SEEDTIME AND HARVEST

Gen. 8:22 – While the earth remains,

Seedtime and harvest,

And cold and heat,

And summer and winter,

And day and night

Shall not cease.

I had to learn quickly about provision when the Lord called me to pioneer a church in New Orleans in 1979. I had spent my previous six years as a Christian living in a Christian community. Like everything else, community living had its pros and cons. For example, it wasn’t easy to turn over the whole pay check every week. We had a common purse so everything went into the kitty. The positive, I had no concern with bills or financial matters, that was someone else’s concern. The problem I was facing in starting a church was this whole provision thing. I had to provide for my family as well as figure out finances for a new church. That’s when someone turned me on to a book from Oral Roberts on seed faith living. Those principles of sowing and reaping enabled us to get started in our ministry with God as the source of our supply. Here are some thoughts from Oral Roberts about seed faith living, these words can be a huge help in your life.

“Noah’s first acts after the Flood were to build an altar and to sacrifice to the Lord. God was pleased and made promises to the human family through the faith of Noah. He also instituted the Law of Seedtime and Harvest: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest . . . shall not cease”. When God created the first living thing, He gave it the ability to grow and multiply. How? Through the Seed. Your life began by the seed principle. Every act of your life since your birth has operated by the seed principle—springing from good seeds or bad seeds you have sown—whether or not you were consciously aware of your seed-planting. The principle continues today. To overcome life’s problems, reach your potential in life, see your life become fruitful, multiplied, replenished (that is, in health, finance, spiritual renewal, family, or your entire being), determine to follow God’s law of seedtime and harvest. Sow the seed of His promise in the soil of your need.”

So have you bought in to God’s plan of provision? Connect yourself to the Lord’s work financially and see God as your source. You too can begin to enjoy the harvest of a seed faith lifestyle.

FORTY YEARS

Jn.4:35 – Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.

God’s word is more powerful than any of us can realize. After all, everything that is was created by the power of God’s Word. God’s word has power for salvation and healing as well as creation. The Word of God is also prophetic. It declares and forms our future. This verse in John has been instrumental to the founding and shaping of Victory Fellowship. It has been involved in everything from those early evangelism teams to Feed the Multitudes. It has continued shaping our course with life groups, Beyond the Grave, Feed the City, and Mary’s Song. This prophetic word has been the heart beat of our community, challenging and empowering us to reach our city with the good news of the gospel.

Something that stands out to me in this passage is the eternal presence of ‘I am’ in this verse. Jesus said not to put the harvest off to four months in the future. He would also say don’t get caught up in the ‘glory days’ of the past. What would He say? Look again, the fields are white right now for harvest. After forty years He is still calling us back to the fields, the harvest is ready.

Just as He did with His first disciples so many years ago, He said ‘launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch’. He is still calling new ‘fishers of men’. The funny thing about the Lord is this, He loves to call the least likely to effect our world. Who knows? Maybe He is calling you to launch your boat out into the deep.

I see this forty year anniversary of Victory Fellowship as a transition. One awesome season has come to an end. The effect of our church over the last forty years is impossible to gauge; thankfully only One is able to judge it and we will leave that in His hands. Leaving behind one season inevitably leads to the entering of another season. What will this next era of our church look like? Who will rise to the day to lead the charge? The Lord will suddenly raise up new voices and new talents to meet the challenge of this generation. I don’t want to linger too long thinking about the glory days gone by, “I am” is moving amongst us and I want to be included in the new voices that usher in His kingdom.

CONSIDER THE LILIES

Matt.6:28 – So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…

What is Jesus getting at? Why did He say for us to “consider the lilies?” He was saying that the lilies don’t need our help to grow. Plant them in the proper environment and they will do just fine. We don’t have to fuss and hover over them, there growth is certain. After all, the Lord is the Master Husbandman. Actually He is always at work taking care of us. The Lord was talking about worry and our daily provision. He said simply do your part, seek first the kingdom, and everything else will be sorted out. We don’t have to be anxious and strive, the harvest of the kingdom will always come about. Here is a story from A.B. Simpson’s devotional that illustrates His point.

“It is said that a mother found her small boy standing beside a tall sunflower, with his feet stuck in the ground. When she asked, “What in the world are you doing there?” he naively answered, “Why, I am trying to grow to be a man.”

His mother laughed heartily at the idea of his being planted in the ground in order to grow like the sunflower. Then, patting him gently on the head, she said, “Why, Harry, that is not the way to grow. You can never grow bigger by trying. just come right in and eat enough good food and have plenty of play and you will soon grow to be a man without trying so hard.”

Harry’s mother was right. There could not be a better answer to the question: “How do the lilies grow?” than Hannah Whitehall Smith’s comment, “They grow without trying.”

Our deepest spiritual life is the life of self unconsciousness through which we become united to Christ. We live continually on His life, being nourished, fed and constantly filled with His Spirit and presence and all the fullness of His imparted life.”

Harvest and provision happen without us really trying. We focus our attention on the Lord and His kingdom and harvest is certain. Plant your seed in fertile ground and go about your daily responsibilities. Don’t be anxious by delays or uncertain timing, in due season your harvest will suddenly appear. Consider the lilies, they are beautiful and abundant.

CROWNS EVERY YEAR

Ps.65:11 – You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

You ever take time to think of all the resources you go through in a year? How much food , clothing, and stuff does it take for you to function each year? How much does all of it cost?

If you really want to get crazy, think about the resources to make America function for a year. Add to that countries like China, Mexico, or Great Britain; the amount of provision to sustain this one planet is quite unthinkable. The amazing conclusion, the wealth and generosity of God is just over the top. He crowns every year with His harvest of abundance. I don’t want to treat that as common or insignificant; I want to give thanks to the Lord for His continual, abundant supply. Here are some comments from Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“The harvest is the plainest display of the divine bounty, and the crown of the year. The Lord himself conducts the coronation, and sets the golden coronal upon the brow of the year. Or we may understand the expression to mean that God’s love encircles the year as with a crown; each month has its gems, each day its pearl. Unceasing kindness girdles all time with a belt of love. The providence of God in its visitations makes a complete circuit, and surrounds the year. And thy paths drop fatness. The footsteps of God, when he visits the land with rain, create fertility. It was said of the Tartar hordes, that grass grew no more where their horses’ feet had trodden; so, on the contrary, it may be said that the march of Jehovah, the Fertilizer, may be traced by the abundance which he creates. For spiritual harvests we must look to him, for he alone can give “times of refreshing” and feasts of Pentecost.”

Now let’s get specific for a moment; what has the Lord done in your life this past year? Has He provided your resources again? Has He kept your feet from stumbling? Has He brought harvest into various areas of your life? Has He opened new doors of business or ministry opportunity? He crowns every year with His bounty, we just need spiritual sensitivity to see it. As we celebrate another year of harvest this Thanksgiving let’s join with David and say, “the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever.”

BEYOND COMPREHENSION

Rom.11:33 – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Just when you thought you had God figured out He blows you away again. His ways are higher than our ways. Everything from Creation to redemption astounds us with the magnificence of God’s glory and wisdom. His prophetic insight, revealed through the apostles and prophets, causes us to stand in awe before His unfolding mysteries. He has a plan for everything. In my life I have watched as the iron curtain fell and the bamboo curtain was penetrated by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who would have thought that I would see the gospel preached openly in the former Soviet Union. Now we stand on the precipice of the great final prophetic events of the age. First the Islamic world will be shocked by the sudden harvest of souls

BEYOND COMPREHENSION into the Christian world. And finally, one last revival that will shake the nation of Israel to its foundation. Today’s verse touches on the mysterious and prophetic nature of our God. Here is how R. C. Sproul describes it.

“The first lesson in systematic theology deals with the incomprehensibility of God. The fullness of the essence of God’s glory so far transcends human ability to sound its depths that we are left in a state of awe before him. I am not saying that we are involved in some sort of mystery religion where the things of God are unintelligible; what God reveals we can grasp, to a certain degree. Central to the teaching of John Calvin was the axiom… “the finite cannot contain or grasp the fullness of the infinite.” Even after we are in heaven—when we are no longer looking through the glass darkly but basking in the refulgent glory of God—we will not have an exhaustive knowledge of the Creator.

Eternity is not long enough for the creature to come to a comprehensive knowledge of God, because even in eternity we will be creatures, and as creatures we are finite and will remain subject to Calvin’s axiom…. The depth is so deep that we cannot plumb it.”

So once we begin to recover from seeing His greatness revealed in the redemption of this age, then we step into the age of all ages. Eternity will be an unfolding of the greatness of our God.

FOUR MONTHS

Jn.4:35 – Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. The planters are overtaken by the harvesters. Jesus may have had Amos’s prophesy in mind when He was describing this supernatural harvest. Amos 9:13 – “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.” Amos was describing the harvest at the end of the age, Jesus was saying that this time had come. Here are some thoughts from Barclay on this supernatural harvest.

“For once, it is the contrast between nature and grace of which Jesus is thinking. In the ordinary harvest men sowed and waited; in Samaria things had happened with such divine suddenness that the word was sown and on the spot the harvest waited. H. V. Morton has a specially interesting suggestion about the fields white for the harvest. He himself was sitting at this very spot where Jacob’s well is. As he sat, he saw the people come out from the village and start to climb the hill. They came in little batches; and they were all wearing white robes and the white robes stood out against the ground and the sky. It may well be that just at this moment the people started to flock out to Jesus in response to the woman’s story. As they streamed out in their white robes across the fields, perhaps Jesus said: “Look at the fields! See them now! They are white to the harvest!” The white-robed crowd was the harvest which he was eager to reap for God.

Jesus went on to show that the incredible had happened. The sower and the harvester could rejoice at the same time. Here was something no man might expect. To the Jew sowing was a sad and a laborious time; it was harvest which was the time of joy.”

So maybe these are the days we are living in, the days when the reapers catch up with the planters. When that begins to happen look up because the Day of the Lord is at hand. Maranatha !!!

ACCELERATED HARVEST

Amos 9:13 – “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved”.

The Bible is filled with prophetic proclamations of things that will happen at the end of this world as we know it. It speaks of everything from famines to earthquakes, it describes the deterioration of human decency as well as all sorts of catastrophic wars and natural disasters. Today’s verse is also a prophesy from one of the ancient Hebrew prophets by the name of Amos. Amos was unique in that he was not a priest or a king but he was a simple farmer that the Lord chose to speak through. This particular prophesy from Amos is not about tragic events from natural disasters and is not even talking about wars. This prophesy of Amos describes the most incredible spiritual season this world will ever know. From his knowledge of farming he says the most unlikely thing, “the plowman will overtake the reaper”. That is absolutely unthinkable but Amos believed it was true. He said a day of harvest that is so out of the box would come that the harvesters will not be finished gathering the crops in when the planters already are planting in anticipation of another future harvest. Of course Amos is speaking of the last day harvest of the souls of the earth. Here is how Barnes describes this verse.

“The harvest should be so copious that it should not be threshed out until the vintage: the vintage so large, that, instead of ending, as usual, in the middle of the 7th month, it should continue on to the seed-time in November…..He describes what is wholly beyond nature, in order that it might the more appear that he was speaking of no mere gifts of nature, but, under natural emblems, of the abundance of gifts of grace. ” The plowman,” who breaks up the fallow ground, ” shall overtake,” or ” throng, the reaper. The ” plowman” might ” throng,” or ” join on to the reaper,” either following upon him, or being followed by him; either preparing the soil for the harvest which the reaper gathers in, or breaking it up anew for fresh harvest after the in-gathering.”

So I say its time for everything to speed up. I feel the power of supernatural acceleration beginning to happen all around us. Get involved in the work of God, I think its time for the reapers to run.

ACCUMULATED PRAYER AND ACCUMULATED OFFERINGS

Acts 10:4 – And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.

What a strange thing the angel said to Cornelius, “your prayers and alms (giving) have ascended as a memorial”. It seems this story, the story of God’s visitation to Cornelius’s friends and family is connected to this statement. Obviously, Cornelius longed for God to come down and touch his loved ones. I think there may be a word of encouragement in this story for us today. Have you prayed for lost loved ones? Maybe you have sown a seed into a rehabilitation ministry as a seed to reach your sons and daughters. According to this, every prayer and every seed you have planted is being stored up. Harvest is inevitable, our God is faithful. Here is how A.B. Simpson describes this passage.

“What a beautiful expression the angel used to Cornelius, Thy prayers are come up for a memorial. It would almost seem as if supplications of years had accumulated before the Throne, and at last the answer broke in blessings on the head of Cornelius, even as the accumulated evaporation of months bursts in floods of rain upon the parched ground. God is represented as treasuring the prayers of His saints in vials; they are described as sweet odors. They are placed like fragrant flowers in the chambers of the king and kept in constant remembrance before Him. Later they are said to be poured out upon the earth; and lo, there are voices, and thunderings and great providential movements fulfilling God’s purposes for His kingdom. We are called “the Lord’s remembrancers,” and are commanded to give Him no rest, day or night, but to crowd the heavens with our petitions. And in due time the answer will come with its accumulated blessings. Not a whisper of true prayer is ever lost. The longer it waits, the larger it becomes.”

Obviously we cannot buy or earn the favor of God. That’s not what this is describing. This passage describes a hungry man who was willing to risk everything to see the Lord come down and touch his family. I’m sure Cornelius, being a Roman officer in the Roman Army, had huge pressure on him when he began to look to Christianity for answers. He was willing to suffer the consequences. So let’s follow Cornelius’s example; keep praying and keep giving, harvest will break through at the appointed time.

White Fields

John 4:35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

The sun was just coming up over Lake Ponchartrain as we were driving across the Bonnet Carre Spillway. It had been a long night of driving, we were on our last leg driving in from California. I had been sharing the driving with a missionary friend, Glen Swarthout, we were driving to my home town after being away for several years. I was sitting in the front seat while Glen was taking the last leg and decided I would read my Bible. It just so happened that one of my passages for that day was John 4. Today’s verse jumped out of the page right into my face. I was experiencing one of the most profound God encounters I have ever had. It wasn’t a vision or even a trance like state; it was more of a sudden awareness of God’s presence and a clear sense of calling and destiny. I was beginning to taste that my life work would be connected to the New Orleans area. As I continued to read the verses, they were like the word of the Lord just for me.

John 4:36-38 “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor”.

I sensed that this is where the Lord had called me to labor. I also saw that others had gone before me and prepared the ground. I knew in my heart that an incredible harvest was ready to be reaped.

I am writing this devotion almost forty years later. A lot has happened in those forty years. What started out as a street ministry ended up as a thriving church. Victory Fellowship has seen the Lord do remarkable things. We have seen thousands of people converted, multiple churches started regionally, missionaries sent to the nations, and a variety of incredible ministries at our home base. Feed the Multitudes (a giant free food festival) has been taking place since 1990, Beyond the Grave (a multi-media production) has been going on since 1999 with over 70,000 decisions for Christ, and recently we have begun two restoration centers, Mary’s Song for the ladies and 180 for the men.

Who could have imagined these things on that morning in a borrowed car driving in to New Orleans. But here is the strangest thing, my heart tells me that there is more, way more. I have a strange feeling that what we have seen is just a teaser, that the main harvest is yet to come. So what should we do? Look on the fields, they are white and ready for harvest. What do we need? We need harvesters that have a love for lost souls.

“Moves of God”

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY–

“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? That ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior.” Is. 43:1?

We live in such an historic time. In my lifetime I have seen many moves of God of which I feel so privileged. From the Jesus Movement in the 70’s to the Charismatic move in New Orleans where our church experienced explosive growth. We watched church growth throughout the world traveling throughout the world. In the early 90’s we saw the iron curtain fall in the Soviet Union and went on multiple trips there evangelizing people who were so hungry for the word of God and His presence! When the twin towers fell on Sept 11, prayer meetings spontaneously erupted. In 1994 a revival of joy swept through our church and we carried this holy river of God to many nations and impacted our church creating Beyond the Grave and many other spontaneous acts. Ten years ago, Katrina blew though our city and from revival deep within we were able to pour into our city in ways that we never dreamed of. The scripture above is ingrained in me when many years ago we did early morning prayer 5 days a week and set ourselves in prayer, praying over the east, west, north and south commanding them to give up!

I of late, feel such a stirring in my bones that harvest is all around us. Harvest is present, it’s here and yes more is coming! We can live so much in the future expecting some explosion when God is at quietly work among us. We need to live with a sickle in our hands thrusting it forth to everyone we meet. People are desperate for the real and I have to make sure I don’t become too “waiting for the next wave” or the next blood moon thingie to happen before I do anything. God is around us and is moving profusely in the nations. If you ever feel the “call”, well what are you waiting for my friend! Go ye, go ye anywhere! Get into bible school, go on a mission trip! Press in and listen to the voice of God and before you know, you too will be riding the waves of God!