The harvest is plentiful

When we moved into our current home in Moxee, Washington, Cheryl and I decided it would be fun to plant a couple of cherry trees. We did a little research and figured out how to get them planted and how to care for them. Then we began to think about other things we could plant and grow. Soon there were raspberry and blueberry bushes growing. Another season passed and we were growing peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries. It was a beautiful thing to watch our trees and plants bear fruit after the first season or so. The berries grew like gangbusters, but the cherries took a little longer to develop.

Last season our cherries came in pretty well and we were looking forward to the time when they would be ripe enough to pick. Unfortunately that time never came. One day I looked out of my patio door and exclaimed, “Where did all the cherries go?” I ran out into the backyard and looked closely. Not a single cherry remained on either tree. They had all been plucked. The neighborhood birds had done their work.

Jesus used a lot of planting and growing metaphors as he taught the crowds who came to see him. One time he looked at the people with compassion and said to his disciples,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Jesus saw the people. He saw their need. He saw their hurt, their aimlessness, their helplessness. He had compassion on them.

They were a field. They were ready for harvest. He needed workers to go into the field. He had a plan to bring in the harvest. Otherwise, the fruit would whither on the tree. Otherwise, the fields would ripen and rot away. Otherwise, the fruit would be plucked by scavengers. Otherwise, people would languish and die without hope and without eternal security.

His exhortation to his disciples revealed that it would be laborers, his people, who would bring the good news to the crowds. It would be the disciples themselves who would carry on this mission, both during Jesus’s earthly ministry and after. It would be the disciples who would offer salvation to the lost and dying in each city, town and village, each community that they encountered.

It is fascinating that Jesus chose ordinary people to enlist in his work. There was nothing particularly special about the disciples, just as there is nothing particularly special about most Christians today. Sure, some have unique talents and gifts, or unique callings that place them in the spotlight. But Jesus loves to use ordinary people who pray for the harvest, pray for laborers, and answer the call to go and tell.

You may not think much of your abilities, talents, or gifts. Your weaknesses are nothing compared to the strength God provides. If Jesus has saved you, he has called you. And because of that you have been empowered by Him to fulfill that calling. Jesus wants to use you to reach people who are dying without him. There is a great harvest all around you and I that is ready for laborers.

Consider the people who live around you. Consider your actual neighbors, your close friends, your co-workers and family members. See them through Jesus’s eyes. See them with compassion. Pray for them, and seek opportunities to declare to them the hope you have in Jesus. Join your church in seeking after those who are far from God in your communities and cities. Join Jesus in laboring in his harvest.


Keys to Helping Others Discover Jesus, Part 2 – Listening

What if we listened more than we talked? Would we hear the heart of the people around us and then be able to point them to The Story for help? The following is a blog by Randy Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.


Everyone knows that you can look ten pounds thinner with a well-known slimming trick: clothing with vertical lines elongate your shape and give you a more svelte appearance, right? Wrong! Vision scientists Peter Thompson and Kyriaki Mikellidou say that what we learned about wearing vertical stripes, and not wearing horizontal stripes, is exactly backwards. Vertical stripes on clothing make the wearer appear fatter and shorter than horizontal stripes do. Horizontal stripes actually make objects appear taller and narrower. This phenomenon was reported by German physicist and physician, Hermann von Heimholtz, 150 years ago. Heimholtz’s report never got picked up by clothing designers, but now we know that he did indeed have a great eye for fashion (Scientific American Mind, July-August, 2012).

I love it when long-held assumptions are challenged and proven wrong, partly because it encourages me to test some of my own assumptions. We grow up thinking and learning…

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Keys to Helping Others Discover Jesus – Introduction

What’s it like to help people in the Northwest discover Jesus? What are some of the ways we can help? The following is an article from Randy Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention.


While in seminary I pastored a church in the small Texas town of Italy.  They were a wonderful people, and largely a church-going people.  I’ll never forget a man I led to Christ and baptized who later told me that he was invited to our church shortly after he moved to town.  The invitation went something like this: “You’re starting a business in town and it will help your business if you join our church.”  The man was not yet a Christian, but he knew that you don’t join a church to help your business!

That said, the truth was, it would have helped his business to have joined our church.  One way I describe the difference between church-life in the Bible-belt versus the Northwest is that no one joins a church in the Northwest to help their business.  And politicians don’t frequent churches in the Northwest during election season…

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Receiving Our Mission Orders

In the military you can do nothing without orders. You can’t travel. You can’t move into a home. You can’t get your children in school. Your spouse may not even be able to get a job! You’d be pretty aimless without orders.

But with your orders you have direction. You have empowerment. You have assurances.

When Jesus was with his disciples during the last days of his earthly ministry he gave his disciples some powerful mission orders. And with his orders he gave powerful assurances that they would have all the power required to carry them out.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4–8, ESV)

Jesus gave his disciples two orders.

(1) “not to depart from Jerusalem.” The other Gospels tell us how the disciples began to travel back to Galilee. Some of them even went back to their old fishing jobs. But Jesus had other plans for them. His plan was that they continue to do what he called them to do. There is no greater order for a disciple to carry out than to do what his master called him to do. There is no place for inserting our own agenda into his mission orders.

(2) “wait for the promise of the Father.” What was the promise? Jesus told them it was the Holy Spirit, the divine presence that would be with them always. Without the Holy Spirit they would be powerless. What does it look like to wait for the Holy Spirit? Later in the story Luke tells us that they “with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14). If we are to receive the power of the Holy Spirit we, too, must be united in prayer.

Jesus final words to his disciples are actually given as a promise.

(1) “you will receive power.” Power was the very thing required if the disciples were to carry out Jesus’ orders. No plan or agenda of theirs would have succeeded in accomplishing Jesus’ mission orders without the Holy Spirit. The most motivated and mobilized and strategized disciple is powerless without a mighty work of God. That is exactly what the disciples needed. Jesus promised them power, and the rest of the book of Acts confirms that they received it!

(2) “you will be my witnesses.” When we harmonize this verse with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, we may think of it solely as a command. But really it’s part of Jesus’ promise to his disciples. “You will be my witnesses.” The disciples were going to be witnesses of Jesus. That was a guarantee. They were going to be faithful witnesses or unfaithful. They were going to boldly proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and then call others to repentance and forgiveness (see Luke 24:46-48), or they were not.

The orders and promises of Jesus ring true for us, as well. Will we forsake our own agenda and be committed to his call on our lives as disciples? Will we begin among our own people, those in our own families and neighborhoods? Will we prayerfully depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission? Will we be a faithful witness to all Jesus did and said? We have received our mission orders. Are we willing to obey?


Jesus uses people who refuse to believe

If you want to read about some crazy disbelief then check out today’s reading in Mark 16.

Mark wrote how the disciples responded to the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. How would you expect these eleven men to respond–men who had walked with Jesus for three years, seeing him raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water and feed the multitudes? Wouldn’t the news of his resurrection be welcomed with joy?

Mary Magdelene was the first to tell them about Jesus (16:10-11). They refused to believe.

Two other disciples then told them they saw Jesus (16:12-13). They still didn’t believe.

They wouldn’t disbelieve for long.

Afterward [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. (Mark 16:14)

Two things struck me about this passage:

1. Remember how Jesus responded to the faith of the bleeding woman in Mark 5. What a difference between that woman and the disciples! Jesus commended the woman for her faith in him, because she heard the reports about him and believed. But Jesus rebuked his own disciples for their “unbelief and hardness of heart,” because they heard the reports of the resurrection and did not believe.

It’s easy to see from these two accounts the kind of faith that Jesus commends and rewards. I wonder which kind of faith in Jesus we exhibit on a regular basis. How often are our hearts hard toward the things of God? How often do we succumb to our circumstances and allow our faith to erode?

But, lest we get discouraged let me share some good news.

2. See how Jesus dealt with his disciples after he rebuked them.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15)

Jesus commissioned those with hard hearts and unbelief with the task of proclaiming the good news to the whole world. Why would he do that? They refused to believe the resurrection witness. Their hearts were hard toward the testimony of their own brothers and sisters. But Jesus restored them to ministry anyway.

That’s good news. That’s grace in action.

Jesus uses people who refuse to believe. He gets a hold of them and turns their world upside down. And then he puts them to work on the only lasting work–the joy of telling others the good news. That’s what he did with his first disciples and that’s what he still does with all who respond to him with faith.

You might think your faith is small. It probably is. That’s good. If it was any larger you might be tempted to believe you don’t need Jesus. But be encouraged by the fact that Jesus uses us for his glory and our joy despite our lack of faith.

And what should our response be to this grace? Praise with grateful hearts, and witness boldly. Because he’s given us great grace.