Could We Follow to the End?



There had been so many crowds that followed the Lord, sometimes barely giving Him an opportunity to rest. There had been the 12 disciples and those closest friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as well. There were those He had healed, delivered, and set free. Where were they as Jesus struggled to move with the cross appointed for Him on Golgotha?


Did many fear to come be with Him now? Were they unable to look upon Him after the brutal beatings that He had endured throughout the long night and six trials? There is no question it would have been a brutalized Jesus on that trip from Pilate’s edict and the “place of the Skull”. Were they ashamed for not speaking out for Him and demanding another is set free by Pilate?


It was the Persians who had invented crucifixion, but arguably the Romans would be the ones to perfect it and make it an institution reserved for the worst criminals and lowest of the classes. By design, death on a cross came slowly and involved great pain and humiliation. Yet it was this death Jesus chose to sacrifice for those who would believe in Him and receive His gift of grace.


Many had committed to stand and stay with Him. Few recognized what that might mean or perhaps cost them. In the end there would be only a few at the foot of the cross to watch and wait with Him in his agony.



How unimaginable it would have been for his mother to see her Son’s body that had been savagely beaten, strips of flesh torn from his back, and long thorns piercing His brow. How hard to endure seeing this broken body being forced onto the rough surface of the cross and nailed there. Would the sound of the nails being pounded into his feet and wrists ever stop echoing in her head?


Various passages point to several other women waiting with her through the ordeal and of course, we know John was there was well. Apart from the soldiers with them, we are unsure of any others who would have been a follower of His.


We all make commitments and when we do so, hopefully we are sincere despite the hard truth that we may commit without counting or considering the cost. The challenge we each face is whether or not we will endure until the end.


Endurance, the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way, is evidence of character and a requirement for running the Christian race. We gain it through the process of enduring itself along with a resolve and grace to never give up in the face of the challenges.


It’s interesting to observe those who endured witnessing the last hours of Jesus on the cross. I confess that I cannot imagine the fortitude it took to watch the One I so loved dying this way.


But sometimes it is also true that those who end up enduring and remaining to the end may surprise you. Who would have suspected Joseph of Arimathea who had been a secret disciple would expose himself to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus and provide his own new tomb for His burial? But he did and he also must have known it was crucial it be a new tomb that was used. If it had been an old tomb used for another, some may have said Jesus had come back to life when He touched the bones of a prophet. So now, at the end, Joseph steps out of the shadows and honors the Master openly that He chose to follow secretly.


And then there was Nicodemus who had come to see Jesus by night. He appears to come alongside Joseph to prepare Jesus for burial and provide for all that would be needed. Now, at the end, he brought 75 pounds of a mixture of aloes and myrrh and appeared to help remove the body to Joseph’s tomb to use while they bound the body in linen grave clothes. He too steps into the light of day to honor the Lord.


To endure requires overcoming to follow to the end. When John pens the letters to the churches in Revelation, each one contains a promise to those who overcome…those who endure to the end.


Lord, grant us endurance to follow to the end, to overcome our fear and doubt, and press into your power to be counted upon to the end.








An Unjust Trial

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It should have been me that was hauled into court in the middle of the night followed by the betrayal of one who had walked with me. I was guilty. I deserved no special counsel to defend me, no witnesses to speak for me. I deserved no grace, no mercy, and no second chances. And Jesus knew it. He knew that I was flawed through and through and had repeatedly failed Him. He knew I would fail Him again, even though I did not want to. I was no better than Peter…good intentions and yet fearful, unable to stand when the time came.


Even so, after that wretched scene in the garden when Judas arrived with as many as a cohort of Roman soldiers, He stepped in with the agreement He had made from the very beginning of time and allowed himself to be taken to the courts in my place.


The Romans must have feared Him (just as the high priest and the Pharisees). What need was there to send a cohort that may have been as many as 600 men? All those times when He had been teaching and preaching never resulted in riots. Surely they must have considered the possibility that He was the Son of God after all and yet they moved forward with the illegal trial just the same.


The might of Rome prized itself on the laws they had developed, but at this trial they violated no less than seven of their own laws in their haste to destroy this One whose power they feared would dissolve their own.


He went with the soldiers willingly even as He would willingly go to the cross. He chose the path He was to take. He chose me and He chose you when there was no excuse or reason that He should have except His great love and desire to extend compassion, grace, and mercy despite our lack of merit.


What an exhausting debacle of a night it was.    backlit-beach-clouds-700954


It was Annas He was taken to first. Annas was the power behind the throne in Jerusalem, father-in-law of Caiaphas whom he had put into office, and known for his cruelty and unscrupulous manner of persecution. That would be the first stop for Jesus in the long exhausting seven hours He would be tried through six different trials.


Annas would send Him then to Caiaphas. After all, it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be good for one man to die for the people. He governed by his own rules and policy that he set without equity. He was part of the plot and he would play his part well before sending Jesus to the Sanhedrin so the religious leaders and scribes could weigh in even though they had no power to demand His death by crucifixion.


Since only Rome could accomplish that grisly form of death on a cross, Jesus would need to be sent to Pilate, representative of the Roman Emperor. He loved to wield power, but on this night he would be reluctant to do so. Was it his wife’s haunting dream that made him hesitate? He tried to pass it off to someone else and sent Jesus to Herod Antipas who was in charge of that region, but Herod would send Him back to Pilate to fulfill the role he was destined to play.


Did Pilate hope the torture he subjected Jesus to would satisfy the Jews who were insisting this man be put to death?


Nothing would intervene on this night as the unjust trial went down in history for what it was. How unjust, even for Rome?


Study of the laws of the time will point to 7 things that were illegal about the trial that should have been mine or even yours. What were they?


  • Impartiality was not given.


  • The trial began before all the witnesses were brought into the court.


  • Those witnesses that were presented were false witnesses with no credible evidence of their complaints.


  • It was a capital trial that would result in a potential sentence of death. Such a trial was not permitted to happen at night, but it did.


  • Due to the nature of a capital trial and the grave judgments that would be passed down, time for deliberation was to be given to assure this was the just choice of judgment. Instead, the verdict would be pronounced on the spot without deliberation.


  • The nature of a capital trial required that it not be held before the Sabbath or a holy day since a delay was required to come to the final judgment.


  • The testimony of the accused, the testimony of Jesus, was never considered.



No high priest could execute Jesus. The might of Rome could not take Him down. Only He would choose to give up his life and lay it down willingly for each of us.


And so it was that Jesus endured the unjust trials meant for me, meant for you. But it was His choice. He chose us and became the second Adam so that we would not be separated from Him if we would only believe in Him.


What kind of love is this?











Are We Asleep?


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.



My Heart….Found


The journey to rediscover my heart started with not recognizing it had been lost along the way. It had been lost in seeking to please people and being oh, so busy trying to do so. It had been lost in seeking to meet expectations set by others as well as myself that I believed were not even high enough for God! It had been lost because I didn’t know there was a battle raging for it before salvation as well as afterward.


The incredible truth of His love for you and also me is that the Lord is always working behind the scenes and sometimes on center stage to lead us to the truth of who we are and what He has placed in us.


Maurice Wagner in The Sensation of Being Somebody was one of my early companions on the journey of discovery. He set my feet on the right path many years ago when the pastoral counselor I had worked with introduced me to his book. His words urged me step-by-step to learn more about who I was, how I came to be that way, and the truth the Lord had designed for me. His balance and wisdom were uncommon and started to free me in subtle as well as obvious ways.


“Our security is not in our ability by faith in God to get Him to change our situations so that we will be less disturbed by the conditional and variable factors, nor is it in the fact that He might heal our bodies or reduce our pain. Our security is in our submission to His divine scheme of things and in our accepting what He can and does mean to our sense of true self-identity.” (Maurice Wagner)


Learning from him helped me begin to set aside the ways (both unhealthy and healthy) I had used to verify myself with little success. He would open passages of scripture I had read, but now “heard” differently.


John Eldredge and Brent Curtis would open my understanding to the battle for my heart and the enemy’s scheme to keep that battle outside of my awareness.


“Before Lucifer could become a true citizen of hell, he had to kill the desires of his own heart. He did it with scorn and much scorn was required. And this is the strategy with each of us: to kill the desire that would eventually lead us back to the One who loves us, using all forms of shame, contempt, apathy, anesthesia, and perversion at his disposal.” (Eldredge and Curtis in The Sacred Romance)


 If he could not succeed in deadening our hearts completely, he would entice us to pursue “less wild lovers”. Less wild than whom? The Lord, of course, is the wildest of lovers! Who but He would be able to thwart the schemes and devices so deftly laid? Who but He would provide a way of escape from what would seek to destroy us? Who but He would sacrifice Himself for us rather than accept our separation from Him eternally?


What “less wild lovers” would he use?pict0318


Our adversary also seduces us to abide in certain emotions that act as less-wild lovers, particularly shame, fear, lust, anger, and false guilt. They are emotions that ‘protect’ us from the more dangerous feelings of grief, abandonment, disappointment, loneliness, and even joy and longing, that threaten to roam free in the wilder environs of the heart.” (Eldredge and Curtis in The Sacred Romance)


On the path to wholeheartedness as I recognized the battle for what it was, Eldredge would help me see another truth in Waking the Dead:


“You must remember that the Enemy is always trying to pull everyone else to do to you what he is doing to you. As I said earlier, he creates a kind of force field, a gravitational pull around you that draws others into the plot without their even knowing it.”


Discovering, learning, and accepting my story as part of His story that He fully intended to use for His glory, would equip me to listen more effectively to the stories of others and what healthier community would look like.


…you must know each other’s stories, know how to ‘read’ each other. A word of encouragement can heal a wound; a choice to forgive can destroy a stronghold. You never knew your simple acts were so weighty. It’s what we’ve come to call ‘lifestyle warfare’.” (John Eldredge in Waking the Dead)


Learning those things brought more discernment and wisdom in those who became my comrades in arms for the daily journey. We stood for and with each other in the battle for our hearts. They too would be a part of the path to wholeheartedness.


Then in Sandra Wilson’s book, Into Abba’s Arms, I would have my heart stirred by the words she shared that she sensed the Lord speaking to her during times of journaling. As I read those intimate conversations she had with the Lord, my heart longed to have Him speak with me in such ways. Yes, He spoke to me through His Word, through the beauty of nature, through the messages of pastors and teachers, but I knew Sandra was experiencing something I had not known. My thirst was awakened for a different level of intimacy as I read the words she had ‘heard’ such as these:


“Your love is precious to me. You are precious to me. Learn to rest in the reality of my presence whether you are fainthearted or strong hearted. Keep listening to me. Keep coming to be with me in these quiet, special times.”


Yes, I had used a journal before and poured out thoughts, feelings, concerns, and prayers, but I had never taken moments to listen for or record His responses. To recognize that He had been waiting for me to listen for Him brought fresh rays of light to my heart. I knew at once why it was important to write down what I sensed because in the few times I sensed something from Him, it was not so easy to hold His words in my heart as time passed. One more scheme of the battle for my heart was evident in that.


And so it was that on a frosty January morning more than twenty years ago I would begin a new journal and write these words to Him:


“Sandra Wilson’s book—how inspiring and real! She’s right! We/I don’t take much time to listen to you and hear your personal words to my heart. Please, forgive me. I want to do better. Help me find my way through distractions into your arms.”


In the hushed moments of silence filled with uncertainty that He would respond, I would sense His response to me in the warmest and gentlest of words:


“I’m always waiting. I long to listen to you and hold you in my arms. You nurture others each day. Let me nurture you. I chose you. No one can pluck you out of my hand.”


With those words, the love story between us would change, as day after day I would return to my journal after my time in His Word and prayer. Year after year as the journals took up more space on my bookshelf, He would whisper His love, grace, and truth into my heart that would make it whole again and lead me to discover what He had created in me from the very beginning for His purposes and glory before all the other voices I had listened to had drowned out the only One who knew.





Here A Little, There a Little


Reconnecting with my heart over time and leaving the rat race and people-pleasing habit I knew so well would require I needed to step away from the story I thought I was supposed to be writing, to the truth of my story as it had evolved over my lifetime. It also meant being willing to lay down the religious habits I had developed as a means of self-verification because I was convinced I was supposed to do them to please the Lord, and instead discover the heart I had lost even more when I pursued them in heavy doses without learning if any of them were from Him.


The enemy can tolerate religion such as he did with the Pharisees, but he cannot accept the complete connection with our hearts or a deeper understanding of the truth of our relationship with the Savior, the expanse of His grace and love.


Brent Curtis and John Eldredge speak truth when they write the following in The Sacred Romance:

 “It is possible to recover the lost life of the heart and with it the intimacy, beauty, and adventure of life with God. To do so we must leave what is familiar and comfortable—perhaps even parts of the religion in which we had come to trust—and take a journey. This journey first takes us on a search for the lost life of our heart, and for the voice that once called us in those secret places; those places and times when our heart was still with us.”


It can take a bit to discover that what has been driving all the activity is the loss of our heart and the connection we once had with it. As believers, it can happen so easily because we have often exchanged a life of selfish pleasures and moved into a life filled with what we believe is our duty to God. There are so many good things to do, so many needs to respond to, and so much of the heart in us that we know still holds too many secrets, that we subconsciously shift from a calling (if we knew it) to increasing duties, and needs we think we must agree to fill without even asking the Lord if we are to commit to them.


“So for many of us, believing is exhausting. This is precisely why spiritual leaders are observing a precipitous decline in worship service attendance. Religion is a dying business. Most people are still interested in God, but not in all the baggage that seems to come along with the belief.” (Chuck De Groat in Wholeheartedness: busyness, exhaustion, and healing the divided self.)


I think one thing that sneaks up on us relates to our understanding of grace. We know it is grace that saves us, but we too often think of grace as something that happened back there at that moment and know little about living by grace, and grace alone. As a result we go about self-verification in religious activities rather than the ones we pursued before the Lord came into our hearts as a means to make us feel acceptable.


I think Jerry Bridges says it best in The Discipline of Graceimg_2063

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”


There is also the reality that those functional and feeling level parts of our self I mentioned earlier in the series are truths we have avoided. They made us feel too vulnerable. It would mean looking at how our story began and this time seeing all of it. To do this in the healthiest way would mean I would need to trust someone to listen to my story as I began to put the pieces of it together. For me, that was a pastoral counselor who listened patiently and asked questions that took me to deeper places so I could begin to see what I had been missing for too long.


It was not an easy thing to uncover the part of my life and heart I knew in the presence of someone I wanted to think well of me. It was even harder to recognize things I had missed along the way and a great many things I had never heard in the Sunday School classes and church pews I had occupied since childhood. I had never understood there were not only a battle for my thoughts, but also an unseen battle for my heart. Though it was unseen, it was crucial for me to recognize it.


You see, it was in my heart that God had placed the essence of who He had created me to be, what passion was tucked deep inside, and where I was in His plan and His Kingdom here on earth. The enemy didn’t want me to discover that and he doesn’t want any of you to discover that as well. From the earliest of ages he begins whispering to us about all that we are not, all the ways we have failed. And we believe him. With that and whatever our attachment style becomes, he carefully weaves a web around our hearts to keep us from discovering all that is there.


In Waking the Dead John Eldredge says:

“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”


He most certainly doesn’t want us to discover whom we can be and were designed to be by the One who created us. He can live with us being shaped and molded by our own ideas of what we should be or the ideas of others to whom we give too much power to shape us as they desire, but the truth is never something he wants us to discover.


To regain my heart would mean a journey to discover the lost parts of it. It would mean laying aside my view of myself, my lack of worth, my self-verification, and lies I believed as truth. The healing would begin in the office of a pastoral counselor, but would come into fullness over time with other means and ways the Lord brought into my path.


What did I discover?

You are not what you think you are. There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.” (John Eldredge in Waking the Dead)


Next time I will finish this short series with the other discoveries that restored my heart to what He had always designed it to be.