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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trust God that the Harvest Is Ripe

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."  John 4:35-38 NIV

Are you surprised at my willingness to take the gospel into places like rock concerts, Mardi Gras, and drunken college block parties? Many are. They think it hard. I have to admit, sometimes it is. I’ve been hit, yelled at, and ignored. I usually spend weeks afterwards suffering from sinus trouble from all the dust, cigarette, and pot smoke. I work long days and my feet hurt. I’m willing because the harvest is even riper than the smell of their unwashed bodies.

You may be surprised, but I find that going into a 4-day drunken loud rock concert in the middle of a cow pasture in 95 degree weather is a picnic compared to trying to share the gospel in places where New Age, the Occult, the paranormal, magic, and/or astrology dominate the culture.

The places dominated by what many call “New Age” are usually beautiful, deceivingly peaceful, and a magnet for tourists. You can recognize them by magic shops, unusual temples, offerings for spiritual readings, and stores with crystals and rocks in the windows. You see women, usually in their forties or fifties, attired in dressy casual but marked with colorful free flowing long skirts and dramatic jewelry, taking potential clients to meals to discuss developing their mind, body, and spirit.

This culture is big business. This culture actually started in the mid 20th century and many are highly educated in the practice. There are organized and popular conferences led by people with advanced degrees in the differing New Age nuances that include science, the paranormal, the occult, the blend of many religions, astrology, psychology, and magic. Gift shops carry their product lines of crystals, crystal balls, wands, charts, and various stones containing the secrets to the universe. The practitioners charge fees for their services much like a doctor or an attorney and many visit these cities for the primary purpose of working with these practitioners.

Sedona, Arizona is such a place. In fact, many consider it the heart of the paranormal and occult in America and even the world. There are portals, vortexes, healings, and readings advertised everywhere. I’ve visited similar cities in California, Utah, and West Virginia, to name just a few.

I’ve been in Sedona ten days. My hotel is right between a New Age Temple and Training Center and a  church that has statues of Jesus, Mary, various goddesses, and Buddha in it. I overheard one woman, who was at dinner with a potential client, talk about the energy in the tongue and why she has her clients lick the rocks. People here carry crystals and visit vortexes for energy. One man told me my vortex was the Ringing Rock in Pennsylvania. I had to look up vortex and Ringing Rock. There is indeed a Ringing Rock Park that features rocks that sound like a bell when they are struck. A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent, flow of fluid. Sedona is reported to have several "vortexes of subtle energy." If you visit them, it is said that you feel better for days. Since most people who travel with me say I have too much energy all ready, I am not sure I need to visit these.

When I told one woman what I did, she asked, “Can you make a living doing this? Maybe I should think about doing what you do.”

“I’m in ministry,” I said, smiling. “I do this because I love God and people. I made a lot of money in the corporate world but gave that up to do this.” She did not understand and was no longer interested in doing what I do.

Anger and even bitterness at the words “Jesus” or “Christian” abounds. Eyes narrow at a hint of Bible quotes. I see shoulders tense. One man said angrily, “I used to be like you. The only reason you ask me about my afterlife is because you aren’t sure about yours. No one can be sure. I used to be just like you, believing all that Bible stuff (but he used a different “s” word) – now I’ve found the truth.”

I’ve had multiple people tell me that after they die, their mind is going to find its way to the planet that most attracts it. I've been told that since we came to be by an explosion of the stars, we will return to them. Some say they connect with the energy of the rocks and let it flow through them, giving them magical powers. Some believe the rocks are portals for aliens from other planets. Many started out a professed Christian but feel they have moved beyond it. One man even quoted the scripture where we are promised that we will be able to do everything Jesus did and more. He said the things they do in Sedona are the "more." He also said that by using all the other gods, he gained more power.

The response to the gospel is heart breaking. To be among so many hardened, dull, or angry eyes is frightening. I’ve given the gospel many times since I've been here. I’ve had 6 people pray to receive Jesus in 10 days. I’ve felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit several other times but the people said no – for now. I’ve talked with Christians who are gradually letting the philosophy of the culture seep into their love relationship with Jesus and I want to weep at the sadness I see in their eyes. The most painful thing for me is knowing that everything they are seeking and more is available through Jesus.

Taking Jesus into places so entrenched in this way of thinking is the absolute hardest part of my job. It is so hard, I have trouble enjoying the natural beauty of such places. This philosophy has such a hold on the residents’ mind, body, and spirit that it feels fruitless to speak the gospel and yet I know the word of God will not return void. Even if I don’t have many call on the name of Jesus (6 in the 10 days I've been here,) I suspect giving the gospel in these "spirituality" magnets is the most important part of my work and I invite you to join me as I do it.

In the past, I have led some New Age followers to Christ, but I’ve found that it takes many “touches” before even a tiny crack of willingness opens in their mind, body, and spirit. Each of us who gives the gospel is part of those needed “touches.”

If you visit places like this, I beg you – don’t give up on or judge the people who practice these arts. Please, love them and be one of those “touches.” Be willing to love the people enough to risk the anger and rejection for the sake of their soul. Be gentle. Speak the scripture. Don’t argue or defend your faith or the word of God. Never preach, criticize, roll your eyes, sigh, or judge – just offer the gospel of love. Invite them to meet Jesus. Give them something to read. Don’t take the rejection personally. Trust God that he is more powerful than even the most hardened mind – after all – he is the Rock of Ages. Trust that the word of God will not return empty and speak scripture.

The harvest is ripe, even in beautiful cities taken over by darkness. Some sow and some reap and if all are faithful, we will joyfully bring in the harvest.



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