Passion Week Monday

blog - Holy Monday

It was Monday.

Yesterday we waved palm branches to exalt Him; on Friday we will lift up a cross to execute Him. Crucify Him, we will demand. Oh how fickle, how changeable we humans are. And yet, “from everlasting to everlasting You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

This is very good news.

The same One who counted the cost in eternity and chose to take on flesh, is now counting the cost in time and choosing to endure till it is finished. And we need it to be finished.

But first.

There is a temple to cleanse and a fig tree to curse. There is a widow’s mite to admire and unbelief to rebuke. There are religious abusers to confront and disciples’ feet to be washed. And don’t forget all those red words. Few syllables in history carry the weight of these final words from this final week. Parables and prophecies, lamentations and lessons, woe and wonder.

God is speaking.

Are we listening?

(If you’re interested, Matthew 21-25 is a potent way to spend some of your attention Monday and Tuesday during this holy week.)

I read this thought today and all I could think about was Jesus on Passion Monday morning: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) He knew His hours were numbered; He knew the Passover clock was counting down; He knew the Lamb had to be slain. Thus He numbered His days, He moved in wisdom, and He finished the task at hand.

So with an eye on the ticking clock of your life, and a humility to recognize we have no guarantees about tomorrow, I challenge us to ask God to teach us to number our days. Obviously this means wise people plan their work and work their plan; they don’t just wait for life to happen to them.  But it’s more eternal than that. There are lives to touch, there is love to spread, and there is a resurrection story that changes everything. As soon as it’s believed. Which only happens when they hear. Which only happens when it’s shared. Let’s go.

Thank God it’s Monday.

Random thoughts

1. I’m looking so forward to eating watermelon with our faith family tonight.

2. Can’t wait to go watch Selma. Let’s get out and support this movie.

3. I’m counting the minutes until I get to start preaching through the life of Joseph. This weekend. These have become some of the most redemptive words in my life: God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20)

4. God’s will. As much of our community concludes our fast, I know that many have been seeking God concerning life direction and major decisions. One of my heroes is a man named George Mueller. I read these words from his journal this week:

  • “I get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to any particular matter.”
  • “I do not leave the result to feelings or simple impressions. That can make one open to great delusions.”
  • “I seek God’s will through, or in connection with, His Word. If you look to the Spirit without the Word, you open yourself to delusion.”
  • “I consider providential [God-controlled] circumstances.”
  • “I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me.”
  • “I make sure I have a clear conscience before God and man.”
  • “Every time I listened to men instead of God, I made serious mistakes.”
  • “I act only when I am at peace, after much prayer, waiting on God with faith.”

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. ~Romans 12:2

Random summer thoughts

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Here’s a peak inside my brain right now:

Meditation is a game changer. Whatever I meditate upon I magnify. And whatever I magnify controls me.

You have an appetite for the eternal because of your DNA. Image of God. You’ll never be satisfied until you partake of the eternal.

Children are a much bigger blessing than my culture told me.

Davids need Jonathons.

I miss watching soccer at the gym.

I am severely shaped by the prayers I pray, the books I read, and the conversations I have.

Be as clear as the Bible is clear and as unclear as it is unclear.

You NEVER find yourself by looking for yourself. You NEVER find contentment by looking for it. It is a byproduct of seeking something eternal.

Discover the reality of the threshold in prayer.

Remember the poor. The broken and destitute have an effect on your soul that no one else will. The sacramental poor cause some of the deepest worship.

Learn the secret of fasting. Get over the legalism of it and do it.

God is an expert as using DELAY to develop his people. As well as DISAPPOINTMENT. He is clearly willing to disappoint us in the short run to redeem us in the long run.

God knows how to prune.

Do your math without Jesus and the equation will depress you. Insert Jesus in the equation and everything changes.

Nothing but the light of God’s presence compensates for the blind spots in our souls.

God is Jesus, and Jesus is good.

 

Envy is idiotic

green eye envyEnvy is idiotic.

I loved hearing this in church today.

The wise man gets it. “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” (Proverbs 14:30)

Why? Because it’s not just that we’re not satisfied; we’re not satisfiable. Ever since the beginning our fault-finding streak has been killing us. Even in the best of circumstances, we find a way to listen to the voices that point out, “So you can’t eat from that tree?” Listen to wisdom! Even if you lived in paradise with a perfect body and a perfect partner, eating nothing but organic food, with no injustice, or disease, or pain – you’d still find a way to be unsatisfied.

This is why envy is so idiotic.

You miss what God has done, because you’re so distracted with what he has not done. You miss who God has made you to be, because you’re so distracted with who he made someone else to be. I shared some of this a while back:

If you could ever thank  God made for who he made you to be, you’d want to be you so badly you wouldn’t know what to do.

Chew on that.

Because what if the gifts of God really are stunning?  Including yours.

What if He really doesn’t make mistakes?  Including you.

What if He’s so infinite that every single one of His children is fashioned uniquely significant beyond our capacity to describe?  Regardless of their age. Regardless of their qualifications.

What if He is so potent that His resources never become exhausted, and your potential is more weighty than you’ve realized? Perhaps His economy is not like ours. What if He doesn’t run out of money, or food … or talent?

What if His grace is so amazing that His mercy and kindness are able to swallow up your failures and darkness? What if this tree we call the Cross and this savior we call the Christ really have removed the only thing standing between you and the real you. Between life and real life.

If only you realized who God made you to be. You’d stop this whole envy thing. And you’d step out and be you.

I can’t always make myself stop envying. But I can make myself give thanks. And gratitude is a game-changer.

I dare you to pray this prayer: “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well.” (Psalm 139:14)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Redemption

Ruth_BackgroundReligion without redemption is dangerous.

Futile.

Exhausting.

Frustrating.

Disillusioning.

Crippling.

I need more than a code of ethics; I need redemption. You need more than improved morality; you need redemption. We need more than a cause to keep us busy; we need redemption.

I can’t quite put into words how deeply this word is marking me.

Redemption.

It’s music to my ears. It’s light at the end of my tunnel. It’s when you’re watching a movie and the dark music in a minor key subtly makes it’s shift. And you somehow know. Things are about to change.

All these other no-redemption talking heads have mastered the art of saying nothing. It’s time we did something about that. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

Redemption is healing. Redemption is a soul-resurrection. Redemption calls things forth that did not previously exist. With people who do not deserve it. With circumstances that are not possible. In ways that are unimaginable.

Redemption.

It’s freedom and hope and finding the winning lottery ticket. Are you kidding me?? It’s too good to be true. It’s mind-bending, destiny-altering, soul-morphing. Perhaps you can’t believe it. But you should at least want to. Maybe you cast aside this whole redemptive narrative of Jesus like another fairy tale. But something in you should at least wish it were true.

I dare you to give the story a shot.

Sometimes life is so dark, so hard, so wretched, so painful, so deathly that nothing less than a God who gives life to the dead will do. Nothing less than a Spokesperson experienced in saying “Let there be light” will do.

Redemption. It’s not just a what; it’s a Who.

I can’t promise my children that they will not be afflicted. I cannot guarantee that they will not taste sickness or sorrow or tears. But I can promise this: that in the end – if you’ll read the story of your life of faith to the end – when you get to the other side, you will weep with joy. Because it’s true. And it’s better than you ever thought.

I dare you to read the book of Ruth.

All you expected were scraps from the dust of someone else’s harvest. And suddenly you find yourself at a wedding feast and the field is yours. All you could imagine was a slower death. And somehow the seeds of the most infinite Life flow through your body. (Read the book.)

Redemption.

God never promised there would be no drama; he promised there would be redemption. His kindness is so deep and His wisdom is so profound, that somehow on a tree we call a cross he pulled the ultimate rabbit out of the worst of hats. And he reaches back into our pain, and our unfaithfulness, and our doubts, and our failings … and he redeems.

He makes bitter waters sweet.

He turns scars into eternal beauty marks.

He takes slaves and makes them sons.

Redemption.

Some things are worth fighting for.

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Some things are worth fighting for.

And some things are not.

So distinguish between levels of certainty.

This will help you differentiate between what is essential and what is controversial. Some things are worth dying for. Some are worth dividing for. Some things are worth debating for. Some are only worthy of deciding for.

Be as clear as the Bible is clear and be humble enough to stay as unclear as it is unclear. This will save you so many foolish disputes and arguments and help you to keep the main thing the main thing. The unity of the Spirit is based on the absolutes and essentials, not questionable deductions and interpretations of the kingdom. Pray for wisdom to discern the difference.

April Reading List

Books

Outside of Scripture, here’s what I’ll be chewing on this month, in no particular order:

The Poor Deserve the Best, Nigel Ring

Bad Religion, Russ Douthat

The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever

Purple Cow, Seth Godin

The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

The Skeptical Student, Tim Keller

Building a Discipling Culture, Mike Breen

Christ-Centered Preaching, Bryan Chappell