Archive for April, 2018

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Denarius © Animation Created by Ross Cochrane using Blender Cycles

Matthew 20:1-16 – WHAT IS JESUS TRYING TO TELL ME?

I love the parable of the Landowner and the Vineyard Workers. Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to the generosity of a landowner who hires laborers at various times during the day. At 6 am He hires people to work in His vineyard for a day’s wage. He hires additional people at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and again at 5 p.m., telling each of these groups that He will give them “whatever is right.” and then pays the last hired with the same wage as those hired first. Absurd! Economy irresponsible! Incredibly generous! Unfair? Since this is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, what can I learn?

1. THE LANDOWNER NEVER STOPS SEARCHING FOR THOSE WHO WILL SERVE HIM IN THE VINEYARD. He comes repeatedly to the marketplace, all through the day, and at the end of the day gives each one a full days wage.

God never stops searching for those who desire to believe in His Sonserve Him and receive His gift of eternal life. He found me and gave me the opportunity to receive eternal life.

John 15:16 (NLT) says, You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, 

2. THE LANDOWNER FULFILLS HIS AGREEMENT WITH THE INITIAL WORKERS TO PAY A FULL DAY’S WAGE

God keeps His promises. He has promised Eternal Life to those who give their lives to Christ.

Numbers 23:19 (NLT) says, God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says, Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

3. THE DAY WORKERS WAITED AT THE MARKETPLACE READY AND WILLING TO WORK

God chose me because He knew I was willing to come. 

John 3:16 (NLT) says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

4. THE DAY WORKERS RECOGNISE THAT THEY ARE DESTITUTE WITHOUT THE LANDOWNER

They agree to serve the Landowner knowing He will do what is right. Without Him, they are destitute.

We are destitute spiritually without ChristJesus offered the rich young ruler eternal life but he turned away from Him. Jesus then told this parable about those who served Him who recognize that they are poor without Him. We come to God recognizing the inadequacy of our own resources for life and eternity.

John 15:5 (NLT) says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

Romans 5:6 (NLT) says, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

5. THE WORKERS WHO CAME THROUGHOUT THE DAY TRUSTED THE LANDOWNER

They did not know how much they would receive but they worked for Him anyway.

We come to Christ to serve Him, not simply to get our needs met. We come under His authority. And what we receive goes way beyond what we deserve.

In Joshua 24:15 (NLT) Joshua challenges people to choose who they will serve. He said, But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Psalm 34:22 (NLT) says But the Lord will redeem those who serve Him. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Matthew 9:37-38 (NLT) says, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into his fields.”

6. NONE OF THE WORKERS DESERVED ANYTHING FROM THE LANDOWNER

Not those who worked a full day or those who worked for only an hour. It was only by the grace of the Landowner that they were given anything, since it all belonged to Him.

God gives us that which we do not earn, work for or deserve. Eternal life is a free gift. Serving God is a given for every Christian. Eternal life was paid for by Christ, not us, and given to us as a free gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

7. THE WORKERS WHO CAME FIRST WERE NO MORE IMPORTANT THAN THOSE WHO CAME LAST

Denarii

Denarius © Created by Ross Cochrane using Blender Cycles

My service to Christ is no less important than others who may be famous or have more money or have more influence than I do. Eternal life is not dependent on whether I’m better than someone else in earthly terms. I have the privilege of serving Christ in the best way I can and even then I need His help.

Ephesians 2:9 (NLT) says Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

8. THE WORKERS WHO WORKED A FULL DAY WANTED MORE THAN THEY RECEIVEDeven though they received what they had been promised. They wanted to be paid based on comparison with others.

I can trust God for my provision.

Whether I have a lot of money in the bank or not, it’s easy to be more concerned or even anxious with what I have or do not have than in trusting in God for my finances and for my daily provision. It’s easy to compare what I have with others.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT) reminds me that “…true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So, if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 

The rich young ruler went away sorrowful and without eternal life because he wasn’t willing to give his riches away. The poor day workers received a full days wage, more than they expected because they were willing to receive whatever was right from the Landowner and come under His authority and serve Him.

Jesus said, “… I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

What an amazing perspective for life.

Pastor Ross

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Denarii © Created by Ross Cochrane with Blender Cycles

Matthew 20:1-16 – WHEN GOD IS UNFAIR – Jesus and the Fair Workers Tribunal – Part 2

Matthew 20:1 says, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for His vineyard...”

Tribunal Chairperson – Now, we understand you are the Landowner of the Kingdom of Heaven Vineyards.

Jesus – Yes. The Landowner, creator and employer. 

Tribunal Chairperson – Your name for the record?

Jesus  Joshua Davidson, known as Jesus to most.

Tribunal Chairperson – And why do you call Your vineyard the Kingdom of heaven?

Jesus  It is called a Kingdom because it is the sphere where I exercise absolute authority as owner and employer. It is called Heaven because it is a place of fruitfulnesslife and perfection. Once workers come to My Vineyard they live on the property and under My authority. They find their ultimate calling and destiny. 

Tribunal Chairperson – We understand that this morning you hired some workers?

Jesus  Yes, I searched for them, found them and invited them to serve Me in My Vineyard. Without being hired, these day laborers would not have the resources they need to liveThey would be destitute and starve. I am their provider.

Tribunal Chairperson – We are here because a question has been asked by Peter, James and John, who are also Your employees, about fairness. You must realize that Employees have to be paid at least their minimum pay rates and entitlements. What exactly is the enterprise agreement or other registered agreement that Your workers are under?

Jesus – I have made a covenant agreement with all those who serve at the Vineyard. It is called Grace. I bypass normal agreements by giving a gift to every one of the same value. I simply say to My workers, “If you serve Me, you will not receive what is fair, but what I decide to give to you which will be right.”  

Tribunal Chairperson – I thought as much. Your employees have been underpaid, and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. We, therefore, are calling upon You to pay your workers what is fair. We understand that sometimes underpayments happen accidentally because of computer or human errorthe wrong number of hours paidpenalty rates not appliedother entitlements not paid, such as leave or allowancesbut You have deliberately underpaid Your workers. At the end of the day, we are here to audit only one pay period over a 12 hour day. We understand you employed others workers at different times of the day.

Jesus  Yes, I am continually looking for those who want to serve Me in the Vineyard. Many people are just waiting for the opportunity and are grateful that I have found them.

Tribunal Chairperson – You chose those who were just standing around?

Jesus  Yes. But it‘s not that these workers want to do nothing. They aren’t lazy. They are waiting for the opportunity to work and searching for MeThose who serve Me have realized that their lives were going nowhere and now they have meaning. They serve Me because they are willing to find their destiny in life. 

Deuteronomy 4:29 says  you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for Him with all your heart and soul, you will find Him.”

Jeremiah 29:13 says If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. … says the Lord.

Tribunal Chairperson  That’s all well and good, but You kept on hiring people all through the day. We are here to ensure You pay Your workers what they deserve and apparently, this did not happen.

Jesus  My workers deserve nothing from my hand, yet I have given them all the same gift, which represents life and what they can never earn, work for or deserve. Am I to understand that You don’t wish Me to pay those who serve me at all? 

Tribunal Chairperson  Of course not. We are here to ensure that those You do hire are paid what they deserve.

Jesus – You do not realize what you are asking. To pay them what they deserve would only lead to their destruction?

Tribunal Chairperson  Are you saying that your employees don’t deserve to be paid at all?

Jesus  That’s correct. I don’t need to employ them. I have found them in the marketplace of the world and invited them to come to Me and serve Me. They came willingly, knowing that whatever I gave them would be more than they deserve. 

Tribunal Chairperson – I believe some workers came to work for you at 5 in the afternoon and yet you still hired them with just one hour left in the day?

Jesus  Yes. I am always looking for those who will come under my authority. If you had come I would have asked you also “Why haven’t you been working today? Now is the appointed time. There is no need to waste your life waiting for someone else. I am the only One who has come to give people purpose and lifeAnd it is never too late in this life to give your life to Me.

Tribunal Chairperson – Now, let me understand this. You called the last workers first in order to be paidThey had only worked for an hour. How much did you pay them?

Jesus  Yes. The last shall be first. I gave each one a denarius.

Tribunal Chairperson – I see. A full days wage. Very generous. And how much did you pay your employees who worked for the full day?

Jesus – I gave each of them a denarius also.

Tribunal Chairperson – And there’s the problem. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. Some people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid those who worked all day in the scorching heat. Surely You see that there is discrepancy. You have been unfair with Your wages, especially to those who worked for a whole day.

Jesus  No. I agreed with those I hired first, based on my covenant of grace to give them a denarius. This was not based on the number of hours they worked but upon what I desired to give them. They agreed to serve me for a denarius. Those who came later served me for what I considered to be right.

Tribunal Chairperson – It is our contention that You need to backpay your employees who worked for 12 hours by paying them 12 denarii each. And then penalty ratesovertimeallowances, and any other entitlements. That would be fair.

Jesus  You do not know what you are asking. The denarius symbolizes eternal life. I cannot give more than eternal life. To give them what is fair would lead to their destruction. 

Tribunal Chairperson – I contend that You are being unfair.

Jesus  Yes, I am. I am offering My grace to those who trust in Me and that is entirely unfair. It is undeserved. I am here to ask You to come and serve Me also and then you will see personally that my gift of eternal life is unfair.

Today your life will be required of you and you must decide to accept what is fair from My hand which will mean you will be eternally lost or accept my denarius, that which represents that which is totally unfair and undeserved and speaks of absolute grace and eternal life

The wages of sin is death but the free gift I offer to you is eternal life. I will not require any back payments since you have been judged already by your sin, and your words, deeds and thoughts.  

Tribunal Chairperson – Are you mad? We are here to judge you! Do you think you can sit here and judge us? 

Jesus  No, your hearts have done that already. The hour is near. I came to do the work of God among you and give instruction and guide You in life and faith. You are the last of those who I have been searching for all day. I am here to give your life meaning, purpose and destiny. Will you serve Me in My Vineyard rather than try to judge Me for the grace of unfairness. Believe Me, you do not want Me to be fair. Fairness will lead you to hell. Follow Me and have the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Ross

Denarius © Graphics and Animation by Ross Cochrane 

Alexus was attacked and robbed yesterday. I stopped in to see him. We are strangers in this area and some people in this town hate and despise strangers. They think we are taking their employment but all we are doing is trying to exist.

Helpless and with no food or ability to earn money or see a physician, Alexus needs my help while he recovers. If I don’t get work today I will look in on him again, but without work, I will have no food for him or for my own family. We will manage somehow.

It is the end of September, the grape harvest has ripened, and everyone knows that the rains are coming soon. If the harvest is not gathered in before the rains break, it will be ruined.

I have heard that the landowner of the largest vineyard will be coming into the town marketplace today and I may already have missed him. His vineyard is called the Kingdom of Heaven. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few but I have to get there early enough to be hired.

The pay is a denarius, a day’s wage. After tending Alex’s wounds I grab my tools and race to the market square, but the workers are already gone. All I can do is wait to see if another opportunity to work comes as the sun rises slowly in the sky.

How will my family fare without food tomorrow? Life is not easy for day workers, but no one promised that it would be. Chance employment is all I have.

I waited for some time in the Marketplace and walking back to Alexus was difficult for me. I knew we would not eat tomorrow unless I received work but I needed to find out the state of my friend. I was hoping to come back midday and wait once more. Alexus looked bad. I had reported the crime to the authorities and today a messenger came asking Alexus to attend the court at the city gates. Those who had attacked him had been apprehended. He needed my help to get him there but he was able to identify his assailants. Unfortunately, due to other cases being heard, this took most of the day.

After returning Alexus to his home, I returned to the Marketplace in the vain hope that someone would at least give me an hour of work.

To my astonishment, just as I arrived, the Landowner stepped up to me and said: “Why haven’t you been working today?” Before I had an opportunity to reply, someone behind me answered Him“Because no-one hired us.” He invited us to work the final hour of the day. I was grateful for any work and thanked Him. 

After only one hour of hard work, the foreman called us all in to be paid. I didn’t expect much but even one hours work will give me something for my family and Alexus. The Landowner asked for those who had worked last, late in the day, to come and be paid first.

A man joined me in the line. He put his hand on my shoulder and I turned to see … Alexus!

“How?” I said, astonished at his sudden appearance. He looked healthy and he no longer limped. His bruises and swelling on his face had gone completely.

“I was working in another section of the vineyard”, he said, “so I couldn’t see or talk with you. When you left my house a strange thing happened. I prayed that God would spare my life. Immediately, the foreman knocked at my door,  placed his hand on me and said, “Your faith has made you well.” I was totally healed at that moment. He asked me to work in His Fathers Vineyard and so I am here. Like you, I have only worked for an hour.”

Then my shock was doubled. As we arrived at the table, the foreman handed each of us a denarius, a full day’s wage!  

“You must be mistaken, we have only worked for an hour?” I said.

He looked up and said, “We do not pay wages here. You are not being overpaid. This denarius is not based on what you have done for Me but upon what I wish to do for you. It is my gift. Those who serve Me receive My gifts.  

Pastor Ross

THE PARABLE OF THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR © Ross Cochrane

What a timeless classic children’s story is the Very Hungry Caterpillar written by Eric Carle, which we loved reading to our children and grandchildren.

Very Hungry Caterpillar

When thinking about my Easter message this year I thought what better illustration by way of a parable to consider the truths of God’s Word regarding Christ’s death and resurrection.

Eric Carle begins his story by saying, “In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.” How amazing is this egg, fixed to the leaf with a very special rubbery substance which soon sets solid?

  1. GRACE

In our parable, this little egg represents you and me, and God has created and protected you and me for a purpose. We love chocolate eggs at Easter but this is not a chocolate egg, and this egg is not to be devoured and forgotten. It is an entirely different kind of egg.

Like this tiny egg, you may feel small and insignificant in the scheme of things, but Psalm 139 says that God is intimately acquainted with all your ways”. King David says in that Psalm, “I will give thanks to You (Lord), for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well…  lead me in the everlasting way.”

GOD CREATED YOU FOR A PURPOSE.

Eric Carle’s story continues, “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry Caterpillar.”

He started to look for some food. I’m so HUNGRY!, he said. On Monday he ate through 1 apple. But he was still hungry. 

On Tuesday he ate through 2 pears, but he was still hungry. 

On Wednesday he ate through 3 plums, but he was still hungry. 

On Thursday he ate through 4 strawberries, but he was still hungry.

On Friday he ate through 5 oranges, but he was still hungry.

On Saturday he ate through 1 piece of chocolate cake, 1 icecream cone, 1 pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, 1 slice of salami, 1 lollipop, 1 piece of cherry pie, 1 sausage, 1 cupcake, And 1 slice of watermelon.

That night he had a stomach-ache!

The very hungry caterpillar then ate through one green leaf. He started to feel better.

Caterpillar on leaf morguefile

Now, the caterpillar was no longer small. He was a big, fat caterpillar.

(In the interests of the parable about Easter, I have added to the story,)

“He thought that he was born into this world simply to crawl in the dirt and gorge himself with the leaves of plants.

All he had done was eat and look after himself with no real concerns about anything else. He didn’t know that he was created for another purpose. The ugly, hungry caterpillar didn’t realize the possibility of TRANSFORMATION.

The Bible says we are like that Caterpillar, but we are created for more than simply survival. We may even feel that we are big in the eyes of the world, but God has offered us the possibility of Resurrection life. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). And Romans 3:20 says that “The gift of God is Eternal life.”

  1. SIN

WHAT STOPS US FROM LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL AND RECEIVING THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE?

“It wasn’t always easy for the Caterpillar. He had to be careful of predators like spiders and wasps and one time a bird tried to eat him but he camouflaged himself on a leaf.”  

Like that Caterpillar, there is a Predator in our life that stops us from living life to the full, the life for which we are created. The predator we face is SATAN. We live in a sinful world and commit personal sin.

Caterpillars may make use of camouflage to evade their predators, but very few eggs and caterpillars survive. Unlike the Caterpillar, you can’t hide from the results of sin. The Bible says “The Wages of Sin is death” (Romans 6:23)

Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose (Satan’s purpose) is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give you a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 NLT)

Now you may have accepted this grub kind of existence and think that you are destined to crawl around and eat whatever the world throws at you, trying to avoid sin and death, thinking that there’s nothing you can do about your lot in life, and your RIGHT.

WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING TO SAVE OURSELVES, … but GOD CAN AND DID…

  1. GOD

The good news is that the Bible says that God has made you for so much more. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think.”

SO HOW DO WE RECEIVE WHAT GOD OFFERS?

“The Caterpillar was fully grown now and didn’t want another bite. In fact, he was so tired of all the hard work of eating and trying to keep away from predators that he began to wander around for a while not really knowing what to do. He WANTED A CHANGE. He longed for something MORE but didn’t know what it was. He decided to build a small house, called a cocoon around himself. He stayed inside for quite some time.”

Like the Caterpillar, we have to find that place of spiritual rest where we can reflect and begin to see the need in our life and desire something more. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST” (Matt. 11:28). It’s only when we trust in Jesus that a miracle on the inside occurs.

 “And something happened on the inside. As he rested, an AMAZING TRANSFORMATION began to take place. Most of the tissues and cells in his body began to break down completely. In effect, his body died except for some tiny cells that were ACTIVATED.

Those cells began to use the nutrients of the Caterpillar in such a way that he was BORN AGAIN INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW. It was a miracle. He was born again.

When the transformation was complete, he could hardly wait to see himself. He nibbled a small hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and… “

(At this point I released a butterfly from a small box. He stayed on my finger for a while and then flew into the audience only to land on someone else) 

Butterfly Morguefile

“… A BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY emerged. He spent an hour basking in the sun to dry out his new wings and then as the wind lifted him, he took flight. He glided aloft, fluttering and riding the currents of the air, alighting on flower after flower, tasting the nectar and ‘showing off his vivid colors to the vibrancy of the blossoms.’ 

HE THOUGHT, THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRULY CREATED FOR.”

  1. CHRIST

THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS SPIRITUALLY TO US WHEN WE GIVE OUR LIVES TO JESUS AND TRUST OURSELVES TO HIM.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, HE IS A NEW CREATION; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

  1. FAITH

THE BUTTERFLY SYMBOLISES BEING BORN AGAIN.

In John 3:6-8 Jesus says, “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.”

There is much more to life than what we now see and what you may have accepted. And there is hope beyond the grave.

The parable of the very Hungry Caterpillar reminds me of the hunger every person has on the inside for relationship with God. When we trust in Christ, something new is activated from within. Our old life is gone but nothing is wasted. In His hands, we are made new, with a new life. We are a new creation.

The Bible says God became a man but without sin. The Bible says He paid the penalty for our sin by dying on the Cross for us. He was laid in a tomb.

BUT EASTER DOESN’T STOP AT THE CROSS, … OR AT THE TOMB …

The story of the Cocoon and Crysalis reminds me that on Sunday Morning after Jesus had been crucified and taken to the grave, the disciples came to the tomb and saw JESUS’ GRAVECLOTHES lying there, much like an EMPTY CHRYSALIS. An angel told the startled disciples. “HE IS RISEN,”

(At this point in my message I released 15 other butterflies into the audience)

Why do we have this Easter service? To go through the ritual? Not at all! Rather we gather to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death itself. He is our Lord and our Savior, His Victory is our victory. In celebrating His resurrection we celebrate our own assurance of ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OVER DEATH.

YOU CAN BE BORN AGAIN BY PUTTING YOUR FAITH IN CHRIST.

Let’s pray this prayer together. It is for all of you who would like to know for certain that you are born again and that you have eternal life. 

Lord God, thankyou that You have created me for much more than I can even imagine. Thankyou for creating a hunger in me for spiritual truth. Thankyou Lord Jesus, for dying for my sins. Thankyou for rising again so that I too could have new life. 

Come into my life, Lord Jesus. Make me a new creation. I am under Your authority. I am in Your hands. I spread my wings, and fly to You, 

Amen. 

Pastor Ross

Related Posts

see also

http://www.joyfulheart.com/easter/buterfly.htm

The Parable of The Butterfly