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Embrace Your New Name
Gideon gets a new name, Jerub-Baal. It’s an honor name, but not a name that honors Baal. It means “Let Baal contend with him.” It means Baal has a fierce opponent in Gideon. It means Baal should think twice before he makes another bid for president. Baal has a challenger and a nemesis in the land now. Baal beware.
James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee. That’s impressive, because Peter says the devil’s like a lion, seeking someone to devour. Our impulse with lions is to flee them, useless as that may be. It seems harebrained, and futile, to resist a lion, defy a lion, put a lion to the chase. But it’s what James says. Neither the devil nor Baal is as powerful as they make themselves out to be. They’re more shadow than substance., more growl and scowl than tooth and claw. Both Baal and the devil are easier to rout than they’d have you think, just as their minions– the Midianites, the townsfolk,the hosts of hell, whoever– are not half as menacing as they look.
It just takes one man, one woman, maybe with a few companions, to test the theory. It turns out that Baal is a poor God and a weak opponent. But he makes for good kindling.
We often scare ourselves with the talk of the devil– that if we take the devil on, go plundering in his realm, he’ll come back at us with everything he’s got. Well, let him. Mostly, we are just believing propaganda straight from Beelzebub himself. We fearmonger ourselves into inertia. That’s a scandal. We should be out raiding his lair, like Jesus did, and His disciples after Him. Be Jerub-Baals, demon hunters. Let Baal contend with us if he wants. Let him roar and growl and bare his teeth.
We’re not going to do his bidding anymore.
Tune-In 16 [What Is Your Name?]
In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail–an outrageous spoof on the legend of King Author– there’s a scene in which Author and his knights have to cross a rickety bridge, all ropes and sticks, spanning a fiery gorge. An old man, blind, toothless, crackling, grizzled, stands at the entrance to the bridge and demands that each person seeking passage first answer three questions. If they answer all three correctly, they cross. If they get one wrong, they are hurled into the gorge.
Brave Sir Lancelot steps up first. “Ask me three questions, old man. I’m not afraid.”
“What,” the old man asks, “is your name?”
“I am Sir Lancelot of the Round Table.”
“What is your quest?”
“I seek the Holy Grail.”
“What is your favorite color?”
“Well that is easy–blue.”
“All right, then,” the old man says, suddenly amiable, “go across.”
And on it goes, the joke turning on the old man’s variations on the last question.
Silly movie. Silly scene.
What is your name? Who are you, really, beyond all pretense, all posturing, all self effacement, all self-pity? Who is the person that God knows and sees and calls forth? It’s an identity question.
What is your quest? What is the desire in your heart that no diversion or disappointment has ever quenched? The thing that you dreamed of being when you first came into the light? The vision of what God had for you to do and to be? It’s a destiny question.
What is your favorite color? What makes you you? What are the quirks and intricacies of your personality, distinct as your fingerprint? What makes your heart leap? It’s a passion question.
If you keep a journal, this is a good exercise to write down. God designed us to live out our true identities, to accomplish our truest quests, to do it in our own unique personalities, fueled by our hearts Godly passions.
Crossing the bridge, getting from here to there, requires you to answer all three correctly.
~ Darren’s comments ~
After reading this particular section, I was confused. Not because what was said by Mark Buchanan in Spiritual Rhythm is not true, but I had the same type of experience as described in this section of the book only to be robbed of my dream to fulfill being a youth pastor.
See, if you haven’t read/listen to the previous sections of this book and Darren’s Comments, then I am going to summarize what happened in my life previous to my eighteenth birthday. My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy fighting in World War 2 spaning from 1939-1945. He was a proud military man, and after going to Ma (grandmother) and Pa’s (grandfather) house throughout my childhood, he made the basement his own– which included a bar, a fully renovated living room, mini-figureheads high above the floor hanging on the wall — you know, the things that happened in his life which he was most proud of. That included his military service in the war. That left an indelible impression on me, but as I was contemplating in my head for two to three years, I thought I would like to be an air force pilot because I wanted to be different. This was about 10 years of age.
Shortly after I developed a need for eyeglasses, and it wasn’t too long after that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus. In addition, my mom and dad went through hard times relationally which made it tough, but now I realize my brother and I weren’t the only ones suffering through this as family dysfunction effects all of us at that time. However, just like most children who were on the cusp of adolescence, we are beginning to understand the world and what it requires from us..
I began to read the KJV version of the Bible since I heard in multiple services that the Bible contained the key to life and everlasting life. Until then, I only read the Bible occasionally and not religiously.
Then, upon reading, I was confused again since my secret mentor was going off to college after he finished his senior year, and I was in the 5th grade at school. I felt devastated until I got home and found this verse after much scouring through the Bible. I landed upon Proverbs 18:24 which says in the KJV:
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
It was undeniable that the Holy Spirit showed me this in the time of greatest need that Jesus sticks closer than a brother. Despite my sadness of losing my mentor to college, I had an even better Holy Mentor, Jesus Christ. From this time on, however, my Holy Mentor would not let me down as long as I stuck with Him (John 6:60-70). And with my new Holy Mentor, I knew I was prepared for anything, for shortly after my 18th birthday God would allow me to undergo the most horrific of trials.
Throughout my high school years, I dedicated myself in pursuit of what I thought was my God-given dream. I began with preaching in front of my youth group. Then in front of my church, in front of local churches, in front of regional churches, I took every opportunity to preach to youth as I did winter retreats and summer camps. The top brass of the Northern New England Assemblies of God came down to check on how I and the rest of the preaching teens were doing. That is occasion for pride to set in, so I gave all the glory to God as I took first place in the preaching competition in an Assembly of God summer camp.
It all fell in line with what Spiritual Rhythm had to say, especially this portion of the book. But then came the dream/nightmare which I couldn’t wake out of. This happened about 2 weeks before I graduated from high school. And my dream came to real life just 3 weeks later after my high school graduation and 2 weeks after my 18th birthday. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, like Sir Lancelot, I decided to answer all 3 questions. However, I didn’t answer one of them correctly. …
~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~
Don’t Expect Applause
Ridding the town of Baal isn’t immediately seen as good news by the townsfolk. It is seen as sacrilege, economic sabotage, a security breach worthy of grim punishment. This is worth some reflection. I think any Christian and any church that really, truly, fully practices radical obedience and surrender to God will be as much of a threat as a hero. They will be seen, even with thier own faith communities, as rabble-rousers, troublemakers, heretics. Blasphemers of the compromise we’ve made with the powers that be, contract-breachers of the middle position we worked out with the gods of the age. One of the most glaring examples we have of this in North American Christianity is a recent survey done of a wide cross section of young adults at Christian university. They were asked if they would consider a vocation in cross-cultural missions, and many said they would. But when asked what their primary obstacle to that was, most said their parents. Their parents want them to finish their degrees so that they can get good jobs so that they can be like everybody else. Don’t expect that when you defy the gods of the age everyone in your town will come out cheering. Idols don’t always fall to the hurrahs of the crowd.
Not that higher education or a good job are idols, at least intrinsically. I have both. I see my education and my job as gifts of God and tools of God. But some things–almost anything–can take on idolatrous proportions when we cherish them at the expense of what God desires. We should be suspicious of anything that rivals our devotion to God, anything that distracts us from our pursuit of His kingdom. Anything. And we should subject all of our evasions and rationalizations to the most thoroughgoing scrutiny.
I have a friend in church whose son, soon after graduating from high school, moved to the Bronx to minister to children at risk. He gets paid a pittance–food money, basically– and gives himself body and soul to the task. Every day, he walks some of the most dangerous streets in the world. I asked my friend if this is what he dreamed for his son. “Couldn’t have imagined it,” he said.
“Does it bother you?” I asked.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” he said.
“Are you afraid for him?”
He looked pensive and answered slowly, “You know, I’d rather my son died young on the streets of New York serving the kingdom of God than stayed safe, lived long, and died rich, but only served himself.”
I could smell the smoke of burnt idols on him as he spoke.
Deal With It, For Your Own Sake And The Sake Of Others
Idol wrecking, it so happens, has a butterfly effect: one war of liberation in Gideon’s back yard reverberates until the whole nation is living free.
And interestingly, the first person set free is Gideon’s own father. The Baal alter and Asherah pole actually belonged to his father, Joash. Gideon’s is the heir, the son of the man who presides over the cult. But it’s Joash who belongs to the generation of those that hate the Lord. He’s the architect of this mess, the tribal chieftain of this misrule. In a sense, Joash has the most to loss by Gideon’s defiance. It puts him out of a job. He loses status in the community. It’s his altar that’s destroyed, his bull that’s sacrificed, his livelihood that’s derailed.
But the man, it appears, couldn’t be happier with the situation, or more proud of his son. I think he stopped believing in Baal a long way back, saw through the chicanery of his promises, but lacked the personal integrity or courage to do anything about it. He just kept on keeping on, foing through the motions. Caught in the inertia of a false belief of diminishing returns that he thought was too entrenched to change. Until his son acted, he saw no way out of the status quo. Now that his son has acted, he sees no going back.
It has become standard fare, since Freud and probably long before that, to blame our parents for our sins. My father was an angry man, and my whole life I’ve battled anger. It’s the easiest thing for me to pin the blame on him, to justify the way I am because the he was.
If the excuse works for others, it doesn’t work with God. God holds Gideon liable for his own sin and appoints Gideon to deal directly with it, regardless of its pedigree. I often hear from people with various besetting sins–pornography, waywardness, alcoholism, destructive gossip, violent temper– that they are merely repeating thier mother’s or father’s behavior, as if that absolves them of any responsibility.
Gideon’s story instructs us otherwise. It says deal with it. Deal with it for your own sake. And deal with it for your father’s sake, or your mother’s: they might just be the first people freed by your freedom. The whole creation, Paul’s says, waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. Others await our taking hold of liberty. Your own forebears might be waiting in such eager expectation, without even knowing it until they see it, but when you live out your glorious freedom under the fatherhood of God, walk in the authority and inheritance of your true adoption as sons and daughters it will beckon them to freedom, too. I have seen this a hundred times: men and women come to Faith in Christ, break their bondage to decay, throw off idols of their childhood, and soon after their parents do the same.
Expect that when you defy the gods of the age, break and burn their altars, some will want your head, but many others will be set free–maybe first from your own household.
God may be calling you to take a risky step of Faith. That step may require more courage than you think you have. It may involve taking a stand against something, or someone, in your own household or workplace or social circle. It may take the moral support of a few good friends to carry it out.
But maybe it’s a step you need to take, not just for your own sake but for the sake of the one you must defy.
Or maybe you’re the father. Or the mother. Or the older brother. Or the foolish companion. Maybe you’re the one being defied. Maybe there is someone in your household–a child, a sibling, a spouse– in your midst — a colleague, a friend, a fellow church member — who seems to heavenly minded to be of any earthly good. You just wish they’d dismount from their high horse and get with the program.
But maybe the program isn’t the kingdom of God. And maybe God put that person in your midst, in your path, messing with your idols, for your sake as well as their own. Maybe he or she is a child of God, and God’s revealing them so that you can be set free too.
The Book of Judges contains what God wants us to know of the story of Gideon (Judges 6:11-8:35). It is the highlights of his life. We are introduced to Gideon in a most extraordinary way as he was separating the wheat kernels from the rest of the crop in a wine press. See, Israel was being oppressed in the worst manner from the Midianites (Judges 6:1-10) so all of the Israelites had to be careful.
Looking back over my life there have been many Baals in which God has defeated in my life. Baals of my interest — I wanted to be an U.S. Air Force pilot when I was in my elementary years, rollerskating when I was a teenager (and I was good as I could roller skate backwards better than I could roller skate frontwards), before I turned eighteen I was attempting to fit in so much as possible without compromising the Word of God. On the fleshly side, I miss those days. The days of earthly fun. Sure, I had my problems, but doesn’t every human being?
One of my first jobs, I took care of shagging carts as a carry out for Shaw’s Supermarkets. In that job I got to meet all kinds of people from different areas on the economic scale-from the very rich down to the very poor. I thought I’d do what Jesus would do and show no preferential treatment to the rich or the poor. Yet the temptation of money always surrounded me. Many times I saw people that were financially well off as my eyes would light up and immediately I would asked them if they needed help bringing their cart to the car or truck. Seldom would they say no, meanwhile I was hoping that they would take notice of how polite I was and possibly give me money or something. This went on for a while.
Then one day–maybe a Sunday morning or evening when I was in church, or maybe playing with my friends, or maybe I was alone outside enjoying the beautiful nature– I had this gnawing to open the Bible, and I let the Holy Spirit turn me to the The Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-30. Let’s read it together:
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (ESV)
As with pretty much all of us, I was caught in the attitude of “potential earthly riches” while forsaking heavenly riches. I pray, whenever this attitude comes over me, to remind me of this passage. However, there are many good things which to can become gods. Anything!
As an example, while I was still in my freshman year at college, I had an acquaintance draw me a picture of Jesus on the cross the way we thought He looked, not some wimpy kind of a man that you often see. When my acquaintance was through he gave me a picture of a muscular Jesus dying on the cross. After 1-2 weeks of having this absolutely beautiful picture, it became my idol because I was more impressed with the drawing until the Holy Spirit reminded me that Christ isn’t there anymore because He wants to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24). Immediately, I removed it with urgency down from my bedroom wall.
Maybe I touched a nerve when I recalled both incidents from my life? The Holy Spirit knows, and maybe pointing to something that you need to tare down, get rid of, eliminate it from your life because He is not a God who takes second place to anything or anyone as the first one of The Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 34:14.
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger
A Harvest of Righteousness
Righteousness, to put it succinctly and a little simplistically, is Christlikeness. It’s where your thoughts, your desires, your attitudes, your actions, your character are more and more conformed to His. So this third harvest brings along with it the other two harvests. You cannot grow into Christlikeness, a heart after His, without also growing in evangelism and generosity, a heart to save and a heart to give. But a harvest of righteousness is also distinct from the other two. It requires two things: that we submit to God’s discipline, and that we seek God’s peace.
Submit to God’s Discipline
God, according to the letter to the Hebrews, disciplines His children as a sign of His Fatherly love. The discipline is often painful, even misery-producing. It makes us want to quit or run. Let me quote the passage in full.
Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate children at all. Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more we should submit to the Father of spirits and live! Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that way we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11 [TNIV]
“No discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful.”
So why bother?
Because, “Later on . . . it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it.”
But here is the verse that rocks my world: “Endure hardship as discipline. god is treating you as children.” Endure hardship as discipline. Hardship, in whatever form it takes, is all and sundry as opportunity to grow, but only if we allow God to use it that way. An act of endurance is required on oue part. Every adversary, every disappointment, every setback, every affront isan opportunity to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. The painful trial you are going through in your (fill in the blank: marriage, finances. work, family, health) is something God can and wants to use to make you more like Jesus. Zig Ziglar says that a child who is not disciplined by his small world in love will be disciplined by the big world without love. Hardship is an inevitable part of life. Endure it as discipline, a sign that God is treating you as His child and is training you for holiness. In your small world, He is disciplining you with love.
It doesn’t mean it won’t be painful. No discipline is pleasant at the time. But it does mean something good comes out of this. A harvest of righteousness and peace.
So submit to God’s discipline.
Seek God’s Peace
“Peacemakers,” James says, “who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
I’m prone to misread texts like this. I want to assume that bring a peacemaker and a peace-sower means, simply, that I enjoy peace. Which I certainly do. I prefer it, hands down, to turmoil and strife. If this is the measure of a man of peace, I am already fully formed. Nothing can be taken away, and nothing can be added.
It’s not what James means. What he means is we must seek even at the cost of turmoil and strife. This is abundantely clear from the very letter James writes. It’s not written with kid gloves. It’s not written in gentle, playcating tones. He doesn’t softpedal., backpedal, sidestep. He flies straight at issues, bare-fisted and rough-tongued. “You foolish man.” “You adulterous people.” “Now listen, you rich people.” Try preaching that from the pulpit and see if it lulls people into smiling serentity.
Seeking, making, sowing peace often reqyires a certain wading in, and calls for forcefulness as much as gentleness. Recently, I heard Bishop Andre Mfitmukiwa of Rwanda speak. He was asked how he felt about UN forces evacuating Rwanda on the precipice of the 1994 genocide, when a million people were brutally killed in a span of a hundred days. “I don’t understand what your western countries mean by peacekeeping,” he answered. “How is it that they run away as soon as there’s trouble? Does peacekeeping mean you’ll stick it out as long as things are peaceful. and bail out as soon as they’re not? Is being comfortable the only termsunder which you serve? I don’t understand this.” (A dialogue of a group of pastors with Bishop Andre Mfitmukiwa in Toronto, Canada, 14 May 2009)
James wouldn’t either. To seek peace, and pursue it, and make it, and sow it means that we are willing to risk our own comfort for the sake of crating real shalom (peace). Besides producing peace, as opposed to a mere truce, it also comes with a promise. People who sow peace, reap a harvest of righteousness.
They end up looking a lot more like Jesus.
Who is our peace? (Ephesians 2:14) Jesus, the Prince of peace, establishes and rules a kingdom of shalom. And He sought that shalom, that peace, and pursued it, and made it, and sowed it not by pulling out of the genocide but stepping into the middle of it. He made peace by taking on Himself the full brunt of the carnage. He waged for us, and won by losing.
Peace was secured. It just took enduring a storm to get there.
This morning I finished memorizing Psalm 29, a hymn to the power of God’s voice. “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning” it says. “The voice of the Lord shakes the desert . . . the voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forest bare.” God speaks, and a storm descends, violent, unpredictable, tumultous. It rearranges the landscape.
But the Psalm ends this way: “The Lord blesses His people with peace.”
Peace was secured. It took enduring a storm to get there.
Do we need to seek and pursue and make and sow peace somewhere–your home, your workplace, your church? It may take enduring a storm to get you there. It may require a Christlike act of filling up in your “flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). It may be that you have to stifle the urge to bolt in the midst of upheaval.
I watch a lot of people leave churches. Some leave another church to come to ours. Some leave our church to go to another. Some drop out altogether. I listen to their stories, as much as I have opportunity. Usually, they’re “right”: so and so hurt them; the sermons here, or there, can be boring; that outreach effort was a bad idea; we’re not nearly as freindly as we ought to be; I did forget the anniversary of my husband’s death.
Most of these people leave to early. Only rarely does anyone leave to late. Most don’t seek peace, pursue it, make it, sow it. They just miss it, and so drop out.
It’s a kind of peace, sort of, in a way.
It’s just not a harvest.
~A Harvest Of Righteousness~
To be conformed to the Christlikeness of Christ literally takes a whole lifetime on earth. Some don’t come to salvation later in life or physical death as the thief who died on the cross on Golgotha’s hill ( ), while some get “saved” as children only to see them through it all away because the powers in this world draw them away, still others stay the course (Matthew 13:1-5). Since the Holy Spirit was in me at a very young age, the Holy Spirit called me out to be different among my peers, and at the age of thirteen I went forward in an altar call to say whatever the Lord wanted of me I would happily give it, whether it be my training to be a missionary to go off into some foreign country or be like Dave Wilkerson and the ongoing story of Teen Challenge. The Holy Spirit put the passion in me to stay the course no matter what. In my mind, that is when I began on my journey to Christlikeness.
To be conformed to the Christlikeness of Christ literally takes a whole life time on earth. Some don’t come to salvation later in life or physical death as the thief who died on the cross on Golgotha’s hill (Luke 23:40-42), while some get “saved” as children only to see them through it all away because the powers in this world draw them away, still others stay the course (Matthew 13:1-9). Since the Holy Spirit was in me at a very young age, the Holy Spirit called me out to be different among my peers, and at the age of thirteen I went forward in an alter call to say whatever the Lord wanted of me I would happily give it, whether it be my training to be a missionary to go off into some foreign country or be like Dave Wilkerson and the ongoing story of Teen Challenge. The Holy Spirit put the passion in me to stay the course no matter what. In my mind, that is when I began on my journey to Christlikeness.
Despite my needing glasses and the devastating news that I now had diabetes which pretty much makes it impossible for me to undergo Lasik eye surgery, I found a new Holy thing in which I could dedicate my life to: Righteousness through becoming just like Christ, Christlikeness.
Submit To God’s Discipline
It is hard for me to choose which story of my life in which I submitted to God’s discipline over my two score (40 years) of being a True Life Christian. More recently (about 10 years ago), I was an elder at our small and local church, and all the other elders had enough time to see my struggles that I would present to the youth. At that time, the pastor said that we were going to need a youth leader for the adolescents that were coming to the church as a part of families, and us elders were all in agreement with the pastor. We all saw the need for someone to minister to adolescents, some of whom had mental and behavioral challenges.
“Finally,” I thought, “my dream of actually being a youth pastor had come to light!” Immediately I went home after and started preparing for the chance to have an equal shot at this first ever Youth Director position. I had some disadvantages, though, since I am slow to speak and have expressive aphasia (which means those that suffer with this condition have a thought in their heads but have trouble expressing it). I thought that the group of elders would encourage me using the verse, Philippians 4:13. And that verse says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (ESV). But they did not. They questioned my calling to be a Youth Director/Pastor. That hurt, and that is one major time in my life where I submitted to God’s discipline.
Seek God’s Peace
Over my forty-five years plus of being a True Life Christian, I have come to know that through Christ nothing’s impossible (see my upcoming Season of Winter). Yet, for the most part, God seems to want you to seek God’s peace as John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let your hearts not be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (ESV). But it’s taken me a long time to get there.
Early on in my walk as a True Life Christian, I was filled with internal anxiety, but I was cool as a cucumber, I thought. If I was filled with internal anxiety now, the Presidental Election (coming up this November 3, 2020) of the United States of America would send me into a tailspin because of radical left and conservative right. Rather, instead of having my body fill up with anxiety over this Presidential election, I’m filled with God’s peace, even though the world is fretting over who will become the next President of the United States.
Peace-it doesn’t happen like that. In the current culture of technology, people throughout the world are used to things just happening instintaneously. But peace doesn’t happen like that, especially to seek God’s peace. It takes time. But God’s peace is an internal peace. Things may seem like chaos around you; however, the person that has God’s peace has truly sought and is seeking God’s peace.
Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger
A HARVEST OF SOULS
The Bible promises a harvest of souls.
Jesus sends His disciples to do kingdom work. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers few.” We have way more people ready to come into a loving, saving, transforming relationship with God than we have people ready to assist. The other passage is where Jesus points to His disciples to the Samaritans, a people group with whom they want nothing to do, and says, “The fields are ripe for harvest.“
The undeniable assumption of this harvest is that the sowing has already taken place; God Himself has done it, somehow, sometime. His Spirit has gone before, scattering seed, quickening it to life, nurturing it toward ripeness. The evil one has been active, too, plucking, choking, trampling, scorching.
But God prevails.
Now the harvest is ready. And God needs workers. Harvesters. He wants us to finish what He started. Three things are needed to do that, Jesus says. We need to look, pray, and go.
First, look. “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, emphasis mine).
Are you? Do you know how hungry people are for something bigger than themselves?They might be skittish, too, hungry people usually are. Don’t let the skittishness through you off. The world longs for God knows what. People all around you-in your neighborhood, in the cubicle next to yours, on the bus seat across from you, the mom over there with a three-year-old, that one by the park slide–people all around you feel empty, and all the things they’ve crammed into themselves have only left them with a stone in their belly that weighs but doesn’t fill.
“LOOK!” Jesus says, “Open your eyes. Don’t you see them?“
I fly often, and usually by myself. On roughly half of those flights, I get into a conversation with the person seated next to me. Telling a stranger that I’m a pastor is either a quick way to kill a conversation or a quick way to open it wide. I can never predict which it will be, but that too is roughly half and half. Still and all, I end up in a lot of “spiritual” conversations with complete strangers. I hear a fair amount of homemade theology, and some of it not bad: “You know, pastor, I thought God was that feeling, you know, of happiness when life is miserable–you know what I mean? That feeling it’s gonna be okay though everything around you isn’t okay. That feeling deep inside. You know?”
But, mostly, I hear a lot of hunger: “I’m forty. Great marriage. My wife is, like, supermom. She keeps herself fit. Kids are amazing–my youngest just won this music award . . . well, you get the picture. We have great friends. I have this job that pays extravagantly. I travel a lot, stay in nice hotels, all that. And you should see our house. We had it built last year. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you this, ’cause there’s only four of us. But the place is forty-five hundred square feet, and that’s not including the garage and the suite above it. But, pastor, I drive out of my driveway everyday and I can hardly keep from weeping. I feel so . . . I don’t know. Alone. I feel I’m faking it. I feel like the the whole thing’s a colossal sham. I don’t know how it is that I have all of this and it’s still not enough.”
Or: “My life is a disaster. I never really knew my dad. My mom–I don’t want to get into all that. It makes me to angry and sad. I have a kid who hates me. An ex who hates me. I don’t have a friend in the world. I just lost another job. I’m heading to Dallas right now because my uncle’s going to give me a chance working in his warehouse. My question is, Does God hate me, too? I think if I could believe God loved me, that would make a difference. Pastor, do you think God loves me?”
Open your eyes.
And pray. That’s what Jesus also asks of us. Pray God would send workers willing to join Him in His kingdom work. Pray to God that this great moment isn’t missed. That this little window of opportunity isn’t squandered.
Prayer commits us to the heart level to what we endorse at a head level. Prayer mingles our tears and our longings with our observances and our assessments. Looking shows us the problem. Praying makes it our problem. Looking allows us to glimpse the opportunity. Praying requires us to seize it. It forces us to care about what we know about.
Which leads to the third thing Jesus ask of us. And here, as a friend of mine likes to say, Jesus stops preaching and starts meddling.
“Look,” He says. “Pray,” He says.
And now the meddling: “Go,” He says.
You do it. You be the answer to your own prayer. “Even now those who reap draw their wages, even now they harvest the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying, ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not work for. Others have down the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:36-38, TNIV)
“Even now.” Even now, you could reap what you haven’t sown. Even now you could taste the unearned privilege of rejoicing alongside those who have. Even now you could share the wages and reap the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
I honestly don’t understand why we don’t fall over astonished at this. To heck with meddling: going is the best part. And the easiest. I have never led a person to Christ who wasn’t ripe for the harvest. There was no tugging and twisting, trying to get the fruit’s stem to seperate from the branch. There was no wrenching and pulling, trying to force the grain from the stalk. It just fell into my hands at the slightest touch.
Every time that’s happened, I’ve rejoiced. I’ve felt like I hit a jackpot. And every time it’s happened, the person I led to Christ feels I’ve done some heroic thing, some great act of daring and generosity.
I’ve done no such thing. I just reaped the benefit of someone else’s hard work.
They toiled, lonely, dirty, in heat and cold.
I walked in, did the easy part, and got the paycheck.
What’s not to like?
Look. Pray. Go. And then watch what God does with your simple act of saying yes.
(Darren’s Comments-A personal take on Look. Pray. Go.)
Since I was thirteen, after my tragic diagnosis of having diabetes mellitus type 1, I was looking to God on what He would have me do since my dreams of being in the U.S. Air FORCE had officially come to a close since an air pilot was my dream. At a Sunday evening alter call, calling any one who felt like the Holy Spirit was calling them to go up if they like God was calling them to something.
The church had a special missionary giving service that night, and he was “on fire.” It wasn’t till the end, that he gave an unique alter call. I don’t remember much about that specific service except I felt like I was called to give my life in service to Him. So, I left me pew and headed down to the front. I remember there was a whole bunch of people there, standing along side me, excited to see other’s felt a similiar calling. Looking back, I feel that others were stopped in their pursuit of God and what He wanted for their life; this was for a variety of reasons: peer and social pressure, others felt like they wanted to be considered “holy,” and as in the Boston Marathon others intended on finishing the race they found they were not prepared for the riggors of the race facing the treachory of “Heartbreak Hill.” Yet, I knew all this and was prepared for what God said He wanted from me.
After the news of my life-long illness of type 1 diabetes at the age of twelve years ten months, I was devastated since my diagnosis put the final nail in the coffin of my dream of being an Air Force pilot. I needed glasses, and that seemingly spelt the end of my dream, but with Lasik eye surgery, I might have a shot. However, this diagnosis spelled the end of my dream. It didn’t take me long to find a new Holy passion–to be called into serving God with my whole life. So, I from then on I took up my life with prayer.
I prayed with Holy passion. Fifteen long months it took me to receive confirmation to my prayer that I had so earnestly been seeking. It happened at a small, private Christian school where I received the answer that I’d been seeking so desperately-God was going to use me to minister His Word to a population that needed Him most, teenagers (I thought). Since I was just at the start of my teenage years and since I loved the youth, in my excitement, I prepared to do what I thought was natural–become a youth pastor. After all, I was inspired by the most famous book named THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE by David Wilkerson, who started Teen Challenge in 1959.
Along with my praying (and I never ceased), I began to take action on what I thought God had called me to: getting encouragement, awards, and pep talks from my youth pastor, and regional pastors for my preaching sermonettes all to the youth. I even remember my youth group went down to our local slums, and I got the distinct pleasure of introducing some local teens to Jesus Christ and His kingdom, and within 4 years, I was finished with high school and ready to start Christian college in the fall. So I was going in the correct way, I thought.
About 15 years ago, I swept in from from the hard work that my pastor did (watering and tending a precious soul), and I just happened to be the one who got the harvest of leading him to Jesus Christ. Later, I heard from my pastor that he was jokingly “jealous” of me because he did the hard work, and I had the distinct pleasure of reaping that which I did not toil for like an apple that is fully ripe I plucked that soul from the tree.
If you have a similar experience I would love to hear about it, so please comment of your victories in this area. Although I know that many Christians are scared to share their faith in Jesus Christ (especially in the current social culture in America), share with me your struggles in the work place, sitting down in the waiting area of the family physician’s office (like I did), the local coffee shop, etc. specifically in proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ.
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger