The whole idea of seeds and harvest comes to mind when one thinks of investing for the future. Plant now and reap the benefit later. Now if you can think of yourself as seed, then what fruit are you expected to bear? What will God harvest from his investment in you? I mean, the thought of being seed for the Lord’s harvest can be daunting, but I’m told Christ was the initial seed and we are fruit from his planting. So what should we be about for the coming of our harvest? My first thought is there will be no harvest if the soil is not tended and nurtured. You know what I mean. You got to water seed, then plants and voila, you get fruit! So if you’re the caretaker for your own crop, how are you cultivating yourself so that the fruit you bear is pleasing to your God and mine?
If you want to know the truth, I’m uncomfortable even thinking about this, let alone responding to it. It kind of puts a whole new slant on what I should be doing, saying and yes, even thinking. From my analogy, the end result should be a crop. Is that good deeds that people see? Is that good behavior that folk respect? Is it a spirit that can be identified as one that belongs to the Lord? Is it all of the above? All I know is that I have some responsibility in all of this and it starts with where my head and heart reside. I need to prepare me to be good soil in a manner that the Holy Spirit can hang out and others can relate to. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it and by perseverance produce a crop.” Luke 8:15. Being as simplistic as I can be, I imagine that somebody has to benefit from the crop that I produce. Others should be able to partake of my fruit, if I bear any, right? So the intent of the one who sowed seed in me is for me to benefit others. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed, and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through (us) your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9: 10-11. The part that blows me away is what you get for this. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourself, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.” 2 Corinthians 9: 12-14.
So if I got this right, there’s a tremendous reward for taking care of yourself in the name of Christ, in doing his bidding. Your storehouse will increase. Others will see your favor with God and bless you, so to speak. You are exalted to a place where you actually strengthen others spiritually. They appreciate it and thank God for you, thereby guaranteeing you even more seed. Now that’s bearing fruit, I suppose and the sower generates the desired crop in you. I guess what I’m discerning is, God’s grace is awesome and if I can accept what he’s done for me and to me, then I need to allow him to work through me. I guess I just never saw myself as a farmer. What about you? Change your perception of you and you can change your world and the world of those around you. Think about it.
May God bless and keep you always.
The concept of freedom has been rattling around in my brain lately. I am focusing on the freedom afforded all of us who claim salvation through Christ. There is something quite liberating when you know or realize that you have been “set free.” Have you ever thought about what that really means? The word “release” comes to my mind. Some claim “relief” as how they understand it. However you want to describe it, I think the revelation of Jesus as Lord and Savior removes a lot of barriers and obstacles and yes, burdens, that we as human beings place upon ourselves. That’s why I believe as people initially come to Christ; they are overcome by a fresh perspective about life. It’s an enlightened one — one filled with less pressure. I think that’s why folk cry in church when it happens. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1. What are you a slave to?
In a very real sense, addictions are withstood, hurt feelings are healed, guilt is removed and insecurities conquered when Jesus enters the picture. Whatever you have been enslaved by, you become freed from. One of the biggest things that happens when Christ enters your life is that fears are conquered. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we all have fears. I know I do. It can be the fear of being alone, of being without, of being humiliated, ostracized or even the fear of dying. The knowledge of Christ in all of these situations cancels those fears. You are released from them. That’s what I believe people mean when they say “set free”. That’s how I’ve come to understand real joy. In that context of spiritual awareness being blood bought and saved. I have been set free from fear, anger, greed, selfishness, self doubt and even self hatred. Believe it or not, so have you.
These things have hopefully been replaced with honesty and integrity, hope and truth, confidence, self worth, the promise of everlasting life and yeah, I know, above all, love. One of the hardest things to understand in this life, and then act upon, is this love yourself thing. God even commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Without Christ in your life, I believe that concept of self-love can sometimes be distorted and in many cases become perverted. Love with humility is an awesome thing. When love is set free within you, life takes on a whole new meaning. You no longer have to live in the shadows of pretense; rather, you can now live in the light of truth. I can be who I really am and so can you. Then the world will see you as God sees you and not who you think it ought to see. I am who God made. If that’s good enough for God, then certainly it’s good enough for anyone who wants to deal with me, including you. I am free and it is wonderful. Freedom is my gift from God paid for by Jesus Christ. Know the truth and the truth shall set you free. You are not what the world would have you be. You are what God made you to be. Seek him and you will undoubtedly find the real you. May God bless and bless and keep you always.
I’ve been told that faith is a tricky thing to deal with. It is constantly under attack, and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose faith, if for nothing more than weariness due to constant grief. Life has a way of making you believe some things are just not worth the trouble. At some point each and every one of us just wants to quit. Quit your job. End a relationship. Just stay away from those situations and people that remind you of negativity and tough times.
But in the case of faith, you’re always supposed to have a way through. I just believe that way through is work. By work I mean work in the name of the Lord. Use your God-given gifts. It helps. How often have you been able to get yourself out of the doldrums because you decided to help someone else with his issues? How often have you been very thankful for what you have because you’ve seen firsthand what others don’t have? God does have a way of showing you, your stuff could be really worse. As I said, faith can be a tricky thing.
When it does kick in that now is the time, now is the test, then, comes the temptation that challenges your faith. There are no signs on life’s highway that flash “faith test ahead.” More often than not, we recognize faith’s stop sign after we’ve already run through it. Maybe we should feel a little better at that point because we did at least practice our faith some weeks or months ago, or maybe just a few minutes ago. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it doesn’t help when you know you should have handled a particular situation or person better than you did. I know I’ve botched many an opportunity to practice what I profess to preach. Talk the talk and then walk the walk. This is tricky stuff. At the end of any given day, a spiritual critique will show dozens of blown chances to witness, lead by example, help and serve. At the end of any given day, I have run faith’s stop sign again and again. I am one man who appreciates that our God is a God of another chance. And you?
Thankfully, you too know you’ll get another crack at it because you’re still alive and your opportunities to serve are multiplied on a daily basis. It’s called life. If you missed it this morning, another opportunity will come around this afternoon. The faith struggle is remedied by what you do as a result of knowing you can always do better. Real faith mandates a change in you. You just can’t do the same thing the same way with the same people once you’ve accepted Christ. Even though you might make the same mistakes, you will realize and accept them as just that, mistakes. Now what? “So watch yourself. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him. Luke 17:3-4. Further in this same passage Jesus proclaims … “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do (by God), say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.’” The fact that this comes on the heels of the apostles asking Christ to increase their faith is eye-opening. You know how incredibly hard it is to forgive those who have repeatedly come against you? But in doing so our faith is increased. Again it’s all about knowing the rules. We just need to know when they’ve been broken, when we break them and what to do when others do likewise. Our duty is to continue to work. We walk by faith and not by sight. Our effort is not to break the rules intentionally. The deed is the thing. Act on faith. Forgive and serve. Pretty soon our experiences teach us to recognize the faith signs. The more you do the more you see. The more you see, the more you stop, pause, look both ways and proceed with caution. You see, it’s not so tricky. You just need to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Stop only to help someone else. It’s the work, stupid. As a result, God will take care of what you need to get through your stuff.
May God bless and keep you always.
A moment of reflection and testimony came upon me, and I was reminded how humbled I am by how this column is received. As you may or may not know, I am not nor do I profess to be an ordained minister of any kind, and to be honest, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of even attempting to write a spiritual column.
I first had to accept my ability to write as a blessing that I was not using properly as the initial catalyst. I had awards and recognition, but I had not acknowledged the source of this gift. Christ was not a part of the equation. As events began to unfold, I became increasingly aware that in my taking this gift for granted, my ignoring God could easily be taken by him as a personal affront. The best way to describe this to you is by declaring I was totally out of focus; no balance, no peace, no purpose. Perhaps some of you have been out of balance in your own lives before. For me, it didn’t happen in a flash of light on the road to Damascus, but if I shared with you the events leading up to my salvation, you might see some similarities between me and Paul. My point is with a great deal of humility, I began to write this column from the only perspective that made sense to me, a personal one. A blessing, any blessing should be recognized as such and then used in some way to acknowledge where it came from.
Since then I have learned that ministry comes in many different forms and manifestations. You are gifted, and being blessed requires being a blessing. Therefore I now understand the reaction to the words of this column from many of you as possibly being struggling, flawed and fragile believers, as I am also. Perfection is an unattainable goal, but absolutely worthy of the attempt.
to writing this column, I can’t say even my closest friends knew of any faith that I might have, because I never, ever allowed anyone to get close enough to get a peek at who I really am. It sounds incredibly silly to me now, but it was all about who I presented myself to be. It was all about how I wanted to be perceived. Clearly, to even begin on a very private level to acknowledge God can be life-changing. But to understand public acknowledgement of the Almighty was and continues to be powerful stuff. There seems to be a public invitation open to anyone willing to discuss, testify and share experiences relative to spiritual as well as worldly events. I’m still to this day moved by how many people I thought I knew well before salvation, who have shown me so much more depth and substance because I have an open invitation sign hung around my neck. To merely let someone know I’ve found my way to church, or to let someone know I’m struggling with a faith issue or prayer concerns, have led to discussions and testimony I would never have dreamed possible; all because I was a locked-up closed-up unsaved individual.
To say this all happened because I began to write this column would be an understatement. Too much happened to me prior to that to attribute my metamorphosis to simply penning a few words to paper. But to understand the nature of this blessing and having this platform to showcase the gift has been a road worth taking. I am indeed humbled and urge you to look past that which you take for granted and see the blessing in it. Once you do that, I’m here to testify there’s power in ‘dem there blessings. You may or may not know that what you struggle with each and every day may in fact be your route to your salvation. God is an awesome God and to use your gifts in his name is an awesome undertaking. But what I’m trying to say is, that’s just my point. May God bless and keep you always. Have a great 2013.
A minister recently reminded me of something I trust you will also find beneficial in understanding your walk in faith. The pastor reminded those, who would claim Christ as their own, that being a Christian is part of an evolutionary process. Make no mistake about it that there will be problems along the way. But remember the process has purpose. However, lest we forget, there is also power resulting from committing oneself to the process of being faithful. I know in the end this may sound simple enough as it references something you and I have known for quite some time. Now in that sanctuary I claimed it as an eventful reminder that there is power in the process of trying to be faithful.
There is purpose behind our struggle of faith. God is still in control and at every stage of our lives, the test or the temptation is there to give us a chance to confirm and clarify our status with the Almighty. You’re kind of on His team or not. You’re either practicing for the game, in the game, or wasting your time and that of your so-called teammates.
Think about it. What do you consider your duty in this life? Why are you here? What’s the point of existence? To a man or woman of God, these are not hard questions. Life is a manifestation of knowledge that allows you to know God. Our purpose is to recognize who we are in relation to God and then act accordingly. Now God does give us assistance in the process. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8. If this be the case, then it bears the question, ‘where are we in this process?’ The one place we must be, though, is in it. In-the-process means just that, in it. That means some part of our consciousness, some part of who we are actively (not passively) participates in the work of the Lord.
Most of you who read this column know I believe faith is a verb and in order to participate in any process, you must do something. In this case you must do something in the name of God, period. It must be conscious. It must be deliberate. It must be inclusive of some understanding that Jesus would approve. Maybe you remember something about the learning process in your youth. To be successful, study was required. Learning, real learning did not happen by osmosis. It had identifiable results and measurable consequences. In school you had to pass a test. In life you grow in faith and thereby in knowledge of the truth i.e. God is the reason. Isn’t it amazing that the more you know about the Lord, the more there is to know? Isn’t it wonderful to begin the process of service in His name? The more you serve, the more you want to serve. How you serve is a byproduct of the gifts already given you by Him. I think in church they say, “Come on somebody.”
The point of all this is that regardless of where you are in the process, you can’t go wrong because, hello, you’re in the process. As the minister pointed out, there will be problems that arise along the way. These problems are understood and handled when you remember your purpose for participating in the first place. Can you feel the power I was talking about earlier? When you are fully engaged in the process of being a Christian, there is power to be had and shared when you realize you’re having success. And success has already been defined as understanding the war is already won. Christ did that. These battles are mere formalities. God is giving us more knowledge as we learn how to use His tools and understand how they help us study. This is a class in spiritual understanding and the bible is a terrific textbook. Find yourself a quiet place to study. Prepare for your tests and graduate with testimony. Just remember in these classes failure is possible but dropping out is not an option.
May God bless and keep you always.