Monthly Archives: May 2015

Further thoughts on Luke 10:2 – Plentiful

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Continuing the series…

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Luke 10:2

Plentiful

There is a harvest of souls to be reaped and it is plentiful – it is not meager or sparse.  The Lord of the harvest has invited us to be laborers in this joyful work.  He has promised to bring people to faith from every tribe and tongue and nation – do we really consider what that means?

Heaven will be filled with great variety, sure, but heaven will be FILLED!  He has not given us a small task, but a bountiful one!  Revelation 7 describes it like this:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

No matter how you look at this, “a great multitude that no one could number” is a LOT of people!  I’ve been in crowds where hundreds of thousands are gathered.  I’ve seen crowds where 1 or 2 million are gathered.  These are seas of humanity converging in one area together.  It’s an overwhelming number of people…. But those crowds were numbered!

What does it take to gather a crowd of people together that can’t possibly be numbered?

But I have a confession to make here – I don’t really want to be crammed into close quarters with – I don’t know – billions (?) quadrillions (?)   centillions (I looked that up – it’s 10 to the 303 power!)   – of people!  Do you ever struggle with the imagery of a heavenly city crowded with throngs of people praising God in worship and song with all the gusto they can muster?  I do.

But this is the City of God I protest to my own self.  How can I not want to be part of that?

Well, of course I want to be there, and I know, intellectually, that it will be good.  So where do my perceptions and emotions collide with the truth of what that reality will be?

My ideas of large crowds of people are based on unpleasant experiences with large crowds of people!  Masses of strangers jockeying for position in hot, close quarters (or jammed parking lots) all looking to get where they want to get before everyone else gets there…. Sporting events where people are loud and obnoxious… and then they start drinking…  Conferences where being first means getting a good seat and being last means you can’t hear or see the speaker… Market places in developing countries where one wrong step could land me hopelessly lost and everyone is yelling in words I don’t understand… Amusement parks where you’ve paid a small fortune to get you and your family through the gates only to spend so much time waiting in lines that the day ends up costing $15 or $20 per ride and you’ve waited with people who have no desire to shelter your youngsters from even the coarsest of language or behaivor… No thanks.

But will this heavenly crowd be like this?

First of all, that crowd will not be strangers – it will be family.  Even if we haven’t met them yet, we will know we are deeply, meaningfully, connected – related – to each other through Jesus.  Family reunions, even rambunctious ones, are different from large crowds of strangers gathering together.  There are lasting connections with that group – history – that makes us glad to be there.  (“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:50)

(OK, I know not all families are great to be with, but Jesus’ family will be everything our earthly families were meant to be and more.)

Secondly, everyone in that crowd will be freed from their sinful selves and be on their most loving, caring, considerate behavior all the time!  No selfish jostling people out of the way.  No crude or angry voices.  No lines that lead to disappointment.  No bad seats.  No one cutting in front.  Rather, we will all have the genuine heart attitude of, “No, no, please, you go first.” (“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35)

Thirdly, we will care for one another the way we care for ourselves.  We will be looking out for the well-being and best interest of each other – because it will give us great joy.   (“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Romans 12:4-5; and to further clarify, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” Ephesians 5:29-30)

But most importantly, all will be right because God himself will be dwelling among us.  .”  (“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:1-4)

So then, the crowds will not be the ill-mannered sports fans or conference goers or amusement ride aficionados we’ve all encountered but will be the kindest, gentlest, most genuinely thoughtful people we can possibly imagine, because God will be transforming each and every one of us!

Now, I can’t wait to see that!

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Further thoughts on Luke 10:2 … “Is”

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“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Luke 10:2

Continuing the discovery of this verse:

 

Is

Ok, this is reminiscent of a certain debate in the ‘90’s … but “is” does have specific meaning.  And it’s not really open to debate.

“Is” is one of those words that is so foundational to our communication that it is, however, a little difficult to clearly and precisely define.

Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “is” as, “present 3rd singular of be.”

Not particularly helpful, I continued looking…

The American-English Online Dictionary had a bit more to offer including several definitions of “be” including, “to have the quality of being (as in ‘John is rich’),” “identical to something (as in ‘John is the president of the company’),” “to occupy a certain position or area (as in ‘John is somewhere’),” “to exist (as in ‘there is a God’),” etc.

The main point is that “is” is definitive.  It makes a statement.  It makes a claim.  It declares something.  It stands.

“Is” doesn’t leave room for “possibly,” “perhaps,” “could,” or “might.”

Now I might make a bold claim and state that “this is that,” but you could come along and challenge my claim.  You could say, “No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong.  This is not that.”  We are both making definitive statements, but one of us is wrong.

But in this passage Jesus is telling us that something “is.”  This is huge as we consider what this passage is conveying.  If Jesus tells us something “is” it holds infinitely more weight than you or I making a similar claim.

We don’t have “possibly” with Jesus.  We don’t have “perhaps” or “could” or “might” with Him here.  He says simply, “The harvest is…”

What does Jesus mean when he says something “is”?

Go back for a moment to your elementary school lessons on the conjugation of the verb “to be.”

I – am.

You – are.

He/she/it – is

Stop.

I am?

How many statements did Jesus make that begin with that?  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.”  “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will not die.”  “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry.  He who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (there are more, but you get the idea.)

We place huge value on Jesus declaring things to be true.

And we should also do so when we read that “the harvest is…”

It is a declared certainty.  It is a given.  It is a foundational truth.  It is a trustworthy and true statement.

So what are the implications for us?

If this is true (and we can have complete assurance that it is) then we can look for it.  We can know with utter confidence that the harvest exists.  It exists perpetually in all generations and will continue to do so until the end.

We don’t have to waste any time wondering if there is a harvest here or there – the harvest is…

One of my students asked me recently why I care about missions.  She asked, “if you know that God will save those whom He calls, why do you go to places to help people working in missionary efforts?”

Two things immediately came to mind.

First of all, Romans 10:14 says this: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

For some inexplicable (yet amazing) reason, God has deemed human communication his method of choice to reveal himself to mankind.  He could have imprinted knowledge of himself on our brains.  He could have stamped, irrevocably, into rocks or mountains all we needed to know about Him.  He could have emblazoned it in the stars.  (Some might argue that he did, in fact do all these things, but he did these things in a way that we might know there is a God, but not in a way that we can know that Jesus died on a cross and died for our sins).

No, he chose to use spoken and written words – from one person to another – to reveal himself and his plan for humanity.

But the second thing that came to mind is equally as important – and that is the foundational truth that there is a harvest to be worked in.  There are people – in every land – who belong to Him who have yet to hear of Him.  There is no doubt.  It’s not a “possibly,” “perhaps,” “could,” or “might.”

The harvest is…

Go confidently, then, and work in the harvest that we know exists.

Further thoughts on Luke10:2 – “harvest”

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Yesterday I started a series of posts on what I am learning through meditating on one passage daily over an extended period of time.

Here is the next post in the series:

“Harvest”

So, then, what is this harvest we are to be about working in?  Why is it so important to be singularly focused on?  What makes it the harvest and not just any old one?

It is, in fact, a harvest of people – kingdom citizens – that God is calling to dwell with Him in peace for eternity.  The kingdom of heaven has come to you.

It’s the end game – the goal – the reason for plowing, planting, watering, tending.  The harvest is the bounty, the reward for one’s labors.  And this bounty is the promised reward for Jesus’ labors – His perfect obedience and submission to a far greater plan than anyone had any notion was going on.

Luke 6:37-40 spells this out.  Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

A harvest of people – of men, women, boys, and girls who are otherwise dying without ever hearing the Good News that Jesus came to save and rescue them from everlasting death, torment, destruction, wailing and gnashing of teeth, deepest regrets, sorrow, fear, terror… eternal punishment.

I think we easily forget that this is the only other option.

It’s not nothingness that we are watching our family, friends, loved ones slip into.  If they never turn to Jesus in sorrow over their sin it isn’t peaceful slumber.  It isn’t light or goodness or freedom.  We have all been made with souls that will never die.  Our every wicked thought or deed separates from the blazing goodness and holiness of a righteous God  – so we either turn away from them and seek forgiveness and spend eternity in Heaven with God, or we remain guilty and spend eternity in Hell separated from Him.  There is no palatable third option.

And it’s not quick and over with.  It’s eternal – thousands upon tens of thousands of unending years of unimaginable torment.  It’s Hell without the silly pointy-tailed, red-suited demons jumping about to entertain us.  It’s Hell that is devoid of anything good whatsoever.  It’s palpable darkness that never yields, for there is no light.  It’s aloneness that we cannot fathom, for there is no fellowship.  It is separation from everything and everyone that gives us any amount of comfort, for comfort of every sort is absent.  It’s burning flames that burn but do not consume.  It is not a frat party filled with debauchery – that would be tolerable and even preferable to some.  It is devoid of even that kind of companionship.  There will be no room for that kind of oppression, for everyone there will be overcome with what is yet an unknowable weight of their own guilt and shame.  No, it is an un-ending agony, a nightmare of suffering and pain that never ends.  Anguish is its only quality, and the Lord has invited us to participate in his saving souls from it.

But it is also easy to forget what he is saving us to.

Equally as eternal, and oppositely glorious, is an eternity with God.  As stark and dramatic as hell will be, heaven will be even more gloriously good because it is filled with God’s presence.  Everything about heaven is good because it is saturated in the goodness of God.  Every vista will be glorious because he is glory.  Every task will be fulfilling because he is all-satisfying.  Every relationship will be deep and rich because he is rich in goodness and mercy.  Nothing will need to be hidden or done in the secret, dark places – because he is light and love.  There will be complete friendship and fellowship because God Himself is our friend.  There will be no need or want because He is our provider.  Everything is His to give and He does so generously. None of us will need to jockey for position or rank because we will all be perfectly readied – able to stand guiltless and righteous before a Holy God without blemish or fault because of Jesus’ labors for His harvest.   Friends, this is what God is harvesting to.

Let us not forget what he is asking us to do – participate in his joy-filled work of harvesting.  And let us be ever-mindful of what he harvests from.

Further thoughts on Luke 10:2… “The”

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Earlier I posted on how eye-opening meditating on one verse has been so far this year.  The joy continues and so I thougth I’d share a little with you here.

Over the next few posts I will share what the Lord is teaching me through the repeated reflection… lately, this is taking form in the word-by-word examination of what this passage is actually saying.  So here is the first in a series…

“The”

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Luke 10:2

“The harvest”:  what is it?

What is it, exactly, we are being called to harvest?

And perhaps, we should start at “the” rather than lumping that little article together with “harvest” straight off the bat.

Which harvest is “the” harvest?  Is that even a valid question?  Is the “the” there just there to make the grammar correct or does it serve a purpose in the meaning?  Why didn’t Jesus say, “A harvest is plentiful…”?

It might sound silly, but these are important questions to ask – and answer.  If we don’t know if Jesus was being precise about a specific harvest we could spend our time and resources on the wrong endeavor.  And who among us wants to get to the end of our journey (or row) and find out we’ve spent everything we had on the wrong pursuits?  This has huge implications for us!

Jesus was talking about a specific harvest – the harvest.   The one he came to glean.  His harvest of citizens into his kingdom.  The rest of the text tells us this – his talk of the Kingdom is clear.

In agricultural terms, different things grow at the same time and in the same places as the crops intended for harvesting.  Most particularly troublesome are the weeds that keep pace with the planted crops.

Farmers spend huge amounts of time and large sums of money to keep the wrong things from being harvested.

And even if giant foxtail or water hemp aren’t the bane of your existence, neighbors in the burbs can relate to this notion as well – dandelions grow with the grass.  Unlike dandelions, however, sometimes the weeds look very similar to the planted crops.  Good things can look like the bad ones and worse yet, the bad ones can look like good.  Knowledge and wisdom are needed to take care of the right things and not get duped by the wrong ones.

Through the years of parenting toddlers, I’ve had my fair share of “dandelion harvests” given to me in chubby-fisted “bouquets.”  Not wanting to offend the cherub that just handed me a bunch of weeds, we keep them as best as is possible in a cup or jar.  If you’ve ever had a child hand you a similar bouquet you know where this is going… If you’re not careful, you end up with a slimy, reeking, rotting mess that while “pretty” in the beginning leads to nothing but a mess to clean up and more weeds being planted by the scattering of seed.

Working on the wrong harvest is more than just a nuisance.  It is a devastatingly pitiful exercise.  If I spend my time, effort, and resources harvesting weeds – dandelion heads or other weeds – I have gained nothing and I have wasted the crops.

The same is true for this particular harvest that Jesus is calling us to.  If we are not careful – and wise – we could end up spending our lives tending things that look good but end up rotting.

No, there is a specific harvest that Jesus wants his workers to concentrate on – the harvest.  And it is good.