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.
(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 gratitudeContinue 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Every year there are a couple of Christian books published that fall into the “must buy” category. Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is one of those books. We mature by marveling at Jesus (Col. 1:28). That means a good book must partially be judged by how much it compels us with the glory and goodness of Jesus. That’s what Ortlund’s book is all about. While it certainly unpacks the person and work of Christ, what’s unique is it’s angle of showing us the heart of Christ. How does he view and treat us as sinners and sufferers? We all want that question answered. If we’re bold enough to say it, we even wonder how he feels about us.
Most Christians would agree that unity is a good thing. We’d like more unity in churches and in our relationships, not less. But what often impedes progress is we don’t like what’s required to make unity possible. There is no unity without humility.
There is no joining ourselves with others apart from some dying to self. Each of us must decide, is the payoff of peace worth the price of a gut-punch to my pride? We might desire the beauty of oneness and the sweetness of harmony, but we wait for others to bend and come to us. We want peace on our terms, without the baggage of humility, empathy, and selflessness. Unity is important, but do we value it as much as being heard, exercising our freedoms and rights, and expressing my opinion?