Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvesting when your crop looks ready

Toward the middle of May, I posted about praying for my neighbors and their wheat harvest. When I got home from my first jaunt to Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, as I pulled into my driveway, my closest neighbor was out harvesting. He was almost finished, so I snapped a few hurried pictures because I’d promised a German coworker that I would, since she’d never really seen a combine in action before.

So thanks to everyone who prayed. My neighbors all got their wheat in, and it seems like they did fairly well. What I hear a lot, though, is that the crops weren’t as good as some were expecting. We just didn’t have the moisture over the winter that was really needed to develop the heads. Don’t get me wrong; everyone still made off really well, and out where I live, the fact that my neighbors actually got to harvest something is a big deal. But it wasn’t as big as we were hoping.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I will be the first one to admit that I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. There are days when I’m so tired of waiting that I just want to do something stupid–something unplanned and spontaneous and irresponsible–and see what happens. Because, obviously, always doing the right thing hasn’t really gotten me where I want to be. Right?

But on those days, this is the verse that always comes to mind. Because no matter what our profession or our status in life, we are all farmers. From executives to housewives, from college students to elementary students, each of us is constantly planting seeds that will eventually grow into something that will be harvested. And our choices dictate what kind of a harvest that’s going to be.

If you make good choices, if you do the right thing, you’ll eventually harvest something that will be good. If you make bad choices, if you do wrong and you know you’re doing wrong, you’ll eventually harvest something that will make you unhappy. That’s not God’s doing. That’s not God punishing you. That’s you reaping the consequences of the choices you’ve made.

Where I get bogged down is when I constantly make good choices and still feel like my harvest is bad. And that’s when I have to remember that I really haven’t harvested anything yet. I’m still at the growing phase.

In the last weeks of May, everyone out here was on edge waiting to see when the wheat was going to come in. Because it looked ready. It was golden and beautiful and when the wind blew it made that beautiful whispering sound. I know some folks brought their wheat in prematurely because they were afraid of the weather. But that wheat wasn’t ready. And even though the wheat my neighbors brought in was good, would it have been better to let it wait a little longer? I’m not a wheat expert, so I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

I have a lot of fields planted in my life, and I’m sure you do too. And we’re all waiting for the day when we can start harvesting and seeing a return on all the time and effort we’ve invested. But if we jump the gun, the harvest we bring in isn’t going to be the best it could be.

Check out this same verse in the Amplified Version:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

In due time and at the appointed season. You can’t just start harvesting when you feel like it or when you think it looks ready. You have to make sure that it is ready, and that takes waiting. And waiting takes courage, especially when you feel like you can run ahead on your own and do it yourself.

So for all of us who are waiting to harvest our own fields, don’t give up. The day is coming when we’ll get to harvest. And if you’re at the point where you feel like all you’re getting out of life is negative, just remember that if you’ve planted good seeds you will get a good harvest; you just have to wait for it.

Sun almost set - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Never give up.

I avoid hatred. I don’t think hate solves anything. Ever. It’s one of those emotions that can move you to do terrible things, and if you get into a lifestyle of hatred, you will become a miserable person. And even Scripture tells us that we’re never supposed to hate another person. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done to us or how they’ve treated us or how they’ve treated someone you love, hate never improves the situation. It just makes you miserable.

But what about our enemy? Our real enemy. Not Osama bin Laden or any of the men and women who have done such evil things to each other. Not people. Because people are never our enemies. Satan is. And he hates us so very much. Is it okay to hate him?

And the moment I start talking about Satan many people may start rolling their eyes because we don’t like to think about him as a real person who’s truly after us. But he is. And he’s not some costumed clown in a red suit and pitchfork as our culture would like to believe. He’s not a man in a suit. He’s not a terrifying monster. He’s brilliant and he’s beautiful and he’s alluring, and he knows us better than we know ourselves.

And he tears people apart. And he takes things that are good and corrupts them. And he gets in between people who are making a difference and tempts them to hurt each other, and before you know it, they can’t even talk to each other anymore. He fills our heads with lies, and because we are broken people we listen. And the only consolation is that God is big enough to take the situations that Satan had destroyed and can still do something great with them.

Paul and Barnabas are a good example. They disagreed about a young man named John Mark. You can read it in Acts 14:36-40. But they fought about it so much that they split up because they couldn’t work together anymore. Did their ministries end? No. God still used them. And maybe some would say that it was God’s will for them to go their separate ways. But I don’t think it’s ever God’s will for us to be in conflict with another believer. Not like that. Not the kind of conflict that splits you apart and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

God still used Paul and Barnabas separately. They still did remarkable things around the world. But as far as we know, they never reconciled. Now they’re together in heaven. I wonder how that went when they spoke to each other again for the first time in so long.

Sun almost set - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun almost set – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
    I wait confidently for God to save me,
    and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
    For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.

Satan is going to throw everything he has at us. I don’t think any of us really understand how much he hates us. What we have to do is to realize what is happening.

Satan hates us and wants us to fall. He wants us to go to pieces. He wants us to focus the sum of our disappointment and our fears and our loneliness on each other. If he can’t separate us from God (and he can’t, by the way), he will manipulate us and use us to hurt each other, to drive each other away. And we’re so good at rationalizing that we are always in danger of listening to his temptation and supporting it with our own reasoning … so it makes sense to us. And we think we’re doing something good, but we’re really just playing into his hands.

But if whatever path you’re choosing to act on contradicts Scripture in any way, don’t do it.

So what if you’re in the position of watching people give in to Satan’s taunts and threats?

Pray.

And if you know them well enough, confront.

And if that doesn’t change anything … let them go. God will take care of it.

Quite “by accident” this morning, when I logged into Biblegateway.com to get the verse, it was set on The Message as the translation. I use the Message sometimes because I like to get the feel of a whole passage. This is the whole context of the verses for today:

But me, I’m not giving up.
   I’m sticking around to see what God will do.
I’m waiting for God to make things right.
   I’m counting on God to listen to me.
Don’t, enemy, crow over me.
   I’m down, but I’m not out.
I’m sitting in the dark right now,
   but God is my light.
I can take God’s punishing rage.
   I deserve it—I sinned.
But it’s not forever. He’s on my side
   and is going to get me out of this.
He’ll turn on the lights and show me his ways.
   I’ll see the whole picture and how right he is.
And my enemy will see it, too,
   and be discredited—yes, disgraced!
This enemy who kept taunting,
   “So where is this God of yours?”
I’m going to see it with these, my own eyes—
   my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter.

We have an enemy, and he hates us. And he’s going to do everything he can to break us down and tear us apart, and there are going to be days when he succeeds. But God is bigger. And God is stronger. And God is going to make everything right again. And Satan is going to see that. Actually, Satan already knows that.

It’s up to us not to give up. It’s up to us to keep doing the right thing. To keep living lives that please God, living according to the Scripture, living according to the Spirit. And God will work everything out.

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Who wants to speed through life anyway?

Why is it so easy to give up? I can’t really call my self a quitter in all honesty, but I can call myself a procrastinator about things that haven’t worked out the way I thought they should. If I have worked and tried really hard to accomplish a certain goal, and I hit a wall in the process, many times I’ll set that goal aside and work on something else. And while I could claim that I’m just taking a break (and that can be healthy), sometimes I wonder if it’s because a part of me has given up that I will ever succeed.
 
Giving up is easy. Maybe that’s part of the human condition. Maybe because our vision is limited we think when we arrive at an insurmountable task, it’s a sign that we have already lost the race and should just bow out gracefully. But from what I’ve witnessed, there are no odds that are truly insurmountable. I’ve seen people achieve things that would blow your mind. And those same people had every right to give up, but they didn’t.
Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo
Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

When God begins a process, He doesn’t stop until it’s finished. And that process will be complete when we leave earth and go to heaven, either by natural death or the Rapture. But until that day, God is working on us. Teaching us. Chastising us. Walking beside us and living live with us.

But some of us are harder to teach than others. I don’t know about you, but I’m the most stubborn person in the world. And I have lost track of how many times God has had to teach me the same lesson over and over again until I finally get the point.

But the issue here is that God never gives up on us.

It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from or what our preferences are. It doesn’t matter if we like hard rock music or classical. It doesn’t matter if we don’t eat meat or if we prefer to eat our meat with a side of meat. Once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, God begins a process in our lives to help us become more like Him. And that doesn’t happen over night. It’s a long, slow journey.

And sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress. Sometimes it feels like God is asking more of you than you can give. Well–yes, He is. Living the kind of life that Christ lived is impossible in our own strength. So if you try to live like Christ did without asking God for help, you’ll fail. But nothing is impossible for God. And no goal is insurmountable with Him on your side.

There will be days when you have obstacles in your path. And some days those obstacles will seem to be definitive. But on those days remember that you have a choice. You can choose to give up; that’s up to you. But if you persevere, it will be worth it. Because you’ll not only succeed, God will be able to show His strength to you and you’ll think twice before you doubt Him again.

The journey may be long and slow, but you’ll get there. And at the end of your journey, you will have learned so much and seen even more. The old fable about the tortoise and the hare isn’t always true. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race because sometimes fast is just fast. But I can guarantee that even if the hare had reached the finish line first in that old story, the tortoise still would have enjoyed the race more.

Keep on keeping on

Perseverance. Dictionary.com identifies it as “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”

I’d like to think that I’m good at persevering. I think a lot of people would like to believe that about themselves. Perseverance is one of those character qualities that everyone knows is good to have. Unfortunately, it’s one that’s a real struggle to keep hold of.

By its very definition, having perseverance means you’re going to run into trouble. I mean, sure, you can persevere without trouble, but if can you really say someone is persevering if they don’t encounter trouble or danger or discouragement? Can you persevere through good times? Sure. But it doesn’t feel like persevering.

I thought of this word when I read the verse this morning, Romans 12:12.

12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

 It’s a very simple verse. Nothing fancy. No frills. But when you get right down to it, it makes no sense at all. Talk about a non sequitur! It goes from rejoicing in the hope we have to exhorting us to be patient in trouble. That doesn’t really flow. If I had been writing, I would have said to rejoice in our hope and then I’d go on to talk about something happy. But I didn’t write this. God did. And He knows what He’s talking about.

Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

I kind of talked about this yesterday, but have you ever not gotten something you asked God for? Have you spent your entire life serving God and you feel like all He ever seems to give you are trials and tribulations and tests? I know people like that. I know people who have encountered ridiculous things in their lives for no reason I can see. They don’t deserve it. They’ve never done anything to deserve it. Yet God seems intent on allowing every possible bad thing on Earth to happen to them. But some of these folks never give up. They are able to look past the awful circumstances in their lives and see that God is still working and that He has a plan. And on days where I would be crushed underneath a weight of gloom and doom, they’re rejoicing. That is true perseverance.

I was curious this morning about the phrase “confident hope.” I have blogged on it before, but I’ve never searched for it. So I did a Biblegateway.com search and the exact phrase “confident hope” appears five times in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Three of those times is in Romans.

Just glancing through these verses, the confident hope Paul (through God) is talking about is our salvation. And not just our faith in Christ, but our lives down here as well (part of our salvation is living out our life on Earth). Because of what Jesus did for us, because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have hope. And not just hope but confident hope that God knows what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises. And because we have that confident hope, we can rejoice in it and in what God is doing in our lives.

By rejoicing in that confident hope, it’s a lot easier to have patience when trouble comes my way. I’m know if I’m focused on what God has done in my life and what He is currently doing, it’s a lot more natural for me to keep rejoicing when everything crumbles around me. And if I’m still in that frame of mind to rejoice even when the world is falling apart around me, prayer becomes an instantaneous response as well when I don’t know what to do — or even if I do know what to do.

I have to mention that the verse does say “keep on praying” which indicates to me that it’s something I have to repeat. Paul here is assuming that I’m already praying and that I need to continue, persistently. I need to persevere, which means I need to continue in spite of the discouragements, the disappointments, the sadness or the trouble that weighs me down.

It’s not easy. But if it were easy, it wouldn’t be perseverance. It it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.