Our Good Friday—Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Acts 7.59
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Reflection: Our Good Friday—Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Dr. Shadrach Meshach Lockridge’s poetic description of Good Friday has often been quoted but I recently attended a performance in which it was set to gospel music. (There’s no video of it, or I would link it for you.) 

Lockridge’s “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” sits with us in the tension of seeming disaster, the pain of loss, and the feeling that everything has gone wrong.

Each of us may find ourselves in our own “Good Friday” experiences. Like Peter and the other disciples, we may see no hope and want to flee. Like the women and John at the cross, we may be powerless to do anything but weep.

Stephen was the first follower of Christ to face a more literal version of a “Good Friday” when he was put on trial for false accusations and killed for his testimony about Jesus. No matter what kind of despair we find ourselves in, we can know that Sunday is already here in our hearts, even if it hasn’t been fully realized on Earth.

Today, we close with a prayer reflecting on how Stephen faced his accusers by modeling himself after Jesus.

Our Good Friday
Lord Jesus help us to pattern our life after yours.
May we love the unlovable outcasts.
May we love our enemies.
May we speak truth that both challenges and comforts.
May we speak of sins to those who think themselves righteous and of mercy to those who know themselves to be unworthy.

We must carry our cross to follow you, so it seems we must have our Good Friday moments.
When we are insulted and attacked for good works.
When we are unjustly accused and humiliated for the gospel.

In our Good Fridays, Lord, help us remember that Sunday is coming.
That the humble will be lifted
That the meek will inherit
That the weeping will rejoice
That the days of our sojourn, our suffering, and our sanctification will come to an end.

We know that Sunday is coming for us because we are in Friday now and we are following your path.
Sunday is coming for us, because it came for you.
Resurrection is given to us, because we are in you.
Because you got up, we will get up.
Because you rose, we will rise.

We can hold on through the Fridays, Lord, because Sunday is coming.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? — Psalm 22.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 10 (Listen 3:25)
Acts 7 (Listen 8:49)

This Weekend’s Reading
Leviticus 11-12 (Listen 7:20), Acts 8 (Listen 5:10)
Leviticus 13 (Listen 9:34), Acts 9 (Listen 6:05)

Read more about The Wrong People
God doesn’t just use the Stephens. He uses Tamars…Rahabs…Pauls…
If we’ll let him, God will use us, too.

Read more about Much Given, Much Expected
If Abihu and Nadab were given much, how much more have we been given?
We serve a greater High Priest…we bear a greater responsibility.

A Jesus-like Life

Scripture Focus: Acts 6.15
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 

From John: On Maundy Thursday, many Christians observe a ceremony of foot-washing in memory of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet as a model of service. It is fitting then that today we focus on Stephen, one of the church’s first servants, or deacons.

Reflection: A Jesus-like Life
By John Tillman

What does it look like to follow Jesus? To be one who devotes the pattern of their thinking, acting, and speaking to follow him? In two short chapters, Luke tells us.

In less than 2,000 words in the NIV, we read the life, ministry, and death of the church’s first martyr, Stephen. It’s shorter than your average online article. Nearly 1300 words are Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin, so narratively, we have a 700-word story of a life patterned after Jesus.

Stephen’s life maps onto the ministry of Jesus. We can both observe and adopt this pattern.

Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s faith was strong and he knew the scriptures well. We can make an intimate inner life of devotion, filled with prayer and scripture, our foundation. (Luke 3.21-22; John 3.34; Acts 7.55-56)

Stephen’s first ministry was serving outcasts and those hurt in a church controversy. He brought justice to an unjust situation, healing to those harmed, and restored the good name of the church in the process. We must serve the hurting and hungry for the sake of the gospel. (Luke 4.16-25; Acts 6.1)

Stephen performed “signs” among the people. We don’t know what kind of “signs” Stephen performed, but we know they were evidence of grace and pointed people to Jesus. We can be known for powerful, beneficial work in our community. God’s power must be used for his purposes, not our own. (Luke 4.2-4; Luke 9.12-17; Acts 6.8)

Stephen faced trouble boldly, but with grace and love. Even in his sharp critique of the leaders, Stephen held out hope and the gospel to them. And he forgave those who killed him. We can be both convincing and winsome. We can forgive our enemies and offer them God’s redemption. (Luke 23.1-4, 33-34; Acts 6.15, 7.59-60)

The pattern of Stephen’s life is the pattern of Jesus’ life and that pattern is the pattern of the cross. Not many Christians will face physical death for the sake of the gospel but we all must lay down our lives on the cross.

What would have to die in our lives for us to live according to this pattern?
…to be more devoted to scriptures and prayer?
…to serve the outcast and the hurting?
…to seek God’s purposes and rely on his power?
…to contend with grace for the gospel?
…to forgive our enemies and do good to them?

Stephen-like, Jesus-like lives will bring salvation to people and growth to the church.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life. — Psalm 119.49-50

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 9 (Listen 3:18)
Acts 6 (Listen 2:35)

Read more about The Overflowing Plate
When tempted to add to an already full plate, know that it is wise to ask for help.

Read more about Intimidating, Liberating Glory
When we know the forgiveness of Jesus, God’s glory goes from intimidating to liberating, from terrifying to electrifying.

Worthy of Suffering

Scripture Focus: Acts 5:38-41
 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 

Reflection: Worthy of Suffering
By Erin Newton

In a typical counseling session, I begin stories like this: “I had to perform CPR on my child” or “I felt so sad and had to cry.” In a gentle voice, my counselor redirects my words, “You get to…”

I have learned, in time, that her gentle redirections have been a way to change my perspective on the traumatic event. “You get to be the parent of a medically dependent child.” “You get to love someone so much you need to cry.” The pain is always present, but I’ve learned to see the honor of participating in such suffering.

The book of Acts presents the powerful genesis of the church. The Spirit which hovered over the waters in creation descends upon the women and men in the Upper Room. At creation, the breath of God gave life to the newly formed humans. In Acts, the divine tongues of fire bring gifts to the newly formed church. As the church set forth to bring salvation to the people, the apostles healed the sick and performed many signs and wonders.

Although we read the story with excitement and joy, the early church was met with opposition and persecution. The miracles and signs were viewed as problematic and irritating. Every time the work was hindered, the apostles persevered.

The gospel was so important they had to..no, they got to continue preaching through many dangers.

Through the words of Gamaliel, the apostles’ lives were spared. But their flesh was not. They were flogged, just as Jesus has been flogged. They carried on their backs bruises, gashes, and pain.

As they walked home from that meeting with the Sanhedrin, warned once more to keep quiet about Christ, they rejoiced. They got to suffer for Christ. They got to endure pain in the name of the Gospel.

Rejoicing because you suffer is not a typical reaction. It is something given to you by God. It is the joy that surpasses understanding.

I’d like to say that I understand their joy and share in the same but it’s not always the case. We often need a gentle voice that helps us reframe our pain and suffering.

The backs of the apostles undoubtedly hurt for a long time. Pain is not something we smile away. There is the opportunity, at some God-given time afterwards, to rejoice in suffering. May we ask God for this type of joy. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading

Leviticus 8 (Listen 5:06)
Acts 5 (Listen 6:49)

Read more about In Trouble for Good
There are still Christians today who rejoice in being persecuted. But are they suffering for the name of Jesus or for something else?…for healing…or for harming?


Read The Bible With Us
It’s never too late to join our Bible reading plan. Immerse in the Bible with us at a sustainable, two-year pace.


In Trouble for Good

Scripture Focus: Acts 4.7-12
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is 
“ ‘the stone you builders rejected, 
which has become the cornerstone.’ 
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 

Reflection: In Trouble for Good
By John Tillman

In Acts, Luke writes nearly as often about apostles in a jailhouse as he does about apostles in a churchhouse. (Or a house church.)

New Testament church leaders always found trouble. Beginning with Peter and John and continuing through Stephen, Paul, and others, they were harassed, chased out of towns, arrested, thrown in jail, stoned to death or executed in other ways. (Matthew 10.17-18) Later, Peter and other apostles would rejoice that they had suffered for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5.40-41

There are still Christians today who rejoice in being persecuted. But are they suffering for the name of Jesus or for something else? Are they suffering for healing, like Peter and John, or for harming?

Peter told the church that we should suffer for doing good, not evil. (1 Peter 3.17) When Jesus said we would be hated, it wasn’t for being hateful. (Luke 6.22) Whether through words or actions, we should be doing good to our enemies, not scoring points with insults.

It insults truly persecuted Christians when those who are suffering the consequences of being cruel claim to be suffering for Christ. Yet, we cannot, for the sake of being loved by the world stay silent about the gospel.

Therefore, simply being “in trouble” doesn’t prove we are following Jesus. However, if we consistently follow Jesus, we will be in trouble for good—in trouble for doing good things and in trouble continually.

Have you been called a “troublemaker?” (1 Kings 18.17-18) Have you been in trouble for doing good? For correcting a bad representation of Jesus? For loving the unlovable? For forgiving the unforgivable? For sharing the gospel?

Our world pressures us to have silent faith—individual and private—which does nothing that can be seen and says nothing that can be heard. But Jesus models a public faith that does good, speaks the truth, and demonstrates the loving heart of God.

What does it take to boldly love and act despite the trouble that may come?

Jesus modeled an inward life of devotion that led to an outward life of service and speech. It is what we cultivate in our inner spiritual lives that must come out in our actions. Without this inner spiritual formation, we are more likely to swing swords, like Peter in the garden, than heal the lame, like Peter at the Temple. (John 18.10-11; Acts 3.6-8)

Let’s put down our swords and take up prayer, healing, and the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out the men selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, “Does not scripture say: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples?’ But you have turned it into ‘a bandits’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city. — Mark 11.15-19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 7 (Listen 5:13)
Acts 4 (Listen 5:15)

Read more about Judas, Peter, and Satan
As we practice the presence of God, we are arming ourselves for the presence of evil.

Read more about The Sword Versus The Cross
We have been sifted, tricked, by Satan. The only way back is to repent and take up the cross instead of the sword.

Waiting at the Beautiful Gate

Scripture Focus: Acts 3.6-8
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 

Reflection: Waiting at the Beautiful Gate
By John Tillman

The man Peter and John heal in this passage is a man who waited. 

We do not know the full extent of his deformity, only that he was lame from birth and that its severity was such that he had to be carried to the Temple. We know that he was over forty years old and was such a fixture at the Temple that everyone recognized him. It seems likely that he had been there for most of his life

It is possible this man was present, begging outside the Temple, during Jesus’ first visit when Christ, as a twelve-year-old stunned the teachers with his questions and answers. Not that the man would have heard the debate, being excluded from entering or worshiping at the Temple.

Doubtless, Peter and John had walked by this lame man before in the presence of Jesus. Perhaps they had not noticed the man then. Maybe they were engrossed in theological debate or maybe looking in wonder at the massive stones of the Temple that Jesus then prophesied would soon be thrown down.

Living in Jerusalem, this man certainly knew about Jesus. He may have even seen Jesus. But Jesus had passed him by.

Jesus did not “miss” this man. He left him for Peter and John. This man was waiting to be healed, not by Christ, but by his disciples—by his church.

Jesus has left his church work to do in this world. There are people left out of the kingdom. There are people injured and hurt by the religious and by the irreligious. There are men and women lamed and abandoned by the world. There are unwanted masses that yearn to be free.

They are waiting for us at the Beautiful Gate. We are their miracle. 

The suffering children? They are waiting for us.
The unwanted refugees? They are waiting for us.
The diseased and uneducated? They are waiting for us.
The condemned and shunned? They are waiting for us.

Not for the Democrats. Not for the Republicans. For the church.

Jesus didn’t give us the Holy Spirit for warm, fuzzy feelings in our sanctuaries. The Holy Spirit is given to us to heal those too scarred, scared, deformed, and broken to dare enter the sanctuary. 

When we act in healing ways through the Spirit’s power, the formerly broken will leap, run, and skip into God’s presence as the lame man leaped through the gates of the Temple, praising the name of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 6 (Listen 4:17)
Acts 3 (Listen 3:33)

Read more about Jesus, our Restorer
Even in the intensity of his own suffering, Christ healed those Peter attacked and forgave those Peter cursed at.

Read more about The Prince of Peace not Pacification
Many times we, like the Jerusalem crowds, might prefer a Prince of Pacification instead of a Prince of Peace.