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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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Never Alone

Lord, though each of us rises alone to start this new day, bind us to the faith of the saints who have gone before us, and guide us to walk with our brothers and sisters in community. Amen.

John 14:18-31
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

And we hear Jesus continuing on in this truth of His intimate community with God the Father, and our community with Him. This is a great comfort to us, and it is meant to be one. Even people who have full homes, and loving family experience times of loneliness. We all have moments where we feel like it really is just us against the world. And as difficult as it is to think about, even our closest friends and family members will let us down from time to time, even if that was the farthest thing from their heart or intention. This is why our community with Christ and His with the Father is so important. listen to His words again:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Our love is exhibited by our obedience, His love is exhibited by His presence with us. Sin should divide us, but Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. His holiness and our sin should have nothing to do with one another, but He has provided the way for us to dwell with Him, and the Father with us through the Holy Spirit. And because of this great act of love, like Jesus says, we obey Him in our love for Him.

This community with God is what brings us peace. Just like Isaiah was given when he stood before the altar of God, we receive the same peace. Just like John was given as he was being shown the new heavens and the new earth. Just like Moses, Elijah and so many other messengers of God were sustained in their hardship by the presence of God, we are given that same peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Rest in this knowledge, in this truth of faith, when you are in Christ, you are never alone. Fear is not your master, Jesus will never let you down. Simply trust. Simply rest. Simply know that you are precious to Him, and that He is glorified in you as you walking in that loving obedience to Him, powered by the gift of grace through Christ Jesus.  We are blessed by this hope, and blessed to be a blessing to others as we live in this truth. This is how we walk in confidence in the rhythms of grace, knowing we are never alone.

Acts 24:22-27 // Perseverence in the face of needless suffering

“22 Since Felix was accurately informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.’ 23 He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from serving him.

24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, ‘Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.’ 26 At the same time he was also hoping that money would be given to him by Paul. For this reason he sent for him quite often and conversed with him.

27 After two years had passed, Felix received a successor, Porcius Festus, and because he wished to do a favor for the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison.”

Acts 24:22-27

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Paul is in a tough spot here. He has pled his case. The truth has been revealed, and he even has the opportunity to speak his heart to Felix & family from time to time. But in between those opportunities come the long days of solitude. Yes, he has friends and fellow Christians serving him during his time in prison and is allowed a little freedom, but he is a prisoner nonetheless. 

It doesn’t have to be prison that brings us to these times though. My mind instantly goes to people who find themselves in the hospital for a long time, those who live in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. What of those who are left to face the long march of days on their own? How do they fare day to day when it seems like no one remembers them, like nobody cares? Where do their hearts and minds go during the lonely hours of the afternoon? Who holds up their arms in that daily struggle to maintain their humanity? Who brings them comfort and care? 

We are so quick to seek comfort for ourselves, but we delay in bringing it to others. We prioritize our schedules and what we want to see done over and beyond what their actual needs may be. In choosing to ignore or neglect their need, we rob them of their humanity. It feels good to get our work done, but we must question the nature of our work if it does not allow us to care for ‘the least of these’ as Christ desired for us to do. Paul’s friends, those who came to minister to him? They are doing the work of Christ just as much as Paul is by preaching and testifying. Their quiet faithfulness, hidden in the background of history, was part of what helped sustain him. They served as the hands and feet of Christ in Paul’s life when he needed it most. 

As for us, we need to be mindful to render that same service to others. We need to care for and lift them up. Pray with them. Visit with them. Let God comfort them through you. Be the quiet faithfulness that helps to maintain them through the long, lonely hours just as God does for you. Trust in God to sustain you in your lonely days & know that He is near to the broken hearted (Ps 34:18). GoLove them in Jesus’ Name, and in the daily rhythms of His great grace.

Psalm 88 // Lamenting openly

The week of listening continues.

A Cry of Desperation

A song. A psalm of the sons of Korah. For the choir director: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

1 “Lord, God of my salvation,

I cry out before You day and night.

2 May my prayer reach Your presence;

listen to my cry.

3 For I have had enough troubles,

and my life is near Sheol.

4 I am counted among those going down to the Pit.

I am like a man without strength,

5 abandoned among the dead.

I am like the slain lying in the grave,

whom You no longer remember,

and who are cut off from Your care.

6 You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit,

in the darkest places, in the depths.

7 Your wrath weighs heavily on me;

You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves.”               Selah

8 “You have distanced my friends from me;

You have made me repulsive to them.

I am shut in and cannot go out.

9 My eyes are worn out from crying.

Lord, I cry out to You all day long;

I spread out my hands to You.

10 Do You work wonders for the dead?

Do departed spirits rise up to praise You?”           Selah

11 “Will Your faithful love be declared in the grave,

Your faithfulness in Abaddon?

12 Will Your wonders be known in the darkness

or Your righteousness in the land of oblivion?

13 But I call to You for help, Lord;

in the morning my prayer meets You.

14 Lord, why do You reject me?

Why do You hide Your face from me?

15 From my youth,

I have been afflicted and near death.

I suffer Your horrors; I am desperate.

16 Your wrath sweeps over me;

Your terrors destroy me.

17 They surround me like water all day long;

they close in on me from every side.

18 You have distanced loved one and neighbor from me;

darkness is my only friend.”

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