It’s Thursday. What would you do in the last day before your execution? Do something selfish? Be with those whom you love? Hide away?
If yesterday seemed like a slow day, today it really picks up pace. Jesus seems to focus on spending with the disciples, not for His encouragement but for their edification.
He distills the essentials. His sacrificial death and the link to salvation (Last Supper). The importance of a divine relationship (abide). The upside down nature of Kingdom servant hood (foot washing). He demonstrates it practically, not just in words, with a real life reminder. Just so they will not be ignorant or forget.
It makes me wonder how many of the essentials get lost in unimportant details?
We don’t want a broken Saviour because it makes Him look weak, and oh, how we despise weakness… We prefer a contract signed sealed and delivered, without any further interference, rather than abiding… We love to see the towel and the basin used, just not by us but for us…
Then Jesus retreats. His only seemingly ‘me’ time is in prayerful struggle. And how much this does not resemble our prayer. This is maybe where the battle of Calvary was half won. This is maybe where the resolution is sealed and the emotions are strengthened. This is the unedited Jesus. The One I can relate to every time I intercede for those not yet answered prayers. Yes, He understands…
Matthew 26:17-25 | Mark 14:12-31 | Luke 22:7-38 | John 13 & 14
It’s Wednesday. After the avalanche of emotions and conflicts, this feels like a quiet day. After resting in Bethany, Jesus comes back into Jerusalem in the Temple complex, continuing to teach. To the naive onlooker it seems like a victory. But little do they know…
The plot is in full flow and the dice has been rolled. His demise at the hand of the religious elite is imminent. This truly is the calm before the storm. Church history often referred to this day as Spy Wednesday, and it’s not hard to guess that Judas takes centre stage.
The man who has witnessed Jesus’ power and heard Jesus’ incredible teaching finds himself ‘turned’ to betray him. It was mostly about money but not just about money. The culmination of his exasperation with Jesus was the wasteful anointing by Mary. That was the tipping point.
The son of David, experiences the betrayal of one of his close followers, just like David himself. At some point something happened to Judas. A small spiritual gateway that allowed the evil one to come and whisper and stir-up his frustrations with the way of the Master.
There’s a Judas lurking in every one of us. We have our own agendas. We see a kingdom with a small ‘k’ that somehow seems more appealing than His Kingdom. We want pleasure, power and possessions and despise servanthood, self-sacrifice and surrender.
When it comes to our affection for the Saviour and our allegiance for the King, there is no such thing as a ‘small’ compromise. This is the time to examine ourselves, to be ruthless and close the door.
Watch out for frustrations, unmet expectations, puzzling outcomes, challenging words and anything else that might cause you to steer away from the King’s way. May the Judas inside of us come to light in repentance and meet the gracious Saving King!
Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16 | Mark 14:1-2, 10-11 | Luke 22:1-6
It’s Tuesday. If there were any PR people amongst the disciples, on that Tuesday they must have had a nightmare day. This was like a public war of words, betraying Jesus’ deep disappointment with the self-righteous.
They tried to trap Him with both political and religious questions but with no avail. He knew more than they thought He knew and His time just wasn’t finished. How often do we play this game too…We get so engrossed in relatively insignificant trivia, while ignoring the blatant spiritual issues that mar our lives.
It’s frustrating to see such an opportunity – yet those who saw themselves ‘in’ were either too deluded or arrogant to see themselves in need of grace.
Like a good prophet, He paints the picture of the future, offering yet another chance of repentance. He does it with creativity and simplicity, through the power of the story. But so many just don’t want to know… The ‘here and now’ of power is a strong spiritual narcotic that deters us from understanding the future.
This is the day that Judas does His dirty deal. It might have been about money but I suspect that the shattered expectations of worldly success fueled most of the motivation for ‘selling Jesus out’. You make a customised Jesus and when it does not ‘deliver’ – you betray Him. That story gets repeated again and again.
Matthew 21-25 | Mark 11-13 | Luke 20-21
As the end of another year approaches – it provides me with a new opportunity for reflection and examination. This is a grace infused exercise meant to help me grow, as a disciple and as a leader. It’s not a guilt trip or a legalistic ‘to do’ list to breed shame or pride.
Here is a list that I designed for myself – and some of the questions/issues you might fond helpful too:
What can I celebrate?
What do I need to bring closure to?
What keeps tripping me up?
Who do I want to become?
Who do I want to influence?
What is my plan?
- what disciplines do I need to adopt?
- how can I master my diary?
- who/what should I be reading & listening to?
- who do I need to talk to?
- how does my accountability look like?
Pauls’ leadership encouragement to Timothy is a helpful reminder here:
2 Timothy 2:3-6 (NLT): 3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Communion (or however your particular ‘tribe’ calls it) is such an amazing opportunity. Yet, like all good things in life, it can be taken for granted so easily. Another danger is that we come glibly and carelessly to His table. A legalistic approach that seems to only stress the preparation leading to the first Sunday of the month seems to miss the point and simply engages in a one off ritualistic awareness of the meaning of communion.
The Apostle Paul seems to address a whole host of dangers and problems when he writes with almost tweetable brevity: 1 Corinthians 11:28: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
Here are some questions that could be useful as we examine ourselves in preparation:
– Have I understood and experienced the Good News of God’s redemptive love demonstrated at the Cross?
– Do I recognise and admit my attitudes and actions that are the remaining relics of my sinful nature?
– Do I have a repentant desire to move away from sin to grace-led freedom and victory?
– Do I still stand/bow in awe of God’s lavish grace being made available for me day by day?
– Do I forgive as I am forgiven – living as a debtor that has been set free, to set others free?
– Do I embrace the resurrection power of Christ that enables me to live fully his kingdom in my world?
O MY SAVIOUR,
I am so slow to learn,
so prone to forget,
so weak to climb;
I am in the foothills when I should be
on the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.
I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.
Make it my chiefest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.
Give me increase and progress in grace
so that there may be
more decision in my character,
more vigour in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervour in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.
Valley of Vision
There is plenty of talk about revival in the church – which betrays a genuine longing for God’s kingdom to break out in ever increasing influence. On the other hand, you have a perennial lottery like mentality – if we keep predicting it and talking about it – it might come true. The danger with that is the ‘cry wolf’ syndrome that creates a cynicism towards the subject.
J. I. Packer is helpful in the essay: “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (pp. 100-104):
Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in. It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces. It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace. It is the Holy Spirit sensitising souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing.
What would a revived/renewed community of Christ followers look like, then?
- divinely supernatural community – this cannot happen by just working harder and dreaming bigger – it is a sovereign surprising act of God’s kindness and power
- emotionally healthy community who displays visible signs of an encounter with God’s goodness
- redemptively authentic and transparent community – where sin is not hidden in shame but exposed and redeemed by the extravagant grace and powerful Spirit
- outward focused relational & missional community – that overflows with the streams of living water that come from Christ Himself
- humble and anonymous spotlight-giving community in which Christ is the Star and we are the grateful and privileged best-supporting acts
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Psalm 85:6
Jesus seems to always build retreats into His life and ministry. Most of them involve secluded, lonely settings away from people.
Yet, there is one place that seems to be ‘home’ among people – Bethany, at the home of Martha, Lazarus and Mary. It was His place of rest among people. Where is that place for you?
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” 41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha steals the show. At least at first glance. It’s like meeting Nigella and Kirsty, embodied in one person. Creative, warm, loud. Her food was famous and her hospitality made guests feel treasured and other women envious. She takes the initiative. She invites Jesus in. Her love language is action. Her delight is serving others. She is wired and animated…
Mary just sits down. Her passivity a stark contrast to Martha’s activity. She stops from her activity. She is quiet and simply listens to Jesus’ teaching.
Lazarus, we don’t know anything about him. Guys can be like that. Hiding away. Being distracted. Getting stuff done. Guys always get stuff done. Not wanting to be in the limelight, you know…
The scene looks calm initially but it doesn’t take long before the unhealthy attitudes come to the surface. When we don’t relate well to Jesus – we end up taking it out on people around us. Martha’s complaint seems justified. Yet Jesus surprisingly sides with Mary.
Martha doesn’t get the reaction she expected. Jesus speaks to her gently and redemptively. He doesn’t demean her instinctive desire to serve. He simply invites her to move from good to best! What was Mary’s secret, I wonder? Why did she do what she did? Was it just a personality trait?
Mary did not need to do anything FOR Jesus. No impressive mind boggling questions or extravagant displays of hospitality. She recognised that it’s much better to let Jesus do something for her. She was unashamed in her need for His wisdom. She was ‘poor in the spirit’ and humbly accepted her state – without insecure feelings demanding a performance that impresses Jesus.
Mary seized an opportunity. She knew that THIS was so unique. She knew WHO was before her. This was not to be missed. In the presence of divine royalty, you drop everything, as at that moment, nothing else matters…
Mary was filled with awe. She was so amazed at what Jesus did and taught that simply being around Him was enough.
Mary was expectantly curious for more of His teaching. She knew what she already heard and like a mesmerised child waiting to hear another amazing bedtime story from a parent or grandparent, she was so eager to discover more from Him.
Here is the beckoning call to Jesus, right here and right now. He is the omnipresent Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Potentate of time and history – ready to welcome you at His feet.
come just as you are
come and be still
come to seek His face, not just His hand
come before the Christmas rush
2016 will remain ingrained in the history books as a turn-around year, full of unexpected and surprising political outcomes. The future will have the right to judge what the consequences of those changes will be for ordinary people in the UK and US as well as the global impact that awaits us.
More than ever I became aware of my sense of alienation from the political offerings available. I felt deep down that although I resonate with many causes – there is no political movement that fully can embrace Christ’s Kingdom agenda.
The secret? As Christ-followers we are are transcending the traditional dividing lines into another, deeper reality. The Dominican father, Herbert McCabe captures it perfectly:
“The Christian minister is meant to be neither the pillar of an established quasi-feudal order, as conservative Christians are inclined to think, nor is he the democratic representative of a quasi-bourgeois society as the progressives seem to suggest; he is a revolutionary leader whose job is the subversion of the world through the preaching of the gospel. He exercises authority amongst his people not as maintaining an established structure; he is the leader of his people in a movement towards a new community.
Matthew 5:13-16 The Message (MSG)
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
O, Lord, keep us from becoming distracted by pointless arguments and drinking further from the poisoned well of hatred and division. Keep our hearts tuned into a different voice and our eyes filled with the clarity that the tears of compassion can bring. Make us Your courageous but humble agents of love, hope and reconciliation.