"Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Category: Bible Study (Page 2 of 2)

The Consecrated Body – Part 1

What does the word “consecrated” mean? Webster’s defines it this way; “to declare to be sacred or holy : set apart for a sacred purpose”. When God saves us He declares us sacred and holy for His purposes. We are chosen to be His “peculiar people”. (1 Peter 2:9)

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we accept Christ as the Saviour of our soul our physical body also then belongs to Him. Jesus purchased us with His blood on the cross. Just as the church is the body of Christ and each member of the church body is consecrated to specific services for Christ, so should each member of our individual bodies be consecrated to the work of the Holy Spirit which lives within us. Over the next five weeks we will look at different parts of our body and see what God says about their specific use.

The Consecrated Tongue

James had much to say about the importance of controlling our tongue in. In chapter three he compares the tongue to a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder, each relatively small parts but when kept under vigilant care are able to turn about the whole body or ship. Likewise when the tongue is carefully guarded and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit it is capable of comforting, encouraging, enlightening, and convincing lost souls to surrender to Christ. James also compares the tongue to a little fire, which when under control gives warmth and comfort. However if left unencumbered to our sinful nature the tongue will kindle a fire that affects the course of nature and way of life for generations to come, fueled only by the forces of hell.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
(Proverbs 21:23 ESV)
The Christian does well in keeping or guarding his words. Our natural tendency is to speak as quickly as we think. We know that seldom works to our advantage, especially in moments of anger. Our thoughts need to be weighed out, carefully meditated upon, scrutinized to make sure they align with God’s word. Even then we should take counsel of the Holy Spirit to know if our thoughts when turned into words will bring honor to God. Our quietness often brings more honor than volumes of our words. Therefore our daily prayer should be as Psalms 141:3 “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
A wholesome tongue is one that edifies and benefits the hearer. The word wholesome here means healing. The speech of a wholesome or healing tongue gives truths and pardons. It gives instruction and counsel in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the path of righteousness to the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of all nations. A perverse tongue however brings the opposite, corrupting the hearts of men bringing distress and despair and wounds that will never heal, grieving the spirit of God.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (Proverbs 31:26)
Proverbs 31 is the well known description of a virtuous woman, one that fears the Lord. When she speaks it is with discretion and prudence. Her gentle words are given for instruction in the wisdom of godly living. With a heart of grace and mercy her kind words are spoken to exhort and edify those in her care.

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone. (Proverbs 25:15)
Words spoken in anger and arrogance rarely accomplish anything but bitterness and contempt. A patient man however carefully considers not only his words but the timing of his speech. Having patience to wait for the right opportunity to present our thoughts may persuade the hearer to use sound reasoning in contemplating an idea that may be adverse to his beliefs. Harsh words usually are met strong resistance, a resistance that instinctively protects the bones from harm. Soft words however, find their way through the thinnest crevices to touch the heart of a man, breaking the strongholds of resistance to bring about peaceful resolutions.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (James 1:26)
Probably the most dangerous and certainly unconsecrated use of the tongue is that of the man who seems to be religious, even to the point of believing he is righteous, but then is boastful of his own works. Rather than words of exhortation he inclines to criticize and tear down the character of others in order to appear righteous. He is the Pharisee, confident that his own works and words will bring about his salvation. The Christian can easily discern his godless character but to the unsaved his enticing words only lead them ever closer to hell. All his religion is useless. Jesus warned us that such men would arise and told us to take heed, (reference Mark 13:22).

In John 14:6 we read “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Allow God to consecrate your tongue to tell His truth today.

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Spiritual Maturity

I’ve spent the last few days in Myrtle Beach with a group of senior saints from my church attending the Springtime Jubilee. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and worshiping together with gospel music and preaching. I think my wife and I were the youngest ones on the bus except for our associate pastor and his wife. Our church classifies anyone fifty-five and up as seniors so we qualify by just a few years. We can learn a lot by hanging around with the older church folk. They’ve lived through much in their lifetime and have learned to lean on the only One they can trust whatever the circumstance may be. You will never hear a sweeter sound than the prayers of some of these dear ladies, even if it’s a simple prayer of blessing the food. Sadly I don’t recall ever hearing my grandmother pray. She was a quiet, humble person but she was quick to let anyone know that she trusted in the Lord. Her fruits could be seen in the character of the three godly children she raised.

Like my grandmother I’ve never been very outspoken. You typically won’t find me engaging strangers in conversation. That seemingly minor character trait puts me at a bit of a disadvantage in following Jesus’ command to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”, so it is something I pray about sometimes. The quiet nature that God gave me does however have it’s advantages. It gives me opportunities to listen and reflect on what I hear. Everyone needs someone to just listen sometimes. Listening attentively is a good way to learn, and learning along with experiences brings about wisdom. I think humans have a natural inclination to strive for knowledge and wisdom. We want to at least appear as if we’re smarter than those around us. I’m amazed at the outrageous sums of money people will spend trying to become wise. If they would only consider God’s promise we find in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” No, God’s not going to print a doctoral certificate with your name on it, but if that’s His plan for your life, He will make a way.

True wisdom from God comes with a second gift, that of discernment. Old King Solomon understood that when he recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (1:18) Wisdom and discernment gives us just a bit of insight in seeing people as God sees them. Some, like that praying grandmother, fill our heart with joy. But then sadly, there are so many, that when we try to look on them through God’s eyes, brings us brokenheartedness. Although we can’t fully know the condition of someone’s heart, we can have discernment from God’s word. “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)” (Ephesians 5:9) When these fruits are missing we can be almost certain that Christ is not in their heart.

My career started out by working in the machine shop. It was a job shop and the primary customer was the Department of Defense. I loved the work and was always eager to learn. My supervisor took notice of that and I was given increasingly complex parts to make. Some of them made me scratch my head a little but I never refused those opportunities. I made some mistakes, scrapped some valuable parts sometimes, but I didn’t give up. Soon I was moved up into a shop leadership position and eventually into a technical office position. The advancement opportunities were there for anyone but not everyone was willing to step out and take advantage of them. There were a few older men who had worked in that same shop their whole life and were still doing the most basic tasks. They were good workers, ones you could count on being there, and they could see the rewards of putting forth just a little more effort, but they just didn’t want the added responsibility.

There were about one thousand people at the Springtime Jubilee, mostly senior adults. Most had probably been in church since nine months before they were born. This is the Amen crowd, the hand raisers, the shouters. They buy the gospel music CD’s and read the Christian books. Surely these are all mature Christians. But as I mingled in the crowd, not really engaging anyone I didn’t know, not eavesdropping, but just picking up snippets of conversations, I begin to realize that there is indeed a lacking of spiritual maturity within the church body. Amongst the excitement and joyful sounds of praise and exhortations, I also heard bits of ungodly criticism and bitterness. Although we are blessed to have many senior adults who have faithfully served the Lord, those who stepped out, striving to be Christ-like, it appears some have been satisfied to sit on the sideline. Just like those old men in that machine shop who shun any added responsibility, they are missing out on so many heavenly rewards. Like the steward that for fear hid the one talent he was given instead of using it to gain maybe just one more and for his slothfulness received punishment, although the idle Christian will not lose his salvation, he will lose the rewards that God had planned for him.

Are these “sideline Christians” really a problem that the church should address? They are really only hurting themselves right? The answers are definitely yes and definitely no. Being slack in service is a strong indicator that they are slack in reading and studying God’s word, not to mention their prayer life. Failing to personally study the Bible results in having only a weak second hand understanding of the doctrine of the gospel. Satan is always looking for a weakness that he can jump into with both feet to create havoc and division within the church body. Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the church in Corinth.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Co 3:1-3)

So how do we address the problem of spiritual immaturity within the church? Do our teachers need more training? Nothing wrong with that but they have the Bible which is sufficient. Do we need to start some new program? Heavens no! Then what?

As I began to find the words to answer this question I just realized that God inspired me to write these thoughts to teach me. I need to trust Him enough to get out of my comfort zone and engage those strangers in conversation to make sure they know Jesus, then to encourage those on the sideline Christians to get in the game. When we continually hear those critical or bitter words we need to recognize that is our prompt to reach out to that person with love and meekness. Encouraging that person to serve along beside you puts them in a position of accountability and takes them on a sure footed journey to spiritual maturity. We can be the difference that allows them to enjoy the eternal rewards God has planned for them.

The topic of Christian maturity first brought these verses to mind from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phi 3:12-14). As a Christian for the last fifty years now I know that I fall far short in the level of maturity that I should have, still, “I press towards the mark”.

I leave you with a positive note and a couple challenges. At the end of the Springtime Jubilee the pastor gave an invitation. After the final prayer, a dozen hands went up proclaiming they had trusted Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Angels were rejoicing in heaven! I challenge you first to pray for God to surround those new believers with mature Christians who won’t let them sit on the sideline. Challenge number two gets personal. Be the one who reaches out, asking those on the sideline to serve along side you. Strike up a conversation with that stranger and tell them what Jesus has done for you. Allow Christ to work through you to disciple the new and sideline Christians. Be Blessed!

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Christianity and Controversy

A transition occurred in our world in the late 70’s to early 80’s when we moved from the industrial age to the information age. There was a time not so long ago that if you wanted your opinion heard you could write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. If your letter was deemed “appropriate” for readers, (yes, editors once had a moral conscience about what was published) it would be edited simply for grammar, spelling, and punctuation and printed. Your opinion then might be the topic of the day at the local breakfast and lunch cafes. Maybe something would be accomplished to make the community a better place to live or maybe the idea would be dropped in favor of the one in the next day’s newspaper.

The explosion of the internet changed all that. Virtually eliminating restrictions to communication has given every person the ability to project their opinion to a global audience within a fraction of a second. What a remarkable concept. What great things we can now accomplish. Except for this, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Turn on your television or access the internet and you’ll likely be bombarded with controversial opinions. Opinions that, because our heart is naturally evil, are inclined to promote division. Division then brings destruction and decay to our society. This rapid decay has brought on anxieties, hopelessness and depression at a staggering rate. We see Christians, even some deeply rooted in their faith, fall into the snares of the division that is being loudly proclaimed. We live in an “I am right, you are wrong” world and so we respond to the controversial ideology by claiming our “God given rights” cannot be taken away.

“God given rights.” Can we make a list? Sorry, it’s not technically a list when we only have two. We have the right to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Number two, we have the right to reject Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Anything else we have is through God’s grace and mercy and therefore subject to His sovereignty. When we fully surrender to Christ and accept this fact then we can enjoy the peace from God instead of suffering the anxieties of the world.

So, you ask, does this mean Christians must refrain from involvement in the world’s controversies? Do we not take a stand against what we know to be wrong? Absolutely we need to take a stand. However we must be careful to keep our emotions and feelings, not mention our language, in check. Our activities against injustices of the world must be prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit and our position must be in accordance with God’s word. Our priorities must follow the words that Jesus gave His disciples, “Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
(Matthew 25:44-45)

Jesus allowed His anger to be known when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. Imagine arriving at your church for Sunday morning worship and finding someone sitting at the entrance charging an admission fee. Would you follow Christ’s example by stopping such an ungodly activity? I know that may be an unlikely scenario, but consider carefully, are there activities going on in your church that are disrespectful or irreverent toward God? I pray not, but as the body of Christ we must keep a watchful eye on ourselves to ensure we are in God’s will before we can challenge the injustices in the world. In Jesus’ words, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)

We can face the world’s controversies if we meet them with compassion, driven by the Holy Spirit within us. Our first priority however is always to teach the gospel of the salvation through Jesus Christ. Each soul we win for Christ is one more that is not against us. For if we are together with Christ we should be in harmony with each other.

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
(Jude 1:21-23)



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Circle of Trust

My typical day begins at five A.M. I take a few pills which my doctor insists I need in order to stay healthy. I then sit down at my desk to enjoy my life sustaining daily bread from God’s word. After a few chapters and maybe a few notes it’s time to eat a light breakfast and get ready for work. My commute takes about thirty-five minutes and it’s mostly two lane roads with light traffic. During those thirty five minutes of relative quiet I have my morning talk with my Father. My mornings have become a series of routine habits. I like having a routine. Some would say I am a “creature of habit.” I am comfortable with that. It is my nature to dislike change. Any disruption of my routine tends to frustrate me. I’m no different from most people; I want to stay in my comfort zone.

A few weeks ago on my way to work I was praying to my Father as usual. My prayers always begin with praise and gratitude. I’m specific with what I am grateful for. I think it’s important to not just generalize “blessings”. God blesses each of us with so much that we can’t possibly name them all, but I believe it’s important to name a few things that are special to us, especially if it’s an answered prayer. From praise and gratitude I move to asking forgiveness for anything I’ve done wrong. Next is the intercessory portion of my prayer. I had confidence in intercessory prayer because I have seen those answered many times. I have family and loved ones that I name daily to God, for protection, guidance, or comfort as the need may be. But this particular morning the Holy Spirit threw up a giant stop sign, freezing me in the middle of my routine.

I needed to pray for me first.

I don’t know if it was a few seconds or a few minutes, but I couldn’t speak, humbled into silence by the omniscient God. Finally, the realization was prodded into my mind. I needed to pray for me first. I rarely ask anyone to pray for me. Somehow I think it sounds selfish, especially since God has so richly blessed me with good health and provisions for life.

Let me be perfectly clear though, It is NEVER selfish to ask someone to pray for you. We survive by God’s grace alone and we absolutely should be praying for each other. At this particular moment, when God’s Holy Spirit stopped my “routine” prayer, I realized that I needed to make some changes.

My prayer life had always included asking for help in understanding God’s word, that I would glean something from it that would be a help to me in serving Him. I’ve asked for help in recognizing when God puts an opportunity in my path to serve in whatever capacity He chooses. I would be careful to ask that whatever is done by my hand would be seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, not by me. But the one thing that’s needed that I wasn’t asking for is that I would be counted as trustworthy by everyone I meet. People must trust you before they will accept anything you say or try to do for them.

We all have acquaintances, family and friends that, even though we may love them dearly, we know we can’t trust them. We can’t change that. What we can change however is to live our life in a manner that makes us known to be trustworthy, especially to those people that we do not trust. Although I’m sure those closest to me, those in my circle of trust, would know me as trustworthy, I realized that I was not making a conscious effort for those that I did not trust to know that. I was doing very little to make those people believe that they could safely confide in me. Without confidence in me how could anyone trust me enough to listen when I tell them about Jesus? That doesn’t sound very Christ-like does it?

When Jesus walked this earth He provided many examples of His trustworthiness. Sadly, His disciples and those close to Him were often the most forgetful of what He could accomplish for them. Nevertheless, the fame of the miracles He performed was widely known. Jesus made an intentional effort to seek out society’s least desirable people of the day in order to show the power of His Father. It was an effort that caused these people, the ones that were least trusted in society, to trust Him fully. Zacchaeus, the distrusted tax collector for example, showed no hesitation when Jesus called him down out of the sycamore tree, and because he trusted Jesus, he and his family were saved. The most moving story of compassion though I believe is that of the Greek woman, a Gentile, who came begging Jesus to cast out the devil that was in her daughter. Jesus’ first answer may seem cruel, but this woman knew she could fully trust Jesus to help her. Jesus was her last hope and because she was able to trust Him her daughter was healed. The compassionate, trustworthy character she saw in Jesus is the character that I need to strive for.

The Christian as an ambassador for Christ should have the same listening ear, the same helpful hand, the same compassionate heart, for the stranger as he does for the closest loved one. That is very difficult if not impossible for us to do on our own. It is simply not in our natural character. We must fully surrender to Christ and allow Him to change our character. Our character should, without any trace of doubt, show us trustworthy to whoever we meet, whether it be a hated tax collector or an outcast foreigner.

And now I humbly ask you to pray for me, that I would be considered trustworthy to anyone that crosses my path, so that I might be trusted to point someone to Jesus, whether a trusted loved one or an unknown stranger.

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.”
(Mark 7:25-30)

Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

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Treasures

As I get older I have less and less attraction for material possessions. Oh yes, there was a time that I sought after the faster cars, the finer house, antiquities with their decorative novelty, and many other treasures the world could offer. But there came a time when those things required just too much time and energy to maintain, not to mention space to display or store them. Maybe I just realized that none of those things really matter on the eternal scale.

There are some treasures though that we want to hang on to for some sentimental reason, ones that stir up memories of hopes and dreams of days gone by. One of my elementary school classmate friends is struggling through the burdensome task of cleaning out her parents house, the house she grew up in, to prepare to put it on the market. Both of her parents are in nursing care and with their declining health she knows they will never need that old house again. She made an interesting discovery while going through the various objects in the home. Her mother had written notes, some with markers directly on the object, and some with paper notes taped to the objects, describing in just a few words where they came from and what made them memorable. What foresight this dear mother had in making sure the precious memories she had would someday be passed along to her children so that maybe they would last just a little while longer.

There are a few things however that have come into my possession that I will cherish until the day that I leave this world. On the last Sunday in July of 2005 I taught my first Sunday School class lesson. The title of the lesson was “What is Hope?” and the scripture text was taken from Ezekiel chapter 43. Still today I tend to shy away from public speaking and I’m sure that day I was a basket case of nerves. But that afternoon whatever fears I had of knowing whether or not I was serving within God’s will were completely and utterly wiped away.

That Sunday afternoon we stopped in to visit my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. I had not told her that I was teaching that morning for the first time and had not yet mentioned it when she told me she had something to give me. What she placed in my hands drove solidly home the lesson I taught just a few hours before. A little black Soul Winner’s New Testament. I had received several of the little Gideon Testaments in my life before then, but what made this one special was when I opened it to the presentation page. On that page, I saw my name written in a familiar handwriting style I will never forget, that of my Pa-Pa. He had intended to give me this Testament on February 5th, 1974, thirty one years earlier. I don’t know what happened that he was unable to give it to me then but I’m claiming that it was just God’s perfect timing.

Pa-Pa passed suddenly in 1977, just a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. He was a man that showed unconditional love to all his grandchildren. He was a fair and honest man but sadly I don’t remember him ever going to church or saying anything that would give an indication of faith. I do remember the story of a couple men coming to invite my Pa-Pa to come to church. He gave them the same excuse that I’ve heard when I’ve witnessed to people and I’m sure many of you have, “I wouldn’t fit in with church people. I can’t give up my drinking.” And the answer they gave him still breaks my heart when I think about it. They told him that it was okay, they liked to drink a little too. Pa-Pa told them if that’s the kind of hypocritical church men they were that he wanted no part of it and promptly ran them out of his yard. Sad story, yes, but when my aunt placed that little book in my hand, on that particular day, and I read who scribbled my name on the presentation page, a hope gushed forth in me that could only come from my heavenly Father. Maybe my Pa-Pa had trusted Jesus, and he certainly had a desire for me to know Jesus. Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew chapter seven said this, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” This treasure, this little black Soul Winner’s Testament with my name written on the first page, was my Pa-Pa’s “good fruit”. In this treasure I have hope.

Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21 that the treasures we collect on earth are only temporary, that decay would one day take them from us. He taught that we should put our efforts to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”. We can do that by living our life in surrendered obedience to God. Earthly treasures, those material things we want to hold on to, can stir up a sense of ungodly pride if we’re not careful.

God does however ordain or allow earthly treasures in order to accomplish His divine plan and to provide peace and hope within the hearts of His children. The Ark of the Covenant for instance, taught Israel to reverence God by representing His presence in their midst. It was still a temporary treasure, crafted by man’s hands according to God’s instructions. God instructed Joshua to set up the twelve stones to be a reminder to future generations of how He heaped up the waters of the overflowing Jordan river to provide a safe passageway into the promised land. And I believe, God’s watchful eye and caring hands were on a tiny sprout which would one day grow into a towering tree to be cut down and used to make the paper on which a pocket-sized soul winner’s Testament would be printed; because He loved a filthy, wretched sinner like me so much that He wanted to give me assurance that I was in His will at that particular moment on that last Sunday afternoon in July of 2005.

The greatest treasure that we can possess here on earth however is not something made with hands. We cannot touch it, we cannot see it, but it provides a comfort and assurance that all the treasures of the world could never provide. That is the treasure of salvation, a gift from God, by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. I think Paul said it best in his second letter to the church in Corinth;

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Therefore take comfort in God’s boundless supply of the treasure of His salvation and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.

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Seed Sowing

As a child in the sixties almost everyone I knew had a vegetable garden. Gardens were a lot of work and Dad always assigned some garden chores to me. Dad always took care of the more difficult labor of clearing new plots and tilling the ground. The weeding and hoeing tasks usually fell on me. I was also called on when the harvest time came. Picking green beans, corn and tomatoes wasn’t that bad, but things like squash and okra with their prickly vines and stalks always left my hands and arms itching. Although I did enjoy the fruits of our labor garden chores were not really wasn’t what a young boy wanted to do. Especially since there were nearby woods to explore not to mention all the creatures to find and catch out the creeks. You know an eight year old boy just has to have a pet salamander or crawdad that he caught himself.

When I was a little older we moved to a small farm and gardening chores became much more intense. You would think that move would strike dread in the eyes of young boy with all the extra labor involved. But instead I found a new attraction for the ancient vocation when I was allowed to drive the tractor. Nothing could compare to being in control of such a powerful machine to change the shape and texture of the earth itself. Aah the delightful smell of morning dew and diesel fuel. The aroma of fresh plowed earth in spring or fields of summer cut hay still stirs up fond memories of a simpler time. It also reminds me of the life lessons that the never-ending hard work taught me. Painstaking preparation is essential for a life-sustaining harvest.

Jesus used our age old knowledge of gardening and farming when he recited the parable of the sower, (see Matthew chapter 13 and Luke chapter 8). He compared seeds to the word of God. We can understand that only the seeds sown in good ground, that ground which has been painstakingly prepared, can produce a bountiful harvest. Jesus gave three more scenarios in which the seed cannot produce any harvest at all. Those seeds seemingly were just wasted. But we know from the book of Isaiah, chapter 55 that God said His word would not return void but would accomplish His purpose and would indeed prosper.

How can we say seeds prosper if there is no harvest? Let’s look again at Matthew chapter 13 verse 4. The Bible tells us that “some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up”. This one is easy. The purpose of those seeds was to provide nourishment for the birds. Birds might even be considered detrimental to the harvest but they are also part of God’s creation and serve their own purpose. Aren’t we instructed to feed our enemies? If we are preaching, teaching, or simply telling God’s word like we’re supposed to be doing then it will be spilling out to all those around us. Just because His word doesn’t always find a lodging place in the heart doesn’t mean it won’t find a place in the mind. Who knows when some circumstance or situation will come that will bring that word back to remembrance and finish it’s purpose? The Father knows.

Verses five and six tells us about the seeds that fell in stony ground and though they sprouted up they were unable to take root so they died. Then in verse seven we read about the seeds that fell among thorns which took away all the nourishment the seeds needed to survive. These two scenarios I believe Jesus intended us to see how we can make a difference, with His help of course. If we want a bigger harvest on the farm that generally means we have to clear some land. It means hard work. Trees might need to be cut and stumps dug out. Shrubs and thorny bushes might need to be cut down and rooted out. Rocks might need to be broken up and carried out. The land is then plowed and harrowed to create the best possible environment for bringing forth and nourishing life from the seeds.

If our prayer is as it should be, to enlarge God’s kingdom by bringing in a greater harvest, then we need to follow the lessons Jesus taught us in His parables. Just as I was given simple tasks as a young boy in the garden, new Christians have opportunities to work and learn within the body of Christ and have a part in the benefits of an eternal harvest. Like the old farmer with his storm weathered wiry frame setting his mind and putting his hand to the task of expanding his fields in order to provide a lifetime of sustaining work for his ever-increasing family, the mature Christian must set his mind to expanding the reach of the gospel of Christ. A rugged expanse of sinful brier bushes and hardened stony hearts lie all around us waiting to be rooted out and cultivated into fertile fields bringing forth a bountiful harvest for our King. As the old saying goes, it will take blood, sweat, and tears to complete the job successfully. Jesus provided the blood when he sacrificed His life for ours on an old rugged cross. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to work which will likely make us sweat. And God says that one day He will wipe away all our tears.

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, I challenge you with this question. Are you ready to climb up on the tractor and plow some ground? Remember, painstaking preparation is essential for a life-sustaining harvest.

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