Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Plant A Seed This Christmas
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 13:23, 37 “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.”
This may not seem like an appropriate passage of Scripture to have for devotions just two days before Christmas, but follow me on a journey today. The journey has some twists and turns, and is a little long, but I think it will bless your heart. It starts in the Philippines.
Two weeks ago I received an email from a friend there. Her daughter is getting married. The father of the bride will watch the wedding from the presence of the Lord. His name was Victorino. He was my friend and one of my closest spiritual brothers. When he died of liver cancer he left a wife and four daughters behind. Several years ago I had the privilege of being asked by one of the daughters to be the stand-in father and walk her down the aisle for her wedding. What an honor it was to be there for that blessed event. Now the youngest daughter, Lily Grace, who calls me “Papa John”, is getting married on January 9th. She has invited me to come, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to go. I will never replace her real dad, but I am honored to be a part of this family’s lives as they serve the Lord faithfully where they are.
When I got the email I began to think of Victorino again, and the times of preaching we shared as we travelled to the remote villages of the Philippines together on two different occasions. I thought of the seeds of the Gospel that were planted and the harvest that has been experienced. Then I realized what “seed” made those trips possible. That seed was planted at Christmas in 1989, when another dear spiritual brother came to me with a large gift of money to finance my trip to the Philippines. He told me that his family had agreed that they would give up their Christmas gifts that year so that the gift of the Good News could be sent to those who have never heard. I was overwhelmed. It was with that seed money that I made the trip, met Victorino and his family, and saw dozens of people come to Christ. It was with that seed money that I paid for the tuition of two young people to attend Bible College, and both are in church planting ministry in the tribes today. It was with that seed money that I helped dedicate the land for a new church on a remote island where there were no churches, and preached the life-changing message of Jesus Christ in an open air meeting in the town square. I will have to wait until eternity to know the results of the seeds that were planted, and the full extent of the harvest. But I know this for sure now – every seed planted in good soil – soil prepared by the Holy Spirit – produces a crop. I am overwhelmed with the harvest God has allowed me to see.
Then I thought of another seed that was planted and is producing a harvest. The planting of that seed happened a couple of years ago. At that time my Associate Pastor, Dennis Pond, was living in the church parsonage next to the church. A man who had been rescued from gang life in Chicago through the work of Pacific Garden Mission was now living in Eau Claire, and staying with Pastor Pond. His name is Dennis Smith. Dudley Donaldson, whom we mentioned yesterday and is on his way to Swaziland to plant more seeds, was the seed-planter in Mr. Smith’s life. (I hope you’re not getting lost on this journey. I do have a map of where we are going.) Well, one day Mr. Smith saw a man pull up with a moving van to a duplex across the street from the church. With the true Christ-like heart of a servant, he went over and offered to help him move in. In the course of their conversation as they worked, Dennis shared the Gospel with him and invited him to church. The very next day John Brown and two young boys were at the men’s prayer breakfast at church, and the following day they were in church. Soon Mr. Brown’s live-in girlfriend Jessica was attending with her daughter and two sons. Several months later, John, Jessica, and their oldest son walked to the front of the church and knelt to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. They were married a short time later, and are now raising a Christian family.
But the journey isn’t over yet. You see, Jessica Brown’s sister died. The Brown’s have taken her two girls into their home, along with the other three children that are theirs. Last summer, at our annual tent event on our new property, Jessica’s daughter came to me and received Jesus as her Savior. Then last Sunday, at the conclusion of the service, the youngest son and the youngest niece came forward and received Jesus Christ as Savior. But the journey’s not done yet. Several months ago another young man named Jesse came to live with the Brown’s. John called me last night to tell me that Jesse wants to receive Christ as well, and will publicly profess his faith in Jesus at our Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. But we’re still not done. At the conclusion of the Christmas Eve service I will have the privilege of baptizing all of them as we celebrate the birth of Christ in their lives. All because of one seed that was planted by one man who simply helped another man move furniture.
You see, seeds produce a harvest. Your seed will produce a harvest. Your seed may seem small, but God’s Kingdom is governed by the principle of multiplication. Jesus Christ is God’s Seed. He was planted on the earth on Christmas morning. You and I are a part of the harvest. We have been given more seed to plant. There is more to be harvested. Why not start a new Christmas tradition this year, and then turn it into a daily practice. Do something, either by yourself or with your family, to plant a seed of the Good News in someone else’s life. Then get ready to reap a harvest that is guaranteed.