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.

7 Quotes From “The Pastor In Prayer”

In The Pastor In Prayer we discover that Charles Spurgeon is not only the prince of preachers, but the prince of pray-ers as well. Check out my review of this fabulous book by clicking here.

“Thy grace must give us even to know our need of grace. We are not willing to confess our own sinfulness until Thou dost show it to us. Though it stares us in the face our pride denies it, and our own inability is unperceived by us. We steal Thy power and call it our own till Thou dost compel us to say that we have no strength in ourselves.”

“Thy grace has almost out-graced itself, Thy love has reached its height love to rebels; so to love that even Thy Son could not be spared. O God, we are afflicted in our hearts to think we do not love Thee more after such love as this.”

“O God, we beseech Thee bring men away from all their false trusts to rest in the great sacrifice of Thy dear Son.”

“Oh that we might live so near to the great Shepherd as to be familiar with His voice, to know its tones, that so a stranger we may not follow, for we know not the voice of strangers.”

“Thou art good when Thou givest, and Thou art good when Thou takest away. Thou art good when the night gathers heavy about us. Thou art good when the sun shineth and gladdeneth our pathway. Thou art always good and doest good, and blessed be the name of the Lord from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof, and through the night watches let His praise be still celebrated.”

“And truly since we have received so many mercies at Thy hand, we do feel that Thou wilt never forsake us in any darkness which may be in our path in the future. Thou hast done too much for us to desert us now. We have cost Thee so much—Oh wondrous price that Thou hast paid for us—and Thou hast spent so much of wise thought, and gracious act upon us, that we are persuaded Thou wilt go through with the work which Thy wisdom has undertaken. But give us faith to believe this when the stormy times come, let us not doubt.”

“Lord, while we work for Thee, always keep us sitting at the feet of Jesus. Let our faith never wander away from the simplicity of its confidence in Him. Let our motive never be anything but His glory; may our hearts be taken up with His love, and our thoughts perpetually engaged about His person.”

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.

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.

Is The Christian Life Difficult?

“We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will. … We make our own plans and choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, that we shall not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal.” —Andrew Murray, in Absolute Surrender

Poetry Saturday—Desire

Matthew ArnoldThou, who dost dwell alone;
Thou, who dost know Thine own;
Thou, to whom all are known,
From the cradle to the grave—
Save, O, save!

From the world’s temptations;
From tribulations;
From that fierce anguish
Wherein we languish;
From that torpor deep
Wherein we lie asleep,
Heavy as death, cold as the grave—
Save, O, save!

When the soul, growing clearer,
Sees God no nearer;
When the soul, mounting higher,
To God comes no nigher;
But the arch-fiend Pride
Mounts at her side,
Foiling her high enterprise,
Sealing her eagle eyes,
And, when she fain would soar,
Make idols to adore;
Changing the pure emotion
Of her high devotion,
To a skin-deep sense
Of her own eloquence;
Strong to deceive, strong to enslave—
Save, O, save! —Matthew Arnold

8 Quotes From “Jesus Always”

jesus-alwaysSarah Young does a masterful job in speaking the words of the Bible to us through the first-person voice of Jesus Christ in her book Jesus Always. Be sure to check out my review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes from this keepsake book.

“Train your mind to think great thoughts of Me! Many Christians are defeated by focusing mainly on less important things—the news, the weather, the economy, loved ones’ problems, their own problems, and so on. Granted, in this world you will have trouble, but don’t let troubles become your primary focus. Remind yourself that I am with you and I have overcome the world.”

“Be careful not to attach your sense of worth to your performance. When you’re dissatisfied with something you have done, talk with Me about it. … Your imperfect performance reminds you that you are human. It humbles you and helps you identify with flawed humanity. Since pride is such a deadly sin—the one that ultimately led to satan’s expulsion from heaven—being humbled is really a blessing. So thank Me for the circumstances that have diminished your pride, and draw near to Me.” 

“Praying not only blesses you but provides an avenue for serving Me. Rejoice that you can collaborate with Me through prayer as I establish My kingdom on earth.”

“When the task before you looks daunting, refuse to be intimidated. Discipline your thinking to view the challenge as a privilege rather than a burdensome duty. Make the effort to replace your ‘I have to’ mentality with an ‘I get to’ approach. … Remember that My Spirit who lives in you is the Helper; ask Him to help you when you’re perplexed.”

“Do not despise suffering. It reminds you that you are on a pilgrimage to a far better place. … While you continue your journey through this world, be thankful for the comforts and pleasures I bless you with. And reach out to others who are suffering. I comfort you in all your troubles so that you can comfort others. Offering help to hurting people gives meaning to your suffering—and Glory to Me!”

“Your natural tendency when you’re feeling anxious is to focus on yourself and your problems. The more you do this, the more you forget about Me and all the help I can supply. This worldly focus only increases your anxiety! Let the discomfort you feel at such times alert you to your neglect of Me. Whisper My Name, and invite Me into your difficulties.”

“Today is the time to delight in the blessings I have provided. Since you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, make the most of what you have today: family, friends, talents, possessions. And look for opportunities to be a blessing to others.”

“Thank Me frequently; be on the lookout for My blessings, searching for them as for hidden treasure. Praise Me not only in prayer and song but in your words to other people. Tell them about My marvelous deeds; declare how great I am!”

I will be sharing more quotes from Jesus Always in the near future. If you want to be notified as soon as these quotes are posted, please subscribe by entering your email address in the right column.

I’ve also been sharing quotes from this book (and lots of other high-quality authors) on both Twitter and Tumblr. If you’re not following me there, please do so.

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