Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Not Fair!

In Matthew 20: 1-16 we find the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. A landowner hires men early in the morning to come work in his vineyard.  In three-hour intervals, he goes on to hire four more groups of men to add to his workforce. At the end of the day, he pays each of them a full day’s wage, starting with the men who had only been there an hour.  The guys who started out at the break of dawn and toiled in the heat of the day were outraged that others who came to work much later were getting the exact same pay.  The landowner replied that they agreed to work for the wages he offered, and besides, isn’t it his right to be as generous as he wants with his money?

Matthew 20:16
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Things to think about:
·       Does it seem to you that the first workers were treated unfairly?
o   In our economy, we get generally paid on the basis of hours worked or based on our production
·      This employer found all of these men unemployed
o   He reached out to them and offered them a job
o   What were you doing when God found you?
o   Why was His deal better than the one you had?
·      In a spiritual sense, the angry workers represent our tendency to look to works-based theology
o   Why is this bad thing happening to me? Look how long I have served You Lord!  Look at all of the good deeds I’ve done!  It’s not fair!
o   Does this thought process ever creep into your thinking?
o   What is the major flaw with thinking that God owes us anything?
o   Job 41:11 - “Who has given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
o   Luke 17:10 – “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

·      Let’s look at a few things that REALLY aren’t fair
o   Creator of everything and everyone was unrecognized and unappreciated
§  John 1: 9-10 “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
o   Perfect Son of God became sin for you
§  2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made Him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

o   Jesus abused and mocked
§  Matthew 26:67-68 “Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”’
o   Jesus was betrayed by His friends
§  Judas handing Jesus over to the authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane
§  Peter in Matthew 26:74 “Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
o   Jesus dying on the cross for you
§  Philippians 2:8 “Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
o   That we should be justified through no merit of our own
§  Romans 4:25 – “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
·      In God’s economy, the first shall be last and the last shall be first
o   Is that a fair system? Thanks be to God that it’s not fair (as men consider fairness)!
§  James 2:13b say “Mercy triumphs over justice”
o   How does this understanding of God’s upside down economy help you reconsider things in your life that may seem “unfair”?
o   How can you pass this “unfairness” on to those in your sphere of influence?
§  forgiveness
§  generosity

§  encouragement

Monday, May 15, 2017

Through the Roof

This week I’d like to repurpose an article I wrote about career transition to use as our discussion topic.  Finding oneself between jobs can feel particularly lonely for many people. There is a real ministry opportunity here for us to take part in, whether you are the job seeker or not. One of the most common complaints about the modern job search is that by the time you hear about an opening on LinkedIn,, or through a recruiter, there are many other people vying for the same opportunity. At that point, it’s impossible to cut through the noise of every other applicant. The process is crowded and there is a good chance you will never get to the decisonmaker.
In the Mark 2:1-5 we find a passage that still apply to us in the 21st century, even for those who find themselves in career transition. In this story, we read about a paralyzed man who learns that Jesus is helping and healing many people. Like the other folks desperate for a change in their circumstances, the man wants to go and be cured of his condition. But there are a couple of challenges he faces: he’s paralyzed so getting there is a major challenge, plus there are massive crowds seeking the same thing. The good news is that he has several friends willing to carry him on a stretcher to get to the house where help can be found. Once they get him there though, the place is so jammed full of people there is no way they are going to get to see Jesus. Not giving into the futility of the occasion, they call upon their persistence and creativity.  They hatch a plan to raise their friend up to the roof and then dig a hole big enough to lower him down to get face-to-face with the Decisionmaker. When He sees the extraordinary effort they made to get to Him, Jesus immediately puts our hero back on his feet and remarks that He hasn’t met anyone else like this.
Things to think about:
  • Don’t give up! Your situation isn’t hopeless. There is a way to get what you need; you must keep working at it until you find it.
    • if you are currently in transition, does your situation feel hopeless?
    • If you have been through the job search process previously, can you empathize with someone experiencing a lack of optimism?
    • Why is perseverance so important?
  • Community. This man had a network he could call on in his time of need. His friends were so devoted to him they would do whatever they could to get him the help he required.
    • You can’t make withdrawals from accounts where you haven’t made deposits!
    • How does busyness steal time for relationship building?
      • if you made time for just one meeting per week (in person or over the phone), you would have developed and/or cultivated 50 friendships in a year!
    • If you had to find three or four friends to carry your mat, do you know who you could count on?
    • How does living in community with others exemplify Christ-likeness?
  • Be creative, try an unconventional approach. Even though there may be a flood of applicants, you can find ways to distinguish yourself. If you are just doing what everyone else is doing, you will get lost in the crowd. Find a way to get yourself in front of the hiring manager.
    • What is one approach you have tried (or would recommend someone tries) to be creative in a job search?
    • How do prayer and faith enable us to be bolder than we might be otherwise?
    • What are the risks to doing something different than the crowd?
      • If prayer is the act of speaking directly to the Creator of the Universe (I dare you to find a more intimidating title than that!), what could possibly hold us back from reaching out to a mere mortal?
  • Decisionmakers are looking for creative problem solvers.  The approach you take in getting to them says volumes about how you will be once you get the job.

Moral of the story: Our friend got what he was looking for and so can you.  A can-do attitude, combined with a network of support and lots of imagination, will help you go from paralyzed to mobilized to energized.  If you are currently in transition, be encouraged.  If you aren’t in transition then you know someone who is. In either event, let’s use the occasion to encourage, build relationships, and take a step of faith. Let’s cut a hole in the roof of unbelief and let the light of the Son warm us and heal us.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Fire and anger seem to go hand in hand.  We have many expressions that we use in everyday language that illustrate this (burning with anger, the heat of the moment, a hot temper). We’ll explore what starts this fire, why it’s incompatible with worship, and how to extinguish the flames. Let’s use the model every school-aged child knows: Stop what you’re doing, Drop your anger, and Roll back to worship once you’ve been reconciled.

Matthew 5:23-24
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

Things to think about:
·      The prior verses that set the context here discuss anger is the moral equivalent of murder (and subject to the same judgment).
·      FIRE - It’s interesting that there are three kinds of love (eros, phileo, agape) and there are three kinds of anger that are sinful. Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, does a great job exploring these:
o   The word for anger used in the original text is eike and it connotes anger without cause, without any good effect, without moderation
§  without cause – whatever has provoked us was unintentional on the other person’s part
§  without any good effect – no great principle has been violated, we just want to be right
§  without moderation – when anger is a five alarm fire and becomes rage
o   Do any of these feel familiar?
o   Do you have particular triggers that light your fuse?
·      STOP - Jesus says that if we are angry with a brother or a sister and come to Him offering a gift, we should Stop right there.
o   Why do you think the attitude of the giver and the acceptability of the gift are inextricably bound together?
o   Why does timing matter? Ephesians 4:26-27, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
o   God cannot be deceived by our attitudes because He sees our hearts.  We cannot curse and bless at the same time.  James 3: 9-10 says, With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

·      DROP – we are to put our gift, our anger, and our pride down immediately
o   What are gift types that this principle might apply to?
§  Is this only reserved for church-specific giving like tithing?
§  What about things like praise, worship?
o   We can easily deceive ourselves and separate the two events as though they are completely unrelated.
§  God wants reconciliation, not rationalization
o   Once we have dropped our gift, we need to go make it right
o   Romans 12:18 - If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone
§  key phrase -  “as far as it depends on you”.  Not everyone will want (or may be ready) to be reconciled
§  is there a situation you are currently involved in where you need to approach someone you are angry with?
§  What is standing in your way?
§  What is the downside of holding on to your position?
§  What is the upside of doing it God’s way?
·      ROLL – with the fire now extinguished, we are now in a place spiritually to roll on back to the altar and offer our gifts with a clean heart
o   Why are gifts offered with a clean heart of greater value to God?
o   Why does God esteem reconciliation so highly?
o   2 Corinthians 5 18-21 –  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
§  is there a situation you are currently involved in where you need to be reconciled with someone you are angry with?
§  What is standing in your way?
§  What is the downside of holding on to your position?
§  What is the upside of doing it God’s way?
·      Let’s commit to Stop, Drop, and Roll today and douse the fires of anger with Living Water!