What's the Big Deal?!

What's the Big Deal?!

There was a little stream down a little hill from the apartment that my mom and I lived in around the 410 loop. It was a strange little stream. The concrete that was the stream bed told me that it was at least partially there because someone wanted it to be there and not all natural, but that didn't matter much to a curious two year old.

We only lived in San Antonio for a few months and I don't remember much of that time, but I do remember that stream, though, because I have always loved to play in the water. 

(Every time that I hike over a running stream these days I want to immerse myself in it, feel the water surround me, be immersed in its purity and coldness. I guess I have always been drawn to it.)

I think that our apartment windows faced outward and down towards the stream. I was intrigued by the water and was drawn to it. In the heat of a San Antonio summer, few things are as attracting as cool, running water (even if it was just a trickle because the sun lapped most of it up) and I remember heading down the hill intent on getting drenched. That's exactly what I did...and I loved it!

While I was splashing and playing in my little south Texas oasis, my mom called out from up the hill. You know how it is, selective hearing and all, so I didn't hear her at first. Then she came closer and called out again, this time in a way I had to catch on: "Wes, get out of that water and come here now!" So, obediently, I did, but inwardly I was grumbling to myself, "What is the big deal?!"

Really, what was the big deal?

Years later, I was driving with a friend through San Antonio and decided to drive by that old apartment off of the 410 loop. We didn't stop and explore the area, but as we drove by I noticed something I hadn't noticed before: the stream wasn't what I had imagined.

Water was flowing just like I remembered, but it wasn't the water I remembered. It wasn't a concrete-lined stream that was built for precocious little boys to enjoy and create treasured summer memories. It was a drainage ditch that carried away rain water (and anything the rain water gathered) that the city wanted to direct to the sewer system. The water started off clean enough, but as it traveled to where I used to play it gathered all kinds of muck and sewage and trash and...who knows what else. 

It wasn't meant for me. What looked like pleasure to me would only make me sick. I just couldn't see that before. It made me glad my mom called me out of the stream because I didn't know what I was doing...or better yet...I didn't know what it was doing to me.

Jeremiah 2:12–13: "Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
        be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD,
     for my people have committed two evils:
    they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
    and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
        broken cisterns that can hold no water."

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses


Celebrating Grace in "the Ordinary Junctures"

Celebrating Grace in "the Ordinary Junctures"

"We need to understand that God does at times give us an infusion of joy even in our bitterness and hard-heartedness. [see psalm 73:21-26] God's normal means of bringing his joy is by redeeming and sanctifying the ordinary junctures of human life.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 193



Where Endurance Comes From

Reading an account of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I am surprised at just how much Dr. King had to endure in his ambition to see real change happen in our society. Reading about this courageous and complicated man makes me ask the question about whether or not I have what it takes to be apart of what the Spirit is doing to create lasting, meaningful change in his world.

I long to see that change, person by person, reborn heart by reborn heart. ("Long" is not nearly a strong enough word: "have to" is closer.)

And after a short night's sleep and an anxious morning, everything in me says "I do not have what it takes."

How ignorant I am to think that Dr. King's only pushback was from the racist non-black community. That would be enough. But acting justly with racist opposition, governmental opposition, misunderstanding along with willful false defamation of his character, and dealing with his own doubts and fears had to have been overwhelming. On top of all of that were his brothers on the same side of the issue who thought he was weak and fought against him because Dr. King did not use unjust, violent force in order to put forward a just cause.

Entering into his life just a little this morning made me feel the weight of what it would take to stand up humbly for what my Father in heaven would like to create in his world. Anytime that any person wants to follow in Jesus' ways (as opposed to the ways of worldliness), that follower will encounter strong, overwhelming resistance. That is the nature of faithfulness.

So, how do I deal with this weight with despair...without losing heart?

While I am reading about Dr. King, an almost unnoticeable feeling of the reality of my inability to have that heart (much less the moral courage and the Christ-like wisdom), the Spirit did what he promised and fought for my heart with his truth. He reminded me of scripture:

2 Thessalonians 3:5: "May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness [or "endurance"] of Christ." (ESV) [My emphasis]

The truth is that I am not able to have the moral courage it takes to look spiritual evil in the eye and stand my ground. I do not have the emotional stamina to endure disappointment and the time it takes to wait on the Lord and see him breakthrough. 

There is another glorious truth too: the very same Jesus- who is the source of moral courage, enduring love for my neighbor, and joy that is unquenchable- lives in me. JESUS lives in me. Jesus LIVES in me. Jesus lives IN me. Jesus lives in ME! (see also Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27-29)

So, I will act today, knowing (even weakly) that Jesus lives in me. He lives HIS endurance in me. He is at work through me reconciling the world to himself...even through pushing back on all the ways of our lives that grieve Him.

Jesus (in me) is enough. This is his heart and his work, anyway.

Lord, create what you want in this world, out of me, out of your people, and in the lives of those who do not yet have the ability to trust you.




To Love My Neighbor is to Seek to Hear My Neighbor

People around us are deep mysteries. To love my neighbors means I need to understand them, to know them deeply even if they try hard not to be known. Every person has a culture and every relationship I have with someone is crossing over into their culture.

The only way I will ever really understand someone is if the Spirit gives me insight into them but, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do the work of listening to them and observing what they love. Everyone who is a child of God is also a missionary to the people they spend time with. That means we need to think like people who cross cultures, even if we don’t recognize that we are crossing cultures.

In their book, Everyday Church,  Tim Chester and Steve Timmis give counsel on how to observe people and discern culture. They give questions to ponder in discerning how to love people deeply by understanding them and their culture:


  • Where are the places and activities that we can meet people (the missional spaces)?
  • Where do people experience community?
  • Are there exiting social networks with which we can engage, or do we need to find ways of creating community within the neighborhood?
  • Where should we be to have missional opportunities?


  • What are the patterns and timescales of our neighborhood (the missional rhythms)?
  • When are the times that we can connect with people (the missional moments)?
  • How do people organize their time?
  • What cultural experiences and celebrations do people value/? How might these be bridges to the gospel?
  • When should we be available for missional opportunities?


  • What are people’s fears, hopes, and hurts?
  • What gospel stories are told in the neighborhood? What gives people identity (creation)? How do they account for wrong in the world (fall)? What is their solution (redemption)? What are their hopes (consummation)?
  • What are the barrier beliefs or assumptions that cause people to dismiss the gospel?
  • What sins will the gospel first confront and heal?
  • In what ways rate people self righteous?
  • What is the good news for people in this neighborhood?
  • What will church look like for people in this neighborhood?

The Difference The Resurrection Makes: Soul-full Eruption

The Difference The Resurrection Makes: Soul-full Eruption

Act Three

“My Lord and My God!”

I’m not a guy that tends to blurt out anything. It takes a lot to get me to that place and most of the time (over)think before I speak so that I don’t say what I should. Words just don’t come easy most of the time, but when I say something I want it to be meaningful.

Thomas’s encounter with the very-much-alive Jesus caused him to blurt out something meaningful, just a few words that were the overflow response to a change of his heart. The change was deep and the statement, though brief, was rich with significance.

Thomas was, in a moment, different. His hope had emptied when he saw his Friend carried away to his execution, but now a resurrected hope erupted inside of him. Now, Thomas’ faith was deeper than his doubt had been.

The Powerlessness of a Lie

I  (Wes) write this from about 30, 000 feet in the air. On the screen on the seat in front of me are all kinds of movies that I could choose from. Tough choices to make but I have 4 hours to decide.

If I wasn’t thinking so much (too much) about how anxious I get when the plane starts to shake, it would be easier to decide which superhero movie I should watch.

Superhero movies are our society’s new myths. Our ancestors told stories of Hercules and Perseus; now we have Superman, Batman, Luke Skywalker, and Wonder Woman. All are inspiring to watch and each makes us want to be heroes like they are. We will pay money in order to watch them be heroic. Too much money, probably.

But there is one thing they will never inspire us to do: worship them. Because we know, as the credits roll, they aren’t real. They are characters played by superpower-less (who may or may not really be heroic) for our entertainment.

Those fictitious characters will never inspire us to love them…or give our lives for them.

If Jesus died and is still dead, then he would be just as impactful as those cape wearing crusaders: inspiring to hear about, but no one to be devoted to. If we consciously or non-consciously believe that the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, then we will always live half-heartedly. We will hear the promises of scripture and trust the God who said them just enough to seem religious, just enough to feel some sort of hope, but not enough to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by him…awed by his life.

An Unwasted Life

Does the resurrection make any difference? The answer, one way or another, is “yes!”

Paul said that if resurrection isn’t real, then Jesus is still dead. That makes sense.

Then Paul goes further and tells the people in Corinth that if Jesus isn’t alive then those who believe are not just wrong, not just foolish, but of all the people in the world the most to be pitied. (see 1 Corinthians 15:19) A follower of Jesus should be pitied because he or she has lived a false hope. A pretty lie, but still a life spent on a lie. If Jesus was not resurrected, then following him wholeheartedly is a waste of life.

But, what if it is true? What if the doubts that we come by honestly and the fears that plague us daily are what is really foolish? Then wouldn’t it follow that it would be foolish not to follow him wholeheartedly? If Jesus is alive does that not also mean that we can have a new kind of life too…his very life?

The next question that lingers: Is this resurrection story true?

My purpose here is not to try to make a cumulative and comprehensive case for the historical reliability of the resurrection of Jesus. That has been done and been done much more humbly and eloquently than I could do. (see herehere, and here)

This is merely about one man being changed…and pointing towards millions of people who have had a similar (though probably simpler) encounter with our living Lord with the result being that their lives have been changed. The stories of former Thomas’s testify that something dramatic and beautiful has happened to them.

If the resurrection of Jesus isn’t true, then find inspiration in the story like you would if you were watching hero on the screen: enjoy it for what it is, but find something that is really worth spending you life on. It would be foolish to worship a dead man.

If the resurrection of Jesus is true, then let Jesus do for you what he did for Thomas. Let him awaken your hope. Let him command your affections. Allow him to overwhelm you with his love and his aliveness.

And cry out with Thomas’s joy: “My Lord and my God!”

If you will excuse me, I think I decided what I am going to watch. “Wonder Woman” looks worth spending the next 2 hours on. 

The Difference the Resurrection Makes: Where Faith Comes From

The Difference the Resurrection Makes: Where Faith Comes From

Act Two

A Different Story I Assume Would Be Told [see John 20:26-27]

If I were writing Thomas' story, I would write it differently.

Very differently. I would write it the way I expect Jesus would respond to me. Maybe, if I am honest, this is how I think Jesus does respond to me when my flood of doubt is drowning me. 

When Thomas confidently declares that he will only believe if Jesus shows up and lets Thomas touch him, I would imagine Jesus to respond in at least two ways:

One, I would expect Jesus to find out about Thomas' skepticism and get frustrated. How long had Jesus been with Thomas? How long would Thomas be at least "slow" of heart if not "hard" of heart?!  How long should Jesus put up with this? maybe Jesus should just find Thomas and tell him he needs to straighten up. Now! "Get with the program Thomas or this movement is moving on without you!" I would imagine Jesus sternly scolding Thomas for being so difficult. (I think that says more about me than Jesus, to be honest.)

Two, I would write the story in a way in which Jesus doesn't go through all of the trouble of scolding Thomas, but does something much more terrible: he would just let Thomas doubt and walk away. I would imagine Jesus hearing about Thomas' demands and merely moving on. Since Thomas didn't "have what it takes," Jesus would move on to someone who did. Surely there were plenty of people who would believe. 

Thankfully, I am not writing that story.

A Jarring Surprise

For two weeks the disciples met together in a locked room after Jesus' crucifixion. The text says that they were gathering behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. They had good reason to gather and good reason to hide. The first recorded time, Thomas wasn't there. Jesus showed up and the people were astonished that he really was alive.

Thomas wasn't there for that. He just heard about it. Hearing about it wasn't enough for him. He had to feel the Truth as well as hear it.

So, when Jesus shows up in the room again, this time with Thomas attending the meeting, I can imagine there was a silence in the room. Maybe a murmur. All were wondering what Jesus might do. And what he did had to have surprised them all: he offered his wounds for Thomas to feel.

Like Trying to Wake Up A Cemetery

One thing is certainly true: whoever believes in Jesus believes because Jesus came to them while they were still saying "I will not believe."

This is the story of every person who has faith in Jesus. we do not believe because we "had it in us" or because we were strong enough. No, everyone who has honestly entrusted themselves to Jesus has done so because he came to them first and created that faith.

We should not be surprised that Jesus came to Thomas and offered himself...not if we really understand Jesus. He showed that he was willing to humble himself over and over, going to those who didn't come to him and welcoming those who despised him. It is in God's nature to initiate relationship and to crate the fullness of faith where only the emptiness of doubt reigned.

God Acts First, and Second, and Third

And never more was that pictured than when Jesus endured the cross for people who were defiant in doubt. God demonstrated his initiative love in that, even when we were ravenously rebellious, he gave his precious Son that he might draw us to believe...and restore the closeness we were meant to share with Him. That is what he does.

And that is what he did for Thomas. In Thomas' stubbornness and hard-hearted willfulness Jesus showed Thomas the scars of his surrender. And Thomas was shocked.

When Jesus writes his own story, the story is a story that fills our souls with faith. His grace jars us awake to who he really is and then we are compelled to respond.

How about one last Act in this Story?

The Difference The Resurrection Makes: We Are Thomas

The Difference The Resurrection Makes: We Are Thomas

See John 21:24-25

Act One

April Fools Day

It made me laugh a little when I realized that Resurrection Sunday fell this year on April Fool's Day. Though many around me recognized the day as some sort of religious holiday, most people were more excited about what Google would do this year (see here) than the significance of Jesus resurrection.

Though our friends wouldn't just come out and say it, they would think we are a little foolish for believing it. Many think that it is okay for us to believe that as long as we don't push it on them or be "extreme" about it.

"Positive Illusions" and A Life Too Terrible to Face

Somewhere they have the belief that Jordan B. Peterson writes about in his book "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" when he says that there has been a whole generation of social psychologists who recommend "positive illusions" as the only reliable route to mental health. (see page 87) He makes it a little more clear when he says that some believe that "things are so terrible that only delusion can save you."

For some of our friends (and maybe some of us) belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead could be a sweet story that brings weak souls hope or a metaphor that one could find some sort of meaning of life in.

But, to many, the resurrection of Jesus is merely a story. A myth that is not true. A fiction that gives (false) courage to deal with the harshness of (a very real) reality.

We all need something to find hope in, right, but to say that Jesus' resurrection is true?! That would be foolish to many. From my own experience I know that I often at least live as if the resurrection isn't real, even if my mouth proclaims that Jesus is fully alive.

I. Will. NOT. Believe.

Thomas had left all to follow Jesus. He walked with Jesus as long as others and seen Jesus do the very same miracles the others did. When the blind were healed, Thomas saw it. When 5,000 men (plus women and children not counted) were feed with food left over, Thomas ate of the same bread and fish. When Jesus talked about going near Jerusalem and that going near would ultimately lead to his death, normally quiet Thomas said "If you die, I'll die with you!" (see John 11:16)

But, he didn't die with Jesus. Jesus died alone. And Thomas saw it.

We don't want to be called fools, and more than that, we don't want to feel foolish. Thomas had placed all his hope, based the remainder of his life on the Rabbi he followed. He was "all in." When Jesus was taken, tortured, and sentenced to death, all that Thomas lived for was up ended.

Thomas' hope died along with Jesus. And nothing short of a miracle could resurrect his hope. So when his friends came to him and told him they had seen Jesus, we can be understanding towards Thomas' response: 

John 20:25: So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 

"I will never believe! I was fooled once. I gave him my all once. I will not be fooled again."

I Am Thomas. And I Know I Am Not Alone.

We won't be fooled either. We can safely hide behind philosophies that "prove" to us that resurrection cannot happen in nature. We can preach the "good news" of common sense that these things just don't happen. We can recite creeds and hear good sermons about Jesus' coming-back-from-a-real-deadness, but never live as if the same power that resurrected him is available to his people. (see Ephesians 1:19-20)

I don't want to be a fool. No one does. I am Thomas. We are Thomas.

But that is not the end of Thomas' story...nor ours.

What We Actually Believe

"Whatever captures the heart's trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable... Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do."

Tim Keller, Preaching, 159 [My emphasis]

The Gospel of Not-In-Power

This is Good News, Too

Those who follow Jesus are never in the majority...never in control of the culture. That's right. Never. I do not think that is an overstatement.

Most of the time when Christians think we are in power, we are using sinful tactics to promote "Godly" ways. I think if we knew it we would run from it, but the truth still remains that we will often settle for "worldly" ways for a little bit of power than to wait for the Lord to show his power in his ways.

Just Like the Fruit, Worldly Power was There for Jesus to Take

In Matthew 4:7-9, Jesus was offered control over the accusers's dominion. It was there for Jesus' to take. He would have made a political difference. He would have changed the systems and structure of the world that create oppression for those who do not have power. He could have done more practical good than I can think through.

But, he would have never lived a crucified life. His power would have been a diminishing power, not the resurrection power that radiates from him.

He would have never dealt with the "root" of the issue (our sin and relational separation from God) and just dealt with the "fruit" of the problem.

Jesus did not bow the the tempter for many reasons, but one of them is that he was not (is not) "of" this world. He is uniquely different...and more alive. Jesus welcomes us not to a life of dominating power over others (even for good), but living out his freeing, healing resurrection power.

The Difference Difference Makes

We will always be different. But it is a kind of different that isn't awkward and disconnected with what is going on around us.

It is the kind of "different" that reminds the people around us that what we see in this world is not and is not all that there is. Our "different" reminds the world that God's kingdom is what we have always longed for in ways we may never have recognized.

"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19 ESV)

Passion Week Meditation: Heartsickness and Deferred Hope

Passion Week Meditation: Heartsickness and Deferred Hope

Proverbs 13:12 "Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
        but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (ESV)

Heartsick Saturday

As far as I know, nothing in scripture is written about the second day, the Saturday after the crucifixion. We know it was the Sabbath for the religious Jewish people so many people deliberately slowed down. For most, it was any other Sabbath- a time of rest, recreation, and celebrating all that God did for them at the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea. It was a time to reflect on God's faithfulness in the past through an unexpected miracle.

But for a small group of people, they would not have called Friday "good." They may have stopped their work, not because of following an observance, but because of emotional exhaustion. The day before they had seen their Master dominated by the Roman officials and demeaned by their own people. The One who they had followed- the One who had made impossible, but hope-filled promises- was staked to a wooden post in full display of the antagonistic city.

Hope in the Past Tense

Would it be too much to guess that, if they talked at all, they started their statements with "We had hoped..."? [see Luke 24:21]

The men and women who had followed Jesus, admired Jesus, and treasured being with Jesus were now without Jesus. They had watched him die. Cruelly. Shamefully. They had heard his words about his quickly-coming "departure" and the suffering he must endure, but the full weight of it did not fall on them until they saw it. In this case, seeing was believing that they had been wrong about him. They had given their lives (and their hearts) to a man who was just a frail as they were.

Most of their nationalistic hopes died with Jesus and they didn't know what came next. In the past, they might not have known what Jesus was going to do day to day, but they knew he would be there to shepherd them. What should they do now? Do they just go back to their old way of life- fishing, collecting taxes, political zealotry?

What Could Have Been...

Even in their consistent doubting, they had believed Jesus would be king... before that Friday. Now, what does their future look like? This kingdom that Jesus spoke so much of would not come now because he could not be king. That just makes sense, right? A dead man can't be king.

All that we can guess about that Saturday is that the disciples of Jesus were living with an acute heartsickness. It was an undiagnosable ailment that only comes when you actually put your hopes on someone or something and that thing fails dramatically. They had given themselves to Jesus and he had seemed to be a failure when it mattered most. They were heartbroken. Scattered. Empty of hope.

Beyond Imagination

There was nothing they could imagine that could rebuild their hope. They were living in the last day of their week and all signs pointed to the first day of their next week being more of the same. The sun had set on Jesus' mission. The next sunrise would usher in a day just like today.

Only the unthinkable could recreate hope in them. Only a miracle could fulfill their desire. 

Passion Week Meditation: Finished Friday

Passion Week Meditation: Finished Friday

John 19:30: "...It is finished."

" Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other." Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

Time to Go Home

There was nothing left for his captors to do to him. After his capture in the garden, his interviews and trials, the crown of thorns on his head and the lingering pain of being struck in the face, the sting of the mob's rejection and the shooting pains that came from the soldier's whip, all they could do to him is hold him fast to the wood. Nail him to the cross. Strip him down and display his "crimes" to the people.

Then all anyone did was wait for him to die. 

Surely the crowds did not wait around to watch his agony. They went on to their celebrations, emotionally spent from the cheering and jeering. Surely many of the chiefs priests and elders went on their way. They had been up early making decisions that would save the nation from this blasphemer, this agitator. What needed to be done was done. The process would punish Jesus. There was no doubt that their problems were over.

If he wasn't dead by close to sundown, then the Romans' would agree to the Jewish leader's request that the crucified criminal's legs would be broken so that they couldn't raise themselves up any longer to breathe. It was cruel, yes, but it was better than leaving them to die for three more days. Plus, the Sabbath that was swiftly coming should be honored...and there was nothing honorable about what was happening to Jesus.

The View From the Cross

From Jesus' point of view though, all of this was part of the plan. All of it happened so that what the Father had planned to happen from before the foundation of the world on this day would happen. Jesus could plainly see the Father at work around him because everything was going exactly how it should, and Jesus knew it was almost over.

From the vantage point of the cross, he could see the sin of the world lived out in front of him. Those who considered him an enemy did not understand what was happening and gloated in their victory. The soldiers who were striving for position and power within the Roman system, wiped their hands proudly at another day's work well done. Oppressors were still taking advantage of poor widows and orphans were treated a worthless. The "righteous" were still living their hypocrisy, looking good on the outside, but on the inside being ravenously hungry to indulge their sin.

That's why Jesus hung there. Not because of the charge of being a false king of the Jews or a blasphemer, but because of the sin that was working in the deep places of people's heart's even at that moment.

His role was to be the Lamb that was slain for them. For the Father's forgiveness of the unworthy to be just, Jesus had to endure the punishment. It was either him or everyone. For any reconciliation to happen he had to do one final work.

He had to die.

And that is what he did. Lovingly obedient to his Father for every moment. Joyfully hopeful in trusting himself to the Father even in the midst of deep agony, he did his last work. He gave up his life in full view of the reality of how much we do not deserve his love, his gift.

He died saying "It is finished."

No, Really, "Finished." Complete. Done.

His shame was finished. His suffering was finished. The vulnerability he lived in a world opposed to him was finished. 

The need for ritual sacrifices was finished. No lamb needed to die ever again for a selfish man's sin. 

Striving to try to please God by doing good was finished. The compulsion to try to get God to accept us could end because Jesus' death secured our acceptance in trusting him. 

The separation from God that is the result of sin was finished. Now, because Jesus became sin for the undeserving whole of humanity, those who trust that Jesus' death alone (and no other striving to be "right") can make us right with God can be brought home to him.

All of God's work to bring his people home to him was finished. The penalty was paid. There was nothing left to do, but entrust ourselves to him and enjoy his presence. (And even that is a gift too.)

It really is finished.

Its just hard to believe sometimes, isn't it?

Love Demonstrated for All of Us to See

Romans 5:8 "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. "


Passion Week Meditation: The Will that Would Change the World

Passion Week Meditation: The Will that Would Change the World

[see Genesis 3; Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 4:32-42Luke 22:39-46]

"My Father..."

Reading Jesus say these words of affection seems to me like I am intruding on a intimate and sacred moment. It isn't like it would be forbidden, but it seems like these moments when Jesus would pray were so deep and so personal that they would be otherworldly and, maybe, uncomfortable. Imagining his voice in my head I also imagine a "knowing" in his tone that revealed that his relationship with the Father was as constant as it was intimate; deep and rich in mutual affection and (because I cannot find another word) "holy." 

It is the closeness of his relationship with the Father that brought him to these moments of agony in the garden. (Was that as hard to read as it was to write?)

In any selfless devotion, there is always a place of pain. A new mom whose body cries out for rest getting up in the middle of the night to feed a nursing child. A husband who has watched his bride slowly slip away from him for 10 years because of the effects of dementia. A long-suffering friend who, though her childhood playmate has become a wayward adult, prays and waits for God to do the miracle she longs for to bring that friend back "home."

It was the joy in following the heart of his Father that led him to this sorrow. It was knowing the Father's passionate purpose that compelled Jesus to obey even to the point of real, gut-wrenching pain. 

"...If it is possible let this cup pass from me.." 

Most suffering in the world seems to be meaningless and random. There was a purpose in Jesus' suffering.  

Though Jesus often went to the Mount of Olives ("...as was his custom") there is something deliberate about why the scene of Jesus greatest testing, his greatest struggle, happened in a garden. It would not have been lost on the Jewish people of Jesus' day like it was to me for so long. It was because of what happened in a Garden in Genesis that Jesus was ever in this garden in the first place.

When Adam and Eve listened to the tempting voice and gave in to its fiendish counsel, they effectively said "Not your will, O God, but mine!" After that, those words became the inclination of their hearts...a heart-trait that they passed down to every living person who has come after them. The stubborn bent of our souls is to seek for forbidden fruit to eat and to recklessly look for our joy in acts that are destroying us. 

Sin, suffering, and death came out of the Garden of Eden, following Adam. As Adam and Eve multiplied, so did all the problems: Rwandian genocide. Siberian work camps. Death marches. Abandoned children longing for a parent to love them. A harsh word spoken. A cold shoulder.

And with every selfish thought, every harmful action, every devious plan that came from our hearts, the cup of God's wrath filled more and more. (see Jer. 25:15; Is 51:17

It was all of the sin and suffering and death that came rushing out of Eden that weighed heavily on Jesus in this garden. So heavy, in fact, that Jesus pleads with his Father to take it from him. It was an unseen agony that weighed down his soul because he knew something else...

...The only way to satisfy the demands of justice and the purpose of love was for Jesus himself to take on the cup. There was no other way.

Jesus knew he had to substitute himself for us. He was going to drink our cup of a righteous wrath.

"...Not what I will, but what you will."

It is in these words that we see the willingness that comes from love. Even though we were the perpetrators, he chose to take our place. Jesus had such a joy in his relationship with the Father and such a love for undeserving people that he was willing to endure a punishment worse than Hell itself: He would, willingly, take our place.

Suffering seems stronger than love. Love can seem weak...an emotion that dries up when something real like pain comes along. But what Jesus shows us in this garden is that there is a love that is stronger than suffering- the type of love that is willing to endure suffering for someone else.

Not out of weakness or defeat that come from when stubbornness is overcome, but from a heart that was overcome with love, Jesus surrendered to the Father's will. He knew the Father's will was good even if it was, well, excruciating to him.

What we see here is that Jesus had a deeper will that propelled him to suffering: the joy that comes from seeing the Father's ways come to pass. At whatever the cost to himself.

It's this will that can change the world. 

Passion Week Meditation: "...And He Reclined at Table"

Passion Week Meditation: "...And He Reclined at Table"

[see Matthew 26:6-25; Mark 14:3-21; Luke 22:3-23; John 13:1-30Psalm 41:9]

The Ministry of Presence

We talk about time in a similar way we talk about money: we "spend" it. Like the cash in our accounts, our time is limited and it is always used up faster than we expect. Uncomfortably faster most of the time. Like money, time is a valuable resource, so we know that where a person spends her time shows what she cares about.

Even though Jesus said this in the context of money I think it is fair to say that it works for the currency of time also:  "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21 ESV) Where we spend our life-time shows what we value, who we love, and where are heart really is.

In the last week of his life it is surprising to me to see how often Jesus is spending his life "reclining at table" with small groups of people. He is showing where his heart is: to be present with people. They would get to see how he radiates grace and truth in his laughter and his teaching around that table, the way that he leans in to listen to someone's story about their day even if it seemed trivial to the rest of the table, and how that his commitment to them for that entire evening showed that God does not anxiously move on to his next appointment like we do. He was present in a way that those people would feel the full weight of his personality. He showed the the gospel lived out in his words, but also through the overflow of his heart among them.

Betrayal at the Table

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8 ESV; emphasis mine)

There is a danger in committing to someone or to a group of people enough to spend your life on them: they might hurt you. The more I get to know someone and the more I spend time with them, they "imprint" on me. I am not sure how to explain that other than to say that people not only grow on me, but affect me. When they hurt, I start to hurt. When they celebrate, something rises up in me to celebrate with them! Every person in whom the Spirit of Jesus lives does the same to some degree because that is the very heart of Jesus that beats in us.

So, I would imagine that when the woman poured expensive perfume over his head at dinner, he had compassion on her, smiled at her lavishness, and saw the reality of how his grace affected her enough to love him back. I would imagine that the selfish, willful misunderstanding of the disciples affected him in a similar way. He could not help but be affected. One moment joy and the next moment disappointment. This is the beautiful reality of life spent around the table with people.

When Jesus and his disciples "reclined at table" to celebrate the Passover, Judas had already sold Jesus to those who counted Jesus as an enemy. Judas did not betray Jesus and then to safely run away to watch what happened, but he came back and boldly sat at the same table as Jesus, eating the same meal as Jesus. 

Eating together like this was a sign of enduring friendship. Sharing a meal was a statement to everyone at the table (and those who would hear of it) that "these people are as close to me as family. These people are people I commit to sharing my life with." So, when someone at the table breaks that trust... oh how much deeper is the betrayal!

Jesus felt every bit of that betrayal. His sinless heart was not burdened with the callousness of sin so he took in everything deeper than we can experience. It was one of many wounds, but it was a wound that affected him, disturbed him.

Grace Flowed From The Woundedness

But, in this woundedness, Jesus showed who he really is: full of grace and truth (John 1:14). In truth, he spoke up and called out that someone would betray him. The hidden sin would be revealed! But, in his grace he didn't push Judas away. As a matter of fact, he continued to share the meal with him until Judas decided to leave. 

What did Jesus think in those moments? What did the disciples see? What did Judas feel as he walked out of the door into the night, breaking the fellowship with Jesus he had enjoyed for years?

Jesus spent his final few days and, especially, his final few hours around a table sharing a meal with those he had affection for. He spent that time on people (not on agendas), showing the character of God in a very real, very personal way. In the final time he could spend before his crucifixion, Jesus showed where his heart was: with the people he loved. 




Passion Week Meditation: A Fierce Tenderness

Passion Week Meditation: A Fierce Tenderness

Tis The Season for Pictures of Jesus on the Front of Magazines.

At any checkout line at our local grocery stores it's hard to miss the differing portraits of Jesus  prominently displayed for us to buy. One magazine asks "is the Resurrection fact?" another one asks "What did Jesus really teach?" and one other questions "Was Jesus an alien?" My question is: did he really have baby blue eyes?!

Even with all the differing portrayals of the Son of God for us to impulse buy, one thing is almost always true: Jesus looks bored if not boring. He looks mild and tame. The pictures exude a sense of "niceness" that is attractive for a moment, but easily forgotten the next. This portrayal of Jesus is "safe" and we are safe from having to respond to him. This Jesus is sweet to us, but he definitely does not command our attention, much less our respect.

Then I Read the Gospels...

I see a very different portrait of this man when reading the Bible. Matthew very simply states "And Jesus entered the temple and DROVE OUT all who sold and bought in the temple, and he OVERTURNED THE TABLES of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons." (Matthew 21:12 ESV; my emphasis)

Jesus drove them out. Jesus drove them out! (I had to say it again) That is not something tame men do. Merely "nice guys" stay outside of a problem so as not to cause a fuss...create a mess. The very same man whose hands would, very tenderly, heal a broken body and who would unashamedly weep over the loss of a friend (See John 11:35) deliberately and willful drove men out of the temple. 

This Draws Out Questions

Does that shock you like it does to me? Does it seem "wrong" that he would do that? Does it seem out of character for him?

That's just it, this is as much the real Jesus as any other biblical picture. As a matter of fact, this encounter with Jesus makes every other encounter with him not only look different, but add a depth to those stories that we wouldn't have otherwise. When Jesus heals on the sabbath with the scoffers in full view of his "crime" we see the same strength of love. When Jesus calls people to his rest, we know that it isn't the type of "rest" that retreats from the world, but the type that engages the real issues of our lives. When we see Jesus give himself to the cruelty of a Roman cross we see that he was no push over who passively went, but was driven to that point with a righteous passion.

Jesus Welcomed Others Close

I intended just to write about Jesus cleansing the temple. In my imagination, Jesus drove out the money changers and "robbers" and then left the area, on to the next part of his days' agenda. But, rereading it again before typing I noticed something that shocked me even more: "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:14 ESV) This is right after what we might perceive as an "outburst"!

Who is this man?! One moment he is making a bold statement by driving people out of this house of prayer -used for selfish gain -and the next moment the weak and the outsiders feel safe enough with him to approach him. Where one group saw fierceness and fled another group saw graciousness and gathered near him.

Can Jesus Be Both at the Same Time?

I will speculate here, but I think it is fair: if Jesus is nothing but loving then it means he was loving in this scene. He didn't turn "loving" off for a few minutes to overturn tables and ruin the five year plan of small business owners. No, as a matter of fact, in both scenerios he was consistently loving, doing what each group needed more than anything. May I be bold enough to say that Jesus' tenderness towards those he drove out was to give them what they really needed- a shake up that is a strong reminder that their way is the way to destruction? May I be bold enough to say that Jesus was fierce towards the ones who came near to him to be healed? With a fierce compassion he healed them and welcomed them close.

Whether what I say is foolish or not, one thing is true: Jesus will not be domesticated. He will not be defined and controlled. He will not submit to being God in an image we try to create.

Unreservedly Who He Is

He will joyfully be exactly who he is: fiercely tender. When the magazines at our store portray him as a Righteous Warrior with Uncompromising Compassion then I might follow my impulse to buy one and read it. Until then, I want God's word to paint the picture of Jesus I need to see.

Passion Week Meditation: A Triumphant Entry?

[See Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-15]

I Wonder...

I've always wondered why that title in my Bible calls this story the "triumphal entry." Those titles printed on the page were not originally part of text of the gospel, but they seem meaningful. Someone thought it made sense with the passage!

Maybe it is because the crowds saw it as a triumph. That would make sense. There was a group of people made up of those who were affected by Jesus: those that used to be sick, those that used to be lame, and those that used to be guilt-ridden. All of them probably hoping that the One who restored them would restore the honor to the nation they loved, too.

They Longed For A Good King And In Meeting Jesus They Knew They Had Found One.

The crowd celebrated because, for them, this entrance is a real turning point. The promises of scripture and the longings of their hearts for things to change- really change- were on the verge of happening! A real, uncontainable joy was unashamedly erupting from underneath years of desperate hoping and anxiously waiting...one in which if they did try to hold it back would cause the rocks to break their long silence and praise their Creator. 

Sooner And Not "Later" They Would See the Promised King On The Throne

I would imagine I would also be in that crowd expecting that my greatest hopes were about to be fulfilled, but, knowing what will happen later that week, my mind turns to what Jesus was thinking. Did he feel triumphant? Was this a moment in which he could smile deeply and fully enjoy the party or was there always the haunting thought that this praise would soon die and give way to either a silent watchfulness or a defiant chorus of curses towards him? 

What Really Stands Out Is That He Doesn't Tell Them To Sit Down

Jesus does not tell them to settle down and be realistic. This is the part that really surprises me. He doesn't stop them to correct them, but lets them celebrate! No, more than that, he encourages them to celebrate. He knows their expectations of him and knows he won't be the king they want, but at the same time joins the jubilee.

The Romans watch the scene and scoff because they would do it better- with more glamor and bravado- and most would all but forget the scene before going to bed that night. 

The jealous Jewish leaders watch with contempt as this pretender makes a fool of himself as some pseudo-messiah, like others had done. Soon enough, this crowd would know the truth and would see the wages Jesus earns for his blasphemy.

I picture Jesus with a wry smile as he rides in on this borrowed donkey without any hint of asking the emboldened crowd to stop. Somehow he knows this is a foretaste of what will happen later rather than sooner. This is a warm up party before the ultimate entry when he rides in on a war horse and he triumphs over all of the systems that press people, the powers behind those systems, and the sin that fuels it all. (see Revelation 19:11-16)

The Real Glory They Longed For Would Soon Be Revealed

But also, in the quietness of his soul, he knows that between him and the triumph where all things are made right stands a cross. This cross is the throne that will display his glory and will ever define what it means to be a triumphant king. 

The accomplishment in that moment is not that he would be carried in celebration by a stubborn donkey, but that Jesus would willingly carry the sins of the world with no fanfare.

They celebrated good king that day, but it wasn't until later that they could see just how good he really is. It wasn't a political coup that would show his triumph, but his passionate sacrifice.

Repenting of Not "Lenting"

Earlier this week my friend shared with me how he is spending time over the next few days reading through the story of Jesus' final week before his crucifixion. 

Spending that much time entering in those crucial days in the life of Jesus (and the life of the world) seems like a valuable way to spend some of my life, but in hearing it sounded like so. much. work!

Then I heard my friend share about the time he has spent, not talking about the toil and pain he endured (there wasn't any), but the joy he has experienced! He very winsomely shared how he entered in to Jesus' life in the pages and, more than that, he got to experience that very same Jesus through those pages.

Okay, how could I find any fault in that? I can't. He has been "lenting" and the encounter he has had with the Living Savior has been worth the "sacrifice."

"Lent" to me in the past has been a foreign word to me. I have understood that it is meant to be a time of preparation and reflection, but it seemed too "traditional," too "liturgical," or too "I have to prove myself to God"-ish.

I am slow to learn the "why" behind things, especially when it is easy just to write a people or a practice off because it is not "my tradition."

Also, with a smug self-righteousness, I am tempted to say "I celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection all year not just for 40 days!" The truth is, though, that's not true. Most days I deliberately don't seek to treasure Jesus through meditating on his glorification at the cross and out of the tomb. Spirit, please change that in me!

Whether it is Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or some Ordinary Monday, what seems to matter most is that I might be AFFECTED by this one who would walk through the ultimate valley of the shadow of death and come out joyful on the other side. I want this to not only be meaningful, but to mean something to me! I want the passion week to fuel a like hearted passion for my Savior.

So, even though I am late to the event, I am repenting of not Lenting. 

This is not a work to gain God's favor for me. It is a work because I have God's favor as his child. (Romans 8:31-32) This is not mere traditionalism, but a tradition that stands up because it can mean something, well, meaningful.

What that means is that I am going to seek to be awed by this Man. I will sacrifice a little time to enter in Jesus' experience to know him deeper, to trust him more. And, as a response, write about that here.

Would you consider reading through this part of his life with me this next week? Its not full on Lenting, but I'm learning.



The Lie in our Bloodstream

Quote from Sinclair Ferguson's book The Whole Christ:

"The lie [of the serpent from Genesis 3] was an assault on both God's generosity and integrity. Neither his character nor his words were to be trusted. This, in fact, is the lie which sinners have believed ever since- the lie of the Not-to-be-trusted-because-he does-not-love-me-False-Father... [this lie has] entered the bloodstream of the human race..."

As quoted in Preaching by Timothy Keller, page 53.

Simply Faithful

I have read Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret four or five times in my life. It is a book that is so good that it is worth diving into again and again just to remember what the Spirit of God will do in the life of a person surrendered to Him.

This quote has arrested me many times, and is worth sharing with you.

"But Hudson Taylor did not start out to impact "millions." He started out to love God, to honor Him, and to share His love with individual sinners who needed so desperately to know Him. Jesus called Taylor (and us) to be "faithful," not "successful." And God added the increase. So shall it be with us, I pray." (page 12)


Just reading the title of the post might cause anxiety. Somehow it does for me because I tend to be a homebody. I like thinking that tonight I might be able to snuggle up next to my wife to watch a show on Netflix on our couch in our living room knowing our little girl is asleep in our house.

Abram's (Literal) Walk of Faith

The last few weeks I have been asking a lot about what it means to live "by faith." Last Sunday night we talked about Abram's [Abraham's] journey of faith from his home in Haran to the land God promised him. Sounds exciting to think about! It reads like and adventure story!

There is something though I didn't consider in the text: when the Lord spoke to Abram to leave his home what followed was that Abram would also leave his house

The Spirit though the writer of Hebrews didn't miss it though: Hebrews 11:9- "By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise."

The Thread of Unsetting Through Scripture

 God's people often live unsettled. Similar to my Little League coach always challenging me to be "on my toes" while playing third base, our good Father keeps his people in a place where we are alert to trust him:

  • Abraham and his family though four generations
  • The people of Israel in their journey through the wilderness
  • God's people being exiled to a foreign land in Babylon.
  • The Son of Man who had no place to lay his head.

A Loving God Could Love No Other Way

Why though? Does it unsettle you like it does me that our loving God would let us be unsettled? God commanded Abram to leave all that was safe for him and their family. In the same way, think of the times Jesus led his closest friends onto a boat that would end up in a storm. God knew what was ahead of them!

I think there are two precious parts to the answer. Precious and confidence-building answers that settle our soul once we can embrace them:

First, Abram could go unsettled because God promised him a home again, not just a house. Hebrews 11:10 says "For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." Since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, we have longed for the home we were made for. Every place we dwell is "home," but not "home" enough. Abraham could obey, leave his family, living in tents, because something in God's words to him told him that in living by faith he would find his home. His REAL home where he would be fully and finally settled.

But even more important than the first answer is the second answer: wherever Abram went by faith, the Lord went with him. This is the precious promise of following our God: we may be unsettled, but our God walks with us out of our safety and into His journey. Like Abram, we might not know the details of where we are going, but (whether we feel it or not) our God delights to walk with us. He takes the initiative to be present with us and nothing in this world dissuades him from that. When Jesus told his disciples to get on a boat and they ended up in the storm, he was always in the storm with them! (see Mark 4:35-5:1)

Houseless, but Not Hopeless

When the Lord unsettles us (and he will as we learn to trust him), though we often feel the loss deeper than is comfortable and wonder when our good Father will come though, he is at work to remind us that we have a better home awaiting us. We have something to look forward to. The best days for followers of Jesus are always ahead of us, either in this life or the fullest life when we get to see Jesus' face with our own eyes.

And what we have to look forward to the most is that our heart's true Home is not just waiting ahead of us, but He is with us as we walk the unsettled path he planned out for us. 





Jeremiah 29:7: "But seek the welfare [peace, wholeness] of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

It seems strange that we would spend a Sunday evening in which we usually "go to worship" going to hand out flyers about a business in our neighborhood. It feels weird doesn't it?

Our Mission

As we have stated here, our mission statement reads: "We will express that Jesus is our treasure by...seeking the peace of the city (and the nations) through the Gospel." Simply put, our love for Jesus and the effect of the gospel on our lives, motivates us to seek the good of our neighbors and our neighborhood.

Or maybe even more simply put, our worship of Jesus moves us to love our neighbors.

"Worship" is more than singing his greatness, it is seeing his greatness and love in a way that creates a desire to respond in love. It is the inclination of our heart to treasure Jesus as a response to his love for us demonstrated on the cross (See Romans 5:8). 

Worship always acts in love to our God...and it always acts in love to our neighbor.

Our Neighbors

So why Gigglechops?

I want to support our local business, not just because they are businesses or because there is a trend towards "local," but because there are people who our God loves who are behind the business. Not only that, this specific business seeks to love a group of people I do not fully know how to serve well, people who live with "special needs and learning differences."

"Seeking the peace of our city" means supporting those that are already doing that...and often times following their lead and learning from them.

Your Invitation

The Invitation: come join us Sunday to serve our neighbor (even if you are reading this and don't "treasure Jesus"...yet) Act your worship with us. (for more info email Wes here)


I don't have a relationship with Jesus because I earned it. That's not possible, and that would never be a real relationship anyway. I have a relationship with Jesus because he sought me out and (because he paid my penalty by his death) he now says that he is "for" me...on my side... working out good for me for his name's sake. The more that truth soaks into our bones the more we will want to be "for" others, too.