Category Archives: Easter

Dead Man Walking- One Year Later

So many things can change in a year, and somehow the struggle, while wearing a different mask, can still be rooted in the same place.  With Easter looming around the corner I needed this encouragement, this reminder. 

“Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.'” Why is ME so hard to give up?

Originally posted 3/13/14 – Just checking in today to see how everyone who decided to take the “Journey to the Cross” is faring now that we are one week in. As I have been studying and praying and listening I have come to a realization. God has been at work on me peeling away my layers of “yes, buts” and showing me that in this season of sacrifice, while chocolate was a nice thing to give up, unless it draws me closer to Him it’s just stuff. The sacrifice that I have been more and more convicted to lay over is that of self.


Deny thyself. It was at the heart of the very first post of our Lent journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:24-27 NLT, emphasis mine)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NLT, emphasis mine)

Lead me to the cross
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You

A.W. Tozer said, “among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”

Here are C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this subject from Counting The Cost.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…

The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

But this is the fatal mistake… The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us….

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!

“Yes, but” cottages are cute and chocolate is so much easier…

How are you doing?

A Shift In Thinking – Suffering As A Gift


We all have stories and no two are the same.  (If you haven’t read my story I would invite you to do so.) There is a common thread that runs through all of them however.  We all celebrate, we all get restless, and we all suffer.  It is this, the suffering that shapes us more than anything else in life.

Suffering is more than just physical hardship. It’s also emotional pain, relational woes, soul unrest, and spiritual attack. Jesus’ death does not take away our suffering, but it gives profound meaning and purpose to it.

I have learned this first hand. I love what Charles Spurgeon says; maybe you too can identify with his words. “I bear my willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord’s workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.”

Consider James’ words “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James1:2-4)

Count it a joy? When you feel like you are drowning in grief or suffocating in fear, joy is one of the last things you are thinking of!  However,I have learned that suffering provides an avenue for our faith to mature.  Don Barker, in Pain’s Hidden Pleasure says, “If there is anything a sufferer needs, it is not an explanation, but a fresh, new look at God.

As I faced a future with TA I was afraid, and I prayed over and over that God would rescue me and He did.  Maybe not in the way that I thought He would or should but he has given me more strength, more sanity, more of Him, than I ever had before I was sick and I wouldn’t trade any of that for the life that I had before.

AW Tozer says, God never uses anyone greatly until He has wounded them deeply.”  We must be stripped down of our self-sufficiency and taught to rely on God for everything and sometimes it takes having things ripped out of our hands or our lives in order to learn.

As I have been been “journeying to the cross” this season I have been giving some extended thought to the suffering that Jesus endured.  We we know the outcome—an empty tomb. For me, this is an exercise in reflection, but for the disciples as they found themselves in the middle of it was an exercise of faith. I see what God was doing in the garden of Gethsemane, and I know the great necessity of the cross  because I have the benefit of understanding the why in this situation. Otherwise, I too would probably have fallen asleep and most likely would have run for safety. It’s easy to look back.

We look back all the time, longing for comforts past, wondering what might have been. Even though we have taken up life with Jesus, suffering challenges our resolve and fixes our attention to how things used to be. We look wistfully at our “before” life.  Our hunger for restoration and relief from burdens turns our heart to the past, but Jesus has only an eye for what is set before Him.  He knew what had to happen, kept His focus forward, and stayed the course, amid the suffering.

God’s purpose is to create Christlike character in us, to bring us into harmony with His will for us. He is interested in a “better us,” not in providing an easier path. Sometimes we need suffering as a way to bring us nearer to God and remove our worldly attitudes.

The Isrealites experienced this in the forty years they spent wandering in the desert. They argued with Moses, idealizing their life in Egypt and questioning the goodness of the Lord. They complained about the Lord’s provision, not because he didn’t provide, but because they weren’t content with what he provided.

The paradox of suffering is that it is actually a gift – one we might like at times to give back unopened– but a gift nonetheless. God gives us suffering as a way of giving us himself, for it is in our suffering that we become acutely aware of his presence and power. Hardship empties us of our self-reliance so that we might soak in what it means that we are children of God.

The Israelites in the wilderness and Christ on the cross both stand as a testament, old and new, that God does not forsake his people. More than this, they remind us that suffering is a gift from God that very tangibly embeds his promises in our daily life. Of course, we have to be looking to him to receive it as such.

This is wisdom borne of suffering.  But this is the clear-eyed analysis of someone who is standing on the  other side having survived in one piece.  What do you do when you find yourself in the midst of suffering with no end or relief in sight?  Know that you are not alone and Jesus holding out his hand to, ready to rescue us with peace and rest.  Call out to Him, He will hear your cry and save you. (Psalm 145:19)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV, emphasis mine) This promise from Isaiah is not an if but a when. And when it happens, God promises to be with us, always. Sometimes we lose sight of that as we are beaten by the raging storm around us.  If that is the case you are in good company.  Matthew 14:22-32 tells the story of Peter’s experience with walking on the water and then losing sight of Jesus in the face of the storm. Vernon McGee writes, “When he [Peter] began to sink, he prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible,” Lord, save me!” If Simon Peter had prayed this prayer like we have heard others sometimes pray, “Lord, Thou who are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent…” Peter would have been twenty-nine feet under water before he would have gotten to his request.”  Charles Spurgeon once remarked that “the best style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a cry.” This is the prayer of a drowning person in need of help from a savior, and aren’t we all?  Do you know what happened next?  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. (Matthew 14:31)

Kendall Huag said, “Ultimately, suffering is about learning to receive whatever God has placed in our hands as his goodness for us today. For Jesus, the journey to Jerusalem was a gift. Gethsemane and Golgotha were gifts. They were not easy gifts to receive, which is why he had to say, “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). And it is why he taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10), because if we are not looking for God’s kingdom come, we always be looking back for our kingdom gone.”

This is what my happy ending looks like, a fire for God that has been rekindled. The opportunity to take heartbreak and fear and turn them around for God’s glory.  Stop for a moment today, and think about your love story. Maybe it’s only just a story right now and you need God to pour His love into it. He will, you know. It doesn’t matter how ugly the beginning is, He loves you just the same. I am here to tell you that some of the ugliest stories can become beautiful when you give God the opportunity to pour His love into them. It is only through the grace and love of God that I can stand here today, not bitter and angry about the hand life has dealt, but thankful that through all of it I have been drawn closer to a God who wants nothing more than to be my happily ever after.

If you haven’t before I would invite you to accept the gift of cross. The gift of forgiveness and salvation. If it’s a gift you have already received maybe you need to dust it off and realize the true cost of it before another day passes.  It is this gift, offered to us for free that cost Jesus everything.  The gift we are getting ready to celebrate.

Still Moments – A Time Out Today

“Our heart in Lent is simply to de-clutter our self-absorbed lives. Making room to remember how our Lord suffered for us.” Kendall Haug

Maybe you aren’t observing Lent or maybe you have already thrown in the towel this year. I would encourage you today, take at least a moment and give it to God. Reflect on the cross and what it truly represented, not to you but to Christ.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, “Is this the one who relies on the Lord ? Then let the Lord save him! If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him!” My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing.
(Psalms 22:1, 6-8, 14-18 NLT)

Lead me to the cross…

Halfway There – Don’t Give Up Yet And If You Haven’t Yet It’s Not Too Late To Start

Over and over during the last 20 days I have thought of this video. It says it all. It tells the whole story. Being broken hurts. All I can do is repeat the prayer and hope that God is gentle. I want to finish this journey changed…
“Dear Heavenly Father, do whatever it takes to get things out of my life that don’t need to be there. Mold me into the image of Your Son so I can be your masterpiece. In Your heavenly name, amen.”

Bringing The Cross Back Into Focus

cross equals love

Man of Sorrows…I sat down this afternoon to do some reading and came across this theme in two different, randomly chosen readings. As I reflected on the significance, or possible coincidence, I was struck by one thought. I feel like I have been missing an important piece on this journey lately. It’s just that I lost sight of it somewhere along the way. I have discovered a lot about myself on this Journey to the Cross but today I realized that while I have been focused inwardly on creating a more Christ-like character, I have dropped my eyes from the destination that we started out towards, the cross. This season is not just about reshaping me into a better person. It is about preparing my heart to understand the true sacrifice and ultimately horror of the cross. I know that sounds like a harsh way to put it but in truly understanding what happened that day, there is no other way to describe it. And the celebration occurs because that isn’t where the story ended. It’s the juxtaposition that only God can achieve when he takes the atrocity of the cross and changes it into the most beautiful and loving act ever known to mankind.

Today I bring you this reminder of the cross. A reminder of why we sacrifice as well as the undeserved grace and love that were poured out on our behalf at the cross. If you drop your defenses enough to allow these words and their implications into your heart, you absolutely cannot be affected.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Read that through again if you need to. Absorb the words. To the cross he was nailed, weighted down with my weakness, my sorrow, my sin. He was pierced for my rebellion, beaten to make me whole, whipped so I could be healed. Yet I have strayed away. This is the sorrow that must be suffered before the celebration of the resurrection. We can’t gloss over it or page through it because it makes us uncomfortable. We can’t skip to the celebration of Easter without understanding why we are celebrating. Yes, Christ was raised from the dead after three days, a miracle unlike any other. But why was he crucified in the first place? Because we put him there! We must understand what was done on our behalf. Understand the value of the gift that has been offered to us. It pierces my heart and I want to be drawn closer, to worship at the foot of the cross with an unabashed joy and unashamed love on Easter morning with an understanding of why.

Hillsong writes this companion to go along with their song Man Of Sorrows (which you can listen to here. I would highly recommend it.)

“We have so many pictures of Christ – a beautiful baby, a skillful carpenter, an amazing teacher, a loving and gentle healer, a miracle worker, demon destroyer, and a up-turner of tables. Kind, forgiving, good, and compassionate, yet also bold, fierce, and a Pharisee’s worst nightmare.

One of the clearest of all pictures is that of a sorrowing Savior, suffering for us as he was crucified. The image burns deep. It is a cutting, cold, and callous reminder of our sin paid in full, refreshing our appreciation by giving us a perspective from the foot of the Cross.

The Cross, like a stake God uses to lay claim to the earth, is the focal point for every Christian. It is the starting point of a journey; the place where we see Christ for who He really is. He had no appeal or striking appearance to draw attention to heaven’s love, only a relentless determination to pay the price for our sin. It is the clearest picture of his deity cross-beamed with his humanity. Rejection, unbelief, disregard and dismissal pay a terrible toll in sorrow.”

The cross…all for you…all for me…what an amazing love.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

No Cuts!


No cuts! In other words, get to the back of the line. Take a quick trip back to your elementary school days with me. Remember the very coveted job of being line leader? Your spot at the front of the line was guaranteed. If you weren’t line leader you scrambled and jostled with all of the other kids to get as close to the front of the line as you could. If you didn’t get there in time and found yourself at the end of the line you could always hope that one of your friends would let you “cut” in line to which would usually bring a chorus of “hey, no cuts,” from the back of the line. Why? No one likes to be last. This is something that has been engrained in us from the time we were young.

In competition there are winners and losers, no one like to fall into the second category. Last summer I ran a 10k that nearly undid me. It wasn’t the first 10k that I ever ran so I knew what to expect. As the race started I paced myself, knowing what I wanted my finish time to be. I can’t tell you what my actual finish time was but what I can tell you is I finished dead last. Not like I came in with a group of stragglers but more like, hey I cleared the course for you. I started last, finished last, might as well have been running the race by myself. And so I was able to let the officials know that they didn’t need to check the course after I crossed the line, I hadn’t left anyone in my hobbling wake. Let me also say that admitting this, here publicly, still stings because this wasn’t a “respectable” loss in my estimation, this was dead last. I have a fierce competitive streak and I don’t generally play if I can’t win, or at least finish respectably. I contemplated hanging up the racing shoes after I finished this race. Why? It’s not hard to figure out, taken down to the most simplistic level, pride. And mine was hurt I was ashamed and my ego was bruised. But in this loss I have begun to learn a deeper lesson. One that has come back to the forefront of my mind during my journey to the cross this season.

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. ” (Mark 10:26-31 NLT)

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NLT)

Almighty God, who knows all and sees all: We confess our constant striving for righteousness, acceptance, and approval from sources that leave us empty. We ask your forgiveness, and we renew our hope in Christ alone, who offered Himself to appease your wrath and forgive our sins. We find all comfort in His wounds, and we have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God, than this one and only sacrifice which renders believers perfect forever.

The last will be first…the call to humility. Easy in theory, harder in reality. No one likes to lose, our human-side strives for acceptance, for recognition, to be placed “at the front of the line.” Maybe this is just me…

Roy Hession offers these penetrating words: “First of all, our proud self must be broken. Our own self must give up its rights. Our self is hard. It does not want to obey God. It likes to show that it is right. It wants to go its own way. It wants to claim all its rights. It always seeks glory for itself. The self must bow to God’s will. It must confess that it is wrong. It must give up its own way. It must obey the Lord Jesus. It must give up all its glory. Only in this way can the Lord Jesus have all and be all in our lives. We must die to self.”

That nailed me to my own cross. I can’t offer any wise words of my own so I will again refer to the writings of Kendal Haug and Will Walker as they have encouraged me in this struggle against pride and self.

Pride is the great enemy of humility. Bob Thune observes: “The brashest expressions of pride are easy to spot: the athlete who boasts about her talent, the arrogant entrepreneur who flaunts his achievements, or the well-connected neighbor who name-drops in every conversation. Most of us are smart enough to avoid appearing prideful in these obvious ways. But that’s just the problem. We can avoid looking prideful without actually killing our pride.”

To put pride to death, we must “trace this serpent in all its turnings and windings,” as the great Puritan John Owen wrote. We must get a fuller picture of what pride is and how it looks, and the Bible helps us with this.

On the one hand, the Bible tells us that pride often manifests itself as arrogance: the Apostle John refers to this as “the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). But on the other hand, the Bible affirms that pride can manifest itself as subtle self-centeredness, looking out for your own personal interests (Philippians 2:4).

In other words: the essence of pride is self-concern. Preoccupation with self. It may manifest itself as arrogance and boasting or as self-protection and fear of people—but it’s pride either way. If we want to cultivate humility, we must put pride to death. How? By looking to Jesus as both our model and our mediator.

One cannot be like Jesus without humility, but if we merely try harder to be like him, we will miss the gospel. The heart of the good news is that we can be more like Jesus only if, and because, we are united with him.

We are united with Christ by grace through faith in his life, death, and resurrection. Because we have rebelled against God, we deserve to be crushed by his divine wrath. Even in our willful rebellion, we ourselves cannot bear the full wrath of God, hence our need for a mediator, someone to stand in our place and plead our case before God. Jesus “humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)—taking our shame and guilt upon himself, and enduring the wrath of God against sin, so that those who humbly come to him can be forgiven and reconciled to God. This is the Good News of Easter!

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remains

More and more I need you now
I owe you more each passing hour
The battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago

So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide

Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin-soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
(Worlds Apart, Jars of Clay)

Let’s Go Deeper


If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, 17, 21 NLT)

I love the beginning of that passage as Paul writes to the church in Corinth. If it seems we are crazy…that, I can easily identify with. But truly I just want to bring glory to God. I hope that you are continuing this Journey to the Cross and learning more about God and yourself through it.

These verses also say, those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Here we are again old friend, the cross of sacrifice. A life for a life. He has provided us through death with the gift of eternal life. We can’t do anything to earn it. All we have to do is believe and accept. But if you want to do more than that, if we want to follow Jesus, live for Him we have to get ourselves out of the way and give up our life.

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:34-37 NLT)

I am admittedly stumbling and fumbling through this and appreciate so much the messages and comments through this site and Run And Be Still’s Facebook page after my last post Dead Man Walking. It is so nice to know I am not alone on this. But I couldn’t stop there, I want something deeper out of this. Something other than just fluff. I want this journey to mean something, to make a difference in me.

Your struggle may be different than mine. The following words from Kendal Haug and Will Walker were enlightening to me and you will hopefully find some truth to take you deeper as well, no matter what you are facing.

It is possible to believe in God and functionally exclude him from our lives, to act as if we are ultimate. How often do we consider our circumstances and think, “What do I need right now? How do I feel about this? What do I like or not like about this?” We even enter into prayer and worship with these kinds of self-focused questions. In these moments, though we believe in God, we are not functionally aware of his presence with us and his providence in our circumstances. If we were, we might say, “Father, you know what we need;” “How do you feel about this?” “Teach us your will, that we may know what is ‘good and pleasing and perfect’” (Romans 12:3). Notice two key differences: the questions are directed toward God, not self, and are concerned for “us” and not just “me.”

The word “sin” has been defined and applied in so many ways that I think most people have adopted a rather trite view of sin that is focused on specific actions that break God’s rules. The biblical concept of sin is not less than that, but it is more, much more. Let me share a helpful definition of sin from a 19th century philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard: “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God.”

We were made for God, to center our entire life on him and find our sense of worth and purpose in him. Anything other than that is sin. Tim Keller summarizes Kierkegaard’s point this way: “Sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship with God.”
This is a meaningful way to think about sin because we all identify with trying to build our identity on something. In our culture it tends to be things like achievements, or relationships, or being thought of as a good Christian. Everyone is building his or her identity on something.

We try to justify our sin. When you become aware of sin, do you feel the need to nuance everything, explain how complicated things are, or make excuses? (Let me interrupt here and say these are my personal “yes, but” moments that I have shared in the past.) Taking responsibility for sin means we say, “I lusted because my desires are perverted” … “I lied because I am afraid of what people think about me” … “I ate that because I do not have self-control around food.”

We try to downplay our sin, hoping or assuming that God overlooks our sin. We don’t think sin really affects our ability to relate to God, or hinders the flow of his blessing. We think we are the exception. Taking responsibility for sin means we say, “My sin is destructive and grieves God. I will not be right with him until I deal with this.”

We pretend things are better than they really are, cleaning the outside of the cup while we are filthy on the inside.

Taking responsibility means we say, “It doesn’t matter how good people think I am. God sees right through me, and is not impressed or tricked by my lip service. God hates hypocrisy!”

Our problems are bigger than our circumstances: we are broken on the inside. And repentance is deeper than what we do: we need to repent of who we are. Remember, repentance is good news. It is hope that God will restore us. Conviction of sin is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is good medicine to the soul.

Are you ready to be taken deeper? This is my prayer tonight…
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalms 139:23, 24 NLT)

From Eden To Calvary – A Journey Of Purpose

20140311-135636.jpgJourney with us, O holy God, as we make our way to the cross. Sharpen our focus, that our attention may center more on you than ourselves. Lead us through the shadows of darkness and prepare our hearts, that we might be a people of prayer, ready to perceive and respond to your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.
~The Worship Sourcebook

We are making a journey right now. Each in our own way, but have you ever thought about Jesus’ journey to the cross? I came across this as I was doing some Lent reading.  I believe it is from Max Lucado…


Jesus died…on purpose.

No surprise.  No hesitation.  No faltering.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he dies.  And the way Jesus marched to his death leaves no doubt: he had come to earth for this moment.

Read the words of Peter.  “Jesus was given to you, and with the help of those who don’t know the law, you put him to death by nailing him to a cross.  But this was God’s plan which he had made long ago; he knew all this would happen.” (Acts 2:23)

No, the journey to the cross didn’t begin in Jericho.  It didn’t begin in Galilee.  It didn’t begin in Nazareth.  It didn’t even begin in Bethlehem.

The journey to the cross began long before.  As the echo of the crunching of the fruit was still sounding in the garden, Jesus was leaving for Calvary.

Thus began Jesus’ journey to the cross, the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Our own daily journey can at times be long and trying. Sometimes we find ourselves wandering off the path that God has directed. Even today as we have recommitted ourselves to drawing closer to the Lord, to the observation Lent, we find our hearts and mind are prone to wander.

“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.  (Joel 2:13, NLT)

In the first part of this verse the prophet Joel warned Israel to “tear your heart, not your clothing” (Joel 2:13). One commentator  summarizes the point like this: “What was needed was not ritual alone, but the active involvement of the individual in making a radical change within the heart and in seeking a new direction for one’s life. What was demanded was a turning from sin and at the same time a turning to God. For the prophets, such a turning or conversion was not just simply a change within a person; it was openly manifested in justice, kindness, and humility.”

This is a tall order as ritual is much easier accomplished than heart-involvement. I know the words, I know how I am supposed to act.  I can do this in my sleep.  This is compartmentalized ritual.  But what would happen if we allowed our head knowledge of God and what he has done for us to seep out and penetrate our entire being. From head…to heart.

This season, regardless of your current state, no matter how many times or how far you have wandered, you must “Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”   After all, Lent is not about your faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on your behalf. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s plan.  Today He is waiting patiently for you.

Saved by His plan, His grace…this is why Jesus journeyed to the cross.

Prepare your heart to sing!


Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary fainthearted.  Hebrews 12:2-3

My prayer for the week is based on  this verse.

Prepare my heart, oh Lord.  Lead me to the cross.  Help me to reflect on what Jesus’ last days on Earth mean to me, personally.  Allow the magnitude of what He endured to penetrate my heart. Help me to understand the sacrifice but not lose sight of the joy! Forgive me for the times of self-pity when I forget all that you have done for me. For the days when I choose to lean on my own understanding, second-guess your plan and continue on my own way, I pray that you gently remind me that your ways are higher than mine.  Father you have graciously provided all that I need yet there are days when I remain unsatisfied.  Open my eyes on these days and help me find answers and satisfaction in knowing You.  Thank you for your direction, and limitless patience and love. Amen

Max Lucado says, “Lent is that season when we stare directly at our own mortality.  We make tiny sacrifices of our own to recall the incomparable sacrifice Christ made for us.  It might all sound quite dreary, except on the other side of Lent is the enormous spiritual crescendo of Easter.”  The musician in me loves that – “enormous spiritual crescendo of Easter.” I can feel it building already.  This glorious vibrant Hallelujah chorus building slowly and expectantly, waiting to be sung in celebration of this journey that ends in resurrection, but first must come by way of temptation, humiliation, and the cross.

I challenge you to dust out the corners of your heart this week. Maybe what you need to give up for Lent is something you are harboring in your spirit. Spend some quiet time prayerfully listening. He will provide the strength, endurance, and grace to tackle whatever it is you may face. The celebration is coming. Prepare your heart to sing!



Giving something up


It’s the million dollar question. What are you giving up for Lent? I feel like this is the “business end” of Lent. At our house Phil and Ty have given up Oreos (like father, like son) Madison gave up candy, well Sour Patch Kids to be more specific. (Let’s not over do it!) And I have settled upon chocolate (Gasp! Yes, I am that spiritual. Just kidding. Remember my confession in I will be a subway preacher, my desire to go big or go home.) Sadly, I already inadvertently failed at this only one day in. I had a chocolate chip granola bar as an afternoon snack yesterday. It wasn’t until hours after the fact that I even realized it. Oh boy!

If this was all the more there was to it we would have seriously missed the boat because a Chips Ahoy cookie can just as easily be dunked in milk and as my 11 year old pointed out already she can just eat Sweet-Tarts instead of Sour Patch Kids. (This is an admitted work in progress.). Chocolate is a little harder to substitute when a stress storm hits in all of its fury. But there are substitutes and besides as I have admitted, I already failed. I am throwing myself and my family under the bus on this one (sorry guys) to prove a point. It’s about more than what we give up. This goes deeper than the external appearance to the why.

I love what authors Kendal Haug and Will Walker say in their Lenten devotional.

You may be familiar with the outward aspects of Lent: ashes on foreheads, conversation about giving up sugar or caffeine or TV. But Lent, like spiritual life in general, is not merely external. There are internal realities that give depth and meaning to our actions, things like humility, sacrifice, repentance, and faith. In other words, there is more to Lent than deciding between coffee and TV.

You could, of course, just decide that you are not going to drink coffee for forty days and be done with it, but to do so would be to deprive yourself of far more than coffee. You would miss something that God wants to do in you this season.

Jesus fasted from food and water for forty days in the wilderness. It was not a religious ritual or merely a display of his restraint. Rather, it was a time of trial and temptation which he endured by entrusting himself to God and being nourished on the Word of God. The point of the wilderness, for Jesus, was to experience the real presence of God with him, and power of God at work in him.

Though they may look the same from the outside, participating in Lent and “playing” at Lent are entirely different realities. So give up coffee if you want to, but don’t pretend that the absence of a beverage will sufficiently help you draw near to God.

The Lenten practice of denying usual comforts is a means of deepening our sense of union with Jesus, and reorienting our life around the things of God. We give up that which distracts and entangles because we want to experience some real joy and freedom in Christ.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:31-38 NIV)

After yesterday’s post I found myself humming this song and have decided that it is my prayer for the next 40 days…

Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

Lead Me To The Cross by Seventh Day Slumber…no frills…no lyrics to read…just the music. Let it wash over you today. May it become your prayer too.