It’s not fair

I watched a sermon this morning that a friend spoke at his church yesterday.  He spoke about the guy who owned a vineyard and he hired people all throughout the day for one day’s work.  Some people got hired early in the day and some came on late in the day.  Some of the guys had already worked 11 hours when the owner brought on some new people.  That means the newer people could have only worked a few hours.  The guy who owned the vineyard decided to pay the people who only worked a few hours just as much as the people who worked all day.  Many of the parables in the Bible don’t translate as powerfully as when Jesus spoke them because most of us don’t raise sheep or run a plow any more.  But this one translates well.  We can still hear this parable and still find ourselves saying, “It’s not fair”.

This parable is a story of God’s grace.  Jesus told it because the Jewish leaders thought they were better than others and thought their upbringing would get them into heaven.  It’s a reminder that none of us can look at ourselves as deserving and as anyone else as undeserving of God’s love and God’s salvation.  Everyone is invited to repent and receive forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus.  It should be a reminder to us church people, many whom have spent their whole lives in church, that we don’t suddenly become the gatekeepers of the Kingdom of God.  We aren’t more important or more deserving than the new person in our midst who came to Jesus in the last year.  It’s a reminder that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

We are right that it’s not fair.  It’s not fair that Jesus should die for any of us, but I thank God that He did.  And I than Him for new brothers and sisters who gain the same grace and the same salvation as those who have served Him their whole lives.

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Dream your dreams tomorrow

I am listening to a song by Steven Curtis Chapman and the lyrics say, “Dream your dreams tomorrow because today life must go on.”  The chorus says there is more to this life than trying to make it through the day.  Do you ever feel like your life is ‘same stuff, different day’?

I understand that even mountaintop experiences, if we were to maintain them, could become routine.  I understand we all have responsibilities.  But, sometimes we need to take time to see if there is something different God is putting on our hearts.

Have you seen the Bud Light “Whatever” commercials?  I am tempted to say I am going to start beginning my days with the statement, “Jesus, I’m up for whatever You have for me today”.  Then I think that would just become something I routinely say.

If you are feeling restless, you are not alone.

Jesus, I’m up for whatever you have for me today…  And maybe it will be some more of the same or maybe it will be something completely different.

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Finding your worth in others

After church tonight I’m meeting with the church committee that some churches or pastors might consider, “The Complaint Department”.  In the UMC, we call it the PPRC and it’s the committee each church has that relays complaints/concerns of the congregation to the pastor.  It’s also a group that, in theory, the pastor can confide in with hurts and complaints of his or her own.  Sometimes the concerns of the congregation have merit and sometimes they do not.  Sometimes it’s a valid suggestion to help the pastor better serve or glorify Jesus and/or lead His people.  Often times it’s a complaint that someone’s personal expectations are not being met.  (Please know this:  This is is no way a commentary on our church or on our PPRC, but it is a generalization).

This morning I saw a note on my desk I had written some time ago.  It’s a quote from Pastor Matt Chandler and it says, “Few things are as soul-sucking or life crushing as when we seek the approval of others”.  Pastors must be careful not to gauge their worth in the compliments or complaints of the congregation.  I say this acknowledging that pastors must also be careful not just schlep off hard truths spoken in love by a brother or sister in Christ.  Likewise, you must not gauge your worth based on the opinions of others or even a negative opinion of yourself.

If you could only see yourself as God sees you!  He knows exactly who you are and knows exactly what you’ve done and He could not love you any more.  He wants you and me to turn to Him.  He doesn’t want us looking for validation from a congregation or from a pastor, from a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even in what we think about ourselves.  He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you.  And Jesus thought and thinks you are worth dying for.  If you can just bring yourself to believe that, it will change your life.  You won’t be crushed under the weight of trying to please anyone else.

Francesca Battistelli sings a great song of finding your worth in Jesus:

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Do not miss out on life

Yesterday my wife Diane, our son Adam, and I went to Baltimore to see the Orioles play the Yankees.  It was an afternoon game.  It was scoreless at the end of nine innings and quite a few Orioles fans left.  In the ‘top’ of the 11th the Yankees hit a home run to take a 1-0 lead.  Even though the Orioles were going to take their turn to bat in the ‘bottom’ of the 11th, several more Orioles fans filed out of the park after the Yankees home run.  They (as did I and most of those in attendance, I’m sure) assumed the game would end at 1-0 – Yankees.  But in the bottom of the 11th with two outs and the bases loaded, a pinch hitter doubled into right field and two runs scored.  The Orioles players poured out of the dugout as the game winning run crossed the plate.

Last night we got home from Baltimore and found out that Frankfort HS and Robert C Byrd HS were tied at 14 in their football game.  Adam and I briskly walked up the hill to the field and got there just in time to see the coin flip for overtime.  We watched both teams score and kick their extra point in the first overtime.  In the second overtime Frankfort intercepted an RCB third down pass and then on offense Gage Shaffer (a 2015 U of Maryland QB commit) threw his second touchdown pass of overtime to win the game against the #3 ranked AA team in the state.  For the second time yesterday we witnessed a bench spill onto the field with the last minute victory.

I almost didn’t go up the hill to watch the end of the Frankfort game last night.  We had been gone from home for over 12 hours and I was ready to call it a day when we got back to Short Gap.  I’m so glad I didn’t miss that.  It was a game they’ll be talking about in this end of Mineral County as long as they live.  It was an OT that seemed to validate Coach Randy Edsall’s offer to Gage Shaffer.  It was a legendary game.  And to think I could have been in my house a short walk from the field and missed it.  (I blogged about not missing Coney Island, NY here).

I understand it was only football and baseball games yesterday.  But this could be a parable about living life.  God gives us so many opportunities to experience Him and glorify Jesus and we often miss them.  We’re afraid or unsure.  We believe we don’t have the ability.  We don’t have the money.  We don’t have the time.  We don’t have the energy.  And we miss out.  And we often don’t even realize it until it’s too late.

Don’t miss out on your faith journey.  Don’t miss out on your life.

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Can you be trusted with small things?

In Luke chapter 16, Jesus talks about people being trustworthy with small things.  He says whoever can be trusted with a little can be trusted with a lot.  Conversely, He says whoever is dishonest with a little with be dishonest with a lot.  He’s talking about money in this context.  I think most of us find this to be true.

When our boys were young and we first started leaving them alone, we would be gone for 5 minutes to the post office.  After they had proven they could be trusted it was 15 minutes, then 30, and then an hour.

God has trusted me with a wonderful means to reach people around the world through this blog.  When I began my blog in May of 2010, I didn’t have great expectations.  I Screenshot from 2014-09-09 07:20:09thought it may be a journal mostly for my benefit.  For the first year, I blogged intermittently and averaged between 1 to 4 people a day visiting my blog posts.  As I began being more faithful to work on them, God began to send more people to read them.  I started putting written sermons online and people from around the world began to find them.  Yesterday my blog passed 100,000 page views.  It took 3 1/2 years to reach the first 50,000 views and less than a year to reach the next 50,000.  Every day there are people from at least a dozen countries who come to my blog.  They sometimes use Google Translator to translate them into their language.

And I didn’t begin writing them because people were reading them.  People read them because I wrote them.  Does that make sense?  Sometimes if we don’t get the desired results, we give up.  But I kept writing as God had called me to do and God kept encouraging me by sending more and more people to read them.  I’d like to think I’d still be writing if nobody was reading, just because I believe God calls me to it.

If God calls you to do something, don’t give up.  He’s trusting you.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  If you teach a Sunday School class or lead a youth group with 2 kids, He’s trusting you with those 2 kids.  If you pastor a church with 25 people, do your best, prepare your sermon as if 1,000 people were going to hear it, and preach the Gospel with all you’ve got.  If you lead a small group and you get discouraged because only a few show up, keep going if you believe God is calling you to do it.  We mustn’t ever have the attitude that only a few will be there so I’m not going to prepare.  Will you continue to serve Him even when it seems like nobody notices?  Will you be obedient even when you don’t feel like it?  Can God trust you with a little?

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Upon closer examination

There is a limo sitting near the rescue mission today. It looks really nice from a distance. It isn’t so impressive when you look more closely. The leather on the roof is cracked, the bumper is scuffed, the tint on the windows is bubbled, and it has rust started in several places. To see it going down the road you’d never see all the imperfections.

I’m reminded of how we try to cover up our imperfections. We lie to ourselves and others. And we lie to God. We can sometimes fool ourselves and often fool others, but we never fool God. And one day each of us will stand before him for a closer examination- the ultimate judgement. It’s not our perfection that He will be looking for. He will be inspecting our hearts to see if they belong to Jesus. He will say ‘forgiven’ based not on our ability to fool anyone, but upon our imperfections being covered by the blood of Jesus. All the work to appear to be something we’re not is in vain. Without Jesus, we will all hear ‘depart from me’ no matter how we look from a distance.

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Circling the Airport – Foaming the Runway

foamrunwayI listened to pastor David Platt preach this morning and someone accused him of “foaming the runway”.  The term is a reference to what emergency crews on the ground do to prepare for the landing of a crippled airplane.  The person who used the term was one of the few who knew that David Platt was praying about resigning from the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL to become the president of the International Missions Board which oversees Baptist missions worldwide.  The person thought Platt was preparing the church for his departure.  He said he had not made the decision when he preached the earlier sermon.  As it turns out, Platt did announce that God had orchestrated this move and he (Platt, not God) would be leaving the Church at Brook Hills.  He will shortly be leading the missionary organization.

I could use another flying term to describe what the time leading up to his decision could have been like.  As planes wait to land, it’s common for them to circle the airport.  They call that being in a holding pattern.  He talks about spending time trying to figure out what God would have him do.  One of the things that convinced David Platt to make the decision to lead the missionary agency is people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He calls them ‘unreached’ people.  He says we get confused with the word ‘unreached’.  Platt defines unreached people as people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus.  People you work with are not unreached.  They have access to the Gospel.

Platt is willing to do whatever he believes God would have him do for Jesus’ glory and to make Him known.  He calls it a ‘blank check’ with his life.  There are so few of us who offer ourselves to Jesus in that way.  I’m not ‘foaming the runway’ to prepare our church for anything.  But I hope they know that I want us to do whatever God would have us do.  I want to do whatever God would have me do.

Would you be willing to pray this?  “God, I want my life to be a blank check for You.  I’m willing to do whatever wherever.  Lead me and foam the runway if necessary. Amen.”

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