This year for my church’s Christmas concert, we didn’t do what we traditionally have done–in years past we would do music with a gospel presentation from a pastor. This year instead of a pastor presenting the gospel, we chose four people from different backgrounds that are all faithfully involved at Immanuel. We asked them to describe their lives when they were in darkness, how they heard about the light of Jesus, and what their life is like now that they are living in the light.
If you had to ask me at age five what my favorite Bible story was, I’d have easily chosen the account of the Little Drummer Boy.
What’s not to love? A young, impoverished vagabond (no parents are mentioned) follows the Magi to a cozy stable, only to discover that he is the only one who arrives without a gift to bring—at least not one fit for a king. But wait, he has something just as valuable as gold and frankincense: he has his talent. With Mary’s nod of permission and jazz-loving livestock keeping time, he plays his little heart out to an appreciative baby Jesus who smiled at him… he and his drum.
I resonated with the kid’s desire to please God, and empathized with the feeling of inadequacy to do so as well as others, which is why I warmed to the idea that God didn’t expect me to be great, wise, rich, or from the Orient, he just wanted me to do what I could to the best of my ability and for his glory. I can do that!
You can imagine my disillusionment when I discovered (at an age I’m not comfortable admitting here) that the whole narrative was purely apocryphal.
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory…”
– John 1:14 -
Last Friday, we looked at the significance of John’s use of the word “dwelt” in John 1:14. I argued that by using the peculiar word for to pitch a tent, John was calling our attention to the Tabernacle of Israel, where God condescended to reveal Himself to Israel for worship and communion. The climax of the story of the Tabernacle comes in Exodus 40:34–38, where Yahweh’s glory fills the Tabernacle, signifying that He will dwell—that He will take up residence—with His people.
That scene sheds light on the relationship between the two phrases in John 1:14: “and [He] dwelt among us,” fits perfectly with “and we saw His glory.” There is an inseparable connection between the (a) dwelling place of God, and (b) His glory that fills that place. The dwelling of God is inseparable from the glory of God.
There are two reasons churches need to have clear teaching on human sexuality (sexual attraction, sexual identity, gender distinctions, etc). The first is because this is an issue which Scripture speaks about. It is under attack in today’s culture, and thus churches should be quick to clearly explain what the Bible actually says on the issue.
The second reason is because our culture is particularly litigious. With that in mind, churches have a stewardship over their finances and property to make sure that they are protected against such lawsuits, and currently the best legal protection we have is churches have the freedom to structure themselves around their own teachings. However, this legal protection is moot when churches don’t have any articulated or published views on the topic.
Now and then, it’s good to stop and bask in the kindness of God with respect to what we have been given in the Bible. It is the word of God. God has spoken. God has spoken. And it’s all here in Holy Scripture. Not one word missing. Not one word misspoken. Not one word mistaken. Incredible.
“The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times” (Ps 12:6).
“The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Ps 119:60).
The only thing that makes sense, then, is to preach Scripture in a way that seeks to stay surrendered to the biblical text so that the message is discernibly directed by the authorial intent of the particular passage. That is expository preaching. And because God’s word is so valuable, expository preaching imparts blessing in many ways.
Consider a few benefits from sitting under regular expository preaching:
There are a lot of Santa Claus stories floating around this time of year. Almost all of them are completely based in fantasy. Flying reindeer; a sleigh full of gifts; precarious chimney climbing; a fluffy red suit — all of that is total fiction.
But when my kids used to ask me, “Dad, is Santa Claus real?” I didn’t always say “No.” At least not right away.
(Pause for dramatic effect.)
Like any good student of church history, I explained that the real “Santa Claus” was actually a fourth-century pastor named Nicholas of Myra who was later considered a saint by the medieval Roman Catholic Church. He was a favorite of Dutch sailors who called him, “Sinter Klaas” (or “Saint Nicholas”) which then came into English as “Santa Claus.”
Of course, I was careful to point out that the modern American version of Saint Nicholas bears absolutely no resemblance to the fourth-century pastor from Asia Minor. The real Nicholas did not live in the North Pole. He was not Scandinavian. He did not drive a team of magical caribou. He did not work with elves. Nor did he travel the world every Christmas Eve exchanging presents for milk and cookies. Continue Reading…
It isn’t wrong to have a fern on my porch or a cactus in my office (chosen for its resilience to neglect, a prerequisite for any plant life under my supervision). But apparently having a fir tree, imitation or genuine, is considered by some to be morally repugnant; though only in December.
I’m not going to launch a crusade to promote the observance of Christmas with all its tiresome trappings and requisite redundancies; what I am going to do is call for some reasonableness by those believers who vociferously object to their brothers and sisters in Christ enjoying seasonal festivities.
First, let us just concede that Christians do not have to celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas…or Easter, or Pentecost, or St Ledger’s Day, or MLK’s birthday, or Sabbath (Col 2:16), or Thursdays (named for the Nordic god of thunder).
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…”
– John 1:14 -
If we’re reading through this verse in our daily Bible reading, we’re likely to zip right by it with little fanfare. We read, simply, that Jesus “dwelt” among us. And when we think of the idea of “dwelling” we just think of “hanging out.” But there’s much more going on in what John is saying than it sounds to us English-speakers. He uses a peculiar word here. There are more common Greek words for “to dwell,” but he chooses skēnoō. Now, the word skēnē in Greek means “tent,” and skēnoō is the verb form. So we could render it, “to pitch a tent.” John tells us that this Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.
That’s a weird way to talk, isn’t it? Especially since we don’t have any Scripture that tells us that Jesus actually pitched any literal tent during his time on Earth. Why say it this way? He’s got at least two other words that he could use here. But John uses this particular word because he wants his readers—who would be familiar with the history of Israel—to recall the tabernacle, the tent of meeting (Ex 27:21), where God met with the Israelites in the Old Testament.
Every husband would agree with the Reformer, Martin Luther, that marriage is the school of character. There are not many daily crucibles like it in which God purifies and sanctifies in such needed, blessed ways.
One of those areas in particular for husbands is learning how to lead a wife biblically. Besides his own imperfections, husbands can struggle with how to lead a wife who struggles to embrace God’s good design of submission. Few things in marriage present a greater challenge than biblical submission. As such, it is one of the more common marital struggles.
But most wives in these situations do not embark on a journey with the goal of, “I do not want God’s kind of leadership.” I’ve found that just about every wife wants to be led. In fact, it’s not uncommon for unconverted wives to respond favorably to a converted husband’s biblical leadership. That makes sense because leading is about humility, serving, self-denial, and love.
Now, compassion and patience is needed from husbands in this area for a few reasons. First, God in Christ is so radically compassionate and patient with us husbands. Second, wives are born in Adam. A resistance to biblical submission is natural. Third, our leadership, as husbands, is not as good as Christ’s. Flaws exist. If we were our wives, it would be a battle for us to submit to us.
But some of us husbands find ourselves in the often humbling, deflating situation where our wives persist in struggling to follow our lead. It’s probably not a stretch to say that the majority of the time, the husband is not the innocent party here. There are exceptions. But for the most part, if his wife struggles to follow him, it behooves the husband to consider a few questions.
Here are seven questions a husband could ask himself if his wife struggles to follow him:
In my previous posts, I explored the Old Testament usage of “kingdom” as well as the usage of “kingdom” in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Now there remains one final frontier to explore: Jesus’ parables on the kingdom. I imagine that there will be a fair amount of disagreement here, but these parables need to be understood in the light of two things:
a. All the previous posts.
b. The understanding that parables are not meant to communicate all aspects of complex and multifaceted theological concepts. Parables are simple illustrative stories that serve the purpose of making one main point. To attempt to pull 15 different ideas, related to five totally separate topics, from a parable is to misunderstand the entire nature of parables in the first place.
These are some notes and thoughts about the kingdom parables in the gospels (which are mostly Matthew). I hope this blesses, or at least stimulates some thought in those who wildly disagree with me: Continue Reading…