Who Sows the Harvest?

“I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”” John 4:38 NIV

It’s harvest time. That means its time for cooler nights and pumpkin spiced everything. One of the popular activities in my household during this harvest time is apple picking. I have to be honest, I’m not a fan. I would much rather just buy my apples at the grocery store, but my wife loves it so I acquiesce. Every year we go and I watch the faces in the orchard. Moms, dads, boys and girls running through the rows of trees; faces gleaming with joy when they find fruit worthy of placing in their baskets. All these faces, all these people, filled with joy as they reap a harvest that someone else sowed.

In John 4, Jesus has just finished telling the Samaritan woman, “everything she ever did” and He sits at the well waiting for harvest that he knows is coming. He knows its coming because he planted the seed. He did the work and now he waits to see the fruit of his labor. The disciples are oblivious. Their concern is tied up in getting Jesus to eat something. After all, they did just run all the way into town to get him the food. Now, Jesus is uninterested. His focus is on something else. Unaware of his reasonings and eager to make their trip worthwhile they push Jesus further. Jesus reveals where is focus is…

““My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34 NIV

You see, Jesus had all the sustenance he needed. It wasn’t found in figs, bread, or fish; It was found in doing the will of him who sent (Jesus) and finishing his work. Jesus was literally on a mission from God. His job was to finish the work the Father started way back in Eden. A work of repairing the divide that separated man from his Creator. A work that Christ completed when he bore our sins upon the cross and uttered the words, “It is finished.”

Now, it’s harvest time.

And just like the faces I see every year in the orchard, our faces should light up with joy as we eagerly look for the fruit of God’s handiwork. The souls, once lost, who are now making their way back to the arms of the Father. As we see them, we become tools used in the reaping process. Paul describes this role as ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). The work has been completed, the seeds have been sowed, the vine has been tended to, but now the fields are ripe for harvest. It’s time for us to reap the benefits of Christ’s labor.

Are you ready to gather the harvest for Christ?

Are you willing to be a minister of reconciliation, leading people back into the loving kindness that the Father has waiting for them?

Lord, today I pray that you would prepare us to participate in your harvest. Let us be joyful as we seek out the fruit for which you labored. Let us be slow to speak and quick to listen to your instruction during this time. Let us share in your ministry of leading the lost back home into your loving arms.

Amen.

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Waiting for the Harvest

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

This has always been one of my favorite verses. During the hardest seasons of my life I would look to this verse and try to draw some sort of solace from the words of this prophet.

Habakkuk was written by a man who was desperate to see his situation change. He and his people had suffered at the hands of ruthless armies. Now a new army had risen up, one that would lay siege to the Holy City. A new army that would light a fire which couldn’t be snuffed out. A fire that would engulf the temple where he once had worshipped. It’s embers still glowing as his people are carried, enslaved and exiled, away from their home. This was a desperate man praying desperate prayers. Hoping, longing, and waiting for His God to respond and save his people from this desolation.

His prayers would resonate with my spirit. Even now, his words take me back to my own time of waiting. It was these words that resonated most…

“Though the fig tree does not bud…yet I will rejoice in the Lord…”

I remember being encouraged that this man, desperate like myself, would still rejoice even if God didn’t come through. My mind would picture the three young Jewish scholars, hands bound as they were pushed in the fiery furnace. “Even if you don’t,” I would whisper to myself…

If only I knew that I had missed the point.

That point I missed is found in verse 18-19.

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Habakkuk 3:18-19 NIV

My interpretation stripped Habakkuk’s statement of the incredible faith that it displays. I thought that this desperate prophet was prepared to worship God despite God not answering his call, but the truth is quite the opposite. Habakkuk was prepared to worship God, even if he saw no evidence of God moving, because he ultimately believed that God would come through.

He is able to make this statement because he is confident in two things:

  • He was confident in who God is. Habakkuk describes God as savior, sovereign and strength. He believes in God’s identity as his savior. As one who would rescue him from the calamity that faced him. As one who would snatch him from the mouth of the lion and carry him to safety. He believed in God’s identity as sovereign, meaning that God was in total control his life and situation. That his fate was in the hands of the Almighty. And he believed in God’s identity as his strength. As the source that was able to sustain him until his salvation.
  • He was confident in what God could do. He believed that God could “enable him to tread on the heights.” He knew that God was able; able to deliver him from his enemies. To equip him with what he needed to walk over the mountain that stood before him.

Maybe the desperate words of the prophet resonate with your spirit. Maybe they remind you of the desperate situation you face today. Let me encourage you.

God is able. More than able. Be confident in God’s identity as a sovereign savior. Trust in the strength that he is able to supply you and he will equip and enable you to overcome.

I write this final devotional of our prayer week from incredible heights. Literally speaking, I am 22,000 feet in the air, flying to Colorado to climb the 2nd largest mountain in the lower 48 states. Spiritually speaking, I write as someone who stood in front of a mountain, begging it to move, until I finally allowed God to equip and enable my feet to walk over the mountain in my way. If you find yourself in the valley be confident that God will lead you up and over your circumstance.

The power in Habakkuk’s statement of faith is his belief without seeing. The time of harvest is coming. These incredibly difficult situations that you have been laboring through will produce fruit. Even if you haven’t seen the signs, trust that it’s coming and you will truly see God’s goodness in the land of the living.

Father, today we declare the words of Habakkuk.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior

The Promise of Harvest

For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about the oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 1 Corinthians 9:9,10 (NLT)

I grew up in a farming town. Like, “Drive Your Tractor to School Day was a thing” kind of farming town. And during harvest season, all capable family members were needed to work as much as possible to get the harvest in and ready for distributors. There was only a narrow window of time for it, so these families would be working 12+ hour days on a seemingly endless list of tasks in order to bring in their crops. So when I read these passages about the harvest, one truth resounds within me: THE HARVEST IS HARD WORK.

Spiritually speaking, the acts of “plowing” (gathering people and resources) and “threshing” (refining of the rough product that is our humanity) take an immense amount of intentionality and work; but we are promised something. Through the hard work, our God will sustain us, and at the end of it all, we will share in the harvest.

Just like God provided for the oxen who labored in the harvest, He also provides for us during this season. We are His children as well as the workers, and He promises we will see the fruit of our labor. Even in the midst of the hardest work we’ve ever done, there is a perspective of God’s provision that can stamp out uncertainty. It’s a joyful hope that we have in spiritual harvest that physical harvest can never secure. So we commit to the work before us with the knowledge of what lies ahead. Whether it’s immediate healing, salvation of a loved one, financial provision we need, or simply the greatness of eternity with our Father, we look up from our work in hope.

Thank you, Lord, for the promise of spiritual harvest. As we continue to chase after You and follow Your will, may we find hope in knowing that you have a plan for the future that far surpasses ours. Sustain us through the work of the harvest that we have committed to do. Amen.

A Father’s Harvest

“He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

Farming was a family business in Bible times. It still is for many today. The plight of the modern farmer is that harvest comes when harvest comes. There is a moment when the crop is ready to pluck up and send to market. It is most valuable in that very moment, not before or after the moment. These days many farmers work off the farm. They punch a clock like the rest of us, except they come home to 150 acres of work. Even with the marvelous and expensive equipment, combines, threshers, reapers, etc, the farmer cannot change the moment when the harvest is ready.

It is a given that some night in the near future farmers all over the Midwest will be putting in all nighters driving machines that cost like houses in order to pull that crop at the right time. It requires the dedication to work, the wisdom to see what needs to be done, and the commitment to follow through.

Imagine the proud farmer from back in the Bible days returning from the marketplace to find the crops ready to harvest. It was the perfect time! Suddenly in the midst of his concern as to how he would bring in the crop the farmer spies a sight that warms his heart and eases his mind. It is his son who has seen that the time is right. He has taken it upon his self to begin the harvesting process. The father joins right in beaming with pride that his son has demonstrated that he has caught the vision of the father. He understands the value system of his father and recognizes that all that the father has done has lead to this day. The father sees this as prudence.

You and I are in the Father’s field. We have the opportunity to seize the moment when the harvest is at it’s ripest. That moment will never be a better moment. Others may come behind to labor in the field but this moment will never repeat itself. If we squander the opportunity we have can we really say that we have learned the Father’s heart? Can we really say we understand the Father’s purpose and passion?

The proverb above tells us of the Father’s responses. Either beaming with pride at our wise prudence or shaking his head in disgrace at the missed opportunity.

God, you have placed us in this harvest field. Your heart is for the harvest. May what we do today in this field of harvest demonstrate that we understand your priority. May we share your love for the harvest. We pray that you will give us eyes to see fruit ready to harvest, lives ready to hear about the love of God, and boldness to step out in our Father’s business.

AMEN.

What Jesus Saw

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭9:36-38‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus had a unique vision of the world. His view saw us all as harassed and helpless. In over three decades of pastoral ministry I have not seen a time when the people around us are so bothered and feckless in their attempts to find peace in their own lives. And it is getting worse. We who have the peace of God, who have discovered the resource of God’s strength, and who live in the shelter of divine wings need to gain the vision that Jesus had. Look around you in the coffee shop where you are reading this, or on the commuter train that you are riding to the office. See what Jesus sees.

The hearts of some are easily seen. Streaks of tears, the worried brow, the looks of concern all betray the broken and harassed hearts. But, look further into the lives of those who have masked it better. What is going on in this man or that woman? Jesus looked and then saw.

There is a problem with a generation that is not accustomed to looking. Without looking we shall never see what Jesus sees all around us. With our head buried in a magazine, glued to our cell phones, or occupied with our own issues we cannot see what Jesus sees. The Lord, aware of our own nature, announces to his disciples what he sees. A field ripe for harvest. Plentiful harvest is still what Jesus sees around you. Your family, your workplace, your apartment building, your neighborhood-they are a plentiful harvest! You are standing in the midst of a plentiful harvest! Fruit is ripe for the taking all around you! What will you do?

Jesus instructs his followers to pray for laborers. Will you pray today?

Oh Lord of the Harvest, bring into this harvest men and women who can see what you see. We confess together that we need a revival of souls in the kingdom. Raise up laborers, raise up witnesses, and raise up intercession that the harvest of souls might not spoil in the fields. And, Lord, use me to share your love and mercy with those who do not know you. Amen.

Labor

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28

Prayer week is coming to a close. From this point, we go off into the new year and attempt to bear fruit. We try and take this attitude of prayer and make it a daily part of our life. Everything we’ve discussed this week: the seed, soil, source, climate; everything that goes into growth becomes more than ideas. They become functional parts of our 2019 life. These ideas become work. They become labor.

It’s fitting that the final factor of growth is labor. Without labor, there will be no fruit. Without someone to pull the spiritual weeds and prune the dead branches the vine will die. The work of the laborer belongs to the Father in John 15. He is the gardener. That doesn’t leave us without labor. Instead, it means that we are not alone in our struggle. We have a strength unlike any other that flows through us and bears our burdens.

This year as you try to bear fruit in your life. As you plant the seed of truth in the fertile soil of your heart; as you plant yourself by the source that never runs dry and you become an influencer of your climate, remember that you are not alone. You don’t have to labor by your own strength. You have a God who empowers you. Without whom, we would be barren. But by the power of God, the same power that raised Christ from the grave, we persevere, we grow, and we bear fruit.

Climate

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:1-3

I live in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. Here in the midwest, we often brag about how we get to experience all four seasons. Those California folks must suffer every day with their constant sunny, 70-degree weather. 😉 In all seriousness, I really do love experiencing the crisp fall, frigid winter, rainy spring, and hot and humid summer. I embrace that. But that comes with certain expectations. For example, there are trees, plants, fruits, and vegetables that I will never get to see, smell, taste or grow. The reality is the climate of my home makes it impossible for some of those things to grow.

The same is true for our spiritual growth. We can plant the right seeds, in the right soil, and provide all the water and nutrients we can, but if the climate is not right for growth, we will not bear fruit. Our climate is what we surround ourselves with; the mediums that have an impact on our daily life. I’m talking about our friends, family, work, podcasts, music, blogs, television, social media, or movies. Those things influence our thoughts, words, and actions.

Some of those can be changed by merely making a choice not to indulge in them. If the movies/television that you watch cause you to stumble, turn them off. If the music you listen to fills your mind with immoral thoughts, turn it off. If your podcasts or blogs distract you from the place God has you in, choose a different blog that feeds your spirit. If social media causes you to judge others, be envious or your friends, or argue with strangers, do whatever it takes to remove that influence.

This isn’t a commercial for KLove or Christian Movies. If the things you watch, read, or listen to do not influence you negatively then there is no need to change. But before you write it off, take a good hard look, and you might be surprised how much they do impact your life.

Remember, the branch that doesn’t produce fruit gets cut off. There can be no stragglers in the Kingdom. There are no fruitless branches on the vine. So if the climate of your life does not promote growth, change your climate.

Now there are factors that you cannot change. Your friends, family, and workplace are not as easy to cut off. Those are relationships. They are an essential part of being a human. But they can still negatively influence you. So how do we change that climate? Well, we change it by introducing Jesus to that climate. Jesus brings light to the dark places. He takes filth and makes it clean. We become the agent of change. We become the influencer.

During your prayer time today, think about your climate. Does it promote growth? If it doesn’t, maybe 2019 is a year of change.

Source.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

To bear fruit, you first need a seed. That seed then needs to be planted in fertile soil. However,  that alone will not bring you a harvest. Without water, plants do not grow. Without a source of life, trees and vines cannot bear fruit. The same is true for us believers. We need a source that will continue to feed us until we bear fruit. Jeremiah says that source is the Lord. 

Trees draw water up from their roots and use some of the water, combined with sunlight and carbon dioxide to create plant food and oxygen. That’s called photosynthesis. The rest of the water is used in a process called transpiration. Essentially this means the water flows through the tree, ignoring pesky things like gravity, and hydrates its branches and leaves. Finally, the remaining water is released as moisture back into the atmosphere, where it becomes rain and restarts the cycle. Why am I giving you a science lesson? Because it can help us understand what happens when we draw from our source, God. 

The “water” that we draw from God is faith. Jeremiah said the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree who spreads out its roots to the stream. When we pull that faith from the stream of living water multiple things happen at once.

  • Faith begins to rise in our life despite circumstance that should keep it down — the same way the water defies the laws of gravity during transpiration. 
  • That faith is a refreshment to our soul that brings us peace and confidence during the drought. The same way trees use that water to hydrate their leaves and branches.
  • Photosynthesis takes two essential elements of life (sunlight + water) and poisonous gas (carbon dioxide)  and turns it into food for the plant and oxygen which is used by all life around it. In the same way, when the water of our faith and the light of God’s grace mix with the toxic circumstances of this life, there is a hope that is created that feeds our soul and breathes life into a world that is gasping for air.

Without water there is no photosynthesis, there is no transpiration. Without those things, there will be no fruit. We need living water. That only comes from one source. Where are you drawing your faith from today? Is it in the world, yourself, or the Everlasting Stream?

Soil.

This past spring my wife really wanted sunflowers in our backyard. So I set out to make her vision a reality. I went to the garden center and bought some seeds. I mapped out the garden and determined the best place to put them. There was a spot in my yard where they would get ample sunlight and would have an opportunity to thrive. So I dug up some holes and planted the seeds. I watered and waited; nothing happened. Not one of the seeds turned into a sunflower. What did I do wrong? Well, the one thing that I didn’t take into account was the soil. I planted my seeds in an area of my yard that was too close to a big tree. It was also too close to a patch of ground covering ivy. My seeds never stood a chance. From the beginning, they were in a constant struggle for water and resources. It was a battle they, unfortunately, couldn’t win. 

This happens in our lives too. In order to grow, the seeds that Jesus is planting in our lives need to be planted in good soil. Jesus talked about this in Luke 8 in the Parable of the Sower. He talks about three different types of soil. The first is rocky soil. Jesus says that these are people who hear the word and receive it with joy but fall away when the time of testing comes because they have no root. The second is among the thorns. These are the people who hear the word but are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they never mature. Last is the good soil. These are the people who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

We obviously all want to be the good soil. Our goal is to abide in Jesus, stay attached to the vine,  persevere and bear fruit.  But unfortunately, not all of us have good healthy soil. If we remain the same, the seed that Jesus is planting will either dry up or be choked out. The good news is that we don’t have to remain the same. God desires for all to come to a knowledge of Him. That means that we all can have good soil, with a little work. God wants to work with you to clean up your soil this year. 2019 will be the year that we stop getting distracted by worries and things of this world. Our focus will be on God, our all in all. What are the distractions in your life that are keeping you from producing fruit? If you don’t know then take some time today and ask God to reveal to you what your soil looks like. He will be faithful to respond.

Seeds.

At the center of every fruit is a seed. Go ahead, bust open that apple, banana, or orange you brought for lunch. At its center, there will be a seed. As believers, it’s our job to bear fruit; similar to real fruit, it starts with a seed. You won’t exactly find these seeds in an aisle of your local garden center, so what do we do? Well, Jesus tells us the answer in John 15:3.

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” – John 15:3

The seed at the center of our fruit is the word of God. Our lives will be barren without the word of God. A couple of quick things to note:

  • First, Jesus is the one who plants the seed. This takes a lot of weight off of our shoulders. To bear fruit worthy of a holy God, we need a seed that is holy. By our own merit, we could never plant that seed. Thankfully, Jesus takes that responsibility for us. He plants a word of life, that can produce fruit that is pleasing to God. His blood is speaking a “better word” in our lives, that purifies us and makes us clean.
  • Second, Jesus has already planted the seed. Which means we’ve already been given what is necessary to produce fruit. We cannot earn it or work for it. Jesus has freely spoken that word in our lives, that we would be made clean.

There are a couple of ways we can apply this as we pursue fruitful lives in 2019. (1) If we want to be actively producing fruit, we must be actively seeking out the word of God. Let’s dig deeper (pardon the pun) in the word this year. Let’s seek Him while he may be found and watch as we reap a harvest in our life that is one hundred fold. (2) In our life, we are meant to bear fruit but we aren’t meant to do it alone. That means that we must help each other. The only way we can do that is by keeping the word of God at the center. The word of God must be at the center of teachings, encouragement, rebukes, and corrections. If we can do that, we will establish ourselves as a church that bears fruit. Then we will experience an outpouring of God’s spirit like never before.