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Good for the Worst

God Almighty, Lord of Heaven & Earth, God-Who-Sees, God-Who-Provides, Judge & Counselor, our sinful lays before You revealed, nothing is hidden, everything is known to You. The darkest corners of our hearts & the false impressions we put on to impress others are exposed for what they are in Your sight. There are no secrets we can keep from You, nowhere we can run or hide from Your gaze. You know our going in & our coming out, our lying down & our rising up again. Grant us this mercy today, remind us of Your best, the good You have provided because of our worst. Let us see You & be reminded of our own condition in the light of Your glory. Let us remember today, pace ourselves with the footsteps of Jesus along the Way of Suffering & the Hill of the Skull. May we be present there today & turn our hearts heavenward. Remind us, sweet Jesus, of Your love, mercy & grace over us. Forgive us our deep failings, every one & restore our hearts with Your blood & Spirit. We pray this in the power of Your precious Name, Jesus, amen.

Read slowly.
Close Your eyes & imagine at the paragraph breaks.
Be present, an observer in the crowd today.
Walk through today aware of what He did for you as your day progresses.

Luke 22:54-23:56

(Friday, Early Morning)
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.

 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”  And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

(Friday, Morning)
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.
  And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

(Friday, About 9am)
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “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.”

(Friday, noon)
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

(Friday, 3pm)
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man,
who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
(Friday, ~6pm)

Remember.

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Wicked Tenants

Father, I thank You for the grace of Your Word. I praise You for being present in my life, and for revealing Yourself to me as I take these moments to draw near and listen to Your heart. I ask you to speak to me, grant me Your mercy, convict me of my sins, and work correction in my heart. Shape me and sculpt me, may I be a better reflection of Jesus because of this encounter with You today. Let me learn peace from You, be glorified because of the faith You have provided me, and use me to share these gifts and mercies with others today. May my life be used to bring You glory today. All of this I pray in the Name of Jesus and through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Luke 20:9-18
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Let’s walk through the basics of this parable today and examine what it is God has for us to hear. We know that God is the One who plants the vineyard. It is His from its inception and it will always be His vineyard. He is the One who marked its boundaries, tilled the soil, built walls and planted the vines. In every way imaginable, this vineyard is the Vineyard of the Lord. The Owner then becomes the Master as He takes on workers/tenants.

He gives them a task to do. These are the people of God, the workers of His own choosing. The tenants, by definition, are not the owners of the vineyard. They have a relationship with the Owner, they have been assigned tasks by the Owner, but they do not have a say in how this vineyard is operated. They cannot dictate new policy or change the goals laid out by the Master. As Jesus says later, they cannot reject the cornerstone, the basic/core point of operation and direction, as laid out by God. They are employees, and while they will share in the fruit of the vineyard, every grape, every vine, every clod of dirt, every ounce of juice and every drop of rain that falls on that land belongs, ultimately, to the Owner. They have part, they have roles, but they do not have mastery over the vineyard. It belongs to Him.

“When the time came…” The Owner of the vineyard knew when His vines should bear fruit. He knows the seasons, He has an expectation of the plants and the workers. So He came in the moment when fruit should be appearing, expecting to find what should rightfully be there, and what He planted the vineyard to accomplish. He did not send to them at a time when the vineyard would be budding or blossoming. He did not relay a message to them after the first rain. He sent to them at the time of harvest, expecting what was His. These conditions were laid out to the tenants when they began to work for Him. He would have laid out these exact specifications and plans to them when they began the job. This was not a surprising moment. This was not unexpected. Vineyards produce grapes.

And since this is a very thinly veiled parable, let’s look at the harvest itself. When God talks about harvesting, pretty much everywhere else in Scripture, we know that He is talking about people. Fruitfulness in the Kingdom instantly equates to multiplication. Faithfulness equates to each and every individual doing the work that God has required from the beginning. We have been commissioned to do this work of growing, cultivating and harvesting from the relationships that God blesses us with.The Kingdom’s harvest comes from disciples making disciples.

We all have a part, we all have a responsibility and we all have a task to do within the walls of the vineyard. And while we can busy ourselves with all manner of tasks within the walls of the vineyard, all the while making ourselves feel very useful. But if we are doing anything and everything other than tending to the vines, and working toward that harvest, then we are sorely mistaken. He has laid out our role within the vineyard and we will be under a great deal of conviction and we will have many things to answer for when the Master comes expecting His harvest.

Now, for me, I know what it is to be hurt by people who are supposed to be workers in the vineyard. I know what it is to be hurt by leaders and laypeople. I’m sure we all know what it means to have people insult us, let us down or to abuse us. And these are people who are supposed to be fellow workers within the vineyard. So we are tempted, when we look at this parable and see where others have mistaken the messages of God plainly sent to them to point the sword-point of the parable toward their heart and deflect it from our own. We may remember instances where someone else did us wrong, and we feel a degree of satisfaction knowing that they will be called to the carpet for their wrongs. But this is not the parable of the unmerciful servant. This is not a parable where Jesus is calling us to look at others and to feel better about their impending judgment. If we are all workers in God’s vineyard, then this message is for us.

If we read parables or passages of Scripture and we remember how someone else needs to hear this passage, because we really want them to experience some kind of conviction, to get what’s coming to them, or to see God’s justice come down on them, then we are no better than Jonah, sitting on our hilltop and just gleefully waiting for their Nineveh to burn. If that is how we read these parables and wrongly interpret that point toward conviction, then we are not really reading the parables. These are for us, the conviction belong to us, and is not to be pointed toward anyone else. Yes, we can identify bad workmanship in the efforts of others. Yes, as Christians it is our responsibility to talk with our brothers & sisters who wrong us & then to forgive them (Mt 18) and to seek help in bringing them to correction (James 4&5) but it is also our duty to listen to the words of the Master and see what He is trying to bring about in us.

Christian, we are all workers in the Master’s vineyard. The Kingdom belongs to Him and Him alone. He will return one day, and He will expect a harvest, the work of multiplication and the growth and fruit of the vineyard.

Sometimes we think the vineyard is ours. We want to live and operate within it as if we are the ones writing the rules. So we set up our own little kingdoms within the greater vineyard and we expect things to always go in our way, in our timing, and within our expectations…and when they don’t? We kill the messenger…or at least the message.

Why do we think the vineyard is ours? what happens in our hearts and in our minds that we suddenly think ourselves to be owners rather than workers? Why do we respond with arrogance and selfish ‘ownership’ rather than with humble obedience?

This parable is for us. The Master is returning & He expects a harvest. We can either work and produce one, giving Him His due and living in obedience, or we can reject the message and face His wrath when He comes. For the Jews listening to Jesus’ parable, their time working the vineyard on their own was very quickly drawing to a close. They didn’t like what Jesus was telling them, and no one likes to hear that they’ve been doing it wrong. That is why they cried out, “Surely not!” when Jesus told them there would be new workers coming (the gentile peoples.)

Sometimes we work for a while, doing what we want instead of doing what we should. That is the message of this parable. No matter what tasks we set our hands to, the Master has an outcome in mind for us. There is a harvest expected from our handiwork, and if conviction is going to spring from this message, then we have to take it personally and listen for the correction that comes from love.

He has mercy and grace for us.

The Master gave these workers multiple chances to listen and to do what was right, but He didn’t change the guidelines or His expectations in the process. The same goes for us. God speaks correction and expectation into our lives and into our work, and we can either accept it or reject it, the choice s ours. But either way, the Master is going to come calling and seeking His harvest. We can either share in the celebration of the harvest (yes, please) or be crushed by His coming. Let’s pray the we are receptive, each one personally, to the message He sends, be mindful of our role & put our hands and hearts to work for Him. Let’s work toward multiplication and the harvest in the rhythms of His grace & giving God the glory.

Acts 16:35-40 // Know your rights. Exercise them in love.

“35 When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, ‘Release those men!’

36 The jailer reported these words to Paul: ‘The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.’

37 But Paul said to them, ‘They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to smuggle us out secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out!’

38 Then the police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them, and escorting them out, they urged them to leave town. 40 After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and departed.”

Acts 16:35-40

Sometimes, as Christians, we feel like it’s wrong to stand up for ourselves. We feel guilty if we engage in behavior that may not be construed as…humble. We remember that “…the meek shall inherit the earth” and so we try to be meek, quiet and unassuming. But the fact of the matter is that Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We are supposed to use our minds, do what is right, be creative, but unlike the world we do this in gentleness and in love. Paul & Silas were wronged, publicly wronged. And where someone might say to ‘turn the other cheek’ they would be taking that command further than Jesus intended. We are not supposed to seek out abuse or situations that bring us harm. We aren’t supposed to let those patterns of behavior continue.  We need to stand up for what it right. Paul and Silas were beaten and publicly humliated. If they just ‘took it’ and moved on, what would come for the Christians who get persecuted after them, maybe who aren’t Roman citizens? So it was important that they establish a precedent that would protect others, and keep them from the harm they experienced. At least now the authorities would think first before needlessly beating someone. 

We aren’t supposed to seek revenge. Paul and Silas did not. 

We aren’t supposed to act in anger. Paul and Silas did not.

We aren’t supposed to ridicule anyone. Paul and Silas did not.

We aren’t supposed to rebel against authorities who are acting in good faith. Paul and Silas did not. 

Instead, they stood up for themselves, they stated their rights and they demanded that they receive the proper treatment afforded to them by the law of the land. They stood up for themselves in a God honoring way, left a Christ-centred example and didn’t burn any bridges or leave any unsavory tastes in the mouths of the people. They just showed they weren’t pushovers, and that they understood authority and how it plays out. 

As we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, we need to be mindful of the impression that we leave, whether we feel like we are being treated well or not. How we react makes a difference. How we act, proactively, makes a difference. In everything we do, we need to stand for what is right, even if the governing authorities are not. Insofar as they operate in a reasonable and just way, we comply, but where they stand against the Word of God, then we stand up for what is right in a way that honors God, and hopefully, makes a good impression for His sake and in His Name on those people whom we stand against. It is also important to remember that God is the One who sets things straight and who will see justice done. We stand for the truth, until that time, honoring Christ in our attitudes and actions. 

  

Acts 16:16-24 // The Inconvenient Truth

“16 Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit of prediction. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 As she followed Paul and us she cried out, ‘These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the slaves of the Most High God.’ 18 And she did this for many days.

But Paul was greatly aggravated and turning to the spirit, said, ;I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out right away.

19 When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. 20 Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews 21 and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.’

22 Then the mob joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded. 24 Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.”

Acts 16:16-24

This isn’t an uncommon reaction to the truth. When told or shown that what they are doing is wrong, people tend to lash out and get angry. They see the sharing of the truth/Gospel as a personal assault. And so they lash out, they get aggressive. This is the way that sin presses back against the truth, and we’ve seen it over and over again. Just like a child who doesn’t want to hear something will cover their ears and start to yell, these people cover their hearts and do whatever is necessary to stop the truth from taking purchase. People who are invested in their sins are not interested in changing while they feel like things are going ‘well.’ And so it is no surprise when they press ack against us as we share the Gospel. 

They’ll call us names, try to defame us, insult and slander us and do whatever they can to rally like minded people to their cause to make a bigger noise, a large enough commotion that we would be over powered and forced into submission. That tactic hasn’t changed. It was happening before Paul & company experienced it here in Philippi and it is still happening today. We see it in the news today as Christians are fought against, defamed, shouted at and ridiculed. The tactics are the same and the reasons behind them are the same. So, don’t be surprised when people lash out and fight back against you when you share the gospel with them. Some soil is hardpacked and cannot receive seed. Calloused to thier own depravity, rationalizing their own behavior, they refuse to listen, refuse to hear. 

As we GoLove people in Jesus Name, sharing the truth of the Gospel, we are going to experiece a variety of responses. Some will be like these people in Phillippi, some will receive it joyfully. However it happens, we must remember that the aggression and the joy have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the Gospel message. If they reject it, they are not rejecting us but Him who sent us. If they receive it gladly, they are not accepting something that we came up with or can take credit for, but they are receiving Christ because of His efforts for them. It’s all about Him, and not about us, and so we endure a great many things for His sake andin His Name. Paul and Silas saw this reaction as a victory, hauled off to jail and beaten without a trial, they had spoken nothing but the truth and been faithful to Christ abive all. And because their faith endured, they rejoiced. Pray for that same endurance in the truth for yourself today. Pray that God would grow you in your faithfulness, no matter what the response to your efforts may be…
  

Mark 15:6-15 // Handed Over

“6 At the festival it was Pilate’s custom to release for the people a prisoner they requested. 7 There was one named Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. 8 The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. 9 So Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” 10 For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead.

12 Pilate asked them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?”

13 Again they shouted, “Crucify Him!”

14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why? What has He done wrong?”

But they shouted, “Crucify Him!” all the more.

15 Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

Mark 25:6-15

How often do we hand Jesus over in favor of us getting what we want? How often do we squelch the Spirit because our unwillingness to listen, to live humbly and to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus in our lives? What sinful urges press in on us that blind us to our calling and purpose? Why do we let the obvious darkness creep in over our hearts, captivating our minds and distracting our efforts? 

What a sad state to be in. What a lost and wandering heart. We want to be saved but we will not be ruled and so we sacrifice the sacrifice made for us. We resign ourselves to sin because “it’s just too much work to be good.” We call for the murderer, the violence of sin, rather than the goodness of God because it is more familiar to our flesh. 

How much ministry, how many opportunities have been lost to selfishness and a lack of a resigned will? Why do we continue to choose sin over His Lordship? 

This is that classic struggle that Paul points out in Romans 7. Sin is at work in us and we desperately need to be saved from ourselves. We need to cry out. We need to acknowledge our brokenness rather than call for the things that drag us down over and over again. 

Humility was only present in Christ that morning outside of Pilate’s residence. He was the only one standing properly before the Father, while everyone else struggled with varying degrees of pride, hatred, worry, envy and confusion. 

Jesus is the One who was handed over. He was the Blameless One who bore the consequences of our sinful, selfish pride. The marvelous truth here is that Jesus wasn’t captured by our sin like we are, He voluntarily took it on out of His great love for us. 

Praise God for His infinite mercy and His wonderful grace! 

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