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Awe

Day workers in a vineyard
Image source: Lumo Project

In today’s Bible reading, we read the parable of the Kingdom of God through the vineyard manager. In it, some day laborers are hired in the morning. They agree to work for a day’s wage. Several other times during the day, new workers are hired and agree to work for a day’s wage.

At the end of a hard day’s work, the owner told the foreman to arrange the workers according to when they were hired. Beginning with those who worked the most hours, the vineyard owner paid each worker the daily wage. All were paid the same. Those who worked all day grumbled when they saw that the short-day workers were paid the same as they were.

The owner rightly pointed out that no one was being cheated. Every single worker was being paid what he had agreed to. The key verse here is Matthew 20:15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (ESV)

Application

We are so man-centered in our thinking. And that man-centered orientation twists our understanding of EVERYTHING.

I have heard many people accuse God of not being fair. It isn’t fair that God allows some people to live with lots of blessings and excess while other people aren’t even paid a living wage. I haven’t heard as many people decry the ultimate unfairness that some people spending eternal rest in heaven while others spend eternal punishment in hell. That isn’t fair!

No, that isn’t fair…. from our man-centered orientation.

But if God is the owner of the vineyard, if God is the owner of everything, He can do anything He wishes. And being the only perfect being in the universe (or even outside of it!), He gets to call the shots. He gets to determine what is fair and what isn’t. Fallen human beings don’t get to judge the perfect God. Fallen human beings don’t get to make up the rules of how things work and what’s fair and what isn’t.

So, given the fact that God owns it all, given the fact that God is perfect and completely righteous, and given the fact that we are none of those things, the very idea that God would save anyone is simply shocking. That God would stoop to save a single person demonstrates His all-surpassing love, grace, and mercy.

It isn’t fair that God would send His perfect Son to die that even one fallen person would be saved. Not because the person was worth it, but because the offense was so heinous against such a Holy God.

No, it isn’t fair that any be sent to hell. But the more pressing point is that it isn’t fair that God would save anyone. Fair means that every fallen creature that has ever lived spends eternity separated from the Holy Creator.

Trust me: You don’t want God to be FAIR!

You want God to be GRACIOUS!
You want God to be MERCIFUL!

And because God is gracious,
because God is merciful,
He is worthy of all of our praise.

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awestruck

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells His Disciples that one must come to Him as a child. In fact, one who comes like a child will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

What is it about coming as a child that Jesus praises? Well, He mentions one thing: humility. Like I’ve said before, the first rule in Christianity 101 is God is God, and the second is, you’re not God. If you want to come to Jesus, you have to come in humility. You have to lay aside your claims to privilege. You have to lay aside your preferences. You have to accept His preferences. And the more you can do that, the better things will go for you in your life.

I’m not saying that your life will only go well. On the contrary, your life may look like it’s falling apart from the outside. But as you seek His priorities, the more you will see higher purposes for the things that happen in your life, the good things and the bad things that come through the hands of your loving Father. Nothing happens apart from His control. Nothing happens apart from God’s very decree.

But not only is humility part of coming as a child, so is coming with a sense of wonder, a sense of awe concerning the things of God. You may see children as being gullible. They tend to believe everything. But not only that, they also have a sense of recognizing wonder in the universe.

“As much as children ask why, when it comes to the wonder of the world around them, they do not ask why because they are skeptics, but rather they ask because they believe and thirst to know the world’s secrets. The miraculous is everywhere, and the children embrace it. There is something about growing older that turns us off to wonder, making our visits to Narnia less and less common. David Bentley Hart contrasts the way of children with the way of adults: ‘As we age … we lose our sense of the intimate otherness of things; we allow habit to displace awe, inevitability to banish delight; we grow into adulthood and put away childish things.'” [1]

Application

If you are a Believer, where is your sense of awe? Where is your sense of wonder? Where do you find delight? What childish things have you put away?

When was the last time you were awestruck by an encounter with God through His Word? When was the last time you were rendered speechless with thoughts of the things of God?

In what ways do you need to recapture the humility, awe and wonder of childhood?

[1] I just happened to read about this just this afternoon in None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett. © Copyright 2019 Baker Books, p. 42.

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Judgment Day portrayed in stained glass

Jesus tells a series of parables in today’s Bible reading. Each is different, yet all have a common theme: judgment.

Judgment isn’t something we like to talk about. It isn’t very kind, is it? It isn’t very nice. It’s kind of … well, judgey and we aren’t supposed to judge, right? (Matthew 7:1)

But these parables aren’t about our judging, but rather God’s judgment. And God being our Creator, He gets to call the shots. He’s the judge. And He always judges with righteousness without playing favorites. From today’s Bible reading, Jesus continually drives home the point that a time is coming when God will judge everyone. Every. One. Including Believers. We will all face the judgment of a Holy and Righteous Judge.

Application

So when that Day comes, what will you do? What will you say? If you aren’t a Believer, it won’t matter what you say. You have chosen to reject God’s offer of salvation based on Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross. And God’s offer will expire. You will not get a second chance.

But, if you are a Believer, what will you do? What will you say? You have chosen to accept God’s offer of salvation based on Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross.

In either case — Believer or not — you won’t get extra time to get better. You won’t have an opportunity to work off some sins in order to gain a higher place or earn a few more jewels for your crown. (Hebrews 9:27)

No one knows when the harvesters will come for them. But when the angels come to separate the wheat from the weeds, their separating judgment is final. And when you stand before God’s judgment seat, the only question will be, “What did you do with Jesus?” Nothing else will matter. It won’t matter how good or bad you behaved. It won’t matter how much money you gave to support God’s work. It won’t matter how many people you bring into heaven with you. It won’t matter how kind you were.

All that will matter is what you did with Jesus.
You either have faith in Him or you don’t.

So what have you done with Jesus? Have you sought to follow Him? Have you made Him the Lord of your life, working diligently to kill indwelling sin in your life? (Luke 9:23) Have you treasured Him above all else in your life?

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, please reach out to me. I’d love to tell you more about a life-transforming life of following Jesus every single day.

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This video showed up in my Facebook Newsfeed this evening. Is this true?

Regardless, let’s use this time to pray that God will use our current crisis to turn hearts to Himself.

God, will You do it again? Will You send a Third Great Awakening to our country to spread around the world?

Jesus heals a leper.
Image credit: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.

For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])

If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.

For a comment on “mustard faith”, see my posts here and here.

Application

Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!

And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.

If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.

And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.

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