I really hope this column will bless you. You can read the most recent column below and previous columns at the archive.
There’s a funny little chapter in Isaiah. Sometimes I’ll read it to people when I do street evangelism without telling them where it is. It says things like, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that fell upon him was for our well-being.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Something terrible happens when we tell a story over and over again.
Familiarity with people breeds contempt and familiarity with stories breeds blindness. How many times to we tell the Christmas story use words like "stable" and "manger," and fail - because of our own desensitization to the story - to realize that when the King of the Universe came to earth, he was born in a barn and slept a feeding trough?
My hand stung a bit, but otherwise I felt really good. I had just punched my main playground rival in the face. Boy, did he have it coming. The next thing to deal with? That annoying teacher who would tell me to apologize. I didn’t want to apologize. I didn’t feel sorry. But I knew if I apologized, even if I didn’t mean it, she wouldn’t call my parents, so I just said, “Sorry.”
The teacher bought it. I did exactly what I was supposed to.
I don’t think Jesus would’ve bought it, though.
Lately, I’ve been looking carefully at how Jesus lived. How did he handle anger? How did he manage his time? What was his prayer life like? Most importantly, how did he teach? How did he talk?
How we talk is important. Jesus’ half-brother wrote “We stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).” Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” What we say matters.
I was people-watching recently. Nothing is quite as interesting, stimulating or entertaining as observing how people live. Because God seems interested in us, it just makes sense to be interested in people, too.
I was watching a group of students waiting to be picked up after court-mandated community service. As I watched the way they interacted with each other and with their parents over the phone, I noticed a striking similarity among them. They were all angry about everything. I have known many of these students for at least several months, and as I thought about them, I realized they were always angry. Every one of them.
She called me from a retreat another Christian group was sponsoring. She was crying. She told me that because she did not, could not and would not speak in tongues, the people running the retreat told her that she was either “quenching the Holy Spirit” or that she wasn’t saved at all.
Never mind the supernatural love I had seen her show to others. Never mind her uncanny devotion to the Word of God. Never mind the amazing way I had seen the Spirit give her courage to overcome her shyness. According to the church running the retreat, there was something deeply wrong with this young woman’s personal walk with the Lord.
New Year’s resolutions are the worst. I avoid making them at all costs because I know I am no different than most people, and most people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. Citing a study by the University of Scranton, Forbes asserts that only 8 percent of Americans actually accomplish their New Year’s resolution.
If pressed to make a resolution, however, I really struggle with being more punctual. I know that it’s rude to be late and I really hate when I’m late, but sometimes I just struggle with managing my time. More frustrating is the fact that Jesus never struggled with punctuality.
When you think of the Christmas story, what do you think of?
Maybe you think of a baby in a manger. Maybe you think of wise men and shepherds. Maybe you think of angels bringing good news of the Savior to be born.
Maybe the picture in your head is not really accurate. For instance, the wise men and shepherds did not come at the same time. Jesus was already about two years old, and Mary and Joseph for living in a house by then.
Maybe the picture in your head completely misses the point.
I like to get my hair cut.
I don’t have anyone in particular I use, and I usually go to the cosmetology school. The reason I love going there is because you never know who you’re going to get. Every time I go, I get to meet someone new.
“Who do people say that I am?”
What a strange question. Jesus moved from strange to awkward with how he followed-up his question. Imagine one of your friends or coworkers asking you this, “Who do you say I am? (Mark 8:27-29)”
At the end of the day, though, who we say Jesus is matters more than anything else in our lives. Who is Jesus?
Think quickly. What is the one best thing about you?
If your life depended on that one thing being good enough, would you live?
I’ve been a full-time pastor for a little over a year, and there have been times when I sat back and wondered to myself things like, “What am I even trying to accomplish here? What do I really want for this person I’m working with? What’s the point?”
Galatians 6:6-10 has the answer to my questions. The passage shows how best to respond to God’s Word and those who teach it.
Humility is a particularly tricky virtue. Those who have mastered it do not instruct in it — and those who instruct in humility are rarely worth listening to. Something just rings false in a claim like, "I'm the humblest man I know!"
To be clear, I make no claims to be humble here, only to proclaim and explain what the Bible says.
What is truth?
The question was not sincere. It was sarcastic, proffered by a frustrated bureaucrat stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Pilate, stuck between the decision to risk a rebellion or execute an innocent man, completely ignores the opportunity standing in front of him. John 18:38 says immediately after his sarcastic question, Pilate left the room without even sticking around to hear the answer.
Do you care about the answer?
I had a government professor in college who told me something I never forgot, “Liberty is the ability to do what you should, not the freedom to do what you want.”
Paul’s letter to the Galatians largely concerns liberty. Someone began preaching in Galatia that in order to be truly saved, men needed to be circumcised and all people had to follow the statutes described by Moses in the first five books of the Bible, which the Bible refers to as “the Law.”