Category Archives: Discipleship

Planting Seeds

Note to Reader: A link to a video is provided below.  It is a tribute to someone who has exemplified a life of planting seeds, as discussed in this article.

Blog_ThumbnailBoom! There are times when we can see the impact of our actions instantly. I remember watching a friendly game of washers turn into a goofy and out of control game of basketball washers, where they were trying to block each other’s attempt to get the washer in the box. The problem with this was that there were cars nearby, and one of the washers went through the rear window of my car, shattering the glass all over the back seat. Not a fan of that version of the game.

There are other times when we don’t see the impact of our actions for a long time. Maybe we never see any during our lifetime. However, every action that we take, or don’t take, has an outcome, whether for the good or the bad. Again, some actions or events can have instant, large impacts. Other actions may result in small or even unseen impacts. A small, simple effort may not seem to have any effect initially, but, years later, could influence numerous people and events. In fact, these may end up having more long-term, lasting influence then events that seem to have immediate, blockbuster impact.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:10-12

There are many things that could be said about this passage. One of major points relates to the prophecy of Scripture. The Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ. Their prophesies not only indicated what type of Messiah the people should expect, but it even provided details about when he would be coming. In other words, the people should not have been surprised by Jesus Christ when He came. It is one of the ways in which God shows the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God. I spoke on this last time, so I am not going to touch on it at this time. However, if you would like to study more on the topic of the reliability of Scripture, see the resources available from the 2015 EFCA Theology Conference which focused on The Doctrine of the Scriptures. This is excellent material from some leading evangelical scholars and teachers.

For today, I want to focus on one phrase in 1 Peter 1:12, where it says, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you…” These prophets were writing what the Spirit had revealed to them. However, in addition to the actual prophecies of the coming Messiah, it was revealed to them that they were serving a people yet to be born. They were told that they were serving the people who would come to trust and follow Jesus Christ. Long after they were dead, the writings of the prophets would serve the followers of Christ. Therefore, their faithfulness to listen and respond to God, served those who lived hundreds and even thousands of years in the future. And this includes those of us today who follow Jesus Christ.

What immediate results did the prophets see when they proclaimed the message given to them by God? Stephen, right before he was stoned to death, provides the answer. “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:52-53). The primary result the prophets saw from their faithfulness was persecution and death. And yet, the prophecies they recorded would serve God’s followers for years to come.

So, how does this apply to us? When we follow Christ, we are called to live our lives to give glory to God, faithfully serving through the opportunities that He gives us. Sometimes, we see the results of our efforts. Other times, we don’t see any positive results. If fact, there are times when it seems like the opposite. We give ourselves in service to God and others, and we receive criticism and opposition in return. Or, the recipients of our gift of service actually turn away and go the opposite direction, walking away from God. This can be confusing and even heartbreaking. So, how do we respond?

Be faithful and keep planting seeds. Whatever God has called you to do, continue to do it faithfully. Whether you are a pastor, executive, laborer, housewife, teacher, service provider, or whatever you do, continue to serve and take the opportunities that God gives you to plant seeds along the way. God does not call us to produce results. He calls us to faithfulness. That is a weird message for modern America. We can get instant anything.  We want instant everything. God does not operate on our culture’s standards. We should be thankful for this.

Be humble. Some “Christians” receive opposition and criticism simply because they are jerks. I wanted to use a stronger word, but that would probably get me in trouble. It is true that the true message of Christ will be offensive to many. However, that does not mean that we have the right to idiotic behavior that would be offensive regardless of what we were presenting. In Scripture, God continually calls us to humility and to have a servant’s mindset. Do the work God called you to do with humility and compassion as you seek to plant seeds of the Gospel. We need to leave pride and arrogance at the cross, where they need to die.

Trust God with the results. As I said, God calls us to be faithful. He is the One Who produces the fruit from the work that He does in and through us. God may allow you to see the fruit of some of your efforts. For other things, you may never see the results in this lifetime. A faithful act performed today may result in someone’s life being changed hundreds or thousands of years from now. You may plant a seed through your service that leads to impact several generations from now. Trust God, He knows what He is doing. He will be faithful to complete the work He is doing in us for today and for generations to come, until Christ returns.

The video I have linked below dates back 27 years ago, to April 22, 1988. The quality of the video is not great. It is probably a copy of a copy of a copy of an old VHS tape. I don’t share it in order to show what a great performer I am, because the performance is not that great. I don’t share it to show how high my vocal range used to be, how much thinner I used to be, or how much more hair I had then. I share it to illustrate a point. This event was held in a large auditorium in Kansas City. However, there were not many people in attendance, even though we had advertised the event through radio and other avenues. Several music groups performed and a pastor friend of mine provided the message. I remember the event date because it was his birthday.

I was on the stage that night because God had used him as a faithful witness in my life. It was this man who first encouraged me in leading worship, even though I always thought that he was far better at it and more gifted than me. For almost five years, this man had been my friend and planted seeds in my life, encouraging me to seek God. This was during time of great time of struggle with doubt and confusion regarding my faith. It was a dark time spiritually. I was lost and floundering. And yet, there I was, five years later, on that stage, back on the road of faith in God and His Word, and giving praise to God.

I can’t point to any one thing that turned things around, but there was finally a point where things clicked, and I came to a decision that, though I did not understand everything, I was going to put my full trust in the Lord. It has not always been a smooth journey. There have been ups and downs. But I can say that I am where I am today because God used a faithful man, planting seeds, to serve the needs of others. To serve me. I am forever thankful for his friendship and his faithfulness.

So, keep living faithfully for the Lord and planting seeds because God will use you to serve the lives of others, even long after you have gone to be with Him.

Together for His glory…

For A Little While

Blog_ThumbnailHas someone ever come up to you and said, “Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” I know that I prefer a different alternative. Can I just hear the good news? If not, how about neither? None of us like to hear bad news.

Last time, I talked about the living hope that we can have through Jesus Christ. Through the work of Christ, God is the source and foundation for that hope. It is a hope that is eternal, and one that God Himself secures for us. This is a great assurance and one that we can hold onto and rejoice in. The apostle Peter says as much, in the words that directly follow these promises. “In this you rejoice…” However, he then continues with words that we may not be so thrilled to hear:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Peter has just spoken of the wonderful hope we have in Christ. But, for those to whom he is writing this letter, he also knows that they have been going through some very hard times. This passage recognizes the reality of trials in our lives. It also shows how God works through the trials in our lives.

Trials result in grief and suffering. There is no way around it. Trials bring aggravation, struggle, grief, and pain. They are not pleasant. Peter mentions this regarding those who will be reading this letter. They have been grieved by various trials. One of the things I love about the Bible is its truthfulness. Not only is it the Word of God, without error and completely reliable, but it shows people and situations for who and what they really are. Suffering is not fun, and the Bible does not say otherwise. But at least we are not just left with that.

Trials are temporary. “Now for a little while…” Right now, things may be hard, but it will not last. There is no guarantee of when a given trial may end, or even that it won’t get worse. But it will not last forever. Even if it lasts a lifetime, that is a brief moment in view of eternity, where God has prepared a glorious inheritance for those who are in Christ. So, we can rejoice in our living hope, even in the midst of suffering, trusting in the Lord and holding fast to His promises and purpose for our lives.

Trials are used by God. “If necessary” notes that there is purpose in the trials that God has allowed in our lives. Trials serve the purpose of revealing the genuineness of our faith. They demonstrate where our true hope lies and what we truly value in life. Is my faith real or am I just pretending or going through the motions? I am afraid that my trials often reveal that I have a long way to go in becoming like Christ. My focus and the things I value are frequently shown to be selfish and temporary. And it does not take a very severe trial to reveal this.

Our faith in Christ is priceless. Peter says that our faith in God is more precious than gold. The faith and trust that we place in Christ is highly valuable. It does not say this specifically, but I think that this means that our faith is highly valued by the Lord Himself. It is precious to Him when we place our trust in Him. I think it is also valuable because God uses our faith to demonstrate the wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Trials refine us to be more like Christ. I think there is a reason that Peter uses the comparison of our faith to gold and the process of testing by fire. I heard the following illustration years ago and it has stayed with me as a reminder of how God work in our lives. It described the process for refining silver or gold, back before all of our modern technology was developed. A silver or gold smith would take the raw ore that contained the metal and heat it to a very high temperature. They were careful not to heat it too hot, because that could result in the destruction of the valuable metal in the ore.

As the material began to melt, the dross, or less valuable materials, would rise to the top. The smith would scrape off the dross and repeat the process. After a while, they would scrape off the dross and look into the pot. There, they would begin to see a dull reflection of themselves. As they continued, each time, their image would be a little clearer. In much the same way, God uses the “fire” of trials to help us become for Christ-like. As we trust in Him and allow Him to work in our lives, God sanctifies us, causing us to become more like Jesus. Our lives begin to better reflect the image of our Savior as we allow Him to scrape the dross out of our lives.

Trials result in praise, glory, and honor. As we become more like Christ and the genuineness of our faith is revealed, the result is celebration and glory being given to God. Also, we rejoice in the victories that God gives by bringing us through our trials and presenting us before His throne at the coming of Christ. Our genuine faith, more precious than gold, will be celebrated as we rejoice before the Lord for all eternity.

So, if we see this through the eyes of God, there is really no good news/bad news situation here. We have a living hope. We do have struggles and trials. However, if we allow God to use those in our lives, He can use them to transform us more into the image of His Son. So, when He looks into our lives, He sees a reflection of Himself. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

In the end, trials remain only for a little while. Compared to eternity, and the joy that awaits us, these are but momentary struggles. For a little while, we are tested. Forever, we will enjoy and celebrate the love and glory of our God and Savior.

Together for His glory…

Bigger Fish to Fry

Yesterday, as I was thinking through and preparing to vote in today’s election, I came across an article by David Mathis, who is the executive editor for John Piper and Desiring God. He offered a challenge for followers of Christ, both for this election and as we live out our lives as citizens. The main point of his article is that we have bigger fish to fry than this, or any, election.

He reminded me that Jesus’ mission is far bigger than today’s election. Actually, there is no comparison. And our calling as Christians is to about making disciples. Yes, we exercise our rights as citizens. We vote. We stand up for and support issues, as God leads us. But we need to remember that the ultimate changes that our nation and this world needs will never come through elections, government, or the efforts of the human race. True change, hope, and freedom will come only through Jesus Christ. Only God changes hearts. And, as Christians, our true citizenship is in heaven.

I won’t continue to summarize his article. You can read it for yourself here – Bigger Fish to Fry: Politics and the Priority of Disciplemaking. However, here is a quick quote from the article:

“The election cycle is no time for taking a break from the Great Commission labor of disciplemaking, or seeing if we can cut a few corners on ‘kingdom advance’ by getting the right fellows into office or the referendums past the people. At least not for the Christian.

“Please do vote. Yes, do get involved with as much as you can stomach. But Christian, don’t be consumed. Politics is not our life. We have bigger fish to fry. Both politics and disciplemaking are important, but only one is Jesus’s prescription for changing the world.”

Until the day when the rightful King returns or He calls us home, let us be busy pursuing Him and building His kingdom.

Together for His glory…