Making Sense of Today

I’m chewing on the fact that they did not understand. That the disciples didn’t get it. That to the followers of Jesus it made no sense. It just didn’t add up. And, as I mull over it, it shouldn’t have made sense. Who would have thought? Unimaginable. It simply does not compute!

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And [Jesus] did not want anyone to know, for He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him.

(Mark 9:30-32 ESV)

Think about it. Terms like “Son of Man” and “they will kill Him” shouldn’t go together. You’d think they should be mutually exclusive. I think of “Son of Man” and I think of Daniel’s vision (which our men’s group recently studied).

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

(Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

That’s what you would expect of the Son of Man. Coming with clouds, not betrayed into the hands of men. Commissioned by His Father, the Ancient of Days, not condemned by Him as He poured out on the Son the wrath deserved by others.

That the Son of Man should have been given dominion and glory, not bound and abused. That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him, not be spitting on Him as they mock Him. That the Son of Man would be reigning over an everlasting dominion, not hanging in defeat on a Roman cross.

The last thing you’d expect from Someone destined to reign over a kingdom that shall never be destroyed is that they would die.

I wonder if Daniel’s prophetic words hadn’t also come to mind for Jesus’ band of twelve as they scratched their heads trying to process His words. So confused by “they will kill Him” that they didn’t even hear, “He will rise.”

They didn’t understand. Ya’ think?!?

Nor should we, in a sense, understand this day we call Good Friday. What makes it good? It doesn’t make sense.

Unless you consider afresh our desperate need and the depths of God’s love. Unless you confess again that the wages of sin is death, and remember that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord–the Son of Man. Unless you marvel anew that the Son of Man came in flesh to be the Lamb of God, the once for ever offering for sin, the ultimate Passover, the final shedding of blood for our redemption and deliverance from bondage to sin and death.

Maybe even with that it still doesn’t make sense. But it does make something so good out of this Friday.

That the Son of Man would die in time and space so that we might live eternally. That He would suffer so that we might be saved. That He would offer His life so that we might know new life and present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1).

O’ what a Savior!

What amazing grace!

To Him be glory this day and forevermore!

Amen?

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A Glorious Journey Into The Mundane

It’s a journey. You start here and you end up there. That’s how I’m digesting 1Corinthians 15 this morning.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared . . .

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

. . . we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. . . .

Death is swallowed up in victory.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

(1Corinthians 15:3-5a, 42-44, 51b-53, 54b-55, 58 ESV)

It’s a gospel journey. A journey that starts with preeminent truth and works it’s way to a practical takeaway.

The journey starts with an empty tomb; gains momentum with a risen Savior; picks up along the way immortal people; crescendos with a trumpet sound and victory song; and then touches down on what is seeming to me to be a pretty profound implication. Profound in that it is not all that profound. Remarkable in that it’s not really that remarkable. Magnificent in that it’s pretty mundane.

Sunday’s a coming! Easter celebrations are just a couple of days away. The wonder of a finished work, the glory of an empty tomb, the reminder of a blessed hope. We’ll poke our heads into the cave with Peter and John and see the empty grave clothes; we’ll watch Jesus, nail scars and all, making the rounds, connecting with Peter, and then the twelve, and then the more than five hundred; we’ll consider afresh that Jesus’s resurrection isn’t the finale, it is the firstfruits, and that there will be a mind-blowing harvest of resurrected people ascended into immortality just like Him. And then, we’ll sing our doxology (we’re singing a bit of a pumped up version of Victory in Jesus this Sunday . . . can’t wait), turn out the lights, lock the door, and go back to doing what we do. We’ll return to our same old, same old.  ‘Cause Monday’s coming, as well.

Back to the routine. Re-engaging in the mundane. But doing so as people of the resurrection . . . the glorious resurrection of Christ, which has happened . . . the just as glorious resurrection of our bodies, which will happen.

Steadfast. Immovable. Abounding in the the work of the Lord and, in whatever our job is, for the Lord. Knowing it’s not in vain.

A glorious journey into the mundane.

By His grace. For His glory.

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This Week Is Important

Oh how we need this week in our post-Christian, postmodern, increasingly post-truth culture. A culture that debates not only the abstracts of truth (which man has done throughout the ages . . . think Pilate (Jn. 18:38)), but also seeks to redefine what was once considered unambiguous and without debate, tangible biology. Having decided to worship the creation rather than the Creator, ours is a culture increasingly given over to a collective futility of thinking. Claiming to be wise and enlightened, we are increasingly marked by foolishness and darkness, exchanging the truth–both abstract truth and physical truth–for a lie (Rom. 1:21-25).

And it would be naïve to think that, even though we are those who worship the Creator and recognize an objective truth and reality outside ourselves, we are not influenced by the culture around us. Naïve to think that our truth can’t be influenced and squeezed into the mold of the voices surrounding us. That our values, our priorities, our view on how we should live, cannot, to some degree, be influenced by the popular opinion of the world we come into daily contact with. That even though we have been given the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16), we can still set our minds on the things of man.

After all, if it could happen to to those who walked with Jesus when He walked, it can happen to us, as well.

And [Jesus] began to teach [His disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

(Mark 8:31-33 ESV)

It’s a battle for the mind. A constant struggle as to whether we will set our minds on things above or on things of earth (Col. 3:2). Continually contending to cast down “arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” and to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor. 10:5).

To not enter the fray for the mind is to run the risk we’ll find ourselves on the wrong side of the battle. Who wants to hear Jesus say to them, “Get behind me Satan!”

And so this week is important. We need this week to remind ourselves that, just as Jesus was rejected by the popular opinion of His day, today He is also refused entrance into the public square of discussion and debate. To remember, in a fresh and deep way, that Jesus came to suffer many things–things at the hands of sinful men because of men’s sin. That He was put to death–having been wounded for our transgressions, slain for our iniquity, once for all paying the price that we might know redemption, reconciliation, and regeneration. And that, after three days, He rose again–sin’s bondage broken, death’s reign defeated.

How important for us to seize the opportunity afforded this week to firmly set our minds on the things of God. So that, when we are asked the question, as Peter was long ago, “But who do you say that I am?” we might, stand firm, stand fast, and declare with renewed conviction and vigor:

You are the Christ!     (Mark 8:29 ESV)

All because of grace. Ever for His glory.

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The Bottom Line in a Crisis of Faith

This morning I was reminded in 1Corinthians 13 that “now we see in a mirror dimly” and only “know in part.” If that’s true of us who have the inspired Word and the indwelling Spirit, how much more was that the case for the ancient songwriter, Ethan the Ezrahite?

As I mull over Psalm 89 it seems possible it was written around the time of the captivity. I can imagine Ethan standing amidst the razed, smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and wondering:

How long, O LORD? Will you hide Yourself forever? How long will Your wrath burn like fire?

(Psalm 89:46)

The breached walls, the ruined stronghold, the absolute decimated defeat before their enemies–it didn’t make sense. (89:40-42)

Ethan reminds himself of the Person of God. He replays in his mind, over and over again, who God is. The God of steadfast love and faithfulness. The God greatly feared in the council of heavenly holy ones. The God who created and who rules over all the earth. The God whose throne is built on the foundation of righteousness and justice. (89:5-14)

And he also recounts the Promises of God.

You have said, “I have made a covenant with My chosen one; I have sworn to David My servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.'”    Selah

(Psalm 89:3-4 ESV)

God had said His faithfulness and steadfast love would be with David. That in Him David’s kingdom would be exalted, the highest of kingdoms on earth, kept forever. God had promised that He would not remove His steadfast love nor be false to His faithfulness. That He would not violate His covenant, nor alter the words that went forth from His lips. Once for all He had sworn. He would not, He could not lie to David. David’s offspring would endure forever. (89:33-34)

“So what happened?” Ethan thinks to himself.

Lord, where is Your steadfast love of old, which by Your faithfulness You swore to David?

(Psalm 89:49 ESV)

Nothing Ethan had experienced pointed toward a forever throne. He couldn’t imagine a future scenario that even hinted of a glorious king sitting again on a glorious throne. Nothing he could see fanned the flames of the hope promised of a blessed people who knew “the festal shout” and walked in the light of the face of the LORD of heaven and earth. Nothing! Nada! Nil!

Ethan knew in part–the Person and the promises. But he only saw in a mirror dimly. He only saw the problem. Ethan the songwriter was experiencing a crisis of faith.

But on this side of the cross, we’ve seen the fulfillment of the promises in Jesus. Descended through Joseph, ascended by Mary, He is the Chosen One, the son of David, the King forever. Ruling through proxy today, His kingdom is being established on earth through His people. But in a day soon to come, ruling in person. A day when every knee will bow “in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php. 2:10-11).

Who can’t relate to a crisis of faith? When what you believe to be true isn’t playing out how you thought it would. When what you know and what you feel are at odds with one another?

But here’s the bottom line for Ethan . . . and for me as I chew on his song this morning . . .

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.

(Psalm 89:52 ESV)

What Ethan knew trumped what he didn’t know. What he believed anchored that which he could not see. The Person, and the promises, became the context for dealing with the problem.

When all is said and done, even when we can’t make sense of how what was said lines up with what was done, in our crisis of faith we too, with the songwriter, can declare, and must declare:

Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.

By His grace. For His glory.

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For the Common Good

Who wouldn’t agree? The human body is amazing. Just take a moment to think about how everything is wired together and operates together and it doesn’t take long for the awe-o-meter to start to rise.

Over the last year I’ve start playing Pickleball on a consistent basis. That I can see the ball, process where I need to be to hit the ball, then move to the ball and sometimes actually hit the ball, even getting it back over the net occasionally, is an awe-inspiring display of how brain, nerves, muscles, and bones all work together to perform a somewhat precise task with no extended planning but on a reaction basis. And then it all resets in a split second and tries to do it over and over again. Just one example, but you get the idea. The body is amazing.

That’s the big idea I’m chewing on as I read the twelfth chapter of 1Corinthians this morning. The body is amazing.

It’s no accident that God uses the human body as the object lesson for the body of Christ. Many parts. Some visible, some invisible. Many members. Some performing a variety of tasks, others given one thing to do–and to do well and to do over and over again.

A variety of gifts, a variety of services, a variety of activities, but the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God who empowers them all in everyone (12:4-6). But though the body is marked by a ton of diversity when it comes to the individual parts, it is still ONE BODY, and

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

(1Corinthians 12:7 ESV)

For the common good. That’s the specific phrase I’m chewing on.

Each member of the body using the gifts apportioned by the Spirit as the Spirit wills, through whatever specific services and activities they find to do, do what they do to “produce what is beneficial” (CSB) for the whole body. “Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (MSG).

How foreign this idea of the “common good” has become to so many in the church as we have been sucked into the spirit of our surrounding individualistic culture. The spirit of the age even co-opting the idea of a personal relationship with Christ. I think the term is intended to mean that I can know God personally, as in one-on-one, because of the finished work of the cross, through His word, and by His indwelling Spirit. Instead, we’re more prone to act out this personal relationship with how I can best personalize it for me.

Does the church meet my needs? What good is it doing for me? How does it fit with my schedule? What pieces do I like and will leverage, and what parts will I simply disconnect from ’cause they’re not quite in line with my personal preferences?

But how we need to view the body of Christ, and our part within it, in terms of the common good. And this becomes easier, I think, if we really believe that while we might think we chose the church we’re attending, God has, in fact, chosen us for the amazing body of believers He would have us be part of.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.

(1Corinthians 12:18 ESV)

As He chose. That’s why I’m part of the fellowship I’m part of. That’s where whatever spiritual gifting I’ve been given needs to be functioning.

And not just so I get my needs met–though the body, when it’s functioning properly, builds all its members up in love (Eph. 4:16)–but for the common good.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Even the Fringe of His Garment

Mark’s language seems to paint a somewhat frenetic, if not chaotic, situation. People running about “the whole region” at Gennesaret, grabbing up the sickbeds of infirm loved ones and friends, and then rushing to where they anticipated Jesus would be. In the villages, the cities, and even the countryside, scores of people laying the sick in the marketplace in hopeful anticipation that today would be the day things would get better. And then as Jesus, undoubtedly enveloped by a following crowd, passed by, they cried out to the Master for healing.

What a frenzy. Yet what faith. For they sought but the fringe. Even the fringe of His garment.

And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

(Mark 6:56 ESV)

In our men’s Bible study we’ve been in the latter chapters of Daniel for the past few weeks. Mind-blowing dreams. Word-defying visions. Angelic visitations providing future revelation. Talk about your encounters of the divine kind! Big! Bold! The curtain of the spiritual realm pulled back so that the unimaginable might be imagined, so that the unexplainable might be explained

And then I read this morning of touching even the fringe of His garment. And I wonder, Is this any less an encounter of the divine kind? Any less a connection with the spiritual realm? Though it doesn’t involve some apocalyptic play being acted out before for their eyes, is it no less jaw-dropping to consider the power of God accessed even by simply reaching out to touch the hem of the clothes Jesus wore?

Daniel was separated from God by a great expanse that mighty angels had to fight to bridge. Jesus, God incarnate, walked among the people. Daniel’s encounters left him pale, depleted, without strength. But in marketplaces all over Gennesaret the broken were healed, the infirm infused with power, lame people leaping, abandoned sickbeds strewn about in the wake of Jesus’ passing. And this because the broken went to Jesus, and reached out to Jesus, even the fringe of His garment.

Not about how great their faith was, but that they had faith. Not about their ability to stand before Jesus and plead their case, but that they believed enough to just want to get near Jesus and touch His garment, even if but the border of it. Not about their strength–they were bedridden. But about the Savior’s power–power appropriated through even the fringe of His garment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the sick guy on the bed. And too often I feel like I need to get my act together, power my way off the mat, and get myself back up on my own two feet in order to reconnect with Jesus. But what I really need to do is, by faith, reach out from wherever I am, even if it’s on my back in the dust of a chaotic situation, and touch the fringe of His garment. Knowing that He is present to see. Believing that He is patient and will sympathize, even when it’s not the first time (nor will it be the last) He’s seen me on the mat. Trusting in His power to set straight that which is broken, and to strengthen that which is worn out.

All through reaching out for a touch. A touch, if only on the fringe. Even the fringe of His garment.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Show Me A Sign

Hovering over another song of David this morning, Psalm 86. A prayer song. A desperate prayer song.

Insolent, arrogant, proud, presumptuous men had risen up against him. A band of ruthless men who sought to take his life. Men devoid of a God context, driven solely by ambition and who’s god was their strength.

David is, by his own admission, poor and needy. His soul is weighed down. His endurance waning.

Yet praise still pours forth as his focus remains fixed. Fixed on his God who is good and forgiving. Locked on his God who is above all other gods, whose works compare with no other. Centered on the One whom he has known to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

And so, David cries out to God. “Answer me,” he says, “Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.”

And I notice six specific petitions:

  • Preserve my life (v.2)
  • Gladden my soul (v. 4)
  • Teach me Your way (v. 11)
  • Unite my heart (v. 11)
  • Give me Your strength (v.16)
  • Show me a sign (v.17)

Show me a sign. That’s the one I’m chewing on this morning.

Show me a sign of Your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

(Psalm 86:17 ESV)

At first I read it as, “Show me a sign, do something that says You’re aware. Wave a flag of some sort. Give me something to work with here.” A legit request I’m thinking.

When the soul is mired in “the depths of Sheol” who wouldn’t want to see some sort of lifeline? When the back is bowed, the eyes are downcast, who wouldn’t want an encounter of the divine kind, be it even a tiny one, to encourage the heart, lift up the soul, and renew the inner man? Do something, LORD, anything!  Indicate in some way that You hear my prayers and are engaged in my circumstance.

Show me a sign. Bring to my attention some indicator of Your grace and favor. Let me know Your presence.

But as I meditate on the verse I realize it can also read, “Show me as a sign. Make me a proof that you are merciful and gracious. Use me, and my situation, to show others, even my enemies, that You are the God who helps and the God of comfort.” Let me be the banner that bears witness that there is none like You. Let me, in this desperate, soul-draining situation, be corroborating evidence that You are, in fact, “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You” (v.5).

Show me a sign. If even as a feeble demonstration, through me display Your all sufficient grace. Heed my prayers that others might get a glimpse of Your glory. That those who are connected to my story might see Your power.

Show me a sign by Your grace. Show me a sign for Your glory.

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