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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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Mark 16:1-8 // Just as He told you

“1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”

4 Looking up, they observed that the stone — which was very large — had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.”

“7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.”

8 So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.”

Mark 16:1-8

— 

This is further evidence of our inability to remember and act upon good things that God has promised us. Just like the disciples heard that Jesus was going to die and be raised on the third day over and over again, we tend to hear the good news of the Gospel and forget parts that have been distinctly promised to us. 

If anyone had been paying attention, if their hearts and minds weren’t darkened, they would have seen and heard and understood about the resurrection of Christ. I’m not sure how much of their lack of understanding came from the fact that the Holy Spirit was not indwelling them yet, or how much was fear or a different expectation of what Messiah was supposed to be like and how He was to reign and rule. 

There may have been multiple contributing factors, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t clicking for them. The angel even said ‘just as He told you’ to help drive it all home, but they still lacked understanding as they ran back to the upper room. 

When you and I forget that we have been promised various things through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Word, we find ourselves living a lackluster Christian walk. We have been given power. We have a singular handle on the truth. We have a hope that the rest of the world cannot grasp or understand. We know the end of life’s big story and we know what it takes to be on the right side of judgment day. We have more than we remember sometimes. ‘Little is much when God is in it.’ And when we, in our tiny, finite lives, understand that the infinite Creator of the universe has chosen to indwell us through His Holy Spirit, we will remember just how big a punch that packs. 

We are an empowered people, just as He told us.

We are entrusted with the truth, just as He told us.

We are to GoLove with a purpose, just as He told us.

We are the purveyors of hope, just as He told us.

We are going to be hated by the world, just as He told us.

We are going to face persecutions, just as He told us.

We are going to go before governing authorities, just as He told us.

We have a cross to carry, just as He told us. 

We must die to self, just as He told us.

He will be with us always, just as He told us. 

Mark 15:42-47 // Silent as the tomb

“42 When it was already evening, because it was preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. 44 Pilate was surprised that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether He had already died. 45 When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 After he bought some fine linen, he took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen. Then he placed Him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Now Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching where He was placed.”

Mark 15:42-47

Mark records no dialogue from the moment when Jesus died until the morning the women go to the tomb. He narrates the goings on, but no words are audibly spoken. The fast-paced nature of his writing slows and we are left to examine the situation on our own. We are left watching, anticipating but not interacting. The tomb is silent. 

Here we find:

A dead man

A faithful, caring man

A surprised man

A man who confirms 

Two women watching

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

Ritual

Government

Hope

Sympathy

Resignation 

Shock 

The tomb is silent.
Here we find:

A religious leader

A military/political leader

A military follower/leader

Two regular people

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

A day closing out

Desire turning to introspection

Devotion being lived out

Uncertainty spectating 

The tomb is silent.
There are still a lot of things going on, even though we hear nothing. Hearts and minds are louder than any words might be, more incessant and numbing than any conversation could possibly accomplish. In the silence, activity still happens, hearts still beat and the machine rolls on. Disciples are hidden, leaders feel justified and the masses are left wondering. 

The tomb is silent, but only from an audible perspective. There is no physical noise coming from within, in reality, the tomb is screaming at us, jumping around, waving its hands in the air. It draws our hearts, minds and eyes. It focuses our will on itself and it begs us to pay attention to it. There is no noise, but the silence is deafening. We are forced into confrontation with it, we are demanded to answer to it all. 

The tomb is anything but silent. And as Christians, the tomb still speaks through us today. As we GoLove in the Name of Jesus, the tomb continues to find its voice through us all. It speaks loudly in us, to us and through us. It’s not a point to pass over on the way to Easter morning, it is the vehicle for the ressurrection. We must examine it, we must speak for it. Death and the grave are ever hungry and they do not give back what they have taken, but this tomb stands forever as testimony to the fact that they have been beaten…

But that comes tomorrow. 

He is life // verses for Lent

“After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus ) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:11-27, 34-35, 38-44 NIV)

Shortly before His own passion would begin, Jesus exercises His authority over life and death in such a way that it would be undeniable. In the midst of sorrow, Jesus would bring joy. In the midst of pain. Jesus would bring comfort. In the midst of death, Jesus would speak and breathe life.

The resurrection of Lazarus was so awe inspiring, so compelling that to say the authorities were threatened would be an understatement.

“So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” (John 12:10, 11 NIV)

The authority of Jesus Christ over life and death was well established before He would undertake the journey to the tomb by Himself. Lazarus’ resurrection was for the benefit of His disciples and those who believed in Him. Jesus clearly states this. But in a week’s time, He would be nearing His own journey through pain and suffering to death and the grave.

This pain-riddled experience would be so far beyond the pain of a fever and illness and death. His heart would be broken by betrayal (by His own disciples, by His people and His creation), His physical body would be tortured and wracked with pain so terrible it earned a new term: excruciating (out of the cross.) And in all of this, He was in control, He laid down His life and He would give up His spirit.

Jesus held and still holds the power over life and death, and as we enter the week of His Passion, we are reminded that His power is a comfort and a sign to us today in the midst of our own troubles, doubts, pains and fears. His love cannot be denied, and that is indeed a blessing.

God bless the nobodies…

(unmarked journal entry – presumably luke 1)

for so long, the israelites waited for their savior. they followed God in a sad cycle of on again, off again returns and worshiping of pagan gods. throughout it all, God continued to offer them ways back to Him, and messengers to help them back into His fold. But, just like today, they weren’t always ready to listen. by the time the old testament wraps up, you can feel the depth of their desire for the messiah.

things are just too much anymore, and the timing was definitely right.

so, after 400 years of silence and struggle, the pump had been primed for God’s redemptive down-stroke. and the plan is still as marvelous today as when it was first revealed. we would still expect an adult, a strong political/military leader to come in and fix their human situations. but the beauty of a baby, born to ‘nobodies’ still continues to amaze us.

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

it’s reassuring to know that God really is willing to use anyone and everyone to accomplish His will and purpose. this is part of the great reversal, that those of us who are not in the world’s limelight, that those of us who do not stand out, are still afforded an equally important role as the guy/lady that everyone sees and knows. we can’t expect to all be called to speak at conferences, or to pray for televised, presidential events. that would create a ridiculous scenario.

but each and every one of us has been given the responsibility of sharing what we know about God to everyone we meet. it has nothing to do with our social standing, our titles at work or how many degrees we have. if a completely un-famous carpenter and his quiet, teenage wife can be given the responsibility of caring for the Son of God, then the possibilities are endless.

to say,  “God can’t/won’t use me because i’m ____________________.” is absolutely ridiculous. God can and will use all who make themselves available to be used. God loves using people no one expects to accomplish great things. because then, it’s obvious that He is at work, and then He gets the glory he deserves in a very unfiltered way. if He only used the high and mighty, someone might get too much of an ego trip, and block out the real message.

so, step forward in confidence knowing that God can and will use you, no matter what you think of yourself, or what you think others think about you. just make yourself available, be willing to take that first step out of your perception of control, and see what He can do through you…

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