Today is a Work Day

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is [indeed] plentiful, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Matthew 9:37‭-‬38 AMP

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I’ve repeatedly existing businesses being impacted by staffing shortages. In each case, there is plenty of work that needs to be done, but positions remain open and unfilled. I’m not going to get into the political opinions behind “why” people think this is happening or “who” they have decided to blame for this situation. But I’m guessing that unless you’ve been holed up inside your house for the last 3 years, that you’ve probably noticed some type of impact to businesses around you where it seems they are at times short staffed and having a pretty rough time maintaining the quality and efficiency they would hope for. The work might still all get done with fewer workers, but it takes longer or the quality suffers, or the workers get burned out, etc. Clearly in those situations, things are not running in the midst optimal way.

A similar perspective can be appreciated when it comes to God’s Kingdom harvest. I don’t want to get mired up in whether your doctrine would have you looking at a set number of “elected” who will be harvested by fewer workers — or would have you considering the increased numbers of possibly unreached souls if workers aren’t fulfilling their call to evangelize. I will say that a healthy balance is to consider both perspectives with a healthy fear of God and sense of purpose — in order to not be complacent in our walk and in our calling.

There is work for you and I. There is no profit on our complaining or blaming whatever easy “they” we pick to point our fingers at — but there is a lot of value in our looking at our own life and being honest with ourselves about what we are doing as our part in the harvest.

What Kingdom work are we doing today?

We can’t remain satisfied living off of memories of the work we once did in the name of God, nor can we put off until tomorrow the work than can and should be done today.

Believer, are you a worker? Because the words Christian, believer, worker, and disciple should be one and the same! How can we say we believe, yet ignore the very things we say we believe in how we live and how we serve God?

Isn’t the worst heresy and most blasphemous thing that a “christian” could do be to say that the Holy Spirit of Almighty God lives within me — but prove to the world by our life’s testimony that we are dead, empty, complacent about God’s Word — that we are half as loving, and twice as wicked as they are themselves!

Lord, whatever we have to bring in the way of your Kingdom work today, don’t let us hide it away — but help us to be effective so that our work is multiplied for your glory and honor. Help us remember the joy in the working alongside you — the joy in a life lived in worship. You know the dangers and the traps we are prone to fall into when walking on our own, so lead us hand in hand today in what you have for us. And if we have grown complacent, stir us and wake us from our weariness and the hardness of our hearts. Heal us, prepare us, and use us — even as we repent, surrender, and step out in faith. Your grace is sufficient. Send us out to be your workers today, and every day until the harvest is complete. Amen.

Complementary Contrast

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]
John 16:33 AMP

This morning, I am encouraged that there are two ways to look at this verse:

  • “In Me” VERSUS “In the World”
  • “In Me” AND “In the World”

If we look at “In Me” to be speaking of Heaven, then we can at the troubles and trials and suffering of this life NOW as a CONTRAST the life of perfect peace that a Christian can look forward to in the FUTURE.

But if we look at “In Me” as His victory abiding in us through the Holy Spirit that is promised to the believer RIGHT NOW as a necessary COMPLIMENT to our troubles, trials and suffering.

Someone unawares of concepts like Christ’s abiding victory, the Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of God doing God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven might look at God only as a promise of “Heaven vs Hell” after we die. And while the promise of Heaven and meeting God “some day” has its place and its purpose — leaving one’s religion as only this perspective can leave a wrong impression of God as only a far away, hidden, quiet, inactive, “big daddy in the clouds”. If this is our experience, understanding, and perspective of God, we will do well to press in closer to the abiding presence of Christ In Me.

Christ In Me is close, present, guiding, powerful, and a comfort. Christ In Me is Him walking with me inside the fiery furnace type trials that I will experience in this life when I stand upon His Word.

The Word of God doesn’t promise Health, Wealth and Prosperity if you’ll fork over your money to a swindler, dress the part one day a week, and remember to say something about God at meals and bedtime. That might be how some people sell religion as a way to control, manipulate, and oppress others — but the Word of God introduces us to Christ and to walking in The Way, which are clearly quite different than the ways of either the worldly/carnal or the religious/self-righteous.

This verse seen from both perspectives (of both CONTRAST and of COMPLIMENT — of both a promise for NOW and a promise for the FUTURE) provides a helpful tension to neither let me ignore the reality of Hell and Heaven, nor to dismiss it as only worthy of buying into a religious membership card as a means of purchasing fire insurance against Hell. This perspective both demands the importance of abiding In Christ Jesus every day for a peace that goes beyond understanding, and promises and reminds the believer that Christ has won the victory.

Lord, some of us may know about religion and about you but may not yet know you — by your grace, may we believe in Christ Jesus’s victory, confess our sins, surrender our lives, profess our faith publicly, and live our lives abiding in you and producing the fruit of your Holy Spirit, for your honor and glory. Some us may know you but need our flickering flame stirred into a roaring fire of abiding in you and walking in our calling and purpose — by your grace, may we humble ourselves, repent of our sins, put on the whole armor of God, cast away everything that hinders us, and walk in The Way. Amen.

Infinitely More

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NLT

In my life, I’ve thought of and even asked for things that were so much less than best.

My eyes might see something, or my flesh might crave after something, or my first might long for something, or my pride might have even demanded something — that truly was costly and harmful and not beneficial.

We are prone to wander after the less that is offered right now by this world (or by our own means), rather than trusting God for “infinitely more”.

How often have we surrendered “more” and “best” to the their, rather than trust God for “infinitely more” — and then even let our swelling pride take credit for our “accomplishments”? I know that I’m guilty.

Lord, you are able and wise, and you are at work in your people. Help us to remember this, trust in you, and give you all glory for the infinitely more that you are doing through us for your kingdom and your glory. Not just for us, but for our children, their children, and Gregson after generation Amen.

The “Why” Matters

Today, as we drove home, I asked Mia, “There is no right or wrong answer to this, but I want to hear what you think. Why do you think that daddy goes to church?”

It’s a great question to ask when your child knows that they can be perfectly honest with no risk of consequences.

And in my case, her answer to my question let me know that I had not been making it clear why it is truly important to me.

If there is no “why” behind it that she can understand and make sense of, or if it is just “that’s what people do on Sundays around here”, or if it is just “that’s what my parents taught us to do”, or if it is anything less than the whole truth about what it truly means to me — how can I expect her to not set it aside like so many other habits and traditions when she moves out to make a life of her own.

I’m going to side track for a moment for clarification…

And don’t read me wrong here, I’m not looking to just indoctrinate her into blindly trusting men that put on a religious show in order to oppress and take advantage of others and grow fat and lazy off of the money of those they are supposedly serving. What I’m talking about is having a transparent and open conversation with my daughter about “why” it is important to me. There is no pressure or expectation that she must make the same type of decision in order to “be like me” or to “make me proud”, nor should SHE have to be responsible for quenching any FEARS OF MINE about her future or eternity. We’ve always made this clear to her.

Back to the topic at hand…

If I’m not sure that my answers about why I go to church are good enough — it isn’t that it isn’t good enough for her — because she doesn’t ask those types of detailed questions about “why” behind the restaurants or theme parks or other places that we go together. That answer definitely matters to me, though — shouldn’t it?

I shared with her my reason why, and explained that I don’t pressure her because I want her to eventually end up with her own reason, not just mimic what she sees me doing. And Mandee shared with her that she had her own reason too — and that for both of us, it was meeting with God and Him revealing to us how our old life was tempting us with bait and handing us costly consequences over and over again — and that we had been blind to it for so long but we now knew a new Way, a better Way.

Why does this matter?

When I was young, I went to church because that is what my grandparents and my parents did. I heard about scary hell, and heaven with streets of gold — but they also told me about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, and I saw them every day and knew they didn’t live perfect examples of Jesus Christ in front of me. So, when I left home, I completely abandoned their religious traditions and struck out on my own into a life of hard lessons.

So what am I doing?

I have talked with God about my little girl, and even a lot of you, my friends. Not because I think that yall need prayer more than me, or that I think that I’ve got it all right and yall have it all wrong. But because I’ve seen Him take someone like I’ve been and touch my life and change me — and I know He can sure do even more with you. I trust Him, I don’t have to manipulate my daughter. But I do need to be honest and up front with her (and with myself) about my personal “why”.

My point is… the “why” really matters.

Why was I where I was this morning?

Why was I not somewhere else instead?

Am I satisfied with my “why”?

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

1 Peter 3:15‭-‬16 NLT

“Fear and Obey”

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT

Some might look at this call to “fear and obey”, see that it is from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiasties, and immediately dismiss it with some statement like “were not under the law anymore”. My recommendation, friends, is that we not exclude or leave out portions of the Word of God or cherry pick things to listen to, preach, or obey — but that we do our duty, fear God and obey just as this verse teaches.

But how does a man fear someone he doesn’t know or obey something he does not understand? This is where duty comes in. It is our duty to get to know God. It is our duty to learn His way. And while for saints, the Holy Spirit does well in teaching and guiding and comforting — there are also other spirits (and even our own feelings and desires) that would love to counterfeit that guidance and lead us astray.

If we want to truly obey God, we can’t reasonably think that we can point the finger at “the devil made me do it” or “you are the one who made me and gave me those desires” as our excuse for disobedience — this is where the fear of God and respect for His Lordship over our lives comes in. So we must learn how to judge between God’s will and The Way that the Holy Spirit leads — versus everything else. We must learn God’s voice and character and nature through The Word in order to distinguish and obey.

God’s will is not as simple as a 10 point list of DON’Ts, or a large list of IF THEN ELSE statements, or even a larger gathering of CASE statements (sorry for the programming reference of you aren’t familiar with the specifics) — because hardened hearts (just like hackers finding holes in a program) will find a way to follow the letter while still completely subverting the true intent. Someone can cherry pick a single line and twist it to their own agenda and purpose, just like Satan when He tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and just like many fake preachers, politicians and “Christians” who just use the gospel for their own benefit and agendas but have no true fear, reverence or love of God. I’m not saying this to point a judgemental finger at “THEM”, as if that somehow makes me better than them, as if you should instead listen to me. No, I have failed God in this same way myself repeatedly, which is why I repent each time, accept that I am forgiven not by my own self-righteous but by the Blood of the Lamb, and I resolve myself yet again to fear and obey.

The point of “fear and obey” is not to produce shame in a Saint (because there is no condemnation in those who have been brought from death to life). But since there also is no shame in the wicked who hate God and do not fear Him at all, the absence of shame isn’t the point. The still condemned cannot simply live lives of wickedness, saying they are saved by Christ, lying by saying that they are filled by the Holy Spirit just because they went through some religious ceremony involving “water and words”, never feeding and obeying God — because their deceit testifies against them and “blasphemes the name in the eyes of the unbelievers”.

The point of “fear and obey” is that the world would see Christ in us — not that they would have yet another batch of evidence for speaking badly of Christians, of the church, and of God. So we should ask ourselves, “Are those around me seeing Christ or seeing something else?” This is our duty, this is the point of “Fear and Obey”. Not so that we might live up to some measuring stick God has set for us in order to earn a prize — but to reveal clearly to a dying world the true children of God — to reveal Himself alive in His Children.

Lord, if we hear “Fear and Obey” and it causes its to shrink back in offense or shame, maybe that is because we don’t know or trust the one saying it, and our knowledge of those in power using such words to oppress and exploit and condemn is a trigger to dark things. I pray that where this is the case, that you will reveal yourself merciful, kind, loving, just and faithful, and that your very nature and character will woo us away from the dark and into the light, to prove that The Way is the best and most abundant and most free choice. If we hear “Fear and Obey” and dismiss it in apathy or presume upon your promised grace in order to trample upon the Blood of the Lamb, I pray that your Word will bring conviction, or that discipline will come, or you will confront us face to face before it is too late for us to turn back and be saved. If we hear “Fear and Obey”, and we are convicted and compelled to repent and to draw closer to you, I rejoice, I celebrate, I praise, and I worship you for doing it again! Thank you Lord! Amen.

Firm Footing

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
Psalms 143:10 NLT

As I scan social media posts by friends this morning, I am surprised by how many are hurting. Even some who are mentioning joyful events like birthdays and centenary can’t seem to avoid touching on something melancholy as well. For many of us, this season of life has come with very real and very new challenges.

But in each instance, those who are willing to bear there weaknesses transparently, and lean upon faith, and look to the family of others around them who have faith as well seem to come out the other side of the challenge differently than those others.

I’m not saying that their asking for prayers always makes their problems immediately disappear and be replaced by happiness, prosperity and health. But there is something that happens where they continue forward, rather than being caught up stumbling through the past and wasting the present.

There is a firm footing to faith that is easily distinguished by onlookers when troubles fall upon us. It doesn’t mean that the hurt goes away, but it demonstrates something that even the best poets may have trouble putting accurately into words — but we all know it when we see it.

Imagine a mother seeing her baby hurt, knowing there is little she can do to “fix it” in the moment, but knowing that seeking God and calling together her closest to seek God genuinely and with a razor sharp focus is truly important. Imagine a child watching their father’s health failing shortly after having watched their mother die, seeing and experiencing all of the sights and sounds of the ICU that bring painful memories flooding back, but refusing to give up hope and insisting on praising and worshiping God and calling those close to do the same.

Faith does not look like a Sunday morning church attendance as much as it does a family of faith praying for each other throughout the week and showing up to help each other.

God’s will is that we love Him and love one another. So when we say “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.” — we do well to remember how we can best hurt with others when they are hurting, and centenary with them when they are celebrating.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 NLT

For those of us hurting:

For those of us celebrating:

Lord, teach us to come alongside each other with love that shares in burdens and in joy. Help us to declare your strength and our own weaknesses publicly for your honor — and privately for our own humble repentance. We know that you are proving yourself a firm foundation and revealing your children even today. Amen.

Love without Expectations?

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Luke 6:35 NLT

How contrary is this to the natural, carnal, selfish mind!

I immediately think of politics, where you might easily find some of the loudest people spouting off about “religious values and morality” with judgemental fingers pointing at the sins of others (trying foolishly to try and enforce their own beliefs and values into others who do not agree) — but who also vehemently oppose funding or help or assistance that doesn’t help themselves or further their own agenda. No matter where you sit politically, it is probably easy to see this about others. But are we willing to see it about ourselves, and change?

Are we willing to not only half heartedly ask God to help us with this — but fully surrender and trust Him when an opportunity to love those who are so very different from us? And when I say love them, I’m talking about not with just our thoughts, words and prayers, but with our time, our involvement, and our money.

The Word of God hits at the heart of things. How can we say we love others, but only do for those who we feel are aligned and similar to ourselves! What kind of self worship is it to only love and sort those like ourselves! What kind of mammon worshiping capitalism is it to profit of of those like ourselves and penalize those who are not!

Lord, help us, because these battles are clearly not won by the flesh but by the power of your Holy Spirit. Write upon our hearts your ways so that we are truly willing, discipline us gently into the light, and lead us down that narrow path for your glory and honor. Amen.

Help Others

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:2‭-‬4 NLT

It is easier for me to fall out of consistent application of good and healthy and Godly practices when I think that it is just affecting me. But there is something about engaging and involving and helping others that reminds me of the importance and helps me get things back on track when course correction is necessary.

If I need to start exercising regularly, it is easier when I have an exercise buddy for encouragement and for accountability. When I need to change my eating habits to something more healthy and less indulgent, it helps to have others whose food choices at mealtime are an enchantment and not a temptation. When I need to be more responsible and purposeful with my finances and not wasteful or irresponsible, having people around me with the same mindset is a treasure and not a distraction. And when I need to be closer to God and more faithful in my pursuit of Him, being surrounded by a others who are seeking Him is very helpful.

When I isolate, it is easier for me to make excuses for NOT doing what I know I should because I might think that it is only negatively impacting me, because it is just this once, or a million excuses that pivot on self.

Christ didn’t live to please himself, but to serve others.

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

I’m not saying that we should be busy bodies and gossips — but that we need community.

Lord, you know that I have been weak in the area of being a good and faithful friend and community member. And Lord, I fear that this isolation has hurt my growth, my purpose, my impact, and the abundance in my life. Help me to look outward more at how I can better help and serve others. Help me to establish consistent healthy and Godly habits in all areas of my life and to share in my life with the group of wonderful people that you have brought into my community. Not for my honor but for yours, and in spite of my weakness but by your strength. Amen.

Helping Hand

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.
Isaiah 41:13 NLT

This morning, our family got up early and exercised with weights together for our first time. My daughter and wife cleaned out and organized the room yesterday so that we would be able to use it as an exercise room again. My wife helped encourage me out of bed this morning, and I encouraged my daughter awake. After we gathered in the basement workout room, I helped teach them proper technique for each exercise as we focus on our arms this morning. Today was a restart for another one of our old, good habits that had fallen out of practice. And we have been helping and encouraging each other in many ways to get back to having these good habits consistently a part of our lives.

As much as we are trying to help ourselves and each other, we fail each other at times. And sometimes circumstances occur where we aren’t physically nearby in order to be able to help each other. But God is with us. He holds our hands, and He is here to help us.

I think the most helpful part of the verse though, is the “Do not be afraid.” Our family just went through a season that was very difficult and where we saw many good habits torn down by circumstances. We saw people (both family and friends) that were by our side and a regular help and encouragement leave our daily lives because of so many different reasons. And our own attention and focus and time shifted to meet the wide array of challenges, needs and distractions so that we were no longer razor ficus in purpose and direction, but were seemingly pulled in many directions. I even saw my prayer, my worship, my time in The Word become affected as my focused shifted away. But you know what, God was still there with me. He wasn’t surprised by it, He wasn’t jealous and indignant about this season. He didn’t hold it over my head to demonstrate yet again why I don’t deserve Him. He is here to help me, not tear me down.

Yesterday, I got to eat dinner with my dad at Capri’s Italian while he was back in town. Since they now live in Myrtle Beach, I hadn’t gotten to spend time with him on Father’s Day, so I really just wanted some time together with him — just to spend time together, and to remind him how important he is to me. My parents help us so much, and we rarely get to help them. In fact, it is practically impossible for us to ever pay for a meal when we are with them. But dad had to go to the restroom during our dinner, and I quickly gave the waitress my card and paid for dinner while he was unaware in the restroom. After he came back and we finished eating, he pulled out his wallet and as I told him, “You don’t need that.” He smirked that familiar smirk and I’m sure the decades old and familiar back and forth of me trying to offer and him insisting to pay was warning up in his mind. But I had already taken care of it.

I wonder if our praise and worship is sort of like that to God? He doesn’t truly “need” anything from us. And anything we have to offer Him in return isn’t going to impact His worth or value. And He is the giver of his gifts. So even when we offer what little, relatively insignificant good gift we have to offer him — we are really just trying to emulate back to Him what we have seen Him do for us our whole lives.

Lord, thank you for your consistency, your faithfulness, your unending love and mercy towards us. Help our lives to be a loving worship full of the fruit that you so abundantly give to us freely and generously. Amen.

Christ In Me

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
Galatians 2:20‭-‬21 NLT

Last night, I wrote about the Spiritual Principal that the story of the Widow’s Mite teaches us about — and how that applies to all things of the heart, not just money.  And today, we are talking about “keeping the law” versus “Christ lives in me”.

This concept of genuine faith and genuine worship of God is at the heart of our very being.

A quick related interjection: One of my favorite books of the Old Testament is the book of Amos. It is a prophetic book of warning about God’s judgement not only on the world but on God’s own chosen people. This book might shock many modern day “Buddy Jesus Christians” who would model God in the image of their own “feelings” on what “love” should look like. But even the new Testament teaches us about the concept that God’s word is a valuable plumbline (Matthew 7:24-27) to guide us in an annunciation and fruitful life — living by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:17-26) — and that God will judge the church first (1 Peter 4:17). (NOTE: That is a lot to glue together, so I’ve just left the references for those who want to pull out their shovels and dig deeper, rather than quoting them here.)

“Christ in me” is different than:

  • Keeping the law as an obligatory heavy burden (condemnation)
  • Keeping the law in order to compare ourselves to others (self- righteousness)
  • Outwardly keeping the law in order to use it to judge and Lord over others (hypocrisy)
  • Trying but failing to keep the law so that we are remorseful and remain engaged in our religious activities to constantly be making amends or seeking contrition from a religious system (shame)
  • Presuming upon God’s grace and using the idea of “Buddy Jesus” as an excuse for continued wickedness (willfully sinning)

Something that we should realize is that there is no way for us to manipulate things and use God’s Word for our own selfish purposes. We are not smarter than Him so that we might twist His Word into a loophole that we might use against Him in court at judgement in order to justify ourselves. We are not justified by our own feelings, thoughts, or misunderstanding of His will — we can only be saved by the Blood of the Lamb and justified by grace through faith.

So, I must genuinely ask, “Has my old self been sacrificed? Does Christ truly live in me?” This is the all important question, my friends.

Heavenly Father, I believe in you, and I trust and believe in Jesus Christ who lived a sinless life, died a sinners death on the cross, was dead, buried in a tomb, and rose again to life, and sits on your right hand of authority, to judge between those who are alive in Christ or dead in sin. I believe that by myself, I am spiritually weak and sinful — but by the power of your Holy Spirit you are bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self- control in my life for the glory of God and for the revealing of the Children of God to be a light of hope in the midst of a dying world. Help us to have your Word written upon our hearts, to live out the spiritual principals that fulfill the law of Christ, and to be the body of Christ serving and loving one another. Amen.