When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

Plant

The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Book Review – Mansions of the Heart

A few years ago, one of my closest friends gave me a hardback copy of the book Mansions of the Heart by R. Thomas Ashbrook.  He told me it was a life-changing book.  I looked at it, began it, and set it aside because I had so many other books stacked up to read.  A few months later, I was dealing with some life issues that led me to pick it back up again and to read it through.  My friend had been right – it was a life-changer that helped me understand my own life’s journey, my spiritual growth, and where I needed to head on my journey.  Just a few weeks ago, I finished reading through the book for the second time after deciding late this summer that I needed a refresher.

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R. Thomas Ashbrook, the author, who also wrote the novel Presence – What if Jesus Were Really Here?, is the Director of Spiritual Formation for Church Resource Ministries, and he leads Imago Dei, which is CRM’s international spiritual formation ministry.  A Lutheran pastor with twenty-six years of experience in ministry, Tom has degrees in aeronautical engineering, management systems, pastoral ministry, and spiritual formation.  He lives in Centennial, Colorado with his wife Charlotte.

Mansions of the Heart is patterned after St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, a picture of spiritual formation that has helped many followers of Jesus in the five plus centuries since she wrote it.  It’s a picture that helps us understand the journey that we are taking and the process that God uses to transform us throughout our lives.

The book begins by dealing with four of the dead-ends that believers have tried time and time again, to no avail – pursuing personal holiness; service to God; spiritual wholeness; and enlightened study and understanding.  Ashbrook points out that while all of these are good and important, they rely upon our effort rather than abiding in Christ, which is the only real way to experience personal transformation.  Ashbrook uses the seven interior rooms that Teresa described as a road map to help us understand our pasts, our journey with Christ, and how He takes us deeper in our walk with Him along our life’s journey.

Here is a brief summary of each mansion (or room) – each stage of our process:

  • The First Mansion – a new beginning.  This is salvation – the place where we recognize our need for salvation, believe on Jesus, and place our trust in Him and in His work on the cross for our eternal life.
  • The Second Mansion – between a rock and hard place.  This is a place where our faith is deepening, and yet we struggle with temptation and are still engaged somewhat in earthly pursuits.  There is tension between what we want and what the Holy Spirit is revealing to us as we grow.
  • The Third Mansion – following Jesus.  It may take us years to get to this place, but this is the place where we are living consistent lives as disciples.  Scripture, prayer, church attendance, fellowship, a desire to please God – these are all consistent parts of our life at this place.
  • The Fourth Mansion – discovering the love of Jesus – a place of new depth in our walk with Jesus, where we experience a growing intimacy with Him.
  • The Fifth Mansion – longing for oneness with God.  Ashbrook describes it this way:  “The fifth mansion is a time of transition where our focus moves even further from doing to being, from serving to loving. God is calling us to begin to live according to the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17, the call to union with God. Our one desire is for God, Himself.”
  • The Sixth Mansion – the passion of God’s love.  This is where we have fully “fallen in love” with God, and are experiencing deep times in God’s Presence.  When it seems that God is absent, it is deeply painful.  This is where we are learning what it means to truly and fully live “in Christ.”
  • The Seventh Mansion – a life of love in the Trinity.  Ashbrook writes, “The seventh mansion represents the ultimate degree of intimacy with God that one can experience in this life: spiritual union with the Trinity. As is true with each of the prior mansions, this is still a season of our journey, not a milestone or destination. But in this season, we come to experience a complete integration of mind, body, and spirit in the life of Christ. At its fullest, it is the realization of the apostle Paul’s statement, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (cf. Gal. 2:20).”

Ashbrook also devotes a chapter to the experience that John of the Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul” – a season of loss, of dryness, of feeling that God is absent and that His voice cannot be heard.  That chapter alone is powerful and helpful.

For each mansion/season, the author walks through several important issues for that season, including our heart’s desire, key activities, what ministry will look like to us, how our prayer lives will change, how the enemy will most often attack us, and finally, keys for growth in that time.

You can purchase the Kindle edition here.  If you are serious about spiritual formation and about your journey with Jesus, this book is a great addition to your library.

Fear or Faith?

Everyone who has walked with Jesus for any length of time knows that we’re not supposed to fear anything or anyone.

After all, the Bible is filled with “fear not’s.”

And it seems like every time the disciples were afraid, Jesus asked them why they had so little faith.

The truth is that when the sun is shining and life is going well, it’s easy to “fear not.”  It’s also easy to tell others who are dealing with fear to just straighten up and stop fearing.

But the sun doesn’t always shine in our lives.  And the older you get, the more you realize that life doesn’t always go well.  In fact, the older you get, the more you realize that so many things that you thought had control over are really outside of your grasp.

Life can change in an instant.

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On Tuesday, I had to make a trip with one of my best friends.  On our way into Altoona, we found traffic slowed to a crawl on I-99.  It looked like a car had rear-ended a trailer being towed by a pickup truck, knocking the ATV, a generator, gas cans, and other items off of the trailer.  The car was sitting in the median strip, its hood knocked back over the windshield of the car, the front bumper of the car smashed in.  Beside the car, a woman was on a stretcher.  EMT’s were leaning over her, working on her and getting ready to move her to an ambulance.

I don’t know who the woman was or what her story was.  We never saw who the driver of the pickup truck was.  But I’m sure neither of them were planning on being in that accident when they got up that morning.

My friend and I had been talking about how I’m dealing with facing surgery and some other stressors that have been going on in life.  Then we saw the accident.

It was a reminder that life can change in an instant.  And there is so much over which we have no control.

As we talked, he reminded me, however, that we CAN control how we respond.  We CAN control how we face whatever comes our way.  We CAN control where we focus our attention.

We can focus our attention on uncertainty, on the darkness that is at work in this world, on the situations that are beyond our control, on the people that seek to control us, on fear and on all that causes fear.

Or, we can focus our attention on the One Who is unchanging, the One who holds all things in His hands, the One whose hands were pierced on our behalf, the One who is Light in this dark world and who shines in the darkness, the One who works to bring good out of every situation that is beyond our control, the One to whom every knee will one day bow – the One who has conquered death and the grave and fear.  The One who loves us perfectly – the One whose love can drive away all fear, if we will walk in the revelation of that perfect love.

We can choose fear.

It’s easy to choose fear.  All you have to do is look at the news, look at the economy, look at the uncertainty, look at our own frailty, look at the divisiveness around us, look at the dangers that surround us.

Or we can choose faith in the One who walks with us through the deepest valleys, into the darkest shadows – the One who casts all fear away.

It’s easy to choose Jesus.  All you have to do is look to Him.  Look to Him in silence, in solitude, in His Word, in listening to and participating in worship, in obedience, in submission.  Just begin to look – He will give you the strength to look up.

What will you choose today?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99 plus postage!  For ordering information, contact me at don@donwhunter.com

“People Are Idiots!”

I used to say and think that all the time.

(I am slowly re-programming my mind.  I want to see people the way my Father sees them.  I don’t want to judge people.  That’s a subject for another blog.)

The reality is that people (me included) sometimes do dumb things.  Really dumb things.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Pennsylvania State Police Chaplains’ Conference for the first time.  It was a great experience.  I had the opportunity to meet a number of other chaplains and some State Troopers.  I also learned a lot about police procedures, investigations, and even forensics.  And, I learned that people who commit crimes are often caught because they make dumb mistakes.

I will never forget a statement that one of the instructors made as he taught:  “Don’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.”  He was talking about how people who are committing crimes tend to think irrationally and make unwise choices, which often result in their being caught.

Thinking Man

That same statement applies to life in a lot of different situations.

It applies to our lives when we give in to temptation.  We think irrationally about the outcome of giving in.

It applies to our lives when we believe lies – lies about ourselves, about others, even lies about God.  We think irrationally about what is actually true.

It applies to our lives when we live in the shadow of wounds that we have received.  We think irrationally about our identity.

It applies to our lives when we live in fear.  We think irrationally about God’s love (which casts out fear) and about possible outcomes.

Don’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.

Don’t expect an addict, in the grip of addiction, to do what is rational.

Don’t expect someone whose soul is wounded and whose perspective is therefore distorted to respond rationally.

Don’t expect the person you’re trying to help to respond rationally to your advice, your aid, your comfort -whatever you have to offer – if they are not really in place to receive what you are able to offer.

That may sound like jaded thinking, but it’s honesty.  When you deal with people, you have be wise in how you deal with them.  You have to take the time to listen, to observe, to understand.  And you can’t let your expectations of how they should respond or what you think is rational keep you from loving them, despite their irrational choices.

The good news?  I can’t expect irrational thinking to produce rational results.  However, I can always expect that God is at work.  And I can always expect that Jesus can redeem even the worst of messes, the worst of choices, the most irrational decisions.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences.  And it doesn’t mean that those who make irrational choices won’t suffer because of their choices.

But God loves us, even when we make irrational choices.

In fact, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We live in a world in which we are surrounded by people making unwise and irrational choices.

But each one of them is a person for whom Jesus died, a person God loves.

So when you’re dealing with that frustrating person today – remember, if he or she is in a place where they are thinking irrationally, don’t expect that they will make rational choices or respond to your help rationally.

But don’t give up them.  Jesus hasn’t.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

“Don’t Judge Me!”

I don’t hear it quite as much recently, but a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was saying “don’t judge me…” for just about everything – eating ice cream, wearing pajama pants in public, eating weird combinations of things, cheering for a certain sports team, watching certain TV shows, etc.  It was usually meant as a fun way of saying “let me do my thing, even though I realize it may look weird to you!”

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The truth is, though, that none of us like to be judged.

However…even though we don’t like to be judged, and as followers of Jesus we know it’s wrong to judge others, the truth is that if we’re honest, most of us judge others fairly often.  We usually don’t express it out loud, but we can think some pretty harsh things.  (Well, I’m confessing I do that more than I should.  Probably none of you ever do that, right???!!!)

But judging people is dangerous for our souls – more dangerous than we may realize.

I was reading a devotional from Ted Dekker’s “The Forgotten Way” today when I read something that helped me understand this more clearly.  So just to be clear, this is not original with me.  But it was such a strong realization that I wanted to share it with you.

Jesus warned us against judging others in Matthew 7:1-5, where he said, “Stop judging others.  Before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye, get the telephone pole out of your own eye.”  (That’s the HP version – “Hunter Paraphrase.”)

But why is judging so bad?

Ted Dekker helped me realize something about judging that I had never seen before in Scripture.

In Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

Think about that.  The fruit of that tree was the knowledge of what was good and what was evil – in other words, the fruit of that tree was judgment.  Not just knowing the difference, but deciding what was good and evil.

Dekker puts it this way: 

“Yeshua (Jesus) made it plain:  when you judge others, a plank of offense blocks your sight.  When you begin to see, your might be surprised to discover that your whole life is full of judgment against people, things, places, nations, groups, and above all, yourself.

Why?  Because the flesh was born out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which is condemnation.  Thus the flesh loves grievance and is addicted to negativity, which is its food for survival.

But if you remove that plank of offense against others, you will see clearly.  Surrendering judgment frees you from its harsh judgment of you.”

Do you get that?  Our very sin nature was born out of the fruit of judgment!  So when we judge (which is, in essence, taking the position of God over others), we are feeding our sinful nature and not our nature as a new creation in Christ.  In judging, we are choosing to live as who we once were, not who we are in Christ!

When you see that clearly, you begin to understand that judging is one of the most harmful things that you can do to your own soul.

“Ahh,” but I hear some of you say, “but what about discernment?  Aren’t we supposed to discern?  Isn’t discernment even a spiritual gift???”

Quite true. 

Let me suggest an important difference.  Discernment, which is of the Spirit, is based on hearing from God, and will not result in us treating the other person with anything other than love.

Judgment, which is of the flesh, is based on condemning others, and will result in us acting out of a critical spirit or at least looking at others out of a critical spirit, rather than out of love. 

In other words, discernment reflects the Father’s heart; judgment reflects the flesh, and a pharisaical heart.

Another way to consider it:  Discernment is restorative and protective; judgment is punitive and often takes offense – or takes the offensive.  (I know; I’ve done plenty of judging.)

I know, I know.  “But what about…what does that look like…how about…”

This is a blog, not a chapter in a book.  What I’ve tried to give you this morning is food for thought about our thought lives, not a completely developed theology or a guide to how to walk this out.

Let me suggest this for today – take a few moments and ask the Spirit, “how do I judge others, and myself, without realizing it?  How badly am I hurting my own soul when I do that?”


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Being Silent

On Friday, I promised to begin sharing some simple but practical ways to “be” – to just spend time with God and to enjoy Him, without having to be busy “doing” for Him or serving Him.

In Friday’s blog, I shared with you how to “soak.” Today, I want to share a similar practice – just without the music!  It’s the spiritual discipline of silence.

We live in a noise-filled world – probably noisier than at any time in history.  Thanks to Pandora, Sirius XM, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, YouTube, and a host of other online services, for very little money any of us can enjoy basically any kind of music we want at any time – a situation that is unprecedented in history.  (I can remember growing up when you had to listen to either what was on the radio or what tapes you could carry to listen to in your Walkman.  How the world has changed!)

And it’s not just music that’s available to us. 

If you want to learn how to do almost anything, you can look it up on YouTube.  If you want to grow as a person, there are TED talks.  If you want to grow in your walk with Jesus, you have podcasts at your fingertips.  If I had the time, I could listen to sermons by Bill Johnson, Mark Batterson, Danny Silk, Andy Stanley, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, my brother Dave, Tim Keller, and a ton of others every week.  The problem isn’t that I don’t have choices – it’s that I have too many choices and not enough time.

Then there are audio books, the radio, and the list goes on and on and on.

If that’s not enough to intrude on your thoughts, there’s that wonderful thing that we cannot do without – our cell phones.  Now, you can’t get away from noise and from people, no matter where you go! 

I used to look forward to trips, partly because when I was in the car, I was “out of the office.”  No one could bother me, and I had a lot of time to think and to process.  But no more.  With our wonderful cellular technology, we are reachable all the time, almost everywhere.

Our society, our culture, and our lifestyles have almost completely eliminated silence from our lives.  In fact, many of us can’t even go to sleep in silence – we need to have music on or the TV on or a sound machine going in order to fall asleep.

So why silence?

Silence is simply one way of obeying the biblical command to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

In sitting in silence, we are deliberately quieting all the voices that shout for our attention.  We are sitting, waiting on God.

And when we wait on God, in the stillness and silence, that is where we hear His voice the most often.

(If you struggle to hear God’s voice and know His will, one place to start looking for answers is this place of silence.  Do you ever sit still and deliberately take time to just be quiet?  For more than, oh, say, 45 seconds???)

I promised you practicality, so here’s how to practice silence:

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you will be undisturbed.  (You CAN do this, even if you are a mother with young children.  Sit in the garage in your car for 15 minutes.  Find a closet.  Go to the basement or the attic.  Susanna Wesley, who had 10 children and lived in a one-room home, promised God she would spend one hour with Him for every hour she spent on entertainment.  In order to do it, she had to sit in the corner with her apron over her head while her children played.  But she was committed to being with God and hearing God, so she did what she had to do.  You and I CAN do this.)
  2. Put your phone on “Airplane Mode.”  (Seriously.  And yes, you can do this.  If someone needs to get in touch with you, they will leave a message.  You can survive without being connected for 30 minutes.  We used to do it all the time before cell phones.)  Don’t put on any music or background noise.  Turn everything off, and prepare to be silent.
  3. Close your eyes.  (I know, this sounds a lot like soaking.  It is.  But being silent gives you space to be attentive to God.  Listen quietly.  Just sit in the silence, and wait on God.)
  4. Have a pad of paper nearby.  If things start coming to mind – “I have to remember to call this person…I have to do this…I can’t forget that…” then just write it down, set the pen down, and go back to being still.
  5. If you want, pray a simple prayer of declaration.  Similar, again, to soaking, pray something like “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Or “Father, I just want to be with you.”  Or Samuel’s prayer is pretty powerful – “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
  6. Now just be with the Lord.  Just sit with Him.  Let Him love you.  If He speaks, listen and welcome His voice, but the point isn’t active listening.  The point is to sit (or recline, or whatever you’re comfortable with) and just be with Him.  Be still and let Him love you, and if He desires, speak to you.

That’s it!  Not that difficult at all, really.  It’s just a matter of stopping, removing distractions, and choosing to be silent.  As with soaking, I recommend “small bites.”  Start with 2-5 minutes.  (You could even do that a couple of times during the day – right after each meal, for example.)  Work towards 15-30 minutes, 3-4 times per week.

And here’s what you can expect – when God has your attention, He will speak in the silence.  He will encourage you.  He will challenge you.  He will respond if you ask Him questions.

In other words, in the silence, you will encounter Him.

Why not begin today?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Being or Doing?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a little time in a message I preached on “Why Am I Here?” talking about the importance of being versus doing.  Here’s a quick summary of a couple of important points:

  • We are human beings, not human doings.  (This quote is not original with me.  I’ve heard and read it a couple of different places, although most recently on a DVD teaching on Soul Care by Dr. Rob Reiner.)
  • In the creation story of Genesis 2:7-10, God created Adam and put him in the garden to enjoy the beauty and to fellowship with God (to BE) before God instructed Adam to DO anything else.
  • In Mark 3:13-15, (NIV) Jesus calls the Twelve.  Mark tells the story like this:  “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”  The interesting this is that Jesus called them to BE with Him, and then what would follow out of their being with Him would be their being sent out on mission.  We often put mission – doing – ahead of being with Jesus.  But as Jesus pointed out in John 15, unless we learn to abide/remain in Him – to BE with Him – we can DO nothing of any eternal significance.  So again, doing must come before being.

As I’ve thought about this more over the past few weeks, and had opportunities to have conversations with people about it, I’ve realized that while this is good truth, it’s difficult truth.  And it’s difficult for a couple of reasons.

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First, most of us just don’t know how to “be.”  It sounds cool to say we are “human beings not human doings” but the truth is that most of us are so busy and live life at such a hectic pace that there’s no room in our lives to simply “be.”  And if there were room, and if there were time, I’m not sure that most of us would know how to “be.” 

(A personal example:  a few years ago, I was taking a course on Spiritual Formation in Redding, California.  On the first morning of the retreat, we were sent out to find a place by ourselves on the campus where we were.  We were not allowed to take anything with us – no Bible, no journal, no phone, no notebooks, no nothing at all.  We were given a few phrases to meditate on:  “God loves me,” “God is with me,” and “God is for me.”  That’s all.  Then we were left alone for an hour and a half.  It was one of the longest hour and a half time periods of my life!  I wasn’t used to just “being” with God.)

For many of us, to “be” is just something that has never been defined, that has never been modeled, that we’ve never been taught how to do, that no one ever felt was an important part of helping us grow as disciples, and that doesn’t come naturally.

Second, “doing” is much easier than “being” when we’ve spent our lives “doing.”  We live in a culture in which achievement is rewarded.  We live in a time when smartphones make to-do lists and organization accessible to all of us.  In school, we’re graded on what we achieve – how well we do.  (Well, we used to be…it seems to be more about participation trophies and standardized testing prep than actually achieving anything, but that’s another blog post.)

So…how exactly do you “be”?  And what should the balance be between being and doing, when we’ve spent most of our lives being taught how to do and being rewarded for doing?

What do you think?  For my answers, stay tuned!  🙂


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

The Day After Easter

Today is the day after Easter – what used to be known as “Easter Monday.” 

For the first Christ-followers, the day after the first Easter was a day full of wonder and expectancy.  The women at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning had seen the empty tomb, and had even seen the resurrected Jesus.  Some of the disciples had seen Jesus on that first Easter Sunday evening.  For those who had seen Him, there was the excited anticipation of possibly seeing Him again, of wondering when He might show up and what His plan would be.  For those who had not seen Him yet after the resurrection, there was a mixture of excitement, doubt, wondering if it could be true, and much more.

For the Pharisees and other religious leaders, and for Pilate, there was scrambling.  It was time to go into cover-up mode.  Time to start spreading lies about the disciples stealing the body, trying to discredit witnesses, trying to preserve their own positions and authority.

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And for many in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, that first Easter Monday was no different than any other day.  Some hadn’t heard that Jesus had died; many had heard that He had, but didn’t know He had risen.  Some had heard that He had risen, but didn’t believe.

It’s interesting to consider the perspectives of people at the time.  But here’s a more important question – what does the day after Easter mean to you?

As you begin your Monday morning, what difference did Easter make for you?

Was Easter Sunday simply a reason to attend church for the first time in a very great while?  Was it an excuse to dress up for a rare occasion?  Was it an excuse to get the family to come along to church?  Was it a feel-good opportunity for you to ease your conscience in some way?

Or was Easter Sunday more than that?

Was it a reminder of the fact that you were bought with a price?  Was it reminder of your value to God?  Did it emphasize for you the lengths to which God would go to pursue a relationship with you?  Did Easter Sunday remind you of how much have to be grateful for?  Was it reminder of the incredible truth of the empty tomb, and all that the empty tomb means?

As you begin your week today, what difference did yesterday make in your life?

If you examine yourself honestly, the answer could tell you a lot.  Food for thought as we begin a new week.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Something Happened On The Way to Jerusalem

(Note – this blog was first preached as a devotional at the Ridgway High Rise on April 9, 2017)

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  Almost everyone who reads this, whether Christian or not, is at least vaguely familiar with the story of Palm Sunday – of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to the praises of his disciples and the crowd, who shouted “Hosanna” and waived palm branches in worship.

Sometimes, with a popular story like Palm Sunday, we miss an event immediately preceding or following it that can also be transformative.  I think that’s the case with Palm Sunday.  In Mark’s gospel, Mark tells us the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who encountered Jesus while Jesus was traveling towards Jerusalem in preparation for the Triumphal Entry.  Here’s the story, from Mark 10:

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Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.  {Note:  Jericho is about 21 miles from Jerusalem.} When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.  {Blind beggars were considered not worthy of attention.  They were insignificant to most people – either an annoyance, or people to be avoided.  The blind were excluded from worship in the temple.  The name Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus” or literally, son of impurity.  We know from an encounter that Jesus and the disciples had in John 9 that the common assumption that most Jews made was the blind were being judged by God – that either the blind person or their parents were sinners.} 

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” 

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”  Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. 

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.”  Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.  As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead.  Mark 10:46-11:1 (NLT)

What I love about this story is that Bartimaeus was blind, ignored by others, judged by others, an outcast, someone who was cast aside and forgotten.  Most people either looked past him or, if they saw him, considered him to be insignificant and unworthy of their time and attention.

But not Jesus.

Jesus looked at Bartimaeus and saw a man created in God’s image – a man worth loving, a man worth noticing, a man worth investing His time in.

Have you ever felt like you were forgotten; overlooked; ignored; alone?

Here’s the good news:

Jesus has not forgotten you.

Jesus has not overlooked you.

Jesus has not ignored you.

You are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  He will never leave you and will never forsake you. 

In fact, Jesus desires to meet you in the midst of your need, as He did for Bartimaeus, and bring healing to you – physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

“Was blind, but now I see.”

Amazing grace!


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?

For a long time, “WWJD” was a major Christian cultural theme.  What Would Jesus Do?  You could find it on bracelets, T-shirts, bumper stickers, cards, stickers, necklaces, coffee mugs, Bible covers, children’s toys, stuffed animals, jewelry boxes – basically any of the little trinkets that the aisles and end-caps of Christian bookstores are always filled with.

Despite the over-commercialization of “WWJD” it’s a pretty thought-provoking slogan.  It can be a very helpful question to ask yourself in a situation – “What would Jesus do?”  (Although I think it’s probably more helpful to ask Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” and wait and listen to Him!  But that’s for another post!)

However, on the flip side of “WWJD” is an interesting question – “What WOULDN’T Jesus Do?”  Because that question can also add some layers to our understanding and to our insight.

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Here are a few examples, based on the story of Jesus dealing with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:

  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus WOULDN’T join with religious, pharisaical-type people who judge or condemn someone for his/her sin without caring for that individual as a person.  (Jesus ignored the Pharisees, until finally, he called them out on their own sins by calling for the person without sin to cast the first stone.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T publicly shame someone for his/her sin.  (The woman was naked and ashamed.  Jesus treated her with dignity and love.  He protected her from the accusations and judgments of others.  How quick are we to jump on the bandwagon of accusations?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T put rules above relationships.  (The Pharisees were right; but Jesus was more interested in restoring the woman’s relationship to her Father than in judging her for her sin.)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T dismiss the woman without ministering to her soul.  (She was full of shame, wounded, embarrassed, exposed, judged – and He didn’t avoid the issue.  He asked her where her accusers where, and then freed her from her guilt and shame by declaring “Neither do I condemn you.”  He was the only one who was sinless, who could have cast the first stone – and He set her free.  How often do we feel justified in casting stones when we should be setting people free?)
  • Based on the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus WOULDN’T ignore the hard issue of her sin.  He did tell her “go and sin no more.”  That was courageous and significant – in loving her, He didn’t ignore the fact that she needed to make changes in her life.  And loving someone means that on the one hand, we don’t judge them; but on the other hand, if we are in relationship with someone, we cannot ignore obvious sin issues in their lives – we need to be courageous and lovingly call them out on those issues.  (Here’s the issue for most of us, though – we generally tend to skip the first several things Jesus did, and we tend to go straight to the “go and sin no more.”  Based on what Jesus did and didn’t do, I don’t think we have any right to tell someone “go and sin no more” if we haven’t first loved them, entered relationship with them, protected them from shame and abuse by others, extended them grace and forgiveness, and demonstrated that we don’t condemn them.)

So when you’re faced with a person or situation that creates difficulty in knowing what to do, go ahead and ask yourself “what would Jesus do?”

But consider also asking yourself “what WOULDN’T Jesus do?”  It may just open your eyes to a different angle of response.