Blessed Are: Poor in Spirit

Here's our first guest post on seeking the beatitudes in the Old Testament!
I know you're going to be blessed by these thoughts from Rachel Schmoyer.

Recently my church was a host to four homeless families through the Family Promise program. Thirteen churches in our area take turns housing families in the evening and overnight. The day program helps the families find jobs and places to live.

On my way to volunteering at the church one evening, I found myself thinking, “I’m so glad I know how to handle money so that I’m not homeless like these people.”

The Holy Spirit convicted me right away. Was it really because of me that we are not homeless? Continue reading

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He Will Be Called: Prince of Peace

Five days until Christmas (as I write this), and the to-do list is getting longer rather than shorter. This happens every year. I have grand schemes of all the things I’ll bake, all the gifts I’ll make by hand, and the traditions on which we’ll follow-through. And every year, I do less than the year before. “Lacking” had become the theme of my Christmas. With my sense of lacking comes discontent: all the thoughts of how I should be better, how we should be doing more God-ish stuff and less simply surviving, how I should be making better memories for my children than rushing to finish the laundry so we can pack for trips to the grandparents. There’s little we can call “peaceful” in these days. (Although a teenager who likes to wrap presents does help.)

When the people of Judah lost their king to the Babylonian conquerors, they also lost their queen, along with all the princes and princesses. There were no literal princes in their courts, and no peace in their hearts. I imagine shalom, that ubiquitous Hebrew word for peace which means far more than “absence of war,” felt foreign to those trudging, defeated masses making their way toward Babylon. Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Everlasting Father

This will be our second Christmas without my father. Hopefully, this one will be easier than last year. My father was a good man, and a good father, but he wasn’t perfect. And while his soul is everlasting (Praise God, I know my dad is in heaven!), his presence with me was not.

As the nation of Judah trudged into Babylonian captivity, many had lost their fathers, grandfathers, husbands, and sons to the war in which Judah was defeated. Perhaps some of the survivors barely had time to bury their loved ones, much less mourn, before the forced march began. Isaiah’s prophecy promised a time when they would no longer fight, when “every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire” (Isaiah 9:5). But in the moment, they knew the sorrow of great loss.

Did their hearts sting when they remembered the prophecy? Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Mighty God

My life feels out of control, especially as Christmas rolls toward us. The things I want to accomplish remain unfinished. I’m interrupted despite my best intentions. Things happen—like my computer losing my blog post last week. Sometimes I wish I could stomp my foot and make it all stop. Sometimes I wish I could conquer my own life.

As the people of Judah packed a few things to carry on their long walk to Babylon, I wonder if they felt the same way. (Except mine are first-world problems and their problems were far more like those of modern-day refugees.) I wonder if they began to question God’s potency. What happened to the Davidic line? And what of Jerusalem, about which God had said, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it” (Psalm 132:14)? It laid in ruins.

God’s promises remained.

Still, God’s promises remained. Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Wonderful Counselor

Have you made plans for Christmas yet? I haven’t. I like to plan, but often my plans don’t come to fruition. Not so with God. When God plans something, it doesn’t change. God’s plans are so certain that the Old Testament authors speak of them in the past tense, what scholars call “the prophetic perfect.”

When God spoke to His people about His plans, however, He used future tense. We call them promises, and the Old Testament prophets gave us many of them. What a comfort it must have been for the Israelites to carry these promises into captivity in a foreign land! Continue reading

Of Pharisees and Pointing Fingers

A Pharisee and a tax collector walk into the temple…

It feels like the beginning of a groan-worthy joke, but it’s not! It’s a scathing parable Jesus shared with His followers.

Jesus told about forty parables. Some are vague or cryptic. Some are difficult to sort out, while some are easily understood by what was around his listeners. And then some parables are so straightforward, so pointed, that I almost laugh. This one—about the Pharisee and tax collector—falls into that last category. Continue reading

A Time to Be Silent, Maybe

I’m still ruminating on this verse from last week’s post: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14). And then there’s this: There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 7b).

Consider this situation…

Luke 22:47-23:12.

The temple guards seized Jesus on the Mount of Olives and took him to the high priest’s house. After the guards mocked and beat him through the night, the religious leadership in Jerusalem interrogated Him briefly then took Him to stand before Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. Continue reading