Archive for June, 2011

The Pain of Hell

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore as the tares are gathered together and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.  And will cast them in to the furnace of fire; where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mathew 13: 40-42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Tares are weeds that disguise themselves as wheat in the early stages of growth.  These parasitic imposters infected the wheat fields of many 1st century Judean farmers.  They unknowingly cultivated tares with their wheat.  When the tares had matured enough to be identified they could no longer be removed (the roots were inseparable.)  Tearing up the weeds would damage the surrounding crops.  The farmers had no choice but to allow them to grow together until the harvest.  During the reaping season the farmers cut the stalks and collected and stored the wheat; the weeds were uprooted and burned.  In this world, the wicked and the just live side by side; but the harvest day approaches; a day of judgment dawns on the horizon.  In that day God will separate the evil from the good; those who have obeyed His commands will live forever with Him in paradise.  Those who have denied Him and practiced evil will be gathered together and burned in hell.  Hell is a place where “there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Very few things can produce enough pain to cause a person to gnash their teeth (un-medicated amputation; stomach trauma; compound fractures; large kidney stones, etc.)  Gnashing is a symptom of extreme suffering; the brain, overwhelmed by pain, flexes the jaw muscles, forcing the teeth together.  Only those who have experienced gnashing can truly comprehend the level of misery that awaits those who deny God.    

                June 28th, 2011, was a day I will never forget.  Early in the day, I began to feel a slight gnawing pain in one of my teeth.  I finished my shift in the church office and began picking up friends for a Tuesday night bible study I taught in my backyard.  Before arriving home, I stopped off to pick up some oral anesthetic.  Although it initially relieved the pain, it did not stop its progression.  I was able to teach the study, stopping from time to time to put more gel on my tooth.  After concluding the message, we began the sharing portion of our discussion.  The pain had become so great I excused myself briefly and headed inside.  I pulled ice from the freezer and put it to my jaw (no relief.)  Desperate, I held an ice cube directly against the afflicted tooth (no reprieve; the pain continued to increase.)  I stammered back and forth in my living room, slobbering, drooling, and wincing in pain; I didn’t want the men outside to know just how bad my pain truly was [for an instant I remember thinking back to all of the movies I’ve seen where a spy facing torture had said something like, “No matter what you do to me, I won’t talk.”  In that moment I knew how ridiculous such a claim was […] I was experiencing a level of pain that would open the lips of any spy.]  The pain overwhelmed me, and I staggered to the backyard, unable to hold my posture or composer; I announced that I was going to the emergency room.  A friend recognized that I couldn’t drive, and offered to take me.  As we raced to the hospital every red light made my heart sink.  My muscles were clinched and my body contorted.  I drooled, and moaned, and my legs began to shake.  I imagined getting to the ER, storming past the nurses’ station, and demanding that someone, anyone, give me something to stop the pain (Thankfully when we arrived, God gave me the grace to act properly.)  When I was taken to the back I was given something for the pain, and I returned home.  Much to my delight, the very next day the dentist cleaned out my infected tooth.  Throughout my ordeal, I had done quite a bit of “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  The suffering had been so great that the idea of running out in front of a bus had actually crossed my mind.  The hope of relief and the knowledge that the pain would end is what allowed me to hang on; I’m not sure what I would have done without medical attention.  Unfortunately, the same or greater pain awaits those who enter hell.  They will wail and gnash their teeth without hope; there will be no escape from their pain; no redemption; no death; no one to save them from their unending misery.

                Eternal suffering is not a popular discussion topic (but it is an essential one.)  Hell is a very real place, created by a very real God; it cannot be avoided by denying that it exists.  Embracing, acknowledging, and fearing the pain of eternal torment arouses fear of the Eternal God.  Do you fear Him today?  Do you fear Him enough to obey Him?  Show me an unmarried couple going to church and sleeping together, and I’ll show you two people who have lost the fear of God.  Show me an atheist, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know his true destination.  Show me someone who entices other people to deny God, or to fall in to sin, and I’ll show you someone who has no understanding of the terror and misery that eagerly awaits.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we fear You.  We desperately desire to avoid the agony and pain of hell.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to serve You, to obey You, and produce fruit for You.  We want to do Your will, and Your good works in this place; but without You we cannot.  Give us the strength, the desire, and the ability to do good and not evil, and to enter in to Your eternal kingdom.  We love You Father, we praise You, we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.  

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Do you trust God?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on […] Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12: 22, 27-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Fear causes people to become anxious and worried.  Fear is produced when a person perceives that a present or future need may not be met.  Through great effort, the fearful heart strives to meet those needs.  Jesus pointed to the lily; one of the most beautiful flowers in all creation.  God intricately forged its soft slender pedals and painted them in a variety of vibrant colors.  He has clothed and provided for the needs of every lily.  God also took great care in designing the human body; molding it in to His own fearful and glorious image (unlike the lily which blooms for an instant before withering away, God’s children live eternally (those who have faith in Christ.))  His sons and daughters are far more important than a perishing flower.  God has always known and provided for the needs of humanity (He clothes the naked and feeds the hungry.)  Still, many are filled with fear and lack faith in God’s provision.  In the hopes of conquering their fears, many strive to possess large excesses; they become their own God’s, but the peace they had hoped to find in their possessions escapes them.  Numerous people have spent whole lifetimes putting everything and everyone ahead of God; many have sought money, relationships, careers, and possessions, but have gained nothing, because they failed to seek God first.  Had they looked to God, He would have given them all that their hearts desired.

                Just recently I picked up my friend James for bible study.  I could tell his heart was troubled; his phone had stopped working for some time, and he was unable to receive calls.  We drove by the phone store to get it checked out; he was told that their network was down and it could be a while before the problem was fixed.  We continued to the bible study, where it was obvious, he was still worried about his phone not operating correctly.  Near the end of our study, we took prayer requests.  James wanted us to pray for his phone situation.  Knowing that God is concerned with even our smallest needs, I told him a story about a pastor whose car wouldn’t start and whose wife suggested they pray about it; the pastor replied, “Honey I don’t think it works like that.”  Humoring his wife, they prayed for the car to start; sure enough, just after praying he turned the ignition over and the engine roared.  I told James to go and try his phone after we were finished praying.  Sure enough, immediately after praying his phone was working perfectly.  He was overwhelmed and excited.  His worries had slipped away.  He spent much time worrying and trying to fix his phone, when all he needed to do was to turn to God for his solution.  His anxieties and fears were the result of not seeking God’s provision first.  [We see the same thing in a recorded healing in the gospels.  A woman had a serious medical condition and had been hemorrhaging for nearly twelve years.  Filled with fear and a longing to be cured, she sought physician after physician; she used up an entire fortune seeking help from those who could do nothing to help her.  She needed a miracle, and after a lifetime of anxious fear and disappointment, she finally turned to God.  One day as Jesus was walking down a road, the woman sought him.  She thought, “If only I can touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”  She pushed her way through the crowds that thronged Jesus, and was able to touch his cloak.  Instantly her bleeding stopped, her fears were relieved, and her needs were met.

                What fears and worries fill your heart?  Do you turn to God for His provision, or do you seek to provide for yourself?  Do you have peace today?  Many do not, because they trust in themselves; they strive for gain, believing if they can amass enough wealth they no longer have to fear going without (in so doing God has no place in their lives.)  To the faithless, fear is a constant companion and no amount of planning, saving, or striving will bring them peace.  Do you believe that God is your provider?  Do you have faith in His abilities?  Turn to God, and rely on Him.  Put your trust and faith in your Eternal Father; allow Him to be your provider; and fear will be a stranger to you, and you will know and understand true peace; unending peace; the peace of God “that surpasses all understanding.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire Your peace; we are tired of striving to provide for ourselves and we look to You now for Your provision.  Remove our fears, our worries, and our anxiousness, and replace them with a faith and trust in You.  May we seek You first in all matters, and may You grant us wisdom, guidance and direction.  May we never lose hope and trust in You Father.  Clothe us, feed us, provide for all of our needs.  We love You Father, we praise You, we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.  

When does God withhold forgiveness?

JESUS SPEAKING

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11: 25-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

A ‘trespass’ is a harmful voluntary action taken against another person.  In a world filled with human beings, trespasses abound; accompanying those trespasses are resentments; a ‘resentment’ is ‘any feeling of hostility, anger, or hatred toward another person as the result of a real or imagined harm.’  Trespasses against God are also abundant, and very easily remedied; one need only ask God for forgiveness, and He is willing to forgive completely.  The Lord harbors no hidden resentment as human beings often do (even after professing true forgiveness.)  God’s mercy is great but not without condition.  Lack of forgiveness for others is the one circumstance in which God withholds His forgiveness.  A person cannot receive the benefits of God’s forgiveness, if they refuse to extend that same forgiveness to others.

Jesus used a parable to illustrate how God deals with those who are unwilling to forgive others.  He said, “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt…But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt…But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment…His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.  But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full…When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt…That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sistersfrom your heart.”

Take a moment to ponder the worst trespasses you have ever committed (trespasses that perhaps you have never revealed to anyone.)  […………………………….]  Has God forgiven you for your evils?  […]  Now take a moment to search your heart for any anger or resentment; is there anyone you have refused to forgive?  […………………………..]  If there is anyone at all, forgive them completely; let go of any lingering pieces of anger; let go of the hurt and the pain; allow God to replace your contempt with love, and your hatred with understanding and compassion; knowing that the God of mercy has fully forgiven you, and requires that you extend that same mercy and forgiveness to others.

“Lord Heavenly Father, please reveal any hatred or resentment we hold within our hearts.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to forgive all those who have sinned against us.  May we forgive completely, and may our hearts and minds be cleansed of any lingering anger.  May we feel love for those who have trespassed against us.  Father we thank You for Your forgiveness; for Your mercy; and for Your patience and love.  We love You and praise You; and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The keys to death

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.  Writethe things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1: 12-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Apostle John was the author of the book of Revelation.  When the Lord visited him, he was an old man, living in exile on the Aegean Island of Patmos.  John was the last living Apostle; imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ (it is generally accepted that John recorded this revelation around 95 A.D.; some sixty years after the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)  John heard the voice of the Lord and turned and saw Jesus in his Heavenly throne room (in his glorified state.)  His eyes were aflame; his hair was a brilliant white; his feet were like shining brass.  He was bathed in radiance like the shining of the sun.  John was filled with fear and fell face down at Jesus’ feet.  The Lord commanded John to record all that he was about to see and hear.  Jesus verbally expressed four distinct characteristics of his Godly nature; He is eternal and the creator of all things; He cannot die; He can grant eternal life to whomever he desires; and he stands outside of time (to God, the past, present and future are one in the same.)  Jesus also revealed the mysteries of the seven stars and seven Golden lampstands.  The seven golden lampstands were representative of the seven churches of John’s day.  There were large churches in Ephisus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  The seven stars Jesus held were the seven angels, or spirits that inhabited the churches (Jesus later addressed each individual church, and discussed matters of sin and obedience.)  These churches also stand outside of time (they still exist today.)  Over the course of nearly 2000 years, all seven churches, have grown to circle the earth.  Every true believer is a member of one of God’s churches.  Anyone who does not believe in the God of the bible has no church; they are lost and headed for death and destruction.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is seated in heaven as the ‘head of the church.’  The church is ‘the house of God’ and no one in God’s house will ever die.

                Jesus said, “I have the keys of hades and death.”  Only the one true and living God can grant eternal life.  ‘There is an ancient story of a woman who had lost a son; distraught, she sought a way to bring him back to life.  She heard that Buddha had a potion that could bring people back from the dead.  She sought him, and he agreed that he did have such a potion.  Anxious, she asked to help collect herbs to aide him in making the tonic.  Buddha sent her out with one simple requirement; he told her that the herbs had to come from a house that had never been touched by death.  She set out to collect the herbs, but every door she knocked on had (in one way or another) experienced death; (a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a grandparent, a son or daughter.)  The woman came to realize that death afflicts everyone.  She lost hope in the resurrection of her son, and allowed him to be buried.  The woman returned to Buddha to thank him for helping her to come to terms with the death of her child.’  Buddha had no magic potion; he was unable to bring the dead to life.  He was only successful in replacing the woman’s hope with acceptance.  Unlike Buddha, Jesus Christ has replaced the acceptance of death with the hope of resurrection.  Believers understand that there will be a day when they will mourn no more.  Lost loved ones will live again.  For those who love Jesus, death holds no power; all those who have died, will rise to live forever.

                Will you live again?  Are you aware that Jesus is seated on his throne in heaven?  Do you understand that for those who believe, there is no death?  Those who confess that Jesus Christ is their master, and live to please him, are eternal; there is no death, only life.  Don’t lose faith; don’t lose hope; keep your heart and mind focused on that day; the day you and I will see Jesus Christ face to face (just as John saw him); and we will know complete peace; unending peace; eternal peace; in the presence of a loving God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we recognize Your power and glory.  Jesus we look forward to the day we will see You face to face.  You are the only God, the one true and living God, and we put our faith and trust completely in You.  We trust that we will live forever with You, in Your eternal Kingdom.  Give us the courage and strength to reach out to others who may not know You, that they might come to accept You and receive unending life for themselves.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Correcting Others

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Mathew 7: 3-5.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Critiquing others is a natural and effortless endeavor.  It is human nature to overvalue ourselves, by devaluing others.  There is no better way to feed pride than to look at the faults and shortcomings of those around us (Most people, whether consciously or unconsciously, critique and compare themselves to others daily.)  Some become delusional in this regard, and begin to pick at others; they correct others to avoid facing the difficulties within themselves (focusing on the sins of others, allows them to maintain a positive opinion of themselves.)  Jesus warned his disciples to avoid this form of hypocrisy.  A disciple may humbly point out sin in another person’s life, only when they have had victory over that sin in their own life.  Correcting someone else in any other way is very dangerous indeed; because God, in turn, inspects and corrects the life of the disciple in exactly the same manner and with exactly the same standard as they used to inspect and correct another.

                In 1986, a very well known radio and television minister became aware that a fellow Pastor was guilty of carrying on numerous affairs.  He went public with the information and his friend was removed from his position within the church and publicly humiliated.  Unfortunately, this pastor, who had been more than willing to expose the faults of his colleague, became embroiled in a far more insidious scandal just two years later.  In 1988 he was caught with a prostitute (he had been meeting with her for some time; in an interview she stated, “He was a regular customer”); filled with tears, this minister went on television and confessed his sins to the world, to his congregation, and to his family.  He pleaded and begged for forgiveness.  Despite breaking with his denomination when they claimed ‘he was not truly repentant,’ he continued on in ministry.  In 1991, he was stopped by police for driving on the wrong side of the road, and they found the prostitute he had just picked up sitting in his passenger’s seat.  This time, instead of admitting his fault, he lashed out and proclaimed, “The Lord told me, it’s flat none of your business.”  He later stepped down for a period of time.  This minister was guilty of trying to correct the sexual sins of another, before cleaning up his own sexually deviant lifestyle.  In turn, God judged him according to the standard by which he judged his colleague.

                As believer’s today, self-examination is critical; it is the precursor to effectively helping others.  We must ‘face the demons’ in our own lives, and be victorious over them before we can help others to overcome similar difficulties.  We must be extremely cautious before we attempt to lovingly correct others; for if we judge and correct others, the same judgment and correction will be measured back to us by God.  Have you carefully studied your own life?  Are you guilty of using the faults of others to feel better about yourself?  Are you trying to correct others in areas you yourself need correction?  Take time daily to evaluate yourself; write down behaviors that are in opposition to the will of God.  Record the sins that plague you; pray for deliverance and be diligent in your efforts to repent.  You will fight many battles, but with God’s help, you will be a conqueror.  With each new victory, God will use you as a light to guide others who desire victory over their own sins.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You protect us from the sin of hypocrisy.  May we refrain from measuring others in prideful ways; may we not correct others when we ourselves need correction.  Help us in our battles and reveal areas of sin in our lives.  Lord, if there are any opportunities to help others who struggle with the sins we have conquered by Your power, we pray that You would give us opportunities to speak to them and to help them to be victorious as well.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Making Amends

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; everyone lives within a social structure, made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and complete strangers.  Our relationships with others are a reflection of our relationship with God; if we sin against someone, we also sin against God; if we have cheated anyone, we have also cheated God.  When we lie, slander, or feel hatred toward another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated the One True and Living God.  In the first century many Jewish families journeyed long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins and to be restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus taught that prior to offering a sacrifice to God for restoration and forgiveness, everyone had to make right, the harms they had committed against others.  This principal, known as ‘making amends’ is still very much in effect today. 

                In June of 2005 I landed in a rehabilitation center in Anaheim California.  Although not yet saved, I began working a 12 step program.  The 12 steps have been shunned by many churches that see them as pagan.  Although they are pagan, and do not acknowledge Jesus Christ, the 12 steps and the principals were taken almost completely from the bible.  Those who formed the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous were Christians, strongly influenced by Jesus; the literature used by those early recovering alcoholics was the bible (specifically the book of James, the sermon on the mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.)  Personally, after about a year and ½ in to my new found sobriety, I received the Lord and began to read the bible.  I continued to work the steps as well.  I came across this scripture, where Jesus commanded his followers to apologize and make restitution for the wrongs they had committed.  I immediately recognized that Jesus’ command had been the basis for the eighth and the ninth steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all,” and the ninth step reads, Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I have continued to make amends to others I have harmed.  I have made restitution, paid off debts, and asked for forgiveness from many who were affected by my sins.  With every debt paid and every apology given, I have felt my Spirit drawing ever closer to my teacher, my Lord, and my God.

                Today, if you are struggling to get closer to God, you might consider examining your past mistakes and previous sins against others; if you have stolen from anyone (and have the capacity to repay what you took) go to them and make restitution.  If you have lied, and your lies have caused hardships for others, return and speak the truth.  If you mistreated someone and they are harboring resentment, humble yourself and ask them for forgiveness.  Making amends is a very real and essential part of what it means to be a Christian; often the pathway toward a more Godly future, leads through the sins of our past; what we do with those sins once we have faced them, will determine whether we go deeper with God, or remain distant from Him.  The choice is ours to make.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and lift You up; You are worthy to be praised.  Father, if we have harmed anyone in our past and have not gone back to make restitution, we ask that You would make us aware of our wrongs.  Give us strength and humility, that we might ask for forgiveness, and be reconciled to those who resent us.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Salvation is recieved, not earned!

JESUS SPEAKING

                “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,and said, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Mathew 20: 1-16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In this parable, the landowner represented God in the form of Jesus Christ.  The first workers represented the Pharisees, religious leaders, and Holy men that God had called to minister to the world; these men had been faithful for many years; some their whole lives; they had avoided lying, adultery, and drunkenness; they prayed, and observed the feasts and the commandments of God.  They felt that their own efforts and righteous deeds had earned them a distinguished place with God.  The sinners of the world were represented by the ‘later workers,’ who had lived the majority of their lives in sin.  Jesus (the landowner), had been calling all sinners to repent; many prostitutes and tax collectors were being baptized and they were turning to God; they began to do the work of the Lord, side by side with those who had never strayed from God’s path.  In this parable, the ‘day’s wage’ represented the salvation God freely offered to all mankind, irrespective of past works of righteousness.  Sinners and saints would receive the same gift from God.  The religious leaders hated Jesus, because he had made them equal to new converts; they felt entitled to a greater reward from God for their many good deeds.  Those who received the salvation they didn’t deserve were overjoyed and glorified God; those who believed salvation was a earned wage, despised the grace of God in favor of glorifying themselves (the sinner thanks God, the self-righteous thanks himself.)  No human being deserves salvation; no one can attain it through strenuous effort; it must be received as a gift.

                Some years ago, I was working in sales, and the housing market bottomed out.  One day, I was called in to my manager’s office, and I was ‘let go.’  I picked up my last check, and began looking for work full time.  I sent in untold numbers of resumes and went on countless interviews.  No call backs, no second interviews; I continued in this strenuous routine for nearly five months, until rejection after rejection finally produced within me, great discouragement and despair.  I decided if no one was going to hire me to work, I would work for free and serve God.  I began volunteering at a non-profit, a local church, and a senior center.  A couple of months later, I received a call from some company, I don’t recall ever submitting a resume too.  I was hired to be a caregiver, and to help a needy man with his daily living needs.  The job was on weekends; at the same time a man told me about a theology school I should attend just up the street; the school met on weekday mornings (which worked perfectly with my weekend job.)  God orchestrated the whole scenario so that I could be trained to serve Him.  Today, I am one week away from graduating from that school (a two year program); I still work for the brain injured man, and it has been the best job I have ever had.  In all my efforts to find work, I was trying to gain for myself, something that only God could provide.  God had used many months of disappointment to humble me.  He brought me to the point at which I was able to receive his gift for myself; I didn’t get the job because I was qualified, or because I had written some fantastic resume; it wasn’t a product of my hard work either.  Instead the job was a gift I gratefully accepted from the Lord.

                Today, there are many people who believe that they deserve God’s favor; some go so far as to make self-righteousness and human effort the means by which a person is saved.  Jesus Christ came to offer to mankind something they were incapable of earning; he came to bring salvation to those who were willing to throw up their hands in frustration and admit, “I am unworthy.”  No man, woman, or child can be right with God, unless they first realize that apart from God’s grace they are doomed.  Those who follow Christ rejoice in knowing that they, like the late workers, are freely forgiven; they stand side by side with those who have labored long in the faith.  In God’s eyes, the sinner and the saint are drawn together as one by the sweet blood of His one and only Son. [Note:  Genuine faith, once it has been experienced and received, produces a desire to be more pleasing to God.  God’s Spirit makes real changes in the heart; it is not enough to say, ‘saved by grace,’ while continuing to live in sickness without remorse or repentance.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we ask that You help us to accept Your salvation as a free gift.  Give us the humility to realize the greatness of Your mercy and grace.  Help us to avoid being judgmental; may we rejoice with new believers, knowing that they have received the same great gift that You have given us.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.     

     


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