Saturday, October 16, 2021

Jesus Sang!

Can you imagine how blessed the disciples were to live with Jesus for three years – to see Him face-to-face, hear His Word from His own lips, witness His miracles, and learn from Him directly how to pray, minister, live and die?

And yet we who have been saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) are also blessed, for His Word records many details of His teachings and earthly ministry.

On the eve of His crucifixion, our omniscient Savior knew the unspeakable agony that awaited Him –unimaginable physical pain, cruel betrayal by His closest friends and chosen people He had come to save, and worst of all, separation from His Father, with Whom He had been present continually since eternity past.

Yet rather than sinking into despair, Jesus used His remaining hours to share the Passover with His apostles; to teach them the sacrament of communion and its meaning,  remembering His broken body and His blood shed for the remission of our sins; and to pray, more so for all His followers than for His own ordeal.

But between the Last Supper and the prayer at Gethsemane, Our Savior gave thanks and praised God by singing! As far as I know, this is the only recorded time in Christ’s earthly ministry that He sang! Just as He had led the disciples in the Passover celebration and in prayer, I believe He led them in the hymn of praise they sang after supper, just after He foretold His shed blood and coming kingdom:

Mark 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

What must it have been like to hear the voice of Jesus lifted in song to His Father? Jesus Christ in His earthly form was perfect in every way, as He was without sin. How resonant, melodious, expressive and clear His singing voice must have been! Although He experienced fatigue, hunger, thirst and pain as we do, there is no record that He ever fell ill, which I believe reflects His freedom from the curse of sin. There would have been no allergies, respiratory infections, or congestion to mar His perfect vibrato, intonation and range.

What a perfect example for all believers to follow, no matter whether we are trained singers or just making a joyful noise unto the Lord – to sing praise to Our Father even in the midst of, and especially in the midst of, the worst trials. In His restorative power, God can even enable the mute to worship Him in song! (Isaiah 35:1-6).

The apostle Paul and missionary Silas followed that example when they were wrongfully imprisoned, and their worship songs not only cheered their fellow prisoners, but caused an earthquake that released them all from their bonds. They used that miraculous display of God’s power not to escape, but to convert their jailer and his household to faith in Christ (Acts 16: 22-34).

Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Small wonder that Paul later encouraged all believers to commune with God and to uplift and teach themselves and one another with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Music that honors God is a way to witness to the unsaved (Psalm 98:2), to encourage other believers and to worship God (Psalm 149:1-2).

The Old Testament and Psalms are filled with exhortations for believers to praise and worship the Lord in song (e.g. 2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalm 13:6). God designed us in His image for His good pleasure, including our voices (Exodus 15:1,21), ears (Exodus 10:2), and musical abilities (Genesis 4:21) to resonate freely to His glory.

If we praise God with song even when we are suffering, those who hear it shall experience our witness of being born again (John 3:3-8) and may be led to trust the Lord themselves.(Psalm 40:1-3; 14:6). By singing unto the Lord, we bless His name; show His salvation; and declare His glory (Psalm 96:1-3).

Even the earth and all of God’s creation (1 Chronicles 16:23,33) sing out in praise! The sea should roar, the floods clap their hands, and the hills be joyful together (Psalm 98:7-8). Science has recently uncovered evidence of the music of the spheres, including radio signals being emitted from the Milky Way!

Although the Bible does not record Jesus of Nazareth singing except at the Last Supper, Jesus Christ – the Lord our God – not only sings, but uses His song to express His love for and joy in His children. And in turn, we are to sing to express the joy of our salvation that we have in Him: We can sing for joy, for He has conquered sin and death and given us eternal life!

Zephaniah 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15 The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. …17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

While we are still on earth, we will continue in trials, disappointments, and tribulation. But praise God, we can sing through that heartache because of the joy that awaits us in Heaven! When that day comes and Christ returns for His children, we shall surround His throne with songs of praise from all nations, tribes and peoples! (Isaiah 42:9-12, Revelation 5:8, 14:2-4, 15:3).

Meanwhile, we can transcend from sorrow to joy in the Lord by singing His praises, just as Jesus sang to His Father as He prepared for the worst trial that ever was. Let us sing a new song unto the Lord (Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144, 149), using each heartache to inspire a new perspective on praise!

© 2021 Laurie Collett


 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Cornfield: Death to Newness of Life

As readers of this blog  may have gathered, I sometimes have detailed and complex dreams. One morning, however, I awoke remembering not an intricate plot, but a single image.

I stood in a cornfield at sunrise, the warmth of the morning sun offset by a refreshing breeze rustling through the cornstalks. The air was perfumed with the cleansing scent after a light shower, enriched by the fertile soil and the earthy aroma of fresh corn.

I stood before a single corn plant and was struck by its beauty and majesty as it grew purposefully toward Heaven. Its emerald leaves were lined with countless tiny grooves, sparkling with dew like multifaceted crystals, reflecting prisms of light. Pearly white, and pale and bright gold, kernels peeked through the parted husks sheathing the pristine ear of corn. At the top of the ear, flaxen strands of corn silk shone in the sun like a maiden’s blonde tresses.

This vision was hardly extraordinary – one that would be commonplace in the lives of many farmers – yet a miracle nonetheless. Such a lovely, vigorous, and nourishing plant could not have grown had it not been for death and rebirth. What began as a kernel of corn, dying and decaying in the earth to expose a single seed, had grown in the rich loam to become a tender shoot, then a young plant daring to emerge from its dark grave and face the sun. As it absorbed nutrients from the soil, life-giving rain water, and energy from the sun itself, it matured into a plant that was a delight to the senses, food for the body, and a reminder of spiritual truth.

Corn is not only a basic food commodity (Genesis 42:25) but a symbol of God’s provision. The perfect food of manna that God miraculously showered on the earth to feed the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert was described as “the corn of heaven (Psalm 78:24).

Corn is the first mentioned in a list of dietary blessings from God, even before wine, olive oil, bread, vineyards, and honey (Deuteronomy 7: 12; 18:4; Hosea 2:8; Joel 2:19;  2 Kings 18:32). Isaac’s blessing for his son is that “God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine (Genesis 27:26), and God Himself promised a similar blessing for the nation of Israel if they kept His commandments (Deuteronomy 33:28).

Because of the value of corn, it was fitting that God commanded His people to bring Him firstfruit offerings and tithes of corn from their harvest (Leviticus 2:14; Deuteronomy 18:4; Nehemiah 13:12).

In the book of Job, the man who joyfully accepts correction by and trials from God as a path to healing (Job 5:18-19) will “come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season (Job 5:26).

Throughout the Bible, giving corn is a way to feed others. For example, Joseph, who was a type or foreshadowing of Christ, provided for his once estranged brothers by loading their sacks with corn (Genesis 42:25).  Pharaoh’s dream, interpreted by Joseph, was of seven ears of corn symbolizing the wealth and productivity of Egypt: seven abundant years during which Joseph would supervise storage of corn and other staples to feed the people during the seven years of famine to follow (Genesis 41:5-7;49).

The tender story of Ruth and Boaz, which foreshadows Christ as our Redeemer and Sustainer, shows Boaz allowing Ruth to glean ears of corn from his field to feed herself and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 2:2). Jesus Himself fed His disciples by allowing them to pick and eat corn from a field, even though it was the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1)

One of the Mosaic laws also reminds us that laborers in the harvest should be blessed themselves by taking part in the fruits of that harvest: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn (Deuteronomy 25:4). Paul explains the spiritual applications of this principle, namely, that laborers seeking to harvest souls for God’s kingdom will be rewarded (1 Timothy 5:18), and that He will bless those who spread the Gospel with the hope embodied in that Good News (1 Corinthians 9:9-11).

In the parable of the sower, Jesus illustrates how the seed of God’s Word only results in salvation when it is sown into the fertile soil of a heart receptive to Him and not entangled in worldly preoccupations. In that situation, however, the seed brings forth fruit, multiplied thirty to one hundred-fold (Mark 4:1-25).

Jesus explains that we can’t see or understand how a kernel of corn dies in the soil to transform into a fully ripe ear of corn on the stalk, each kernel capable of repeating the whole process (Mark 4:26-29). Similarly, we can’t understand the mystery of how His death resulted in the eternal life of all who repent of their sins and trust in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Part of that mystery, however, is that we must die to our sin nature and to worldly cares (1 Corinthians 15:31) so that we can live forever as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), indwelled by the Holy Spirit to reach many other souls for Him.

John 12: 23 The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Paul takes this analogy even further, explaining that when Christ calls believers to Himself at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-53), our dead bodies will be raised as glorified, immortal bodies like those of the resurrected Christ Himself:

1 Corinthians 15: 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain.… 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

Praise God that while this dream of the cornfield was beautifully simple, it provided ample food for thought and reflection on His bounteous provision of physical sustenance, spiritual blessings, and everlasting life! May we plant the good seed of His Word in our heart and sow it to others, that we may all be transformed from the defeat of death to the victory of eternal life in Christ!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Fields White for Harvest

Our church is blessed to be hosting five missionaries from other countries as they visit local churches in the United States to spread the word of their missions and to raise support

Romans 10: 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?… 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

As we scan the headlines each day, it seems that the End Times are upon us, with wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, famine, earthquakes, signs in the sky, false prophets, persecution, and apostasy (Matthew 24). Yet Jesus told us not to be troubled, for He has gone to prepare a place for His children (John 14:1-4). Until His return, we are to do His Father's business (Luke 2:14), sowing the seed of God's Word (Matthew 13:1-9), watering the new shoots, and finally reaping the harvest of seeing souls born into His Kingdom.

Whatever part we play in this life cycle, we shall reap rewards at harvest time. Jesus encourages us to lift up our eyes and see the fields that are white for harvest (John 4:34-38), meaning the unsaved souls that could be brought to Him. Although the harvest could be great, the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37), and we must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers (Luke 10:2). 

It is a common misconception, even among Christians, that these laborers refer only to pastors, preachers, or missionaries who devote their lives to spreading God's Word, often at great personal cost. But the Bible makes it clear that once we are born again (John 3:3-8), we are to share the good news of the Gospel with all who are in our sphere of influence. 

When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at the well and she realized He was the Messiah, she left her water pot behind and rushed off to tell her whole village -- most of whom had scorned her as an immoral woman -- of her life-changing discovery. She had no specialized training, missions support, or even a good reputation to facilitate her mission. Yet as a result of her simple testimony, many came to see Jesus for themselves, and most of her village ended up placing their faith in Him (John 4).
 
At a missions conference I once attended, a speaker put it this way: "You're either a missionary or a mission field." If you have been saved by placing your faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), you are a missionary. If you have not yet trusted Him, you are a mission field.
 
What’s your excuse for not witnessing? Mine is fear. Fear of rejection, of offending, even of not being politically correct. But love, even if human and therefore not perfect, should cast out fear (1 John 4:18).

We are told to plant the seeds of belief in Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). But shouldn’t we also accept the responsibility of tilling the soil, watering the green shoots of faith, shedding light on the new growth, and tending it as it matures and bears fruit? What if we are the only gardener in one soul’s life, from sowing to harvest if we fulfill our mission (John 4: 34-38), or from sowing to withering if we fail?

Let me here insert a cautionary tale -- a true story I have told before, of how I failed, with dire consequences, to tend to a soul God entrusted to my care.
 
When I first saw Sathit’s picture, he was a gaunt, solemn lad of 11, standing with his parents and younger sister before a fragile ornamental cherry tree in full bloom, in his native village in Thailand. He was an average student who liked to garden, or “to sprinkle plants in his leisure,” as the awkwardly translated letter put it.

My intentions were honorable. I had picked up a brochure at church and had decided to sponsor a foster child. But I failed him. I didn’t know then that I would commit the cruelest sin of omission possible (James 4: 13-17).

The sponsoring organization had “Christian” in the name, so I naively assumed that my monthly monetary gift would provide Christian outreach, along with food, school supplies, and contributions to community projects such as better wells in Sathit’s village. Providing for physical needs is important, but securing our eternal future even more so (Matthew 6:31-33; 16:24-26).

Eventually, I learned that their resources were too limited for missionary services, but by then, it seemed unkind to withdraw my support. Despite the thousands of miles that separated us, I came to know and love Sathit from his letters, drawings, and progress reports.

As time went on, I also sponsored other children through Compassion International, another organization that does offer Christian teaching. It is never too early to nourish children in the Word of God (Mark 10:13-17; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-17). Reading letters from these children telling me that they loved our Lord and Savior brought me great joy. Arakiados, from India, even drew me an awe-inspiring picture of Jesus, as if he had seen Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But Sathit was not that blessed. I sent him Christmas cards, and I wrote him about Easter, about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28:6-7) through which all believers can have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

He wrote back about offering food to the monks in the temples and about Buddhist festivals: “I would like you to throw water on Songkran Festival in the province very much.”

I always wanted to tell him more, to share the Good News (Proverbs 25:25) that Jesus came to save sinners like all of us (Luke 19:10; Romans 3:23) and to reconcile us to Holy God through His shed blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). I wanted to prepare the way so that the Holy Spirit could convict him and so that he would be born again and welcome Jesus into his heart (John 3:3-8; Romans 10:9-10).

But I was still a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), and I failed to do this. After all, I reasoned wrongly, Sathit lived in a Buddhist family and attended a Buddhist school, and I didn’t want to complicate his relationship with his parents or make trouble for him with his teachers or classmates (Matthew 10:34-40).

Anyway, he was growing up so fast, and now that he was a young man of 16, perhaps his circle of friends would widen. I hoped he would travel outside his village and learn about other cultures and beliefs. I thought others would germinate the seeds of Christian faith I had sparingly scattered across his path (2 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Corinthians 3: 5-11).

Sadly, I thought about it too little and too late (2 Corinthians 6:2). A letter from the sponsoring organization notified me of an emergency situation – could I please call for more information? My prayers in those 12 hours before the office opened were for the problem to have a solution, even if difficult – crop failure, housing destroyed in a storm, even illness in the family. Surely I could help somehow. After all, with Christ, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

But without Christ, there is no hope (Ephesians 2:12-19; Romans 5). I learned that Sathit was riding a motorbike when a pedestrian darted across the road. Sathit swerved to avoid him, crashed into a tree, and died instantly. His young life was plucked up before it even had time to take root.

“Well, at least he’s in Heaven now,” well-meaning friends said upon hearing the news. How I wished that were true. How I wished I had another chance to make a difference, to tell him how he could be saved.

Had I know Sathit had so little time (James 4:14) to make the most important decision of his life – to choose where he would spend eternity – would I have been less afraid, more persistent, more committed? (Galatians 6:9) Would I have given him the Word of Life (John 6:63-68) instead of speaking idle words (Matthew 12:36), for which I will have to give an account to Jesus at His judgment seat? (1 Corinthians 3: 10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10)

May God help me to remember Sathit every time He gives me an opportunity to witness, to nurture the growth of belief in Jesus. For many souls we meet, we may be the only gardener they’ll ever have.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

© 2021 Laurie Collett