What Does the Lord Require of You?

Have you ever noticed how Scripture repeatedly shows us two paths–two distinct patterns—that we can choose to follow? One road leads us to God while the other leads us astray, eventually ending in the Lake of Fire.

Jesus loved teaching in parables to help his disciples and other followers come to a greater understanding of godly principles and righteous thinking. I am reminded of one of my favorite parables found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 21, verses 28-32.

In the parable, a father directs his two sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son initially refuses but then changes his mind and does as his father instructed. The second son immediately tells his father that he will go work in the vineyard as his father asked him to but does not go. Jesus asks his disciples which one of the sons they thought did the will  of his father. The disciples correctly reply “The first.”

Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV)

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

While we are quick to note that Jesus, out of his love for others, spent time with sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes, yet we misunderstand his reason for investing time in the lost, the last, the least and the lonely. He did not do so because he approved of their behavior. He did not simply overlook their shortcomings and show them love despite their disobedience without addressing their need for repentance. He loved them, just like He loves us. But in that love, He spoke Truth to them. Jesus spent time with them so that they might see the light of men who shone in the darkness and that darkness could not overcome. Jesus invested time in lost and hurting souls to lead them to repentance and return them to the paths of righteousness God had paved for them.

While God sees us in our rebellion, He loves us, demonstrating that love through giving His only begotten Son as an atonement for our disobedience and sinfulness. God does this not so that we would continue in our walk of wickedness or down our paths of sin, but so that we would repent, turning away from our rebellious disobedience, and return to walking in faithful obedience to Him, as God intended for us to do all along.

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From the first acts of disobedience to the last, God’s heart breaks for us, because our rebellion separates us from Him, just like the second son, through his deception and disobedience,  put an obstacle in the relationship separating him and from his earthly father.

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Even though we rebel and disobey God initially, we can return to right standing with Him, through repentance and by believing in the atoning work of His son, Jesus Christ, on a Cross at Calvary over 2,000 years ago.

God is for you, not against you. He has made the way for you to return to Him through repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Do not let the chains of your disobedience continue to shackle your soul. Step away from your chains, that God has loosened, and begin living a life of faithful obedience to the Lord God Almighty. What are you waiting for? There is no time like right now.

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I’ll be praying for you.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Tending To My Garden

In my uber-busy world, tending to my own garden is challenging. But, I’ve recently been reminded that it is best to focus on what God puts in front of me, rather than looking to see what tasty morsels might be on somebody else’s plate. Being content and grateful for what the Lord has given me to watch over is more difficult at times than it seems like it should be. Perhaps, that is simply human nature.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

Had the man, Adam, simply remained faithful to tending to the garden that the Lord had put him in charge of, his life and our lives might have played out differently. But even though God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Scripture tells us that they were not satisfied with this and their eyes and appetites wandered. They wanted more.

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Recall the story of James and John-the Sons of Thunder—in the Gospel of Mark?

Mark 10:35-45 (NIV) 35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles LORD it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Scripture informs us that James and John had the nickname “Sons of Thunder”. Imagine that. Here are two of Christ’s closest disciples and Scripture refers to them like they are WWE Tag Team wrestlers akin to the Freebirds or the Legion of Doom.

Certainly, you don’t earn the name Sons of Thunder without reason. James and John were rough around the edges. They were colorful, amazing men. They weren’t afraid of a fight. Like some of us, they might even fancy picking one from time to time. Scripture shows us that they could be aggressive.

Along with that aggressiveness, as many of us know to well, comes a degree of insensitivity. Lack of tact. Overly direct. Not concerned with how our words or deeds might impact others.

You might recall that on one occasion, James and John wanted to call down the fire of heaven on a Samaritan village who did not seem to respond to the message Jesus preached.

Here in this passage, as Jesus speaks of His own impending death about how he would be betrayed and then handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit upon, scourged, and ultimately killed, James and John the Sons of Thunder blurt out: “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask—Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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Tending to our garden is not something that always comes easy to us.

Pride and envy battle humility and gratitude, struggling for control of our heart, mind, and soul. If we remain humble and grateful, we have greater chances of walking faithfully on the journey God has laid out in front of us. Pride and envy convince us that “Our Will Be Done” instead of “God’s Will Be Done”.

Adam and Eve were shunned from the Garden, bestowing the curse of Sin upon all the generations of man that followed them. I’ll bet they wished when it was all said and done, that they had tended to their garden.

Through the New Testament Scripture, we see James and John transformed, becoming more like Christ, whom they spent every day with for 3 ½ years. Even so, their transformation did not happen overnight. But eventually they learned to tend to their garden.

How about you? Are you like me, struggling to keep your mind, heart, and soul focused on the work God has given you? Have you gotten so caught up in tending to other people’s gardens that you’ve neglected your own?

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Scripture teaches us “Therefore is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.”

Through Jesus Christ, you and I can be transformed, no longer defined by the sins and shortcomings of our past, but free as servants of God Almighty to prosper in all that we do.

It is a struggle we must endure. Being unfaithful to what God has provided us is no solution. It is a road that leads to no good. With Christ, all things are possible.  Be humble. Be grateful. Remain faithful.

Tend to your garden.

Prayer:

Father, Lord we love you. Help us tend to our garden. Empower us with the ability to be satisfied in that which you have provided for us and entrusted into our watch-care. Help us be faithful stewards of all that you have made us accountable for, remaining humble and grateful as we serve you and your Kingdom, for your glory, and for you honor, and for your praise. Amen. Amen.

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