More Than Anything {Music Monday}

As the rain falls, as the gray skies linger, as broken hearts mourn and weary hearts wonder where rest is found…as violence batters the innocent again and again, as nation rises against nation, as our tomorrows feel more and more uncertainhope remains, one foundation stays steady and sure – and He is the One who says – Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. As life keeps moving forward, with all of its joys and all of its sorrows, may we take refuge in Jesus, who never changes. May we take hope in His promises – redemption, love that endures, a home in a kingdom that cannot be shaken. 

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever…therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” -Hebrews 6: 18-20, 4:14

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”-John 14:6

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but have the light of life.” -John 8:12

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.-2 Cor. 4: 16-18

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.”-Hebrews 1:3

“Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are His house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”-Hebrews 3:6

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What We Really Need

The world is a loud place right now. Opinions are flying quick, defenses are up, and everyone is out to get their point across to everyone else. People are mourning, people are hurting, violence continues because of hatred– and, in the midst of it all, the Body of Christ in our nation seems to be awakening to what it means to be in but not of this world. It has been a change-in-the-making for generations but we have been slow to understand the reality of it: what we believe does not align with the actions of our government and culture around us.

And in the realm of personal circumstances…I woke up last week with a scratch on my cornea. My eyeball was bright red and sensitive to movement, light, and being closed. My eyelid was swollen and pain radiated all around my eye. According to the doctor, the scratch was small and the responding inflammation was causing most of the pain.

Oddly enough, even though it causes discomfort – acute inflammation is meant to be a good thing. It’s part of our innate immunity, the body’s reaction to injury or infection. It’s the “body’s attempt at self-protection; the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens, and begin the healing process.[i]” Without inflammation, our tissue would not heal but continue in distress until dying.

It’s an immediate response – whatever the injury might be, the body responds with redness, swelling, heat, and sensitivity to touch. “Inflammation primarily causes pain because the swelling pushes against the sensitive nerve endings, which send pain signals to the brain. Nerve endings send pain signals to the brain all day long; however, it learns to ignore most of them, unless pressure against the nerve endings increases.”

So inflammation is recognition of a problem and an immediate reaction to fix it.

On the other hand, inflammation can also become the problem. If the root cause not fixed, the inflammation itself can turn into a chronic issue that can bring serious problems to the entire body.

It seems, to me, like we – as a whole – have learned to ignore the pain signals our world has been sending our way for a long time. The violence, the fear, the suffering, the abortions, the sex trafficking, division, the hatred, the pornography, the ‘increase of wickedness[ii]’…it has been happening all along, but – for the most part – we have co-existed with it all.

But we felt the decision of the Supreme Court. This was the scratch that brought a reaction. This was pressure on sensitive nerve-endings…this was the church’s realization that our government does not have to base their decisions upon God’s definitions for mankind. We have learned to ignore much of what has slowly changed around us, but this moment was one we could not tune out. And voices are swooping in loud…the church is standing guard over this injury to examine how it happened, sensitive to every word and every touch, hoping to push out the irritant.

But let us be so careful to understand what the irritant actually is…let us be so careful to recognize where our healing is found….

Because the Church is not here to be represented by a government or by our culture – no, we are here to represent the reigning, unshakeable, eternal Kingdom of God.

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Here’s what I know for sure and this is where we find our hope: “…the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

This is not the first time the church has been in an age of darkness…and hasn’t lighting up that darkness been the reason we are here all along?

When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, the disciples were living in a place and a time that condemned and despised them. Rome was a nation that reveled in open sexuality, the worship of many gods, and violent entertainment. The Jewish leaders, too, persecuted Christians – they were told to be quiet, they were put in prison, they were killed.

Yet – the disciples knew that Jesus was alive. They knew the Holy Spirit was guiding and empowering them to obey the commands of Christ – even in that kind of oppression….even when they had no ‘rights’ in the land.

They were commissioned to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They were empowered to build the Kingdom of God. They were loving as they had first been loved, sharing the truth that Jesus had died on the cross to forgive sins and to bring about a new, holy life.

They were not offended when called offensive. They were not surprised to suffer. They did not feel betrayed by a worldly kingdom that did not support them and they did not lash out at those who hated them. As they lived, so should we live as a people “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer…blessing those who persecute us… not overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good.[iii]

Our battle is not with people who are bound by sin…therefore arguing our point and calling out what we see as ‘unfair’ attitudes toward the church is not our calling here…for “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.”(Gal. 5:17)

Can we remember how we were once living to “gratify the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts[iv]”? We cannot expect a people who have not been transformed by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit to live as though they are…for “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

There is a Righteous Judge. And, one day, He will set things right…and one day, every knee shall bow and every tongue proclaim that He is Lord. (Isaiah 45:23)

And in the mean-time, before that day comes? “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.[v]

No matter our differences, no matter our own emotions, whatever the circumstances are – we can’t make it about ‘us.’ We cannot turn our message into ‘us’ versus ‘them’ because “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.[vi]” The cry of our hearts, motivated by the purposes of God, will be: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.[vii]

We have the opportunity to hold out the same hope we have been given – “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.[viii]

So, having the mind of Christ, we humble ourselves. We love even when we are not loved in return – and love does not mean condoning sin, but speaking the truth of repentance and forgiveness. “Opponents must be gently instructed,” Paul says, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.[ix]

When dealing with events that are hostile to the church and contrary to the Word of God, we must see clearly that “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” If we put our eyes only on the events and the people around us, getting caught up in debate, we lose sight of what we need to do – which is live daily in the armor of God and with prayer[x]. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…[xi]

If this ‘injury’ – if this ‘scratch’ and the resulting ‘inflammation’ in the body of Christ results in an awakening to our calling to pray and intercede – fighting with the ‘weapons of God’ against the darkness so that people will be set free from sin – then what was meant for evil will be used for good.

In this vein, I think it pretty interesting that the term inflammation comes from the latin word “inflammo”, which means ‘I set alight. I ignite.’

This makes me think of the One who refines His people, the One who brings us through the fire of testing and trial to produce endurance, patience, character, and hope.

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I have to wonder – are we, as the people of God, in a pivotal moment between inflammation as a healing process – a time of awakening and refining — or allowing the inflammation to continue and become a harmful condition?

We have a choice. We can settle into this inflammation….we can focus on the pain, the indignation, and coming to our own defense in our own power…we can try revising the Word in order to appease and pacify…but not one of those options leads to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not one of those options aligns with our knowledge that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus Christ or our commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.[xii]

In this place and in this moment, I can hear the words of Jesus – once spoken to a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years…–“Will you be made whole? …Do you want to get well?[xiii]

Will we choose to say yes? Will we turn our attention from the symptoms and allow God to examine our hearts?

Here is where healing begins: at the throne of God, remembering who He is and who we are. It begins with us – honestly asking God to search within…have we loved like He first loved us? Have we been numbed to the sin in our own lives? Have compromise and complacency found a place in our hearts and in our churches?

Healing is repentance and returning to our first love…we cannot forget that it is His love and mercy that have changed us. We cannot forget that His sacrifice on the cross saved us. We cannot forget that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings salvation and life for all who will believe. “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Tim.1:9)

Healing comes with our surrender to God. Healing comes with our obedience. Healing comes when we know our purpose as a follower of Jesus and, together, as the body of Christ…putting our trust in Him.

Isn’t this the moment? Isn’t now the time to wake up and ask for this healing?

For such a time as this, may we rise, take up our beds, and walk![xiv]

We are here to be the Kingdom of God, to be His people and His body. We do not find our security in the laws of the land. We do not place our trust in man. We do not expect to be lauded by culture. We are not frantic or anxious, because we place our confidence in Him.

We are here to be the salt and the light – we are not to hide away because of fear. We are peacemakers.

We are here to declare the hope of the nations is Jesus Christ…we are here to work in a ministry of reconciliation, to feed the hungry, to care for those in need, to shine into the darkness, to reach out to the lonely, to love one another.

We are here to stand and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who will believe[xv] – and because our foundation is the Rock that is Higher, we will not be moved. For Jesus Himself established this body – “upon this rock,” He said in Matthew 16, “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

No matter what happens, His Word endures. No matter what happens – in life, in death, in tribulation — we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

Through it all, we will not be separated from the love of Jesus. Through it all, He is with us. There is an eternal purpose unfolding and through it all, He is God.

“…now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” -Romans 13:12


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[i] Quotes from Medical News Today [ii] Matt. 24:12 [iii] Romans 12:12, 14, 21 [iv] Eph. 2:3 [v] Gal. 5:20 [vi] 2 Cor. 4:4-5 [vii] 2 Cor. 5:20 [viii] Eph. 2:4-5 [ix] 2 Tim.2:25-26 [x] Eph. 6 [xi] 2 Cor. 10: 3-6 [xii] Matt. 28:18-20 [xiii] John 5:5-6 [xiv] John 5:8    [xv] Romans 1:16

Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to Calvary}, Day 28: Scripture-Reading…Golgotha

Today, we turn our eyes to the last moments of Jesus’ life as God-in-flesh on earth.

I have done my best to compile a narrative, using all four Gospel accounts, of the trial, crucifixion, and burial of our Savior (references are at the end of each section).

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Then the entire council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”

“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.

“Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.

“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.)

They began to state their case: “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”

So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, “I find nothing wrong with this man!”

(But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Then they became insistent. “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!”

“Oh, is he a Galilean?” Pilate asked.

When they said that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.

(Matthew 27: 12-14/Luke 23:5-7/John 18:28-31, 34-38)

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Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer.

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. (Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.) (Luke 23: 1-12)

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Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas.

As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)

“Barabbas,” they answered.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

(The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.

“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover.

Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death.

Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”

Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

(Matthew 27:21-26/Luke 23:13-21/John 18:7-14)

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Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

(Matt. 27:27-31)

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As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women.

But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called Golgotha (The Skull), they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.

And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.

Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”

The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”… One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

(Matthew 27: 39-43/Mark 15:25/Luke 23: 26-34, 36-42/John 19:19-22, 25-27)

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At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!”…Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

And with those words he breathed his last.

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe. These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

(Luke 23:46/Matthew 27: 45-56/John 19:28-37)

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As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea (who had been a secret disciple of Jesus {because he feared the Jewish leaders}) took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council {but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders}, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)

Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.

When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover[s] and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

(Matthew 27: 60-61/Mark 15: 42-45/Luke 23:51, 56/John 19: 38-42)

{Last year, I imagined what the disciples might have felt after watching Jesus crucified and buried…Eulogy, Part One and Eulogy, Part Two.}

Music-Monday (when we need to be restored)

…He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. -Psalm 23:2-3

When we feel worn down and empty, the Father offers this hope: rest, peace, and restoration. That line captures me tonight….He restores my soul.  Because, sometimes, aren’t we just aching from the inside out? When our souls are dry and fragile, He is the One who will refresh us and re-energize us…it is His touch that will bring us back to health…His Spirit that re-fuels and strengthens us.

We can take respite in His presence. Your soul can find rest in Him, no matter the circumstances you are in, because He is – in His great wisdom and love – taking care of you. We can trust Him with our souls, with our families, with our dreams – with everything in our lives. In Him – in Jesus all things hold together…including you. Including your life. You don’t have to do it all. The weight of your world is not meant to rest on your shoulders…it is already in His hands. His strength, His grace, and His provision changes things. You don’t have to hold it all together…you just have to trust that He IS holding it all together for your good and for His glory.

If you’ve been carrying the weight of it all and if you’re tired to the bone, please don’t wait another minute. In the middle of the busy-ness, in the middle of it all — speak to Him, ask Him to lead you to those still waters and green pastures. Our peace is not dependent on our circumstances but on His presence. He is near to us when we call on Him (Psalm 145:18)…and no matter where we are, He will restore us when we open our hearts to Him.

“For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him. {Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him!}

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.-Psalm 65:5-12

Music Monday (Joy for Every Day)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”-James 1:17-18

December 25th has passed us by…so quickly, the day becomes a memory. After so much planning and so much anticipation, the actual festivities of Christmas day are quickly over and done. It can be a little bittersweet when the day is gone…and some years, I’ve found myself downright sad after the presents have been opened, the cookies eaten, the merry-making giving way to regular routine, life as usual.

But this year — how I want to keep the wonder…how I want the seed of joy born to us on Christmas to grow.

And, truly – isn’t this where our story really begins? The miracle did not cease with the birth of Christ – no, that holy night was just the start of the days that turned the world upside down. The wonder increases with every step He took, every compassionate word He spoke, every heart He healed…all the way to the Cross, all the way into the dark tomb, all the way into Resurrection Morning when Life dawned for all mankind in a way it never had before.

Wonder, every day, captures our hearts when we fully understand – He remains with us…the Great I Am, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace…He said He would never leave us. And because He came, we are welcome in the presence of God. Because He came, His own Spirit lives within us. He changed us – and is still transforming us into His own image..can we even begin to comprehend the Creator of all working in us, bringing us ever-closer to His heart?

As we get back into the swing of regular schedules and plan for the coming year, can we remember this? Every day is extraordinary because we have the honor and privilege of living it while we abide in Him! Our ‘normal’ days may not be wrapped in anything sparkling or fancy, but isn’t this the way of a King in common swaddling clothes? He came to redeem and restore these hours, these bodies, this earth. He came to bring joy and light into our every-day world…His marvelous love and life dwells within our every-day kind of hearts.

So, yes, December 25th has come and gone…but He still remains. His good and perfect gifts, they remain. His love and faithfulness to us – they remain.

So hold onto hope, for our Savior has set us free. Live with His Words of truth. Walk in wonder, every single day, with eyes and ears (and heart) open to Jesus. This is true joy and it is ours, always.

For Your Sunday…Scripture&Song

Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power, Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.

Praise to thee in earth and heaven
Now and evermore be given,
Christ, who art our sun and shield.
Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,
Those who trust in thee thou savest,
All thy mercy stands revealed.
-St. Thomas Aquinas

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. -Titus 3:4

Invitation Into Wonder

forblogchristmas2014

The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.

–Henri Nouwen

We know that ‘something has begun’. We know that one long-ago night in Bethlehem changed the course of eternity for each of us. We know the deepest of mysteries – God came to dwell with men – and we hold an extraordinary truth…the Holy Spirit dwells within us as we wait for the coming of Christ to earth again.

And yet we lose sight of it all. In the routine, in the busy hours, in complacency – we hear and we speak marvels like they are commonplace. We have heard the story of God coming down to walk among us so many times that familiarity dulls our hearing.

I don’t want in-one-ear-and-out-of-the-other hearing and blurry-seen-it-all-before vision this year as we celebrate the Savior’s birth. I want to pay attention. I do not want to lose wonder.

Because Jesus humbling Himself to meet us where we are…that is a wonder, a marvel, a miracle. His birth began a new Day for all of us. It is astonishing that we, who did nothing to earn it, can come into the presence of God. We are called His children, lavishly loved – and that is nothing less than amazing.

I do not want to lose the wonder of it all because that will mean I have forgotten how marvelous He is, how holy, how boundless in power and love…and how breath-taking it is that He knows my name.

God is beyond our comprehension, awesomely mysterious, and yet…He knows every tear we cry, every sparrow that falls, every hair on our heads. King of Kings, Creator of all – He gave Himself to us. He loves us.

Do we yet begin to understand why the angels, night and day, sing holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty? (Rev. 4:8)

Do we yet begin to add our voices to their song?

Every day brings us closer to the Day when He will return, making all things new. There is nothing wasted or ordinary when He is here, with us, as we wait. Every moment is ‘the moment’ if we are willing to share our hearts, our space, our very selves with Him. He who began a good work in us is carrying it on to completion – always, He is actively present in our lives (Phil. 1:6) and I pray that we will actively respond to Him. We have been given the abiding presence of the Most High God…oh, may we never forget to marvel at this gift!

Lord Jesus, may our eyes open to the wonder of You. May we see Your glory in our every-day. Break the shell of familiarity so that we don’t take grace and redemption in stride, but as they truly are: absolute miracles that have rescued us. Revive our first love. Help us to have hearts like children, running to You in delight and thanksgiving… help us to have hearts humble and awed, living daily to worship the King whose arms are ever open to us.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. –Psalm 98:1-3

(Please join me for a quiet moment each day throughout this season…together, let’s pray to know Him more…and in knowing Him, we will find we cannot help but to marvel and worship!)