The Way Back to a Heart Ablaze

heart-fire-1249098-639x424 (1)The Emmaus road felt as dry and dusty as their hearts. You see, on Friday, the man for whom these two weary travelers had hinged their entire lives had been crucified. They’d given this Jesus their everything. They’d turned their worlds upside down for him, and now he was dead. Heart-broken, life-broken, these men plodded on talking about the shattering events that they had witnessed and the strange rumors they’d heard—rumors that this Jesus had been raised from the dead.

And while they walked on in this dejected state, their hearts raising so many questions, a traveler joined them. He traveled with them in the midst of their disillusionment; he traveled with them in the midst of their despair; he traveled with them in the midst of their disbelief.

What do you do with your life when you’ve lost your center? How does life feel when there is no ballast, nothing weighty, nothing of substance to keep you in balance? And what if in the midst of that very lost-ness, the answer was right there in your presence, walking the hard road with you? That is the case here.

For you see, Jesus, the very one whom they had been grieving, the very one who had changed everything for them, was right there with them—risen, alive, and full of unimaginable, enlivening power, and they didn’t even know it.

So this stranger began to talk with them about the Scriptures. He began to retell the stories, the stories which all pointed ahead to him—to Jesus—as the key which unlocked every door, to the piece which made every other piece fit, to the answer which made all the questions suddenly seem elementary. Everything past pointed to him, but everything future also suddenly became infused with meaning because of him.

And suddenly their hearts burned within them as this stranger spoke and opened up their Scriptures to them. Their hearts burned within them, not only because he was there, and because he opened up their eyes to the prophesies which foretold him, but also because with him everything ahead had meaning again, a purpose which thrusted them with passion into their future. With him, suddenly even the most mundane parts of life became infused with a greater purpose, with a weight of importance that they could never have without him.

I keep coming back to this passage in the Bible and re-reading it. If you aren’t familiar with the story, found in Luke 24:13-35, go back and reread it. I’ve come because I’ve been weary, dejected, and lost like these travelers. I’ve come because I’ve wanted to feel my heart burning within me again like these travelers. And I’ve come and camped out on these pages, hoping.

Have you ever knocked on the door of heaven for so long that your knuckles got scratched and bloody? Have you laid your pillow down on God’s door and said, “I’m not going anywhere until I hear from you?” If you have, you know that God loves that kind of persistence. He loves it when everything comes to a roaring halt until we find our center again. He loves to answer that kind of prayer. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Do you feel like someone has pricked the center of your life and let the air out of it? Are you meandering, aimlessly, hoping that no one will notice you’ve lost the zest for it? Maybe you are on the Emmaus road and you need to realize that you aren’t alone. Even in your lowest place, he’s with you. Even at your ugliest and worst, he’s been by your side. Even in the doubts that might have felt like a betrayal to another, he has been on your side pointing your eyes to the trail-marks which have always pointed ahead to him. Even when the mundane drum-beat of life has so beat you down, that you’ve lost sight of why you were marching in the first place, if you come and seek, really seek for answers, he won’t disappoint you.

He’ll lift up your eyes and let you see glory: two hands breaking bread—a sign for you of a body that was broken for you in the midst of your sinfulness. He’ll lift your eyes up and let you see that in the midst of your powerlessness an unlimited death-shattering, life-creating, hell-binding, heaven-opening, power has been in your presence all along. If you come to the table hungry, he’ll satisfy you. Come with nothing and you will not leave empty-handed. Seek, knock, and you will find that you were found long before you knew you were missing. You were rescued before you knew you were lost. He’s on the road with you. He has places he wants to take you. If you truly look for him, you’ll glimpse him once more and get to say with those who’ve been undone in his presence, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us?”

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

Don’t give up until you feel his burning presence again.

 

I started this blog with a purpose: to invite my readers to a deep and fearless faith. That’s a faith that burns inside you without consuming you; it’s a faith that compels you into purposeful risk. It’s a faith that is all about this risen Jesus. If you’re looking for that kind of faith or need to renew a faith that is in embers, explore this blog, sign up to receive it in your inbox, or drop me a note. I’d love to pray for you and encourage you to keep asking, seeking, and knocking.

Graveside: Resurrection Sunday

Risen

Along the seam of time
And eternity, there is a tear.
Along the fault line of temporal
And everlasting, there is a rupture.
A sliver of sky, a gash in the earth,
The size of a single human soul.

On the outer rim of beauty,
On the cusp of consciousness,
Between wakefulness and sleep
Is the waking wonder of a hope
Beyond dreaming.

It is a glimpse of the long-awaited.
It is a sigh of rest–
An unbreakable wholeness,
An impenetrable wellness,
An impermeable happiness,
An unstoppable rightness.

Somewhere on the outer rim of beauty,
Somewhere on the cusp of consciousness,
Somewhere between wakefulness and sleep,
The reality of a dream is dawning,
Breaking time with eternal light.
A first gleam growing brighter,
Across the horizon,
Beauty bleeding in the color of resurrected life.

Golgotha: Good Friday

cross

Son of Adam, grasping time and eternity,
Will he not be stretched beyond bearing?
Son of Adam, bearing the crossbeam of justice,
Holding up the full burden of sin,
Will he not be snapped like a reed?

Perfection’s final breath is a prayer,
Submission into the hands that will lower
Beneath a flash flood of judgment
While a burning panic in the lungs
Becomes sorrow’s baptism unto death.

God rips his outer garment–
And all earth trembles at the sound
While seraphs flutter to shield the sun
From the sight of such a holy naked grief,

Burning tears fall like spears of lightning,
Gashing earth’s cringing flesh, as
Spirits of the dead hemorrhage forth
From love’s deepest wound.

6 Ways to Prepare Your Heart for Easter

Easter SunriseOne of my favorite women of the New Testament is without a doubt Mary of Bethany. When I think of Mary, I can’t help but think of her in three snapshots. In each one, she is at the feet of her beloved Jesus: first, learning, then weeping, and finally worshipping. Yes, this is the woman who to her sister Martha’s dismay, sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus instead of manning the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42). Yes, this is the one who sobbed at the feet of a Jesus, who seemed to have come too late when her beloved Lazarus lay reeking 4-days-dead behind the stone (John 11). And yes, this is the one who unabashedly worshipped at the feet of Jesus as she anointed him with precious perfume just 6 days before Passover and the unleashing of all events that would lead him to the cross(John 12:1-10). Mary of Bethany—learning, weeping, worshipping, Mary what can you teach us about the way a heart readies itself for the climax of salvation history?

1.) Recall and celebrate what the Lord has done for you…
We find Mary’s story of anointing Jesus in John 12:1-10. A similar story appears in Matthew 26:6-10 and Mark 14:3-9 (although there is some disagreement as to whether these last two tellings represent an anointing by a different woman—since the woman in these accounts is unnamed—or whether this too is Mary of Bethany). At any rate, we know that a dinner is being thrown in Jesus’ honor, most likely as a way to thank him for having brought Lazarus back from the dead. If the woman in Matthew and Mark represent synoptic accounts, then we also know the party was hosted in the home of Simon, the Leper, a man whom in many regards had been brought back into the land of the living. Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Simon remembered what Christ had done for them and celebrated it.

As you prepare your heart this Easter, think back on what God has done for you and thank him. Celebrate the new life you have seen Him bring forth.

2.) Remember and take to heart what God has taught you…
We know Mary had spent a considerable amount of time learning at Jesus’ feet. The fact that she brought a burial perfume is either God supernaturally moving her to bring this particular gift without her understanding or a testimony that she had been listening to Jesus, and that she understood at least in part what was about to occur. I tend to think that by God’s grace, Mary had put the pieces together and brought this costly burial perfume because she had been meditating on and taking to heart what God had taught her.

As you prepare your heart this Easter, what has God been teaching you this year? Ask Him if there is something He wants you to apply or a step of faith He wants you to take.

3.) Don’t skip to the happy ending…
If Mary did understand that Jesus was about to face his death, it might have been tempting for her to skip to the happy ending. After all, she knew Jesus personally as “The Resurrection and the Life,” (John 11:25) and would have at least considered the fact that He might be able to conquer death when He Himself was in its grip. But perhaps, Mary understood more than most the importance of being with someone in the moment. Jesus, after all, had paused to weep with her when He knew that in just a few moments He would raise Lazarus to life. Likewise, Mary honored the suffering of our Lord Jesus and the solemn pain of what was to come by anointing him with this burial perfume.

As you prepare for Easter, resist the temptation to skip blithely by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Take these days to meditate on the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for you, on His pain and your sin. Let His agony and your desperate state without Him sink in and linger with you awhile before turning your attention to His victory on Easter morning.

4.) Forget about everyone around you…
Although the evening was most likely marked by a festive atmosphere—after all this was a time to honor Jesus and the new life he’d brought—Mary didn’t try to please others and keep the mood light. In fact, she ignored what everyone around her might think, and she broke open this costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She even humbled herself to wipe his feet with her hair—when women of her day never even let their hair down in public. She refused to care about the opinion of others and instead cared about the one thing needful, worshipping Jesus.

As you prepare for Easter, don’t let the fact that others take this day as one simply for chocolate and Easter Egg Hunts deter you from approaching Jesus and these special days with unashamed worship. Ignore the crowd and focus on the One who deserves all our worship.

5.) Give Him that which is most precious to you…
The perfume Mary anointed Jesus with was no trivial gesture. As Judas’ incredulously points out, this precious mixture would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary poured out one of her most precious possessions in an act of lavish love because she knew the lavish love of Christ was so much greater.

As you prepare for Easter, ask God to show you if there is any area of your life that is off limits to Him. Think about what is most precious to you and ask yourself if you are willing to lay it at the feet of Jesus as a testimony to Christ’s own lavish love for you.

6.) Bless Jesus by your unashamed worship…
For me one of the most mind-numbing aspects of this story of Mary anointing Jesus is the fact that somehow, in God’s infinite wisdom and kindness, He allowed a humble woman like Mary to actually minister to Jesus in an hour of need and bless Him. That is hard for me to wrap my mind around. Jesus was blessed by Mary’s act of faith. And because of it, He promised that wherever the Gospel would be preached her story would be told.

As you prepare for Easter, humbly ask God to allow your worship to be a pure and pleasing blessing to Him. Bless the Lord who has so mightily blessed you.

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