Our Picture of God.

 

Parable_of_talents

I was reading the story of the 10 talents the other day. It was a story Jesus told. A master of 3 servants gave them each some talents. He told them to use them while he went away. When he came back, the first two servants had used their talents to make more. The master praised them. The third man, however, had buried his talent in the ground. He held it out to the master, but the called him lazy, took the one talent and gave it to the man with 10. The master said the third servant would be thrown out.

Whenever I read about this story in a book or commentary, the authors say the talents represent our abilities and well, talents. In the story the talent is a sum of money. Quite a large sum.

I was meditating on this story and I think the talents represent faith. The man who buried his talent is lost in the end. We are saved through faith and not works, lest any man should boast, the Bible says; any good we do cannot save us.

I think the story points this out in the excuse the man had for why he decided to dig a hole in the ground and throw the money in there. He said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.”

“I knew you were a harsh man.”  Is God harsh? Does he hover over us waiting for us to mess up so he can keep us out of heaven? No. He is not like that. He is hovering to see how many he can get into heaven. (Right here I could quote hundreds of Bible verses on God’s love, but I hope you will look them up yourself.)

The man said, “I know you reap where you did not sow.” What kind of farmer would expect his crop to grow if he sowed nothing in the field? Hmm, a crazy farmer, that’s for sure. This man seemed to be saying God asked the impossible from people. Is that true? No. God says we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength. Jesus said, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” And, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This man did not know who God was. And his basic problem is he didn’t try to find out. He put his head in a hole in the ground. He didn’t want to hear the gospel and he didn’t try to seek God. He didn’t ask for God’s strength or for Jesus’ righteousness to cover him.

The Bible says we will find God when we seek him with all our hearts. Jesus said eternal life means knowing him and his Father in heaven. Jesus also said he will say to many at the judgement, “I never knew you.”

There is a reason it is vital to know God; He is the way, the truth and the life. Our picture of God will determine how we act and how we treat others. If we see God as harsh, we may think it is fine for us to be harsh. But if we see God as someone who forgives us 70 x 7 times a day, then we will forgive also.

The best reason to know God is to understand the plan of salvation. We were lost, but through Jesus’ death, we are found. We can never be perfect and sinless; Jesus was perfect and sinless. As a man, he took our place; he stood in the breech between us and God. God’s law says the penalty for sin is death. He could not change his law, but he could die in our place and satisfy the justice his law demands. We are covered by Jesus’ life and death. He is called, “The Lord, our righteousness.”

The Last Will be First.

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 I’m reading a book called, “The Parables of Jesus,” by George A. Buttrick. It was published in 1928. It’s a wonderful book that gives deep insights into the parables of Jesus. One that impressed me this morning was on the parable of, The Vineyard Owner and the Laborers.

The story is of a man who needs laborers and goes early to the marketplace to hire some. He finds men standing around waiting for work and hires them. They agree on a wage of a denarius for a day’s work.  The man goes back many times during the day because he needs more help. Finally, he goes at 5pm and asks the men there, “Why are you idle?”  They answer him, “Because no one has hired us.” He says, “You go too into my vineyard.”

At the end of the day, the owner pays them all the same wage – a denarius. The ones who worked the longest were angry. They questioned why those who didn’t work as hard or as long got the same amount they did. The owner said, “Friend, I am not wronging you. Can I not do what I please with what is mine? Have you a grudge because I am generous?”

Jesus finished the story by saying this, “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

He told this story after Peter had reminded Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything and followed him. “What shall we get for this?” was his question.

The author writes, “Life, lived abundantly, does not ask, “What shall we get?” God is not the Keeper of a ledger entering a credit or debit account, according as a man observes or fails to observe certain holy regulations…”God has subtler tests than the piece-measure and the time-clock. Everlastingly, the motive of a man’s life proclaims his worth.”

The author proposes the early workers are those who greet each day with strength and resolution. They perhaps have great talent, a keen mind and a healthy body.  “But others drag crippling chains of inheritance, or beat against confining walls of circumstances. Who will hire them? They would like to serve God, but cannot serve him as they would like to. “No man has hired us.” But their intention is accepted as their deed!”

“Though they cannot claim saintliness, though in unrealized hopes they must be content to offer hospitality to the prophet and saint, they are not forgotten in the appraisals of the kingdom: “He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.”

After reading this chapter, I thought of what I said to my husband once after we had been members at a church for a long time. “We aren’t like most of these people. We are damaged goods. We could never be an evangelist or preacher.”

We had both been horribly abused when we were children. Because of that, we both had a lot of emotional problems. Sometimes I felt like I was hanging on to God by my fingertips. What help could I be to someone else? And my hubby had anger issues because of all the beatings he endured. Neither of us were the picture-postcard of a Christian.

Reading this parable explained, I understand now that it is okay to be the last in the vineyard! Hallelujah! I’m happy with that position. I’m glad God is pleased with whatever I can do for him, even if it is very small.

Shallow or Deep?

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Jesus and his disciples had been talking with the religious rulers. The rulers demanded a sign from heaven that would prove to them Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told them no sign would be given. Then he and his disciples went into a boat to cross the lake.

 

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.  “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

 

They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them:

 

 “Why are you talking about having no bread?

 Do you still not see or understand?

 

 Are your hearts hardened?

 

 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?

 

 And don’t you remember?

 

 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

 

 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

 

He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Mark 8:14-21

A commentator said many Christians fail to listen, fail to understand the deeper things of God. It is because we don’t take the time to study the Bible. We think about things of this earth much more, “Do we have enough food in the house?”  “Do we need to replace this old table?”  “What shall we do Saturday night?”

 

Jesus asked them, “Don’t you remember?”  He was talking about the hundreds of loaves of bread he had given to the 4,000 people just that day. Why would they worry about food when they had two examples of Jesus providing plenty of food? Why would they think Jesus was talking about food. Jesus was telling them to remember what he had done in the past so they would not worry about the future.

 

The disciples many times took Jesus’ words literally when they weren’t meant that way. We make the same mistake today. Most Christians think the parable of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” is about heaven and hell. They seem to think we will be able to see and talk with the people in hell while we are in heaven. Impossible. If we are to be happy in heaven this could not be a literal story.  “Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.”  Psalm 37:10


Jesus was just saying that someone who would let people starve outside their door while they have plenty of food to share will indeed go to hell (grave, death, judgement) while those who suffer and love God will go to heaven. He also told us in that story that when people have decided to not follow God, even a miracle will not convince them. “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”  Luke 16:31

 

Are our hearts hardened? This is something we probably don’t know but should ask God to soften our hearts so we understand his great love and goodness. 

 

We should ask God to give us hearts of flesh and take away our hearts of stone. We should ask him to renew a right spirit within us; to open our eyes, ears, heart, mind and hands to do his will. 

 

We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness and as he promised, he will fill us with himself. He will become inside of us a spring of water flowing upward to eternal life.