I was reading recently in Matthew 20 about the land owner who hired all the day laborers. As I read, I felt the familiar chaffing in response to the “unfairness” of the last workers receiving the same as the those who’d toiled all that livelong day in the vineyard.
It has always bothered me that those who had barely broken a sweat received the exact same wage from the landowner as those who had sweat and labored from sunup to sundown in this parable. And then it hit me –
Have I lived my entire adult life as if my eternal abode was earned with good old fashioned sweat equity?
I’ve been pondering this for weeks now.
On the one hand, I do not believe sweat equity has a place in God’s House. I believe the moment we begin to think that any thing we can do will earn God’s favor in any way, we have missed the point of grace. And God is ALL ABOUT GRACE!
On the other hand, the chaffing I receive every single time I read that parable is undeniable proof that some part of me clings to the idea that I canearn God’s grace. That I canbehave my way into Heaven. That I cando enough good works to change God’s mind about my sin. And I can’t.
No one can. And that’s good news!
The saint that’s been raised in the church (ie. me) is offered the same grace as the death row inmate walking to his execution (ie “real sinners”).
That is what I’m beginning to truly wrap my mind around as I read the Word this year – G R A C E.
How about you?
I’m embracing feedback this year. Please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent. I’d love to hear from you.
Joseph seemed to struggle with feelings of bitterness (anger, too?) toward his brothers for the way they treated him in his youth. And why not? Their behavior was nothing short of abysmal! To be honest, I can easily relate to Joseph’s struggle with his emotional response, his desire to “keep it together” in front of those who mistreated him – even years and years after the fact. And to add insult to injury, they were Joseph’s own family!
Let’s back up.
Joseph’s life began pretty cushy. Dear ol’ dad loved him most. Everyone knew it. He gave him a showy coat. He trusted him as his go-between with his other sons. Even Joseph’s unconsciousness seemed to bless him with dreams of greatness. What happened? His brothers sold his blessed life for a few coins just to be rid of him.
Skip ahead in Joseph’s biography. He’s now a slave in a well-respected Egyptian’s home. He’s kind of a big deal in the man’s house, a position he undoubtedly both deserved and earned. He was living large, for a slave. What happened? The guy’s wife began making eye babies at him and eventually lied about Joseph making a pass at her. And our guy Joe, who had done no wrong, had to exchange slavery for imprisonment.
Fast-forward to Joseph’s life in prison. Eventually even his jailers saw his integrity and rewarded him with elevated status, though he remained imprisoned. By and by, he did a couple of fellow prisoners a solid by interpreting their dreams and all he asked in return was to be remembered when they left the slammer. What happened? Absolutely nothing. He was forgotten.
Time passes. Cue Egypt’s #1 being plagued by dreams even his most trusted advisors couldn’t interpret. What to do? Only then did Joseph’s cup-bearing friend finally have a light bulb moment and remember the one whom he so quickly forgot.
The skinny of it is this.
Joseph so impressed the Pharaoh that he was released, elevated to 2nd in the land and basically not only saved all of Egypt from the ensuing famine, but “as fate would have it,” also his own family.
Speaking of which, those brothers who so altered Joseph’s pleasant life all those years ago – the brothers responsible for his slavery, the brothers whose actions led to his imprisonment – yeah, they showed up on his doorstep in need of a favor. They were starving because of the famine and needed help. They didn’t recognize their brother, but their brother sure did recognize them. And the emotion of all of his years of slavery and imprisonment seemed to wash over him when he stood face-to-face with them. He wasn’t sure what he felt toward his brothers and continued to struggle with his emotional reaction to them after so many years after their hurting him until he realized
“…it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Gen. 45:8
It seems at that very moment the Tetris pieces fell into place in Joseph’s heart. He realized that it wasn’t his brothers after all who had sent him to Egypt so many years earlier when they exchanged his freedom for slavery, pocketing the coins. In His sovereignty, God had orchestrated it all
“…for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life!” Gen. 45:5
Joseph wasn’t delivered from the prison of his own bitterness until he realized every event, every wrong done toward him was a part of his sovereign God’s plan for him. And God’s plan was bigger than Joseph’s feelings or comfort level or preference in the matter. When he shifted his perspective from horizontal to vertical – when he quit glancing to and fro at the hurt inflicted upon him by his brothers and instead focused his gaze on God – that was the moment he was truly set free.
“The Messiah has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. So keep on standing firm in it, and stop putting yourselves under the yoke of slavery again.” Gal. 5:1
Are you in a prison of your own bitterness toward someone who has hurt you? Perhaps a family member, coworker, neighbor or longtime friend has wounded you? What do you feel the Lord saying to you today in light of Joseph’s life?
I’m embracing feedback this year, so please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent. I want to hear from you!
I wonder how often I blunder God’s plans and He graciously intervenes. I imagine its way more than I would think – and I think it would be a lot.
I’m “feeling” Abraham this morning (Genesis 20). Maybe a little too easily. Abraham got off on a technicality. Technically speaking, Sarah was Abraham’s sister. They had the same father, but different mothers (Gen. 20:12). He didn’t lie. He technically told the truth. He just didn’t tell the truth in it’s entirety.
And because he skirted the whole truth, it almost cost someone else their life. Wait, not just someone, but a LOT of someones. That’s because…
Sin always comes at a price.
Abraham spoke a half-truth hastily out of fear (Gen. 20:11) and the consequences of that sin would have cost others the ultimate price, except…
God is a God of Grace.
On the other side of the equation was Abimelech and his people. We’re not told much about them other than Abraham didn’t see a fear of God in his land. In today’s culture, people are quick to point out God’s justice (or His perceived injustice) when sin comes to collect. I fall prey to that head-scratching theology sometimes myself. But here, in the first book of the Bible, only 20 chapters in, we see God protecting – not just His children (Abraham, Sarah), but those caught in the crosshairs of His children’s sin (Abimelech, his people).
Some Points to Ponder
What role does the nature of “technicalities” play in our own lives when it comes to speaking the truth (the whole truth)? Do you see any possible consequences (to ourselves? to others?) when we let ourselves off on technicalities?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m embracing feedback in 2018, so please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent.
In humanity’s infancy, sin had already made it’s mark. While still in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knowingly disobeyed. Outside of the Garden of Eden, the first generation of offspring chose to deal with anger by murdering. By the time Adam’s and Eve’s redemption baby was born (Seth), “people began calling out the name of Yahweh.” (Genesis 4:26) Things were desperate. And that was all within the first 130 years of existence!
Tucked neatly in the middle of this passage is this little nugget:
“…if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7b HCSB
What a picturesque glimpse of the destructive tactics of this “thing” that plagues us all – sin. Other translations paint an even more vivid portrait of our nemesis, so much so that you can see in your mind’s eye a lion ready to go in for the kill –
NLT – “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be it’s master.”
International Standard Version – “Sin is crouching near your doorway, turning toward you. Now as for you, will you take dominion over it?”
G0d’s Word Translation – “Sin is lying outside your door ready to attack. It wants to control you, but you must master it.”
Apply: So, what am I to do to prevent sin’s death pounce? If sin is crouching at my door, I can choose to close the door. I can choose not to let it cross the threshold. How?
I can take every thought captive. Don’t let any go astray or they will wander to the door and let sin come in and devour me. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
I can overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
I can choose not to pay back evil for evil. (Romans 12:17)
I can leave judgment/vengeance to God. (Romans 12:19)
I can choose to love my enemies and do good. (Luke 6:35)
I can bless those who curse me; pray for those who mistreat me. (Luke 6:27-28)
The bottom line is that our salvation is found only in Jesus. He is the overcomer (I John 4:4, I John 5:5). It is through His power alone that we can become overcomers, too.
Ponder: Sin is crouching near your doorway, turning toward you. Now as for you, will you take dominion over it? (ISV-Gen. 4:7b)
More: I found Patheos an excellent resource for practical tips that I can implement immediately in overcoming sin here.
I’d love to read your feedback – the good, the bad, the indifferent. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
I invited a couple of friends to read through God’s Word with me this year. I’ve read through the Bible many times since my Bible College days, but never with anyone. It’s always been a solo endeavor. I read. I ponder. I journal what I ponder. Sometimes those ponderings make their way into a short devotional. Oftentimes they do not. Because I’m kind of a lone ranger when it comes to my relationship with God.
Not this year.
This year I’ve purposed to travel through the pages of Scripture in community. This year I have two sojourners to travel alongside me in this adventure. This year I invited two fellow Rangers along for the ride. This year instead of being a Lone Ranger, I’m one of the Three Amigos.
Why am I sharing this? Because after taking a year off from writing online, I’ve decided to get back in the saddle and I invite you to ride alongside me through 2018.
Join me in reading through the Bible this year – at your own pace or following the daily app I’m using. (Ask me how to join you to my group in the comments and we can get you set up the same day.)
Comment. This year I’m embracing feedback, so please…share yours in the comments!
I look forward to growing with you this year, sister. Let’s do this thing!
Simon and I started a new tradition last year – a lunch date at our beloved Big Shucks discussing the past year and framing up the new year. Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for your excellent freebies to help us focus our goals in such a measurable way! (If you’ve never done this before, we highly recommend it.)
This lunch date was an integral part of living life purposefully this past year and I’m looking forward with eager anticipation to what 2017 will bring because of it. I do plan to continue blogging here, but during the course of “framing” 2017, I decided that I needed to spend more time writing offline than online this year. Blogging takes a lot of time and while I enjoyed blogging last year immensely, my focus has shifted for 2017.
The days leading up to our date I felt the Lord prompting me to go deeper with Him this year, to take a topic I am woefully unlearned in and saturate myself with what His Word says about it during the course of the entire year. In 2017, I’m going to sink my teeth into the reality of WHO I AM IN CHRIST and I look forward to sharing what the Lord shows me from time-to-time by blogging about it. My blogging will look sporadic compared to last year’s more regularly shared devotionals & Summer Bible Study, but I hope each post will help you to see just who YOU are in Christ in a clearer, sharper way, too.
As the accuser, the enemy of my soul is continually at work chipping away at my identity in Christ. He accuses me of how I never change; how wretched I am; how far I fall short…and he is right – I am and I do!
My performance, however, doesn’t make God’s Word about me, His love for me or what He has done on my behalf more or less powerful. It isn’t based on ME – my ability to live up to a standard, to do “this or that,” to achieve a certain level of performance or perfection. He came to seek and to save the lost! And I qualify!
We live in a “PC” world. Oftener and oftener the Christian’s worldview is shushed in deference to the agenda of the moment. My husband and I were talking just this week about the big divide we’ve seen this holiday season. Currently there is a media-driven rebellion against wishing someone a “Merry Christmas,” even though the malls are packed with Christmas shoppers and Amazon is busily delivering packages in time for Christmas morning. “Happy Holidays” is the new trend and to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” is unbelievably considered offensive.
The thing is, what is considered “PC” is ever-changing. It’s tough to keep your finger on the popular pulse at any given moment these days. I think that’s why the response of both the angels and the shepherds of the nativity stand out to me so much this year in particular –
Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” vv 13-14
the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. v 20
These last few days of the season, I want to challenge myself to live expressively in light of Emmanuel (“God with us”), the One for whom Christmas was named. I want to live uncensored in my praise of Him. I want my words and actions to express my beliefs. Like the angels and shepherds, I want glorify Him in an expressive way, that those around me may know the reason for the season by what I say and do.
On that note, I wish each of you a heartfelt Merry Christmas!
I have collected nativities since 1990. I like to have them in every room in the house during December as a constant reminder of what I’m celebrating during this season. With holiday shopping, parties, decking the halls, filling shoeboxes, providing for angels, and just plain making memories with my minions, I can too quickly forget to focus on the birthday boy Himself. Maybe you can relate?
Several years ago I noticed that my mother-in-law, who has a beautiful collection of nativities herself, had one display of just the Magi. Just three wise men, all facing the same direction, all carrying different gifts, all quietly traveling toward something they couldn’t yet see.
I’ve thought about that partial nativity many times since first seeing it. The fact that the original Magi were attentive, that they weren’t casual observers of the world around them, but active and engaged, that they were looking for something when they “happened to notice” the star in the east. And the fact that they were expectant. They believed the Scriptures and combined with their knowledge of geography, astronomy and perhaps some other sciences, recognized the significance of the star’s appearance for what it was!
During this third week in December, in the midst of looking for deals or hunting down the “perfect” gift, ponder what it is you are looking for. What are you expecting this season?
Father, This time of year is so busy, so full of activity, to-do lists, parties, shopping, and stuff. Please, help me this holiday season to live in a more expectant way, with a heart attentive to You.