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Posts Tagged ‘James 4’

What follows is a guest post from my brother-in-law, Larry.  Yesterday in
church we had a Sharing Day, something we’ve done now and again to
provide testimony to what God is doing on behalf of his people.  Larry
stood up and gave such beautiful voice to many of the thoughts and
feelings that those of us in the family business have experienced during
the past decade as we have struggled with earthly loss only to find
unspeakably great gain in Christ along the way.  Through it all, Jesus has
been careful to teach us, to cut away idols and character flaws that do not
represent him, to provide in ways that we couldn’t have dreamed, to show
us his beautiful, tender nature, and to allow us to share in these
ordained sufferings.  [For more background on that, see here.]

 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

This has proven a true saying as the three (two brothers and their dad)
have been able to lift each other up when one or the other on any given
day was sinking below the weight of care.  God provided personal
encouragement to each man, which was used to encourage the others
in due season.  It is also a testament to the character of these three
and to the power of God within them, that after ten plus stressful
years they find themselves on good and loving terms.

– – – – –

 

In November of 2008, I (Larry) had been sharing about our business troubles that had begun just two years earlier in 2006. Well, just to bring you up to date – things got worse.

 

These have been long and stressful years for my wife Kim and me, for my brother Dana and his wife Kim, and for our Dad, Roland – years filled with financial hardships, difficulties and challenges resulting in many hard and difficult lessons learned.  There have been questions, realizations, and consequences – all stemming from decisions made, actions taken, and probably from actions taken too late.

 

Some verses come to mind –

Proverbs 22:7 “…The borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 27:23-24 “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”

Proverbs 23:5 “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

 

This has not been a quick test for us. The feelings and emotions we’ve experienced during this time along with the reaction to our circumstances have included confusion, frustration, uncertainty, uneasiness, anxiety, weariness, anger, and despondency. We’ve asked “Lord, will this never end?” At times I was tempted to apply Proverbs 31:6-7.

 

Now I have taken note of the difference between my plans and God’s plans. More so, up until this point, I had considered myself a man-of-action. I would go after projects, anticipate, think ahead, make lists, get supplies, get equipped, make – build – create – do – go, go, go!  Proverbs 16:9 tells us: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”; and Psalm 46:10 tells me to “be still…”

 

At times God says to me: “No,” “Stop,” “Not now,” “Wait,” “This way,” “Not that way.” Then, while in this position I find myself stuck and in an uncomfortable, unnerving, and seemingly unending set of circumstances. I’ve realized I can’t fix it, I can’t stop it, I can’t change it, I can’t free myself – God has brought me to the end of myself!  I’ve come to treasure this verse from 2 Chronicles 20:12 “…We do not know what to do, Oh God, but our eyes are on you!”

 

We’ve been learning that this is an example of how God may, at times, use the storms and afflictions of our lives to work His will and accomplish His good purposes. What are his purposes? Well, among them, He intends to make us aware of our dependence upon Him; to show His glory and power; to show His goodness and loving care; perhaps to discipline us, his sons (as in Hebrews 12); or perhaps to humble us; to turn our attention away from idols and earthly things – Pastor Walt recently reminded us this world is not our home.  Another important lesson God wants us to learn is the rare jewel of Christian contentment.

 

We can take comfort in knowing and believing that God’s timing is always perfect. He brings the storms. He controls the timing, intensity and duration of the storm. Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus (Mark 4:35-41)? “…Even the winds and waves obey him!” The Lord our God is sovereign over the times and seasons and all circumstances of my life. From Ecclesiastes 3 we are reminded that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Then later in chapter 7 we read: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”

 

God gives us rest. He gives us his peace and comfort. He sustains me. He gives me my daily bread. He gives us hope, his mercies are new every morning! He delivers me, he rescues me. He lifts me up!

 

Perhaps God has brought you through the storm. Perhaps God has proven his faithfulness to you over and over and over again.  Walk with me, dare to trust God and lean on him when you enter the slimy pit and cannot find your own way out. Follow him where he leads, when times are hard and hopeless.  Do not become bitter toward your Savior. Do not be anxious.  Keep your eyes on Jesus. No whining, don’t grumble. Be thankful in all things.

 

“It is good for me that I was afflicted” (Psalm 119:71).  Don’t give up on God before his work in you is completed. Remember Joseph in prison – wait on the Lord. He brought me in and he will bring me out!

 

I like the concept of restoration. These are comforting verses:

Psalm 90:15 “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.”

Joel 2:25 “I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…”

 

I don’t know for sure what God has planned for all of my tomorrows. I know that my life is but a mist, a vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes (James 4:14). This world and all its troubles will soon be forgotten. But I do know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25).

 

We want to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to all of you who have been praying for us.  We are privileged to call you our brothers and sisters in Christ!

 

So in closing I can say though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, …no sheep in the pens, no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17-18)!  Praise the Lord!

 

– – – –
Painting: “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt

 

 

 

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“The Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
“Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

(John 4)

Fields White with Harvest

If you live in the upper Midwest as we do, you can’t help but accept the coming and going of the four seasons.  This is not the same as welcoming each season (although that would be a good discipline to work on), but we look around us and must accept, like it or not, that a new season is on our door step and will be fully upon us very soon.  We may not always like that by the end of July/first of August the grains have turned golden in the summer sun and are ready for harvest.  If we have trained ourselves, we may recognize God’s grace to mankind in the season’s altering.

Our dear Pastor Scott led us through some surprisingly uncharted territory this past Sunday morning as he taught through the familiar story of the woman at the well from John 4 and challenged us to see it anew.  Thus, we entered the church service which followed with such meditations as v.23 “the Father is seeking such people” and v. 35 “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

Then, who should be filling pulpit today but one of the many home-grown missionaries our church supports, Aaron Robinson.  He and his wife were working in campus ministry in Toulouse, France, but Aaron has recently been named the Director of Cru’s France ministry, Agape France.  It was one of those Sundays when God seemingly shouts through all voices, “Don’t miss this; sit up and take notice!”

For his text, Aaron used a passage in Luke where Jesus is sending his disciples out to minister in the neighboring towns and cities.  If Pastor Scott’s discussion caused us to consider the who and when of kingdom harvesting, Aaron’s message caused us understand better the how of harvesting.

But first, Aaron began with a challenge to complacency:

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).  We have this small thing called “our life” which will be gone before we know it; yet, what are we told will endure?  God, his Word, and the souls of men.  Aaron addressed his message to all, no matter where our fields might be – in long-term foreign missions or nearer home.  In a sort of Don’t Waste Your Life perspective, Aaron offered the following.

“Six Principles for Harvesting as Lambs Among Wolves”

Luke 10:1-12, 16

Harvesting Principle #1 – Jesus sends his disciples to where He himself is going.

v. 1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”

In his modern classic, Experiencing God 1, Henry Blackaby looks to such passages as Romans 3:10-11 (“… there is no who one seeks God”) and John 6:44 (“No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him’) to impress on the reader that “no one is going to seek God on his own initiative.  No one will ask after spiritual matters unless God is at work in his life.”  He advises, “When you see someone seeking God or asking about spiritual matters, you are seeing God at work” (p.26).  The theme of his book is: Watch to see where God is working and join him there.

Harvesting Principle #2 – There’s a big harvest, but the laborers are few.

v. 2a  “And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that the world will remain ripe until we’re ready.  But our own lives are a mist, vanishing after a little time as, too, are the lives of those of the harvest.  What’s more, there is most certainly a day appointed by the Father when history will be rolled up and after that, the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Harvesting Principle #3 – Pray!

v. 2b “Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

This God-sized mission pushes us to pray; in fact, no great work of God is done without prayer.  “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”  In the process of praying, our hearts begin to change.

Harvesting Principle #4 – You may be the answer to your own prayers.

v. 3 “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Jesus knows the battle is fierce.  Notice he does not say, “I’m sending you like bears before wolves.”  Instead he declares, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  This is a difficult charge, but consider that, just maybe, God would have his sheep call upon their Shepherd for their daily strength.

Harvesting Principle #5 – God will direct you and provide what you need.

vv. 4-12 “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

What God calls you to, he equips you for.  May “our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep… equip you with everything good that you may do his will…”  (Heb. 13:20-21)

Harvesting Principle #6 – Expect mixed reactions.

v. 16 – “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

It is easy to believe that people are reacting to us personally.  It is a discipline to remind ourselves that they are reacting to God and his message.  We cannot control the response of others; we can only control our obedience to God’s call.

In closing, it is helpful as we go out into our world, our spheres of influence, that the Father is seeking people to worship him – it is his will to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).  Pastor John Piper puts it this way: Missions exist because worship doesn’t.  Wherever worship of the one true, triune God is lacking (whether it be a whole nation or people group or in your neighbor or co-worker’s home), we are called to missions.

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see
that the fields are white for harvest.”

– – – – –

1Blackaby Henry, &. King Claude. Experiencing God. USA: Southern Baptist Convention, 1990. Print.

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