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The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We encounter the world, perhaps more explicitly now than ever, as a field of useful objects. We don’t even think twice about the most everyday of them: the remote control for the TV, the doorframe of the door we walk through each morning, the stove or refrigerator. Gestures, too, are often unthinking, whether it be brushing back a stray piece of hair, pulling on a shirt, or brushing one’s teeth. The strange thing is, though, that tons of things in the (natural) world are use-less: flowers and, indeed, most kinds of plants and animals, the ocean, most rocks or mountains,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

A Holy Week-appropriate reflection from Paul Zahl, via The Mockingbird Devotional.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’” (RSV)

Palm Sunday is a day in the Christian Calendar, and a day in history, that could define the word “irony.”

It depicts the advance on Jerusalem of the city’s “King,” but in the form of a man seated on a donkey. It begins a week of ‘triumphal entry’ that only ends in…

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James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

Whenever I read the letters of Paul and his great doctrine of justification by faith, there is always lurking in the background the problem posed by the Epistle of James and its not-so-apparent direct refutation of Paul. And in any discussion of justification by faith there always lurks the specter of James, always calling into question whether Paul was really correct in his understanding. Admittedly, for the longest time I never quite knew what to make of James 2, and its contradiction of Paul’s thesis that Abraham the ungodly was justified by faith, without works (Romans 4). It was Martin…

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Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

This reflection on aging comes to us from Ryan Sanders:

A recent study conducted by two professors at New York University revealed that people are more likely to make big decisions or create big regrets just before milestone birthdays. The study divined that “people audit the meaningfulness of their lives as they approach a new decade in chronological age, further suggesting that people across dozens of countries and cultures are prone to making significant decisions as they approach each new decade.”

This study tells us what we already know: as people face milestone events, they often review their lives and make adjustments. And often,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Samuel Chapter Nine Verse Thirteen

Happy Monday! Here’s your daily supplement of Gospel juju, coming at you piping hot. This one comes from DZ.

And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet. (2 Samuel 9:13, NIV)

Try saying “Mephibosheth” five times in row—it’s a mouthful! But it’s also a name that should conjure up only the most positive associations. To set the scene: After David becomes king of Israel (following Saul’s defeat and suicide), his first order of business is to find any surviving relations of his late, beloved friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, so that he might show them kindness.

r15David soon finds out that Jonathan’s sole living heir, Mephibosheth, is “crippled in both feet” and not exactly regal material. Mephibosheth seems to have internalized his disabilities, referring to himself in front of David as “a dead dog” (9:8). Yet without any hesitation, David restores to him all of his family land and issues the command that Mephibosheth is to dine at the king’s table at every meal, henceforth.

This is a touching example of grace in the Old Testament. An unworthy person receives love and favor on account of something that someone else has done. Even more, there is a deep security to the new situation—Mephibosheth will always eat at David’s table, like one of his sons. What is the result of this radical decree? We are told that Mephibosheth himself has a son. That is, hope springs where there was once desperation and life where there once was death. (Of course, the feet remain crippled…)

Sometimes we get to witness grace like this, and occasionally we even get to experience it. Even though acts of grace astound us, it is only a shadow of the real thing: the grace given by God on account of the death of Jesus.

Have you ever felt like a dead dog? Or perhaps there is something in your life that feels (or looks) like a dead dog? That’s where the voice of the King is to be heard, the voice of unconditional love that makes dead things alive and brings hope to the hopeless. The voice that says, “Because of My beloved son, you will always eat at my table.”

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

I recently got an invitation via email for a new social network for businesspeople, GoBuyside.com. While I know far too little about the finance world to receive an invitation, let alone reflect on it, I think buy side means the people who buy securities for investment, which seems like the more prestigious/lucrative: you can make a windfall if you do it right. The network’s title is clear, expressing a movement toward higher positions, bigger money, more potential for advancement.

Why in the world would you name a business networking site that? Well, it’s an identity marker in a way that LinkedIn…

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Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

I’m struggling a lot with these two true, inspiring, triumph of the human spirit distance runner stories that Disney and her sports arm (ESPN) have perpetrated upon us this week as paradoxical bookends to the low anthropology/high Christology that I have come to love about Ash Wednesday. This past weekend, ESPN master human interest storyteller, Tom Rinaldi, narrated one of his best sports mini-docs with the story of Kayla Montgomery, who won three North Carolina high school distance running state championships in 2014, despite running without being able to feel her legs! (Yeah, the story is as good as it…

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The 21 Beheaded Egyptians Make Me Proud to Be a Christian

The 21 Beheaded Egyptians Make Me Proud to Be a Christian

From Cairo to Rome and beyond, the reaction to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS has been swift and profound: anger and condemnation, sadness and solidarity. Yet, as I have thought over this horrific event, another emotion has swelled within in me: pride. For while the Islamic State considers itself to be following in the footsteps of its religious founder and leader (see here,  here and here), the 21 Egyptians were undoubtedly following in the footsteps of theirs.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses One Through Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses One Through Five

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Sean Norris.

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Twenty One Fourteen Through Twenty One

Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Twenty One Fourteen Through Twenty One

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she…

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A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

From today’s lectionary reading, Mark 8.27-9.1:

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (Pt 41)

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“I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.”
(Psalms 49:4)