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Acts 23:11-22 // Have Courage!

“11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’ 

12 When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse: neither to eat nor to drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than 40 who had formed this plot. 14 These men went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a solemn curse that we wont eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 So now you, along with the Sanhedrin, make a request to the commander that he bring him down to you as if you were going to investigate his case more thoroughly. However, before he gets near, we are ready to kill him.’

16 But the son of Paul’s sister, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks and reported it to Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander, because he has something to report to him.’

18 So he took him, brought him to the commander, and said, ‘The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.’

19 Then the commander took him by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, ‘What is it you have to report to me?’

20 ‘The Jews,’ he said, ‘have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they are going to hold a somewhat more careful inquiry about him. 21 Don’t let them persuade you, because there are more than 40 of them arranging to ambush him, men who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they kill him. Now they are ready, waiting for a commitment from you.’

22 So the commander dismissed the young man and instructed him, ‘Don’t tell anyone that you have informed me about this.'”

Acts 23:11-22

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I have been in situations before where I was the only Christian in a workplace, and all some of my co-workers wanted was to see me fall apart, to drop my guard and to do something that they wanted to do. Whether it was through a confrontation or temptation to stray from the path, they simply wanted to see me fail. And the reasons behind this varied. Some of them were people that fell away from the faith and thought  they ‘knew better’ now and they were trying to do me a service by pulling me away from Christ. Others never had anything to do with God or His church and simply wanted my behavior to match theirs. I was pressed on my beliefs, I was mocked, I was run through an inquisition over the course of many shifts. I was offered drugs, alcohol & the promise of sexual encounters with loose women if I would just go along with them, be like them, and do what they did for ‘fun.’

But I was always able to stand firm in my beliefs because I knew that Christ was there with me in those moments. God gave me the strength to stand my ground, to say ‘no’ and to still maintain my integrity. Was there temptation to fold, to cave in and just run with what seemed easy? Honestly, many of the things people offered were so vulgar and against my character that it wasn’t difficult to refuse them. (This is the credit of the Holy Spirit working in me.) But other times, it would seem easier to just run with the attitudes of the world and to act like they were acting, to maybe joke like they were joking, to be a part of their conversation to ‘fit in.’ And we’ve all encountered these situations, arguments and debates in the workplace, school and out in the world if we’ve been living our faith in Christ. 

Because a life lived publicly for Christ is going to draw attention. It’s going to make some people angry, some people uncomfortable and we must be prepared to stand firm no matter what that may bring. Paul was certain he was doing what was right, there was no question. But it would have been easier to just be quiet about Jesus once he had arrived in Jerusalem. There may not have been temptation to live like a Roman, but there may have been temptation to look like Saul the Pharisee again. There may have been temptation to live that old life, or to at least compromise a little, in order to get people to like him, trust him or even just leave him alone. But Paul knew that a life lived for Christ, a life where you GoLove others rather than just seek to protect yourself, was going to be a life that required sacrifice. And in this sacrifice, he would find resistance from others who were still living for self or in a way that acquiesced to public opinion. 

In all these instances, Christ promised to strengthen us, to give us courage and even that the Holy Spirit would give us the proper words to say as we stand before those who would accuse us of wrong doing  or wrong thinking. For those who ridicule us because we are ‘narrow’ or ‘closed’ minded, we can stand against their arguments & ridicule. For those who are morally loose, we can resist the temptation to live like them. For those who encounter us with anger in their hearts, we can still respond with love because of what Jesus Christ is doing in us as we are being daily sanctified for God’s glory. Our witness matters, the courage we have in Christ speaks directly to His goodness, His mercy, His grace and His Lordship over us. If our life just looks like the life around us in the world, then what good does Christ do? If we choose to live like everyone else, why on earth would there be anything compelling about a Christian walk? We haven’t been called to cave, but to conquer sin through the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work in us! The old life in us is dead and gone, and in Christ we stand victorious! There is something more, something better, something of eternal significance when we will leave behind that old dead life and be renewed in our heart and mind, as Paul was, and pursue the life that God offers to us in Christ Jesus.

“When we walk with the Lord/ in the light of His Word/ what a glory He sheds on our way./ While we do His good will/ He abides with us still./ Never fear, only trust and obey./ Trust and obey/ for there is no better way/ to be happy in Jesus/ but to trust and obey.”

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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. 

Psalm 84 // Better is one day!

I’m trying just to listen this week:

Psalm 84
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! Selah

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
12 Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Mark 4:35-41 // Faith, fear & worry

“35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that were going to die?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”
41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!””
Mark 4:35-41

Apparently, I am a worrier, and I have let fear get the best of me at times. I have obsessed, been consumed by things that shouldn’t consume me, and generally exhibited a lack of faith when in my heart of hearts, I know better and have been shown so many times that God has everything under control. I am the storm drenched disciple in the boat wondering why Jesus is napping.

I feel immensely silly once I realize what I am doing, yet again, and I must apologize and repent, yet agian, for doubting and letting my mind play tricks on me. I have listened to the repeated whispers of the enemy in my ears, knowing they’re nonsense, but entertained those thoughts anyway. And I repent, pray and seek forgiveness.

So much of combatting fear, for me, is to immediately act in the opposite way. Just look it in the face and do what fear says not to do. Not being foolhardy, not acting in ignorance, but stepping out, moving forward. Fear builds a wall, and piles rubble on top of you, pressuring you and weighing you down. You are hemmed in on all sides, and made to feel like you cannot move. And so, to combat fear, I must move. I must go. I must trim my sails, turn into the waves and trust my Master to go where He said to go.

Fear fails when we move, its façade crumbles, and its foundation slips away. When we step up and step out, walking with the Master, Jesus, listening to the call of the Holy Spirit, trusting the will of the Father, we will find so much strength has been given to us. Fear is only as strong as we let it be. Anxiety can only control us as long as we give it permission. If we know we are called to GoLove, walking as Jesus walked, then we must trust that God has given us the strength to do just that. If Jesus said to share the good news of the Kingdom, which He did, we must trust Him to work in us and through us to see that commissioning accomplished. He will be faithful, just as He always is, and we must let faith guide our every action. Fear and faith cannot coexist, the Christian walk cannot be defined by both.

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