Monday, April 28, 2014



[Photo of an embroidery not yet finished]

 “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.”
 —Psalm 57:2

I don’t know about you, but in my closet I have several undone projects: a baby sweater half knit, several counted cross-stitch endeavors, a new craft idea with supplies I bought after viewing something on Pinterest.

I like to think I have completed many more things than I have lying around waiting. But, I believe most of us get interrupted, lose interest, find a problem we don’t want to deal with, or find the process too difficult—long before some things we start ever get finished.

Fortunately for the outcome of our spiritual formation, God always finishes what He begins. He intends to finish the work in our lives that He has begun. Philippians 1:6 says we can be:

“…confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
We’ve all seen the T-shirt slogan, “Be Patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” It always evokes a smile. But, no matter how accurate that slogan may be, the statement of that truth by itself actually conceals the other more important truth that He will finish what He intends to accomplish in and through us. [Photo of a 'God Isn't Finished With Me Yet' tee shirt]

What projects we are when He starts! The incredible truth is that He knew what a trial we’d give Him way before He even began His work in us. He saw with us what He saw with the generation of Noah.

In Genesis 8:21 we read that God said in His heart:

“‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.’”

He knows what we think and how we act. Nevertheless, God loves us anyway. He sent His precious son, Jesus, to die for our hopeless sinful natures. And, He still means to finish His work in us.

This process of finishing what He started is called “sanctification.” The sanctification process starts at our salvation and ends when we finish this life. Day by day, month by month, year by year, He works at finishing the project in us that He has begun.

Often the process produces pain and suffering. Sometimes when He seems to have laid us on the shelf unfinished, He is doing His best work. He uses a plethora of materials and methods.

Be assured of God’s love in the midst of the careful, creative, painstaking ways in which He deals with you and says in effect, “You’re worth all the work I have put into you.”

When we see each other inside the future Kingdom, we can know that God has brought all things He has begun to fruition in our lives. Praise Him!



Monday, April 21, 2014

Early in the Morning


[Painting of the empty tomb on Resurrection morning]

If I give you the first line of some familiar stories, let’s see how many you can name:

  1. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

  2. “Call me Ishmael.”

How about a more modern one?

  1. “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair.”

One more:

  1. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…”

This last one, a verse of Scripture, especially struck me one Easter as I staggered into the shower at 5:30 a.m. It was another Easter and it was still dark. As I showered, I thought of all those Easter mornings: dressing in new finery, eating a hearty breakfast, or at least having a brisk cup of coffee, and then heading out to a Sunrise Service for a celebration. But, this wasn’t what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary experienced.

Maybe you can recall some “early morning” events that resembled more the mood of these women. The task before them sprung from deep sorrow and a need to do something deliberate, though unpleasant.

They probably threw on their clothes and skipped their usual breakfast patterns that morning—much like we do on mornings when we have to rush out with the garbage bins before the truck comes, or when we have to sleepily drive to the airport for an early flight, or when we hurry to get to the hospital for an unpleasant procedure.

The women came to the Tomb out of deep love and duty, with spirits depressed and terribly disappointed. They came to the Garden devastated by loss. They may not have slept, or done so fitfully. What they found, they certainly hadn’t expected.

I’ll let Max Lucado tell his version of the rest of the story from John 20:1-18. 1

It isn’t hope that leads the women up the mountain to the tomb. It is duty. Naked devotion. They expect nothing in return…

Mary and Mary knew a task had to be done—Jesus’ body had to be prepared for burial. Peter didn’t offer to do it. Andrew didn’t volunteer. The forgiven adulteress or healed lepers are nowhere to be seen. So the two Marys decide to do it.

I wonder if halfway to the tomb they had sat down and reconsidered. What if they’d looked at each other and shrugged, ‘What’s the use?’ What if they had given up? What if one had thrown up her arms in frustration and bemoaned, ‘I’m tired of being the only one who cares. Let Andrew do something for a change. Let Nathaniel show some leadership.’

Whether or not they were tempted to, I’m glad they didn’t quit. That would have been tragic. You see, we know something they didn’t. We know the Father was watching. Mary and Mary thought they were alone. They weren’t. They thought their journey was unnoticed. They were wrong. God knew. He was watching them walk up the mountain. He was measuring their steps. He was smiling at their hearts and thrilled at their devotion. And he had a surprise waiting for them…

Why did the angel move the stone? For whom did he roll away the rock?..The stone was moved—not for Jesus—but for the women; not so Jesus could come out, but so the women could see in!

‘Go quickly and tell his followers, Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.’

Mary and Mary don’t have to be told twice. They turn and start running to Jerusalem. The darkness is gone. The sun is up. The Son is out. But the Son isn’t finished.

One surprise still awaits them. ‘Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings.” The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. God and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there.”

The God of surprises strikes again. It’s as if he said, ‘I can’t wait any longer. They came this far to see me; I’m going to drop in on them.’

God does that for the faithful. Just when the womb gets too old for babies, Sarai gets pregnant. Just when the failure is too great for grace, David is pardoned. And just when the road is too dark for Mary and Mary, the angel glows and the Savior shows and the two women will never be the same.

The lesson? Three words. “Don’t give up.”

Is the trial dark? Don’t sit.
Is the road long? Don’t stop.
Is the night black? Don’t quit.
God is watching.

For all you know right at this moment he may be telling the angel to move the stone.

The check may be in the mail.
The apology may be in the making.
The job contract may be on the desk.

Don’t quit. For if you do, you may miss the answer to your prayers.

God still sends angels. “And God still moves stones.”


Oh, yes. The answers to the questions at the beginning of this blog post:

  1. A Tale of Two Cities—Charles Dickens

  2. Moby Dick—Herman Melville

  3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day—Judith Viorst

  4. John 20:1


1 from Lucado, Max. He Still Moves Stones. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ©1993, 1999.



Monday, April 14, 2014

What Can You Do?


[Painting of Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet]

 “‘Leave her alone.’ said Jesus.
‘Why are you bothering her?
She has done a beautiful thing for me…
She did what she could.
She poured perfume for my burial.’”
 —Mark 14:6, 8

Jesus reprimanded those who complained about this woman’s gesture and told them that what she had done in anointing His body for burial would be remembered wherever the Gospel is preached. “She did what she could.”

In John 19:23-24 we find these words:

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.”

We don’t know the source of that seamless garment, but it must have been the finest of all of Jesus’ possessions. Jewish tradition called for a mother to make a robe like this for a son when he left home. Did Jesus’ mother, Mary, make it for Him? Indeed, if she did, “She did what she could.”

In Luke 23:50-53, the Scripture records:

“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.”

This man had come at a risk of his own life and credibility with the Jewish leaders. With determination and without fear, “He did what he could.”

In the events of this momentous week—Holy Week—we also read in Mark 16:1-2:

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb.”

It could be said of these women that out of deep love for Christ, “They did what they could.”

Just as Jesus gave Mary from Bethany the honor of being remembered wherever the Gospel is preached, so Joseph and the women at the tomb are honored with their stories. At the time, they probably thought each gift they gave was an insignificant part of the story. But, we can be certain that God saw and rewarded each one of them.

Out of love for Christ and for His sacrifice for you, what gift of time, talent, and treasure will you give? Will it be said of you, “She did what she could.”



Monday, April 7, 2014

Muddy Feet


[Photo of muddy footprints]

 “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
 —John 13:5

“Don’t track that mud in here! You’ll mess up my clean house!”

That certainly sounds like a mom’s admonition. Right? Children, or otherwise careless people, forget to stop and wipe their shoes. Thus, they bring inside the filth that clings to their footware.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus left His disciples with a powerful picture of His love and an example of servant leadership. He took a towel and washed His disciples’ feet.

Jesus told them that they didn’t need a bath—they were already clean and part of His Kingdom. But, they had been tracking “mud” into His house by walking around with sin in their lives. He wanted to demonstrate to them that He could wash that sin clean, as well.

What kinds of “mud” do we know the disciples had on their feet?

Well, we know from John 20:25 that Thomas didn’t always trust what Jesus said. Thomas wanted first-hand proof.

We know from Mark 10:3 that James and John had an issue with the need for recognition. They wanted to have seats in Heaven on either side of God’s throne!

From Mark 9:5, we know Peter was impetuous.

Jesus would have known the sin the others carried around with them, too—sin that He would gladly wash clean from their lives.

When we enter our Lord’s house, like the disciples we track in the sin of our lives. Some have made it a practice to confess their sin before they enter, serve, and mingle with their Christian brothers and sisters. “Keeping a short account with God” for those people means that because they are aware of their tendencies to sin, they frequently come to Him for cleansing.

The practice in some churches to offer a time of formal confession—both private and corporate—during the Sunday worship service, serves to figuratively “wash the feet” of all in attendance each week. Other churches periodically and symbolically practice actual foot washing, where those in attendance literally wash each other’s feet.

We must remember that Jesus paid a tremendous price for our sin so that we could be thoroughly clean. He wants to hear our confession and by doing so hear us say, “Lord Jesus, wash my feet. I want to arrive at Your House clean and be welcomed and effective for Your kingdom.”