John 4: 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
Jesus went on in this passage to encourage us to pray for workers in the harvest fields because the “harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” In our culture today it is so easy to get caught up in the unimportant. Whether or not I have the latest and greatest toys in my garage is nothing in comparison to the eternal destinies of my neighbors. I need to pray that I am one of the workers instead of just one of the observers. But what can I do?
Notice it says “workers” not “evangelists” or “pastors”. This simple word includes any person who is willing to put in an effort toward the harvest. Maybe the thought of sharing Jesus with someone makes you shake in your shoes – but do you know someone God is gifted with boldness? Maybe you could help them by hosting a Bible study in your home where they could use their skills with the people you invite. You could invite everyone you know to a free potluck at your house and your friend with the gift of boldness (but not the gift of hospitality) could flourish. Or maybe you could organize making and delivering meals to women in your neighborhood who just had a baby. Could you simply invite people you meet to church on a Sunday morning? Did you know that 88% of new conversions to Christ happen because a new convert was personally invited to church by someone they knew? You don’t have to be a Pastor to be a “worker”– you just have to be willing.
Psalm 33:20 – 21 (NKJV) Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name.
It can be hard to wait for the Lord, especially when everything seems so out of control. We need to reflect in our thinking on how faithful God really is. This is vital to do when the chips are down. Think about how consistently the sun rises and sets, the gravitational constant keeps us all on the surface of the planet, the rain falls and the stars shine. God set it all up to stay functioning and in order. He can be trusted to care about our lives too. He is our help. He is our shield.
What often happens is that we focus our thinking on how badly we’ve been treated or how unfair our situation has become or, worse, how we’ve given so much and everyone else just doesn’t notice. This sort of victim-hood leads to deeper and deeper self-absorption. The cure is for our hearts to rejoice in Him, to trust in Him. We have to make a choice of faith to be thankful, even during the most difficult times. We can find something to thank God for and we must search this out especially when times are tough. When we do, we find that our chins lift a little higher because the Lord is the “lifter of our heads”.
Psalm 33: 1 – 3 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy….
Have you ever found yourself humming a catchy little tune when you’re lost in the wonder of a beautiful day? Have you ever turned on the tunes when you needed to get on with a good cry? Have you ever listened to something so beautiful every goose-bump on your body took notice?
Music is a marvelous gift to us from God. It moves us emotionally, spiritually and physically. When we hear it and sing it or create it, music has the power to change our state of mind. Studies have shown that music can have a healing effect on our emotions and even speed up physical recovery from injury. In fact, studying music has been shown to increase I.Q. scores. What’s really interesting is that no one is exactly certain why this is so. The power of music still remains a mystery and the Bible tells us we should use this marvelous gift to worship God.
King David tells us here that such musical praise from those who follow God is a beautiful thing. We ought not to be ashamed to sing loudly with shouts of joy. Notice that David lists out several instruments along with the human voice. It seems clear that using whatever instruments we can find to praise the Lord is a beautiful thing too. Let’s worship with gladness, vibrancy and excitement and let the music take us away.
1 Corinthians 10: 11 (NKJV) Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
This scripture ties up a longer section referring back to the stories of the Old Testament. The writer wants us to know that every word in the Bible has value for us. In fact, this tells us that we who believe in Jesus are the ones “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” We were the target of these stories, the reason they were written and we need to value them – both the Old and New Testaments.
Henry Morris points out that the word “examples” here, in Greek, is tupos from which we get our English word “type”. The Old Testament characters and stories are “types” from which we can draw meaning. For example, Job is a “type” of person who understood what it meant to stay true to God no matter what the circumstances and no matter how much you don’t understand why things turn out as they do in life. Job is an example to us, a figure meant to encourage us, give us instruction and hope.
Finally, take a look at the word “admonition” which is nouthesia in Greek. It means “to put in mind” or “to train by word”. God has not left us to fend for ourselves in life. He led more than 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years to give us exactly the “types” He wants to use to “train us by word.” He saw to it that after thousands of years, His training is there to help us make sense out of life. How tragic that so many people never prioritize reading His Bible, let alone studying and memorizing it. Make it your thought today to get into the Word.
Matthew 3: 2 (NKJV) “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
John the Baptist was a prophet, a man of God, who heard the voice of God and relayed what he heard to the people. It had been 400 years since God had spoken to the people and the first word from the Lord was “repent”. Repent means to turn around. The Kingdom of Heaven is not just the concept of heaven “some day”– it is, instead, the rule and power of God working in our lives. This is why it says “at hand” because we can experience the power of God right now. He can empower us to defeat our self-destructiveness and can empower us to enjoy an abundant life.
All that we have to do to begin experiencing the rule of God in our lives is to “Repent.” But too often people think repentance just means stopping some sort of activity or sin. It can mean that but it is much deeper too. Very simply, to repent means to continually turn from a self-directed life (where you and your emotions rule your life decisions) and turn to a Jesus-directed life (where the principles of His Bible rule your life decisions). This sort of continual giving up control over to the leading of God, through the instructions and guidance we find in His Bible, is repentance and it guarantees us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jeremiah 32: 17 (NKJV) Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.
Sometimes life can come at us fast, hard and ugly. It seems like our problems surround us on every side and we can’t see a way out. It is at times like these that we need to remember who we believe in and what that should mean.
The God of the Bible said “let there be light” and light energy exploded across the emptiness of space and time. He formed that energy, by His own will, into all the elements of the universe, formed it into stars and galaxies and planets and people. He knew every detail, down to the tiniest part of an atom and anyone who chances to look can see that only He could have made it. Can anyone really explain why DNA is optically pure, the odds of which are 1 times 10 to the 40,000th power – a number so huge you could not count it in 30 billion years? So, if God can make our DNA, surely He can guide us through our problems. We’ve just got to get hold of who we work for and then everything that troubles us just looks too silly to worry about in comparison.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NiV)
I like the scene in “The Princess Bride” where Princess Buttercup says to Wesley “You mock my pain”and he responds “Life is pain Princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something”. How true! Too often we’re under the false impression that life is supposed to be peaches without pits and roses without thorns. Jesus, however, was much more real and what He promises is that by following Him we can overcome difficulties with dignity and experience real victory since He has already overcome the world. Follow Jesus and you will find peace – no matter what the storm.
Malachi 3:8 (NKJV) “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!” But you say, ‘ In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings….
R.C. Sproul wrote a great article on this verse that I’m summarizing here but I recommend reading Sproul’s article also (http://www.crosswalk.com/spirituallife/11607311/page1/).
God is saying that to withhold the full measure of giving God expects of His people is to be guilty of theft against God Himself resulting in a curse on the thief. The principle in the Old Testament was to give 1/10th of our gross, yearly income to the temple. But today, one statistic shows that only 4% of Christians actually give 1/10th– only 4%. But regardless of the accuracy of this percentage, it is obvious that the vast majority of Christians do not tithe.
The most common argument against tithing is that tithing is part of the Old Testament and no longer applies to us. But nowhere in the New Testament is tithing said to be ended. In fact, Jesus contrasted the Old and the New when He taught “the Old covenant says don’t commit adultery but the new says don’t even allow lust in your heart, much less adultery”. The Old is only a shadow of the New, and that which casts the shadow is GREATER than the shadow. So, tithing should be the starting point of even greater responsibility, not less. But most of us give by far less than the believers under the Old Testament.
The second argument is that we “can’t afford to tithe”. But this puts the idea of giving to God at the bottom of a list of priorities instead of at the top. God doesn’t want to be at the bottom of my priority list and when I am willing to “sacrifice” to make sure I have cable TV but I’m not willing to prioritize God’s work, that can be a really weak argument. Besides, in America, down economy or not, we have so much food we have to worry about weight, so much housing we can afford to think about a bigger home (when more than ½ the world lives in the equivalent of a card board box) and so much access to transportation we can worry about getting a new car every 2 or 3 years when more than 50% of the world has none.
Finally, prioritizing our giving to God requires us to budget, plan and be purposeful with our resources instead of being poor managers. Better management is going to be blessed. In addition, when we give faithfully we find a joy in really helping God’s work that we can’t find as outsiders. But most importantly, God Himself said “Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (3:10). Have you put God to the test in your giving? Maybe it’s time you started
1 John 3: 18 – 20 (NKJV) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
The only real power the Devil has over us is lies and fear. Often we listen to his lies about how pathetic we are, how we’ve done this or that or, worse, how we just don’t measure up to what someone else is doing in their family or their church. We join into this lie with self-criticism and the temptation to quit even trying to live a life pleasing to God. But notice how practicing real love results in two things: assurance that we really do belong to God and this practice defeats our tendency, magnified by our self-criticism, toward apathy. When I feel like maybe God is just “done” with me and when I feel reminded of my many, many faults I need to remind myself (and the Devil) that the Bible says: “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me”. And then, to further defeat this depressing, heavy feeling I need to get busy in the service of other folks. The love spoken of in this verse is a practical, hands-on effort toward seeking the highest and best interest of others, even at our own expense. When you volunteer in the children’s ministry, take food to a sick person, take time out to pray with a hurting friend or get involved as an usher, with a sincere heart that is not self-seeking (that’s REAL love), then God WILL begin to speak assurance into your heart.
II Samuel 22:32 For who is God, save the Lord? And who is a rock, save our God?
God is real. He is not a philosophy or an abstract concept. He is not unknown. When David says “who is God, save the Lord” he is asking a rhetorical question – a question that has an obvious answer. There are many concepts of God and gods but the God who is real, the Lord almighty, has revealed Himself through His miracles, through His people, through His prophets and His word. He has proven Himself utterly dependable, unlike the false gods of the heathen. The false gods were capricious, self-centered and unpredictable but the God who is real is a rock. He is solid, unchanging, dependable and true. When we meditate on this we can find a deep sense of well-being but it’s so easy to let the fears of lay offs and tottering economies overwhelm us with a sense of dread. So let’s remember that the God who revealed Himself with a mighty hand when He took the people of Israel out of Egypt long ago will carry us through when we trust Him. Our God is a rock – and you can depend on Him.