Preparing for a harvest

Although the writings of the prophet Isaiah were given for a specific purpose, in particular, of calling the people of the northern and southern kingdoms back to following God, there are many lessons we can learn today. The information about the coming Messiah springs readily to mind, but we also find other passages that cause us to think and evaluate what we are doing. Notice this passage about farming.

“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil? When he has levelled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.” (Isaiah 28:23-26 NIV) Continue reading “Preparing for a harvest”

Here am I, send me!

Volunteering to step up and become involved seems to be getting less popular in Western society. Often it seems that people do not realise they have any responsibility to do anything – after all, we pay taxes so let the government take care of it! And this can often been seen in Christians – let the preacher or elders do it. Yet this is not the way God has worked throughout history. We see this clearly in the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah was a man who volunteered to step up when God needed him to give his message to the Judah and Jerusalem. We might be quick to state that Isaiah didn’t really volunteer but that God selected him. While this might be true, it wasn’t that God forced Isaiah to be a prophet but that he presented an opportunity for Isaiah to volunteer to serve. Continue reading “Here am I, send me!”

We must hear God's voice to be saved

Hear his voice

Jesus cited Isaiah 6.9-10 to explain why people didn’t understand his parables. Paul cited the same passage, and Luke uses it at the end of Acts, to explain the rejection of the gospel by the Jews.

What catches our attention about the Isaiah passage is that it follows directly the account of the prophet’s vision of God’s holy glory and his calling to go speak to the people. Continue reading “Hear his voice”

The convert is teaching me

The church needs more evangelists. I’ve said it before, and I say it again: The church needs, more than anything, more personal evangelists. It doesn’t need better buildings. Nor does it need more pulpit preachers, which puts me in a category of almost one. Nor does it need more mass media — this from one who works both in print and online, in both Portuguese and English.

Yes, what the church really, really needs is more evangelists.

That’s what the Lord told us to pray for.

We don’t need slicker and prettier programs, either. We need the people of God talking to the people of the world. Continue reading “The convert is teaching me”

Passing the hat

“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NKJV).

An old country ballad (“Picking Time”) includes the lyrics, “Last Sunday morning when they passed the hat, it was still nearly empty back where I sat.” I don’t remember an assembly of the church in the United States where an actual hat was used to gather the collection. However, not long ago in Asia we visited a small congregation where, when it was time for the offering, it was discovered that there was no bag or pan or other vessel suitable for the purpose. I did however have a hat with me, so it was used. I enjoyed sharing with them the expression “passing the hat” and its tradition in our country. Continue reading “Passing the hat”

The queen is dead!

Those worker bees in the yellow hive were not taking as many “orientation flights” as they used to do. Hmm … that’s suspicious.

Yes, we keep bees. Or as some of the more experienced (and skeptical) beekeepers put it, we are “bee have-ers.” We have bees. Whether we can keep them remains to be seen! There are parasites and diseases now that were unknown when my Grandpa kept bees. He just kept them; up there on the hill, in front of the pink rambling roses, out of our way — until we stepped on them with our bare feet in the clover-filled lawn. Continue reading “The queen is dead!”

The gospel of power

Let us never speak of the requirements of the gospel without speaking, in the same breath, of the power of the gospel, not only to save, but to sustain.

Many in the world are power-seekers, Jeremiah 9.23. It gives them a sense of worth and purpose. From the school-yard bully to the national dictator, not a few want to be the winner of the fighter’s ring. Their glory is the knock-out. Continue reading “The gospel of power”

This gift is direly needed in the church

To a church confused about the use of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote, “But you should be eager for the greater gifts” 1 Corinthians 12.21. And again: “Pursue love and be eager for the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 1 Corinthians 14.1.

Paul urged them to desire some gifts more than others. He was speaking, of course, of miraculous gifts, such as prophecy. But if saints in the first century could pursue certain gifts, since they were more important than others, it stands to reason that today saints should value certain non-miraculous gifts above others. Continue reading “This gift is direly needed in the church”

Harvest time

“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. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:34-35 NKJV).

Harvesting of the IRRI rice crop in Bangladesh is well underway at this time. This is one of three or four seasonal harvests in this semi-tropical country. IRRI rice is a variety (or group of varieties) developed by the International Rice Research Institute for production in what was formerly an “off-season” for rice. It has become an important part of the agricultural economy of Bangladesh. Continue reading “Harvest time”

Reaching those around us

After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead he spent forty days with the apostles “and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3 NET). We are not given the details of how many times he was with the apostles during this period or what they talked about. The only details we have are of the last time he spoke with them.

“So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6)

I often wonder if Jesus was disappointed with this question. He had taught the disciples for several years. He had spent time during the forty days after his resurrection telling them about God’s kingdom. Yet they still had in their minds a physical restoration of a physical kingdom with a physical king. They still did not understand. Continue reading “Reaching those around us”