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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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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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Woman carrying a wooden yoke

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus offers comfort to those who would follow Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30 ESV)

Application

Note that Jesus never promised to do away with all of the burdens of His followers. In fact, He offers to exchange burdens with them. But they still carry responsibilities. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that we have no cares. It means He carries our cares and gives us rest as we take His yoke upon us.

Regarding the word “easy” Jesus uses, Greek Scholars, Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida say, “pertaining to that which is pleasant or easy, with the implication of suitability…. In a number of languages it is necessary to translate [easy] by a negativized equivalent, for example, ‘it is not difficult to bear.”[1] Jesus makes us suitable to carry His yoke. And the Bible is one of the key components. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Regarding Jesus’ word “light”, the scholars say, “pertaining to that which is easy to bear or endure—‘light, easy.’ … If ‘burden’ in Mt 11:30 is understood figuratively, [light] can generally also be understood in a figurative sense.[2]

The implication is that those who follow Jesus have burdens and yokes. Nowhere does Jesus promise that if you follow Him, you will have no concerns. No, He promises that we will continue to face obstacles. And I have said many times that a call to follow Jesus is a call to come and die.

No, we have responsibilities. We have things we have to do if we are to follow Jesus. But He assures us that He is there to shoulder those responsibilities with us. He is there.

And that is a very comforting promise from our Lord!

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 246. Print.
[2] ibid.

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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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Check your judging eyes

Today’s Bible reading is well-known, especially by those who don’t want to be judged by you. You may have even quoted Jesus when He said, “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 ESV)

Oftentimes, this passage is pulled out of thin air as if it had no context at all. Sure, Jesus told His Disciples not to judge, but look at the context of His instruction. Fourteen verses later, He says,

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Matthew 7:15–20 (ESV)

Obviously, in order to beware of false prophets, you have to do a certain amount of judging. He says, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:20 ESV) So what’s going on here? Is Jesus contradicting Himself? Of course not!

Let’s look a little closer to the immediate context of Matthew 7:1 by looking at the very next verse. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2 ESV) And then look at verse three through five. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5 ESV)

It appears that Jesus is simply saying that we need to be aware that we all suffer from bad eyesight. And we will be judged by the same standard by which we judge others.

Application

We had some friends whose kids wanted a slice of pie. But there was only one slice. They told their kids that one of them could cut the piece in half and the other kid could choose which half to eat. Let me tell you, the kid cutting the pie made sure that he sliced the pieces exactly the same size! If he hadn’t, he would surely have eaten the smaller slice!

All of us have trouble seeing clearly. And when it comes time to make judgment calls, Jesus tells us to be careful. Our judgment should be according to the way that we would want to be judged. This is an application of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) which sits right in the middle of the chapter.

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