Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

15 Ailments of the Church #12: Having a Funeral Face

Read Romans 15:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 NRSV)

Dead-RosesWhat does a Christian look like? Can you tell one a part from anyone else in the world? What sets a Christian a part from the non-Christians, apart from the Christian’s profession of belief in Jesus Christ? Are we joyous, happy, loving, caring compassionate, understanding, patient, and forgiving? Or, when the world looks at us, does it see a reality that is far different than  our own self-perception of ourselves? I could go in a different direction with this, but for now, I will stick with the next of the Pope’s 15 Ailments of the Church.

Ailment of the Church #12: Having a Funeral Face. The church is supposed to be a people of hope, a people of unending joy, a people are are moved by compassion, and a people that are driven by love. Yet, in reality, the people of the church fall well short of that. First, let me remind you that by church I do not mean the building that people worship in. That is a place of worship, but that is not “the church.” Yes, most of the time when people enter our places of worship they see a happy people. But happiness and joy are two different things. I am not so certain they find joy when they walk into our doors.

When people see the church, whether it be within a place of worship, within a Christian organization, or within our community and/or the world, most people see a people who are angry, judgmental, manipulative, cut throat, filled to the brim with deceit and overflowing with the unholy art of slander through gossip. What’s more, they see a people who are cynical rather than hopeful. They see a people who are sullen as opposed to a people who are filled with God’s joy. They see a people who are fearful rather than a people who are faithful.

This is what I believe Pope Francis I calls, “Having a Funeral Face.” Christians, if we truly believe what the Bible and our own collective experiences tell us, should be acting as if they are at a great wedding celebration…not as if they are sitting at a funeral waiting for the body of the dearly departed to be brought out for burial. We should be joyful, hopeful, faithful, full of excitement and inviting of others to join us. Everyone LOVES a good party. Everyone loves to get invited to a great party; however, no one loves attending funerals and no one is bound to get excited about a funeral dirge.

We, as the church, need to get excited again. We need to take off our funeral face and throw it into the fire. We need to remember that we celebrate a RISEN and LIVING CHRIST. We are called to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and to partake in it, so that others may share in the same hope we have. Christ is calling us to be the people the church was called to be. Christ is inviting us to leave the funeral and rejoin the wedding. The door is open and the opportunity presents itself. Will we be a people consumed by the death of our very own faith, will be consumed by our own funeral sores? Or will we be resurrected with the LIVING CHRIST and live a life of pure and eternal joy and peace? Will continue down the road of hopelessness, or will we be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. The choice is ours to make.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The dead do not know the value of white sheets.” – Haitian Proverb

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for breathing life into me. Guide to a better way of living and expressing my life in you. Fill me with your joy, your peace and your love! Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #11: Being Indifferent to Others

Read Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:17 NLT)

Wall-of-ApathyWe live a world of coup d’état. Every time we turn around people are being undercut, taken out of the way, disposed of and replaced by people who don’t seem to be any better than the ones they’ve replaced. All anyone has to do is to turn on the news to see plenty of examples of this happening, especially in American politics. People who would otherwise be political allies are throwing each other under the bus in order to win an election and/or make political gains. Of course, in world and/or national politics this sort of thing is expected. What’s sad is that it has become expected over the years in the Christian church as well. This leads us to Pope Francis I’s 11th Ailment of the church.

11th Ailment of the Church: Being indifferent to others. If one were to ask a Christian what the mission and purpose of the church is, my guess is that “being indifferent to others” wouldn’t even make the list! Jesus certainly wasn’t indifferent to others. He may not have liked everyone he came into contact with, he may not have agreed with everything everyone believed, and he definitely got angry with certain people and certain angers; however, Jesus was NEVER, EVER indifferent to them.

Many people think that hatred is the opposite of love. The truth is that hatred is NOT the opposite of love. In fact, sometimes there is an extremely fine line between love and hate. They are too close to each other, emotionally speaking, for them to be opposites. What is truly opposite of love is apathy. Apathy is literally a lack of care, enthusiasm, interest and/or concern. In other words, apathy is indifference and indifference is ultimately the opposite of empathy which is closely related to sympathy and includes the following attributes: compassion, care, solicitude, affinity, concern, etc. In reality, apathy is the opposite of love.

Yet, the church often fails to have empathy and often falls into the category of apathy. People have too often been used as a means to an end rather than being the end unto themselves. People with in the church have cut other church members down in order to advance their agendas, their positions and/or their beliefs. The church has cut different groups of people down, apathetic to whether or not their actions are damning or damaging to the people who fall beneath their judgment. Individual Christians and churches alike will often justify not helping someone because of excuses they come up with that, consciously or unconsciously, are really nothing more than constructed walls to hide an underlying apathy for the people they are avoiding helping.

Jesus is calling the church back to empathy. That doesn’t mean that the church will agree with everything, or that it will affirm everything…but that in all things, in agreement or disagreement, the church will both care enough to RESPOND and to RESPOND LOVINGLY. A loving response is not necessarily a a response of love or affirmation…but one that seeks to build the other up, even when it requires a bit of tearing down. Christ wants a church that is engaged with and active among others, as opposed to just being a country club that is engaged and active with itself. That kind of activity serves no purpose, but the kind Christ seeks IS THE PURPOSE of the church. Don’t undercut, don’t view people as disposable, removable, and/or replaceable. Don’t seek to use people, indifferently, as a means to an end, but view people as the end unto themselves. Be engaged and be active in ways that show the empathy, love, compassion, care, concern, and solicitude of Christ our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” – Jesus, the risen Christ (Revelation 3:19 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I never wish to be indifferent or apathetic. Spark in me a passion to act according to your will. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #10: Glorifying One’s Bosses

Read Romans 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9 NRSV)

GettyImages_71897390All I have to do is turn on cable news to remind myself that I simply DO NOT like politics. Actually, it reminds me of ancient Rome and all of the in-fighting, maneuvering, slandering, backstabbing, and power-grabbing reminds me of ancient Rome. Julius Caesar worked his way up the ranks and nearly claimed being KING…only to be assassinated by his friends who didn’t want to see him have that kind of power…who were in turn executed for treason by the great nephew of Julius (someone who never would have been named an “heir” by Julius himself)…who then makes himself Emperor for life. Of course, once that life is extinguished, a whole new slew of Emperors take power, are corrupted by the power, and are assassinated by people who then, in turn, take power and are corrupted by it. And this is just Rome we’re talking about. We now will turn our eyes to the church.

Ailment of the Church #10: Glorifying One’s Bosses. A lot of people will say that they do not like politics. In fact, I opened up this devotion with that very statement. When that is said, I think most people realize that politics are a vital part of how our society is held together. We all, everyday, live according to and are held accountable to the social contract that governs our society. Without that, one could argue that complete chaos would ensue because it would be each for his/her own. Whether or not that is true, and there others who would argue the other way, politics are a reality within the governance of a country, society or institution.

And that is just as true within the church as it is in any other organization. Along with the positives that we can find in being organized, comes all of the negatives as well. In churches, at the denominational level as well as at the local level, we find in-fighting, maneuvering, slandering, backstabbing, and power-grabbing that is commonplace in all organizations. We have people who think one way pitted against others who think another way. We have people who look up to positions and status within the church hierarchy in ways that bring glorification, value and power to those positions and statuses.

This issue of “politics” goes well beyond the walls of the church and into our everyday lives. Do you consider yourself a Christian? If so, have you ever sought a position of status or power? Have you taken measures to ensure getting into position. Have you competed against others for positions and/or statuses? Have you ever in used the phrase, “the end justifies the means?” I think when we all pause and think about this for a moment, we can all say, “Yes, I’ve done that.”

I am not trying to knock success, or structure, or healthy competition, or positions of responsibility, or even power. These things can, and have been, used for good; however, when we glorify those things above Christ, when we seek them out at all costs, when we neglect our call as Christians or, worse, when we allow positions, statuses, and power define us as Christians, we’ve abandoned Christ and failed to be Christ’s true followers. We have been called to make Christ our valuable treasure that we seek. We are called to make following Christ our life’s goal. We are called to seek out and invite others to join us, as equals, in embracing the status of “children of God.” So let us drop the politics and HONOR God by picking up that identity, embracing it, and sharing the GOOD NEWS of it to all the world…just as the CHURCH has been commissioned by Christ to do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER
Lord, help me to move beyond my own struggle for position, status and power so that may be solely focused on you and your will for me. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #5: Working Without Coordination

Read 1 Corinthians 12:20-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT)

cso_muti_aboutMusic is the thing that makes the world go ’round. It is the key to the universe, the universal language, something that affects all it comes in contact with. Right? There are studies that even state that music positively affects plant-life, so the next time you try to plant a garden make sure it is close to the bathroom window so the plants can hear you singing in the shower. All jokes aside, music has long been thought to be a driving force of the universe. Pythagoras discovered the mathematical basis of music and also noticed the same patterns of movements of the moon, the stars and the planets. Interesting, right? What’s more interesting is how this all connects to the Pope Francis I’s 5th ailment of the church.

5th Ailment of the Church: Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. A symphony works when instruments, each playing different parts at the same time, come together to produce a harmony of notes. We call that harmony a “chord”. Music is made up of these chords and what makes music different from “noise” is that the notes and chords coming from the instruments are all working together harmoniously. But what happens when the guitar decides to play a G major when it is supposed to be a flat, and when the Clarinet decides to play the fifth measure at the precise moment it is supposed to be playing the thirty-fifth, and the violin decides that it is going to play staccato when it should be playing legato, etc.? What happens when the pianist decides to play Liszt’s version of Danse Macabre while the choir is supposed to be singing the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony? The result would truly be NOISE! There would be no harmony and everything would be chaotic and discordant.

The truth of the matter is that Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth has become so cliché anymore that we completely overlook his call for the church to view itself organically as the body of Christ, made up of many parts. We use the phrase “body of Christ” so much that it has become meaningless for us. We all fight and bicker and politically maneuver around other brothers and sisters in Christ in order to get what we want. Christ stated that we would be known as his followers because of our love for one another and, yet, we seemingly don’t have a whole lot of love for one another, do we? When Paul said that we are “the body”, he didn’t mean that YOU are the body of Christ, just that you are a part of it. And by part, he didn’t mean that you were the best part, or the greatest part, or the most important part, but that you were a part being called to do your part.

But again, that has become very cliché; so, perhaps it is best to look at this in terms of an orchestra.This is not the Todd Lattig show, or the Pope Francis I show, or the United Methodist Show, or the Roman Catholic show, or the Baptist show, or the Evangelical, non-denominational show; rather, this is the Jesus Christ show and we have all been invited to participate in making music for Jesus Christ. NOTE: I am talking about making “Christian Music”, but about being a part of the symphony that God has been writing since the outset of the world. It’s a love song, a kind of transcendent number that moves within you and and changes you. It is the kind of number that has you both dancing and standing timelessly still in infinite space. The question is, can you lay down your ego to join this orchestra? Can you make music, or are just going to keep on making noise? The choice is yours. Continually pray that the church, yourself included, will give up its self-motivated pride in order to see that the true SELF is Christ and that we are all a part CHRIST’s SELF. Now that is a song that transcends NOISE and is worth listening to!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.” – Gaius Sallustius Crispus

PRAYER
Lord, daily remind me that my life is yours and that I am a part of something far greater than myself. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #4: Planning Too Much

Read Genesis 11:1-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

tower_of_babel.170113154Well, Happy New Year! It’s 2015 and we’re half-way through the second decade of the 21st century! Isn’t that just mind-boggling? Well, whether we are blown away about that or not, time keeps on moving and so must we. As such, I find this to be an excellent time to take a look at the 4th of 15 ailments that Pope Francis I has addressed with his curia, in order for us to reflect on how the universal church falls into “dis-ease” over these problems.

Ailment #4: Planning too much. How many of you are planners? You know who you are. How many of you spend your days trying to make sure that everything is in order and that all gets done? How many of you plan what time you wake up, what time you eat breakfast, what time you do your daily chores, what time you run your weekly errands, what time you eat dinner, and what time you go to bed? Planning is such an important part of our daily routine and, if the truth be told, without planning life would simply be too chaotic. So, why is planning an ailment of the church?

Simply put, planning is NOT an ailment of the church? In fact, it is not one the 15 Ailments of the Curia that Pope Francis I addresses either; rather, PLANNING TOO MUCH (aka over-planning) is the ailment we are addressing here. There is no sin in having a routine to follow. Structure never killed anyone; however, having an overly cumbersome and top-heavy structure has killed a good many people. Like the Tower of Babel, such a top-heavy and over-reaching structure is bound to come tumbling down.

The church is notorious for over-planning. We’re just pulling out of Advent…a season where there isn’t enough spaces on the calendar for all the planning that gets done. What’s more, we’re quickly approaching Lent…yet another time of crazy planning. But it’s not just the church calendar that gets planned for. Have you ever been to a church administrative council meeting? We get so caught up over our finances (or lack thereof), over capital projects, over parking issues, and over a host of other things. Who will cover for this person when that person is out? What have we got planned if only 2 show up to youth group? What happens if 400 show up to youth group? And on, and on, ad infinitum et nauseum.

Now take that down from the church level to our own personal lives? We plan so much that we barely have time (or so we think) for anything else in our lives? Between work, school, church, family, etc., we are literally all booked up. The question for us, on all of these levels, is this: “What room are you leaving for the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of the church?” Do we have such of a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit that we feel we must have everything figured and planned out? Are we a people of faith or impeccable planning?

Today’s challenge is for us to stop planning too much and leave some wiggle room for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of the church. It is true that the door will open wide for things to not work out as planned, but that is exactly the point. Things don’t always need to be planned, nor do things always need to work according to our plan. Let’s face it, God is the one with the plan and God is inviting us to join in on the plan, but we have to be willing to trust, follow and obey…and we can’t do those things if we constantly see ourselves at the helm. So, step back and allow God to do some of the steering. It’s okay to have a plan, so long as you know whose plan you are ultimately following.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Earthly wisdom is doing what comes naturally. Godly wisdom is doing what the Holy Spirit compels us to do.” – Charles Stanley

PRAYER by St. Augustine of Hippo
O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #3: Becoming Spiritually and Mentally Hardened

Read John 11:30-45

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 NRSV)

compassionateHandsHappy New Year everyone! Today is New Year’s Eve and we are less than a day away (depending on where in the world you are) from the ball dropping and the partying stopping. Out with the old, in with the new. People will, no doubt, lament about how terrible this past year was and they will, no doubt, being cheering on the advent of 2015 with high hopes and expectations. Of course, they will do the same next year just like the did the same last year. Well, rather than raising a toast to triviality, I thought it would be good to look at Pope Francis’ third of fifteen ailments of his curio. As I have stated, I think it is a prudent exercise to expand the ailments to the universal church, which I have taken the liberty of doing.

Ailment # 3: Becoming Spiritually and Mentally Hardened. The church is called to be the body of Christ. It is called to be the representatives of Christ and Christ’s mission in the world. One of the key words that most, if not all, people would use to describe Jesus Christ, is compassion. In the Christian Scriptures, it refers to Jesus “having compassion” on people at least eight times depending on the translation (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13; 15:20 NRSV). With that said, there is evidence of Jesus’ compassion even beyond the use of the word compassion. Jesus wept for his beloved Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41) and he also wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus and had compassion on Lazarus’ sisters, friends and family (John 11:35). He had compassion on the sick, the dying, the demon possessed, the sinners, the differently abled, and even on those who opposed him. Yes, Jesus was compassionate.

With that said and out there, why does Christ’s church fail to live into the compassion of their Lord? If we are the body of Christ, why aren’t we filled with the compassion of Christ? Too many times I have witnessed, and sadly been a part of, an incompassionate church. The infighting, the politics, the gossip, the judgmentalism and the slander within churches bear witness to a corrupt and lost organization rather than a living and life-giving organism. Are we the body of Christ, or are we organized Christianity? Are we organic, able to adapt with change and circumstance. Able to feel emotion and be moved with compassion, or are we organizational and bound by unbending rules and regulations?

The church as a whole has become too much like the world. We have grown numb and have lost our ability to feel. We look at the poor with disdain. We look at “criminals” with eyes of judgment. We separate ourselves from “sinners” and treat them as unworthy of God’s grace. We look at each other with contempt as we compete to be the best and the biggest and the most loved and the most followed. We position ourselves in ways that falsely elevate us to the right and left hand side of God, all the while turning a cold shoulder and a blind eye to the “least of these” our brothers and sisters.

Today’s challenge is for us to regain our compassion. You are not great, you are not good, you are not more special than anyone else. In fact, apart from God, you are nothing. Each week, we Christians praise God for being our savior and for having compassion on us sinners. If we are to truly be grateful for God having compassion on us, should we not have compassion on others? Christ is calling us to warm up, to have heart, and to weep for those who are in need. In fact, don’t just weep…but turn your tears into positive and constructive action. Pray for the church, yourself included, that we may begin to heal from this aliment of being Spiritually and Mentally hardened.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Compassion is more than just an emotion; rather, it is an inner reaction to circumstance that results in an outward action for change.”

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your love so that I may be moved to be a person of compassion. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #1: Immortal, Immune, and Indispensable

Read Galatians 1:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.” (Romans 11:19-20 NRSV)

FaceOfGodWell, it is Christmas Eve. It is the day that Christ was born. It is the day that you are probably expecting to find a writing on the little baby Jesus, silently asleep on the hay; however, that baby is never quite as quiet as we would like him to be. We often wish we could keep Jesus in his infantile form, right where we would like him, so that we can continue on doing the things as we have been without any questions or cause for self-reflection. But to bring you that silenced baby would be to NOT bring you Jesus.

Just the other day Pope Francis I gave a speech addressing a list of what he called “ailments of the curia.” The bishops and cardinals were not all too pleased to hear that list as it was directed at them, but it is a list that needs to be brought forward. It is not just a valid list for the administrators of the Holy See, but is a list that the Church as a whole could benefit from examining. So over the next seven and a half weeks, I will be addressing those 15 Ailments of the Church.

Ailment # 1: Feeling immortal, immune, or indispensable. Over the last 1500 or so years, the Church has been the center of community. The church had a say in all of communal life, from politics to family life, the church was the driving force behind it all. In times of celebration, in times of need, in times of confusion, in times of war, and in times of peace, people relied on the Church for support. As a result, the Church grew to a place of prominence, a place of pomp, and a place of power. It grew to see itself as immortal, immune and indispensable. As such, it bred a culture in which its leaders and its laypeople began to believe that their faith worldview and their church institution and themselves were indispensable and immune from the need to self-examination.

But that Church has since found itself wanting. A Church that once thought itself indispensable is finding less and less people seeking it out. In times of need, times of confusion, times of war, and times of peace, people are simply going elsewhere! Yet the attitude of indsipensiblitly is still prevelant in the church and still prevelant among its members. Within every church are the people that would see themselves as the “pillars” of the church. Such people see themselves as indispensable, as immune to accountability, and immortal. I wish I could get a dollar for everytime I heard the phrase, “this is my church.” What’s worse is that those who think themselves to be indispensable often view and treat others as though they are dispensable.

I tell you the truth, the Church is NOT yours! Nor is it mine! The church doesn’t belong to the United Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Evangelicals, the Baptists, the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, or any other denominations! Behold, the Church is the body of Christ and, as such, belongs to Christ! We are not immune to accountability, nor are we immortal gods who can hold ourselves higher than anyone else, either within the church or outside of it. Remember that Christ is with those on the fringes and Christ is the voice of the silenced, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the neglected. Christ lived the life of one who was viewed to be dispenisble, and he resurrected from dispensibility into immortality. Remember that God exalts the humble and  humbles the proud. Today’s challenge is for you to humble yourself and live your life as a part of Christ’s exalted body, equal with all of the other parts. Don’t forget that you, too, were grafted into this tree of faith and that a grafted branch can just as quickly be removed. Christ calls us to humility on this Christmas Eve.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 NRSV)

PRAYER
Lord, I humble myself before you. Gift me with the ability of self-reflection so that I may grow in your love and grace. Amen.

The Nativity Stor(ies)

Read Luke 2:1-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“[The Wise Men] entered the house and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 NLT)

The-Nativity-StoryWe all know the Nativity Story, right? The angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she will be with child, who is to be named Jesus, and that her barren cousin is already 6 months pregnant. She humbly accepted it and went on a road trip to visit her cousin. When Mary arrived, the baby in Elizabeth’s baby jumped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. Mary praised God and texted a psalm to Elizabeth as a keepsake. okay, she didn’t do that, but she did sing a new psalm to God. Have you ever wondered how that got recorded if no one was there to witness it or write it down?

Anyway, Mary returned home and Joseph noticed that she was pregnant, which was obviously pretty big surprise to him. He thought about quietly dumping her, but an angel came to him in a dream to tell him that the Holy Spirit got Mary pregnant and that her child was actually the SON OF GOD. Joseph took Mary as his wife and then set off to Bethlehem to comply with a census that Caesar Augustus made the Jews participate in. There in Bethlehem, Mary’s water broke and the poor couple ended up searching house to house, inn to inn, in order to find a place for her to deliver baby Jesus. With there being no room for her at the inn, let alone anywhere else, Mary and Joseph found a stable and laid Jesus in a manger wrapped in strips of cloth. Following that, she was visited by Shepherds who were told by a choir of angels that the child was being born. She was also visited by three wise men who bore gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Herod, fearing that a new king was born, ordered that all male children 2 years old and younger be slaughtered, but the Holy Family escaped into Egypt. Following the death of Herod Mary, Jesus and Joseph returned to Israel and settled the Galilean town of Nazareth.

While this is the story we all know, the truth is that it IS NOT the nativity story that is found in the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, all of the elements listed above (minus Mary texting Elizabeth) are found in the Gospels…but not altogether. In Matthew, Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant and chooses to marry her after a dream. It is in this Gospel that we find Herod and the wise men visiting Jesus in a house, as well as the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. In Luke, we find the story of Gabriel telling Mary she and Elizabeth are pregnant, of the angels singing to the shepherds who also visit the holy family, of the trip to Bethlehem, and of Jesus being born in stable, wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a manger.

The two stories are actually remarkably different from one another. If this is a surprise to you, if you didn’t realize that Matthew and Luke both had different stories to tell when it came to Jesus’ birth, then it is time for you to read each of the Nativity stories for yourself. Many have looked at the differences and called them contradictions; however, they are not contradictions as if Luke and Matthew were written to be factual histories; rather, the two Gospels were written as theologies and both give a unique insight into the birth of Jesus and the significance that the advent of the Christ-Child has for the world. Neither story is definitive or complete, but are meant to be glimpses into the activity of a God who refuses to give up on humanity even when humanity has given up on God. Today’s challenge is for you to search the Gospels, read them closely and make note of their commonalities and differences. In doing so, you will have a much deeper and dynamic view of the Christ who came as a Savior for the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” – Benjamin Franklin

PRAYER
Lord, stir in me a desire to study Scripture; however, also spark in me the desire to go beyond just studying Scripture into the realm of living by it. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: The Christian Manifesto

181817372While it is important to keep moving forward, sometimes it is also important to pause and look back at what we’ve learned from the past. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this post from November 2013. It is just as relevant now as it was then.

Click here to view today’s devotion.

Many blessings,

Pastor Todd