What is Lent?

“Each year the season of Lent asks us to embrace a spiritual gravity, a downward movement of soul, a turning from our soul-sufficiency and sinfulness. In such quiet turning, we are humbled and thus made ready to receive from God a fresh and joyous grace.” Bobby Gross[1]

Lent, not to be confused with lint (that fluffy stuff in your dryer vent or jean pockets), is a season within the Church calendar preparing our hearts for Easter. Similar to how Advent each December allows us to meditate on the incarnation leading up to Christmas Day, Lent gives us six weeks to consider Christ’s humility in the wilderness temptation and his human trials as we move towards Good Friday and Easter. During this season, the Christian follows Jesus by pursuing humility in our own life, believing he must come before us. As John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

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Disciples or Pharisees: The Beatitudes vs the Woes of Jesus in Matthew

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.

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Disney & Pixar’s Soul: A Celebration of Life

Try to guess what movie I watched this Christmas. The story’s protagonist is a middle-aged man caught in a job keeping him from pursuing his dreams. Life feels mundane, maybe even meaningless. But when the man undergoes a death-like experience that grants him a new perspective, he realizes he had a good life all along. He’s adamant that he wants to live again. And thankfully, he gets a second chance, now with a renewed sense of how wonderful and significant life is. What movie did I watch?

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10 Recommended Books to Understand and Respond Faithfully to Expressive Individualism

In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman writes, “Understanding the times is a precondition of responding appropriately to the times. And understanding the times requires a knowledge of the history that has led up to the present.”[1] Over the last few years, several helpful books have been written explaining the expressive individualism defining our culture today. This is not the culture of the world “out there.” All of us live and breathe in these waters and are more affected by it than we realize.

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Make 2021 a Year of Gratitude: Cultivating the Habit of Thanksgiving

“When we bless God for mercies, we usually prolong them. When we bless God for miseries, we usually end them. Praise is the honey of life which a devout heart extracts from every bloom of providence and grace.” Charles Spurgeon

Would you characterize 2020 as a year of gratitude or grumbling? Did you notice complaining rising in your heart and slipping off your tongue more than thanksgiving to God?

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Recommended Books from 2020

Books have always been a big part of my life. They encourage, challenge, teach, and grow our imagination. They clarify what we were feeling or thinking, and they stretch us to see the world in ways we never would have. Books are a blessing.

There were many books I’d like to recommend that I don’t have space to include, but here are ten books (in no particular order) I read in 2020 that I’d recommend to all believers.

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When We Run Out of Christmas Cheer

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.

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Darkness. Then Light.

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 1:13). 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.

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Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 107: How Pain and Problems Lead to Prayer

Psalm 107 encourages God’s people to give him thanks for his steadfast love and wonderful works. Though we get ourselves into an array of difficult circumstances, some caused by our sin and others brought on by the trials of life, God is faithful to come to our help.

The psalm centers on four vignettes of groups in exile facing a struggle.

  • Weak and Weary Travelers Lost in the Desert (4-9)
  • Prisoners in Darkness and Bondage (10-16)
  • Sick Sufferers on the Brink of Death (17-22)
  • Overwhelmed, Storm-Tossed Sailors (23-32)
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Thankful for Eternity: November Gratitude Reading Plan (Day 30)

(This devotional is day twenty-nine of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)

Read Revelation 4:1–11; 7:9–17

Right now, in God’s presence, the heavenly hosts are giving thanks to God. Think about that. As we give thanks, we join the chorus of God’s creatures singing to Him. Revelation (not Revelations) pulls back the curtain between our world and God’s throne so we can glimpse this glorious spectacle. The angels, the beasts (which conjure images of the noble animals in C. S. Lewis’s world of Narnia), and the twenty-four elders offer God praise and thanksgiving.

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