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Father Forgive Them

Jesus Christ on cross painting
 
Luke 23:34  “Father, forgive them…”

How ironic that a day of such sadness becomes so well known as “Good Friday.”  But this is very much in keeping with a right understanding of what went on this day, many years ago.  If you attend or view a Good Friday service today, the music will be solemn.  There probably won’t be any laughter.  There may even be the shedding of a tear or two as we consider all that happened to our Savior.  That in itself is “good” for Good Friday.  It means we understand our sin.  The solemn music, lack of joy, and presence of tears aren’t just because we are emotionally attached to Jesus.  It’s not just because we’re hearing a tragic, true story about the death of someone we love.  It’s because we know that we are involved in all of this.  It is our sin which brought this day about, and not just everyone else’s.

We’ve been thinking about this and talking about this for well over a month now.  It began on Ash Wednesday, a day on which the world considers us foolish for wallowing in our guilt, and making ourselves depressed because of all the things we’ve done wrong.  It’s not pleasant to consider such things, but it is extremely beneficial when we arrive at this day.  We get it right when the sorrow of this day centers on our responsibility for it.  And when we get that right, then this day really becomes a “good” Friday.

Look at what Jesus does!  The agony, the suffering, the death is not just a tragic story about a hero who sacrifices Himself.  This day is about the impossible love of God for you and for me.  See Him hanging on a cross!  The brutality and violence of that act pales in comparison to how determined Jesus was to undergo it.  He did this willingly, lovingly for us and for our forgiveness.  Hear His final Words!  They aren’t just poetic last thoughts of a dying man.  They are full of salvation and again, love.

How could that not be good?  How good it was that God would send His Son.  How good it was that Jesus came!  How good it was that He fulfilled His mission!  How good it was that God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us, that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.  It is an appropriate label for a sorrowful day.  A blessed GOOD Friday to us all!

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, nothing about this day seems good.  But we know better.  All that you did on this day is good for us, because now we are saved.  Our highest thanks and praise is to you, on this Good Friday.  Amen.

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Holy Week – Wednesday

gray praying hand statue
 
Matthew 26:39  “Yet not as I will, but as you will…”

We know what happened on each day of Holy Week, except Wednesday.  On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  On Monday, He drove out the moneychangers.  On Tuesday He taught around the temple courts.  On Thursday he was in the upper room with the disciples, among other things, giving them the Lord’s Supper.  On Friday, He was crucified.  On Saturday He was in the tomb, and then on Easter Sunday He rose.  What of Wednesday?  It’s the day of Holy Week we don’t have any events recorded and we really don’t know where He was.  But we can take a pretty good guess as to what Jesus was doing.  He was probably doing what he so often did.  He most certainly must have been in prayer.

We see a magnificent example of Jesus’ prayer on Thursday night when He was in Gethsemane.  Would the Wednesday prayer have been similar?  Perhaps.  In Gethsemane we note some characteristics of prayer.  Two particularly stick out.  Jesus was honest with the Father.  “If it is possible,” Jesus said, “take this cup from me.”  What a prayer!  Jesus knew full well that His destiny was the cross.  He knew full well what was the Father’s will.  And yet, He prayed honestly, exactly what was on His mind and in His heart. We should never be afraid of saying to God what we think, what we feel.  God is big enough to take it.  And when we have been honest in our prayer, perhaps it is then that we are most open, most attentive to hearing what God’s answers are, because we know and understand so clearly what we have asked of Him. 

The second beautiful characteristic of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is how He concluded it.  He said, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”  Yes, that’s how we should pray as well.  We pray honestly as Jesus did, and we pray full of faith that what God will do, and how God will answer, will be exactly right.  “Thy will be done” is a statement of faith that God knows far better what is best for our faith and life than we do.

No, we don’t know exactly what Jesus was doing on this day of Holy Week.  But I think we’re on pretty safe ground to assume that He was praying.  He was likely praying for Himself, for His disciples, for you, and for me.  That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, may our prayers be like your prayers.  May we be honest, and may we be full of faith that the Father’s will is exactly what is best.  Amen.

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Holy Week – Monday

 
Matthew 21:13  “My house will be called a house of prayer…”

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple area. The issue with the moneychangers wasn’t so much that things were being bought and sold around the temple, it’s how the buying and selling cheapened the right worship of God. 

There were many coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, and those coming would often be bringing a sacrifice to offer to God.  This was not necessarily an easy thing to do, nor should it have been.  If one were bringing a lamb, the perfect one would be chosen from back home.  After all, this is for God.  Perhaps the journey would be multiple days to get up to Jerusalem.  One would have to transport the lamb, feed the lamb, protect the lamb.  The journey to bring the sacrifice itself would be a sacrifice, and that was appropriate.  All the while the person or the family would be thinking how much they loved God, how much they wanted to offer the right gift to God, and would carefully make sure they’d be doing just that.

Enter the moneychangers.  They’d make it easy on you.  “Don’t worry about going through all the trouble transporting that lamb.  We’ll have one here for you.  Don’t inconvenience yourself bringing a sacrifice all that distance, just pick one up on the way in.  We’ll make a deal, half-price on Monday.”  That’s what irritated Jesus.  Add this to the loud bartering and haggling which would disrupt the reverence of those coming to worship, and you have a righteous reaction on Jesus’ part.  A house of prayer had been made into a den of thieves.  And so, Jesus drove them out.
 
How fitting, how appropriate that the one who drove out the moneychangers as they were cheapening the sacrifices, would Himself be the perfect sacrifice.  And how sacrificial His sacrifice was.  No easy act, this passion and crucifixion of Jesus.  The sacrifice of Himself was the biggest part of it all, but the sacrifice leading to the sacrifice demonstrates all the more fully how determined Jesus was to take our sins away.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, in this Holy Week, we remember with gratitude how perfect your sacrifice was for us and for our salvation.  Amen.

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Everyone Needs DAD: Depression

silhouette of kneeling man
 
And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? … Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me [in the grave]. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.” Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. [1 Samuel 28:16,19-20]

Have you ever had a day where it felt like you had no strength, no motivation? Have you ever had a time where you didn’t feel like moving, or doing anything at all? Lacking purpose, drive, motivation. Feeling worthless, useless, cast aside. 

These are tell-tale signs of depression. While some people face clinical depression (chemical imbalances and physiological issues), all of us face depression in our lives. All of us face the weight of depression. It is part of our human experience. 

Saul, the first king of Israel, was overcome with depression quite a lot. He turned away from God and decided to do his own thing. But he learned that his way was the wrong way. Then came the real trouble. Depression came upon him because he separated himself from God. 

We need our heavenly Father, our Abba, our Daddy. Being separated from God and God’s will leads us to places where we might not even want to move. Saul got so stuck in his own sin that he refused even to move back into the arms of his heavenly Father! No wonder he felt so depressed, with no strength left. 

What’s got you feeling depressed? As the old hymn says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Our Dad can do something about depression. Jesus cures our every weakness, when we find ourselves resting securely in Him. Don’t separate yourself from God, especially when the hard times come. God will see you through. Find help and find hope- here on earth, with family and friends and even professionals. But always remember to turn to God our Father, who promises to strengthen you and guide you with His will.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we lift up all people who are feeling depressed today. Life can be hard and there are so many difficult circumstances. But we know we can trust in You no matter what. May we always be found with You, and under the care of our Heavenly Father. Surround us with your presence, and others who care for us with the love of the Father. In Your name we pray, Amen.

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Psalms of Ascent (Part 3)

white petaled flower and yellow daisy flower
 
We spent this week walking through Psalm 121, one of the “Psalms of Ascent,” spoken as the Jewish people of the Old Testament made their pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The opening of the psalm reminded us that our help was not found in the things of this world, but in the Lord who created all things.  Then we were reminded that the Lord protects us from danger and temptation as we make our pilgrimage through a sinful world, but destined for heaven because of Jesus. 

The psalmist closes with these encouraging words, The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

The Christian walk is not an easy one.  When the Lord says He will not let our foot slip (Psalm 121:3) and that He will keep the heat of the sun from harming us (Psalm 121:5) and prevent us from becoming moonstruck, we dare not misinterpret God’s promises.  This does not mean that those who deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus will never have a problem in the world.  Just a glance over our shoulder will verify that our journey is often struck by disappointments, dangers and disasters.

The promise of our Savior is that in the midst of these troubles and trials He travels with us.  He will guide us.  He will help us.  He will never abandon us.  He has already saved us.  In the Lord’s Prayer was ask, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  This is the heart of Psalm 121.  The faith that the Lord has entrusted to us through His Word provides us power and strength to move through the problems and pains of life.  This faith is the power and strength to stand under the cross when we have sinned and know the peace of forgiveness.  This faith is the power and strength for us to know for certain that the perfect life we long to embrace is ours in heaven, thanks to Jesus.  Enjoy the journey.
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit, strength my faith that I may pass through the dangers and difficulties of this world with a solid faith in Jesus.  I pray in His powerful name.  Amen.

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