Monday, December 18, 2017

God’s economy of GRACE....

God’s economy of GRACE is not the same as the natural order people expect.

Workers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16)
1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. 4 And he said to them, “You go into the vineyard too and I will give you whatever is right.” 5 So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. 6 And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and he said to them, “Why are you standing here all day without work?” 7 They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You go and work in the vineyard too.”
8 When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.” 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. 10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner,12 saying, “These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.
13 And the landowner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. 15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The landowner clearly represents the Lord, and the vineyard represents his kingdom. 
….The important point: the apparent inequity in the pay scale.
...working in the vineyard is a fairly solid image of serving in the Lord’s kingdom. The emphasis on wages in the outworking of the event means that this story is primarily about God’s gifts, or rewards, for faithful service. But the length of service and the amount of work does not determine what the reward is.

At the end of the day …... to everyone’s surprise, he first paid the workers who came last, and who probably worked an hour or two. They received the pay for a full day’s work. This led the other workers to think that they would get more, because they had been there all day. But they were wrong --- they all received the same thing, a full day’s wages. This landowner was certainly unconventional.

Quite understandably, the workers who had been there all day complained to the landowner. They thought it was unfair that the men who worked only a little should get as much as they. Most workers would think the same thing.

In response to the complaint the landowner simply had to remind the workers of a few important points.  

---> He paid the early workers exactly what He promised, what they agreed to. So they had no reason to complain.

---> He was the landowner and was free to offer the other workers what He thought was fair if they would come and work as well.

---> He told the workers to take their wage and go. There was no chance of their changing His mind; and nothing good would come out of their wanting more than the later workers, for there was no law that said he had to pay everyone proportionately.

---> The final point of the story says that the last will be first and the first will be last, a…. this statement says that the Lord cannot be held to social convention or custom in the way that He rewards people; but it certainly also says that His pact with each group is fair--and generous since without it they would have nothing. In other words, it is by GRACE that He rewards the workers, just as it was by GRACE He offered them the place.

Points to Consider
1. The Lord is sovereign over His kingdom. 
---> He is the landowner, He can pay people whatever He wants to pay them, He owes no man an explanation of His dealings with the workers in the vineyard. 

In God’s kingdom, then, He is absolutely sovereign and He can deal with all people in whatever way He chooses. He is free to give some people more than others in relationship to their years of service or contribution. He alone makes the decisions of what to give people for service, how to use them (all day or not), and how to reward their faithfulness. And no one can challenge the decision of the sovereign Lord.

2. Everyone who serves the Lord will be treated fairly.

3. How the Lord treats all of His servants is by GRACE. Until the workers were approached by the landowner, they had no work. If He had not found them and arranged for them to enter his vineyard, they would have remained with nothing. No one can complain that such a gracious provision is unfair--unless they think that everything must be based in a legal arrangement. Everyone should be thankful that God opened up the opportunity for service.

The story starts out with a conventional plot, hiring day workers… turns at the end to what is totally unconventional, so that the people who worked the least got equal pay. How is it possible that the last shall be first? Not by agreement and not by contract ---- but by GRACE and GRACE alone.

….with God all things are possible, and especially this work of grace that the last is first. If God extends grace to people at the eleventh hour, and they respond, trusting in His goodness, they will also receive what He promised others. If God calls people into service in His vineyard, and they serve Him faithfully, both the calling and the reward is by GRACE, especially if their work was not a full day.

4. The workers should be pleased with what He gives them, and not concerned with what He gives other people. If the workers were genuinely pleased to receive the work and the day’s wages, they would have focused on that, and not on another worker’s packet. It is when people start comparing what God has given to other believers that they begin to judge God’s fairness. But in the final analysis it is not by length of service, or amount of work, that GRACE operates--it is based on what He chooses to give.

The WARNING to each of us is “not to be proud of what we have done and expect more than those whom we think have done less.” After all, if we have done more, or done it longer, it is only because by His GRACE He made the opportunity available earlier for us. The word here drives us back to the instruction that whether He gives us a whole day, or just an hour, we must serve Him faithfully and trust that we will enter into the reward that He has in store for those who are faithful. That God chose any one of us for His vineyard is amazing. We should rejoice in that, and rejoice in the fact that He is still inviting otherwise “unemployed” folks to join.

In the final analysis this story is basically about people responding to the opportunity to work in His vineyard when the invitation is made to them. For some the arrangements are clear, for others they are not, but in both cases the Lord deals justly and fairly with His people. It is not a parable about salvation per se, but about working in His vineyard, and the rewards that will be given for faithfulness. The bottom line is that people should be ready to respond to the opportunity for service, and rejoice in what He gives us as a reward for our service.

He alone knows the value of each person’s service for His kingdom…….we can all rest assured that when the opportunity and the rewards come from the gracious Lord, they will be just and generous.

 ~ author unknown

5 Tips for Forgiving

Friday, December 15, 2017

When "NOT" to Speak

“Whosoever keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from trouble.” 
Proverbs 21:23

1. In the heat of anger – Prov. 14:17

2. When you don’t have all the facts – Prov. 18:13

3. When you haven’t verified the story – Deut. 17:6

4. If your words will offend a weaker brother – 1 Cor. 8:11

5. If your words will be a poor reflection of the Lord or your friends and family – Peter 2:21-23

6. When you are tempted to joke about sin – Prov. 14:9

7. When you would be ashamed of your words later – Prov. 8:8

8. When you are tempted to make light of holy things – Eccl. 5:2

9. If your words would convey a wrong impression – Prov. 17:27

10. If the issue is none of your business – Prov. 14:10

11. When you are tempted to tell an outright lie – Prov. 4:24

12. If your words will damage someone’s reputation – Prov. 16:27

13. If your words will destroy a friendship – Prov. 25:28

14. When you are feeling critical – James 3:9

15. If you cannot speak without yelling – Prov. 25:28

16. When it is time to listen – Prov. 13:1

17. If you may have to eat your words later – Proverbs 18:21

18. If you have already said it more than one time (then it becomes nagging) – Prov. 19:13

19. When you are tempted to flatter a wicked person – Prov. 24:24

20. When you are supposed to be working instead – Prov. 14:23

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

May the God of HOPE fill you with Joy and Peace....

Ten Things God wants You to Remember

Power of the Tongue: The Awesome Gift of Encouragement and the Poison of Gossip

Exodus 20:16
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 13:12-15 (How to handle gossip you hear)
If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. 

Leviticus 19:16
‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 34:13
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

Psalm 37:30
The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.

Psalm 101:5
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.

Proverbs 11: 9;13
With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape… A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

Proverbs 12:6
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.

Proverbs 17:9
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends

Proverbs 18:8
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.

Proverbs 20:19
A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.

Proverbs 22:11
He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.

Proverbs 23:15-16
My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right

Proverbs 25:23
As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks

Proverbs 26:20-21
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

Proverbs 27:9
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 31:8
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Acts 13:15
Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.

Acts 15:32
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.

Acts 20:2
He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece

2 Corinthians 6:6-9a
In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on;

Ephesians 4:25
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Ephesians 4:29, 31
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Phillipians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Galatians 6:7-10
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-12
He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Timothy 3:10-11
They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching

1 Peter 1:22-2:1
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

1 Peter 3:10;16
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech…keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

James 1:19
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

James 3:5-6
The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

3 John 1:12
Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Evening Prayer

Watch O Lord,
with those who 
wake, watch, and weep tonight, 
and give Your angels and saints 
charge over those who sleep.

Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones,
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones,
Shield Your joyous ones.

And all for Your loves sake.

~ St. Augustine

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Quiet Life

by L.B.E. Cowman, Springs in the Valley

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. — 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Beloved! This is our spirit’s deepest need.
It is thus that we can learn to know God.
It is thus that we receive spiritual refreshment and nutriment.
It is thus that we are nourished and fed.
It is thus that we receive the Living Bread.

It is thus that our very bodies are healed, and our spirits drink in the life of our risen Lord, and we go forth to life’s conflicts and duties like the flower that has drunk in, through the shades of the night, the cool and crystal drops of dew.

But the dew never falls on a stormy night, so the dews of His Grace never come to the restless soul.

We cannot go through life strong and fresh on constant express trains with ten minutes for lunch.

We must have quiet hours,
secret places of the Most High,
times of waiting upon the Lord,
when we renew our strength
and learn to mount up on wings as eagles,
and then come back to run
and not be weary,
and to walk and not faint.

The best thing about this stillness is that it gives God a chance to work.
Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His.
— Hebrews 4:10

and when we cease from our thoughts,
God’s thoughts come into us;
when we get still from our restless activity,
God... works in [us]
to will and to act
in order to fulfill His good purpose.
— Philippians 2:13

and we have but to work it out.

Beloved! Let us take His stillness! ~ A. B. Simpson

Jesus, Deliverer, come Thou to me;
Soothe Thou my voyaging,
Over life’s sea!

Excerpted with permission from Springs in the Valley by L. B. Cowman, copyright L.B. Cowman. Published by Zondervan.