There is something particularly beautiful about the righteousness that comes with age. There is a sweetness to it that can only be developed over the years.
There was once a husband and wife who loved God deeply. They had this kind of beautifully aged righteousness. Luke says that, “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”[i] If you thumb through the scriptures there are very few people commended as highly as this. The husband, Zechariah, had given his life in God’s service as a priest.
“But,” Luke tells us, “they had no child.” This was no small thing and certainly no personal choice. They had yearned for a child and prayed for a child. But no child had come. Any childless couple, any mother who has lost her pre-born child, knows the mark of pain, the empty place that can’t be covered up in the heart. Everyone who has walked through this loss knows the temptation to sin against God in the face of disappointment and shame.
But Zechariah and Elizabeth had walked righteously in the face of grief.
Then one day Zechariah had the incredible blessing of being chosen to enter the Holy Place in the temple to burn incense. He never could have anticipated what awaited him.
1. Males and Females in the Workplace: Interesting in-depth study on the shifting face of the workplace over the past 65 years. Really interesting and interactive infographics.
2. Why doesn't God Just Talk to Me? Dan Dewitt responds to this question, "So, here’s a few reasons why it’s better for you that God has chosen to speak to you through his Word rather than waking you up in the middle of the night with an audible, 'Hey you! Get out of bed and listen up!'"
3. What's the Purpose of Children? Tim Challies's consideration of this simple question reveals how many significant cultural barriers there are, "The pursuit of dreams and the fulfillment of personal potential has become our highest priority. A recent Forbes article tells that in 2015, Millennials spent nearly twice as much on self-improvement than Boomers, even though their income is only half as much. This individualistic culture has a profound effect on our understanding of children. When self is at the center, children are regarded as yet another means of self-realization—one that can be pursued or rejected according to personal preference. Those who choose to have children do so only when it is convenient; when they are in a stable place in life, relationship, and career; and when the burden of having them will be as small as possible. Little wonder, then, that the percentage of women between 40 and 44 who have never had children doubled between 1976 and 2006. Children have become an optional accessory to a well-rounded, successful life. Many people essentially believe that the purpose of children is to add value to the lives of their parents."
4. Why Even a Happy Marriage Won't Prevent An Affair: Russel Moore adeptly navigates the findings of a secular counselor and digs for a deeper Christian explanation, " In the October issue of The Atlantic, Esther Perel looks back on the scope of her counseling encounters with marriages in crisis over infidelity and notes how rarely she sees adulterous people who cheat out of a desire to flee a bad relationship. Often, she writes, it’s just the opposite. She encounters people who want to keep their marriage, the way that it is, and who don’t actually want to leave it for the other relationship."
5. How Sharing the Gospel in the Secular Age is Different: Tim Keller and Russell Moore reflect on the unique challenges of our ages in this 8 minute video.
Isn’t Christmas great? Anyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas music. Even if Christmas isn’t your favorite holiday, you have to concede it has the best music.
God loves music. In Zephaniah 3:17, we see that God sings over us. And God’s people have always sung. Moses and Miriam sang when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.[i] Deborah and Barak sang.[ii] And the largest book of the Bible (Psalms) is a song book, filled with the songs of the greatest King of Israel and many others. Music has always been a part of God’s people and will always be – we know that in heaven we’ll still be singing.[iii]
It’s not surprising, then, that God’s coming to earth is celebrated with singing. In this advent series, I am going to share some of the songs that accompanied the first Christmas alongside some of my favorite Christmas songs today.
The first song is perhaps the most famous song of Christmas: Mary’s song of praise. But it is a song with a wallop that is missed by many a contemporary reader misses.
Ironically, for a group caricatured as being strict and unfeeling, the Puritan's greatest legacy is the insight that we are worshiping creatures whose beliefs and actions flow from our affections, not our minds. It is our desires, not our intellect that direct us.
Matt Papa takes this key insight and unpacks it beautifully in his book Look and Live. We are worshipers, created for worship from the womb. If we want to fight the grip of sin in our lives, Papa argues, we need only look at the greatest and most glorious object of our worship: God, who most powerfully reveals his glory on the cross. As Papa says, "we worship our way into sin. We must worship our way out."
The glory of God is no trivial thing. "The glory of God is the reason why every person in the Bible who encounters God nearly falls dead. It changes you. When we see God, we get small." Papa looks at God's glory in redemptive history and in nature, stoking the awe of our hearts.
I didn’t know what I was stepping into. Strained voices were raised. Pointed accusations flew like snowballs across the narrow distance between the parties. Trying to scramble for control of the situation I treaded water verbally, first succeeding, then flailing, and then failing monumentally, shifting from mediator to combatant in one fell swoop. It was one of my most significant moments of failure as a pastor and a man.
Your failure in the midst of crucial conversations might not be as dramatic. In fact, maybe you failed by turning tail and running. That’s what is so difficult about these turning-point moments: failure is easy, success is hard.
Crucial Conversations is aimed at equipping the reader with a number of tools to use to navigate high pressure and high consequence conversations. Who couldn't improve in their ability to navigate these conversations? Unlike a lot of books in a similar genre, the authors present several different tools in the course of the book to help navigate these conversations. The book is therefore very content rich and not easy to reduce to a simple technique or phrase. Here is the most concise summary I can come up with: in the midst of crucial conversations, check your heart, listen well, and respond thoughtfully.
I recently re-read Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ after fifteen years. The years that passed made the book that much sweeter. It was made sweeter still by the updated translation which made the book that much more powerful. At over 600 years, The Imitation of Christ sparkles with clarity and application, time apparently hasn't worn any sharpness off its edges.
If The Imitation of Christ was merely the second of its four books, it would be a masterpiece. The second book, titled, “The Interior Life,” challenges and consoles, cuts and bandages. A Kempis's book is a strong call to the imitation of our Savior, and yet is seasoned with profound grace. It is, quite simply, a book every Christian should read.
Sign up to get The Bee Hive delivered to your inbox!