Who But God!



As I look at the swirl of tragic news filling every means of reporting, I am reminded of the warfare in it all. I can be tempted to agree with those who lay blame to all the technological advances that pour all of this news out without sifting much of it for truth or a need to be shared. I can also be tempted to see the ways it can be used for so many negative and harmful things.


I look at the Internet and how it is used to dull our minds with its endless rabbit trails as well as how it can seduce us and take us away from our values and beliefs. I see how it can trap anyone into relationships and entities that are dangerous, unsafe, and evil. I see as well how it can be used to allow those who are intent on evil to communicate and achieve their ends of death and destruction on innocent people who are just going along doing life.


All of it seems to heighten my awareness of the power we give over to this invention and the enemy’s blatant use of it.


Over and over I hear the cry to unplug from all the devices we have that pull us toward these things. It’s true there are important boundaries that must be set for our children and us as well. But recently as I was reading several posts from other bloggers that offered encouragement, calls to prayer, exhortations to community and the Word, I felt as though the Lord gave me another view that many of us are missing.


The Lord has prompted so many to create websites and write or blog with messages of hope, testimonies of grace, calls toward enhancing our spiritual lives, and deepen our walk with Him. We do it as we feel led or have time.


We step out into thin air and share reflections and truths the Lord has worked into our own hearts and lives. When we are real, we confess to our venerable feelings about the risks we take to share and put our lives and hearts “out there” to the possibility of being misunderstood and judged. We acknowledge how inadequate we can often feel as well as the fear that can creep in when we take such risks.


Will anyone read it? What will those who know me think? What about people who have no idea of who I am, read it, and reach conclusions far from the truth? (Am I reading some of your minds?)


If that resonates with you, what I want you to hear and see that connects with the photo is that the Lord also has given me a glimpse of how He is using us to provide a network of little lights encircling the world.


Who but God could create a stealth network of His children using the very tools that the enemy believes are his domain to spread light, truth, and hope to the world weighed down with so much?


We are His witnesses.


We write from far-reaching places. We sit with computers in large cities and small, in apartments and homes, in different states, on different continents. We sit in the midst of our own lives in whatever season we are in and the Lord births in us those words that show up on our screen. We can doubt their worth and much of it can be simply our own reflecting, but I think He is still the author and we are His testimony.


We have no real certainty how our readers find us despite a foggy idea perhaps about search engines and various classes and courses on blogging and marketing. We sometimes can be tempted to forget it all, but there is a call in us, a passion in us that keeps whispering and nudging us even on days we may feel we have nothing to say or nothing that others would find worth reading.


I think when the Lord gave me this picture of us, He wanted me to debunk all those lies and remind you and myself that He is in this. As we offer ourselves to Him in what we share, we lay it in His hands for his use.


We may never know how, where, or with whom He uses it, but after all is said and done it was always about Him anyway and the call and gifts He placed in us that we acted on despite those who may have caused us to doubt we could or should.


God has a habit of using unknown people in ways that astounds those whose fame is well known.


God has agents of His own spreading the truth of His gospel as “light bearers”.


And so, I can be content and humbled that we are a stealth army, a force for His kingdom and His purposes using the very devises the enemy believes he owns.




It Has Happened As He Said



And so, it all came true, just as He said. He was betrayed, mocked, beaten, taunted, humiliated and crucified. Even though many had heard Him say this would happen, I suspect there were more than a few who were still shocked at the happenings they had witnessed.


How many of them felt anguish at what they had seen?


How many of them had felt sorrow over their response to Him?


Then, just as He said, in the early morning of the first day of the week, He was missing from the tomb and alive once more. He was back and yet not the same and not permanently. Even those closest to Him did not immediately recognize Him.


For forty days He will walk the earth and be seen by those who will then bear witness that He is indeed alive. Then, He ascends into heaven. How they must have longed for Him to stay.


Those who had followed Him were not leaders, not scholars. They were common people. He had taught them so much, but how much had they understood? How much had been woven into the fabric of their hearts?


Despite all that He had said, it would have been easy for some to think this was the end of it all. For some, He had again not met their expectations or hopes.


I think so often how much you and I are like them. When our expectations and hopes in Him are disappointed, it can be so easy to doubt, to turn away, to give in to our self-pity, and to give up on trusting Him no matter what.


He had promised them He was sending them a Helper, but I cannot help but think they could not have known what that meant. What would happen in the Upper Room had never happened before. They had no frame of reference, but from this ragtag group of followers, one hundred twenty would obey in this and wait in that room for what would come next.


They would discover that what they had witnessed was not the end. It was not even the beginning of the end. It was the beginning of the power of His life and ministry that would fill each of them in such a way that His message would spread across the entire world. Despite persecution, despite all obstacles, it would continue to spread and go on living to the present moment.


You and I are still a part of that “going on” in this present hour.


 We have celebrated Easter, but what now?


Do we recognize that He has placed the path before us and entrusted that we would continue to spread the Good News?


It can be easy for any one of us to listen or read the story and think of it as a scene from “back there” and fail to realize it is still ongoing and if you and I are alive today, each of us who call Him Lord has been given a role to play.


Yes, He could do it without us, but He has chosen to invite us to participate with Him.


Each of His disciples had a different path. We, His current disciples each have a different path.


Are we listening?


Have we responded and if so, how?


They walked with Him, but we live by and through Him. They saw Him ascend to His Father. We may yet see Him return to the same Mount of Olives from which He ascended.










God’s Darkest Hours


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Photo by Elise Finch

As the sun began to set, those who had followed the Lord could not let go of the events of the day. He had clearly told them, but what they had witnessed was beyond their imagination despite His words.


What would it have been like to be one of His disciples on that long, wrenching day at the end of such an incredible week?


I wonder.


Would I have steeled myself against the horror unfolding and clung to His words while still standing at the foot of the cross or would I have been one of those who were not present?


Would I have been overcome by grief and fear of what would happen next or would I have fallen prey to doubt?


So much had happened during this week…


The triumph of Palm Sunday had filled so many with hope and celebration! Then on Monday Jesus had entered the temple courts zealously overturning the tables of the moneychangers who were buying and selling. He was reminding them this place was to be a place of prayer and not one of robbers. A noisy melee broke out in the chaos of doves and money flying everywhere, people scrambling, and reeling at the scene. They had never seen Jesus this way.


Then on Tuesday as the disciples were walking along with Him, He had cursed the fig tree that was not producing fruit. How puzzled they seemed to be at how quickly the tree had withered before their very eyes! Once more He exhorted them if they had faith and believed as they prayed, what they prayed would be done.


How astonishing were those things the disciples witnessed, but now to think He was saying they could do such things was more than they could take in.


From there they went on to the temple courts that He had just cleared the day before and He was confronted by the chief priests and elders about where He had received authority to do what He had done. It was a trap they were setting for Him and He knew it. His wise answer rebuffed them and left them stymied as Jesus then refused to answer them and expose their unbelief.


Then came the Olivet Discourse where He warned the disciples through another story. This time He spoke of the foolish and wise virgins charging them to keep watch. To think this admonition came prior to that long night in the Garden of Gethsemane and yet they had not taken in the meaning for either the future or the present.


How Jesus loved them and longed for His disciples to hear and understand!


I think He does for us as well. How can I possibly judge their behavior when I am not always listening and hesitating to follow if I don’t understand what He has asked of me?


It was on Wednesday that Judas slipped away from the others and made his bargain with the chief priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Did his fellow disciples have any clue he might be tempted to do such a thing?


It reminds me that in the “now” those I share the journey of faith with are also tempted even as I can be. How deeply and openly I share my doubts, fears, and temptations may well determine my ability or their ability to withstand it and make all the difference in this walk with Him. That means that I need to be purposeful in my times with those closest to me to help guard their hearts and allow them to guard mine as well.


Thursday was a feast day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Jesus directed His disciples where to go in the city and whom to speak with about preparing a place at his house for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate the feast.


When they were gathered there, Jesus broke bread and served wine giving thanks and once more giving them information few could likely grasp. He plainly told them they would not share this meal with Him again until they were together again in His Father’s kingdom.


They sang a hymn and then left for the Mount of Olives to the garden in Gethsemane. As they walked along in the moonlight, what was their conversation? Did they wonder at the interaction between Jesus and Judas? Did they question Judas abruptly leaving them?


Jesus wanted them to be with Him, to watch with Him, and to pray.


He knew and understood what lay before Him and despite His willingness to be obedient to His Father, His heart was in anguish and He asked His Father if there was any other way while still being willing to endure what lay ahead.


As the disciples looked back on that last sweet time with Jesus in the upper room and then their failure to watch with Him as he asked, were their own hearts burdened with guilt and shame for their failure?


The ugly scene of Judas arriving with soldiers to arrest Him angered them. How could he have done such a thing? Yet their own fear caused them to flee the scene. Peter’s curiosity brought him to the courtyard where early in the morning the prophecy Jesus had spoken about his betrayal would come to pass.


It was 6 AM on that Friday that Jesus would stand before Pilate. It had been a long night. He had already suffered much, but within an hour He was sent on to Herod for a decision on what to do with Him. Pilate must have hoped Herod would handle things, but instead he was returned to Pilate where Pilate looked for a way out and offered to release one of the prisoners. The priests had spurred on the crowd and elders who had arranged the betrayal by Judas to choose Barabbas rather than Jesus.


So in the end, as Old Testament prophets had foretold, Jesus was sentenced to death and by 8AM had been led away to Calvary. An hour later the grisly crucifixion had begun with only a handful of those He loved standing nearby to testify to the events. They were the ones who watched the soldiers casting lots for his clothing and heard the insults and mocking railed at Him.


These few would bear witness to the exchange Jesus had with the criminal crucified to one side of Him who was promised paradise. They also heard His words to His mother and the admonition to John to care for her as a son.


By noon that day, darkness covered the scene and at 1PM Jesus cried out to His Father and spoke of His thirst. By 2PM they would hear His final words “It is finished”. At the end of the ninth hour, the soldiers would thrust a spear in His side to assure He was dead. An earthquake would occur and then as sunset approached He was taken from the cross and Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb as a burial place.


The sun sank further and further and I might think the disciples’ hearts weighed heavy as it dipped below the horizon.


Was it all over?


What would become of them?


It was God’s darkest hour as He set aside His Son’s life for me, for you, for any who believe in Him.


Good Friday?


Perhaps we for whom He died can say it was good because He gave us the best gift we could have ever received.


 He gave us life with Him.


Photo by Elise Finch





Are We Asleep?

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mt. of Olives gives us poignant images of Jesus as He seeks his Father in anguish and travail as what we know of Holy Week nears the climax at the cross on Good Friday.


The place itself carries so much symbolism. The name of the garden represents an olive mill or olive press. Here, surrounded by olive trees harvested and pressed into oil, the passion of Jesus would begin.


He too would be crushed.


On this night, He would feel the crushing agony He was about to face and would plead with His Father to consider if there was no other way that His will might be accomplished. It was a deep crushing of His heart and spirit that would precede the crushing of His body as He would be beaten and then crucified.


Jesus and his disciples would have walked here after the Passover meal they have shared together. Passover was always at the time of the full moon so the moonlight would have illuminated the path they took. He had already spoken of what was to happen to Him when He had broken bread and poured out the wine, but what did the disciples really understand?


He had invited them to share this night with Him, this elite group who had walked with Him during His three years of ministry. They had heard His teaching, seen His miracles, and enjoyed the intimacy of His company that was theirs alone.


And of course there were the three closest to Him (Peter, James, and John) who even on this night were singled out to go farther with Him into the garden where He would fall on His knees. These three had been chosen to be with Him and observed His transfiguration. They were perhaps His closest companions and now they had been invited into another very sacred moment.


As I read the passage and how the disciples responded to His need and how Peter, James, and John fell asleep, I can feel anguish for Jesus in His loneliness. I confess to feeling very judgmental of the disciples for their failure to watch with Him, pray with Him, be truly with Him.


Jesus had told them He would lay down His life and be taken from them and asked them to watch and pray. We have a similar image when Elijah tells Elisha he will be taken, but Elisha does not depart nor take his eyes from Elijah.


Peter, James, and John, however, have fallen asleep despite the Lord’s attempt to awaken them more than once. Even though He has shared with them that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to the point of death, their concern for Him does not keep them alert to minister to Him.


What about this troubles me so much?


I think there is something inside of me that wonders if I too fail to be concerned about His heart, His desire for my companionship. How often do I think about or even consider it?


Perhaps we are more like those disciples than we would desire to admit.


They were tired. They had been with Him ministering day after day doing the business of ministry and caring for the people. Now they fail to care for Him, for His heart, in this dark hour.


Have they been so busy doing the work of ministry they were insensitive to His desire for a relationship with them above all else?


Am I? Are you? Can we be caught up in doing so many good things for Him that we have little energy to simply be with Him?


 Ultimately, He offered them grace even as He does us, but I am drawn back to the reality that He left off praying and had gone to them. What was He seeking from them, hoping for?


We will never know.


What I am reminded of as I read the passage out of Matthew 26 is this:

I don’t want to be too tired, too weary, too involved with the busyness of life or ministry that when He comes and simply wants to spend time with me that I fall asleep and miss that time He has carved out for me.


This passage isn’t the only passage in scripture that speaks to being available and ready for being with Him. We see it when Mary chooses the best part. We see it in the parable of the foolish virgins when they have no oil and miss the Lord’s appearing.


Lord, help me, help us, to be available to you, to be alert, and to be ready and make time to be with you the priority. You gave us all you had, sparing nothing. Awaken my heart, our hearts, to what you most desire of me, of us.


 Are we asleep?





Would They Recognize Him Now? Would We?




Jesus had been in their midst for three years. They had watched Him heal the sick. They had watched Him feed the 5,000 and the 4,000. They had seen Him send the moneychangers fleeing from the temple, but was He the king they had been looking for?


There were doubts here and there because He did not appear as royalty. He had no kingly trappings. He had not gathered an army to stop Roman domination. Could this truly be the Messiah?


God had used many things to confirm the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Somehow doubt lingered, but then on Palm Sunday He gave them another image unlike the others and they quickly responded in their behavior even though days later their hearts would be far from Him.


The ride into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilled one more prophecy from Zechariah. He came on a lowly donkey, not in a chariot with runners ahead clearing the way and bidding people to bow.


He had always walked among them so this scene (so modest in many ways) still became a triumphal entry which abruptly caused those watching to cut palm fronds and throw them on the path before Him and wave them in the air, saluting Him with shouts of “Hosanna”!


It was a day of great joy and celebration at the outset of what would be a dark and tragic week.


It was also a day that points to the changeableness of the human mind and heart. It paradoxically points to the very reason He would be put to death later in the week and why His death would be necessary to pay for the sinful condition of humanity.


How could they have forgotten so easily what they had witnessed with their own eyes, heard with their own ears?


 This pivotal week in the Christian faith stirs many emotions and thoughts. We look back and consider, but do we also take note of the now and the not yet?


Do we now recognize how tepid our own responses to Him can be and where He fits into the priorities of our life?


 Do less committed brothers and sisters around us cause us to pursue a more casual relationship with Him and easily sway us?


Are we tempted to lay aside His principles, and truths for a more popular path?


Would we prefer an easy stroll behind Him rather than walking with Him?


I don’t think that most of us ever plan to do any of those things.


But ANY relationship left unattended falls into disrepair and distance.


 The crowd saluting Him would be influenced by their priests to deny what they had seen for themselves. It is an important reminder of personal accountability for our relationship with Him and the need not to allow others to deter us from what our hearts have responded to and confirmed.


What about Palm Sunday reminds us of the “not yet”?


As we look back and take note and learn, we also should remember to look forward to the next time He will arrive in Jerusalem in triumph. He will come as risen Lord and King. Will we be ready to ride with Him? Will He find us steadfast and unwavering?


Many places in scripture point to that “not yet” in the future. One that speaks to me as I close this is from Phil. 2:9-11


“Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11 ESV


 Let us look back and celebrate, take stock of our hearts now, and prepare for the greater celebration yet to come when our voices join in Hosanna to the King!