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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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The Intention of Agony

Father, these moments of remembrance, the pauses in prayer, the pleas from Jesus for support from His friends, even today we can feel the tension & difficulty of the moment rising, time closing in & the plan of redemption bearing down in the fullness of its weight & urgency. This was not a desperation of confusion, but a desperation for Your glory & for the saving of many, many souls. The garden was pregnant with intention & Your preparation that night, Father. Jesus was not ignorant of what was coming, even if it was heavy beyond reckoning from a human perspective. Betrayal happened in darkness, but darkness cannot overcome You. May our hearts be reminded of Your great love, patience & design as we walk through Holy Week with You. May we keep watch with Christ in anticipation of Your good grace. We pray in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:39-53
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This makes me uncomfortable.
This passage begins the portion of the Passion that is easier to read through quickly than to stop, slow down & be intentional about meditating & praying through. The agony of Christ in the garden that night was & still is, an agony that I have contributed to, personally. The suffering that began its work, pressing sweat & blood through His skin came from what I have done, will probably do today & haven’t yet done tomorrow. My brokenness, my sin, my intentional, willful disobedience & my momentary transgressions that I am tempted to pass off as if they are nothing all combine here. They press upon the heart of the Lord of Heaven, the Lamb of Glory, perfect & pure, & my struggles become His struggles. This is hard to think about. This is hard to come to terms with every time I read it. The reality of my shame & the unbearable weight of the separation it has caused between my heart & the heart of God comes crashing down in this moment, & Jesus steps in to take that weight, that blow, so that I, so that we, are not utterly destroyed.

This should make me uncomfortable. This should bring me face to face with my brokenness & my absolutely desperate need for Jesus & the grace of God. I would be lost, crushed & dead before I made it to my own cross if I had to begin to wrestle with the wrath of God for my sin. The suffering I would endure would be beyond comprehension, beyond weighing out & I would be utterly spent from the first moment, destroyed. But Jesus begins this struggle, wrestling with the brokenness of man & the glory of God, here in the garden. This isn’t the moment of redemption, but the doors are closing on the first leg of the human journey to sanctification by grace & the weight of the Law, & opening to the relief of grace by faith & the new rhythms it would bring. Relief is on the way, but this struggle cannot pass if it is to come. This cup must be drained to the dregs & Jesus alone can carry it, lift it to His lips & drink the fullness of it all.

And so we find ourselves, here in the darkness of the garden that most of us will never visit in person, but where our hearts remain present with Christ, keeping watch with Him, as His disciples sleep for grief. We count the hours, we see the suffering beginning & we account for every drop of blood that presses its way through His precious forehead. We want to take our portion from Him, but that is not ours to decide & we know we cannot bear it. And so we watch, & we wait with Him & We pray that we may not fall into temptation. We do not rush through this moment, but we keep watch with Him. We thank Him & we are brought to that place of repentance again, knowing our part in this scene. He bore it because we cannot.

Precious Jesus…our Wonderful Redeemer, we watch & pray & praise Your blessed Name.

Psalm 112 // The Character of the Righteous

“1 Hallelujah!

Happy is the man who fears the Lord,

taking great delight in His commands.

2 His descendants will be powerful in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in his house,

and his righteousness endures forever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright.

He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.

5 Good will come to a man who lends generously

and conducts his business fairly.

6 He will never be shaken.

The righteous man will be remembered forever.

7 He will not fear bad news;

his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.

8 His heart is assured; he will not fear.

In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

9 He distributes freely to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.

His horn will be exalted in honor.

10 The wicked man will see it and be angry;

he will gnash his teeth in despair.

The desire of the wicked man will come to nothing.”

Psalm 112

Read this again, but a little more slowly.

Read it a third time, verse by verse, or phrase by phrase.

Read it a fourth time, and make it your prayer. 

The waiting heart // Psalm 130

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
Psalm 130:5-6 NIV

Depending on where you are, waiting can be terrible.
– Broken down on the side of the highway
– Sitting at home waiting for news or a phone call
– A hospital
– A holding cell
– Outside the principal’s office
– A crowded restroom

And on the other hand, waiting can lead to something joyous
– A labor and delivery waiting room
– Hiding for a surprise party
– An anticipated meal of celebration at a nice restaurant
– In the last minute of the last class on the last day of school
– At the bedside of a loved one who has suffered long and awaits heaven
– A groom longing for his bride to walk down the aisle

Again, depending on where you find yourself, waiting can have all sorts of connotations. Here, the psalmist finds himself in a place he simply calls ‘the depths’ and we all know what it is like to long for a ray a hope, a glimmer of sunshine as we sit in those deep, dark places of the soul.

We wait for hope. We wait for happiness. We wait for a voice of comfort. We wait for redemption, a helping hand of love and so many other things. The depths…we try not to think about them too much. That is a place of tears, deep worry and a sadness that is tangible. It is where depression lurks and where the enemy seems strongest. Our head is physically bowed by the weight of it on our heart and our mind doesn’t get a moment’s rest from the voices of doubt dread, guilt and shame.

It feels like all you can do it wait. And so the psalmist echoes this line:
“I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

When we are in those dark places, those deep, wretched, dark places, there is only one Ray of hope, there is only one Redeemer, and it is The Lord. No substance can wash away the pain, or truly dull the heart. No individual human being can rescue us from a place where we are all wont to go from time to time, because everyone is susceptible to the depths. None of us are immune to its grasping, pulling tentacles. But God is above all and sufficient for all. Only The Lord of hosts is capable of redeeming our life from the pit.

And as we approach Resurrection Sunday in this season of Lent, we find that the key to the door of the depths was cross-shaped and blood drenched. We see that Jesus reached His nail-pierced hands into our pain, sorrow, worry and sin and pulled us up out of our hell of the heart, and the darkness of our souls and brought us safely to the land of the eternal sunrise. So, as the watchmen wait for the sun, we wait on The Lord. There may be times where the darkness seems unending, but we who wait in The Lord will never be let down, disappointed or left wanting.

He alone can save, has saved and will continue to save as long as grace permits. He redeems us from the reality of the true hell, and from the hells we put ourselves through. He redeems us from the darkness of sin and the darkness of the depths in our hearts.

Praise God for His faithfulness. As the sun rises in the morning, our Redeemer will rescue us. He is faithful. He is love. He is truth in joy, and when we wait for Him, we will always find our reward there in His arms of love. So, even as you wait, GoLove and share the hope we have found in Christ with someone who so desperately needs it.

His gentle reproof & restoration

unmarked journal entry:

we need to rest in Him, instead of trying to get through on our own

not only is God’s patience with us extraordinary, His understanding & comfort when it comes to standing us up on our feet is incredible as well.

when we are bruised & battered, God gently reassures us. when we are still flinching from the blows of punishment, His hand gently clasps our shoulder to give us support.

even though He is the One who wields the rod of correction, His gentle love shines brighter than the sparks of wrath we deserved. grace & mercy rain down in an unending stream from our God who loves us more deeply than we can conceive.

when we are still unsure of ourselves, He gives us hope and an assurance that, if we follow Him faithfully, our lives & situations are going to get better (even though it may not be in the way the world understands.)

all glory & honor & praise to God our Father! His mercies are made new every morning. He sustains His people with His righteous right hand, and lifts us up out of our sin & misery when we call out to Him with a repentant heart.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

with these unmarked entries, i have no reference point to what was going on at the time. i cannot determine a date, or even what i had been reading in the Scriptures that morning. but hopefully, God can use these very simple words…i cannot hope for change on my own. i cannot hope to bring myself through any situation, unless the Spirit guide me by the Father’s will. my own directions will get me lost and in an even more desperate situation. so i must stop, quiet my heart and mind, and listen to whatever He desires to tell me, or watch for what He wants to show me.

i fail daily. i did yesterday, and i’m sure i will drop the ball again sometime today.

i am…flawed.

in the face of my own sins and failures, i am driven deeply into despair, because i am certain that i cannot recover. i will crash and burn, hard.

deep into my fog, He cuts like a light

but in the midst of my despair, and gloom and funk and self-loathing, the mercies & grace of God stand out like a spotlight through dense fog. He leads me to safe ground, lifts me up on my feet, cleans me up & gives me a new robe to wear. He wipes the tears from my eyes and reassures me that i am not alone. i will not suffer needlessly, and that He has something amazing planned for me if i will only follow Him.

and so, i can shake off that darkness like a dusty jacket, and step into the marvelous light & joy that He has reserved for those who put their trust in Him. thank-You Father for Your grace…by definition undeserved, and oh, so needed.

lift me up today, Father, show me the way Spirit so that my life may reflect Jesus to those around me, and that they might share in my Master’s happiness, too.

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