Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Today’s Topic: Vacation Memories
Today’s Text: Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. (John 4:35-36)
What a summer! So much to do and so little time. The more the family grows the more places there are to go. I praise God for the privilege of vacations and for the incredible staff I have, which allows me to relax and be stress free while I’m gone. They are truly a gift from God.
I’m glad God never takes vacations. In fact, it’s in those times of relaxation when I’m on vacation that He does His best work on me. He spoke to me on two specific occasions while we were gone, and I hope you don’t mind if I tell you about them today and tomorrow. They are actually a prelude to the worship service on Sunday.
One of the highlights of our trip was a return to a former church where I was the pastor from 1979 to 1987. It’s in Clear Lake, South Dakota. It was their 125th anniversary. We had been there for the 100th as well when we served there. While we had been in South Dakota, we had become friends with a pastor named Dave. He was a church planter. His father had been pastor of the Clear Lake church in the 60’s while he was in high school. Then, during a time of church renewal, Dave would drive to Clear Lake to preach and lead the church every couple of weeks as they sought to revitalize their ministry.
As Dave and I sat outside after the service last Sunday at lunch and talked, he told me a story that deeply impacted me. Let me set the stage for what he said.
During the worship service that morning there was a slide presentation of ministry memories from the last three years of the church. Several of the slides were of people who had made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as they were being baptized by immersion in a local lake. One of the men was my age. Tears formed in my eyes and ran down my face as I saw the harvest of souls continuing to be brought in by the faithful people of this church and the consistent preaching of the truth.
As Dave and I talked I shared with him the joy I was experiencing at seeing the long-term fruit of the ministry God gave us while we were there. It just so happened that the man whose picture we had seen being baptized was sitting right next to Dave and Dave told me his story.
When Dave was in high school he went to school with this man – we will call him Fred. Dave and Fred were not friends. In fact, no matter what Dave did, he couldn’t seem to get along with Fred. It was a small school, and this really bothered Dave – not just from a personal perspective but from a spiritual one as well. He didn’t know what to do, so he went to talk to his dad – you know, the pastor of the church.
Dave asked his dad why there was this constant conflict between him and Fred. Dave’s dad responded with one simple statement – “Maybe it’s because you’re the one who is supposed to lead him to Jesus for salvation.” Dave ignored that advice at the time, and things never got better as long as they were there. Sometime later, while still the pastor of the church, Dave’s dad died, and they moved away from Clear Lake.
Over 30 years later Dave was asked to go back to that church and start a revitalization program with them to restore their ministry effectiveness in their community. When he got back to the town, God reminded Dave of what his father had told him about Fred. Dave decided to do something about it, and did a search for Fred. Sure enough, Fred still lived in town. Dave called him and went over to his house. Within 30 minutes Dave was on his knees with Fred as Fred repented of his sin and prayed to receive Christ’s forgiveness and eternal salvation.
Then Dave said this – “He was so ripe he was rotten.” Bam! That hit me like a baseball bat to the side of the head. How often do I think that people are so rotten with sin that they are not ripe for salvation, when just the opposite is true?
I hope you will connect with this – stop looking at people as rotten and start seeing them as ripe, ready to be harvested for Jesus. Then become a worker in the harvest field.