All things

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

This was a bad week for us from our small perspective. One close friend died and we got news that another couple we loved were getting a divorce. Then yesterday I was in terrible pain from a small workplace accident. We were talking about going to the emergency room but decided to pray and wait for morning. My plans seemed to have come apart and yet as my wife prayed for my badly bruised ankle a peace overtook me. In spite of all I am overwhelmed by gratitude for the life God has given. Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of our oldest son! We have each other still though 44 years to pray together as we pass through deep waters. Just like you I do not understand in the heat of my painful moments why God would allow it to happen like this but he does and then works it all together for good. Just like a corn field needs someone to plow it up then disk it down. Someone has to turn the earth upside down before it can look  good right side up! God is still and always so good!kimg0340.jpg

The Farmer and the Harvest

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:3-8

When we were looking at those seed catalogue it is interesting to remember that each variety in the book was accompanied by a photograph but it was not of the seed, it was always of luscious melons, red ripe tomatoes or deep green broccoli. No one was ever much wanted to see shriveled up corn kernels, dried beans or tiny carrot seeds. In the same way the heavenly Father sends people out to our hearts to plant the seeds, But it doesn’t really matter much how the sermon looks or how the hymn sounds because it is only the seed. What God is looking for is a harvest.

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Of all people perhaps the farmer’s work requires the most faith. He begins his plans in winter when snow drifts are still filling his fields. He plows in early spring never knowing when the weather will be warm enough for planting. He plants his seed in the soil and waits because he has one all he can do. Unless God sends the right amount of rain, warmth and sunshine his crops will never grow. Then each summer as the Lord permits the farmer harvests goes to market to get the best price he can for purchasing all his family’s needs for the year plus new tools and seed so he can start it all over again next year!

 

God chooses to do the work of the farmer in our own lives. He sees us when we are as cold and hard as a snow filled field. Then He sends workers day after day, month after month and sometimes year after year to break up the field of our hearts for planting. Last He sent His son to die on the cross and fall like a grain of wheat into the ground of our hearts. And God does all that He does in hope that the most precious of all seeds which He has planted in us will grow strong and pure in our hearts to yield an eternal harvest of life!

The Farmer and the Seed

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:3-8

 

Do you remember church bulletins, hymn books or microphones mounted solidly to large wooden pulpits? Technology has certainly changed everything about our worship services in the 21st century. While many of the changes have been great the issues of the human heart haven’t really changed at all since Jesus talked about the farmer’s day of planting 2000 years ago.

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Some of us come so busy glancing our smart watches and text messaging our friends that the word just bounces off us just like the seed that fell on the path. We come to church and return home with no idea of what was said. Other Sundays we think the message was great and head home enthusiastically entering into our calendar the five AM prayer time and the second Saturday of the month leadership training course.  But as we drive the office calls and asks if we could come in extra early on Monday and we get a text from our son’s school asking if we could volunteer to coach the soccer team this spring. Other times we  do continue the outward motions of the commitments we have made but remain in ungodly relationships and activities that clash strongly with everything we believe. We decide that it  is too hard to break away from those things that displease the Lord and put on the back burner the plans for a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

We excuse ourselves by inwardly accusing our pastor. We rationalize that the messages have been weak and that the worship team is pretty disorganized.  Church seems dull and people don’t reach out to us when we think they should. Yet the farmer is the same and the seed is the same. Our challenge is to prepare our hearts for his word but to guard what is planted so it will yield a harvest one day.

The Farmer Prepares for Spring

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering his seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:3-8

One of my favorite things to o in winter was to scan through seed catalogues and plan for spring planting. The catalogue pages were always filled with colorful photos of how those dry hard seeds might look if I planted them at my house. Then I would draw the shape of next year’s garden, and decide where to put the cucumbers and squash and which new varieties of tomato would grow best on the mountain where we lived.

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Jesus tells a story of a farmer not unlike any of us. He had decided what seed to plant and chosen exactly the right day to place them in the soil. He probably left his house with a bag bursting at the seams with the precious seed and walked out to begin his day’s work. As he started up the hard path some of the seed spilled out and as it bounced on the hard ground the birds began to follow him and gobble up every one. Once he arrived he tried to evenly spread the seeds in the furrows and from one end to the other of the field to the other. But even though all of the plowed field looked beautiful and clean, underneath the surface there were hidden rocks in some of the corners and thorn and thistle seed had blown in overnight at the edges. No one would be able to tell what would become of the harvest until the seed began to grow.

The same story is worked out every Sunday in many of our churches. The same sermon is preached to all of us, but the message has radically different results depending on how we listen. But our problem is not with the one who planted the seed, because we all have the same farmer! The difference at harvest time comes from how our field has been prepared. Before you hear even one more sermon maybe the best prayer should be, “Oh Lord prepare my heart!”

 

One Winter in the Barn

Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn

I remember dark winter mornings in the barn. There the pitch black of the milking stall gave way to the gentle light of a candle stub placed on the beam. The aroma of the hay mixed together with the pungent smell of our Guernsey cow at close quarters. I can still see our cat Kansas City waiting for her small share of milk. The cow snuffed up the dairy mix of ground corn allowing me to do my work and I remember that our Lord came in such a humble place. Though being in God’s form with power, riches and honor He willingly chose to come to Bethlehem’s barn. We do not know for sure that it was winter, yet that night was still surely cold. Cows and sheep, chicken and donkeys haven’t updated since his birth. All was still in that place as the animals slept till the baby cried, the shepherds came and bowed down together with angels to worship Him.

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Or gather into barns

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26

When we lived on the farm we always busily canned and pickled our way through the summers. Sometimes we picked blackberries to make jelly or we put up green beans in the freezer. With all the work it was easy to forget to enjoy the summer. We felt constantly pressed because in the back of our minds, long cold winter days waited. Though it is biblical  to store abundance with an eye to the days ahead, Jesus warned us against worry. He knew that no matter how big our barns, there was something in our heart that says, “It isn’t going to last the Winter!” 

So, the great Teacher takes our focus off our need and directs us to the birds. They have been flying by, singing their songs and living every thrilling momp1020288ent, as if it were their last. The robin didn’t lie awake in her nest last night worrying when the first frost would come. The barn owl didn’t redouble his efforts at catching prey because he imagined that leaner times lay ahead.

Then Jesus asked a question to which He was sure that we would know the answer.

“Are you not of more value than they?”

Sometimes we forget that when Jesus laid down His life for us He was making a value judgement about. As He carried the cross up the final rise to Calvary He was saying, “You are worth it all to me!” Knowing we are worth so much to Him in the midst of pressure and worry we can look to Him and smile because we know we are in His care. No matter how long our winter may be our Father’s barn will always be big enough to hold all we need!