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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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Psalm 119:81-88 // כ Kaf // When it feels like you have nothing left

“81 I long for Your salvation;

I put my hope in Your word.

82 My eyes grow weary

looking for what You have promised;

I ask, “When will You comfort me?”

83 Though I have become like a wineskin dried by smoke,

I do not forget Your statutes.

84 How many days must Your servant wait?

When will You execute judgment on my persecutors?

85 The arrogant have dug pits for me;

they violate Your instruction.

86 All Your commands are true;

people persecute me with lies — help me!

87 They almost ended my life on earth,

but I did not abandon Your precepts.

88 Give me life in accordance with Your faithful love,

and I will obey the decree You have spoken.”

Psalm 119:81-88

A smoke dried wineskin is brittle and past its usefulness. David is feeling spent and useless, ready to break. We all experience times like this, where we don’t feel like we have anything left in us. One more hit will shatter us. DAvid feels the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders, he longs for the intervention of God. 

I often tell people that there is great value in getting familiar with the psalms because David is very expressive about the things he is experienceing, and his reliance on God is our example for what we should do as well when (not if) we experience similar situations.

Re-read this portion of Psalm 119 again. Listen to David’s heart and think through times in your life that felt similar. 

Read it a third time, and think about what God has done to help rescue you.

Read it a fourth time, and give God praise for His faithful love! 

  

Mark 14:32-42 // The Oil Press of Sorrow

“32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow — to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” 35 Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

37 Then He came and found them sleeping. Simon, are you sleeping? He asked Peter. “Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? 38 Stay awake and pray so that you wont enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once again He went away and prayed, saying the same thing. 40 And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to Him. 41 Then He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up; lets go! See — My betrayer is near.”

Mark 14:32-42

I’m not sure how much the phrase is used anymore, but to say someone has ‘been through the wringer’ is the closest idiom that we have for what Jesus is experiencing here in the garden. Gethsemane literally means “the oil press” and is a fitting place name considering where Jesus’ heart is in these last moments leading up to His arrest.

This week preceding the crucifixion is often called ‘Passion Week’ because of the intensity of what is going on and because of the deep-rooted love of God that compelled Jesus to do what He did. This time in the garden was that eternity that stretches out before us when we are confronted with the combination of time and dread. 

The effect of depression on the mind and body should not be quickly discounted. The emotional strain it brings on cannot be accurately described with words. Luke, in his account, contains these words (some mms omit them) that show us where Jesus’ was in these minutes preceding the arrival of Judas and the temple guard, 

“43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:43-44

The word ‘anguish’ signifies His mental/emotional state. Mark used the word ‘horrified,’ the strongest of the three NT words for depression to explain the state of His mind. 

But such was the love of God at work in Christ, that He was able to overcome these deepest of emotions and hurts and fears for our sake. What depth of compassion, mercy and grace flowed in Emmanuel’s veins that He would suffer such horror, anguish and depression so that we might be reconciled to God. He loved us so much that He was able to step aside from depression and press forward, and unless you have had your mind and heart in the inky dark grasp of depression’s many-folded pit, you cannot comprehend what an amazing feat that is. His commissioning command to GoLove others is born from the intensity of this love.

How great a love the Father has lavished on us! We cannot comprehend its depths! We cannot overstate His faithfulness, mercy, compassion and grace! We simply do not have the words, but the cross and empty tomb paint the perfect picture. 

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.”

Psalm 43 // Send Your light & truth

When we are feeling down, there is only one real cure for our broken hearts. When we are depressed, there is only one light bright enough to cut through our gloom. When we are distracted and dismayed, there is only one source of truth that can snap us out of the false reality set before our eyes.

The light and truth of our Father, God, is our only hope, our only guide and the one true source of joy when we have no where else to turn.

Praise God for His unfailing love!

“1 Vindicate me, God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly nation;
rescue me from the deceitful and unjust man.
2 For You are the God of my refuge.
“Why have You rejected me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemys oppression?”

3 Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.
Let them bring me to Your holy mountain,
to Your dwelling place.
4 Then I will come to the altar of God,
to God, my greatest joy.
I will praise You with the lyre,
God, my God.

5 “Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?”
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 40 // Waiting patiently, God makes it possible

“I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me
and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

How happy is the man
who has put his trust in the Lord
and has not turned to the proud
or to those who run after lies!

Lord my God,
You have done many things —
Your wonderful works
and Your plans for us;
none can compare with You.

If I were to report and speak of them,
they are more than can be told.
You do not delight in sacrifice and offering;
You open my ears to listen.
You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or a sin offering.
Then I said,
“See, I have come;
it is written about me in the volume of the scroll.
I delight to do Your will, my God;
Your instruction lives within me.”

I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
see, I do not keep my mouth closed —
as You know, Lord.
I did not hide Your righteousness in my heart;
I spoke about Your faithfulness and salvation;
I did not conceal Your constant love
and truth from the great assembly.
Lord, do not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your constant love and truth
will always guard me.

For troubles without number have surrounded me;
my sins have overtaken me;
I am unable to see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my courage leaves me.

Lord, be pleased to deliver me;
hurry to help me, Lord.
Let those who seek to take my life
be disgraced and confounded.
Let those who wish me harm be driven back and humiliated.
Let those who say to me,
“Aha, aha! ”
be horrified because of their shame.
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
let those who love Your salvation continually say,
“The Lord is great! ”

I am afflicted and needy;
the Lord thinks of me.
You are my helper and my deliverer;
my God, do not delay.”

Psalms‬ ‭40‬:‭1-17‬ HCSB

Striving toward perfection in His truth // Philippians 3

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭12-16‬ ESV

I will never be perfect.
This side of heaven, I will continue to struggle against my flesh and the sin that lurks within me. I am sick of the struggle. I am tired of seeing other people suffer because of the struggle in their lives and hearts. People who seek to honor God, whose hearts belong to God, yet they struggle.

This life is no sprint. It is a marathon, a long, arduous marathon. I understand Paul’s eagerness to press on toward the prize. I understand the desire to finally see perfection worked out in us. Because there are times in life where the struggle hurts enough that you have days you feel a little piece of you die. There are days where joy is robbed and laughter ceases.

These are the days we long for the trumpet blast and the return of Christ to redeem His own more than anything.

But even in the darkest valleys, in the lowest lows, the blood of Christ still leads us to new heights and brighter horizons. He has already walked the path of sorrow. He already knows the weight of sin. And as He carries our burdens, we find that the darkness is lifted from our eyes and the joy is restored to out hearts.

In Christ we press forward and in Christ we find those dead parts of our hearts given new life.

Jesus never promised that it would be easy. Quite the contrary. But He did promise us that He would be with us always, to the very end of the age…when He will make all things new. So keep pressing forward with a forehead of granite and a heart of joy in Christ.

Let Him be your joy as you run.

the list

so, as the meal progresses, Jesus is showing true concern for the ‘sinners’ at levi’s home. they are on the receiving end of love for the first time probably in the spiritual lives since they were children, if not at all. Jesus’ presence there in that home was a confirmation of their worth in God’s eyes, and they probably would have stayed there forever with Him.

the pharisees were still at the door questioning the disciples about just what it was their Teacher was doing, whether He realized who it was He was eating with, if He still had any regard for the Law, etc. and Jesus, as much as those people at the party needed to have His attention, had to step in and explain God to the people who were supposed to understand Him and be the example for the community.

He lays it out for them that it isn’t their call to determine who hears about God and who doesn’t. salvation is not theirs to dole out as they see fit. which is good, because they were completely inept at being who they were supposed to be anyway…let alone caring for the people the way they should have been.

it’s not the healthy who need His attention, not the people who seem to have everything together. not the people who attend church at every opportunity. not the people who already take the time to study the Word. not the people whose needs are being met. not the people whose hearts are in order. not the people who know God already. not he people who have been schooled on the rules, the in’s & out’s of living a God-honoring life. Jesus wasn’t here for them…they should be in pretty good shape because of God’s work in their lives already.

yes, He still has time for those people. yes, He still has concern for those people. yes, He still loves and cares for those people. but they aren’t the ones bleeding out on the operating table. they aren’t the ones suffering from diseases of the soul. they are not the ones who need His attention the most, and having to come answer petty questions from a bunch of spiritual buzz kills is not where He was needed at that moment. but rather than let someone who plays a doctor on tv try to do an operation, He steps in and takes over.

Jesus explains to them that the sick are the ones who need Him.

the downtrodden and rejected need Him.

the poor and disenfranchised need Him.

the wayward and the worldly need Him.

the depraved and the dying need Him.

the lost and confused need Him.

the hopeless and alone need Him.

who are we inviting to our parties? who are we introducing to Jesus? the healthy and ‘safe’ people? great. but they aren’t the ones on the heart donor list. they aren’t the ones whose lives are on the line. we don’t want to rob people from one church to the next. what’s the point? to fluff up our numbers with people who are all spiritually healthy to begin with? what good is that? who does that profit? no one.

instead, we need to find the depraved and the wicked and attend to their wounds.

we need to seek out the lost and the broken and lift them up to their feet, and teach them to walk in Christ Jesus.

we need to bring the hungry to the storehouse of everything that is good, and lay out a feast for them.

quit trying to ‘evangelize’ the saved, and ask your waiter where he goes to church. leave your church going ‘safe’ neighbors to keep on growing in Christ, and instead go to the house no one visits and invite them along with you for Bible study. make conversation in the check out line and become ‘that person’ who will talk to anyone and everyone about God, seeking out those who are sick.

we are all waiting room attendants, and e.r. nurses. Jesus is the resident on call. we do triage, He fixes the heart and brings them back from death. quit throwing the healthy onto a table when the dying need the operation.

Father God, help us to see the sick, the needy, the hopeless. Help us to get off our blessed assurance and uncork our mouths. there are so many who need You, so many who are still in shock from the injuries and don’t understand the seriousness of their wounds. use our hands to apply pressure to the bleeding while you stitch them back up. use our hands to calm them as you stabilize their vitals…and for Your sake, let us concentrate our efforts on those who actually need help.

forgive us for treating the person with the sniffles over the one who has been shot through the heart.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit have mercy.

amen.

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