Review: The Alloy of Law

The reason I wanted to read Brandon Sanderson in the first place was hearing him read a segment of Alloy of Law at a convention nearly a decade ago when he was still writing it. But I couldn’t start reading it by starting at book 4 in the series! I had to start by reading the first Mistborn Trilogy and then diving into this one. The problem was when I finished reading that first trilogy, I had lost interest in reading more.

Now, almost ten years later, I decided it was time to dive into the second “trilogy.” In the time I took away from the series, the second trilogy became four books! That was an unexpected surprise, given one of his selling points at the convention was that the Mistborn series would be a trilogy of trilogies. Three books about medieval fantasy magic, three books about magic in the old west, and then three books about science fiction magic and moving through the starts by use of the magic systems from the first two trilogies. Honestly, no worries that there’s a fourth book. I’d rather have a completed and full story than be left wanting, but it did surprise me.

Here’s where things get interesting… Sanderson took his Medieval world and aged it three hundred years bringing us to the wild west. The magic system from the first trilogy is still in play, and you find magic is used both by the lawman and by the outlaw.

That alone would be cool enough, but Sanderson also “evolves” his magic system. I put it in quotes because Sanderson is a hard-core believer that magic systems need rules. Good fantasy is enhanced when you have to work within a system to solve problems instead of bringing in the big MacGuffin to solve problems you couldn’t think your way out of. So Sanderson didn’t break any rules in “evolving” the system, but he did change how the rules of society worked in a way that made sense AND allowed him to have some fun new tools to work within the magic world.

It’s now possible for the average Joe to have magical powers from two of his main magical systems (leaving out Hemalurgy, because anyone can get that). In the first trilogy only one person had that ability, but in a world where magic isn’t outlawed, anything is possible.

Gone is the Mistborn. Now arises the Twinborn.

The Twinborn person creates a whole lot of interesting power combinations. Take any one power from the Mistborn wheel and any one power from the Feruchemical arena and smash them together – dynamite!

Seeing the old west through a new lens of magical wonder leaves you breathless wondering what will come next.


Overall I give this book 4 stars. I dock one star for using allusions to rape as a plot device. Not cool.

Up Next: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Review: The Hero of Ages

I’ve read this book before, and the first time I read it, I finished the trilogy and thought to myself: That’s a satisfying ending, I have no questions. I do not need to continue reading the Mistborn Saga. While I believed that to be true, it’s also true that the reason I wanted to read Brandon Sanderson in the first place was hearing him read a segment of Alloy of Law at a convention back when he was still writing it. And the day finally came where I wanted to scratch that itch and read that book, but I need a refresher on what happened so far in the Mistborn Saga.

The beginning of the book was a bit hard for me to work through as it has been nearly a decade since I last picked up a Mistborn book, but it quickly came back to me all the same.

Now here’s the thing, Sanderson is a brilliant mind when it comes to putting his world together. Having read the First Mistborn series before and all of the current Stormlight Archive books, we get to see how Sanderson never pulls a fast one in his books. He never writes something narratively that forces you to suspend disbelief unlike so many other modern movies and stories where you just know the author forgot about a key sentence in an early part of the story. Instead, Sanderson keeps a very tight reign on those elements… I remember him saying at that conference that he has his own Wikipedia to keep track of this kind of thing and employs someone just to help him not lose any threads while he writes.

Sanderson is committed to internally consistent writing – and that’s one of the main things I love about his books.

The second thing I love about his writing is his brilliantly created magic systems. Each Cosmere storyline employs its own – unique – magic systems. Every world is different and wonderful. And while he brings you into those worlds you learn just how tight his magic rules are. Where some writers will say something was incredibly hard at one point and then later you find that it was actually super easy in another book (I’m looking at you: Harry Potter), Sanderson keeps his magic rules consistent. By doing so, he’s able to make things click as he writes. You’ll find yourself sitting there thinking about how the characters are going to beat the next challenge, knowing they’ve never had the skill to do so before. And then a new thought occurs to them – one that doesn’t break the rules – and it just makes sense.

All that said, Sanderson’s writing still needs to improve. I write this comment on every one of my book reviews for him. He tends to add American slang to otherworldly books. I caught him using the phrase “hat trick” in this medieval fantasy world. Just try to explain that one in this fantasy world…

Regardless, I do still love Sanderson’s writing and continue to look forward to more – especially more Stormlight books.


Overall I give this book 4 stars. A great cap to the first Mistborn Trilogy!

Up Next: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Review: A Multitude of All Peoples

Christianity is not becoming a global religion. It has always been a global religion. This is the tag line on the back cover of the book, and it is the very idea that got me interested in this book.

Having studied the historical development of Christianity in high school and college, I was very interested to see this developed out. That might surprise you, surely if I’ve studied this then it’s a commonly known premise how Christianity developed. Not entirely true. Whatever college you attend will certainly develop the history of Christianity, but they’ll pay particular attention to the certain faction they adhere to. As soon as other factions deviate off, their development is no longer talked about. There might be a mention of “this sect eventually became know as the Coptics” or something along those lines, but not rich development of what that means.

With a desire to fill the missing gap of my knowledge and an excitement to learn how God has influenced all the continents with His truth, I bought this book and eagerly dug in.

First note on reading this book, it’s much more of a textbook in the way it reads than anything else. This can be a turn-off for some, so I mention it cautiously. As you’ll note, I still give this book a high rating on my scale because it’s rich, deep, and extremely informative. But if a bit of a dryer read bothers you, maybe skip this one.

The second note on reading this book is that it covers every section of the known world in the years following the resurrection. Christianity spread all over Europe, Africa, and Asia. It made its way into China and beyond. Bantu references all kinds of dig sites along the Silk road that have hidden in their walls secret rooms with documents showing that Christianity came swiftly to China.

I found this a bit surprising as nowadays China is so hostile to Christianity. A common struggle for missionaries is to have Christianity viewed as a “western religion,” but the truth is Christianity reached China long before anyone thought of it as having a European root.

One of the great aspects of Bantu’s dive into the history of Christianity is how he dives into its theological development. He talks at length about why some of these segments have split off and how their theological difference are or are not that different from modern Christendom.

Bantu also does a great job of bringing out the history of regions that have not yet been translated into English or have only recently been translated. By doing this he provides an excellent resource for those wanting to know more, where other books on this topic are silent. In addition, he cites everything. So if you really like something he says about say the Coptic Church, he’s got a ton of books listed that will be great additions to your personal studies.

Top Quotes

As noted by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman–who makes clear that he is not a Christian nor does he believe the historic theological claims of Christianity–the “mystery religion” theory that Christian claims about Jesus are copies of other ancient religions is ludicrous and historically unsubstantiated.

Page 79

The number of times I’ve heard people say that Christianity stole its story-line from other religions is high (“If I had a dollar for every time….”). But the truth is, those that have studied this in-depth find the idea laughable, including noted non-believing Bible scholars.

During the heavy-handed reign of Zar’a Ya’qob, there was a monastic movement that originated in Ethiopia named after their founder, Stepha. These ascetic Ethiopians–Stephanites–challenged the heightened authority of the Ethiopian king in church affairs, the veneration of Mary, and the elevation of any church documents in addition to Scripture. Therefore, over a century before Martin Luther nailed up the Ninety-Five Theses in Wittenberg, Ethiopia was experiencing its own Reformation that addressed many of the same theological concerns that were raised in Europe.

Page 108

I love this call-out. In the Reformed and Evangelical circles, Luther is the guy. It’s not uncommon to hear people say “Happy Reformation Day!” on Halloween. But we never hear about the Stephanites eschewing unbiblical dogmas a century before that. It’s enough reason to pause and think reformed believers aren’t the only ones, nor are they the first ones to find their beliefs sola scriptura.

And they said to him: “Art thou a Christian?” He answered them: “If I am worthy I am Christian.” These unclean ones said to him: “If you art a Christian stretch thy hand up.” And he immediately stretched up his right hand, and a man swiftly drew his sword, smote him, and cut it off. Again he said to him: “If thou are a Christian stretch up the other.” And immediately with joy he stretched up the left one also, and then that crucifier smote and cut off that as well. Again they asked him and said to him: “Art thou still a Christian?” And he said to them: “In life and in death I am a Christian, and praise be to God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has deemed me worthy of this.” When they heard this, those foes of righteousness became angry and smote his feet also from behind and cut them both off.

Quoted from the Book of the Himyarites, pages 141-142

I love this story of persecution. A saint so eager to be deemed worthy of Christ, he can’t help but lift up his hands when the only other option is to deny Jesus.

Beginning with Genghis Khan, every khan of the Mongol Empire for the next century had either a Christian mother, wife, or both.

Page 198

It’s shocking to think that the so-called Mongol hoards were running around with Christians among them. Christians pushing them to stop barbarity and embrace peace.


Overall I give this book 4 stars. I highly recommend this book to help you understand the history of the spread and development of Christianity.

Up Next: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

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

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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.