August 7 – What a Relief!

Proverbs 21: 31 (NLT)
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

 “Do your best, prepare for the worst—
then trust God to bring victory.” (The Message)

I like what this verse means. Lots of preparation goes into the battle plans, but the outcome is really left up to the Lord.

We don’t just sit around doing nothing and wait for God to do everything. We clean our homes, make good meals, dress our kids nicely, make sure they get all the medical attention they need, make sure they have friends to play with, take them to activities that we think will help them develop well, teach them about God, discipline them so they understand rules and good behaviour, assign them chores to develop their sense of responsibility, and on and on we go. Doesn’t that list make you tired?

At our jobs, we look for ways to be more efficient. We enroll in training to update our skills. We look for ways to get a promotion so we can ‘up’ our standard of living. If we are the owners of our business, we look for ways to make it more profitable. We look to hire good people.

At our church, we have committees that assess the programs we have. Is there a way to do things better? Is there a way to attract people to our church? How can we encourage spiritual growth in the congregation? How can our church help our community, our world?

We are made in the image of God. Genesis 1: 26 – 28 says:
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

God made us to be creative and plan things. We were given the earth to “reign over”. So, there is nothing wrong with all of our planning and preparation. But what we must realize is that God is the one who provides the victory. What does that mean?

Pray. Pray. Pray.
Seek God’s will and then give God all the credit and all the glory.

Our song for today is Great Things by Phil Wickham

August 6 – Fire

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in

– Hillsong United, Another in the Fire

Prescribed burns are implemented for a healthy ecosystem. It is the idea of intentionally burning off what isn’t useful in order to make room for new growth. Crews will take the specific precautions, plan down to the last detail what needs to burn and where. Burns are carefully isolated to one area and are fully controlled. Many times, biologists oversee these projects to determine correct plant life and what the new flora will look like when regrowth happens.
Fire is an element that kills whatever is in its tracks. We prevent forest fires, criminalize arson, and protect our homes with smoke detectors. We are prepared for an unexpected fire. But what if there is something to be said about burning intentionally? This analogy allows us to see fire as a means of renewing. As a biologist sets fire to the forest floor, perhaps there are things inside us that could go. For example: negative mindsets, poor perspectives, unhealthy hobbies, addictions, a sour worldview, to pick a few. There are things in our souls that could be burned off in order to make room for new seeds of change. 

….provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendour. – Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

The bible symbolizes fire as purification, including the power and zeal of God. Both with the element of destroying and cleansing.
Yet, not out of our own strength can these changes be made, but out of the planting of the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, fire is hot, and it is both positive and negative. It symbolizes both refining and purifying, on the one hand, and death and destruction on the other. – Forerunner Commentary

The character of God is described as a holy fire. Burning that within us that has no use to us anymore. Fire symbolizes God’s radiant glory as an aspect of His holiness.

“For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”
– Deuteronomy 4:24 (KJV)

Light up the fire of love inside and blaze the thoughts away. – Rumi

God desires to free us from that which holds us back in our lives. Things that aren’t serving us. Intentionally burning welcomes change and rebirth.

So let’s burn off anything that has no use to us. Embrace a holy fire. Turn ashes to beauty and grow again. 

Grow up and grow within. 

Because in our fires He is always fanning our flame. 
To become and to change, to be increasingly like Christ.

Further Reading:

“You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..” – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

August 5 – Giving or Getting

Proverbs 21: 26 (NLT)

“Some people are always greedy for more,
but the godly love to give!”

This is an interesting contrast between people who love God and people who love money. The Bible actually has a lot to say about that.

Jesus taught about our priorities here on earth, and He was very clear about money not being a big priority. I don’t have to explain these verses at all; the message is very obvious.
Matthew 6:19 (NLT) “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:24 (NLT) “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

I really think this is a message that our culture today needs to hear. I do think today’s younger generations are more concerned with social and environmental issues than previous generations. So I think progress has been made in that area. But we still tend to admire and want to follow the example of folks who have made lots of money. I really enjoy watching the various shows on HGTV. Home renovations intrigue me, but if I really think about what I’m watching, it’s how to spend money and have your home look like a home décor advertisement. Is that really our priority?

Jesus caught a young rich man in that dilemma. The young man wanted to follow Jesus; he was likely very attracted to this man who was challenging the current religious practices. But Jesus realized there was an issue he had to deal with – his wealthy family and life of privilege. So Jesus made him face that issue right on.

Matthew 19:21 (NLT) “Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Sadly, when he realized that money couldn’t be a priority, the young man left.

There are some verses in the New Testament written by Paul that instruct Christ followers about money. Again, these verses are very clear and need no explanation.

1 Timothy 6:10  (NLT) “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”

1 Timothy 6:17, 18 (NLT) “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.”

An interview with Melissa Gates that I once watched at the Global Leadership Summit intrigued me. Melissa and Bill Gates, owners of Microsoft, are one of the richest couples on the planet. Yet Melissa was dressed in an outfit that she could have bought at any clothing store. She wore navy dress pants, a cream plain blouse with a pink jacket. She had a plain wedding band, and no other jewellery. She talked about how her faith prompted her and her husband to share the wealth they had by establishing the Gates Foundation. They have made such a difference in the world by funding health and education projects, and they are encouraging other billionaires to get involved as well. There were some picture clips of her sitting cross-legged with Third World women – something she does several times a year because she wants to know firsthand the issues those women face. She talked about how she needs to spend more time in quiet meditation on those trips in order to keep her focus in the right place. It seemed to me that Melissa Gates demonstrated what those verses said.

Over my lifetime, I’ve struggled between how much I can accumulate or purchase, and how much I should give away. I think it’s important to really think and pray about that issue, especially since we live in such a wealthy country in comparison to most of the world. Solomon challenges us to have a giving mindset.

“The godly love to give.”

Our song for today is Do Something by Matthew West

August 4 – Ouch!

Proverbs 21: 9 and 19 (The Message)

9 Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack
than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.

19 Better to live in a tent in the wild
than with a cross and petulant spouse.

Today’s devotions will be short – just like Solomon’s advice here is short and to the point. How do you treat your partner?

How much do we roll our eyes? How much do we criticize for not getting things done when we want them done? How much do we sigh dramatically when we’re not happy about something? How much do we nag? How much are we just “cross” – hard to get along with? How much do we pout?

You know – those verses are absolutely right. So just for today, let’s make sure that we don’t criticize anything our partner does – not even the tiniest bit.

In fact, let’s commit to saying and or doing at least 2 complimentary, encouraging things.

Do you think they’ll notice?

August 3 – What Motivates Me?

Proverbs 21: 1 – 4; 8 (The Message)

“Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.
2 We justify our actions by appearances;
God examines our motives.
3 Clean living before God and justice with our neighbours
mean far more to God than religious performance.
4 Arrogance and pride—distinguishing marks in the wicked—    
are just plain sin.

8 Mixed motives twist life into tangles;
pure motives take you straight down the road.”

These verses really make me think about motivation. What motives are behind my behaviour? When I volunteer to help in an organization, why do I make that commitment? When I agreed to be a leader in some situation, why did I do that? When I agree to help with some project that I really don’t enjoy, why did I do that? There are so many choices that I make every day, and to be honest, I’m not always sure why I do what I do.

One thing I do know is that I want people to like me. I want people to think I’m reliable and willing to support good causes. I want people to think I’m smart and competent. I want people to think I’m really committed to my faith. When people think of me, I want them to essentially say – “Oh isn’t she wonderful!” And to be honest, I think that is likely true of most of us. Who wants to be thought of as a failure or pathetic? Solomon sums that up so well – “We justify our actions by appearances”. We want to look good, so we do what we think makes us look that way.

“Arrogance and pride – distinguishing marks in the wicked – are just plain sin.” That verse makes me cringe. Arrogance is something I certainly don’t want to be associated with. The dictionary defines it as “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride”. But pride? That doesn’t sound quite so awful. We use that word more often when we encourage someone. We might tell our children we are proud of them for doing something well. It doesn’t seem so wrong to be proud of ourselves for staying on task and completing a job well done. However, again, this verse points to our motivations -to feel good, important.

How much of my motivation for doing things is connected to God? “Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;  he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.” Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the president of a country or a big business. We are leaders in our homes. If you are a Sunday School teacher, you are a leader there. If you are on some kind of committee, you are part of the leadership there. Every single one of us leads somewhere.

But the major idea in that verse is that God controls what is happening – “a channel of water controlled by God.” That is such a lovely picture. Water is a necessity in our lives. It comprises 60% of our bodies. Science says we need 11 to 15 cups of water a day. We need it to keep clean. On the hot days of summer, we need it to keep cool. Our world needs us – “water controlled by God”. When God controls our motives and behaviour, we are a blessing to those around us. Wow!

That makes me stop and think. What motivates me the most? That is something I really need to pray about. I need to ask God to motivate me, to direct me. I suspect that is something we all need to do.

“Mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road.”

Our song for today is Lord, I Give You My Heart by Michael W. Smith

July 31 – Hymn Series

Nothing but the blood

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Many instances we come up empty. We push to do the right thing, make ends meet or think we’re on the right track. Then we get sidelined, or forced back to the beginning.

The popular Hymn, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, says that only the saving power of Jesus can make us whole again.
Yet, literally speaking. How can blood wash away our faults?

In the early Jewish tradition, animals were sacrificed to remove sins. Found in Leviticus 1:1-3,
“The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.”

It wasn’t until John the Baptist eventually declared: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NIV).
As killing an animal cleansed sins in the Old Testament, the sacrifice of Jesus’ life fully covers our sins, again and again to this day.

“But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all.”
– Hebrews 9:11-13

He set us free, makes us whole, and white as snow. The picture of what the blood has done for us had Robert Lowry writing, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ’tis all of grace—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Because of our new selves, we have peace, we have hope, we have second chances. We can start again, we can love, we are new. Every day a miracle, a gift by grace.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

So embrace this gift of life, we are blessed and made to bless, it is never too late, Jesus has shown us that through his story. We can always begin again.

Further Reading:

A powerful biblical segment that Jesus prayed for us- humanity, before he was seized and taken away to be killed.

“I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.”

– John 17:20-23 (MSG)

July 30 – Hymn Series

It is well with my Soul

“And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight..”

Life is hard. There are things that happen that we can’t comprehend, that make no sense. We experience grief, heartache and horror. There are things that make us question if God even exists. And that’s okay.
We strive for peace, we read, and question and ask for peace. But I wonder if we experience the most peace when we’re going through the hardest stuff? Perhaps peace rises in the oddest of places? It’s the supernatural contrast in life that brings us back declaring, that even so… it is well.

“Though the fig tree does not bud    
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails    
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen    
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,    
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”

– Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)

Many of us are familiar with the tragedy the author Horatio Spafford experienced when He wrote “It is Well,” his words were declared out of deep grief.

He reminds us that whatever our lot, we can say, It is well. It is well, not when it is over, when it’s summer, or Friday, or when the pain has passed. Peace is now and through. Peace is even through it all – inner calm with chaos.

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

But it still doesn’t feel too well I say to myself. 
Our world, our humanity, even day to day. How can it be “even so”….well? Stating that when things aren’t truly well, there is still something that is well. It is our trust in the one that makes all things well. God is in all things, even our trauma and trials. He is bigger than our life storms, and he will fight for us, and see them through.

Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks
– Peace Be Still, – The Belonging Co.

Urging you to take heart today. That you experience His promise of peace with whatever you are facing.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
– Oscar Wilde

Further Reading:

“Be still, and know that I am God..”
Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

“For this is what the Lord says:” I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on here knees. – Isaiah 66:12 (NIV)

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ- the Message- have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever- be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
– Colossians 3:15 (MSG)

July 29 – Hymn Series

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

“His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well”

The popular hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” prompts us to divert attention towards Jesus, allowing the fade of whatever trials are in front of us. A great way to begin your day is listening to this song. The simple text says that all will be well, things will pass and there will be hope, light for another day.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

I simply want to remind you that there is a light, there is a hope, that in time, things will turn around. Some days are slower, some days fly by. There are moments in life, where there looks to be no way out, but let life surprise you. Today may have looked different than the past, and perhaps your future is fragile, but hope is not lost. Seek the light in which this song sings of. A light that is always shining.

“Light is still guiding you, illuminating everything…and this includes the beautiful things, the hard – to –notice – things, the I- never – really –looked – at – it -that – way- until – now sort of things. This is the kind of change that makes a difference in you. – Morgan Harper Nichols

Remind yourself that you aren’t alone. In your everyday, in the mistakes, in the frustrations. All begins with Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Further Reading:

“ When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Degree. “I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you” – God’s Decree- “bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it. – Jeremiah 29:13 (MSG)

“Light, space, zest— that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.” – Psalm 27:1 (MSG)

July 28 – Hymns Series

Blessed Assurance

“Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”

To be assured of something, means that you have confidence, certainty, and security. Looking at our surroundings, what we can touch, there isn’t much that holds that guarantee. Material things fall apart, people fail us, and our skin and bones are temporary. The hymnal Blessed Assurance written by blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby in 1873 finds inspiration for the song through Philippians 1:2, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (ESV).

There are times that life may not look like a blessed assurance. Can some people be blessed and others not? Do blessings come and go? Some may think those who don’t have much material wealth, are blessed as they are more content with real blessings, such as people, family and time.

“ Blessings are not static gifts, they are a flow of grace. “ – Liz Milani

The hymnal reminds us that our blessings aren’t come and go, or transactional. Blessed assurance comes from God, not our goodness, or attempts at wholeness.

“ God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we do can improve on God.” – Proverbs 10:22 (MSG)

Assurance can be a form of rest. A time when these lyrics hit me was during a funeral. There is assurance in the text about the finality of life. We are assured of our destination after this life. We are blessed, reminded of the idea, that our life’s assurance is solid on what Jesus has given us, eternal life. We can sing about our stories on earth, and praise to our futures.

“Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.”

We can look back at our blessings, good, bad, blessings-in- disguise, whatever you want to call them and rest. Rest in the hope that our grounding here on earth is with what God has given us, and that our journey of life, can be all joy because of who Jesus is.

“This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long”

Further Reading:

“ God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we do can improve on God.”
Proverbs 10:22 (MSG)

“It’s criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the poor- what a blessing!”
Proverbs 14:21 (MSG)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. – Matthew 5: 3-9 (MSG)

July 27 – Hymns Series

How Great Thou Art

This week I wanted to focus on the idea of flourishing in any circumstance. As much I’m sure we all love quick tips, self-help books, inspirational quotes, I sat in silence reminding myself that getting healthy, conquering negativity, standing in hope is made possible because of Jesus. Maybe that sounds cliché to you, or you don’t even know what that looks like, but I found it’s the basic element of surrender. I can’t become, without declaring I’m not the one that makes life happen.

I’d like to focus this week on how the quality of the words found in various hymns remind us that when we begin with Jesus, our minds are clear, our paths are light, and our ideas take flight. These hymns, are still a humble reminder that whatever we find ourselves worrying about, we can find in the peace- filled reminder of a song.

“Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art”

Growing up in a Christian tradition that sung old-English hymns every Sunday morning became dry week after week. What once bored me as a kid, smacked me in the face later in life- how these lyrics never left my mind.

The lyrics of How Great Thou Art originated in Sweden, written by Carl Boberg in 1886 a member of the Swedish Parliament at that time.

On writing the song:

“It was in 1885, and in the time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest coloring; the birds were singing in trees and wherever they could find a perch. On a particular afternoon, some friends and I had been to Kronobäck where we had participated in an afternoon service. As we were returning a thunderstorm began to appear on the horizon. We hurried to shelter. There were loud claps of thunder, and the lighting flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. However, the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared with a beautiful rainbow.”

“After reaching my home, I opened my window toward the sea. The church bells were playing the tune of a hymn. That same evening, I wrote a poem which I titled, ‘O Store Gud,’ (How Great Thou Art).”

How Great Thou Art is a beautiful reminder of the declaration of the power of God. I think that’s where we can begin.

“O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed”

The power, the wonder of God – we have that on our side, with us always. Submitting to this wonder, is where we can put our hope. God who created the stars, the sand, the forest, the human mind, reminds us of His greatness as we go about our scheduled lives.

A fresh reminder of this beautiful song can be found here.

“Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. – Mary Oliver

Further Reading:

“O Lord, how great are thy works!” – Psalm 92:5

July 24 – I Want to Know!

Proverbs 20: 24 (NLT)

“The Lord directs our steps,
    so why try to understand everything along the way?”

“Trying to understand everything along the way” – that’s me. I wouldn’t be surprised if you admitted that might be you as well. In our science and technology oriented world, understanding why things happen and how they happen are valued greatly. And we’ve made huge strides in the 21st Century in those areas. I for one encourage all those science and math guys to keep right on going. My husband had 13 years added to his life after having a liver transplant. What an amazing medical feat!

But where that verse really hits me is my tendency to want to know why and how for all my daily events. When I get right down to it, I question God a lot. I think I have good plans and ideas for my life, and it’s frustrating when they don’t happen. So I look at that verse and say, “Audrey, do you believe what it says, or not?” That’s when I have to stop and confess. I do believe God directs my steps, so I need to calm down and leave whatever in His hands.

One advantage I do have is that I’ve lived long enough to see God take the most unwanted things and turn them into something valued. As a young mom whose husband disappeared into his job, I forged friendships in our neighbourhood that were so supportive and also gave me an opportunity to share my faith. I’ve mentioned before the job working in alternative education that I was sure would be dreadful, but turned out to be the best job of my life. My husband’s serious health issues over the years made me learn to trust God so much more than before. Even my husband’s death two years ago gave me the time to write these devotions.

But I’m not perfect, and I still have a tendency to want to “understand everything along the way”. So if you have been reading this and thinking. “Yeah right. I don’t trust God much. Nice that you do” – that is a normal reaction. But it is something we all need to think about and recommit to daily – letting God direct our paths and trusting what He does.

Our song for today is Way Maker by Bethel Music

July 23 – Words

“Raise your words, not your voice.
It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” -Rumi

Have you ever regretted what you’ve said? Perhaps you’ve said something and wish you could have taken your words back. Maybe it’s the opposite for you, you’re working on speaking up in the moment. For either scenario, the right words couldn’t be found. When we say the right words at the right time they can grow, build, shape and influence. The bible talks about words as power, honey and a tree of life. 

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
– Proverbs 15:4 (ESV)

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
– Proverbs 16:24 (ESV) 

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
– Colossians 4:6 (ESV) 

Our words are formed out of our thoughts and surroundings. We can choose to speak our mind, or we can stop, go deeper, and take a look at our thought process before we verbalize.

If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative. In our thoughts and words, we create our own weaknesses and our own strengths. Our limitations and joys begin in our hearts. We can always replace negative with positive.” – Betty Eadie

At times, it is satisfying to speak our minds! But in the long run, can lead to regret.

Biting our tongue can prevent a deeper, unnecessary argument. Words give a chance to uplift, to critique, to influence and to aid. They also are just as powerful to pull down, inhibit, and crush. I’d hate to be the person who crushes another’s soul, demeans a potential. What if we treated humans like our plants? Nourish them, tend to them, or even speak to our plants! Such encouragement allows them to grow. 

Be careful what you say. You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there.” – Joel Osteen

Connecting with each other positively through what we say and how we communicate can move hearts. Let’s use our words to equip each other’s potential and choose our words smartly. Our words define who we are as people, and how we are perceived. Think on your thoughts, see how your speech connects. Spend time crafting your opinion in such a way to allow people to rise. Let’s talk to build up, to encourage, to bloom.

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh, I believe
What You say of me
I believe”


You Say, – Lauren Diagle

Further Reading:

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit- you choose.”
Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”
Ephesians 4:29 (MSG)

July 22 – Eyes and Ears

Proverbs 20: 12 (NLT)

“Ears to hear and eyes to see—
    both are gifts from the Lord.”

I suppose we could take these words literally. It is a blessing to be able to hear and see. I have a personal reason to be thankful that I can hear. About 3 years ago, I finally gave in and got hearing aids. I’d heard so many stories from people frustrated with their hearing aids, and I thought I managed fairly well in understanding what was going on around me – so why introduce more frustration? Not to mention my silly notion that only old people have hearing aids, and that was not me! (I know there are many people with hearing aids who have struggled with hearing loss all their lives.) Now that I can hear better, I could kick myself for postponing getting these amazing aids. My family is delighted and they love to tease me about how I’ve lost my spacey look when I really didn’t hear what was going on.

But something else comes to mind when I read those words, “Ears to hear and eyes to see”. Do I really see what is going on around me? Do I really hear what is happening? Or am I too busy with my own stuff to comprehend my world around me?

I was raised in a home where we were taught to be the best we could be, the individuals that God created us to be. There is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I would likely say there are benefits to being encouraged to do well. But in our crazy world, it’s so easy to get off the track and twist that message. For me, it became being the best wife, the best mom, the best employee, the best volunteer – all those things at once and done at top notch speed and efficiency. My home needed to be organized; my kids needed to be taken to all the best activities, my husband needed me to make his day as stress-free as possible, and on and on.

Did I have time to see and hear the world around me? Did I have time to hear and see God at work? Did I stop to see and listen to what God wanted me to be involved in? Nope! I was just too busy being ‘perfect’. Actually I was far from perfect, but I certainly was striving to be that.

I have a verse hanging on my bedroom wall. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) That verse became my life verse at a time when I was crashing as a young mom with anxiety and depression, and realized that I needed to slow down and stop trying to be perfect – something God had never asked me to be. I needed to slow down and really see my world and hear the people in it. That was such a gift – starting to really see and listen to the people around me, and hopefully give them encouragement, support and empathy.

So I encourage you today, if like me, you are running fast to be perfect. Slow down.

“Ears to hear and eyes to see—
    both are gifts from the Lord.”

Here is a song by Jeremy Camp that really catches the thoughts for today – Keep Me in the Moment.

July 21 – Can I be Trusted?

Proverbs 20: 7 and 27 (NLT)

The godly walk with integrity;
    blessed are their children who follow them.
27 The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit,
    exposing every hidden motive.

Here is a definition of the word – integrity – from dictionary.com
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished:

Our North American culture has really turned away from this idea of honesty and the idea that people can be whole – who they are shows in all situations: that what they think, say and do all line up to the same thing. We’ve bought the notion that things depend on circumstances; what’s right in this situation, may not be in that situation. Now I belong to this culture too, and I think that statement has its merits. It might be right to tell the truth in one situation, but realize that telling the truth might not be the best thing in another – you might hurt the person without any real gain. For example, I might tell my 3 year old that his/her drawing is so good, even though I know it’s really pathetic. Or I don’t tell my friend that I think her new outfit is really ugly. But then I look at politics today, and I suspect we all wonder if we are getting the truth in many situations.

But where the idea of integrity really strikes a chord with me is – how do I behave, as well as, what do I say I believe – in all situations. Do I believe one thing around my church friends, but not around my fellow workers? Do I act one way at home and another way in public? Do I lose my temper with my husband and children, but am very tolerant with my friends? Am I careful with my accounting at home, but I twist the figures on my income tax? There’s a very old saying – ‘What you see is what you get’. Is that me, or do I have many faces that I put on depending on where I am?

These verses from Proverbs really challenge me. Solomon says that children are blessed when they can follow a parent with integrity. That parent sets the example for them of what honesty is all about. Can my kids really trust me? Have I ever done something when I’m with them, and told them not to tell daddy?

That is something I was so blessed with – parents who demonstrated integrity. My dad worked for an insulation manufacturing company, and we often had discussions around the table about business practices that he bumped into. I remember one discussion very well. He told us about discovering that his salespeople were lying to customers about how quickly they could get the company product on their shelves. He told the salespeople that they had to be completely honest, and a process was set up in the company that tracked where the products were in transport so salespeople could give fairly accurate estimates about when the customer would receive the shipment. The salespeople didn’t like this new rule at first; they said they would lose business if they couldn’t say the product would get there right away. My dad told us this story on the day that the statistics came in showing the company sales were increasing. I am aware of other companies led by Christians that follow their faith principles, and they are flourishing. God doesn’t tell us that integrity is important just to frustrate us; God knows it actually works the best.

The next thing Solomon says is that God’s light penetrates the human spirit and exposes hidden motives. That is something I’m also so thankful for. Reading the Bible and getting to know God’s mind and heart along with the guidance provided by the Holy Spirit really challenges me. So often as I read and meditate, something I need to change comes to mind. I can’t mature all on my own; I need all the help I can get to become the woman God wants me to be. I’m soooo thankful that God has provided that for me. I’m not on my own.

Once again, Solomon gives us something to think about.

July 20 – Keeping Your Cool

Before we start today, this is a reminder that for most of the rest of the summer, devotions will be topical and random. We will start going through books of the Bible again in September. Last summer, I started going through Proverbs choosing verses in each chapter for the day’s topic. Today I’m going to pick up where we left off last summer, and begin with verses from chapter 20.

Proverbs 20: 3, 15, 18 – 19

Avoiding a fight is a mark of honour;
    only fools insist on quarrelling.
18 Plans succeed through good counsel;
    don’t go to war without wise advice.
19 A gossip goes around telling secrets,
    so don’t hang around with chatterers.
15 Wise words are more valuable
    than much gold and many rubies.

One thing I’ve noticed about this pandemic time, are the arguments about how we are to keep safe, and what rules and regulations are needed from the government. It seems more pronounced in the United States where opinions seem to be lining up along political lines. But in Canada, there are differing points of view as well.

Some folks are very cautious. I walk early in the morning around the Aspen Lake (pond) near the WFCU Centre. There are some people who walk wearing masks, even though one might only meet 5 or 6 people around the whole pond, and distancing is easy with the wide paths. Other people appear to be quite nonchalant since you see them gathering in parks, beaches, and bars in large groups. Most of my conversations with people have been in the middle gray area – we talk about how much we need to clean things, is it safe to have a few friends over for coffee on the patio or can we go into each other’s house if we still keep apart, etc. And of course, there are the questions about how safe is it to open churches.

So how do Christ followers deal with this conflict? These verses in Proverbs 20 tell us a couple of things. One is that we need to look for good advice. In a practical sense, we need to listen to the medical and science advice from our top experts both provincially and federally. Covid is a new virus and they are learning as we go, so things do change – but they are the ones with the most information. “Wise words are valuable” and “plans succeed through good counsel”. Try not to get caught up in the chatter of folks in fringe groups. It’s interesting to see some of the posts on Facebook about the conspiracy theories – there is no virus, the government is trying to subject us to totalitarian rule. Proverbs warns, “Don’t hang around with chatterers”.

Another piece of advice from Solomon is to avoid fights. “Avoiding a fight is a mark of honour; only fools insist on quarrelling”, is an interesting verse. Sometimes in our culture, I think we look at people who appear to avoid arguments as weak. I’m not advocating to stay quiet in the face of wrong. But many arguments are about differing opinions. Solomon in these verses seems to be advising us to keep the peace and look for good advice. Listen instead of arguing.

In Colossians 3: 15, Paul tells us as Christ followers to be known for peace.

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

We have a peace from our relationship with Christ. We know God is working in our lives and that we want to submit to his will. We don’t have to get all worked up over what is happening in our world. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)

We can listen to each other’s opinions. We can treat each other with respect. We can look for good advice. But down deep, we can trust God.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” (Isaiah 55: 12)

Our song for today is from Bethel Music – It Is Well

July 17 – Our God is Amazing!

Before we start today, here is what I’m planning for the rest of the summer. We’ve completed going through the Book of Mark – although I’d encourage you to read it through fairly quickly to get an overall picture of what we’ve studied. This summer is rather strange in comparison to other summers. With the lock-down, many of us have been home for months. July and August seem like a summer extension. Usually during the summer, I’ve written devotions that are based on Psalms, Proverbs, or various topics so that folks on vacation don’t miss the ongoing verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible. I’ve decided to continue that practice starting today. Brittany and I will be doing daily devotions on whatever topic God brings to our minds.

Psalm 8 (NLT)

“O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and infants
to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies
and all who oppose you.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
7 the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”

This psalm is filled with contrasts that emphasize how wonderful our God is. We need to remember that in our pandemic time. It’s so easy to get bogged down in frustration and loneliness with all that’s going on. So for a few moments today, let’s take our eyes off our own predicaments and focus on God.

I love this psalm because it makes me want to shout with joy and wonder in praise – not that I would actually do such an uninhibited thing. Shouting around the house is not my thing, but feeling inside like I might is the best this introvert can manage. God is so mighty, and I am loved by a mighty and creative God.

I love the contrast in the first few words of this psalm. O LORD – an acknowledgement of how big our God is. I think of a chorus my kids used to love to sing – “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty; there’s nothing my God cannot do”. I can still picture their enthusiasm as they sang the song and did the actions, making their little arms go as wide as they could to illustrate how big God is. But then “our Lord” – this big, mighty God is my God. He made the universe, but He has a personal relationship with me, just one little person in this world. How amazing is that!

There is that same huge contrast in the next verses as well. We go from the God of the universe to the God who cares for babies, the most vulnerable of the human race. Yet it’s interesting how the psalmist says that little children can tell of God’s strength most effectively. There is an interesting story in Matthew 21. The chief priests were having a really bad day. First there was the triumphant entry to Jerusalem by Jesus riding on a donkey with hordes of people praising him and shouting Hosanna in the highest. Then Jesus drove out the people buying and selling in the temple courtyards as He declared the place a robbers’ den. Jesus also healed some people in the temple. Children were shouting Hosanna to the Son of David in the temple as well. The chief priests came to Jesus and said, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” Jesus replies with verse 2 of this psalm. End of story. What can you say to the truth spoken by children?

Have you ever been in a somewhat tense situation when a child asks a question or makes a comment that strikes right to the truth, and there is a silence and awe that shuts the adults right up? I remember once having a conversation in a parking lot as my husband and I, along with our daughter’s family who were visiting, tried to decide how to spend the rest of the day. There were various points of view on the situation, and at one point, someone said, “I don’t know what’s best”. Our five-year-old grandson piped up, “God knows”. There was silence, then laughter, and Nate was assured he was right … and it was surprising how quickly after that the decision was made about what we would do next.

Then there is the contrast in verses 3 and 4. When we look at the creation God has made, it does fill us with awe and it does make us feel insignificant in comparison. Why would God even think about us when He can do whatever He wants? The last part of verse 4 gets to the heart of the matter – why would He even care about us? The rest of the psalm talks about this. We are not insignificant; we are made “only a little lower than God”. The Bible tells us we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). We were created to rule over planet earth, and to have a relationship with God. Is God way greater than we are? Yes! But we are not insignificant to God. And we have a job to do in caring for our world – a whole other topic.

No wonder the psalmist ends by once again declaring “O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”

Creator God, personal God.
Think about that today when you run into a difficult situation.

Today’s song is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

July 16 Hope

God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.”Oswald Chambers, The Delight of Despair

I’ve had an analogy in my head that when things overwhelm me, I’m wearing a big backpack. And when I can’t begin to see a way out of the problems that cripple me, I envision throwing them all in this backpack that I carry around. Yet, the problem with the backpack imagery, is that I’m still carrying it. Things I’ve wanted to be rid of – fear, worry, anxieties – are still over me. I would love to just drop off my backpack of troubles, kick it off a dock, or leave on someone’s else’s porch. 

If you’re going through hell, keep going.”Winston Churchill

Instead of drop-kicking the backpack of problems to the sidewalk, I should open the backpack, and gaze into the bag. Sorting through our difficulties causes pain, sadness and many times we’re left with a feeling of hopelessness.

Hope is defined as: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or

trusting that something will happen. When we choose to believe possibilities instead of failures our hearts adhere to it, our actions follow.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name”
Cornerstone, Hillsong Worship

God sent his son Jesus, to save the world – (not judge, debate, or divide it)- but to save it. We needed saving yes, but right now we need hope. Looking at the last 7 months of 2020, we could use a serious dose.

If God is our secure source of hope, then I can confidently hope in what he says. Furthermore, I can dump my hopelessness off with him. 

And the fame of his name will birth hope among the people.”Matthew 12:21 TPT

God, the one and only- I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul. An impregnable castle; I’m set for life.”Psalm 62:5 (MSG)

I hope one day my life will look like _____. I hope my kids will be respectful citizens. I hope our world will find harmony. I hope this pandemic ends. As there’s no guarantee in our hopes, hope, faith and trust go hand in hand. I can turn my worries into hope, into prayers. Believing that all these things will happen. 

Let’s feel our moments of hopelessness, then choose otherwise. Our pathways to joy lie in our ability to choose hope first. 

Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times.”Romans 12:12 TPT

The anchor for our souls.
I hope for you, for us, for this time now.

Further Reading:

“So then, my soul why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for living before his face is my saving grace!” -Psalms 42:5 TPT

“ There are times when God cannot reveal Himself in any other way than in His majesty, and it is the awesomeness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair. You experience this joy in hopelessness, realizing that if you are ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God.” -Oswald Chambers, The Delight of Despair

“It is because of hope that you suffer. It is through hope that you’ll change things.” -Maxime Lagacé 

July 15 – The Resurrection

Before we begin today, I want to mention some things that will clarify what you are about to read. Early manuscripts end at verse 8. Many scholars think verses 9 to 20 were added decades later. We’ll take a look at verses 1 to 8, and then I’ll summarize what scholars say about the end verses.

Mark 16

“The Resurrection

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.”

Very early on Sunday morning, three women are on their way to the tomb to place burial spices on Jesus’ body. Jesus had been crucified on Friday, and they were unable to do anything on Saturday because that was the Sabbath. Saturday night (after sundown) they were able to pool their money and purchase the burial spices. As they head to the tomb, they are wondering how they will be able to roll the stone away from the doorway. Those stones were made to rest in a channel at the doorway – easy to roll in, but almost impossible to roll out. So it’s not surprising that they are discussing how they will get access to Jesus’ body. This would not have been an easy task even if they could get access to the tomb, because this was the third day after Jesus’ death. His mangled body from the beatings, torture and crucifixion would have been in a lot of decay, but didn’t stop them from doing what they considered necessary for a person they loved.

Much to their surprise, the stone was already rolled away, and when they entered, they found an angel who looked like a young man clothed in white waiting for them. The Bible says they were shocked. Apparently, that is a strong word in Greek. I want us to stop and think for a moment about this.

The disciples and Jesus’ followers entered Jerusalem the first time before Passover with crowds waving palm branches, throwing clothes on the road as a sign of respect, and praising Jesus. They had been with Jesus for 3 years, and they had seen miracles that had astounded them – walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, calming storms, his transfiguration on the Mount of Olives, raising Lazarus from the dead. In exchanges with the Temple leaders, he had always made them very embarrassed. Don’t you think that they thought that nothing could stop Jesus? I know he had told them he was going to be handed over to the Temple leaders and killed, but I suspect they really didn’t take that in completely. You’ve probably had moments where you’ve wondered if you actually heard what was said, and dismissed it as highly unlikely.

What happened that Friday must have devastated the disciples and Jesus’ followers. Watching him tortured, and likely screaming as the soldiers beat and slashed him must have been agonizing. Looking at the broken body on the cross – how appalling! Their world had been shattered and all their dreams and hopes crushed completely.

No wonder the women were shocked when they saw the angel and the empty tomb. Notice how the angel repeatedly tells them that Jesus isn’t there. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.” (v. 6) He told them Jesus wasn’t there. He told them the reason was because Jesus had risen from the dead. He also told them to look at the exact place where the body had been, so they could be sure Jesus wasn’t there. If you were there, you would have needed that repetition too. Was it really true? Nothing like this had ever happened before!

The angel then tells them to go and tell the disciples, and especially Peter. I love that God knows that a man who must be in the depths of depression over his denial of knowing Jesus needed to be reassured that God loved him. That loving, caring nature of God for those of us who fail is so amazing!

Mark ends his gospel at verse 8. This is actually not a ‘happy ending’ account. It’s an abrupt stop. Other gospels give more details. Mark’s gospel tends to be very basic detailed oriented. I’d encourage you to reread Mark in the next week or two. We’ve looked at it for a little over 2 months, but now that you’ve read it in small sections, it would be good to read it right through to get the whole impression that Mark is giving of Jesus. Perhaps Mark ended with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, the fact that changed history completely. But the resurrection was actually the beginning – the beginning of the new church, the church that would include every person on earth regardless of their nationality or culture.

It’s the beginning of hope for us; Jesus’ resurrection brings us hope that death is not the end for us. We will have life everlasting someday with him. 1 Corinthians 15: 20 – 23 says:

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.”

But the resurrection also began a time when we will still face difficulty until Jesus’ return. However, we are not alone. Romans 8: 11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Read that again. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is now available to you. The Holy Spirit dwells within each Christ follower. We know we fail and mess up, but we can also be assured that the Holy Spirit is helping us through all our hard times.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8: 26 – 28

Jesus’ resurrection brings us hope for today and hope for the future. Amen!!!

Our song today is Christ is Risen by Phil Wickham

Mark 16

“The Resurrection

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.”

Very early on Sunday morning, three women are on their way to the tomb to place burial spices on Jesus’ body. Jesus had been crucified on Friday, and they were unable to do anything on Saturday because that was the Sabbath. Saturday night (after sundown) they were able to pool their money and purchase the burial spices. As they head to the tomb, they are wondering how they will be able to roll the stone away from the doorway. Those stones were made to rest in a channel at the doorway – easy to roll in, but almost impossible to roll out. So it’s not surprising that they are discussing how they will get access to Jesus’ body. This would not have been an easy task even if they could get access to the tomb, because this was the third day after Jesus’ death. His mangled body from the beatings, torture and crucifixion would have been in a lot of decay, but didn’t stop them from doing what they considered necessary for a person they loved.

Much to their surprise, the stone was already rolled away, and when they entered, they found an angel who looked like a young man clothed in white waiting for them. The Bible says they were shocked. Apparently, that is a strong word in Greek. I want us to stop and think for a moment about this.

The disciples and Jesus’ followers entered Jerusalem the first time before Passover with crowds waving palm branches, throwing clothes on the road as a sign of respect, and praising Jesus. They had been with Jesus for 3 years, and they had seen miracles that had astounded them – walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, calming storms, his transfiguration on the Mount of Olives, raising Lazarus from the dead. In exchanges with the Temple leaders, he had always made them very embarrassed. Don’t you think that they thought that nothing could stop Jesus? I know he had told them he was going to be handed over to the Temple leaders and killed, but I suspect they really didn’t take that in completely. You’ve probably had moments where you’ve wondered if you actually heard what was said, and dismissed it as highly unlikely.

What happened that Friday must have devastated the disciples and Jesus’ followers. Watching him tortured, and likely screaming as the soldiers beat and slashed him must have been agonizing. Looking at the broken body on the cross – how appalling! Their world had been shattered and all their dreams and hopes crushed completely.

No wonder the women were shocked when they saw the angel and the empty tomb. Notice how the angel repeatedly tells them that Jesus isn’t there. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.” (v. 6) He told them Jesus wasn’t there. He told them the reason was because Jesus had risen from the dead. He also told them to look at the exact place where the body had been, so they could be sure Jesus wasn’t there. If you were there, you would have needed that repetition too. Was it really true? Nothing like this had ever happened before!

The angel then tells them to go and tell the disciples, and especially Peter. I love that God knows that a man who must be in the depths of depression over his denial of knowing Jesus needed to be reassured that God loved him. That loving, caring nature of God for those of us who fail is so amazing!

Mark ends his gospel at verse 8. This is actually not a ‘happy ending’ account. It’s an abrupt stop. Other gospels give more details. Mark’s gospel tends to be very basic detailed oriented. I’d encourage you to reread Mark in the next week or two. We’ve looked at it for a little over 2 months, but now that you’ve read it in small sections, it would be good to read it right through to get the whole impression that Mark is giving of Jesus. Perhaps Mark ended with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, the fact that changed history completely. But the resurrection was actually the beginning – the beginning of the new church, the church that would include every person on earth regardless of their nationality or culture.

It’s the beginning of hope for us; Jesus’ resurrection brings us hope that death is not the end for us. We will have life everlasting someday with him. 1 Corinthians 15: 20 – 23 says:

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.”

But the resurrection also began a time when we will still face difficulty until Jesus’ return. However, we are not alone. Romans 8: 11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Read that again. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is now available to you. The Holy Spirit dwells within each Christ follower. We know we fail and mess up, but we can also be assured that the Holy Spirit is helping us through all our hard times.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8: 26 – 28

Jesus’ resurrection brings us hope for today and hope for the future. Amen!!!

Our song today is Christ is Risen by Phil Wickham

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Here are the remaining verses that are included in many translations of the Bible. The verses below were taken from the New Living Translation which includes dark italicized introductions.

Scholars today think that sections of the other gospels were added to Mark’s gospel several years after Mark’s gospel was written. Many of the things mentioned in verses 9 to 20 come from the various gospels. I’ll include where they came from as you read these remaining 11 verses.

[The most ancient manuscripts of Mark conclude with verse 16:8. Later manuscripts add one or both of the following endings.]

[Shorter Ending of Mark]

Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.

[Longer Ending of Mark]

After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.

(These details are also found in John 20: 11 to 18 and in Luke 8: 12 (facts about the demons).)

12 Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. 13 They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.

(The story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus is found in Luke 24: 13 – 35)

14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.

(This account is in Luke 24: 36 – 49 as well as John 20: 19 – 23)

15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

(This is an extended version of the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 19 and Acts 1:8. The signs mentioned are in various gospels and Acts except for the mention of drinking poison.)

19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

(Jesus’ ascension was told in Luke 24: 51 and in Acts 1: 9 – 11)

Here are the remaining verses that are included in many translations of the Bible. The verses below were taken from the New Living Translation which includes dark italicized introductions.

Scholars today think that sections of the other gospels were added to Mark’s gospel several years after Mark’s gospel was written. Many of the things mentioned in verses 9 to 20 come from the various gospels. I’ll include where they came from as you read these remaining 11 verses.

[The most ancient manuscripts of Mark conclude with verse 16:8. Later manuscripts add one or both of the following endings.]

[Shorter Ending of Mark]

Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.

[Longer Ending of Mark]

After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.

(These details are also found in John 20: 11 to 18 and in Luke 8: 12 (facts about the demons).)

12 Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. 13 They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.

(The story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus is found in Luke 24: 13 – 35)

14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.

(This account is in Luke 24: 36 – 49 as well as John 20: 19 – 23)

15 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

(This is an extended version of the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 19 and Acts 1:8. The signs mentioned are in various gospels and Acts except for the mention of drinking poison.)

19 When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.

(Jesus’ ascension was told in Luke 24: 51 and in Acts 1: 9 – 11)

July 14 – Jesus Took It All for Us

Mark 15

“Jesus’ Trial before Pilate

Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council (Sanhedrin) – met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

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

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner—anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.

“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

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

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

15 So to pacify the crowd, 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.”

I am going to be referring to Steve Wilmhurst’s commentary, A Ransom for Many, several times in today’s devotions as well as some direct quotes. There were many points he made that I’d never considered before, and found so interesting and helpful.

Steve Wilmhurst talks about what Jesus went through the previous 12 hours before he was brought to Pilate.

“It is worth recalling what Jesus has already been through before he faces Pilate. In the course of a totally sleepless night, he has struggled with the horror of death and the dread of God’s wrath as he’s wrestled in solitary prayer; he has been betrayed by an ally and deserted by his friends; he has faced volleys of unjust accusations by people who hate him; and then he’s been beaten up – all in the last twelve hours. In other words, before this story even begins, he has encountered more trauma and provocation than we ever will.”

We often wonder how people could be so fickle. It was just over a week before when they celebrated Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. In his commentary, Steve Wilmhurst mentions that the crowd we see in this scene is not the crowd who sang Hosanna to Jesus. Those people were Jews from all over the countryside who were on their way to Jerusalem, and met Jesus along the way. They would likely camp out outside Jerusalem at night, and not be present at this early morning hour. The crowd in this chapter probably had gathered near where the Sanhedrin met, and they followed the Temple leaders as they brought Jesus to Pilate. They were more likely under the influence of the Temple leaders.

Pilate has obviously figured out that Jesus is not really a problem. “For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy”. (v. 10) He has questioned Jesus himself, and really found nothing to convict him of. He likely thought he could avoid the whole situation by offering a release of a prisoner, a custom practiced at this time of year. Instead, the crowd calls for Barabbas, not Jesus. (“ But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus” – v. 11)

Steve Wilmhurst tells us more about Barabbas. “Thirdly, let’s look at Barabbas. All the gospel writers mention Barabbas, but while Mark’s account of Jesus and Pilate is barely half the length of what we find in the other three gospels, he tells us more about Barabbas than any of them do. Mark clearly wants us to think about this man. What does he want us to see? Whatever his precise motives, Barabbas is a murderer. In one of the frequent failed uprisings of those days, he has killed people – perhaps he even managed to kill a Roman soldier, or maybe it was just some Jewish collaborator. He is a big sinner; a certainty for crucifixion, he fully deserves what he is going to get. By rights, it should be Barabbas carrying his cross out to Golgotha with the other criminals, that spring Friday morning. But instead, the soldier who comes and takes him from his cell this morning does not drag him outside the city walls to the place of execution. Instead, he leads him to the gates of the fortress, pushes him outside and turns his back, Go on – you’re free! And that is what the cross of Jesus does. The cross substitutes an innocent victim for a guilty criminal, so that the guilty criminal walks free. Barabbas is you and me – the offenders, the criminals, the guilty ones: released from our cell, taken out into the light, and set free. Like us, Barabbas deserves his sentence. Like us, Barabbas contributes nothing to his freedom except for his sin. As with us, the action takes place somewhere else while he reaps the benefit – just outside the city, where the innocent victim is nailed to the cross and takes the wrath of God on himself; and meanwhile we walk free.”

“The Soldiers Mock Jesus

16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, (a city in North Africa) was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

24 Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries (criminals) were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

39 When the Roman officer (centurion) who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.

The Burial of Jesus

42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.”

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, there were taunts thrown at him. One was the label at the top of the cross – King of the Jews. They thought – especially Pilate – that claim was ridiculous. The Roman Empire was in control, and Israel certainly didn’t have a king. The fact that Jesus did not deny it (v. 2) showed just how pathetic Jesus was, didn’t it? The temple leaders had used the term, King of the Jews, as a rough translation of Messiah, thinking Pilate would be more upset with the idea of someone who thought he was a king. That sign nailed to the top of the cross actually stated the truth. Jesus was the Messiah!

Many walked by the cross taunting by saying, “Ha! 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, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (v. 29 – 30) Where did they get that idea? In John 2, we read the account of Jesus going to the Temple close to Passover time earlier in his ministry.

“It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

18 But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”

19 “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” 21 But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body.”

As they yelled at Jesus on the cross, you can imagine them saying the Temple looks quite wonderful. It’s still standing firm this morning. Haha. Yet that taunt was the truth. We know that Jesus raised from the dead in 3 days. Maybe that taunt was actually a calming reminder to Jesus that this horror would be over in 3 days.

Others taunted him with “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself!  “Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” (v. 31 – 32) For three years they had watched him heal many. We’ve read the stories as we’ve gone through the Gospel of Mark. Jesus had even raised people from the dead. The priests and religious leaders thought they had it right. Jesus may have done some mysterious things, but he sure couldn’t save himself now. But … actually they spoke the truth. Jesus had saved many people from disease and death. But he would not save himself. His purpose for being here on earth was to save us by his own death.

1 Peter 2:24

“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.”

That day was the most important day in history. It was the day that changed everything. It was the day that made our relationship with God possible. We humans, both the Jews and the Romans, thought we were getting rid of am imposter, a pathetic man. Actually, we were the recipients of God’s incredible love and forgiveness. Why didn’t God ‘write us off’? I would have if someone I was trying to help treated me like they treated Jesus. We can never thank him enough, serve him enough, love him enough – but that didn’t matter to Jesus. He loved us so much more!

Steve Wilmhurst, A Ransom for Many: the Gospel of Mark Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series, Evangelical Press, 2011 – Chapter 22

Here is a song that expresses this chapter – At the Cross by Hillsong

July 13 – Jesus Stands Strong for Me Despite My Failures

Mark 14: 32 – 72 NLT

“Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Luke 22: 40 – 46 recounts the same story, but adds some details, so let’s read Luke’s account:

40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”

41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”

These moments in the Garden of Gethsemane are crucial moments. Jesus is God, one of the Trinity. He could have decided to walk away. He knew where his captors were; he would have had no difficulty in avoiding what was to come. In fact, he could have struck them all dead on the spot. But … he stayed and waited.

Here we see Jesus in his full humanity as well. He knows the horror ahead, and his body is reacting to the extreme stress – sweating drops of blood. Was it just the pain and suffering of a death by crucifixion that Jesus was dreading? That would have been terrifying from scientific data about that type of death. But – no! Jesus was about to face the wrath of God on sin dumped completely on him. Every single sin that each one of us has done would be loaded on Jesus to take the punishment. Just stop and think for a moment of the enormity of that. That God was willing to place that on Jesus, and that Jesus was willing to take it for us is beyond my comprehension.

How did Jesus face this upcoming horror? He prayed. I’m going to ask that question again. How did Jesus face this upcoming horror? … He prayed. And what did he ask the disciples to do? he asked them to pray.

Was he asking them to pray for him? Maybe, since we know as humans that when we face difficult situations, we are comforted when we know others are with us and praying for us. However, I think Jesus wanted them to pray for themselves since Jesus knew what was ahead. Did you notice that in both Mark and Luke’s accounts, Jesus said, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” While Jesus was praying for God’s strength to continue in his journey to the cross, Jesus also wanted his disciples to pray for the strength they needed to face the next week.

Did the disciples pray? No. They fell asleep. In fact, they fell asleep at least twice after Jesus woke them and asked them to pray. They had had a long day with preparing for the Passover, and then the supper and the conversations at the table, the walk to the Garden late at night where the fragrance of the olive trees would have been calming. I understand their fatigue and sleep. Was Jesus angry with them? Listen to Jesus as he wakes them finally to meet the oncoming Temple police: “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Jesus’ kindness in the face of their weakness is amazing. Let’s read the rest of this chapter to see how things turned out that night:

“Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested

43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.

46 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.

48 Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”

50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 51 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, 52 he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.

Jesus before the Council

53 They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered. 54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.

55 Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council (Sanhedrin) were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’” 59 But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!

60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 Jesus said, “I am. (Exodus 3: 14) And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”

65 Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.

Peter Denies Jesus

66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”

68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.

69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70 But Peter denied it again.

A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”

71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.”

The arrest was a little sloppy. Other gospels tell us that it was Peter who chopped off the ear of one of the guards, and that Jesus healed the man. It’s not surprising that impetuous Peter would do something like that. But as Jesus is bound to be taken away, all the disciples fled. Notice that? ALL the disciples fled. Mark is the only one who includes a brief story of a young man who fled naked. Here is what Steve Wilmhurst says about that:

“In vv.51-52, Mark presents an intriguing little episode. Who is this unexpected character and whatever is he doing in the story? Mark’s gospel is the only one that includes him, and that is always significant. We can deduce that he got dressed in a tearing hurry, because he has nothing on under his garment; and that he is fairly well-off, because he is wearing linen. The most likely explanation is that this young man is none other than Mark himself, our author. We know Mark’s family lived in Jerusalem: it was a meeting place of the early church (Acts 12:12). Tradition has always held that it’s the same house where Jesus has just shared the Passover with his disciples. So perhaps Mark has done what Hollywood film directors sometimes do and given himself a cameo role in his own production, in which case Mark is actually an eye-witness of this episode!”

The trial in the high priest’s home was a farce. They couldn’t actually get any incriminating evidence that they thought the Romans would accept. It wasn’t until the high priest asked Jesus – “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” – that they felt they had a good case they could present to the Roman governor. Jesus’ reply (“I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”) could be interpreted as a threat to the Roman rule. The beating and harsh, disrespectful treatment began at the high priest’s house, even before they took Jesus to Pilate.

The disciples had fled, but Peter snuck into the courtyard of the high priest’s home to be able to see what was happening. When he was confronted by various servants and people in the courtyard about being associated with Jesus, Peter denied it. When that rooster crowed the second time, Peter was devastated.

The verses we’ve read today strike me in two ways. The first is our need to pray. Jesus prayed for the strength to face the horror ahead. In prayer, he went from extreme stress, sweating drops of blood and falling on the ground to being able to be kind to his disciples who kept falling asleep, and being able to treat the Temple guards with a peaceful calm. It’s from God that we get the strength to be able to face the challenges that life brings. Jesus comes right out and says, “pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”

Prayer is something we desperately need to do. I know that I struggle with prayer and I suspect that many of us do. In our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to pray. We have a tendency to think we have the mundane events of each day under control, and we just go through our day with little thought of talking with God. It’s when crisis strikes that we remember to pray. We need to realize that we need God every moment of each day, and that prayer is necessary.

The fact that Jesus was so kind to the disciples when they completely failed him is amazing. They fell asleep when he asked them to pray. They ran away when the Temple guards arrested Jesus. Peter managed to sneak in to see what was happening, but then denied vehemently that he knew Jesus at all. God’s love for us and his forgiveness for our failures is so hard to comprehend. He is so patient with us. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2: 4 NLT) We can know in this loving relationship we have with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice, that our failure can be forgiven. Remember it’s a loving relationship, so it’s not a relationship where we keep on doing whatever we want, expecting God to put up with us. That wouldn’t work in any human relationship either. But, it is amazing that God is patient and is willing to forgive. He does so much for us.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1: 9