Working in the 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 irritates me.  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.

“But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you. Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

16 “So, many who are the last now will be the first then and the first 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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The Blessings of an Illness

Hospital-bed1The Bible is full of miraculous healings. Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. It always boosts the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works wonders today.

Somehow the ‘understanding’ is if you seek a healing you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, They miss out on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up.

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

  • Epaphroditus was near death, (Phil 2:25-30)
  • Trophimus left ill at Miletus, (2 Tim. 4:20)
  • Timothy, given a remedy for stomach issues, (1 Ti. 5:23)
  • Paul had to suffer his “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Cor. 12:7)

For believers today who must suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable.

It seems to me that the real issue is not a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed. I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it.

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

ybic, Bryan

 

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Is it Wrong to Get Angry with God?

Evangelist Billy Graham

Interview with Dr. Billy Graham

Q: Is it wrong to get angry at God?

I’ve beten through some very hard times recently and I feel like God has let me down. I’d like to get past this, I guess, but right now I can’t help feeling angry at God.

A: The real question is this: Will God get angry at you if you get angry at Him, and refuse to have anything more to do with you?

The answer is “No”! Even when we’re angry at Him, He still loves us and yearns for us to turn to Him for the comfort and encouragement we need. And that’s what I pray you will do.

jonah-sulkingDo you remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament? Some have called him “the reluctant prophet,” because he tried to flee when God called him to preach to his enemies. Later (after God sent a large fish to stop his flight), he reluctantly obeyed God and preached to his enemies. To his surprise they repented and turned to God.

He should have rejoiced – but instead “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1). Gently God explained to him that He loved even Jonah’s enemies – and so should Jonah. What is the point? Simply this: Jonah was angry at God – but God didn’t reject him. Instead, Jonah needed to learn to trust God, even if he didn’t like what was going on.

Perhaps this is one of the lessons God wants to teach you. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But God still loves us; He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die for us. Put your life into Christ’s hands, and then ask God to help you begin to trust Him, no matter what happens to you.

_______________________________


 Affectionately known as the “World’s Preacher” for more than 60 years, the Rev. Billy Graham is one of the most influential and respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century. He has been a friend and spiritual advisor to ten American presidents and has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories — through various meetings. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

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Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:  http://www.billygraham.org.

The Awful Pain of Job

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“Oh, why give light to those in misery,
    and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
    They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
    and rejoice when they find the grave.
2Why is life given to those with no future,
    those God has surrounded with difficulties?”

Job 3:20-23, NLT

Job begins to curse his existence and his words are saturated with frustration. He grieves for all of his dead children and is sickened by his afflictions. Job is a man pushed beyond the edge.

Job is the “poster child” of human suffering. He is completely without pretense as he openly grieves. He voices exactly what is in his heart.

Let us be clear about this; He is devastated, ravaged by Satan’s grim ministry. Job to his credit, is oblivious to Satan’s wager with the Almighty God. He has no clue that he has been chosen by God in this matter. The Lord keeps His secrets.

All Job knows is the pain, and there is the endless grief that even his tears can’t help.

In Job’s first speech he asks some basic questions:

  • Why is light given to those who are full of pain?
  • Why does life unfold to the one who rather not live anymore?

Death has a powerful influence in this three verses, He wants to die, and end the charade. He wishes for non-existence and laments that he can not die fast enough.

People with disabilities and chronic pain can understand Job’s desire for release. Once they were “whole” people. Death was something to be avoided at all costs. But now it is seen as an escape.

Hurting people will often turn to drinking and drugging as a way of coping. We’ll try anything to numb our thinking. It’s what gets us through the day. Oblivion has become my best friend.

For Job (the patron saint of pain) finds that nothing will fix him. His friends have come, but they seem to only accuse and confuse job. Honestly he is better when they just sat with him in silence.

“God wants us to choose to love him freely, even when that choice involves pain, because we are committed to him, not to our own good feelings and rewards. He wants us to cleave to him, as Job did, even when we have every reason to deny him hotly.”

–Philip Yancey

“Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”

Psalm 143:7-8

ybic, Bryan

 

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Discernment for Dummies

discernment “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Hebrews 5:14, NASB

“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”

Lucius Caelius Lactantius

 

Defined, discernment is the ability to perceive reality as it really is. It is a difficult quality for mentally ill people to have. We tumble through this world with wrong perceptions. We deal with issues like delusions and paranoia. Some of us are tangled up with derealization/depersonalization. We question the “realness” of our reality.

Discernment is being in a right relationship with truth.

One of my prayers has been, “Lord, let it be the real me who encounters the real you.” I’m belly-full of pretense and posturing. I know I have this strange tendency to deceive myself. I don’t know when I’m getting screwy.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

John 16:13, NIV

The Holy Spirit leads me into what is true and valid. I can trust Him to interface and interpret for me what is real and what is authentic. That is His ministry. That is what He does,  I can trust Jesus’ referral.

There are many ways that God gives to help me discern. These are the things the Spirit uses:

  • the Bible
  • personal desires, hopes, and inclinations
  • circumstances
  • solid counsel from the mature
  • common sense
  • past results and experiences
  • “gut” impression
  • supernatural leadings (dreams, visions, audibly)

True discernment comes in the objective reality of the Bible. This book wants to direct and guide me like no other. It stands as the trustworthy  director in a world of competing voices. It directs me through all of the din. I must read God’s Word to  walk in His truth.

Discerning the realness of reality once was the easy attribute of Adam. After the Fall, we (human beings) lost this ability. We currently struggle with the inability to see truth. We’re regaining this through the Spirit. Thank God we’re being transformed and renewed with this new ability. Faith is the adventure we now get to operate in.

“Faith is the divine evidence whereby the spiritual man discerneth God, and the things of God.”

John Wesley

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Oh God, Why?

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“Why have you made me your target?…Why do you hide your face?…Why should I struggle in vain?…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?…Why then did you bring me out of the womb?”

Job 7:20, 13:24, 9:29, 24:1, 10:18

Didn’t Job get “hammered?” His monumental suffering is unparalleled in history. He is essentially a godly man who loses everything (except his faith). Job must pick up the pieces after “catastrophic ” sudden pain and total loss.

Job is being tested with the ultimate horrors. Will he “curse God and die” as his wife suggests? Will he cave in to the final four (his friends) and agree to their twisted theology? (You have to read chapters 38-39 to find out).

The Book of Job has been regarded as inaccessible and archaic by many. Unfortunately many believe this assessment and look elsewhere for comfort. I would agree that Job is a challenging book, but so is Macbeth or Plato. (I guess you should find an easier translation).

Job is less an explanation and more a revelation of suffering. “Why” questions go unanswered. “Who” questions matter. I suppose this seems unfair. It certainly seems so, but straight answers in a fallen world won’t get any mileage at all.

One more thing. The Book of Job is about “twisted” theology. Job’s friends “toe-the-party-line” of theology that is logical. But don’t be mislead by their pronouncements, for they seem reasonable but they are flawed. It is a doctrine without love.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

1 Cor. 13:2

You can’t split theology from love and get away with it. When you read “Job’s friends” you must remember that. These are lessons it takes a long time to learn.

The broken believer, hobbled by chronic illness, has much to learn from Job. He is like “the poster child” for those afflicted. My mental illness is an issue (of course) but God is fully in control. He brings beauty out of the ashes.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:3, NIV

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