Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Monday, July 21, 2014

Before the Planting, there must be the Plowing

As a country boy who grew up working on a farm, I love this time of the year seeing the tractors in the field breaking up the land to prepare for planting. It's almost like waking up the soil by saying "Get up, it's time to rise from your winter slumber and prepare for the harvest." And the heavy equipment they have now to turn that dirt over makes the little Farmall Cub tractor we had look like a toy. Now they have giant, air-conditioned beasts with dual tires, front and back, that pull plows as wide as a house. Just with one pass, that land is totally tilled.

The other day I was watching one of those mechanical mammoths tearing up some land and I thought...if fields had feelings they would probably be crying. The weight of those wheels; the pain of those plows; coming in when its totally at rest and turning it's world upside down...literally. If those fields were like us, I'm sure they'd want the harvest, and they wouldn't mind the planting. But it's the plowing that they could do without.

Well obviously, those fields are not like us. But we are quite like those fields. We get comfortable when our world gets cozy. We like the quiet seasons in our life when nothing is changing. Sure, nothing is growing, but at least we don't have to worry about the people and situations that surround our lives being any different than they were the day before. Oh we want the harvest in our lives, we just don't want to go through what it takes to get it. But, there could be no growing if there was no sowing; and there could be no sowing if there was no plowing.

Look, don't curse every bad thing you go through. Sometimes God is using those things like a plow to soften the soil of your heart so that He can plant good seed there. I know it's tough; I know it's painful. But hold on! Galatians 5:9 says "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." It won't last forever because it's a season. And when you reach the harvest, you'll realize it was worth the plowing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pulling Green Peaches

When I was about 10 years old, my friend and next door neighbor Chris and I were outside playing. We obviously had gotten tired of playing our normal games because we decided to see who could throw something over this packhouse in our backyard (for you city-slickers, that's just a simple barn where you kept feed, seeds, tools, etc). We were looking around for something to throw and I guess we had chunked just about all the rocks in the yard already. The only thing I could find to throw was a green, unripened peach hanging on the peach tree. Now my dad loves to plant fruit trees around the yard, and there were two peach trees near the packhouse. It wasn't like I had never heard my dad say with a stern voice "Now, don't yall be messing with those peach trees" before, so I don't know what caused my temporarily lapse in judgment.
So I proceeded to make my first attempt to throw the peach over the packhouse. Oh, did I mention that my dad had just paid someone a couple hundred bucks to paint this packhouse a nice, bright white? Oh did I also mention that at age 10 if my arms could at all have been considered guns, then they would have been cap guns? So needless to say my attempt to throw the peach over the packhouse was a vain one. That green peach smacked right on the side of that nice, white wall. Again, still in my temporary lapse of sanity, I thought it was funny that it left a perfectly round, green mark on the side of that building. I looked at Chris and he was chuckling too. Later I realized it was because he knew I was gonna get it, and he couldn't wait to watch. So, still copping an insanity plea, I grabbed another peach and threw it; and another and another. Til that barn was a nice green, polka dotted pavilion. It was all smiles and giggles until I heard that back screen door open, and my mother call my name with a not-so-pleased tone. I mean, I only have four letters in my name, but she dragged it out like it was 24..."EeeRrrrrriiiiiC!"But the C on the end snapped like a whip, and I knew it was foreshadowing the pain to come.
So, Chris laughed and ran home, I got called in the house, momma spanked me and sent me to my room. As I marched down the hall, I heard the dreaded words echoing behind me..."Just wait til your daddy gets home...gets home...gets home....". So I sat in my room dreading to hear his truck drive up. Soon it did. I heard talking in the kitchen. It was all low mumbling until I heard my name. I waited. And waited...and waited. Finally momma called me to come up front. Going back up the hall was like dead man walking. I turned the corner, bracing myself. I think I was even squinting like I thought my dads yells were going to put my eye out or something. When I turned, they were all sitting at the table, food out, and plates set. My dad looked at me and said "Come on let's eat." Wha...What? Had the governor called? Was there new evidence discovered? Did Chris feel sorry for me and confess to the crime? Whatever it was, I didn't say a word. I just sat my grateful behind down at the table and waited for the potatoes to be passed.
I shared that story not so you can laugh at me getting a whooping for being stupid, though the folks in church seemed to enjoy my pain. But I share that to highlight a truth about God. And the truth is, God is always intolerant of our sins and yet He is also always gracious to forgive us of them. Like I deserved to get that spanking from my mom, and truthfully deserved one from my dad too. My parents could not tolerate that behavior from me, nor can God from us. I mean, imagine how bad we would be if the Lord never held us to His standards of right and wrong. I shudder to think. But at the same time, because I am a believer in Christ, and through Him a son of God, I know there is always grace and mercy available which I don't deserve. See, while I was in my room, I didn't feel so much like a beloved son of my mom and dad. In fact, I felt like an isolated outsider awaiting banishment from our home. But I wasn't. I was still their son, and they still loved me, and they still saved a place at the table for me.
Romans 8:15 says "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." But this only applies to those who have been adopted to God through faith and confession in Christ. Don't you want a Father like that? If you don't already have it, then I ask...what are you waiting for? There could be a place at the table for you too!
L