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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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The Way of Deepest Honor

Father of mercy & grace, I praise You this morning for Your consistency & faithfulness. You are deeply loving, and amazingly generous with us who are so broken & so desperately in need of You. It is so easy for us to get hung up in ourselves, to focus on our own accomplishments & struggles. Thank You for these reminders about Your authority, grace & humble servanthood. Remind us again today what it means to serve like Jesus, having the same attitude humility. I pray this in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:24-30
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.” We should probably reread that sentence every morning at least, shouldn’t we? Maybe we should put it on Post-It Notes, and tack it up around our home & work spaces, put one on our dashboard in our car & stick one on the handle of our grocery cart on days when we’re in a hurry, too. Jesus says, “Look, I see this world & it’s structures, I really do. I understand the social pressures & the expectations you put on yourselves & your culture presses on everyone…but I am different. And because I’m different, I want you do be different just like I am different. Look at my example. Examine what I’m doing. Look more deeply into me & put less stock into what this world says. Follow Me.”

For those of us who’ve spent any time with Jesus, we know this is the right answer. We know what His example is for us, but we still struggle like the apostles did with this expectation we see the world cramming in our faces. Humility is a trait that is definitely admirable, but in this world it will get you run over, left behind & forgotten. People who really accomplish things are bold & make a name for themselves. They are pacesetters & captains of industry. People take notice of them & they build a name for themselves, These are the people set as our examples. They write books & do interviews. They get things named after them & they gain the admiration of everyone. That’s what we’re trained to shoot for in this life.

Count Nicholas Von Zinzindorf said this though, and he is more on track with Jesus than this mindset of looking out for number one. He said, “Preach the Gospel, die & be forgotten.” Inspirational, right? We’re probably not going to see a poster made of that one & hanging on the wall of a Fortune 500 office anytime soon.

IMG_DC9EB03D0796-1

This isn’t the way our world works. But this is the way of Christ. This is the reality that we are adopted into when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior & Master. Listen to Jesus again. Hear what He has to say.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.”

What would change in your world today if you and I really adopted that mindset? What will you do differently today if you choose to be forgotten so that Christ might be exalted? Who will you find to focus on if you take the efforts of your heart today and turn them toward that person in an attitude of servanthood like Jesus showed us? What kind of impact would you have on your family? Your friends? How might Jesus be lifted up & how might God be more deeply praised & glorified because of you?

Be among your peers today as one who serves. Walk among your family today as one who serves. Don’t seek your own way, your own priorities today. Walk like Jesus walked. Move in the rhythms of His grace. Wrap a towel around your waist & pick up the basin of water as you bend to wash the feet of those around you in His example & in His Name. You’ve seen the example of this world. You’ve seen what temporary things that accomplishes. Look instead to Jesus & serve today as He would serve.

 

Romans 2:17-24 // Why Consistency Matters

“17 Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rest in the law, boast in God, 18 know His will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, 19 and if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, 20 an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the full expression of knowledge and truth in the law — 21 you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach, ‘You must not steal’ — do you steal? 22 You who say, ‘You must not commit adultery’ — do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written: ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'”

Romans 2:17-24

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We can get so hung up on how well we ‘do’ our walk with God. It can so easily become about keeping this rule or that rule, going to this event, participating in this ministry. And as long as we are doing what seems to be the right thing out in public, we cease to keep a tight rein on our minds & heart and lose ourselves to inconsistency, damaging our witness. If the change the Gospel calls for isn’t taking place in our hearts, if we cannot get past what -we- do in order to live as Christ intends from the inside out, then we need to be woken up, get a fresh look at ourselves and ask God to help us see where our inconsistency begins and ends. 

Self evaluation is rarely fun. A deep probing of our heart and life usually leaves us feeling rather inadequate, and it remains simpler to just look at our schedule rather than what our life is teaching. Think about it this way, if someone had to learn about Jesus, not from the Bible, but from your life, what would they conclude? What would they say Jesus is all about? What were His main priorities? His focus for ministry? Where does Jesus spend His time? How does He use His resources?  Who does He value most? How does He conduct Himself? How does Jesus live? 

And there are so many more questions to ask. But what would they conclude? Could they get an accurate picture of Him by looking at you? Could they see Jesus clearly by how you live your life? Would He look consistent or wishy-washy? Would He stand for anything, if so are they the ‘right things’ or the truth? 

Now, the good thing is that we who follow Christ operate under grace. We know that He knows that we are prone to stumble along the way, and that His grace is sufficient to cover our shortcomings. But as we walk with Him, focused on Him, those shortcomings should progressivly lessen. They won’t disappear until we are with Him in glory, but there should be a change. Our life should stand as an accurate testimony of who He is, how He moves. And so daily, we are sent to prayer, asking for strength for the day, mercy for our failings and accuracy in our actions as we serve the world as His ambassadors. If we are disciples of Christ, truly following Him, then we know it’s not about a show. We know its more than some step-by-step process to look like good, obedient children. It is a meeting of hearts, ours & His. It is a changing over of a life, from death to a new creation. It is a walking in peace, not in worry. It is a faith for provision, not a scramble to accumulate. It is a lifting up of others, not of self. It means looking more and more like Jesus, and less like who we used to be. We’re going to mess up along the way, but we don’t resign ourselves to sin. We are going to do things wrong from time to time, but we don’t let that stand as an excuse for inconsistency. 

As we GoLove others in His Name, we should revere Him enough to be an accurate depiction of Him to those we encounter as we walk in the daily rhythms of grace. Our lives are meant to be songs of praise, everything an act of worship, meant to glorify Him and draw the eyes of those around us toward His glorious face. Let our witness today stand as a confirmation of the solid change He creates in us, the authority He has over us and His grace at work both in and through us. 

Romans 1:18-25 // Why Feel Guilty?

“18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.”

Romans 1:18-25

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And so we enter the main thrust of Paul’s first point. When we are confronted with God, we find that there are two differemt reactions. The first is to honor and glorify Him, admitting our own shortcomings, or to be given over to our own pride, denying His righteousness and choosing to serve self instead. That may seem overly simplistic, but it is the truth. 

Every morning when I wake up, I am given a choice. Either I can live for God or I can live for myself, there is no in-bewteen. I can either look at the day and understand that God’s desire for me is best or I can seek to serve myself, following my own path. He has not presented us with an option that says that we can do both of those things, living according to His will and our own. Paul lays it out clearly, the Spirit speaking through him, that everyone is without excuse when we make this decision, as God has made Himself plainly known through creation itself. And when we choose to gratify our own desires, choosing self over service to Him, we have chosen depravity, idolatry and that our minds become darkened & foolish. 

And to an unbelieving world, that sounds harsh. But in reality, that’s what happens when we choose self, we exchange the truth for a lie. There isn’t some magical mid-point between truth & lies, no flex point or grey area. And that is where guilt comes in, and why we can see it as a blessing. If we didn’t feel guilty, if we weren’t convicted of our sin, we would never change. If God just patted us on the head and sent us off while silently shaling His own? That would be cruel & heartless. To see our sin, our shame and the mess we make of our life and to just quietly let us wander into the mire and quicksand of death? There couldn’t be love in His heart if He was to let that happen. And so Paul lets us see that God made Himself clear through creation, that He planted certain things in our hearts that draw us toward Him, even if we don’t know what to call Him or have access to His Word. Creation itself has His fingerprint all over it. And being allowed to experience this wandering, to be delivered over to our sinful cravings, we have the opportunity to experience guilt & conviction, the one thing that will point our hearts back to ward Him and away from self. 

Our hypersensitive society is repulsed by the idea of guilt and shame, thinking no one should ever feel bad for their choices. But in reality, that is the greatest cruelty they could offer their ‘fellow man.’ To refuse to say that something is wrong, is to willingly watch another person wander directly into death. To say ‘live and let live’ is to show an absolute lack of care or concern for the well being of another human life and the lives that are attached to it. It is a savage person who tells another person to let their sinful instincts have their way, to eat, drink and be merry, with no fear of consequence or repercussion. It isn’t love that perpetuates this attitude, it is disdain. It plainly says, “I don’t care about you, but I am going to tell myself I do so that I feel no guilt in what harms you.” In this way, ‘tolerance’ can be the greatest cruelty. 

Paul is warning the Roman Christians and everyone else who would read this letter about the dangers of sin. And why? Because he cared for them like God did. And when we care for people, we cannot let them continue to wander in their sin, or deny that their sin even exists. Love cannot turn a blind eye. Instead, it follows the command to GoLove others enough to let them see their sin, which is the example that Jesus set for us. He was lifted up, while offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, so that we might see just how serious the wandering of our heart is, and why we must turn our eyes toward God. To live in the rhythm of grace means to be plain and open about sin. Love doesn’t disguise sin, it reveals it for the poison that it is, and it speaks with the voice of the Father, a loving parent who disciplines thier child precisely because of His love for them. 

Proverbs 3:5-12
“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
7 Dont consider yourself to be wise;
 fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 This will be healing for your body
and strengthening for your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions
and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
10 then your barns will be completely filled,
and your vats will overflow with new wine.
11 Do not despise the Lords instruction, my son,
and do not loathe His discipline;
12 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in.”

Acts 16:1-5 // The Emphasis on Freedom

“1 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”

Acts 16:1-5

This is a wonderfully uncomplicated process that we find Paul engaged in as he spreads the Gospel. Take these first few verses of chapter 16. The church in Lystra recommended Timothy for deeper discipling, and so Paul does. There was no need to hold an interview, a vote, to have him run through a process or jump through hoops. Timothy simply stood out as one who was taking his walk with Christ seriously, and was a good example to everyone else. In this, he stood out and because he was willing to do what was needed for the sake of the Gospel, he would become not simply an elder in his town, but a travelling missionary and evertually a permenant minister elsewhere. There was freedom and simplicityin the process. 

Again, Paul is carrying out the desires of the council of Jerusalem and sharing their desicion with the Gentile believers. He is delivering freedom, not legalism. He is delivering joy and hope, not hardship or a stack of rules. He is communicating a new life, a better life, that they would get to take part in apart from their old life. When you present the Gospel, that is what you are bringing. Freedom comes with the Good News, not a burden. Paul did a wonderful job of communicating truth, accountability and freedom all at the same time, and God used him well for it. He understood, personally, what it meant to be tied down with the burdens of legalism. He lived that life, he walked that path personally, and he knew its pains well. 

As we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, we need to make sure that we are delivering the good news and freedom in Christ. We need to do the same for ourselves. There is joy in the Gospel, not a secondary burden. There is adventure and freedom, and we need to communicate that clearly to others and ourselves. It takes a prayerful effort, and it should. 

Acts 10:17-33 // Taking the opportunity

“17 While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simons house, stood at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there.

19 While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and accompany them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.”

21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the one youre looking for. What is the reason youre here?”

22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God- fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” 23 Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24 The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him.

26 But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.” 27 While talking with him, he went on in and found that many had come together there. 28 Peter said to them, “You know its forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean. 29 That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So I ask: Why did you send for me?”

30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in a dazzling robe stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your acts of charity have been remembered in God’s sight. 32 Therefore send someone to Joppa and invite Simon here, who is also named Peter. He is lodging in Simon the tanners house by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I immediately sent for you, and you did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Acts 10:17-33

It would be nice if every divine appointment ran this smoothly and had both parties desiring to come together. ‘What keeps this from happening?’ you might ask. Honestly, I think it’s our own fear and possibly even an unwilling spirit that keeps most people from seeing these type of events more often. We all say that we would like to be used in this way, God directing two parties together, but in reality, we are often too resistant or fearful to follow through with these directives from the Spirit. 

“How was it that Peter was ready to do something difficult like this?”

I think it has to do with his willingness and desire to be used before hand. From his anticipation for the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, to seeing how God then used him to heal people and empowered him to preach and resist the pressure of the authorities, Peter had grown in his trust and willingness when it came to the movement and direction of the Spirit. Most people who might say they have never felt used in this way probably say so because they haven’t grown in willingness or been open to these types of experiences. A hard-heartedness against the perceived ‘discomfort’ or lack of personal control has kept them from being effective, and this is truly sad. 

Why not trust God? Why not let Him move you to GoLove people in a way that will blow open your expectations and help you grow closer to Him in the process? Is He going to lead you into a trap? Get you somewhere, open and vulnerable and then abandon you? No, of course not! Then why not fear Him and trust Him and do what He says to do through His Spirit? Will you be uncomfortable, stretched? Sure, Peter makes it plain that he was doing something that he never would have done, but since when is that a bad thing? Since when is it bad to think something was going to be hard only to find out that it was a source of joy and a wonderous experience? Never, that’s when! 

Trusting in God, moving according to His Spirit, is never going to be something that you or I will ever regret doing, and that’s a promise.  When we trust in Him, He will teach us, show us and grow us to the point where we will see just how beneficial it is to take those leaps of faith. He will never let you down, leave you or forsake you, and this instance with Peter is proof-positive of this wonderful promise. Peter went in trusting that God was going to have him speak to one man, and found instead that his whole family had travelled in to hear what he would have to say. It was a blessing beyond measure, God exceeded his expectations and then some…

Trust God. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Grow and be stretched.

You will not regret it & God will be glorified in it all. 

  

Acts 9:10-19 // Our Aversion to Suffering

“10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Here I am, Lord!” he said.

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he can regain his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!”

17 So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some days.”

Acts 9:10-19

Suffering for the sake of Christ was part of God’s plan for Saul. That sounds harsh, but it would also be a point of pride for Paul later in his life. What you and I would want to avoid, suffering, became a marker for him of his mission. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul lists out his suffering as a testament to the work of Christ in him and as evidence of his own faithfulness. He calls himself foolish for the sake of Christ, and he wound up bearing the marks on his body as evidence of his devotion. 

Now, God is not calling any of us to go out and seek martyrdom or to intentionally get beat for the sake of His Name for no reason. Paul had the stubbornness and passion to keep on moving after being on the receiving end of affliction. He opened up his heart and life to God to be used as His instrument, just as Jesus told Ananias, however God wanted to use him. And so, his willingness to serve wound up putting him through suffering. Jesus guaranteed us that suffering would come if we were ealking faithfully with him. He promised us that the world would hate us like it hated Him, and later, in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul would write that our present sufferings are not worht comparing ot the glory that would be revealed in us through Christ. 

Suffering is something that most people avoid. But suffering shame, humiliation and even physical beatings was a part of the life of Paul as he preached and taught people about Jesus. He was partaking in the same type of suffering that Jesus endured during the final days of His ministry on earth. Peter and the other apostles would all suffer likewise for the sake of the Name and so many others, even today, bear the marks on their body or have laid down their lives, for the sake of the Gospel message. 

2 Timothy 1:7-8

“7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. 8 So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.”

We cannot run from suffering or live in fear. Part of our faithfulness is sticking out when it gets difficult. Part of what people are going to see in us that points toward Christ is when we partake in suffering for His sake. In our weakness, His strength come shining through, and people see Him at work in us, not just someone who seems to be passionate, but a power and a steadfastness beyond what someone would normally be able to do. We then, like Paul, get to boast in our weaknesses, because in those moments, Christ in us is shown all the more. 

As we GoLove people in His Name and for the sake of His Name, there are going to be moments and seasons of suffering as we seek to do what is right and as we serve, teach and equip people to walk as Jesus walked. The process of evangelism and discipleship isn’t an easy path, lined with gumdrops and rainbows. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to require discipline and a steadfast heart. And that means that you and I are going to have to lay down our lives and our ideas on what we think we can handle and trust in the strength that only God affords. Ananias didn’t want anything to do with Paul, but Jesus simply told him to “Go!” His fears of a human being weren’t sufficient reason to keep him from doing the work that God desired of him. He listened to his commissioning, he answered the call & God was glorified in the process. Ananias was fearful of what a man might do to him, and in this case…nothing happened to him. He ministered and left safely, unharmed, and better for it. If he had let his fear control him, he would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity, and God would have used someone else to accomplish His plan.

Don’t be fearful. Don’t miss out on what God has laid out for you. Trust Him. Do what He wills, and don’t let something as easily conquered as fear of the unknown keep you from experiencing the amazing life that God has planned for you and from seeing the joy in the eyes and hearts of others as you serve Him to lay out the Gospel message to them. 

   

Mark 15:21-32 // Challenging Him to do what He was already doing

“21 They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 And they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means Skull Place). 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it. 

24 Then they crucified Him and divided His clothes, casting lots for them to decide what each would get. 25 Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge written against Him was:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two criminals with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [28 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says: And He was counted among outlaws.] 29 Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 31 In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking Him to one another and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” 32 “Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him were taunting Him.”

Mark 15:21-32 

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Two taunts from the crowd that day are recorded here. Both spoken in ignorance that He was actively engaged with doing the things they were challenging Him to do! 

First, 

“Ha! The One who would demolish the sanctuary and build it in three days, save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” 
When Jesus spoke about destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days, we as Christians know that He was plainly referencing His own body. He was actively engaged in that exercise, having been flight, beaten, punched, punctured and crucified. Those mocking couldn’t see this, of course, because of their own anger and hatred of Him. They had convinced themselves He had threatened their physical building when in reality He had been prophesying about this exact event. The darkness of their hearts and the infatuations of their minds and egoes kept them from ever really hearing and understanding Him. 

The second point of mockery is a two parter. 

“He saved others; He cannot save Himself!! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.”

He was in the process of saving, as they mocked Him for it and His remaining on the cross is the only thing that could make it possible. Also, what they asked for Him to do, sarcastically, is what inspires belief today for us all. 

Again, for the Christian, neither of these two points of ridicule are new news, nor is the ignorance of the religious leaders. These two examples are fairly elementary in the understanding of our faith, but they are crucial at the same time. 

Jesus plainly said that the people crucifying Him didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t understand, either because they were just Romans doing their jobs or because their hearts were so hard. When you and I sin, we are playing part in Christ’s crucifixion, too, but our hearts and minds typically do not register this fact. It’s difficult to think about and painful to realize. Again, either from a lack of understanding or from a hardness of heart. 

We need to ask God to use His Holy Spirit to open our eyes to ourselves. That we would see the points where we are calloused, and identify the areas where we wear blinders against out own faults. We need to be conscious of our failings and ready to forgive others of theirs. None of us is any better than another, but the gift of Christ crucified is what brings us healing and restoration. 

If we are going to GoLove others, we need to teach them about the reality of sin and the reality of Christ’s gift of mercy and grace. We need to teach them to receive Him into their hearts and minds so that they can be renewed by Him and baptized into a new life with new perspective that begins and ends with Him. Teach the elementary things so they understand just what He has done for them, and then live it out in your own life. 



avoiding confrontation

so, while Jesus was talking and eating with levi and the other ‘sinners’ in his home, the pharisees pull aside a few of the disciples to ask them questions about their rabbi. they were undoubtedly curious about His choice of eating arrangements for the evening. they were probably also frustrated because of His complete disregard of their system for social interaction, or the lack thereof. also…He was making them look bad in a way they couldn’t cope with on any level.

i imagine that some of the disciples went right into the house with Jesus and levi, because they didn’t hold much regard for the pharisee’s rule either. they had never been in the ‘in crowd’ religiously speaking. the zebedee boys may have enjoyed it because it was something previously forbidden, and so it was kind of like rebelling. but a few of the other disciples must have been uncomfortable, and so they stood just inside the house where you could be near the door in case anything ‘bad’ happened.

so, the pharisees begin to question these few that are near the door about their rabbi’s behavior. they may have been looking for an opportunity just like this, so they could feel morally superior, according to their own standards, and look down their noses at Jesus. they were always on the hunt for an opportunity like this, to ask questions that made them seem better then others. their perception of their moral superiority, and their appearance of holiness to others was a driving factor about why they were who they were.

Jesus’ description of ‘white washed tombs’ was spot on. they were all about the look of spirituality with none of the heart. they couldn’t bear to see someone doing something against their own man-made rules, but they also couldn’t interact wit the people who needed the most help. it would have hurt their image to speak with them, or to make a house call. so they really made for lousy shepherds and blind guides. they were of absolutely no help to anyone.

their lives were inaccurate representations of God’s desire for us, and so they drove more people away from Him than they could drive to Him. they were counter-productive to their own cause. and so they were truly sad to see. like a made for tv movie of your favorite novel. they were ‘loosely based’ on something much better, but the production quality was low and there had been too many re-writes to the script. they were more flawed than the guys who were just out being regular ‘sinners.’ they had a whole series of mental blocks built up against God that had to be torn down, burned and disposed of before they could come to a point of repentance like levi reached by being told ‘follow me.’

they spoke to the disciples, because they knew that speaking to Jesus would have led to some sort of conviction in their own lives, and they couldn’t have that. it was easier avoiding confrontation, and staying on the fringes.

Father God, please forgive me when i stand behind my own ‘moral superiority’ or hide from confrontation. let me be willing at all times, and in all places to speak with and spend time with your children, no matter where they may be found. i don’t want to wear a mask of smug spirituality. i don’t want a calloused heart. forgive me, and mold me into who You want me to be each day.

Father, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Spirit, have mercy.

amen.

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