THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

June 27, 2007

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Jon and I have learned a lot about sowing and reaping during the past couple of years that we've been gardening. One of the things we've learned is that once you put that seed or plant into the ground, there is only so much we can do to insure a harvest. We can water, weed, and fertilize, but the results of whether or not we reap a great harvest is basically out of our control. So why do we go to all the work of planting a garden if we're not guaranteed a harvest? Because we enjoy the process of planting and watching things grow, and we have hope that the end results will pay dividends.

Growing a garden has also really helped us both learn spiritual lessons. You can read a scripture over and over, but until you put it into practice you really can't fully understand what it means. Perhaps that is one reason why when the subject of sowing and reaping comes up, many Christians immediately become defensive and don't want to hear about it. But once you realize what the Word of God is saying, and put His Word into practice, it is like a revelation of this aspect of blessing that God has for us.

If you have been in church very long, you have heard the scripture in Malachi 3:8-10. These verses begin the question, “Will a man rob God?” It goes on to say that you rob God by not giving your tithe and offerings. Verse ten states that we are to give our tithe (ten percent) to God. God even goes farther than that and gives a challenge. He says to test (prove) Him in this and see if He won't open the floodgates (windows) of heaven, and pour out so much blessing that we will not have room enough for it. Wow, that's a pretty awesome promise God makes!

What's interesting, is that although tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament, there are many scriptures that deal with giving. In these scriptures though, God doesn't say how much to give. He leaves that up to us. But what He does tell us is that the amount we give, determines the blessing we receive in return. If we just want a little blessing, then we can just give a little. If we want generous blessings, then we give generously. We determine what we want our harvest to be. The scripture that clarifies that is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, nor reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Tithing or giving should not be perceived as just “another bill” we have to pay and be given grudgingly, but should be given cheerfully and with a grateful heart. God has blessed us with jobs and paychecks, health and strength, therefore when we give, it is our way of telling Him “thank you”.

Over the years, God has poured blessing after blessing upon me. Yes, I do give out of obedience to God's word, but I also give to reap the benefits of the promises God gives to me when I do so. God has not only met my needs financially, but He has blessed me in so many other ways. I do not believe that it is just coincidence when we have a need, and that need is met. I truly believe that God most often meets our needs through other people. A scripture that backs that up is Luke 6:38 which says, “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men [give] pour into your lap.”

When I was single, there were many times when I struggled financially. Sometimes it was my own fault for buying things when I really didn't have the money, and other times there were unexpected bills and expenses that came up that were out of my control. Yet, I cannot remember ever having an unpaid bill or even paying a bill late. Someway, somehow, the money was always there. God always provided what I needed for that time.

One time I was at the gas station and filled my car up. When I went in to pay, my uncle was in there paying for gas he had gotten, and told the store clerk that he was going to pay for mine too. Just coincidence? No, I believe God placed it in his heart to do so, and my uncle obeyed. Another time I had a need, and someone came to me after church and handed me some money and told me they weren't sure why, but God had impressed them to give it to me.

In 1996, I was facing a hardship that summer. I was working full time, but it seemed as if I kept having one expense after another. Most of them were car problems I kept having. In July, I had ran out of money between paydays and wasn't sure what I was going to do. I received a letter in the mail, with no return address. Inside was a $50 bill and a short note that was signed from “A sister in Christ”. The postmark was Hayes, KS and I knew no one from that area. About a week later, I received another envelope with $50 and another note. This time the envelope was postmarked in Wichita, KS. A couple of weeks later, I received the third and last note and $50. This one was postmarked in Oklahoma City, OK. To this day I still have no idea who the lady was that sent me that money. But her gifts helped me through a tough time until I was back on my feet financially. I kept her notes and the envelopes as a reminder of God's provision. I have never been able to thank her or tell her how much those notes and gifts of money meant to me, but throughout the years when I remember this incident, I pray and ask God to bless her and to meet any needs that she may have.

God not only has blessed financially but he has also met my needs in so many other ways. Several years ago, I had a pretty nice dining room table and chairs. It was actually too big for my kitchen, but I had bought it at a good price. I knew someone in my church who desperately needed a new dining room table and chairs. They had three kids at that time, and not enough chairs for them all to sit around their table, which was broken and propped up. I kept feeling like I needed to give them my table and chairs. Finally, I gave in and delivered the dining room set to their house. It happened that they weren't home at the time, so I just sat it on their front porch and left. I never told them that it was me who had given it to them, because I really didn't feel that it was important that I got the credit for the gift. A few weeks later, one of my sisters and her family came to visit. The church my brother-in-law pastored at that time had had a silent auction as a fundraiser. A gentleman in their church owned a furniture store and had donated a small dining room table and four chairs, which was the perfect size for my kitchen. They had bid on it, and got it. They brought it to me and gave it to me as a birthday present. Coincidence? No, it was God's provision and blessing through them to me.

In a simple way, the principle of sowing and reaping (giving and receiving) has been shown in a very simple way to Jon and myself this spring. I dug up a bed of canna flowers this spring. I transplanted a lot of them, but had a sack full left over that I wasn't sure where to plant. One of my nieces came to visit and wanted the bulbs, so I gave them to her. A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors gave me some plants. There were a couple different kinds, and she had too many and wanted to share them with me. Then recently, one of my nephews and his wife gave me several different varieties of plants. I was able to build a new flower bed in our backyard, which has turned out beautifully. I have received more plants back than what I gave out. This has been a visual lesson to my husband and me on how sowing and reaping works. It has encouraged us to practice this in all areas of our lives.

If we sow love and kindness, then that is what we will get in return. If we encourage and bless others, then we will be encouraged and blessed. If we see a need and sow financially, then when we have a need, it will be met. If we reach out and help others, then there will always be those who will be willing to lend a hand and help us. In whatever we do and however we choose to sow seeds, if we do so with a cheerful and generous heart and attitude, then the reaping will be done with those same attributes. If we give grudgingly and complaining, then reaping the harvest will be a chore and done with a negative, griping attitude.

When the vegetables begin getting ripe in our garden, we could just sit on our porch and complain because we have to get up and go pick them. We could gripe because now we're going to not only have to pick the vegetables, but wash them and figure out how we want to make use of them. We could just look at the crop that's ready to harvest and say, “Doesn't that look pretty”, then never do anything about it and let it rot on the vines. But that would be wasteful and defeat our purpose of sowing the seeds in the first place. Instead, as the vegetables become ripe, we carefully pick them and care for them and enjoy the fruit of our labor. We benefit from our hard work. We also reap much more than we planted! We have around a dozen tomato plants, but we don't just get one tomato from each plant. We get many, many tomatoes from each individual plant.

In the same respect, when we sow a seed into someones life or ministry, or give financially, or practice acts of kindness, according to the Word of God we reap more than we originally sowed. That principle is not only the law of nature, but the law of God and His blessing upon us.

Whatever we sow in our garden is what we're going to harvest. We will without a doubt get corn from corn seed, tomatoes from tomato plants, and so on. You cannot change that. Likewise, that is the same way in life. If you have a critical spirit, are always looking for the negative, are complaining and griping, always wishing for something you don't have, filled with jealousy or envy, judgmental, and the list could go on and on...then you are not going to reap a life filled with joy, contentment, love, peace, etc. On the other hand, if you are generous, kind, loving, contented, and so on...then those are the things you will reap back into your life. Even when things may not go your way, you face disappointments, or you don't necessarily always get your way in situations, then you will still be able to deal with them with the attitudes that are pleasing to God.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a thought from Galatians 6:7-9. “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

So often when we hear a preacher or evangelist talk about tithing and reaping, it's easy to get a poor attitude. One of the reasons can be if the evangelist dresses well and looks rich. “Why is he asking me to give him more!?” And for many of us, it can be a struggle to give.

For one thing, I've learned that most preachers and missionaries are much less wealthy than they look. They need to dress nicely to get some respect. It's hard enough to stay awake in church for some of us! But if the preacher is dressed like he just got off the night shift at a steel plant, it would be hard to get people to believe what they say about reaping generously. And with all the preachers in our family, I know pretty well that almost all tithes go to the church, missions projects, building maintenance, and a long list of bills. Almost none of it goes to the preachers.

Also, I've started thinking more in terms of hours instead of dollars. If I work fifty hours in a week, I could put in another five hours for tithing. If I just couldn't handle giving up a tenth of my pay, I could spend a tenth of the time it took me to earn that money mowing the church lawn, repainting a couple of rooms, vacuuming, and fixing the leaning lectern. I personally would rather give money than time. But the bottom line is, I don't have any excuse for giving neither.

ON THE MENEWE:

Banana Dream Cake

1 angel food cake Cool Whip
Bananas, sliced 1 small bag chopped nuts
2 lg. boxes instant vanilla pudding

Line a 9x13 cake pan with angel food cake slices. Mix pudding according to directions on box. Pour half of it over the cake slices. Layer bananas over the pudding. Then layer cake, then pudding, and bananas again. Top with Cool Whip. Sprinkle nuts over the top. Refrigerate.

RAM-BLING IDEA:

Sharing is one of the best ways of multiplying what you have. If you enjoy gardening and flowers and end up with extras, or the flowers spread more than you would like in a certain area, give them to friend, or neighbor, or someone within your church who also enjoys gardening. If you begin sharing plants with others, then you will end up with more variety in your own garden and won't have to spend so much money buying plants. It also means a lot when you can look at a plant and think, “So and So gave that to me.” Each time you look at that plant and it brings the giver of it to mind, then you can say a quick prayer for them.

[But if you have a bumper crop of zucchini, please don't leave any bags of it on our porch.]

LAUGHING LAMBS:

When Jon and I were planting our garden this year, we decided to plant two rows of corn, then wait a couple of weeks and plant the last two rows. Our thinking behind this was that all of our corn wouldn't be ready to pick at the same time, and we would have some longer. It started raining about the time we were ready to plant the last two rows, and we were having a hard time finding a dry day. We had rain several days in a row and it was in the forecast for another week. One morning after Jon left for work, it had stopped raining for a little while so I thought I'd run out and hurry and get those two rows of corn planted. As soon as I started planting, it started sprinkling. I ran back under the porch and waited a while for it to stop. Sure enough, a little later it stopped so I ran back out and started planting again. About the time I started on the second row it started lightly raining. I knew that I needed to get the seed in the ground, so I went ahead and planted the rest of the row as fast as I could. I was getting wet, but at least I would have our corn planted!

A few weeks later, Jon was installing a new lamppost in our backyard. He was standing on a chair putting the light bulbs in, and I was standing on the ground holding them for him. He happened to glance over at our garden, and started laughing. I looked over to see what he was laughing at and I immediately saw what it was. That last row of corn I had planted in the rain was starting to come up and was about three or four inches tall. The first three or four stalks that were coming up were in a straight line, then after that it went from bad to worse. That row was SO CROOKED!!! Thankfully, how straight the row is does not determine how good the corn will taste!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

When you sow a seed, you have to leave it in the ground and have faith that it will grow.

You can't keep digging it up to check on the progress.

Thank you so much for reading our newsletter the past weeks since we've begun writing it.

We also want to thank those of you who have passed our website information onto others.

We enjoy hearing from our readers – it lets us know that there are people out there reading and enjoying what we do!

Our e-mail address is: shepherd@grayengineers.com

Loretta & Jon Gray

www.graysheep.org