Putting God's Word into Practice…

Revelation 14:14-20 ~ Grain and Grapes

We read in Revelation 8 that the prayers of the saints were mixed with the incense that continually rises before God’s throne.  The specific prayers mentioned were petitions to God to exact vengeance on His adversaries.  God always answers prayers, and He always answers them in His timing.  The angels that come bearing the command to “harvest” the earth do so straight from His presence.  God knows the appointed time for judgment–when there is no one left on earth who will turn to Him.

There are two “reapings” mentioned in these verses.  In verse 16 it says,” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.”  This is a reference to wheat or grains. Verse 19 says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”

When I read about the grain and grape harvest, it reminded me of communion.  Bread is the physical representation of Jesus’ body being broken for us, and wine is the symbol of Jesus’ blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus was taken outside the city and nailed to a cross where He bore the full wrath of His Father on behalf of sinners.

When we trust in Jesus and believe His sacrifice is sufficient to purify our hearts and lives, then we don’t have to face God’s wrath and judgment.  “It is finished!”  But for those who don’t surrender their hearts and wills; who don’t believe and trust in Jesus; they will face God the Father’s wrath.  And it is not unfair of Him.  What is unfair is that He chose to send His perfect, divine Son to bear the wrath over sin in our place.  In His steadfast love and unfailing mercy, He gave us a way to escape His coming wrath.  He didn’t have to–He did it for love!

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Colossians 1:24-2:5 Rejoicing in Suffering

Paul wrote, “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake.”

I have been thinking about this from the viewpoint of being married to one called to minister to Christ’s church.  I don’t want to see my spouse suffer for the sake of the people God has chosen for him to minister to.  I want ministry to be comfortable and easy on him and our family.  I want the difficult times to pass quickly.  But God keeps showing me again and again that He is at work and greatly uses His “suffering servants.”  No one in the Bible had an easy ministry-even Christ Jesus Himself.

A friend brought to my attention an A. W. Tozer quote that I have been thinking about the past two days; “It is doubtful that God can fully use any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

The mystery of the gospel cannot be separated from suffering, for one of the greatest mysteries is that our Savior chose the path of suffering and sacrifice for our sake.  A minister of the mystery needs suffering to have the Christ-like qualities of humility, servanthood, and endurance fully developed in him.  Therefore, suffering is necessary to properly proclaim and demonstrate the gospel–the message of the Savior to others.

The power and hope of the Christ-filled life must be experienced in suffering to testify to His supreme worth and glory.

A true minister toils, works, and struggles diligently, even painfully for the sake of the maturity of the saints in the areas of love and wisdom.  I picture a farmer tilling, planting, tending, watering, fertilizing, stabilizing, and giving back-breaking care and correction to harvest a bumper fruit-producing crop.  However, they must not toil in their own strength producing explainable harvests, no harvest at all, or bug and blight ridden harvest.  Only toiling with ALL Christ’s energy that He powerfully works in those He calls and in whom He dwells is worth while toiling.

Because suffering makes us more like Jesus–we can rejoice in our suffering.  Because suffering produces fruit in others–we can rejoice in our suffering.

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2 Corinthians 9 ~ Surpassing Grace and Generosity

Verses 1-5. Paul said the Macedonians were ready, willing and zealous to give to others’ needs.  So much so, that he really did not even need to write to them about it.  Would my generosity be characterized by the word “zealous?” Do I need to be reminded to share with others?

Verses 6-9.  God bountifully sows grace in us so we can bountifully reap grace!  A harvest of grace results in complete contentment in ALL things, at ALL times and abundant fruitfulness in our good works toward others.  Our ability to be generous comes from God’s abundant grace to us.

Verses 10-15.  God is the only one who provides seeds to sow–therefore, all our sowing is impossible apart from Him.  He multiplies and increases what He gives to us–not for our comfort and hoarding, but for our increased generosity.  When we realize these two things, it frees us up to give cheerfully, generously, and bountifully.

Giving results in much thanksgiving to God and glory to Him!!!  I have several material examples of that in our lives.  1) When we got our taxes back last year we owed a debt we could not pay.  Our close friends, received more than they expected, so they took care of our tax need.  And then out of their readiness, willingness, and zeal they did it again the next year.  All praise to God who uses people to help us in our times of need. 2) This past winter my husband had to go to the emergency room and have a lot of tests run.  This cost was going to be more than we were prepared to handle.  When I called the hospital to see what our balance was, they lady told me it had been covered in full!  We couldn’t thank anyone except God–He received all the glory! 3) This summer, due to a strong storm, we had some roof and siding damage that was equal to our “wind, hail deductible.”  So we decided to pray and fix the roof without making a claim on our homeowner’s insurance.  Right before we got started, a check for $2,000 came in the mail from one of my husband’s family members who was overjoyed to help us.  I’m so thankful that God uses the generous hearts of others to meet our needs, and pray that we will always be able to help others when we have the means.

Our level of generosity displays our understanding of the gospel.  Because Christ held nothing back from us–He gave all–we should hold nothing back from others.  We have bountifully received His surpassing grace.  That is grace that goes above and beyond the need!  We need to bountifully steward His grace!  Our gratitude is directly linked to His indescribable, inexpressible give of grace!

In summary.  To give is to sow–sowing results in a harvest.  It always produces something for the planter to plant again and enough to share with others.  It also produces thankfulness.  No one creates seeds, but God.  So thankfulness must always be directed toward Him!

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Matthew 9:9-38–Mercy on a Mission

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call NOT those who THINK they are righteous, but those who KNOW they are sinners.” (Verses 10-13)

In a different version of the Bible, it says that tax collectors and sinners reclined with Jesus at the table. What a picture!  Jesus knew who needed His mercy.  When the unholy collide with the Holy, we recognize that we need His mercy.  When the unholy collide with those who think themselves holy.  We feel judged.  James 2:13 says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

The middle of the chapter is rife with examples of more people who had miracles done for them “as they believed.”  A girl is raised from the dead (a dead girl can’t have faith, but her father’s faith allowed for her to receive an awesome miracle), a sick women receives healing from touching Jesus’ robe, two blind men receive Jesus’ mercy and healing, and a demon-oppressed mute gets his voice back!

The chapter ends with another glimpse into the heart of Jesus.  “When he saw the crowds, he had COMPASSION on them…then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’.”  How often do we look over our culture and shake our heads in disgust and think, “What is this world coming to!”  Or as generations past may say, “The world’s going to hell in a hand-basket.”  That is not the heart of Christ.  He has compassion on the lost, helpless, misled and unguided.

Lord, keep me compassionate and merciful knowing that the only thing good in me is Jesus.  Please remind me to pray earnestly for workers of mercy to help with the harvest.  Please make me fit to be a laborer–faithful and diligent.  Dress me with strength, make my arms strong, and let me work with willing hands–hands fit for the task!  In the miracle-giving name of Jesus, I pray!

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