Re: Verse reading–Matthew 26:47-50, 57-66; 27:11-26 (day one)

A COMEDY of errors.  That is what we call it.  Narrative work.  Usually a play. One mistake leads to another and another.  Absurd.  Hilarious.

Our reading this week is a TRAGEDY of errors.  Many people rejecting, refusing loyalty to Christ and for many different reasons.  Caiaphas from envy.  Judas from his love of money.  Pilate from political expediency.  Different motivations.  Same decision.  Jesus is betrayed and rejected and condemned to die.

“God. . .has glorified His Servant, Jesus, the One whom you. . . disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.”–Acts 3:13-14.

Did the participants, that day so long ago, think they were doing right, acting appropriately?  Did they have reasons for their actions?  Yes, probably.  (Don’t we?)  But, for all of their excuses and self-justifications they were still morally and eternally wrong!

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Is work worth it?

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day seven)

“You go and work in my vineyard and I will pay you what is right.”–v 4.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”2 Corinthians 5:10.

Is work worth it?  From a cost-benefit analysis?  Why should a person strive for excellence if, at the end of the season, everyone gets the same trophy?  What motive can be found for  physical, spiritual, or professional effort?  Isn’t the wiser course to just “do enough to get by”?

Followers of Christ know the answer.  We work because our deeds will be judged. Evaluated.  Rewarded or rejected, received or refused.

Matthew 20 is a conversation on this important subject.  God will “judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.” As evidence, He will point to our response when He offered us a job.

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And He Didn’t Even Have a Portfolio

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day six)

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

Truly, amazing! What grace! What generosity! Something incredible happened while Jesus hung on the Cross! A conversion took place; one of the convicted felons next to Jesus repented and believed. Jesus, on the spot, gave him a place in his Kingdom. No drug test, background check (that would have come back all-wrong), no references, and not even a request for him to reveal his “good works” portfolio, and yet Jesus says, “You, come with me. I have a place for you in my Kingdom for all eternity.”

Can you imagine the response of the chief priests, lawyers, and scribes if they could have overheard this declaration to a convicted, law-breaking, criminal? “Him, paradise?! Never! God surely would cast him out! He is nothing! A vagrant! He has done nothing worthy of God’s approval! If anyone deserves God’s approval, it would be us!”

When even the least of these, the last, say “yes” to Jesus, the fullness of God’s grace is theirs for the taking. They don’t even need a portfolio of “good works,” and neither do you.


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While There’s Still “Daylight”

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day five)

This parable is chocked full of good news!! The landowner is SO kind and generous. He is faithful to keep his promises. He rewards his workers from his perspective.

However, the most wonderful news to me, is the fact that during this parable, the landowner goes out five times during the day to hire workers. He calls out to workers and they respond. Evening comes and they are all brought to receive their reward.

If we think about the symbolism, we are still in the “daylight”. The Lord continues to call disciples/workers out from the crowds. Does that place a burden on your heart? Do you sense the urgency of time? Know anyone that needs to hear Him call?

While there’s still “daylight”: Will you share the gospel with them? Will you pray for their salvation? Will you encourage them to come experience Preaching/Singing/Bible Study/Fellowship and be in His presence?

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Look in All the Right Places

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day four)

It seems to be a regular theme for Jesus…”So the last shall be first, and the first last.” (v. 16) We find it in Matthew 19:30, Mark 10:31, and Luke 13:30. Each gospel passage where we find this phrase, is a different instance or story…but each story relates to heaven and eternal life. It seems that the life we live on this earth materially, will not always give an accurate picture of our waiting reward in heaven. Many on earth appear to be richly blessed…they have wealth, and influence, and status. Others come from very humble…even impoverished…lifestyles. Some have an enviable, easy life, while others face constant persecution and hardship. It is not the material wealth and blessing that determines eternal life in heaven. Our reward in heaven will be based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. Eternal life is promised for those who give their all to Jesus. Heaven is not earned…whether we ‘work’ long or short, we cannot earn eternal life. It is a gift of grace and mercy from a loving and generous God!

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Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day three)

“Are you envious because I am generous?” If the universe is a meritocracy, it’s only sensible to make sure you gain an edge over others. But if in fact we live by way of mercy, wouldn’t you hope that God is generous to those without a leg up? We are dependent on God’s generosity, which flows from his mercy. Sometimes we might see someone and think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It’s a small step, though, from thinking you’re better off to thinking that you’re just better. Perhaps we would train our minds toward Christ if instead we think, “Because of the grace of God, I have no less of God’s attention than that person.”

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Attitude of Gratitude

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day two)

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first, and the first will be last. 15-16

I did it again this weekend. I was driving through a part of town that I hadn’t explored before and I began coveting. The neighborhood was beautiful. Well manicured trees lined the streets and the houses were all in good repair and very large. My first thought was, why can’t I live here? I work hard, I stay out of debt, I tithe regularly, so why not? I confess, this is something I have always struggled with. I have equated good living and hard work with things. Always, always, I am reminded by the Spirit to have an attitude of gratitude. If God really dealt us what we deserve based on good work or clean living, wouldn’t we all come up pretty short? The truth of the matter is that in my assignment God has ALWAYS provided exceedingly more than I could ever ask or imagine. That will look different for each of us, because each of us has a different role to play. So, I repented, I thanked God for his abundant provision, and I was grateful to be serving the King.

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Is God fair?

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 20:1-16 (day one)

“These men. . .only worked one hour. . .and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day. “–v 12.

Is God fair?  By our standards, I mean?  Does He rule the universe with an even hand?

Not if you mean EQUAL, He isn’t.  Some people will have harder assignments than others.  Some people will get more talents.  (See Matthew 25)  Some will serve longer.  Some will eat better.

Not if you mean JUSTICE, He isn’t.  Including any of us in His Kingdom goes far beyond justice.  It is mercy!

But, if you mean GENEROUS and KIND and WISE, yes!  His will for each of us is “good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2)  Don’t compare! Trust God!  Receive what He gives you, both assignment and reward. More than fair, God is good.

“If I want HIM to remain until I return, what is that to you?  YOU follow ME.”–John 21:22.



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Walkaway Joes

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 18:21-25 (day seven)

“It is not the will of your Father. . .that one of these little ones perish.  And if your brother sins, go and reprove him. . .if he listens to you, you have gained you brother.”–v 14-15.

I like country music.  Don’t judge me.  Years ago, Trisha Yearwood had a song called, “A Walkaway Joe.”  Mom saw it.  Daughter didn’t.  The boy in question would eventually “walk away”.

Most of us have some of the same tendency. Someone in the church hurts our feelings.  We walk away.  Sin looks attractive.  We wander away, lose interest in Spiritual things.

Christ has instructions for this situation.  Those who love the Lord are to come to us and reprove us and help us and forgive us.  What good is a friendship so brittle that it breaks under tension?

God does not want us to perish.  When we walk away, He searches for us by sending the church.

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Dying to Forgive

Re: Verse reading–Matthew 18:21-35 (day six) 

Forgiveness, whether we receive it or give it, springs from the infinite well of grace and mercy dug deep by the death and resurrection of the Son! If that is true, and it is, consider this. As Jesus is teaching his listeners about the nature of the Kingdom of God and forgiveness, he knows that the very basis of that reality hinges or is founded on his death and resurrection. The Father cannot forgive, nor can we, without the tragedy and joy of the Cross!

Our reluctance to forgive, or closeted resentment, is no small thing, it is a rejection of the Gospel, and reaps only separation from God and others. So perhaps, the most practical fruit that the Gospel produces in us is forgiveness!

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