The Steadfast Mind

a neon sign that says change in cursive

Psalm 135; Isaiah 26:1-15; Mark 12:18-27

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3

Over the last few weeks I have come to the realization that my pastoral work is beginning to change a bit. For the last decade or so my ministry has been largely one of quiet faithful presence. Simply put, I show up and try to be as fully present in the life of my neighborhood and town.

That is beginning to change.

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Doing Wrong for the Right Reason

a forest path with a fork

Psalm 135; Daniel 6:1-28; 1 John 2:12-17

As I read these passages together this morning the combination of 1 John 2 and Daniel 6 were particularly intriguing. Daniel had to make a decision, would he set aside his faithful commitment to his God for the sake of worldly power?

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Unity in Conflict

a grafiti wall that reads 'unity in diversity'

Psalm 133; Daniel 1:1-21; Acts 2:42-47

"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

I think that I often do not really consider what it means to for God’s people to “live together in unity.” Far too often when I think about this I think of some sort of an ideal all happy, all the time, kind of community.

Here’s the thing, that’s not reality.

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Becoming Salvation

a huge boulder in a field

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Song of Solomon 3:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

"The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation." Psalm 118:14

This little phrase, “he has become my salvation,” is pregnant with meaning. I think this morning as I recline and think at the coffee shop, the idea that the LORD has become my salvation is an idea I need to process more.

So often we think that we must earn God’s love or that we have to do certain things to make the divine happy. Yet, there is nothing that I need to do because the LORD has actually become my salvation.

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Already But Not Yet

a sign in a tree that reads, 'the best is yet to come'

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Genesis 1:20-2:4a; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

As I continue to process Resurrection Sunday I continue to be struck by the idea that was real is beyond our immediate circumstance.

Reading this passage in particular reminds me of this truth again.

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Christ is Risen!

The Empty Tomb by Jesus Mafa

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9 • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 • 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43 • John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

"Then Peter began to speak to them: 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality...'" Acts 10:34

I have preached Acts 10 a number of times. It’s one of my favorite passages in all the Scriptures. I think it’s because I resonate so deeply with Peter and his arrogance in Acts. He’s so self-assured and cocky. He sees himself as so much better than others.

Right up until this moment.

It is here that Peter gets shocked into humility.

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Will He Rise?

Dead Christ with Angels (Tomb of Christ) by  Édouard Manet,1832-1883

Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 • Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16 • 1 Peter 4:1-8 • Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

But mortals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake, and a river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake or be roused out of their sleep.Job 14:10-12

Holy Saturday is also known as Silent Saturday.

It is the day of fear
the day of trepidation
the day of doubt
the day of wondering
the day of silence

Where is God?

Christ has died.

Will he wake?

Will he rise again?

Is he mortal?

Incomprehensible Grace

Kakindo Crucifixion (photograph of original color work). Ntiro, Sam J., 1923-1993

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • Psalm 22 • Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1-19:42

"'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,' says the Lord: 'I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,' he also adds, 'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.' Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin."Hebrews 10:16-18

All of these readings today leave me in a mix of heartache and joy. Truly, at the foot of the cross justice and love meet. We try so hard to pull these things apart. Yet, when we stare into the heart of the cross they are inseparable.

How can “Good Friday” be good?

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Humiliating Love

Jesus washing the disciples' feet, detail of mural by David Paynter

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 • Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 • John 13:1-17, 31b-35

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

This comes after Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and in so doing, humiliating himself.

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Future Joy and Present Faithfulness

the word joy spelled out on colorful boards posted in a wooded setting

Isaiah 50:4-9a • Psalm 70 • Hebrews 12:1-3 • John 13:21-32

"When he had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'" John 13:31

This verse jumped off the page at me today.

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The Foolish Cross

a cross draped with a purple sash against a cloudy sky

Isaiah 49:1-7 • Psalm 71:1-14 • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 • John 12:20-36

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

I keep thinking about what happened that first Good Friday. We live in a culture of power. Very much like that of ancient Rome. So many Christians believe that power over is what is most necessary today for the Church. Yet, Christ is Christ because he became powerless.

The Christian faith is one of self-sacrifice.

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The Ultimate Display

Isaiah 42:1-9 • Psalm 36:5-11 • Hebrews 9:11-15 • John 12:1-11

Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.

You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:5-9)

Today we step into Holy Week. Yesterday in Christian worship gatherings most of us acknowledged Palm Sunday. This is the day we remember Christ’s entrance into the city of Jerusalem.

Today we are back into the day to day. It’s just another Monday.

But, it’s not just another Monday.

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Jesus Stopped

an ancient crowded middle eastern street

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Jeremiah 33:10-16; Mark 10:32-34, 46-52

"Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Blind Bartimaeus is one of those famous stories. It’s one that I distinctly remember from my childhood and Sunday School.

I was stopped dead in my tracks this morning though as I read it again.

“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet…"

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The Mind of Christ

a brain that is neon colored

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; Philippians 2:1-11

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus...(Philippians 2:5)"

The other day I was talking with some folks about the nature of God. We were talking about the idea of an eternal and infinite God and how there was absolutely no possible way for us comprehend what that actually means. Yet, God in God’s grace determined to make known this mystery by becoming like one of us.

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To Judge or Not To Judge

a woman in front of a sign that reads, 'man is destined to die once and then face judgement'
## Psalm 119:9-16; Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23; John 12:34-50
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:47-50)

If there’s a gospel that I am consistently surprised by it is the gospel of John. John simply takes such a different angle from the other gospels. His approach is unique and so it almost always seems to come up from behind and shock me.

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Currently reading: Following Jesus by N. T. Wright 📚

This book is so readable and accessible. It really might be NT Wright at his finest. I’m excited to discuss it at book club this month.

Gross with Envy

a piece of paper with the words greed, indifference, and envy being cut up by scissors

Psalm 51:1-12; Habakkuk 3:2-13; John 12:1-11

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. (John 12:9-11)

Sometimes I read things in the Scriptures and just shake my head at folks. Kind of a, “can you believe these people?”

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Take The Mercy

an orange life preserver ring hanging on a white wall

Psalm 51:1-12; Exodus 30:1-10; Hebrews 4:14-5:4

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message )

I have mentioned it before, but I will mention it again, reading the Scriptures in The Message is so refreshing. It takes familiar passages and brings them to life.

Today, I am struck by the very last phrase in the passage. In the NIV that last verse is translated this way, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” This is beautiful too and one of my favorite passages in the whole of the Bible.

But, when I read, “Take the mercy, accept the help,” it just hits me differently.

In my arrogance I don’t think I need mercy or help. I certainly don’t want mercy or help. By defintion those things mean that I am in need.

Being in need is not something that I would ever admit to. Why? Because I’m filled with pride and arrogance. I am someone who values being able to stand on my own two feet without anyone’s help.

Yet, the reality is that I do need mercy and help. I can not live this life on my own.

I am in need.

So, I’m challenged again to come to the presence of the Divine and find that mercy and help.

Get Off Your Horse

a rider on horseback racing away down a forest path

Psalm 51:1-12; Isaiah 30:15-18; Hebrews 4:1-13

GOD, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. You’ve said, ‘No way! We’ll rush off on horseback!’ You’ll rush off, all right! Just not far enough! You’ve said, ‘We’ll ride off on fast horses!’ Do you think your pursuers ride old nags? Think again: A thousand of you will scatter before one attacker. Before a mere five you’ll all run off. There’ll be nothing left of you— a flagpole on a hill with no flag, a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off. But GOD’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.” (Isaiah 30:15-18m The Message)
This makes me think of how so many in the Christian world today are looking elsewhere for their salvation.

So many of us are looking to trust in politicians and power to “save us from the world.” Yet, that’s not what we are called to do. No, we are called to trust in the Christ of Calvary.

What a ridiculous and outdated notion, right? To trust in a dying Christ. To trust in one who willingly chooses the path of death and weakness and apparent failure?

This Christ calls us to likewise take up our cross and follow him.

This Christ that willingly eschewed the power of this world and instead empty himself to become a servant.

This Christ that chose the way of self-sacrifice for the sake of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.

What will I clamor after?

Oh, that I would choose the way of the Christ of Calvary and not the power that corrupts.

The Test

a hand holding a pencil taking a scantron test

Psalm 107:1-16; Numbers 20:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

I am reminded this morning that the tests that come to me are not unique to me. They are common to everyone. Even though, when we are walking through seasons of testing it seems like we are alone, we are not.

The tests that I face are ones that others are going through or have gone through. So, I can lean into community. Others will be able to empathize with me. In so doing, they will help provide me with the encouragement to continue persevering. It’s so hard to press on when we believe ourselves to be alone.

Secondly, we are promised that God is with us in our testing. There will always be a way out and it will not be more than we can bear. The tests that we face will be ones that stretch us but are not beyond us. We may feel like the testing is beyond us. Yet, the promise is that we can trust that they are not beyond our strength.

I am deeply encouraged by these truths. In the Psalm we read that God is faithful and God’s love endures. How do we experience that love and faithfulness? We do so by crying out in prayer.

Prayer is the center of our experience with the Divine. It is in prayer that we come into the presence of God. It is in prayer that we find help in our times of struggle. It is in prayer that our fears and anxiety is relieved.

Today, I am wrestling with this question: “Am I praying or am I simply trying to fix everything on my own?”