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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