Some of our staff is slowly reading through Dane Ortlund’s Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners together. Like his book, Gentle and Lowly, it’s beautifully written and is simultaneously rich in theology, warm and pastoral in its tone, and immensely practical. I appreciate how he communicates deep truths in uncomplicated ways.
The thrust of the book is that to change or to grow, we grow in Jesus, meaning knowing more of who he is and then what means for us who are united to him. “Our growth is not independent personal improvement. It is growth in Christ.”
Continue reading 7 Facets of Christ from Dane Ortlund’s book, Deeper
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
By taking our sin, Jesus faced the unimaginable sorrow of absorbing the Father’s righteous, just wrath. At the cross, Jesus was rejected for us so that we might be accepted in him. There was also the pain of being betrayed, not just by the creatures he made, or even his own people, but also by one of his disciples. But the Bible (and Isaiah 53:4) also connects the grief and sorrow of Jesus specifically to the sin he bore for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And then Galatians 3:13, Paul adds, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”
Continue reading The Great Exchange: Sorrow for Joy
Jesus’ Beatitudes in Matthew 5 describe the kind of life he calls his followers into. It’s not what the religious people of his day or our day expect. What Jesus calls a “blessed” or “flourishing” life isn’t the kind of stuff that will make on the #blessed pics on Instagram. This picture of true vs false disciples becomes even more clear—and scary—when we read it alongside of his woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23. While Matthew 5 paints a picture of true religion, Matthew 23 exposes false religion for what it is. We need to read both the beatitudes and the woes of Jesus to see the kind of disciples Jesus does and doesn’t want us to be. Together, these passages clue us in to what costly, compassionate, and Christ-honoring discipleship truly looks like.
Continue reading Disciples or Pharisees: The Beatitudes vs the Woes of Jesus in Matthew
Many of us love the Christmas season (at least we do in a normal—not 2020—year). Yes, it’s commercialized and stressful, but there are many things to enjoy: delicious desserts, classic movies and songs, gatherings with family and friends, gift exchanges, festive décor, old traditions and new memories, and fun local activities. I love Christmas time, so despite some cautions below, I’m more like Buddy the Elf than the Grinch.
But through disappointment during the holidays, I’ve also had to remind myself that “Christmas cheer” is great as a side-dish but it can’t be the main course that fills us up.
Continue reading When We Run Out of Christmas Cheer
The first words of Holy Scripture describe the story’s opening drama of creation, creation by God speaking forth light into the dark abyss. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and darkness was over the face of the deep…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light’” (Gen 1:1, 3). Bruce Waltke recognizes the Bible’s theme here and expresses it as “God irrupting into chaos to establish his rule over everything.” The creation account emphasizes the God who speaks light into darkness and breaks the silence with the power of his voice.
Continue reading Darkness. Then Light.
(This devotional is day nineteen of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
What’s your story? What’s your testimony? If you’re a believer in Christ, do you remember the wonderful gift of salvation when Jesus rescued you?
In our verses today, Paul links God’s grace and our gratitude. All the spiritual blessings we receive come to us from Christ and in Christ, so through Christ we find the source of grace and the object of our gratitude
Continue reading Why Christians Should be Thankful: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 19)
As you read the book of Colossians, Paul repeatedly holds up the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus in all things and over all things. This would be true for any of the churches he sent a letter (Epistle), but it was especially necessary at Colossae. There were those at Colossae undermining Christ’s sufficiency. They did this–as far as we know–not by rejecting Jesus, denying his humanity or divinity, or denying the claims of Jesus. Instead, it was more subtle. This false teaching conveyed the idea that Jesus is a great start, but to really arrive, grow, be happy, or experience the highest levels of knowledge and religious experience, other things needed added to Jesus or sought alongside of Jesus. It’s a “Jesus plus” or “Jesus and” theology rather than a “Jesus alone” theology.
Continue reading Christ’s Sufficiency in Colossians
2020 has given us plenty of challenges: the pandemic, quarantine and isolation, church closures and re-openings, racial tensions, riots, debates over masks and pretty much everything else tied to COVID-19, politics in an election year, and questions about government intrusion on the Church. Mix in that trying to figure out what families should do for school, and how that affects our jobs and income, as well as churches scrambling to do their best to gather together and care for those struggling with all that’s going on, and there’s plenty to leave us discouraged.
One temptation is to immerse ourself in the news–on TV, online, or through social-media–to stay up to speed and feel informed. The intense debates only fuel this as so many people read articles to defend their cause. It’s no wonder people feel stressed, anxious, and angry. To make matters worse, some statistics indicate Christians are spending even less time in the Bible than they did before the pandemic. We’re filling our minds with bad news and stressful news, meanwhile we’re neglecting to fill our minds and hearts with The Good News.
Continue reading Dwelling on The Good News in A Year of Bad News: An August Reading Plan
Colossians is full of great theology. Not just informative, but the kind of theology that warms our hearts with the knowledge of who Jesus is or that provides solid ground to stand on when our faith is shaky. The deeper we dive into Paul’s theology in this book the stronger our faith becomes.
Continue reading Articles on Two Key Doctrines in Colossians
I posted this on Facebook after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, but sadly, it is fitting again this weekend.
Recently I’ve been reading Dane Ortlund’s wonderful book Gentle and Lowly. The book focuses not so much on the person and work of Jesus—like so many books do—but on helping us see Christ’s heart of compassion and love. Yesterday, I read chapter 11 on “The Emotional Life of Christ,” which focused on how Jesus felt a righteous anger toward death. Jesus felt and feels an indignant anger against anything that is “not the way it should be.”
Continue reading Christ’s Heart that Righteously Rages Against Hurt, Death, and Injustice