Wednesday, October 29, 2008


“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared - Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – Jn 1:29

The Baptizer has already testified that he isn’t the Messiah. He’s now ready to bear witness to the Lamb of God – the Lamb that takes away the world’s sins.

We’re used to this Messianic title by now. But think about how these words would have sounded the moment they left the Baptizer’s lips. The Jews expected a Messiah – but a lamb? The Messiah was supposed to be a lion if anything. The Lamb of God? This is like expecting a pit bull and getting a poodle; like buying a ticket for a heavyweight bout and watching “mini me” step into the ring. The Lamb of God?

Yes. Lambs play a key role in Israel’s salvation history. Lambs are the centerpiece of the Jewish feast of Passover, and historically speaking, a lamb was Israel’s ticket out of slavery and death.

The Israelites, you may recall, became slaves in the land of Egypt. And because they were God’s elect, God sent Moses to Pharaoh – “Let my people go!!” Pharaoh refuses. He’s a fan of the free labor. In fact, Pharaoh’s heart is so hard that God is forced to kill every first-born Egyptian male to free His chosen people. And so God “passes-through” Egypt and executes the first born male of every house that doesn’t display the secret sign. Of course, God gave His special people the secret sign. And that secret sign involved a “lamb without blemish” (Ex 12:5). Israel was told to slaughter it and display the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their home. “For the Lord will pass through the land and strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood … on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not … strike you down” (Ex 12:23). God “passed-through” Egypt and “passed-over” Israel. And a lamb’s blood was at the center. A lamb was Israel’s ticket out of slavery and death.

Let’s fast forward to Jesus’ death. John tells us that Jesus was crucified “on the day of the Preparation for the Passover” (Jn 19:14). What happens on the day of preparation? Lambs are slaughtered. The temple is full of bleating lambs and piles of blood. It has a certain smell to it. It’s messy. It’s loud. It’s the biggest festival of the year. Once a year lambs were “prepared.” And this was the day that Jesus died. On a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus died with the other Passover lambs. He died as a Passover lamb.

Why? Because Jesus is the Lamb without blemish. His blood, sprinkled on the doorposts of our heart, is our ticket out of slavery and death. Jesus is the Lamb of God. The Lamb’s blood is still the center.

UNTIL MONDAY, NOV 3RD: Consider what it means for Jesus, the Messiah, to be God’s Lamb. It begins with Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. But it doesn’t end there. Consider how the Lamb can also be the perfect shepherd (Jn 10:11)? In what ways are we supposed to become lambs (Jn 15:13)?

Monday, October 27, 2008

i'm not the messiah

“I am not the Messiah.” – Jn 1:20

According to John’s Gospel, these are the opening words of John the Baptizer’s “testimony” to the Lordship of Jesus (Jn 1:19). The Baptizer doesn’t open his “testimony” with words about Jesus. He opens with words about himself. “I am not the Messiah.”

In a very real sense, all authentic testimony – and all sane thinking for that matter – begins with these words. We must humbly confess who we are not. We are not responsible for saving ourselves. We are not responsible for saving others. We are not responsible for saving the world. We are not the Messiah.

Now, this may seem obvious. Only a few people in our world have claimed to be the Messiah. That Jesus was one of them rules out the possibility that he was a normal guy with some nice lessons about highly effective living. Normal guys don’t claim to be the Messiah. Only the Messiah and disillusioned, misguided nut jobs make such claims. That being said, we still need to declare – over and over again if necessary – who we are not. Because at a subconscious level, we all act from time to time as if we were the Messiah – as if we were the central figure around whom our world revolved. And we’re not. Our testimony must begin here. We are not the Messiah.

This word – testimony – is central to John’s Gospel. The Baptizer, we are told, came to “testify” to the light, and the author of John’s Gospel invites his readers to do the same. The word translated “testify” and “testimony” comes from the Greek word marturia, which is also where our word martyr comes from. In other words, inherent to the word testimony is the “death of the self.” To testify to Jesus’ lordship, we must first lay down our own life. To testify to Jesus’ lordship, we must first confess – “I am not the Messiah.”

UNTIL WEDNESDAY: Make a list of the ways that you still subconsciously act as if you are the Messiah. Maybe you’re preoccupied with your own self-effort and willpower. Maybe you get frustrated when you can’t get others to see what is “best for them.” Maybe you feel responsible for “how things turn out.” Maybe you take yourself way too seriously. Maybe you’re compelled to always have the last word. Maybe you can’t relax. Maybe you’re the center of every choice you make. Maybe you think God “owes you” for all your hard work. Maybe you can’t stop managing things beyond your control. Anyway, make a list. Look at it. Take a deep breath. Tear it up. Have a good laugh. And say, “I am not the Messiah.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

word up

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – Jn 1:1

John doesn’t begin with Jesus’ birth narrative. He doesn’t start with stories of angels or shepherds or magi. John the Baptist doesn’t cause a ruckus in the wilderness. John’s Gospel starts “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1, Jn 1:1). John begins Jesus’ story outside the normal calculations of time. John explores how the Word – existing outside the limits of time and place – enters our time-bound world. “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:9).

In essence, John sets the stage. His poetry prepares us to hear the greatest story ever told. He condenses a story so magnificent that, if every detail were captured, “the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

First, John identifies Jesus with the Word – the logos. The Word exists “in the beginning.” The Word is uncreated. And what is the nature of this Word – the logos? The Logos, in the original Greek, is all about speech – about a living voice that embodies a greater reality. And for John, this Greater Reality is God. “In the beginning was God’s speech – God’s living voice.” Before anything or anyone was created, God’s Living Voice spoke. Jesus is God’s Speech.

Second, God’s Living Voice – the logos – is God and is with God. God’s Speech is one with the Speaker; God’s Speech is separate from the Speaker. I understand why people find Christianity hard. We’re still on verse #1 and John plunges into a reality that won’t fit any scientific categories. But we can’t miss John’s essential point. John is asserting that God is supra-personal. “In the beginning” wasn’t the Author at his desk, sitting alone and brainstorming, on what to create. God’s nature is relational. On the one hand, Jesus is “close to the Father’s heart” (Jn 1:18). On the other hand, “whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Both statements are true. Jesus reveals God’s relational nature.

Third, God’s Living Voice – the logos – is the source of all life. “In him was life” (Jn 1:4). The Greeks had two distinct words for life – bios and zoe. Bios is physical, bodily life. We all have that. It’s built into our DNA. Zoe is different. Zoe is an eternal life that animates and sustains the human soul. We don’t have zoe. But we need it. John’s Gospel is the story of how zoe’s Source “came to what was his own” (Jn 1:11). “I came that they may have zoe” (Jn 10:10). Jesus is the Source of life.

FOR THE WEEKEND: Meditate on the deep mysteries of John’s prologue (1:1-18). Read it several times and wrestle with John’s claims. How is Jesus God’s Speech? How does Jesus reveal God’s relational nature? How is Jesus the Source of life? My suggestion is that you have a few Advil handy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


“The Lord is my shepherd.” – Ps 23:1

I’ve had a “bad” week. I’ve accomplished nothing. Things keep “coming up.” Ordinary tasks seem harder than usual. Hard tasks seem impossible. I’ve hit the snooze button 128 times in 2 days. We all have a week like this every now and again. I’ve been due for one I suppose.

And these weeks are really frustrating. They’re frustrating because life – as we plan it – doesn’t go as smoothly as we’d like – or not as we’d like at all. And yet, the reason they’re so frustrating is because we lack faith. We lack faith that God is our shepherd. We lack faith that God has invested everything in His sheep.

And so our challenge is to remember two things. First, we have a shepherd. Second, our shepherd is good.

First, we have a shepherd. He’s with us every step. He guides every step. He goes before us every step. A lot of “annoying interruptions” are really opportunities our shepherd has graciously pre-arranged. We’re just too tied to a narrow view of how our life should run. So we fail to see, appreciate, and embrace these “annoyances.”

Second, our shepherd is good. God knows what he’s doing. If you’re frustrated, it’s not because you’ve let God down. It’s because you’ve failed to meet whatever illusory game-plan you think God wants you to live into. God’s barometer for success is different that ours. God is more generous. God has different goals. God doesn’t need us to accomplish whatever goals we’ve set. Part of embracing the freedom of the Gospel is figuring that out. Personally, I’m not even close.

FOR TODAY: I’m sure you have things to do today – things you feel need to get done. Do them with passion. Do them for God. Do them with God. But, when you’re interrupted or when you find yourself stuck, ask the Good Shepherd what He’s up to, and then turn and embrace the moment. You’re being led to greener pastures. And only God knows the way. And so don’t get mad and go hide in a ditch when God asks you to make a u-turn.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

being a god-pleaser

“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” – Mk 15:15

Jesus’ life was in Pilate’s hands. Pilate had the power to condemn and the power to acquit, the power to kill and the power to pardon. Pilate’s verdict was crucifixion. He wasn’t necessarily sold on this verdict. But Pilate wanted to “satisfy the crowd.” It wasn’t a sense of justice that guided Pilate’s behavior or that ruled his life. Rather, the tyrant was tyrannized by his own need - his need to satisfy the crowd. Pilate needed the approval of others. Pilate was a people-pleaser.

On the one hand, I sympathize with Pilate. It’s hard to take the narrow road. It’s hard to make unpopular decisions. But on the other hand, Jesus walks a narrow road. And if we’re to follow him, it’s the only road he’ll lead us down. And so on the one hand, the narrow road can be hard. That being said, it’s a lot easier that what we’re all trying to do. You see, the narrow road may be hard. But walking two roads at once – that’s just impossible.

Think about it. Pilate was a slave. He didn’t understand the freedom of God’s kingdom. All Pilate knew was the tyranny of people-pleasing. Jesus offers us a better way – a way of freedom. Jesus invites us to step into God’s kingdom, to soak ourselves in the free gift of divine approval, and to allow God’s approval to push us down the narrow path Jesus walks. “Just as we have been approved by God, … we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God” (1 Thess 2:4). In other words, we’re invited to live our life for an Audience of One. We don’t have to be people-pleasers. We’re invited to be God-pleasers. Like Jesus, God is already “well pleased” with us (Matt 17:5).

FOR TODAY: Following Jesus won’t condemn us to a friendless existence. People won’t cease to respect us or admire us. In fact, to the extent that we manifest the fruits of the Spirit in our relationships – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control – my hunch is that people will be drawn to us. That being said, we’re called to follow Jesus – not satisfy the crowds. Paul’s question to the Galatians is worth reflecting on. “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). For today, live as a God-pleaser. Live before God as “one approved” (2 Tim 2:15). And be free. The crowds won’t ever be satisfied anyway.

Monday, October 20, 2008

checking for tychicus

We don’t know a whole lot about Tychicus. Luke suggests that he ran with Paul’s inner posse (Acts 20:4), which Paul’s own letters bear witness to. For example, Paul tells Titus that he’s going to send Artemas or Tychicus to him (Tit 3:12). Paul informs Timothy that he’s “sent Tychicus to Ephesus” (2 Tim 4:12). Paul describes Tychicus as a “beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord” (Col 4:7). And because of this, Paul sends Tychicus to “encourage your hearts” (Eph 6:22). And that’s all we know about Tychicus. Paul sends him to encourage God’s people. Tychicus is an encourager. Two questions for today. First, are you a Tychicus? Second, do you have a Tychicus?

First, every disciple of Jesus is called to be a Tychicus. There are no exceptions. We’re all sent to God’s people, in our unique ways, as encouragers. We’re to “encourage one another and build up each other” (1 Thess 5:11). Far too often, we do just the opposite. We tear one another down – with our words, our silence, our lack of support, our lack of time, our lack of interest. But this “life” of tearing others down (if we can even call that life) is not what Jesus invites us into. As disciples of Jesus, our call is to be “transformed into the same image” as God (2 Cor 3:18). And we worship “the God of … encouragement” (Rom 15:5).

Second, we all need a few Tychicus’ (impossible to pronounce without sounding intoxicated) in our life. Discipleship is a communal affair. If we’re following Jesus alone, I doubt we’re following him at all. And so let us pray for, and actively seek, other disciples to encourage us in our life with God.

That being said, every Christian has the Encourager – not an encourager, but the Encourager. The Greek word translated “encourager” is also translated “helper” and “advocate” and “friend” and “counselor” and “comforter” and “paraclete.” It’s the same word John uses to describe the Spirit of God. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Encourager (parakletos) to be with you forever” (Jn 14:16). This Greek word – parakletos – literally means “one called to the side of.” That’s all an encourager is – one called to our side to support us.

God’s Spirit has been called to our side to encourage us in our life with God. And because we have the Spirit – the Encourager – we can encourage one another and be encouraged by one another. After all, God wants us to be encouraged. “I want their hearts to be encouraged (parakaleo) and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of … Christ himself” (Col 2:2).

FOR TODAY: Be a Tychicus. Give thanks for the Tychicus’ you’ve been given. And remember that the Spirit of God has been called to your side to encourage you. We worship a God of encouragement. And so be encouraged. Be intentional about encouraging one another. Like I said, all we know about Tychicus is that he faithfully encouraged God’s church. May the same be said of each of us when all is said and done.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a new wardrobe

“So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” – Mk 10:50

This verse has always puzzled me. It’s from the Gospel of Mark. A blind beggar, Bartimaeus, sits by the roadside and gets word that Jesus is nearby. And so Bart screams. “Jesus! Jesus! Have mercy on me!” And Jesus calls Bart to come to him for healing. And “so throwing off his cloak,” Bart runs to Jesus. Bart doesn’t forget his cloak. He chunks it to the ground. Bart runs to Jesus naked – with nothing but his need.

This scene makes me think of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve “were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). But then they ate the forbidden tomato and got embarrassed. And so God made “garments of skins” for them and “clothed them” (Gen 3:21). In other words, God gave Adam and Eve new clothes, a new wardrobe, a new cloak. God, apparently, likes to give people new clothes.

Back to Bart - why leave his cloak behind? The answer, I think, is because Jesus wants to give him different clothes, a new wardrobe, a new cloak. After all, receiving a new wardrobe is what discipleship is all about. It’s about God clothing us with a new inner-wardrobe, a new heart, a new character. “Clothe yourselves with the new self” (Eph 4:24). “Clothe yourselves with love” (Col 3:14). “Clothe yourselves with humility” (1 Pet 5:5). Chunk that old cloak to the ground. Run to Jesus naked. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14). “Put on the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11). Change clothes.

Think about Matthew’s parable of the wedding banquet. The king kicks someone out of the party for not being dressed correctly. “How did you get in here without a wedding robe” (Matt 22:12)? The guest has no answer. So the bouncers kick him to the curb. This guest wasn’t like Bart. This guest was too attached to his old cloak. And so he missed out on the banquet.

UNTIL MONDAY, OCTOBER 20: Like Bart, Jesus desires to heal us of our blindness. And sometimes we sabotage our own healing process. We’re too attached to the old cloak. We’re not ready, or we don’t fully desire, the new clothes God wants to dress us in. And so here’s the question we should consider for the weekend: what is our cloak? What part of our old self does Jesus want us to leave behind? What are we clinging to that blinds us? Answer that question. And then chunk your cloak to the ground. Run to Jesus naked – with nothing but your need. Don’t miss out on the banquet because you’re too attached to clothes you wore as a child.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

let's make kevin a priest too

“You are a … royal priesthood.” – 1 Pet 2:9

If Kevin is an apostle, let’s go ahead and make him a priest too. I’m not sure Kevin would embrace that title. But Kevin doesn’t read my blog.

The word priest is like a tasty baked potato – it’s loaded. That being said, the word priest is a biblical word. And it’s a word with incredible theological significance. And once again, it’s a word – like the word apostle – with more than one meaning. And so, on the one hand, Kevin is obviously not a priest, i.e., in the Apostolic and liturgical tradition of Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Episcopalians, etc. In January, I’ll be ordained a priest in that sense. But that’s not how I’m using the word priest for today’s purpose. I’m using it like the first Christians used it - in a more inclusive sense - for all believers are part of the “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9). In other words, there is a way in which Kevin – and any believer for that matter – is a priest.

And so what is a priest? I’ll focus on two characteristics of the priestly office. First, a priest is one who offers a sacrifice to God on behalf of someone else. Second, a priest has a special role of interceding for God’s people.

First, a priest offers sacrifice. For example, OT priests offered sacrifices of atonement (Lev 4:26). Pagans also had their own priests. Acts references “the priest of Zeus” who “wanted to offer sacrifice” (Acts 14:13). Sacrifice, therefore, is at the heart of the priestly vocation. And here’s the catch. Sacrifice is also at the heart of the Christian’s vocation. Like Paul says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). Paul is using, and reimagining, priestly language. Paul’s priestly command is spoken to all: “take everything you are – your desires and hopes and dreams and fears and sin and insecurity – and offer it to God as a living sacrifice.” This is what Jesus calls taking up our cross (Matt 16:24), and what Paul calls bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). We throw ourselves on God’s altar (and we stay there - the problem with being a living sacrifice is that we're always crawling off the altar). We push all our chips in the center. We go “all in.”

Second, a priest intercedes for God’s people. 1 Samuel asks rhetorically, “if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession” (1 Sam 2:25)? Though the next verse doesn’t give us an answer, the logical response would be – a priest. Because that’s what priests do. Moses, for example, fulfilled a priestly role whenever he “interceded on behalf of Aaron” (Deut 9:20). Intercession, therefore, is at the heart of the priestly vocation – and therefore at the heart of our vocation as well. As Christians, we should pray for one another, actively speak to God on behalf of those whom we love, and even those whom we don’t love. Paul was an excellent priest. Paul prayed that the Corinthians would “become perfect” (2 Cor 13:9), that the Ephesians would “not lose heart” (Eph 3:13), and that Philemon would “become effective” in “sharing [his] faith” (Phm 1:6). And Paul expected other people to pray for him. To the Thessalonians Paul asks a favor: “pray for us” (2 Thess 3:1). Priests pray for other people.

FOR TODAY: Consider what the term “priesthood of all believers” means to you. In other words, what does it mean for you specifically to be doing priestly work – to be a “living sacrifice” that intercedes for God’s people? The priestly vocation may sound a little overwhelming at first. But it’s not. Its part of Jesus’ light burden (Matt 11:30). After all, we work as priests with the knowledge that Jesus is our Great High Priest (Heb 4:14) – for Jesus not only “offered himself without blemish to God,” (Heb 9:14) but Jesus also “lives to make intercession” for the saints (Heb 7:25). Sacrifice. Pray. Be a priest.

Monday, October 13, 2008

the apostle kevin?

“He called the twelve and began to send them out.” – Mk 6:7

I met a man a week or so ago that was starting his own church. We struck up a conversation, one thing led to another, and he gave me “his card.” And when I saw his chosen title, the “honorific” that he designated to precede his name, I was intrigued. I hadn’t ever seen this particular word on a business card. This man wasn’t “Minister Kevin” or “Fr. Kevin” or “Reverend Kevin” or “Pastor Kevin” or “Deacon Kevin” or “Pope Kevin XI.” No. This man was “Apostle Kevin.”

I didn’t like Kevin’s title at first. To be honest, his chosen title upset my ecclesial and hierarchal sensibilities. In the exciting world of churchy institutionalism, of which I’m a product, apostles are like dinosaurs - they existed a long time ago, but now they’re extinct. To be more specific, an apostle was a person who had seen, with their own eyes, the risen Christ, and because of that, had a special role in the life of early church. For example, Peter and James and John – these were apostles. But Kevin? Not so much.

Consider, for example, Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor 9:1) In other words, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that he is part of an elite group, that he has special authority, which they don’t have. After all, he is an apostle. He has seen Jesus alive and risen. And because of that, he was an apostle – he had a special role in the church.

Now, I'm not out to take away the uniqueness of the apostolic role. A limited number of people saw Jesus alive post-crucifixion before he ascended to his Father. Paul was one of them. And Kevin wasn’t. Kevin, me, you – we’re among those who are “blessed” because we “have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). And so, on the one hand, me, you, and Kevin – we’re not apostles. We have not seen the risen Christ with our own eyes like Paul and Peter and James and Thomas. That being said, in another sense, if we’re being faithful, we most certainly are apostles. Kevin is an apostle. And so am I. And so are you. And here’s why.

The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “one who is sent with a message.” To be an apostle is to be sent with a message. That’s why all of us – in this different sense – are in fact apostles. We are sent to the world to spread the message of the Gospel – the good news – that God is for us in Jesus Christ.

The truth is we live in a world that is in desperate need of hearing the good news. And we don’t need to hear it just once and “accept” it. No. We need to hear it again, and again, and again. And so as Jesus’ disciples, we’re sent to believers and non-believers, to the good and to the bad. After all, all of us are in desperate need of a little good news.

In our culture of consumer-driven Christianity, it’s easy to believe that the church and the bible exist to serve our needs. They don’t. And if we treat the bible that way, if we treat the church that way, we’ll never have our needs met. That’s the great irony. But when we begin to grasp the Gospel – that God sent his Son Jesus to us in order to send us to the world – we find meaning and fulfillment and peace beyond all measure.

FOR TODAY: Live your life with the understanding that you are “sent.” You’re an apostle. You have a message that people need to hear, a message that people need to see lived. God doesn’t just send the “special ones” – Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul. No. God sends Kevin. God sends me. God sends you. Let’s not be a church of dinosaurs. We live in a world that is desperate for good news. God has entrusted us with a wonderful message. And the church is sent into the world to live it and to spread it. You’re an apostle. And so for today, live like one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

trusting the good

“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.” – Gen 50:20

Joseph spoke these words to his apologetic brothers. If you don’t remember the story, Joseph’s ten brothers sell him into slavery, and after serving hard time in the Egyptian penitentiary, Joseph becomes the V.P. of Egypt. A famine then breaks out. Joseph’s brothers need food. The new V.P. has got the goods. And then the climax of the story – Joseph’s ten brothers go to Egypt for food and discover that their brother is borderline royalty. “Uhh, sorry Joseph. We probably shouldn’t have sold you into slavery and told dad that a lion mauled you.” “That’s okay,” Joseph said. “You may have intended to do me harm. But God intended it for good.” That’s really mature Joseph.

What an amazing thing to say, and an even more amazing thing to believe. But as disciples of Jesus, Joseph’s perspective is where we should be moving. “What you intended to be awful, God intends to be glorious.” Paul, for example, finds himself in prison. People were out to get Paul – he’s there because his opponents wanted to do him harm. And what does Paul say? I was imprisoned so that others might “dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear” (Phil 1:14). In other words, when others intended (and succeeded) in doing Paul harm, Paul insists that God intended it for good. Really mature Paul.

Of course, Jesus’ crucifixion is the ultimate example of God’s strange intentions. After all, people really intended to do Jesus harm. Judas betrayed him. The “Pharisees went to Jesus and plotted to entrap him in what he said” (Matt 22:15). And Jesus calls them on it. “You are trying to kill me” (Jn 8:40). And so a lot of people intended to do Jesus harm. And they succeeded. The good new of the Christian gospel is that God intended it for good.

From a human perspective, the cross was a disaster, a shame, an embarrassment, and a curse. And yet, this disastrous shame, this embarrassing curse, was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The world looked at Jesus and demanded death. The crowds “kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” (Lk 23:21). The crowds intended to do Jesus harm. The world shouted death. And yet, more so than at any other moment in the history of the world, our God shouted life. Our God intended to do us good.

UNTIL MONDAY, OCTOBER 13TH: No matter how broken or bad or hurtful a situation is, God can intend it for good. Like Paul says, in the end “all things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28). All things – good, bad – all things. For the next ten days, make a habit of prayerfully trusting God’s promise. In other words, we don’t have to know exactly how God will use our pain for good. And to be honest, Christians far too often jump the gun on trying to “see the good.” God doesn’t ask us to see the good. He asks us to trust in the good that we don’t see. He asks us to trust that He is good. And so don’t pretend that whatever happens isn’t really that bad. That being said, cling to the paradox of being chosen and loved by a crucified Messiah – for God deems us the strongest in our greatest moments of weakness (2 Cor 12:10).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

> ?

“Something greater than the temple is here.” – Matt 12:6

It’s hard to imagine how shocked and offended Jesus’ contemporaries would have been at these words. This statement no doubt would have been heard as blasphemous. After all, nothing was greater than the temple – not the torah, not the Sabbath – nadda. And I’ll mention two reasons this was the case. First, the temple is where sins were forgiven. Second, the temple is where God chose to dwell.

First, the temple is where sins were forgiven. It’s where animal sacrifices were made on behalf of the people. It’s where forgiveness was found. Only in Jerusalem. Only at the temple. Those were the rules. And Jesus didn’t follow them. He’d routinely declare “your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:6). And his religious opponents would routinely respond “It is blasphemy” (Mk 2:6)! After all, only God could forgive sins, and forgiveness was strictly mediated through the temple. But Jesus saw things differently. He claimed that he was greater than the temple.

Second, the temple is where God chose to dwell. At one point Solomon, whom God puts in charge of the temple-building project, asks the following: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built” (1 Ki 8:27)! And yet Jews in Jesus’ day answered this question with a resounding yes! The temple was God’s home – the chosen container for the Uncontainable God. It’s where heaven and earth overlapped and interlocked. And so imagine what it meant for Jesus to say “before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58). He claimed that we was greater than the temple.

FOR TODAY: Jesus’ claim that he was greater than the temple is radical. Of course, Jesus also said or implied that he was greater than Solomon (Matt 12:42), David (Matt 22:45), Jonah (Matt 12:41), Moses (Matt 5:22), the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), and the Torah (Matt 11:28). What would Jesus say to you? “Something greater than _____ is here.” For today, fill in the blank.