Working in the Time of Grace

Working in a Time of Grace

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‘These men 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.’ 

Matt. 20:12, NIV

 

Matthew 20 often irritates us.  People are working the entire day, and along comes people who have only worked for one hour.  This discrepancy drives the believer nuts.  How in the world could such a thing take place?  It is foolishness to us who insist on a grace of appropriateness.  We want grace to be fair, recognizing the person who has worked very hard.

The problem is that God is outrageous with His grace and love.  He completely expands us to a point where we must embrace a grace that is completely beyond us.  We have to break down and accept what is available to us.  Grace completely dumps us upside down.  We can only proceed if we accept His definition of Grace.

Those who have labored the least are made equal to those who work the hardest.  This seems incredibly unfair and we revolt against such extravagance.  It strikes us as outrageously unfair.  How can those who worked only an hour receive the exact same amount as those who have labored a full eight?

The miracle of  this shockingly outrageous grace is that we are confronted by a profound freedom.  We basically get brought to the point where we get stripped of these illusions and need to walk out the scripture.  It has the tendency to eliminate the issues that could block us and bring us to a most receptive position.

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.”

Matthew 20:13-16

We must admit that God’s grace reaches out to everyone. 

That He has the deep, deep desire to see that each of us connect with His love.  This is indeed the radicalness of the gospel.  It is outrageous and astonishing.  That He would love us who have hated Him.  Our sense of equity is completely undone.  His grace completely turns us upside down. I think that is a good thing.

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Living Incandescently

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“7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”

1 John 1:7, NLT

Sometimes my mental illness interferes with “living in the light.” I can get surly and sullen.I avoid people and I think I complain a lot. I’ve also become the master of manic highs and ‘snake belly’ lows, and I’m not fun to be around. But I do wish to be different, I really do want to live in the light.


 

First: When I do so, I have a special connection with the Lord (He is in the light) and that is the ultimate goal. But light is the vital common denominator. I can’t continue in darkness and fellowship with Him while I entertain any darkness. He doesn’t work that way. I’m supposed to live in the same lighr as He.

“For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”

Psalm 56:13


Second: When I walk in the light, I will have be able to have open fellowship with my brothers and sisters. This is to me almost as precious as having fellowship with Lord. That “fellowship” (trans. koinonia) describes a mutual sharing, or harmonizing with each other. Almost like a concert with the musical instruments making a pleasant melody with each other. Some are pianos, some are oboes, flutes, trumpets or tubas, etc.We are His orchestra.

We come together in koinonia and beautiful things happen.There is a special sound I hear when I’m in koinonia with my brothers and sisters who love Jesus. It’s a healing sound, and very real to me. I hear it especially when they fellowship with each other.


 

Third: When I’m living in the light I am cleansed from my sin by Jesus’ blood. The cleansing is certain by faith, The word “cleanses’ is present tense, He is always cleaning me up. “All sin” reveal the entire scope of His work. I rejoice in this and it gives me confidence in the Lord.

This verse, 1 John 1:7 clarifies things for us, and gives us insight into God’s us the importance of walking in the light of the Lord. It reinforces the fellowship of the saints. And to top it all off, it describes the blood of Jesus being actively applied to my many sins.

“Father, I desperately want to take possession of this Word. Enable me by your Holy Spirit to do this for your glory. Amen.”

 

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Tensile Prayer

“Please be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, we are simply asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so you can acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works.”

“We concentrate on this, and pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.”

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the ‘long haul”—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the “glory-strength”  God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable, and then spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. ”

–Amen.

This is a paraphrase that I made of Colossians 1:9-12, using the Message Bible.  This is one of those “scripture” prayers, often found in the Psalms, but also in the Epistles.  It does seem as Paul actually prayed as he wrote.  This prayer is indeed evidence of this.  It has the wonderful side effect of praying while doing something else, and what that might look like, especially when done discreetly and appropriately. “Tensile” is a most interesting word, and concept.  It has the idea of being stretched without being torn apart.  A perfect word to describe intercessory prayer.

Do we really pray enough?  It isn’t a question of “volume”  but of quality, and precision.  When I am focused and begin to be directed to a certain person, or a very idea— I start to pray, focused and accurate.  But in the “quanity” aspect.  I do admit I often falter and fumble this.

The content of this man’s prayer was fabulous, and incredibly strong.  It does seem that it covers quite a few bases.  We can draw out so much.  And yet I keep coming back to the manner in which  Paul prayed.  I wonder if we could be taught to do the same?

Somehow we start praying in this same level. By faith we can weave that  tensile strength into hearts of those we love, and understand the hearts of our brothers, or sisters.

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The Lord Is Our Shepherd

This is what is called a “found poem,” which means that every line of the poem was found in some other writing. In this case, all of  the lines of this poem are found in the Bible, from the Old Testament prophets, the words of Jesus, and all the way through Revelation.

The lines of the poem do not appear in the order they do in the Bible, but are arranged to illustrate how Scripture maintains a consistent Biblical theme of the Lord as our Good Shepherd watching over His lost and straying sheep.

Lost sheep, may you find yourself in the arms of our Shepherd today.

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The Shepherd

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim.

Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep
without a shepherd,
each will flee to his native land.
Save your people and bless
your inheritance; be their shepherd
and carry them forever.

He had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of themselves!

Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
“I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will
no longer be afraid or terrified,
nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

Then I will give you shepherds
after my own heart, who will lead you
with knowledge and understanding.
They will follow my laws
and be careful to keep my decrees.
And David shepherded them
with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.

For you were like sheep
going astray, but now
you have returned to the Shepherd
and Overseer of your souls.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.

For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs
of living water. And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
So the LORD’s people will not
be like sheep without a shepherd.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.
“I have other sheep that are
not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

He will stand and shepherd
his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD
his God. And they will live securely,
for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth.

“I am the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep.”
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.