Matthew 23:11-12: A Challenge And An Invitation

“You Pharisee!”

If someone shouts that phrase at you, they’re not offering you a compliment. In Matthew 23, we see why there are such negative connotations to the term. This chapter makes some of us squirm, some of us shout hallelujah, and should probably make all of us do both.

In it, Jesus is addressing a crowd of people, along with his disciples, and is speaking against the scribes and the Pharisees. Now, it is popular in some Christian circles to think of the scribes and the Pharisees simply as the “bad guys” in Jesus’ story. However, in Jesus’ day, they would have been seen not as the bad guys but as the heroes by most of the population.

They were the most faithful, it was thought, to the Law of Moses. They were a reform movement, seeking to prepare the people of God for the coming of Messiah. They opposed worldly elements in the Jewish community and opposed compromise with the world full of sin and hate for God’s people. And they looked good doing it.

So, many 1st century Jews would have looked up the scribes and the Pharisees, approved of them, and would have wanted to be like them.

Then Jesus shows up and starts challenging the popular narrative.

Matthew 23 contains a stark condemnation of the scribes and the Pharisees. 

Our focus will be on verses 11-12 but let’s look at verses 1-12 for context.

Matthew 23:1-12 (ESV)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Beginning with the scribes and Pharisees’ tendency to make religion an outward pretense of righteousness that hid hearts seething with sin, Jesus then continues by delivering a series of body blows in the form of startling “Woe” statements.

It’d be easy to revel in Jesus’ takedown of these religious hypocrites, but that’s not how I think we’re supposed to approach the text. We’re not supposed to laugh at the helpless scribes and Pharisees. We’re supposed to take note of the warning issued to those who would pretend to serve God but instead are serving themselves.

This passage challenges every one of us to be different, changed by the gospel of the kingdom and by our submission to the King.

The focus of the passage is not on the beatdown given to those religious hypocrites, but on our hearts and considering whether we ARE those religious hypocrites.

In short, I think Jesus intends that we ask: “am I any different from the scribes and the Pharisees?”

But Matthew 23 is not just a challenge; it is also an invitation. An invitation to a better way of faith and life. An invitation for us to put down self-righteousness and put on the example of Christ.

Read verses 11-12 again:

11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Here, Matthew is bringing together two separate streams of thought that he’s already addressed in his gospel.

We’re going to look at those two streams of thought, but first, we need to see how Jesus is getting to the heart of two of the most important questions in our world today:

  1. What is authority?
  2. How should it be used?

You might be surprised by my labeling those two questions as some of the most important.

Some might think that these questions are not as important as questions like, “When does a fetus become a human?”, “Can two men marry each other?”, or “Should churches meet during a pandemic?”

But those are questions that presuppose authority and therefore can be framed as questions about authority: “Who has the authority to decide that abortion is an option?” “Who has the authority to define marriage?” “Who has the authority to decide if the church meets?”

Ultimately, every question can be reframed as a question of authority: “Does 2+2=4?” can be reimagined as “Who has the authority to say if 2+2=4?”

Questions of authority and its use are vital because we live in a world that is confused about the issue of authority.

On the one hand, we have the shrill voice of social media, popular culture, and our own sinful hearts proclaiming that the individual alone has authority. That I have the right to self-expression. That I have the right to live however I want. That I am law-maker, judge, and boss of my own life.

On the other hand, we have the booming voice of government and secular philosophy, declaring that we must do what they say, that humanity is fluid, that eternal truths are nonexistent, and that they are in charge.

That’s a recipe for confusion if ever there was one: The individual is in charge. No, the government is in charge. The individual has authority. No, the government has authority.

But Jesus clears up the confusion for us later in Matthew 28, in verse 18:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”

The individual doesn’t have the authority: Jesus does.

The government doesn’t have the authority: Jesus does.

I don’t have the authority: Jesus does.

That’s why chapter 23 serves as an invitation to a better way. A way that gives us the freedom to serve instead of the chains of seeking to be seen. A way that frees us from continual self-promotion and allows us to rest in the promoted Christ instead.

Verse 11 says:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. 

Greatness in the Kingdom of God is not found in ruling over others but in serving them. We need to remember that this statement from Jesus comes in the midst of one of the clearest condemnations of religious hypocrisy ever uttered. The scribes and the Pharisees do everything to be seen by others in order that they might gain power over them. Jesus calls his followers to do everything to serve others, in order that Christ’s power might be displayed among them.

Our society calls for us to advance ourselves, to demand authority, and to impose our will on others. Christ calls us to demote ourselves, treasure opportunities to serve, to allow our King’s will to impose on our lives. Jesus contrasts the self-serving religion of the scribes and Pharisees with the others-serving faith He asks of His followers. He flips the worldly order of things on its head to function as the rule for His people. It is those who serve who express Christ-like authority, not those who reign.

And He is not calling us to something that He did not first demonstrate for us:

Check out Matthew 20:25-28:

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Son of Man is the King, Jesus. Jesus is also the Son of God. For that matter, the Son of God is God, our God. And our God is the God whose glory is seen best in His humility; whose righteousness was declared not merely with words but with acts of service; whose perfection is most clearly seen not in a pristine palace, but in death, even death on a cross.

The Son of Man came to serve. The Son of Man came to die. The Son of Man calls us to do the same.

To serve the local church, using our God-given gifts and abilities. To serve our families, pointing them to Christ.

To serve our neighbors by meeting needs and sharing Good News. To serve the stranger, welcoming them as friends.

To die to our selfishness, and to live for Christ’s purposes. To die to our secret sins, confessing them and letting the light of Christ shine into every dark corner of our hearts. To die to the world and its system of death-dealing temporary pleasures. To die to self-promotion and to live in the kind of humility that rings in the commissioning quote of the Moravian missionaries: “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”

And in so serving and in so dying, to find that, perhaps to our surprise, we are more alive than we ever thought possible. That when we serve, we are filled with greater joy than is possible to find by seeking our own happiness. That when we die to ourselves, crucifying our pride, we find life hidden around every corner, in every place where we find God’s presence, life the way Christ found it, resurrection life.

I love this time of year at my home in Kentucky. The ice and snow are behind us and spring is in front of us. The animals are moving around more, leaves are coming out on the trees, and the blossoms of the fruit trees are starting to open.

Some of my favorite trees are our persimmon trees. I am praying they will bear a large crop of small, orange fruit. For most of the year, you can’t see the fruit: it’s so small and green, that it hides in among the leaves of the tree. But in the fall, they begin to turn a light orange that clearly stands out from the surrounding leaves. It’s tempting to want to pick them, but I only made that mistake once. First, they are hard to get off the tree! It’s like they are clinging to the branch with all their might. Once you get them off the tree, though, you see what looks like a ripe persimmon. But if you try to eat it, it will turn your mouth inside out. It is so sour! I couldn’t feel my tongue for an hour after trying it.

To enjoy persimmons, you have to wait. You have to wait until the persimmon lets go of the tree on its own. Once it does, you can pick it up off the ground and eat it without fear. When you eat a persimmon that has fallen from the tree, it is a totally different experience from eating one that you picked. It is sweet, somewhat fuzzy, smooth, and a little citrusy.

What made the difference between the sour persimmon I picked and the sweet one I picked up off the ground? I don’t know, I am not a food scientist. From my perspective, the persimmon let go of the branch and fell to the ground and somewhere between those two points, it changed. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for what happened, but to me, without that knowledge, it is a miracle. Before, it was not good, but after it was a delight.

The same thing happens to us. So long as we cling to our authority, our high place, our branch, our life, we are bitter to others, useless to our King, good for nothing. But once we let go, once we willingly fall to serve, choose to die, our life becomes something sweet to those around us, a vindication of our King, and useful in His Kingdom. But unlike the persimmon, we know the reason: it’s because of Christ. Christ makes the change in us.

The path to greatness in the kingdom is the same as the path to sweetness for the persimmon: to let go and fall down. To let go of self-centered authority and to fall down into service. To serve instead of demanding to be served. To allow Christ to live in and through us. This required a great deal from Christ. But this also requires a great deal from us. It requires effort and a change of mindset.

This leads us to verse 12:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

You cannot serve if your desire is to be great. You can only serve if your desire is for your life to show that Jesus is great. 

Humility was not always seen as a virtue in Jesus’ day. A great man or woman had to look great, act great, and thus pretend to be great. There were so few possibilities for societal advancement that there was a constant pushing for the positions available, a survival of the fittest approach to engagement.

Then Jesus comes along and says something like we see in Matthew 18:4

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a small child and had him stand among them. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children,you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

Children were not great and welcoming children was not a hallmark of the high and mighty. Jesus, as He so often does, contrasts the values of his kingdom with the values of the world.

To be like children is the key.

Jesus didn’t mean that we were to throw temper tantrums, fight with our siblings, and know very little about the world around us. He meant that we were to be without the world’s brash and demanding authority, humble and aware of how small we are in such a big world. He intends that we value such people, welcome them..and that we be such people.

Then we will see the great reversal take place

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The way of the world is to seek exaltation now, to wield authority now. But such a way of life demands our humiliation in the future when Jesus proves that He alone possesses all authority.

Instead, Jesus invites us to an incredible reality, one in which the world’s hopes and dreams are subverted and reversed. Jesus says that if we will humble ourselves in the present, we will be exalted in the future. If we humble ourselves in the midst of this fleeting, fighting, crazy world, we will be exalted in the eternal, united, peaceful new heavens and new earth.

I am not a runner. But when I was younger, I signed up with a team to run the Sawtooth Relay, a race that takes teams from the mountains of central Idaho to downtown Boise. There were twelve runners to a team and each of them would run two six-mile legs of the course. I looked at the map and decided I wasn’t a fool: I took a gradual, downhill, part of the course in the mountains as my first leg. It would be cool since I’d be running at night and I figured it would be easy. Of course, picking that leg meant that I would have to run the last leg of the relay as well. That would be in the heat of the day, but I figured that since it would also be at a lower elevation, I could do it.

I was partly right: the first leg was easy. So easy, in fact, that I was convinced that I would dominate my second leg. I didn’t. It was 100 degrees out and there was a slight uphill to that part of the course, much harder than the night before. I made it five miles. I puked on myself and didn’t finish the last mile. I had to have another runner take my place.

I chose the easy path on the front end and ended up humiliated on the back end.

Sounds like Matthew 23:12. When we look at the Kingdom of God, reliance on the effort exerted for an easy front end leads to humiliation on the back end. Because we are not in charge. I chose to run at first in the cool of night, but the sun exerted its will on me in the end.  

When we bring the image over, we see that it’s a question of when we exert our effort and when the King exerts his authority. If we put our effort into seeking power and control in this life, the King will exert his authority to humble us in the next. If we put our effort into humility in this life, the King will exert his authority to exalt us in the next.

Do not miss this: when we humble ourselves, when we serve others now, Jesus will use his authority, all the authority in heaven and on earth, to raise us up with him in the next. But if we seek exaltation now, Jesus will use all that authority, all the authority that exists in the universe, to ensure that we are humbled for all eternity.

11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Take and Eat: Resources for Discipleship & Bible Study

Christians living in the 21st century have many things to complain about, but a lack of resources for studying the Bible is not one of them. We are surrounded by a vast sea of opportunities to grow in and be transformed by our encounter with the Word of God. The following are just some of those available that I either use regularly or have had commended to me by fellow disciples I trust and admire.

Free Resources This website has some excellent resources that are handily referenced to individual verses and organized by a tab system. You can access the original language in the “Interlinear” tab. You can see various English translations of the same verse in the “Bibles” tab. The “Cross-Refs” tab gives you a phrase-by-phrase cross-reference list and then includes the full text of the referenced verses as you scroll down. The “Commentaries” tab has text, audio, and video resources from well-regarded pastors and theologians that address the verse in question. Somewhat confusing is the “Dictionaries” tab, where you can find dictionaries and encyclopedias and topical guides that pertain to your verse. Finally, the “Misc” tab has images, maps, and even music related to the text. Bible Gateway is my go-to for reading longer texts of Scripture, and it is easy to choose your preferred translation, viewing options, etc. It is helpful to add a parallel column to compare two translations over an entire passage. There are additional resources available, but these are similar to what other sites offer, and I’ve not explored them as much. One of my absolute favorite online resources, The Bible Project, provides excellent videos that dive into specific topics, themes, and books of the Bible. Some of their content uses language and references more recent scholarship that can be challenging for more traditional Bible interpreters, but they are well within the bounds of orthodoxy. While there are some interesting tools on this site, the two main features in my mind are the “Bible Geocoding” link which shows biblical places by Bible chapter in Google Earth. Pictures are available in a separate link, as well. This tool provides a sense of “place” for the accounts we read in the Bible.

The other main feature, and the one I use the most, is the “Topical Bible.” The provided search bar is a space for you to complete the question: “What does the Bible say about _______?” Once you enter text, the topical bible populates the top verses associated with that topic. You can “vote” on individual verses as to whether they are helpful or not concerning the subject in question. This tool crowdsources information which theoretically helps the resource improve over time. It would be best if you never took anyone’s opinion as gospel truth, but the topical essays responding to common questions on this website have often proven helpful. Even when I’ve disagreed with a particular answer, I’ve found that the summaries can help frame the question better or challenge me to think more deeply about a subject than I have yet. It’s a simple concept and a helpful resource. In particular, the hyperlinked biblical texts, recommended resources, and related questions links can springboard into great further study. One of my favorite sources for commentary and church history resources, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, contains essential works from almost every historical phase of the faith from the early church to the early 20thcentury. You can reference texts online, or you can download many for offline use. I believe one of the most significant failures of the American Church has been to cut ourselves off from the rich tradition and history of our faith, and CCEL can help us reconnect with previous generations through studying their interactions with Scripture and one another. John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church have had a significant influence on the current generation of conservative Christians. And many of their writings and sermons are available on this website for free. I frequently reference John Piper’s sermons on a text that I am preaching and generally think long and hard before coming to a different conclusion than he does. Watching him break down a bible passage in a “Look at the Book” video is often insightful, as well. Additionally, the blog has generally excellent essays and book reviews from both staff and guest writers. STEP stands for Scripture Tools for Every Person, and it delivers. I’ve only recently discovered this resource but enjoy the quick-reference capability and versatile search function. It takes a little bit of work to learn your way around, but it is worth it. As a bonus, it has a downloadable option for offline work directly with the text. Dr. Thomas L. Constable taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and offers his Expository Notes on the entire Bible for free at this website. One particularly helpful thing is his broad citation of other sources, providing avenues for further study. Though currently in beta testing with Genesis 1, this resource promises to be excellent. The Lab encourages participants to dig deep into the biblical text by considering more carefully the original context, language, and author’s intent. The reflective material is tailored to individual experience levels and even addresses different faith backgrounds for participants. It is of limited use because of the finite texts available, but the Bible study method it teaches will serve students well as they expand to independent study. Inspired by The Bible Project, it includes elements that will challenge more conservative students, but is still worthwhile to engage. Accordance is my go-to Bible software. It is native to Mac, but the Windows program is excellent, as well. Check out Accordance Lite for a free intro version of the software. Logos is the king of Bible software and is the most popular option, based on anecdotal evidence. They offer Logos 9 Basic as a free intro. Bible Arc has a free option, but its utility is limited. With a small monthly subscription, however, you can break down Bible passages and make it much easier to see the links within the text.

Courses Southeastern Seminary offers 10 free online courses, in addition to their online degree programs. Biblical Training offers many courses, some free and some paid. Worth your time to explore. 

This list barely scratches the surface of what is available to today’s Christian for help in Bible study, sermon preparation, and personal growth. Is there one you regularly use that is missing from the list? Let me know!

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

Social Media Is Eating You Alive (You Should Probably Do Something About That)

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

A cow ambling into a slaughterhouse doesn’t know it’s about to be killed, cut-up, wrapped up, and shipped across the country to end up as dinner. It thinks it’s taking a walk. It doesn’t know that it’s a product.

Stupid cow.

When you signed up for your FREE social media account, you didn’t know that you would be mentally tied-up, digitally diced-up, and have the resulting fragments of your time and attention sold to the highest advertising bidders. You thought you were keeping in touch with old friends or keeping entertained. You didn’t know that you were the product.

Stupid human.

Don’t worry; it’s not just you. I did it, too. Lots of people did. Here’s how many:

Facebook: 2.7 billion users (2.1 billion of whom log in daily)

Instagram: 1 billion+ users (500 million access the app daily)

Twitter: 331 million users (134 million daily users)

Snapchat: 310.7 million users (190 million snap daily)

If everyone is doing it, it can’t be that bad, right?

Let’s ask a different question, one that will be familiar to many of you: “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Honestly, is there anyone left who doesn’t know that social media is bad for us? Oh sure, you have the perpetual optimists who point out the benefits. But, the cons outweigh the pros and, deep down, we know it.

When we read an article like this one that tells us that the very people who designed the “best” parts of our social media experiences are opting out of the “services” themselves, why do we not even blink?

When one article links an increase in social media usage to depression and another finds a connection between decreased scrolling and happiness, why do we ignore it?

Cows, Again.

We ignore the facts for the same reason that a cow keeps munching its corn and getting fat: we like what we’re getting out of the deal.

Cows bodies need food to survive. Human brains need interaction with other humans. But just like the cow eating corn, we’ve unwittingly settled for a cheap substitute provided by social media handlers with ulterior motives.

A cow isn’t designed to munch on corn: it’s made for eating grass. But grass is labor and cost-intensive and takes longer to build up the cow’s body mass. Corn is cheaper, easier, and fattens the bovine body faster, enabling the cow’s owner to convert fewer expense dollars into more profit dollars. And the cows literally eat it up, undoubtedly thinking how great this free lunch is.

The digital handlers over at Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. have done something eerily similar to us. They’ve hijacked our brains’ desires for the rewards of relational connection, something that usually takes lots of time, attention, and, yes, loving labor to produce and given us something instantaneous, fleeting, and cheap that presses the same button.

And we eat it up, not realizing we’re being sold in the bargain.

What Should You Do?

The poor cow doesn’t have a choice as it mindlessly munches its way to destruction. But we do.

More crucially, YOU do.

As a thinking, reasoning, functioning human being, you have a choice to make. Once you realize that social media is turning you into filet mignon for the advertising industry, you can go one of three directions:

1. Change nothing.

2. Limit your engagement.

3. Opt out.

Let’s look a little closer at each option, shall we?

Change Nothing.

Certainly, this could be your choice. After all, ignoring what’s true to preserve what’s comforting is practically an American sport. No matter how many times studies indicate that being overweight significantly increases one’s medical bills and substantially decreases one’s life expectancy, it’s a safe bet that McDonald’s and Coca-Cola won’t fundamentally disappoint their stockholders anytime soon.

If this is your choice, so be it. But don’t go blindly: understand what is happening and why.

Limit Your Engagement.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Oscar Wilde.

Whether in social media, junk food, alcohol, or garage sales, there’s something to be said for moderation. Things which are bad for us in large quantities are often good for us in small quantities.

As humans, we are hardwired to seek happiness. Social media can make us happy. So, you could very easily try to keep the benefit of social media but mitigate the dangers by limiting your engagement.

For example, you could make a rule that you only check your social media accounts at certain times throughout the day and never exceed X number of minutes on them. (An app like Freedom can make this easier).

Or, you could set a “weekends-only” rule for your social media. Or, you could reverse that.

Regardless, you can limit the amount of time you give to social media, moderating its impact and control. You’ll still be the product, but lose less of yourself to the process.

However, there’s one more option to consider:

Opt Out.

Above, I said that moderation is good: it is. However, that is not always the case.

There are some things which can be good in small quantities. For many, there’s no harm in having a beer with dinner. But what if you’re an alcoholic Then, that beer can be disastrous.

The same scenario proves true with social media. If you are addicted to social media, limiting your engagement is not going to help.

And social media is nothing if not addictive. Regardless of the platform, social media is purposed-built to suck you in, keep you scrolling, and sell longer and longer stretches of your attention to advertisers.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have I ever checked social media while driving?

Have I ever checked social media in the middle of a conversation?

Have I ever checked social media during an important meeting?

Have I ever checked social media while watching a movie, playing a game, or eating out with friends?

Have I ever scrolled through social media feeds when I should have been sleeping, studying, or something else?

If you answered “yes” to one or all of those questions, the system worked as its designers intended: your eyeballs glued to a screen, advertising dollars rolling in, and you missing out on the real world. Moderation is an option, but not for the addict.

If that’s you, consider opting out of the social media machine entirely.

What Are You Going To Do?

Social media is sucking you in and selling you for parts. But they can’t take away your ability to choose.

So, what are you going to do?

Change nothing?

Limit your engagement?

Opt out?

It’s your life: make a decision and live it.

*this post first appeared at

Build Me

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Each moment you ask me for a piece of me

Oh, those aren’t the words you use

But they mean the same thing

And it’s so hard to deny your simple request

So, I don’t

But don’t you see?

Each moment, each piece, means less

So, I cheat

I beg and steal pieces of others around me

And come back and convince you

Basically, it’s the same thing

After all, these that I hand over could be me

But they’re not

Don’t I know it?

Each piece, a pretending, each a lie

So, they’ll fail

Making you do the same thing when I ask

The circle of cannibalism grows

You, me, they, the same thing

Desperately needing to be more and more

But you’re less

When’s it enough?

Each taking a protecting, yet diminishing

So, you fade

If only we’d do the hard work to build me

We’d constantly replenish the pieces

And genuinely be the same thing

Instead of begging or stealing, be eating

And we’d grow

Isn’t that better?

Each of us making, sharing our being

And we grow

*this post first appeared at

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

I literally had someone laugh at me when I asked them this question recently. I didn’t realize how stereotypically “interviewy” it was.

Apparently, it’s a rather gauche thing to ask.

So…where do you see yourself in five years?

Because, socially acceptable or not, I believe it is an important question. And it will increasingly be so in our 24-hour-news-cycle, instant-coffee, attention-span-of-a-goldfish society.


Because it forces us to think (and think personally rather than rhetorically) about the future and our place in it.

And, because it forces us to think restrictively rather than globally. In answering the question, we have to make a choice, intentionally narrowing the limitless horizon of “the future” to a concrete timespan and a concrete field of vision.

Elton Trueblood said it this way:

“It is a common characteristic of all the high moments that one choice inevitably eliminates others. Loyal devotion to one mate precludes loyal devotion to a rival; the spending of money on perfume precludes the spending of the same money to aid the needy and suffering; the dedication to motherhood make impossible an equal dedication to some other pursuits. Man must choose; that is his very life.”

Elton Trueblood, The Common Ventures of Life, (emphasis his)

This isn’t one of those cheap “how-to” articles that promise to guide you through a simple five-step process to “creatively leverage your future for incredible results.” Nor will I artificially pad its length: I just want you to recognize that drifting never results in progress.

Where you actually end up in five years depends largely on what you choose to do today. So, one more time: where do you see yourself in five years?

Ok, now go.

Speaking in Pictures

Fall Colors in Southern Utah

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

English Proverb

That statement is surely one of the most popular cliches in our modern culture. And that’s because it’s true.

We human beings do not begin our lives thinking in words; we start by thinking in pictures. For some, this pictorial processing is gradually diminished as our vocabulary grows and words take on a greater role, but the fact remains: pictures are our first language.

This fact explains the importance of story, illustration, and analogy in any sort of attempt to convey information from one person to another. It’s why the greatest orators of history have not been mere stringers-together-of-words, but have been verbal artists, painting pictures as much as speaking truths. It’s also why more visual media forms are quickly supplanting more verbal forms as the preferred means of information transfer in our culture.

And, it’s why Jesus taught the way he did. Jesus often spoke in pictures. He often taught through stories that connected everyday life to the greater spiritual truths he had come to reveal.

A couple of years ago, there were a lot of videos floating around the interwebs of colorblind people receiving glasses that allowed them to see color for the first time. Many of these people wept tears of joy when they saw the beauty around them.

Here’s just one example:

When we speak in pictures, like Jesus did, our listeners might suddenly grasp what had eluded them before. Our gray words might suddenly be transformed into rainbow-hued bits of wonder as they finally glimpse the truth.

Communication is about so much more than information-transfer. When we converse, communicate, talk, or preach, we should not just be seeking to move bytes of data from our brain to our listener’s brain. Instead, we should be attempting to transfer joy, passion, beauty, and truth in ways that stick.

This goal is the same whether we are conversing with the employee in the checkout lane or preaching to thousands in a stadium. The gospel, the fact that there is a Kingdom utterly unlike the kingdoms of this world and that the King of that Kingdom came here to die on a cross to make us citizens of it and rise from the dead to give us hope again, radically reorients every aspect of our existence, including our communication.

There is no such thing as small-talk when Jesus is King. There are no disposable encounters with our fellow image-bearers and potential fellow-citizens. Each interaction we have with other people is full of eternal potential. We must maximize the impact of our words. And stories help us do that.

Jesus spoke in pictures. Those of us who desire to follow him ought to do the same.

According To Plan: How Jesus Fulfills God’s Incredible Promise

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

“It doesn’t take long for everything to go wrong.”

You could be forgiven if that is your initial thought when reading the Bible starting in Genesis. It is a thousand-page book, and everything is broken by page three.

It was off to such a good start, too.

  • Genesis 1: God creates everything, and everything is “very good.”
  • Genesis 2: Mankind is given the tremendous privilege of filling the earth with more of God’s goodness and love.
  • Genesis 3: Mankind listens to one of the beasts they are supposed to be reigning over and rebel against God, breaking everything for everyone.

It’s a tragedy and not a very long one.

Or, it would be a tragedy if not for a promise that God makes while speaking his judgment against the snake, the woman, and the man.

In Genesis 3:15, a verse it is tempting to skip over, we see a ray of hope for the future:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (ESV)

It’s tempting to read that and interpret it as a vague antagonism between women and snakes, and between humans and snakes. Except for the last clause: “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” That is a singular, masculine pronoun.

And that is important. God is making a promise that one day, a man will come along who will gain victory over the serpent. To be sure, the snake would get his blow in and bruise the man’s heel. But the man will bruise the serpent’s head.

The implication is that the man will suffer, but that it will not prove ultimately fatal. The blow to the snake’s head, however, will lead to his demise.

See? We may merely glance at the statement, but it is essential: God is giving humanity hope! When Adam and Eve heard this promise, they understood that while the serpent’s deception had led them to lose everything, God’s promise would one day restore everything.

As God clothed them in animal skins, they understood that God was going to make a way for their lives to be redeemed.

As they were driven from the Garden of Eden, they understood that God would someday grant them safe passage back into his presence.

They understood these things because of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15.

How do we know? Because of what follows. In Genesis 4, we’re introduced to Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel. Cain is born first, and Eve’s reaction is telling: “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (ESV)

Why did it matter that she had gotten a man? Did Eve, a woman, believe that a man was inherently better than a woman? Maybe, though God had created both man and woman in his image. Did she merely rejoice because a man would be more useful in the labor of daily sustenance? Maybe, but not necessarily as women can be just as resourceful in providing for their families.

It is far more likely that Eve was remembering God’s promise of a future male offspring who would break the curse of sin by triumphing over the deceptive serpent, Satan.

But Cain wasn’t the promised one. Nor was Abel. We know that because of what happens next.

We see them worshipping God by each giving an offering to him. Abel’s offering to God is in line with what God had revealed in Genesis 3 by killing animals and clothing Adam and Eve: a blood sacrifice. Cain’s offering is the fruit of his labor in the fields: vegetation.

Both worshipping God. Both making an offering. But God accepts Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. There may not have been anything wrong with Cain’s offering, but we quickly see that there was something wrong with his heart.

Because when God rejects Cain’s offering, it reveals jealousy and rage that drive Cain to kill Abel. God deals with Cain, but we need to see his mother’s response to understand, again, how Adam and Eve understood God’s promise. Genesis 4:25 records Eve’s reaction to the birth of her third son, Seth: “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” (ESV)

Eve was still looking for the promised “offspring.” She trusted God and knew that Abel couldn’t be the promised one because he was now dead, unable to strike the blow to the serpent. And she knew that Cain, though he was still alive, couldn’t do it either: he had sullied his hands with the blood of his brother and was no longer worthy of spilling the blood of the snake. The promised one would have to be pure, unstained by the lies of the serpent and rebellion against God.

But she had another son, by God’s hand, so she had hope.

But Seth wasn’t the promised one. Nor was his son Enosh. Nor was his grandson Kenan.

But humanity kept looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise. That’s what the genealogies in the Old Testament are there for: to help God’s people, those who trusted his promise, in their search for the promised one.

Generation after generation, name after name, there was hope for humanity because God had made a promise. And God always keeps his promises.

Some stand out from others. A descendant of Seth, named Lamech, thought he had the promised one identified. He said about his son, in Genesis 5:29, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (ESV)

That son was Noah. Noah was important, and God used Noah to preserve the human race through the judgment of the flood, but Noah wasn’t the promised one. His deliverance of humanity from sin didn’t last: he fell into drunkenness after the flood.

The promised one would be like Noah in that he would provide sanctuary for all who would take refuge within his protection, but he would have to be better than Noah.

So, the search for the promised one continued. It zoomed in on the land of Ur, on a man named Abram. God called Abram to leave and to move to Canaan. God promised to bless the whole world through Abram and renamed him, Abraham. But Abraham, for all his obedience, struggled with letting God’s promises come about in God’s way: he continually manipulated the situation to try and bring about the promise on his own. So, Abraham wasn’t the promised one, merely one through whom the promised one would come.

The promised one would be like Abraham in that he would do whatever the Lord told him to do, but he would have to be better than Abraham.

At least the scope of the search was narrowing: the promised one would be Abraham’s descendant.

But it turned out not to be Abraham’s son or his grandson.

Years down the line, however, Abraham’s descendants found themselves slaves in the land of Egypt. And God called one of them, Moses, to lead them out of slavery and out of Egypt and back to the land of Canaan. But Moses had a problem with his temper: he killed an Egyptian and disobeyed God in leading the people towards Canaan. He wasn’t the promised one.

The promised one would be like Moses in that he would lead God’s people out of captivity, but he would have to be better than Moses.

God’s people make it into God’s promised land, but the promised offspring doesn’t appear. The people get into a cycle of ignoring God, falling into the hands of their enemies, repenting and being rescued by a judge raised up by God to save them, only to ignore God again as soon as they were safe. Each of these judges had the potential to be the promised one in the eyes of the people. One, Shamgar, killed 600 enemies with no weapon but a wooden ox goad. But his victory didn’t last, and God had to raise up another judge after him. So, Shamgar wasn’t the promised one.

The promised one would be like Shamgar in that he too would use an instrument of wood to conquer his enemies, but he would have to be better than Shamgar.

Eventually, God’s people grew tired of the never-ending cycle with the judges. They asked God to give them a king. God warned them that they wouldn’t like it, but they insisted. The first king, Saul, didn’t work out very well, but the second king was promising. His name was David, and the Bible tells us that he was “a man after God’s own heart.” Surely, he was the promised one. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. David failed to keep himself pure, committing adultery with a friend’s wife and then arranging to have that friend killed. David wasn’t the promised one.

The promised one would be like David in that he would indeed be a man after God’s own heart, but he would have to be better than David.

And on and on. God’s people, those still clinging to his promise of the coming one who would be God’s man, grew weary of watching, weary of waiting. A hundred years was a long time to wait, but thousands were passing. Every time a potential promised one appeared, he failed.

It was becoming clear: no one was good enough. The best and the brightest of humanity had tried and failed. If God’s promise was going to be kept, God was going to have to do something remarkably different than what people had seen before.

One group of God’s people realized this quite clearly. The Sons of Korah were servants of God and helped to write some of the Psalms that we find in the Bible. These were worship songs, sung by God’s people as they praised and trusted him. In Psalm 49, the Sons of Korah realize something significant: the promised one couldn’t just be a man. In verses 7-9 of that Psalm, they write, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (ESV)

The Sons of Korah looked at this dismal record of failed promised ones and recognized something vital: a mere man wasn’t going to be enough to fulfill the promise. To ransom humanity from their enslavement to evil, the promised one would have to be someone who wasn’t under the curse, who wasn’t bound by the lies of the Father of Lies, Satan, that old serpent.

But to fulfill God’s promise, the promised one still had to be the woman’s offspring. In other words, he couldn’t be merely human, but he had to be nonetheless still human.

The Sons of Korah suggest a solution, whether they recognized it or not, in verse 15 of Psalm 49: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.” (ESV)

They recognized that a mere man could not ransom another man, but they rightly discerned that only God could, and would, be able to ransom them.

God knew that too. All the “failures” that happened along the way weren’t God’s: he allowed the hope to build and his people to look expectantly at each new candidate. People may have been surprised by the failures, but God wasn’t. God wasn’t crossing his fingers as David’s eyeing Bathsheba, thinking, “Man, I hope he doesn’t do it!” God wasn’t biting his fingernails as Moses is standing in front of the people at the rock, whispering, “Please, oh please, don’t hit the rock!” Their failures aren’t God’s failures. God knew that they weren’t the promised one; he knew they weren’t good enough. But he was preparing us for the one who would be. He was preparing us for the GodMan.

See, God’s promise could be fulfilled only if the promised man was also God.

Many missed it, but that’s exactly what eventually happened.

After thousands of years of delayed hope, of waiting and watching kings and prophets and judges, of praying for the promised one, God sent his promised one.

He was a man, born to a young peasant girl named Mary. His birth was just the same as every other human’s: messy. His first breath was like every other human’s: a prelude to a newborn’s squall. He grew. He learned. He got hungry, and he ate. He got thirsty, and he drank. He got tired, and he slept. He was human, an offspring of the woman.

He was also God. In the beginning, he was with God, and he was God. Before Abraham was, he is. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega. He receives worship as God and does not correct the worshippers. He is God, able to ransom us from sin and death.

God’s man is the GodMan.

Jesus Christ is the only name given among men by which we may be saved because he is the only offspring of the woman who is also the one who created the woman.

Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man to finally fulfill the promise of God and reconcile humanity to himself.

Jesus Christ was the only one who could fulfill Genesis 3:15. He was wounded by the serpent, dying on the cross. But he struck the serpent’s head by rising through the power of his divine perfection.

Jesus Christ opened a way for humanity to return to the presence of God, not by setting a good example for us, but by bringing the presence of God to us and taking the punishment we deserved.

Time and time again, we fail. But the GodMan, Jesus Christ, invites us to put our trust in him, in his incarnation, in his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Will you trust him? Will you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead?

Because that’s the only way that you can see God’s promise fulfilled in your life. That’s the only way that you can be redeemed from sin and death: trust in God’s Promised One.


Thank you for reading this post! I try to write for the glory of God and the good of His people. If this post was helpful to you, please consider sharing it with others. You can also sign up for future content updates by clicking here and entering your email address. 

American Christian: Are You More Concerned with Your Border Wall than with Your Brother?

There’s been a great deal of hoopla on the interwebs regarding the prospective border wall between America and Mexico. All-caps cries have floated through cyber-space (“RAPISTS,” “BIGOTS,” & “HITLER” being among the most popular) from parties on each side of the issue.

My electronic friends (at least those that the gatekeepers at Facebook deem worthy of my attention) seem to be obsessed with the border wall. Indeed, as someone who deliberately cultivates friendships with individuals from wide-ranging points on the political spectrum, I have been privileged to witness veritable streams of vitriol on the subject, flowing in opposite directions, crashing together in my own newsfeed.

I truly believe that some of my friends truly believe that the border wall is the single-most important issue of our day.

And, if you don’t believe in the existence of a sovereign God who loved humanity enough to come to earth in the flesh and die for the sins of humanity in order to restore to them eternal life and give them meaning and purpose by enlisting them in the task of taking this good news to the ends of the earth, maybe it is the most important issue.

But, if you believe the good news and you’re still convinced that what the world needs most from you is your support for the wall, may I humbly suggest that you re-examine your priorities.

This is not a post about the border wall, for or against; it’s about Christian priorities, on and off-line.

While you’ve been foaming at the digital mouth in your defense of this American Shibboleth, did you know that the Christian faith has been under attack around the world? That your brothers and sisters in Christ have been jailed, had their property confiscated, and even been killed? Not because of a political position, but because of their faith in Jesus Christ?

I just received a copy of Open Doors‘ World Watch List for 2019 from a fellow church member, and it brought some badly needed perspective to my world. Open Doors is a Christian organization that seeks to connect American believers with their persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide. Their Watch List is a ranking of the 50 countries where persecution is at its worst. And it’s incredibly informative:

Did you know, for example, that the number of Christians facing persecution has risen from 215 million to 245 million over the last year?

Did you know that 1 in 9 Christians worldwide faces high levels of persecution?

Did you know that, on average, 11 Christians are killed EVERY DAY because of their faith?

Did you know that in Iran it is illegal to share your faith or conduct a Christian service in the national language?

Did you know that there has been ongoing strategic imprisonment of Christians taking place in Eritrea over the past ten years?

Did you know that the two most highly populated countries in the world are also seeing an increase in their persecution of Christians?

If you’re like me, you’re much less aware of these things than you are the intricacies of the border wall debate. Why is that?

Because, based on what I see online and hear discussed in-person, American Christians are choosing to turn a blind eye to Christian realities in favor of American realities.

Think about it: every single person with access to the Internet has more potential influence that any pre-web newspaper baron ever had. With the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger, they can transmit words, images, and ideas to thousands, millions, and even billions of people.

Christ-follower: Is it really the best use of that power to contribute your own invective to the torrent already flowing regarding a border wall? Are the concerns of your chosen political party really worth sacrificing gospel opportunities for?

Could you not better use your online voice to draw prayerful attention to the needs of your brothers and sisters living under persecution? Could you not use your influence to call for a re-engagement of the American church in the life of the global church?

God has not called you to make Republicans or Democrats: he has called you to make disciples.

He hasn’t called you to give your life to a political party: he has called you to give your life to the King.

He hasn’t called you to stump for a border wall: he has called you to pray for your brothers and sisters and to meet their needs, regardless of which country they live in.

May our engagements, online and off, reflect the One who has called us and advance the mission he has called us to.

I know that some of you reading this won’t agree with it. That’s ok. But, just so you know, I am not anti-wall, nor am I anti-American; I am just pro-using-all-the-tools-we-have-to-preach-the-gospel-and-serve-others.


Pray With Your Legs

“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Frederick Douglass

“Lift with your legs.”

Every weeknight, for a year, that’s the phrase I heard.

At the start of the shift: “Lift with your legs.”

After break time: “Lift with your legs.”

As I slept: “Lift with your legs.”

I worked as a part-time loader for a national shipping company and let’s just say workplace safety was important to them. We had group stretch before the shift, a safety briefing every night, and safety officers roaming the facility at all times.

“Lift with your legs.”

I resented it. As someone who grew up lifting hay bales, fence posts, and firewood with some regularity, I thought I knew something about working safely. I’d never torn a muscle, strained my back, or lost a limb.

So, I ignored the advice.

And, while you may have been expecting something different, I never had an accident at that job.

Nor at my next job, also one in which lifting heavy objects featured heavily.

“Lift with your legs” was advice for sissies. Or so I thought.

That is until about a year ago. Reaching for something small, I felt a twinge in my back. When I went to straighten up, the twinge became a stab as my lower back protested every movement.

Hot baths, a massage, lots of stretches, and about a week later I felt fine again.

The experience taught me a lasting lesson, however:


See, I had made it 33 years ignoring that sound advice. And it hadn’t hurt me at any point along the way. But the cumulative effect of my idiocy was to make me more vulnerable to injury for the rest of my life.

If it was just my back, I’d shrug and move on, knowing that every body breaks down eventually. However, I see the same idiocy at work in my approach to spiritual things.

And that’s terrifying.

Prayer is a place where this is especially true.

Too often, I pray with just my head, engaged mentally. Or I pray with just my heart, engaged emotionally.

But, more and more, I am convinced that what I need is a spiritual safety officer standing over my shoulder reminding me: “pray with your legs.”

If you’re like me, you’ve heard that we should “carry our burdens to God in prayer and leave them there.”

Yes. That’s all well and good, but what if God wants us to do something about them?

One of the most fascinating examples of this occurs in Matthew 9 & 10. At the end of Matthew 9, Jesus calls his disciples’ attention to the gospel need of the world around them. He uses the metaphor of harvest and harvest laborers:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

As a teenager, I took part in a 9:38 challenge. Every day, at 9:38 AM and PM, we prayed for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest. That challenge took seriously the need for disciples today to obey Jesus’ command to pray every bit as much as the original 12.

But what I somehow missed (not for lack of teaching by my pastors or parents) was that the end of chapter 9 is followed immediately by chapter 10. And in chapter 10 of Matthew, we read this:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction…These twelve Jesus sent out…

Do you see what I missed? The 12 who prayed for laborers to be sent out were the very ones sent out. They became, in essence, the answer to their own prayer!

That story is fascinating because of the lesson it teaches. We know God wants the Kingdom to grow and we know that Jesus told us to go. We feel the impact of the reality that there are still so many who have not heard the gospel.

And we pray out of that knowledge and that feeling. I’m afraid, though, that like young, foolish me ignoring the injunction to “lift with your legs,” we ignore the clear message of Kingdom prayer in the New Testament: pray with your legs. We pray for the harvest, we feel the need of the harvest, but we have no intention of joining in the harvest.

When we do the work of prayer with our heads and our hearts, but not with our legs, we set ourselves up for spiritual injury. Our souls begin to curve inwards, to atrophy, and to shrink. By not connecting what we pray with what we do, we eventually get to the point where anything can debilitate us: a sin over which we have no victory, a circumstance that causes us to shake our fist at God, and slight at church that causes us to leave.

It doesn’t matter how much knowledge we can cram into a prayer. It doesn’t matter how much feeling echoes through our words in prayer. If we don’t intend to do anything in response to God’s movement, we will be spiritual cripples eventually.

But if we take our knowledge and our feeling and then we engage our legs in what we pray, we’ll find ourselves equipped for a long, healthy spiritual life.

Our prayers have plenty of head and heart: let’s give them legs. Let’s pray for laborers to be sent and then let’s gladly go as the Lord sends us to be the answer to those prayers.

Let’s ask him to expand the Kingdom and then get out and start sharing the gospel with coworkers, and inviting widowed neighbors over for dinner, and giving sacrificially so a fellow disciple can move overseas. Let’s be the kind of people who give up hobbies, comfort, homes, possessions, and whatever else may be required to go take the gospel to those who’ve never heard.

The quote that appears at the top of this post is from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. A slave, Douglass prayed for freedom for twenty years, but as he said: “received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

Douglass’s freedom required him to take action with his legs. His legs were the instrument that God used to answer his prayers.

As we pray for the harvest, I’m convinced ours will be as well.

It’s All About Him: How Every Book Of The Bible Points Us To Jesus

One of my favorite Bible verses is Luke 24:27

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (ESV)

I love it because it reminds me that the reason for the Bible, all of it, is to point people to Jesus. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the text and to miss the truth: there’s something about Jesus, preparing us for Jesus, or pointing us to Jesus in every book.

The following is not exhaustive nor entirely original. But, as I’ve read and taught through the Bible, here is how I see Jesus in every book:

GENESIS: Jesus is the Creator who promises to redeem all of creation as the promised seed of Abraham.

EXODUS: Jesus is the Passover Lamb whose blood saves those who are under it.

LEVITICUS: Jesus is the ultimate High Priest who offers Himself to atone for the sins of His people.

NUMBERS: Jesus is the Bread of Life, sustaining the people of God and the Living Water from the Rock, quenching their thirst.

DEUTERONOMY: Jesus is the obedient son who earns the blessing but freely takes the curse so His brothers and sisters may be blessed as well.

JOSHUA: Jesus is the one who conquers the enemies of God’s people and leads them to victory and rest.

JUDGES: Jesus is the one who delivers His people from injustice and reminds them of God’s covenant faithfulness.

RUTH: Jesus is the kinsman-redeemer who provides abundantly for the foreigner and the widow.

1-2 SAMUEL: Jesus is the righteous King who is also the faithful Prophet and the holy Priest.

1-2 KINGS: Jesus is the King who gives an easy yoke to His people and unites them in love.

1-2 CHRONICLES: Jesus is the Son of David who reigns forever with justice and mercy.

EZRA: Jesus is the faithful priest sent to instruct and encourage the people of God.

NEHEMIAH: Jesus is the one who restores His broken people and leads them to restore that which was broken around them.

ESTHER: Jesus is the faithful One who reigns over kingdoms and individuals even when He is not recognized.

JOB: Jesus is the voice of wisdom calling us to glorify the Sovereign God of Creation.

PSALMS: Jesus is the True Song declaring God’s glory to His people and to the nations.

PROVERBS: Jesus is the wisdom of God guiding the people of God through the trials of life.

ECCLESIASTES: Jesus is the Eternal Wisdom giving purpose to our brief lives.

SONG OF SONGS: Jesus is the Faithful Husband rejoicing in the beauty of His Bride.

ISAIAH: Jesus is the Suffering Servant whose wounds heal His people.

JEREMIAH: Jesus is the Righteous Branch offering shelter to all who will come to Him in faith.

LAMENTATIONS: Jesus is the prophet who weeps for the disobedience of God’s people and the one who will restore them.

EZEKIEL: Jesus is the Son of Man who brings life back to God’s people by sending the Spirit to resurrect them.

DANIEL: Jesus is the Son of Man enthroned over the nations who nonetheless walks through trials with His people.

HOSEA: Jesus is the Husband who is faithful even when His Bride is not.

JOEL: Jesus is the one who restores what the locust has eaten and sends the Holy Spirit to His people.

AMOS: Jesus is the one who proclaims justice for all regardless of wealth or fame.

OBADIAH: Jesus is the brother who never fails His kinsmen.

JONAH: Jesus is the prophet declaring salvation for even the most unlikely of people.

MICAH: Jesus is the lowborn peasant who reigns through justice and mercy to bring God’s salvation.

NAHUM: Jesus is the judge who offers mercy but will assuredly bring justice if rejected.

HABBAKUK: Jesus is the all-sufficient righteousness of God who enables perseverance through trials.

ZEPHANIAH: Jesus is the missionary judge calling all people to receive mercy and a new identity.

HAGGAI: Jesus is the one who restores worship in the people of God.

ZECHARIAH: Jesus is the humble King who allows Himself to be pierced for His people’s salvation.

MALACHI: Jesus is the Lord who remembers His servants and sets them apart from those who do evil.

MATTHEW: Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Law and sends His people to proclaim the good news.

MARK: Jesus is the Messiah who serves the people of God.

LUKE: Jesus is the Messiah who seeks and saves the lost.

JOHN: Jesus is the Messiah reconciling God and man.

ACTS: Jesus is the Lord who sends His people to proclaim and establish outposts of His kingdom everywhere.

ROMANS: Jesus is the righteousness of God accessible to all who confess Him as Lord and believe in His resurrection.

1 CORINTHIANS: Jesus is revealed in the lives of His people and they ought to live in love, holiness, and unity as a result.

2 CORINTHIANS: Jesus is the promise made to God’s people of what’s to come.

GALATIANS: Jesus is the only thing God’s people need.

EPHESIANS: Jesus is the source of unity and salvation.

PHILIPPIANS: Jesus is the source of joy and humility.

COLOSSIANS: Jesus is the source of all things and the life of His people.

1 THESSALONIANS: Jesus is the encouragement His people need for the present and the hope they need for the future.

2 THESSALONIANS: Jesus is the coming Judge who will avenge the people of God.

1 TIMOTHY: Jesus is the Savior of the worst who provides for their life in community.

2 TIMOTHY: Jesus is a treasure worth guarding and sharing.

TITUS: Jesus is the standard of truth against which every teacher is measured.

PHILEMON: Jesus is the one who calls His people to unity regardless of status, history, & other considerations.

HEBREWS: Jesus is better than everything.

JAMES: Jesus doesn’t accept lip-service but calls His people to whole-hearted service.

1 PETER: Jesus is the example for God’s people to remain faithful in the midst of suffering.

2 PETER: Jesus is the one who ends the history of sin and restores creation in righteousness.

1 JOHN: Jesus is Love.

2 JOHN: Jesus is Truth.

3 JOHN: Jesus is Good.

JUDE: Jesus is the one who has mercy on us and keeps us from stumbling.

REVELATION: Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who makes all things new.