Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Call to Abolition

The last week has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me with the news of SB 1118 in Oklahoma that would abolish abortion and then the seeing the interviews of the opposition to and eventual defeat of this bill from Tony Lauinger, Vice President of National Right to Life and chairman of Oklahomans for Life. Key to these interviews and conversations was Tony’s stance that it would do away with the life’s work of him and his organizations, that he would not call abortion murder, that he did not believe neither the mothers nor the doctors should be prosecuted for murder, and that he did not believe the Gospel or a Biblical worldview should be brought into this system of justice. I have watched and listened to every interview and discussion that has been posted at this time, so I write from this knowledge.

First, labels are deceiving. Conservativism doesn’t mean what it used to or not what many people think it does. Republican doesn’t mean what it used to or what many people think it does. And friends, pro-life and for-life does not mean what people think it does. Many of us are aware that someone claiming to be a Christian doesn’t mean they are. Many who proclaim Christianity believe nothing the Bible tells us or they do not believe it applicable to everyday life. That is not Christianity. The label pro-life and right-to-life and for-life for Tony Lauinger doesn’t mean abolishment of all death relating to abortion. To Tony, these labels means we have to work with evil, using evil’s methodology and under evil’s terms to accomplish a righteous cause. That in itself is evil. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 tells us:

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord  Almighty.”

But this is what Tony and his organizations are doing and believe we all should do. We do not unite with the devil and walk hand-in-hand with the devil to accomplish God’s Kingdom work to abolish abortion. We use God’s methodology.

Secondly, this brings me to methodology of Tony’s organizations. Throughout the interviews and videoed conversations, Tony consistently held that we must fight this fight incrementally. He said we needed to elect a pro-life president and have five pro-life Supreme Court justices appointed before we demand abolishment of abortion. In my understanding, this I what we had when the Roe vs. Wade opinion was entered. In essence, he said that we need people with authority at the top in order to make changes at the bottom. We need their approval. He said this takes time. Tony has been involved in the pro-life movement for almost forty years, right from the beginning and the incrementalism he and his organizations have fought for have allowed and justified 60 million babies being murdered since 1973. In fact, in his own home state of Oklahoma, he would accept the allowance for 6000 babies to be murdered this year through incremental legislation allowing for babies to be killed before 140 days old, before they purportedly can feel pain and only with certain instruments. These 6000 babies are a worthwhile sacrifice in his eyes, so that his life’s work is not done away with. One would think that the pinnacle of his purpose would be abolishment of abortion, but that was never heard. It is that his life’s work be not be aborted. Scripture warns us and Tony Lauinger needs to heed, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). I believe that this is the moment that Tony and his organizations fall.

Thirdly, this brings us to the Gospel and a having a Biblical worldview. The Gospel is the power of God to the salvation of every man (Romans 1:16). Central and necessary to the Gospel is repentance. Without repentance, there is no salvation. Repentance is not an incremental thing, but an immediate abolishment of allegiance to one’s sin, to one of righteousness found in Christ Jesus alone. The planting of the Gospel seed and it taking root might be incremental (1 Corinthians 3:6), but when the Gospel takes root through the Holy Spirit, there is immediate repentance. There is a dying to oneself and being raised to new life in Christ (Romans 6:3-4). There is nothing else under heaven that can change the heart of man ultimately, except the Gospel. Incrementalism says I trust man’s ways rather than God’s. The Gospel tells us that God ways and thoughts are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:9) and that man may have plans and think the way is right, but God direct them however he desires (Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 19:21). We cannot go anywhere and escape the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-12) for He is our Great Shepherd that leads us and comforts us (Psalm 23). Therefore, the Gospel and a Biblical worldview inform everything we do.
The reason why Tony Lauinger doesn’t want the abolishment of abortion in Oklahoma stems from the fact that he believes God’s Word has no application in regards to abortion or the manner in which it would be repealed. Tony does not honor God’s Word by calling the intentional killing of anyone as God defines it, as murder. The reason why Tony and others in his organizations can rationalize this is because they do not see this as a sin issue, but a legislative issue or one of judicial misconduct. When anything man does violates the very Law-Word of God, the very character and nature of God, it is sin according to God in His Word (Romans 3:23). Sin is not remedied ever in human terms but according to God’s terms, which is found in God’s Word alone. We must understand, that man’s terms always brings us back to where the sin originated in the beginning, the sinful heart of man; for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). We will never end at a moral man with the heart of immoral man, we must be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In the same way, man believes we can look to science and to nature to find the answers to morality. The very meaning of the word science is the word knowledge. Scripture tells us that knowledge begins with a holy fear of God not man (Proverbs 1:7). When we look to science, we begin with God and if we do not, we are starting with a faulty foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). If someone says we are to look to nature to find reality over the issue of morality, Scripture tells us that nature in and of itself reveals God’s character, nature and purpose. Romans 1:18-23 illustrates sinful man’s response to God’s revelation in Romans 1:18-23:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
What does sinful man do with God’s revelation of Himself? Man suppresses truth in unrighteousness and wickedness. Even though they have the knowledge, the science of God’s revelation, they do not honor God, but rather turn and worship and idol of the “knowledge” of man. They set their focus on worshipping creatures rather than the Creator. They become willing to sacrifice image-bearers of God in the womb for personal righteousness and gain. This is the root of abortion and the root of sinful man.

The only antidote for this is the Gospel. For Romans 1:16-17 tells us, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” The only thing that will illuminate the darkness is the Light of the Gospel. Jesus is that Light and that Gospel Word (John 1:1-18). The only reason I can think of as to why anyone, especially someone claiming Christianity, would not want this light to shine into the darkness of the political sphere is because the light of the Gospel as not shone in their hearts for Scripture says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
At the root of the problem is sinful, unrepentant, complacent and apathetic man. In fact, central to the problem are those who claim to be Christian, but the reality the light within them is not the Light of the world. Of these men, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 tells us we are:
…To undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”(1 Peter 4:17). It is time for the America Church to repent for their sin and walk with God. Repentance begins with the pulpits and it flows out into the pews. Then we can truly understand 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It is here that we will see men and women who will no longer compromise the truth regarding abortion, who will no longer graciously accept an incremental crumb from the table of the devil, but will make their life’s goal, the abolition of the willful, heinous, and unthinkable practice of child murder and treat perpetrators of this crime as Scripture calls this unlawful act against God’s image-bearer as murderers.

Please be in prayer, for those involved in the battle daily, that they do not lose heart, but continue to press on. Join them in this battle. March onward Church of the Living God, for the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Lord’s church (Matthew 16:18). For they will surely fall!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

An Optimistic View of the Kingdom: Part 2

Remember, when we talk about having an optimistic view of the Kingdom of God, we are discussing an idea of a future reality or eschatology. The word eschatology means the study of last things or end things or last day things. When we discuss an optimistic view of eschatology, we are talking about postmillennialism. Ken Gentry on postmillennialismtoday.com defines postmillennialism as:

Postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his Church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

Matthew 16:18-19 says, 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” If the gates of hell will not prevail against the Lord’s Church, this means we have victory today! We might not see a victory in every battle, but the war is won already. Satan is a defeated foe. So what does a victorious Kingdom look like?

The Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, though seemingly small will greatly increase.

Matthew 13:31-32 says, “31 He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’”

First, the working of the Gospel might seem weak, small and insignificant at first. Matthew 13:31-32 reads, “…is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds…” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

God does not choose the wise, the mighty, and the honored by men, but he chooses the foolish, the weak, and the lowly because He does mighty things with the things that are small and insignificant. Isaiah 40:10-11 says, “ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” It is not necessary for us to be able face all things on our own in regards to the Gospel, because out Great Shepherd carries us. When we lack faith and we struggle in weakness, Scripture tells us that he will, “supply what is lacking in faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10) and “the Spirit help us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26).

Second, the effect of the Gospel, like seed, has a disposition to grow. In our theme passage, Matthew 13:31-32 says, 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown… Everything in God’s purpose and will, regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has a disposition to grow. Scripture tells us, “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18). Yes, the path of those who live in the righteousness of Christ, grows brighter and brighter. The light of the Gospel grows in God’s people and in such a way that it overcomes the darkness (John 1:5) because the Gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16).

Third, the end result of the Gospel is one of great strength, purpose and significance. In our theme passage it reads, “but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32). Our example regarding this passage is Psalm 80:8-11 which tells us:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 11 It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary of Bible wrote:

“The church, like the vine brought out of Egypt, has taken root, and filled the earth. The church is like a great tree, in which the fowls of the air do lodge; God’s people have recourse to it for food and rest, shade and shelter. In particular persons, the principle of grace, if true, will persevere and be perfected at last: growing grace will be strong grace, and will bring much to pass. Grown Christians must covet to be useful to others, as the mustard-seed when grown is to the birds; that those who dwell near or under their shadow may be the better for them.”

God’s Word tells us that when we repent of our sin and dwell in His Lordship, we flourish and blossom (Hosea 14:4-7). This is the work of the Gospel. It calls us to repentance, but it does not leave us there. It calls us and causes us to grow.

The working of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is like leaven!

Our theme passage  says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). The Gospel is like yeast that is inserted into flour.

First, it is the duty of the worker to insert the Gospel. The example of the theme passage is done by a woman, which is extremely important for us to take in view. When it comes to the insertion of the Gospel into the lives of others, it is a task that all believers, including women, are called to do. Women are heirs with us men and are one with us in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:7, Galatians 3:23-29). Therefore, when it comes to the proclamation and insertion of the Gospel into lives around us, it is the duty of all believers.

Second, before the leaven is introduced, there is preparation of the meal. Matthew Henry wrote:

 The heart is, as the meal, soft and pliable; it is the tender heart that is likely to profit by the word: leaven among corn unground does not work, nor does the gospel in souls unhumbled and unbroken for sin: the law grinds the heart, and then the gospel leavens it. It is three measures of meal, a great quantity, for a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. The meal must be kneaded, before it receive the leaven; our hearts, as they must be broken, so they must be moistened, and pains taken with them to prepare them for the word, that they may receive the impressions of it.

Therefore, the Gospel must penetrate the heart of the unbeliever. The leaven of the Word of God must be hidden in the heart of the individual for it to work its way through the whole thing and change the person (Psalm 119:9-11). In doing so, it will sanctify and consecrate them (John 17:17-19).

Third, once the leaven of the Gospel is mixed into the heart of man, it works quickly and powerfully. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12). The leaven of the Gospel works quickly, just as, the passing of the torch/the mantle from Elijah to Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21). The leaven of the Gospel works silently and indiscernibly, but yet strongly and irresistibly. We know when it its working has been fulfilled because it bears fruit (Mark 4:26-29).

The work of the Apostles bears witness to the working of the Gospel throughout time. The Apostles turned the world upside down (Acts 17:1-6). How did they do this? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

They said that we as believers are the aroma, the fragrance of Christ before a lost and dying world by proclaiming the leaven of the Gospel. They understood that there was nothing more valuable than the purpose of preaching the Gospel (Romans 15:18-21).

When the Gospel is applied to the heart of man, a change occurs. Romans 8:5 says, “ For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” When a person is born-again, the heart’s desire is no longer of sin, but of righteousness (Romans 6:14-18). Where there is a change in the heart and in the mind, there is a change in the way one lives and how one responds. This change is initiated by the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In closing, Matthew Henry wrote, “When the dough is leavened, then to the oven with it; trials and afflictions commonly attend this change; but thus saints are fitted to be bread for our Master’s table.” This is an example of Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The bread of Communion is no longer unleavened because the Gospel of Jesus is the leaven that has been inserted into our souls and has brought about life and growth. In the same way, the reason we have wine is not so we can be more proper, but that the juice has fermented and has now become a whole new thing…wine, which reveals that we are now a new creation because of the shed blood of Jesus. God’s work is never finished in us. He will continue to work and to change and to perfect His people from what began with the leaven of the Gospel.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

An Optimistic View of the Kingdom: Part 1

When we talk about having an optimistic view of the Kingdom of God, we are discussing an idea of a future reality or eschatology. The word eschatology means the study of last things or end things or last day things. When we discuss an optimistic view of eschatology, we are talking about postmillennialism. Ken Gentry on postmillennialismtoday.com defines postmillennialism as:

Postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his Church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

There are various views of eschatology in the Church today and varieties within those genres themselves. It is not my desire to study the individual views for that would simply be a Bible Study, but I want to look further into what we proclaim to believe at Christ Covenant Church. Some other views try to make themselves out to be optimistic for they do not like being called pessimistic, but in view of what they believe, there is nothing about the future of the Church that is productive, growing or victorious. Their victory is not even in the return of Christ, but just an eternity with Him. Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) says:

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

There is much more to the Church than waiting around for the Lord’s return. When studying eschatology, we are looking at our view of the Kingdom of God and over the next few articles that means we will look at a passage that speaks directly about the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13. So, let us set the stage regarding the Kingdom of God. Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV) reads:

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

First, He that sows the good seed is Jesus Christ. All good seed in the world comes from Christ. When ascended on high He gave gifts to the world; not only to good ministers, but also good men. He has given man the responsibility to sow good seed, but the success of the seed is determined by Jesus Christ and not man.

Secondly, the field is the world. The world is not only a field, but it is Christ’s field and one that is capable of yielding good fruit.

Thirdly, the good seed are the children of the Kingdom. These are the true saints, not in profession only. Matthew 8:10-12 (ESV) says:

“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

They are the good and precious seed. “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6). The seed are the substance of the field and therefore holy seed. They are holy because they proceed from Christ. “And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump (Isaiah 6:13). The seed are scattered and so are the saints. The saints like seed are dispersed throughout the world here and there and some in greater and thicker pockets than others. It is from this seed that God alone has sown that fruit is expected. Hosea 2:21-23 says:

21 “And in that day I will  answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the  and. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Fourthly, the tares are the children of the wicked one. This describes the character of sinners, hypocrites, and all profane and wicked people. They are children of the devil. They don’t bear his name, but yet they bear his image, do his lusts, and from him they have their education. He rules over them and works in them. Ephesians 2:1-3 says:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

John 8:43-44 tell us:

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

They are tares in the field of this world. They do no good, but cause hurt. They are unprofitable,  in and of themselves, and hurtful to the good seed, both by temptation and persecution. They are weeds in the garden that get the same rain, sunshine and soil alongside the good plants but they are good for nothing. They are among the wheat as God has ordered it so that the good may be exercised and the evil left inexcusable and revealing a difference between heaven and the earth.

Fifthly, the enemy that sowed the tares is the devil. He is the sworn enemy to Christ and all that is good, to the glory of the good God, and the comfort and happiness of all good men. He is an enemy to God’s field and seeks to make it his own by sowing tares in it. He seeks to sow and promote wickedness.

Now let us take a closer look at the sowing of the tares and the significance surrounding it.

First, the tares were sown while men slept. The civil magistrates slept, who by their God given power should have prevented this wickedness. The ministers of the Gospel slept, who by their preaching should have prevented this wickedness. Satan looks for opportunities, when men are off their guard and lack vigilance. Psalm 104:20-23 says:

20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Second, notice that the enemy sowed the tares and then went away (Matthew 13:25). Satan’s work is done in concealment in order that his work not be discovered. 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 reads:

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

The weed that is left doesn’t need tending. It just needs to be sown and it will bear the fullness of its iniquity over time.

Third, the tares do not reveal themselves until their fruit becomes visible (Matthew 13:26). There is a great deal of secret wickedness in the hearts of men, which is often hidden behind man’s self-profession. In fact, often it is hard to distinguish between the wheat and tares at first, but the reality cannot be hidden for long until they are revealed by their fruit. It is by the testing of hard times that each will be revealed and you will distinguish between the sincere and the hypocrite.

Fourth, so often, when the tares are revealed we complain to God (Matthew 13:27). Without any doubt, God has sown good seed in His field and it is not Christ that has sown bad seed. Matthew Henry wrote:

The rise of errors, the breaking out of scandals, and the growth of profaneness, are matter of great grief to all the servants of Christ; especially to his faithful ministers, who are directed to complain of it to him whose the field is. It is sad to see such tares, such weeds, in the garden of the Lord; to see the good soil wasted, the good seed choked, and such a reflection cast on the name and honour of Christ, as if his field were no better than the field of the slothful, all grown over with thorns.

Fifth, God knows who has sown the tares. “He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this’” (Matthew 13:28). God does not lay blame on His faithful servants for the tares that were sown in His field. The ministers of Christ who are faithful and diligent will not be judged by Christ and therefore should not bear the reproach of Christian men as Matthew Henry puts it, “for the mixtures of bad with good, hypocrites with the sincere, in the field of the church…Though they sleep, if they do not love sleep; though tares be sown, if they do not sow them nor water them, nor allow of them, the blame shall not lie at their door.”

Sixth, servants of God have a great zeal for the tares to be removed to the Church’s detriment. “ …So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’” (Matthew 13:28). We need to recognize the over-hasty and inconsiderate zeal we sometimes have as Christ’s servants to root out all that we presume to be tares without actually consulting our Lord. We do this to our own detriment as His Church.

Seventh, notice that our Lord prevents us from taking action on this faulty zealousness. “But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Matthew 13:29). The Lord prevents us from doing so because it is impossible for us as men to distinguish between the wheat and the tares infallibly. It is by the wisdom and grace of Christ, that He will permit the tares, in order that the wheat may not be harmed. Without a doubt, those who openly are sinful and unrepentant are to be placed under church discipline and censured. We must though caution ourselves in long lasting discipline if repentance is evident, because the point of discipline is restoration or acceptance. We must do so with meekness. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 reads:

24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Eighth, the harvest is at the end of the world (Matthew 13:39). Galatians 6:7-8 tells us:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

 Proverbs 20:4 goes on saying, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” It is the lazy person that doesn’t focus on the end goal. The harvest doesn’t come until some time later, not just moments after the seed is planted. John 5:25-29 reads:

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Ninth, the reapers of the harvest are the angels, not men; not you, not me, not elders, nor sessions or presbyterys. “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn....The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels” (Matthew 13:30, 39).

Tenth, the tares will be bundled and cast into hell. Matthew 13:30, 40-42 says:

30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned…40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Eleventh, the Lord’s wheat from across time and the world will be gathered into God’s barn (Matthew 13:30, 43). At some point in time, God will gather all his wheat, all His saints from across time, into His barn, which is heaven. We will be gathered together will live in new heaven and new earth in the fulfillment of His Kingdom work.

Notice that life for the Christian here and now is not devoid of hardship. But notice something very important, a harvest is coming and we get to be a part of sowing God’s good seeds. Although there might be tares, there will be a greater harvest. The tares don’t stunt the growth of the Kingdom of God nor do they hinder it. Just as the wheat grows, so does God’s Kingdom grow. The Kingdom is not weakened by Satan’s attacks for Satan is already defeated and Christ’s Kingdom is victorious!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Covenantal Farming-How Community is Destroyed!

It’s been awhile since I have written. My plate has been full of family, work, and new adventures and hasn’t permitted me to write as much as I would like. This is what brings me to write today. Complacency, apathy and all out busyness in our lives wreck community. This too happens in covenantal farming.
Let me define the terms for you. Complacency is the concern for or the act of seeking that which is pleasurable to us. Apathy is a term used to show a contempt for earthly concerns beyond that which pleases us. Busyness, is a self-conscious, intentional need to be busy while yet having no order or purpose to the action.

Complacency is deadly when it comes to farming. If we all do what is pleasurable to us, then there is a lot left to do or a lot left undone. In my last writing, I wrote about people who are not willing to do the work to dig in and learn about farming for themselves, but rather like the idea and in doing so they don’t fulfill the dominion mandate. I called them hobbyist farmers and I correlated it to hobbyist Christianity. Both are dangerous. Complacency fits well in this category of hobbyist farming. The problem with complacency is that is that I have never met anyone who enjoyed scooping poop but it needs to be done. Keeping the grass and vines off the fence is extremely hard work, but it needs to be done. Weeding the garden is difficult and the bigger it is, the harder it is to maintain, but it needs to be done. When someone becomes complacent on the farm, they find themselves admiring the animals and their beauty, their “personalities” and their quirkiness. They only envision the idea of these animals and how they please them, but if you do this, some things go unnoticed and this can be detrimental to the farm. You will never have the farm of your dreams as long you stand there day-dreaming about it.

Apathy, like complacency, is also destructive to the farm because it is the act of ignoring all the signs that are clearly before us and around us for the sake of what pleases us. Apathy on the farm is worse than complacency because it is the byproduct of complacency. Complacency gives birth to apathy. Apathy ignores the clear signs right in front of you. If you don’t take care of fence lines, they will become overgrown, break down and animals will escape. Since I use electric fence, if I don’t maintain the fences they ground out and the animals get out because it can no longer deter them. If you don’t keep a close eye on your animals, their health can quickly decline and put you into panic mode or lose the animal, which is a definite loss on your investment. If you don’t have quality control on your feed, your animals might not receive the nourishment they need. If you don’t weed your garden, the weeds will not only take over, but they will suck the nutrients out of your soil, depriving your plants of what they need to produce a harvest. Apathy is destructive to the farm.

Like apathy, busyness is a byproduct. It’s more of a clear sign that complacency and apathy have existed on your farm form some time. Yet busyness is one of the most destructive things we can do to a farm. Remember, busyness is a self-conscious, intentional need to be busy while yet not having any order or purpose to the action. If you find yourself busy for the sake of being busy, you are in trouble. If you have no order, no purpose and no vision for the farm, it will be evident. Your farm will be in total disarray. If you are too busy to know the animals you have, you will be too busy notice when one goes lame or goes missing. Busyness does not equate productivity. There must be order for there to productivity. There will be no order without a distinct purpose. Busyness waits time and resources and gets us nowhere on the farm. Everything suffers when there is complacency, apathy and busyness. We will find the there is no true spirit of community or common unity of purpose in our farm and often our farms are a reflection of our lives. This is really what this writing is about. It’s all about community and what hinders us from having an abundant and full life in community with our family, our churches and more.

Many people will have good intentions, but it doesn’t take long and complacency sets in. The selfish desire for personal pleasure at all costs. It doesn’t take much for us to replace hard work and effort on relationships and replacing it with admiring an ideal or begin living a dream of what this community is like while in reality all that we do is to please ourselves. We evaluate things as to whether it brings us pleasure when we decide to show up. We love the convenience of showing up when we want. We love the personality of the pastor or the quirkiness of the people or energized by the worship band when we go to church, yet in reality it is all about us and our pleasure.

This leads us to the byproduct of complacency in our families and our churches, which is apathy. We are so focused on self-pleasure that we don’t even see the signs of people and things falling apart. We don’t notice the hurting, the sick, the lame and the worn out both physically and spiritually among us. We don’t recognize the people or the things that are in dire need of attention because we are caught up in what pleases us. We don’t see the destruction in others that is occurring, but what we don’t realize is the destruction that is occurring in us.

When we do wake up enough to see the need, we find ourselves rushing around trying to put band-aid cures on everything, but in some circumstances we are too late. Even though we wake up, we do not realize the depth of the damage already done and we find ourselves running about in busyness. Busyness is but a distraction from taking responsibility. Busyness doesn’t fix the core issues, but it’s more like covering up the piles of manure that didn’t get scooped or the carcasses of those overlooked with tarps. The root of the problem still exists, but we refuse to address it. We act as if we cover it up or move the piles from one place to another people will think we are serious about our community. How wrong we are and how foolish we look.

Community on the farm or in our homes or in our churches isn’t about what pleases us or what we like to look at or even the dreams we have for our future. Community doesn’t allow for the hurting, the lame, the sick and the malnourished physically and spiritually to go unnoticed. Community doesn’t allow band-aid approaches and not taking responsibility for our lack of action and lack of intentional involvement. It is never another person’s fault when community reaches failure, but a collective of “I’s” which form the “we” of community. Each of us needs to take a close look at our communities in which we are involved in. Are they a reflection of Biblical community or they in total disarray? Let’s look at the core of our problems and in repentance repair them and restore them with God’s help and with God’s purpose and vision in mind.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord  watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2, English Standard Version)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Covenantal Farming: Farming for Dominion

Covenantal Farming
Farming for Dominion

Why in the world do you farm?

That is a good question. In today’s time, with all its modern conveniences of grocery stores, gourmet and not-so-gourmet fast food restaurants on every corner, why would anyone want to start farming? Maybe, it is an interest of eating healthier or a feeling of accomplishment or just to have a hobby of sorts. I was one of those hobbyists or people that wanted to feel like they accomplished something in a mundane life. I was raised in the city and although some gardening was done around me during my childhood, there was really little instruction or even inclusion or teaching in regards to raising animals or crops. If you haven’t guessed it, I am new when it comes to the whole idea of farming and agriculture in general. When you have this kind of combination of a hobbyist who is emotionally divested in something without experience, what you get is goats. I can picture you scratching your head, so let me explain.

For all you goat farmers out there, there is nothing wrong with goats in general, but if people are going to raise goats because they are an easy entry point to farming or they are just plain “cute” or it would just be “neat” to have some, they have a problem. I always hear the argument for having goats as that “we could milk them” and “we could sell fresh milk and make and sell soap” and “we could have babies and sell them” and on and on goes the reasoning for having goats. The first thing I ask people when they say they want goats is how do you plan to contain them? Or how much land do you have and what kind of land do you have? Or have you ever milked a goat before? Goats without a purpose are like vampires for your pocketbook. They entice you and draw you in with all of those fantastic qualities but in reality they are sucking you dry. When I say fantastic, I am using the true quality of the word which is fantasy. I am an expert in this, because this is where I began two years ago with an unrealistic fantasy of the city boy becoming a farmer. This is what I call hobbyist farming. Hobbyist farming and gardening is a dangerous thing and I believe it is outright sinful for the Christian.

That’s right. I said it. Being a hobbyist when it comes to farming, gardening, or anything in life is outright, plain and simple, sin. I didn’t say it was a sin to enjoy any of these things, because like hunting and fishing or any other thing, they are definitely enjoyable and should be enjoyable for us to want to continue to do them. However, without a purpose, they make us horrible stewards of the resources, time and lives God has given us. Let us be reminded that, “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). Everything belongs to the Lord and that includes our purpose for farming, gardening and the like. I remember the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is a good one, but the problem is that when we lead and plan with our emotions from our hearts and we fail to realize our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and they will lead us astray. But thank God that although “the heart of man plans his way…the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I am thankful that this is what God did for me and did not allow me to continue down such a path of destruction.

God’s purpose for the life of those who follow Him is established in the first book of the Bible in what is called by many, the dominion mandate. Genesis 1:26-30 reads:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

After the Flood later on in Genesis 9:1-3, the Lord reiterates and then adds to this same dominion mandate:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Dominion is related to all aspects of life including family, work, food and our relationship with God. As aforementioned, God has provided all the resources of life because they are all His, but they are to be used for His glory with His purpose and intent. All of these resources are meant to glorify Him and when we use God’s resources to please ourselves, and not the Lord, we have committed sin. All aspects of farming and gardening are tools that we are to use for taking dominion in a lost and aimless world. It is our purpose to take dominion. Our purpose is never self-seeking but it also seeks to honor and glorify God. Farming and gardening can and does glorify God if done with this purpose in mind.

Hobbyist Farming and Hobbyist Christianity

The problem we have is that for many we approach not only farming, but all aspects of life without purpose; God’s purpose. God’s purpose is big and Kingdom-focused. We, rather, are very much small thinking and self-seeking. Hobbyist farming is just like hobbyist Christianity. Just as we live in a world of conveniences with grocery stores and restaurants, there is a new flavor of church and “Christianity” on every corner. There are the established mom-and-pop operations (the orthodox churches) which are a dying breed in every small town. There are the big-box stores where anything and everything under the sun is offered (nothing is left out, but leaves the individual disconnected as a whole). There are the fast-food churches which are cheap and you can get your weekly Jesus, get out quick and go on with your life. Some churches don’t even have any form of spiritual food, but they are more like ice cream or candy stores full of sweetness and overarching ideas without any lasting substance.

The point of this writing is not to talk about different “churches,” but to make the comparison most of us make with our Christian walk without even blinking. In order to be an ardent, obedient follower of Christ, it takes work; hard work. It takes reading and studying God’s Word for ourselves first. It takes discussing and breaking things down with others to find clarity within Christian community. It takes prayer and petition before God seeking to honor Him every step of the way. It takes planning so that we truly consider the cost it will require. It amazes me that as Christians we subscribe to magazines and read online articles and engage in Facebook discussion groups in order to further our walk with Christ and to do the work of ministry, but when it comes to all of the other areas of life, including farming, we fall short. We would hate to be called a hobbyist Christian, but why are just fine being called a hobbyist farmer or gardener, etc.

A hobbyist farmer, just like a hobbyist Christian, is lazy, self-seeking, immature and disobedient to the Lord’s command to take dominion over the land and animals. You cannot take dominion without knowing anything about what you are taking dominion of. Just as you cannot know the fullness of the character and nature of God without studying His Word, we cannot know the full nature of farming and gardening without first studying. Just as Christianity is not just about learning from personal experience, it is the same in the arena of farming and gardening. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to study up first before you even attempt to ask questions. Just as any good pastor would tell you not to just take his word for it, but rather we need to check it against Scripture, we also don’t need to take the advice of the “experts” of gardening and farming just on face value. We must do the hard, strenuous work of research for ourselves and we then must ask if this practice of farming or gardening honors God at His Word. His Law-Word does have some things to say about gardening and farming in case you didn’t know.

We must be willing to do the hard work and study daily both in preparation and continued education. Who cares about what animals others are raising or what people are planting in their gardens? That is no concern for you. Unless you are starting a Farmer’s Market, why would you plant things that you and your family will not eat? Why plant a garden so big that you cannot properly manage and maintain it? If you don’t have the time or man-power, you have no business planting a one-acre garden much less a small container garden. Why have animals that don’t provide anything back on your investment, but are parasitic to your pocketbook? Why get animals in which you don’t have proper containment, shelter and food for? Why have animals at all, if you are not going to properly and knowledgably care for God’s creation. They are God’s creatures and as stewards and managers of His property, we cannot take care of them carelessly. When you don’t take care of God’s creation and provision, you look foolish and are perceived as one who is presumptive, entitled and doesn’t appreciate the Lord’s blessings. Presumption alone by itself is sinful (1 Samuel 15:23).

I want to challenge you that before you turn the soil, plant even one seed or buy even one cute little chick or goat, to stop and ask what God’s purpose for you is in this? Prayerfully consider whether this is an area He is calling you to claim dominion purposely for Him and His Kingdom. Is this real or a fantasy? Is this something that you are willing to devote your time, abilities and resources to? Is this something that will require just you as an individual to commit or will it require the involvement of the entire family? Is this something your family is able and willing to do? Then, once the purpose of God in this is established, begin researching everything you can about this particular purpose. You will not learn it all up front, but you need to lay a sure foundation. Not everyone should have a garden and not everyone should have chickens or goats or pigs or whatever your imagination can drum up. We need to honor God by taking dominion where He sets our feet and purposes for us to grow and expand His kingdom. As Christians, we must set the example for the pagans by being God-centered and Kingdom-focused rather than self-seeking hobbyists. Remember, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). Don’t waste time, resources or anything on something that you will be ashamed of in the end. Honor God and fulfill His purpose!