Most of us enter Christmastime with anticipation and dread, hope and jadedness, excitement and I’m-already-over-this.

Perhaps for most of us, it’s a blend of all of these and more. You may not be able to tell where one emotion ends and the other begins, or even why. I’m personally entering this season with some real gratefulness along with some unmet longings, and the holidays accentuate both for me. I imagine the same is true for you. While the Hallmark movies, nostalgic Christmas carols, and commercials that emphasize more stuff and romance and flawless families call forth in us an ache for more, I’m especially grateful for the way Luke begins his account of the very first Christmas.

The curtain opens on Zechariah and Elizabeth, a married and childless couple, who are longing to be parents. In a Jewish culture where having a son to carry on your family name and legacy was paramount, life hadn’t worked out the way Zechariah and Elizabeth had hoped. And we simply can’t miss that up to this point in their lives God had been silent for 400 years. No prophets, angels, signs, wonders—not a peep from heaven. It was with dashed hopes in the thick of God’s silence that Zechariah and Elizabeth move toward the very first Christmas. 


“Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.” Luke 1:6-7

 It’s Elizabeth and Zechariah’s faithful obedience that makes the tiny conjunction but appear so starkly here, “But they had no children”. You can be following the commands of Jesus this Christmas season and seeking Him the best way you know how, and still there can be aches and gaps and even silence. You’re in good company with these two. My simple encouragement is to keep doing what Jesus has told you to do from His Word. Don’t complicate the way forward by turning to consumerism, numbing the pain with busyness or throwing your hands up when God seems quiet. He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving. He had never forgotten Zechariah or Elizabeth for a single moment.

He sees you, He knows your longings and even when He’s silent He’s moving.Click To Tweet


“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John’.” Luke 1:13

When the angel Gabrielle shattered the 400 years of silence, he did so by letting Zechariah know that his prayer had been heard. The impossibility of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation didn’t stop them from praying about it. The angel is almost certainly referencing all those prayers for a son that they had been praying for decades. What prayers have you given up praying? What or who have you stopped praying for because it’s been too long or too quiet? Follow the lead of these two and keep praying because God hears your prayers. Like Zechariah, even when you don’t feel it, keep serving in your houses of worship this season, expectant to encounter the Lord. He may show up in a way you least expect.


“The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25

I have a lot of favorite Bible verses but this has to be one of my favorites of the favorites (plus, it has the word favor in it, so this works out splendidly.) The child that Elizabeth would give birth to, John the Baptist, was no doubt a gift to the world. He was appointed the forerunner of Christ who would prepare the people for the coming Savior. But notice what Elizabeth proclaims: He’s done this for me. Yes, John the Baptist would help prepare the world for the Messiah, but God is very good at doing global things while also intersecting the lives of individuals and blessing them along the way.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.

This Christmas while we should certainly turn our eyes to Christ and rejoice in what He has done for the world; don’t miss what He’s done for you.Click To Tweet After years of longing, God removed Elizabeth’s disgrace and gave her a son who would be a joy and delight to his parents. He invited these two faithful yet flawed humans (Zechariah wasn’t able to speak for 9 months because of his unbelief at Gabriel’s promise) into His story and blessed them with the longing of their hearts. Most importantly, they were blessed by encountering their Savior (Lk 1:43).

No matter the ache, the years, the quietness, the Savior has come and I know He wants you to encounter Him this season. In the midst of our culture’s holiday ideals, hold fast to Him, choose obedience, commit to serving and worshiping with other believers, and who knows what the Lord might just do this Christmas for you. Encountering Him will be greater than any gift we can hope for.





As we move into the Christmas season my hope is that we’ll find ways to bless one another on social media. Perhaps we can think of ways to use our voices to encourage and champion others, instead of merely looking for a platform for our opinions to be heard. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about recently. I hope they’ll be helpful for you.


It seems to me that the rise of social media has pushed people from a place of freedom of speech to duty of opinion. In other words, we’ve moved from the privilege of enjoying freedom of speech to being compelled to give our opinion on every matter, sometimes several times a day online. The sheer volume of opinions and re-sharing of opinions has led to pain and divisiveness. Just because we have an opinion on a public matter doesn’t mean it’s needful to share it publicly, and it doesn’t mean it builds up the body of Christ, not to mention those who are not yet followers of Jesus.

I speak often with friends and family and close church members about the issues of the day, policies, and politics. But I do it within the context of real life community. That said, I do believe there are especially well-informed believers who are poised and gifted to speak to public issues in a public format, and I’m very grateful for them. While there’s no formal way to know who is called or not called to this kind of public service, I think we would do really well to ask ourselves if we’re one of the called or if we simply feel compelled to be heard for the sake of getting our opinion out there. It’s helpful for me to ask myself: is my opinion about a certain matter something I should share on social media, or something that’s best discussed in real life community?


Growing up in a Bible church, I remember the distinct sense of having a home base whenever a doctrinal or political issue arose. In other words, if you weren’t sure where to land on a matter, you had your go-to people who would tell you what to think. I could always count on this Bible teacher or that author for the home-team opinion on just about any matter. Social media, among other things, has essentially blown that up. Take the most recent Supreme Court vote, or the last presidential election, or any recent hot topic, and you have all manner of Christ followers—good ones, solid ones—decisively falling on different sides of these issues.

While the once tried-and-true home base felt safe to me, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that in some respects it’s not there anymore. This means I have to dig into the Bible for myself, be more prayerful, and press into my local church with the people in my community. This replaces what used to be a comfortable and even lazy approach of just seeing what so-and-so-amazing-Bible-person thinks, and taking that as my stance. This is not to say I don’t look to trusted believers and leaders who wisely speak about current affairs from a Biblical perspective. I absolutely do. But at some point we have to dig in for ourselves, and never have I felt this more than I do right now.


As I consider some of the most controversial issues of the past few years, I often get the impression that our personal agendas, political aspirations, and general associations seem to be the driving force rather than a desire for righteousness. Regardless of what “side” a person is on, I’ve noticed the tendency to place ambitions and desires against what matters to the heart of Christ so as not to let what matters to Him “get in the way”. More subtly, I’ve seen the temptation to corral the truth down certain paths for personal desired outcomes. All of this is problematic in many ways, not the least of which is using the truth for our own gain. Or caring more about our gain even if our agendas and the truth happen to agree. Do you see how pride and selfishness can still be at the root?

I wonder how we as the Body of Christ might be able to promote peace and unity by caring more about loving others than our personal agendas, and remaining silent when adding another opinion to the pile only deepens the divide.

I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition.Click To Tweet I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition, trusted Jesus, His Word, and our local church as our ultimate home base instead of that one person in our “tribe”, and spoke (tweeted, posted, blogged) more sparingly about controversial issues and more liberally about uplifting truths. Maybe we would find something a little more like unity, and the world might just know us by our love.


This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com


3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

Social media has been one of the trickiest territories for me to navigate not only as an author and Bible teacher, but also as a friend, neighbor, and family member.

Do I retweet a positive comment about a book I wrote or does that look like self-promotion?

If I’m in a beautiful setting with friends having a remarkable dinner, do I share that with followers or will that leave people out?

Should I upload images while serving on a mission trip or does that look self-congratulatory?

Do I post thoughts about controversial issues or is that divisive to the body of Christ? Is it possible to share personal wins and joys without engaging in the humble-brag?

I hope I’m not the only person who feels this conflicted when it comes to social media.

One simple concept that’s helped me reframe the way I view my place within social media is this:

As a follower of Jesus Christ, social media has to be about a desire to serve people before it can be about anything else. Platform building, self-promotion, circling around our cliques must not be our ultimate aim.Click To Tweet

Servanthood, of course, can take many forms and doesn’t mean we can only post Bible verses and Christian quotes—that would be terribly rote and uninspiring. Rather, servanthood is a posture that helps shape what we post and why. If our ultimate aim is to love God and love others, many of our internal dilemmas about what to post or not to post will solve themselves. With this in mind, here are some questions that have helped me navigate social media.


Whether you’re mostly on social media to keep up with friends and family, you’re in some form of ministry, or you use it for business, you can always look for ways to encourage others. This will eliminate posts that are solely for our own self-advancement or that make us look better than others. When we look for ways we can encourage the lonely, leave an uplifting comment for a stranger, or get the word about someone else’s work, we’ll be using our social networks in ways that love people and honor Christ. Again, we don’t have to get legalistic here. We can, of course, post about special experiences and celebratory moments as a way of sharing a piece of our lives with others. This, too, can be used to build up others, as long as our hearts are in the right place.


In Matthew 6, Jesus referenced three acts of righteousness the religious people of the day were regularly engaged in—giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. In each case the motivating factor behind these acts of “righteousness” was to receive the applause of others. The problem wasn’t that they weren’t doing the right things, but that they were doing them for the wrong reasons. In today’s jargon, they were putting their good deeds out there in hopes of more followers, likes, and approving blog comments for the sake of boosting their pride and platforms. Jesus pointed out that even though their activities looked good, the motives and intents of their hearts were purely self-focused.

When it comes to the updates or images I post, I try to regularly ask myself: What’s my intent? Even if what I’m posting is true or doctrinally sound, if my heart’s motive is about my pride or the applause of others, then I either need to not post it or wait until my heart is right. The Holy Spirit is always good to help me here.


Since posting out of heightened emotions is never a good idea, I try to make it a rule not to post when I’m emotional about something. If I’m hurt, angry, or frustrated, it’s always a good idea to wait on hitting publish. Sometimes I come back a day or two later, and I feel free to post that picture or update that status. Other times it’s clear that posting wasn’t the right decision. I find it freeing to remember that the social media world has never suffered because it was missing a comment from me.

Our motives will never be perfect. We’ll never be perfect judges of our hearts. But when our overall posture is to make the name of Jesus great and to love His people, so much of what we publish on social media will naturally take care of itself. And we won’t have to spend so much time asking if we should post this or not post that. We’ll already know. And if we don’t, we’ll save a draft and wait.

This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com


Easter Post: Jesus, The Perfecter of Our Faith

Easter Post: Jesus, The Perfecter of Our Faith

“Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

First off, I want to congratulate you! Six weeks ago today, on the first day of Lent, you decided to fast from something you value and focus on the Person of Jesus in a special way. For many of you, the sacrifice has been difficult but exceedingly worth it. The space you’ve created to draw near to Jesus has become fertile soil from which new life is beginning to emerge. As we close our Lent Devotional Series, I want to leave you with an encouraging word from Hebrews as we focus on Jesus as both the Source and Perfecter of our faith.

Jesus, The Source of Our Faith

Some versions of the Bible use the words author, pioneer, or founder instead of the word source. The original Greek word is archēgos describes “The ‘hero’ of a city, who founded it, often gave it his name and became its guardian…”[1] The word entails both leader and founder. Without Jesus, we could have no faith in Him in the first place.

Reflecting on Jesus as the archēgos of my faith brings me great comfort. My faith starts with Him, and He’s the guardian of it. My faith is bigger than me and what I’m able to muster on any given day. I need to know this for the ones I love who are struggling with their faith, who have maybe even ditched it. And I need to know this for myself, especially when trials arise that provoke doubt and questions.

Earlier in Hebrews, the author tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Since my faith can wax and wane with my circumstances, rising and falling depending on how strong or frail I am in a given season, it’s a great relief to know that Jesus is the eternal source of my faith. He’s the well of faith that will never run dry. A well sourced wholly, eternally, freely in Jesus.

He’s the well of faith that will never run dry.Click To Tweet

Jesus, the Perfecter of Our Faith

Not only is Jesus the Source of our faith, but He’s also the Perfecter of it. Maybe it’s just where I’m at in life right now—a little low, a bit tired, disappointed in some areas, hurt in others—that makes me want to shout from my couch “praise Him!” (And I’m not a big shouter.) I’m relieved to know that the perfection of my faith doesn’t rest with me but with Him.
The Greek word for Perfecter teleiōtēs means “the one who accomplishes.”[2] It refers to ‘one who brings someth[ing] to a successful conclusion, hence perfecter’.[3]

When we read in Hebrews 11 about all the people with great faith, we see incredible examples. But no one’s faith was perfected in the way that Christ’s was. He carried the cross, bore our shame, and resurrected on the third day. He now is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Faith has been perfected. Accomplished. Completed. The work is finished.

While the work of faith in Jesus has been perfected once and for all, I also believe that He is the perfecter of our personal faith in Him. Through suffering we would have never chosen, Jesus refines our faith. Through answered prayer, He strengthens it. In overwhelming blessings, He fuels it. In grief and loss, He sustains and even increases our faith.

As we look toward Good Friday and remember the death of Jesus, let us thank and worship Him for being the Source of our faith. And as we look toward Easter this coming Sunday, let us celebrate His resurrection and the reality that He is the Perfecter of our faith. No matter what you’re facing or what you’re going through, Jesus is the founder. He’s the guardian, and He’s the perfecter of your faith. Cast all your cares on Him, for He died for you, He rose for you, and now He’s seated on His throne inviting you to approach Him with confidence. How can our faith not be strengthened?

Happy Easter, my dear sisters.

He died for you, rose for you, & now He’s seated on His throne inviting you to approach Him with confidence.Click To Tweet

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

1. What speaks to you specifically about Jesus as the Source of your faith? (Think of these other words as well: author, pioneer, founder.)

2. What speaks to you specifically about Jesus as the Perfecter of your faith?

3. Has something rocked your faith recently? How do these two realities about Jesus help you understand that your faith is steadier than you may realize because of Him?

4. What specifically will be different for you about this coming Easter because of your reflections on the Person of Jesus?


[1] Delling, G. (1964–). ἄρχω, ἀρχή, ἀπαρχή, ἀρχαῖος, ἀρχηγός, ἄρχων. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
[2] Delling, G. (1964–). τέλος, τελέω, ἐπιτελέω, συντελέω, συντέλεια, παντελής, τέλειος, τελειότης, τελειόω, τελείωσις, τελειωτής. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 8, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
[3] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews (p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


Jesus, Our Intercessor

Jesus, Our Intercessor

Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.”

 Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us.”

This is the 28th day of Lent, and we have 19 more days until Easter. I’m pointing this out because I want us to press in! If you had high hopes for this Lenten season but have fallen off your fasting wagon, or you haven’t prayed as much as you’d hoped, or you’ve just gotten busy and distracted, you can pick back up right now. The goal isn’t to get to Easter and realize how amazing and disciplined you are. The goal is to grow more deeply in love with Jesus. You can get back at it today.

As we continue our focus on the Person of Jesus, I want us to reflect on Him as our intercessor. The word can mean to mediate between two parties, particularly the act of praying to God on behalf of another person. I love this quote about Christ as our intercessor, “the believer may know that he is not left in helpless isolation. There is an ἐντυγχάνειν [Intercessor] for him which reaches up to the very top.”[1]

Right now, you may need an intercessor to go between you and your parents, your boss, your spouse, your professor, the judge, the president. But you also need an intercessor all the way to the very top—all the way to God. There’s simply no intercessor more important in heaven or on earth than the One who can stand on your behalf before God. The author of Hebrews tells us that His name is Jesus.

There’s simply no intercessor more important than the One who can stand on your behalf before God.Click To Tweet

From a purely practical standpoint, I’ve been in a challenging season. I’ve felt alone and lacked the help I need in certain areas. This is not a woe-is-me cry for help. (Although I’m not above crying for help, and my friends are sick of hearing about it.) This is just to say that these past few months made me more sensitive to the reality of Jesus as Intercessor. My own frailty made me more appreciative that not only does He care about my day-to-day reality, but He stands before God on my behalf.

At times, the faintest thought of my past sin made me aware of how impossible it would be for me to stand before God on my own merit. Our guilt in particular exposes how desperately we need an Intercessor between us and God the Father. As we study Christ in the book of Hebrews, we see that one of the reasons that Jesus took our sin on Himself, died on the cross, rose from the grave, forgave us, and now stands before God is so He can be just this. Our Intercessor. So He can say to God, She’s with me. She’s covered. She’s Ours.

Who could possibly be a more worthy or powerful or just or righteous or good Intercessor before God on your behalf than Jesus? Reflect on these two passages in Hebrews and spend some time in prayer thanking Jesus, our Intercessor.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  1. Who has been a human intercessor for you in your life? What did he or she do for you, and what did it mean to you?
  2. As you think about Christ appearing in the presence of God on your behalf, what means the most to you about this reality? Why?
  3. God the Father knew that we needed a Savior, so He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. As you appreciate Jesus as your Intercessor before God, specifically thank God the Father for sacrificing His Son so that Jesus could be our Intercessor. Praise and thank both God and Jesus.
  4. Without overly focusing on past sin, for what season of life are you most grateful to know you’ve been forgiven and have an Intercessor in Jesus?
  5. What means the most to you about Hebrews 7:25 and 9:24 and why?

[1] Bauernfeind, O. (1964–). τυγχάνω, ἐντυγχάνω, ὑπερεντυγχάνω, ἕντευξις. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 8, p. 243). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


Jesus, Our Brother

Jesus, Our Brother

Every week leading up to Easter, I’m sending out devotions on the Person of Jesus. If you’d like to receive the rest of these devotions in your inbox, you can sign up here.

Key Verses for Lent

Hebrews 2:10-18 “For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—for whom and through whom all things exist—should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying: I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; I will sing hymns to you in the congregation. Again, I will trust in him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me. Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”

Jesus, Our Brother

As we enter the third week of Lent and turn our attention specifically to the Person of Jesus, I want to dwell on Christ as our Brother. Isn’t that an interesting term for Him? We often think of Jesus as Savior, Redeemer, Ruler, or King, but when’s the last time we really thought about Him as our Brother? The more I reflect on Hebrews chapter 2, the more I realize how meaningful this is—not just from a theological standpoint, but also from a deeply personal one. The fact that Jesus is our Brother brings Him right to our doorstep, meets us right where we’re at, in the middle of our heartache and joy.

Jesus as Brother comes right to our doorstep, meets us where we're at, in our heartache & joy.Click To Tweet

I have a brother. The last few weeks I’ve helped my brother coach my nephew’s 7 year-old basketball practice. If you’ve never had the distinct privilege of wrangling second grade boys who are attempting to play basketball while employing limbs they can’t yet control, I highly recommend it. It’s the most exhausting 60 minutes you’ll ever spend, meaning you’ll have a fresh appreciation for all other activities in your day (like scrubbing the mildew from your shower tiles). You only do this kind of stuff for a brother you love. For a brother who loves you.

Jesus is the Brother Who Gives Us Our Father

My brother is my brother because we share the same parents. Similarly, the author of Hebrews explains that Jesus is our Brother because we share the same Father, who is God. But how can this be possible? We weren’t born having God as our Father. Only Jesus can call God “Father.”

The author continues to explain. Jesus is the only one who can sanctify us (cleanse us from our sin), and once we’re sanctified by Jesus we then have the same Father He has. If we have the same Father as Jesus, that makes Jesus our Brother. From a human perspective, children are related to one another because of the parents they share. From a spiritual perspective, God is our Father because of the Brother we share—Jesus. We have access to the Father because of our Brother, who is Christ.

The term brother here can also mean someone who has deep affection for us, someone who’s a friend—not just someone who loves us because they have to, because we’re related.

Jesus is Not Ashamed to Call Us His Brothers and Sisters

Shame is nothing new, but in recent years it’s stolen the spotlight. Shame is everywhere you turn. We carry around shame because we don’t feel like we measure up, because of past abuse, wounding words spoken over us, rejection from someone we loved or looked up to. We also bear it as a result of our own doing—the actions we’ve taken, or didn’t take, that have caused us shame are more than we can bear.

The people during the time of Hebrews also understood shame. Their society put a premium on honor and status for oneself and one’s family. Shame was to be avoided at all costs. The people to whom Hebrews was addressed in particular were being persecuted and shamed in their society. (We find this out later in Hebrews.) Even though they were being mocked, Jesus wasn’t ashamed of them. On the contrary, He testified about God to them and proclaimed praise to the Lord in the congregation with His brothers and sisters.

Can you see the solidarity this shows between Jesus and us? This is intimate, family unity here. Though you may have suffered or even caused shame, He’s not ashamed of you. He identifies with you before God and in the community of the saints! You have access to the Father because you’re with Him, your Brother, who loves you and gave His life for you.

Though you may have suffered or even caused shame, He’s not ashamed of you.Click To Tweet

Jesus is the Brother Who Shares in Our Suffering

The Christian faith is truly unique in that God descended to us in the form of human flesh and blood. And not only did He descend, but He also suffered on our behalf. He tasted death for us, His brothers and sisters. He suffered beyond the farthest stretches of our imaginations and the farthest reaches of our own suffering.

What I find particularly meaningful is that His suffering has made Him merciful toward us. He sympathizes with our weakness and heartache. He’s lived the gamut of the human experience, or as the great hymn Crown Him With Many Crowns puts it, “Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast.” When He suffered He was also temped, so He’s able to help those in the throes of temptation. He’s able to help you exactly where you are.

As we continue to set our sights on Easter and the different aspects of Jesus and His character, be encouraged today. You have a Savior. You have a Redeemer, Ruler, and King. But did you know that you also have a Brother?

You have a Redeemer, Ruler, and King. But did you know that you also have a Brother?Click To Tweet

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

1. What means the most to you about having Jesus as your Brother?

2. What specifically did you learn about Jesus through this passage that you never knew or thought of before?

3. How does Jesus as Your Brother cause you to think about Him in a different light? In other words, Brother is different—but not mutually exclusive—from Redeemer, Savior, King, or Ruler.

4. Why do you think it is important that Jesus is a Brother who suffered with and for us?

 5. Explain how the reality that Jesus is not ashamed of you is healing, encouraging, and empowering. How can this truth change the way you live?