Bible Posts

The Difference Between the Manger and the Cross

The Difference Between the Manger and the Cross

“Though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As I reflect on another Christmas I realize how much faster the season goes as you get older. As a kid the days are eternity. You find different methods to keep your sanity while you slowly count down the days one by one. You rip paper rings or cross off boxes on a grid. As an adult, you stare at a daunting checklist of actions all to be done before you are even remotely prepared for Christmas. Nobody wants to be the guy who finally gets his lights and tree up on Christmas Eve to enjoy them for all of a handful of hours.

Regardless of how much time we get each year to slow down and enjoy what Christmas is about, we each have our core traditions and celebrations. Part of that for me is a reminder of the concept the prophet Isaiah first introduced us to of Immanuel, or God with us. That’s the shocking, unexpected story we reflect on each year. God came to us. And even though He didn’t look as we might imagine, this little baby cleared up all our misconceptions and questions about what God is really like. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” Hebrews 1:3 (NLT). Jesus had God-radiation oozing off of Him. You couldn’t see Him or come in contact with Him without experiencing the Divine. Everything else must now be measured by Him. What an incredible human life!

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The Weight of Words

This post originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.

As a person who speaks in front of crowds on a regular basis, I often get into funny conversations with people I meet. We have five campuses across the Valley so most people in our church hear me preach at a distance. When all you know is what you see from afar, or on video, real life has a way — evidently — of surprising you. I’ve been told that I’m shorter than they thought and even that I have more gray hair than they’d expect. I’ve been told all manner of observations that catch me completely by surprise. People tend to turn off their regular social filters in moments like these. Normal etiquette falls by the wayside as blunt truth takes over.

As I’ve experienced this strange occurrence over the years, I’ve realized that this happens in an even greater capacity in a different context. Specifically, when we talk with someone who is hurting. Oftentimes when we don’t understand a person’s pain, we tend to say incredibly insensitive things to them. While my conversations with people can be comical, conversations with a hurting person often add to their pain.

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The Story Comes Full Circle

We are going through The Story at Central right now and this past weekend we covered Joshua and the city of Jericho. I had a few people ask me about how we reconcile God’s command for the Israelites to wipe everyone out. That includes women and children. Stop for a moment and actually imagine God asking you to carry out that order. Sound horrific? Hopefully it does. This leads us to a problem that any critical thinker who ponders this story has to wrestle with. What do we do with this story in light of what we see in Jesus?

We have a few obvious answers to this question:

  1. It is literal history and we must accept it as is.
  2. It is an allegory and is not to be taken literally in any way (as the early theologian Origen does)
  3. Something else is going on with this narrative that requires deeper interpretation.

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The Gift of Bad Leaders

I’ve arrived at a leadership axiom after a couple different observations collided together in my head.

Example #1: Recently I watched as one of the people on my team had to navigate a difficult situation. To top it off, he was fixing a problem from someone else. On one hand, it wasn’t fair he had to do this. But that comes with the territory when you lead well. It was precisely because of his great leadership he was given the task of fixing another person’s problem.

Example #2: This coincided with a story I was reading about Moses. As Moses is receiving the “big ten,” his brother Aaron is busy enabling the Israelites to start making their own gods and essentially forgetting everything God had just done for them. When Moses confronts his brother, Aaron gives a typical—yet awesomely moronic—defense of his poor leadership:

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Love Your Enemy… Just Kidding!

Love Your Enemy… Just Kidding!

There are a lot of verses in the Bible that leave much to interpretation. Is it meant to be literal, or a metaphor, or a story, or poetry, or prophecy, or a handful of other writing styles?

And then there are the other verses that are shockingly simple. Yet those don’t tend to be any easier for us to understand or apply. Consider the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44

That’s about as straightforward as it gets. But like another guy who heard Jesus teach about our neighbors (Luke 10:29), we tend to wonder which of our enemies he’s referring to? Sure, I’ll love my theoretical enemy, but surely this has limits right? The typical Christian in America today might have this list of exclusions to Jesus’ enemy policy:

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Misquoted Verses of the Bible (Gen. 1:26)

Misquoted Verses of the Bible (Gen. 1:26)

This post is part of a series looking at misquoted verses of the Bible. Click here to see others.

We started week one of The Story at Central this week so I’ve been reflecting a bit on the creation narrative. Here we find another misquoted verse of the Bible which you often hear mentioned (out of context) today. As God speaks everything into existence we get to the verse where Adam enters the scene. Noticeably, things are different with this part of creation.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, underline mine)

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