You’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a worn and wet fiberglass seat on a tobacco harvester. “Sand lug” leaves grow near the bottom of the stalk and are covered with dirt and grime. Pulling these leaves from the stalk and passing them through the conveyor belt to the”panner” causes the sand to work its way into some unseemly spots. Like I said you’ve never itched until you’ve cropped “sand lugs” from a fiberglass seat that needed replacing three seasons ago.
Growing up in the south my summer days were filled with an itching bottom and a red neck. I spent my summer vacation cropping tobacco (it’s pronounced tah-backer in the south). In the mornings, we would unload a barn of cured leaves. We emptied the tobacco into burlap sheets to make it ready for the market. (The aroma of dried tobacco leaves still lingers in my mind.) When the barn was empty, we would head to the fields to fill it up again. Although it was only a few weeks out of the summer, it seemed like a neverending cycle. But I am grateful for the lessons I learned in those fields. Experiences, which prepared me for a life in ministry. Here are five lessons I learned and how they relate to gospel ministry:
A grain of sand in the wrong spot will make you miserable, but keep on cropping because things tend to work themselves out.
In ministry, you will be rubbed the wrong way by things that really don’t matter. You will feel it’s unbearable. However, you can let the little situations prevent you from working for the Lord. Keep cropping. It will work itself out.
When it gets hot, learn to pace yourself.
Temperature affects your production. If you’re facing a season of heated confrontation, remember not to run full speed ahead, or you’ll get burnt. The pressures of ministry will cause even the most seasoned worker to burnout. Slow down and pace yourself.
Enjoy the simple pleasures in life (like an RC Cola and MoonPie).
Nothing was more satisfying than a twelve-ounce soda and a snack at break-time in the fields. You’re not designed to work nonstop. Take time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
If you disagree with someone, get it right before the end of the row.
In the tobacco patch, teenage boys (and girls too) would often argue back and forth while on the harvester. Everyone knew if the matter was not resolved by the end row things could escalate into an all-out fight. In ministry, you’re going to have disagreements, but make things right before it gets out of hand.
Always help others gather their crops.
The farming community where I grew up helped each other. I remember times when one crew was finished but went to help another farmer to get his harvest in on time. As a minister, I should never leave my fellow pastor to work alone. Christians should help others.
Again these are only a few correlations between the tobacco patch and ministry. I am sure there are more, but these will do for now. What about you? Did God use a former job or situation to shape you for ministry? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.
If you have spent any time around this blog, you know that I love to read. Yesterday, I came across a quote in C. Fred Smith’s Developing a Biblical Worldview that smacked me between the eyes. Smith’s words made me stop and examine myself. He writes,
We should stop looking for perfection in others. We pay lip service to the biblical teaching regarding sin, but then we expect perfection from other people. If we incorporate the reality of our common falleness into our worldview, it will be easier to accept the faults of others. It will be easier to love people, even when they disappoint us. 1
I am not saying I go around measuring people’s spirituality with my religious ruler, but do I keep my failings in mind when dealing with others? Christ taught us to be merciful (see Matthew 5:7). Am I reciprocating the mercy and grace I received? Do I forgive others the way I was forgiven?
We know that all sin (see Romans 3:23), but we tend to hold others to a higher standard. That attitude is the epitome of hypocrisy. And let’s face it we are all hypocritical at times. As Christians, we are called to hold each other accountable, but after reading this Smith’s statement, I think I will pay closer attention to being merciful. Considering my own faults when I approach others. What about you? I would love to hear from you.
C. Fred Smith, Developing a Biblical Worldview, Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 27. ↵
Over two thousand years ago, You faced the horrors of the cross. The cruel tortures of that wicked tree reveal the severity of sin, my sin. You cried out, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me!” It was through this forsakenness that we experience the embrace of Abba’s arms. Restored. Restless and rebellious subjects reconciled to a Regal King.
Wrecked with agonizing pain so that others could experience peace. By the crimson flow of Calvary, the filthy stains of sin wash away from our souls. Incarnate Deity dying removing sin’s strong hand. Worthy is the Lamb slain over two millennia ago! Praise ushers forth from grateful hearts on this most wondrous Good Friday for we know the rest of the story!
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A Jewish man stepped in and watched a part of [Adolf] Eichmann’s trial and burst into tears. Some next to him said, “Your anger must be unbearable.” He said, “No, it isn’t anger. The longer I sit here, the more I realize I have a heart like his.”
We ALLneed forgiveness for our depravity. Mark Twain quipped, “We are all like the moon. We have a dark side we don’t want anybody to see.” How true it is! However, some refuse to see their own Charles Swindoll records,
Webster says depraved means, “marked by corruption or evil, perverted, crooked.” It’s important that you understand this is an internal disease; you can’t detect it from the outside. Most folks don’t look depraved. Most of us do a masterful job of covering it up. But never doubt that underneath, deep down inside, there is this disease that eats away at us and pollutes our thoughts and our words (intellect), our relationships (emotions), and our actions (will). 
In Luke 7:36-50, we are given a tale of two debtors which illustrates the need we ALL have for mercy and grace. This sermon will examine the debtors, the debt, and the dispensation in the parable spoken by Jesus. It is important that a parable lays alongside , in this case, it is the story that is unfolding at the banquet of the Pharisee.
[PAINT THE SCENE]
There has been much debate concerning how many times Jesus was anointed. There are four records in the Gospels (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Lk 7:36-50; Jn 12:1-8). My opinion is Luke’s account is an earlier anointing of Jesus. There were three anointing events (Matthew and Mark being the same event). Warren Wiersbe writes, “Do not confuse this event with a similar one involving Mary of Bethany (John 12:1-8), and do not identify this woman with Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2) as many continue to do.”
The Debtors 
“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty.”
What can we know about this person from this text? The first thing is that his name was Simon (40).
Although he was a Pharisee, it is possible he invited Jesus to his home because he was curious about Him. This would explain the internal turmoil he was having about Jesus allowing this woman to touch Him (39).
He was blind to his sinfulness, the woman’s worth as a human, and who Jesus was!
A perfect illustration of this man’s attitude can be seen in Luke 18:9-14. [CITE]
Simon the Pharisee was the perfect example of what Jesus spoke of near the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-5). [TURN]
Wiersbe writes, “The parable does not deal with the amount of sin in a person’s life but the awareness of that sin in his heart.”
How much does it take to be in debt? Or sinner?
Simon had a sin of the spirit, and the woman had a sin of the flesh. The Apostle Paul writes, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (KJV 2 Cor 7:1).
We ALLneed forgiveness!
Although many have argued that this woman was a prostitute, it cannot be confirmed by this passage. However, it is a good speculation.
Why did this woman approach Jesus? If you look at a harmony of the Gospels, right before this moment, Jesus declared
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (KJV Matt 11:28-30).
It is evident in this passage that whatever her past, she was convicted of it. However, it is a thought that if she were a “working woman,” her precious gift was more than likely purchased with her profits. Even her very best offering was tainted. All she could give Jesus was the best of her sinful past.
The Debt 
“When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.
So which of them will love him more?”
We ALL need to be graciously forgiven!
It is noteworthy that forgiveness comes before the love. The writer of First John states, “We love, because He first loved us” (NASB 1 Jn 4:19).
The Apostle Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:1-10. [TURN]
The Dispensation of Grace [48-50]
“And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
What right did Jesus have to declare her forgiven? This was not the first time Jesus has made such a statement (see Luke 5:21).
What saved this woman; her faith or works? [READ VERSES 44-48] One Bible scholar writes, “We are not saved by faith plus works; we are saved by a faith that leads to works.”
 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (NASB Tit 3:4-7).
How did this woman know her faith saved her? God told her! He tells us too!
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)
 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,  and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 (NASB)
We ALLneed forgiveness!
Richard Hoefler’s book Will Daylight Come? Includes a homey illustration of how sin enslaves and forgiveness frees.
A little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target.
As he came back to Grandma’s backyard, he spied her pet duck. On impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead.
The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.”
But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again, she whispered, “Remember the duck.” Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing.
After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck.
“I know, Johnny,” she said, giving a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
 Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson,1998), 155.