Pray Often

Over the years I have had countless people ask how often do I need to go to the Lord to have real joy? Each time I remind them that we must go Every Day if we are to live in the overflow of God. (Matthew 20:1-16) That is how often we are to be filled with Joy as we labor for the Lord. Jesus now tells a parable to explain Matthew 19:30~But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (ESV) This parable is about God’s incomprehensible love, compassion, and grace. One of the best descriptions of God is found in Psalm 86:15~But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (NIV)

Jesus begins His parable speaking about the kingdom. Matthew 20:1 ~For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. (ESV) Now the Jewish workday began at 6 am and ended at 6 pm. Laborers would gather in the wee hours awaiting the prying sun, hoping to be hired for the day. Let’s call it 5 am as these early birds flock, looking for worms. The landowner hires his first gaggle of laborers, who all agree to work for a penny a day, aka a common wage. Matthew 20:2~He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (ESV) 

Later, the landowner goes out again looking for a new pod of people. Matthew 20:3-4~About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. (ESV) As another 3 hours pass, the sun stands at the pinnacle of high noon as the vintner goes again to rally a raft of red-blooded wage earners. 3 hours pass and the husbandman does the same thing at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Down to the last hour, the landowner goes out again. Yes, it is 5 o’clock in the place called somewhere. Where he meets a cauldron of constituents who may not seem like the best, yet they have converged on this place like a college of craftsmen. 

Since these laborers are still available at five o’clock, with only 1 hour left in the workday, they must be desperate with need. (20:4-7) In the parable, the vinedresser doesn’t promise the latecomers a particular wage. All the laborers apparently know the gardener and trust him to give them what is fair at the end of the day. Apparently, the farmer knows that without the work, these families could go hungry. They are so very desperate, they are willing to work for whatever they can get. Poor and unskilled people are often desperate, so sometimes they’re underpaid, overworked, or not paid at all. Leviticus 19:13~Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. (NIV)

Because God has great compassion for the poor, He commands us to give freely. Therefore, a good Jew would pay his workers at the end of every day because often that would be all they would have to feed their families. Our parable of Matthew 20 reveals that one of the requirements for living in God’s unexplainable joy then we must come Every Day to receive His fresh and new joy. Take a moment and pray. Let go of anything that is flooding your mind, and then, just sit quietly in His presence and listen to what He has to say.

His Joy

I don’t know how many of you are doing Read 2020, but I am so truly grateful for the work of Jesus. Who wrought righteousness and cleansed me, so that I do not have to kill lambs for my sin condition and shave my head and even my eyebrows. The Law was so cumbersome. Thank you Holy Father for sending your son. Why not just raise your hands and wave them as you thank the Lord for all he has done in your life. 1 Peter 1:8~Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (NIV) Did you know Jesus sees you as joy. Hebrews 12:3~Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV) 

Jesus wants you to know that you are His joy. The Hymn of Joy often referred to as Joyful, Joyful, dubbed so after the first line, it was really a poem written by Henry van Dyke in 1907. He wrote it with the intention of musically setting it to Beethoven’s 9th and final symphony the Ode to Joy. The setting was the beauty of the Berkshires outside the doorsteps of Williams College. Where God inspired a preacher to write: Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love, Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, Op’ning to the Sun above. Later, Charlie Hall adds to this poem writing how We sing in jubilation, and in adoration to a joyful King, You are singing, jealous love over all your children. 

Are you, a child of God. If not let’s fix that today, and if so, then you need to know that you are the apple of your Heavenly Father’s eye. Listen as King David prays in Psalm 17:8~Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, (ESV) Later the Lord will confirm this for us as through His prophet Zechariah 2:8~For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of his eye: (ESV) This idiom of the apple, it is a reference to the pupil, the very center of the eye. Our Heavenly Father says His eyes are on each of us. In Numbers 6:24-26 the Lord blesses, turning His face towards, He looks at us. Why? It is because we are the apple of His eye. Understand what Paul writes in Romans 8:32~He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (NIV) 

Today, why not go before the Lord and let Him fill you with unexplainable joy. Psalm 16:11~You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV) The Lord wants to be your source for everything you need. Empty yourself in prayer and be filled as you worship Him today.

Called to Follow

Jesus is always calling us to focus heavenward by living in a kingdom mindset. (Matthew 19:23-30) After Jesus has shared how freeing it is to let the things in this life go, he turns to His disciples to tell them how difficult it is for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23~And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV) Make sure you understand that Jesus isn’t saying it is impossible for a rich person to enter into heaven, only that it is very difficult because of the security and temptations that accompany wealth. 

Our Lord is sharing that there is a very real spiritual danger in prosperity. Material prosperity can cause us to forget that God is the true source of all of our earthly blessings. We see this happening in the U.S. today, just as it happened in ancient Israel. Listen as Jesus describes the difficulty in Matthew 19:24~Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (ESV) 

A camel was the largest animal in Palestine and the eye of a needle the smallest opening. The word translated needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) probably refers to a sewing needle, not a small gate. Though you and I have probably heard it preached both ways. In either case, Jesus is using hyperbole, which is exaggerating for effect. It is difficult for rich people to be saved because they are often consumed with their bank accounts, investments, and possessions. Jesus is not saying rich people can’t be saved, rather He is pointing out riches are a formidable obstacle in our lives. 

After some pretty extensive looking, I struggle to find genuine or credible evidence of the night gate that would have been dubbed the eye of the needle. Yes, the city gates were in fact very large and heavy. Once locked they would not have opened them for just anyone because of the danger it would pose for the city. So there would have been some smaller doors that may have been utilized. If it is, in fact, the night gate that was referred to as the eye of the needle, then it would have been a true feat to train your stubborn camel to lay down, so you could take off all of the luggage being toted and then have the camel to crawl on their belly as though they were graveling. 

This does offer us a wonderful visualization of what it means to come to Jesus. Where we must unburden ourselves of everything, letting go of the baggage of life and then with nothing of own we crawl through the door of Jesus Christ to find salvation. (John 10) Both the sewing needle and the small door for a large animal to get through take God’s amazing grace. Thus, they share the picture of salvation for us by grace as we let go.

Understand that there are many righteous men in the Bible who were very wealthy, such as Father Abe, Lil Joe, Job, Gideon, even Joseph of Arimathea. But Jesus is addressing the false assurance wealth can bring. For example, Paul tells Timmy to warn people in 1 Timothy 6:17 ~Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (NIV) 

When the disciples hear Christ Jesus’s warning about wealth, they’re astounded Matthew 19:25~When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” (ESV) The disciples apparently are influenced by the prevailing Jewish view that wealth is an indicator of divine favor, it’s not. James said in his letter 2:5~Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? The prosperity gospel did not begin last as some may believe, but with the Pharisees, who had no TV to watch or use as a preaching tool. Matthew 19:26~But Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (ESV) Again if it is a sewing needle you are not getting through, without God. And know that you will have to let everything in this life go one day.

Why not make that day, today? You can let go of the hurts and pains that weigh you down. You can let go of the events that have marked you, the words that were spoken to you by others, or the absence of what you knew for certain was yours, though you did not ever get it. Know that with God all this and so much more is possible in Jesus. If we will just allow Him to work in our lives, giving to Him any and everything that weighs us down. 1 Peter 5:7~Cast all your anxiety, worries, cares on him because he cares for you. (ESV)