It’s Friday

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It’s Friday and He’s there… Suffering unimaginable traumas. He is deserted by fearful disciples, surrounded by tormentors, thieves, murderers, and religious provocateurs. Soldiers gaming over the final scant possessions of the Master of creation, ignore the darkening sky.

Jesus cries out: “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”

On this holy day, God’s beloved Son embodies the weight of every sin from the slightest tresspass to our greatest of atrocities.

And during this bloody sacrifice, a Holy God turns His back.

“He who knew no sin has become sin.”

Jesus receives enough sour wine to moisten his tongue so that He could make one grand and final announcement. In the darkness of a cruel hill, Jesus shouts:

IT IS FINISHED!

This declaration is not a cry of defeat, despair and death. It is a glorious shout of victory! The masterpiece of redemption receives its final brushstroke. This is the pinnacle moment of grace that crushed the head of a conniving has-been and opened wide the passageway to salvation. The cross- once a vulgar, despicable symbol of shame, will soon top the roofs of churches and cathedrals. It will be displayed in homes and hospitals, bejeweled on necklaces and depicted in the greatest works of art and literature. And the three words Jesus shouted would now be the pronouncement of God’s greatest transaction.

IT IS FINISHED.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace.”
There is peace once again in midst of the exchange.
It is dark.
It is unspeakable.
It is mysterious.
It is ENOUGH.
It is Friday.


 

It’s Thursday Evening

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It’s Thursday evening. Darkness falls on a Middle Eastern city and a group of men gather around a table. Some men want answers, others want power, others conceal their furtive motives and plans, and still others resign to die.

Tonight is different. In the past, their times of feasting were filled with so much laughter and celebration that some had accused them of irreverence and drunkenness.

But not tonight.

The brutal events and encounters of a tumultuous week birthed weary hearts and uncertain minds. Even now the weight of man’s rebellion settles on the back of the Son. He broke the bread, poured the wine and washed the feet of these first believers. How were they to know the import of this table? How could these twelve conceive that they would be the first to partake of this new and strangely anomalous feast?

This is my body…

This is my blood…

Remember this moment.

And I reply,

“I remember You, Lord Jesus Christ Son of God.  I remember your constant longing for me to see You for who You really are. I remember the times when I had absolutely no one and You remained. You remained despite all the shameful wanderings that I created in the barrenness of my finite mind. You remained, even though I failed to rise above the waves of discontent that made a restful place in my heart. You remained, and the memories of every disappointing failure now are crushed under the weight of Your relentless love.”

We hear the strange and unthinkable declaration: “One will betray me.”

And in so many ways we all have.

The perimeter of conspiracy around these men grows smaller.

The unseen war of angels and demons is thick, visceral and taut.

This night and the day to come will amass the climax of redemption.

The fate of generations, hence and to come, hangs on every move.

As the meal ends, the disciples sing.

The last supper, the last song…

The labor of grace begins.

It’s Thursday evening.


 

It’s Wednesday

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It’s Wednesday. Jesus remains in Bethany among friends. He is cloistered, away from the opinions of the multitude. There is peace in Bethany.

(May we all have a Bethany.)

This day is silent, until a worshipper enters carrying a year’s salary in the form of a rare and exquisite ointment ornately encased. The assembly watches in disbelief. The vessel is broken and the aroma of worship fills the room. She has become weary of logic, caution, safety, investments and prudence. This is not the time for such things.

This is a time for

over-the-top,

reckless,

radical

unstoppable,

extreme,

extravagant

WORSHIP

Her only desire is Jesus. Her desire is fulfilled. This moment in history leads her to squander her riches on the head and feet of the soon-scarred Savior. Her hands drip with the oil of adoration. In one moment, one woman worships Him more than most will in a lifetime.

This is not a tithe, as the Pharisee would desire.

This is not a special missions offering, as the disciples would desire.

This is not retribution, as the legalists would demand for her sin.

This is overwhelming.

This is abandon.

This is worship.

This is bliss.

This is EVERYTHING she had.

This is Wednesday.


 

 

It’s Tuesday Evening

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It’s Tuesday evening…

Jesus returns to Bethany after a day of long and difficult conversations with friends and those who sought to destroy Him. He speaks of whitewashed tombs, of a darkened moon, of sudden separations, of a wedding and of a return. It’s all in there–prophetic signs, passionate pleas, stern rebukes and mysterious parables. Today, His words and actions seem frenetic and unyielding. Like a dying king, He has much to say and little time.

The triumphant voices of two days ago has disappeared. The disonance of ambiguity and conflict has taken on a life of its own.

The storms of opposition are organizing. Some would call it doom. Others, fate. But Jesus knows the story. This is divine consequence for the sake of us all.

Tuesday speaks of destiny
Hidden today, soon all will see
Feet that walk toward the cross
with purpose counting not the loss.
I see him, hope of all my need
This week- the center of our creed.

As the sun sets, one disciple walks into the shadows… into the company of nefarious saboteurs. The wheels of betrayal begin to move. There is no turning back for any of them. Passover approaches once again . . . a remembrance of doors marked with lamb’s blood. The table is set. For another day. It’s Tuesday evening.


 

25 Collateral Lessons of Holy Week

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This season we observe one complete, enormous truth: Jesus sacrificed His life for us. As the Bride of Christ observes the practice of Lent and Holy Week, we find other collateral truths hidden in the text that carry us throughout our lives. Here are 25 truths we can celebrate and remember through the coming days.

  1. Our enemies are often tools for God’s ultimate providence. Just as the Romans and Pharisees ultimately brought forth glory, the enemies we face God can be used to shape our story.
  2. Jesus is faithful to act on our behalf even when we run away in fear.
  3. The Old Testament prophecies are as mysterious as they are miraculous.
  4. Jesus showed us how to rely on scripture in times of deepest adversity.
  5. Often women remain at the foot of the cross as men hide.
  6. The Jewish Passover was (and is today) a lesson about the mission of the Messiah.
  7. Jesus entered into the suffering of our world and showed us how to overcome it.
  8. We don’t have to understand Jesus to be a follower. They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” John 16:18
  9. On the day of atonement, the High Priest laid his hand on a scapegoat, sprinkled with blood, after washing his hands, the scapegoat is taken outside of the walls of Jerusalem to die. The priests and Roman government laid their hands upon Jesus, sprinkled in blood and after washing their hands, Jesus is taken outside the walls of Jerusalem to die.
  10. Everything good thing that dies on a Friday eventually leads to a Sunday. (Leviticus 16)
  11. Evil plots are often fuel for the providence of God.  “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” John 11:53
  12. Love is being brave enough to watch their beloved die.
  13. We we feel forsaken, we can shout to God. (Psalm 22:1)
  14.  Jesus stands before the Governor of Judea and says, “I was born for this.” (John 18:37) Blessed be the one who rises above the pain to apprehend His purpose.
  15. Hand your tombs to God and they will soon be empty.
  16. Jesus was interceding for us over 2000 years before we were born.
  17. When you hear a whisper deep in your soul saying, “The Lord has need of it,” (Luke 19:31) Act immediately or you may be left out of the glorious story.
  18. The severed ear of Malchus reminds us that Jesus doesn’t need anything- no time, no technique, no tools, to restore the severed parts of your life. He just does it. It’s simply what He does. And often He does it before you even ask. (Luke 22:51)
  19. As Jesus knitted the life of his mother to John, He is also concerned that you have the relationships you need in your darkest hours. (John 19:26)
  20. You don’t have to respond to the words of your critics or those that question you. (Matthew 26:63)
  21. God turned the most profane and ugly symbol of death (the cross) into the most universal icon the world has ever known.
  22. When it comes to your sin, the score has already been settled. It is finished. 
  23. If you choose to waste your treasures, waste them at the feet of Jesus.
  24. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” John 19:15–Be careful when you call for anyone’s head, it might be the head of your Savior.
  25. We are still so fixated with garments that we don’t even realize the glory. (John 19:24)

I’d love to hear what Jesus is teaching you.

May God continue to pour out his mercy and grace upon us all.

Holy Rags and Water

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On the night of His betrayal, we enter a room of remembrance.

The age-old ceremonial question from the Pesach Haggadah-“Why is this night different from all other nights?” would never be as relevent as it is tonight.

We see Jesus as host and caregiver. He would feed. He would gather. He would reassure. and he would wash. A maternal glimpse into the eternal Savior… The Master of the feast became the Servant.  We see Him with water, basin and towel, baptizing the feet of His friends including a betrayer, a denier, and a skeptic. Yes, they are there too.

When we see Jesus stooping before the dusty feet of these men, we see Him as rabbi and deliverer of a helpless newborn infant called “The Church.”

As I witness this seminal gesture of grace, I look into his eyes and I see a host of friends; brothers and sisters.

I see the mother of an autistic son who gives daily to one unable to return love.

I see a family gathering around the bed of their dying matriarch singing “How Great Thou Art” as she silently mouths the words until her breath is no more.

I see the son, whose father is seized by the cruelty of dementia.  The father doesn’t recognize him and flies into rage without a clue of cause. Still the son returns to ease His pain and day after day hoping for at least one good day this week.

I see the wife whose world has been shattered by her husband’s five month affair. Even with unimaginable wounds, she chooses to forgive and is welcoming him back, for better or for worse, until death do they part.

I see the minister at the homeless shelter praying with an man fighting for his sobriety. It’s been five days– with no food, bath, or shelter– only whiskey. But the minister is there to offer him hope.

I see the voluteer in the hospice, feeding ice chips to ease the suffering of a woman whose family is too broken to attend to her.

I’ve witnessed all these people and when I do I hear the sound of holy rags and water, dusty feet. And I see the eyes of my King.

What an honor to personally know all these people. They remind me that the glorious incarnation is all around us.

 

 

The Tree that Makes Bitter Things Sweet

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Tucked behind the glorious parting of the Red Sea, there’s a Jesus story.

After the exultation of seeing the waters of the Red Sea part, the newly freed nation ran into other issues. A lot of people.  No water.

Isn’t that the way troubles come? As soon as one crisis is averted, another new set of predicaments, equally perplexing, comes-a-knockin’.

This is life.

A friend goes to hear the results of the scans. The three weeks of being cancer free are followed by the fact that it returned with even greater tenacity than the first diagnoses. 

The brother that went into treatment, who’s working the program, going to meetings, and crossing weekly sobriety milestones has a relapse and this time someone else is in the hospitals due to his weekend bender. 

The new job that you were convinced was a promotion, turns into a situation that was not clearly explained to you when you resigned your previous job for an apparently brighter career path. Your new boss is a jerk with impossible expectations. 

The solution was there right in front of them. A place called Marah that had fresh water, enough for this multitude of weary wanderers of the wilderness who, no doubt, were recovering from Egyptian PTSD. But something was wrong.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. (Exodus 15:23)

We find a universal experience here. It occurs when the solution appears but instead of a happy ending and the credits rolling, we see that the problem is not better. It just turns bitter.

Each adversity we face has the potential of manifesting bitterness, regret and disbelief. Life can and will turn as bitter as the thorns on the outskirts of Eden.

Bitterness is a pernicious evil that lies beneath the surface. We are deceived by it because we have mechanisms in our fallen state which allow us to look happy and seem content while at the same time never really dealing with the root of bitterness. Bitterness grows best under cover. It seeps into the inner workings of our heart and takes root.

The story finds its rescue hanging on the cruel form of a tree. (Exodus 15:25)

God directs Moses to throw a tree into the bitterness of the water and the water becomes sweet.

Here’s where Jesus comes in. In the same way, God threw a tree in the middle of the bitterness of life. The tree was the cross. And in the middle of mess we can taste and see that the waters of any adversity can become sweet.

The cross is God’s way of releasing us from the heavy weight of resentment and bitterness and escorting us into the peace that we never thought we’d attain. Sweet and everlasting.

The Hope of Us All: Remember Me

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Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Luke 23:42

The two thieves represent two choices. One thief demands proof. The other pleads for hope. One looks to escape and the other looks to eternity. These choices stand as constant reminders that the cross of Christ demands a response.

Hope is personal. Very personal. Whether through worship, adversity, desperation or pain, we collide into the reality that our only hope is Jesus. We can’t hope eternally in friends. Friends will fail us. We can’t hope in institutions. Institutions over the course of eternity will evaporate like the ephemeral mist of the morning dew. We can’t hope in hidden treasures. All treasures, short of grace, are water through our fingers. We can’t hope in flowery platitudes because there will be a day when they will all wilt upon the parched, unforgiving soil of our brokenness. Our hope is in the One who suffers next to us and says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
This glimpse of the cross reflects the absolute power of grace to snatch anyone from the jaws of destruction.

Was there anything the thief on the cross could do? Absolutely nothing. He couldn’t start a small group, feed the poor, go to the synagogue or study the scriptures. He found himself at the end of his life and the only thing he could do was to confess his sin and cry out to Jesus.

Celebrate this scene of the darkest day! Grace rules even when we have no more time. Grace ruled the day then and now.

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.
~Victor Hugo

Hope was born on the cross.

Because hope was born we don’t have to be ashamed because he bore our shame.

Because hope was born we don’t have to constantly obsess about whether we could be good enough because He is our righteousness.

Because hope was born we are free.

Because hope was born we have purpose.

Because hope was born we are going to be OK.

And that’s worth celebrating!

I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death… I think… peace and tranquillity will return again.
Anne Frank

Today I saw a Friend

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Today, I saw a Man walking a path meant for me.

I saw Him bear the burdens of my wayward steps. And as He struggled, I found release and freedom. He was captured, railroaded and sentenced in my place.

He could have called me a traitor.
He could have called me unworthy.
He could have called me a burden.
I am all of these, a thousand times and again.

Instead He called me His friend.

His love, His wisdom, His majesty– all of this climatically appeared on this upward path. Before I drew a breath, grace poured down on me like holy rain cleansing the secret places of my soul.

From beginning to end, He has brought wholeness in the midst of my shattered frame.

He is straining under the weight of it all.

And He is enough.

Enough to live…

Enough to heal…

Enough to die…

And, hallelujah, enough to rise again.

But today I see him walking the lonesome road to undiscovered lands.

The blood of the One who calms the seas is now cleansing my soul.

Scars are giving birth to my salvation.

Yes, He could have called it a waste, a travesty, and an affliction.

But astonishingly, He called me

friend.

It was for Joy!

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Sometimes we forget there will be an end to the storm.

Every gathering storm for the believer is an advent to joy.  The tempest of evil rages but bliss is imminent.  When pain has purpose, the crashing waves of chaos lose their power over us. It was for joy that Christ endured the cross. In the midst of our tribulations we learn much from the cross of Christ.


Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2


Jesus offered no resistance as He laid himself on the beam. In the midst of great pain there was hidden joy. This was His place and even in the midst of this nightmare of suffering. Like the blushed strain of a triumphant warrior who sees the finish as He rounds the final turn– oh how joyful the heart of the one who completely surrenders to the will and providence of God!

Jesus teaches us courageous surrender. We see Him running headlong into His own demise for the sake of a greater eternal intention and destiny.

Jesus embraced the pain for joy.

He climbed the tall mount of suffering for bliss.

He met every hostile foe for love.

He challenged every lie for truth

The first warrior of grace…

He approached the unapproachable.

And it was for joy.

The first Artist of redemption endured the pinnacle of human suffering, alienation and shame.  Amidst meaningless chaos, He hewed purpose out of the hard soil of humanity. Jesus’ hands were true to the task as He demonstrated the law of mercy.

In the presence of enemies, rebels, in the pretext of religiosity. God’s Son stepped out of the far reaches of glory, set His eye on the bride–

 And it was for the joy.

“It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our deathbeds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Strangely, surrender is the most fulfilling thing you can ever do. Satisfaction and bliss will never be achieved unless you succumb to the sweetness of a divine relinquishment. When this surrender overrides your fear, your pride in the self-made life, the anger you have because of old wounds, joy abounds. You enter into a surrender which leads to death. This is the bliss of a purposeful holy death of your own petty kingdom.

The Cross became the cure.

It was for joy.

It was for love.

It was for us.

How could I hold tightly to my life and miss the joy of reckless worship.

I kneel at the cross and live in joy. I am free to live the life today that I’ve always wanted to live.

Delivered

Accepted

Released

Chosen

Loved

Free!

The same joy that was set before Christ is now before us. We can look to Him and remember what this life is about. It is a race toward a life surrendered totally to Him and His glory.