Shifting Sands (A Holy Week Reflection)

“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing but someday you will.'”  John 13:7

A few days ago (Palm Sunday), we were reminded of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The adoring throngs of men, women and children laying their cloaks and palm branches before the donkey that carried Him into the capital city.  Cries of praise and hope echoed throughout the region.  All the while they shouted, “Hosanna (a word that translates as an appeal to God for deliverance) to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (see Matthew, chapter 21).  Four nights later, Jesus is betrayed by one of His own, arrested and set up by a multitude of false witnesses.  What followed in less than 24 hours was humiliation, unspeakable torture and ultimately, His last breath on a wooden cross.

I think we have to ask ourselves….what changed in those few days?

So here we sit….

The midweek point of Holy Week and I can’t help but reflect upon what must have been going on in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago.  Jesus had been in the city a few days now.  Many of the people had welcomed Him as their Messiah….but not from their sins….instead they had hoped He would help overthrow the oppressive power of the Roman authorities. Looking back through the dusty pages of history, we can see how limited and shortsighted their expectations were. God had something much bigger in mind.

They had seen, or at the very least heard the news about Jesus healing the leper and the paralyzed man and how He had raised His dear friend Lazarus from the grave.  Surely He had the power to decimate the Romans with fire from Heaven itself…and they were ready!  So what happened with this particular expectation that they had placed on Jesus?  Nothing.  A few days later and there had been no overthrow.  They had not been “healed” of the disease they saw as the Roman government.  Unmet expectations….and rather than trust God, what do they do?  They turn on Him.  In their pride, they believe that they know better.

Before we judge them, I think that we need to take a look in the mirror for a minute.  How do we treat God after He responds to our heartfelt prayers in ways that are different from our expectations?  The job ends.  The cancer does not disappear.  The spouse leaves.  What do we do?

Just this week a friend sent me a text message asking for prayer for her friend.  She had just lost her fiance in a tragic accident (they were to be married in about six weeks).  He had gotten out of her car to walk home and somewhere between the car and his home, he was struck and killed by another vehicle….

Even as I write this I have to pause at the sheer, gut wrenching devastation of something like this.  She’s angry and bitter at God….and I understand.  There are no answers on this side of Heaven for what has happened.  Figuratively speaking, she is at the midpoint of her own “Holy Week” in the sense that her expectations and her reality are vastly different….and in this darkness the attacks of the enemy are relentless.  In a nutshell they amount to this….  “Curse God and die”, those spirits quietly cackle in her ear.  Seeds of rage and bitterness can easily take root in this soil.

As I continued texting my friend, my prayer for this poor woman is that she would ultimately fall back on God’s love for her, His good character and ultimately be reminded of the reality that no matter the terrible things that can happen to us in this sometimes brutal world….This. Is. Not. The. End. Of. The. Story.

We have a living Hope that is beyond the brokenness.  Beyond the darkness.  Beyond any and all of the tragic events (this is not meant to minimize any particular terrible event….they are absolutely crushing, so let me make sure and validate that right now).  Our Hope has a name.  His name is Jesus and He is the Messiah (on a personal level we have to allow Him to be just that in each of our lives).  This is the hope of the Gospel….of Easter.

Betrayal.  Torture.  Death.  But afterwards…..the stone of the tomb is rolled away!  Resurrection, a living Hope and a Helper that indwells us (see John 16:7).  The head of the serpent has been crushed and when we are in the midst of the shifting sands of unmet expectations, these are the realities that we need to reflect on and consciously, purposefully remind ourselves of.  If we see the “Holy Week” story all the way through, we can see how Jesus actually surpasses the expectations of those at Jersusalem’s gates all of those centuries ago.  Not to mention, He does so in ways that are often very different from how we might have first imagined.  This is the great love of God.

“Even when I hear nothing.  I rest in knowing that He hears me.”

“I am with you always.  Until the very end of time.” -Jesus

Walk in the light of this truth, my friend.  Happy Easter.

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A Stirring

“You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”

I was recently visiting some of my old stomping grounds down in West Hollywood, California.  Back in the day during my brief stint in music school when I was nineteen (and intermittently throughout the years), I used to go the rock clubs on the Sunset Strip.  The Whiskey, The Roxy, Gazzari’s….On this particular night, I was hanging out at the famous “Rainbow Bar and Grill” with an old friend from grade school that I hadn’t seen in a number of years, who also happens to live a few blocks away from their front door.

It was fun and energizing to be back in the area.  With all of the same sights, smells and music playing in the background, it’s so easy to flashback to past moments in time.  As I sat there at the bar, enjoying a fresh IPA, I began to think back on who I used to be.  I’m not embarrassed to say that it’s now so easy to see how lost I was in so many ways.  I had a spiritual foundation but my “anchor” was never holding me in one place, as I bounced around spiritually from one place to the next (which I know is not uncommon for someone in their late teens/early 20’s).  In the midst of the conversations with my buddy that night, I would sometimes see my “old self” in my mind’s eye (almost like an outer body experience in a sense), sitting in that same place but 20+ years earlier.  I could see my past intentions and my priorities clearly.  How I talked, how I thought about others, about myself, about perceived social status….all have changed so much.  So much in fact, that if I could sit down with the young, long haired rocker version of myself, I would give him a hug, tell him that I love him and give him a good talking to…both about what to do and what not to do.  I actually feel a lot of compassion for my younger self.  I guess it would be the same compassion I would feel for anyone that I could tell was broken inside (whether they know it or not).  We’re all broken after all. Thank God for His redeeming grace.

For much of the night, I continued to have parallel conversations.  One with my friend, one with God.  In the midst of this back and forth flow, the following verse flashed through my mind….

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s reminder was like someone turning on the light in a dark room.  <click!>

Look how far I’ve taken you…and I’m not done with you yet.

As I felt that initial surge of encouragement, my friend turned to me and said the words at the top of this page….”You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”  I would say that is definitely an interesting comment to come out of the blue….and even more interesting when coupled with the timing.

God was once again getting my attention.

I was caught up in this….“there is a lot in there.”  He was right.  There is a lot in here.  There is a lot in all of us.

God continued the process….there is a lot “in there” that people need to hear.  Not stemming from my own ego as much as I believe what God wants to speak through each of His kids….coming from our own unique hearts, heartaches, victories and circumstances.  Our brokenness can speak BUT our redeemed brokenness can speak even more clearly….and bring healing in both ourselves and in others, as those thoughts that are spoken (or sung, or written) will connect with and in the lives of those that hear us.   I believe that this, in turn, encourages our “hearers” to become speakers (in time) and to do the same in the lives of others.

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” -Jesus speaking to His followers in Matthew 5:14

So find your voice.  Believe what you have to say is valuable, because it is.  Your life is your story and stories are meant to be shared and learned from (if you’re a verbal processor like I am, you may be surprised by how just much you may learn).

And this, my friend, is how the light spreads.

“Come and see what God has done….”  Psalm 66:5(a)

God bless.