Tag Archives: Scripture

Don’t Whack the Weeds

But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.’ (Matthew 13:29 NET)

Each time I read through Scripture I’m amazed at what God brings to my attention. Things which I’ve read many times will sometimes jump out like they’ve never been there before. I had that experience the other evening while reading through Matthew. I read the parable of the wheat and the weeds like I have many times before. I stopped to ask myself, “What was Jesus telling us in this short tale?” The funny thing is Jesus gives an explanation.

The more I thought about it the more I realized I couldn’t remember a single sermon I’d heard on this parable. I’m sure it was mentioned somewhere but apparently not noteworthy enough for me to remember. Often this is tied in with sending more workers into the fields but I see here an accurate description of the world, including the church and dealing with the evil which invades.

For some reason, Christians feel they need to cast their eyes across the world looking for weeds. We think these insidious plants, when found, need to be either converted into proper wheat or culturally eradicated by insuring they behave and look like wheat. Granted these damaging weeds are taking up some of the nutrients, water, and soil space that could otherwise be used by the wheat. It makes sense to us to remove the items which hinder proper growth of the wheat. But Jesus has a different approach in mind.
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Instead of weeding out the invaders Jesus says leave them where they are. Allow them to receive the same fertilizer, water, and care as the remainder of the wheat field. Now why would we leave them there? The Lord makes it clear that their removal would cause damage to the faithful wheat in the process of eradication. Apparently, we’re not very good as farmers in this process. It’s only when they’re harvested together that they can be properly separated without damage. So, the separation of the faithful and unbeliever is left to the final harvest by the reapers (angels). Only then will the true wheat shine in God’s kingdom.

I think of the damage done to the body of Christ by overzealous believers who take their understanding of God’s righteousness and attempt to forcefully weed out the evil in the world. They’re trying to pull up the weeds while their roots are still intertwined with the believer’s. I’m not discounting our call to exercise proper discipline within the church as Paul expressed to the Corinthians. After his call to expel the sinner from their midst he writes back and tempers his harsh commands in order that they show forgiveness and care so they do not cause excessive sorrow.

I also understand the admonition not to associate with those known for their flagrant sinful behavior within the church. But weeding goes directly to the destruction of the sinner and indirectly to the detriment of the faithful as our roots are intertwined. One cannot be ripped from the ground without damaging the other. Sinners are as common in a sinful world as weeds are in the wheat field. Regardless of what we try to tell ourselves we’re intertwined in a way that cannot be undone until the final harvest.

As tenders of the field we need to insure the nutrients of God’s grace, love and care are sowed throughout the field regardless of the plant. I’m convinced God won’t run out of fertilizer this side of eternity. Then we can allow God’s angels to harvest the field and separate the good from the bad. They know how to do this without irreparable damage to the plant, apparently, something we don’t do very well. We need to stop whacking at the weeds and aerate the soil with God’s grace and love. As missionaries and pastors this is our calling. Cultivate the field. The harvest we leave up to the one who knows how to save the good and toss out the bad, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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Lost Things

“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.” (Isaiah 65:1 NASB)

Have you ever lost something? I have, many things. Have you ever, years later, found something you thought was long lost and gone? I have, usually when I’m packing to move to a new home. Fortunately, moving doesn’t happen too often.

If starts like this: I’m not looking for an item in particular, just going through things, when something catches my attention. I stop and look closely at the new found treasure. Actually it’s something old, something lost a long time ago, usually something I didn’t remember I had. Sometimes it’s a delight and I rejoice. Sometimes it’s nothing and is promptly tossed in the bin. And sometimes, it’s a reminder stirring emotions I thought were long gone.

A couple months ago I was organizing my library. I have a couple friends who are professional librarians. They would be aghast at the lack of the Dewey Decimal system in my library. I don’t use numbers and often the titles are upside down. My standard librarian skill involves putting the books wherever there is space. This served me well for years but finally, in order to find things, I had to create some sort of organization.

I simply alphabetized the books, my apologies to Mr. Dewey, and found a couple volumes I needed to re-read and some I had never read. I set them aside to work through them at a later date. I always keep a stack of books waiting to fill that elusive spare time. A few weeks later I took one off the top of the stack. I rifled through the pages. Suddenly I found an old boarding pass ferreted away between the pages. I yanked it out, like removing advertising from a new magazine, ready to toss it in the bin. Then I stopped and read the faded printing. Unexpectedly I was flooded with memories.

mis67The faded printing read, January 20, 1988. That was the flight date. Northwest flight 004 from Chicago to Narita, Japan. It was a fifteen-hour flight cramped into seat 23G. Economy class, affectionately known as Cattle Car, provided my 500 mph seat. This was the second of three legs to return to the mission field. I was returning from my father’s funeral. I remember the flight was long, cramped and lonely. I was trying to reorder my life at 35,000 feet.

“Living Above the Level of Mediocrity” was the book title where I found the boarding pass. I was reading the book when I heard the news and took the flight back the USA for the funeral. It was a gift I received just weeks before at Christmas. I took it along, knowing full well I wouldn’t read on the airplane and probably not find time to read at my parent’s home. With chapter titles such as, “Standing Firm when Discouraged,” Standing Tall when Tested,” it was perfect timing. I never finished reading the book.

Seventeen years later my thoughts returned to that January as I held and read the fading data on the colorful boarding pass. Sometimes, it takes a simple reminder to recall cherished things we miss. Regular letters from home, sharing my Dad’s thoughts, occasional phone calls just to keep in touch, long chats when we visited on furlough, all these came to mind and I missed them. They were part of my life and me. I held the paper in my hand and smiled. There was joy in finding the boarding pass.

As members of the human race we’re born and some things are already lost. We’re lost in sin we inherited from our forefathers who inherited it from their forefathers, ad infinitum. In our scurrying about in darkness God was lost to us. But God changed all that. Light came into the darkness and God allowed Himself to be found. Oh the joy in finding the God of grace.

When we repented and received God’s gracious gift of salvation, we remembered cherished things we missed. Reading God’s letters sharing His thoughts, hearing Him as He responds to our prayers, long conversations when He reveals His love for us, all these are found in that priceless gift of faith. Oh the depth of joy in the finding.

After I found the boarding pass, I was more alert to see what else might be hiding in an unfrequented binding. Sorting through old boxes I looked carefully to discover that unobtrusive slip of paper, that small memento, that special rock picked up along the way. I started flipping through the pages of other books I hadn’t opened in years. I was hunting for another memory, sad or happy, it didn’t matter. It was the reminder I wanted to find.

There are photos adorning our walls as reminders of people and places and events. I like to stand and stare while I remember and relive things long gone. But, it’s often the small, unexpected, tucked away treasure we find, by accident, that brings the greatest joy and most touching memory.

Gallivanting through Scripture keeps us mindful of God’s precepts, God’s grace and God’s plan for our redemption. But, it’s often in that one verse, seen over and over, that we unexpectedly find a treasure we didn’t realize was there. While looking for a specific passage we stop and unintentionally read another verse along the way. The words suddenly jump out at us to remind us of God’s work in our life and how precious our relationship is with Him.

Sometimes we need to slow down and look more carefully. We need to turn the page unhurriedly. We need to insure our goal doesn’t distract us from the treasure along the roadside. Next time we read God’s letters to us, will we hurry to reach the end or, take our time and see if a new nugget of wonder will make itself found. I once was lost but now I’m found! I’m glad God didn’t rush by but stopped to find me, hold me in his hands and smile.

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Fast Food

The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 WEB)

I remember my first visit to White Castle as a little boy. This paragon of good food and fine dining set my standard of cuisine excellence for a lifetime. When I was older, I was introduced to the world wide favorite, McDonald’s. Say what you will about their dietary presentation I like the place and apparently so do millions of other people. My life is filled with fast food and I’m not complaining. I’m enjoying the experience.

Fast food makes any dietitian shudder with fear but it has its uses. When you have two minutes between trains, it can keep you from starvation. A car full of boisterous children can quickly be quieted by a stop at the drive thru. And, traveling missionaries can eat without the fear of ingesting a case of Montezuma’s Revenge.

I remember eating at McDonald’s in Russia, Sri Lanka, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and a mess of European countries. (Some European countries are a mess but that is not the point.) Other countries, unfortunately, don’t support such modern conveniences, at least nothing I recognize. One exception was my work in Central Asia.

White Castle CupAfter arriving and gathering all our equipment and then loading the vehicles we drove from the city where the airport was located to another city in the mountains. What would normally be a one-and-a-half-hour drive took more than two hours including a stop for a bite to eat at a roadside BBQ. This was the Central Asian version of fast food.

The outdoor BBQ kitchen was located on what used to be a building site on the side of the road. All that was left was the concrete flooring which made room for parking. The kitchen stove consisted of a tin tray with wood burning at one end. When an order was placed, the pieces of lamb were stuck on a long metal spit and laid across the tin box with hot coals from the fire pushed below to start the cooking. It didn’t take long to cook the meat and the heat from the fire helped warm up my cold hands.

When we wanted more the proprietor reached into the trunk of his car and extracted more pieces of meat for the next spit. I watched as small pieces of rust fell from the dilapidated vehicle trunk lid into the box of freshly butchered meat. I suppose this was part of the unique seasoning.

It was a particularly tasty meal served on flat, paper thin, bread. As the cook prepared our afternoon snack we stood in a heavy breeze between Snow covered Mountains. My Guam blood wasn’t happy with the situation and I was already bundled up with a sweater, two shirts, several pairs of socks, coat and gloves. I reminded myself God called me there.

Sometimes people approach the Lamb of God like selecting items in a fast food restaurant. We order a piece here to cure that grumbling in the stomach. We order a bit there to give us a little strength as we hurry to another event. It might keep us alive but we won’t develop properly any more than eating fast food for a lifetime will provide all the necessary nutrients.

I like what it says in The Message, “An intelligent person is always eager to take in more truth; fools feed on fast food fads and fancies.” (Proverbs 15:14) Are we grabbing for fads and fancies? It may be time to grow strong on the good food of God’s word?

 “Every Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16 17 WEB)

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A Rose By Any Other Name

His name endures forever. His name continues as long as the sun. Men shall be blessed by him. All nations will call him blessed. (Psalms 72:17 WEB)

William Shakespeare was a brilliant wordsmith. If we accept all his credited writings as demonstration of his abilities, then his command of the English language was beyond compare. Fortunately for William he was working in his native tongue writing to reach people in his native land.

In radio ministry we often take programs from one language, translate them to another language and send them thousands of miles through the air. God works miracles in people’s lives through these programs. Souls are saved. Believers are encouraged, believers edified and churches receive resources for ministry. Pastors are trained as programs come into their home with personal relevant instructions.

I never translate the programs myself. I only hear about the difficulties some of our program producers have while tuning the sermons to fit a culture different from the original speaker. Program lengths must be modified to provide culturally sensitive and culturally relevant examples, understood by the listener, or explanations to further illuminate a biblical point. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Many times our listeners search for English programs. In their desire to know God better, curiosity about the Gospel, or enjoyment of the music, they tune in and listen to English as their second, or third, or fourth language. Personally, I have difficulty understanding my native tongue much less a second, third or fourth language. As careful as the producers are there is always room for misinterpretation, or, just hearing it wrong.

Some of my favorite snippets of humor come from non-English listeners writing in English. Although we communicate with one another it’s evident English is not their native tongue. We have received letters addressed to programs such as “Throw the Bible” (Through the Bible), “Dropping Your God” (Dropping your Guard), and the “Wrestling Hour” (Wesleyan Hour). One gentleman sent us a question. He wanted to know “how to go through Chuck’s window to get inside for living” (Insight for Living by Chuck Swindoll). Another listener wrote to say he was “rolling around with the radio one day when he found our program.” Just picture him. . . on the floor, radio in hand, rolling back and forth while searching for a program.

Reading God’s word is sometimes like these misinterpretations of program names. Our minds and eyes read passages but our conscious translates it to something totally different from the written word. It takes careful study, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the clear direction of a brother in Christ to straighten out our understanding. As I read or hear a listener’s response I chuckle over the minor but entertaining language difficulties, then, I consider what I read in my morning devotions to see if I clearly heard the Word of God.

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