Monday, December 15, 2014

Preparing the Ground

The following was written 45 ½ years ago. It still applies.

“Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3)


The Lord’s instruction to Judah through Jeremiah was spiritual instruction. He wasn’t speaking about farming. The Bible is wonderful in its clarity, and we can be awfully obtuse in our understanding.

We do not operate like good farmers. We are like a three-year-old child who plants a bean and digs it up every day to see if it is growing. We have a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk view of sowing. We expect a giant plant the next morning.

We are impatient for the harvest so we are impatient in our sowing. We sow in unplowed, undisced, and unharrowed ground. We sow in weeds. We sow in the rocks and on hard ground. We wonder why no harvest. The harvest is dependent on sowing, which is dependent onus. It is also dependent upon the ground. The kind of ground is, in a sense, dependent on us. “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among the thorns” speaks of the need for cultivation. Good, soft ground with no rocks and no weeds will bring forth thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Matthew 13).

In the business of bookstore evangelism, how do we prepare the ground even before sowing? Broken ground, soft and moist, is actually hungry for seed. If earth has a purpose, that is it. “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass and the tree yielding fruit.’” So it is with people. Prepared people are hungry for the seed of the Word of God.

People should be prepared, like the ground, before the seed is planted. The “good news” is the seed. How do we prepare people before we start sharing with them the good news of Jesus Christ? We are to love them. Love softens the ground. We are to pray for them. As you pray for us in our bookstore ministry, God will fill our hearts with his love for people, and as you pray for the people we mention, the Holy Spirit will prepare them to receive the Word of God.

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:24, 25)

It is important and possible to love people, pray for them, be patient, gentle, and kind before we mention the God of our salvation. This does not have to be a long period. It is not the length of time of preparation; it is the genuineness of our gentleness that is important. If we love people genuinely, it may be possible to sow good seed into “ready” ground in a matter of minutes.

Remember, an abundant harvest is dependent upon the amount of seed sown, the kind of ground sown in, and the obedience of the reapers. Ground preparation is not something to do in order to get out of sowing; sowing is not something done in order to get out of reaping. But ground preparation does come first. Help us, then, in preparation of hearts as you pray for us and those we mention.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fibromyalgia

I am sending this out knowing that some of you have fibromyalgia. This was not in place of prayer. It was God’s answer to prayer in her life:

“Reaching this point in my spiritual life enabled me about ten years later to marry a man whose work, I knew, would take both of us to new and unfriendly territory halfway around the world. Many people have asked me since that time how I could do it. The answer is simple: I have learned that I couldn’t. It is not about me and what I can or can’t do; it is all about what Christ can do. This move meant many unknowns, but then, God had me living like that for many years – in my own country. I am not an adventuresome person and not a risk-taker, and I am thankful for that, otherwise I might have doubted myself; “Am I really doing this for the Lord – or doing it for myself?” Because it’s not in my nature to take such a drastic step, I will gladly testify that it is the Lord’s hand.

“Having come to a desert in a very out-of-the-way spot, one day God led an Indian pharmacist through a local friend literally to our doorstep. The man listened patiently over tea as I described my symptoms of fibromyalgia. They weren’t worsening but weren’t letting up, either. The man suggested several things that would probably be helpful, including a form of Vitamin B-12. I had heard a lot of remedies over the years but decided to give this methylcobalamin (MCB) a try. What could it hurt? It was just a plain old vitamin. Within a day, the fiery pain had decreased by 80%. I thought I must surely be dreaming and didn’t even tell my husband at first. Yet in two days, it had almost completely vanished! I felt stunned…could this really be happening? After all these years of suffering? The resounding answer has been YES. So although God has not chosen to heal me completely, His fingerprints are all over this. Being healed or not has nothing to do with my faith. It doesn’t even matter that I have it…except that it still helps me to still keep my ‘eye on the ball.’ I would not have exchanged those years for anything.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Believe

Here are a few scriptures that are not to be obeyed. They are not commands. They are to be believed. Your belief will be the major means of obedience to the adjacent commands.

1. “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2)

2. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6).

3. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

4. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)

5. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6)

6. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:9-12)
This is not a command, it is a prayer that will be answered.

7. “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10)

8. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

9. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)


All of these are passive happening. They are just true; and if true, they provide the means of obedience to all other commands.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Introspection

Regularly I see people who have a tendency to be introspective. When I ask them if this introspection is an “upper” or a “downer” the answer is “a downer.” Then I ask them, “Is it accusatory or convicting?” The answer is “accusatory.”

The accuser of the brethren is Satan. This introspection is not of God. Recently I read an account by Charles Finney speaking of himself in the 1820’s almost 200 years ago.

“Sometimes I would pursue a wrong course in fasting, and attempt to examine myself according to the ideas of self-examination then entertained by my minister and the church. I would try to look into my own heart, in the sense of examining my feelings; and would turn my attention particularly to my motives, and the state of my mind. When I pursued this course, I found invariably that the day would close without any perceptible advance being made. Afterward I saw clearly why this was so. Turning my attention as I did, from the Lord Jesus Christ, and looking into myself, examining my motives and feelings, my feelings all subsided of course. But whenever I fasted, and let the Spirit take his own course with me, and gave myself up to let him lead and instruct me, I universally found it in the highest degree useful.”

Monday, December 01, 2014

Wonerful Salvation

We all know that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to give us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. We can quote the verses. Here are other verses that tell us of other results of this wonderful salvation:

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (John 2:1)

“By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2)

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6)

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:10)

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)

“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19b)

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)

“In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)

“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules…” (Colossians 2:20)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pornography

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3-4)

This sin, both kinds “looking and “talking”, is pandemic in the world and epidemic in the church.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (Ephesians 5:8-13)

We are to expose their wickedness by living in the light. One of the ways to find out if someone is a Christian is to listen to his mouth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anger

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)


Wrath and anger and obscene speech have no place in a Christian’s life. I know a pastor who is guilty of anger with his child. I also know he does not discipline his children. The children are wild.

“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (I Timothy 3:4-5)

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:6-7)


I know of another pastor who verbally abused his wife on Sunday morning, and then went to preach.

If anyone else knows besides me, they will stay pastoring because the sin is not addressed. It is sin on the part of the congregation to let this sin go.

“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” (I Timothy 5:19-20)