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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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If you’re going to get worked up over something…

Father, grant us an eternal perspective today. Help us see what we hang on to that is really just temporary, and what we ignore that we should treasure. This life is something we live quickly through, and there’s only so much that really maters in the middle of the noise. Give us wisdom to latch onto those things, and to leave what is worthless or fleeting behind. Give us ears to hear & eyes to see what maters most of all. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21:5-9
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

The disciples just heard about the widow’s offering moments before. Jesus talked to them about how her gift from the heart mattered more than someone else’s impressive looking gifts and offerings. He let them know it wasn’t about the pomp and ceremony, the first glance. Was this a ‘Nice story, bro.’ moment for the disciples? It sure sounds like it.

“Jesus, we get the widow, that’s sweet & she definitely has faith, but this place? This is still impressive. You can’t deny how awesome this building is.”

And we see a quick course correction by Jesus, again. He picks up right where He left off. This Temple was being freshly rebuilt. There was still work being done on it.The shine hadn’t worn off the steps or gutters even. In the face of a massive, moving human effort, Jesus was letting them know that it wasn’t going to stand for long. In fact the hinges on the gates wouldn’t even get a chance to start squeaking real good before the Romans came along and decimated the place. This impressive stuff was temporary, too.

It’s not the big offerings, the big stones that matter. We’re reminded by Solomon that life is temporary. He wrote Ecclesiastes as a treatise on the fleeting nature of pleasure, purpose & significance of human life apart from God. “Building projects?” he asks, “Meaningless.” Chasing after human passions, again he says, “Meaningless.” There is no eternal meaning in just doing things for the sake of doing them. There is no reward that actually comes from our little projects or attempts to draw attention to ourselves. It all turns to dust. Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? But at the end of the book, Solomon brings it all back around and says that the end game for you & I is to honor & obey God with everything we have. That is where meaning comes from.

So the disciples ask a question of timing. They want to know when all this is going to happen. And that’s no surprise. Anyone would want to know that little tidbit. If you knew you were going to have a wreck on the way to work Monday, wouldn’t you change your route? If you knew a meteor was going to hit your hometown next Thursday, wouldn’t you warn people? Of course you would!

How do we prepare for the inevitable? How do we make sure that we are safe & square & that the people we care about have ample time to get clear, too? That is a perfectly sane & logical question to ask. What are the signs? How can we know?

Jesus doesn’t give them a day, hour or minute though. He warns them about something that is more pressing. More distractions & lies are coming. The Pharisees & Sadducees already had a hold on people and distracted them from God’s real desires for their lives. But now, after He goes, there will be more & times will be harder. But we aren’t to be distracted by that anymore than we are distracted by these big, impressive, temporary buildings & impressive offerings by impressive people.

Even the worst sorts of things are not to consume you. We have been given something better to consume our time, talent & treasure. There is a Kingdom on the move, a movement away from these temporary things & an eternal perspective to gain which propels us so far beyond this tangible, most, rust & thief prone things we see every day. If we will look to Jesus, and walk in the rhythms of His grace every day, then we will see what really matters. If we serve humbly & spend our life’s efforts on those things that really matter, we will see why timing is of the essence & why our concern needs to be for those who will find themselves unprepared when that day of wrath & judgment comes. We don’t build sandcastles in the face of waves. We work for the One who parts the sea itself & dries up the water so we can move beyond into promise & deeper things.

Eyes up. Heart aligned. Move in what matters today & leave the rest behind.

Acts 14:19-28 // Snatching victory from the jaws of seeming defeat

“19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. 20 After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

21 After they had evangelized that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the Kingdom of God.”

23 When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 After they spoke the message in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed back to Antioch where they had been entrusted to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a considerable time with the disciples.”

Acts 14:19-28

It is definitely not in our nature to continue to seek out a goal when we have been beat down in previous attempts. Most of us wouldn’t go to Derbe, and then to Lystra and through the cities occupied by the people who had so viciously opposed us, desiring us dead and angry enough to see it done. And this doesn’t mean that Paul is some kind of superhuman. Instead, it shows that he was compelled by the Gospel message, and that message compelled hom to continue forward, no matter the circumstances. So when he said “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the Kingdom of God.” he was speaking from a position of knowledge and authority. But he was also speaking from the position of a faithful servant. 

We shouldn’t be so easily discouraged. I doubt that many of us have been mobbed, beaten and left for dead for teh sake of the Gospel. I don’t mean to invalidate our feelings, but sometimes our passion is too small, our will is too weak. Rather than find our strength in God, we retreat into ourselves and are tempted to give up too easily. Rather than expecting hardship, knowing it is inevitable, we act as though we must have done something wrong, or that we are being singled out. 

We cannot look at the examples of men like Paul, Stephen, James, John and so many others who expereinced hardship and persecution and then expect to somehow get out of it ourselves. Hardship & the Gospel go hand in hand. It is a battle. Struggle is going to happen in our own hearts, it’s going to happen as we try to share the Good News. We must trust in God, lean on Him, rest in HIm and continue forward despite the opposition. Everyday, we make a practice of snatching victory out of the jaws of seeming defeat. The world will never acquiesce, it will never back down. The struggle will continue until our Lord Jesus returns and shuts the opposition down. 

So, we should all GoLove, knowing that it will be a struggle, and keep pressing forward, even in the face of those who would oppose us. We just don’t fight back the way that they would expect. We speak the truth in love, we bend to serve, we die to self, we live for Christ. And they will know we are Christians by our love for one another and by the obdience to Christ that is exhibited in our lives. Jesus didn’t back down from opposition, He is our example. Follow Him. 

   

Acts 14:8-20 // Proper Perspective

“8 In Lystra a man without strength in his feet, lame from birth, and who had never walked, sat 9 and heard Paul speaking. After observing him closely and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!” And he jumped up and started to walk around.

11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the form of men!” 12 And they started to call Barnabas, “Zeus,” and Paul, “Hermes,” because he was the main speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gates. He, with the crowds, intended to offer sacrifice.

14 The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men! Why are you doing these things? We are men also, with the same nature as you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In past generations He allowed all the nations to go their own way, 17 although He did not leave Himself without a witness, since He did what is good by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and satisfying your hearts with food and happiness.” 18 Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. 20 After the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”

Acts 14:8-20

In this passage, we find four different perspectives on one event. We have Paul & company & their Christian perspective; the people of Lystra who think they’re gods, the others who are receiving the teaching about Jesus & the Jews from Antioch & Iconium. They each have a different understanding of what is going on here, but only one can be right. Paul’s preaching is prooved by the miraculous signs that God is doing through him, in addition to their desire to see God glorified and not self. They were not out looking for publicity for themselves, not seeking fame and fortune. Instead, they maintained their humility in the face of praise and adoration, misguided though it was. The native Lystrans who were still of a pagan mindset tried to explain what they were seeing through their own lenses of interpretation, and the others who were receiving the Gospel were seeing through new eyes for the first time. The angry Jews who chased down Paul had their own agenda, and would have dismissed anything they experienced as being ungodly. 

As we GoLove others, we must be mindful of where they are coming from, what angle their perspective might be coming from. Paul spoke to them from a perspective of naturalistic theology, showing how God reveals Himself through nature, so that they might have a starting point that their pagan perspective would grasp. The angry Jews were in no position to listen, and so they weren’t spoken to, but rather, barely escaped. Be mindful of the soil where you scatter your seed. Use every opportunity well, and be discerning where you spend your time. Some people want to hear, want to change, want to move…others simply want to retain their own perspective or get angry when they are challenged. Expect any and all of these responses. And know that they have not rejected you, but that they have rejected the Gospel message.

It’s difficult not to take it personally, and I’m sure Paul felt every one of those stones that beat his body. But we must remember that Jesus told us that the world was going to hate us like it hated Him. We know that we are fighting a battle, not just selling something, and that there are going to be wounds and discomfort along the way. But if we take a few hits for the Gospel, find ourselves in chains for the message of salvation through Christ, then every moment of it is worth it, because He is glorified through it all. So, hang in there, trust the Master, listen to His voice and keep on scattering seed. Do not be discouraged when the Gospel is rejected by some, but know that the responsibility for its reception is not yours. Just be a faithful servant and be mindful of the task at hand. 

  

Acts 14:1-7 // Boldness in the Face of Opposition

“1 The same thing happened in Iconium; they entered the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers. 3 So they stayed there for some time and spoke boldly in reliance on the Lord, who testified to the message of His grace by granting that signs and wonders be performed through them. 4 But the people of the city were divided, some siding with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to assault and stone them, 6 they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns called Lystra and Derbe, and to the surrounding countryside. 7 And there they kept evangelizing.”

Acts 14:1-7

The Gospel is a powerful force. The truth, spoken with boldness, will stand in the face of what most people believe. It will challenge and convict. It is going to be offensive. 

Some people try to make it less offensive. They are concerned more with “solidarity,” pleasing people and looking right in the eyes of the world even when Scripture clearly says that the Gospel is veild to those who are perishing. It is a light in the darkness to them, something that obscures thier vision and is difficult to look at. For those Jews & Gentiles alike in Iconium who stood in opposition to its message, it was worth killing men over to silence it. It didn’t matter that signs ans wonders from heaven were being performed and that other people were catching a hold of it. It didn’t matter that the Holy Spirit was using the Apostles in a mighty way. They were offended by it, and the only way to move on in life was to beat the Gospel into submission. 

This is happening still today. Look at how the secular culture in the West responds to the Gospel: activists, policticians, judges, lobbyists and countless groups do everything they can to silence the Gospel message. It offends them and stands opposed to their worldview. So they mock, degrade and try to set up laws and judgments in every way imagineable to discredit it, to assault it and to stand against what God is saying. Christians are mocked and villified. Their livliehoods are being threatened and there are individuals who are being made an example of to try to scare us into submission. We are told to stay quiet.

Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years. The same gods and attitudes are worshipped, they just have different names and slick ad campaigns. Molech is simply disguised as “Abortion: because this child doesn’t fit my lifestyle choices.” Baal and Ashtoreth are simply disguised as, “Power and Sensuality.” It’s incredibly easy to look back through the ‘old’ ways and see them reflected with these new names today. The same old ideas, mostly based in pride and dedicated to furthering human passions, are given new labels. People are still fighting tooth and nail to preserve those ways of self-worship rather than listen to what God says, to the Gospel of peace and freedom in Christ Jesus. The message has offended them. In their eyes, it demands too much, and they simply won’t have it. And so they do whatever is necessary to block that voice that exposes their sin & shame.

We are still called to GoLove, even in the face of opposition, and we must do it with boldness. We cannot play house with the world. Neither side can afford it. It wounds the Kingdom and it leaves the captives in shackles. We must stand for the truth of the Gospel in its fullness, boldly dedicated to seeing the work of God lived out in us, living the love that has been poured out in us. Pretending that it doesn’t affect us, that we can live quiet lives, not ‘bothering’ anybody is not an option. That is a delusion from the enemy, set against the truth and meant to silence the Gospel, just like every other method he employs. We cannot listen to him or the world. We cannot acquiesce. We should not fear. Instead, we trust God, with bold hearts, to do amazing things in us and through us, making our lives and livilihoods available to the Gospel and the hope that it brings, knowing that the powers of this world just aren’t going to like it. 

Acts 7:51-60 // Jesus and the story of redemption (pt 6)

“51 You stiff- necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”

54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.”

Acts 7:51-60

This is the end of Stephen’s sermon, but not the end of his witness. A Christian life, well lived, leaves a legacy in the faith…and Stephen did just that. His boldness was not for his own glory, but sparked by the Holy Spirit in Him for the glory of God. His passion for the truth of the Gospel drove him to speak truths that were difficult for people to hear. He obviously didn’t sugar-coat anything, but laid out the raw facts of what had happened between the people and God over the years and their treatment of His one and only annointed, Jesus Christ. 

Their reaction to his message mirrors exactly what he claimed of their fathers & ancestors. Nobody likes being called ‘betrayers & murderers’ but Stephen was speaking firmly and directly to a group of very hard hearts. Soft pedaling around with pretty words and overly kind analogies wouldn’t have made any headway either. This type of direct speech was necessary, even if it was unlikely to garner any results. But there was at least one heart present that would be changed by Christ. Saul’s presence at the martyrdom of Stephen must have replayed in his heart and mind later in life as the Apostle Paul. All the murderous threats, all the beatings and imprisonments that he committed, supposedly in the Name and will of God, culmintaed in acts like this. 

As we GoLove people for the sake of Christ, we must know and realize that we will definitely encounter hearts like hard-pack soil. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still try to scatter some seed. It’s not easy work to share with resistant hearts, but we are better off taking the time to share the truth at least once with people while we have the opportunity to do so. We have the knowledge, and the faith, and so we also harbor the responsibility and have accountability to God Himself to do so. No Christian is exempt from evangelism. No Christian is given a free-pass out of sharing the truth of the Gospel message, and we cannot pretend that silence is a viable option. in 1 Peter, we are reminded that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is to be counted as an honor. Paul & Silas sang hymns as they were jailed for their faith. Peter and John rejoiced after being flogged because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the Name. 

Stephen’s example is a reminder to us that we are not to hold our lives so dear as to ignore the calling put on them. We are Christians first and foremost. We do not seek comfort, but the salvation of souls. Time is of the essence, opportunites should not be allowed to slip by. As we GoLove, we find that that love does things, it moves and speaks through us & we must absolutely own it as a first priority. A passionless Christian is probably just someone wearing a mask crying, “Lord, Lord.” It’s not a fun thing to say, but the salvation working in us changes us, and someone who claims Christ, but remains unchanged has likely developed a loose allegiance to an idea, desiring a savior, but not submitting to His Lordship. 

Stephen submitted to the uttermost. He wasn’t extraordinary, just first in a long line of devoted hearts. If our discipleship doesn’t bring us to uncomfortable places and times, then we need to seriously reevaluate what we say we believe and come humbly to Christ, ready to submit our whole selves to Him. 

  

sorry, Taylor Dayne, it’s a little more complicated than that…

i can’t help but think of the song “heart of stone” by taylor dayne when i read about people in scripture with hard hearts. i guess that’s part of growing up when i did…cheesy videos, over done synth, big hair, and did i mention cheesy videos? if you want to watch it…go for it. apparently, to her the problem of emotional reclusivity could be solved by sexual methods. i happen to think there’s some deeper seated issues going on.

people with emotional and spiritual roadblocks are common. we all can get hung up on things from time to time. they may take a little while, but we can get past them. sometimes even on our own. but then you have people who have an emotional or spiritual alcatraz they must combat. that cannot be faced alone, or solved quickly. something happened to either build that around them [trauma usually] or they over time build it on their own thinking they are protecting themselves.

however you slice it, it’s going to be a rough journey for them, and they are going to do some damage both getting there, and leaving it behind. after all, rome wasn’t burned in a day.

so Jesus had healed this man with the withered hand, partly for the man’s benefit. but also to give those hard hearted people a chisel and hammer. Jesus always does a marvelous job of countering hard hearts [bound with distrust & legalism] with acts of mercy, love & compassion. His heart was reaching out to both the man with the external handicap and to those whose disabilities were hidden inside.

the verse in mark says that Jesus was ‘distressed at their stubborn hearts.’ and i’m sure most of us can relate to those feelings of Jesus. how many times have we encountered someone who just would not bend, they were all about business or rules, and they seemed to have a think callous built up over their hearts? those type of attitudes are never healthy [while the opposite extreme is equally as bad.]

so, the question here is, do we have the heart of Jesus for the downtrodden and those people with rigid hearts? the downtrodden are easier to love. they have a need to be met that we can probabaly handle. there may or may not be a lot of emotional investment in what’s going on with them, and they may actually want the help you’re willing to give. and once you’ve helped as much as you can, you’re still going to like them and have that relationship. it’s going to be worthwhile in so many ways…

hard hearted people on the other hand don’t often think they need help, let alone from someone else. any acts of mercy or compassion you show them will probably be written off. there is definitely going to be an investment of time needed with these guys, because there are so many walls to break down. most people wouldn’t put up with their attitude. [think scrooge & his nephew]

but Jesus does make an effort here to counter the attitudes that had been prevailing, not just in this synagogue, but in the Jewish religion as a whole at the time. there was so much rigidity, that people couldn’t bend to accommodate those that needed God’s mercy the most. and that is very obviously a sad place to be. i don’t have the answer to this one. i don’t know how long i could keep working with someone who didn’t want to understand love, mercy & compassion, and i am a very patient person. but here’s the thing…as long as they draw breath in this life, there is hope.

no one is ever so far gone that the grace of God cannot be applied to their lives like a healing salve. there is no one who cannot be changed by Him, or experience His loving-kindness first hand. so, even if it is difficult, even if it’s seemingly going nowhere , we cannot give up on anyone.

Jesus didn’t give up on us, did He?

thank-You, Father for your compassion on me. help me to show everyone the same mercy and love that You have shown me in my life.

amen.

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