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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hope is Holding on too

Could you imagine being the disciples of Jesus on this Saturday after the crucifixion?
What would be going on in your head?
What would you be thinking?
Today I want us to try and get inside the heads of the 11 remaining disciples. They are locked in the upper room not knowing what to say or do...
They are just there. Waiting.

This Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. It is a day of mourning. It is a day of fasting and prayer. It is a day where we remember that our Savior was silent.
And it is a day where we reflect on how great our God is, even in the silence.

Silently. We sit.
Patiently we wait.
Prayerfully we hope.
A stillness comes across our hearts.
Quiet voices like darts.

There's something more going on here.
Of which we have nothing to fear.
But there’s something else going on.
The Lord… he’s gone.

But is he?
They pondered.
His enemies…
They Remembered.

They feared his promise.
His words are ageless.

Sunday is coming.

But for now we sit.
That curtain just split.
What does it mean?
As we think about yesterday’s scene.

Friday… Oh Friday… How could such a day be good?

A definition… won’t fit.
Part of us would just want to quit.
But there is hope… a still small hope.
To hold on… it’s a struggle, like gripping wet soap.

How could this happen?
Why were we chosen?
The 11 of us left…
Judas’ space open cleft.
Who would have thought…
He would have left us so distraught.

This Saturday waiting… clenching… holding…
There’s something more to this tale…
There’s no way he could have been finished with a nail.

Why, what… How are we supposed to cope?
Our whole lives were given up for this hope.
This need, this feeling.
We knew he was something more, something new.
It was God with whom we were dealing.
Is this how God came to our rescue?
We don’t understand, but we don’t have anything more.
We’re stuck hoping on a chance, locked behind this door.

This Saturday is like all days before.
It’s over it’s finished.
But yet there is something more.

Sunday is coming.
There’s a new drum strumming.
Weakness is over us,
failing strength isn't a plus. 
What else can we do,
Hope is holding on too.

This day... We wait.
We are still.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday, Oh Friday.

A serpent with a tree vanquished Adam. Christ vanquished the Serpent. A tree sent Adam to Hell. Christ brought him back from there. A tree revealed Adam in his weakness, laying prostrate, naked and low. Christ manifested to the world a victory by being nailed, naked and high. Because of a tree, Adam passed a sentence of death upon everyone, Christ passed a sentence of life through his death, giving life to all.

And how did Christ go about this? 

From a tree.

What About the Centurion?

This post waited until 3 PM (EST) for a reason.

It was at the ninth hour that Jesus died.
It was the ninth hour that the earth quaked violently.
It was the ninth hour that the Roman Centurion at the foot of the cross said, "Truly, this man was the son of God."

We know very little about him. In fact, he is only given two short mentions throughout Mark’s entire Story of Jesus. He was the man who stood there, nailing Jesus to the cross. Most would simply just glance over the detail, but he’s there – a minor character in the plot who plays a major role.

We can only assume, from a historical perspective, that this centurion would have had the same attitude towards Jesus as he would during any crucifixion. This would have been a sport to him, more than just a simple game though – this was his life. He was the power of the sword for the governor of Judea at the time. He brought the greatest punishment that Rome used in those days for a political revolutionary. He probably didn't have any feelings of remorse for what he was doing – he couldn't. His job dictated that he couldn't have emotions that would stop him from accomplishing the task laid before him.

The story goes as any crucifixion does – this Jesus whom he nailed to the cross three hours later cried out in a loud voice, breathed His last and then died. The centurion knew he finished his job. Then, the temple veil was torn in two and the ground shook with a great earthquake – that’s when the Roman centurion shifted. He made the same great confession that Peter made just seven chapters earlier, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

The second mention made of the centurion is in Mark 15:44, just a few verses after this great confession.  We know it must be the same centurion that Mark just mentioned, or else it would have been crazy for Mark to use a definite article to describe him as “the centurion” (τὸν κεντυρίωνα). It is no mistake that Mark would set him as the one summoned by Pilate to confirm the death of Jesus Christ on the cross – after all, he was there.  We can only assume that the centurion would have been there when Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus off the cross. And we can only imagine what was going through the head of the man who nailed the Son of God to a tree.

One can only imagine if he became a Christian after hearing of the resurrected Christ. One can only imagine if he gave up the life he was living as a member of the Roman military – one who was called upon to execute rebels. We are left wondering what ever happened to this man who nailed Jesus to the tree.

Today, on Good Friday, we remember Jesus who died, but also we remember the Centurion, who figuratively represented all of mankind as he nailed Jesus to the tree. We remember that... the Centurion is no different than us.

We remember his great confession and we say it ourselves, "Truly, this man is the Son of God!"


Thomas Montgomery

resides in Joplin, Missouri where he studies Psychology and Counseling at Ozark Christian College. His hobbies include hiking, cooking, reading, eating Chick-Fil-A, growing his beard, and talking to people about the person of Jesus Christ. He loves people, evidenced by his service to the church and those who do not yet know Christ. Thomas, who was an EMT for some time, wants to counsel firefighters and paramedics in the future.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What about the Pharisees?

I have a few questions concerning these guys.

What were they doing out so late?!?

Matthew 26:3-5 tells us, 'Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people."'

Which leads us to ask why they did it... literally just after the feast?

Wouldn't that still cause an uproar?

Maybe they decided that that... is what they wanted.

So what about these Pharisees?
I think so many things were going on during this night that it is impossible to only focus on this group of religious leaders.
Because there was more going on around them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What about Judas?

Well... what about him?

We all know the story.

We all know the deal when it comes to Judas.

But do we ever really sit and allow his story to mean something to us?

This was a man that spent about three years with Jesus, he was present with him when he performed miracles, he was with him when he preached, he was with him as he traveled. He ate the same food, breathed the same air. And yet... this is the man that betrays him to the high priests.

How many times do we think that if we had lived back then, that we would be better followers of Christ?
How many times do we think that we could have never left Jesus like his friends did?
How many times do we think that if we had just seen a miracle of Jesus, we would have unshakable faith?

Have we ever let that sink in? This is a man Jesus chose to be one of his closest friends... he entrusts him with the money, he entrusts him to preach in His name with the other disciples.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Prayer Adapted From the Fruit of the Spirit

Lately I have been obsessed with Liturgy. There is something amazing about praying prayers that have been handed down over generations. There is also great power and awe in knowing that I am praying a prayer that was prayed by the Saints of old.

In my small group, we were asked to write a prayer based on a passage (or multiple passages) of Scripture. Below is the Liturgical type I have written. My hope and prayer is that this may bless you in your time of stillness with Christ.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
-Galatians 5:22-23

Once again, Lord Jesus Christ, I face the powers this world, trying to draw me away from you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The whales, the stars, and us

Take a few minutes and check out this video from Louie Giglio (if the posted video isn't working for you, try copying and pasting this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zWKm-LZWm4). It takes a few minutes but is far worth your time.

When I first watched that, it totally blew my mind. I mean, have you ever just stopped to imagine what it must sound like in the throne room of God? The sounds of whales and stars and trees and oceans, of birds and rain and lions and wind...and then there's us.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The nature of the beast

You can never depend on an animal to always, always behave to your standards - in every domesticated and tamed animal is a wild animal lurking below. It’s one of the things that scares me most when I think about the people who tour the Grand Canyon while riding on a mule, or ride up a mountain on an animal - no matter how much the animals have been trained, they’re still animals. They may decide to wander off the mountain, right? I mean, who's to say they won't wander a few feet just because they want to? By nature, no matter how much they've been tamed, they're still wild.

It’s just the nature of the beasts.

I've been thinking a lot about this phrase lately, because while the title "beast" typically has a negative connotation, they're mentioned several times in the Bible as the "beasts and creatures of the fields." The essence of a beast's spirit is wildness and ferocity, even danger - and those are the characteristics that apply to both the devil and our Savior.

Take lions, for instance - one of nature's most fierce animals. The devil is referred to multiple times as a lion, quite strong and ready to destroy all traces of God's army in the world.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

He’s sneaky and deceitful, and in his limited power he looks for someone to tear down. He’s full of pride and bubbling over with envy and selfishness, and we are the targets of his anger. The scary, hard to swallow part is that he is intentional about seeking out God's children and targeting their faith.

Yet in the face of this deceitful beast, we have another beast defending us - a good beast, a wild and free and ever-strong beast named Jesus. I don’t mean this in a negative sense at all, comparing Jesus to a beast - several times, the Bible refers to Christ’s fierce, protective love and the proclamation of His name to a lion’s roar. 

“They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west." Hosea 11:10

When we seek God, we must know the nature of Him who we seek. Wild, in that we can’t control Him, tame Him, put Him in a box or cage so we can understand or control Him. Strong, in that He pursues us relentlessly with a powerful, protective love. Dangerous, in that He asks all of us

He is far bigger, and his qualities of love and strength far more magnified, than we perhaps have ever acknowledged. To love Him intimately and come close to Him is, in many ways, daring to put all of ourselves on the line. Relinquishing control of our situations in order to surrender to His hand. It's one the scariest actions to finally do, because it requires 100% trust in what He will do with us. We must believe He's good through and through, and will care for us to the end. We can't dare not to dare to experience this love and strength for ourselves, to come close to Jesus and see that a lion of love awaits us.

However, if we come close, we must know that He is who He is, and He will not be tamed by our demands or requests - it is simply His nature. This wild and crazy and strong love isn't something that we can control, but it is something we can surrender to and trust that we will be taken care of and protected by the strongest of loves.

"...draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast." - Aslan, by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coffee Shop

No man is unnecessary; no man stands alone
—  William Ellery Channing

I love going to coffee shops and seeing two people sitting across the table from each other with basic cups of coffee and chatting lively.
It makes me wonder what’s going on in their lives, why they’re drinking coffee together. Are they a couple? Old friends starting new? An old relationship finding a new spark?

It makes me think about this.

This place we call our world.

Where we can go to a place with walls and ceiling made out of materials that came up out of the earth and have some sense of community.
"One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can." -Frederick Buechner

I want to live fully and bravely and beautifully... And I find part of that sitting in a coffee shop. Just think for a minute...Go to a coffee shop. Sit by the bar with the glass windows and look out. Look at all the people. Businessmen talking away on their cell phone trying seal the deal with his partner. Frantic workers running to catch a train. All the girls with one too many shopping bags. The two people laughing hysterically with each other next to you. The homeless man begging on the side of the street. The little boys looking around in awe at what he sees. All the couples too in love to care. Then you’ll see it - a bit of yourself in everyone. And somehow, sitting alone in a coffee shop had never felt so good.

Because even when we are alone, if we choose to look around, we notice, we are never really alone. Community. Interaction. Love. Movement. Action. Togetherness.

Are all aspects of our makeup. Aspects of humanity.

Maybe that is a spark of God in us?
After all it is God that is a community all in himself.
And he made us for more than just ourselves, right?
Perhaps there was so much more than our sin that Christ came down here for?
Christ came so that he would be part of humanity's community forever.

The creator became like the creation.

Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality--not as we expect it to be but as it is--is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.

And then the verse that says: God is love takes a whole new meaning for me.


He came to us, to participate in this... living? This... being?

This. Life.

May we see the world as our neighbors. 
There is something in everyone that reminds us, shows us, helps us to understand... that there is something distinct that makes us human.

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering at all.
-St. Augustine of Hippo

"The Glory of God is a human being fully alive." -Irenaeus