Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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19 Grace Grumblers – Part 1

Matthew 20: 1-16

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. 3 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. 4 So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. 5 So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. 6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ 7 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ 8 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. 9 When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. 10 When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, 12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’13 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? 14 Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. 15 Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ 16 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

In Matthew 20 we find the parable of the vineyard workers which confronts and challenges our faulty view of fairness. One of the most overlooked aspects to this story is the parable that preceded it in Matthew 19 and the resulting question asked by Peter in Matthew 19:27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Peter’s statement comes as a result of Jesus answer to the rich young ruler in which Jesus told him: “go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Basically Peter was saying you told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he had and follow you and we have done that. We left everything, we have sacrificed our families and our homes for your sake, so what will we get, how will we gain, what will be our profit? Jesus answers this question by telling them in verse 28 “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus then goes on to tell them the parable of the vineyard workers. Jesus was teaching His disciples that Kingdom pay is given not earned, which makes it Grace. Jesus reminds us that whatever we forsake for the kingdom of God is not a sacrifice but an investment. The parable begins with the:

  • Generosity of God

The owner of the vineyard is God the Father who was compelled by grace, willing to go to the marketplace not just once but 5 times. The Jewish workday began at 6:00 AM when the landowner would have hired the first workers, he then went back to hire at 9am, noon, 3pm and even as late as 5pm when most plantations would have been winding down for the day. The last laborers who were waiting for work at this time of the day would have lost hope. But on this particular day everything was different, because of grace, he was hiring not because of His need but because of theirs. It is clear that his interest was not only in the vineyard but in people. One of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh, which means “The LORD Will Provide” it is the name memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac, Genesis 22:14. Philippians 4:19: says: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 4:16 tells us to: “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And Matthew 6:8 reminds us that: “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” We have a gracious and giving God, One who not only knows our needs, but desires to meet them with His goodness and grace. Scripture says that he doesn’t just want to give us a few blessings but to blow the doors off, Malachi 3:10 “Bring your whole tithe to the store house and I will open the windows of heaven and pour you out blessings you won’t have room to receive.” David talked about how generous a giver God was in Psalm 23:5 when he said, “He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over.” Grace is what separates Christianity from all other religions, for grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross, he is the One who said “It is Finished” While Christianity is defined by what is done, all the other religions are consumed with what we have to do. You see there is nothing that we can add, He paid it all and that’s why He alone gets the glory. God’s grace is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and rarely appreciate it. When it comes to grace we often don’t get it, we may use the word repeatedly but do we really understand it. Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them, because we focus on the cost while Christ focused on the cross. For the workers in the fields, the typical payment back then would have been the same as now, first come first served. Not surprisingly, Jesus turns it all upside down so that the last are first served. You see this wasn’t about business it was about blessing. As Jesus brings this parable to its conclusion he reminds us that “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” In the kingdom of God, our perceived position is of no importance because God shows no partiality. At the end when we stand before our Savior there will be no distinctions between preachers and prostitutes. No one is worthier than another to receive salvation, we are all unworthy, not worthless, but unworthy. In God’s economy things are often just the opposite of what we expect. The problem with grace is that it has an edge to it. It’s challenging, even disturbing, because grace is not our go to. We like the idea of grace but grace is not an abstract idea it’s a concrete reality. Grace is not something just to look at but something to live out, yet if you don’t really get grace you will never give it. Let me ask you how grounded in grace are you? Our confidence and joy in this life is not based on what we have or what we do but rather in who we have. Are you thankful for grace or are you taking it for granted? When was the last time you thanked God for His generosity of grace?

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18 Telling Him Thanks – Part 2

Psalms 95:1-95:11

1 Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. 3 For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. 5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too. 6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! 8 The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. 9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

Not only is Psalm 95 an invitation to rejoice but it is also a call to:

  • Reverence

Verse 6 and the first part of verse 7 are a call to reverence: “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.” Here there is a deliberate change in tone, from enthusiastic, exuberant songs of joy to awe-inspired reverence before the Redeemer. We are called to move from praise to prostration. From worshippers standing in God’s presence, shouting forth our praise in verses 1 and 2, to worshippers falling face down or on bended knee before Him, in verse 6. Worship involves both an outward and animated rejoicing as well as inward and speechless reverence. Not only does the mood of the Psalm change, but so does its focus, from God our Creator to God our Savior and Shepherd. We are the people of His pasture, the Fathers flock, under His constant and compassionate care. He is our loving shepherd who knows the sheep personally and keeps them secure. As the sheep acknowledge His leadership they should submit to the shepherd. Bowing and kneeling gets us low before Him, which is really the essence of worship. It’s is the example set by the three kings as they sought the Savior in Mathew 2:11 “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” We must accept our place before Him while we acknowledging His place before us. It is interesting that the call for rejoicing is based upon God’s sovereignty as Creator, while the call for reverence is based upon relationship. You would think that this would be the other way around, that we would rejoice over our relationship and stand in awe because of His mighty deeds of creation. Yet the deeper our relationship goes with God, the more profound our sense of awe and reverence should be. This correlation between shepherd and submission is clearly seen in the lives of the disciples. In Luke 5:8 after Jesus had performed a miracle, providing more fish than the fisherman knew what to do with, it says, “Peter fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “…Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Experiencing the shepherds caring hand should result in greater submission and reverence. Those with little reverence for God most likely have little intimacy with Him. Knowing Him involves fearing Him, not being afraid, but a reverent fear; intimacy should create an authentic fear not flippancy toward the Father. Does your worship involve both expressive rejoicing and contemplative reverence? Does it involve both praise and prostration, shouts and silence, happiness and holiness, rejoicing and reverence? Along with a call to rejoice, and revere there is also a call to:

  • Respond

The last part of verse 7 says, “If only you would listen to his voice today” Here we see the invitation to respond. I love how the Message states this:  “Drop everything and listen, listen as He speaks and don’t turn a deaf ear.” Here we see another change in the Psalm, this time in the one who is speaking, we go from the call and challenge of the Psalmist, to the command of God. It is here that God reminds us of our response to worship. Worship involves more than just saying that we love Him, it involves listening to His voice. Worship is more than just octaves it involves obedience. True worship is more than just singing, it’s living out what we hear. In verses 8 through 11 God warns us of the dangers of a hard heart using several illustrations from Israel’s history. In verse 8 the Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.” Massah and Meribah are more than just geographical names; they depict the sinful attitudes that characterized the conduct of God’s people, people with hardened hearts. Massah is a Hebrew word for test where Meribah comes from the word for strife, and means arguing. In Exodus 17 we see the first instance of Massah and Meribah, God had just set His people free from the bondage of Egypt through 10 plagues and the parting the Red Sea. They responded in chapter 15 by rejoicing and praising Him for His provision, singing about their salvation. But shortly afterward, when the Israelites began to thirst in the desert they started to grumble, it is here at Marah that God sweetened their water and gave them both manna and meat to eat. Not long later in chapter 17 the people became angry with Moses and grumbled once again because they were out of water to drink. How quickly they forgot about God’s power to provide, and when Moses reminded them that their grumbling was really against God they threatened to stone him to death. As Moses cried out, God instructed him to strike the rock with his rod, and as he obeyed, water gushed forth to fill the people. This place was named Massah and Meribah because the people had grumbled and tested God. The next account is found in Numbers 20 where only the term Meribah is used. While this event seems very similar to the one in Exodus, it happens almost 40 years later, as the people are about to enter into the Promised Land. Again we find God’s people grumbling and complaining because there is no water. Again they resort to rebellion, instead of remembering the power and provision of their God. Again Moses seeks the face of God, and again God gives clear instruction, this time telling Moses to speak to the rock so that water will come out. Instead of obeying God, in his anger Moses scolds the people and strikes the rock with his staff, instead of speak to it. While water still flows forth from the rock, God indicts Moses in verse 12 for his disobedience: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” The result of Moses rebellion was a loss of leadership. In Exodus 17, it was the people who sinned while in Numbers 20, it was both the people and their leaders. These two accounts reveal a common problem that every generation faces; we are all prone to grumble at God. There is a difference between depending on God and demanding of God. Are you calling on Him to meet your needs or trying to coerce Him into satisfying your wants? When things don’t go your way is grumbling your go to? A thankful heart trusts His heart and doesn’t turn to grumbling and complaining. Our thankful worship is seen both by our rejoicing and by our reverence. It is based on both His sovereignty as our Creator and His sufficiency as our Shepherd. Verses 7-11 remind us that wholehearted obedience is the evidence of true worship. If we worship God as our Shepherd then we must submit and follow Him as the sheep of His pasture. Worship without obedience is worthless. Is your thankfulness resulting in rejoicing, reverence, and a response of obedience?