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It’s Holy Week. That time of the year when we zoom in on Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and all the happenings surrounding the historical event that literally split time in two (hello BC + AD).

You should know that I’ve always been drawn to the behind-the-scenes of leaders, athletes, inventors, celebrities, authors, and people in general. And it’s no different with the lives of those recorded in Scripture. I like to soak in the facts but also envision what was going on behind closed doors and beneath the surface.

What’s the story behind the story?

We know quite a bit about the main characters in this epic narrative. We know that Jesus, after living a servant-hearted life and topping it off with a three-year wave of wise teaching and jaw-dropping miracles, surrendered His body as the final sacrifice and payment for humanity’s sin. But not without the excruciating tension of awaiting the death penalty, causing Him to sweat blood—a real condition called hematidrosis, which is caused by severe mental anguish.

We know that Jesus’ disciples scattered from the Garden of Gethsemane at the thought of their own lives being threatened, leaving Jesus to fend for Himself. We know that the religious leaders were hungry for power and control, willing to protect their superiority at the cost of their own integrity. We know that Barabbas was a murderer who was completely let off the hook in exchange for Jesus’ life. We know that many women, including Christ’s own mother and Mary Magdalene, stood at a distance as he was whipped and ripped to an unrecognizable point while dangling on a cross between two rebels.

Another character who’s always struck my curiosity is Pontius Pilate.

Pilate was the Roman prefect (basically a governor, military officer, and judge wrapped into one) over the province of Judea who sentenced Jesus to death. He’s not only mentioned in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but also by secular writers of that time such as Tacitus, Philo, and Josephus. And just in case anyone still questioned his existence, in 1961 archeologists uncovered what’s now referred to as the Pilate Stone—a block of limestone containing an authentic first-century Roman inscription of Pontius Pilate.

No doubt Pilate was a thinking man. He was a leader, influencer, decision-maker, and ultimately charged under Emperor Tiberius’ rule with keeping the peace—no matter the cost.

Pride stirred within the religious leader’s hearts as they bound Jesus and brought Him before Pilate. After investigating, Pilate declared that Jesus was not guilty.

“You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent.” (Luke 23:14)

But the brazen leaders and frenzied crowd insisted, “Crucify Him!” Pilate’s wife pleaded the opposite. “Leave that innocent man alone,” she begged. “I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” (Matthew 27:19) The scales bounced back and forth until, finally, Pilate washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I’m innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” (Matthew 27:24) Though Pilate seemed to believe Jesus was innocent, he caved to the pressures of a hysterical crowd and ordered Him to the cross.

The last we hear of Pilate is when he granted Joseph of Arimathea permission to take the body away for burial and commanded guards to secure the tomb. But I wish we knew more. Like…

What was his response to the big news?

I picture Pilate and his wife at the breakfast table on Sunday morning—buttering toast, peeling oranges, and sipping fresh milk—when one of his highest-ranking officers bolted into the dining room. Frantically, he tells Pilate what they know: “The tomb is open, the guards aren’t exactly sure what happened, and Jesus’ body? IT’S GONE.” I imagine his wife’s eyes growing big and round as she covered her mouth in shock. I envision Pilate staring at the messenger for an extra long moment before wiping his mouth, taking a hard look at his wife, and briskly exiting the room.

Surely he was already on edge, right? I mean, during the crucifixion the sky went dark, the earth quaked, the temple curtain was torn in two. Even the centurion remarked, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) When Pilate pushed for more information, the soldiers reported an odd thing. While dying, Jesus had called out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Surely a chill went down his spine when—days later—the rumors started spreading that Jesus was alive, had appeared to a group of women, his disciples, and 500 others—all who were giving eye-witness reports.

Could it be true? No—He was dead. My officers confirmed that blood and water came flowing out of His side when He was pierced. It’s impossible. Maybe His men stole the body. But why would they? And how would they get past our Roman guards? Could He be the Messiah the Jewish Scriptures speak of? Surely not. But what if He is? The prophecies and miracles, his wisdom and forgiveness, the darkness and earthquake, the reports of resurrection. Did I ask, “What is truth?” to the one who is Truth? Did I kill the King of kings?

In many ways, Pilate was faced with the same thoughts and questions we’re up against today.

However, I realize it’s conjecture to imagine how these scenarios played out when we don’t know the full story. I don’t know if Pilate’s heart stayed hard and stubborn, or if he got on his knees and cried out to God after witnessing such miraculous events. I don’t know if he persecuted Christians or became one. I don’t know what happened to his authority or his marriage after this major disruption in the normal flow of life. But chances are, he had to come face to face with himself in the mirror.

Like Pilate, we all have to ask ourselves: What will I do with the resurrection?

C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” And Christianity hinges on one thing (and that one thing is not our preferred volume of worship music or the extent in which we do or do not “follow the rules”). Christianity hinges on the life, death, RESURRECTION, and redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. And without the resurrection, none of it counts or matters.

On that horrible, beautiful, terrible Good Friday, Jesus was led to the cross. Selfish men put Him there, all of OUR sins held Him there, but it was Jesus Himself—empowered by a scandalous, unstopping, redemptive kind of love—who had the courage and wisdom to stay there UNTIL IT WAS FINISHED.

Earlier that day, Pilate had spouted, “Don’t you realize I have the power to release you?” But Jesus responded, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:10-11)

Don’t you see? Jesus willingly faced the sting of death so that resurrection could follow. Not just for Himself, but for us too.

What will YOU do with the resurrection?

 

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Today marks the TWENTIETH episode at The Messy Table (insert allllll the praise-hand emojis)! I want to start by shouting a gigantic THANK YOU to all of my amazing guests who have bravely opened up their lives and souls on this little podcast, for the sake of encouraging others and reminding us just how faithful our God is—even in the messes of life. I also want to thank YOU for coming alongside of us on this adventure. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel, but I’m humbled and expectant for all that’s still to come.

So, thank you!

I couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate this milestone than by inviting some of my precious friends to join me in the celebration! Today’s conversation with Kristi Ivey, Lindsay McKee, Lacye Stewart, Ashley Clinesmith, and Kat Robinson (aka The Village) is rich! We chat about how to sustain friendships as adults and how to keep Jesus front and center during an otherwise commercial Christmas, as well as heavier topics like wading through foster care, infertility, and marriage struggles. There’s loads of wisdom and insight pouring from these women, which has been gained through various experiences in various seasons of life.

“We know that, at any moment, we could call each other up and be at each other’s doorsteps—which has happened.”

Since December officially kicks off tomorrow, we’re running into the Christmas season with a super fun GIVEAWAY! Two identical bundles to be exact. Each gal offered something they’re loving right now—three books (The Best Yes, Sacred Marriage, and A Meaningful Christmas devotional), one pair of buffalo plaid earrings (made by Kat), a holiday candle, and some scrumptious Mary Kay body wash! You could win it all, and maybe even share with a friend.

To enter, simply: 1) Head over to The Messy Table in iTunes and make sure you’re subscribed + leave a rating/review, and 2) help spread the word by tagging some friends or sharing on social media (or both)! Easy peasy. I will announce the winner next Tuesday, December 5th. Until then, grab your coffee, pull up a chair, and join us for Episode #20 with The Village!

CONVERSATION NOTES

Books: The Best Yes | Sacred Marriage | A Meaningful Christmas | 5 Gears | Present Over Perfect | StrengthsFinder

Podcasts: Success Magazine Podcast | Read Aloud Revival Podcast

Sermons: Craig Groeschel at Life.Church | Matt Chandler at The Village Church | Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church | Steven Furtick at Elevation Church

 

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This is a safe place, right? Well here’s the deal: I genuinely want to jump into Thanksgiving with an overflowing heart of gratefulness. I really do. But one friend just buried her brother, another got laid off three days before Thanksgiving, and another is facing an unwanted divorce. Not to mention, I HATE how certain family members won’t be joining us for turkey and pie yet again this year, because life is just too short.

Then there’s the Texas and Vegas shootings still lingering in my mind, as well as the high-strung political climate that’s saturating our nation (and the media). Even managing our own blessings can be embarrassingly overwhelming at times, with bottomless laundry, scattered schedules, and you know—life.

The truth is, we don’t always feel thankful.

 

But as Lysa Terkeurst says (and it’s always stuck with me), “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.” I recognize it would be straight ridiculous to trade a grateful-packed Thanksgiving for one of anxiousness, fear, and frustration. I’m no businesswoman, but that’s definitely not a good deal. And certainly not what God wants for us! So how do we dig up thankfulness when we don’t feel thankful? How do we cultivate a heart of gratitude without it being forged or forced?

Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling.

 

Even if you don’t feel thankful at this very moment, good news: YOU CAN STILL BE THANKFUL. Thankfulness is a choice, not a feeling. Choosing to be grateful doesn’t mean we’re no longer hurting, confused, or worried. In fact, thankfulness is often found and praises usually offered in the confines of bittersweet spaces.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

All throughout history, God’s people have found a way to worship Him despite their circumstances. Offering praises to our Creator God isn’t contengient on good or bad days, fertility or infertility, job or no job, the stock market being up or down—not even life or death. The verses below were written by David, when he was stuck in the wilderness of Judah:

“Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the riches feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.” Psalms 63:3-5

We can be thankful because God is faithful, even when we are not. We can be thankful because of the unending mercy and grace He pours out on sinners, like me, who put their trust in Him. We can pause long enough to give thanks for the timeless and life-changing Word of God, as well as loving families, real friends, warm houses, tasty food, freedom to worship openly in our churches and homes, the future resurrection of our loved ones in Christ, the breath literally spiraling through our lungs at this very moment, amazing teachers/mentors, God’s provision, and the list goes on and on and on.

(I would encourage you to take five minutes and scribble down a list of at least twenty-five things you’re thankful for. I did this and was surprised by all that came to mind once I started writing. Also, listen to THIS.)

We don’t always feel thankful, but we can still be thankful.

 

We can surrender our hardships and disappointments over to God—the unshakable One—and choose to praise Him for who He is, despite our pain. Maybe even in our pain.

“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him with holy fear and awe.” Hebrews 12:28

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.

And as for me, I’m choosing thankfulness.

 

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Happy November friends! I’m super giddy today, not only because the leaves are exploding into all sorts of chestnut/cinnamon/auburn hues, but mostly because Divina Bruss is joining me for Episode #18 at The Messy Table and I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Divina is a pastor’s wife, former attorney turned homeschool mama of four, marathon runner, avid learner, and lover of God’s Word. She’s continuously teaching me, challenging me, and encouraging me to wrestle with the Truth.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Philippians 1:9-10 NLT

 

If you’re needing a boost of faith, HERE’S YOUR SIGN. Divina’s transformational story and contagious passion will inspire you to press in, persevere, and hold nothing back. So grab (or reheat) your coffee, pull up a chair, and join us!

CONVERSATION NOTES + RESOURCES

Bible Plans For Kids by Divina: How To Follow Jesus | God’s Plan For Me | We’re The Church

Websites: Bible | Bible Hub | IF:Gathering | New Life.Church Series: When The Devil Knocks

Books: The Jesus Storybook Bible | Kisses From Katie | Raising Kingdom Kids |The Lifegiving Home | Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World | Dance, Stand, Run | Daring to Hope

Podcasts: Journey Women | Craig Groeschel’s Leadership Podcast | Fearless Mom | Revive Our Hearts

 

Connect with Divina + Jenn on Instagram

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