Wheat and Tares

[Why Bad Things Still Happen]

 

I was weeding my garden (the never-ending task) a week or so ago, engrossed in the fact that my weed harvest was going to be an on-going supply all summer long (if only the things I planted thrived so well!) when I had a small epiphany:

Weed harvest.

And what did that remind me of?

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” – Matthew 13:24-30

On just a side note, I love that question, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?” Like ‘Uh, yeah – of course I did – an enemy did this.’ God is still good. 

Now, I don’t know much about wheat, but when plants are as small as mine are, if you aren’t very careful pulling weeds around them, you’re gonna pull up or damage the roots of the very plants you’re trying to cultivate – imagine the trouble even more-so in a field of wheat; there are no rows or spaces, just wheat and weeds as close as grass.

I’ve heard that parable over and over all my life. I’ve also heard people rail on and on with endless reasoning why bad things happen, and that argument in my experience generally comes down to the reasoning that God somehow can’t or won’t interfere with the world–that freedom of choice or divine justice or some other part of his otherwise flawless character keeps him from stopping bad things happening to good people.

But I’ve never heard them both in the same argument; the matter is much simpler. The fact is, there’s bad in the world; it isn’t what God intended for us. There are tares mixed with the wheat.

I used to think of the tares and wheat solely to represent people, but I hold a view a little less narrow now. It’s a minor detail but I say this because I don’t believe that peoples’ destinies are nearly as set as the destinies of weeds – Jesus changes people. In this context I think of tares simply as general evil–sin–in the world.

So you want to know why bad things still happen to good people? Because there are still weeds out there. They’re so ingrained into this world and the people that if God were to uproot all sin the whole place would be overturned. Bad things are still allowed not because God is weak or his hands are tied by our personal choices but because the final purge of sin will mean the destruction of everything and including any chance for anyone else to be changed by what Jesus did. So until the end when the harvest is at it’s ripest and the wheat can be sorted out of the mess, we’re going to have to grow around the tares.

And the best part? This is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven; God isn’t just about annihilation – the flood wasn’t his modus operandi – he’s about saving every. last. one. that can be saved and restored to the Kingdom. Awesome. And that’s the Kingdom we belong to.

 

Dark Days

I’ve been back and forth about sharing this one, because it isn’t my usual post, but I’ve gotta be a little honest, I’ve been having some dark days. What’s a dark day? Well usually it begins with a thought, a bitter or disappointing memory – a regret. And it swells.

Because the truth is I have regrets. I’m not talking about the kind of regret you have over eating too much pizza, or having an especially embarrassing moment, (for someone with some social anxiety those are a whole different story, by the way) no. I’m talking about the kind of regret that stems out of missed–or not taken–opportunity, broken relationships, misunderstandings. I’m talking about the kind of regret that I still feel because when I was growing up and trying to become friends with people, I still froze up and couldn’t talk no matter how much I willed. That’s what I’m talking about.

Go back nine years. I know; that’s a long enough time for regret to still feel so raw. But I knew a girl and she gave me a crash course in being socially proper – I’m pretty sure I didn’t pass because after all this time I still think about what an absolute… I don’t even have a word to describe what a dysfunctional friend I made. I get on these ‘What if’ rabbit trails that go round and round thinking about how I could have opened my mouth and just. Talked. Instead of sitting there like an awkward yeti. And I vainly wish I could just have one more chance to say what I really, really mean – and would it make a difference, or just show me once again the awkward yeti unable to let the past be the past and fumbling under my carpet of self-preservative fur (I’m not actually hairy).

And a lot of people I once called friend have walked out of my life, some bitterly, some simply on their own direction. But this one person is different, and maybe it’s because it was part of a major shift in my life and everything might have been different had I done things differently, or maybe it was because they were the first person not related to me (read: expected to like me) and not thousands of miles across the globe that actually showed genuine interest in being my friend. And I had so little value to add.

I don’t think I have the words to explain how deeply that runs, and I still wish I could explain what I know now to them – but now our paths are far distant and it doesn’t do to tear stitches.

So what now? Honestly, I don’t have any kind of answer for that one. Usually after musing a while something comes to me, but I’ve been musing about this one for a long time and I still don’t know. I don’t know how to let the past pass; I don’t know how to not think about what could have been.

So Jesus…I have some more things to learn. I don’t know why this has weighed down my heart so heavily, especially recently – but I’d really like to have an idea and put it to rest; it’s not a light burden for me. Hide me under the shadow of your wing again and bring me back to a place of peace and rest. I just want to stand in your beauty.

Experiencing Love

There’s a song that I just love called Your Love Is a Song by the illustrious Switchfoot and I got to realizing the other night that it’s probably my favorite song ever. Why, do you ask? You have to hear it first.

I hear you breathing in / Another day begins
The stars are falling out / My dreams are fading now, fading out

I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me
Oh, your love is a song

The dawn is fire bright / Against the city lights
The clouds are glowing now / The moon is blacking out, is blacking out

So I’ve been keeping my mind wide open
I’ve been keeping my mind wide open, yeah

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / 
Running to me

Oh, your love is a song / Your love is a song
Oh, your love is a song / Your love is strong

With my eyes wide open
I’ve got my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my hopes unbroken, yeah

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me

Your love is a song
Yeah, yeah
Your love is my remedy
Oh your love is a song

But wait a minute, you can’t hear words.

Well actually, that’s the point. Because see, I’ve spent so much of my life basing my worth and my purpose on doing – more to the point I’ve spent most of my life trying to achieve or do God’s love when…it’s never been like that. I’m realizing more and more (and finally that veil tore right down the middle for me the other night to see) that his love is something for me to experience, be surrounded by and immersed in – something for me to feel the frequencies of rippling through me – his love is a song.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer,[a] that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves a fellow believer[b] is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.11 But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. 

– 1 John 2:3-11

Yes, visible love in me is a sign to the rest of the world that Christ lives in me – but I don’t love to get Christ in me, I love because he already is. When love is no longer merely a thing I must do as a sign of my inherent goodness, I become free to experience the Father’s love like nothing before; I become free to experience the song of God’s heart for me, the symphony of his love. And maybe – just maybe – even though I don’t know all the words yet, I might just sing along, because it’s impossible not to want to join in when you hear it out loud; there is nothing else like that melody.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3

The NIV says, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Oh, Your love is a song…

P.S.: If you still wanted to hear the song…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px0EXdyPkA0

The Lord is My Portion

I’ve been ‘stuck’ in Deuteronomy for a while.

I say stuck because Deuteronomy is a pretty thick book, especially in the Old King James, but actually I’ve learned a lot through it. You may recall Giants in the Land, which was the first portion that really stood out from the passages and passages of law-in-review. And I say review but really I think the book of Deuteronomy was really Moses’ re-clarification – a ‘here’s what you should do in this instance’ reference for the leaders and judges after him.

But another point that caught my attention was this: multiple times Moses reiterates an arrangement God made for the Levites – their whole tribe is to get no inheritance in the Promised Land (didn’t you ever notice there is no place called ‘Levi’ ever talked about in Old Testament history/geography?) They’re going into a Promise they have no part in among all their brothers; and why? It almost sounds like they got slighted. But we get the explanation for this in chapter 18:

18 “The priests, the Levites—all the tribe of Levi—shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and His portion. Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance, as He said to them.

“And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, whether it is bull or sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach. The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever. – Deuteronomy 18:1-5

So here’s the thing. The Levites didn’t get any land because they were called by God to be priests. Instead, God gave them himself as an inheritance. Boom, #howdoyoulikethatReuben? Just kidding, but the Levites didn’t just get encumbered with the task of ministry work to an entire nation, they were also given the promise that God would take special care of them; they didn’t have to worry about land, or money, or even food, because God arranged it all.

So you know what I immediately think of?

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You [Prophesying of Jesus] are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek. – Psalm 110:4

And then…

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,[a] if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”[b]

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,[c]

“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”[d]

and

“A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offense.”[e]

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. – 1 Peter 2:1-10

The Levites were chosen by God for the Old Covenant priesthood, but when the covenants changed, so did the priesthood; the Levitical line was fulfilled by John the Baptist, and the New Covenant priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, was begun by Jesus, God-with-us Emmanuel, who is forever a priest at the right hand of God the Father after shedding his own blood before the Father to buy us out of bondage – I can’t think of anything else when I start remembering that sacrifice for me.

I don’t know who Peter was writing to – I assume to Jewish Christians, since the Jewish church was Peter’s particular calling – but I don’t think it matters; we’re all the body of Christ, and now, like the Levites, we’re called to a royal priesthood. Which means two things: inheritance (royal) and intercessory ministry (priesthood) – like the Levites we’ve been tasked as ministers, not to one nation but to all nations. But we’ve also been adopted and called into royalty, as sons and daughters of God. Some might call that recompense – I just call it an undeniable, unquenchable joy that can’t be hidden or kept inside. The real call is to step into inheritance with Jesus; the natural result is a desire to minister to the nations.We weren’t called to minister merely out of desire for payment or reward – God didn’t hold back the Levites’ inheritance to get them to serve him – but in full confidence that there will always be enough for me no matter how much of myself I give. No worries, no concerns, because the LORD is my portion!