If You Can Do Anything

They were getting worse.

Staring at the broken furniture next to him, he wondered how long this one would last. The blood was already smeared on the floor from his son’s head, but he knew he had to wait until this was finished before he could try to patch the wound.

The shaking and moaning was frightening his wife and other children, he knew, but what could he do about it? Last time he tried to hold the boy down, he’d nearly broken his arm.

So he waited. And he hoped that he wasn’t disturbing his neighbors again. The shouts and tears were hard enough without everyone else involved. The questions tomorrow would be embarrassing for him, but his wife would cry herself to sleep with hidden shame tonight.

And he was still shaking. Oh, God! How long would this one last?


Each one of us is burdened with hidden shames, hidden pains, and hidden worries. Some of them are brought on by our own sins, by our own weaknesses. Others are beyond our control.

I have often tried, fruitlessly, to hide my pains, my sorrows, my brokenness  from those around me. My kids think the pain is normal, my wife, bless her, has endured more than any woman should have to. And I try to hide it from my friends and family, playing off my falls as if I’m being silly, and just need to sit down. I try to hide the panic attacks, and play them off as mild distractions. My kids know better, they’ve come to watch the grown man huddled in the corner, weeping like a child, with only mild interest, knowing that the best they can do is wait it out. I try to pretend that my pain is just “discomfort.” My 8 year old has come to gently ask “do you want me to get your cane, or your medicine?” And my 4 year old, “are you happy now, dad?” while worry wells up in his eyes.

What are your hidden pains? What do you fear the world will see?


He heard them before he saw them. His son was walking with him, no sign of the previous night’s fit but the healing cut on his head. These men always drew a crowd now. He knew why: they had made a lot of friends, and probably more enemies.

When the drew close enough, he meant to shout out to them, to offer payment for them to help, of even beg if he must. He didn’t have any pride left, what was it to beg?

But when they came near, his son looked dead. Here he stood, as calm as a summer breeze, but his eyes were gone. This wasn’t his son anymore. He knew this look. It was too soon! They weren’t inside, everyone would see! There would be no secrets remaining! “Please, wait,” he  thought to himself. “Please, not here!” And then his son fell.

The shouts of startled fear and derision parted the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea. As the foam fell from his son’s lips, the throng surrounded him: there was no escape now!


Sooner or later, all things come to light. Every secret, every shame, will be known as if it was shouted from the rooftops. Are you prepared for that moment? Most of us aren’t. For years, I’ve tried to behave normally, but it only takes one breakdown in public for everyone to look at you differently, to doubt you, to doubt the reality that you’ve come to accept.


Now he found himself surrounded by the judgmental sea of people, drowning in his shame. His son, oblivious to the stares of those around, continued to convulse. Tears in his eyes, the broken man begged the men: “please, can’t you see what it does to him? Drive out the devil that is doing this to my son! I know you can, I’ve seen you heal others!”

Confidently, the men approached his thrashing son. As they did, the attack began to subside. It was almost as if whatever demon had seized him for so many years, was preparing to leave! What joy! What hope! His son would be whole again!

As they placed their hands on him, their enemies in the crowd started to shout: he couldn’t hear what the healers were saying over the shouts, but he had no doubt in his mind that they would heal him.

For a moment, it looked like they had! The foam stopped dribbling from his mouth, and his body relaxed: and then as the angry men around him began to quiet, the boy started shaking harder then ever! His nose began to bleed, and his bowels released.

In terror, the devastated father ran to his son, trying to stop the terrible trembling that looked like they would kill his son. He ignored the jeering of the crowd, both to him, and to the healers. It took what felt like an eternity,  but the attack finally stopped. His son was unconscious, and trembling now, he cradled the head of his oldest son, weeping tears of despair onto his son’s neck.


Healing can be hard. For those who have had their spirits and minds broken by some great and terrible event, the healing can feel like it never comes.

Sometimes we place our trust in others, expecting that they can help carry, or even relive us of our burdens completely.

And if they fail, the hurt to our soul can be worse than if they had never tried to begin with. The darkness is greatest at these times. The burdens the heaviest. When hope is gone, we begin to doubt even the faith that we cherish.


He didn’t know how long the men had argued with their critics. He didn’t know how long his son had lain there. If it weren’t for the weak rising and falling of his chest, he would be sure the boy had died. He wished they would leave him, allow him to maintain some dignity. But they wouldn’t.

And then, after a few hushed shouts, the crowd went silent.

“What were you arguing with them about?” He heard the Man ask the critics. But no one answered.

With tears still on his cheeks, his eyes red, and his voice weak and horse, he spoke in reply: “Teacher,” he addressed the man, “I brought you my son who is possessed by a spirit that robs him of his speech.” His voice broke, but through the sob, he continued “whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.” He showed the Man his son, as if he couldn’t see for himself. “He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid.” Looking at the healers, he continued, “I asked your followers to drive out the spirit…” his voice broke again, “but they could not!” And the tears began in earnest again.

Looking to the crowd, and with… was it despair of his own? Anger? He couldn’t tell, but the  Teacher spoke. “You unbelieving generation'” that part was almost under his breath. His followers cowered in shame, and the opposing leaders squared their shoulders, defiant to his challenge. “How long will I stay with you? How long will I put up with you?”

And looking at the the father, the Man said “bring the boy to me.”

Gently, the weeping father picked up his unconscious son, and carried him to the Teacher.

Before he even got to the teacher, the boy started shaking again. So severely that his father  lost his grip. The boy fell to the ground, shaking, and rolling. The foam started again.

“How long has he been like this?” The teacher asked

“Since he was a child,” the father replied, looking around to see who had heard him admit it.


It is in these moments of darkest despair that we must turn ourselves again to the Teacher. We must muster what strength and faith remains and turn to He who bore our burdens.


With almost a whisper, he continued, “it has often tried to throw him into the fire, or into the water, to destroy him.”

The tears came again, unbidden. He looked to the Teacher and, summoning what faith for healing he could, he begged, “if you can do anything,” the bitterness returned now, and he wondered why he was even bothering to ask, “take pity on us, and help us!”


Sometimes, in our moment of despair, we fail to notice those around us who despair, who toil, who are working with us. It is hard to see those who have made our struggles their own.


The Teacher spoke now, his tone lovingly chastising now, “if you can just believe.” He said to the father as then to the crowd around, “anything is possible to one who believes.”

“Lord!” The man exclaimed, “oh, I believe!” Hadn’t he brought his son here to be healed? Hadn’t he loved his trust in the healers? But in that moment, the introspective and humble father realized his own doubt; “help me overcome my disbelief.”


In these dark times, when we have relied on the faith we once had, it is easy to forget to do the thinks we need to do in order to grow faith. Faith is either growing, or diminishing, it never remains stagnant. In your moments of darkness, have you ever stopped growing your faith? Do you have the gift of introspection enough to see the strength of your testimony?

The story could almost end here, why? Because the miracle that follows is less important than the faith that predicated it. While the Teacher will always lift our burdens, it isn’t always on our timetable. It isn’t always even in this lifetime. While all things are possible to those who believe, the belief must be in God, and in his will; not our own.


After looking around, the Teacher spoke: “you deaf and mute spirit, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.”

There was fierceness in the Teacher’s voice that the man had never heard before.

And his son began to retch. A horrible gurgling sound burst from his son’s lips. Then the boy was still and pale.

The crowd began to whisper, quietly at first, then louder, “he’s dead. He killed him.”

And the Teacher reached out, taking the boy’s hand, and helped him to his feet. The color was coming back to him now.

And the boy smiled.

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Today, I Am Peter

When they set out to cross the lake, a journey they had made many times before, the day was coming to a close. It had been an extraordinary day, one filled with wonder, power and miracles. But now, they had to make the 8 mile sail across the water. Usually, by setting the sail to catch the wind, combined with hard work at the oars, this trip was pretty quick.

But though it was hard work, it was work that Peter was used to. There was some joy and peace in the labor. He’d spent most of his life on this lake. He was a strong sailor, and a strong swimmer. If the truth was to be told, he’d forgotten more in his short life than most men ever learned about the trade. His hands knew the tasks at hand, so he could take the time to think about what he’d seen. He could reflect on the day.

None of the others talked much. Besides the hard work, it seemed like they all had a lot on their minds. How had he done that? Where was he now? What would they do next?

And then the winds changed. They were only about halfway across the lake, but with the wind shifting to become a head wind, they had to drop the sails. This meant that the remaining 4 miles would need to be done at the oars alone. This was never fun, but, like the rest of this work, Peter was confident, calm, and prepared for the trouble of it.

And then the waves started to form. Theirs was not a small boat, but she was sturdy. Really, she was bigger than many on the lake, but these waves were easily large enough to crash over the sides. They were easily big enough to capsize the boat if they turned her broadside.

So here they were, rowing hard against the waves which pushed them back for every stroke. If the stopped rowing, they’d turn, and the waves would have them. They couldn’t raise the sails because the wind was at their bow.

And it was totally dark. The moon was still low, too low to be an effective guide.

It was dark. The wind howled. The men were tired, and sore, and alone. There was no other boats nearby, not that they’d be able to see them in these waves and darkness. If they lost control now, they’d surely drown. Peter was starting to worry.


Life has a way of dishing out its worst right after we have experienced great blessing. The Adversary works his hardest to challenge us at these times; to make us doubt the joy and peace of God’s gifts; to forget the grace that we’ve received; to focus only on the momentary, the challenging, and the worrisome. And he’s pretty good at it.
I’ve gone from being at the helm, metaphorically speaking, of my life; knowing what I was doing, where I was going, and how I was going to get there… to not knowing how I’m going to function in the most basic ways; to not knowing how I’m going to raise my children; not knowing how to even take care of myself; and (sometimes) to not know where my next meal will come from. It’s been a pretty major shift for me. I’ve been content with the work of it all. I’m no stranger to hard work. But there is still fear in not knowing. There is fear in the challenges of life.


As they worked to keep the boat straight against the waves, Peter heard a shriek of terror come from behind him. As he listened to hear why his friend had cried out, he saw it: the ghostly apparition on the water. Peter had never been one to believe in silly superstitions, but how could he deny his own eyes? The evidence was overwhelming, and his shipmates confirmed the same: there was a figure on the water.

The moonlight reflected off the white of the figures robes, creating an halo of pale, blue light. The figure was moving across the storming seas as if they were simple hills.

And Peter was terrified. Was this was some apparition from the after-world coming to claim him and his shipmates? Surely, they were about to die, and this figure was their host into the next world.

As they began to fear for their lives, the boat started to turn. Peter cried out for his friends to keep her straight! Even in that moment of sure death, he wasn’t one to let it come easily. The spirit of death would have him, but not without a fight.


There is an old Christian trope that “God will not give you more than you can handle.” While it has some basis in truth, the understood implication is that whatever challenge we are given can be borne by us. This just isn’t true.

Oftentimes,  life presents us with challenges far to great for us to carry on our own.

The burdens that we bear sometimes curve our backs and break our wills. And just in that moment of deep despair, the challenges of life will sometimes side swipe us with a pickup truck. This can be overwhelming. Having had the broken will and spirit, being crushed by the weight of the world, we are given only two options; to surrender and die is the easier option. But what else can we do?


Just then they heard the voice, carried clearly above the winds and the waves.
“Don’t be afraid! It is I! Take courage!”

Peter looked out over the waves, and in the darkness he saw, for what seemed like the first time, that the apparition was his friend, his brother, his master: the Galilean. But how could this be? No man can walk on the water. Yet, after what he’d seen earlier today, how could it be anyone else?


And so His voice comes to all who are broken in spirit. When the burdens have destroyed all hope that we can carry on alone, He calls to us: “don’t be afraid! Be courageous. I am here!”

And we, like Peter, have to choose: do we let fear win, and go down with our boat? That is the easy choice.


Like the Sons of Thunder next to him, Peter was impetuous. He was brave. And he knew that the Miracle Worker could do anything.

“If it’s you,” he cried to the Man on the water, “tell me to come out to you, on the water!”

Even in his challenge, he doubted himself. These waves were too strong for his boat, they would surely sink him. If he got into the water, he’d surely be a dead man. What was this challenge? Why had he called it? If he was wrong, he’d pay for the mistake with his life.

“Come!” Came the reply.


When the master calls to us, we have the final choice: the easy one? Or do we risk what stability we have now, no matter how destructive that stability is, and come to him? Do we surrender to Him our fears, our hopes, and even the ground beneath our feet at His bidding?


Keeping his eyes above the waves, and ignoring the gasps of terror of his crew, Peter stepped out of the tossing boat onto the waves. His eyes fixed on the Man, Peter began walking… walking! On the water! It was as if the sea had solidified under his feet, and he allowed his pace to quicken.  And then it hit him: literally. He hadn’t noticed the wave until it crashed into his side, drenching him further to the bone. And he looked down to check his footing. There was nothing but the sea beneath him!

And he doubted.


When we come to Him, keeping our eyes fixed on He who is our salvation, the terrors that had only moments before had overwhelmed and even threatened to destroy us, seem like a thing of the past.

But when we look to the challenges, and not the Man on the water; we falter. Every time. The proverbial waves that had threatened to destroy us are no less powerful, and we no more powerful. We haven’t suddenly grown the ability to defeat the challenges on our own. And once we start to wonder if it is by our own power that we are succeeding, we will surely begin to be swallowed up by the very things we wonder if we’ve defeated.


The doubt came quickly, and as it rushed upon him, so did the cold, dark water. He just had time to cry out desperately, “Lord! Save me!” As the water came up over his head, anxious to claim him to its depths. He kicked, he tried to tread, but the next wave washed over him, and he knew he had lost.

And then the hand grabbed his.

And his Master pulled him into His strong arms. “You of little faith,” He chided, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.


Like Peter, I have witnessed the miraculous. Like Peter, I have stood when the world said I should drown. Like Peter, I have begun the fearful journey of walking to the Master. And like Peter, I have doubted. I have tried, again and again, to do the work on my own.

But like Peter, I have cried out “Lord, save me!”

And He has. And He will again.

I just hope that, like Peter, I don’t forget the salvation offered to me. Today I want to be like Peter. 

God grant me the grace to see You above the waves of life. Give me the courage to call out to You. Give me the faith to follow You. And guide me to Your Glory.

Quality vs Worth: The Value of Life

Lately, I’ve had some questions from some readers, they are usually variations of this: “Jared, how do you stay so positive with all that is going on that is negative?” 

Sometimes they’re closer to “how do you do it? I don’t think I could keep going if I had ‘x,'” but I assume that, rather than suggesting I should off myself, these questions fit in with the first.

So I want to take a minute to address this question.
First, as is the nature of social media, you don’t often see the lows, if for no other reason than that when I’m really struggling, the last thing I want to do is to write. This is normal, by the way, which is why if we look through the Facebook pages of our high school classmates, we can reasonably assume that every one of them is financially successful, purely joyful, and traveling the world on peace missions, in short, that everyone but ourselves have found the key to happiness. And maybe some have, but I expect that a poll of those people would show that most of them feel like the world is in various stages of collapsing around them, while everyone else has it together. This is the lie of Facebook.

You, as the reader, don’t see nights I spend silently weeping to myself because I’m exhausted to the point of collapse, but am kept awake by the intense pain in my back and or nerves. I try to hide those low moments, even from my wife.  You, as the reader, don’t see me desperately, but without success, try to wake myself up once I’ve finally fallen asleep because the drug induced, hallucination like night terrors. You, as the reader, don’t see me curled up in a ball desperately wondering what the point of it all is. You don’t see the state of my house (that’s no accident…) because I can’t keep up with my chores.

So what is the point of it all? How do I stay positive? Well, the short answer is that I’m not always positive. I’m often angry and bitter about my lot in life (it’s not a lot, but it’s a life… Yuk yuk yuk). But it’s critical to understand the end goal. Life is not made to live from one moment of temporary excitement or high to the next: life is is about happiness, not excitement. But more importantly, life is meant to be a trying test.

This may not really answer the questions, in truth, the thought isn’t really well developed. I don’t struggle with the bitterness of depression, so I can’t speak to the power that it holds over the sound of its victims… Except I have felt that depression. My first buy of advise for those of you dealing with overwhelming depression, or depression that never goes Away (maybe it waxes and wanes, but is always present… Like a stupid song in the back of your mind….) first things first: speak to your doctor. I’ve found it helpful to write down my thoughts before a doctor’s visit (and I have lots of the ) – this helps me not forgot anything. Depressive disorder is crippling, but it’s also not just you: it’s a real medical condition and it can be treated. Please, if I’m describing you here, never free of the blues, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. It can be better.

But assuming that one’s chemistry is under control, we have to look at some of the other causes of misery: at the risk of sounding like a preacher, often we feel like bad people because, well… we are…. if we are living our lives free of the bother of moral compass, we might (or should) feel bad about ourselves. That’s not depression, it’s conscience. When I have not been right with my wife, or with my kids, or with my Lord, I have not been more than temporarily happy. It’s a feeling that I can’t shake, and no matter how great I may feel for a moment, it always fades back to a disappointing base. So we spent last week preparing for Resurrection Sunday – we repented of our sins, and we sought  to make amends to those whom we have wronged. If you didn’t follow us on that journey, it’s not too late: begin the process of being right with God. If you don’t believe, then at least make sure that you are right with everyone else (not quite the same, but a big first step).  

Next, forgiveness is critical. Again, I’m sure, I sound like a preacher, but not without cause. Once we’ve repented of our sins, we need to move on. We need to trust God that He has forgiven them. Sometimes the memory of that sin can come back to bite us a long time later- especially if it was particularly egregious, but trust isn’t a one off type of thing: I don’t just trust my wife once: I trust her always. The same is true with our heavenly relationships: we don’t just trust God to forgive us once, we must actively work toward the trust that He continually forgives us.  Sometimes the people that we have wronged don’t forgive us, even when we have truly repented. I’d love to say “move on, they aren’t worth your time anyway.” But I’d be lying… At least with some people. Unlike the Father, we are not perfect, and being forgiven isn’t guaranteed with our fellow man like it is with Him. If we have really repented, however, we recognize and accept that their non-forgiveness may be a consequence of our actions. We just move on the best we can. And finally, we need to accept and forgive ourselves. I’ve found that no one holds a grudge against me like I do. I find myself loathing actions from decades ago: “couldn’t I be a little kinder?” “Couldn’t I have responded better.” – but moving on with our lives means that we have to forgive ourselves, after we have done everything we can to correct the problem. 

If we have are chemically balanced correctly, we have a clean conscience, and we have accepted the forgiveness of God, sought the forgiveness of others (and accepted whichever response they chose) and forgiven ourselves; once we have done all of those things, then we can tackle the rest:

Life sucks. There. I said it. Life is full of pain, misery, sorrow, weakness, impossible choices, dirty laundry, and burned dinners. All of those things happen even if we have been forgiven, are making righteous decisions, and aren’t depressed. So what’s the point?

I wanted it share an analogy complete with home video. I even found the old 30 second clip in all it’s 144p glory (from my first camera phone…) but sadly the sound is corrupted, and without my shrieks of agony, you’d never be able to see from the video only that you were watching me get tazed (oops, spilled the beans on that one.)

But how do we answer the point of this life? Simply put, just as I willingly was tazed because I needed to understand the power of the tool, we willingly agreed to this life so we could have the experience of it: dirty socks and all.

How the do I stay positive despite being in constant physical pain? How do I sit in my chair (I’ve been unable to sleep more than an hour of three in a bed for years), shivering because I have the window open to the sleeting cold in order to counteract the sweats of the medicine and leather of my chair? How do I find joy despite being unable to move for a great portion of the day? How do I feel whole despite being broken in every significant measurable physical measure (and many mental measurements)? How do I live when living is without… Wait, turning off the country music station on Pandora… Okay, better: how do I have a sense of humor despite… Well… Everything?

I agreed to this. Well, maybe not the dirty laundered or the damnable spiders, the laundry is just par for the course, and the spiders are the tools of the devil… But the rest, I agreed to. I stood with the he host of heaven and trusted my Father when He told me about His plan: I cheered when he told me that I could come to earth, obtain a body, learn, live, marry, and have children. I cherished the opportunity to be like Him. And whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not, heck, whether you know me or not; so did you.

We knew what challenges would face us, maybe not in detail, but how do you really understand something without experiencing it? I might have had a different opinion had they told me about the spiders (“I’ll just stay here, okay?”), and had I known about the laundry, my cheers might have been a bit less exuberant… 

But we also knew we would sin. We knew that we would fall short of the perfection needed to live with God in His Glory. We knew we would damn ourselves (auto correct just put that to ‘dang ourselves,’ you think it knows I’m a Mormon?) and most importantly, we accepted all of that risk and pain because we trusted the Father’s plan: we trusted His Son and the promised atonement which would cleanse us of our sins.

So how do I keep on? I simply do it because I always have. I started out a long time ago trusting God. I started out a long time ago with the end goal in mind: Salvation and Eternal Progression with my loving Father in Heaven. I began this journey a long time ago, and while I hadn’t yet experienced the misery of dirty underwear, I knew that all the laundry in the world was worth the prize.

And do you know what? So did you.

So despite my aching legs and churning stomach tonight, I want to share with you my joy. Life isn’t always great, but it is always worth it. If you ever doubt that, please reach out to someone for help. Be chase while we knew that we’d have a lot of muck to slog through, we never have to slog alone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. I love you, even if we’ve never met. And with the greatest love of all, our Savior and our Father love you.

Life is always hard, but it is always worth it.

Resurrection Sunday, Celebrating Life, and Defeating Death

Thank you for walking through Holy Week with me. The final mortal week of the Son of Man started nicely, and just got worse. I’d say, I’ve never had such a rough week. But it ends well. That’s the spoiler here: it ends well for the King of Kings. And perhaps more importantly, He’s made it so it can end well for us, too!

Because of the approaching Sabbath, when the Savior’s body had been laid to rest, it was done in haste. So on the third day, which would be Sunday, Mary Magdalene and other faithful women returned to the tomb so that they could more appropriately prepare the body of Jesus for its final burial. As they walked, they pondered how they would do this thing. “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” Likely they didn’t know of the Roman guards standing watch at the tomb.

Imagine the shock when they found the tomb empty. An angel told them “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” They went and told some of the Apostles that the tomb was empty. It seems that the grieving women missed the important pronunciation that “he is risen,” for Mary was distraught.

She returned to the garden, and crying, was approached by men. They asked her “Woman, why weepest thou?” Her reply was full of despair: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” And another man asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Again, thinking this man to be responsible for the missing body of her Lord, she begged, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

In his single word reply, she must have finally recognized His voice: “Mary,” He said. Her tears of despair and sorrow changed in an instant to joy and unbelief as she declared in her happiness, “Rabboni!” Or, beloved Master.

It is perhaps instructive that He first appeared to Mary rather than His apostles. But we will leave it to this: He informed her that she must not touch Him yet, as He had not ascended to His father.

Later, however, as He showed Himself to His Apostles, He invited them to feel the wounds still in His hands, and still on His side. Doubting his own seeing eyes, it wasn’t until he had felt these wounds for himself the Apostle Thomas believed. 

Over the coming weeks the Master spent substantial time with his Apostles and disciples, teaching them and preparing His Apostles to lead His Church, and teach His gospel. But today, this Resurrection Sunday, finished the Atonement, and broke the bonds of death. Because He had never sinned, death held no power over Him. He was the first fruits of them that slept. And most importantly, because He lives, we will live again.

So today, this Easter Sunday, I raise my voice in praise for Him. I join my voice to the countless others who have sung it before me: Hallelujah! Praise to God in the highest!

Let us not forget His Atoning Sacrifice. Let us not forget His burden and trial in Gethsemane. Let us not forget His silence in the face of damning opposition. Let us always remember that the Plan of the Father recognized our sins; that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, the Savior, the Redeemer, and our Lord, to make a path for us to return to Him. Because He lives, we will live!

Saturday, the Spirit World, Salvation, the Son of God, and a Call to Act

Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, and broken in Spirit, the disciples  and apostles spent the day mourning their fallen Lord.

Having died, just as fully as you and I will, The Son of Man’s spirit left His holy, but now lifeless, body. One must wonder where His spirit went in the days after His death. Fortunately, we have that answer: like all dead souls, His spirit went into the spirit world, wherin one awaits the resurrection. The Sinless one, burst the door between that prison and the spirit world, and entered paradise. So he had promised to the repentant thief, “today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Here he taught the deceased who would listen. Some assume that in this time, He had returned to the throne of His Father, but tomorrow, we will see, He affirms that he “[had] not yet ascended to [His] Father.”

Ever the Teacher, Christ ministered to both the spirits in paradise and those in prison. As Peter declared, decades later: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient…”

As the day of rest, the Sabbath is a day fitting for the Lord’s body to be unmoved and for His spirit to do the work of the day: bringing souls peace, joy, and preaching the Gospel of Christ.

So the day went by with little action, at least visible to the mortal man. But they prayed, and the mourned, and they mentally and emotionally prepared for the next day, when they planned to return to the Holy Body, and give Him the proper burial robbed Him by the short time on Friday.

So must we prepare for tomorrow. So must we pray, but our preparation is different than our brothers of the past. We prepare instead to celebrate the greatest day in human history: a needed relief from the day mourning the the worst in human history.

Yesterday I learned of something that grieves my soul. And I ask your help:

We know the barbarism currently falling on the followers of the Messiah in the Middle East. It has officially been labeled a genocide. Following the butcher of 15 million souls less than an hundred years ago, we as a people have vowed “never again.” Sadly, we have broken that vow, and stood by during repeated genocides and butcherings in the years following.

I served the Chaldean Catholics on my mission, though having fled this same persecution for their testimony, they were wary to accept to the Restored Gospel, as to them it felt like abandoning those left in their old homes. I am personally invested in these people. It is their families and friends who are now facing death in Iraq. Preparations have been made for over 1000 souls to retreat from the Islamic State, and to find new homes in safe counties. Our own country has refused these refugees, but a place had been found for them throughout Europe.

Following the deadly and dastardly attack in Brussels last week, however, the doors were shut for these people of the Cross: they are not being allowed to flee the death camps and beheading axe that they face now. They are literally in imminent peril. The symbol of the Arabic ‘n’ has been painted on the doors of the believers to mark them as followers of the Nazarene. This mark is literally a death sentence: “convert, pay the price of subjection, or die.” Most have died or fled rather than deny the testimony of the Lord.

The funds are there for their rescue, the homes are there for them to retreat to, these impoverished and desperate followers of Christ are ready and hopeful to leave; but the doors to their rescue have been shut.

So I beg you, as you prepare for tomorrow’s feasting, celebrations, and time with family; pray for a miracle. Pray aloud, pray with your families, and pray in your heart. The very lives of our brothers and sisters are at stake. Pray that the hearts of world leaders will be softened. Pray that the doors that were open will once again open in their behalf. For the love of Christ is charity, and it is not enough that we accept that love, if we don’t have it for others.

Pray, remember, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. For the love of God and His people, pray with me!

(UPDATE – 2018 – One fund, the Nazarene Fund, has worked tirelessly over the last 2 years, since I wrote this article; they had prepared to evacuate those 1000 people. The update they give is as follows: “We have surpassed that goal through evacuating a total of 8,202 people, providing housing for 5,462 people, and giving humanitarian aid to over 35,000. We confidently and proudly report that 95 rescues have been made to date. In 2017 The Nazarene Fund has focused on the task at hand, placing all efforts on the mission – to rescue, rebuild and restore people’s lives. Although much has been done, the work has just begun.”

(There are a few, too few, but some others who are working to rescue and stop the genocides still happening in the middle east against the Christians and Yazidis. While there has been good news, there have been many who have returned home to our Heavenly Father at the hands of murderers intent upon the complete destruction of all of the “people of the book.” There is still so much more to do.)

Good Friday, the Road to Galgotha, and the Broken Law

Following His trials, which lasted the night, the Sinless One was scourged. They took a cat of nine tails, a brutal whip with nine ends, each laced with shards of bone or pottery, designed to tear the flesh, and break the spirit of those on the merciless receiving end. He was given 39 lashes, a process which frequently ended in death for the whipped.

While he was beaten, the Roman soldiers bet for his clothes, and when they were done brutalizing him, the gave him new raiment: they clothed him in a purple robe, symbolizing royalty, and a crown to mark his Kingship. But in the mocking fashion of the blasphemer, they had fashioned the crown of biting thorns. As the pressed the ring onto his forehead, it undoubtedly took flesh with it.

The Romans made their bleeding and broken Lord carry his cross through the streets to the hill of crucifixion. The streets were lined with a deriding mob, who shouted, and mocked and spit on their Redeemer. The very man who, just hours before, had taken their every sins upon himself. Mixed in the crowd were the meek and broken of spirit who wept as they watched their Master carry the burden that He had chosen but certainly did not deserve.

Jesus stumbled and fell under the weight of cross, unable to carry the weight any more.

The Romans forced another to pick up the cross and they continued on. I wonder what the man thought. Was he one of the bitter and angry crowd? Or was he one that the Healer had made whole? Did he resent the burden? Or did he weep knowing that he was helping the Man to his death?

The writers of the Gospels had few words to describe what happened next, because of the monstrous and barbaric act that followed, few words can describe the horror: “and they crucified him.”
They buried nails in his hands, wrists, and feet, and raised the cross on the hill of skulls, called Golgotha. Here men were left to die. It could take days as the men would die slowly, not of their wounds, but of starvation and thirst. The merciless Romans would give water to the dying to prolong their death. Of the few things the Innocent One said while on the cross, the first was a plead for drink, which was granted in the form of vinegar.

In his pain and agony, He prayed to the Father, asking for forgiveness for the Romans, who “…know not what they do”, as they crucified the Son of the Living God.

He asked John to care for His aging Mother.

He spoke to one of those dying with him.

And again alone, He cried “why has thou forsaken me?”
As 3:00 in the afternoon approached, the sky darkened and the ground shook. The veil separating the courtyard of the temple from the Holy of Holies was torn in two, as the Father rejected the the Covenant People in their wickedness, and the the Son of Man died as he uttered the words “it is finished.” The very earth recognized the death of its creator, and tore itself asunder, burying cities in the sea, and sinking valleys with the mountains. The whole of the New World was reformed, killing many. And darkness covered all the land for days.

The Romans were astounded by the speed of his death, and to confirm the death, stabbed him through the ribs right into his heart. It gushed water and blood; it was broken.

The Lord of all creation had died. The consequence of sin, the just reward of sin, is death; but the Sinless One had died unjustly: thus, the law was broken.

History has come to know this day as Good Friday. His death was unremarkable: the Romans had crucified countless before, and would crucify countless after. That He died was remarkable, because He, unlike any before him, or any after, was free from the need for death. Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, but He died anyway. The Atoning sacrifice that had begun in a garden was nearly complete.
The spirits of His disciples were as broken as His body. I imagine their voices to be hollow as they asked the Romans to bring him down so that they could bury him. With the Sabbath approaching, the apostles, Mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene, had to act quickly to prepare the spiritless and lifeless body for burial. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the Sanhedrin itself, offered his tomb for the burial of the Christ.
The day ended with the burial of the King of Kings. Fearing His body would be stolen, the Romans ordered his tomb to be sealed, and guards to watch it.

The hopes of countless Jews died with the Carpenter from Nazareth.

One other died this day. The traitorous coward Judas Iscariot, knowing his own sin, used the 30 pieces of silver to buy a plot of ground, where he hung himself from a tree.

This was the darkest day in human history. A day where the Covenant People killed their own God.

The faith of many died with Him.

And if the story ended here, hope should have died too.

But it doesn’t end here. Tomorrow is the Sabbath for the Jews, and tomorrow we will learn what the Savior of Mankind did millenia ago on that Sabbath.

As we remember the cross, as we remember the Holy Death, let us know why He died: he died as a sacrificial Lamb, making atonement with the Father on our behalf. He is the Lamb of God. He is Savior of mankind. He is the Redeemer.

As we prepare for Easter, who’s very name forgets the Master of All, let us never forget. Let us ponder His sacrifices in the Garden and on Golgotha. Let us remember as we have broken the law, the law was broken by Him.

Remember. Remember.

The Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Condemning the Innocent One

On Thursday of the Holy Week, in preparation for the Passover feast, Emmanuel sent his apostles to obtain a room wherin they would eat the Paschal meal: they would eat a sacrificial lamb, as well as unleavened bread, and the following 8 days would be spent without leaven in their diet.

Though the beginning of the Jewish Friday, for our reckoning, it would have been Thursday night that He gathered His chosen 12 into the upper room of a prepared house to break bread with them. Here, the Apostles prepared for an annual feast, but the Lord prepared for His last mortal meal. I imigine some solemnity appropriate to the celebration, but the most astute of the 12 might have noticed an additional sorrow permeate the room.

Here they ate together, and in His true prescience, Jesus declared that he knew that one of his chosen would betray him. In an audacious attempt to further cover his evil design, Judas asked “is it I?” Christ’s reply, “thou hast said”, would undoubtedly have been as cutting to Himself as it was to the traitor. 

Here it was that He introduced the sacrament of the last supper, and the ordinance of washing of feet. Here he taught that the greatest must become the servant of all. Here Peter, misunderstanding the ordinance, and zealous as ever, argued that he would never allow his Master to debase himself by washing Peter’s feet. Christ warned him, “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Peter cried “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” The Lord’s gentle rebuke showed the nature of the ordinance “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The Master continued “and ye are clean, but not all,” showing again that, while his chosen 12 allowed him to cleanse them and make them pre, 1 remained stained in his heart, preparing even now to complete the sale of his soul and commit the final act of treacherous murder and betrayal that he kept hidden in his heart… And Jesus knew it.

Soon after, they men sat again to eat, ““I speak not of you all,” Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Understanding his meaning, Peter motioned John, who sat with Jesus, to ask who it was that was the traitor: Jesus told John, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.”

In the Jewish tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for the head of the table to offer a dipped piece of bread to a guest at the table, so when the Head offered the Sop to the traitor Iscariot, Judas took it. To him, Christ said “That thou doest, do quickly.” Surely, the bulk of the followers understood Christ as sending Judas on some pre-arranged task, or they would have tried to stop him. But imagine the dismay of the zealous Peter and the beloved John who watched as the betrayer, having been identified as such by the master, skulked into the night to fulfil his malevolent plans. John comments darkly “and it was night.”

Following the exit of the evil one, the Teacher shared his last sermon to his brothers. He prayed with them, and for them, that “they may be one,” pleading unity among the leaders that he had ordained. Then they departed, as planned, to a garden, for Jesus to pray.

In Gethsemane, Jesus set his remaining 11 to guard and watch over him as he wrestled in the Spirit. We cannot know, we cannot fathom the burden that the Lord carried. For centuries the Jews had symbolically banished a goat into the wilderness carrying the sins of the Children of Israel. Since the beginning of man, they had sacraficed pure and perfect lambs to redeem them and atone them with the Farher. Here, in the garden, the Lamb of God prepared himself to take take all of those roles upon himself, to fill the Plan of the Father, and to end the symbolic sacrifices forever.

It was here that He bore the sins, the sorrows, the pains of all mankind from the beginning to the end, on his own shoulders. Here, he who was with the Father in the beginning, struggled with the load he had been given. Here he plead with his Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” 

Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, he could have chosen to walk away, saving himself and damning us forever, but instead surrounded by trees and oil presses, he bore the weight of the infinite atonement, and as the olives are pressed for their precious oil, he was pressed until he bleed from every pore.

Again he pled “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”

We often remember the cross as the place of atonement, but it was here in the garden that the Master of Creation, the King of Kings, took upon himself the consequence of sin, and began the redeeming atonement that saved all mankind from death, and all who would follow him from damnation.

Still later, the traitor returned with the Jewish guard, and, having shown them the sign by which they would recognize the Master in the dark, condemned his Lord with a kiss. Ever zealous, Peter prepared himself to give his own life in defense of the Savior, but was stopped, and Jesus mended the soldier’s wounded ear. Did the healed guard turn away in shame? Or had his hate already filled his heart?

Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, where he was condemned for daring to speak the truth: that he was, and is, the Son of the Father. Enraged, they sought his life, but fearing the Romans, sent Him to Pilate for his sentencing, for while blasphemy was punishable by death (though he had not blasphemed, they convicted him of that crime, and in so doing, committed the very act of which they accused him), capital punishment needed to be pronounced by the Romans for violating Roman law. So they sent him to the Romans and accused him of treason, stating that the King of Peace was trying to insite rebellion against the Empire.
Through the night he was passed from one coward to another, and the Lord of All was humiliated and beaten, scorned and shamed. Having prophetically seen the atrocity, Isaiah wrote about the horrors of this Thursday night:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

As we remember the Great Reedeemer, and walk with Him on his road to the cross, let us remember that He bore our sins. It was because of His love for us, His obedience to the Father’s Plan, and His infinite mercy that he suffered the presses of Gethsemene, that He submitted to the traitor’s kiss, that He allowed the abuse of those charged with watching over Isreal and the looking for His coming. 

Let us allow Him to carry our burdens, lest we scorn His sacrafice. If you have once believed, but are lost: come home! His arms are outstretched still! If you have yet to feel his endless love, accept it! For it there for you, no matter your sins or sorrows. If you have already accepted Him, then use today as a chance of reflection and repentance. 

Jesus Christ is the Promised Messiah, the Lamb of God!

Conspiring in Darkness, and the Light of Truth

In the days leading up to the Festival of the Passover, the leaders of the Jews sought diligently ways to destroy their King. The decided to take Jesus covertly to avoid public knowledge of their treachery. It was while they plotted that the disenfranchised Judas, one of the Lord’s twelve announced Apostles, appeared to them. Asking for the price they would pay if he would deliver his Master to them, they promised 30 pieces of silver, the lawful price of a slave. He promised, in turn, to take them to him while he was away from the adoring masses. It was this betrayal that allowed the Savior to be captured at Gethsemane.

The coming days would show his betrayal to his Sovereign, and to his peers, but for now his evil, and the evil of the Sanhedrin where covered by both proverbial and literal darkness.

In order to not get ahead of myself, I won’t go into detail about the capture, yet. Instead, I want to point out that it was on this night, not later, that Judas betrayed his Lord. It was tonight that he made the decision to act; and it was tonight that he premeditated his murderous actions. From this point onward, even had he recanted his evil intent, and protected his King, he would have suffered the wrath of the leaders of the Jews for his failure. We will see, however, that he did not make that decision.

It is not without reason that this Wednesday has become known as ‘Spy Wednesday.’ And as this week leads to the darkest of days in the world’s history, surely it will come with the actions of evil men. And it is fitting that, though they sought to keep that evil hidden, even now we know them. The name Judas has become synonymous with betrayer, even nearly 2000 years later. 

“Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?””

It is the nature of man to seek to cover his sins. It is our desire to hide our evil from knowing eyes.

But the Lord knows everything, and all darkness will be exposed to the light and “everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

We must learn from the treachery of Judas that our sins cannot remain hidden. As we walk the road toward Galgotha this week, we must look inward and expose our sins to ourselves first; then we seek reparations to those whom we have sinned against. No secret will remain secret, no sin will remain hidden. As we follow the Redeemer let us heal the sorrows of those whom we’ve wronged. 

This week, let’s seek out those who hurt because of our choices, and seek forgiveness. If we’ve determined to sin, it’s not too late to choose the right. Today is symbolic of the decision to sin, but we are not bound by the choice of Judas, we must choose the King, and not the silver.

The Cursed Fig Tree, Whited Sepulchers, and Selfish Hypocrisy

Traditionally, Tuesday of the Holy Week marks several important lessons from the Master Teacher. One lesson that has struck me, is the lesson of the fig tree.

As the Master traveled with his companions, the grew hungry. There was a fig tree, brightly bearing its colors before the season, suggesting that it carried fruit ready to eat. Hungrily examining it, He found it to be barren. “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever,” he said, and Peter noticed “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away!”

Jesus used the opportunity to show is wondering apostles of the power of faith. And lest I challenge His lesson, I reiterate His teaching that “when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” If we have faith, and our prayers are acceptable to God, we will receive the answers to our prayers.

But in combination to another of the Master’s lessons, wherin He condemned the teachers of the Jews, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness!”

The fig tree in our first story, is condemned, but not because it didn’t have fruit when the Lord was hungry, as none of the other trees did either, but because it wantonly displayed itself as having such, while being no more fit for feeding the hungry travelers than its fellows. 

Like the hypocritical leaders in the second story, the Lord condemned its pretension; we then, are to be condemned of hypocrisy and unearned claims of righteousness and holiness.

This week, as we walk daily with the Lord, let us remember to be humble, never claiming ourselves to be more or better than we are, and remembering Him who purifies us.

Let us remember that as we invite others to come and eat, it is Christ who fills men that they never hunger, and we are but messengers of His feast.

Perhaps we might enjoy a fig or two to remember this lesson as we feast on Sunday. Perhaps we can learn from the ostentatious tree how not to behave, and remember, yet again, the power of the Master.

Holy Monday, Cleansing the Temple, and Cleansing Our Hearts

Traditionally, on the day following his Triumphal Entry and the praise of Hosanna, Christ found himself in the Holy Temple.  Dedicated as the House of the Lord, it was, in truth, His  house. It was here that the Jews taught the Law, sacrificing and blessing, intending to keep the Children of Israel faithful in preparation to receive the Higher Law.

Sadly, the Jews had defiled the Holy House, filling the courtyard with animal sellers and sacrificial animals, which noisily brayed and squawked as the sellers shouted their prices and bartered with the nearest worshippers. Because the temple was attended from many lands, money changers filled the courtyard, exchanging money’s of foreign lands for the coin of the Jews, all for a nominal price, of course. Surely, the courtyard had become a buzzing center of both trade and corruption. 

Here, as He prepared for the upcoming ultimate sacrifice, the Lord entered His house, no doubt seeking solace and peace, but found again the tumult of the corrupt. For the second time during His public ministry, he overthrew the tables of the money changers, drove out the animal sellers, and forbade the laborers from using the temple as a shortcut while carrying their burdens. “It is written,” he said, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The Lord taught us the importance of keeping the Temple clean and free of the cares of the world, free of sinful corruption, and free of worldly labor. But further, he taught us to keep ourselves clean.

As we prepare this week to celebrate the triumph over death, let us cleanse oyrselves of the sins and burdens that keep us from being holy vessels for the Spirit of the Lord. Let us be worthy of being called His, that He may dwell in us and find peace. Let us repent that He may be able to do His work in our hearts.