Keeping Your Vineyard

16 08 2008

Here is a compelling observation by Hudson Taylor commenting on Song of Solomon 1:6 – “…they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”

Our attention is here drawn to a danger which is pre-eminently one of this day: the intense activity of our times may lead to zeal in service, to the neglect of personal communion; but such neglect will not only lessen the value of the service, but tend to incapacitate us for the highest service. If we are watchful over the souls of others, and neglect our own – if we are seeking to remove the motes from our brother’s eye, unmindful of the beam in our own, we shall often be disappointed with our powerlessness to help our brethren, while our MASTER will not be less disappointed in us. Let us never forget that what we are is more important than what we do; and that all fruit borne when not abiding in CHRIST must be fruit of the flesh, and not of the SPIRIT. The sin of neglected communion may be forgiven, and yet the effect remain permanently; as wounds when healed often leave a scar behind.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of ministry while allowing our own walk with Christ to suffer from neglect. How often have we found ourselves on the verge of complete burn-out because we have over-extended ourselves in seeking to serve others while our own prayer life and daily communion with the Lord is all but non-existent. No wonder we become exhausted and discouraged! We are like marathon runners who pass by the water table and pass out from dehydration. If we are not drinking ourselves from the Living Water, the well that we have to offer others will quickly run dry. Not only that, but we will find ourselves far more vulnerable to sin and temptation, even in the midst of ministry.

Check your vineyard. While seeking to tend the vineyards of others, has your own vineyard become withered and overgrown with weeds? If so, you may need to take some time off to re-group and re-establish the priority of seeking close communion with Jesus daily. Remember the challenge of Hudson Taylor – “What we ARE is more important than what we DO!”

What in Heaven’s Name are we Doing?

12 08 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal ministry, or the lack thereof. James, of course, tells us that we are to be “doers of the Word, and not merely hearers” and that “faith without works is dead.” These are difficult words if one is inclined to reflect upon them and apply them ruthlessly to one’s own life. Am I a mere hearer, content to attend church services and appreciate the pastor’s teaching, only to walk out and resume my usual activities as if there were a practical disconnect between the pew I occupy weekly and the streets I walk upon daily? Do I profess faith in the life-changing Savior? Then why am I not daily engaged in seeking to direct His transforming power to the lives of the people I work with, the neighbors I rub shoulders with, and the family I live with?


I fear that I have become too much of an armchair disciple.  It’s easy to talk theology with other Christians, and to explore and deplore the dangers of this or that false doctrine upon “our church” and “our nation.” But when it comes right down to it, I am forced back to this question: “What in Heaven’s name am I doing?”


Not long ago I had a long and (hopefully) edifying conversation with my teenaged son. He had questions about the relationship of the church to the state, and how they differ in their God-appointed roles. He wondered if it was Biblical for the church to be militant (literally) by taking up arms in the defense of the true faith against those who attack us for what we believe. We discussed the fact that both the church and the civil government are institutions appointed by God – that the secular doctrine of the separation of church and state is not a Biblical doctrine because it seeks to erase God’s authority over the public square. We talked about the fact that God has ordained the civil authorities as His ministers who are charged with punishing evil and protecting the righteous (Romans 13), and that we are exhorted to submit to lawful authority and entrust the power of military defense to that institution. We talked about the fact that the church is not called to wrestle with flesh and blood, and the weapons of the church’s warfare are not carnal but spiritual. In the end, we concluded that the Bible teaches that Christians are to seek to make an impact upon their culture not with weapons and military campaigns, but with the power of the Gospel which transforms the hearts of men and women and turns God’s enemies into His beloved children.


As we pulled the car into our garage, my ever-sincere and no-nonsense firstborn child looked me squarely in the eyes and asked, “Dad, what are we doing to change things?” I offered a hollow-sounding response about how we are always to be seeking to witness to our friends and neighbors, and that we must trust that God will use His powerful Gospel to change people’s hearts – but even as I spoke the words, I recognized that this is precisely what I am NOT doing on any kind of a consistent basis.


So, I ask again, “What in Heaven’s name are we doing?” What is my plan and my daily strategy for engaging the lost around me with the only solution to their hopeless condition? Do I put as much time, energy, and resources into building God’s Kingdom as I do into building my own security and career? I am called to redeem the time. This life is perilously brief and eternity hangs in the balance of my conversations in the here and now. The next time my precious son asks me that question, I hope I will have a better answer to give – one that flows out of the way that my wholehearted love for Jesus propels me to seize every opportunity to touch the lives of the lost with the focused, determined, and purposeful zeal of a genuine DOER of the Word.


Grace and Peace.