Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Present That Never Fades

Advent is a wonderful way to start the year.

In the liturgical church calendar, Advent begins the year. While I wasn’t raised following this church calendar, I’ve started to embrace it due to its richness and sublimity. It makes me stop and consider the history of our Christian faith, and feel a depth that’s lacking in general life.

It’s counter-cultural too. Instead of our year starting in January with “resolutions” to be the best we’ve ever been, our year starts with a realization that we can’t ever be better on our own. Our world is corrupt, fallen, sinful. Pain, sickness, and suffering abounds. Something’s not right.

We’re not ok.

But our year begins with the fulfillment of a promise. A promise that a savior would come and deliver us from sin and pain and death. A promise that a king would come to set things right. A promise that a gift would be given that keeps giving, giving, and giving.

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises and more.

When we start our year off with a baby Jesus, we’re starting the year off with a fulfilled promise. We’re starting our year off with songs of joy. We’re starting our year off with hope and peace. These are wonderful ways to begin the year, I’d say.

We start the year with deep hurt, deep desires unfulfilled. But we start the year with a child who was born to meet our deep hurt and to fulfill our deepest desires for life, joy, peace, and love. Jesus is this child. And the church calendar follows his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It’s a wonderful way to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

It also reminds us that Jesus lived an ordinary life for probably 30 years too. He worked with his hands as likely a carpenter. He didn’t have a lot of money. His family was pretty poor. He didn’t have running water. He didn’t even live in Jerusalem! That’s God’s own city! It’s where God’s presence was (more or less) since King David and King Solomon. But when Jesus, fully God and fully man, walked about on earth, he wasn’t even living in his own city. Why?

Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Because Jesus came to those who were far from God. Those who were literally, physically far from God — Gentiles, non-Jews, people like you and me.

Jesus offered a free gift through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. This gift is the beginning of our new life (for those who believe in Jesus). This gift starts our lives. This gift starts our years, year after year. It’s the beginning of something new and great.

Paul, in Romans, puts it this way:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. – Romans 5:16

I had to read this about fifty times before I had a glimmer of what he’s saying here. And pardon me for missing something. I’m sure I did.

But what I gathered here is so amazing.

The free gift from Jesus “following many trespasses brought justification.” It’s easy to get lost in all this language, to be honest. But right before this, Paul says, “the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” What’s that mean? It means the free gift is not exactly like how Adam’s one sin led to a fallen world. When we sin, even one time, we are condemned. Condemned means we’re guilty. So through one sin, we’re guilty.

One wrong thought or action in this life causes you to be guilty. That’s it.

We need this guilt removed somehow. But we can’t remove it ourselves through good works. John Stott explains why:

“So what can be done? If we are ever to be forgiven we must repay what we owe. Yet we are incapable of doing this, either for ourselves or for other people. Our present obedience and good works cannot make satisfaction for our sin, since these are required of us anyway. So we cannot save ourselves.” (emphasis mine)

We need a gift. Now, recall that one wrong thought or action in this life causes us to be guilty. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve done a bit more wrong than just one. Let’s just say I sin once a day. Since being born, that’s over 9,000 days. That’s over 9,000 sins. Woh. First of all, that’s more than I expected for some reason. Second of all, that’s only with one sin a day!

Two sins a day makes 18,000. Three makes over 27,000. If one makes me guilty, then how much more am I in the gutter!

But here’s the great part. Even after thousands of sins (or trespasses) the free gift of God brings justification! Just one sin causes condemnation. Yet one free gift overcomes innumerable sins and causes justification.

This is a much better way to start your year.

Instead of ending your year with presents that will fade away with time, start your year with a present that will never fade. Start your year with Jesus. Start your year believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Start your year with peace, hope, joy, and love.

– Matthew Welborn

 

The Reason For The Season

Yesterday, my good friend Marco and I went to the High School for lunch. In a forty minute lunch period, there were two fights. The saddest part of this is that both were widely encouraged by the other students. There was cheering, screaming, applauding, and the obligatory phone recordings of the festivities.

That more or less affected my entire day. I was supremely saddened by the fact that there is so much violence in our world, so much hatred. It seeps down into the upcoming generations.

After being present at these events, Marco and I had a conversation about sin and it’s global nature. He made a statement that I will forever steal.

Our sin is the reason for the season. 

When we approach the Christmas season, we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. To an extent this is true, and I’m not intending to split hairs. But we must acknowledge that the reason Jesus had to come in the first place is because of our sin which separates us from God. None of us come away clean, innocent, or pure in the eyes of God.

Although it’s generally not read in any Advent moments, the following passage is worth remembering:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one to come. – Romans 5:12-14

There you have it. According to Scripture, the real reason for this Christmas season is the sin that is prevalent in me.

Our sin is the reason for the season.

Adam’s sin has been imputed to all of mankind. Each of us is born into sin. There are many different worldviews present today that teach that mankind is inherently good. The Christian worldview is not one of them. According to Scripture, all have been born into sin. Instead of being inherently good, we are inherently sinful.

We don’t offer courses at our church to teach people to sin against God. Toddlers don’t go through “Deception 101” and “Advanced Selfishness”. It’s wired into them. They are innately broken.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

David sang about his innate sinfulness. He knew that he was birthed in sin.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

When I put my life up against this statement of Jesus, I realize just how sinful I am. I don’t love the Lord my God with all that is in me. So if we’re being real, we are way more sinful than we think that we are.

Yes, this is bad news.

That’s also why the good news of the gospel, the good news of Christmas, is good.

You see, the passage out of Romans 5 does not end there on the global nature of sin. It bursts into the glorious light of the gospel.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind. The sin of Adam spread to all of mankind. This is the background of the Christmas story. The shadow of the cross of Christ is on the cradle. The birth of Jesus is ultimately about His eventual death, His sacrifice for our sins.

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see two beautiful things happen.

Our sins are put on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ is put on us. Just as all of us are born into sin because of the sin of Adam, so we in Christ are righteous before God the Father because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Y’all, this is beautiful news.

I’ll be honest. Even when I write out this passage from Romans 5, my logical sensibilities are challenged by that final verse. The righteousness of Christ is a free gift. I cannot earn it. Neither can you.

We make our standing before God dependent upon our own actions and abilities, our personal holiness and righteousness. Yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear time and time again that there’s literally nothing I can do to earn what God did for me in sending His Son to die for me. Even my most noble attempts at righteousness are nowhere close to the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

The world we live in is broken, ravaged by sin. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is family violence and screaming matches in cafeterias. There doesn’t seem to be much peace anywhere. It is in this space that the message of the gospel can be transformative and tremendously impactful. The light of the gospel shines brightest in darkness.

This Christmas season, reflect. This Christmas season, in the midst of Sunday School parties and family, gifts and egg nog and decorating the house, reflect upon the message of the gospel.

Our sin is the reason for the season. But God the Father sent His Son Jesus to take our place. 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Behind The Scenes Of Christmas

Aslan is on the move.

There are few phrases that draw out emotions deep in my soul like that one. Whether it was in the book form of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or the movie adaptation, that phrase brings so much hope. In the case of the aforementioned book, Aslan is a depiction of God in a fantasy world designed by C.S. Lewis. In the book there is much hopelessness as an evil witch presides and reigns over the kingdom. Those loyal to Aslan are captured and condemned. Yet whispers still bounce about in private conversations.

Aslan is on the move.

Sure enough, the titular character ends up defeating the evil witch and bringing joy and hope to the kingdom once ravaged by perpetual winter.

When I sat in the theaters and watched this book come to life on the big screen, my heart was overwhelmed with emotions each time that phrase was proclaimed. Something deep down in my heart was being pricked each time, and I began to realize that the thought of God’s intimate involvement in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations brings so much joy and hope in my heart.

Enter the Christmas story.

Hundreds of years of quiet.

A messiah was promised by the prophets of God, and yet generation after generation passed from life to death and each subsequent generation still had not seen this promised messiah rise up.

Over the last couple weeks my wife and I have been trying to prioritize time in God’s Word together and we’ve been focusing on the Gospel of Luke. As we have been digging in together, I have been struck by the way that the Spirit is moving throughout the first two chapters leading up to the public ministry of Jesus. Just under the surface of the events that are taking place, we see that the Holy Spirit is leading the way.

The Spirit of God was something that only a chosen few received from God the Father in the Old Testament. After the resurrection of Jesus, this Spirit is poured out on all who have put their faith in what Jesus did through his life and sacrificial death. It is not shackled or limited to just a few people. It’s for everyone. It’s the agent of life that works in each of our individual lives as followers of Jesus.

Yet here in the beginning of Luke, it was not for everyone. Not yet.

In the darkness of centuries of silence, the Spirit of God began to move.

First, an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him the following about his soon to be son:

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. ‘ – Luke 1:14-15

This soon to be child would be filled with the Spirit of God as a fetus. That’s pretty incredible. In his mother’s womb he would have a special outpouring of God’s Spirit upon his life, and he would eventually pave the way for the arrival of the promised Messiah (1:17). This proclamation of the angel comes during an average day, when it seemed like the Lord had forgotten His people.

After Jesus’ birth is proclaimed to Mary, the story continues with Mary going to visit her relative Elizabeth (the woman whom Zechariah was married to). When this happens, we see the Spirit move again.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” – Luke 1:41-42

Elizabeth is given the words to say to proclaim the praises of the Messiah through the presence of the Holy Spirit in her heart and life.

It only gets better though, as the Spirit of God continues to move.

Zechariah was made mute by the angel of the Lord due to his doubting of God’s promises, yet at the arrival of his promised son Zechariah begins to proclaim and sing the greatness of God, something that comes about via, you guessed it, the Spirit of God.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. – Luke 1:67-68

The phrase Aslan is on the move does something in me, but this verse does even more. God visited and redeemed His people. That is the message of Christmas. Everything else is just noise. Sunday school parties and Christmas lights and gifts are great, truly. But what gets me most excited about this season is that we get to reflect on that promise. God visited and redeemed His people.

The actual birth of Jesus aside, there is one more figure in the proceedings leading up to the ministry of Jesus that is gifted with the presence of the Spirit.

Jesus is now the age where he is required to be purified in the temple (according to Leviticus 12) by his parents. So Mary and Joseph take Him there, and they there encounter a man by the name of Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, and he was waiting for the promised Messiah.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. . . and he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, . . . “for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” – Luke 2:25, 27-28, 30-31

This Spirit-filled man proclaimed the majesty of the infant Jesus. He proclaimed to all who heard him (much like Anna a few verses later) that this infant was the one who would bring salvation to all the nations.

In the bleakness of the perceived silence of God, God shows that He is present and involved in the world.

The story of Christmas is a story of God’s movement in the world.

Aslan is on the move.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Serving God in Cancer and Infertility

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. – Luke 1:5-7

Elizabeth and Zechariah faithfully served the Lord. The Bible describes them as righteous, walking blamelessly in all of the commands and statutes of the Lord This at first glance doesn’t seem all that extraordinary, until you reflect on two key parts of this story that the text shows us. 

First off, Elizabeth is barren and they are both in their old age. Elizabeth lived in a world where there was tremendous shame associated with barrenness, to the point of people assuming God had something against the woman who was barren. Yet despite being in such a culture and struggling with infertility, Elizabeth’s barrenness didn’t prevent her from wholeheartedly serving the Lord. That alone is astounding. Here in Elizabeth we have an example of a woman who faithfully submitted herself to God even in the midst of what many would perceive to be God’s indignation with her. 

I can’t speak for you my reader but I find it difficult to serve the Lord when I feel like the Lord has slighted me in some way. It’s hard for us to sing out his praises on Sunday morning when in the previous week tragedy has struck, whether major or minor. Yet day after day she faithfully served the Lord alongside her husband Zechariah, putting up with innumerable chide remarks regarding her barrenness from those around her no doubt. We see this because later she will proclaim that her disgrace has been taken away by God (v. 25). 

As I am typing this, memories come to mind of my dad’s former colleague and best friend, Michael O’Brien. Although the Lord has brought him home to glory, his legacy lives on in countless ways. One such way is in my memories, and one such memory stands out in my mind as I reflect on submissive worship in the midst of tragedy. 

You see, Michael had a long bout with cancer, which he eventually succumbed to. Yet in the midst of this fight, he worshiped. Day after day he worshiped while leading his family through the darkness of his own disease and when gathered publicly with other followers of Jesus his praises rang out from battered lungs. I watched him one time in a service sing out “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” This while his own cancer-battered lungs fought against him. I cannot write these paragraphs about him without fighting tears. Although I did not know him well myself, his worship and devotion to God in the midst of his own pain was worthy of emulating and worthy of admiration. 

These stories are amazing. 

When I look at Elizabeth and Zechariah, I see glimpses of Michael O’Brien. 

Let’s get back into Luke chapter one. 

Zechariah is going about his duties as a priest when it becomes his opportunity to enter the temple of the Lord. When at the altar, an angel of the Lord appears to him. . . 

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, – Luke 1:13-14

Silence. For hundreds of years the voices of the prophets have echoed away into silence. The people of God waited, hoped, and waited some more. God was seemingly far away, distant, unwilling to reside with His people. Little did anyone know that on this day, this mundane and ordinary day of service to the Lord, God would prepare the way for the greatest moment in human history. A Messiah would soon be arriving on earth, and the angel of the Lord was shining upon the darkness of one couple’s barrenness to signal the impending arrival. 

Their child was to do the following. . . 

And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. – Luke 1:16-17

This child was to prepare the way for Jesus. 

Zechariah would end up doubting the angel’s message and end up being mute until the birth of his son as a result. 

That aside though, we serve a God who faithfully visits His people in their brokenness and sin. He is not far away. Whether it is the book of Ruth or the book of Exodus, God’s timing is perfect and His purposes are great. 

Although we are not quite at Advent, my wife and I have been studying this chapter and have been in awe of God. As you head towards the holiday season, I know there are struggles you are facing. The holidays can be wonderful and beautiful, but the enemy can make them dark, brooding, and a constant reminder of what you’ve lost. 

Maybe the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah hits incredibly close to home for you, you long for a child. Maybe you are facing cancer like Michael. Maybe you have a wayward child or a tense relationship in your family. Whatever you are facing this season, meditate on the beauty of this passage. Follow the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and ultimately Jesus. Be a man or woman of God who faithfully serves God regardless of personal pain or darkness. Submit to Him.

He comes close. He brings healing and hope. Maybe it’s a child in the midst of infertility. Maybe it’s being taken home to glory. 

I long for the day when I will be in glory with Michael O’Brian. Until then, I pray that his example and the example of the Biblical characters we looked at today will spur me on to good works for God’s glory until the day my race is done. 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach 

 

When You Want To Give More

We’re entering the end of the calendar year. 2018 is almost over, beckoning us to contemplate on the next year and beyond. 

Maybe you’re not there yet. I understand.

Going backward in time from January 1st of next year, we have:

  • New Years Eve
  • Post-Christmas (Does anyone know what you’re supposed to do during these last few days? I’m still not sure.)
  • Christmas
  • Christmas Eve
  • (My sister’s birthday!)
  • Advent
  • Cyber Monday
  • Black Friday
  • Thanksgiving

That’s a lengthy list.

And holidays are nothing but costly. They cost time, money, attentiveness, and emotions.

So even if you’re not thinking about 2019 and beyond, you’re most certainly thinking about the coming holiday season(s). And as a result, you’re most likely considering the cost of them too.

But I don’t want to talk about money here the way you might be expecting. I want to talk about what I’ve been learning in my own heart about giving. And I specifically mean giving money.

Here’s a story I want us to consider in our discussion:

‘Sitting across from the temple treasury, [Jesus] watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.’ – Mark 12:41-42

Read that again if that helps you capture the image of what’s going on here.

What’s happening is something like this:

Jesus was sitting around with his disciples, probably chatting about who would be first in the kingdom or something like that. At some point, Jesus zoned out of the conversation and zoned into observing some obviously rich people walking up to give money to the temple.

Now, this is a really, really good thing to do. What they’re doing is praiseworthy. They’re rocking the Lottie Moon offering here. That church goal of $10,000 for missions–surpassed in one check! Boom, chaka laka.

They walk away, but Jesus isn’t watching them anymore. Meanwhile, the disciples notice Jesus checked out a while ago, and they start watching what he’s watching: an old, poor widow.

She drops in two quarters. Yes, 50 cents. That’s not making a dent in the thankfully-now-surpassed $10,000 missions fundraising goal. The rich people noticed her gift. How precious, they think. The disciples noticed too. That’s good, but not much really. We left our jobs and financial securities for Jesus.

But thankfully for everyone involved, and most importantly, Jesus noticed. And this is what he did and said:

‘Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had —all she had to live on.”’ – Mark 12:43-44

She did what?! Jesus says she “put more into the treasury than all the others.”

I remember from 1st grade that 10,000 is greater than 0.50. Right? (Maybe it was 2nd grade.)

(Google even says it’s 10,000. I checked.)

So what is Jesus talking about? What does he mean 50 cents is more than $10,000?

He explains with a little more detail, “For they gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had–all she had to live on.”

The rich people gave out of their surplus. They had a surplus of at least $10,000! I’m not kidding here when I say I wish I had a surplus of half that.

This is why I mentioned thinking about 2019 and beyond before. This is why I mentioned the holidays and money and giving. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about wanting a job that pays well. I mean, really well. I want to make money. I want to have a surplus out of which to give. I really do. I want to be able to take care of a family, provide for tangible needs in my church and community, buy a decent house, stock my library, have a reliable car, and meet those $10,000 goals with ease. I would love that. And I don’t think any of that desire is inherently wrong.

I used to think having a lot of money was evil. Now I realize it’s the love of money that’s the problem.

So I’ve been thinking about trying to get a better paying job. Or thinking about going back to school to get a master’s degree that could result in a high paying job and career. I’ve thought about it a lot recently. I want to love others and love God with my money. And I’ve thought I needed a lot of money to do that effectively.

And I realized I was wrong.

I realized when I read what Jesus said about the poor widow could be true of me. I could give more than the wealthiest people I know. By living paycheck to paycheck (yeah, really), I could give even more than people with thousands invested and in assets. I could even give more now than in the future (if I end up making more money in the future, which is more likely than not).

In God’s economy, which is wonky to our limited perspective, my giving can be more in God’s eyes than I think it is. And I don’t need a lot to give a lot.

You don’t need a lot to give a lot.

And people who make a lot less money than I do around the world are giving way more than I do to the Church. What a humbling realization!

God’s economy doesn’t compute. The bottom line seems written in by pen regardless of the numbers above. It’s a mystery. But we get to participate in it. By giving money you are participating in the coming of the kingdom. By giving money you are demonstrating your citizenship in the economy of heaven. By giving money you are showing the world that money isn’t worth what it’s worth to the world.

Giving out of surplus is commendable. Giving out of a generous and cheerful heart is amazing.

But giving out of lack is worth the attention and commendation of Jesus.

Think about this story as the holidays approach. Think about what Jesus notices in the widow.

Pray for the heart of a poor, old widow.

– Matt Welborn

The Voice Of God

There are seasons of my life in which I feel like God is not speaking to me. I pray, read, study, go to church, and there’s just something missing. He’ll ‘go quiet’ so to speak for a time, but then He’ll open up my ears to the ways that He was speaking to me all along. These seasons of quiet have the potential to strengthen my faith if I let them. Or I can allow myself to go the opposite way and depart from Christ in the quiet seasons.

There was a season in the history of God’s people where they faced this choice. The prophets had grown quiet, the Roman Empire was rising and making all peoples subjugated to its will, including the Jews. No genuine prophet had risen up for centuries, and yet the prophets of old had told of a Messiah that would come and make all things new. In a sense, the Lord hadn’t spoken for centuries.

I can’t imagine what it was like to be in the people of God in that time. It would have been tempting to lose hope, to jump on the bandwagon when any number of men claimed to be the promised Messiah. In this moment however, no one was expecting an infant babe in a manger. Man, this Christmas season so far has been great. I’ve had the opportunity to stop and reflect and remember what makes the Christmas story so magnificent. There’s an aspect of the Christmas story I pray that we all remember, one that sometimes gets lost on me. And to get this aspect of the story, look with me at the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews is an ongoing reminder that this infant babe we remember during the Christmas season is more marvelous and more amazing than anything that this world has to offer. Page after page, chapter after chapter extols the rich wonders of His majesty. If you have a hard time glimpsing the greatness of our gracious King, then take a gander at the book of Hebrews. Better_background slide

What I want us to think about comes from the opening passage of this book. I’m not intending to unpack this whole passage in this post, I just want us to have our minds and hearts formed by one part of it. Read with me Hebrews 1:1-4.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 

The truth I want us to grasp is found in the first two verses, but this whole chunk of Scripture is too great to not share.

Long ago, God spoke to His people via the prophets. Now he speaks to us by the Son.

Those two sentences should floor us.

But they don’t.

We are a disenchanted people, things don’t inspire awe in us because we have the answer or supposed answer for every phenomenon whether it be natural or manmade.

There are great and epic stories in our culture that get such an enchanted and wondrous response from us. For me it’s This Is Us and the new Star Wars. I’m reading tweets and news articles, trying to find out all I can about these two stories. The trailer for the new Star Wars movie drew me into wonder. Enchantment. Amazement.

Now that’s probably a lame reality of my life, but it’s also a convicting one.

There is a story that is far greater, far more worthy of our excitement, anticipation, and proclamation. The story of Jesus.

Seriously.

Pause with me. Think.

 

The people of God were used to having a conduit so to speak to God, they had men and women of renown who spoke on behalf of God as prophets. Then, silence. Now Jesus steps onto the scene and throughout the entire narrative of His life we come to realize that God now speaks to us through this personal and intimate relationship made available to us through the Resurrected Son.

Here are three quick ways to apply this wonderful gift to our lives this Christmas season:

1. Read the Gospels. God speaks to us now via His Son. Look at the Biblical accounts of Jesus. See the way that he interacts with sinners, religious leaders, His disciples. Hear the teachings of the Kingdom. Immerse yourself in the life of Jesus. Don’t let this amazing gift go to waste.

2. Prayer. Man, now I’m going the cliche Sunday School route. But it’s true. God speaks to us via His Son. The Son whom Hebrews tells us is still on the throne of glory. The Son who holds the cosmos together. He is willing and able to commune with you through prayer.

3. Be Still. I am horrendous at meditation. Literally the worst. My mind goes crazy running all over the place. But this Christmas season, stop. This Christmas season, be still. Be quiet. Don’t talk. Be still and silent. Imagine the 400 years of silence. Feel the anticipation well up inside of you. Then when you’ve lost your ability to stay still, go out and proclaim the wondrous news we have that Jesus is alive and He is the voice of God.

Jesus is the better prophet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Winter Snow

It’s hard to get into the Christmas season when it’s over seventy degrees outside, but I’ve still kept trying. Last night after church I cleaned around my home and then put up the small amount of Christmas decorations that I have. I’ve got a four foot tree, some garland, one wreath, and one string of lights. I’m incredibly grateful for these decorations that honestly some anonymous Christmas elf left at my door yesterday afternoon. 24302092_1519994381451567_5764404658296458904_o.jpg

I enjoyed several hours of Christmas music and reading and reflecting on the Christmas story. Later in the evening I went outside, and just down the road from me is a house that is stunning in its decorations. Thousands and thousands of lights pepper their lawn and home and shed. Their lawn is full of incredible life-size decorations and nativity scenes. To make this even more impressive, the lights are set to music you can listen to via car radio. It is an amazing feat of patience and ingenuity considering my twenty minutes of decorating had me ready to be done.

As I reflect on the amazing light show down the street compared to my modest living room decorations, it reminds me of the beauty and enchantment of the Christmas story.

God became a man. The God who is right now being praised on his throne by the angelic hosts and saints of old (including family members and friends who have gone before me) stepped down off his throne and became a man. He left glory and entered the muck and mire of our world. The King of the Cosmos becomes an infant babe born to a poor teenage woman in a manger. He didn’t show up with fanfare, He showed up unnoticed. What in the world.

Earlier today during my lunch break I was reading Revelation 19:1-10 and while I certainly do not fully understand what in the world is going on in this passage, I do understand that what this passage says about God is oh so true.

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, – Revelation 19:1

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. – Revelation 19:6b

The God from whom comes salvation, glory, and power. The God who reigns. The Almighty God. The Lord God. God became a man.

Now if you’re like me, you’ve heard the Christmas story many, many times. But have you paused to consider the wonder of it? God became a man. And he didn’t show up in great hoopla and power. He didn’t show up in awe-inspiring glory that made the whole world fall to its knees in fear and trembling. He could have showed up in a way that got everyone’s attention like a light show that you can see from blocks away. He could have. He didn’t.

Instead, he came as a little child. He came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Instead he came like a handful of lights in a living room. He came in such a way that the nations didn’t notice. Shepherds noticed only because the heavenly hosts drew their attention to Him. To the world He created, He was just another baby born to a young couple.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus is God. But He made Himself nothing by taking on the form of a servant in the likeness of man. Paul David Tripp unpacks this reality much more beautifully than I could:

God would take on human flesh and invade his sin-broken world with his wisdom, power, glory, and grace. But he wouldn’t descend to a palace. Instead, the Lord Almighty, the Creator, the sovereign King over all things would humble himself and take on the form of servant; he would live on our behalf the life we could have never lived, he would willingly die the death that you and I deserve to die, and he would rise from his tomb as the conquerer of sin and death. – Paul David Tripp 

He didn’t come like a hurricane, a fire, a tidal wave, or an earthquake. He came like a winter snow, gently and quietly.

Here’s three quick ways to cherish this reality and apply this to your own life this Christmas season:

  1. Look inI’ve written about this at length last week, but our minds and hearts are being formed by what we feed our eyes and ears. In this Christmas season, put away the media and technology for at least an hour before bed, giving yourself the time to reflect upon and meditate on the wondrous story of the birth of Jesus. Read the Scriptures, listen to music, put on a fire, and let your heart and mind be formed by Jesus and not the hubbub of our consumeristic culture. Acknowledge where you need to grow spiritually. It will pay off big time for you in the end.
  2. Look out. There is a world in need right outside your door, and it is my belief that God is at work in the nations in ways that we are too distracted to see. God is at work here in Vernon, Texas, and I simply don’t notice at times. So look out and see Him at work. We can also look out by remembering Christ came in humility, to serve. He could have come in justice, to reign (one day He will). Because of that, we can look out for people who are in need, and strive to serve them with the love of Christ.
  3. Look up. Gaze up at the stars sometime during this Christmas season. Absolutely go and look at Christmas lights, but also look further up. Nothing humbles me faster than looking way up in the sky and remembering just how teeny tiny I am and how magnificent and mighty God is. Revelation 19:4 tells us that Jesus is seated on the throne. Right now heavenly hosts and saints of old are giving him the praise that he deserves. Look up and join their magnificent chorus.

Make this Christmas about more than just gifts. Make it about Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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