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.
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.
(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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
“1 After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia. 2 And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. When he was about to set sail for Syria, a plot was devised against him by the Jews, so a decision was made to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days.
7 On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, 9 and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, embraced him, and said, “Don’t be alarmed, for his life is in him!” 11 After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul conversed a considerable time until dawn. Then he left. 12 They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted.”
Our Western culture is very time conscious. We want things to begin and end on time when we say they’re supposed to and to 3-5 minutes beyond that begins to encroach into personal territory. I have heard preachers apologize for the length of a church service because people were making decisions and getting baptized. I have seen people rush out the moment the invitation hymn started. I grew up at a mega-church and there were days where the number of people leaving at invitation became such a distraction (because they wanted to get out of the busy parking lot and off to lunch early) that the Senior Minister had to take time to explain to people why it was rude and inappropriate to leave right as someone was being given the opportunity to have their eternal desitination changed. Wouldn’t that be worth sticking around for? Wouldn’t that be worth celebrating? The population of Hell has just been decreased, let’s praise God together for that, right?! But people still hold their own schedule and time as more valuable. There is still an issue with ‘timing’ at church services. “Let me have my hour and then let me go.” It’s a self-centered focus that has nothing to do with the Gospel message and everything to do with honoring self.
Paul knew his time in Troas was short, he was leaving in the morning, so he wanted to invest in this church family as much as he could before he left them. This meant a marathon session of unpacking the Word and filling their hearts with the things of God. And so Paul began speaking. It became dark, so they lit a few lamps. It got darker, so they lit a few more. They grabbed every lamp they could, so that everyone could see and be seen, and they invested themselves in the exposition of the Word and the Gospel message. It was time well spent. They were disciples of Jesus, after all, and so what better use of their time than to see what their Master desired of them, to learn more of what it meant to walk like Him? And so, no one was trying to leave, rather, they were settling in for the night to hear what mattered most. They wanted to hear from God.
We devote so much time to so many things, but how much of our time is truly well spent? How much time do we spend that is truly devoted to God each week? Are we tithing our lives like we tithe our income? Are we serving, worshipping, reading the Word, all in equal measure, so that we grow closer and closer to Christ every day? Is our time well spent? Or is much of it wasted? How much is spent in front of screens, time we call ‘me time,’ that should be spent in other, more God-honoring ways? Is there work that needs to be done? A neighbor that needs to be reached? Can we find a few more minutes to crack open our Bibles and listen for the voice of God?
This isn’t to make us feel guilty, thinking about these things. It is to help us remember what our priorities should be, and what it means to have time that is truly well spent. Because we spend our time in ways that we would never spend our money, or any of our other resources for that matter. The one thing we often claim is most important is often the one thing most poorly used.
We have been commissioned to GoLove people in Jesus’ Name. That is our primary responsibility as His disciples, to share His Gospel. But how much of our time is devoted to that task? How much of our lives do we actually give to see others come to Him, to make sure they hear about Him, to speak into their hearts of the infinite grace of God poured out for us through Immanuel’s veins? Is our time well spent?
I pray that God is merciful. I also pray that our eyes are opened & that we all become better stewards of the time He allows us to use & occupy.
“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.”
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!
“27 In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the time of Claudius. 29 So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. 30 They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.”
From the beginning, the church has been concerned with serving others and helping to provide for people in their need. From Acts 2 & 3, we see them giving out of their means to each other as they had need, and here, as they grow and as they spread out, they still make a point of caring for those who would suffer. This interconnectedness is a beautiful thing, and we are reminded of our joining together in Christ as we partake of communion each week. We see that physical distance, racial and cultural barriers and anything else that you might think of, do nothing to separate us from one another. We also see, from these earliet examples, that the church has a redefined priority in regards to wealth, time and effort.
When you belong to the body of Christ, you have a new understanding of what really matters. It’s not about personal comfort, it’s not about getting your way. It’s not about building up security for yourself and it’s not about making a good impression as the world understands things. Instead, it becomes a matter of seeing others brought comfort, peace and security through whatever means you may have. There is a re-direction of the heart, a new mental focus and a greater understanding that reveals a deeper priority in your heart. Today, time is almost more closely guarded than money, but no matter the resource, to follow Christ means to GoLove people in their need, to step beyond what is comfortable or easy, and into what really and truly matters.
Compassion redefines us. An understanding of mission redefines us. Our sense of community with one another redefines us. Communion through Christ redefines us. There are so many ways that God has provided for us to stand out as distinctive and different from the world, and it is in these ways that people will see and begins to grasp that we have something together that they lack on their own. That we have a hope, a joy and a purpose that they just cannot manufacture for themselves. And as we live our different, distinctive, redefined priorities, we need to do it knowing that even how we use our time, talent and treasure stands as a marker to a hurting world, a testimony to the goodness of Christ Jesus. That’s why we care for the widow and orphan in their distress, provide food for the hungry, shelter for the cold and care for the sick…because Jesus made them a priority and told us that whatever we do for one of them, we also are doing for Him. We see things differently and seek to make a difference.
Make a difference for widows & orphans by clicking HERE.
Provide water for the thirsty HERE.
Provide care for the sick HERE.
Help those in distress HERE.
Find opportunities right where you are today and let those redefined priorities begin to speak out loud in your life. It’s not for our personal glory, but for bringing praise, honor and rejoicing to God Himself.
“37 When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”
38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
These verses contain some very sharp,very definitive language that I need to remember on a daily basis. First off, the crowd hearing the gospel message was convicted, cut to the heart. Not only because of what they had done to Jesus, but simply because they were now painfully aware of their own sin.
Peter, having just delivered the first sermon of the church laid out the plain facts for them, citing God’s work through the prophets and through the life of Christ. They here and were cut to the heart. And that makes me wonder how much I am actually cut to the heart when it comes to my sin. How much does my sin offend me, and do I hate it enough to seek to live differently?
Now, if I claim Christ, then all sin in me should not just be uncomfortable, but abhorrent, disgusting and repulsive. Because that is what ‘repent’ means. It doesn’t just mean ‘to change your heading’ but it also includes the idea that we are absolutely disgusted with where we were going, we were repelled by our choices and sin.
And when we become so comfortable with our sin that conviction becomes more of a slight discomfort, then we have become too familiar with our sin. We have allowed too much to enter into our lives and compromised too much.
We are supposed to hate sin. We are supposed to be utterly repulsed by sinful activity in our minds, hearts and lives. Because sin is the opposite of what Christ desires for us. It is what He suffered and died to save us from, and so it can have no place in our lives. Period.
So, when I find myself apologizing to God yet again for something I’ve done, but this is now, let’s say, 6 weeks that I have been apologizing, that means that I haven’t hated my sin enough to change my behavior, I’ve only admitted to it repeatedly. I need conviction. I need to abhor my sin and repent, disgusted, walking away from whatever it is that is dragging me away from Christ.
When the Holy Spirit whispers into our heart these words of conviction, we cannot push them aside, meaning to address them later. No. We must address them right then, in these moments,and repent.
If we are going to GoLove people as Christ has commissioned us to do, then we must live the life that He has laid out for us to live. Lukewarm Christians, comfortable with their sin, are not going to make an impact for the kingdom. Their nominal hearts will produce a negative effect instead, encouraging a compromise with sin and the world. And that does not reflect the heart of Christ.
“30 And He said: ‘How can we illustrate the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to describe it? 31 It’s like a mustard seed that, when sown in the soil, is smaller than all the seeds on the ground. 32 And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the vegetables, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.'”
Mustard seeds, acorns and so many other seeds produce plants that grow to be unexpectedly bigger plants than we would be prone to think. Oak trees should come from something baseball sized or even larger. A six foot tall mustard plant should come from something larger than its own tiny seed. Yet within those seeds, God has implanted the power to grow something larger than anyone would think or imagine. He’s good that way.
Within His own kingdom, He has also implanted the power to grow something amazing. From inside the lives of just a few individuals. God has placed all the proper ingredients to see something amazing happen. It began with justo Him (1) and then went on to include Andrew & Peter (3) and very quickly then, James & John (5) and then the rest of the disciples as they were called (13) and we also see the women that followed along and helped in ministry wherever they went (18) and so many more that were added to their number at the beginning of the Church on just the first day (3000+) and it just grew from there, changing the world.
Today, even the smallest gathering, whether a small country church, a startup bible study in a living room, a house church meeting under persecution, or even one passionate individual, can see and experience the growth that only the Kingdom of God can see. The power of God Himself is at work in His Kingdom, and moving within the body of the bride of Christ. Radical change, multiplication, growth and health all come from a gathering of believers that work together, serve together and seek out the things of God together, honoring Him above self, seeking out His will before anything else.
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest growth agent the world has ever seen. There is power in His Name, power in His blood and power in the Word, the likes of which the world cannot duplicate. We need only to trust in Him, to trust God and His ability to move and work and grow His Kingdom and He sees fit. We cannot force a 120ft tall oak tree from an acorn in a matter of hours. We cannot coax the full grown mustard bush from its seed overnight. God’s growth happens in God’s timing and in His ways, we simply do the work of the gardener, planting, watering, fertilizing and trusting the growth and harvest to God’s mighty right hand.
We should not be discouraged as we wait, but be patient as we are eager. We must allow God’s timing and processes to run their course, proactively working in the ways He has gifted us so that He grows us in the process. Trust and obey, be faithful in your work for Him. He knows what He is doing. Simply GoLove as you have been loved, and give of yourself for Him.
“26 The kingdom of God is like this, He said. A man scatters seed on the ground; 27 he sleeps and rises — night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows — he doesnt know how. 28 The soil produces a crop by itself — first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head. 29 But as soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Patience is a difficult thing to muster sometimes. When we are sharing Christ with someone, trying to speak truth into their lives, we may find ourselves asking God why they aren’t responding the way we expected, why things aren’t progressing as quickly as we want. There will always be people struggling with that decision, even until the day Christ returns.
Maybe it’s a God-honoring change we want to see happen in our own lives, a struggle that we are long since ready to be over, fighting our own flesh. But we must be patient, trusting in God that He is growing us in His timing. Our struggle with sin will never be completely over until we have been perfected in Christ.
And there are so many other reasons, so many other situations where we will find our timing and God’s aren’t running at the same pace. But what we must do in those times is pray for strength, pray for patience, and ask God to provide in His timing, in His way, and to help us be content until His plan comes to fruition. It’s not for us to understand every detail, to know all they why’s and how’s. What stands for us is to trust in Him, knowing that His ways are best, that His plan is right.
Trust is key, and equates to faith. Faith works against worry, and worry is sin because it is a lack of trust in the One we claim we hope in for all things. Whether it is a seemingly small thing to us or a large issue, we must trust in God, in His timing, and in His plan because anything else is a reliance on self, and is rooted in idolatry. And an idolatrous heart is obviously not a heart that honors God. Trust in Him. Have faith in Him, and as you GoLove in His Name, let that faith in His provision and care lead you and influence your witness.