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Are we dying? Where are we going? I don't understand.

On Palm Sunday afternoon, while the children were napping upstairs, Melissa and I decided that we would take the kids to church in the evening for Journey to the Cross, an event the high school students organized for the kids. After naps, Melissa told Lily, our 5-year-old, that we're going. She was super excited and ran downstairs to tell her little brother. “Liam! Liam! We’re going to Journey to the Cross!” Liam, who was cuddling with me, sat up quickly, somewhat startled, collected his thoughts, and said, “Are we dying? Where are we going? I don’t understand.”

My first thought was, “Oh, how cute. I gotta facebook this.” Moments later I began to realize how profound my son’s response was. If I’m honest, I don’t want to die this week. I don’t want to "go there". And I don’t understand. This morning's reading from Isaiah helped shed some light on my predicament.


I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

—Isaiah 42:6-7

When I read passages like this, my tendency is to read myself into the text as the protagonist. In this case I assume the righteous role of the one called, grasped, formed, and sent by the Lord as a light to free the prisoners. I assume that other people—unrighteous, lost, wicked, unbelieving sinners—are the blind prisoners in the dungeon, and it’s my job to save them.

But as I reflect a bit more deeply on this passage and on what my son said, I am confronted with the reality that I am one of the blind prisoners in the dungeon of darkness. I am an unrighteous, lost, wicked, unbelieving sinner. Jesus is the called One in Isaiah; the One grasped in the Lord’s hand; the begotten One who is set as a covenant of the people; the Light sent to free the blind prisoners from the dungeon of darkness. I forget this. Holy Week beckons me to sit in the dark and miserable dungeon of my sin again. It is here the Savior will come and rescue me.

Are we willing to "go there"? Can we die to our own righteousness this week? What will that look like for you?  I invite you to listen to this song.  The words were written by Martin Luther.  "In Devil's Dungeon Chained I Lay." As you sit in the dungeon this week, may you experience the Father’s love, the Savior’s rescue, and the Spirit’s comfort.







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New FREE Music: Good Morning. Happy Easter. 2

Don't let this spoil your Lent, but here's some FREE Easter music that my friends and I put together.  You may be familiar with our little Good Night & Good Morning, Christmas & Easter collective series.  This is our fourth record now!

On this record you'll hear a mesmerizing rendition of the Resurrection as experienced by Thomas by my friend Jess Strantz, which happens to be my favorite song on the record.  This record also introduces Levi Smith with his incredible take on "On Christ the Solid Rock," the end of which will sweep you away into the heavens with our ascended Lord.  My contribution this time around is a folky, quasi-bluegrass version of "Crown Him With Many Crowns."  Also, many thanks to Sean Carter and Jeremy Dunn for making this happen.

We hope you enjoy.  If you cannot view the widget below, just click this link and follow the instructions to download: http://noisetrade.com/goodmorning/good-morning-happy-easter-2

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Turn and Trust

For the Fourth Week in Lent, here is another short Lenten reflection by my friend Scott Erdenberg of Church of the Shepherd in Hyde Park, Chicago. This will probably work best if you give yourself about 10 minutes away from hustle and bustle. Maybe you could ask someone to join you. Begin by reading Psalm 27, followed by the reflection.  Then ask yourself the questions at the end, which are meant to take this exercise from reflection to action.  Peace to you as we draw closer in our Story to the death of Christ.

Turn and Trust 

Psalm 27

Every time I’ve encountered this Psalm I’ve been faced with an unrelenting question: do you honestly trust God completely, or do you prefer to be in control when life or circumstances send your mind and heart into a nosedive? The psalmist has surrendered any confidence that he has reserved for himself and instead put all of his chips on the fact that God will vindicate him. At the same time, the psalmist has refused to make his trust and confidence passive or assumed. Over and over he turns and fixes his eyes on God, pleading for his help, asking for his guidance, and waiting with active expectation.

As we walk through this season of death and repentance, we are called over and again to examine where we have sought our own comfort or placed our confidence in our own efforts to make it through stressful days. God invites us to pray with the psalmist as he reorients his heart to face God and seek his face. We are not called to ignore our problems, adversity or stress – instead, we are encouraged to pay attention to all of these knowing that God has our back.

How about you? When you face adversity in life, is it your natural response to turn to God in trust, or do you try to manage it yourself? Describe the outcome of both? How did Jesus respond to adversity in his life? How could you cultivate a deeper sense of God's presence with you, even in the midst of conflict?  In what tangible way could you turn and trust in God, to repent and believe the Good News, today?

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"You're Just Setting Yourself Up for Failure." Yeah. And?


"You're just setting yourself up for failure."  We're all familiar with the expression.  It usually comes as someone's last ditch effort to get you to rethink doing something stupid.  But it rarely works, because the stupid thing you're about to do is driven by such a deep desire, ain't nobody gonna stop you.  In fact, you're well aware that you're probably gonna fail.  But you do it anyway.

I have been fairly unsuccessful in my main Lenten practice this season.  But there is a less prominent "practice" I've given myself to that is a constant, itchy reminder of God's grace in my life.  I don't have to try to grow a beard.  I have no control over it.  What can I say?  God has blessed me (nearly up to my eyeballs, as my sister pointed out to me yesterday) with hair.  It may sound silly, but my beard reminds me of God's grace in my life.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness, in my inability to control myself.

A friend of mine recently tweeted, "failure is where we live grace."  We're in Week 3 in Lent now.  For those who are practicing Lent, renouncing and re-ordering our rhythms into Christ, failure is part of the deal.  Otherwise we wouldn't have much need for a Savior, would we?   I suspect one of the reasons some Christians don't practice Lent, whether conscious of it or not, is because they don't want to fail.  But I think inevitable failure is one of the best reasons to do it!  Failure might be the best thing that could happen to you this season.

When you fail, what comes out of you?  How do you respond to failure?  What does is look like in your life to freely receive the grace of Jesus?

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