The story of our redemption is historical proof of the unstoppable sovereignty of God.
Paul Tripp Journey to the Cross Day 18.
Some of us might have control issues! Pastor Tripp in day 18 encourages us to stop during the Lenten season and acknowledge that we aren’t in control and that’s okay. Many things surprise us and remind us we aren’t in control. What does the way you handle life’s surprises say about our faith? Surprise parties are fun to plan, keeping secrets can be fun, but when tragedy surprises us it’s a whole other issue. But what shouldn’t be surprising is that nothing surprises God. He knows we live in a sinful fallen world. He knows that we all fall short of His glory. He knows we need grace and forgiveness.
Christ’s march to the cross reinforces for us that our rest and hope are not in our knowing, but in his ruling. The God who knows no surprises will surprise us again. But it is okay, because what we don’t know, he knows; what we can’t control, he controls, and because he does, we live with mystery and surprise and not be afraid (p 107).
Paul Tripp Journey to the Cross.
When life surprises us, we have to remember that it wasn’t a surprise to God. He’s not scratching his head wondering why that happened. I learned in GriefShare that no one comes to the end of their days and God is surprised. He’s not surprised by my stupid mistakes and decisions. I heard on the radio on my way home a principal that had encouraged his staff,
When life is hard, we can either
Rise and Shine or
Rise and Whine.
When life surprises you, and it will, you have a choice to make. It may in fact knock your feet out from under you, but the decision is yours alone to rise and yours alone to shine or whine. Understanding the sovereignty of God is the first step in letting go and learning to shine with His light from within, no matter the circumstances.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Paul Tripp calls us to file for bankruptcy in day 7 of Journey to the Cross. I love this analogy, it was a realization that really spoke to me. I had a conversation this very morning where a co-worker and I were talking about someone who was just the sweetest person, seriously we could find no fault in them. Reading this Lenten Devotion I realized that I am so brutally aware of my own shortcomings and some particularly annoying individuals I have to deal that I’ve completely missed the point that not even one of us is righteous. One of my favorite CTCS teachers, Mrs. Kuhl used to do this illustration on her chalkboard where she had the kids rank sins in order of severity. Some could even be bigger than others. She marked the sins in order on the bottom left hand corner. Everyone could agree that some sins seemed bigger than others when you focused on the sins, but when you step back and look at the entire board which represents how great God is, does it really matter the order of those sins? No, they differences seem miniscule in comparison to the enormity of the board. Suddenly the sins are just a chalky blob in the corner. Since none of us can say that we are sinless, we have to acknowledge that we’re all the same. Down here in the corner, you may look like you are ahead of me, better or worse, but from an eternal perspective, we’re all down here in the chalkiness.
In reading about Malcolm X’s life and his draw to the Nation of Islam, he talked about how slaves equated Christianity with the concept that some people waited until death for glory yet they could see others had it pretty ‘heavenly’ on earth. It was the belief that blacks were to serve their master while on earth and wait for their reward in heaven, while the white master seemed to be well rewarded here on earth. The world is still filled with haves and have nots. I don’t have to look very far at all to find someone who has it better than me or someone who has it worse. BUT REALLY WE ARE ALL BANKRUPT! If you were facing financial bankruptcy, you’d be panicked — desperate for resolution. We need to quit seeing ourselves as rich, more importantly I think, we have to quit seeing others as rich and live with anticipation knowing that, blessed are, which, in fact means, blessed am I who is functioning in a broken, fallen world. But my brokenness causes me to, like the child who doesn’t know the way, reach up and take their daddy’s hand. Blessed are those who keep grasping for the hand of a loving Savior. (The beatitudes in the PSV)
I stole this image from my favorite Austin cookie maker, Hayley Cakes and Cookies. I love her cookies and creativity, but this one really struck a chord with me. Yesterday was hard. My students are stressed out! A kid in my room yesterday said, “My mom is mad at me, I can’t do anything right.” and three other kids chimed in and said, “Me, too!”. This is not a criticism of parenting but rather an indicator of the stress our families are under. Kids are struggling picking up where they left off eleven days ago. Their parents are stressed about missed work, empty shelves at the grocery store, the water supply, so much time together without the things we’ve come to rely on to release stress (music, video games, solitude) not even considering those who sustained property damage. Usually snow days in Texas are fun, make an ugly grassy “snowman”, enjoy a day off but this was not that, our faith in this creation we serve was shattered and is only compounded by what we have been through because of stinking COVID. I left fried yesterday and it was only Monday, and I didn’t go home to kids with homework, and I didn’t go home to storm damage (I did go home to a little dog damage, but that’s not unusual) and most importantly I’m not a kid!
Lent is an important tool in the inescapable battle that rages in all our hearts between worship and service of the Creator and worship and service of the creation. Lent calls us to remember once again that sin reduces us all to idolaters somehow, someway. It gives us a season to take time and reflect on things that have taken too strong a hold on us, things that we have come to crave too strongly and love too dearly. It reminds us that often things that we are holding tightly have actually taken an even tighter hold us (p 30).
Paul Tripp, Journey to the Cross
Lent begs us to pause and man oh man do we need a pause about now! Day six of Journey to the Cross challenges us to focus on death and all the ways that Christ calls us to die to ourselves.. “We are called to die to that life where we did what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it, and how we wanted to do it. We are called to die to setting our own rule and living however we please” (p 42). This dying to ourselves doesn’t just happen, everything in us screams for control, comfort, relief. Death is ugly but it brings mourning and mourning brings healing. Lent calls us to consider, even while we live in a time that our consideration seems to have been stripped away from us, that sin tightly grips us and we need a Savior. And in that Savior, we find healing and hope. While we’ve lost much of our illusion of control without time to psyche ourselves up to deal with it or prepare, we have a small window of 40 days to stop and consider and prepare to celebrate again our resurrected Savior! To look beyond the current state of creation, your own life and consider: What areas need to die to make room for greater, more abundant life in Christ?
I had a long post ready to go for Tuesday, February 16, which was Fat Tuesday, the day before we Christian’s kick off Lent. But then we had the Polar Vortex accost Texas and we were left frozen in time, literally. If you’ve spoken to me since September of 2016, you have undoubtedly heard me say that the brains of this organization have died. Some have argued, but again, February 2021, this rings true again. I did go to the store and make sure we had food and water. But alas, we have a gas grill and two empty propane tanks, who needs propane until summer? I have a fireplace, but it is filled with lovely decorative items, has never been used and of course, I have no fire wood! I don’t like candles, I hate that smoky smell when you blow them out, I think it ruins any good they may have created. While I do for some reason have one candle, the lighter is across the frozen patio on the grill and still it will have to be blown out at some point, not to even mention how would I get a shoe on my foot with three pairs of socks! I personally was without power for 107 long grueling hours only to come out of it with the stomach bug, which could have been just the good old bug, the fact that we were under a boil order or we relied on the front porch for refrigeration. It has been a shitty experience!
I do realize it could have been much much worse. But I learned a few things about myself that are particularly poignant as we begin Lent 2021. I had read the introduction to Paul Tripp’s Journey to the Cross before Snovid/Snowpocalpyse/Snowmageddon 2021 and I thought oh yeah! I got this, I can mourn, but I learned through the 107 powerless hours, I dOn’T gOt ThIs! I’m good when things are good, I’m good when things are temporarily not good, but 107 hours come on!! Thursday morning we were done, the dogs had been confined WAY too much, we were cold, we were hungry, and long out of words. We begrudgingly got up and continued our Monopoly game despite the fact we really could have not cared less. We played until we were so cold we needed to cover up and warm up again. I lay there with my eyes closed, because why stare at the ceiling any longer. I was jealous that people around me had power. I asked why can’t we have power? I’ve submitted to your will? I’ve been patient and upbeat! Long after having been so thankful we had water through it all, that I had Paxton here, I had books to read and games to play, but that truly only sustained me for about 48ish hours, I could no longer,
my optimism gave way to full on self pity and the stupid dogs still had to eat and go out and really resented not getting to be outside longer. And then I recalled Paul Tripp’s words:
Silence your inner lawyer and all the self-defending arguments for your righteousness. Quit relieving your guilt by pointing the finger of blame at someone else. And stop telling yourself in the middle of the sermon that you know someone who really needs to hear it. (p. 14)
It does rain (or pelt) on the just and the unjust. Electricity is provided to all and evidently ERCOT gives and ERCOT takes away. I REALLY need to “stop, consider, mourn, confess, pray, and give [my] heart to thanksgiving.” I had been forced to step away and consider and when I did, it revealed, Oh! how I have sin to mourn and how desperately I need a Savior!
I’m laying there with my eyes closed feeling like I had so flunked this minor test … and then I heard a click … my eyes popped open .. my head popped up … and Paxton and I stared wide eyed at each other across the room as we realized, power had been restored!!! As soon as we processed the miracle of electricity, I jumped up and started the tea kettle. We were soon sitting wrapped in our blankets, sipping hot tea as the though our every burden had been removed. Internet was hours behind, but we didn’t care, we could drink hot beverages and eat hot food.
So now I really feel like my heart is prepared to spend these forty days sitting under the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ:
where sin doesn’t surprise us anymore
where sin doesn’t depress us anymore, and doesn’t move us to deny or defend
where we can remember who we are and what we are dealing with
where we are required to admit that the greatest enemy we face is not difficulty or maltreatment from without, but the enemy of sin within
where we quit pointing fingers and begin crying for help
where we are reminded that we are not in this battle alone; in face, there we admit we have no power whatsoever to battle on our own
where we get our sanity back, admitting who we are and what it is that we so desperately need
to a place of peace and protection that can be found nowhere else (p 18)
Sarah Sewell and I bought Journey to the Cross books for staff members, I have a few extras if anyone is interested in one. If you left your book at school or your life fell apart last week, it’s not too late to jump in. Lent gives us Sunday’s off. Monday, February 22, 2021 you should be on Day 5, you can start there, start on Day 1 and we’ll all finish at the same spot or it really is not the worst thing to not be finished by Easter. The process is powerful regardless of the calendar!