living risen on Monday

It had its own paragraph, tucked away on page 117 in Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson and this one sentence struck a chord that has been resonating ever since,

If suffering was good enough for Him, shouldn’t it be good enough for us?

Well, wow. What to say here… We all say “yes” because it would seem so horrible to say anything else. Our Savior, Christ the Lord who holds all things together died. He held all things together as fully God while walking around as fully man. And then…

He allowed Himself to be undone unto death so that we might rise and be held together in Him.

And Christ was never less than perfect. Though he died the death of a criminal, He never lived less than perfectly. The God of all creation became like us (whoa) and then became sin for us (wow) and suffered every temptation for us (oof) and endured death on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (oh my).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

The resurrection swell of Easter was still spilling over yesterday, burying again the death of Jesus with the triumph of his third day victory. The Easter season, according to the church calendar, has really just begun and I want to observe the fullness of it. Because resurrection changed everything, not just a food-packed Sunday selected by the lunar calendar. EVERYTHING. And, I think it’s good to have a season set apart to reflect on the weight of “everything.”

Even a full season won’t condition my heart as it should, but God has promised to complete the work He has started and to make perfect (in Christ) my imperfect attempts to believe. And so, I stand in the swell of the Easter season asking what it looks like to live risen on Monday… and Tuesday – Friday.

What happened in the living, dying, and rising of Jesus happened in real time – the clock measured His footsteps up to Calvary and the three days after he died. The light broke the dawn on Sunday, marking the morning and Jesus’ day of resurrection.

But the glory of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not contained on the calendar. Before the foundations of the world (Romans 8:29) – before the light broke the first morning and before the ground felt the weight of any feet – God planned to lavish love on His chosen through the person and sacrificial work of Christ.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that He would give His only Son,
and make a wretch His treasure
(How Deep the Father’s Love, Stuart Townend)

The beauty of God’s love for us runs as deep as eternity stretches long. We know from Psalm 115:3 that God acts out of His pleasure, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Just let the weight of “whatever He pleases” sink in deep. He was pleased to plan before the dawn of time for our redemption. He was pleased to send His Son, who emptied Himself and died in our place. He was pleased to bring reconciliation through the resurrection. It was God’s will to crush His Son so that we could be counted righteous.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

What does it mean to live risen on Monday and Tuesday and Saturday? It means believing that God’s love was not constrained to a weekend nor the power that it produced. God was planning in the forever past for our redemption and prepares a place for us in the forever future.

Christ’s suffering did not take away from God’s glory, but revealed it. In Christ, God pulls back the curtain so that we can gaze on His glorious character and find it is nothing like anything we know. What we see and savor in Christ will allow us to endure the suffering the same way – revealing the glory of God.

Living like I’m risen means believing God planned all along for me to rise and trusting God to keep His promises.

torn apart, You paid my price

I didn’t get to go to a Good Friday service last night.

I worked until 8:30 pm and then chased the last rays of Spring sunshine back to my neighborhood. I had my belly full of joy, satisfied with the abundance of His grace that carried me from Monday to Friday dusk.

The death didn’t set in until this morning and now I cannot dry my eyes. Jesus died. He was torn apart to satisfy God’s wrath and to secure my place of forever joy with Him. Jesus died and the next day He was still dead.

I don’t understand it.

John Piper tweeted this morning: “Still sovereign while dead. ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ (John 2:19)” What does that mean – that He was sovereign even while He was dead? How could my Savior die?

I don’t pretend to understand it – the mystery of it all – but I do understand this: my belly fills with joy because I am redeemed. I am set free by the grace of God as He looks on the perfect sacrifice of His Son that satisfies His wrath.

I am set free because my Savior was torn apart and humiliated in death to pay the price of my ugly heart. Today, I’ll let the tears roll because my belly full of joy came at great cost.

My complete and abundant joy was secured when God’s complete and perfect wrath was satisfied in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I don’t understand this Holy Saturday, but I do understand this: the dead weight of Friday looks to Sunday for relief in the resurrection.

Torn apart you paid my price,
The wrath of God was satisfied
I traded sin, you gave me life
My hope is found on Jesus Christ

“The happy ending of the Resurrection is so enormous that it swallows up even the sorrow of the Cross.” – Tim Keller

no cross so heavy

There is a line in one of my favorite hymns, Count Your Many Blessings, that sings this melody in the second verse,

“Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?”

And it is this song that came to mind as I read from 1 John that “his commandments are not burdensome.” The weight pressing on top of hunched, wearied shoulders is not the weight of God’s commandments.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5 ESV, emphasis mine)

Because we are freed to follow, freed to love, freed to obey, freed to hope in believing the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Freed.

If a slave is released from the toil of one yoke to another – from the demands of one set of chains to the demands of another – we do not proclaim him free. He is not free. The nature of his slavery is that he must work to live.

The nature of our freedom in Christ is that Christ’s work grants life. The work is accomplished and freedom is gained in believing.

So, when we read that our love of God is expressed in our keeping of His commandments, it is not because our law abiding secures our life.

Did you hear that, friend?

There is not one law-abiding thing you can do to make your life more secure. Christ has done all the work and offers you all the reward.

This is the victory – the glorious, weightless truth that Christ broke the slave chains of sin and destroyed the yoke of death. And He did all this without our help, while we were helpless.

Today, remember that keeping God’s commandments is what we are freed into and that Christ stands in the gap when we obey imperfectly. When we believe that Christ truly conquered and canceled sin on the cross, our righteousness rests on the burden he bore on our behalf. Let’s love Him and keep His commandments with this kind of grace hemming us in.

The cross might seem heavy that you are called to bear, but there is no cross so heavy as the cross Christ bore on our behalf to free us to love Him, obey Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

wooed many times into love

I have been reading the Hymn Stories from Challies blog and (this will come as no surprise) the words are often deeper and richer and fuller than what we choose to sing throughout our days.

As I read the bit of history on the hymn, “How Firm A Foundation,” I thought of something I heard recently in a sermon. The pastor said, “…the Bible is aware of the complexity of sin.” It didn’t sit well with me and as I thought over these words I realized why. Is a foundation merely “aware” of all that’s built on its top or does it inform and support and uphold every piece in place?

The Bible is more than aware of sin’s complexity because the Bible is the Living Word of God and our only guide against sin, a firm foundation and as steady as 4/4 time.

We are wooed many times into love with Truth.

There is the first initial drawing and calling and wooing that opens our eyes to the Love that grace helps us receive in Christ. And then there is the falling in love – the delighting in being betrothed and chosen. And then there is the wooing that comes round after we’ve chased other loves and forgotten how to stand.

This wooing again into love with Truth comes through the firm foundation of the Word. We are reminded that, by grace, God keeps us secure in His promises. He has claimed us as His own and offers the inspired words of Scripture as a constant love song to draw us out of fear and into strength.

We forget, I do anyway, the deep love and affection of the resurrection. I forget my place “while still a sinner” when Christ reached into the depths and sang his love song to my dead bones. I forget what I once was (1 Corinthians 6:11) and what I would be, if not for Christ. I forget the first few redeeming notes of the salvation song.

But Truth has many pages and the salvation song plays when we open the Word! God’s promises are not shifting shadows. His faithful song remains unchanged and when we have ears to hear, we will be wooed once again by His melody.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

The Word reminds me what God called us out of – that we were once sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, practicing homosexuals, thieves and the greedy, the drunkards and revilers, and swindlers.

God graciously interrupts the barrage of sinful labels to remind us that we are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit.

We are wooed many times into love and it is by the reading of the Word. God has given us the treasure of His divinely inspired words to uphold and inform and support everything else that is built in our lives. This is the kind of transformational building the resurrection empowers.

I am awake, today at least, to the way the Word woos me into greater love for the salvation song. Do you hear the melody or have you forgotten? Have you ever heard it?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

like a lot of little earthquakes

If you seek God looking for an answer, you will end up with an idol. If you seek God looking for God, you will always find Him and you will always be satisfied.

The truths of Jeremiah 29:13-14 and Deuteronomy 4:29 are trustworthy words and the above is my paraphrase when I’m tempted to look for an answer instead.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 ESV)

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)

These are trustworthy words because the Lord breathed them into being for our benefit. He draws us near so that we can be held, grasped, and secured in the sweet joy of His presence. He draws us near so we can enjoy Him – and He can always be found.

I’m learning what it means for the resurrection to break into my brain space that I had reserved for other things. It’s like a lot of little earthquakes. The sand shifts and the mountains crumble and only the firm foundation remains. And like a lot of little earthquakes, the lesser things look less appealing as my feet run to stand on what will remain.

In grace, God breaks the power of lesser affections so that I can stand with joy on what remains.

As I seek the Lord as my first and greatest affection (and not just for answers), these words  out of Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson are especially savory,

“He has contracted to place himself in covenant relationship with us and to make us his own.

Yes, his love for us is a contractual agreement, but it is so much more than cold, lifeless obligation. He has generously determined to satiate our souls with happiness. He has chosen to betroth us to himself: ‘I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness’ (Hosea 2:19-20).”

When God breaks the power of my lesser affections, He determines to satiate my soul with happiness. He has chosen to betroth me to Himself. Wow. 

I’m not sure what it feels like to have my soul satiated with happiness, but I want to feel it. I want to be fully satisfied with the kind of happiness my soul can feel. And today I know this happiness is real – as real as my coffee and my distractions and my fears and the giggles I can’t control.

The happiness God offers will remain when all the little earthquakes shake out the lesser affections.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy

hearing the gospel song

“Like you, I need to hear the gospel song over and over again because my soul is a sieve and the gospel leaks out of it, leaving only the husk of Christianity – my self-righteousness and obligations.” Elyse Fitzpatrick in “Counsel from the Cross

You’ll probably have to read that little nugget one more time. I did, anyway.

Is your soul a sieve the gospel leaks out of, leaving the shells of human efforts on top? I feel like no matter how many times I go to the river to fill up my cup, I will soon be found in the desert and empty.

Empty because I let the gospel seep out. Empty because our soul can only be a sieve on this side of heaven.

And that’s why we need the gospel song over and over again – because pretending to be filled only keeps us empty.

In the book, Fitzpatrick asks a friend who is struggling, “How do you think the resurrection impacts this circumstance?” Her friend responds, “I know it should but I just don’t know how.”

How many times is this true of us? We really do believe – in a Sunday knowledge kind of way – that Christ transforms us.

But, we also really believe that Christ has little to do with our best friend’s gambling problem or our parents’ divorce or our children’s grades. We know Christ is in all things and holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), but we also know that little Johnny has had to stay inside from recess because he is spitting at girls.

Can it really be true that the resurrection – that event that took place 2,000 years ago – could impact the gambling and the divorce and the grades and Johnny? And if the resurrection does have impact (because we know it should), does that mean we just expect all those circumstances to change for the better – kind of like neosporin for cuts?

And that’s why we need the gospel song over and over again – because pretending to be filled only keeps us empty.

When we tackle gambling and divorce and misbehaving little ones apart from the resurrection, we are aides in destruction. When we believe that God is not relevant or helpful or interested in those matters, we are saying that we are the best solution. We convince ourselves that God is a useful “help in times of trouble” only in certain circumstances and for the rest, it’s good old-fashioned DIY (because who knows your problems better than you, anyway?).

How’s that working out for you, champ? Not so good, at least for me. Soon enough, I’ll come crawling back to the throne of grace with all those husks on the top of the sieve and say, “Lord, I’m empty. Give me some of that gospel truth. Remind me what it means that you died and rose again. Remind me of the resurrection.”

The power of the resurrection is in believing God’s sovereignty stretched so far to allow the worst suffering in order to allow the most glory and joy.

The truth is, God is not surprised by your gambling or divorce or Johnny’s spitting. God is not surprised by your fear or your pride or your greed or your desperate need for coffee at 7 am. He is not surprised when you lust after a married man or worry about your jean size or lie on your taxes.

The power of the resurrection is that God was never surprised at sin – that He sent His Son while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8) – and that Christ’s death and resurrection effectively conquers and cancels sin in our lives. Today. Not two thousand years ago. Today – the coffee, the gambling, the pride, Johnny’s spitting, the divorce, and the jealousy.

Christ canceled sin when he endured the cross, “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). And this canceling power frees us to have joy in the middle of struggle and pain and confusion.

This sin-canceling power frees us to live like no circumstance will bury us in the ground, because we have been raised up.

So, let the gospel song be sung over you again and again today. Get filled up and then get filled up again. Sing the power of the resurrection until you forget the words and then listen for the words again.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

saying no to things we like in favor of things He loves

I remember saying it in AWANA, speeding through a mile-a-minute. Those little jewels might have been plastic, but it was a big deal to fill up that little brown crown on my bright red vest.

Someone, Denny Messenger probably, slowed me down and asked me to say it again.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 ESV)

I always memorized things in a sing-songy way, little phrase by little phrase and it almost always ended up sounding like an awkward poem. I would rock back and forth and scrunch up my face if I got stuck. Once successful, I’m sure I beamed as I grabbed my book back to review for the next verse.

Someone like Denny Messenger would take the time to ask what I thought Jesus meant when he asked the disciples to “take his cross” and I would respond in the same sing-song fashion that we have to “do hard things for God.” Well, I’m not sure what I really said, but I imagine it being something like that.

Now, 20 years later, that verse is still hidden in my heart, along with a host of others from the NIV and I can’t tell you how often I’ve been grateful for the early investment. When truth is planted, it grows and always returns blessings.

I was reminded of this verse recently in several conversations with friends. One of the conversations was about vision – is everyone supposed to have a specific vision that requires sacrifice on behalf of Christ? Another conversation was more specifically about understanding what it practically means to “take up your cross.”

Twenty years is a long time for something to be hidden… you’d think the goodness of it would be exhausted by now, that there would be nothing to mine for in one measly little verse from an ancient book that an 8 year-old memorized, partially out of the desire to stand in front of a group of kids to receive a plastic jewel to put in a plastic crown on her vest. But, in the currency of grace, twenty years is an investment that proves its worth.

What does it mean to take up my cross and follow after Christ? What does it mean for 9 am and in the break room and for Tuesday night? Does it mean we start up non-profit organizations? Does it mean we live amongst the poorest of the poor, or at least give all our funds away? Does it mean we find something very, very heavy and then commit to carrying it?

What does it mean to take up my cross and follow after Christ?

My friend shared thoughts on the verse from a devotional that talked about the importance of choosing this “cross.” It is not something situational that you cannot change, but something that you elect just as Christ elected to suffer for the joy set before Him.

But, “What do I choose? How do I find this cross Jesus speaks about?”

I wonder if we race too quickly past Jesus’s first words in this verse, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…”

Often, I think, Christians are paralyzed because it seems a great chasm exists between walking unencumbered and walking with a heavy cross. Of course, this chasm does exist – the Christian life is not easy or comfortable – but maybe the concept of finding an uncomfortable and heavy cross at 9 am and in the break room and on Tuesday nights is overwhelming to the point of paralysis.

“let him deny himself”

Just as the sanctification process is from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18), our “taking up of the cross” is a daily denying of ourselves and in the littlest things treasuring Christ first. Very few will feel the weight of a cross on their backs (though Christians are still being crucified), but we all choose what we treasure the most with the weight of daily decisions.

Are you willing to be inconvenienced? Uncomfortable? Awkward? Humiliated? Hated?

Do you treasure Christ more than you treasure popularity in the workplace?
Do you treasure Christ more than you treasure your Monday night TV program?
Do you treasure Christ more than you treasure your weekends of leisure?

We say no to the things we like in favor of the things He loves, because we love Him and believe His promises.

When we treasure Christ the most, our footsteps follow His into self-denial. We present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord (Romans 12:1) in the ways we deny ourselves and follow Christ into and through any suffering our treasuring of Him might bring.

Want to read about someone who is doing this well? I’m learning a lot from this young man and his journey to make much of Christ as he denies himself and follows Him. Check out this post and see if you don’t agree.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy