Tag Archives: Jesus

What’s In Your Seed Bag?

The other day a friend remarked to me that sometimes he wished he had the audience of Joel Osteen. I asked Why? And he said that if he had the audience Joel Osteen has he knew exactly what he would say to them and the opportunity to reach so many lives must be a fantastic thing.

My response to that was “God has entrusted to Joel Osteen whom He would entrust to Joel Osteen and He has entrusted to you those whom He would entrust to you.” And then I told him our job was to simply scatter seed.

My experience is that when people consider the parable Jesus told about the sower, as recorded in Matthew 13:3-8 they tend to focus on where the seed fell, how the seed grew, and how much fruit was brought forth. Seldom, if ever, have I heard any emphasis upon the sower. The very first thing Jesus told us was that a sower went forth to sow.

I grew up on a farm. And I’ve planted (sowed) a lot of seed. And I’ve seen a lot of seed grow producing good healthy plants that yielded a very rich crop of great looking fruit. I’ve also seen seed that has produced some pretty awful looking plants that never produced any fruit at all. With corn the unhealthy plants always seemed to be the ones at the edge of the field. The plants at the end of the row or the outside of all the rows. I’ve also seen a lot of seed that went into the ground that never grew.

I watched my dad when he planted the fields, and when he got to the end of the row and still had seed left in the hopper (bag) he scooped up the remaining seed that had not been planted and just scattered it down the row. We never left the field with seed in the bag.

I learned something on the farm that I did not even realize I was learning at the time. And that is we never had any control over the seed. Dad bought the best seed he could and we planted it, fertilized it, kept the weeds (tares) out of the fields, watered it, and hoped that the weather cooperated and that we would get a good crop. We would protect the plants, tried to keep the insects off of them, and we nurtured the plants as best as any farmer could and then we picked whatever crop was yielded. Some years we would get a great crop. More food than we could hardly deal with. Other times we would not get such a bumper crop and I would wonder why we even planted anything at all.

Another thing that I learned was that farming is hard work. And I definitely knew that at the time. The more you planted almost assuredly translated into the more you had to pick. And the more you had to pick, the more you had to help mom can. We had to shuck the corn, clean the beans, and cut the roots and stems off the turnips, potatoes, and pumpkins. Farming was hard work. And the bigger the crop, the more work there was.

But the one constant from year to year, season to season, was that we were going to plant seed. Dad never bought seed just to have it remain in the seed bags in the barn. Our seed was for planting. Whether it got planted in the rich soil of the field or whether it got planted in the bad soil at the edge of the field, all seed was going to be planted if dad had his way about it. We hoped every seed planted was going to grow into a huge healthy plant, and we tried to control the few things we could control in planting and watering the seed, but regardless the outcome, we planted the seed.

Too many people when considering the parable Jesus told focus on where the seed fell, or how the seed grew, or the crops it produced. All of the things the sower had little control over. And not enough of us focus on the one thing the sower had complete control over, sowing the seed.

Some of us think we would like to plant a huge bumper crop like some vast country field. We never realize just how much work that is and we complain because God hasn’t entrusted a huge multi-acre field to plant in. And so we hold onto our seed and wait for God to provide us a field worthy of us planting in.

God hasn’t given every one of us a large multi-thousand acre farm to plant. Some of us have just been entrusted a garden. Others of us have only been entrusted a few pots in the kitchen window. But the one thing I am sure of is we all have seed to plant.

I have to imagine that there are Missionaries in the world today looking at the Christian family of God and are just wondering why don’t we just plant our seed?

How about you? If you are a Christian, what are you doing with the Gospel seed you’ve been entrust with? Are you planting it? Or are you just leaving it in the seed bag from one planting season to the next?

I can think of few things sadder than standing before the Throne of a Holy God and having him ask you “Why is your seed bag full?” My prayer for you today is that you would plant the Gospel seed you have been entrusted with. In whatever field you have been given. Don’t wait until you stand before God with a full bag of unplanted seed. Go plant the seed today.

Do You take Jesus with you?

I’d like to address Theists today. Specifically those theists that identify as Judeo-Christian. And the question I’d like to ask is “Do you take Jesus with you everywhere you go?”

OK. Not really, I would not ask such a question. I’ll explain that in a minute. More to the point, what I’d like to discuss is people who actually do ask that question.

If you’ve never been asked the question, stick around long enough and you probably will be. it usually occurs in situations like the following:

You are having a conversation with a friend and you tell them about how the night before you had gone out to some event, usually an event of which your friend disapproves. It could have been a movie (perhaps a secular R rated movie), or maybe a rock concert, or perhaps you went to a party where there was (Oh No!) alcohol. Or perhaps it was none of these. Perhaps you just went to Disney World but you happened to go on the Sabbath (Sunday for a lot of us). But when you tell your friend about your experience you immediately get the question: “Did you take Jesus with you?” (to this event or place).

My answer is always: “Why Yes. Yes I did”. Which usually leaves my friend somewhat taken aback. I’m always left wondering does my friend ever stop and think about what they are truly saying or does their own world view just cloud their understanding?

I am not a fan of this question for several reasons. Primarily it smacks of self righteousness. As if your friend would imply that they would never have taken Jesus to the place you’ve just described. In some instances I’ve even been asked the question with a holier-than-thou air as if to say “You sinner. How dare you take Jesus to such an unholy place”.

However, I always like to assume noble intent (even if I don’t succeed) so let’s suppose that your friend is asking the question in order to get you to think about where you have just taken Jesus. OK. Well my question is “Why do you care?” I never question where you take Jesus. Its not really any of my business. And quite frankly, where you take Jesus is between you and Jesus, not between you and me, In other words, when I am asked this question, my friend is more concerned about me than they are about themselves. And I have enough to worry about with just myself than to be worried about everyone else.

But there is a second reason I’m no fan of this question. Its not Biblical. First of all it is not up to me to either take Jesus somewhere or leave him at home. Jesus says He is with us. Not that we are with Him. Jesus knows that if it were up to us we would all too often go off on our own and leave Him behind. So Jesus made us the promise that He would be with us always. No matter what or where. And secondly, what does my friend think they are protecting Jesus from? Is there any sin that I already have not been forgiven of that I can expose Jesus to? Obviously the answer is No. Jesus himself was accused by the religious leaders of the day of consorting with sinners. They charged him of being with sinners (you can see the self righteous attitude in their accusation). So Jesus himself took himself to where the sinners were. And I for one, am quite grateful he did. Because had he not, I would never have been found. You find lost sheep by leaving the fold and going into the wilderness to search for them. Not by keeping the Shepherd in the fold with all of the found sheep all of the time. You cannot possibly take Jesus anywhere He hasn’t been before or expose Him to any new depths of the depravity of mankind He is not already fully aware of. And thus from a purely biblical point of view why are you even asking the question?

But thirdly I am no fan of this question because it presupposes the asker has some greater knowledge or morality that indeed they do not possesses.

There was a lady in the Church I grew up in. She was a single mom and she visited a bar down the street from her home every week. She literally went to this bar every week for multiple years. And rumors began to spread about her actions in the Church. One Sunday the Pastor called her out and told a story about how she had been going to the same bar on the same day of the week at the same time for well over a year. He told of how her routine was always the same. She would go to the bar and always sit in the same place. She would always purchase a coke. And she would spend the time in the bar praying for the place and the people in it. She would take her Bible with her and she would witness as opportunity allowed to whomever would listen. He also told of the persecution she had undergone. How the owner/bar tender had asked her to leave. How she had the police called on her. How the bar patrons had ridiculed and despised her. And yet she persevered. And eventually over time she won hearts and minds. She began to be loved even as she loved and the regulars at the bar began to respect her and to welcome her. All because she was brave enough to take Jesus with her to a bar.

That lady was a missionary to that bar. And I’m sure all of my friends who have ever asked the question “Did you take Jesus with you to the bar?” would never suggest that missionaries not take Jesus to a lost and dying world. Surely we wouldn’t suggest that missionaries leave Jesus at home when they go to the depths of the mission field. So why would we leave Jesus at home when we go out into the world?

So my question to you today isn’t whether you took Jesus with you or where you took Jesus to. My question to you is “Is the Jesus in you the only Jesus that someone who needs Jesus got to see today?”

Perhaps if we were all a little less concerned about where the rest of us are taking Jesus to and more concerned with showing Jesus to those in need, a lost and dying world would get a little more of a glimpse of Jesus and have their lives changed because of it. So go ahead, take Jesus into the world. It’s better than hiding the light of Jesus in some holier-than-thou sanctuary you’ve created for yourself and are trying to force everyone else into.

Do You Know The Name Above All Names?

On January 6th, 2017 Hillsong Worship brought us the song What A Beautiful Name it Is.

In my estimation, this song is the full embodiment of Philippians 2:8-11 which says:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (KJV)

Sadly, there is not enough understanding in our world today of these simple words.  That the name of JESUS is where beauty lies.  That the name of JESUS holds all power.  That the name of JESUS is the point where the wonderment of Heaven bends down to meet the Earth.

If you are Atheistic in your world view you cannot possibly know the beauty and wonder of the name of JESUS.  Your rejection of a Deity, a Creator, a Heavenly Father, A Savior and a King keeps you from the experience of knowing the Peace and Comfort of the name of JESUS.

You might be bewildered by this statement, but the knowing, the real knowing I speak of is Spiritual knowledge not worldly knowledge.  It is not of this earth, but is of Heaven itself.  And it is the point that a loving and a just God reaches down to his very creation, mankind, and says “I Love you so much I sent My Son to die for your sins in order to redeem you back to me”.

Spiritual death is real.  Very real.  We, all humans, are triune beings created of body, soul, and spirit.  Our bodies are the physical manifestation you see before you in this world.  Our souls (our mind, will, and emotions) are the glue that binds us to our spiritual beings, and our Spirits are that which connects us with the Creator Himself.  That part of us that will answer to him one day.  And that is the part that is dead in sin, and puts our entire being; body, soul, and spirit, in separation from our Creator.

Some people have asked why God needed to go through such an elaborate scheme in order to have a family of his own.  For me, the answer is quite simple: You cannot know life without death, you cannot know joy without pain, and you cannot know salvation without first being lost.  God has established his family because he showed us what the price is for that family.  I could tell you all day long about the Joy found in the name of JESUS, but unless you experience it for yourself, they are meaningless words.

So the Atheist has shut out the one true hope for all of mankind simply through disbelief.  The one simple thing that God requires of all of us: BELIVE ON THE NAME OF JESUS.

If you are Agnostic in your world view, your apathy keeps you from experiencing the Joy and the Wonderment of the name of JESUS.  Our Creator demands  that the name of JESUS be embraced.  That the name of JESUS be held above ALL names.  That the name of JESUS be exalted and lifted up.

The Agnostic lifts up no name but their own, unless it benefits them in some way, shape, or form.  The Agnostic robs themselves of the peace and the comfort of experiencing JESUS through the self-centeredness of their own “it doesn’t matter” world view.

However, if you are Theistic in your world view, your only challenge is finding the one true God.  Being able to connect with the Creator you already know to be real.

There is one religious view that promises an eternal connection with that Creator.  And that is Christianity.  No other name has divided history.  No other name has endured such a test of time.  No other name has claimed to be before the world began and promises to be there forever after it ends.  No other name is both more revered and more hated amongst the earth.  And no other name has had people  try to  rewrite the history of it over and over again, only to continuously fail.

I believe the reason for this is because God has given Him the name above all names.  It is the name of Power.  It is the name of Wonderment.  It is the name of Beauty.  It is the name of JESUS.

As we approach this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, my prayer for each and everyone in the world today is that they would come to know the name of JESUS.  Not to have just heard the name.  Not to just know of the name.  But to experience the name of JESUS.

And you cannot experience the name of JESUS, truly experience it, in your Spiritual being, without BELIVING on the name of JESUS.  When you KNOW him, as He knows you (and I guarantee you He has known you from before the foundation of the world), then the name of JESUS will take on a whole new Beauty, a whole new Power, a whole new Wonderment, that will rise up in your spirit, spill over into your soul, and fill you with the Hope, Peace, and Comfort that only he can give.

And when that happens, you too, will join me and many others with me, along with a Heavenly host in proclaiming What A Beautiful Name It Is, The Name of JESUS.

 

Are You Rich?

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, recently addressed the Harvard University graduating class during which he said:

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,”

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a concept that has gained quite a bit of attention recently.  Finland has recently started experimenting with the idea and Canada and India are giving it consideration.  Finland may be the first country to practice UBI, but it is hardly the first Government to do so.  The city of Livorno, Italy began a UBI program in June of 2016.

Switzerland rejected a UBI referendum by more than 75% of voters.

It is interesting that supporters of UBI view it as the means of addressing income inequality in society today.  It is interesting that this particular reporter terms it as an urgent necessity.  Definitely something we must absolutely have.

In my estimation, UBI is nothing more than a repackaged welfare (see definition 3) program that is completely socialistic in nature.  These ideas are nothing new and have been around for thousands of years.  Consider the account from Mark 14:3-8 in which some self-righteous people where quite upset at what they considered a waste of money.

It is interesting to me that we hear very little about the fact that Jesus was in the home of Simon, a leper, when this story is recounted.  Or the fact that the woman that brought the box of alabaster apparently had the resources to possess it, and yet she also came to the house of the leper (something a person of wealth would not normally do).  But these are thoughts for another time.

The point I’d like to get to in the account is that there were those that pondered the thought that the ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence and the proceeds given to the poor.  Basically welfare.  Socialism.  Sell the goods of the rich, and give them to the poor.  A concept put forth by the Jewish culture some 2,000+ years ago.

As long as there has been inequality in the world, which Spiritually occurred about the instant that Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit, and Physically has been since about 30 seconds after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, mankind has been looking for ways to make things equal again.

Of course in doing so we have been ignoring the words of Jesus when he answered those very same self-righteous distractors with:

And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.”

I relish the fact that Jesus told them that (basically) they could do good for the poor whenever they wanted to.  I kind of feel the same way about those crying out about inequality today.  No one is stopping you from helping the poor and you don’t need to wait on anyone else to start.

The interesting thing about all of these social experiments to me is that the terms are all relative.  Compared to most (or perhaps even all) of my wife’s family, we are very rich.  However, compared to the people that live just six miles down the road from me, I might be considered poor (the houses in the community six miles down the road average $2,750,000.00 per home.  About 7.37 times the cost of my home).  And those folks could even be considered poor when contrasted to Mr. Zuckerberg.

Another interesting thing to me is that Jesus actually said that those that would inherit the kingdom of heaven, would be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  And with good reason too.  God cannot help you if you are rich.  The rich people of the world don’t run to God every night asking for their next meal or a place to lay their head.  Only the poor people do that.  Sometimes we lose our dependency upon God because we become too rich for him.  We no longer need his help.  We are self-sufficient without him and are happy to keep him on the shelf in the event that bad times come our way.

And yet we still feel like we need to play social games with society.  We need to wipe out inequality.

Alright, I’ll play along.  I’ve got a proposition for Mr. Zuckerberg:

Hey Mark, if you’re reading (and I know you’re not) let’s try a small scale UBI experiment right here at home.

I currently make a little over $130,000.00 USD/year.  I’ll use that as a round number.  I have (roughly) six years to retirement (I could conceivably retire earlier, but lets go to minimum retirement age).

My idea of a “new idea” is to purchase a yacht (how about this one: Sea Ray Fly 460) and to make the Great Loop while writing about the experience and the people I meet here on this Blog.

But obviously I can’t do that on my present income.  I would, of course, still need to meet my basic family expenses, for six years at my current salary that would be $780,000.00, I’d have the cost of the yacht, about $750,000.00, and I’d have the operating expenses of the yacht itself, lets estimate $200,000.00/year or $1,200,000.00 for six years.  That would be $2,730,000.00.  We could just round that up to $3,000,000.00.

Why doesn’t Facebook hire me for a $3,000,000.00 USD contract for six years (I’d bring some diversity to the company since I’m sure you’d agree my political, social, and religious views are different than your own) and I’ll become an ambassador traveling around interviewing people about their situation in life, compiling statistics on exactly what a correct UBI would amount to, as well as exploring the mechanics of such a plan to see if it could realistically be met.  At the end of the six years I’d sail off into retirement, and you could evaluate just how well your $3,000,000.00 was spent.  A social experiment and you get an employee out of the deal as well!

I’ll be waiting for your call ………………….

Are You Silent When Accused?

For the vast majority of us, when accused of wrong doing, we are quick to voice our defense.  Even when we know we are wrong we are wont to profess our innocence.  It seems to be something about human nature that leaves us unable to not respond.  Few, if any of us, will stand before our accusers and remain silent.

I learned a very valuable lesson years ago.  And that is, you cannot defend your own honor.  I was caught in a situation where a member of a church had been involved in a horrific accident and died.  The Pastor of the church was away at the time.  The nature of the tragedy was such that it caught the attention of the local news, who ended up reporting on the death and the horrible events that had befallen the immediate family for several nights (it was over a weekend as I recall).  The news stories prompted an outpouring of support for the surviving family members from the local community.  But no one knew where to send their gifts, that is until word got out that the family attended the same church that I did.  People began to send their gifts to the church.  The church treasurer, who had not encountered any similar situation in the past, took the monetary gifts, carefully logged them, and then deposited them into the church’s general funds.

When the pastor returned from his trip the local news station stopped by for an interview with him.  Questions began to arise as to the disposition of the donated funds.  The pastor accurately reported the state of the funds, however, you may imagine how it sounded in the press when they relayed that the gifts had gone into the churches general bank account.  The pastor came under great scrutiny and there were many negative articles in the press.  The more the pastor tried to explain the situation, the more outrageous the nightly news became.  It was as if his explanations were falling on deaf ears.

Finally, to get out from underneath the firestorm of the press, the church opened a charitable fund in the name of the family who had suffered the tragedy, placed all previously donated money into that fund, made a rather generous contribution to the fund itself, and then had a moderator (a third-party individual with nothing to gain or lose) hold a press conference and announce the fund, publically release the ledger of current donations, and request that all future donations go to that fund.

No longer was the story a hot topic on the nightly news, and the pastor of the church was no longer under the spotlight.  I remember he came to me shortly thereafter and told me, “Paul, you cannot defend your own honor.”  And he was right.  When you try to defend your own honor it rings hollow in the ears of your accusers.  Yet we all seem to rush to do it anyway.

However, today, I’d like to consider one who did not jump to their own defense.  So much so, that the magistrate who presided over the case was left in awe of the individual.  The story is found in Matthew 27:11-14 and goes like this:

Matthew 27:11-14King James Version (KJV)

11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.  12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.  13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?  14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

One might wonder why Jesus stood silent before his accusers.  Indeed most people approach this passage with regard to what Jesus did, as can be found here.  I’d like people to consider this passage from another perspective.  And that is from the point of view of all the people who said nothing on Jesus’ behalf.

Consider the great silence in the hall of justice as Jesus stood facing his accusers.  It was so great that Pilate was in awe (he marveled greatly).  Jesus said nothing in his own defense, but neither did anyone else.

Where were the Disciples who had followed him all throughout the land for three years?  Where were the multitudes of people he had healed over that time?  Where were the lame, whom He had made to walk, the blind whom He had made to see, the sick whom He had healed?  Where was the woman, who caught in the very act of adultery, when brought before him heard the words “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”?  Where were all of the people who could have come to the defense of Jesus and testified on his behalf of the proof that they had been given that he was indeed the Son of the Living God?

You see, I believe that Jesus stood silent before his accusers not only because he was obedient to the Father and was headed to the Cross, but also because he was waiting to see who would step forward to proclaim him Lord.

And I believe he is doing the same thing today.  Jesus is silently sitting in Heaven at the Right Hand of the Father, waiting to see if you, and I, and others around us will come to his defense.

And just like that court some two thousand years ago, the silence today is deafening.  We might as well stand in just as much awe and wonder of the silence as Pilate did when Jesus stood before him.

Yes, Jesus could walk the Earth today and proclaim that he is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  But He would be met by skepticism and ridicule.  However, if those of us who have had our lives touched by Him step forward, one-by-one, and give witness as to how He has healed, how He has forgiven, and how He has saved, that builds a very powerful defense indeed.

Will you?  Will you join me and give witness to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Christ, Jesus, the Son of the Living God, today?  I believe he is silently waiting for us to do so.