I recently had the privilege of teaching on a biblical theology of pilgrims, sojourners, and exiles. While my focus was on how Christians are spiritual sojourners as citizens of heaven living on earth, I was struck again by how much the Bible speaks to the situation of sojourners today (immigrants and refugees). Think about how much of the Bible is written about or to people on the move: whether exiles, sojourners, wanderers in the wilderness, or people on a pilgrimage. This wealth of biblical material provides insight into how we might think about, treat, and care for immigrants and refugees (sojourners) today. (A sojourner in the Bible was one residing in or traveling through a country not their own. This is why some translations use “immigrant” for sojourner.)
One of the areas of disagreement in the in-person and online wider Christian world (often a very scary and even unChristian place), is what is actually “gospel work.” Are effects of the gospel part of the gospel? Are things Christians work towards and cultivate in their church, community, and family connected to the gospel, or is “the gospel” only the message of how sinners become right with God? It’s a good question, when really asked rather than thrown out as a smoke-screen to avoid allowing the gospel to do its deep work in our lives.
There is a growing tendency within the church to call any issue a “political issue.” Examples include how we treat refugees and immigrants, racial reconciliation, climate change and creation care, gun control, care for the poor, sexuality, gender, and marriage issues. My problem isn’t connecting faith and politics (which should be done), but that this often is a way of stiff-arming contemporary issues from the Bible. Rather than approaching a topic from our faith, everything is viewed through its political angle, party disputes, and social divides.
If you’ve been in the church for a while, no doubt you’ve heard a lot about Jesus as Savior, Lord, King, and Teacher. All these glorious truths are essential and should be held up. But there is a core reality of who Jesus is that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. There is a benefit to the gospel and believing in Jesus even deeper than forgiveness. There is a key truth motivating our walk with Christ just as important as viewing Jesus as our Lord. And this wonderful biblical truth is that Jesus is our friend.
One of the best things Christians can do to stir their affections for God is to read books focused on Jesus. These books help us follow Paul’s pattern of looking up to Jesus as the means by which we start looking like Jesus. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Nothing refreshes the heart like a few sips of Christ’s glory.
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?
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.
When we really think about the Incarnation (God taking on flesh), it should stir wonder in us. In The God Who Became Human, Graham Cole summarizes his hope for the reader.
One joy of studying the Word rather than giving it a cursory reading is all the truth that starts to pop. Read through anything quickly and little will stand out. Read things slowly and thoughtfully, and you’ll experience reading in a whole new way. One thing slowing down forces us to do is to ask questions about the Bible. What does a word mean? Why did the writer use that sentence order or repeat that phrase several times? Where else from Scripture might they be drawing from? If we pause to chew on one word, one promise, one truth, or one phrase, we’re much more likely to be gripped by it and do something with it.
The quotable Keller doesn’t disappoint in his book on prayer. One section I’ve found especially helpful defines and explains prayer as conversations in response to our knowledge of God. An implication is that one way to galvanize our prayer life is to grow our theology. Continue reading Good Theology Makes for Good Prayers