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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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Brag on Jesus, walk in peace

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Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!

Galatians 6:11-18
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

We live in a world that is jam-packed with self-promotion.Hollywood ‘elites’ and musicians press their opinion on every subject into our cultural conscience simply because they have a platform to do so, misunderstanding their position in society. Everyone, it seems, that can have a voice, opinion or viewpoint wants to make sure they are heard, too, among the sea of other voices cluttering our ears, minds and eyes. The cry of ‘look at me!’  rings through social media outlets. People seeking praise or trying to justify their poor life choices do everything they can to make sure that they are right, simply because they can be heard. Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

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But, as Christians, we are called to something different (1 Peter 2:9). In humility, we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And in this attitude of humility (James 4:6), we will always find that there is only One who is worth bragging on, worth talking about at length, and it’s Jesus. Simply because we are aware of our own mistakes, our problems, our own failings, they are all too clear (Romans 7), so we brag on Jesus, the One who has saved us from ourselves (Titus 3:4-6.)

People who shout about themselves have only a narcissist to promote to a host of other narcissists. The competition is thick. But when we brag on Jesus, and what He has done, our voice will ring out above the rest, because we point toward something higher, something the rest of the crowd doesn’t have. And in the distinctiveness of Christ, we will find that truth rings out over the noise, that a humble voice can have the deeper impact. When we boast in Christ, we point toward a work done in us that is greater than our own human effort, we point toward hope, depth and meaning, which the world is sorely lacking in with its messages of self.

In humility, we understand our place, we see our sin, our need for God, and we are brought to joy because of what He has done for us in Christ. And then we spend our life’s efforts singing His praises. They may press their man-made reason and so-called righteousness on us, but we can see beyond their flash and into the emptiness of their arguments.

Use every occasion to point others toward Jesus today, and sing His praises. Rest in Him, find your identity in Him, you who are in Him are clothed with Christ. Let the world see Him in your actions, attitudes and adoration today.

2 Corinthians 5
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!

Acts 5:33-42 // Honor in suffering

“33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. 35 He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what youre going to do to these men. 36 Not long ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about 400 men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his partisans were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. That man also perished, and all his partisans were scattered. 38 And now, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” So they were persuaded by him. 40 After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41 Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name. 42 Every day in the temple complex, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Acts 5:33-42

To listen to some famous ‘preachers,’ you would think that they never read the book of Acts. To those who are always preaching a Gospel of prosperity, ease and giving empty encouragements to self-care, there is an obvious disconnect as to what constitutes the favor of God and what counts toward dishonor. Here we see the Apostles being jailed, flogged and discouraged by the leading court in the country, and they go away rejoicing that they were worthy to be dishonored in this way for the sake of Christ, and because of His Name. This idea of honor in suffering runs contrary to what Joel Osteen and others like him preach and teach. 

As we consider what it is we have been called to accomplish as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must remember some of the things that He said would identify us as belonging to Him. He told us that we would be known for the love that we have for one another. That sounds nice, but it is also a very difficult thing to live out. It’s not just a matter of loving people that we naturally like and get along with, but a matter of loving people that push all our buttons and that we would rather not be around. So, following Jesus continues to mean a death to self. Jesus also said that we could not be His disciples if we loved family, position or anything else more than Him. It must be like hate in comparison. Our priorities must be radically different. That means that sports schedules for children, hobbies, jobs and everything else you can think of must come in an infinitely distant second place in comparison to our devotion to Him. We must be unswerving in this, and that is not easily or lightly done, yet another difficulty. 

But even deeper than those, we see that Jesus told us that we must take up our cross daily if we are going to follow Him. The cross comes with scorn, derision, and a condemnation by the world that cannot be overlooked. Jesus told us that the world would hate us just like it hated Him. And if the world crucified Jesus, then we must also see that we are next in line behind Him. This isn’t comfortable. This isn’t easy. This isn’t marked by health, wealth or ‘your best life now.’ We are never promised those things, and they are never shown as being markers of the favor of God in Scripture. These charlitans who pretent to stand in line with the message of Jesus Christ, but who have no real allegiance to Him, must be called out and shown for what they are. It isn’t love and tolerance to allow false doctrine to pervade the minds and hearts of the people of God. We cannot pretend for a moment to have a part in Jesus Christ if we try to separate the things that Jesus Himself said would be part and parcel of our following of Him. 

These men and women to proclaim Jesus Christ while paying for luxury upon luxury that they ‘deserve’ from the donations of thier adherents, who have little to nothing in comparison, will be called to task one day by God Himself and they will be held responsible for their lies and their missteps. I cannot presume to stand in judgement over their souls, that is up to God. But I cannot imagine that He is pleased, nor holds them in favor, because of their actions and preying on people through a false gospel of prosperity. 

The markers of the favor of God come with a clean conscience, a life of fruitful evangelism and a peace that surpasses all understanding. It comes with a contendness in all things, in all circumstances, not a grasping for ‘more.’ It comes with a desire to give away everything, because nothing in this life is worth holding on to except Christ. It comes with an insatiable desire to GoLove others however God has gifted us to do so, and we find our fulfillment, not in small shallow thigns like possessions, wealth, land or houses, but in seeing the work of the Gospel done in the hearts and minds of those we encounter. It has nothing to do with wealth, and everything to do with the faithful following of a formerly dead slave brought to life again and made to be an heir of righteousness. Proper priorities show those who preach prosperity to be sad, hollow hucksters with snake-oil ‘cures’ ready to sell to the most willing buyers looking for a quick fix. Lasting change, real hope and a life overflowing with meaning comes only from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts and minds, and that cannot be bought, sold or acquired through any means we can devise. 

If we are folowing Christ, He has promised ot be with us always, even to the very end of the age. If we are not satisfied in this life, then it is because we are not actually following Him, not because we still have ‘favors’ to claim from God. He does desire to bless His chidlren, but not in the way that the world or people like Joel Osteen call ‘blessing.’ Take every thought, every teaching, captive and hold it accountable to Scripture, weigh it out and see if it is what God desires for you, truly, as you carry your cross for Christ. 

  

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. 

Mark 15:21-32 // Challenging Him to do what He was already doing

“21 They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 And they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means Skull Place). 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. 

24 Then they crucified Him and divided His clothes, casting lots for them to decide what each would get. 25 Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge written against Him was:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two criminals with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [28 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says: And He was counted among outlaws.] 29 Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 31 In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking Him to one another and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” 32 “Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him were taunting Him.”

Mark 15:21-32 

— 

Two taunts from the crowd that day are recorded here. Both spoken in ignorance that He was actively engaged with doing the things they were challenging Him to do! 

First, 

“Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 
When Jesus spoke about destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days, we as Christians know that He was plainly referencing His own body. He was actively engaged in that exercise, having been flight, beaten, punched, punctured and crucified. Those mocking couldn’t see this, of course, because of their own anger and hatred of Him. They had convinced themselves He had threatened their physical building when in reality He had been prophesying about this exact event. The darkness of their hearts and the infatuations of their minds and egoes kept them from ever really hearing and understanding Him. 

The second point of mockery is a two parter. 

“He saved others; He cannot save Himself!! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.”

He was in the process of saving, as they mocked Him for it and His remaining on the cross is the only thing that could make it possible. Also, what they asked for Him to do, sarcastically, is what inspires belief today for us all. 

Again, for the Christian, neither of these two points of ridicule are new news, nor is the ignorance of the religious leaders. These two examples are fairly elementary in the understanding of our faith, but they are crucial at the same time. 

Jesus plainly said that the people crucifying Him didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t understand, either because they were just Romans doing their jobs or because their hearts were so hard. When you and I sin, we are playing part in Christ’s crucifixion, too, but our hearts and minds typically do not register this fact. It’s difficult to think about and painful to realize. Again, either from a lack of understanding or from a hardness of heart. 

We need to ask God to use His Holy Spirit to open our eyes to ourselves. That we would see the points where we are calloused, and identify the areas where we wear blinders against out own faults. We need to be conscious of our failings and ready to forgive others of theirs. None of us is any better than another, but the gift of Christ crucified is what brings us healing and restoration. 

If we are going to GoLove others, we need to teach them about the reality of sin and the reality of Christ’s gift of mercy and grace. We need to teach them to receive Him into their hearts and minds so that they can be renewed by Him and baptized into a new life with new perspective that begins and ends with Him. Teach the elementary things so they understand just what He has done for them, and then live it out in your own life. 



Mark 15:1-5 // Acknowledging the Insults of Children

“1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests had a meeting with the elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin. After tying Jesus up, they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate.

2 So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered him, “You have said it.”

3 And the chief priests began to accuse Him of many things. 4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, “Are You not answering anything? Look how many things they are accusing You of!” 5 But Jesus still did not answer anything, so Pilate was amazed.”

Mark 15:1-5

“Pilate was amazed.” Why? What struck him about Jesus? What made Him different than everyone else in his experiences? 

Imagine, if you would, that Jesus was the only adult in that room. Pilate was maybe 8 years old and the Jewish leadership were all 3-5 years old and then re-read that passage. 

As these petty, shallow men bickered and fought against Jesus, He didn’t answer them. Why? Because He didn’t need to, and their childish, selfish hatred of Him wasn’t hardly worth acknowledging. They had no authority over Him. They had no valid arguments against Him. Pilate could hear and understand what they were doing, but didn’t quite comprehend why Jesus wasn’t responding to them. He saw as the encounter continued, that Jesus did hold some kind of power, some kind of authority. It came through in His demeanor and in the few spoken answers He provided. But it was veiled to him at the same time, and so Jesus’ responses and lack of responses intrigued and confused him. 

Just like a parent doesn’t need to explain their reasoning to a toddler throwing a tantrum, Jesus had no requirement to respond to the baseless accusations of these ‘religious’ men. But because of the love of God, He was still providing for them (and us all) what they needed most despite their protests. 

People who care for children are not required to explain to the children why they are doing what is best for them. They simply love and provide. If your toddler gets a taste for cake, you don’t submit to their foolishness and only provide cake for their meals from then on. Instead, you, as the loving, responsible adult, bring them the vegetables, grains and protein their bodies need to grow, despite their protests for more desserts. It takes maturity to understand the need for proper nutrition and discipline to actually make the good choices required to maintain it. 

Those angry, frightened men needed something they didn’t understand they needed. They were not in a place to grasp anything Jesus might tell them, and so He would have to just show them what needed to be done. Love would have to provide and speak what needed to be spoken. 

Sometimes the best response to an insult is to ignore it and just do what is right. Sometimes the best answer to a wrong is simply to love in return. Jesus knew what the proper response was, and the will of the Father pressed Him forward to reveal it on the cross.

Mark 5:36 // Belief cancels fear

“36 But when Jesus overheard what was said, He told the synagogue leader, ‘Don’t be afraid. Only believe.'”

Mark 5:36

Words of instruction, comfort and containing a promise. Jesus didn’t insult the mourners as they laughed, and He didn’t dismiss Jairus’ concern. Instead, He pontes him and his wife toward the light that hope provides. They still had to trust Him, they still had to go in and make the effort to believe, but Jesus will be the One who does the heavy lifting.

Worry can be all consuming. It creates obsessions, fuels doubt and kindles the wildfires of fear. When we worry about things that we cannot control, we fall prey to a trap, a pit that is almost impossible to climb out of, a maze that has no perceived end. It builds stress, and blinds us to what can be. Worry is deadly.

But Jesus reinforces their faith with simple words of comfort. ‘Don’t be afraid. Only believe.’ He acknowledges the state of their hearts and minds. He does not dismiss their pain. He simply instructs them to point their pain toward hope and their minds toward what can still happen. If they had faith to go to Jesus in the first place, then they need to let that faith follow through.

Trusting while in deep worry and fear almost seems like madness. In those moments, you feel like you’re denying reality and choosing a waking dream instead. But faith is hoping and trusting in what we cannot see or understand fully, and it does it’s work best when it is plain and obvious that we cannot be the ones completing what needs to be done. Even following Jesus’ command to GoLove people requires a faith beyond fear. The Gospel message is definitely good news, but so often we doubt our part in seeing that work done. Faith moves us forward, the cross and empty tomb cry out to us to simply have faith and to leave fear behind. Jesus did it for us, surely we can believe in return, His strength providing the confidence we need.

Numbers 21 // Saved from the poison, not the bite

“4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died.
7 The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede with the Lord so that He will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover. “9 So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”
Numbers 21:4-9

Even with the patience of Job, Moses would still have a lot to put up with in dealing with his people. This just goes to show that in our sinful, sorry state, we can even tire of the daily miraculous provision of God. Manna, bread from heaven, readily at hand and tasting sweet like honey, provided with no effort or work has become ‘this wretched food’ in the sight of the Israelites, and the quail given to the camp, without need for hunting, has become a nuisance. Their constant comments, their lack of gratitude and their undying, unrelenting refusal to be content with the provision and care of God has become more than dissatisfaction based on repetition, but instead it has become an insult.

Given nothing to complain about, people will often find something to complain about. We are good at it, talented even, and the Israelites are no exception. They were converts to nomadism and even though Abraham never had a set home, they had grown accustomed to sedentary living in Egypt. They didn’t like wandering. They didn’t like what they interpreted to be ‘uncertainty’ but we would call it a lack of trust in God. They were missing the whole point of being led, personally, by God rather than just told to move north into Canaan on their own after the Exodus. They were missing the point of learning to rely on the provision of God. They were missing the point of learning to listen to His voice and obey. They were missing the point of being good examples to their children. They were missing the point of being separate from other peoples and their pagan/heathen beliefs. They were missing the point of pretty much everything God was trying to teach them. The were a stiff necked, unruly people, and so they received in their own bodies the due punishment for their sins.

And snakes were sent into the camp. Snakes with fangs. Snakes with venom. Physical illustrations for the toxins of their grumbling, biting, poisonous hearts. And when they asked Moses to pray to God to take away the snakes, God took away the punishment of the venom but not the bites or the snakes. The bronze serpent, pointing toward Christ, removed death from the punishment, but it did not remove the pain of the bite or the presence of the snakes. John 3:14-15 says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.” Jesus’ sacrifice took away the sting of death, but it did not remove sin, not yet. And where the Israelites still had to be wary of those looming bites, cautious of where they put their foot or rested their hand, they did not need to fear the results of the bite. As Christians, we still need to be wary of where we go and what we do, and we need to try really hard to avoid being bitten by sin, but we have confidence that when we do get bitten by our own sin, that we can look to Christ for healing, just as the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent.

Our daily testimony should do the same as we GoLove others for the sake of Christ. Our hurts and pains, lifted up to Christ, in a very transparent way are signs of the goodness and love and mercy of God at work in us, in our ‘camp.’ Our refusal to hang out with the snakes, and to live life differently than those who are constantly being bitten, will stand as a marker to them, and point them toward where we find our hope and instruction. We may not be finished being bitten, but we can at least point people toward the cure for the venom. Only by living in obedience to God and walking in the way of Christ can we learn to avoid the bites and dens of the snakes of sin, but until the day when He removes them all, we have hope that He will continue to restore and renew us according to His great love. We should never grow complacent to the bites, but rather seek the snake free paths. It’s what makes sense, and what will help us serve as effective witnesses in the Name of Christ. It all begins with the attitudes that we choose to adopt in our hearts, and the saving work of Christ in us.

Hebrews 12 // Coming to holiness through discipline

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline — which all receive — then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.” Hebrews 12:7-13

Looking at the Grand Canyon and being told to cross over, who wouldn’t want to take the easy way, the quick way, the efficient way? What child when being told to clean their room doesn’t want to simply snap their fingers ( a la Mary Poppins) and find t he task has completed itself? What person, anxious for something yet to come in the future, wouldn’t wish for a fast-forward button for life in order to get there more quickly?

But that’s not life. That’s not reality. There’s no such thing as the quick way over the canyon, the speedy way through a task or a method for pressing forward the hands of time that does not involve work, waiting or discipline. What we want ‘now’ we most often cannot have ‘now.’ We must wait, we must work, we must try for, struggle, learn through, and continue pressing forward to achieve. A goal easily attained is likely little fulfilling or worth an effort. A goal that requires discipline, hard-won, creates ownership, passion and a desire to share in the joy of accomplishment.

When it comes to faith, it is no different. Faith requires discipline. Following Jesus requires effort. It is not simply a spoken word and a pledge made, hand across the heart. It is a giving up of life, a handing over of the reins, and a marathon to be run. It means death to self, a pressing on toward the goal and a carrying of our cross. Salvation is free, yes, it comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ Himself, but it does come at the cost of following and a denial of our old ways of thinking, selfishness, and greed. And when we fall short, when our eyes come off of Jesus, we must expect a goading, a pressing and correction. Done out of love, the Father desires to see all His children conforming to the image of His Son. That is the plan. That is His will, that we would strive in His power to abide by His will so that His glory may be achieved in us, and that process must come through an effort which derives from the passion He places in our hearts that is seeded in His Word. It is all His doing, but it must be carried out in our lives. It is all His power, but it must be worked out in us. Lazy, apathetic responses to faith create, not a new heart and a steadfast spirit, but a kind of walking death and an ineffective life. And so we should be thankful as God continues to keep us from being us, when He disciplines us, corrects us and trains us in righteousness. It is love that He would do this. It is compassion that He would train us. It is goodness and holiness He desires in us, and that will come by effort, by work and by trial. It was not easily bought and so it will not be easily worked out in us. Sin does not give up so easily and pride is not quick to lay down and die.

If we do not seriously consider His authority, His will and His way, then our faith will never take root, and it will wither under the heard ships of life. But if we trust in Him, if we abide in His love, then our lives will echo the life of Christ, and our efforts to GoLove in His Name will not be in vain. Press on, Christian. Listen to the Father’s instruction and discipline with understanding and the grace that He affords. He must become greater, we must become less.

The Messiah suffers, a prophetic psalm for our assurance // Psalm 22

Centuries before crucifixion was developed, David, by the Spirit, prophesied that the Messiah would suffer this way. Jesus, while on the cross experiences what David sings here and cries out in the words from verse one.

Today, we remember Hs suffering and the grace that comes through it. It is in His brokenness that we are made whole. Our sins are atoned for through the blood that would flow from His body, and the guilt of our hearts diverted to His. He has suffered for us. He has carried my pain and sin and guilt.
Amen & Amen.
He is worthy to be praised!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me;
they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”
Psalm 22:1-31 ESV

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