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?”

The Eleventh Day Monday—“With the apostle Paul the pastor repeats: ‘The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread’ [1 Corinthians 11:23]. Oh, let that pastor murmur those words, the same night, with awe. For who among us can hear them just before receiving the gift of Christ’s intimacy and not be overcome with wonder, stunned at such astonishing love? … In the night of gravest human treachery He gave the gift of Himself. And the giving has never ceased. … Oh, this is a love past human expectation. This is beyond all human deserving. This, therefore, is a love so celestial that it shall endure long and longer than we do. This is grace.”

The Twelfth Day Tuesday—“If anyone continues in a loving relationship with Jesus, it is His love that preserves it, not the love of the other, nor all the piety, nor all the goodness a Christian can muster.”

The Thirteenth Day Wednesday—“Abba, Father,” Jesus cried out, “everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” (Mark 14:36)

The Fourteenth Day Thursday—“What takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane is the Lord’s Prayer actually happening, as though the earlier words were a script and this is the drama itself. … When Jesus teaches us to pray, He does not teach plain recitation. Rather, He calls us to a way of being. He makes of prayer a doing. And by His own extreme example, He shows that prayer is the active relationship between ourselves, dear little children, and the dear Father, Abba.”

The Fifteenth Day Friday—“In a garden once [Eden] the Lord God decreed enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman, enmity to the death. In a garden again [Gethsemane] that enmity produces this pathetic assault: a kiss that can kill. … Behold how the servants of God can bite!”

The Sixteenth Day Saturday—“In the fires of serious persecution the truer elements of one’s character now are revealed. Everything fraudulent, cheap, or hypocritical burns. Every pretense turns to ash. All my false words blow away. What I really am—the core character, the thing God sees when He looks at me…I am indeed. … Take my life: I consecrate it to Thee. Take all that I have and all that I am; replace the self in me with Thine own holy self.”

The Seventeenth Day Monday—“Whenever discipleship puts me in peril, give me the gift of a holy silence—to speak the truth, no less, no more. Amen.”

The Eighteenth Day Tuesday—“Christian, come and look closely: it is when Jesus is humiliated, most seeming weak, bound and despised and alone and defeated that He finally answers the question, ‘Are you the Christ?’ Now, for the record, ‘Yes: I am.’ It is only in incontrovertible powerlessness that He finally links Himself with power: ‘And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power’ [Mark 14:61-62].”

The Nineteenth Day Wednesday—“Where patience shines, impatience is revealed and hates the attention. Kindness shows unkindness to be hideous. True joy intensifies true bitterness; gentleness enrages belligerence; and self-control proves the pig to be nothing but a pig. … Save me, Lord, from blaming anyone but myself: not You (whose innocence spotlights my sin),  not Your foes (whose sins are my own), not people whose virtues reveal my evil.”

The Twentieth Day Thursday—“There’s a war inside the strong disciple. (The stronger the disciple, the worse the war!) There’s a struggle in Peter between good and evil, between these two commitments: to his Lord and to his own survival. … The forces warring in Peter’s soul seem terribly equal: a tremendous, selfless love for Jesus keeps him there, while a consuming self-interest keeps him lying. He denies himself to stay by his Lord. He denies his Lord to save himself. Both. Good and bad. Peter is paralyzed between the good that he would and the evil that he is. I see this. I recognize this. I cannot divorce myself from this—for Peter’s moral immobilization is mine as well!”

The Twenty-first Day Friday—Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate (Mark 15:1). What was Jesus thinking during this walk? “Wordlessly, Jesus answers: ‘The walking itself is the sign, child. The loneliness which I have chosen, and the Cross that closes it—these are signs that I love you ever. I have to leave you to love you best. I go where I want you never to go, precisely because I love you.’”

The Twenty-second Day Saturday—“Jesus, ironically, You and Your accusers had the selfsame goal, and by Your very silence, steadfastly, You went as it was written of You. Human beings strategized; human evil sent You to Your Cross. But something huger hovered over the occasion, something of Your own volition: Love.”

The Twenty-third Day Monday—“If they choose Barabbas over Jesus, they choose humanity over divinity. They choose one who will harm them over One Who would heal them.”

The Twenty-fourth Day Tuesday—“‘Why?’ cries Pilate suddenly. He seriously means the question: ‘What evil has He done?’ But we are now at the climax of human hatreds. This rage requires no rationale. This hatred has no reason but itself. God and the children of Adam are enemies, for the children rebelled against their God—and enemies hate. … This is the natural reaction of sinners in the presence of Holy God.”

The Twenty-fifth Day Wednesday—“The crowd is a power to be feared. In fact, its power is the fear it inspires in rulers who know its quickness to riot, its ungovernable lack of sense or of personal integrity. People lose individuality in a crowd. … Sin is brutal. But even the swollen-throated bellowers in the crowd are people to Jesus, whom He regards one by one by one, whom He does not fear, but whom He is serving right now—right now!—by giving His life to ransom them from the very brutishness they are displaying.”

The Twenty-sixth Day Thursday—You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you [Matthew 5:43-44]. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. … When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly [1 Peter 2:21, 23]. “Jesus, there is nothing You ask of me that You have not Yourself exemplified.”

The Twenty-seventh Day Friday—“‘And they led Him out to crucify Him’ (Mark 15:20). Jesus, what can I do for You now? ‘Follow.’”

The Twenty-eighth Day Saturday—They offered Him wine mingled with myrrh; but He did not take it (Mark 15:23). “He will in no wise dull His senses or ease the pain. And so we know. What are the feelings? What has the spirit of Jesus been doing since Gethsemane? Why, suffering. With a pure and willful consciousness, terribly sensitive to every thorn and cut and scornful slur: suffering. This He has chosen. This He is attending to with every nerve of His being—not for some perverted love of pain. He hates the pain. But for a supernal love of us, that pain might be transfigured, forever.”

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

Poetry Saturday—Christmas Fancies

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, 
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, 
    And etched on vacant places 
    Are half forgotten faces 
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know— 
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near, 
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear, 
    That continent Elysian 
    Long vanished from our vision, 
Youth’s lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear, 
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth, 
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth, 
    And draws from youth’s recesses 
    Some memory it possesses, 
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth, 
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis 
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss. 
    Not all the seers and sages 
    With wisdom of the ages 
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss 
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays, 
As passing years are proving, for all of Time’s sad ways. 
    There lies a sting in pleasure, 
    And fame gives shallow measure, 
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days, 
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes, 
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes, 
    Let Love, the world’s beginning, 
    End fear and hate and sinning; 
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes 
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Poetry Saturday—Bells Across The Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
’Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.” —Frances Ridley Havergal

The Power In Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:4, 6).

Paul isn’t playing around here—when he says to rejoice, it’s not a suggestion or a good idea. He says REJOICE with the force of a commandment!

Even the Greek word for rejoice isn’t a mild “yea!” It carries with is the idea of big joy! It’s the kind of rejoicing that is…

  • exceedingly great!
  • overflowing!
  • bubbling up!
  • never ending!
  • continuously gushing!

Why would Paul make this kind of rejoicing a command? Because God is serious about pointing us to the only path that will guard our hearts and minds. When we are rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving, then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Do you realize how much of our worrying is pointless? My friend Scott pointed out the following research:

  • 40% of the things we worry about will never even happen
  • 30% of the things we worry about happened in the past and cannot be changed
  • 12% of our worries are regarding health issues we don’t even have
  • 10% of our worries are about our friends and loved ones which are based on rumors

That means … only 8% of the things we worry about have any basis in reality!

Think about that—9 out of 10 things that consume our minds with worry aren’t even worth our time!

That’s why Paul commands rejoicing as a means to freedom and peace.

  • What should we worry about? Nothing! 
  • What should we pray about? Everything!
  • What should rejoice about? All things!  

This is the one and only path to transcendent peace! 

This is part two in our series The Antidote For Anxiety. Be sure to check out the video below, and also check out the first part of this series—Honk! Honk! Honk!

Saturday In The Psalms—Joy In The Desert

A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah (preface to Psalm 63).

Being in a desert place, you would expect David to say things like, “my soul thirsts,” “my flesh longs,” and “I am in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

But what’s unexpected is what David found that satisfied. Not food and water, but “my soul thirsts for You,” “my flesh longs for You,” and “O God, You are my God.”

David knew that when outward conditions were at their worst, his focus needed to be at its best—and it needed to be on God. So David made the following commitments:

  • Early will I seek You
  • I have looked for You
  • I remember You on my bed
  • I meditate on You in the night watches
  • My lips shall praise You
  • My soul follows close behind You
  • I shall rejoice in God

Because of these commitments, David could reach the following conclusions:

  • Your lovingkindness is better than life
  • My soul is satisfied
  • I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings
  • Your right hand upholds me

David found joy in the desert by changing his focal point!

I can reach the same conclusions that David reached, IF I am willing to make the same commitments David made.

In the desert places, I must deliberately and continually turn my eyes and thoughts FROM the desert TO God’s goodness.

Honk! Honk! Honk!

First of all, I encourage you to watch the first few minutes of the video below for an amazing story about honking horns. Trust me on this one—it’s a memorable story that will go along way toward helping you defeat anxiety when it rears its ugly head in your life.

What kills joy and happiness and gratitude? Anxiety is the killer.

What makes people so full of joy-killing anxiety? In a word: fear. Fear of missing out … Fear of falling short … Fear of not measuring up … Fear of bad things that might happen.

If anxiety kills joy, what kills anxiety? Anxiety—the joy-killer—is itself killed when joy is expressed.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of what you don’t have.

Being thankful for what you have kills the fear of what you may be missing.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of the bad stuff that may never even happen.

If joy kills anxiety, how can we develop more of it? Most people would say, “If you’re happy, give thanks” or “If you’re happy, honk.” But really it’s the other way around: “If you want to be happy, honk!”

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Honking your thanks is not only good for you, but it’s good for everyone around you who hears your “honk! honk!” of gratitude. David experienced this in Psalm 34:1-3. Even when he was at a low point, when he started praising God other anxious people began to experience joy as well.

Can I challenge you to join me in doing two things for at least the rest of this month:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal in a notebook, on your computer, or in your phone or tablet. Regularly write down those things for which you are grateful.
  2. Don’t keep your gratitude to yourself, but share it with the world. Use hashtag #honk to let people know you are using joy to kill anxiety in your heart.

Honk! Honk! Honk! It’s good for you; it’s good for others; and it brings glory to God.

Joyless Christianity??

“Many—would I overstate the case if I said the majority?—of those who confess their faith in Christ and enter into association with the community of believers have little joy in their hearts, no peace in their minds, and from all external appearances are no better morally than the ordinary educated citizen who takes no interest whatever in religion and, of course, makes no profession of Christianity. Why is this? I believe it is the result of an inadequate concept of Christianity and an imperfect understanding of the revolutionary character of Christian discipleship.

“True faith brings a spiritual and moral transformation and an inward witness that cannot be mistaken. These come when we stop believing in belief and start believing in the Lord Jesus Christ indeed. …

“One of the first changes will be a shift of interest from earth to heaven, from men to God, from time to eternity, from earthly gain to Christ and His eternal kingdom.” —A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

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