January 10 “Seed”

Seed

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.
Jesus knew what He was doing as went about preaching and healing in Galilee. He was scattering seed, the good seed of the Word of God. There was about to be a seismic shift in the relationship between God and man—the Old Covenant with the people of Israel replaced by a New Covenant with the whole human race. Such a thing required preparation. This new revelation was like powerful seed sown into the lives of those who would listen and obey.

A Parable for the Ages
Jesus illustrated what was happening with a parable, a story meant to teach a lesson. They had planned ahead so the boat was now a floating pulpit in the tossing sea. The voice of Jesus bounced on the water and leapt to hills covered with people.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”

The process was a familiar one to His listeners: The sower scattered the precious seed…

  • Some seeds fell to the side for the birds to eat;
  • Some seeds fell on hard ground and lived only short, unproductive lives;
  • Some fell among thorns to live longer but still fruitless lives, choked by weeds; and
  • Some seeds fell on good ground and realized their full, fruit-bearing potential.

Jesus knew that some people would not hear Him at all while others would listen and quickly forget. Still others would hear Him and start out to follow Him only to be distracted by life itself, its details choking their lives in miserable, fruitless frustration.

He also knew that some would hear Him and realize the truth He spoke into their lives. They would see the significance of His truth and organize their lives around Him. In these people, the seed would germinate and mature into a strong, productive life, making up for the losses of the seed sown in poor ground. There would be a joyful harvest in their lives despite the failures of others.

Just to make sure…
When the disciples, who were new to this whole parable business, asked Jesus what the story meant, He took them aside and explained the symbolism. We are blessed that He did! In this parable the life of the believer is forecast. We find both a challenge and a comfort in it.

  • The challenge is to get the precious seed—the right stuff! We must learn the Word of God if we are to sow it into this world. We dare not sow worthless seed. This world has enough untruth and cynicism without us sowing more.
  • The comfort is the promise of the harvest. We will watch as the birds eat the seed we intended for those we love. Our hearts will break over the hardness of the hearts of those to whom we have spoken truth. We will hurt with those who are so caught up in temporary things that the eternal things elude them. We will also rejoice in the harvest as time and again the precious seed does it work. We live in the promise from the Psalms:

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Sometimes something very small can grow to have great effect. A seed is like that.

Scriptures:
Mark 4:1-20
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.'” And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the precious seed you have sown in my life. I can look back over eventful years of planting and watering the seed and fruitful years of harvest. I look forward to the joys of continuing to sow the precious seed—sometimes weeping, always faithfully—in the years to come. The Harvest is sure! Help me live a strong, productive, unhindered life. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
The Songs of the Reaper
Words and Music: William Spencer

1. The seed I have scattered in springtime with weeping,
And watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvester’s reaping,
Shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.

Refrain:
Over and over, yes, deeper and deeper
My heart is pierced through with life’s sorrowing cry.
But the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.
By and by, by and by,
By and by, by and by,
Yes, the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.

2. Another may reap what in springtime I’ve planted,
Another rejoice in the fruit of my pain,
Not knowing my tears when in summer I fainted
While toiling sad-hearted in the sunshine and rain.

Refrain

3. The thorns will have choked and the summer suns blasted
The most of the seed which in springtime I’ve sown;
But the Lord who has watched while my weary toil lasted
Will give me a harvest for what I have done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 1, 2017: “Sowing”

Sowing

A fundamental life process is that of sowing and reaping.
We do this in two ways: unconsciously and intentionally.

  • Without thought we are creatures of habit performing our little life rituals day in and day out: eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, working, resting and so forth. Each habit we possess actually sows some sort of seed into our days and nights. They produce results which, like the habits themselves, remain unnoticed because that is just how we are and how we live. Though this all happens without conscious thought on our part, the results are very real. Our life habits, acquired in childhood and adolescence, determine our health and wellbeing when age catches up to us.
  • Intentionally we sow a different kind of seed, one we have chosen with a specific harvest in mind: savings for retirement, investments in the market or in real estate, education in our chosen field, and such like. Sowing spiritual seed falls into this category.

Sowing and Reaping
This principle is so deep in God’s creation that it is sometimes overlooked by even the most careful of us. Nevertheless it is always at work bringing an element of cause and effect into spirituality. If we do certain things, certain things will happen. It is true in personal relationships.

  • Lifelong friendships with our adult children are the harvest of the love and interest we showed them when they were small. The productive habits, pleasing personalities, and admirable character traits we see in them as adults are the harvest of good seeds the Lord helped us plant in them when they were small. Good seed produces a good harvest.
  • In ministry as the years pile up, we reap a harvest of good things in the lives of those we have touched along the way. If you see a long term pastor presiding over the congregation God has given him/her through years of faithful sowing, you are observing a harvest of blessing even while he/she continues to sow the good seed. A phone call or a text message from former parishioners to check on the pastor always brings a deep joy to the “sower who went forth to sow.”
  • A teacher knows this, too, as former students recognize them in stores and call them out with smiles. We are all former students of teachers who affected us greatly, sowing good seed into our lives. It is good to intentionally reward them with a note of thanks.

The Good and Precious Seed
The promises of God to one who would sow good seed are nothing short of astonishing. Here is just one:

Psalm 126:5-6 KJV
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Two things to see in these verses:

  1. Sowing in tears,
  2. Sowing precious seed.

Sowing in Tears
Sowing and reaping is not for cowards; this is tough stuff. The fallow ground does not break itself up; it only yields to the iron blade of the plow. To sow in tears has two meanings:

  1. Times of sorrow when the seed is stolen or hindered before completing its cycle of blessing, and,
  2. Sowing with a passion do deep our tears water the seed we sow.

In each case, somehow our amazing Lord promises us a harvest of joy—eventually.

Sowing Precious Seed
At this point intentionality takes control. We choose the seed we sow. When select truths to live by from the Word of God. Despite the odds or the wisdom of men, we choose to obey the voice of the Spirit. We explore the Bible for good seen to sow into the lives of those around us, all the while knowing for certain that a harvest is promised. “We shall reap if we faint not.”

Scriptures:
Genesis 8:22 NKJV
“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.”
Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Galatians 6:6-10 NKJV
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Psalm 126:4-6 NKJV
Bring back our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South. Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have provided me with precious seed. Help me be faithful today in the sowing of that seed. Help me be kind and encouraging to others even when they are not kind to me. Help me live by the truth of Your Word throughout this day as a constant conscious act of sowing the precious, good seed. Send Your sharp plow of the Spirit to break up the fallow ground in my heart so that I can sow even more seed. I want to sow to the Spirit today and not to the flesh so that of the Spirit my reward will be everlasting. Whether in tears or in joy, help me sow without ceasing today. For Your Kingdom, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

2. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3. Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 19, 2017: “Reaping”

Reaping

Few things in life come with a true guarantee. 
Reaping a harvest of good for the glory of the Lord and the benefit of mankind is one of them.  Two verses from the Bible express the inevitability of the harvest, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

  • Psalm 126 promises that the one who lives with passion for man and God and plants the Word of God, that person will doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing a great and joyful harvest.
  • Galatians promises a great harvest to those do not grow weary in doing the right things.

The promise of the Old Covenant is continued in the New Covenant.
Combining the two gives us the conditions of the promise:

  • The sower pictured in Psalm 126 is said to sow in tears.  The guaranteed reaping flows from the passionate life.  The heart that sees the harvest is the one moved by the plight of those without God.
  • The seed that brings the harvest is the precious seed of the Word of God.  Good will and positive thinking doesn’t guarantee anything but the good seed of the Word will have its affect those who hear.  Some will laugh and turn away.  Others will engage in a shallow attempt to follow God until conditions worsen and the seed planted in then comes to naught.  Still others will gladly receive the seed of the Word and it will become new life in them forever.
  • Galatians presents perseverance as the final condition.  The sower who gets the happy harvest celebration is the one who learns how to ward off weariness with rest and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

The “Doubtless” Harvest
Passion, knowledge of God’s truth, and consistent faithfulness in the work God has given us to do will “doubtless” bring a harvest of joy.  The tears we shed for the lost,

  • for the church,
  • for the pain of the world,
  • for the pain in our own hearts when others treat us the way people treated Jesus,
    will water the good soil of those who listen to us and the harvest will come.  Tears will be forgotten in the laughter of the time of reaping.

That time is more sure than tomorrow’s sunrise.  It doesn’t matter how long the night may last until that dawning of the day of reaping.  Until then, let us be passionate, full of truth, and faithful in all things.  The happy harvest is one of life’s few sure things.

Scriptures:
Psalm 126:5-6 KJV
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Matthew 13:3-9;18-23 NKJV
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!””Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the God of guarantees! Your promises are sure, irrevocable, and powerful in real life. Your truth is fixed but is also marvelous in its many applications. Help see Your Precious Seed and perhaps the fresh plowed fields where I might sow that seed. The day will come when before Your judgment seat I will lay down my harvest at Your feet—the faithful record of my faithfulness—souls won to You, deeds of mercy, acts of righteousness, words of truth fitly spoken. I want with all my heart to hear You say, “Well done!” Amen and Amen.

Song:
Bringing in the Sheaves
Words: Knowles Shaw; Music: George A. Minor

1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

2 Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

3 Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved