It's a waiting game for farmers and gardeners now. Yes, they irrigate, fix and tinker with the occasional machine needed for the irrigation and wait for the right opportunities to give water at the proper times. If any of you have taken a drive out to the country recently, you see the beginning fruits of those labors as small sprouts are beginning to appear. Soon, though, small sprouts will turn into full-grown stalks where heads of corn will appear. When they grow to maturity it will be time to, Lord willing, collect a bountiful harvest of both corn and beans.
As Christians, living in today's world, we too have the opportunity to collect a beautiful harvest. I believe that God gives all time for "planting", laying out the seed of God and his truth in the lives of individuals. Then, like the farmer, we can also nurture those seeds along by giving people encouragement through God's word and passing on messages from him that have inspired us. Soon, we will be able to see the beginnings of a bountiful harvest arising and we would pray that these same practices could continue for the new group of Christians that we have come alongside.
The questions this forces us to ask ourselves is: Who have we invested the "seed of God" in? Who have we sought to nurture along the path of fellowship, guiding them into a relationship with Jesus Christ? It may not always be easy going. There will be some "droughts" of faith just like there are drought-filled times in any growing season. It may not be the easiest path taken for growth either. We have all seen plants that have managed to grow around or through different obstacles, such as a crack in the sidewalk or growing around an object. These pictures show us that through dedication and belief in an Almighty God, faith can grow. The unique thing about faith is that it never stops growing. Every year, the farmer and the gardener have to collect their produce at some point. If they leave it outside, it will get spoiled and will soon be covered by the winter storms. This is one area where farming/gardening differs from faith growing. Faith has the opportunity to grow for a lifetime and produce wonderful men and women of faith. The time for "harvest" will come when Christ comes again.
I pray that we will all have people in our lives that we can invest in for the kingdom of God. The unique part about sharing your faith is that you can be the starting point, and then someone else can take over and continue to help that person along their path. This doesn't mean that you give up on someone, instead it is allowing God to take them on their journey and to use the whole church community to continue that buildup of faith. God has given us great opportunities to spread his love in this world. I'm praying that when that final harvest is upon us, we can say with confidence that we took part in helping to grow many of the faithful found there at that time. I'm also praying that we can say that we were helped in our own growth by others who came alongside us. It is said that "the harvest is many, but the workers are few." May we be considered part of those workers who continue to carry forth God's message to a fertile field of his world.
The Wheeled Worshipper
This month we have the privilege and opportunity as a nation to celebrate our sovereign independence from the British Empire. Since our founding, we have been seen by the rest of the world as a unique place. We, as a nation, have stood out because we are willing to stand up, lend our aid, and promote freedom around the world. We have lived in a nation that has experienced the blessings of God in commerce, worship, and governance because of our dependence on him.
It might seem strange to talk about our dependence on the day we celebrate our independence, but it is important to keep in mind. For even as we are independent from being ruled by another nation, we still need to be dependent on God.
Our dependence on God is like that of the branches of a tree and the outshoots of the vine. He is our strength, and it is from him that our help, our mercy, and our grace is found. John 15:4-5 reads,
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you produce fruit without me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus is calling us to remember that in order to thrive and be fruitful, we have to remain in him. We have to depend on him for life, for peace, for justice, for mercy and for grace. God has given us this nation. For centuries, we recognize him and give thanks for his provision. But in the last number of years that recognition has been forgotten by many in our land, and our fruitfulness has suffered for it.
The weeds of sin at times seem to be taking over the fertile garden of our land. Yet, it is in these moments of celebrating independence that we must repent and pray for Jesus, the master gardener, to weed our nation of its sins.
We need to once again remember the classic words of our Pledge of Allegiance, that we are "one nation under God." We need to recognize that we are dependent on God for our strength, our health and vitality, personally, and as a nation. Though independent in the eyes of the world, our dependence on God, as our true vine, must always remain strong and true.
We are one nation under God. We should celebrate this fact and marvel at all that God has done for the people of this nation to be a beacon of light and hope to the world.
So, celebrate our nation's independence this month - fly the American flag, attend the parades, and enjoy barbecues and fireworks. Celebrate and give thanks for what we have been given as a nation, giving thanks to God for our independence provided through dependence on him.
In previous columns, I have written about graduations being a turning point and a beginning to a new future. These significant milestones signal that change is coming. After you graduate from high school, you don't get to show up the first day of the next school year in August and start all over again. We move on, we take in the next challenge, take the next step forward in our journey of life. This may be easy and even necessary when we graduate from an institution of learning. But what happens in normal life when change is possible? How do we know what to do then?
It is difficult to fully answer that question because every situation is different. Do you stay in the same job that's treated you well for 10 years or do you go to the unknown job that pays you more money? Do you uproot your life to go to another job or even another career? Of course, these decisions are most often discussed with family, friends, and loved ones. In fact, these decisions may affect those people in your life. But most often, we seem to neglect one central figure. Yes, we may offer a quick prayer every once in a while, for guidance, but then we put him off to the side, focusing on the things that we can see, the numbers, the offers, the pros and cons, etc. Meanwhile, we neglect the person that can see your life completely from beginning to end.
We may spend hours, days, even months making big life career altering decisions. We have a God who has your whole life planned out. He didn't just plan the first 30 years and then wait for those to play out and then go on to the next 30. No, he has the day of our birth marked out all the way until the day of our death. This doesn't mean he allows us to know everything that is going to happen in our lives, but he does give us the one thing that we often lack during the decision-making times: confidence. This is confidence that if we consult with God, whatever decision we make will be for his glory and purpose. We can change with him knowing that he has plans for us beyond our wildest dreams and comprehension.
So what does that leave us to do when big decisions arise? It can start with a simple prayer of “Lord, I have a decision to make, and I am trusting you to help guide me in this decision-making process. You know what you have planned for my life. I ask that you give me confidence and peace in making this decision and that you use whatever decision is made for your honor and glory.” When you start with the simple prayer and handing the decision-making over to a God who know what's next, you give of yourself to him and his purposes and plans for your life. And in the end, you both win as he puts you in a position to use your talents and gifts while he allows his kingdom to continue to grow through you. That's a win that could perhaps benefit millions of people around the world for the glory of Christ.
The Wheeled Worshiper
June...the sixth month of the year is already upon us. It's hard to imagine that 151 days of 2021 have already come and gone. It seems like just yesterday we celebrated the New Year. Now spring is already gone and summer quickly approaching with so many things to look forward to. The weather is warmer, and the days are longer. This is the time of year when many of our most profound memories are made as the joys of summer fill our time with baseball, softball, fishing, camping, and trips away.
Maybe your memory this summer will be made by seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time, or one of the seven great oceans of the world, hitting the game winning home run, or truly marveling at God's handiwork as you hold a newborn child in your hands. Memories and the making of them are what often times keep us going in life. We long to make memories and we long to hold on to them as well. Perhaps the most marvelous thing about memories is that they are made and shared with the ones we love.
In the fifth book of Psalms, we find Psalm 111. The psalmist calls us to remember all the things that the Lord has done for us and all that the Lord has done with us. He is calling us to use our memories and remember, beginning at verse two,
"Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever."
These are perhaps the most amazing things for our mind to ponder about God, that his wonders endure forever and that he remembers his covenant forever. He is the everlasting God and his grace is without limit or end. His memory is everlasting and so is his compassion.
Every memory we make, we make before his eyes. Sometimes he protects us in miraculous ways, at other times he allows us to see his power in the storms of nature or the storms of life. Memories are great because they give us a story to tell to the nations. They help us get through the tough times with a smile and the good times with laughter. Just think of all the memories that God has made and given to you!
So go out this summer and make memories. Make memories that will last a lifetime. Make memories with your family, your friends, and before your God. Enjoy his grace, his world, and his church.