Preparing Your Heart for 2021 and Beyond

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

During the tumult of this last bizarre year, how were you? How was your heart before God? How have you responded to each and every event? Did you find yourself outraged at the Covid lockdowns? Did heart sink as the stock market crashed? Were you angry or heartbroken over the Black Lives Matter protests? Did you grieve when Beirut literally exploded? Have you been consumed with dread as you think about your loved ones who lost everything in the wildfires? Did passion overtake you with all the political drama? Did the Capitol riot infuriate you?

Where was your heart this year?

This has been a year for the history books. Regardless of our particular ideologies, this last year has worn away on us all, and there’s no guarantee that 2021 will be better. How do we make sure that we can respond rightly to those around us? How do we make sure that we can grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15)?

One of the most powerful tools God has given us to help in this regard is biblical meditation (Psalm 119). Biblical meditation is the means by which we fill our storehouses with spiritual treasure that we can draw on when times get tough and emotions are high. I like to imagine it like Scrouge McDuck’s vault…

Scrouge valued money to such a degree he hoarded it and filled his vault 90′ deep with his wealth. So too, we ought to fill our spiritual vaults full of Godly truth so that no matter what arises in our lives we always have a deep and lasting supply of truth to get us through.

My wife and I took this to heart recently and we spent some time diving into some of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection. We took these prophecies and meditated on what they mean practically for us today. I was surprised to learn that those fulfilled prophecies have great meaning for everyday life.

For example, when I’m struggling and depressed that others are looking down upon me and smearing my name, I can recall to mind that Jesus was a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23) – that is to say, He was despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3) just as the Nazarene’s were (John 1:46). When I’m tempted to believe I’m alone in my sorrows and trials, I can recall to mind that it was prophesied that Jesus would be born destitute (Micah 5:2), forced to flee His home (Matthew 2:13-15), and would suffer greatly in his final moments (Isaiah 53:3-9). Indeed in Jesus, we have someone who sympathizes with our sorrow and weakness (Hebrews 4:15).

Unlike Scrouge, the treasures we store up should not be kept to ourselves but given freely to those around us. We should use them to pour out loving joy and helpful wisdom on others. We should let it empower us to godly, sacrificial service so that we are not only obedient to the call of Christ (1 Peter 4:10) but are also faithful to encourage others by our joy-filled service (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

There’s sometimes a fear that pouring ourselves out like that will reduce us to weariness (Galatians 6:9) and deplete our stores of heavenly treasure. That we too can become destitute like Scrouge.

But the truth is that God’s truths are deeper than the deepest sea, wider than the widest ocean, and more fulfilling than anything this world can produce. When you pursue Jesus with all diligence and with every desire to bring Him glory and honor, you will not grow weary in the face of His eternal love.

As I look forward to the year to come, I’ve begun to think about what it is I want to meditate on and learn more about. My list is not short. I want to spend time thinking about all the minor characters of the Passion Week, to grapple with the various meanings of God’s revealed names, to set my mind upon who the best Biblical leaders are and what I need to learn from each of them, and to understand better how to lament with others. Each of these topics will take diligent, intentional time with God and I’m excited to begin! I may not finish them all this year, but I know that in pursuing them there is hope that I will be more conformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29) and more ready for whatever trials are ahead!

I’ve seen meditation on God’s truth prepare me and my wife for the hardest of trials. I’ve seen the torrential downpour of those trials disappear into a soft mist in the face of knowing who God is. I believe that when Scripture says “Blessed is the man… who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates upon it day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2), it does not speak idly of the blessings available to ease our burdens in heavy times. Truly, we are blessed when we store God’s Word in our hearts!

What will you and your spouse do this year to prepare your heart for the unknowable trials God has in store for you?

This article was originally published on Celebrate Marriage on 1-12-2021.

Review: Seven Days That Divide The World

I first heard John Lennox’s name listing to the Ravi Zacharias podcast. He was a guest speaker and he talked about Genesis and how there’s so much more to Genesis than we usually consider. His accent and astounding intellect instantly drew me in and made me want to read more from him.

Lennox is the Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, a Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and a Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College Oxford. He is also well known for debating with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

What I liked about this book was hearing from a clearly devote believer and acclaimed science professor his reasons for believing in evolution. While I don’t agree with him on evolution, I do appreciate his logical, consistent, and scientifically complex view of how these two things can both be true.

Despite our differences here, I can tell that Lennox would be a great person to debate with. I’m certain that if I sat down in a room with him we would have a great and stirring discussion and I would learn a lot.

It’s also quite fun to see him poke at his colleague Richard Dawkins on some of the inconsistencies in what he’s said.


Overall I give this book 4 stars. It’s an enjoyable read that will have you thinking deeply about the intersection of Genesis and Science.

Up Next: A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity by Vince L. Bantu

Review: Cherish

Every so often I read an absolutely dreadful book that strips my will to continue reading as a regular practice of mine. This book did that to me. If I hadn’t been reading this for a church group, I would have set it aside and never looked back.

Gary Thomas’s writing in this book is simply terrible. He’s overly repetitive and says nothing while being so. He finds a way to work the word “cherish” into every few paragraphs (or more!). He even makes up his own definition for the word without ever letting you know that’s what he did.

He bases the entire book on the idea that you should cherish your spouse. No attempt for synonyms and no attempt to show where in Scripture it says you ought to cherish your spouse.

“Cherish” is primarily used once in Scripture to describe sinful attachments. Nearly every time the word “cherish” is used it is used in a negative context in general:

The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. ~Job 36:13

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. ~Psalm 66:18

Because you cherished perpetual enmity and gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of their final punishment… ~Ezekiel 35:5

They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. ~Hosea 4:10-11

BibleGateway

Each of these passages uses “cherish” to describe a love or cultivation of sin. There is nothing in these verses that makes you want to be the one that cherishes anything. That brings us to the one verse that uses cherish in regards to marriage:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

Ephesians 5:28-30

Here is the only time it’s used positively, but there’s still a backhandedness to it. It’s almost like saying, “If you can’t love your wife as you ought, at least love like you love yourself.”

The deeper issue is, Thomas doesn’t even cite this verse. He cites 18 verses in the first chapter to back up his idea of what it means to cherish and each one of them uses the word “love” instead. All of the verses used to “define” cherish are ripped from Song of Solomon – which mostly deals with sexual desire – and 1 Corinthians 13 – which mostly deals with godly love. Neither of these passages refers to the kind of “cherishing” he defines.

Thomas further reduces a woman’s worth to her physical beauty throughout the book. This should be repudiated in any Christian writing. A woman’s value is found in the same place as a man’s, not by how well we can transform our physical bodies, but by how well we transform our internal selves to mirror and reflect Jesus.

There are multiple times in the book where he lets a husband’s sin slide and informs us that the wife is the one that needs to change.

My wife and I both read this book and she was so frustrated with it, she took a page and a half of single-spaced notes on all the things that are a bit weird in this book. She’s spent some time counseling abused women and this book reinforces many of the principles that tend to lead men and women into just such painful situations. As such, this book is not one I’d recommend.

The Most Terrible Quote

The first thing Carlos said when he walked into my office was, “I just want you to know I was here six minutes early. Rosa was late. I’m sorry.”
Rosa looked at her husband and said, “Thanks for throwing me under the bus.”

“Rosa, you know how you felt when Carlos threw you under the bus?”
“Yes”
“That’s how he feels every time you make him late to a meeting. He can’t not feel that way. He respects being on time. He hates–literally hates–being late. So when you make him late, he’s going to feel terrible. He can forgive you. He can learn to not throw you under the bus. But he can’t stop caring about being late. He just can’t. You honor and protect him by working hard to be somewhere on time.”

Gary Thomas, page 79-80

Look at how he counseled Rosa in this story. He told her that Carlos can’t change how he feels about being on time. Being on time is a cultural standard, not a universal one. We literally do train ourselves to hate being late in our culture, so to say otherwise is to ignore centuries of other countries proving it false. To say he can’t change is to say, “Rosa, all of this is your fault.”

Now to be totally fair to the quote posted above, the ellipses do clip out the part where he calls out Carlos for throwing Rosa under the bus. That’s good, Carlos needs to be called out for that slander, gossip, and lack of protecting his wife. At the same time though, Carlos needs to be called out on his unbiblical view that being timely is more important than his wife or marriage.

This kind of attack on the wife is common throughout the book, and makes it a very hard book to recommend. Gary Thomas walks a line in this book that will make most women extremely uncomfortable while making men feel like they’re really learning something about how to be good husbands. This tension is not healthy as it puts a greater burden on the wife than it does the husband.


Overall I give this book 2 stars. If for some reason you have to read it, stick to just the last chapter, it’s the only one worth reading.

Up Next: Seven Days That Divide The World: The Beginning According To Genesis & Science by John C. Lennox

2020 Top Books

2020 was a hard year for my personal reading goals, as many of the global and national events have hit us all, they hit me too. On top of that, we had some personal trials take up a significant portion of my year and I’m sad to say that it all combined to reduce the number of books I’ve read. Since I got back into reading in 2016 and started logging my books in 2017, I’ve been hitting 30-40 books a year, but this year I’ve only read 19. As a result, I’m doing a top three this year, instead of the normal top five.

Without any further ado, here are the top three books I read last year:

#3 Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne
This book is a good read for understanding the role and importance of Elders in the church. It helps pull all of Scripture together to bring a terrible weight to this majestic call. And it puts in plain terms to duties God has assigned to them. Regardless of if you ever intend to be or would even care to be an elder, this book is written so you can understand their position in your life. And for those that will be called to be elders or already are, this book helps you see how you can best fulfill your leadership role.

#2 Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy is the heart-breaking story of America’s broken justice system. It shows you in the lives of several people Bryan has worked with as an attorney just how much our system breaks down those that enter into its doors and spits them out broken and dejected. If you’ve wondered why so many people in America are up in arms over racial injustice when you feel like this is the best our country has ever been, this book will begin to make sense of that conversation for you.

#1 Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Every Christmas Eve for the last five years my wife and I have given each other a book. Our tradition is low-key and fun – the book must be a story-driven thing and we begin reading it that day. In all the yearly book summary posts I’ve done so far, this is the first time her book selection made my list. Now don’t get me wrong, her book choices were all fantastic (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Emperor’s Soul, and A Christmas Carol), but when you’re reading 30+ books a year it’s got to be a cut above the rest to make this list. This year, not only did her book make this cut, but it made first place!

Spinning Silver is a modern classic. A fantastic fairy-tale set in Polish Folklore. It’s masterfully written and carries you from page to page. The elegant writing drives you through the story with bated breath. The story is told from the perspective of five people, mostly children, and their education and understanding of the world is rich and meaningful throughout. The character’s come to life and you can see the tension and feel the pull on their morality and emotions as you walk through this fable. It’s simply brilliant.

Runner Up: A Multitude of All Peoples by Vince L. Bantu
This book is hardly the most engagingly written book I’ve read this year… it’s basically a textbook and reads as dry as you’d expect. But what it is good at is teaching you Christian history. It walks you through the development of Christianity since Jesus hung and died on a cross to modern times, and it focuses primarily on the development of Christianity outside of Europe. That is to say, we all know who Martin Luther is, why read another book about him? Vince takes us on a journey of how other regions of the world came to the same theological understanding as Luther centuries before him. This book shows you how Christianity got to China and all around the world long before missionaries ever thought to leave Europe.

Check out my best of 2019 books here.
Check out my best of 2018 books here.
Check out my best of 2017 books here.

Day 25: Are You Ready for Jesus

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Reading

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom

2 Timothy 4:1

Devotional

Over the last twenty-four days, we’ve seen how Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man, born of a virgin in an overpopulated town with no room for a newborn baby to sleep comfortably. We’ve looked at His lineage and saw how His royalty threatened the local ruler who made an attempt on His life. His family took Him and fled to Egypt where He lived in exile. When it was safe again they moved back to their homeland, to a backwater dump of a town called Nazareth.

When the time came Jesus was appointed and baptized and began his ministry teaching in parables, working miracles, and flipping tables. No matter what He did, He was despised and rejected, sought out only for what miraculous signs He could do with little attention paid to His words. He entered Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling ancient prophecy, and instead of being celebrated the people rallied for His death.

He was arrested, scourged, abused, beaten, and forced to carry His cross to the place of His murder. What little He had was stolen from Him as He hung, bleeding, and dying. They pierced His side and the blood and water from His broken heart gushed upon the ground. He died among criminals but was finally shown some compassion as He was buried in a rich man’s tomb.

All His life, He was despised and rejected. Only in death were kind deeds found for Him. And then, He arose. He shook the Earth with the power of His resurrection, and walked forth from that tomb. He tore the temple vale in two with the power of His love, showing us that we no longer have to sacrifice goats and sheep to atone for our sins because He has atoned for all sin.

All of this was prophesied and all of this came to fruition. But still, more is prophesied about Him. Jesus will return in glory! Jesus will return to conquer His enemies and set the captives free. Jesus is not done yet.

So the question is put to us here and now, will we respond to Jesus as the world did during His life or will we respond to Jesus the way His perfect, sinless life deserves? Will we bow on our knees and cry out: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Will we welcome Him with open arms, obedient hearts, and feet that move quickly toward love and good deeds?

Today is Christmas, and it’s time for us to remember:

Jesus was born homeless so that He could identify with us and offer us an eternal home.

The carpenter’s son was born not to craft tables, but to hang from a wooden cross.

Without the cross, there would be no Christmas for us to remember. Without the resurrection, none of this would be noteworthy.

Today is Christmas, and it’s time for us to remember… no tree has ever been decorated as lovingly as that tree at Calvary.

As you sit around cherishing this blessed holiday, I pray that you would be thankful for Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. I pray that you would consider the weight of what He gave up so that you could live eternally. I pray that you would be ready for Jesus. Ready not only for His return, but ready to be His hands and feet here on Earth from today until the day He calls you home. Go and be His ambassador here and now and help others get ready for Jesus.

This is the final devotional in a twenty-five part Advent series looking at various prophecies about Jesus. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.

Day 24: New Covenant

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Reading

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Jeremiah 31:31

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:26-28

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 8:6-13

Devotional

Before I was a follower of Christ one of the things that annoyed me the most about Christianity was the hypocrisy. To be honest, that’s still something that irks me and I grapple with, but largely my pre-conversion frustration stemmed from a lack of understanding. Understandable, since I had never read Scripture! It didn’t make sense to me that Christians would wag the proverbial finger at those living certain ways while not following the plethora of rules laid out in their own Scripture! Have you wondered about this, struggled with this, attempted to explain the difference between Old and New Covenants to others?

There’s a lot of nuance to this topic, but here’s the basic gist. The Mosaic Covenant (the “rules” established through Moses after the Exodus) no longer apply to those under the New Covenant. Christians today are sometimes called “New Covenant Christians” to highlight the distinction between following the law in the Old Testament and those who follow, specifically, Christ. Those Levitical laws were something akin to a place holder – a neon sign pointing to how detrimental sin is, and just how much we’re incapable of handling it on our own.

We celebrate Jesus’ birth because He came to save us. He did that through His death, burial, and resurrection, which are what allowed us to enter into the New Covenant with God. Jesus satisfied God’s wrath that we can be in relationship with Him via this New Covenant. The Old Covenant no longer applies – it’s been made obsolete, and the one Jesus offers us is better (Hebrews 7:22). Because of this, we have a lot of freedom in Christ. We’re no longer under the weight of the law; He’s done the work and paid the cost. In return, we’re free from sin and get to worship him full-heartedly, without the looming concern of how much to sacrifice and how often.

Take a Moment

One of the things that makes Christianity so special, beautiful, and lovely is that our own God is the one who accomplished the work. While other religions urge you to achieve holiness through your own efforts we get to rest in the work already done by one far more worthy than us. How wondrous, how marvelous.

Take a moment to exalt the Lord for all He has done for you. Make sure your Christmas festivities this week include thanksgiving, praise, and worship as He so rightly deserves from us.

Check back each day for a new advent devotion on the Messianic Prophecies. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.

Day 23: Ascension

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Reading

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:10-11

You ascended on high,
    leading a host of captives in your train
    and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Psalm 68:18

The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Psalm 110:1

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Mark 16:19

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:9-11

Devotional

Jesus was a man acquainted with grief and sorrow. He knew them well in His short, poignant life. But it was not meant to be that Jesus’s life would always be so lowly. Indeed, God raised Him from the dead and appointed Him to be the man of power, seated at His own right hand. Jesus was not abandoned to hell, but placed in glory – in a place full of joy forever.

The Father looked on His sacrifice and chose to honor Him that He would lead the hosts of heaven and ultimately wage war on sin and hell. When a King puts someone in charge of war, they look for not only someone trustworthy, but someone competent to lead the forces. They need someone that will follow orders and be brilliant in how they execute them. Jesus is the only one who has ever or will ever prove Himself to be trustworthy. The rest of us have failed at every turn. Yet Jesus stands tall, having defeated sin and death God saw Him worthy to receive honor and glory and power forever.

One day, our worthy Savior will return and judge the living and the dead. He will set right all the wrongs ever done and establish His throne forever.

Take a Moment

When you think of Jesus, do you ever stop and awe at just how worthy He is? Not a day goes by that you and I can count ourselves sin-free, but Jesus lived some twelve thousand days on Earth and never once succumbed to the temptations of sin. Take a moment and recall some of your sinful struggles this last week. Awe at how easily Jesus defeats those sins. Praise Him for being worthy where we are not.

Thank Jesus for His victories and confess your sins to Him knowing that He can sympathize with you and desires to forgive you.

Check back each day for a new advent devotion on the Messianic Prophecies. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.

Day 22: Resurrection

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Reading

After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.

Hosea 6:2

and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,

Luke 26:46

For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Acts 2:25-31

that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:4

Devotional

That Christ was willing to die for us is unfathomable.

That He came back to life afterward is miraculous.

Who dies for some someone else? Who dies for those who haven’t been born yet? Who is able to rise again after the veil of death has claimed them?

Christ’s birth and death would be meaningless if it didn’t culminate in victory over death. We get to celebrate Christmas because of Easter. We have eternal life; we are secure; we are citizens of another world because Christ was willing to go to hell on our behalf, and then come back again. While we will still grapple with sin in our life times, because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we need not worry about it’s enslavement; we can be confident that our eternities are secured and that nothing in this world can change it.

There is nothing that you or I could do to change our deserved destination. Christ is uniquely qualified to bring us this gift of victory, and I sincerely hope it isn’t lost on us this Christmas season. 

Take a Moment

It is very easy to hear certain things so many times that we don’t really hear them anymore. It is very easy to forget these potent truths. Is this true for you with Jesus’ work here on Earth?

Take a moment to think about what it must have been like to fight back from the claws of Hell when you never belonged there in the first place. What sense of abandonment, loss, and betrayal Christ must have felt. How terrifying being among the damned must have been. We know that Christ did not look forward to this ordeal, and asked the cup to pass from him- but it didn’t and He went through it. It’s hard to wrap our heads around all of that, and yet that is something we must understand if we want to understand God and the Gospel. Take a moment and recall to mind the precious truths of Jesus’s torture, death, and victory. How should you respond to such a glorious and perfect story?

Praise God for sending His only Son to such a fate, praise Christ for doing it knowing what it would entail, and praise them both that the power of sin has been defeated.

Check back each day for a new advent devotion on the Messianic Prophecies. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.

Day 21: Burial

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Reading

And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:9

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

John 19:37

Devotional

Jesus was crucified publicly with two other criminals, in that manner his grave was with the wicked. But after He had died, they buried him as they would a rich man, in a private tomb. Despised and rejected, we killed Him with the worst of sinners. In death, He was respected buried with 75 pounds of expensive spices (so His body would not smell) wrapped around His body.

The fact that Jesus’s tomb belonged to a rich man means that everyone in town would know exactly where to find His body apart from some miracle, that tomb would become a popular destination over the coming days and weeks.

The burial is the final point of validity that Jesus did in fact die. Yes, we know that a soldier would never remove a person from a cross before death for fear for their own life, and we know that the blood and water flowing from His side is a scientific indicator that Jesus’s heart had stopped. But in burying Him it becomes consecrated, official, and verifiable.

Take a Moment

One of the most brilliant parts of God’s divine plan is how He forethought and foreknew what our modern objections to Jesus would be. It is not uncommon to hear people today put forward the idea that Jesus never died – He faked His death. The facts of the matter are plain, Jesus did die and was buried according to the Scriptures. Take a moment and revel in God’s infinite wisdom.

Our lives are buried with Christ’s when we choose to follow Him as our Lord (Romans 6:4). When we strive to be conformed into His image (Romans 8:28-29), our sins are put to death giving us hope that a new resurrected life is ours. Spend some time praising God for His beautiful salvation plan – in His death, there is hope for you and me.

Check back each day for a new advent devotion on the Messianic Prophecies. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.

Day 20: Death

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Reading

And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

Daniel 9:26

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?

Isaiah 53:7-8

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53: 12

Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 8:32-35

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:3

Devotional

That is a lot of scripture to parse through. Much of it you are probably familiar with if you’ve been a follower for a length of time. When was the last time, though, that the weight and glory of the Gospel really hit you? I hope you know what I mean – those moments when we don’t just comprehend with our minds what Scripture says, but we feel the weight of it in our bones. Christ died. For us. For you and for me. Not only did He die for us, but He didn’t have to, and He shouldn’t have. It makes sense there’s so much about Christ’s death in Scripture. I wonder, though, how much of it is because we’re likely to gloss over it? Is the frequency of its mention a reflection of our predilection for not really giving it much thought? I’m sure we all interact with the Gospel in some way on a regular basis, but how often does it stop us in our tracks; Looks as new and unfathomable as the day we first believed? Do we treat the Gospel like an old hat trick, or do we cherish it as the life giving good news that it is?

Take a Moment

It’s hard to really comprehend that our God became flesh for us; suffered for us; died for us. What other proclaimed god was willing to do that for its people? How much does that knowledge resonate with you? Do you spend time meditating and reflecting on or praising God for it? When you do, are the words rote and routine, or are they a genuine outpouring of affection?

Take some time to read over the Gospel accounts of Christ’s death; His last breath; His departure from the living world. Praise Him for loving you that much; thank Him for being willing; ask that he helps you not drift from the weight of this beautiful and powerful act, which all started with a small babe in a manger.

Check back each day for a new advent devotion on the Messianic Prophecies. A summary of all the advent devotions can be found here.