Quotes From “Reliving The Passion”

Walter Wangerin, Jr. has prepared an excellent guide for the Lenten season: Reliving The Passion. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and going all the way through Resurrection Sunday, Wangerin is using the Gospel of Mark to give us some heart-probing thoughts on Christ’s Passion. I typically post quotes after I have completed a book, but I thought I would share a quote or two with you each day through this journey.

Ash Wednesday—“When we genuinely remember the death we deserve to die, we will be moved to remember the death the Lord in fact did die.”

The Second Day Thursday—“Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. But this is the hurt of purging and precious renewal—and these are mirrors of dangerous grace. The passion of Christ, His suffering and His death, is such a mirror.”

The Third Day Friday—[read Mark 14:27-28 and Mark 16:6-7] “If Jesus ‘will go before’ His disciples from Galilee as He had gone before, then this is a call to follow Him down the hard road of conflict, criticism, enmity, persecution, suffering and death and resurrection. So the passion story becomes a roadmap for all of Jesus’ followers (who deny themselves and take up their crosses) whether Christians martyred in the first, or Christians bold in the twentieth, centuries. Read this story, then, as a detailed itinerary of the disciple’s life. But hear in it as well the constant consolation—not only that He, in ‘going before us,’ is always near us, however hard the persecution; but also that we, in going His way to Galilee, will see Him as He told you.”

The Fourth Day Saturday—“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope—and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us.”

The Fifth Day Monday—“Jesus: Forgive me for making much of what’s minor in Your story, diminishing the important thing. I’ve demanded miracles, healings, benefits for myself. O Lord, raise the Cross as the central beam of my whole life once again! Amen.”

The Sixth Day Tuesday—“Jesus, by the refining fires of Your grace reduce my prideful self to ash after all. Let me become a nothing, that You might be the only Something for me and in me.”

The Seventh Day Wednesday—“It was an act so completely focused upon the Christ that not a dram of worldly benefit was gained thereby [Mark 14:3-9]. Nothing could justify this spillage of some three hundred days’ wages, except love alone. The rulers who sought to kill Jesus were motivated by a certain reasonable logic; but your prodigality appears altogether unreasonable—except for reasons of love. … Love enhances and names in truth. No one else anointed Him and by that gesture declared Him Messiah, the Christ. The act, therefore, was more than beautiful. It was rare and rich with meaning.” 

“Jesus, I love You, I love You! Cleanse me of anything that is not love for You, even though the world will think me preposterous and my friends—some of whom are Your disciples—will not be able to make sense of me. You are all the sense and meaning I need. I love You. Amen.”

The Eighth Day Thursday—“Does the motive of a sin—its rationale, its reasons—make it any less a sin? Isn’t the betrayal of the sovereignty of the Lord in our lives always a sin, regardless of the factors that drove us to betray Him? Yes! Yet we habitually defend ourselves and diminish our fault by referring to reasons why we ‘had to’ do it. We sinners are so backward that we try to justify ourselves by some condition which preceded the sin. Motives console us. That’s why we want so badly to have and to know them. …

“We sinners are so backward! We invert the true source of our justification. It isn’t some preliminary cause, some motive before the sin that justifies me, but rather the forgiveness of Christ which meets my repentance after the sin.”

The Ninth Day Friday—“‘Who will give Me room?’ This is forever a measure of the love which Jesus inspires in human hearts: that there was a householder willing to endanger himself by saying, ‘I will. Come.’ We know almost as little about this man—and as much—as we know of the woman who anointed Jesus. We know him by his action only; and his deed was love. It was a sacrificial love, which puts itself in harm’s way for the sake of the beloved [Mark 14:12-16]. … 

“‘Who will give Me room?’ the Lord Jesus asks today. If we’re experienced, we know the risk. The sophisticated world mocks a meek and sheepish Christian. The evil world hates those in whom Christ shines like a light upon its darksome deeds. Even the worldly church will persecute those who, for Jesus’ sake, accuse its compromises, oppose its cold self-righteousness, and so disclose its failure at humble service.”

The Tenth Day Saturday—“Judas has no better friend than Jesus. Loving him, not loathing him, Jesus grants Judas a moment of terrible self-awareness: ‘One of you will betray Me, the one who is dipping bread into the dish with Me….’ The deed is not yet done. But Jesus sees it coming and, while yet the sinner contemplates the sin, gives Judas three critical gifts: (1) Knowledge; (2) Free will; and (3) Sole responsibility. … Given three gifts by the grace of the dear Lord—[will I] stop?”

Stay tuned for more quotes (and in the meantime, get a copy of the book for yourself.

Poetry Saturday—A Private Litany Of Humility

From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with Your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me Your ways.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self-importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household. Amen. —Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val

3 Manger Lessons

Only Luke uses the Greek word for manger in all of the New Testament, with three of those instances being closely linked with the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-16).

Luke is a prolific writer, but also a very specific writer. Luke uses more unique Greek words in his two books of the Bible than any other New Testament author. Because Luke is so precise, we need to pause to ask: what message was Luke trying to highlight in the fact that Jesus was born in a manger.

Here are three manger lessons…

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLAN.

The birthplace of Jesus was predicted 700 years before He was born (Micah 5:2). God moved the heart of the most powerful man in the world (Caesar Augustus) to issue a decree that would bring a nearly unknown Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and cause them to cross paths with a bunch of unnamed shepherds.

  1. The manger shows us God’s PRIORITY.

Jesus was not born to a handsome family (Isaiah 53:2), nor was He born to an influential family (Philippians 2:7). If He had been born to the high and mighty class, He would not only be unmoved by the desperate conditions of the least and the lost, but He would also be inaccessible to them.

Think about this—Who would you be more likely to have access to: a King or a peasant? Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28).

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLEASURE.

God is pleased to deliver His good news to the disempowered, the downcast, the over-burdened, the desperate (Luke 2:14; Matthew 11:25-26). And what is this good news? The good news is that Jesus came to make it possible for us to be linked with Him forever! (see Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus was born in a manger to show us that (1) God’s plans always prevail; (2) His priority is to rescue those who are unable to rescue themselves; and (3) He has immense pleasure to yoking us to Him forever and ever! 

May this good news of Christ in manger bring you joy this Christmas season!

We also looked at some other powerful Advent stories in our Carols Of Christmas series. You can read about the lessons from O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night! Holy Night!

Poetry Saturday—Diary Of An Old Soul

Lord, I have fallen again—a human clod!
Selfish I was, and heedless to offend;
Stood on my rights. Thy own child would not send
Away his shreds of nothing for the whole God! 
Wretched, to Thee Who savest, low I bend:
Give me the power to let my rag-rights go
In the great wind that from Thy gulf doth blow. 

Keep me from wrath, let it seem ever so right:
My wrath will never work Thy righteousness.
Up, up the hill, to the whiter than snow-shine,
Help me to climb, and dwell in pardon’s light.
I must be pure as Thou, or ever less
Than the design of me—therefore incline
My heart to take men’s wrongs as Thou tak’st mine. —George MacDonald

4 BIG Lessons From Esther

One of my favorite stories in the Bible shows God’s role in world events, and how the obedience of His people fits into God’s plan. Yet this story doesn’t even mention God by name!

It’s an important reminder that we don’t have to say, “God’s at work here” for God to be at work here. We don’t have to say, “I’m a Christian” to live in a Christlike way.

Have you ever read the story of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai? Let me tell you, this is a real page-turner of a story! If you already know the story, skip to the four lessons below. Here’s a quick recap (but you really should read this for yourself)…

  • King Xerxes is the ruler of the most powerful nation on earth
  • Queen Vashti (Xerxes’ wife) defies him and is deposed
  • When the king is looking for a new queen, a young lady named Hadassah catches his eye
  • Hadassah went by her Persian name of Esther, so the king didn’t know he married a Jewess
  • Mordecai was Esther’s cousin, her legal guardian, and a palace worker
  • Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate Xerxes, which he shared with Queen Esther, who told the king, who investigated and had the plotters killed
  • King Xerxes had a prime minister named Haman, who was really full of himself
  • Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman because Haman thought of himself as a deity
  • Haman wanted to show Mordecai, and all the other Jews like him, who was boss so he deceived King Xerxes into signing a law that would allow for all the Jews to be killed on a set date
  • Mordecai again told Queen Esther about the plot, but the queen was scared to go before the king unsummoned (where the penalty for doing so could be death)
  • Esther finally had the courage to approach Xerxes and invite him and Haman to dinner
  • At dinner, the king asked Esther why she really invited him to dinner, and Esther said, “Come back to dinner tomorrow night and I’ll tell you then”
  • King Xerxes couldn’t sleep that night so he asked for the royal chronicles to be read to him
  • The king discovered that Mordecai had never been rewarded for uncovering the assassination attempt
  • Xerxes asked Haman what he should do for a man he wanted to honor; Haman thought the king was talking about him, so he gave an elaborate plan of recognition, to which the king replied, “Excellent! Go do all that for Mordecai!”
  • Haman was so ticked off that he built a 75-foot tall gallows on which to hang Mordecai
  • At the second dinner, Esther asked for her life to be spared; the king wanted to know who would presume to attack her and the Jews, and she called out Haman
  • The king stormed from the room while Haman stayed to beg for his life
  • As the king returned, Haman was pawing at the queen in desperation, so the king’s bodyguards grabbed him
  • The king found out about the gallows built for Mordecai and gave orders for Haman to be hanged on those very same gallows
  • Mordecai became prime minister and wrote another law to help save the Jews from annihilation

4 BIG Lessons From Esther for Christians living in a pagan culture today

  1. All of History is His Story. God’s timing to bring all of the key players on the scene at just the right moment is obvious. Even giving the king insomnia at just the right time was a part of God’s plan!
  2. God gives us favor and we win favor by obeying God. The word “favor” is all throughout this story. God-fearing people are given God’s favor which leads to man’s favor as well.
  3. God-following people do make a positive impact on their culture. Esther becoming queen pleased the people, as did Mordecai’s just laws.  
  4. Pride humiliates and destroys; humility elevates the person and glorifies God. Just look at the contrast between Haman and Mordecai!

Do you have any other takeaways from this story? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Poetry Saturday—Presumption

Whenever I am prone to doubt or wonder—
   I check myself, and say, “That mighty One
Who made to the solar system cannot blunder—
   And for the best all things are being done.”
Who sent the stars on their eternal courses
   Has fashioned this strange earth by some sure plan.
Bow low, bow low to those majestic forces,
   Nor dare to doubt their wisdom, puny man.

You cannot put one little star in motion,
   You cannot shape one single forest leaf,
Nor fling a mountain up, nor sink an ocean,
   Presumptuous pigmy, large with unbelief.
You cannot bring one dawn of regal splendor,
   Nor bid the day to shadowy twilight fall,
Nor send the pale moon fourth with radiance tender—
   And dare you doubt the One who has done it all?

“So much is wrong, there is such pain—such sinning.”
   Yet look again—behold how much is right!
And He who formed the world from its beginning
   Knows how to guide it upward to the light.
Your task, O man, is not to carp and cavil
   At God’s achievements, but with purpose strong
To cling to good, and turn away from evil.
   That is the way to help the world along. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

No Room For God?

My friend Scott delivered a right-between-the-eyes message yesterday. Here are my takeaways.

Quite possibly the deadliest of the relationship killers is pride.

Think of all the ugly things surrounding Pride:

  • Always fault-finding
  • Always defensive
  • Constantly craving attention
  • Disregarding advice
  • Saying “I’m better than you!”
  • Saying “I don’t need your help!”
  • Quick to tell others “Here’s how you should do that”
  • Can’t handle any constructive criticism
  • But always critical of others

In fact, C.S. Lewis said, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

One psalmist got right to the root of the problem of pride when he wrote—

In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

No room for God?!

The Bible is all about relationships. Adam was first created to be in a relationship with God, and then Eve was created so she and Adam could be in a relationship with each other. Jesus reiterated this when He was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He said, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”

But if Pride rules in my heart, and there is no room for God, how can I love Him with all I’ve got? The simple answer is: I can’t.

Jesus quickly added that the next greatest commandment also revolved around relationships when He said, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

If my proud heart is filled with prideful love, it cannot be filled with God’s love.

If my pride-filled heart has no room for God’s love, then it has no room to love anyone else.

Pride kills every relationship.

Jesus had absolutely no trace of pride when He set aside all His heavenly privileges and came to earth as a Human (Philippians 2:6-8). The Apostle Paul then tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s attitude.

Humility kills pride!

Are you filled with pride? Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Do I have a problem submitting to authority?
  • When I get into an argument, do I always have to have the last word?
  • Am I willing to accept blame?
  • Can I ask for forgiveness, or am I always right?
  • Do I sometimes cheat at a game just so I can win?
  • If I lose, is it someone else’s fault?
  • If I win, do I brag about how good I am?
  • Do I think I’m the only one who can solve all my own issues?
  • Do I think I can solve everyone else’s issues too?

If you found yourself saying “yes” to these questions it’s probably time to ask the Holy Spirit to do a heart-check on your level of pride. Make sure that in your heart there is increasingly more room for God.

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