Days 21-30

Day 25: "The fiery angst injustice causes."

"When Jesus enters the Temple in Jerusalem, he's not just upset, he's furious."

—From Ch. 25 ("Holy Fury"), Jesus Journey

We can all relate to feeling the fiery angst injustice causes. It’s something uncontrolled and unplanned that rises up from within. Something that, if it were to go unchecked, may lead us to take some pretty drastic measures (and maybe it should). 

Working at an inpatient psychiatric and chemical detox ward I have the privilege to daily encounter people at their lowest place in life. When I hear some of my clients stories, I can’t help but feel for them... their histories riddled with every abuse imaginable, and then the tragic, toxic ways they have attempted to mend themselves.  

My feelings for them go beyond empathy, though. A holy, righteous anger rages within me that wants to yell, “That’s just not right!” Tears flow. Knuckles whiten. Anger swirls. Brokenness remains.

These moments often catch me off guard, as if this fiery concern spawns from an origin other than myself. It’s as if I was made to feel this way—as if God is allowing me to feel, in some minuscule manner, the way he himself feels.

"Jesus went into the Temple and threw out all the people who were buying and selling in the Temple. He upturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dove-sellers.

‘This is what the Bible says,’ he said to them,

My house will be called a house of prayer –
but you have made it a brigands’ lair!’"

Matt. 21:12-13

How refreshing and fortifying is it that Jesus acts upon his internal holy fury?! Jesus leaves no room to wonder, “How do you really feel about that, Jesus?” No, Jesus is all-in. 

And that’s something we love about him, right? Think about it: Jesus drove out all who sold and bought in the Temple. I’m not sure how many people that would have been, but considering the dense crowds present at this special time, it was probably more than a few. And remember, Jesus didn’t simply overturn a table—but tables.

You get the feeling this was a very big ordeal and not some small, brief, isolated event. All eyes were on Jesus, and Jesus was throwing down. After his holy rampage and livid statements in the Temple, surely Jesus would drop the mic and exit stage left, don't you think?

What happens next, however, is both surprising and gripping:

"The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the remarkable things he was doing, and the children shouting out ‘Hosanna to David’s son!’ in the Temple, they were very cross.

‘Do you hear what they’re saying?’ they asked Jesus.

‘Yes,’ said Jesus. ‘Did you never read what it says,

You called forth praise to rise to you
from newborn babes and infants too!’"

Matt. 21:14-16

What was it about Jesus’ words and actions that not only offended those in authority to the point of wanting him dead, but at the same time welcomed the blind to see, the lame to walk (I like to imagine them dancing), and the children to break into praise? I ponder these things, and find myself in awe of Jesus, because this story is consistent and parallel with the way he engages my own heart...

According to 1 Corinthians 3:16, we are now the temple of the presence of God, and the passionate love and faithfulness of Jesus brings him to turn over the tables within me labeled “arrogance” and “self-gain,” only to give way to a beautiful healing of my own brokenness, weakness, and shame. And when Jesus does that in me, I am left to wonder at the beauty of God’s redemption, and to cry out with those children present at the Temple that day, “Hosanna to David's son!”

Today's guest post is by Ryan Riggs: "Ryan is a son, husband, and 'Papa Bear.' His favorite things in life are long dates with his captivating wife, imaginative adventures with his three curious children, and chats with heart-friends beside a fire. He spent 10 years serving with Youth With A Mission and 24-7 Prayer USA, traveling to 46 states, growing 43 dreadlocks, and sleeping on 218 couches. Ryan and family currently live in a quaint, mid-Ohio village of approximately 400 people and he works full-time as a registered nurse on an inpatient psychiatric and chemical detox ward. He and his wife Allison shepherd a small, rowdy, home-based fellowship where the children outnumber the adults. And it's awesome."

Photo credits: Stephanie Pekrul

Day 24: "Die-to-live approach."

"After all, what use is it to win the world and lose your life?"

—Jesus in Mark 8:36

I long to live in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  To live with humble attentiveness to divine breathings, and also in the power of the Word/wisdom already given us.

I wonder: how do we fully embrace being so human and earth-bound in our relationships, body, mind, etc., but at the same time develop God-centric thoughts, which can at times “make sense” to our humanness, and at other times not make any sense at all?

As I read chapter twenty-four, "Human Thoughts"—which is all about Jesus' interactions with both "the satan" and with Peter—the theme of death as a path to life resounded with me. In fact, it's a theme that has resounded with me for quite some time.

I feel a certain reverence for the idea of life coming out of death, and reflect often on the beauty and pain of this idea—both in our human experience as well as in nature. One of the more recent and larger examples of that death/life process for my wife and me came over the last year as we embarked on a journey to a "foreign" place: Wisconsin, USA.

Having lived for some time in Boston, New England, and having been thoroughly soaked with love for our friends, community, and New England as a whole, we felt a divine nudge in our minds to move back to Wisconsin, where my wife and I were raised. 

But here's the odd thing: the distance of +1000 miles and +10 years of living elsewhere had created a strong feeling of "foreignness" for us. The nudges to take a risk, to start a new business, and to reconnect with our roots felt strange.

We wrestled to do what we felt led to do because: on the one hand, it looked so simple, and did not appear to be very faith- or adventure-filled to "return to our roots"... but on the other hand, to leave a strong, loving, and inspiring community; to leave the city we loved; to leave a premier job—these things did not compute for our human thought processes either.

For a time we had envisioned an inspiring and restful sabbatical in South America and then perhaps returning to Boston, but instead we were shown a risk-taking and uncertain path...back to the Midwest, back to our roots, back to some sort of foreign-familiar: Wisconsin.

Our heads were able to acknowledge timely encouragement of “leap before you look” and to take the steps of faith and risk, but our hearts were not quite there (and, frankly, have still not caught up).

However, in the same way that Jesus saw and showed Peter the depths of the Story of God in Mark 8:34-36, we too wanted to believe beyond the initial human thoughts as to what the next season of life would look like for us.  And in that journey, we have been reminded that life comes from death, that we are given the opportunity to "safely" take risks, and to sometimes leap before you look.

Life is too short and God is too good for us to play life too safe and sensible to our human thoughts.

Clearly Peter's outlook for safety and power changed from the times of Jesus' rebuke to the post-Ascension power of Peter's life that we see later in the Book of Acts. By then, Peter had better learned from and followed Jesus' die-to-live approach, and he went on to live a life of faith-filled risk-taking and boldness.

And in doing that, Peter shared in what I call the Fellowship of If-You're-Not-Living-On-the-Edge-You're-Taking-Up-Too-Much-Room.

Today's guest post is by Jordan Schulz (aka "the Jordanian" in the acknowledgements): Jordan lives with his wife Elizabeth and their three daughters Eva, Brooklyn and Louisa in Madison, WI. He spends time working as a real estate consultant on large projects, reading to and playing with his daughters, and fixing up his very old house. 

Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson

Day 23: "Be funny, for Christ's sake!"

"I used to be afraid of being funny whenever I talked about religious things because I was under the impression that comedy is somehow less spiritual than other forms of communication. But that was before I really explored the life of Jesus."

—From Ch. 23 ("But Was He Funny?"), Jesus Journey

So brethren, was Jesus funny? What do you think?

Here's my interesting testimony: God once told me a joke.

It was February 2004, and I was out for a walk in Tauranga, New Zealand, where I then lived. I can even remember the side of the street I was walking on. God told me a joke and I laughed—I laughed out loud before I'd had time to compute how strange and unexpected an occurrence had just taken place.

But why should it be strange and unexpected for the joyful, playful inventor of humour to joke with us? Why do we presume that if God wants to speak to us, then His words are bound to be a matter of weight and gravitas, and not an expression of His extreme happiness at loving His kids? Why is it so hard for us to take silliness seriously?

Here's something else weird: The joke that God told me wasn't actually very funny. It was a kind of lame Dad-joke, a play on words of the sort that makes 10 year-olds roll their eyes and hope that no one is around to be embarrassed in front of. God was being goofy with me, his boy.

So when Trent mentioned Jesus' play on words in chapter twenty-three—"You strain the galma and swallow the gamla!!"—my ears immediately pricked up. It's a pun! It's a silly play on words! IT'S A DAD JOKE.

And oh my life, how we need Dad jokes. Heavenly Dad jokes. When the darkness of this dark world seems to cling so tight, and we are weary and heavy-laden, we need the Almighty to whisper some comic relief in our ear. We need to learn to laugh at the darkness—not because it's not dark, but because in the big picture of God's eternal transcendent joviality, our troubles and burdens really are no more than light momentary afflictions. The Devil hates us and wants us to be unhappy. Jesus doesn't. He is still a man of suffering, acquainted with grief, so we needn't think that His jokes might trivialise our pain. Instead they teach us that our pain won't last for ever, and that beyond it is delight and joy and laughter beyond our capacity for comprehension.

But here's the thing: If Trent has convinced you that, yes, Jesus was funny, please don't just add that piece of information to your 'list of things I believe about God'. Instead, add it to your devotional activities. Tell jokes to Him. Play word games and be goofy for the glory of God. Make a discipline of joy and take silliness seriously.

Be funny, for Christ's sake!

Today's guest post is by David Rowe: David is an Englishman in Charleston, SC, trying to love his neighbourhood, live by faith, and teach Americans how to make a proper cup of tea. He is the husband of the epic Maria Shahid, works for an Anglican church, and is the author of The Proverbs of Middle-earth. He cuts his own hair, and it kinda shows.

Photo credits: "laughing bugs"—Stephanie Pekrul / "smiling" & "joyful ballerina"—Chelsea Hudson

Day 22: "All the way home."

"The calling of a first-century disciple was to become like the disciple's master... It was an invitation to experience, absorb, and imitate them—to become like them."

   —From Ch. 22 ("Contagious Kingdom"), Jesus Journey

"Come follow me" says Jesus to me....what does that look like today? How does that look right now in my life? 

Nineteen years ago—on May 6, 1998—my husband, Randy, followed Jesus, His master, all the way home.  Nineteen years ago I asked Jesus how to follow him through death, through painful loss, through young widowhood, through single parenting of three young daughters in a Muslim country....

Because I wanted to be like Jesus in it all....every day....every night.

My eldest daughter's husband, Trent, reminded me again in his book that Jesus was:

"deeply rooted in the love of Abba Father"

"anointed with the Holy Spirit's power"

What Jesus said to His disciples, He says to me today:

Daughter, "celebrate that Abba Father knows you, that Abba Father loves you, and that Abba Father is for you."

For years now I have found great comfort and inspiration in Hebrews 12:2, applying its message directly to my life: "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith..."

During those years, as I walked through the streets of Izmir, Turkey, sometimes very discouraged, I would sing softly the song:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

And now I once again celebrate this profound truth: that my Master, my Jesus, was "deeply rooted in the love of Abba Father" and "anointed with the Holy Spirit's power." 

I so much want to be like Him, to experience Him, to absorb Him, to imitate Him, right where I am today—whether at the kitchen table helping my cherub-faced feisty granddaughter eat her lunch, or talking to a neighbor while hanging up laundry outside, or praying with someone who walked into the church looking for answers, or comforting a friend who's husband is in prison for his faith, or being mocked by people who I've invited to church, or sitting quietly with my lovely daughters and son-in-love, talking about God's grace to us these past nineteen years...

Today's guest post is by my mother-in-love/law, Bonnie Lutz (aka "Mom Bonnie"), whom I dearly love and truly admire, and from whom I've learned so much: "Trent is my son-in-love, married to my eldest daughter, Rebekah Bronwyn. I am a sower and waterer of seeds—seeds of truth, seeds of faith, seeds of hope, love, comfort, and healing....seeds of prayer, seeds of deliverance...seeds of song, dance, joy, and Turkey, the country which has been my home for 28 years."

Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson

Day 21: "The water of history."

“You’re not looking at things like God does. You’re looking at them like a mere mortal!”

—Jesus to Simon Peter in Matt. 16:21-23

Like my sister, I didn’t pace myself through Jesus Journey. I know Trent intended it to be read in 40 days, but I actually read it all in one sitting because I simply could not put it down.

Trent and I are brothers, but we’re also deep friends and we’ve spent many hours laughing, discussing, and debating over the years—including one awe-inspiring moment on an 8 hour car journey when we hadn’t seen each other in a very long time and in mid sentence, my very jet lagged brother fell asleep while talking, only to wake up an hour later and somehow finish his sentence!

But our longest running topic and most wonderful subject has always been Jesus and trying to see Him more clearly. Those conversations shaped my life profoundly and I will always be grateful for the years that Trent and I got to live and lead together. We often discussed the people around Jesus, and Peter’s actions and personality and the way Jesus responded to him were a very common subject.

I’ve always loved Peter. Every time I encountered him in the Scriptures, even from my childhood, I was drawn to his brashness, his audacity, his boldness and his raw desire to take action… even when patience or a measured response would be better. Rereading some of the stories about Peter as I was making my way through Trent’s book, I was struck again with what a difficult and extraordinary man Peter really was.

It’s deeply moving that Jesus had such love for him.

And it wasn’t just love… Jesus really believed in Peter. In fact, Jesus believed in Peter much more than Peter believed in himself. Even though he had wild confidence and a tendency to open his mouth as soon as a thought hit his mind, Peter was sometimes afraid and, in some very revealing moments, deeply aware of his many flaws.

The first time Jesus encounters Peter in chapter five of Luke’s account, the miracle of fish appearing in the nets makes Peter fall to his knees and say to Jesus “Leave me Lord, I’m a sinner!”

Clearly, Peter had some inkling in that moment that this was more than just a mere man who stood before him on the shore.

This situation is mirrored at the end of John’s gospel, and Peter responds very differently: when he sees the nets miraculously jump with fish again, he “threw himself into the sea” to swim to Jesus though the boat wasn’t that far from the shore.

In between these two very different responses there are three years of friendship with the man Jesus; three years of conversation and discussion, frank rebuke and strong affirmation; promises and a betrayal; there is even a bewildered moment in a garden of quick violence and unexpected healing; and finally there is breakfast on a lonely shore with a last gentle correction.

The beautiful humanity of Jesus made a place for His friend Peter to become the man Jesus always knew he could be. And Jesus is still doing that very thing for all of us, His friends.

Like Peter, I often look at things like a mere mortal. I wade into problems confidently only to find I’m in over my head. I make passionate arguments that I sometimes wish I had made gently. I open my mouth so often when I should be silent. And I sometimes find myself explaining to Jesus that He just doesn’t understand how this works or how my way would be easier than His way this time…

I’m amazed that He puts up with me. I’m astounded that He loves me.

Even more, I am stunned by His faith in me and you and who we are—the friends of Jesus who are learning to look at things like He does...

In my various roles in the music industry, in community development in Northern Ireland and sub Saharan Africa, and as a husband and a father, the common thread is my desire to bend the arc of history towards justice and hope. It’s a desire that often brings out all of the worst Peter traits in me… I’m always jumping out of some boat or another, usually making a wildly passionate declaration as I slip under the sea!

But every time I sink beneath the waves trying to walk on the water and change the world, Jesus pulls me from the depths. And then He promptly calls me back out of the boat again.

My dear wise brother Trent reminds us all again of the wonderful human understanding of Jesus… helping His friends, even when it is painful, so we can see again, and in every instance, look at things more like God does.

Because when we do, we really can walk across the water of history, rewriting a story of hope over lives, cities, and culture.

Our friend Jesus believes in us and that changes everything.

Today's guest post is by my one-and-only big brother, Tré Sheppard (aka "Lenny"), who has taught me most of what I know about Jesus and justice and... errrm... comedy: Tré grew up in the Deep South of the USA, but has spent the last 24 years living in the UK. During that time he, his wife, and brother Trent founded and helped to lead a discipleship community with YWAM called "The Factory” connecting with 3000+ emerging young leaders from more than 50 nations.  As the lead singer and songwriter of the band, Onehundredhours, he toured worldwide for 12 years, and helped to found EngageHIV, now known as E3 Initiative (, fighting poverty and HIV in Africa for more than a decade. He's now the CEO of Hope & Fury Records, and is also an award winning producer and songwriter for bands and artists worldwide with songs he's produced and co written enjoying millions of streams and plays on Spotify and radio, including BBC Radio 1, NRK P3 and stations across America. Tré serves as one of the pastors of Causeway Coast Vineyard; has a passion for culture, justice, and equality; and has been a long time champion of young people and the poor. He’s married to his girlfriend from high school, Tori, and they have two teenage children, Aidan and Elena.

Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson