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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Wonderful Wednesday is Coming…

Father, Creator of light & life, guide our pathway in Your wisdom.Help us to see. Your ways are higher than our own, Your intentions more secure than the heavens themselves. What we call wisdom is utter foolishness compared to Your truth, wisdom & knowledge. Give us eyes to see & ears to hear. Give us faith where ours falls short. Help us to see Your handiwork all around us, & prepare our hearts for today & the days yet to come. Give us strength to stand, so that we might endure & give glory to Your Name.
It’s through Jesus I come to You & make my requests known. Amen.

Luke 21:29-38
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

We had this great day every spring when we went to Milligan College & I am very glad to say the practice still continues. Depending on the day of the week when it occurs, it will have a different name, but it is affectionately referred to as “Wonderful Wednesday.” As an alumnus, I still get an itch for Wonderful Wednesday every spring. When the weather starts to turn, & when the world starts to wake up again, I still long for a “Wonderful Wednesday.” So, very kindly, the president of the college will at least acknowledge that desire with us all & periodically sends out an “excuse note” that we can playfully offer to our employers & supervisors if we so desire. Here is last year’s note:

Wonderful Wednesday Note

There are signs all around us that Wonderful Wednesday is somewhere on the near & coming horizon. Our anticipation grows & we begin to look for it every single day. We wake up, waiting for the notice that was slid under our door in the middle of the night, by surprise, letting us know that classes have been cancelled for the day & that we want to wear something we don’t mind getting really wet, dirty or even ruining. And we will eat very well, too. It’s a great day!

Jesus has been talking about the coming of The End here in Luke 21 & He has been very clear & open with the fact that there will be things that happen to tip us off to its proximity. He also lets us know that there will be other things that occur, other events that will feel an awful lot like the end, but they’re just a part of the stage being set for the final act.

However you slice it, though, Jesus is giving us an assurance that the day of Judgment is indeed coming & that we ought to be prepared for it. And since we don’t know when that day or hour will occur, we need to be ready for it every. single. day. Just like Wonderful Wednesday, we need to wake up with anticipation growing in our bones. We need to look for the signs of its coming & we need to talk about it with people, sharing it with people who don’t know about it. Wonderful Wednesday, as an alumnus, is a teaching tool for people who didn’t attend Milligan. It’s an opportunity for us to wax nostalgic & brag on our school. We want to talk about Wonderful Wednesday because we enjoyed it so much.

Jesus knows that we all live in anticipation of The End, & so we must choose our attitude towards it. We can either use it as a point of fear or a point of triumph. If you view it from a point of fear, you are less likely to talk about it, less likely to address it personally & more likely to pretend that it doesn’t exist. But if you are looking forward to it, if you anticipate it with joy, then you’re going to get yourself psyched up for it, & being excited about it you naturally engage other people with its coming.

So it takes strength to make it to that day, because this life is difficult & full of distractions. There are worries & concerns that drag us down & pull us away from our focus in Christ. So He encourages us to stay awake, to pray & to look forward to the end with an eternal perspective that will help to propel beyond the hard days & into the joy that is to come.

No one knows when that divine note will slide under the doorway of our reality, & when Jesus will crash through letting us know that classes are permanently cancelled. But until that Marvelous Monday, or Terrific Tuesday (or whatever it is) rolls around, we need to live in joyful anticipation of the return of our Lord & Master, our Savior & King Jesus. And we do this by walking in the rhythms of His grace, every day, sharing the joy we have found in Him.

Warning & Encouragement

Father, there are days when it seems as though the end is right around the corner. There are days when we see that things could still be much worse than they seem. Your grace & patience with us exceeds my understanding & at the same time I know there are people who have not yet heard the Gospel & so You extend Your grace for them. A broken world produces broken people & broken situations. We long for everything to be made right & so we wait in Your timing, mercy & grace. Please give us strength & conviction to do Your will in the days that are left. You have given us words of warning, hope & purpose in Your Word. Help us live in them. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.

Luke 21
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Political news cycles feed our insecurities. Reporters, announcers & personalities drive division deep into our hearts & they make bitter enemies out of us all. We are markets & demographics to be played, one against the other & it is done for a profit. Rallies are held, positions are laid out & civil conversation between opposing viewpoints becomes impossible. There is an expectation for aggression & so many are all too happy to fulfill that expectation. Jesus warned of wars & rumors of wars. This is the consequence of living in a world broken by sin. Dividing lines become boundary markers & eventually markers of delineation & peaceful discourse is traded for angry glances & presupposed opinions.  Not all wars involve physical front lines. The deeper ones, the spiritual kind,  just require hate & distrust, a line in the sand.

Jesus warned of natural disasters & signs from heaven. Famine, loss, pain & hopelessness. People will hurt, suffer & know deprivation from life giving food & water. But lack isn’t a sign of the end’s arrival, just of its coming. We don’t like to see suffering, & sometimes ignorance keeps it at arm’s length for a while. We don’t like to see suffering, but sometimes anger with a system helps to remove compassion’s responsibility for action from us for a moment. We still have to bear witness in these moments & hard times. We speak up & we act.

Jesus told us we wouldn’t know what to say in these moments & that we wouldn’t need to worry about what to say. He promised to give us a mouth & wisdom that speaks undeniable truth. He told us that these moments of division, fear & hardship would be our opportunity to bear witness for Him & the Gospel. We do not compromise the truth, but we also communicate the truth in love, with gentleness & respect. We do not play the world’s games. Are there moments for righteous indignation? Yes, but we are not perfect in it like Jesus, and we must be on guard in those moments not to lapse into sin.

So, then, listen. We who follow Christ are not like those who get swept up into the fray with political pundits & cultural furor. We avoid foolish arguments & emotional pleas meant to divide. We don’t get sucked into Fox News & MSNBC’s net of arguments & carried away in the torrents of fear & suspicion of one another. Jesus said this was our moment to bear witness, not step in conformity with secular mindsets. We take every thought captive & we live in awareness of the times. We look for signs & we interpret the hour of mankind, but we do not get carried along in the waves of hopelessness that makes deeper enemies of us all. We identify the real enemy that thrives on division & distrust & we live aware of his methods & plots. We stand firm. We bear witness & we show this world a better way. Jesus said we would see these days, but that it was our opportunity to bear witness, not get swept away by them.

We will be delivered up to authorities & family members alike because we walk with Jesus. In following His lead, we will see persecution, but we do not operate as this world does. We bear witness to it without becoming like it. We see & observe, but we do not stoop down to their tactics. We have a cross to bear as witnesses for Christ. We have an expectation & a model to live out as we show this world God’s plan for peace. We will be mocked. We will be hated. We will be fought against. Jesus promised us as much. But we live differently, we walk & talk differently & we have different objectives. We long to see people saved & brought into the family of God, no matter who they are. Secular divisions drive us apart, but in Christ we seek out anyone & everyone & we love our enemies. We pray for those who persecute us. We bear witness to the world & we don’t play according to their rules. We bear up with the endurance Christ offers & the strength given through the Holy Spirit. We are wise as serpents & innocent as doves. We are different. We bring hope.

Season your speech today & let the Lord have His way in your heart, uncovering motives & removing worldly impulses, tearing down walls that keep you from first expressing love. There will be wars & rumors of wars. People will continue to divide, playing politics & games that draw out differences. But we bear witness to the truth, to mercy & peace as we walk daily with Jesus in the rhythms of His grace, we endure to the end.
He is our hope & nothing else will do.

Jesus ‘ Pre-Passion Prayer pt2

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

John 17:12-19
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

When Jesus prayed for us knowing that we would be called apart from the world, apart from what people would be ready to accept. This is a narrow path, a difficult road. This is the path to Golgotha. He knew that we would be given a hard time, made fun of and abused, like He was getting ready to be. He was praying out loud about this support from the Father, and this fellowship with Him, so that we would have a foundation to weather the storms of life. Unity with God while we walk this path will sustain us, guide us and give us wisdom.

Jesus was getting ready to pay the price to see this through, that we would be able to draw near to God, finding our hiding place with Him. He also saw to it that we would become God’s possession, He consecrated Himself so that we might be made holy through the truth and His blood. Give God thanks for seeing to our every need in Jesus Christ. christ-2-lg-600x533

Jesus guards us, keeps us and gives us the joy of the Father through our relationships with Him. He is our blessing, our redeemer and He was willing to lay everything down so that we might find life & joy apart from the things and motivations of this dark and broken world. It would come through suffering, but He was willing. We must still endure suffering for His sake, but we count it as an honor that we might be refined by Him, grown in Him and matured by the heart & path of our Savior. We walk this path in the rhythms of His grace.

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

 

Acts 27:39-44 // A Tedious Trip in Dangerous Waters

“39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could. 40 After casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow jammed fast and remained immovable, while the stern began to break up by the pounding of the waves.

42 The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul, so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, everyone safely reached the shore.”

Acts 27:39-44

==

All of Acts chapter 27 is devoted to the sailing between Judea & Italy. So much time is covered, so many days of tedium are passed by in just a few verses. It is clear that this is an unpleasant journey, and that God has given Paul a kind guardian to watch over him as he completes this dangerous trip. The circumstances were unfortunate, the timing of the trip was poor, the conditions were less than ideal and this could have definitely been a cause for complaining. But listening to Luke recount what happened, including the shipwreck, we don’t hear any tones of discontent, there is no frustration or anger. 

We all have seasons of life where we experience difficulty, wheer situations are less than ideal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, we all know that life isn’t a series of cupcakes and roses. Life is difficult. But even in the midst of difficulty, we have the opportunity to live out the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. because of the goodness of God, we have a Comforter in His Holy Spirit that serves as aour guard and guide through these rough patches, nom atter how difficult or long lasting they might be. Paul & Luke knew that God as with them as they waited out those long days at sea. They knew that God was with them as they bounced from ship to ship at the discretion of another man. They knew that Jesus’ promise to be with them always was still good as the weather turned and the ship was buffetted by the waves. They were able to rest in the goodness & mercy of God as they swam to shore, having just been spared from death twice in the same occasion. 

We cannot get hung up in pity parties. We cannot look at only ourselves or our own strength in the midst of difficult days. God has given us a great blessing. He has promised us His peace. He is faithful, He is compassionate & He will carry us through these difficult stretches of life. We simply need to trust Him and lay our pain, sorrow, worries and frustrations at His feet. He is more than capable of carrying whatever we find ourselves too weak to manage.  

I am immediately reminded of this passage from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church in Corinth: 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we are in the midst of difficulty, God’s strength shines through. It is obvious what we struggle with and how difficult things are, and it is doubly noticeable when God is glorified by getting us through those times. Those are the occasions where people come and ask where or how we had the strength to move forward in the midst of such extreme difficulties. Give God glory & step out of His way. Let Him be glorified in your weaknesses. Seek Him out & then rest in Him as He guides your steps, moment by moment, day by day through the darkest valleys and into His marvelous light. In this example, we can still GoLove others, mirroring the heart of Christ who was strong for us as we lay dead in our sins. 

Have faith. God is good.

Psalm 119:81-88 // כ Kaf // When it feels like you have nothing left

“81 I long for Your salvation;

I put my hope in Your word.

82 My eyes grow weary

looking for what You have promised;

I ask, “When will You comfort me?”

83 Though I have become like a wineskin dried by smoke,

I do not forget Your statutes.

84 How many days must Your servant wait?

When will You execute judgment on my persecutors?

85 The arrogant have dug pits for me;

they violate Your instruction.

86 All Your commands are true;

people persecute me with lies — help me!

87 They almost ended my life on earth,

but I did not abandon Your precepts.

88 Give me life in accordance with Your faithful love,

and I will obey the decree You have spoken.”

Psalm 119:81-88

A smoke dried wineskin is brittle and past its usefulness. David is feeling spent and useless, ready to break. We all experience times like this, where we don’t feel like we have anything left in us. One more hit will shatter us. DAvid feels the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders, he longs for the intervention of God. 

I often tell people that there is great value in getting familiar with the psalms because David is very expressive about the things he is experienceing, and his reliance on God is our example for what we should do as well when (not if) we experience similar situations.

Re-read this portion of Psalm 119 again. Listen to David’s heart and think through times in your life that felt similar. 

Read it a third time, and think about what God has done to help rescue you.

Read it a fourth time, and give God praise for His faithful love! 

  

Acts 15:36-41 // When Pride Divides

“36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers in every town where we have preached the message of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul did not think it appropriate to take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 There was such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. 40 Then Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended to the grace of the Lord by the brothers. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Acts 15:36-41

— 

There are times when being right matters and times when being ‘right’ becomes destructive. We have all experienced those moments where we took an argument a little too far. These are the moments that we replay over and over in our head, either trying to desperately self-justify what we did, or in deep regret, we try to identify the moment when we went over the line hoping we can begin to reverse what we’ve done. 

Human pride is a terribly dangerous thing. It separates friendships, like we see here, it destroys families and divides churches. The “My way or the highway” mentality is never going to promote unity. Screaming matches and “because I said so” statements aren’t likely to get someone to come over to your side. Even when speaking like reasonable, compassionate human beings, we can take something too far, or be too set in me pattern of behavior or one philosophy of ‘how things must be done’ that we wind up creating a destructive environment that is hard to recover from. 

Humility in Christ must be at the core of our being, a willingness to listen and to have flexibility in our plans (so long as they honor God & adhere to His Word) must become a part of how we do things. We must prayerfully approach situations that we know are going to be hot-button issues and seek out God’s way over our own ego’s desire. This isn’t easy to remember to do. It requires a very intentional self-awareness and an active knowledge of our own flaws and tipping points. 
Sometimes, the best response to a heated argument is to step away, prayerfully think through everything that has been said and to take careful consideration of the other person’s point of view. Our hearts are not naturally inclined to do this. It takes a great deal of discipline & humility. But if it really is just a matter of opinion and has nothing to do with maintaining the truth of the Gospel, then we need to be willing to preserve unity over preserving our own ‘rightness.’ 

A disjointed church is not the best witness that she could be, and every church congregation has her own issues and struggles. But we should all do whatever we can to see her shine bright and be a consistent witness as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name.

  

Acts 7:51-60 // Jesus and the story of redemption (pt 6)

“51 You stiff- necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”

54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.”

Acts 7:51-60

This is the end of Stephen’s sermon, but not the end of his witness. A Christian life, well lived, leaves a legacy in the faith…and Stephen did just that. His boldness was not for his own glory, but sparked by the Holy Spirit in Him for the glory of God. His passion for the truth of the Gospel drove him to speak truths that were difficult for people to hear. He obviously didn’t sugar-coat anything, but laid out the raw facts of what had happened between the people and God over the years and their treatment of His one and only annointed, Jesus Christ. 

Their reaction to his message mirrors exactly what he claimed of their fathers & ancestors. Nobody likes being called ‘betrayers & murderers’ but Stephen was speaking firmly and directly to a group of very hard hearts. Soft pedaling around with pretty words and overly kind analogies wouldn’t have made any headway either. This type of direct speech was necessary, even if it was unlikely to garner any results. But there was at least one heart present that would be changed by Christ. Saul’s presence at the martyrdom of Stephen must have replayed in his heart and mind later in life as the Apostle Paul. All the murderous threats, all the beatings and imprisonments that he committed, supposedly in the Name and will of God, culmintaed in acts like this. 

As we GoLove people for the sake of Christ, we must know and realize that we will definitely encounter hearts like hard-pack soil. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still try to scatter some seed. It’s not easy work to share with resistant hearts, but we are better off taking the time to share the truth at least once with people while we have the opportunity to do so. We have the knowledge, and the faith, and so we also harbor the responsibility and have accountability to God Himself to do so. No Christian is exempt from evangelism. No Christian is given a free-pass out of sharing the truth of the Gospel message, and we cannot pretend that silence is a viable option. in 1 Peter, we are reminded that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is to be counted as an honor. Paul & Silas sang hymns as they were jailed for their faith. Peter and John rejoiced after being flogged because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the Name. 

Stephen’s example is a reminder to us that we are not to hold our lives so dear as to ignore the calling put on them. We are Christians first and foremost. We do not seek comfort, but the salvation of souls. Time is of the essence, opportunites should not be allowed to slip by. As we GoLove, we find that that love does things, it moves and speaks through us & we must absolutely own it as a first priority. A passionless Christian is probably just someone wearing a mask crying, “Lord, Lord.” It’s not a fun thing to say, but the salvation working in us changes us, and someone who claims Christ, but remains unchanged has likely developed a loose allegiance to an idea, desiring a savior, but not submitting to His Lordship. 

Stephen submitted to the uttermost. He wasn’t extraordinary, just first in a long line of devoted hearts. If our discipleship doesn’t bring us to uncomfortable places and times, then we need to seriously reevaluate what we say we believe and come humbly to Christ, ready to submit our whole selves to Him. 

  

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 14:53-65 // ‘Are You?’ ‘I AM.’

“53 They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes convened. 54 Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the high priests courtyard. He was sitting with the temple police, warming himself by the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but they could find none. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but the testimonies did not agree. 57 Some stood up and were giving false testimony against Him, stating, 58 ‘We heard Him say, I will demolish this sanctuary made by human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’ 59 Yet their testimony did not agree even on this.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, ‘Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?’ 61 But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, ‘Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’

62 ‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’

63 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?’

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Then some began to spit on Him, to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, saying, ‘Prophesy!’ The temple police also took Him and slapped Him.”

Mark 14:53-65

— 

When someone is already convinced of something before they even begin investigating, it makes it almost impossible to find out the truth. The only thing that could have taken their minds and brought it around would have been an appearance of a legion of  angels and a theophanic confirmation that peeled the roof off the meeting hall. And even then, some might have doubted. 

When someone is hard-hearted, there is no getting through to them. Try as you might, they have silenced the voice of God enough that there is no chance of them hearing from Him simply because you point out their spiritual deafness. It is sad and painful to watch, and Jesus received no joy from this conversation. These 72 men in the Sanhedrin are the one group of people in all of Israel who should have known better, who should have understood the evidence laid out before them. But their hearts were hard and their love was cold. They were spiritually blind, spiritually dead. 

This is one of the most painful things to experience, when we look someone in the eye who truly knows better but is outright refusing to acknowledge the truth. They have rejected God’s will for their own, their selfish pride putting blinders on their heart. They have chosen their own course, and no one can tell them any differently. For that time, they have been resigned to their own sin and selfishness. Romans 1 talks about people who have rejected God in order to do their own thing, and it’s not a pretty picture. But it’s not impossible to come back from. I’ve seen it happen time and again. Prodigal children, sleeping around, getting into drugs, choosing homosexual lifestyles only to shake their heads one morning, wipe the spiritual crud out of their eyes and have their hearts awaken. 

Usually this is because a team of people who love them have continued to be open and honest with them, bluntly speaking love to them and teaming up to pray for them relentlessly. They encounter God and are given an opportunity to see where they stand. It doesn’t always happen, as much as I wish it did, but when it does, it is a glorious homecoming!

These men who gathered to condemn Christ in this illegal nighttime gathering were not in a place to hear the truth, although not everyone in the Sanhedrin was hard-hearted. A few had been listening, one visited with Him at night to ask questions, others were told they were not far from the Kingdom of God, but they did not take part in this kangaroo court. 

When we GoLove people, we must be consistent in how we live and speak. Our example may be the only bit of Jesus they ever see. For others, our consistency and love may be the only thing keeping a foot in the door of their hearts. But we can never back down from the truth. We must continue to boldly speak it, in love, to them so that the message of God is loud and clear. This requires wisdom, tact and grace in our words. Pray over your meetings before they begin, lift up your friend/relative/loved one before you speak the first word to them, and make sure that you are rooted firmly in the Word yourself, and not operating from sinful, human opinion. 

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