I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about farming, but after reading Matthew 13 this morning I had to go do some research. I wasn’t sure what kind of multiplication was involved with seed. I found that if you plant one carrot seed, you get one carrot. I found that you can get 5-10 potatoes from a single potato plant. You plant a tomato seed and get a tomato plant you can get a whole lot of tomatoes. 

After Jesus explains the parable in Matthew 13, he ends with:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

This is where I began thinking about leadership and those christian leaders who have left their mark on the world. It may be easy to look at your life and see how you are not producing very much fruit. Heck, your plant may have long since dried up and dust is the remainder of a faith short lived. Then we look at Christian leaders who are representative of Matthew 13:23. They hear the Word, they understand the Word, and that understanding results in practicing the Word. 

All to often we want the crop without the toil. Here are some examples:

  • You want the promotion but haven’t put in the time.
  • You want honor but have not proven honorable.
  • You want knowledge but refuse education. 
  • You want the success of a CEO but put in the effort of a part-timer.
  • You want a Godly family but do not take them to church, challenge them in their quiet time, pray with them, or model a Godly lifestyle.

YOU DEMAND what you refuse to EARN.

Spiritual growth is no different. If we expect to flourish spiritually, lead spiritually, model spiritually, and experience the success only God can provide, we must be willing to hear the Word, understand the Word, and practice the Word. That’s our part in the equation. God’s part is much cooler.

This is the one who produces crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. – Matthew 13:23

WE CAN NEVER MANUFACTURE THE RESULTS THAT GOD FREELY GIVES TO THOSE WHO ARE OBEDIENT.

You want to be the guy on the platform preaching to 100,000 people? Be the guy that gets up early to spend time in prayer and the reading of His Word. You want to be the woman that empowers other women to reclaim their identity and worth? Be the woman that gets up early to spend time in prayer and the reading of His Word. 

DON’T EXPECT THE RESULTS OF THE FAITHFUL WITH THE OBEDIENCE OF THE SLUGGARD.

There is a lot to be said in the Scriptures about self-control. We know that is a Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), it’s the result of a life lived in Christ. Proverbs adds beautiful and sober imagery to self-control and allows us to view it not as theory but as practice. It creates the image of the life of a person existing as a city. Each city is often placed near water in order to be able to irrigate crops which provide food and also for the obvious, so that those within the city won’t die of thirst. 

The city was often placed in a position where it could most easily defend itself. The walls were thick and tall and meant to protect the people within its walls as well as to keep intruders out. Let’s look at the great city of Jericho’s dimensions:

The mound, or “tell,” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 12–15 ft high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall 6 ft thick and about 20–26 ft high (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 46 ft above the ground level outside the retaining wall. This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho.

What does this have to do with self-control? EVERYTHING. 

It doesn’t matter how strong your desire, how great your ambition, or how mighty your resolve. If you lack self-control you are simply inviting the enemy into the fortified city of your life. No matter how great the walls are, one area of absence in self-control can cost us EVERYTHING. Here are some examples:

  • FOOD: Lack of self-control affects energy and invites sickness and disease. This limits your ability to do what God has called you to do. It allows for excuses, embarrassment, and lack of confidence and can lead to an early death leaving behind a family who was robbed to soon of your love, presence, and support.
  • DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Coming from a family who has a history of alcohol abuse, I see the immediate impacts. Wasted money, lack of financial security, verbal and physical abuse, neglect, etc. Should I really go on about this one?
  • SEX: An addiction to sex (outside of marriage) destroys a life in so many ways. If married, affairs destroy trust, break apart the family unit, and ruin relationships. Do we need to get into the other areas (bestiality, pedophilia, homosexuality, rape, sex trafficking, pornography )? 
  • SLEEP/LAZINESS: People who refuse to get up waste time and are ineffective. They lack control of their schedule and in doing so force others to dictate their pace instead of taking control of their own lives. Then there is laziness.

I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:30-34

What area of your life lacks self-control? What enemies are you inviting into your fortified city? Are you prepared for the destruction that will follow? 

 

 

0Immortalized in cinematic history, this classic Academy Award winning ballad was written in 1939 and sung by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland). It’s a beautiful song in its own right, but it’s also a song that we as Pastors and Church Members seem to sing quite frequently.

 

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then oh why can’t I?

I was speaking with one of my former students a few days ago and he was experiencing a challenging time with his Senior Pastor. Hey, we’ve all been there. I have the greatest Pastor on the planet and yet there are times when we do not see eye to eye. My former student was asking if he could put me down as a reference for a few other church openings he had stumbled upon.

IMMEDIATE RED FLAG

From my many years in ministry I have learned that you only make decisions AFTER the crux of frustration has subsided. His situation is not uncommon. When confronted with a challenging moment he began seeing a better place “somewhere over the rainbow”. It’s not that he was being called to these other places. It’s not that he was given release to leave. It’s that he was frustrated, hit a wall, and wanted to escape.

Sometimes we as Pastors, and church members, need to understand and truly take to heart the words of Jesus. After a long discourse of the challenges the disciples would face following Jesus’ departure (kicked out of synagogues, killed unjustly, grief, etc.), Jesus offers some comforting and powerful words.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

At no point did Jesus excuse the disciples. At no point did he give them permission to flee, run, turn away, escape, or denounce their faith because of troubles. Instead, he did something much greater, much deeper, much more liberating. He told them that suffering doesn’t mean they’re doing something wrong. It simply means they’re doing something right in a very wrong world.

  • You may have peace.
  • In this world you will have trouble.
  • Be encouraged.
  • I overcome the world
  • You may have peace.

It’s not always going to be easy. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. We often see bluer skies “somewhere over the rainbow”, but skies are never permanently blue. Clouds come, clouds go, but steadfastness helps us to dance in the rain, bask in the sun, and love life where we are as long as we live IN CHRIST, not IN THE WORLD.

So, to the Pastor or Church Member that may be reading this I leave you with the same question I asked my former student. It’s really the only question we need to ask when entertaining life transitions.

“Has God called you to be where you currently are?”  

  • If yes, get in His presence and allow Him to minister to your spirit.

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask, in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:22-24

  • If no, pray for His guidance so that you stay in line with His will.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:6

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:27-28