What’s More, Part Four

Slide3The fourth and final message in our series, What’s More, explores the teaching of Jesus in “parable of the laborers” (Matthew 20:1-16). The previous messages in this particular series have been building up to our reading of this parable. Reading the parable within the context of the extended of Jesus to his encounter with the rich young man helps bring further clarity to the emphasis of the parable.

The series began with an introduction to the story of the rich young man, who wished to know what he must do to enter into life. The series engaged this inquiry, the response of teaching, and the curiosity of the disciples in preparation for our reading of the “parable of the laborers.” The primary teachings of the series has been as follows”

  1. One cannot earn eternal; rather, it is a free gift of God;
  2. While eternal life is freely given, reception of this gift comes with a cost; and,
  3. No one can offer anything (their cost) that is comparable to the abundant blessing offered in eternal life – here, understood to be everlasting existence in the presence of God the Almighty, which has been made possible through the reconciling act of atonement of Jesus Christ. 

A unspoken issue has been running through the course of these exchanges, which is finally brought to the surface in the “parable of the laborers” — the fairness of God.

  1. The rich young man grieves to learn he must release himself from his great wealth so that he is free to receive the invitation of Jesus to enter into a life of discipleship – Is is fair for him to pay such a great cost…
  2. The disciples are curious to know what they can anticipate to receive since they have already given everything and entered into a life of discipleship with Jesus — Is it fair for them to give everything and not receive more…

The fairness of God is running below the surface of this encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, his response to the young man’s rejection of his offer, and the disciples anticipation of their reward…

Jesus does not only speak to the fairness of God through the “parable of the laborers”, he declaratively puts the issue to rest!

You can read the full story of the parable here.

The basic synopsis is that a vineyard owner hired five groups of laborers to work in his vineyard on one particular day. Each group of workers were hired at different times of the day – from the earliest hour until the last hour. The vineyard owner called for his manager to gather all of these men at the end of the day and to pay them equally – the fair wage for a day’s work. The men who had worked from the earliest hour and during the hottest part of the day fully expected to receive more than those workers who had only been in the vineyard for an hour. They grumbled when they received the same wage as the others – the fair age for a day’s work.

The vineyard owner explains his rationale for paying all of the same men the same wage. And, he concludes his explanation with two rhetorical questions:

  1. Am I not able to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
  2. Are you envious of my generosity?

The parable is a beautiful expression of the paradoxical nature of the kingdom of heaven as well as the generosity of God.

A rich young man and a group of disciples struggle with the fairness of God, while they may not have realized it – is it fair to ask for full devotion; and, is it fair to receive the same as those who have given less?

The declarative point of Jesus…

God has the authority to choose to do what God wants to do with the things belonging to God; and, God chooses to be generous.

That’s all the disciples needed to understand and that is all that you and I need to know: God can do what God wants to do with what belongs to God; but, the good news is that our God is generous and, for that reason, everyone can expect to receive an abundance of blessing far greater than anything any one of us could possibly offer. There is no cost greater than the abundant blessing of everlasting life in the presence of the Almighty made possible in the reconciling grace of God expressed through life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. 

Click this link to listen to the full message.

Previous messages in the series:

  1. What’s More, Part One
  2. What’s More, Part Two 
  3. What’s More, Part Three

What’s More, Part Three

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The series, What’s More, has focused upon the more still available to us in this life. The invitation to discipleship offered by Jesus extends the opportunity to follow the only one who leads to life – both a life in the future, but one lived before God in the present.

The third message in this series centers upon a question of Peter, “Look we have left everything and followed you. What will be have?”

“What about us?” is the basic question of Peter. He and his fellow disciples have left everything – family, friends, profession, and possessions – to follow Jesus and serve alongside of him.

The question is not unwarranted. Jesus has just described the challenge the rich (and, really, everyone) will encounter when they attempt to enter into eternal life (vv. 23-26). Salvation can not be earned. Salvation can only be received. Salvation, here, should be understood as life in the presence of God; or, life in community with God. 

Salvation must be received, though!

The paradox, however, is the reception of this free gift comes with a cost! One must detach themselves from the things of this world to which they are tethered so that they can be free to go with him who leads into life. 

Peter’s wishes to know what he and the others disciples should expect to get based off what they have given. While the message considers the response of Jesus to the question of Peter, an observation is also made within this message: “What about us?” reflects our attitude, at times. What can we expect to get!?

The basic teaching of the message being anyone who has made a personal sacrifice for the sake of Jesus’ name can expect an abundant blessing. No one will receive more than another, because the blessing of life is far greater than anything offered by any one of us. The life freely given is far greater than the cost anyone will incur. Therefore, there is no need to question what will be received (nor is there a justifiable reason to squabble over who will get what) because everyone will receive equally the abundant blessing of life.

Follow this link to hear the full message. 

What’s More, Part Two

Slide3What is the more for you?

The first message in the series, What’s More, looked to the story of the rich young man to introduce the difference between doing and receiving. The young man’s desire to know what good thing he must do and, then, to know what he was still lacking, provides Jesus with the opportunity to distinguish between the observance of the ethical principles of religion and the reception of the grace God extends through a life of discipleship with Jesus. The former enable an individual to do good, while the later blesses an individual to enter into life with God the Father through the Son.

The second message in the series furthers the emphasis upon the more available to us – true life with God the Father in the present through a life of discipleship with the Son for Jesus alone leads into life. The life received in Jesus will be fully realized in the future, but the disciple of Jesus can begin to experience the presence of God through the love of God made known by Jesus.

The Scripture lesson for this message follows upon the story of the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus in disappointment. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach his disciples about the challenge every human being will encounter: the impossibility of earning life. He specifies the primary obstacle for this rich young man – his wealth. Jesus declares it will be hard for the rich to enter into life; but, then, he moves from the difficultly to the impossibility. He declares, “It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle.”

Assuming Jesus is condemning the wealthy would be an easy interpretation of this text; after all, Jesus comes down pretty hard on the rich. The challenge confronting this young man, and others of comparable wealth, emphasize the difficulty everyone will encounter. The rich were believed to be favored by God. Their great wealth was interpreted to be an expression of the abundant favor God had shown to them. If these individuals, who were believed to be favored by God, could not earn through their deeds entrance into life, then who could?

The disciples’ response echoes this point, “Who then can be saved?” — salvation should be understood to mean entrance into the eternal presence of the Lord Almighty. 

If the people believed to be favored by God (the rich) could not earn their salvation, then what hope is there for anyone else to enter into life?

Once more a distinction between doing and receiving is brought forth. Jesus declares that while the achievement of salvation may be impossible for man, all things are possible for God.

Once more, entrance into life is not only a future reality, it is a present opportunity! No one can earn this gift. Life with God is made possible for all, because God makes it possible.

How, then, do we discover what’s more for us? Jesus extends the same offer to each of us that he extended to the rich young man: loose the grip upon the things of this world obstructing your relationship with God and, then, go with him…Follow him who leads into life. 

Finally, the challenge is revealed – the difficulty the rich young man encounters, which exemplifies the difficulty to be encountered by anyone who possesses an abundance and, to a delicate degree, the difficulty everyone will experience when they choose to follow Jesus. There is a cost. God freely offers the blessing of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but the reception of this gift requires you to release a grip on the things tethering you to this world. Walking towards Jesus requires you to walk away from something else…

Click this link to hear the message in full.

What’s More, Part One (and a reflection upon Las Vegas)

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I woke up yesterday morning to the news of the horrendous attack in Las Vegas. I felt many things as I am sure all of you did. I’m tired of waking up to the news. I am absolutely exhausted of waking up to the breaking news – whether it be a mass casualty shooting; terrorism – foreign or domestic; rallies, marches, and protests utilizing violence or aggression. I, for one, am done! I’m burned out on the hatred on display in America and throughout our world! I’m just plain tired of it all; and, you should be, too! And, if you are not tired of it, then wake upbecause you are already asleep! 

Continue reading

A Community of Encouragement

Are you unable to attend a church service this morning? Here is a link to the message, A Community of Encouragement!

The local church strives to be several things. Above all, it should strive to glorify God by serving the will of God in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit!

A local church, or any community of faith, should also strive to be a community of encouragement!

The message, A Community of Encouragement, explores Paul’s instruction to Titus in the second chapter of his letter to the younger missionary

That’s right… I’m talking about Titus 2 and all of its patriarchal language…

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source: tenor.com

But, the message employs a sensitive reading of this antiquated language and teaching  to consider how the instruction of Paul might challenge our communities of faith to strive to be communities of encouragement in a broken, chaotic, and discouraging world!!!

If you have a moment, you can listen to the message by following this link.

Influencing Moses, Part Three

Slide2“Stepping out” and “speaking up” for what is right, just, and true is one of the most influential things any one of us can do.

Sadly, “stepping out” and “speaking up” is difficult, threatening, and risky…which is why so many people shrink away from it, hiding safely off to the side of life. Continue reading

Influencing Moses, Part Two

Slide2Part Two of the series, Influencing Moses, extends our conversation on the women who influenced the earliest part of Moses life.

Part One of the series introduces Shiphrah and Puah and the influence they would offer because they’re grounded in a healthy fear of God.

The second message in the series looks to the powerful influence of the mother of Moses and the daughter of Pharaoh. These two women would have an influence upon Moses far beyond what we learn in the second chapter of Exodus, but we do learn the source of the influence. Continue reading

Influencing Moses, Part One

Slide2Moses was certainly an influential leader in the history of Israel. To become a person of influence, however, Moses would first be influenced by others.

Influencing Moses is a series on the individuals who influenced Moses in the earliest part of his life. And, really, it is a series about the extraordinary courage of a number of women!

Part one of the series considers two lesser known women: Shiphrap and Puah! These two Hebrew midwives defied the order of the king of Egypt by allowing the boys born to the Hebrew women to live!

But, a little consideration of these women will reveal they have not acted out of disobedience (of the king); rather, the act of these women is one of radical obedience to God, whom the reverently feared.

The influence of these women is far reaching! By their actions, the further leader of the Israelites would be born! Through Moses, these women would have an influence upon all of us!

More poignant, these women influence the way we ought to view the decision we face every day. These women were given a choice: keep the command of the king or obey the will of God. These two women chose to obey the will of God even at the cost of disappointing man! And, for that reason, these women are not only an influence upon us, but they are also an inspiration to all of us – there will be times when serving the will of God will require us to disappoint man.

If you wish, have a listen to the full message!

Eclipse

Slide3I know, the eclipse is old news by now, but our message from a couple weeks ago leaned upon the (then upcoming) solar eclipse to consider how we might be a source of obstruction.

The message challenges us to remove ourselves from “the shadow of darkness cast upon us” to contemplate how we might be the obstruction to the light!

Essentially, our message is about the influence every single one us has on other people; and, the message challenges us to acknowledge the effect our influence had upon others – Does the true light shine through you? Or, are you obstructing the true light causing a shadow of darkness to be cast upon others?

The key verse leading our message comes from Matthew 15:14 – “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” The message explores the context in which this statement of Jesus is made and how it might be applied to conversation about our influence and its effect…

If you have a moment, have listen to the full message!