Category Archives: discipleship

Growing Backwards: Thoughts on General Revelation

I hate to admit it, but for a long time, I lived like I had outgrown general revelation. In college, I remember taking a course called Faith and Reason that taught me the words and corresponding concepts of general revelation and special revelation.

General revelation refers to the knowledge about God that can be gained through observation of the world He created all around us. Special revelation refers to the fuller knowledge of God that can only be revealed by God’s Word through the power and insight of the Holy Spirit.

At the time when I learned these concepts, the names said it all. General revelation sounded, well,  mundane and general, compared to special revelation, whose name carried an esoteric and elite tone.

Right before college, I was brought into the world of special revelation, though the words and concepts didn’t click for a few more years. Before my conversion, the Word of God was merely a confusing reading from the lectionary on Christmas and Easter; however, with the indwelling of the Spirit, the Bible was no longer idle words for me, but my very life (Deuteronomy 32:47). Somewhere shortly thereafter, I inadvertently set general and special revelation at odds with one another.

In my mind, general revelation was like an old step stool, necessary only until special revelation was received and allowed me to stand fully in awe of God. General revelation was for spiritual babies who had not yet seen the bigger show of the gospel. In light of these unspoken, almost subconscious thoughts, I pushed general revelation into the attic where it gathered dust.

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A dozen or so years after my conversion, I have found myself growing backwards, pulling general revelation back out.

Don’t get me wrong, my view toward special revelation has not changed an iota. God’s fullest revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus is truly the masterpiece, the crux, the keystone, the cornerstone of my life.  I continue to proclaim the words the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter at the inception of Christendom. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12. 

However, over time and with continual hearing (in bodies still ravaged by the dying flesh) we can grow accustomed to the grace of the gospel. We can begin living in a world marked by of courses.  “Of course God came to the earth and redeemed humanity. Of course He set His love on us.” Unfortunately, special revelation can begin to sound matter-of-fact or ho-hum to us, as familiarity tends to breed contempt.

When I find myself in these places, more often than not, God uses general revelation to snap me out the world of of course and back into the world of wonder at special revelation.

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The more I observe the bugs and butterflies,  the landscapes and sunsets that fall into the realm of general revelation, the more special special revelation seems. The God who created an insanely elaborate circulatory system in the giraffe to allow blood to flow against gravity to its head is the God who shed His own blood for me?  The God who mapped out the incredible migratory abilities of monarchs migrated to earth to speak to me?

General revelation reminds me of the immensity and ingenuity of a limitless Creator God. When God becomes more vast and more imaginative, more complex and more mysterious, the reality of special revelation becomes more amazing.

Today, on Earth Day, I pray that we would be Christians who lean fully into the world general revelation that makes us live more in awe of special revelation.

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The Seeing Ministry of Jesus

We hear often about the preaching ministry of Jesus or the healing ministry of Jesus or the discipling ministry of Jesus. And well we should. However, each of these has its beginning in the seeing ministry of Jesus. 

How Jesus Saw

The Greek word “horao,” which is most often translated as “see,” carries deeper meaning than mere physical sight. It implies perception, discernment, and experience. This one word is used a dizzying 138 times in the gospel of Matthew alone. Obviously, Matthew sought to capture something about Jesus and his ministry of sight.

In Matthew 4, directly after his season of temptation in the wilderness, the first thing Jesus did in his public ministry was to simply see.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen (Matthew 4:18).

While that may seem like an unnecessary detail, the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, intended these words for purpose. Fishermen were a dime a dozen by the Sea of Galilee. That would be like saying to a person from Great Britain, “Walking into the stadium, I saw a soccer fan.” Of course, he saw fishermen. But Jesus saw these particular fishermen. He perceived them, saw their hearts, and acknowledged their existence in a way that no one else had. He saw them for who they were on the surface, but he saw far beyond that to the level of their souls. He knew who He intended to make them into and His seeing changed their sight.

Later, when Jesus was on his itinerant preaching and healing circuit with these same disciples whom He had seen, Matthew tells us the following.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:36–38).

In every town and village He entered, Jesus saw the crowds. Yes, he saw them physically, but He also saw them spiritually. He saw their troubled souls and their leaderless-ness. He saw their spiritual hunger and their broken condition, and His sight stirred his soul to pray.

In fact, just before this summary statement regarding Jesus’s sight, Matthew shares with us the story of Jesus seeing a woman who was hidden in shame and fear from her chronic bleeding condition. She had a plan to sneak up behind Jesus and merely touch his garment to be healed and then sneak away. But, Jesus, in His compassion, saw her.

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22).

Perhaps more powerful than the miraculous stopping of her decades-long bleeding was the reality that Jesus saw her and acknowledged her. In fact, He named her daughter, using it in the same cherished, doting way the ruler spoke of his own physical daughter just moments before. 

How We See

While subbing in my son’s second grade classroom last week, I experienced a profound moment with the Lord. As it was a Friday, I tasked with administering a slew of tests. By the third test, some of the children were hitting a scholastic stride, but some were struggling. One of these little girls came up to me in tears later and asked to have lunch with me. She said she was not having a very good day, and my selfish heart which was craving solitude melted. We sat and chatted about her water bottle, her vacation, her hair clip, and about twenty other seemingly insignificant things. About fifteen minutes later, she skipped happily off to recess, leaving me with my thoughts.

She simply needed to be seen. Really seen. And known. And in those quiet moments, the Lord reminded me that I was no different.

My heart has simply found more sophisticated ways to try to fill that same need to be seen. Body image, significant work, approval and rewards. All of these are my ways to be seen. I had to wipe away tears from eyes as the students came charging back in from recess. I was just like them. We all wanted to be seen.

Thankfully, we have a seeing savior. As those seen and known by the living God, we are invited into His ministry of sight.

While writing to the Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul reminded them that their method of seeing had changed through the gospel.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).

The hospice worker who slows down on her rounds to see my mother-in-law’s caregiving fatigue and asks about her flower arrangements, knowing it brings her relief from the harsh realities of debilitating disease. 

The counselor who sees his or her client’s scars and creates a safe place to process their pain.

The after-school care worker who sees the last student to be picked up, waiting on his or her parents to come off of a long shift at work as a single parent.

We don’t need a seminary degree or a doctorate in biblical counseling to join our Jesus in the ministry of sight (though those are great things to have). Each one of us is called to be conformed to the image of Jesus, the One who sees.

Jesus, remind us each today that you see us as no one else does. As those who are seen and loved in Christ, give us eyes to see as you see. Amen.

A Scriptural Stomachache

We go to the Word of God to settle our souls. We look to fill ourselves with God’s words that are sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:9–10). We rush quickly to grab the promises contained therein. And well we should.

But, read rightly, the Scriptures should also unsettle us. They should stir us up. They should prod us with commands as they protect us with promises. We should sometimes leave our time in the Word with a Scriptural stomach-ache. God’s Word both comforts and confronts.

God’s Word is certainly sweet; however, it is simultaneously a sword and scalpel (Hebrews 4:12–13). We don’t get to choose which one we get when we open the Word. We let the Spirit of God do His painstaking work in us. Sometimes that work feels like a gentle hug, but sometimes it feels like an invasive search light.

Eugene Peterson’s book Eat This Book about a proper approach to the Scriptures is built around the Apostle John’s strange vision in Revelation 10. After seeing a mighty angel come down from heaven and stand with his right foot on the sea and his left on the land open up a scroll and begin preaching, John wanted to take notes. He wanted to record this crazy scene he was witnessing; however, he was instructed to step forward and eat the scroll.

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go take the scroll that is open in the hands of the angel who is standing on the sea and the land… Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:8–9).

While the scene sounds as strange to us as it likely was to John, Peterson’s words regarding the bitterness of the Scriptures deeply resonated with some of my experiences in the Word of God.

“But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book. It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomaches. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.”

Lately, I have been reading the book of Acts with a few groups of women. But rather than reading Luke’s account, I feel like the Holy Spirit has been reading my own lackluster faith back to me.

The early church was marked with expedient obedience, wonder, awe, and expectancy. My own walk with God is often more muted and mundane. Often, I don’t see God doing the same types things because I am not obeying and living with my eyes wide open. While the accounts of the early church first stirred me, the longer I sit in them, I find my heart increasingly sickened by my selfishness and lack of trusting obedience.

I don’t like feeling convicted. It is terribly uncomfortable to be exposed as one who likes to talk and write about the gospel but is slow to share it with others. But God’s Word is doing its good work and beginning to compel me to simple obedience in the spaces where God has placed me. If I want fresh accounts of God’s faithfulness, I will have to step out in clumsy obedience and faith to my neighbors and fellow soccer mommas.

Read slowly and spiritually, the Scriptures should sometimes leave us with a stomachache. The Word of God convicts and exposes, but it will not leave us there. For the sick finally seek the aid of a physician, and the soul sick will run to the gospel medicine offered by the Great Physician.

When was the last time the timeless and timely Word of God left you with a tummy ache?

Being Chased by a Lion

Throughout this entire year, a short phrase from a worship has been running long loops in my heart, mind, and soul.

“Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.”

Typically, I don’t like being chased in any form or fashion; however, a happy exception can be made for the idea of being chased by the goodness of God.

“Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.”

It’s a catchy phrase to a melodic tune. As such, it doesn’t surprise me that I find myself humming it as I vacuum the hallway or singing it as I sit waiting in the carpool line. Yet, I find myself wrestling with what it implies for our lives.

After all, when we think about being chased by the goodness of God, we tend to think of dreams fulfilled, longings met, and successes secured. When we think of goodness chasing us down, we tend to bring our own picture of goodness to bear.

However, the longer I have sat with this phrase and sung this song, the more I realize that God’s goodness running after me tends to look and feel wildly and widely different than I imagine it might.

His goodness does not take the tame, worldly molds I wish it might. Rather, His goodness more often takes the form of a scouring brush or a sharp goad pressing me in ways that I do not initially wish to trod. Sometimes, his goodness running after me seems to take the form of suffering and hardship nipping at my heels as I am seeking to arrive in a place of long-desired comfort and rest.

In C.S. Lewis’s book The Horse and His Boy, the main character Shasta experiences goodness running after him in sharp and even frightening forms.

Throughout his horse back journey, a young boy Shasta has multiple experiences of a lion pursuing him. The lion chases him, forcing them to swim for his life. Then later, the lion chased and even wounded his traveling companion just when they thought they were finally about to reach their destination.

Exhausted, confused, and feeling sorry for himself, Shasta begins to open up to a mysterious companion about all the interruptions and troubles that had seemed to follow him all of his life.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and –”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the Lion….I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” …

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too” (pages 175-176).

All along he thought danger and harm were pursuing him. Yet, the One who was chasing him had been guiding him and pushing him towards his desired end. It did not make sense until much later that the Lion was protecting and providing for his perilous journey.

Just as Aslan pursued Shasta, our God pursues us. Only He does not always chase us with a lottery check or a basket of obvious blessings. His goodness is so much deeper and wider and longer than our small and earthly images of goodness. He chases us with His goodness in varied forms that often do not feel like blessing or prosperity. But his chasing and provision always press us towards the ultimate Good. He keeps us moving toward His glory which is our ultimate good, even when we would prefer an easier, less arduous way.

He stands as a rear guard behind us (Isaiah 52:12 and Isaiah 58:8). He hems us in behind and before (Psalm 139:5). He follows us as a watchful parent trails a child just learning to ride a bike, ready to catch or steer or redirect.

His goodness is indeed running after us, but it is a goodness that barely fits into the tiny boxes of what we typically define as good. His goodness always runs after us, chasing us deeper into the everlasting arms of the only One who is truly good (see Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19).

This Good One runs after us today. May we not miss His goodness and all its sometimes surprising forms.

On Benefits

When I hear benefits, I immediately think of insurance plans, copays, deductibles, and group numbers. Adulthood will do that to you. Thankfully, when the Scriptures talk about benefits, they speak about something far more incredible than insurance plans.

In Psalm 103, David invites both himself and his listeners to consider and count a very different set of benefits.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1–5).

As a celebrated king who reigned during the golden era of Israel’s history, David knew a thing or two about benefits. Yet, when he wrote poems and songs, he did not elaborate on his home or the homage given him; rather, he recounted the spiritual blessings bestowed by God.

Paul, when writing to the Ephesian believers, borrowed the financial language of a city familiar with wealth. However, like David before him, he elaborated on the spiritual blessings that are bestowed on those who trust in God. After a short introduction, he presents his thesis and then unpacks it with countless blessings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

The verses following the aforementioned one are replete with rich examples of the benefits of being in Christ. Verses four to fourteen are littered with words like blessed, lavished, fullness, inheritance, and possession. Yet, Paul does not mention physical comfort or financial peace. Rather, he reminds the Ephesians of the spiritual blessings they have in and through the person of Christ.

In a world where we tend to count our IRA’s, our profits, and our bank accounts, the Scriptures command us to count a very different set of benefits. These will not deplete or decay (see Matthew 6:20–21). They cannot be repossessed or reneged. They don’t wrinkle or ruin with age. Unlike all our physical possessions, they pass with us from this lift on to the next.

Benefits

The benefit of bodies,
Powered by pumping hearts,
The care of the Creator
Who every breath imparts.

An inheritor of language,
Born into a world of words,
Woven wide with wonders
His goodness undergirds.

Buoyed by borrowed breath,
Blessed by first and second birth.
Worthless and unworthy, yet
Esteemed at His infinite worth.

Counted among your family
Though failing countless times.
Assurance and endurance,
Separation from our crimes.

Forget not all His benefits;
Rather, recount and rehearse.
For us to receive HIs blessing,
Our Christ took on the curse.

Earthly blessings are bonus.
Hold them lightly as such.
But these eternal benefits,
Count and cherish much.

The Pure and Sore in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God  (Matthew 5:8). 

The Greek word makarios, used repeatedly in the string of beatitudes, literally means happy. Happy are the pure in heart. But so often, when we think pure, we think prudish, stuffy, or pristine. At worst, we think holier-than-thou and inaccessible; at best, we think naive. 

But those who are holy-in-Christ are far from those things. They pure in heart are usually the most sore in heart. They are holy because they wholly know their desperate need. They are pure because their deep knowledge of their deep impurity has led them to the pure One. They see God because they see their sin. And seeing their sin, they see and savor the One who saved them from their sin. 

We are declared pure by imputation. But we become pure by Spirit-led conviction. The more convicted we are of our sin, the more convinced we are that we need for a Savior. The more convinced we are of the love of God for us, the more we are convicted to strive solely after him. 

When my middle-school boys say that someone’s basketball shot is pure, they mean that it seems to flow effortlessly. But what seems so natural to NBA players has been habitually practiced and hourly-honed. While we come by purity simply by way of a Savior, we do not come by it cheaply. A purity so expensively-purchased is meant to be intentionally-practiced. 

Purity comes by way of practice. Singular focus comes by way of straining and striving. Paul, writing to his protege Timothy, who is already pure in Christ, commands him to strive toward purity and righteousness. Before Paul commands Timothy to live as a man of God (imperative; do), he reminds him that he is already a man of God (indicative; done).

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things…to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-14). 

Note the active commands Paul recommends to one already commended by God: flee, pursue, fight, take hold, keep. This means that the pure in heart sorely moan and groan. The pure are pierced by sin and boxed by their efforts at becoming the pure ones they already are in Christ. They struggle with the hazardous waste they find in their hearts. But their pollution leads them to the pure One. Coming by such a costly purity by Christ alone, they are humble and accessible. 

The Pure in Heart

The pure in heart
Sorely moan.

Stabbed and sutured,
They’re Savior-sewn. 

The pure in heart
Are not pristine.
Polluted and purchased,
They’re Christ-clean.

The pure in heart
Are not starched.
Bent and broken,
They’re heaven-arched,

The pure in heart
Sorely groan.
Strained and stretched,

They’re God-grown. 

Oh, that we might be pure in heart in this Savior-sewn, Christ-clean, heaven-arched, and God-grown way. 

What a Waste

An alabaster jar worth a year of wages. A woman lavish in her love. Practical disciples who call this waste. An intimate betrayer who wastes his friendship with the Christ for 30 pieces of silver. A man willing to waste his life for the unlovely.

The theme of waste is woven into the 26th chapter of Matthew’s gospel.

Hearing this chapter read this morning by my oldest son, the juxtaposition of the beautiful waste of love from the alabaster jar and the treacherous waste of Judas struck me deeply.

Jesus came to her defense when the disciples indignantly asked, “Why this waste?”

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the word, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:10-13.

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As he defended this brave women, I cannot help but imagine Jesus thinking of the crowds who would call His life a waste. Just as He came to the defense of the wonderfully wasteful woman, the Father would come to His defense as the crowds mocked His wonderful waste on the Cross.

The Wasteful Ones
Reflections on Matthew 26

They say of her, “Wasted perfume,”
As she breaks her precious jar.
They’ll say of me, “Wasted life,”
As blood flows my body they mar.

There are better ways to invest,”
They say as perfume begins to rush.
“There was so much He could’ve done,”
They’ll say as fluids from me gush.

They say, ”With great needs on earth,
Why does she squander all on one?”
They’ll say, “Our hopes of a new reign
Now with you have come undone.”

I say of her, “You let her be,
Let her lavish her oils on me.
She does a beautiful thing,
Her memory for years will ring.”

He’ll say, “Forgive them.
Pour your love down from that tree.
This is most beautiful deed, my son.”
I’ll cry, “ Totelistai. It is done.”

 Nothing offered to Christ is ever wasted. It is treasured and touted by Christ Himself.

May we find, fill, and break our own alabaster jars.

A Mascot for Muddled Times

I cannot say we are those with a penchant for excellent mascots. As one whose college mascot was “The Blue Hose” who married a “Purple Paladin,” it should not surprise me that my children’s youth sports teams have featured such mascots as the “The Pink Fluffy Unicorns,” “The Green Ninja Lizards,” and “The Camo Sharks.”

In light of such a streak, it would not seem strange to select the Bereans from the Bible as a mascot for our muddled times. The courage, curiosity, and Scriptural anchoring of these Jewish brothers and sisters have much to speak to us today. Like us, they lived in a time of great upheaval to what they had always believed and been taught. Their spirit of openness to hear from the apostolic band of brothers was balanced by an honest questioning and sifting what they heard through the sieve of Scripture.

For us today, reasoning, idea-mixing, and intellectual dialogue are no longer isolated to a few central locations like the city gate or the synagogue. In fact, there are hundreds of would-be prophets and politicians (both trained and untrained) who offer their opinions and worldview to us at the scroll of a finger. Credible, non-credible, and even incredible sources vie for our attention and our allegiance. Popular voices use their platforms as megaphones, making it hard to turn down the noise. As such, the Bereans who held both the tension between being open-minded and gullible prove an example for us today.

As was his custom upon entering a new area, the Apostle Paul went to the synagogues where he would reason and open the Scriptures, “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17:3). After being sent away from Thessalonica for his own safety, Paul and Silas came to Berea and headed directly to the synagogue. The audience they found there left an impression on them.

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:11–12).

They were eager, but not too easily swayed. They were curious, but cautious, wanting to search the Scriptures to see for themselves. They were not afraid to reason and reckon before they received what they heard. Their opinions, desires, and long-held customs were not their compass points, the Scriptures were.

After all, what Paul and Silas were sharing with them forced them to have to let go of long-held and long-cherished beliefs and customs. Yet, they did not refuse to listen, entrenching themselves in the bunker of their beliefs. They had open ears but rightly-skeptical hearts. However, when the truths they were hearing aligned with the Scriptures, they were willing to shift accordingly. In a polemical culture where assimilation and fortification are two poles, we have much to learn from the posture of the Bereans. Thus my vote to make them our mascot for a muddled time. If Stanford’s mascot is a tree and Syracuse boasts a giant orange man, biblical Bereans do not seem so strange a selection.

The Bereans

You were meant to conquer,
Yet let a cross conquer you.
You were to upend Rome,
Yet Pilate upended you.

You were to restore our city,
Yet You died outside its gate.
You were to usher in a kingdom,
Yet You were ushered out in hate.

I’ve seen the Scriptures all my life
They’ve been my utmost concern.
But hints of the Suffering Savior
Shout as each page I now turn.

The living logos has leveled
A lifetime of cultural learning.
The Holy Spirit stirs my soul,
For a better king I’m yearning.

I love the model the Bereans left us. I love how the Spirit saw fit to inspire Luke to include their example in the book of Acts. For those who say the Scriptures are not relevant to our time, the Bereans say otherwise. Oh, that we would be more like them, that we would raise children more like them. Oh, that we would be more committed to the searching the Scriptures for what God is saying than using them scaffold what we want to them to say.

Harboring Pilate: A Lenten Devotional

It’s easy to want to wash our hands of the one who washed his hands of Jesus. It is much harder to admit that a potential Pilate lives within each of us.

Pilate’s People-Pleasing

As fifth governor of the province of the Roman province of Judaea, Pontius Pilate lived in the tensions of appeasing very disparate crowds. He was given rule over what Rome considered to be the unruly Jewish people. Some were scrupulous, refusing to bow the knee to the Emperor. Some were zealous in the vein of Judas Maccabees who had led a revolt under the Seleucid Empire. Some assimilated into the Roman culture, wanting comfort and peace. What a mixed bag Pilate had been apportioned. His job was to appease the Jewish people enough to keep the Pax Romana while not also pleasing the powers that had propped up his precarious power.

It’s no wonder he was a people-pleaser who vacillated with the whims of the crowd and pandered to the people. In the gospel accounts, we find glimpses of goodness and see flickers of faith in him. He sensed the innocence of Jesus and tried to push the uncomfortable decision regarding his fate back into the Jewish court systems (John 18: 28-32). He had a private conversation with the accused in his headquarters, away from the rumbling of the crowds. A master of posturing, he shuffled around answering the questions that prodded his conscience (John 18:33-38).

However, when push came to shove, he went against his conscience and sided with the sentiments of the people to protect his power, position, and platform. Declaring with words the guiltlessness of Jesus three times and seeking to find a way to release him, his actions betrayed him nonetheless (John 18:39-40; John 19:4-6; John 19:12).

Our People-Pleasing

Before we wash our hands of the one who washed his hands of the innocent blood of Jesus, we should take the time to inspect our own idol-ridden hearts (Matthew 27:24-26).

Have we not waffled between two different crowds, shading the sentiments of our consciences like chameleons? Have we not relied on crowd-sourcing and peer approval rather than the source of all life and the approval of the One who approved us at so great a cost? Have we not pandered to people, fearing their censure more than the censure of the One who created all people? Have we not made other men and current standards our measuring rods rather than the standards of the Scripture?

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when t hey measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12).

It is far too easy to trade the invisible audience of One for the audible, tangible audiences before we which we find ourselves judged daily. When we shuffle around the loud, dominant opinions and ideological landmines all around us, we follow Pilate’s delicate dance of people-pleasing. When we care more that we appear judicial than that we obey the commands of the Lord, we show our inner Pilates.

The Perfect God-Pleaser

There is but One who never collapsed under the pressure of the opinions of man (John 2:23-25). There is but One who withstood the pressure of the Enemy to trade eternal approval for earthly approval (Mark 4: 1-11). The One who deserved the loud approval of the Father was deafened by the excruciating silence of God as He endured the cross. The One of whom Pilate washed his hands offers His precious blood to wash us of our people-pleasing.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18).

May Pilate’s failure invite us into the pleasure of the Father secured for us by Christ.

Stillness is Not Stasis

In a nation historically known for its restlessness and in an age where productivity and action are highly valued, stillness seems like an antique. In such a culture and with hearts that tend towards restlessness until they find their rest in Christ, it is easy to confuse motion with meaning and stillness with stasis.

Recently, a friend sent a short devotional sound bite from John Piper where he talked about the wind blowing dead leaves. While they are often whipped into motion, they are not alive. Their movement is not intentional, but incidental. I hated to admit how much of my life was marked by mostly meaningless motion.

The ability to move and to act are gifts from God given to us as those created in His image. However, sometimes motion and activity can be a distraction from deeper living. According to French philosopher Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problem stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” While shaded with some hyperbole, this statement addresses our tendency to use busyness and motion as shields from facing the deeper problems of our human existence.

In his book Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness mentions two poles towards which the hearts and minds of unbelievers can be pulled: the dilemma pole and the diversion pole. Because God’s word is truth, the unbelief of a human does not change reality. Thus, those living in unbelief have two options. The first option is towards despair, because if they are consistent with their belief that there is not god and therefore no meaning, life becomes a dilemma. Humans are reduced to chance accumulation of cells and proteins with no greater purpose. The other (much more common) option is towards distraction and diversion. On this pole, people realize that God’s reality is likely true but don’t want to have to bow their knees to Him. As such, they keep themselves busy, distracted, and entertained to avoid the deeper realities they want to avoid.

While Guinness is speaking specifically about those who do not believe in God, I find his words convicting for my own heart. It is far easier to stay busy with activity than to sit and meet with the Lord, bow my will before Him, and walk in humble obedience to Him.

In his poem “Reflections in a Forest,” W.H. Auden addresses a similar meaningless motion that marks humanity.

Turn all tree-signals into speech
And what comes out is a command:
“Keep running if you want to reach
The point of knowing where you stand…”

Our race would not have gotten far,
Had we not learned to bluff if out
And look more certain than we are
Of what our motion is about;

So many of us are bluffing. I know I often am. And I do know what our lives are supposed to be about: living for the Lord’s glory, knowing Him, and making Him known. Sometimes it is just easier to move than to be still.

But stillness with and for the Savior is not stasis. Like water building up behind a dam, collecting potential energy for the time when it is to be released to do intentional work, stillness for the purpose of intimacy with the Lord is power.

When Moses found himself in a situation as a leader that seemed to require immediate and intense action and activity, his utter dependence upon the Lord led him to command the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Ex. 14:13–14).

Stillness that is birthed out of trust and belief in the Savior is never stasis. Rather, it leads to intentional activity. Before we can step into meaningful activity and intentional work, we are invited to remember that God is the ground from which all of our work comes and the One to whom all our work is directed.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:10–11).

May we not confuse motion with meaning or stillness with stasis. May we sit before our God long enough to remember the purpose and power behind all our activity.