Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Storyteller Week 4

I was in the nursery last week so I missed Neal's message on the Good Samaritan. If you're interested, you can hear it by clicking here. Below is this past week's message notes. It was really good. I would recommend listening to it.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Matthew 20:1-16

Some worked twelve hours, some nine, some six, some three, and others only one hour yet they all received the same wage.

"Vineyard" was a common metaphor for "the people of Israel" in Jesus' day.

To work for "whatever is right," you have to have a great deal of trust in your employer because you are banking on his generosity.

Who would still be hoping to get hired with only one hour left in the work day? Those who were truly desperate. No work = no food.

Normally, the all-day workers were paid first. In this story, the one hour workers are paid first. If the employer had followed the normal system, the all-day workers would never have known that they were all paid equally.

Instead of lauding the owner's generosity, the all-day workers are furious that they were all paid equally. They, like our society, feel that the harder one works, the longer one's been at work, the more one contributes, the more is expected to be received in comparison to a newbie on the job.

Jesus' intent was to show the hidden sense of entitlement, the feeling of unfairness, and the economy of grace. Grace isn't about counting at all. The story is about who can be forgiven by God and allowed into the kingdom. Everyone is welcome at any time (any point in one's life, young or old).

Performance-based Christianity (all day workers) - we miss out on our need of grace; instead we feel entitled to it. Instead of feeling grateful for being chosen, we feel cheated because others we feel are "less deserving" also receive the same grace.

Grace-based Christianity - relationship based on trust, not a contract; we are overjoyed at the grace we receive, knowing that it is undeserved.

We are often outraged at the abundance of God's grace and the seeming unfairness of it. We often fail to remember that we are just as unworthy of grace as anyone else. Why do we tend to identify with (assume that we are) the workers who were hired first? We are all, in fact, latecomers in the story.

We are envious of God's generosity. He continues to seek out workers for his vineyard, even without benefit to himself.

"God dispenses gifts, not wages...If we were paid deservingly, we would all end up in Hell." Philip Yancey

This message really hit me. I do tend to see the seeming unfairness of the situation rather than the amazing message of grace that it is. I, too, would be outraged to have worked all day and have been paid equal to the one hour worker, regardless of the contract that had been established when I agreed to work. And it is true, sometimes I do feel like I am "working harder" than others even though we will receive the same reward. I don't know why I feel like I was one of the early ones to the vineyard. I am not supposed to compare myself to others. It is about focusing on my relationship with God. It's about my response to God's grace. I can't determine what other people will do with their gift, only what I will do with mine.

Personal application: Focus on seeking God's desires for me and not compare my efforts, my gifts and talents, my service to those of others. God created us each individually. Therefore, he has different work for us to do. My desire should be to complete the work God has prepared for me to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who is Jabez?

I was reading in 1 Chronicles today. There seems to be a whole lot of genealogy listing in the first half of the book. I'm only to chapter 5 and it's still all about soandso's descendants and their descendants, etc. It is laying out the genealogy to David, I believe, but sometimes it gets to be tedious. It is kind of cool to see who turns into what group of people who you hear about fighting with Israel and Judah later on (ex. Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites...).

Anyway, so I read three plus chapters of the sons of various people and in chapter four verses nine and ten it says: Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

Then verse 11 goes right back to people and their sons. I, of course, was wondering, Where did this come from? And who is Jabez? None of the people before are named Jabez to indicate what family he's related to except that the title of the chapter is "Other Clans of Judah". So where do these two verses come from? They seem very out of place and a little confusing.

So this post is more of a question. Does anyone have greater understanding of this passage and could answer my questions? Who is Jabez and why is this random story in the middle of all of the genealogy?

True Leadership

I was reading in 2 Kings 22-23 about King Josiah. During his reign, the Book of the Law was found and read to him. It caused him to tear his robes and inquire of God to see what must be done because he knew that Judah was not following the law. He tore down all of the idols and destroyed the high places the kings before him and built as response to the Book of the Law. He worked on restoring the temple as it should be. He also shared his new knowledge with the people of Judah.

2 Kings 23:1-3: Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets - all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord - to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

This section really hit me. The king (the country's leadership) set an example for the people. The people then chose to follow it. That is a great testament of what leadership should look like. The king let the people know that Judah had not been living as it ought and publicly declared the changes that were going to be made. He made himself accountable to the people.

This is not something you see in today's leadership. They seem to be looking out for the people's interests, but they do not seem to be saying, "We think that this is the right course of action and, to prove it to you, we will be the first people to follow the rules and statues we are proposing. We will show by our example how effective the new plans and policies are." Instead it sounds more like, "This is what is best for you. We don't need this stuff so we won't have to be subject to it, but we're sure that it will be successful." There's not proof or accountability. They are not putting their money where their mouths are. Will we ever see this type of leadership in our country?

Perhaps you feel that our national and local leadership is living what it is preaching. If so, I am interested to be shown examples of this. I would be encouraged by this example.

Storyteller Week 2

I'm a little more on it this week. Here are my notes from Sunday. I would highly recommend listening to the message yourselves as it was very poignant and relevant.

Parable of the Ten Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13

"If Only"

In Jesus' day, weddings lasted for days. Toward the end, the bridegroom would go to get the bride from her house to take her to his house where they would have a week long party/honeymoon with their families. When the bridegroom does this, he has a procession with him of wedding guests. All of the guests carried their own light to show that they belonged to the party. Without a light, you were considered a wedding crasher and not allowed in to the party.

The bridegroom (Jesus) is going to return so we need to be ready. The lamp is our life. We are to make sure our life is a preparation for Jesus' return. We shouldn't allow ourselves to get caught up in/distracted by everyday life.

There are some things in life that cannot be borrowed - a relationship with God, character, past experiences. I am responsible to God for my life. It is possible to wait until it is too late.

Now is the time. "Someday" may never come.

The unprepared girls were not called evil or wicked, but foolish. They were not defiant or deliberately disobedient, they just didn't think everything through. They drifted along without making preparations.

Spiritual complacency: failure to have the proper sense of urgency or of what's really important

2 Corinthians 6:1 "Please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us."

Do you have any regrets? About parenting, finances, sin, etc? Work on regret elimination this week.

Personal application: I really enjoyed this message. My husband and I had a good discussion about what it meant to each of us. My application is to stop making excuses about why I don't do things or am not being proactive about things. I could be doing some editing of my book, but I choose not to. I need to suck it up and do what is needed because I don't know how much time I actually have to work on/complete the project.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Storyteller Week 1

This past Sunday we started a new series called "Storyteller." It is going to be a four week series where each week we study a Parable told by Jesus. You can listen to this and previous messages by clicking here.

Parable of the Ten Minas

(Not to be confused with the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Minas has the same initial amount with different rewards while the talents have different initial amounts with the same reward).

Luke 19:11-26

One mina = about 3 months of wages

The story essentially retold the story of Archelaus' kingship (son of Herod) which probably caused an emotional connection with the audience due to the situational familiarity.

Every servant was given the exact same thing (as are we - the gospel message of salvation).

The reward was determined by what the servants did with what they were given (as is ours - we may receive more responsibility or more opportunities to serve if we are faithful in using what God has given us).

1. Expectations are made Evident
>Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

2. Excellent Efforts are Rewarded
>the focus was on the master ("your mina")
>Don't worry about what you don't have. Concentrate on what you do have (your talents and resources).

3. Evil "I" Ends in Rebuke
>The faithful servants focused on obedience. The unfaithful servant focused on his own hardship of his assignment. The master pointed out the servant's laziness/lack of action.

Our service to God should be out of a loving respect rather than the fear of punishment.

God will not buy our week excuses for our lack of obedience.

Mina Offering Challenge: Take the $10 provided by the church and use it faithfully for God. On October 11th, a special offering will be taken up from the challenge. The money will be used to help cover the cost of the Day of Service we perform on October 4th.

Personal Application: I am doing the Mina Offering Challenge. It's interesting to try to think of what I have and what I can use/do to grow what I've been given. I'm excited to see what happens!

With Week 4

I have been so slack lately. I admit it. Here is the final installment of the "WITH" series. You'll notice that week three is missing. I was in the nursery that week. If you want to hear it (or any of the other messages), click here.

I'm With Them

Lifestyle Enclaves: groups who have a common interest for the purpose of furthering the individual's interests
>This is how many people have been taught to think about the church.

Matthew 5:13-16
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

>Salt is cheap in our culture. In Jesus' day it was valuable and hard to come by. It was used to preserve food.
>Jesus was saying that we are valuable and precious in a world that's spoiled and decaying.
>Light meant warmth, safety, protection, hope. We are to provide truth and life.

74% of Christians agree that you don't need to be part of a church to be a Christ-follower.

A true community has a cause, a mission, a reason for existing outside of meeting its members' needs. True community is missional.
It is what is different about the church compared to other organizations and groups.

Acts 1:8 - you will be my witnesses throughout the world

What would happen if we became intentional about being salt and light in our community?
What would God do if we gave ourselves over to him to show compassion to others?
What would happen if we partnered with God to redeem and restore this broken world?

God has never been impressed with religious behavior. Isaiah 58:6-8

In the Metro Atlanta area there are 5 million people so 120 doesn't seem very important or impressive. However, Jesus changed the world with 12 followers. Imagine what could be done if the 120 of us were united in a common cause.

Personal application: Be purposeful in my actions and activities. Seek to give myself to God in order to be used to spread compassion and love to those around me.