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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fiction Review: The Bargain

The Bargain, by Aaron D. Gansky gives me a new favorite author.  When deciding to get this book, I read the reviews. One said Gansky’s writing was “so tight you could bounce a dime on it.” The reviewer was right. His style is spare and brilliant.

The story begins with Nadine’s cancer, her visit with her sister, and her husband Connor’s feelings of helplessness along with his “why” questions. Their marriage has been wonderful, yet she is suffering. Connor Reedly, an accomplished journalist, meets Mason, who tells him he has a message from God for him. (This was hard for me to swallow, since I don’t believe in extra-biblical revelation, but it is fiction, so I decided to continue reading. I’m glad I did.) The Bargain is a challenge. If Connor will interview and write about ten “good” people in the desert town, his wife will get better. Mason will pay him $25,000.

Connor isn’t a believer, but he loves Nadine, and he’ll do anything for her. He begins the project with a chip on his shoulder, resenting that to complete the challenge, he’s not spending time with her—in her last days. Mason introduces him to the most unlikely “good” people and tells his own story. Connor is threatened, shot, and what little faith he has is rattled to the core. This is a tale of humanity and growth and especially, of salvation.

Each chapter tells one of the stories. They are raw and unadorned. They will touch your heart and cause you to think differently about those around you. The desert setting and the town itself couldn’t be better for what you learn about the harsh lives of its people.

As Connor interviews people and writes their stories, he notices his wife improving in health. He is tired and miserable as he completes his part of the bargain, but when he meets someone who preaches Truth to his soul, he begins to understand.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It isn’t a “happy” read, but it’s real and satisfying. Gansky’s writing is amazing.

There are a couple of crude words used sparingly and no profanity at all. There is some violence. A few of the stories involve prostitutes, sexual sins, and extremely sad situations. There is no explicit content. Because of many of the themes, it’s a book for adults only.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sowing and Reaping: Five Practical Applications

We’ve probably all heard the adage: “you reap what you sow.” It’s an adaptation of the verse: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7b). The context reads like this: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Galatians 6:7-8). It’s a warning and a key biblical principle. What you invest in will reap dividends—for good or bad. This doesn’t mean, of course, that people are doomed because of a few sinful decisions. Anyone can overcome with the Lord’s help, but it does mean that there are consequences for actions.

This principle is taught all through Scripture with references to planting different crops and enjoying the fruits of labor and parallel spiritual lessons. Here are a few of the many applications in the Bible:
  • Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same (Job 4:8).
  • They that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).
  • Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12).
  • Jesus said, Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26; similar in Luke 12:24).
  • Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Romans 6:4-6).
  • The Apostle Paul said, I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
  • The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18).
  • A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends (Proverbs 16:28).
  • He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail (Proverbs 22:8).
  • And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth (John 4:36-37).
  • But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Jesus told two similar parables about sowing and reaping: The Sower and the Seed, and The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:3-9; 24-30). In the Sower and the Seed, the seed is the Word of God and the ground represents hearts. In the Wheat and the Tares, the wheat stands for genuine believers, and the tares are not true believers. They grow up together until Judgment Day, which is the day of harvest.

How can we apply biblical sowing and reaping to our lives?
  1. Accept Jesus Christ and be “planted” after our salvation in believer’s baptism, identifying ourselves with the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-6, above).
  2. Avoid sowing evil, discord, and investing in the flesh. We will only reap the same.
  3. Sow in righteousness. Our life should have one goal—to please God. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  4. Share the Word of God with others. When we sow in hearts—think of throwing out handfuls of seeds—God gives the increase. Recognize that many times one person will sow, another will water, but the Holy Spirit of God is the One who convicts of sin and gives fruit for our labor. And often, someone else reaps what we have planted.
  5. Sow generously—and we’ll reap bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6, above).

Whatever we sow, we’ll reap.

Let’s sow good—and lots of it!