivision.

I hope that you are drooling by now.  The farmer plants with the view of a harvest.  All of the work in preparing the ground, sowing, weeding, pruning, etc. is just part of the investment as you look forward to the harvest.  So it is with the Lord.  He also is looking forward to the harvest . . . of souls.

Revelation 14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

There is coming a day when He, too will harvest His garden (the earth) and there will be a time of celebration for those who allowed Him to change them from creatures of sin into the children of God by surrendering their sin and learned to walk by FAITH in Him.

We go through this world only once and we make the choice as to what we become.  Every day of our lives we make that choice over and over.  Either we choose righteousness or we choose to reject what is right and become even more self focused.

You have been invited to join the Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb but you must come dressed in your robe of righteousness.  It will be a time of rejoicing and a time of fulfillment.  All the investment of sacrifice and suffering will be worth it all.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Matthew 21:15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were moved with indignation, 16 and said unto him, Hearest thou what these are saying? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea: did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?

It is a wonderful time when you spend time with family.  There are so many things to share and talk about and there are new experiences that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.  One such incident happened yesterday.  We have a great granddaughter who is just 4 years old and because we live a long ways apart, she hasn’t yet really gotten to know us.  To break the ice with her, I introduced her to finger man. He is simply two fingers imitating a man walking.  She was immediately intrigued with finger man and began to do the finger man walk toward me.  I reacted as though he was going to get me and the ice was broken.  From then on she kept repeatedly chased me with finger man until my finger man walked toward her finger man and asked if she would like to be friends.  She immediately said yes and from then on, her finger man wanted to play with my finger man.

This was great to get to know each other and she continued to watch us and engage us in her world.  Then as we gathered around the table to pray before we ate, she announced quite loudly that she wanted to lead the prayer.  We all agreed she could but then she decided that I should lead the prayer so I asked her if she would be my prayer partner while I led in prayer and she agreed.  Then as I led in prayer she held my hand tightly and bowed her head while I prayed.

That evening as we were preparing to eat and were proceeding to get our food, she gave us notice that we had not prayed yet.  She then took my hand and asked me to lead the prayer and as my prayer partner she bowed her head so that the prayer could begin.  My heart was filled to overflowing as I witnessed, once again, the fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Out of the mouth of babes. . .

Adam, where art thou?

 

Ge 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Ge 3:8 And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.

Ge 3:9 And Jehovah God called unto the man, and said unto him, where art thou?

If you are familiar with Genesis 3 you will recall it is the story of man’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  Satan first deceived Eve and she took the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then she gave some to Adam and he did eat as so began the fall of man.  The first thing that Adam and Eve did was make themselves aprons of fig leaves to cover themselves with because they were naked.   Then in verse 8 we find that they hid themselves from the presence of God because of their nakedness.  Then God called unto the man and asked an odd question.  It would be odd indeed if God did not know where he was because God is everywhere present.  But if God knew where Adam was then why did he ask the question of where are you?  God certainly knew where he was but Adam didn’t know where he was.  Sure he knew his location within the garden but he didn’t know where he was in relation to the Lord.  This was unfamiliar territory, not knowing where he stood with the Lord.

I can’t think of anything more unsettling than knowing that you just blew a great relationship, especially if that other one is God.  You know you were wrong in your choice but the uncertainty of how that choice will affect future relationships leaves you with a sense of impending peril.  You have already attempted to fix it but your best effort is just fig leaves and doesn’t fix anything.  Your pain is in knowing how much you have hurt the other party as well as your disappointment in yourself.  Your shame deepens and you just can’t bring yourself to admit that you were even capable of such an act, let alone take full responsibility for your actions.  Such is the predicament of Adam.

Your next response is critical.  You must decide what response is appropriate.  Do you trust the other party enough to face them with the truth.  Excuses, blame or self justification will only make matters worse.  What qualities do they have that attracted you to them to start with?  Do you believe that their value of you will be worth saving or will the fear of rejection win?  What evidence do you have that tells you that the best thing is to face it head on and accept the outcome and learn from it.  Note that God had come seeking Adam and was not reactive to what He already knew, but was willing to give Adam the opportunity to now make a right choice.  A right heart says that I at least owe him the truth and extend to him the opportunity to advance the relationship in spite of the setback.

Resolution will require courage forgiveness, truth, ownership of our actions, trust and love to produce change.  Your victory will depend on the measure of these elements being present in you.  Do you have the fiber to turn a failure into an opportunity to grow.

Consider A Seed

Have you ever sat down and just considered the seed.  It doesn’t matter which seed you are thinking about for they all follow the same pattern.  For our consideration today we will choose a tomato seed.

It began as a part of the life of the tomato plant.  The plant produced its fruit of a tomato and contained within the tomato were dozens of seeds in their embryo state.  They were the hope of life beyond the tomato plant or the tomato.  They alone contained the hope of continuing the process of future tomatoes.  For that hope to become reality the seed must die to its present life and be separated from the tomato.  It then must be dried and stored for a future time or season.

Now consider the seed.  It is not beautiful, in fact, it looks quite devoid of life and beauty.  Notice that it is brittle and void of flexibility.  There is nothing about it to suggest that contained within it is the next plant that will produce more tomatoes and seeds.  It is quite small compared to the size of the plant or even the size of the tomato.  As long as the seed maintains its present state, nothing happens that will enable the possibilities of the hope that it represents.

Joh 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

The next event in the order of life for the tomato is that the seed must die.  Look at the process of planting.  You take a seed and place it into the ground.  The seed is buried in the dark, damp ground and all hope of it remaining a seed is lost.  Now behold the miracle of the Lord.  New life is generated from the death of the seed and from the seed a stalk begins to grow and pushes its way to the surface of the ground.  It is quite tender, yet it is able to push it’s way through the soil and even lift rocks many times it’s own in order to break forth into the sun light.  Where does it get it’s strength?  From the root system.  As the stalk pushes upward, the roots push downward and draws the nourishment and water to supply the plant above ground.  Without it the plant above ground would simply wilt and die.  Like the new plant, the Christian needs a good root system to supply the nourishment needed to do the work of God.  Notice also the the size of the root system is determines the size of the plant above ground.

The farmer knows about this process and plants with the hope of a harvest.  There may be some value to the nourishment contained within the seed but that is very small compared to the benefit from the harvest to be gained by entrusting the seed into the hands of God.  What you entrust into His hands is your seed and His blessing is the harvest.  But notice that the seed must die.  You must loose all control over the seed and to you it is lost.  Notice also that the seed must have a resurrection.  It must receive the new life from God and is not contained within itself.  God’s measure of blessing is some 30 and some 60 and some 100 fold.

Word Study – Angel

There are many nuggets to be mined from the study of the words used in the original languages of the Bible.  One such word is the word that we translate “Angel”.

It is the transliteration of the Greek word aggelos and in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance it is #32 aggelov aggelosang’-el-os from aggello (probably derived from 71; compare 34) (to bring tidings); a messenger; especially an “angel”; by implication, a pastor:–angel, messenger.

The word is translated 166 times in the New Testament as angel, 5 times as messenger and one time as apostle.   It is also used in reference to a heavenly being who serves the Lord in the care of His children.  Angels brought the message of God, encouraged mankind, confronted satanic powers, and watched over the souls of man.  These are the deeds of the pastor as well as heavenly angles.  Clearly then, angel is used in reference to a man that serves as God’s servant in caring for His children.   We don’t think of a pastor as an angle but the Bible makes that comparison.  It is understood by scholars that the angel of the 7 churches of Asia, referenced in Revelation 2 and 3 are a reference to the pastor of those churches.

It is no wonder then that the Bible states that the pastor is worthy of double honor.  He is God’s anointed and great care should be taken in bringing a charge against a pastor.

When he brings a message that especially touches your heart, you can truly say that you have been touched by an angel.

Course Correction

Have you ever considered how many course corrections you make every day?  As you are walking you make one or more every step.  While driving you are constantly adjusting you location on the pavement to stay in your lane.  When you make a turn you are adjusting your speed, signaling, steering, adjusting the gas pedal, etc.  When you are working your mind is always refining your thoughts and topics.  On and on it goes so that your entire life is made up of continual course corrections.  We do this to stay on track, to be safe, to be efficient and a number of other reasons.

Sometimes course corrections are mandated because we discover that we cannot get their from here.  We must take extreme adjustments to get to a place so that we can get to our destination.  It is a daunting thing to discover that your way is blocked and you cannot proceed without making matters worse.  That is when, Pr 16:9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps, begins to make sense.  I cannot see the way but the Lord will direct me in the way to go.  This is part of the plan of God for our lives, to live by faith in Him because we don’t know how to proceed.  Left to ourselves, we lose our direction just like a man lost in a forest or jungle.  Because God has the perfect vantage point, He can direct us on how to proceed.

So how do you stay on course?   Ps 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  The answer is simple, just make the most important course correction you will ever make, and that is to have a heart change.  Instead of placing your trust in your own compass, delight in following His directions.  If you do not surrender your will to Him then you are charting your course based on where you think you are and the direction you think you need to go.  This is the description of someone who is lost and complicates his situation by going further off course.  It is all a matter of heart.  If your heart is prideful or stubborned you will not heed His direction but if your delight is to do what He directs you to do and go where He directs you to go then He will guide you into the center of His will.  The real question is, Who do you trust, yourself or Him.

Baby Steps 2

The next step was that the Lord moved us to Texas where we currently are living.  I didn’t know where we were moving to when we sold our home in Maryland so we loaded what we could and gave away the rest and came here to my oldest son’s home to give us time to find the next step in God’s plan.  We stayed with him for a couple months and the Lord revealed that we were already there.  We found the greatest church that I have ever been a part of and in getting to know the pastor and church leadership was introduced to a man that has become one of the translators of my book.

I wasn’t looking for a translator at that time, but while I was visiting with my pastor about my book, he told me that we had a Chinese pastor in our church that could translate it into Chinese.  This was a new idea  that I hadn’t even occurred to me.  I said that I would like to meet Him and let the Lord direct it from there.

I found out that he was from China and was starting churches there.  My pastor said that he was so good at it that the Chinese government had invited him to leave the country, which he did and came to America and became an American citizen.  He then attended and later graduated from Southwestern Seminary and joined our church.  He then started a Chinese congregation attached to our church.  When I met him there was an immediate bond and we visited for over two hours.  I gave him a copy of my book and he promised to read it.  When we talked again, he said that he thought is was an important work.  I then asked him to pray about translating it into Chinese.  I didn’t hear from him for a couple months but when I did hear, he said that he would but he couldn’t start until the end of the year because  he had applied for a visa to China, which had been granted and he was leaving for China soon.

Upon his return to China, he took time to get settled and then began the translation.  The next time I hear from him he had finished the first chapter.  He then told me that he was using my book in his work there in China and that printed religious material is so very hard to find.  The next time I talked with him, he told me that he was using my book to help train the new pastors in the house churches as they usually had not formal training.  The next time I heard from him we discussed the publication of the book.  He said that he would find a place to have it printed there in China as it would be too expensive to have printed and then shipped there.  Also, there was the possibility that it would be discovered and destroyed and could even lead to governmental persecution.

Since then he has made two trips back here to the US and I have been given the privilege of private meeting with both him and his wife.  It is always a delight to talk with him and to hear of his work there in China.  Our church is planning a mission trip there late this year and I have been invited to go.

to be continued . . .

Use Me!

As some of you know, I am trying to sing with the men’s choir and there is a song that we are planning on doing on the 8th of April called Use Me.  It is about a person being used by God.  This morning I woke up with it on my mind and an additional insight that I chose to share with you this morning.  Our usability is directly proportionate to our surrender to and  our love for Him.  The Lord wants to use us but we are the ones that limit the extent of our use.  When we are stubborn about obeying or unwilling to obey, we limit how much we can be used.  When we want to be used in order to be seen, we stand in the way of others seeing God.   When we discount the little things and only look for the big things, we miss great opportunities.

Usability is determined on how we align ourselves with the Lord and His plan for us. It is presumptuous for us to think that we could possibly be ahead of God or see what He might have overlooked.  He desires to use us far more than we long to be used.The question arises of why we want to be used.  Is it to further the kingdom of God or some lesser goal that will inflate our ego.  Are we asking God to join Himself to our plan or are we asking to join His plan?

Another question is who’s will is being served?  Is it my desire for a certain result or is it the stated will of God?  Sometimes we disguise our will as the will of God.  For example, we pray for a person to be healed so that we don’t suffer the loss of that person.  The bible is clear that it is appointed to a man to once die, and after that the judgment.  I am not saying it is wrong to pray for health but I am talking about our motives.  It would be futile to pray for a man to be healed if he was facing his appointment to die.  Because we cannot see as God sees and do not know what God knows that we pray for things after we remove self interest and seek His will alone.

The final question that I have is who is being served.  Jesus said that He did not come to be served, but to serve.  Self serving does not honor God but is an affront to God.  It frustrates the grace of God.  Serving others is a gift that we can offer to God  for He said in as oft as you do it unto others, you have done it to me.

Follow Through

De 23:21 When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.

There are a number of ways to say it such as, keeping your promises, your word is your bond, paying your vows, or just following through with what you said.  However you say it is unimportant but doing it is of more importance than you know.  When I was in construction, I had an electrical subcontractor that was great and I gave him all of my work.  Then he brought his son into the business and put him in charge of getting the work done.  Suddenly, they were missing deadlines and causing other subcontractors to miss their deadlines.  I talked with the man about it and he told me that his son was young in the business and hadn’t yet learned the importance of meeting these deadlines.

One day I called the company about yet another delay and his son answered the phone.so I decided to try to help him understand.  I didn’t blow my top but took a different approach and asked him if he played golf.  He hesitated to see where this was going and said that he had never played golf.  I paused for just a moment and then asked him if he played tennis.  Again, he said not he never played tennis.  He then asked me why I had asked him those questions.  I said that it was too bad that he didn’t.  He then asked me, why?  I told him that it was because I had noted that he needed to learn the importance of follow through.  He was making promises but he wasn’t keeping them.  I then concluded my call

Immediately, the phone rang and it was this man’s dad, the owner of the business.  He was laughing so hard that he almost couldn’t talk.  He had been listening on the phone and said that he had never heard it done better.  Our friendship was in tack and he then promised that it would be addressed immediately.  It was.

There is another place that we need to keep our word and that is with God.  We make promises that we intend but sometimes we don’t follow through.  Accuracy comes with a good follow through.  That is true in golf, tennis, throwing any ball and I even heard that even shooters time their shot between breaths and even between heart beats.  When it comes to God we should be careful to not promise unless we are willing to keep that promise or vow at all cost.  Believe me, that cost will be tested and because you don’t know what that cost will be you need to make sure that you will follow through.  One of the character stories that I heard about Abraham Lincoln was that he walked a great distance, after dark to pay a penny.

Just because you forgot, or don’t see it’s importance doesn’t mean that it is okay to skip it.  People respect it and God demands it.  It is reflective of how you are made.  Society may excuse it but you should not.  God may forgive it but your faith in God will take a hit.  You will have to learn it’s importance or you will suffer because of it until you do.  You cannot walk straight without a good follow through.

 

The quick and the dead

This phrase was used as the title of a movie.  There it meant be fast with a gun or be dead.  This is a total misrepresentation of its meaning in the Bible.  It is used in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments with the same meaning.  It had nothing to do with being fast, but always meant “alive”.  It is an old English word that has lost its meaning in today’s world but when it was used in the translation of the Bible into English it was in common usage and was easily understood.

The word is found in three forms of the word: quick, quicken, quickened, quickening and quickeneth.  The phrase “the quick and the dead” appears three times in the new testament in Ac 10:42, 3 Tim 4:1 and I Pe 4:5 and simply means the alive and the dead.  The word “quick” is used in six other places with the meaning being alive. The word “quicken” is used 12 times and is used to express the idea “to make alive or come to life”.  (11 times in Psalms and once in Ro 8:11)  The phrase “quickened” is found seven times with the meaning of “made alive”.  Two verses, Eph 2:5 and Col 2:13, has the unique meaning of “made alive together, or blended” with Christ.  The word “quickening” only once in I Cor 15:45, and has the same meaning of made alive together.  The phrase “quickeneth” is found 5 times in the New Testament with the  meaning of the process of being made alive.  Note the “eth” ending.  That means that it  continues on indefinitely and is not a one time action. The coming alive in the spirit is a process that continues over the time from the new birth until physical death or the rapture, whichever comes first.

The life that Christ brings is the eternal life referenced in John 3:16.  We were dead in trespasses and sins Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.  That was our condition, dead.  As far as the eternal state we were dead.  We did not have life which come only from God.  Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.  That is what happens when we are saved or born again.  We come alive in Christ and the process of separation from this world begins.  From that point on we are alive in the spiritual sense as well as being  alive in the physically world.  You don’t feel it but it is as real as light.  You don’t see it just like you don’t see the air, but you can see its effect.  You are either the quick (alive) or the dead and that is why Jesus said “You MUST be born again.”