Sister Verna’s Harvest

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Photo via vixen-vintage.com

The air is a bit crisper, the days a bit shorter, and the leaves boasting a bit more color. Yes, fall is upon us. So, in honor of my favorite season, I’d like to share a harvest-time illustrative story I wrote teaching the biblical principle ‘faith, not works‘. Enjoy!

***

I see a field and I buy it. Boy, this woman is already oozing virtue! Quickly, I run through a mental checklist making sure I have everything I’ll need. Hoe? Check. Tiller? Check. Seed? Check. Compost? Check.

Yes, I believe that’s it! God has called me to cultivate and I am so excited to show the Lord the harvest I’m going to bring in! He’s gonna love it!

Well, it may not be as good as Sister Jane’s. But, I mean… who can compete with that? Really!?! I’m sure if I had a nice big, fancy tractor and all that expensive cultivating equipment my crops would yield like hers too!

Okay, back to the task at hand. Shew! I haven’t even broken ground and I’ve already broken out in a sweat. Focus, Verna! But just looking at all this barren ground around me makes this task seem so daunting! Where to start… where to start. Oh! I almost forgot! Brother Tom’s “How to Manual.”

Step 1: Find a spot. Well, I’ve already done this by purchasing a field and all. Moving on. Step 2: Prepare the soil. Dig and churn all packed dirt approximately two feet down.

Wow! Two feet down, eh? That’s pretty deep. So, I may not have a tractor like Sister Jane, but I do have a tiller. I cannot imagine how poor Sister Pam does it with her little hoe. Bless her heart!

Alright, God. This isn’t so bad. Me and my trusty little tiller are breaking new ground in the name of Jesus! All for Your Glory!

— 8 HOURS LATER —

Oh, dear Lord! That was so hard! I’ve spent all day working and I still haven’t planted the first seed. The ground was so hard and I kept hitting rocks. Every time, I had to stop the tiller and pick up the rock and throw it out. Some of those rocks were so heavy.

God, I ran parallel lines and then perpendicular lines. My back aches and my hands are covered in blisters. All I’m saying is I hope You bless me with a tremendous harvest after all this effort I’m putting in.

—THE NEXT DAY —

So where was I? Here we go. Step 3: Add compost and mix it into your dirt. Well, I’m not really excited about this step. I went to my local farmer supply store and the only fertilizer they had left was a mixture of cow manure, horse manure, and straw. I just now opened the first bag and the stench is awful!

— 4 HOURS LATER —

This is so disgusting! I can’t even scratch my nose or wipe the sweat from my brow without getting poop on my face. God, are you watching? You better turn this into the Promise Land ’cause I’m surely not seen any promises being fulfilled yet!

—DAY 3 —

Step 4: Hoe your row. Now, this isn’t so bad. Gotta make them straight though. There will be no crookedness in my path. Only perfection!

Now on to Step 5: Plant your seeds. Finally! A step that seems productive. I picked out the best seeds too… Pumpkin seeds!

I know, I know… Sister Sara, said I should’ve planted something more practical. Corn, tomatoes, beans. “Verna, get something to feed the hungry,” she said.

Well, don’t judge me until you’ve had my pumpkin pie. It’s the best in five counties! I really could live off my sweet pumpkin pie. God’s gonna be so proud of me!

— 5 MONTHS LATER —

Oh, the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie! I just made the first one of the season and I’m going to sit down and enjoy every last bite! I’ll share the next one, Lord, I promise. But just looking out my kitchen window at that glorious orange patch of goodness blesses my soul! Lord, I know it has to bless Yours too. Glory to Your Name!

***

REFLECTIONS – WHO WAS LORD OF THIS HARVEST?

In this story, Sister Verna is focused on her works and fully believed the fruit of her labor would be pleasing to the Lord. Throughout, we see her walking in self-righteousness, jealousy, and competition with a lot of complaining and boasting.

She followed man’s plan and never asked God for His plan. She even chose the seed of the harvest after what she thought was good according to her flesh and missed God’s seed of the harvest which brings life into all who partake of it. In the end, her reward was no more than the pumpkin pie she devoured all by herself. Sister Verna got fruit, but it was by her own hand, not the Lord’s.

Dear friends, God calls us all to cultivate. His cultivation always produces the fruit of the Spirit and transformation into the image of Jesus. From glory to glory.

Why was Abel’s offering acceptable and Cain’s rejected? Remember, Cain was a tiller of soil. His offering was brought forth by works. However, Abel was a keeper of flocks. His offering was a blood offering; a representation of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So just as God rejected Cain’s offering of works, God will reject any cultivation brought forth by works. God is looking for a representation of Jesus.

The soil is our hearts. The seed is the Word of God. Our cultivation comes through repentance, prayer, worship, growing deeper in our relationship with Jesus, and sowing His gospel into the hearts of others. What does your harvest look like? Remember, you will reap what you sow…

***

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” –Galtatians 6:8

“All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” –Isaiah 64:6

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9

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Kingdom Deposits are Eternal Investments

'This is your third withdrawal this week... how about a little deposit once in a while?'
Photo via jantoo.com

What does your spiritual bank account look like? While you may be surviving on enough, God wants to bless you with more than enough. While you may be thankful you’re not bankrupt like many in the world today, God wants your account to be filled to overflowing.

Who doesn’t want that, right? I’m all in; just tell me where to sign and what to do! Haha, I hear ya!

The key to having a full-to-overflowing spiritual bank account is to make regular kingdom deposits. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

When we deposit the Word of God in us, we allow His eternal, life giving truths to resonate within us. When we have these truths within us, then we can cancel out the lies of the enemy as soon as they are spoken. The lies will not take root! The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy and we must not allow him to rob our bank account.

Allow me to illustrate this…

God creates all life with seed. Even your new life in Christ “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

This scripture, as well as, the parable of the soils found in Matthew 13 explains that the Word of God is the seed. Then John 1:1 tells us Jesus is the Word; therefore, we can make the correlation and conclude Jesus is the seed.

We know it is the seed that gives genetic structure for which the seed will grow into. Identity is in the seed. And we know Satan’s greatest desire is to destroy the seed. Think about it… homosexuality, abortion, the widespread identity crisis epidemic. Satan wants to either keep the seed from reproducing, destroy the life of the seed, or distort the truth which brings out the purpose of the seed!

You want this truth to really hit home? Dear reader, what did Satan use in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve? It was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What does fruit have in it? Seed. What was he sowing in her? A false seed that was planted in his lies. She ate the fruit, the seed was sown, the lie took root, and you know the rest of the story.

Remember, each tree bears fruit after its own kind so its extremely important which seed we allow to take root. For everything true and just, Satan has a counterfeit. Not everything that tickles the ears is of God. We must pray for discernment about that which we allow to be deposited into our account. Amen?

Do you know why Satan wants to rob us so badly? Remember, he was kicked out of heaven because he wanted to be like God. God kicked him out for his pride and gave him dominion over the earth with no power thereof. And then God made Satan watch as He, our heavenly Father through Jesus, made man in His very own image.

You see, that’s exactly what Satan wanted! But God gave it to us upon Creation, and now Satan hates us because of who we are. And he will stop at nothing to spiritually bankrupt us, thus preventing us from being transformed into our fullest potential through Jesus! He wants what we’ve got!

But there’s good news! We are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony! The truth sets us free! And what is the truth? It’s sharper than any double edged sword – it’s the Word of God.

So we make kingdom deposits, planting the seed of God’s Word within us which speaks forth our identity as children of God created in His image. Then we cultivate that seed through prayer, fasting, seeking Jesus, fellowship with other believers, and all things associated with spiritual growth, and what happens? We bear much fruit.

And God is such a good Father! His interest plan upon our investments is out of this world! Blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor! We will begin reaping where we did not sow and our cup will overflow with the goodness of God! So much so, that we will be able to pour out into others. Praise Jesus!

I’ll leave you with one final note: We pull out of our deposits, but God pulls out from His substance. However, when our deposits take root, they become our substance. These deposits transform us more and more into His image and, when cultivated, will produce much fruit for His kingdom.

Blessings to you, in Jesus name! May you bear much fruit for Him!

Michelle

The Verdict’s In and You’re Guilty! But Wait…

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The law of the land has been violated and charges have been pressed against me. Horrified, I study my hands as I stand before the court. Watching as blood trickles down from my palms to my fingertips to the table from behind which I stand awaiting my sentence.

“How did this happen? I didn’t kill anyone,” I hear myself say.

And yet here I am, awaiting my verdict on the charge of murder. The judge asks me once again to recount the events that happened on the night of my ‘acquaintance’s’ murder and once again I stammer my answer. “I…I…I don’t really know what happened. He just made me so angry. I… I… felt my blood boiling over and I could have strangled him with my bare hands. I could’ve. But I didn’t do it… I didn’t do it.” I repeat that final line with total exasperation.

Totally spent from pleading my own defense, I look up at the judge who’s staring through his narrow spectacles back at me. “Well,” he replies while matter-of-factly scanning the paper he holds. “The law states that even if you harbor anger against your brother, you are guilty before the court. Therefore, I declare you guilty of all charges with a sentence of death.”

I crumple in a heap. “God!” I cry out in desperation. “Help me!”

***

Time Out! Is this for real???

The answer is yes. This is the verdict when we look at the Law which is all the commands of ‘To Do’s’ and ‘Thou Shalt Not’s’ found in the Old Testament, summed up nicely as The Ten Commandments.

But Jesus takes it a step further in Matthew 5:21-22. He says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca [Worthless],’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Guilty. That’s what the Law makes us. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What’s more is through the Law, I serve the same death sentence for a parking ticket as one who committed murder. Sin is sin in God’s eyes and James 2:10 says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for [is guilty of] all of it.” That means a 99% is a failing grade! Wow! That’s harsh!

Wait just a minute now… There’s good news! Back to our story…

***

As the officers approached, handcuffs ready to take their prisoner, a well-dressed gentleman entered the back door. “Judge, allow me to be his advocate,” he said while approaching the bench.

I looked up with amazement. Who is this man that he would plead my case? I’m just a dead man walking. The events that quickly unfolded thereafter, I may never understand.

This man, my newfound advocate, turned out to be the son of the Judge. He did not argue my innocence. He knew I was guilty. But instead, he declared his own innocence and then asked to take my place. To serve my punishment. To die in my stead. That I might live. Not only live, but walk away a free man. Totally free.

What love was demonstrated as I watched the officers take their new prisoner in the handcuffs originally intended for me. The blood disappeared from my guilty hands and now appeared on his. Now, he bore my guilt and my shame.

I was there when he served his sentence of death. The one meant for me. I was the reason for his execution and part of me died when he died.

For three days I mourned. For three days I pondered the love of that father and son for me, the guilty one. But on the third day, he came to me. It was my advocate, the Judge’s only son standing before me.

He was alive!

Speechless, I fell at his feet. But he lifted me up and embraced me. Shouting in celebration he proclaimed, “I have defeated death, hell, and the grave for you! And as proof that my sacrifice was acceptable by the Judge, my father, I have risen from the dead and am alive forevermore! I will advocate for you always and because I live, you live also!”

My heart swelled with love. No longer was I a slave to the hatred that once held my heart captive. Now I’m only captivated by him. My advocate. My savior. My friend.

***

The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus came and His love conquered all! Romans 5:8-9 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Amen!

So, Jesus has freed me from the Law and He’s freed me from sin. Paul continues teaching us in Romans 6 that sin is no longer master over me because I’m not under Law, but under grace. “What then?” he says. “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” This mentality abuses the extravagant grace of God.

Rather, because of Jesus, we walk in newness of life. Our hearts are bent towards God as His is towards us. Therefore, our obedience unto Him comes from love and devotion, not out of ‘have to’ legalism. The letter of the Law is no longer written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:3,6).

It is my desire that you walk in the fullness of the life God has planned for you. Free, free, free!

***

“I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior.” –John Newton, writer of ‘Amazing Grace’

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” — Romans 4:7-8

“Grace brings about the obedience of faith.” –Romans 1:5