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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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We shall not be moved

huge-boulder-at-sequoia-park
The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!

28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
Psalm 18:28-32

In the words of the Folk Spiritual song,

We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

When we stand with God, we will always find ourselves in a secure place. Encouraged by His presence, bolstered by His love, we are agents of grace in a hostile world. What a blessing to have this assurance in our faith. God is our lamp, the light for our path. No matter what shade may cross our path, no matter what obscuring lies may attempt to infiltrate our heart, the Wisdom & Truth from God the Father will always point us in the right direction. Trust in Him, even when the world screams its heresies and when it repeatedly whispers its soft, subtle lies, trust in the light of the Lord. When hard times come, when desperate times press us from all sides, rely on the strength of Christ and the power of His presence to see you through. Even when you cannot see the way, He will light the path for us.

With God, we can withstand anything, and overcome the obstacles in our path. He is the One who provides a pathway and the one who empowers His children. We are always in a good place when we stand with the Lord. be encouraged by His good promises, be lifted up by His grace. The onslaught of the enemy cannot stand against the Lord our God. He is our shield, He is faithful and true. He is our rock and our redeemer. Find your hope in Him. Find your strength in Him today. He is with you who have put on Christ.

His way is indeed perfect, He has shown us this time and again. His grace equips us for our encounters with others in need of grace. His steadfast love enables us to love those who are difficult to love. His boundless forgiveness reminds us of our own need to forgive others, echoing His great justice and mercy. His care & provision for us reminds us that we have been blessed to bless others, to reach out to those who suffer injustice, to provide for those in need.

He is everything we need.
In Him we stand secure.
In the face of all life’s struggles, we will not be moved.

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
Psalm 18:35-36

The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!
In Him may we find strength for the day’s trials & troubles.
In Him, may we find grace enough to share.
In Jesus’ precious & holy Name,
Amen.

Acts 1:1-8 // And so it begins…

“1 I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3 After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Fathers promise. “This,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”

7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:1-8

This is our transition period, the hand-off, the lateral pass before the run to the end zone. Jesus’ physical time on earth is coming to a close, and if His incarnation wasn’t miraculous enough, God was now choosing to take things another step further. He was going to entrust the work He began to us, and not only that, He was going to see it through by indwelling us with His Holy Spirit. 

For those who receive Christ as Lord and Savior, those who are baptized into Him, there was and still remains that promise that is almost unbelievable. The Infinite God of Creation, Lord of Heaven and Earth has designed and desired that He should enter into His people, guiding them, comforting them and bringing about the work of His will through them. Next year, I will have been a recipient of His Spirit for 30 years and I do not know if I have yet begun to comprehend what that truly means. He employs a mystery, and He does so within my own flesh. 

This brings both a severe conviction and an unruly hope. If the Living God dwells within me, apart from me, but active within me, then my every thought is not simply known by Him, but He is walking with me as I am having them. He knows the justifications I build, not simply because He is the Omniscient One, but because He is experiencing them from within me. He is literally -with- me in my hopes and fears, joys, sorrows, worries and celebrations. He knows my disappointments, and again, not simply because He already knows all there is to know, but because He has shown me this love, that He would join me, from within, in those moments. He is within me and my refuge at the same time. What a blessing! 

This is where that unruly hope comes into play, that despite all of me, who I am, He is right here with me to walk me through it all. If I will shut up, be still and let Him lead. And I am so good at trying to just press on in my own so-called ‘strength.’ And when I have exhausted myself once again, He is right there, smiling and ready for me to hand over the controls. Like a child, I am bullheaded and think that I can do more than I am capable of doing, and I don’t learn the old lesson again until I have worn myself too thin once more. 

He is my Banner -over- me. My Rock, my Shield and my Fortress! And if I am to GoLove others as He has commanded all His disciples to do, then I need to step aside and let Him lead. I also need to remember that I need to be poured into, that I am going to fall short. I need Him. But that has been His plan from the beginning, He knows…

Psalm 78:1-8 // Never forget what God has done

Lessons from Israels Past
A Maskil of Asaph.
“1 My people, hear my instruction;
listen to what I say.
2 I will declare wise sayings;
I will speak mysteries from the past —
3 things we have heard and known
and that our fathers have passed down to us.
4 We must not hide them from their children,
but must tell a future generation
the praises of the Lord,
His might, and the wonderful works
He has performed.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and set up a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children
6 so that a future generation —
children yet to be born — might know.
They were to rise and tell their children
7 so that they might put their confidence in God
and not forget Gods works,
but keep His commands.
8 Then they would not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not loyal
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Psalm 78:1-8

In the remaining 64 verses, Asaph recalls God’s faithfulness and judgment, both for and against Israel. They were clearly His chosen ones, but they fought back against Him and rejected His leading so many times. Asaph reminds the people what happened to Egypt and how God’s judgment lashed out against them. He reminds them about what happens to those who stand against God, not because He is angry at them, but so that they may never forget.

This telling and re-telling of their history was mandated by God. He commanded each generation to tell the next over and over again why things were the way they were, How God had helped them, saved them, and why they should be faithful to the One who has defined faithfulness. And so Asaph is a continuing partner in that act of remembrance and obedience. And as it was good for Israel to remember what God had done, it is still good for us today.

He is our Faithful One, our Lord and our Liege. He is our Rescuer and our Salvation. His mighty works have saved us from death itself and the least that we can do is to thank Him through remembering what He has done. Remembering, both in this way and when we take communion, is an act of worship. It is a recalling and a thanaksgiving. It is a proclamation of the goodness of God, and that recalling worships Him because it draws hearts & minds to Him, it gives Him glory and it stands as a testimony.

As we GoLove others for His sake, we need to recall to them what He has done, not only for Israel, but in our own lives. Our testimony of His faithfulness stands as a witness to them as we share the good news of the Gospel of Christ. There is no retelling of God’s faithfulness that is not worship and a joy to the hearts of those who still live in darkness.

Numbers 20 // Trusting God’s Way

“7 The Lord spoke to Moses, 8 ‘Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock.’
9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence just as He had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?’ 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that a great amount of water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust Me to show My holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.’ 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord, and He showed His holiness to them.”
Numbers 20:7-13

Frustration is a corrosive force. It eats holes in our defense, it undermines our intentions and creates weak points in our witness. It can degrade the best of people into behavior that they normally would never participate in, and can cause a torrent of ugliness to spring up in an otherwise beautiful, God-ordained moment, as we see here with Moses and Aaron.

Sometimes, people in leadership succumb to the base attitudes that they are most bothered by in those they are supposed to be examples for when tensions are high. No one is perfect, and as James says, we all stumble in many ways (3:2). And even paragons like Moses and Aaron were subject to sin and stumbling, as we all are, but there is no excuse for directly disobeying God, no matter who you are. God does not allow for sin. He doesn’t look at us in a fallen moment and say, “Don’t sweat it, I understand.” He doesn’t. He does not sin. He does not find it acceptable. In fact, He tells us that He will always provide a way out of it (1 Corinthians 10:13) if we will be faithful and trust what He promises.

Moses and Aaron were in one of those all too familiar ‘last straw’ moments with the Israelite people. Surely, they thought that the people would have seen enough and understood enough that they would know that God wasn’t going to just let them all die out there in the wilderness. Those who rebelled and wouldn’t go into the promised land? Yes, but most of them were gone at this point. But those who remained were still stirring up dissent, and Moses had had enough. So, rather than trusting God and doing things His way, Moses seized a holy moment and focused it on his own anger and frustration rather than on the faithfulness of God, and he reduced himself down to the level of a show-boating, pagan magician.

Moses could have entered the Promised Land with the people if he had simply let God lead in that moment, but the seizure of the moment and the distraction from God, combined with his direct disobedience, led to punishment and a great disappointment. Moses could have crossed the Jordan and felt the sweet relief that comes with a fulfilled promise and a deep trust in God, but his anger and frustration ruled the moment rather than God’s will, and so consequences shifted to the negative rather than being a joyful thing.

As we GoLove the world in the Name of Christ, we must trust in God’s plan, God’s way and God’s timing. We aren’t allowed to just make it up as we go along, and let our ‘gut’ guide us. Our ‘gut’ is a misguided agent, led by sin. And frustration is a corrosive that allows that sin nature a greater influence over what could be a beatiful, God-ordained moment. We must pause, breathe, and ask God to lead and make Himself known through us in those moments, rather than degrading into sin and that selfish desire to say ‘I told you so.’ We all stumble in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that we just go on sinning so that grace may increase (Romans 6:1.) Instead, we give that moment over to God and let Him shine over and beyond our frustration, so that His witness in us remains intact, and so that hearts and minds are drawn to His holiness rather than our sin.

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