Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our Mission - Wheat Tending, not Tare Plucking!

Our Mission - Wheat Tending, not Tare Plucking!

“Oh you just would not believe the oppression that is over our city. Well, our ruling spirit is witchcraft. But ours is drugs.” At one time it was quite in vogue among certain circles to see whose community would out oppress another’s. At conference gatherings across the nation this kind of conversation could dominate - ad nauseam. And then a strategy would be revealed to “come against” these powers and principalities.

I would submit to you that this mind set has produced little or no lasting fruit. Actually by coming into agreement with these negative forces we have often inadvertently exacerbated their malevolent activity.

Let’s direct our attention to what the gospel writer Matthew calls a parable of the kingdom of heaven - the story of the tares sown among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). May we first consider why the tares were sown by the enemy of the one who had planted the crop of wheat. This takes us into the realm of blessings and curses. The tares were only sown because the wheat was already there. A curse is only a reaction to a blessing which is always preeminent. Our God and Father is the only one who is capable of initiative and creativity. The one who would oppose His goodness can only attempt to counter the blessing with a curse. A blessing always contains within it initiative and creativity - a curse is incapable of either of these attributes.

What is the Father doing?

I like to say that I would rather be found blessing what our Father is blessing rather than trying to curse what the enemy is cursing. Henry Blackaby has coined an axiom in our day, “Look and see what God is doing and join Him there.” Of course this is in perfect harmony with the words of Christ himself, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).

So, what is the Father doing? Is He sowing wheat or tares? The answer is obvious. Why then does the obvious so easily escape our attention? My conviction is the parable of the wheat and the tares teaches us not to put inordinate attention on the tares and by so doing miss the blessing. The owner of the field when informed that weeds had been sown amongst his crop simply replies, “An enemy has done this.” Excitedly, having made a discovery, the servants exclaim, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” Calmly he answers, “No, for if you do it too soon, you may actually uproot the wheat also. Wait until the time of the harvest when it will be obvious which is the wheat and which is the tares.”

A teaching comes to my mind that at the time of harvest the wheat bows low with a bountiful crop of luscious grain while the tares remain upright for they bear no fruit. And the hue of the bountiful crop is amber - the glory of God. We must expend our energy and resources tending to the blessing of fruitfulness initiated by our Faithful Father. At the right time His handiwork will become obvious. The tares are easily identified and removed to be burned while the wheat is gathered into His storehouse.

An illustration of the mind set of focusing on the tares is right here in our own community - the Great Kanawha River Valley. Many are quick to assert that the name Kanawha is derived from a Native-American word that means death - and that observation quickly precipitates a discussion of the oppression over our area unintentionally coming into agreement with and strengthening the plan of the enemy. The sower of tares receives the attention - might we even say glory - rather than the Lord of the Harvest unto Whom only it is due.

Further investigation reveals that Kanawha actually means “white stone” which is a reference to the salt found in this region. Occasionally the salt brine would bleed into the river and cause a fish kill - thus the connotation of death. In the Book of the Revelation a white stone is emblematic of innocense - freedom from guilt and condemnation! That is our blessing which precedes and conquers any “curse of death.”

There is a Hebrew name for God - El Qanah (pronounced Kaw-naw’) - which means the white-hot impassioned one. The reference is to God’s passionate possession in creating and redeeming His people - His chosen ones. This area attracted both original and subsequent explorers because of the abundance of salt which produces a lasting savor. I believe the revelation of the conclusive blessing is unescapable for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The choice is ours!

The savor of the Church must be restored. The choice is ours! “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live!” Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT Too often we are still eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than of the tree of life.

We have become identified in the eyes of a watching world for what we are against, rather than what we are for. Often those within the church who have a focus on justice issues rail against injustice while those whose perspective is righteousness crusade against unrighteousness. As a friend and coworker says, “We end up shouting at each other from opposite ends of the spectrum.” We have to come into integrated wholeness around the Father’s blessings if we are to see lasting transformation in our communities. Only then will we come into the fulness of the Abrahamic blessing - blessed to be a blessing. As the Lord Himself spoke concerning Abraham to the two angelic witnesses: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:19 NIV

The chosen destiny of the Lord for His Church is to come into wholeness thus providing an habitation for His arrival. This is our eschatological hope that winds itself as a scarlet thread from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 NASB What are we looking for? A friend declared recently, “When I open the Bible I see eschatology - from beginning to end.” He was saying that he sees the hope of the blessing - that what the Father created in the beginning and said that it was good He will resurrect and restore on the day of the consummation of all things just as He did the body of His Son. Yet, even this glorious truth has been corrupted by some who would establish a lucrative business by focusing on the supposed activities of the enemy. Emphatically we must confer with the commentator D.A. Carson, “The parable deals with eschatological expectation, not ecclesiological deterioration.”

I cannot express this any better than is done in these hymned words:

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

“For the world is Mine, and all it contains.” Psalm 50:12b

A clash of kingdoms

Yet, we live in the midst of an eschatological tension - a clash of kingdoms. A chief example of this is the importunate prayer of Daniel. He had read in the words of Jeremiah the prophet that the time of Jerusalem’s desolations were at an end. He began to pray in agreement with the revealed word: “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Daniel 9:19).

Daniel’s focus was on the blessing - the immutable plan and purpose of God for His chosen people. Gabriel appears to him and tells him: “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (9:23) Daniel did not have to persuade God to act - immediately as he prayed in agreement with God’s intended purpose the answer to his prayer was sent forth. Indeed, even further revelation and insight were given to encourage him to remain constant in prayer.

Yet a period of three weeks elapsed before the messenger arrived with the promise for he had been opposed: “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.” (10:12-13) During this time Daniel had continued to pray and to humble himself before God in harmony with His intended purposes. As a result help came to the angelic messenger so that he could overcome the opposing forces and bring the message to Daniel - even further wisdom and insight: “Do you know why I have come to you? ...I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.” (10:20-21)

How then shall we live?

Returning to the parable of the wheat and tares; how then shall we live? We are to live intrinsically among the community in which we have been placed by the hand of God. If our focus is upon the tares our tendency is either toward domination or isolation neither of which serves His purposes in redeeming us and filling us with the power of His Spirit that we might be salt and light in the midst of a world that is desperately seeking answers for their pain. “The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 NLT Darkness cannot overcome light, it only exists where light has withdrawn. When the light comes in the darkness must flee. The primary ministry of the Church of Jesus Christ is not to attempt to remove the darkness (tares) so that the light can come forth. As the light shines the deeds of darkness are reveled for what they are and they are overpowered. “Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.” 1 Timothy 5:25 and
“He who walks in integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9.

And concluding from Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Thessalonika:

“And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds. Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12