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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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Sifted & Strengthened

Father, thank You for understanding our weaknesses & loving us enough to expose them to us. Thank You for revealing the depths of our need for You & uncovering our insecurities. Your love for us is infinite & Your mercies are new every morning. Jesus, You have been our Advocate in a way that no one else ever could be. Our flesh is weak, but Holy Spirit, You bring strength to our bones & stamina to our hearts. Please embolden us for today & sustain us until tomorrow within Your peace. We lack nothing with You & remain impoverished without You. We praise You for Your great grace, O God. Carry us through our season of need & be glorified in the process. We are Yours.
This we acknowledge in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 22:31-38
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I think we all know what it feels like to be sifted. Shaken & tossed, who we are at the core is exposed & we feel like we have been left bare to the world. Any covering we may have had is removed & we are left open & we feel vulnerable. I’m sure Peter felt exposed when Jesus spoke about this, his own fears & weaknesses laid bare before his friends. It probably hurt, I guarantee it did. I imagine that Peter’s face went ashen when Jesus spoke to him about this & even when he tried to defend his love for Christ, Jesus revealed how quickly his denial would come.

We all have aspirations for ourselves within our faith.We have an image of our own devotion & strength for Jesus, & this ‘best case scenario’ of our faith-life is rarely reality when the pressure is one & it’s time to speak up or take steps of real faith. We tell ourselves stories, we are creative in justifying what we do & how we live. But when it comes down to it, we will deny, just like Peter did, that we have the capacity for such a quick falling away. But the proof is in the pudding, & belief is tested by pressure. We revert quickly to who we actually are when those moments come & Jesus wanted Peter to be prepared & to hear a word of grace before it came for him.

No one want to be left feeling inadequate, especially for the One who conquered death & sin & saved us from facing the wrath of God. But it wasn’t our strength that sent Jesus through His Passion & it wasn’t our righteousness that allowed Him to serve as our perfect sacrifice. We brought nothing to the table in this regard, we were continue to be inadequate when it comes to strength & saving ourselves. But Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is more than enough for us all. So when Peter was told about his coming failure & when you & I see our own moments of stumbling coming along, we can be reminded that it ids Jesus who brought grace & it is God’s Holy Spirit that fills us with the grace we need & provides us with strength for every obstacle.

Satan will always be our accuser, until the day he is defeated with a word & God’s judgment comes for all of us. He desires to ruin us & break God’s heart in the process. Jesus said it best, that he comes to steal, kill & destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life & have it abundantly. When the enemy tries to attack or to remind us of past failures, we need to remember that Jesus has already opened the doorway to forgiveness with His own blood & that the devil holds no authority over us & his accusations fall flat. When we receive Jesus as Savior & Lord, our names are covered by His Name. Our identities are found in Him, not in our past, not in our mistakes & not in our weaknesses.

All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His great grace & love. He calls us to walk daily in those rhythms, not the old discord that used to define us, but in new rhythms of His grace & His love. We may still stumble, but He has already stooped to serve & help us stand again. May we be bold for Him & trust in the depths of His strength & His awesome forgiveness. He alone is worthy & makes us worthy in Himself. Thank God for that today.

Mark 14:66-72 // Denial, the Rooster & Power to Stand

“66 While Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the high priests servants came. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.”

68 But he denied it: “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went out to the entryway, and a rooster crowed.

69 When the servant saw him again she began to tell those standing nearby, “This man is one of them!”

70 But again he denied it. After a little while those standing there said to Peter again, “You certainly are one of them, since youre also a Galilean!”

71 Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”

72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” When he thought about it, he began to weep.”

Mark 14:66-72

In Luke 22, we are told that Jesus was close enough to see and hear all this and that He makes eye contact with Peter upon this last denial. This was a very intimate denial, a refusing of Jesus, who was just a few yards away. He heard Peter say this all three times. The man who just earlier in the night had cut off another man’s ear, trying to defend Jesus, and who had publicly sworn that He wouldn’t leave or abandon Him, was now doing everything he promised to never do. His conviction wavered and whose faith fell in the face of an accusatory servant girl. 

We can probably all relate to this in a way. We have all had opportunities to stand up for Jesus but decided it was easier, ‘better,’ to keep our mouths closed. We’ve spoken a good game, we’ve played our part well, but when it got difficult, we folded under the pressure. We know the pain of realization, the shame that comes once we realize what we’ve done.  

And we have hope because of Peter. We see the resurrected Lord invite him back into the fold to feed His sheep. Peter is reinstated as a disciple and is even the lead Apostle when the  church is born. But every morning, and sometimes in the middle of the day, Peter heard a rooster crow. There is a daily reminder, no matter where he is, of what he had done. It wouldn’t be escapable, except maybe out at sea. But every day as he is reminded, three crows signaled three denials, but three times Jesus told him to take care of His flock. For every denial, there was now a call to action, a motivation to move forward. I imagine that the rooster became a reminder of grace, not guilt, for Peter. 

When we fall short, when pressure gets the best of us, we need to remember that Jesus gave Peter the strength to not only do the basics of discipleship, but to endure ridicule, imprisonment and beatings for His sake. For most of us in the West, all we have to put up with is public ridicule or a sideways glance. Surely we have power enough in Christ to stand up through that! Peter’s reinstatement doesn’t just leave us with hope when we fall, but it’s a reminder that we have the power to stand now in Christ. 

Where Peter fell before a servant’s ridicule and pointing finger, we would later stand before priests, rulers and eventually the emporer himself.  That’s the reminder we need to take away with us, that we don’t have an open invitation to fail, but power and strength to stand. The failure of another person does not give us excuse to fail, but instead, it gives us hope that we can stand through it all. Peter’s strength came when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. We who are Christ today, who have received Him and been baptized into Him, we have the Holy Spirit in dwelling us, too. We have been given power beyond our need to stand, be bold and speak the truth in love. And our call to GoLove is not a weak or timid call. It requires us to be bold and live beyond ourselves, beyond our own strength. Christ is more than sufficient to see us through. He is our Rock, and we should not be moved. Be bold. Trust in Him. Own your faith! 

It’s obvious! We can all tell! // Matthew 26

“Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.”
Matthew 26:71-74 NIV

When we are confident in our walk with Christ, we don’t mind if people notice. We don’t mind if they ask us about church, or other ‘spiritual’ things. (Everything is spiritual, by the way.) getting those confirmations about our proximity to Jesus comes across as a compliment, an affirmation to what He is doing in us, and having that recognition feels good. It would be lying to say it doesn’t. And we know that any and all credit for those appearances of Christ in us goes directly to Him. After all, He is the One at work.

But when we slip up, when we aren’t quite as close to Christ as we know we should be or as close as we would want to be, and someone notices that we have called ourselves Christians, but we are behaving in a way that seems to stand against those claims……ouch.

Even more so for Peter who, caught up in the moment, shows a greater concern for his own skin than for his Rabbi’s, and he denies the 2nd strongest allegiance held in his heart in exchange for his 1st, his allegiance to himself. The servant girl says it plainly, ‘Your accent gives you away.’ Everyone knew he had been with Jesus. He wasn’t part of the crowd there. He was easily recognizable as ‘one of those guys from Galilee’ and they knew he was linked in with Jesus.

Where is your courtyard? Where is it difficult to stand close to the fire and be recognized? Where does your accent give you away, and so you begin speaking differently? Where is it that standing for Jesus is the most difficult?
Do you have accusers? Are there people who try to call you out on your faith and their questioning is hard to deal with? Are there places where it seems all eyes are on you, waiting for your reaction?

Hopefully we have stood up for Christ enough to get called out for Christ. Hopefully the love He has given to us has overflowed to others so that our accent of grace points us out. Beyond Jesus-y T-shirts and bumper stickers or always wearing a cross on the outside of our shirt, helpfully people have actually seen Jesus at work in us, and that our allegiance to Him goes beyond the superficial.

And when it does, we have to know that there will be accusing fingers pointing at us. When we stand for and speak the truth, and when we love and serve as Jesus did, then people are going to notice and our accent is going to give us away.

The question then becomes, ‘Who has my first allegiance? Who am I loyal to above all else?’

If it is to self, then we will deny and dodge just like Peter did in that courtyard. We will seek shelter from public ridicule and questions by leaving Jesus to stand by Himself.

If it is to Jesus, then we know and believe that He is going to take those hits for us and that the ones accusing us have pointed out something we are proud to say has happened in our lives. And even if we are caught doing something contrary to our faith, if we stumble in a moment, we can own up to it, seek forgiveness from those we have offended and remember that grace is greater than all our sin. We confess, repent and seek our Master’s gracious love.

Being a Christian means standing with Christ. It doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean we are being perfected. It doesn’t mean that we are strong, but it means that in Christ we can withstand anything. He is our Rock and Refuge. When our accent gives us away, we stand up straight and keep on speaking with it, not in arrogance, but out of gratitude. He has first loved us, and so that love saves us from ourselves. His justice demanded restitution, payment for our sin. His love desired reconciliation with His creation that had chosen self over service. This love keeps us standing tall in the face of opposition, and it compels us to ‘go’ and to GoLove as we have been loved, sharing the good news of Jesus.

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