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Category Archives: holidays

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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Free means Free

Sustain us in the struggle Lord, and raise us to Your life. Amen.

Galatians 5:1-15
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Let’s read that last bit again:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we hear the word freedom, we probably have several different images pop into our mind. Mel Gibson pops in first as William Wallace, face painted blue, war worn, tied to a table and suffering his last. It is a gasping final breath, a cry for something that mattered most, that was worth dying for, a cause that was meant to bring hope to others.

Then I think of people like Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth, people who worked and struggled and did things both stealthy and public to draw attention to the plight of their people, desiring freedom from oppression & slavery. They didn’t care what man’s opinion was on the matter, they did what was right. Dr. King echoed their hearts on the other side of the Emancipation Proclamation, while men and women still struggled for equality because of the color of their skin, and many still echo their cause today, and rightfully so.

I think of Moses standing in the court of Pharaoh, staff in hand, and Charlton Heston’s beard hanging down on his chest demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go. A power struggle between two men, one who thought himself a god, and another who was on a mission from God. Moses stood representing a people who were oppressed, taken advantage of, beaten down and suffering. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream to them, suffering was their companion.

But God has different plans.

All of these examples of freedom that pop into my head center around people who were willing to stand up to that others might have freedom, and I think that’s only right. People who fight for their own freedom, but neglect the needs of others around them do not understand the true nature of freedom. And this thought is found in this passage from Galatians 5 today. We have been granted a great freedom in Christ, yes. But we cannot, not even for a moment, keep that freedom to ourselves. It is counter-intuitive, truly free people want non-free people to truly be free, and they will point the goals of their life toward that work.

Freedom isn’t an idea. It’s not a rough concept or construct that we work under. Freedom is a state of being, and it shapes everything we have license to do. Paul was pointing this out, too, when he reminded the church in Galatia that their freedom was given so that they might serve others. It isn’t a freedom for self, but a freedom to serve. That’s what freedom is for, freedom is for freeing, and people who are free, and understand their freedom, having engaged with it, will seek freedom for others. They will ‘go’ as Jesus called them to go, bringing freedom to the captives.

Luke 4:16-21
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

If this was Jesus’ mission, then it belongs to us, too.
Freedom if for everyone. Free means free.
Go set someone free today.

Romans 1:18-25 // Why Feel Guilty?

“18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.”

Romans 1:18-25

==

And so we enter the main thrust of Paul’s first point. When we are confronted with God, we find that there are two differemt reactions. The first is to honor and glorify Him, admitting our own shortcomings, or to be given over to our own pride, denying His righteousness and choosing to serve self instead. That may seem overly simplistic, but it is the truth. 

Every morning when I wake up, I am given a choice. Either I can live for God or I can live for myself, there is no in-bewteen. I can either look at the day and understand that God’s desire for me is best or I can seek to serve myself, following my own path. He has not presented us with an option that says that we can do both of those things, living according to His will and our own. Paul lays it out clearly, the Spirit speaking through him, that everyone is without excuse when we make this decision, as God has made Himself plainly known through creation itself. And when we choose to gratify our own desires, choosing self over service to Him, we have chosen depravity, idolatry and that our minds become darkened & foolish. 

And to an unbelieving world, that sounds harsh. But in reality, that’s what happens when we choose self, we exchange the truth for a lie. There isn’t some magical mid-point between truth & lies, no flex point or grey area. And that is where guilt comes in, and why we can see it as a blessing. If we didn’t feel guilty, if we weren’t convicted of our sin, we would never change. If God just patted us on the head and sent us off while silently shaling His own? That would be cruel & heartless. To see our sin, our shame and the mess we make of our life and to just quietly let us wander into the mire and quicksand of death? There couldn’t be love in His heart if He was to let that happen. And so Paul lets us see that God made Himself clear through creation, that He planted certain things in our hearts that draw us toward Him, even if we don’t know what to call Him or have access to His Word. Creation itself has His fingerprint all over it. And being allowed to experience this wandering, to be delivered over to our sinful cravings, we have the opportunity to experience guilt & conviction, the one thing that will point our hearts back to ward Him and away from self. 

Our hypersensitive society is repulsed by the idea of guilt and shame, thinking no one should ever feel bad for their choices. But in reality, that is the greatest cruelty they could offer their ‘fellow man.’ To refuse to say that something is wrong, is to willingly watch another person wander directly into death. To say ‘live and let live’ is to show an absolute lack of care or concern for the well being of another human life and the lives that are attached to it. It is a savage person who tells another person to let their sinful instincts have their way, to eat, drink and be merry, with no fear of consequence or repercussion. It isn’t love that perpetuates this attitude, it is disdain. It plainly says, “I don’t care about you, but I am going to tell myself I do so that I feel no guilt in what harms you.” In this way, ‘tolerance’ can be the greatest cruelty. 

Paul is warning the Roman Christians and everyone else who would read this letter about the dangers of sin. And why? Because he cared for them like God did. And when we care for people, we cannot let them continue to wander in their sin, or deny that their sin even exists. Love cannot turn a blind eye. Instead, it follows the command to GoLove others enough to let them see their sin, which is the example that Jesus set for us. He was lifted up, while offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, so that we might see just how serious the wandering of our heart is, and why we must turn our eyes toward God. To live in the rhythm of grace means to be plain and open about sin. Love doesn’t disguise sin, it reveals it for the poison that it is, and it speaks with the voice of the Father, a loving parent who disciplines thier child precisely because of His love for them. 

Proverbs 3:5-12
“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
7 Dont consider yourself to be wise;
 fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 This will be healing for your body
and strengthening for your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions
and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
10 then your barns will be completely filled,
and your vats will overflow with new wine.
11 Do not despise the Lords instruction, my son,
and do not loathe His discipline;
12 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in.”

Acts 22:6-21 // The Testimony of Faith

“6 ‘As I was traveling and near Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 

8 I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you are persecuting!’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the One who was speaking to me.

10 Then I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ 

And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything that is assigned for you to do.’ 

11 Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good reputation with all the Jews residing there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice. 15 For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’ 

17 After I came back to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple complex, I went into a visionary state 18 and saw Him telling me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me!’ 

19 But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in You imprisoned and beaten. 20 And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I was standing by and approving, and I guarded the clothes of those who killed him.’ 

21 Then He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 22:6-21

==

Read through that account again & listen for who is in charge of the exchange.

There was already a change being worked in Saul from the moment he met with Jesus. Everything was pointing toward Jesus, and Saul himself simply becomes an accessory, not the focal point, of the encounter. This is the hallmark of a good testimony. Saul could have shared more about himself, how he was feeling, the thoughts running through his head, but instead, he chooses to focus the account on the One who was changing his story. It wasn’t about Saul anymore, it had all become about Jesus.

When any one of us give our lives over to Christ, we are handing off the leadership role to Him. We offload any self-importance at the foot of the cross so it can be crucified and done away with. The story of our lives has a new protagonist, and it simply isn’t us. Jesus becomes that new focal point, and this is essential for our testimony as we talk with people about our faith. 

I resolved a long time ago not to use the pulpit as a place to tell stories about my own life, or to use my children as illustration fodder. Instead, the focus needs to be on Jesus alone. Yes, telling relatable stories is okay, but they need to be brief and serve in a very obvious way to point toward the cross of Christ. If it’s a stretch to make it work, or if the focus begins to drift over toward us, then we have hijacked the attention away from Him & it is no longer a testimony. 

Paul, telling his own story, chose to focus more on what Jesus was doing, and how Jesus was changing the course of his life rather than fill us in on his own backstory. The reason for this? Pauls own life story had become about Jesus, right from the beginning, rather than about him. This subtle shift is what makes all the difference. Paul undoubtedly told this story thousands of times. It was the story about how he died and how Jesus made something new and wonderful out of his life. The weight of his story shifted, and things would never be the same.

Self-importance does not make for a good testimony. Pointing toward the cross does.

As we GoLove others in His Name, we should keep the focus on Him and tell the story of His love to those who need it so badly. 

Acts 10:34-48 // God is rich in grace

“34 Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. 36 He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all. 37 You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. 39 We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. 40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God.

Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.”

Acts 10:34-48

There would later be a debate arise within the church centered around the man-made line distinguishing Jews and Gentiles. God’s grace is so amazing, so complete, so overwhelming that some people simply couldn’t believe that there was –nothing– that we had to do to earn it or pay for it or even qualify for it. Since the Jewish people had so much history with God, so much interaction through the Law and the prophets, King David and all the others, they couldn’t believe that God wouldn’t require somone to join into that first before taking the step of faith in beliveing in Jesus. So they made circumcision a marker of faith for the church. They told people that they had to at least do that in order to be a part of what God was doing. Paul, a proud Jewish man by heritage, would call them the ‘mutilators of the flesh’ and make it clear that nothing had to be done, no work, in order to earn God’s favor and receive His grace. 

This message was confirmed from the beginning, at this first God-orchestrated inclusion of the Gentiles into the Christian faith. Cornelius and his family didn’t have to become Jewish first. They didn’t have to go through any extra steps, sign off on a Jewish history class or anything of the sort. They feared God, heard the Gospel & responded appropriately. They were baptized with the Holy Spirit and in water. There are no other steps required. They began their walk with Christ, the fullness of the Holy Spirit within them, in that moment. No one had to ‘earn’ anything. 

For those of us who have grown up in the church, sometimes we have this temptation to lay out extra requirements when it comes to joining into the bride of Christ. Now it’s totally fine to have different approaches for how we get that Gospel presentation to people. It can be in a church service, a class, one on one over coffee, the possibilities are endless. But that core message doesn not change. Some people want an individual to hear the message, get baptized and sign off on a confessional statement or a catechism. That sounds nice, but that’s adding in an extra step when you make that a marker for faith. Use thet statement or chatechism in your presentation, be thorough, let them hear the fullness of God’s salvation story and help them understand that God’s Word is flawless, inerrant, and that it is our authority in all things. But signing off on a creed isn’t part of the salvation process. Good doctrine is vital. It is absolutely important and essential in the life of every Christian. But you don’t have to have ‘everything’ figured out before you come to Jesus. 

You simply need to understand that you are a sinner who need to be saved & that God has provided the way to salvation through His own Son, Jesus Christ. If you can accept the fact that Jesus paid for your sins while you were still dead in them, if you receive His great gift of grace?  Then you’re in! You join with Him in His death, burial and resurrection though baptism, and receive everything that God promised through His sacrifice. 

Sins? Gone.

Desire to be close to God? Achieved. The Holy Spirit indwells all who come to Him through Christ.

Purpose in life? More than you could possibly believe. You get to spread the joy that God provided for you to everyone else!

Hope for the future? Certainty after death? Completed. Eternity has been laid at your feet. You have been invited into the presence of God. 

So, GoLove people without stipulation. Present the truth of the Gospel and be faithful to what God has called you in Christ Jesus. He did all the work. Let’s trust Him in that…

  

Acts 7:17-36  // Jesus and the story of redemption (pt 3)

“17 As the time was drawing near to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people flourished and multiplied in Egypt 18 until a different king who did not know Joseph ruled over Egypt. 19 He dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our ancestors by making them leave their infants outside, so they wouldn’t survive. 20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful in God’s sight. He was cared for in his father’s home three months, 21 and when he was left outside, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted and raised him as her own son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his speech and actions.
23 As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided to visit his brothers, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, “Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?” 

27 But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him away, saying:

“Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?”

29 At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. 30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came: 32 “I am the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” So Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.

33 Then the Lord said to him:

“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have observed the oppression of My people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to rescue them. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt.”

35 This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, “Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?” — this one God sent as a ruler and a redeemer by means of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness 40 years.”

Acts 7:17-36

Just like God’s provision of a sacrifice for Abraham pointed toward Christ, so does the people’s treatment of Moses. God uses things to get our attention, different circumstances to help grab our attention and help us to see whatever it is He is doing. In all of His plans and in all of the people He used to redeem & rescue  Israel over the years, He was pointing toward something better, something more permanent. He was also using the experiences of the people to show them that they needed Him, that they were in need of a savior. 

That’s he funny thing about sin, it blinds us to itself. There is oftem so much justification, so much false reasoning we have cobbled together, that we become blind to the actual issue and wind up seeing more of what we now feel entitled to, what we see as an actibity or a lifestyle that we deserve to live out. So, the darkness closes in and covers over our hearts and minds until our justified and rationalized behaviors become the new ‘normal’ and stand out in front of us as the acceptable alternative for a life ‘well lived.’ 

Sometimes people who need rescued don’t know they need to be rescued until they realize that they are in their final moments. Again, just like the venom from a snake bite may cause paralysis, and eventually death, we don’t understand the consequences until we begin to fall victim to them, losing the ability to move and get help. Sin is mre like venom, something that works inside, and less like quicksand or some external force. Because usually, sin doesn’t so much swallow us whole all at once as it does enter into our bloodstream from a small entry point, working its way through our system, slowly working it’s disasterous effects on our whole body. You can walk away from quicksand, you can grab a rope and get pulled out. But you cannot run from the venom coursing through your veins. It is inescapable. 

And so God showed the people that it wasn’t just slavery that they needed to escape from, but from the internal oppression that had set up shop in their hearts and minds. It wasn’t enough that they should be physically free, their hearts needed to be healed from the ravaging effects of slavery as well. It isn’t uncommon for victims of abuse to see their situation as something that’s acceptable, something they deserve, and so we see the Israelites longing to go back to Egypt just after they were rescued. “We had it so much better there.” they would say, missing the larger more important point. They were still captive in their hearts, and God, thorough His loving provision and care, would show them that they were indeed valuable and that they were indeed loved. 

The redemption that God provided through Moses was a physical redemption, and that pointed us toward our need for Jesus who wouldn’t just redeem the physical world, but who also redeems our souls. 

As we GoLove people, we need to understand that they won’t see the bigger picture right off the bat. Their life’s work of rationalizing and justifying sin must be undone by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds. It doesn’t change overnight, but as we know, it begins a whole new life’s work to reject the bad and live for righteousness instead. Jesus makes it possible to be made new, but many also reject Him, and so it is going to be a difficult task to convince them of the venom that courses through their veins. Trust the Holy Spirit to do His part, and we should each be faithful in doing our own as we trust in Him. 

  

Mark 15:33-41 // It is finished

“33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “Look, He’s calling for Elijah!” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, offered Him a drink, and said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”

37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. 38 Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem.”

Mark 15:33-41

There were many witnesses to the death of Jesus. The city was buzzing at fever pitch because of the holiday of Passover, the occupying Roman force was undoubtedly doubled for the occasion. Vendors and merchants from all around surely filled every nook and cranny where they could set up shops and stalls to feed the needs and wants of the thronging crowds. If you’ve ever been to a supermarket the morning of  holiday, or out shopping the day before Christmas, you know what chaos these situations bring. Add in the fact that executions like this were done in high-traffic areas to stand as an example to others, mixed in with the morbid fascination of the dawdler and on-looker, and you find a very visible and public death happening here for our Master. 

There couldn’t have been a busier day for this to happen. God had designed this moment, He had perfectly plotted out the timing. This highly visible moment of excruiating pain was in no way accidental or coincidental. God chose to finish things in this way, with maximum effectiveness. 

Visitors to Jerusalem would be here for days and experience the full measure of the situation. They would all know about the executions, they would all hear about the oddity of a tomb being guarded and they would hear from the apostles and others about this now vacant tomb in the days that followed. Three hours of darkness at midday are hard to ignore. The story of Jesus would have been thick in their air, and it would travel home with them wherever they were going. 

 God made this finishing stroke happen in a way that would not be quickly or easily denied. Those looking to ritual in the temple, instead of to the sacrifice that God offered on Calvary, could not ignore the impossible tearing of the curtain and the exposure of the Holy of Holies. They couldn’t ignore the earthquake or the darkness. God was speaking through the blood of His own sacrificial Lamb, and He would have their attention. 
This finishing move, His checkmate on death and sin, would get full press. 

And Jesus, faithful in every way, would continue in His pain to fulfill Scripture. Quoting the prophetic Psalm 22, receiving the vinegar wine, and yelling out the victorious statement that completed the whole, Jesus pointed faithfully to the Father, fulfilling His labors and then gave up His Spirit. In His moment of death, He provided a witness that even a Roman solider couldn’t deny, truly He was God’s Son. 

His life, ministry and witness to God’s glory inspired this group of women to faithfulness, along with the Apostle John, to stand and keep watch over Him and to mourn His suffering at the cruel hands of the Romans and the cruel hearts of the Jewish leaders. 

As we remember what Jesus di, we cannot forget that God did everything to make sure people would know the extent of His love. As we GoLove, then, in His Name, we must be sure to be just as visible, just as open and just as vocal about what He has done so that all eyes, hearts and minds are drawn to Him. The work of Christ was finished on the cross, but the work of the empty tomb is not finished until He returns and completes His victory. 

We do not rest until that moment. 

Psalm 65 // If God cares for His earth like this…

If God cares for the earth so much, the way David describes in the psalm, then how much does He care for us? If He provides rains, clothes the hillsides and feeds His flocks, then how much should we trust in His care for us?

God is good all the time, His faithfulness never ends. Let’s rejoice in Him! Let’s celebrate because of Him and give Him praise!

God’s Care for the Earth
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm. A song.

“1 Praise is rightfully Yours,
God, in Zion;
vows to You will be fulfilled.
2 All humanity will come to You,
the One who hears prayer.
3 Iniquities overwhelm me;
only You can atone for our rebellions.
4 How happy is the one You choose
and bring near to live in Your courts!
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
the holiness of Your temple.

5 You answer us in righteousness,
with awe-inspiring works,
God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the distant seas.
6 You establish the mountains by Your power,
robed with strength.
7 You silence the roar of the seas,
the roar of their waves,
and the tumult of the nations.
8 Those who live far away are awed by Your signs;
You make east and west shout for joy.

9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly,
enriching it greatly.
God’s stream is filled with water,
for You prepare the earth in this way,
providing people with grain.
10 You soften it with showers and bless its growth,
soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges.
11 You crown the year with Your goodness;
Your ways overflow with plenty.
12 The wilderness pastures overflow,
and the hills are robed with joy.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks
and the valleys covered with grain.
They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing.”

Psalm 62 // God alone is trustworthy

In the days after a lot of activity, it can be hard to ‘wind down’ our minds and reengage with ‘normal’ life. The hum of the rush lingers, we must refocus and set our hearts and minds as they need to be in Christ.

This is a marvelous time to begin a bad habit, maintaining the busyness because the lack of busyness feels so strange. Where time opens up, we should offer it first to God. Where we look around to see if there is something still undone, we should turn our hearts toward Him. Learn to refocus, recenter our minds, patterns and hearts on Him, reset our spirits (as it were) by starting again with Him. Don’t just blunder forward in busy days and hope for the best. Instead start each day with Him and trust in Him first. Any other focus will lead us to discord, stress and harm in the end. In Christ alone, who gives our lives purpose and redeems us, can we find a plan for life worth trusting in…the plan to GoLove others, removing focus from self and mirroring the heart of God.

Trust in God Alone
For the choir director: according to Jeduthun. A Davidic psalm.

“1 I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

3 How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering stone fence?
4 They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

5 Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge. Selah

9 Men are only a vapor;
exalted men, an illusion.
Weighed in the scales, they go up;
together they are less than a vapor.
10 Place no trust in oppression,
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
pay no attention to it.

11 God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
strength belongs to God,
12 and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.”

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