Punch out, it’s quitting time

Quitting time. My favorite time of day. Packing up my gear, putting away the tools. Cleaning up and setting up for tomorrow. It’s a great time of day. What if you walked onto the job at quitting time and still got paid for the whole day?

Bonus!

That’s what happened in Jesus’ story in Matthew 20.

“20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”’

Some of us are reaching quitting time, not just of a job or a career but of life. It is the eleventh hour. The sun is setting. What does God want from us? What will God do for us?

Jesus died to pay for our sins. All of them. Whether it’s the grocery sack full of the at age 16 or 26 or a cargo ship full at 56 or 66 or 76. The age doesn’t matter and the amount doesn’t matter. Jesus died to pay for our sins. You only have to ask. Forgiveness is for all at any age, even at the eleventh hour.

God wants his kids to come home. Will you accept his gift of salvation today?

Seeing it

See it

One of my daughters is potty training her son.

He wouldn’t lie still to get his diaper changed this was problematic for his mom. One day He wanted to see the poop his mom has to clean up, then he said “ooh yuck!” And now he will lie still while mom is cleaning him up.

I deal with messes in my own life. Some of it is like the childhood potty training ritual where I make a mistake and the wriggle around and make the mess bigger before I let God clean it up. Sometimes we need to see the poop to appreciate the grace of God in his cleansing it all away. I wonder if God would let me see how my own sin dirties up the rest of my life, if it would be easier to lay down, relax and let God clean me up. And hopefully it might also propel me to maturity and righteous living (pooping in the pot instead of my pants, spiritually speaking).

The Christian life is a journey, it a relationship, it is a maturing process. I have to grow, and I should grow up. (I hate the word should. I also hate the word shame.) I instead of should grow up I’m going to say can grow up.

Jesus talked about the Christian life as a new birth.

“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”’

John 3:1-8 –

The Holy Spirit brings about new life in my heart when I become a believer and follower of Jesus. I am now a baby believer. I began this process many years ago. It is not linear, not a straight line. There are peaks and valleys, times of growth and times of stagnation.

I want to grow up as a believer. I want to quit making messes that make me dirty. I am wondering if I asked God to “see it” if he would show me my “little” secret sins and how nasty they really are and how they poison my life and family and prolong the maturing process. I hesitate to ask because I’m not sure I can handle the truth of how my indulgences have hurt those around me. I will pause this thought.

The verses I quoted earlier are from a familiar place in the Bible. In case you don’t know how God feels about you and what Jesus came to do for us I’ll end this with those verses.

““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:16-17 –

God loves us, even in our poopy messiness. And he wants to clean us and help us grow up.

Does He have access to my kitchen?

It’s about the heart. Or the kitchen.

Our external actions don’t always expose where our heart, our beliefs and motives and longings our true feelings are. We can mask where we really are, what we really are.

Jesus exposes one mans heart in a very gentle and loving way in Matthew 19.

“16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Would we eat at a restaurant that stored poison next to food prep areas? If you didn’t know about it you might. The front of the restaurant may be clean and inviting, the service excellent, the prices good, the food very tasty but the buying public doesn’t see the kitchen.

God sees our kitchen. We may never kill anyone but we have a long list of people that we hate. We have already murdered them in our heart.

We may never commit adultery but we cherish our fantasies, we have done the deed in our heart.

The front of the restaurant doesn’t determine the safety of the food. It’s in the kitchen. The public part of our life, no matter how squeaky clean it is can still be hiding a very dirty and perverse and dangerously poisonous heart.

God sees into our “kitchen”. God sees our heart. AND he loves us anyway.

In Romans Paul tells us this about God’s heart for us:

“6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And later in Romans he says this:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus loves us. Even me. Have you seen my kitchen? Sometimes it’s a mess, (not my literal kitchen, it’s very clean) but the kitchen of my soul. Yet Jesus loves me. Jesus loves even me, even you.

Today will you ask him to forgive your mess and take you into his family? I did.

My father in the mirror

I saw him, my dad, yesterday as I was shaving. I didn’t literally see him but I saw him in me. I had to tip my head back so i could use my bifocals to see what I was shaving. We don’t look a lot alike but he is in me.

It’s weird when I see that, see him in me. Sometimes It is unsettling.

We didn’t get along. I held a grudge against him for the way he treated my mom. He was not always kind. Sometimes he could be very cruel. He never repented. Not to me anyway.

My sister shared a letter that he had written to my mom when he thought he was dying. He was very apologetic and loving. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be his judge. Maybe?

I wasted many years in estrangement. He got sick and life changed for all of us. Then my mom died. Then he died.

He was a hero doing many heroic things for many different people. He was a friend and a guide to many lost boys who had no fathers. He was a hard working man. He was a good man in many respects.

I am not filled with regret, but I do have many regrets.

Dad, sorry for my part of the estrangement. I love you and I miss you.

A vision of heaven

I just had a vision of heaven. It was just a flash. I will try to describe what I saw.

There was a glorious walled city. Gleaming white. There was only one way into the city. There were two lines of people approaching the city. One group was allowed into the city. The others were walked off into darkness.

The line of people that were let in were all wearing the same thing, a beautiful crimson red robe.

I recognized some in this line. They were notorious sinners. Then I looked at the other line line and saw some really good descent people. It confused me deeply.

I looked back to where the lines were forming. I could see that it was one line from deaths door, then it split. At the split I saw Jesus. As each person approached him he would gently ask them two questions, if they shook their heads no, he would sigh and point them towards the darkness. If they nodded their heads yes, he embraced them, kissed both cheeks, took off his robe and put it on their shoulders. Smiling he would say ” well done good and faithful servant, welcome home!” Then guide them towards heavens gate.

What were his questions?

Maybe it was Are good enough to be in heaven? That couldn’t be it, I saw some bad people in the line moving towards heaven. Was it how much did you give? That answer couldn’t be a yes or a no. Was it did you behave? Did you follow the rules? Did you keep the commandments?

I had to know so I went up closer to listen. Here is what he asked them.

“Do you know me?”

“Would you like my help?”

That was the vision.

Could it really be that simple? Is that all there is to getting into heaven?

The apostle Paul said this about that. “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Evidently it is that simple. It isn’t about the following the rules, but it’s about following a savior.

Do you know Jesus? Do you know this man who died on a cross and came back to life 3 days later? Have you heard that he loves you? Have you heard That he suffered and died so that our sins could be forgiven? Your mistakes and my mistakes? will you accept his help today?

We will all step through death’s door. What is on the other side? Will it be like the vision I had? Which line will you be in? It is your choice. Will you accept Jesus’ help then? How about starting today?

Stories from my childhood

Childish or childlike?

When I was little my grandparents had an old bathtub buried in their garden. It was a garden for water lilies. My brother told me to be very careful around it, there was no bottom. I believed him. I walked a wide circle around that white rimmed hole to the center of the earth.

I was told another story as a child. I was told about this man who did miracles. That he healed sick people, even raising some from the dead. He was killed by being nailed to cross. He was put into a grave carved out of rock and three days later he came back to life. He stayed here for a few more days with his friends and then he was taken up in the clouds where he said that he would build a house for me, and he would come back some day.

Kids believe the stories that they are told. They have child like faith.

Jesus talked about that in Matthew 19.

“13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

I think I was there the day they pulled up the old bathtub in grandmas garden. There was a bottom after all. That story wasn’t true.

As for the other story? No one can disprove. Many have tried. I still believe the whole thing. Even the part about him coming back someday.

I heard more of the story as I got older. I found out why he died. He died to pay for my sin, to pay for our sin. The sin that keeps us separated from God. He died because he loves us so much he would rather suffer and die than to be kept apart from us.

It’s been a long time since he left. We don’t know when he will come back. One thing is for certain, his return is closer now than ever. He is waiting for the last one who will believe in him to hear the story I was told and to believe it.

Are we telling the story? Some one needs to hear the story today. Will we tell them the story of Jesus?

#tellourjesusstory, #Matthew191315

Divorce

People are messy.

Life is a mud-puddle and we are the players in it.

Divorce is that painful institution that I haven’t experienced and don’t feel qualified to talk about. I can see that it hurts. I’m sorry for those who are forced to go through it.

Jesus talks about in Matthew 19. Let’s see what he said.

“19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”’

I heard it said that being married is like putting two pieces of tape together sticky side in. “The two will become one flesh.” Divorce is a process of pulling those pieces of tape apart. No body wins. Parts are damaged. Abilities to be joined together again are diminished.

May God keep our hearts soft and keep those of us that are together, together and May God bless, heal and restore those of us who have gone through the process of tearing apart.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, time just makes you older. Jesus is our healer, when he and time get together amazing things can happen. He will require that forgiveness be brought into the mix, forgiveness must be distributed liberally, all around. With that combination healing and restoration can take place.

I started out talking about life as a mud-puddle. Marriage should not be part of that dirtiness.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Prevention, forgiveness, restoration, healing, all available in Jesus. I just want to pray quickly here.

Jesus, please protect and bless those of us who are married. May our marriages be rich with your blessings. For those of us who are hurting now, for those in a rocky painful place, heal restore and renew joy and bring new life to stagnant places. For those who are recovering from divorce bring healing and hope and restoration. Allow forgiveness to blanket them.

Help us love each other better Jesus.

#matthew19, #learningtolovelikejesus