BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND (largely based on the work from Charles Finney)
Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12
Fallow ground is what farmers call ground which has once been plowed, but which now lies waste. Ground which needs to be broken up and softened before it is ready to receive seed and produce fruit.
To break up the fallow ground is to break up your hearts, to prepare your minds to produce fruit for God. To break it up is to bring the mind into such a state that it is receptive to the word of God. Sometimes your hearts get packed down hard and dry and there is no hope of them growing fruit unless the heart is softened and broken.
If you want to break up your hard heart, you must begin by examining it. Many people never seem to think about this. They never check up on themselves to see if they're in a good spiritual condition or not. Are we fruitful or lying waste?
You must take your attention from other things and give attention to this. Make it a serious mission. Do not be in a hurry. Examine deeply where you are at. Are you walking with God every day or with the devil? Are you serving God´s interests or the devils? Are you under the power and influence of the enemy or of the Lord Jesus Christ?
You must go to work to examine yourself -to see what sins might be there. We're not talking about focusing on our feelings, but in looking at our lives, our actions and thoughts to figure out what state we've been in. Look back on how things have been and take up individual sins one by one and look at them. And don't just take a quick glance at them and then make a general confession to God. That is not the way. Take them one by one.
Take a pen and paper and write them down as they occur to you. Go over them as careful as an accountant looking at their records. As often as a sin comes to your mind -write it down. General confessions of sin will not be the same. We committed our sins one by one and will now look at them and repent of them each. A few notes and then we will begin:
*This is not for you to evaluate others, it is for you to evaluate yourself.
*There may be in some of these points some counter arguments you can think of. Some of them may be reasonable and some may be you making excuses. God knows the truth so He knows whether your excuse is valid or not.
*The purpose of this is not condemnation but restoration. God´s hope is not to make you feel hated by Him, but to see the truth of things and move in a better direction so you might be relationally close with Him and ready for what He's called you to do.
-UNGRATEFULNESS. Take this sin, for example, and write it down. Under it write all of the instances your can remember when you have received blessings from God and never said thank you for them. Also times when God brought a solution to some situation that saved you from being ruined. Maybe He gave you mercy in a situation when you had done something wrong. Get on your knees and confess them to God and ask for forgiveness. When you're confessing you will probably also begin to think of more things so write those down as well and repent of them all. When you do this you might be astonished how many things there are that you've never thanked God for.
-LACK OF LOVE FOR GOD. Think of how much it would hurt you if someone you had a very close relationship with began to take their attention and affection from you to give it elsewhere. They started spending all of their hearts and thoughts and time on other people and other things. The sadness and jealousy would be so strong. God calls himself a jealous God. Have you given your heart to other loves and offended Him?
-NEGLECT OF TRUTH. Think of how often we take in the messages of our T.V.´s, of social media on our smart-phones, of the news, books and magazines. How does it compare to the time we spend seeking truth in the bible and through preaching and teaching? God has given us a communication to transform us and make us useful for every good work. What place does his truth have in our lives? Have you treated it as less valuable than what you might get from those who are of the world? And even when we read the bible do we take it seriously and try to meditate on it? What evidence could we bring to God to show Him we appreciate His truth and are meditating on it day and night?
-UNBELIEF. Think of the times you've basically called God a liar by your unbelief in what God has promised and said about things. God has promised the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, Have you believed this? Have you believed His threats about coming judgment? Have you believed His promise to seek the Kingdom first and trust in His provision? Have you expected Him to answer? If we do not believe and expect His promises we have charged Him with lying.
-NEGLECT OF PRAYER. Think of the times you've neglected secret prayer, family prayer and prayer meetings. Think how many hours have been spent on facebook, instagram and youtube and how few minutes have been spent seeking your heavenly Father in prayer. How many situations and people have gone un-prayed for because we were so busy with hobbies and entertainment that we never prayed. Think also of the times you've prayed in such a way that was completely insincere and unmindful that God was actually listening.
-NEGLECT OF FELLOWSHIP. Think of the seasons you've neglected the habit of meeting together with God´s people. The things God would have worked in you and things you would have been used for in others if you had been gathered with the church.
-IMPURITY OF MOTIVE. The right things can be done for the wrong reasons. Think of the times when you've done "spiritual things" only for the reputation it might get you. Think of what you've done not for love of God or people but for some pleasure or honor or benefit.
-LACK OF LOVE FOR THE SOULS AROUND YOU. Look around and your friends and relatives and co-workers and how little compassion you have felt for them. You have been standing by and watching them go right to hell as if it didn't matter to you. How many days have there been in which you did not seek God in prayer for their salvation? God´s ways would also save them broken families, addictions, depressions and anxieties -a heap of consequences that could've been avoided had they come to Christ. Have you cared enough to labor to put the gospel in front of them?
-LACK OF LOVE FOR THE UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS. Maybe you haven't cared enough for these people to even learn their condition. To take a missionary magazine and understand there are people who haven't had the chance to hear the good news. Have you had any care for their situation? You can tell how much you desire their salvation by the self-denial you practice, in giving what's needed to reach them. Do your deny yourself the un-needed things in life to try and help spread the gospel? Do you daily pray for them? If we are not making sacrifices to reach the lost who have no hope but the gospel we are hypocrites. Could we be insulting Jesus by taking on the name of "His people" and yet having so little love to reach the lost with what it took His blood to offer them?
-NEGLECT OF FAMILY DUTIES. Think of how you have lived in the eyes of your family. How you have prioritized prayer, the study of the word and fellowship? How have you modeled the priority of the gospel? Have you been obeying the exhortations of scripture to your role in the family? Have you husbands loved and honored your wives and been understanding? Have you wives should be submissive to your husband and gentle in spirit? Have you as parents been raising your kids in the ways of God, being careful not to provoke them to anger? Children have you been submissive and respectful to your parents? How have you modeled Christian character of Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control?
-NEGLECT OF WATCHING AFTER THE SPIRITUAL FAMILY. Think of the times you've not kept watch over the state of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Have you seen them slipping into sin and not started praying for them? Have you seen them on a dangerous course and not tried to lovingly warn them? Have you seen them struggling with something and not tried to help them? Have you seen them in hard circumstances and not encouraged them or offered help where you can? We do all these things and pretend to love them. What hypocrites!
-NEGLECT OF SELF-DENIAL. There are many so called "Christians" who will do almost anything as long as it does not require self-denial. They are not willing to deny themselves any comfort or convenience for the sake of serving the Lord. They will not risk being not liked or insulted for the name of Christ. They will not deny themselves any luxury to save a world from hell. They won't let the work of God cramp their schedule too much. They have forgotten that self-denial is a command of discipleship. They only give out of their surplus. They never give to a point it would affect what they have for themselves.
-WORLDLY MINDEDNESS. What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions? Have you looked at them as really yours? As if you had a right to do what you wanted with them? If you have, write that down. If you have chased things just to have them or to gratify a lust or ambition but not because it´s what you believed the Lord wanted you to do -you need to repent.
-PRIDE. Think of the times when you are aware you may have been acting prideful. There are different ways pride shows it´s face, one is in vanity -the excessive focus on our appearance or achievements. How many times have you given more thought and time about how YOU look to get people to admire YOU than you did seeking to admire God or cause others to admire God? You have cared more about how you look to others than how your heart looks to God. How many times have you bragged about your abilities and achievements to have people impressed with YOU. You have set yourself up to be worshipped rather than God. You have brought attention to yourself rather than God. There's no point in pretending. Be honest about it and repent.
Pride is also manifested in our independence. How many important decisions have we made without praying for the wisdom of God? How many times have we made our own plans thinking we knew what was best on our own. How many times have we given counsel to people out of our own ideas rather than the word of God? How many times have we boasted about "what we were going to do" without remembering that IF IT´S THE LORD´S WILL we will do it. Pride sneaks in so easily and we must stop it in it´s tracks.
-ENVY. Think of the cases where you were envious of those who you thought were above you in any way. Maybe you envied them because they had a thing, a home, a job, a position, a spouse a thing that you wanted. Maybe you envied them because of the gifts or abilities God gave them. Has it frustrated you to hear them honored instead of you? Have you found it easier to dwell on their faults more than on their strengths? Be honest with yourself. If you have harbored this spirit of hell, repent deeply before God or you won't inherit the kingdom of God.
-OVER CRITICALNESS. Think of instances when you have been more critical of others than you would want others to be towards you. Times when you have spoken of Christians without a spirit of love. You have not hoped for the best or preferred to interpret things through the best light possible.
-SLANDER. Think of any times you have spoken behind the backs of people about other people about that were real or just assumed to be real. Times when there was no constructive need for you to bring up these faults and no thought of blessing people. To tell the truth, but in a way that is designed to do harm to someone's reputation is slander. It not only harms them but destroys their influence to others and ruins opportunities God may have used them for.
-LEVITY. Think of times when you have not taken God seriously. When you spoke about Him carelessly and gave him less undivided attention than if a governor were to invite you to come speak with Him. When you've had no reverence for Him. You've forgotten that He was listening to you when you were speaking about Him and on His behalf so carelessly.
-LYING. Understand now what lying is. Any kind of planned deception. If you are not trying to deceive it is not lying. But if you are trying to make an impression contrary to how things really are it is a lie. Write down all the cases you can think of. Do not call them by any soft name. God calls them LIES and charges you with LYING. There is a huge number of lies happening in business, and social settings and homes. Some lies are done with actions, some with words and some with body language that is designed to convince people of of things that aren't true.
-CHEATING. Write down all the cases where you have done to an individual something you would not like to have done to you. THAT is cheating. God has given us the rule about this: Whatever you want people to do to you -do the same to them. Notice, the rule is not that you should do "what you would expect them to do to you." That kind of rule would give you permission to do almost any kind of wickedness. The rule is -what you would WANT them to do to you.
-HYPOCRISY. The hypocrite is an actor. Think of the times you have acted like you’re a serious Christian when you know you've been resisting God. Think of the times you have prayed for things you did not really want but knew it sounded right. And how many times have you confessed sins that you did not really intend to break off? You took no serious action to make sure you tried to avoid the temptation of them.
-ROBBING GOD. Think of the instances where you have wasted the hours God has given you. We all must work for our livelihood but when we had extra time -what was done with it? Did we invest it in things that mattered for eternity or just our present enjoyment? Many of us spend enormous amounts of time on recreation, vacation, games, video-games, social media, films and music, novels or just doing nothing. Not just our time but our money. Think of times you have wasted the money God has entrusted to you on your own pleasures and desires and on things which you did not need. Constant comforts and luxuries. You have wasted the time and money God has entrusted to you and spent it on yourself.
-BAD TEMPER. Think of the times you have spoken or acted harshly to your husband or wife, to your kids or your friends or co-workers or neighbors or employees. You have not controlled yourself and handled things in a way that would benefit people. You simply vented your frustration. You know you wouldn't in a million years want to be treated the way you've treated people with your temper. No excusing it as righteous anger when you know your heart wasn't right before your maker. Write it all down.
-UNFORGIVENESS. It is stated over and over in the bible that to ask for God´s forgiveness will be pointless if you are not willing to give forgiveness to those who've wronged you. It doesn't mean you have to agree with what they did (forgiveness by definition is regarding a wrong done.) It does mean that you must choose to shift from anger and resentment to desiring the good of those who've wronged you. Remember Jesus taught us to pray daily that we would be forgiven in the same way we forgive others. Is the way you are forgiving the way you want God to deal with you? He says clearly He will not forgive those who are unforgiving.
-COMPLAINING. How obvious is our biblical command to not be complainers but have you done it? Think of the times you've complained about your job. Complained about health. Complained about your children. Complained about your spouse. Complained about the situation God´s put you in. Complained about the church. Think of every time you can think you've had a grumbling and complaining spirit. Do not excuse it by "I had a reason to be frustrated." We are allowed to share our struggles and hardships with God but He has told us to do all without grumbling and complaining.
-FILL IN THE BLANK. Is there something that comes to your mind every time you try to pray to God? Something wrong you know hasn't been dealt with yet? There is a good chance this is one of the key barriers you need to remove. You may have had something else hanging in your mind this whole time but it wasn't touched on. Write it down and take actions to turn from it.
Remember: the point of this is not condemnation but restoration. We don't have to keep living with a troubled conscience and disconnection of fellowship from God. Get it dealt with so you can move on in righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit.
-As each sin has come to your mind, write it down. Then apologize to God for it. (1 John 1:9 says He will forgive and cleanse you!)
-If there is a sin that you fall into over and over -write down a plan to avoid repeating it to the best of your knowledge. Maybe confess it to a mature believer and ask them to hold you accountable.
-If there is a person that you've sinned against -go and confess to them. If you cannot go to them, then call them. If you cannot call them -write them a text or an e-mail.
-If you've taken something from someone -see if you can make arrangement to make it right.
-Be determined to have entire reformation in the now. Commit -by the strength of God to no more sin in these ways.
-Trust that Jesus forgives you since you've repented.
Trust that He will fill you with His Spirit and strengthen you to walk in a new way.
-Do not put it off or it may make matters worse. You can get harder when you hear the truth and do nothing about it.
-Go through it again and often you will find there are things that still need to be dealt with. Do not leave them out. Go over it as if you were just getting ready to be judged.
-If your mind still feels dark and disconnected from the Spirit of God, you may not have been thorough enough. Go back and ask God to help you deal with it.
-You cannot look at your sins long and thoroughly and see how bad they are without starting to feel the weight of it. Keep at the work until you feel freedom and can pray without hindrance. The Spirit of God will delight to come dwell where the heart is humble and clean and trusting Him.
-The reason why so few Christians know anything about the spirit of prayer is because they never would take the pains to examine themselves properly, and so never knew what it was to have their hearts all broken up in this way.
-It will do no good to hear preaching if your heart is in this un-plowed state. The farmer wastes his time to throw seed on ground like that. If you do not do this -good things like prayer and bible study will not grow anything in your heart but will only make it harder.
-This is why we waste so much time. Because we want to talk about everything but won't get real and break open our hearts to let God change us. This is why the stony-ground hearers will fall away. They haven't been broken up deep enough for the message to change them.
-Don´t think we will see a great work of God if we don't do this. We can't just "get busy" without our hearts being right.
BE EXCITED. God is waiting to fill those who repent and spread His kingdom through us. It is He who has chased us down to call us back to Him so know that He's ready if you will repent.
How to own a smart-phone without it destroying your life
We are in uncharted territory.
I’m talking about the ever-advancing age of technology and communication. When I was a young boy no one even had a cell phone. Now everyone’s got them and these things are more powerful than the computers we’ve sent people to the moon with (If indeed that really hapened). Things have changed.
The exciting thing about being in uncharted territory is you get to be the first to discover wonderful new things. I love my smart-phone and use it for no less than 30 different tasks every day –mostly productive ones too. My wife laughs at me because I can start raving about how incredible it’s been to have so much productivity in my pocket.
So what’s the down-side of being in uncharted territory? No one’s been there before, so you have no-one’s mistakes to learn from yet. Those in uncharted territory are wise to travel with extra-care since they don’t know what dangers they’re facing. The ‘connected life’ has many wonderful parts but can quickly lead us into a truly ‘disconnected life.’
I think you all know what I’m talking about: People sharing meals together without a word while they’re staring at their little screens. Kids begging for attention and asking questions to parents and grandparents who’re distracted on social media. People losing sleep because they were up too late online. People not being productive because so much time is wasted on their device. I work in an underground mall area where I watch people all day. It makes me sad to see how many seem to have lost the ability to have a real conversation and enjoy relationship.
If you’re like me and these thoughts sober you up a bit, let’s grow instead of beat ourselves up about it. What’s the solution? Yes, we could build a bonfire and burn them --but it’s not good for the environment to burn electronics and when it burns down, we’ll still be living in the modern world. For some, it may be wise to get a ‘dumb phone’ because it’s gotten way out of hand. But I’d like to make some practical SUGGESTIONS to developing intentional boundaries --so our phones are things we own instead of things that own us.
1. Memorize this statement:
“GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE and
PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN STUFF.”
I saw this hanging in someone’s house I visited once and it always stuck with me. This is the principle behind all the following suggestions. It’s about how we prioritize every moment. That’s why Jesus told us the two greatest commands were to love God with everything, and then to love others like we love ourselves. (Mt.22:37)
2. Get the ball rolling God’s way.
I’ve noticed that every morning is like a ball on the top of a hill; whatever direction you push it first, it tends to carry momentum on throughout the day. Try to make a practice of not allowing yourself to look at anything on your cell phone until you’ve had time to read the bible, talk with God and eat some breakfast. We need to focus on His kingdom and His will being done. On that note:
3. Read a bible made from a tree.
Of all the books to have a physical copy of, let your bible be one. I know, I know, there are times when it’s awesome to have it on the phone when you’re out and about and that’s all fine and well. But whenever you can, use a bible that won’t have a million things to distract you all the time. Sometimes you won’t even make it to the bible app because you saw something and forgot what you were doing!
4. Go in your room and shut the phone.
There’s a reason Jesus said when you pray you should go in the room and close the door. You regularly need times when you’re alone to seek God undisturbed. The problem is, your phone’s also like a door to the world. Find time to be alone and leave it on silent in another room or go on a walk.
5. Notify your phone that it doesn’t need to notify you.
99% percent of the time we probably don’t need to know who just posted to facebook or twitter or _____. Turn off your notifications and just check in on these social networks when it’s a good time to take a few minutes. This includes e-mail. There are, of course, occasions when you’re waiting urgently for a message, but usually you can wait ‘till a time when you’re available to plow through some mail.
6. Chat when you’re ready to chat.
Unless it’s a slow day where you’re just unwinding, you probably should be focused on being productive and not getting drawn in to too much random chatting. If you’re on something like facebook, only turn on your chat availability if it’s a good time to be available to connect.
7. Share meals with PEOPLE.
Phones don’t like food anyway (yet. –there may be an app developing.) Whether eating with those in your home or out to eat with people, put the phones away and talk to each other. Our family is trying to build a habit of no phones at the dinner table and I’ve heard of some friends making the rule that the first one to check their device at a restaurant pays the bill!
8. Excuse yourself if you have a good excuse to interrupt a conversation.
An older, wiser man once taught me that I should try to develop the habit of giving someone undivided attention until my conversation with them was at a close. It shows respect and makes people feel loved. If you need to interrupt or leave the dialogue (even to answer or check something important on the phone) you should apologize and explain why it demands your immediate attention. If it’s not that important, then wait ‘till later to get to it.
9. If something is brought up, set it down.
If someone comes and asks you a question or starts to say something to you, turn your screen off and set it down until you’ve been able to hear them, answer them or talk to them. If something on your phone is urgent, explain why it is and ask them to give you one minute so you can wrap it up. This is huge with kids. We really need to hear what they’re asking and saying and they need to know that they can depend on us to love them, help them and teach them. Remember people are more important than stuff, set it down if there’s a chance to connect.
10. Explain Yourself.
We’ve all heard how many problems are generated from lack of communication; sometimes it helps to let people know what you’re doing. After all, everyone around you doesn’t know if you’re working, playing, reading, being social, studying or trying to figure something out on your phone. Kids need to know that it’s not alright to play all day on a phone. They need to know when we’re doing something productive for work or reading a book. Likewise, we might spare some offenses to our spouses and friends if they know we’re trying to send an urgent e-mail and not just ignoring them while we cruise facebook.
11. Figure out how much time you have to kill.
My wife and I always joke about how going to an IKEA store is like entering a time-warp where you’re going to lose at least 6 hours. Social media can be much the same, so you don’t want to stumble into a time-warp danger zone unaware! If you struggle with clicking into social apps without thinking, try something like putting the apps in an inconvenient folder on your phone. That way you have a little longer to think about what you’re doing before you get in. I’ve heard there are also some apps that track and alert you about how much time your using. We will answer to God for how we used our time and probably aren’t going to be so glad if we spent piles of unfruitful hours bumming around online.
12. Give it a rest.
I read some articles on cell phone addiction and nearly all were written by people who had lost their phone, broken their phone or were forced to take a break because of serious problems. Stepping away from things (on purpose or by force) tends to give us perspective. I’m a fan of learning anything without crisis being my teacher. Take times to step away from your phone and maybe specifically social networking. This week I had some time in public commute where I just sat and observed, and left my phone alone. I found myself praying for people and thinking about things I often forget.
13. Say Goodnight.
There are obviously some good things you can use your phone for when it’s time to sleep; listening to the scriptures or worship music can be a blessing. But if it’s not something that’s helping fellowship with God and sleep, then get it out of the room. Just as we need to start our day with God we need to end it with Him and meditate on what He’s doing and teaching us.
14. Ask the Spirit to lead you.
Of course, there will be so many exceptions to all these suggestions and so many different kinds of lives and needs. Ask God’s Spirit to give you His ideas and point out things that need to change or develop for you. You’re life is to be spent for His purposes. Invite Him to show you what’s working towards that and what’s not. And remember, a life controlled by the Spirit will produces self-control –that’s something you’re will power can’t do.
15. Bank on the benefits.
Don’t forget these things aren’t evil; it’s how they get used that matters. Try to use your phone to capitalize on the things that help you love God and people better. Use them to listen to sermons and help you make the most of your time and care for your family. Spread words of life and truth through the communication highways. Learn how your culture is thinking and what God has to say to them. Let the information lead you in praying for your culture.
16. If all else fails, go ahead and light the bonfire.
Remember Jesus said if your hand or eye causes you to sin, rip it out and throw it away? Well, He obviously was speaking hyperbole, but He wanted to say it as strong as possible. If something is causing you to sin (which includes things like wasting time, not loving people around you and not carrying your weight in life,) then take drastic measures even if it’s a loss. If you cannot master learning to draw boundaries with the ‘connected life,’ then you’d be better off dealing with the loss of letting it go. Still the burning of electrical equipment is a problem for the environment but that’s for another blog ;).
Let’s keep God first, people second and stuff third. Let’s be aware enough of life to see God, see this beautiful world and see the people and needs around us. Let’s enjoy the adventures of these uncharted waters and sail with wisdom so we don’t miss our God or wreck ourselves, our children or those around us.