Let Go of the Seed

This is amazing grace.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10 

I recently read a blog by EagleSighti that blew my mind. When I saw the title, Letting Go of the Seed, I immediately pictured sowing the Word of God like seed as in the Parable of the Sowerii. I soon realized that the verse, 2 Corinthians 9:10, and the blog were really about generosity in giving, but by then it was too late. The Lord had turned this precious gem and I had seen into a different facet.  

I’m still not sure the blog is not about sharing the gospel it was such a bright flash for me. Especially, this sentence: “You have to let go of the seed in your hand to reap the harvest.” Yes! We believers in Christ have seed in our hands, precious, precious seed. The seed we carry is the Word of life and healing for world. But we hang on to it. At least I do.  

Why do I hang on to the seed? Why don’t I let go of it? Why don’t I just spontaneously pray for that stranger in trouble or that friend in need of strength or healing, that dying loved one? Why is it not the first thing I think about? Why don’t I share the gospel message more? Why don’t I speak the truth in love to those who are wandering off the path?

I may not have any money to be generous in that way, but I can give the seed – “silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.” These tiny, seemingly insignificant seeds in my hand are precious, they have power – “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” (Acts 3:6).

So, why do I hold the seed back in my hand? Fear, self-preservation, thinking I have to do or be something wonderful. J.D. Walt of Seedbed wrote an articleiii on the following verse, which has helped me a lot: 

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 

We have been given the ministry; we have been given the message. We have been given the seed. This would be scary except for that phrase, “all this is from God.” J.D. Walt translated the phrase this way: 

“ALL THIS IS FROM GOD.” 

Translation: This is amazing grace.  

Translation: None of this is from us. 

Praise God, none of this is from us!

What does this mean for the seed in my hand? I received grace from God and those to whom I give my seed will receive revelation and new life from God, from the Word – not from me. For God has promised that his Word that goes out “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11)”. He supplies the seed, he supplies the Message, the Word of Life, he will make the harvest happen. He is the Wonderful One. All I have to do is open my hand and drop it. 

The sower sows the word. Mark 4:14 

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls … John 12:24 

i https://eaglesight.blog/2021/08/02/letting-go-of-the-seed/  

ii Matthew 13 

iii Are You Finally Ready to Receive? https://www.seedbed.com/are-you-finally-ready-to-receive/ 

Image, free download from Pixabay 

Do Not Be Negligent Now

My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense. 2 Chronicles 29:11 

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 

Stay awake (watch, be vigilant, give strict attention to, take heed) and pray … Matthew 26:41 (NET) 

For we know, brothers [and sisters] loved by God, that he has chosen you … 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (ESV) 

“Persistent prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God, and it stirs the deepest forces of the soul toward the throne of heavenly grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire, restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. Prayer is not an incident or a performance but a passion of soul. It is not a want or half-needed desire but a sheer necessity.” — E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer 

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (impudence, persistence) he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  Luke 11:5-8 

“[Jesus] shows that prayer is not just mere words, but it is inconvenience, intercession, precision, and asking for the impossibilities … In a nutshell, prayer take guts. God grants our requests not only because He is our Friend, but because we have the guts and faith to ask. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16) … ” — The Nature of Prayer, Mulyale Mutisyai  

… do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you … 

i https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/08/02/the-nature-of-prayer/

  Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

Voiceless Yearning

… for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. Romans 8:26 (AMPC) 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 

beyond words 

or thoughts 

my heart drawn 

with voiceless yearning 

incoherent plea  

a long way off 

in the speechless empty road 

you meet my supplication 

wailing 

beyond words 

or thoughts 

Image in the Public Domain. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Christian Rohlfs, 1914.

My Spirit Grows Faint

I am overwhelmed 

When I remember God, then I am disturbed (moan, murmur, growl, cry aloud); When I sigh (complain), then my spirit grows faint (feeble, weak, overwhelmed). Psalm 77:3 (NASB) 

My heart desolate   

… my spirit grows faint (feeble, weak, overwhelmed) within me; my heart within me is dismayed (desolate, appalled, stunned, devastated). Psalm 143:4 

Yet! 

When my spirit grows faint (feeble, weak, overwhelmed) within me, it is you who know (make known, declare, cause me to know, reveal to me) my way. Psalm 142:3a 

You show me the Way 

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint (feeble, weak, overwhelmed); lead me (guide me, bring me) to the rock that is (raised up, lifted up, exalted) higher than I. Psalm 61:2 

You lead me to the Rock that is higher 

You guide me to the Rock that is lifted up 

You bring me to the Rock who is exalted 

And when I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself. John 12:32 

And being found in appearance as a man, 
    he humbled himself 
    by becoming obedient to death— 
        even death on a cross! 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
    and gave him the name that is above every name … Philippians 2:8-9 

I was overwhelmed and you answered me 

Jesus answered, “I am the way …” John 14:6 

“Follow me.” 

Image, original oil painting by Jack Bair. All rights reserved.

A Pure Intention of Heart

I would like to share a prayer written by Jonathan Coussins (b. 1757), one of John Wesley’s itinerant preachers (or perhaps written by his wife Penelope). I was especially struck by the phrase “a pure intention of heart.” It reminds me of the “naked intent toward God”i of the unknown monk, the “fixing of our eyes on Jesus,” the throwing off all the things that lure away and weigh down and entangle. In my mind I see them discarded along the side of the path, littering the Way. 

This prayer was committed to memory and was a great blessing to another early Methodist, Elizabeth Rhodes. She recorded it in her journalii in hope that “it may prove of equal benefit to others.”  May this prayer bless another generation of journeyers toward God. 

  “Grant me, gracious Lord, a pure intention of heart, and a steadfast regard to your glory in all my actions. Possess my mind continually with your presence, and fill it with your love, that my whole delight may be to repose in the arms of your protection. Be light to my eyes, music to my ears, sweetness to my taste, and full contentment to my heart. Be my sunshine in the day, my food at the table, my repose in the night, my clothing in company, my succor in all necessities. 

  Lord Jesus, I give you my body, my soul, my substance, my fame, my friends, my liberty, and my life. Dispose of me, and all that is mine, as seems best to you, and to the glory of your blessed name. I am not my own, but yours; therefore claim me as your right, keep me as your charge, and love me as your child. Fight for me when I am assailed, heal me when I am wounded, and revive me when I am destroyed. 

  My Lord and my God, I ask you to give me patience in troubles, humility in comforts, constancy in temptations, and victory over all my ghostly enemies. Grant me sorrow for my sins, thankfulness for my benefits, fear of your judgments, love of your mercies, and mindfulness of your presence for evermore. Make me humble to my superiors and friendly to my equals, ready to please all and loathe to offend any; loving to my friends and charitable to my enemies. Give me modesty in my countenance, gravity in my behavior, deliberation in my speech, holiness in my thoughts, and righteousness in all my actions. Let your mercy cleanse me from my sins, and your grace bring forth in me the fruits of everlasting life. 

  Lord, let me be obedient without arguing, humble without feigning, patient without grudging, pure without corruption, mercy without lightness, sad without mistrust, sober without dullness, true without duplicity, fearing you without desperation, and trusting you without presumption. Let me joyful for nothing but that which pleases you, and sorrowful for nothing but what displeases you: that labor be my delight which is for you, and let all weary me that is not in you. Give me a waking spirit, and a diligent soul, that I may seek to know your will, and when I know it may I perform it faithfully to the honor and glory of your ever blessed name. Amen.” 

i The Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous. 14th century. 

ii Memoir of Mrs. Elizabeth Rhodes. By herself. (Mason, London, 1829).

Image, free download from Pikest

All there is

When despair has obliterated ordinary prayer, when the psalms fail and all words are stupid and meaningless, the mantle of loneliness surrounding me becomes a mantle of dark and wordless love. This darkness reveals the paradox of prayer: in the absence of God, all there is, is God. 

Suzanne Guthrie 
Grace’s Window 

Enough

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.  Psalms 66:18 (NKJV) 

I always looked at this verse as saying that if I coddled some unrepented sinful act or thought in my heart, the Lord could not listen to my prayers. And it does mean that, but I think God is saying something more to me. The word in the above verse translated “regard” is the Hebrew word ra’ah. It means to look at, see, regard, gaze at, behold, perceive. Derek Prince had a slightly different take on this verse: 

“If I ‘regard iniquity in my heart,’ it means that I come to God with a consciousness in my heart of something that condemns me.”  

I have been having a hard time in prayer. I have been feeling like the Lord did not hear. Suddenly, I realized that I had not been coming to God in prayer with a clear conscious. I was always under the burden of some kind of guilt. Guilt about not being a good enough friend, a good enough wife and mother, not serving God enough, not praying enough, not calling my elderly parents enough — not being enough. I had been listening to those accusing voices in my head and had been feeling a closed door, a heavy curtain, between me and God. My heart was condemning me. I was gazing at my failings and not at Jesus.  

Then I read this from J. Vernon McGee. He was describing the tabernacle in the wilderness and its three parts: the outer court where the sacrifices were received and their blood shed, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, where God dwelt between the cherubim. About the articles of furniture in the Holy Place of the tabernacle, he writes that it included “the table of showbread and the golden lampstand. Then, in the background was the golden altar, the altar of incense, which speaks of prayer – no sacrifices were ever made there” [emphasis mine]. 

No sacrifices were made at the altar of incense, the place that symbolically represented the prayers of the saints (see Revelation 8: 3-4). Why? Because the sacrifice had already been made out in the courtyard on the brazen altar. The sacrifice had already been made. Therefore, the priest could go into the Holy Place and offer the prayer-incense without further sacrifice.  

But these Old Covenant sacrifices, made over and over, “were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper” (Hebrews 9:9). It is only the once-and-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God that can clear our consciences. 

I was bypassing the altar where the Blood of the Lamb has been shed. Should I (in pride) be surprised that I am weak and sinful? No, I should throw away all expectation of ever being “enough.” I can never be enough for anyone, and it’s not my job either. It is not my wonderfulness that helps or saves. Only God can be enough. All I can do is offer my love, serve with the strength he gives and trust him for the rest.  

“We have to get rid of any attitude that suggests some kind of righteousness in ourselves. We have no righteousness of our own. We must come to a place where we are trusting in God’s faithfulness, and that produces confidence … There must come a time when we lay side every attempt to justify ourselves and say, ‘I receive by faith the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to me by my faith in Him according to the Word of God. I will not worry about my merits. I will not worry about my sins. I will not parade my good deeds. I will not blush for my bad deeds. I will not examine and analyze my own heart all the time to see if I am good enough. I will trust God that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all sin. And now I am going boldly right to the throne, right into the holiest place of all.’” Derek Prince, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, chapt. 2, Basic Conditions for Answered Prayer [emphasis mine] 

Instead of beholding, gazing at my real failings and unrighteousness and listening to the accusations of our enemy, I need to fix my thoughts and eyes on Jesus, Our Righteousness (Hebrews 12:2). As the Holy Spirit points out sin, I repent of it and give it to the One who washes it away with his Blood as if it never happened and forgets it. 

The humble find the Holy One. Just when the consciousness of sin and weakness, and the discovery of how much of self there is, makes you fear that you can never be holy, the Holy One gives Himself. Not as you look at self, and seek to know whether now you are contrite and humble enough—no, but when no longer looking at self, because you have given up all hope of seeing anything in it but sin, you look up to the Holy One, you will see how His promise is your only hope.” — Andrew Murray, Holy in Christ [emphasis mine] 

But you know what the really wonderful, amazing, grace-filled thing is? We don’t have to stop at the altar of incense in this new temple. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can go all the way into God’s very presence and talk to him in person. Let us go there with assurance. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a Great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. Romans 8:1 (Message) 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14  

But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Passion Translation)

Photo copyright Jack Bair

Draw Near

This week the theme highlighted for me by the Spirit was obviously prayer! I received a cascade of blogs and devotionals on this subject, a welcome confirmation as God has been speaking to me about prayer too. “If you love someone, you talk to them.”  

… I had a strange epiphany in my early college years at the realization that I didn’t really understand why I was praying. Have you had similar thoughts? As soon as you utter, “Amen,” you start to doubt the words that proceeded it. If God is good, why is He waiting on me to pray to bless me, heal that friend, or right that injustice? And if He already has those things in mind, then why am I praying at all? … while I can’t fully explain the theology of prayer, I can explain a little bit about relationships. If you love someone, you talk to them. You relax and talk and (read this part carefully) listen. — 5 Practical Ways to Grow (or start!) Your Prayer Life, blogged by A Grateful Life Lived. Read the whole excellent post here https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/5-practical-ways-to-grow-or-start-your-prayer-life/  

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26 

 We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of God and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, He expresses for us the unutterable. — Oswald Chambers, The Unrivaled Power of Prayer, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints. — Oswald Chambers, The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6, NAS) 

What’s the “inner room”? I think it’s the place of stillness; the place where you’re shut off from all other voices and influences and you can really hear the voice of God, and when you’re in that relationship with stillness in your inner room, then God speaks to you, you receive faith, you receive revelation and your prayer has a different quality to it. — Derek Prince 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

“Come to Jesus, come the Great High Priest, come to the throne of the Living God, the Lamb who was slain BUT is alive, the grave could not hold Him and you will find His grace is sufficient for your every need. 

Draw near – love Him, fellowship with Him, worship Him, hunger and thirst for Him, cast your cares on Him – draw near with a sincere heart in intimate relationship. 

Note this is not an invitation to come to church, nor is it an invitation for intellectual assent, nor is it an invitation to empty works … this is an invitation to bring our hearts into the very presence of God and commune with Him. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ, gives us access to into His Presence …” Let’s Approach God, by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/10/lets-approach-god/  

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

Trusting in Chariots

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8 

This was an old friend of mine, Josephine’s favorite verse. She was in her nineties when I got to know her. Telling me stories of her life, she said that when things got really bad – and things did get very bad for her at times – she would go into her closet and pray that prayer. Then she would come out and face what she had to face in God’s strength. And God would answer. She trusted God through being kicked out of her home as a teenager, freezing in an unheated attic apartment, days of hunger and grueling hard work. Through her whole life, she had a thick prayer notebook. She often prayed that verse for the problems and people on her list. 

It was Josephine who taught me to pray. She would say, “Let’s pray! You start.” I would pause, composing a wonderful prayer in my mind. She would give me about two seconds and demand, “Well are you going to pray?” I learned early on to just jump in and start talking, hoping God would give me the words. And you know what? He did! And I learned to stop putting my faith in my ability to put together the correct prayer – putting faith in my chariots and horses, faith in my faith – and just trust and let his Spirit pray in me. 

The Hebrew translated “we trust in the name” in Psalm 20:7 actually says, “The name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority, character of the Lord we will recall, call to mind, mark so as to be recognized (i.e., remembered), recount, think on.” We mark to be recognized or remembered – like putting a bookmark in the page of a great book to go back and reread over and over again – we remember his character, who he is, and we trust.   

A.W. Tozer warned against having faith in faith, not in God. 

There are preachers who devote themselves completely to preaching faith. As a result, people have faith in faith. They largely forget that our confidence must not be in the power of faith but in the Person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ … It is the character of God Himself, you see, that gives us this confidence. — Faith Beyond Reason 

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love. We just like the idea of being in love. It is exciting and makes us feel good. But it might not have much to do at all with the actual person – their feelings, thoughts and desires. Having faith in our ability to have faith – or even having faith in the promises of God – is really just trusting in chariots if our faith is in how well we can dredge up “faith” and memorize and proclaim. Our faith must rest on the Faithful One, on the Promise Keeper. Its foundation must be on the name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority and character of our Lord. It is because we know him, who he is, that we can believe. 

This is important, because when things get really bad and it seems your prayers are not being answered, you will not be thrown for a loop, you will not be overwhelmed. You will come out of your prayer closet and stand firm on the Rock. Put your bookmark there, in the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us, Shepherd, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior, in his proven character, in his unfailing love and mercy.  

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 (NLT) 

But we trust in the name. 

Here is a place to start getting to know the goodness of our Father https://biblereasons.com/who-god-is/

Image, Tattered Spine by Tim Samoff on flickr https://flic.kr/p/51oAP  

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.