Holy Week: Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday.

This is another quiet day during Holy Week. It’s quiet in the Scriptural account because it was the Jewish Sabbath day. Jesus is dead. His body rests in the tomb. Everyone is resting at home. Nothing is happening.

And yet, the vanity of mankind is on display. Fearfully and disobediently, the chief priests and Pharisees are staying busy and still “working.” They’re working hard to keep Jesus dead and to make sure His movement is completely stamped out by making several final requests of Pilate. He obliges and the Jewish leaders go to seal the stone of the tomb and set a guard. I imagine they were pretty pleased with themselves at this point. They have covered their bases.

But if we know Jesus at all, we know that He is a man of surprise who is skilled at kindly, but abruptly exposing our independent pride and rebellion — our fundamental resistance to resting in Him and the insanity of our supposed self-sufficiency.

My friends, in the midst of a pandemic and stay-at-home orders [originally written in 2020], we see the vanity of our self-sufficiency in a fresh way, don’t we? Many of us have been hard at work (even on days of rest) to set a guard and to seal the tomb in order to keep the living Jesus from finding us in our desperation, pain, fear, rage, and grief. And yet, Jesus didn’t stay in the rest of death for long. We can’t keep Him there.

Resurrection life bursting forth interrupted the short pause of His rest in the tomb. And His resurrection life breaks forth in our own lives today!

My friends, who will we be today? Anxious and arrogant fools like the chief priests and Pharisees who in vain sought to bar the resurrected Christ from their lives? Or grieving, humble, and hopeful children of God like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who expectantly look for Jesus to joyfully surprise them once again?

Jesus desires you! Jesus desires to walk alongside you in your journey. He may yet surprise you with His abundant grace.

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.”

Matthew 28:5
The Final Days of Jesus — Holy Saturday

Holy Week: Good Friday

Readings for Good Friday

Good Friday.

My friend Pablo has said it well (listen to the song here):

It’s ironic we call this good.
Behold the man,
The crown, the nails, the hands,
The blood-stained wood.

Calling a day like this “good” shouldn’t sit well with us. 

Though we know the end of the story is “good” — Jesus rises from the grave victoriously defeating sin, death, and Satan — this part of the story isn’t “good.” On Good Friday, we see the great wickedness of evil and human sin. It’s incredibly hard to look at, sit with, and reflect upon. Our temptation is to skip ahead to the happy ending of the great, true fairy story of Easter. But my encouragement to you, my friends, is to slow down and not rush past Good Friday — especially this year.

This year [originally written in 2020], many are fasting and praying fervently on this day for the eradication of COVID-19 and for God’s mercy to be poured out on humanity. This is fitting for us to do. We see the evil and brokenness of the world more vividly this year. We see and feel the desperate rebellion and prideful sinfulness of our own hearts with greater clarity in our constricted, quarantined lives. This is a great gift from God — if we will receive it. The bad news of our sin and rebellion makes the good news even more precious and sweet.

So this Good Friday…

Keep the fast. Feel the ache. Meditate on Jesus’ engaging with evil and death for you. Meditate on Jesus absorbing God’s wrath for you. Confess your sin and turn in repentance. Hunger for God, His Word, and Christ’s return. Pour out your prayers with cries to the Lord. Acknowledge your fears and your grief before Him. Rage against evil, sin, and death before Him. Pray for our leaders and medical workers. Pray for the sick, poor, and needy. Pray for the eradication of COVID-19. Pray for Jesus to come again soon and make all things new. Submit your plans to Him. Give thanks for His mercy, grace, and love.

If God willingly and lovingly intervened on our behalf when it came to sin, death, and evil, we can be fully assured that He will intervene on our behalf now in this horrific pandemic.

“For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden His face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him.”

Psalm 22:24
The Final Days of Jesus — Good Friday

Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

Readings for Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday.

The phrase “maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum” or “commandment” referring to Jesus’ words on this day in Holy Week:

“a new commandment I give to you.”

John 13:34

Love. This is Jesus’ “new” commandment. Love has always been the commandment of God going back to the Old Testament law: love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). So what is new about it? What is “new” about Jesus’ commandment is that His disciples are to love each other “just as I have loved you.” The newness is found in Jesus’ own deepening and transformation of the call to love through His own teaching and example.

How does Jesus love? He washes feet (John 13:1-20). He lays down His life for His friends who were once His enemies (John 15:13). He calls sinners His friends, shows them His Father, and grants them access to the fellowship of the Triune God through the Spirit (John 15:14-15; 16:5-15). He pours Himself out in prayer for His people (John 17).

Friends, Jesus pours out this same love for you and for me (He even prays specifically for us in John 17:20-26). This love is not only exactly what we need, but it transforms us.

Today, receive Jesus’ great love for you. Rest in it. Be transformed by it. Because of Jesus, you are a friend of God — you are His beloved child. Out of that accepted and loved place, serve your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your community out of the Spirit’s power — as He sanctifies you in the truth and empowers you for that very service.

Today, there are many challenges ahead of us and our burdens are heavy. In all of this, Jesus is with you in His love — walking with you as Immanuel “God with us.” He will serve you as you serve Him.

“[Jesus] having loved His own…He loved them to the end.”

John 13:1b
The Final Days of Jesus — Maundy Thursday

Holy Week: Wednesday

Wednesday.

It seems like a much quieter day in Holy Week. But both the Jewish leaders and Jesus are preparing for the same thing: Jesus’ death. They plot deceitful designs in secret. Jesus and His disciples prepare to eat the Passover meal together. The symbolism is rich — Jesus will become our Passover lamb, the once and for all sacrifice for sin. He is the priest and the sacrifice — offered for undeserving sinners who instead deserve death. In all this, Jesus is granting us forgiveness and bringing us back to our Heavenly Father. He is full of intention in His work on our behalf. This is marvelous in our eyes!

Friends, embrace the quiet today. It seems like nothing is happening, but God is at work. Jesus has holy designs for you and freely pours out perfect provision. Be still and receive His forgiveness. Marvel at His grace. Because of Jesus, you are “passed over” and accepted as a child of God — loved perfectly and eternally by the Father. His Spirit indwells you and seals all the benefits of His death to you — sanctifying you in truth. What good news!

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV)
The Final Days of Jesus — Wednesday

Holy Week: Tuesday

Tuesday. 

Yesterday, we saw that Jesus means business. Today, we see that He is busy. The days events take up five chapters in the Gospel of Matthew alone. He engages with the chief priests and elders who challenge Him repeatedly. Understandably, they were threatened and perturbed by Jesus — He was actively undercutting their authority as an uneducated outsider who had the potential to unseat them from the places of privilege and influence. So, they begin their resistance to Jesus on Tuesday with outright, public debate. Question after question they put to Jesus. He answers their seemingly unanswerable questions with profound parables — providing substantial and satisfying answers while at the same time exposing their pride and malice: “they perceived that he was speaking about them” (Matthew 21:45b).

In contrast to the Jewish leaders’ conception of the Kingdom of God and the fruitless fig tree that Israel had become, Jesus vindicates His God-given authority (Matthew 21:23-27), emphasizes the upside-down nature of grace in the true Kingdom (21:28-32), and speaks to the great resistance that this Kingdom will face and overcome (21:33-46). The true Kingdom is for those who will come to the open-invitation wedding feast — those dressed and prepared with humble faith (22:1-14). The true Kingdom has intersecting points with the kingdoms of the earth, but is ultimately greater than them all (22:15-22). The true Kingdom is one of resurrection life, where God abides with His regenerated children into eternity — resuming, restoring, and advancing humanity to new heights (22:23-33). The true Kingdom is founded on love and its citizens embody it holistically (22:34-40). And ultimately this true Kingdom takes the shape of its King: great David’s Greater Son and Lord, Jesus Himself (22:41-46).

The Kingdom of God is coming, but it meets great resistance. This is clear as Jesus spars with the Jewish leaders. Many stand to be lead astray by their false teaching. This grieves and enrages Jesus! And so, He pronounces woes upon these self-serving shepherds and laments their rejection of the true Kingdom and its King (23:1-39). His anger and sadness has undertones of parental love and longing for wayward Israel:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Matthew 23:37

Jesus is busy! And yet, even after this flurry of teaching and interaction, Jesus continues to revel in the wonders of the true Kingdom while withdrawing with His disciples (24:1-2). He pivots in His perspective from the present to the future. His Kingdom has a scope even beyond His death, resurrection, and ascension. It comes to fruition in His eventual second coming when His Kingdom will be established in full. In dramatic words and apocalyptic images, Jesus paints a picture of not just what He is doing at that moment, but of the even greater things that follow His ascension and lead up to the final day of judgment (24:3-25:46). There is both warning and comfort in this teaching of the end times and judgment. It is certainly perplexing. But paradox ultimately finds harmony, because this Kingdom is like no other. This King is like no other.

My friends, Jesus remains busy! He remains the Coming One — the One who is, and was, and is to come (Revelation 1:8). His Kingdom is advancing even now, even in you, your life, and your community. In response, we can resist Him and oppose His Kingdom being manifest in our hearts and lives — all to our ruin. And yet, the better response is one of faithful repentance and embrace of our gracious inclusion in His Kingdom (at once and again-and-again) — a dynamic that reverberates outward in humility and deeds of love and mercy. We could resist and endure woe upon woe unto judgment. Or, we could lean in as Jesus’ gathers us under His healing wings. The Sun of Righteousness shines brightly. Will we stand in His light? Will we reflect His light so that other might bask in His warmth with us?

1  “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.”

Malachi 4:1-3
The Final Days of Jesus — Tuesday

Holy Week: Monday

Monday.

It’s clear at this point that Jesus means business. He inexplicably curses the fig tree and violently cleanses the temple in a righteous rage (Mark 11:12-26). While Jesus is a humble King who will travel the road of humiliation and crucifixion on the way to exaltation, He is not impotent or passive. Jesus is making all things new! He is cutting the path of a new way forward — a new way of living, dying, and rising. The way of the Kingdom is one of living, active faith and earnest prayer, which bears fruit unto eternal life for the sake of nations knowing and abiding in God.

And yet, there is a problem. The tree (Israel) is dead. The temple (the place of worship) is hive of thievery and subtle idolatry. There is no fruit on the vine and there is no room for prayer in the place of prayer. The prayers that are uttered, are uttered without faith. The Father is unseen, the promises are warped toward selfish ends, and the nations are neglected. Empty ritual and legalism have replaced vibrant faith in the living God — a faith and life into which all people were to be beckoned and drawn. And as a result, judgment comes swiftly. Jesus strikes! The cursed fig tree is a picture of fruitless Israel and the cleansed temple is a picture of God’s legitimate judgment of His people’s idolatry — a deformed contortion of the glorious calling they had received to be hosts to all people.

Jesus means business when it comes to us this Holy Week too. Efficiency is not His concern. Convenience isn’t either. While Jesus brings with Him boundless comfort, it comes to us not at the expense of His mission or His identity as the King of a new Kingdom, but as the overflow of His work on our behalf. With this in mind, His harsh and abrupt actions here are actually ones of love — breaking up and softening our calcified hearts that have subtly and slowly been hardened by our serving false gods. As He exposed the fruitless fig tree that Israel was and as He cleansed the polluted temple, so Jesus exposes our fruitlessness, which is the overflow of our misplaced worship.

My friends, what is Jesus exposing in your heart this Holy Week? What must He clear out of the way for there to be space for faithful prayer and others-oriented service and witness in your life? Again, this is actually a grace to us, a gift if we will receive it. Jesus is giving Himself to us in the place of our idols and fruitless lives. He has so much better for us! Steadfast love. Grace abounding. A life truly alive. Lost ones brought into God’s family through us.

Jesus tells the disciples, in response to their questions about the cursed fig tree, to “have faith in God” and “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22, 24). Why does Jesus respond this way? Jesus is saying that whatever stands in the way of your fruitfulness in Christ and whatever crowds out your prayers in worship is not too big for Him to remove from your path. As we desire fruitfulness and a truly alive life, our response ought to be collaborating with Jesus as He cleanses our hearts and lives by turning to Him in fervent, faith-filled prayer — expecting great things and asking for great things, because He is a great Savior.

Jesus means business. And this is good news. What would it look like to lean into His agenda this week?

The Final Days of Jesus — Monday

Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday.

It is the dramatic and yet anticlimactic start to Holy Week each year. Jesus shows His great intention for His arrival at the festivities in Jerusalem by sending a few of the disciples on an errand for a donkey. Great intention. The Scriptures are fulfilled. But for the most humble of set-ups. The King riding on a beast of burden, a humble colt. What is Jesus up to?

Surely, the disciples wondered this. We do too. It still doesn’t sit well with us. The triumphant King, the Son of David, exalted, yet carted into town in utter lowliness. What a strange sight! What a perplexing paradox! The King of Kings is exalted, yet His pathway toward exaltation is already hinted at — His own humiliation. He enters town humbly, gently, and peacefully — in victory. While He isn’t flanked by any army, the heavenly hosts lean in, observe the scene, and wonder. And we should wonder and worship too.

The One who is exalted now will be forsaken and then will be murdered. And yet, there is great intention in those actions of Jesus as well — as we will see as we walk with Him this week. The Scriptures are fulfilled. The King willfully humbles Himself and then is again exalted; this time for good and over all.

 …Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5b-11

And this is not just good news for Him, it’s good news for us. Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, has “set [His] face like a flint…and [He] will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7b). His great intention means a great salvation is in store for us who have great need of it — the sinners, the broken, the weary, the outcasts, the forgotten, the downcast, the sufferers. I imagine that at least a few of those present on Palm Sunday were shouting their “Hosannas” with this desperate hope. How much more might we does so, who can now see the fuller scope of His work?

My friends, treasure Jesus’ great intention and paradoxical kingliness during Holy Week this year. As we lean in with the wondering angels, there is a boundless store of comfort for us. The Lamb of God on His way to be slain — to fulfill the Scriptures, yes — but chiefly to save and redeem you and I. What good news. Thanks be to God!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 5:12

Ambition

This is a poem that I originally wrote in November 2019 as a companion to an article I had written for Rooted. I had recently finished reading Jamie Smith’s book On the Road with St. Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts and was particularly inspired by his chapter on ambition — how Augustine’s ambition had to be refined by a new telos or purpose: friendship with God. I hope it benefits you as you reflect on your own calling and ambition in this life.

The gift that cannot be lost
Joy sustained despite the cost
Spending and straining
Reaching and gaining
Vigor expended for you

Insatiable, the will to dominate
Craving deeply, go generate
Looks and praise
Capture, amaze
Formless, faceless mobs

Incessant game, fated to play
Aim low, undo, lose the day
Slowly try
Changing why
Savor a peace ever longed for

Fire kindling a new lit source
Love’s rest propels a goodly course
Excel, aspire
Receive, admire
The free wild of the Beloved

A Welcome and a Why

First of all, I want to give a warm welcome to anyone who is reading this inaugural post! I am honored that you would be interested in my site and reading anything I have written. I am glad that you are here and hope that what you read here will benefit you.

I have been exploring and enjoying writing more and more over the past two years on the side of day-to-day pastoral ministry. After publishing some articles through a few organizations, I have been considering an outlet for more regular writing, particularly a space for things I want to write about that may not fit the sites and organizations with which I am already affiliated. I also wanted a creative outlet for sharing my poetry and a hub for any other work I have done and will do. This website and blog is the fruit of these desires. Over time, I hope this to a place for my writing to develop and for readers to be encouraged.

I have named the site and blog “Moment-by-Moment” drawing from the phrase Francis Shaeffer uses in True Spirituality (and I’m sure other places) to describe the Christian life:

Justification is once for all. At one moment my guilt is declared gone forever, but this is not once for all. This is a moment-by-moment thing – a moment-by-moment being dead to all else and alive to God, a moment-by-moment stepping back by faith into the present world as though we had been raised from the dead. Here is the real positive, after the proper negative.

Shaeffer works out this idea even more later on in the book:

I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment-by-moment. There is the same base (Christ’s work) and the same instrument (faith); the only difference is that one is once-for-all and the other is moment-by-moment. The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place. If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength we will have sorrow, but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in the place of sorrow, he will be our song. That is the difference. The how of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by faith, moment by moment.

This is how I hope to live my life: moment-by-moment in dependence on God — trusting in Christ, abiding in Him, glorifying Him, and enjoying Him with the power and emanating song of joy that Shaeffer mentions here. I hope for my relationships, ministry, and writing to express this as well — an awareness to the presence of God at all times in my ordinary, local place, living at Godspeed by grace through faith each moment. I hope for this website and blog to share my experience of this reality and any insight gained from it — whether it be through blog articles, poems, reflections on music I have been listening to, or something else. Finally, I hope that this site would not just be a creative outlet for me, but that it would also be of benefit to you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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