The Supreme Court of the United States is an imposing structure. It commands a certain amount of awe, not just because of its incredible detail, but also due to its weighty history and purpose. The fifth chapter of John’s gospel feels very much like a courtroom; while the Jewish leaders begin by putting Jesus on trial for breaking their rules, they themselves end up in the hot seat as He calls forth witnesses to remind them of His role in inspiring God’s law and executing divine judgment.
As a reminder, we’re taking a world tour through the book of John, noting the highlights of each chapter. If you’d like to join me at this point or start from the beginning and work at your own pace, I’d love your company! For now, though, let’s unload from the bus and take a peek at one of the most intriguing legal scenes in all of redemptive history.
When it comes to instant childhood magic, not much can compete with a good blanket fort. Grabbing all your comfy things, some twinkle lights, and a treat or two, you’d transform an ordinary space into a stunning castle as though assisted by a fairy godmother. Sure, bed knobs and broomsticks might be holding it all up, but you didn’t care; you’d conjured a temporary special place (and in my opinion, knowing it would have to come down eventually so normal life could resume made it even better).
Dashing princes, dragons that breathe fire, heroines feisty and filled with grit—such scenes sparkled across the walls of my mind as I’d drift off to sleep as a child, golden shapes embedding themselves deep within me.
We’re a people of stories, a culture of stories. We love a good flick on the big screen or the latest plot twist in a real-life drama. But are stories safe with us?
You gain consciousness just in time for another grenade to explode. Clods of dirt spray your body as you clamber up and straighten your helmet. The smoke begins to dissipate, and you can see enemy lines moving slowly but steadily forward across an open field—straight toward you.
Make no mistake about it: we live in a war zone. Peacetime is coming, but it is not here yet. For now, we engage the enemy with all we’ve got, and when all we’ve got is gone, we maintain our position.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a stronghold as “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” In The Lord of the Rings, it looks like Helm’s Deep. In my life, it looks like social anxiety.
Yup. Strongholds can be personal—shadow castles we’ve built and defended against the King who sets His face toward our freedom.
I’ve spilled the beans about my hangup with community: every social situation feels like walking into a war zone of judgment. Much of this could be projections rather than reality (though ministry life is called a fishbowl for a reason). My brilliant solution thus far: run away and hide. Super mature, right?
Confession: I struggle with an addiction to judgment.
On the giving end, I am plagued by opinions about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. While Southern manners and a fear of conflict keep roughly 98% of those opinions unspoken, they constantly light up my brain like a superhighway. Much of that mental activity is spent declaring myself either guilty or innocent. (You can guess how that goes in the mind of a perfectionist—the ‘Never Enough’ song from The Greatest Showman sums it up nicely.)
On the receiving end, my heart is marked by a desperation to see approval reflected in the faces around me. Have I impressed you? Disappointed you? At any given moment, am I smart/good/involved/________ enough? How worthwhile do you think I am? Due to the fear of actually finding out, I don’t ask; I assume the worst, turning every bystander into a frowning inspector.
“It is an item of faith that we are children of God; there is plenty of evidence in us against it. The faith that surmounts this evidence and that is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually the root of holiness … We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the love we trust.”
It was a Tuesday afternoon, and my dad’s voice rang out clearly through the phone receiver.
Springtime! (And day number 34,928 of quarantine, but who’s counting?) Even though we’re still mid-isolation, God refuses to let hope die; just cracking the window lets in a symphony of birdsong, bloomy aromas, and a lovely breeze. So rebel against the voice that groans bleakness over the world—vibrancy is bursting out all around us! There are tons of ways to pour Miracle Grow into each aspect of our lives. Here are a few, hand-picked just for you.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”
One of the odd quirks about my personality is the cognitive distortion of all-or-nothing thinking. Because I thrive in a predictable environment, it tends to show up in special splendor when my routine gets knocked out of whack. “What? The power’s out? Looks like I’ll be spending some quality time on the couch with Pinterest.” “Uh-oh. A home project has taken over space in my brain. Cleaning the house at all will have to wait until the whole thing is finished.”