Anxiety is overwhelming. It can affect our bodies. It wreaks havoc on our emotions. And it consumes our thoughts. They race like a runaway train or get caught in a vicious cycle of spinning round-and-round with “what if…”, “if only…”, or many other possibilities. Anxiety awakens us in the dark hours of the night. It can rob us of a day’s joy and suck the life right out of us.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection stand at the center of the “good news” Christians stake their lives upon. The Bible joins the bloody cross and empty tomb as two distinct but inseparable events. And yet, many of our gospel presentations and theological conversations refer to the cross as the place where salvation was fully accomplished and the deal was sealed. Christ’s resurrection is either left out or tacked on as the cherry on top. I’m thankful evangelicals have been “cross-centered” but it’s unfortunate we’ve moved the resurrection to the periphery.
“The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Charles Spurgeon
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)
The Problem: Life is Hard
Despite the way our culture values “authenticity,” most of us rarely feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and personally about the wounds and pains we carry, the weariness and weakness we feel, the dark thoughts we wrestle with, or the disappointment or frustration with life experienced. While it might be okay to admit generalities like “my life is a mess” or “I’m struggling along,” to say how and why we are fragile or broken, to confess our sins, or to share our burdens seems a bit too far. It can be an awkward moment of transparency in a world of surface-level dialogue.
John’s purpose for writing the gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).
John’s background for his book: “the framework for Jesus’ understanding of his own mission is shaped by the Scriptures mediated by the Jews” (D. A. Carson).
John’s 2 questions for the reader to wrestle with: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) What do I do with his words/teachings?
A common approach to studying the Bible is the Inductive Method. The goal is to draw out and rightly interpret a passage, not read into it or force our own meaning into it. While people use various words or acronyms to explain steps in the Inductive Method, the most simple is Observation-Interpretation-Application. In this post, I’ll provide suggested questions for learning how to make observations in a passage of the Bible. The observation stage asks, “What do I see?”
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Each Christmas or Advent season we sing about Jesus our Immanuel. God with us. We find comfort in the incarnation behind Christmas. God’s stepping down to Earth to be with us by becoming one of us in Jesus. But how is Jesus really God with us?
“Love is holy because it is like grace—the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.” Gilead
I don’t dislike Santa. My wife has even said that for someone who isn’t a “Santa supporter” I enjoy a number of Santa related things. I like Santa movies (Miracle on 34thStreet; The Santa Clause; Elf) and Santa Christmas songs. I like some Santa decorations and knick-knacks. I like when local stores offer pictures with Santa for children. I’m not anti-Santa.
In a sermon this morning, I shared one of my favorite quotes from Jared Wilson’s Imperfect Disciple. Jared is one of my favorite authors today, and in my opinion, this is his best book yet. Below is a short summary from my Amazon review, followed by a few of my favorite quotes to entice you to sneak this into your Christmas list.
Christmas is a spectacular holiday: the decorations, the classic movies and songs, the excuse to inhale a massive amount of desserts, giving and receiving gifts, and the fellowship of family and friends. If all we had were these festivities it would be a fun holiday, much like July 4thor Halloween. But, Christmas has something more to it. What makes Christmas special isn’t just the “magic” of the season but the meaning of the story.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” (Psalm 92:1)
Thanksgiving: Doctrine before Drumsticks
In our day and age of more-more-more where “Thanksgiving” is the waiting season between Halloween and Christmas, gratitude often takes a back seat. It’s no surprise being thankful struggles to compete for attention with a holiday where I get to literally make a list of things I want that people will buy me.
It’s easy to blame “the world” around me, but I’ll admit that while I know God is the source of all things in my life, it doesn’t mean thanksgiving makes it into my day-to-day rhythms like it should. I tend to go through most days taking gifts for granted and unaware of ways God worked on my behalf. I’d prefer getting things over giving thanks. And when I don’t get what I want–whether on Christmas or any other day–I complain and feel gipped.