Author Archive: Revraney

Know Your Place

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denariusfor the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

This certainly would not go over today.  All manner of groups and people would raise a fuss, not just those who worked in the vineyard!

Jesus objective was not to give a lesson on free market capitalism (“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?”).  There is something else to be learned from this story.

Those first approached by the owner of the vineyard were offered a specific wage for the work.  They thought it was a fair wage and agreed to work for that amount.  As the day went on the owner hired more people who worked varying hours.  At the end of the day when the workers were being paid those who had worked the least got their pay first and received the amount the owner had offered those he had approached first and had worked the entire day. Seeing this they figured he was going to pay them more since they had worked longer. That seems fair and logical. After all, isn’t God fair?  Then when they received their pay they were given the same as those who had worked less hours. That doesn’t seem fair; hmm, isn’t God fair?

Our thoughts about ourselves and about God are often completely backwards.  For instance, we seem to think God exists for us.  In our minds we are the center of our universe.  But this is not true and is our corrupt nature at work.  God does not exist for us.  We exist for God.  We are not the center of the universe, God is.  It is this thinking that has caused so much pain and suffering.  We were not created to be the center of our universe or to have everything be about us.  This self-centered, self-serving view causes us to live our lives in pursuit of things to make us happy.  The result is just the opposite because this is not how we were originally built.  We can not fulfill our grand design by being the center of our own universe.  The way we find fulfillment and subsequently happiness is by surrendering to God as the center of all things, including our own personal existence.  We have our position in the world backwards.

God has promised us from His grace that if we come with Him, whether to work in the vineyard or to sit at His feet, He will reward us.  This grace, this reward, is not something we earn from a God who owes, but rather is a gift from the God who loves us.


It seems as if there is almost no limit to what I can have.  Many in our population can remember when it was a big deal to have one TV and one car. Now there are more TV’s in our home than people and we don’t have a clue how many channels we have.

Your phone sat on an end table or hung on the wall, not your belt and it wasn’t smart.  Going out to eat was an event or an occasion.  Now the opposite is true.  The question, where do you want to eat, seldom includes home as a choice.

We can purchase whatever we want, anytime we want; even in our pajamas.  We don’t even have to have enough money to buy it, or even any money for that matter.  If we don’t like something or simply get tired of it, we don’t think twice about throwing it away and replacing it with a new one.

I went on a mission trip to the rain forest in Peru years ago.  To get to the mission station in the rain forest required a ten hour bus ride up and over the mountains from the coast and down again into the rain forest.  Needless to say the further we travelled the more we were immersed into simplicity and poverty.  Some hours into the ride we stopped at a “Peruvian highlands Rest Area”.  It would be best described as a small general store along the side of the road; something you would might see in the early 20th century in rural America.

Our mission team, all from America descended upon that little store like flies on a piece of chicken left sitting on a picnic table in July. Sitting on the bus as we got ready to head out again I was so struck by the contrast between those of us on the mission team and the nationals at the store.  I wondered what they must think of us.  We purchased whatever we wanted and consumed it as if we had not eaten in days.

We have choices in every area and we expect nothing different from our church.  We consume our religion just like we do everything else.

So now it becomes time to go shopping.  What does the church have to offer my children?  Is there an active children’s ministry?  Are the teens active and doing lots of interesting things?  How big is the children’s department or the teen group?   We have become so cliché that we even have our own terminology.  Notice how the children are part of a department but teens are a group, when in essence they are the exact same thing – some measured number of people in a certain age range.  Is the department or group too big, too small?  What are the qualifications of the leader or staff?  These days we have staff rather than disciples.

And the response from Pastors and church leaders desperate for attendance and membership is to try and satisfy those desires.  Marketing is bigger than ever in the church.

.And what exactly are we marketing?  What is the product of the church?  The answer that seems most righteous and holy to us is “Jesus is the product.” Really?  How can the one who is supposed to be our Lord be a product that we offer to others?  How did we come to be in control of Jesus that we might offer Him as a product?

If Jesus is not our product then what is?  What are we marketing?  We market our church.  Some years ago while driving I noticed a church van.  The van had the name of the church and then of course their slogan underneath.  The slogan said, “The church where you will be loved.”  Finally, I had found the church where I would be loved.  See, as the slogan insinuates, at the other churches I was not loved.  But at this church I would be loved.  As far as they were concerned this is what they had to offer to get you to try them out.

Other churches may offer an exciting teen group.  Some may offer lively, exciting music.  A lot of churches are telling us that we can experience God if we come there – whatever that means.

We bring our boards together and we discuss strategies.  One of the first things we do is write our mission and vision statements.  These are done so we can focus on what our strengths are.   I have been to meeting after meeting where it is stated that the church can’t be a supermarket so we have to be a specialty shop.  What this means is that we have to identify what it is we are good at and start focusing on those things so we can effectively reach people.  From that we can develop our marketing strategy.  Does that sound like a business strategy to anyone other than me?  And that is exactly what we get, a business strategy.  That is why the church all too often looks like a business.

But the church was never meant to be a business.  Jesus tells His disciples that He would build His church, not us.  The body of Christ is not something man can build.  It is different than any organization in the world.

God Disciplines

Job 5:17 says,  “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

God’s discipline is meant for our correction.  The same love that rings true in the song “Just as I am”, that God accepts us just as we are, also will not allow us to remain as we are. It is by love that God disciplines us as He seeks to bring us to perfection in Him.

Remember this also –
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal  Job 5:18

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Surely you have heard that popular phrase before.  Consider it in relation to this interesting story regarding Peter’s call to follow Christ.

In Luke chapter 5 we read the story of Jesus, while standing by the Lake Gennesarat (aka the Sea of Galilee), preaching from Peter’s boat (Simon at the time).  After finishing His message He told Peter to take the boat on out to deeper waters to do a little fishing.  Peter, a professional fisherman responded by saying, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  The result was a tremendous catch of fish – so many as a matter of fact that it filled both boats to the point where they were about to sink.

After witnessing this miracle Peter was ready to follow Jesus.  The Bible tells us that he exclaimed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” When Jesus heard his repentant response He called him to follow Him and become a fisherman of a different kind – “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”  Once on the shore, Peter left everything and followed Christ.

There’s more to this story though.  This wasn’t Peter’s first encounter with Jesus.  It wasn’t even his first encounter with Jesus performing a miracle; not even the first miracle that directly involved and affected Peter.  In the previous chapter we read about Jesus going to the home of Simon.  Simon’s mother-in-law, who apparently lived with them, was very ill with a fever (no mother-in-law jokes at this time).  They asked Jesus to help her and He rebuked the fever and it left her.  Immediately she got up and began serving them.

This miracle did not cause Peter to repent in front of Jesus, resulting in his calling.  Maybe it took more than one incident, miracle.  Maybe it took a different kind of incident.  We do not know exactly how these two miracles worked together in impacting Peter or if they did at all.  What we see though is that different things or combinations of things affect different people in various ways.  God knows this and will work in lives what is needed to draw us to Him.

Our Worldview and Our Expectations

Our worldview has a great impact on our expectations and actions.  Consider the early church.  As we read through the book of Acts we see the Apostles performing signs and wonders in the name of Christ.  For example, Acts 5:12 tells us the apostles “performed many signs and wonders among the people.” People were so impressed that they “brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.”  Talk about a recipe for revival.

In Acts chapter 9, Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, raised Tabitha from the dead in a place named Joppa.  When this became known all over Joppa, the Bible tells us that many people believed in the Lord.

These incidents, along with many others, did indeed bring about what we today would refer to as a great revival.  As the scripture tells us, many people believed in the Lord, and God added daily to their number.  But did things continue along the path that we today, would expect?  In our worldview, would we anticipate what happened later?

What would we expect after such signs and wonders and the ensuing response? Would we start our plans for a bigger building or campus, possibly a TV program?  How about a crusade schedule or a series of “God Can” conferences?  Would we expect this ‘movement’ to simply keep on growing?

Would we be anticipate what actually happened? Lets take a look at just what did happen.  Shortly after the mention of the apostles performing many signs and wonders in Acts 5:12, we see Stephen martyred and then Acts 8 tells us a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem – in the midst of their good works and signs and wonders.  The persecution was so great the people had to flee and the church was scattered.  Now, I realize this worked to fulfill the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, but would this have been in our “5 year plan?”

Consider the course of Peter’s life. This same Peter who raises Tabitha from the dead, whose shadow people had tried to place their loved ones in to receive healing, ended his life as a martyr for Christ. He was persecuted and ultimately killed for his teaching and good deeds in Christ.  Is this the end we would anticipate for a great preacher today?

The worldview of the church in the west no longer includes persecution for the Gospel.  We want the church to be popular and well-liked in our culture.  But Jesus said that the world would hate us just like they hated Him.

Does this really make a difference? Is there a problem with wanting to be well thought of and respected as a church and Christians?  At what cost are we willing to be well thought of and respected?  Does our desire for such cause us to compromise the very Gospel that brings us salvation? If that be the case then it most certainly makes a difference and there is a problem.


“Unforgiveness is like acid; it destroys the vessel in which it is stored.” Author unknown

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).

I Guess You Don’t Exist

Man sitting at a dinner table with a group of people: “God does not exist.”

Christian in the group: “Really, why do you say that?”

Man: “Because of all the bad, evil things that happen to people.”

Christian: “Do you give your children everything they want and always do things the way they want you to?”

Man: “Of course not!”

Christian: “Do your children always do what you want them to do?”

Man: “Absolutely not!”

Christian: “Well, then I guess you don’t exist.”