Mar 24, 2008
Awesome song by the Newsboys set to some of my favorite pictures. You are not lost!! Run for the prize! Stay Strong!
Mar 24, 2008
Awesome song by the Newsboys set to some of my favorite pictures. You are not lost!! Run for the prize! Stay Strong!
You were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. Philippians 4:10
Marilyn had been ill for many weeks, and many people had encouraged her through this difficult time. How will I ever repay all their kindnesses? she worried. Then one day she read the words of a written prayer: “Pray that [others] will develop humility, allowing them not only to serve, but also to be served.” Marilyn suddenly realized there was no need to balance any scale, but just to be thankful and allow others to experience the joy of serving.
In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul expressed his gratitude for all those who shared “in [his] troubles” (v. 14). He depended on people to support him as he preached and taught the gospel. He understood that the gifts provided for him when he was in need were simply an extension of people’s love for God: “[Your gifts] are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (v. 18).
It may not be easy to be the one on the receiving end—especially if you’ve usually been the first one to help other people. But with humility, we can allow God to gently care for us by a variety of means when we need help.
Paul wrote, “My God will meet all your needs” (v. 19). It was something he had learned during a life of trials. God is faithful and His provision for us has no limits.
Dear Lord, thank You for caring for us through Your people. May we graciously give and receive help.
Receive love. Give love. Repeat.
Paul was a tentmaker by trade and often worked to support himself while he ministered to people in various cities (see Acts 18:3). However, at times Paul relied on the giving and generosity of others (see Phil 4:14–16). He also encouraged generosity among the churches, calling on members of the global body of Christ to meet each other’s needs (see 1 Cor. 16:1–4).
Many times God provides for us through the giving of others. Reflect on how God has provided for you or used you to meet the needs of others.
Today’s passage describes a vision God gave to Zechariah. In it, the mountain is an illustration of a barrier or hindrance. We might wonder what these strange dreams can teach us today, but though the imagery is foreign, the principles are repeated throughout the Bible and are still relevant for our lives.
Zerubbabel, leader of Judah, and a group of 50,000 people had been released by their Babylonian captors to return to Jerusalem. There, God’s people began to rebuild the walls of the temple, but they were attacked by those living nearby. Consequently, the people became discouraged and were ready to give up.
In verse 6, God reminded Zerubbabel through Zechariah that progress is made “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” In other words, when God calls us to a task, He Himself assumes responsibility for removing hindrances. God went on to ask, “What are you, O great mountain?” (v. 7). Nothing but flatland would remain once He worked through Zerubbabel.
We are not to face seemingly insurmountable tasks in our own strength. Instead, we’re to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We are like the lampstand that was to be kept continually burning in the temple. In Zechariah’s dream, the olive trees on each side of the lampstand were pouring oil directly into its bowl, with no help from the priests. The Holy Spirit was acting as the olive trees—He was God’s promise of continual help to the weary people. We, too, can trust the Lord to pour His Spirit into our life for help when we face a mountain of an obstacle.
“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:3-4)
It is noteworthy that the identification of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is directly associated with His resurrection from the dead. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26), and since only God Himself can conquer death, Christ’s bodily resurrection is the conclusive affirmation of His unique deity: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Many others have claimed divine sonship, but all are dead—only Christ validated that claim by defeating death. “God . . . hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33). “Death is swallowed up in victory . . . . through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 57).
Jesus is explicitly called “the Son of God” about 44 times in the New Testament, only half as often as He is called “Son of man.” Nevertheless, this great truth is clearly taught in numerous other ways than by the use of the title itself. It is so important that there is no salvation for the one who denies it. Jesus said plainly, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
Because He lives, we who believe on His name will also live forever! “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? . . . He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:5, 12-13). HMM
1 Kings 18:1
To unbelief this would have appeared like a command to plunge into the raging waves of the sea, or to walk into a lions den, but soldier of the Heavenly King do not reason, but obey.
1 Kings 18:2-4
Here was a dove living in the eagles nest. Obadiah was not a half-and-half man, but feared the Lord fully, hence his character won him confidence even from ungodly Ahab, and in his great trouble the king did not trust any of his idolatrous nobles as he trusted holy Obadiah. He lived in a wicked court, and yet was zealous for his God, and shewed his zeal by feeding the prophets when food was dear, and kindness to them might have cost him his life. If in so difficult a position Obadiah was so earnest, what manner of persons ought we to be who are so much more happily situated?
1 Kings 18:5
Judgment alone cannot soften the heart, for all that Ahab cared for when under the chastising hand of God was to preserve his stud. He thought more of his horses than of his soul, or his starving subjects.
1 Kings 18:13, 14
The good man was timid, for he had not been living the separated life, and therefore was far inferior in faith to the lonely Elijah, but the prophet bore with his weakness, for he knew him to be right at heart. We that are strong must bear the infirmities of the weak, and not expect all men to be equally bold.
1 Kings 18:20
Mark the holy boldness of Elijah, and how it awed the king. Elijah was far more royal than Ahab, for faith made him a king before the Lord. Be it ours to act in the same heroic spirit, never fearing the face of man, but facing the Lord’s foes with unflinching valour. So shall we win the “well done, good and faithful servant,” which should be the highest object of our ambition.
Once Denise and I and our team traveled by bus to conduct massive evangelistic campaigns in eight of the largest cities in the nation of Ukraine. Because we had been on television for many years in those particular eight cities, we were anticipating that thousands of people would attend these meetings.
As we drove through the vast wheat fields in eastern Ukraine, the golden wheat waved this way and that as the gentle, late-summer winds blew across the landscape. It was so beautiful that Denise and I asked the driver to stop so we could get out of the bus and walk through the beautiful golden fields. As we stood in the midst of those gorgeous shelves of golden grain, we thought of the vast, spiritual harvest fields of the former Soviet Union where God had called our family and ministry. Of course, we were especially thinking about the harvest of souls we were praying to see in those upcoming meetings.
As we stood in the middle of those beautiful fields of wheat, we looked at each other and quoted Jesus’ words in John 4:35, which says, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”
When Jesus spoke these words, He was just outside the city of Sychar in Samaria. His disciples had gone to the city to find food, and Jesus had just met the woman at the well (see John 4:1-27).
Jesus’ encounter with this woman was life-transforming. He spent a significant amount of time talking to her about her personal life, answering her spiritual questions, and treating her with a level of dignity that had rarely been afforded to her. It was the first seed Jesus ever sowed into the heart of a Samaritan. The woman was so moved by His compassion that when she returned to her village, she told the people, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).
This woman so enthusiastically shared her testimony of Jesus that the entire village of Sychar went out of the city to find Him (John 4:30). Thus, from the moment Jesus first sowed His seed into the heart of this Samaritan woman to the time He reaped His first major harvest among the Samaritans would only be a matter of hours. This was indeed quite remarkable. Certainly it often takes quite a period of time to reap a sizable harvest of souls in any new region of the world.
As the village of Sychar went out to meet Jesus, He and His disciples were on the outskirts of the city, where He was speaking to them about doing the work of God. From Jesus’ words, it seems likely that He and His followers were standing near a wheat field at the time, similar to the one my wife and I stood in that day in the nation of Ukraine.
As Jesus was speaking to His disciples, He was apparently standing in a position that enabled Him to have a wide view of the nearby wheat fields. Meanwhile, His disciples were so focused on what He was telling them that they were unaware of the streams of people coming from the village and making their way through the fields to where they were located. It was at this moment that Jesus told the disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest….”
Naturally speaking, it should take a minimum of four months for seed to be reaped as a full-grown harvest. But that time frame didn’t apply in the case of the Samaritan woman. Seed had been sown into her heart just a short time earlier—yet it was already time to reap! That is why Jesus told his disciples, “… Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”
When the disciples turned around and looked, they could see multitudes pushing through the vast wheat field as they made their way to Jesus. It must have been an amazing sight to the disciples. After all, this Samaritan woman had gone to her town only a few hours earlier, and already there was such a large response to her testimony! Jesus had only sown seed into one Samaritan woman’s heart, but He was already reaping a massive harvest of souls.
I want you to notice that Jesus said that “… they are white already to harvest.” Jesus was not referring to the unripe wheat fields, but to the people who were coming to see Him. One scholar has noted that workers in small villages were known to wear white workers’ garments. This village of workers was so affected by the Samaritan woman’s testimony that they dropped what they were doing and immediately went to see Jesus, still dressed in their white workers’ garments. When the Lord saw a crowd of people coming toward Him dressed in white, He didn’t see white garments; He saw a harvest that was white and ready to be reaped among the Samaritans.
As the crowd approached Jesus, He told the disciples, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth” (John 4:36, 37).
Jesus was the One who sowed the first seed into the heart of the Samaritan woman, but now it was time to reap—and it requires many more hands to reap than it does to sow. Jesus was the Sower, but the harvest could not be fully reaped and retained without the help of His disciples. Jesus felt great joy as He watched this harvest of souls coming in so quickly. However, now it would also be the disciples’ great joy to help Jesus swing the sickle and bring these souls to God. Jesus sowed the seed, but it was essential for the disciples to help Him reap.
In John 4:38, Jesus said, “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” Jesus alone had sown the seed into the heart of the woman at the well. At the time He did this, His disciples were in the village looking for food. But now the disciples were privileged to participate in a huge reaping extravaganza for which they had done no work at all! They were literally entering into a harvest that was white and ready to be reaped because Jesus had taken the time to sow seed into a single person’s heart.
Spiritual harvest often comes more quickly than natural harvests. It may take four months for wheat to be ready to be reaped. However, don’t think that it will always take a long time before you see people respond to the Word you sow into their hearts. The souls of men are often ready to be reaped for the Kingdom of God very quickly after the initial sowing.
Also, please don’t think that your role in sowing seed is small and insignificant. Remember, Jesus sowed a single seed into the heart of one person, yet that isolated, solitary event produced a harvest so huge that an entire village came to Jesus Christ. In the same way, the seed you sow into someone’s heart today may be the very seed that produces the next massive harvest for the Kingdom of God!
So the next time you find yourself talking to someone about Jesus Christ or sharing the truths of God’s Word with a stranger, don’t allow the devil to tell you that you’re wasting your time. You may be planting the very seed that will bring salvation to an entire group of people. And when the harvest is ready to be reaped, don’t be threatened by people who join you in the reaping process of what you have sown. Harvests always require more reapers than sowers, so be thankful that one plants and others come alongside to help you reap!
As Denise and I finally stood on the stage to preach to the vast crowds that attended those meetings in Ukraine, I thanked God for giving us the awesome privilege of preaching to such huge numbers of people. But I also thanked Him for every single person who uses his or her own private life as a pulpit to share the seed of God’s Word with people on the street and at work. Regardless of how or where the seed of God’s Word is sown by believers, every seed sown is powerful and has an eternal effect. Never forget that fact as you go through your day using YOUR life as a pulpit for sowing the life-changing seed of the Gospel!
Lord, I never realized the power that one single seed could make on such a large group of people. I have mistakenly thought that witnessing to one person was not as important as preaching to multitudes. Please forgive me for overlooking the power of a single seed sown into the human heart. Holy Spirit, I want to be ready when the harvest comes in—and that includes having enough friends and coworkers on hand to pitch in and help. So I ask You to dispatch a group of ready and willing workers who can step into the harvest field and assist me in bringing in the sheaves!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that the seed I sow into people’s hearts has the power to bring great change to entire groups of people. Every time I share the Word of God with people who don’t know the Lord, a seed is planted in their hearts and minds that has the power to revolutionize their lives, their families, their friends, and even their entire cities. Every person I touch has the potential of taking the Gospel message further, thus creating a larger harvest for the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I am bold to speak to anyone whenever I see an open door of opportunity to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
“The first time I meet with a man, I talk to him about how he handles his money, and about his sex life.”
So stated a self-proclaimed “discipler”.
What this wannabe “discipler” failed to realize is that generic to the art of discipling, is the discipline of listening. How else will we tap into the wellspring of a person’s soul to know what is going on in their life? “The purposes of a man‘s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5) (See Psalm 64:6; Proverbs 18:4; 1 Corinthians 2:11)
Here are three principles that will help us in practicing the discipline of listening:
1. STOP TALKING SO MUCH
Isn’t it true that we simply talk too much? “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) (See Proverbs 17:27, 28; Ecclesiastes 5:3; 10:13; James 3:2)
2. VALUE THE OTHER PERSON AND HIS INPUT
If you don’t, you will not believe he has anything to contribute in a conversation. President Lyndon Johnson kept a sign on his wall, “You ain’t learning nothing when you’re doing all the talking.” Isn’t there an object lesson in the fact that God gave us one mouth, and two ears? Apparently, Solomon concurred, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning… ” (Proverbs 1:5a) (See Job 34:16; Proverbs 9:9)
3. LISTEN WITH THE INTENT TO UNDERSTAND
French psychiatrist, Paul Tournier taught that true communication is “the meeting of meanings.” That is, grasping the definition behind the words. That takes disciplined listening! Steven Covey says, “many people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.” If we are to connect with people communications-wise, we must assume the attitude, “I am more interested in what you are saying than in thinking of what I‘m going to say, once you‘re through talking.”
David Swartz reminds us that “big people monopolize the listening. Small people monopolize the talking.” And James asserts, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (1:19) (See Proverbs 13:3; 15:2; 18:13; 21:23; James 1:26; 3:1)
Dewey Knight relates, “My best advice came from a friend immediately after I was named to a top… job: ‘Son, in this job you will have millions of opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them.‘”
QUESTION: Are you willing to demonstrate your respect for others by sublimating your ego needs and truly listening to them? If not, forget any notion that you are in fact a mentor or discipler.