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.
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.
(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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!”
“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
Today is the day of the ‘holy innocents.’ It is the day we remember the taking of the lives of toddlers and infants by King Herod, who was paranoid and frightened over the possibility of a contender to his supposed power. When the wise men came and informed Herod about this new born King of the Jews, he was so threatened, that he chose to kill the children of his own people rather than investigate the matter, or seek out other options. So twisted was his heart, and so desperate was his grasp on power, that he thought nothing of this massacre of innocent life.
We still live in this same world today. People are so desperate for power over their lives, so keyed up about seeing their agendas pressed through, that they will literally do the same thing as Herod, but on a much larger scale. When we talk about dark and evil people, Hitler always caps the list, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot are his quick companions, and there are others. But none of them have measured up to the horror of the American people, and the industry of death that we perpetuate through companies like Planned Parenthood and the political agendas of those who claim to value people from one side of their mouth while opening the door for murder with the other. The haphazard abortion of our unborn children, the murder of innocents, still rings loud and clear as an ‘unfortunate reality’ or an ‘unchangeable component’ of our society. If Rachel cried out and refused to be comforted over the death of her children in Bethlehem, then why are we so quick to lower our voices? Does this have to be reality, or can we seek victory through Jesus in this matter as well?
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
This quote is well known, but quickly forgotten in our grasping culture:
“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
But this is exactly what Herod did, and this is what American culture still does today. We should weep with Rachel, we should deeply mourn over the millions who are still dying daily in the midst of a culture of abundance and self-worship. They may not be brought before Molech in name any more, but our nation’s children are still being sacrificed on an altar for the worship of self, and of convenience. The unholy slaughter, this assault on the image-bearers of God still goes on.
So, cry out because of injustice. Weep openly for the lives of those lost who could not defend themselves, and had too few defenders. Pray to God, asking Him to move, and allowing your life to be moved by Him. Do not allow time or difficulty to keep you from repeatedly speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Remember the lives of Your little ones, Lord,
and break the sword of the oppressor.
If we desire to live in the rhythms of grace, then we need to make sure that a grace-filled hand is extended to those who work in the abortion industry. We must make the effort to reach out to those who perpetuate lies based in political agendas and selfish desire with a voice that lifts up the value of human life, that speaks for those who are silenced, and who never stops beating the drum of forgiveness in Christ while there is still time to be forgiven. Be a voice for adoption, be a voice for children. Light the way to Christ.
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.”
“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments — tenderness for what he is and respect for what he may become.”
Ways to support life right now:
Support A Woman’s Choice/Necole’s Place in Louisville, KY
Like AWC/NP on Facebook
Contact the American President
Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121
Write a letter:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Reach out to your elected officials in America:
“20 He [Herod Agrippa 1] had been very angry with the Tyrians and Sidonians. Together they presented themselves before him. They won over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, and through him they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 So on an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a public address to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he became infected with worms and died.
24 Then God’s message flourished and multiplied. 25 After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who is called Mark.”
Everything we do in life is a series of choices. Every attitude we exhibit, we choose. Every feeling we allow to flourish within us, we choose. Everything we do with our mind, our bodies and our hearts we must choose to either encourage or discourage within ourselves. We are all personally accountbale for all of these choices, and we cannot simply claim to be a victim of our own circumstances, or that we have fallen prey to these difficulties because it ‘wasn’t my choice.’ We don’t often think about the full ramifications of our choices. Aside form the fact that it could consume our days and nights to do so, to think through _all_ of the possible echoes of our choices would overwhelm us and trap us in a place that we cannot deal with and handle. On the opposite extreme, to never consider what we do, to never weigh out the options ,and to just ‘run with our gut’ will leave you in a desolate, dnagerous place as well. We must try to balance choice, responsibility and have some goals and ideals in mind.
A life without foundation becomes an amoral, godless mess. A life with too many rules and regulations becomes an emotionless, Pharisaical mess. Either way, we wouldn’t do a very good job of communicating the Gospel message or living lives that made a positive impact.
So, as we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, it’s best to look at options, choose what honors God and trust in Him to move through us and those situations. We cannot let choices paralize us, and we cannot let choices that will affect other people go unconsidered. Barnabas, Paul & John Mark obviously made the right choices here, and lives were touched for the Gospel because of it. Herod chose poorly.
We all only have a limited number of days and choices to be made. Let’s make the ones that make an impact for the Kingdom and draw others to God rather than simply feed our ego and comfort the attitudes of sin & self. It’s the smart choice to make.
“11 The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding of Him a sign from heaven to test Him. 12 But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!’ 13 Then He left them, got on board the boat again, and went to the other side.
14 They had forgotten to take bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then He commanded them: ‘Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’
16 They were discussing among themselves that they did not have any bread. 17 Aware of this, He said to them, ‘Why are you discussing that you do not have any bread? Don’t you understand or comprehend? Is your heart hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?’
‘Twelve,’ they told Him.
20 ‘When I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many large baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?
‘Seven,’ they said.
21 And He said to them, ‘Don’t you understand yet?'”
I have had this same experience so many times in life. Someone comes to me with a question about something and my mind is completely occupied with something closely related, yet not quite where they are coming from. And because of that distraction, I find myself struggling to understand whatever their issue is. I can see what they’re saying, but I can’t see it fully.
Usually it’s just a funny little mix up, and after a second of thinking about it, everything snaps into place and the understanding comes. It’s also typically over something that doesn’t matter too much and nothing is lost because of it. But here with the disciples, and with our own hearts and minds, we find that there is a deeper issue at hand.
Jesus is trying to issue a warning about influences that affect the heart, but they’re stuck on lunch supplies. Because of temporal concerns, they are distracted from dealing with deeper spiritual issues. And herein lies the problem. When the things of this world occupy our hearts, when they consume our minds, we are going to find ourselves lost when it comes to the deeper issues, the things that really and truly matter.
The disciples were directly in the presence of Jesus, they heard the warning come straight from His lips, and still they didn’t understand. Their hearts were distracted.
People today read the Word, they hear the message of God straight from the source, but because their hearts are distracted, they miss out on what is really being said. And this isn’t just something that affects those new to the faith, we are all susceptible to this, no matter our ‘level’ of maturity. Physical distractions and the pride of our hearts are often the cause of the misunderstanding. But all sin is a distraction, busyness is a distraction, work or school, social pressures, and the list goes on…so many things can keep our hearts from hearing from God. But we must be actively aware of the struggle so we can effectively combat it.
As we GoLove others, it is up to us to be the example of a Holy Spirit led heart and a God directed mind. If we just think and live like the rest of the unbelieving world, what good does that do us or them?
“26 Though the king was deeply distressed, because of his oaths and the guests he did not want to refuse her. 27 The king immediately sent for an executioner and commanded him to bring John’s head. So he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and removed his corpse and placed it in a tomb.”
Herod was deeply distressed about fulfilling this promise, as he should have been. He had allowed his foolishly spoken, probably alcohol riddled, words to become something he never intended. Was the girl taking advantage? Yes. Could Herod have stopped this from running through to its conclusion? Yes. But pride, and a few other sins, joined forces here to create a situation that quickly overpowered him.
The book of Proverbs is full of helpful advice and direction that would have prevented this situation, and Herod had just as much access to it then as we do now. But when life is all about you and pleasing yourself, you rarely look to the Scriptures or anything else that might convict you. Instead, you do as Herod did, you surround yourself with people who are going to affirm your bad life choices and encourage a deeper disobedience in you.
Obviously, there were no religious advisers there that day, no one to help guide his heart. When we surround ourselves with people who will encourage the worst in us, we cannot expect anything but the worst to come out of us and our lives. Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character. And greedy company can corrupt already bad character into something worse. Drama rules the day and regret becomes a constant companion.
If we are going to GoLove as Christ commissioned us to do, we must be aware of our surroundings, the influences on our character and the elements in our environment that all contribute toward the development or disabling of our character and we have to be brutally honest about them all and about ourselves. Humility and a desire to see God glorified in us are absolutely necessary to see change come about. We need to surround ourselves with people and influences that honor God above self and holiness above hedonism.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2, 7-8 NIV
As Christians, we have all probably had our fair share of mixed reactions to the faith we proclaim. Some people are happy for us, encouraging (even if they don’t believe on their own) and they are content to know that we have a personal faith that we cling to every day. And then on the other hand there are people that instantly throw up walls, get their verbal assault weapons ready and settle in for a conflict the moment we mention His Name.
I have worked with, shared with and witnessed to both sides of that reaction. I have also experienced plenty of indifference to faith as well. But when it’s all said and done, I still see two basic camps when it comes to reactions to Jesus. Most of the indifferent people are only indifferent to a point, and the moment they begin to recognize that you are trying to have a conversation with them at length about Jesus, their indifference quickly switches to an attempt to shut down that topic. So, no one is permanently indifferent to Jesus. Everyone must take their stand with or for Him at some point.
Neither group mentioned here in Matthew 2 were baptized believers or followers of Jesus Christ. Neither one were seeking to surrender their lives to Him, but they both had a very different reaction to His presence in the world.
The ‘wise men’ came to Him recognizing that He was significant, that a sign had been given for His arrival and that He was worth paying attention to and worshipping. Did they understand the fullness of who they were visiting? Probably not, but their hearts were open to the idea of Him and so they gave Him a dedicated effort.
Herod, on the other hand, was instantly defensive. He was offended by the mention of His existence and He saw Him as a threat to His own power and position. He had no concern for his nation or his people or for the role of the Messiah. He just wanted Him out of the picture. He reacted from paranoia and fear. There was no room in his heart for even the thought of Him existing.
These reactions aren’t all that different from what we encounter as Christians on a day to day basis. Some people will entertain a conversation about Jesus, others get short with us and say things like, ‘I don’t do “Jesus.”‘ I have had protracted conversations with atheists, Buddhists, animists, wiccans and plenty of agnostics about Jesus and those were all people who had a willingness to carry the conversation. I ahv also had some of the most difficult conversations with people who have claimed to go to church as a child, but now want nothing to do with Jesus.
The long and short of it is this:
For those of us who claim Christ, there is no excuse for not making the effort to share Him with others because we are concerned about how people are going to react. We cannot live in fear of the commission given to us to ‘Go.’ We have been sent in the authority of Jesus Christ to spread and share the best news the world has ever heard. And we must remember that if people reject what we have to say about Jesus, that they are rejecting Him first. Jesus promised us that the world didn’t like Him, and that they wouldn’t really treat us any different. So if you get a positive reaction to your faith, run with it. Share Jesus with them, and make the most of every moment you have to share the truth of the Gospel in love with them.
If they shut you down at the first hint of ‘religious’ conversation, then know that the soil there is hard packed and rocky and that it’s not your fault that they aren’t willing to listen.
Simply do what you know you have been called to do. Do it out of love. Do it out of concern and compassion. Do it out of joy and obedience, (There is such a thing as joyful obedience, you know.)
Go and love the lost for Christ. GoLove them without being worried for yourself or the reaction you don’t even know they’ll give when you begin to share the hope you’ve found. We have all been given our ‘talent’ to invest for our Master, and I for one don’t want to simply bury it in the dirt and hope for the best.