Allen Jackson - Storm Season - Part 1
It's good to be with you again. We're still walking through this study on the "Big Trouble Ahead," we're looking specifically at "Storm Seasons". You know, I lived in Oklahoma for a while and we used to have tornado season, lived in Florida for a season, we had a hurricane season, times of the year when you were on a heightened alert because you knew storms were more probable.
Well I think we're walking through a spiritual storm season, not negative, I also think it's harvest time, which is exciting to me. I grew up in a rural setting, my father was a veterinarian, we were always cutting hay or had a garden, there was something that we were tending or watching. And harvest time was a busy time, and it's an exciting time because there are some rewards that come with it. We're in a season where God is moving, the Spirit of God is moving in a unique way. You don't want to just maintain the status quo, you wanna be saying yes to the Lord with some new responses to him. Grab your Bible and a notepad, most of all, let's open our hearts and be willing to say yes to the Lord.
It's my opinion it's harvest time, and harvest time, spiritual harvest time, is a time of increased spiritual activity both good and bad. God is very busy gathering his people, at the same time Satan is expressing his hatred for those who love God, makes for a stormy world. So how do we respond to that? How do we understand this season? I'm glad you ask, 'cause it'll make your outline more relevant. One of the challenges that God's people have had through the ages, it's not new to the 21st century, is we typically have little interest in spiritual seasons. We're much more interested in our own calendar, God almost has to break in upon us. He had to intrude upon Moses, Moses had a good life going. In fact, he kept declining God's invitation until God got mad at him. Little interest; I would submit to you that in the 21st century the church in our culture really has had very little interest in spiritual seasons.
I mean, there's a peripheral group that does but for the most part we just want God to bless us, help us stay healthy, help our bank accounts grow, help our kids do good in whatever they're interested in doing well at. Not new. Matthew chapter 16, verse 1, "The Pharisees and the Sadducees came to Jesus and they tested him". Can you imagine having the chutzpah to test Jesus? You want to play double jeopardy with Jesus, not clever. They, "Came to test Jesus by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. And he said, 'Well when evening comes, you say, "It'll be fair weather, for the sky is red," and in the morning, "Today it'll be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast". You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you can't interpret the signs of the times.'"
Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and said you're better at predicting the weather than you are being spiritually aware; and it's very clear from the context Jesus says that's not a good thing. Now you could say, "Well those were the religious leaders, we expect religious leaders to be more in tune". Good observation, Obi-Wan, look at Luke chapter 12, verse 54. "Jesus said to the crowd," to the hoi polloi, to the general public, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's gonna rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's gonna be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites"! Wow. You pay attention to weather patterns and now Jesus getting a little agitated about it. "Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time"?
Two parallel passages, similar message but very different audience. One is to the religious leaders, and Jesus said you should understand what's happening spiritually. And if you don't imagine yourself to be a spiritual leader and you think, "Well, yes they should". And when we find there's other awkward passage, where Jesus is just talking to the general public and he said you're hypocrites. You're spiritual hypocrites if you're better and interpreting weather patterns than you are interpreting the present spiritual season that you're walking through. Very clearly Jesus has an expectation that we lead spiritually aware lives. Amen. Alright?
Again, no guilt and no shame. If you haven't been overly spiritually aware just begin to say to the Lord, "Lord, I'm sorry, help me to see and hear and understand. Help me to see beyond the reports that are being given, help me to see the world I'm living in from your vantage point, from your perspective with a biblical worldview, with a biblically informed perspective. What makes you happy? What are you grieving about these days? What are you celebrating? And what are you getting ready to respond to"? Lead spiritually aware lives.
You see, seasonal awareness will either bring tremendous opportunities to you or they will present great losses to you, but I don't believe there's a neutral ground, I don't believe there's a third option. I think your spiritual awareness will either bring tremendous opportunities from the hand of God or great forfeitures from your life. Not just my imagination, Luke chapter 19, it's Jesus's triumphal into the city, triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, perhaps his most celebratory day prior to his resurrection. Great crowds lined the Mount of Olives. If you enter Jerusalem from the east, you'll descend the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley and then climb back up into the city, and that's the path Jesus is on.
And as you come down the Mount of Olives, even today, I wish we could go there, the whole city of Jerusalem is spread before you. As he comes down that path on this day, when he sees the city he begins to weep. There's people cheering and they're laying their cloaks on the street and palm branches, Jesus begins to weep. And he said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace". The Prince of Peace is here, if you had only known it, "But now it's hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build it an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They'll dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They'll not leave one stone on another". Why? Because the Romans wanna exercise their military might because there'll be annoyed with your politics?
No, there's a spiritual motive behind the physical activity that's gonna describe their future. Folks, we have got to wake up to this idea that spiritual forces are shaping the world we're living in, and your spiritual ideas, your spiritual DNA, your spiritual activity is going to shape your future. The academic future that is available or not available to your children, the freedoms and liberties that will come to you, the economic circumstances under which you will live are going to be shaped by spiritual forces. Jesus said, there's a day ahead of you when they're gonna dash your children's heads against the rocks of this city, because you didn't recognize the day of the Lord's coming to you, and he's weeping because of it.
It's been way too long we've come to church and done our little Bible studies and debated, you know, who can remember the 12 tribes? And what's Isaiah's middle name? And do you know Greek? And can you read Masoretic Hebrew? And I love to learn and study, I'm not opposed to any of those things, but the point of the Scripture is to help us understand what God is doing in the world today. The unfolding history of Jerusalem was dictated by the responses of the inhabitants of that city to God, Jesus's opinion, and I would submit to you the same thing is happening in our world today. Our future is going to be dictated by the responses of God's people, not the politicians or the ideologies or the political parties.
Matthew chapter 9, verse 36, "When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" Jesus saw the crowd differently than his disciples did. Again, we have these false categories, we think of us and them, the good and the bad, the wicked and the evil and the honorable. Jesus is looking at his disciples and saying, you don't see the world in the right way. It's appropriate for you and me to begin to say to the Lord, Lord, help me to see the world, this right now, as you see it. Jesus said the fields are white with harvest, and the disciples are going, "Uh, huh"?
If you follow him through the Gospels they struggle consistently, Jesus had a much different vision than the disciples did and he's trying to change their understanding, I could give you an example. They're traveling through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem, the Jews and the Samaritans don't get along too well, the disciples are very anxious. And Jesus stops at the well on the edge of town and he sends the disciples into get dinner, it's the end of the day, they're hungry, go get dinner. They come back, Jesus has had a conversation with the woman at the well, a woman with not an overly godly track record, is that safe? I mean, she had more husbands then you had fingers on a hand, and Jesus interacts with her.
And by the time he's done with the interaction, the woman has brought the whole village. The disciples came back with dinner and Jesus came back with a village of people hungry to know the truth. The fields are white. You see, spiritual awareness, seasonal awareness will either bring great opportunity or forfeiture. You wanna begin to say to the Lord, "Help me see". And what I'm gonna suggest to you, and I'll try to support it biblically, is that I believe we're just at the precipice, on the front end of great harvest in the kingdom of God, more than one. There's evidence of that, it's not just a feeling, it's not my trick knee, and I gave my pet squirrel away, there's abundant evidence.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus told the parable, it's a parable of the end of the age, you know the story, he does it in the context of a field that has been sown. And when the crop is ripe, it becomes apparent that the field was sown not only with wheat, but there were also weeds sown in the field. And the servants are anxious, they're afraid there'll be some punitive response from the land owner so they come and say, "We don't know how this happened, do you want us to pull the weeds"? In the parable, it said, "No, leave it, we'll separate them at harvest time". When they're alone, the disciples said, "We don't understand your word picture, can you tell us what it means?" and Jesus explains it.
It's in Matthew 13, I put it in your notes, verse 38. He said, "The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. And the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil". Some of you are too sophisticated to believe in the devil. I would just gently remind you that Jesus believed in him, and if you're more sophisticated than Jesus, that's not sophistication, it's pride, repent. "The enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels". So Jesus says that at the end of the age there's gonna be a great harvest. But there's two components of the harvest, there's a harvest of the wheat, the righteous, and there'll be a harvest of the weeds, of the wicked.
Now that's not the only place in the Scripture, I'll take you, Revelation chapter 14. I'm not going to read it in great detail but I'll introduce you to the principles, you can read it and reflect on it at your leisure. The book of Revelation bounces back and forth between perspectives on the earth and in heaven. So oftentime the writer, John, as he's telling us the story, says, "I looked, and I saw in heaven," or, "I saw on the earth," and you know the arena, the stage on which the activity's taking place, by where he focuses your attention. And this happens to be activity on earth that's being driven from heaven, and I'm gonna keep reminding you that what's happening in our world is not the result of political parties or politicians or ideologies or corporate America or Big Tech, God is moving in the world. Don't be frightened, don't be overcome with anxiety, be excited.
Revelation 14, verse 14, "I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one 'like a son of man' with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, 'Take your sickle and reap, because the time has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.'" Now my simplest response to that is, I don't know a better way to understand that individual we're introduced to there that looks, "'Like the son of man,' with a crown of gold," other than our Lord. And the call comes from heaven, it's time to harvest the earth. Wow, the Spirit of God initiating a harvest of souls for his kingdom at the end of the age, it's a significant promise in Scripture, but that's not all that's there.
Look in verse 18, "Still another angel". Look at verse 17, "Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, 'Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe.'" It's a second harvest, different from the first. "The angel swung his sickle on the earth, and gathered its grapes and threw them into the great wine press of God's wrath". This is a very different harvest, and I won't take the time to go into the harvest cycles of Israel, but the grapes and the grain come in different seasons, but this is a judgment, this is the harvest of judgment. So it's similar to the passage in Matthew, the parable that Jesus was talking, we see now being presented to John these two great harvests, a harvest of mercy and a harvest of judgment, and they come very close together.
Let me pose a question. Is it possible that we could witness those harvests? If you imagine that, you need to know one other thing, or at least began to think about one other thing, you haven't been invited to be a spectator. In the Bible, the spectators have stepped out of time. In Romans, I mean, I'm sorry, in Hebrews, when it says, "We're surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses," those are the witnesses who have served their season in time and they've stepped into eternity. If we're still in time, we are intended to be participants. Are you ready for that?
You see, I'm a little dissatisfied with the way we've been coach towards Christianity. We pay people to be spiritual for us kinda like you pay doctors to make you healthy, they can't do that. When you break yourself, they can help you but you have to accept responsibility to be healthy. If you're determined to be unhealthy, a doctor can't fix you. They can give you some guidance, they can give you some counsel, they can tell you what normal looks like, and perhaps how you can change behaviors to gain a healthier normal response as God intended you to be, but you have to choose that. The same is true spiritually, we're gonna have to accept responsibility for our spiritual vitality. And our lack of vitality isn't because evil exists, evil has existed since the opening chapters of Genesis. You can be spiritually healthy, spiritually vital, spiritually effective in spite of the existence of darkness.
The biblical characteristics of harvest, there are three components if I distill it down. There's an end gathering, there's a collection of people, who choose to be identified with the kingdom and the purposes of God, there's separation, and there's judgment. Now I tell you that because all of that's going to happen in a relatively brief period of time, it's gonna all happen simultaneously. We tend to think in terms of these broad spans of time. The the big trouble that the Bible talks about, it's only a three and a half year window of time, happened very quickly. But biblical harvest include an in gathering, a separation, and judgment.
One of the things that has begun with the covid challenges is separation. I'll leave you to sort out how you're doing with that and where you are with that. There is a third characteristic of harvest time, harvest time is about tremendous effort. It's a relatively brief period of time when the crops have come to the point of being ripe and they need to be gathered or they will be forfeited, they'll be lost, they'll spoil. So there's tremendous effort around harvest; everything else is stopped, all energy is focused, whatever other tasks might be necessary for sustaining our routines in other seasons, at harvest time they're suspended, we've gotta step into the harvest fields. It's also a time where there's a tremendous expending of energy and resources.
Remember what Jesus prayed when he said to the disciples, "The harvest fields are white, they're ripe, can't you see it"? And the answer was, "No, I don't know what you're talking about, we're hungry". The harvest fields are ripe. Proverbs 10, in verse 5, says, "He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during the harvest is a disgraceful son". Folks, when it's harvest time, we've got an assignment, we're called into the harvest fields; maximum effort, realign calendars, reassess priorities, new focus. So you don't want to just accept my opinion, you need to be shorting out what the spiritual season we're in is about so you understand your assignment.
Say, "Well Pastor, just a minute, time out for a second, can we climb off the, just a second. I said the Sinners Prayer and then I went to that class, and I got a purple t-shirt and somebody held me underwater. And you told me I was a participant in the kingdom of God, what more do you want from me? Now you're talking about me leading my life as if there is a God". Yes, I am. I want to invite you away from the notion that you can find the minimal daily requirement and then do life on your terms. I understand you have responsibilities and jobs and bills to pay, and families, and tasks to be done. I'm not diminishing that, I'm not asking you to forfeit those responsibilities, they're a part of the journey, but I am asking you to lead your life with an awareness of spiritual things that isn't relegated to a few moments on the occasional weekend.
It's harvest time and it takes tremendous effort, and honestly, it's gonna take a tremendous investment of resources. And there's no pledge cards taped to your chairs today, next week, but not today. Look at Matthew 13, verse 44, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field. And when a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy he went and sold all he had and he bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and he bought it". Jesus is trying to help us establish a valuation on participation in the kingdom of heaven, and he said it's worth everything you have.
Again, I'm really handing you some ideas for your own personal reflection. Do your life choices reflect that? And if it were truly harvest time, what are we prepared to do? What does that mean? As you decide the season you're in. See, there was a tremendous cost to standing next to Jesus when he was in Jerusalem; the people who stood next to him were hunted, they were threatened, ultimately, most of them were martyred. It's not lost on the general population, they knew Jesus was a miracle worker, they knew he was a healer, they knew there were tremendous stories attached to him, but they also understood there was a subtle and often not so subtle undercurrent, that if you stood next to Jesus there could be a cost involved, and the vast majority of people were unwilling to do that.
Now they would do it occasionally when there was emotions and the crowd would spill out onto the Mount of Olives on that triumphal entry day, but when it was really time for an accounting, when all the cards were to be laid on the table, and this is Jesus of Nazareth and this is Barabbus, who do you want me to release to you? The crowd found their voice, and it wasn't Jesus. My Bible says, like it was in the days of Noah, and like it was in the days of Lot, so it will be before Jesus comes back. There were eight people on that boat that Noah and his sons built. The only people that got escorted out of Sodom were Lot and his family, and all of his family didn't make it. Again, I don't want you to be frightened, I don't want you to live in anxiety, I don't want you to live presumptuously though.
Hey, I want to pray with you before we go. But, you know, God said, "Not to grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we would reap a harvest if we didn't give up". There's that little preposition, "If," that changes the whole equation. Well that's my prayer for you today, that you won't give up because of weariness or how difficult the journey is or how intimidating the adversaries are. We will not give up, we will not stop, we're gonna say that out loud together before we leave.
Father, thank you that in Jesus's name we are more than conquerors, that we've learned the secret of being content, whether it's with a little or with a lot, that you are the one who sustains us. We praise you for it and we choose to complete our course, in Jesus's name, amen. And before we go together, I will not stop, in Jesus's name.