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Seeds of Forgiveness

I have seen much in my 40-plus years as a believer in Christ Jesus, but nothing as powerful as a Kairos Prison Ministry Weekend. As an inmate once mused, “Look around this room. In just three days, the love you [volunteers] brought here has cut through these hardened men and entire lifetimes of hatred and anger. This can only be God.” Kairos observes some foundational practices that are effective in sharing the transforming love and forgiveness that are found in Christ, one of which is this: We do not come seeking commitments, rather we come planting seeds of truth and love; any spiritual “harvest” will be God’s doing in His own time.

Jesus used the “planting of seeds” as an analogy of speaking the Word of God: it falls on different kinds of hearts and over time, it produces spiritual life and growth in those who accept it. And to His disciples, he said that, of sowing and reaping, it is actually sowing that is “the hard work.”1 So over the next few weeks, let’s devote ourselves to meditating on “seeds” that bear fruit—Scriptures that speak life and truth to the human condition and produce a harvest of spiritual birth and growth in its time. We begin today with three passages, each of which acknowledges the gravity of our sin and celebrates God’s provision of forgiveness.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV)

All of these verses breathe hope into hopelessness. Each exhales a confession of our sin and inhales the cleansing breath of God’s forgiveness, a pardon at great cost, one that cannot be taken away. So let’s think on these truths and the new life they proclaim. Better yet, why not memorize them, so that we may be prepared to plant the Word in wrestling hearts as the Spirit leads us to do so?

Father, thank You for those who planted seeds of truth into my life, for through Your Word, You have saved me. Grace me to grow in knowledge and incline my heart to Your Spirit, that I might sow Your Word on the paths of human hearts. May there be harvest—rich, Kingdom harvest. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Mark 4:34-38

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Plans, Purposes and Priorities

“I didn’t accomplish a single thing I set out to do today!” How many times have we stewed in the frustration of such seeming futility? Whether self-discipline came up short or interruptions stretched out long, events turned out to be nothing like we’d expected and we fret the failure of our plan. But what if execution were actually the least of our problems, that a glaring omission in our plan rendered today’s to-do list a frustration from its conception?

Plans follow purpose. This is why organizations articulate mission statements—to establish one shared sense of purpose for its people and a focal point for the supporting strategies by which they accomplish it. Yet while any number of leadership books extol the value of alignment, virtually all of them overlook this indispensable Biblical truth: “Many are the purposes in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”1 We may have dutifully conceived plans that follow our pursuits, but if ours do not sync with God’s, and if our daily demands override His clarion call, we will never be completely satisfied, nor our purpose fully realized. For at the other end of what we might regard as an interruption is often a person struggling with a need—be it physical, emotional or spiritual in nature. We’ve been in their place before, and how grateful we were when someone sacrificed their comfort and convenience to share our burden and lighten our load. Perhaps they, like we, felt the frustration of a less productive day, but we thanked God for His love poured out through these, His obedient ones, as they helped to overcome our troubles.

For those of us who like structure and order to our day, ceding our agendas over to the higher and broader purposes of God can feel messy and at times downright burdensome. As Solomon wrote, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?”2 But on the other side of obedience is blessing, not only for those who cut in on our calendars, but ultimately for us, too. So we watch for God’s daily directions—His divine appointments—and prioritize His purposes over our plans. Life is more fruitful this way.

Father, we confess our plans cater to ourselves and overlook Your higher purposes. Fill us with Your Spirit, that we would hear your call today and give ourselves over to your plans and purposes, that others would be blessed and You would be glorified. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Proverbs 19:21
2 Proverbs 20:24

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The S Word

When I was a mid-level manager, a work colleague shared this philosophy with me: “When senior management asks my opinion, I owe it to them to be as honest as I can be, and when senior management makes a decision, I owe it to them to back it one-hundred percent.” I had long held this conviction as well, but had never articulated it so memorably, so from then on, I adopted my co-worker’s pithy summary to convey the same value. Reflecting on his comment years later, it occurred to me that my associate had embraced in honor something we often reject as humiliation—submission of one to another.

Submission can be difficult for us: it dampens our dreams and overrules our plans; it pricks our pride and deflates our egos. But being brought low in humility is a divine blessing in disguise—the first step in realigning our will to God’s will. Paul taught early believers that “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”1 Pride actually separates us from something very good: submission to God’s ways that are good and right. The apostle continued, “But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires . . . [and the mind] governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”2 And aren’t these two things—abundant life and liberating peace—what everyone seeks? We find them through submission of our will and ways to the will ways of God.

“Our call is not to succeed, but to be obedient,” reads one of the tenets of the Kairos Prison Ministry. Stated differently, when God makes a decision, we owe it to Him to back it one-hundred percent. This is the difference between self-will and submission, and as we obey, God will bring the success; He will receive the glory. May we humbly live this day in the confidence of submission.

Father, Your ways are always best. We sacrifice our own and submit ourselves to You. To You be the glory. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Romans 8:7-8
2 Romans 8:6