Whether you call it a spiritual wilderness, drought, dry-season, or rut, the experience of distance from God and apathy in our Christian walk saps us of life. It confuses and frustrates us. Why doesn’t God feel near? Why can’t I get out? Why aren’t my passion or desires for the things of God increasing?
“The knowledge of the glory of God must be promising if it is to carry power. We must know it and believe that we are included—that the promises are ours, that the call is to us” (John Piper)
Life shakes us up. It smacks us with wind and waves. It might be a trial, suffering, a personal temptation, dealing with guilt and shame, struggling with something like anxiety or fear, or the discouraging howls of an extended spiritual wilderness. When these storms blow hard, what keeps us upright? What sustains and steadies us?
We each have a story that includes a past, present, and a future. The Bible also tells a story; a narrative of historical events full of significance for all of humanity.
As those united to Jesus, we are made participants in God’s story and cast as characters in the drama of redemptive history. The resurrection of Jesus is one of those climactic moments in both Jesus’ life and the Bible’s story of God redeeming a people and restoring His corrupted creation. When we think of Jesus’ resurrection we should consider the past accomplishment, the present effects, and the future realities dawning upon us. As participants of the story through union with Christ, we must see how the resurrection rewrites our past, remakes us in the present, and reshapes our future.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection stand at the center of the “good news” Christians stake their lives upon. The Bible joins the bloody cross and empty tomb as two distinct but inseparable events. And yet, many of our gospel presentations and theological conversations refer to the cross as the place where salvation was fully accomplished and the deal was sealed. Christ’s resurrection is either left out or tacked on as the cherry on top. I’m thankful evangelicals have been “cross-centered” but it’s unfortunate we’ve moved the resurrection to the periphery.
Like any good narrative, the Bible uses literary devices such as metaphors, double-meanings, paradoxes, and irony. The New Testament authors often used irony to draw out the difference between how mankind sees things and how God sees things. Irony shows the sharp contrast between expectations and realities as well as between intent and effect. A third way authors employ irony is to highlight something the readers know that the characters in the story would have been unaware of. In Colossians 2:13-15 Paul provides at least four ironies tied to the cross of Jesus Christ.
On Good Friday, we remember the death of the Son of God on a bloody and horrific cross. It seems paradoxical to call such a day Good Friday. How can a day focused on death and suffering be good? How can Jesus being rejected by his people and tortured on a Roman cross be good? To understand more of this mystery, and what Good Friday is all about, it might help to wade deeper into the pool of theology by considering the meaning of the cross. Ultimate victory was at work in initial defeat.
This coming Sunday begins what the Church has called Holy Week or Passion Week. The time from Palm Sunday to Easter (Resurrection) Sunday has provided Christians with a week to give special attention to the person and work of Christ. It interrupts our normal rhythms and intentionally puts Jesus before us so we can reflect on the events leading up to and including his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. Below is a reading plan for the week, as well as activities and resources to help you leverage this significant week in the Church Calendar.
I love books, whether it’s reading them, talking about them, giving them as gifts, or even flipping through them at the library or bookstore. Books become a conversation partner stirring us to action or stretching our thinking. At any point, I’m reading (or researching) several books, so it’s easy for me to get excited about new books. But, having grown through Mark Vroegop’s preaching, serving under him as a staff member, and getting the chance to see this book develop, I’m especially excited to share with others what I think will be a very helpful gift to the Church. Here are my top 5 reasons (among others) to read Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.
Last night at College Park Church Fishers, we hosted a short forum on prioritization. With all the choices and possible commitments before us every day, and with the pace of life and the constant presence of distractions, it’s an important topic (though very broad). Below are a few of the resources recommended by the panel members.
“The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Charles Spurgeon
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)
The Problem: Life is Hard
Despite the way our culture values “authenticity,” most of us rarely feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and personally about the wounds and pains we carry, the weariness and weakness we feel, the dark thoughts we wrestle with, or the disappointment or frustration with life experienced. While it might be okay to admit generalities like “my life is a mess” or “I’m struggling along,” to say how and why we are fragile or broken, to confess our sins, or to share our burdens seems a bit too far. It can be an awkward moment of transparency in a world of surface-level dialogue.