A Scandalous Generosity

Vineyard

“Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain

Jesus lived during a time of oppressive, exclusionary religion where everyone was comparing and judging their spirituality to one another.

He once told a scandalous, controversial story where a landowner went out early to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to hire them for a fair, daily wage.

During the day, at 9am, noon, 3pm and then again at 5pm, he continued to hire people to work in the vineyard.

That evening the landowner told the foreman to call in the workers and he paid all the workers, no matter what time they started, the same fair, full day’s pay.

When the ones who worked all day saw that everyone received equal pay, they protested and complained “Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”

The landowner answered them, “Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage?  Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.” 

He continued, “Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

The landowner in this story represented God.

This story REMINDS ME that it’s never good to compare God’s generosity with our generosity.

This parable was told by other rabbi’s of Jesus’ day, but those who arrived at the very end earned a whole days pay because they worked extra hard.

In Jesus’ version, however, the emphasis is not on the diligence of the workers but on the gratuitous generosity of the farmer.

IT WAS A MAD, CRAZY, insane act of generosity.

Today, we are offended by the overpayment of loafers and freeloaders. The other workers certainly were.

The workers complained and this was the response of the landowner: “It’s my money, it’s none of your business what I do with my generosity!”

2000 years later, this world is still scandalized and skeptical of God’s generosity.

Yet…

The parables of Jesus reveal a God who is consistently overgenerous with His forgiveness and grace.

He portrays God as a lender canceling a debt, as a shepherd searching for a stray sheep, as a father forgiving his rebellious son.

In this parable, Jesus is loudly proclaiming!! “Salvation does not come from you working harder than someone else, it comes from my unconditional, crazy, irrational GENEROSITY.”

Henry Nouwen gave up his life of comfort to work with severely mentally challenged kids, in a home in Toronto, Canada. He writes, “When you work at this home, you see people who have no worth in our productive society. They don’t do anything. They are just there. Yet you never doubt that God loves them. The handicapped make us realize our handicaps. They strip off the masks we wear, the roles we play that give us a sense of earning our position with God and others. They challenge us to let go of everything we think we have earned all our lives, and open ourselves up to the mystery of the gracious, unconditional love of God.”

This story also REMINDS ME that it’s never good to compare your life to others.

The workers who worked all day, got everything they were promised but lost their joy when they compared their lives to those who seemingly were getting a better deal.

Have you ever compared? We all do it.

When I was in Jr. High, I had a friend who could grow full fledged beard. I still can’t grow one. I was so jealous.

When I was a kid, my favorite cereal was Lucky Charms. When I would go to my friend’s house they would have Lucky Charms in their cupboards. At my house, we bought generic cereal to save money, so we had generic Lucky Charms, which made me envy my friend. It also made me embarrassed to have him over for cereal. Even worse, the generic Lucky Charms were called “Marshmellow Maties” which was horrible for a 6th grade boy.

You can tell I had a rough childhood!!

You get the point though. How quickly we compare and lose our joy.

It gets worse as adults. We compare our looks, careers, titles, degrees, houses, money, kids, grandkids, even retirement plans.

Lailah Gifty Akita writes that “You will be bitter in life, when you compare yourself with others. Run the race of life at your own pace.”

The writer of Proverbs writes that, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Ultimately, comparing yourself to others dishonors God, because you are one of a kind. When we are trying to be like other people, we are telling God that he made a mistake.

We are all unique, and this broken world needs all of our uniqueness’ to do the will of God.

In fact, you and I only have enough time in our lives to do the will of God and comparing takes that time away.

Constance Chuks Friday stated, “Stop worrying about who’s doing better than you or not. Be better every new day than your previous day” 

Ultimately, this story REMINDS ME that it is never good to compare your good works for earning salvation.

The good news is, salvation is none of our business. Salvation is Jesus’ business!

The Apostle Paul wrote that when we accept what Christ did on the cross for our salvation, then we are adopted into God’s family and we can now call God our Daddy. (Abba Father)

Accepting the gift of the generous landowner gives us equal access to the family of the cross. Whether we joined the family early or late in life, we are now part of an eternal family and families operate differently than organizations, corporations or religion.

Robert DeMoor writes about how the parable of the vineyard workers offends our sense of fairness. Why should everyone get equal pay for unequal work?

“Back in Ontario, Canada when the apples ripened, Mom would sit all seven of us down, Dad included, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars.

 

She never bothered keeping track of how many we did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan, apple core fights.

 

But when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy.

 

A stickler might argue it wasn’t quite fair since the older ones actually peeled apples. But I can’t remember anyone complaining about it.

 

A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom.

 

In fact, when the store ran out of ice cream and my younger brother had to make do with a pop-sicle, we felt sorry for him despite his lack of productivity (he’d eaten all the apples he’d peeled that day–both of them).

 

God wants all his children to enjoy the complete fullness of eternal life. No true child of God wants it any other way.”

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

DAILY PRACTICES:

Don’t compare yourself to others

Live in the security of being a part of God’s family

Live in a spirit of gratitude because we serve such a generous LANDOWNER!

Take two minutes to watch this video. You will laugh, but it’s so profound.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg

Don’t quit, keep going!

Quit

“Don’t quit, keep going!” It’s easy to say

But words fall flat, at the end of the day

“Don’t quit, keep going!”, an interesting theory

While trials, troubles, tragedies keep my life dreary

“Don’t quit, keep going!”, love to finish my race

I’m tired and sad, but another day I must face

“Don’t quit, keep going!” The preacher extols

My pain and discouragement have taken its toll

“Why don’t you quit”, my friends say, “Why don’t you give up.”

You must have sinned, you must have messed up.

“Why don’t you quit”, my friends say, “Why try.”

They tell me “Life’s unfair, curse God and die!”

But then I look at people who have endured so much

They inspire me to keep going, with their compassionate touch

They cry real tears, their joy deep and real

They don’t allow the “why’s” to ruin the deal

They allow their hearts to break, not putting on an act

Jesus said, in this world they’ll be sorrow, it’s a fact

Life’s fragile, on our own we’re easily broken

But he also said that trials won’t be the last word spoken

We must remember the words that Jesus said

He has overcome the world, we’re just not there yet

We must remember the cross, he endured the shame,

Because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering.

Consider it all joy, I’m not there yet

But I’ve made up my mind, I’m not going to quit

It’s one day at a time, guarding my heart from dissolution

Finding strength from others, and making God my foundation

So remember Paul’s words, “Don’t get weary in doing right.”

Joy comes in the morning, for those who endure the night.

The promise of Jesus, “He’s preparing a beautiful place”

Where disease is gone, tears dried up and our pain erased.

The Potential of Regrets

regrets2

Regrets are everywhere, I’m overwhelmed with shame
Guilt rules my world, it’s a hard emotion to tame
I bury it deep, wanting it to go away
I hide it discretely, looking for a new day

Regrets are everywhere, I’m overwhelmed with shame
It’s weakening my bones, it’s rendering me lame
I say it’s no big deal, I minimize the pain
I compromise my values, deepening the stain

Regrets are everywhere, I’m overwhelmed with shame
No peace, no rest, finding someone to blame
I’m guilty as charged, a warrant I serve
A life time of punishment, it’s the least I deserve

My heart is broken, peace a distant thought
I medicate my emotions, my relationships are shot
I need a new life, I need a new chance
Seems it’s not possible, at least at first glance

But I’m learning about a gift, that can’t be bought
It’s a gift, I must receive, on Calvary’s hill it was fought
He took my sin, my debilitating mistakes
Wiped them clean, giving life a new take

Regrets are everywhere, I’m overwhelmed with shame
Christ came quietly, humbly, avoiding the fame
He came to take my transgressions, red as crimson
Making them white as snow, freeing me from prison

Regrets are everywhere, But there is no shame
I’m allowing Christ, his blood, to cover my blame
He came to give life, to set captives free
All we have to do is admit, accept and agree

The Most Dangerous Word

Nicodemus

Many times to better understand something, it is helpful to learn what the opposite of that something is.

I’m a student and proponent of Grace. But Grace can be a squishy word. So I would like to talk about the opposite of Grace, which is LEGALISM.

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian writes “Legalism says God will love us if we change. Grace says God will change us because He loves us.”

Nicodemus was a legalist. He was a Pharisee.

Max Lucado writes “It’s a fact of the farm. The most fertile ground remains barren if no seed is sown.”

This defines legalism. Legalism is obsessed about soil preparation but totally misses the point of the seed. This is how legalism thinks. Faith is an outside work. How you speak, act, pray, the image you portray.

If Nicodemus would have been a farmer, he would of had a degree from the University of Farming in cutting edge soil preparation techniques.

The Pharisees were really good at making the soil look good but they had one problem, (How many of you would love to have one problem? But it was a big problem) they produced very little fruit.

Nicodemus, was tired of his fruitless, shallow, look good on the outside life, so he is drawn to Jesus. He sees the fruit, passion, love and humility of Jesus. He sees Jesus breaking the rules so he can touch the untouchable and love the sinner that the religious leaders had shunned.

Nicodemus’ spiritual life has become a charade and it’s shrinking his soul, so the Gospel of John says that he came to Jesus at night. He’s drawn to Jesus, but he has a reputation to uphold, so he sneaks out to see Jesus at night.

Which is very symbolic of legalism. Legalism offers no light.

Legalism robs your freedom. It sets your standards so high that it leaves you paralyzed.

Legalism damages relationships. Nobody wants to spend time around people who feel they are spiritually superior to everyone else. The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes. Nagging about them parts the best of friends.”

Legalism puts rules in front of people. I recently met a couple who were teaching a high school Sunday School class and they took some high school students to an elderly widows home to paint, clean and bring her a meal. The youth were reprimanded and the couple asked to leave the church because they happened to do these biblically good deeds on the Sabbath. The rule was more important than the person.

Legalism ultimately destroys your joy. Because there is always a gap between what you want to be and what you want others to think you are and who you really are! The gap destroys your joy.

And here is Nicodemus, he has no freedom, all his friends are legalists, he is putting rules ahead of people and his joy is gone, so he comes to Jesus.

In the dark of the night, Jesus tells him, “Nicodemus, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God (No one can be good enough, no one can have flourishing relationships, no one can love people the way I love them, no one can experience a joy that is indestructible and liberating, no one can have eternal life) unless he is born again.”

Jesus gets right to the point “Nick your problem is legalism. Your soil looks good, but you have no seed.”

This meeting in the dark is a meeting between two opposing views on salvation.

All the world’s religions can be placed in one of two camps: LEGALISM or GRACE.

Either man saves himself or God saves him.

Legalism is a dark world. Fear (Have I done enough?) Arrogance (I have done enough!) Failure (I’ve made too many mistakes.)

Jesus goes on to tell him, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit give birth to spirit.”

Jesus says that salvation doesn’t come from church attendance, a certain set of rules or perfect theology.  

Jesus tells Nicodemus that Salvation is God’s business, Grace is his idea and it is at His expense.

In the dark of the night, Jesus looks at Nicodemus and shares these revolutionary words, “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (And you thought the guy with the rainbow, curly wig who sat in the endzone of NFL football games holding a sign of John 3:16 made this saying up, but this comes from the very mouth of Jesus.)

Nicodemus, the legalist, had had a lot of conversations about salvation. But not like this. This was the first time no rules, systems or secret decoder rings were needed.

“Everyone who believes can have eternal life!” Not “Everyone who achieves or succeeds or agrees.”

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

When Nicodemus heard those words, his life was changed forever!

GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

It gets you off the perfectionism treadmill, because as the Psalmist wrote “Nothing is perfect except God’s word.” I hate treadmills, because you run and run and run and you sweat, you get beaten down and tired and when you are done, you are standing in the exact same place you started. That’s legalism!

Plus, trying to be perfect is not only tiring, it’s narcissistic. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian goes on to say, “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.”

Pretending to be perfect is also hypocritical. The Greeks used to call actors, hypocrites, because an actor is someone who pretends to be someone or something he or she really is not. This is the same word Jesus called the Pharisees.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Your soul is tired and worn out because you have been on this perfectionism treadmill. Jump off, because salvation comes from me, not from your works. My Grace is available.”

Grace changed Nicodemus. How do I know?

A while later, Jesus was killed on the cross, by the legalists, and the disciples were scattering like cockroaches when the lights go on, but a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross and John 19 records that: “Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, came too…” and he brought embalming ointment and he helped lay Jesus in the tomb.

Nicodemus, the one who came quietly, fearfully, secretly at night now comes boldly, courageously and confidently in the day.

Grace has liberated him!

Nicodemus had received the seed of Grace and now plants the seed of salvation, Jesus into the tomb and 2 day later that seed burst forth and defeated death once and for all!

Legalism Kills.

Grace liberates and brings forth life!

Our world is being destroyed by legalism.

Grace is our only hope.

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

I pray you get off the perfectionism treadmill and receive grace!

You don’t have to pretend anymore!

You are loved and accepted.

 

A Leader’s Lament

motherteresatogether

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

A Tribute and Poem: Robin Williams

robinwilliams

There is laughter on the outside, sadness on the inside

Searching for some kind of peace, but chaos you can’t hide

They exploit your talent, while demons haunt your mind

Your smile is mesmerizing, your blue eyes intensely kind

 

Success is deceiving, never delivering its promise

World takes you for granted, while taking your profits

Your intellect, underrated, your brilliance, infectious

Your joy, grace and kindness were unarguably contagious

 

The world will miss you, so much heartache, much need for humor

With hatred and revenge all around, we will miss your candor

If the wise man said, “Laughter is good medicine”

Then you were one of the greatest physicians

 

Everyone searches for approval, but it’s only a show

The higher the high, the lower the low

We must appreciate the gifts of people that God has given

While making sure we don’t ignore them, seeing their burden

 

Actors used to be called hypocrites, because they would pretend

They created an alter ego that they’d creatively invent

Look at are own lives, much made-up, knowing how to play

People see one thing, while reality is so far away

 

Known as the king jester, yet your absurdity was filled with fact

Such sincerity, so many characters, miraculous ability to act

You spoke the truth, “No matter what people tell you and reveal,

words and ideas can change the world.”

 

Rest in peace Robin Williams and God bless your soul!

The Crossroad of Gratitude – A Poem

DaddyLarissa

#bestdaughterever 

I am thankful for today, it’s a gift not deserved
It allows me the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I am thankful for the pain that I try hard to avoid
It draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void
I am thankful for my tears that sting my blood shot eyes
They bring healing to my hurt and expose the lies

I am thankful that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
I am thankful for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
It keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for the journey, life’s ups and downs
Living fully in the moment,  possibilities have no bounds
I am thankful for friends, who put up with my foolish ways
“He is a stubborn mule, but we love him anyways!”

I am thankful for the beauty, that never goes away
Looking at her smile, that is offered every day
I am thankful for her brown hair, brunette I’m told
It was that way from the beginning, it never gets old

I am thankful for two gifts, their eyes deep vivid blue
They have grown up wisely, I am enjoying the view
I am thankful for their passionate, selfless hearts
Their maturity comes from the side of their mother’s parts

I am thankful for the two who brought me into this world
They allowed me to dream, to make my life unfurled
I am thankful when they would say, “Follow your passions”
It has brought me to difficult places full of God’s fashion

I am thankful for my creator, who wonderfully made me
He makes me walk boldly with a sense of great responsibility
I am thankful for his patience, his utter sense of waiting
For me to grow up, get on board and become consenting

I am thankful for children, showing hope for tomorrow
They teach me to trust, play, love, laugh and marvel
I am thankful for children, who have no limitations
They teach me to dream, to ask, and not to question

I am thankful for forgiveness, a gift offered freely
Makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am thankful for the Sacrifice willing to be punished
My life is based on Him saying, “It is Finished!”