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Havesting

A rich man wanted to harvest the largest fruit crop. He sent out his servants and said, “Go! Do nothing else but buy fields and plant seeds!” The servants went out and bought all the land they could find, and they planted all the seeds they had.

But when the harvest came, the servants returned with only a few fruits. The rich man scolded his servants for not returning a good harvest. Then a wise servant said, “While we were busy buying fields and planting seeds, no one was tending the fields. The seeds sprouted but died because they were overcome by weeds, rocks and the dry soil.”

The rich man was indignant over the wise servant’s response. He said, “Didn’t you know you should have tended the fields and watered the crops and removed the rocks while you were planting?”

The servant responded, “Sir, you told us to only buy fields and plant seeds. If you had told us to tend the fields and water the crops we would have done so. But you told us to do nothing but buy fields and plant seeds. Besides, few of us know how to tend the fields.”

So the rich man lost all of his money because he had to sell the fields to pay for the servant’s labor.

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He who has ears

I ent to an audiologis to ear new ha I already knew. or year I e een able to ear ut una le to under and al of the ime. I ave mil earin loss in ow requencies uch a musi and owel ounds …

That is what I hear.

I went to an audiologist to hear news that I already knew. For years I’ve been able to hear but unable to understand half of the time. I have mild hearing loss in low frequencies (such as music and vowel sounds), but my hearing loss is moderate to severe in the higher ranges. I don’t hear consonants or whispers at all. I don’t hear soft voices. I just don’t hear them. I can’t. Today, I had to swallow that fact and decide that it was time to do what needed to be done in order to hear what the world is saying.

I almost broke down in tears when I saw my audiograph which showed how deteriorated my hearing was.

I also pondered the hard things of election. My hearing loss is genetic and hereditary. I didn’t do anything to cause my hearing to fail. My eardrums work fine, but the nerves that carry the signals to my brain don’t work at 100%. It seemed more real today that God is ultimately responsible for my senses malfunctioning.

Moses, whose brother I am named after, had similar problems.

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12

Want to know who cripples people? God. Yes, blame God.

You can also thank Him that you’re alive. Humanity, enlightened humanity, will soon approach a day where terminating birth will be praised to prevent defects and make our health care system more efficient. The Lord, however, doesn’t see things in such a way.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 1:26-30

God chose the weak to shame the strong. God chooses the despised so that no one can boast before God.

God made me half blind, half deaf, and half insane. He also chose to save a despised, disfunctioning wretch like me.

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Dead churches

I had a revelation burp today. Actually, it’s not something new, but something said long ago.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruith
He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

John 15:1-4

I wondered if Jesus was only speaking about individuals, or does this analogy work with groups as well. Take churches for example. I wonder about the survival about our church right now. Sure, I can be optimistic. I can also be aware by the harsh reality of Scripture. Scripture isn’t sugar-coated. The Gospel isn’t light and fluffy. It’s real, dealing with the grit of actual, relevant life.

So I wonder about our little congregation and it’s part in God’s sovereign plan of salvation for every tribe and tongue in order to bring glory to His Name. What is our part? Are we to live or die? I don’t want our little church to die, but let’s be realistic here. Churches across America close each day. Has God failed? Is the Gospel no longer relevant?

I believe the answer is no. God hasn’t failed. God has pruned. God has cut off dead branches. Branches that bear no fruit. Not just individuals, but groups as well. Churches. Denominations. God trims off that which bears no fruit.

Remember Jesus. He cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit. I believe He curses churches for not producing fruit. Does that statement sound extreme? It should. It also reflects Jesus’ attitude toward the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodecia in the book of Revelation. Jesus wants growing churches, growing because they are connected to the Vine. Anything less, He cuts off, He spits out, He removes His lampstand for the Glory of His Name.

I weep for our neighborhood. I weep at the thought of no viable church existing in a neighborhood of hundreds, perhaps thousands. I weep at the thought of a “For Sale” sign posted in front of the sanctuary.

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not remain in me,
he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers;
such branches are picked up,
thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish,and it will be given you.
This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:5-8

It’s to our Father’s glory that our church bears fruit, much fruit. Granted, many churches out there bear bad fruit. But we’re not bearing fruit. I don’t think we want to bear fruit. I think we want to pass it off as God’s will.

How dare we sit on our asses and say, “Must be God’s will”. If God wills our churches to be complacent, His word also declares that He also wills to cut them off eventual burning in the fire. Indeed, perhaps it does please God to let churches grow more and more lukewarm, in order to bring judgment and restore honor to His name.

When we gather and are not shocked about the rows of empty pews, but breathe in the satisfied air of complacency? When we supplant the birthright, privledge and duty to declare the Gospel to all the world, starting right where we are, and replace the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment with the Great Complacency, have we not considered trivial the cross of our Lord and Savior? As our due reward, at the end of our careless strut of faith, our Heavenly Father will open His arms and declare, “You wicked and lazy servant! Throw this worthless servant outside.”

I may sound preachy, with fire and brimstone and all that. If anyone in my congregation read this, they’d likely be furious. Let them. But it pisses me off to see the Church that withstands the gates of hell fall completely apart because of complacency. It infuriates me that some of these dead branches favor potlucks and socials over the Gospel of grace that delivers us from death.

Grrr…