Here is the monthly roundup of resources and articles for January 2020.
Bible and Theology
5 Reasons Matthew Begins with a Genealogy. On his first page, Matthew begins speaking about Jesus with a genealogy. We might be tempted to let our eyes skim down and get to the real action. But Matthew begins this way intentionally. In many ways, this is the most fitting and compelling introduction to the New Testament imaginable.
What to Do with the Bible’s Purity Laws. Jesus makes it clear the defilements that should revolt us are the ones that come from within us. We should be repelled by our own sin, using all strategies we know to avoid and purge it. Defilements from the heart are far more virulent than anything that might come from outside. Kill it before it kills you.
One of the Most Overlooked Reasons Why We Should Trust the Bible. Jesus is central to about everything Christians think and do. But, strangely, he is not often the ultimate court of appeal when they are deciding what to think about the Bible. But, just a few moments of reflection suggest he should be.
10 Things You Should Know About the Lord’s Supper. Tim Chester discusses the Lord’s Supper, explaining why he thinks many evangelical churches undervalue communion, the significance of the fact that Jesus gave us the physical elements of bread and wine, and what it means when we say that Christ is present in our celebration of the Lord’s supper.
What Difference Will Prayer Make? While we, as modern people, may feel some tension between the sovereignty of God and prayer, desperate, faithful, praying saints in Scripture do not seem to share our struggle — and God certainly is not afraid to intimately knit his sovereignty and prayer together, especially in times of serious need. In fact, in some of the tensest moments, the two lean and rely on each other, as if God were holding them up to our face, saying, “See!”
Ethics and Culture
A Strange Split in the UMC. Same-sex marriage is not really the issue. Thorough catechesis is. At the risk of tautology, if Christian marriage makes sense, it only makes sense within the framework of Christianity, on the basis of an ethics rooted in Christian doctrine. There is no point in dividing a denomination or congregation over same-sex marriage if that division is not driven by a deeper commitment to creedal Christianity.
What Happened to ‘Evangelicals’? How Politics Seized a Precious Word Many Americans today associate the word “evangelical” with white Republicans, especially the large number who voted for Trump in the 2016 election. How did the word “evangelical” become disconnected from vibrant Christian faith and connected, instead, in popular usage at least, to politics and ethnicity?
Should Followers of Christ Use Recreational Marijuana? What Augustine says in On Christian Doctrine about the difference between using and enjoying things applies to recreational marijuana too. The only thing to be enjoyed for its own sake—loved—is the triune God. Those who use pot to enjoy getting high risk using creation to enjoy something other than God Most High.
As Sparrows Fall, Stars Fall: Grieving Celebrity Deaths. For believers in Jesus, hope isn’t found in keeping death away, but in keeping God near. And as we hold tight to the promises and providence of God, we look unblinkingly into the dark night, confident of the morning to come. We use the death of those we know and love—either personally or from a distance—to remind ourselves of the hope brought to us by the resurrected Messiah.
Church and Christian Living
Give Us God: My Open Letter to Pastors. It’s amazing how many things churches don’t need..But above all, a church must know and treasure and celebrate and commend the triune God. Without this, a church will cease to be a church in all but name.
You Didn’t Do “Nothing” Today. It’s tempting to feel our ordinary lives and ordinary service are of little value, especially when we compare them to our culture’s standards of success. It’s easy to assume we are doing nothing. But that’s simply not true. A homebound friend, constrained by chronic illness, prays faithfully for others and thereby achieves great things for God’s kingdom. God uses the weak and the unseen and the overlooked.
Personality Tests Don’t Excuse Your Sin. Sometimes, instead of using our personality-test results as a tool, we can almost view them as an infallible declaration of who we are and how we will act. Even worse, we can use them as an excuse for sin.
I’m a Bad Mom, and It’s Not Okay. Some days I’m simply a bad mom. In those times I don’t need the false assurance that I’m doing the best I can, because it’s not true. I need the hope that Jesus can cleanse me from my unrighteousness.
Resolve Yourself to the Local Church: How Community Spurs Spiritual Growth. Consider with me how our resolutions to read the Bible and pray, for instance, might be transformed if we resolved first to more meaningfully commit and engage with our local church.
Why The Church? Christ is the head of the church. And he does not have out-of-body experiences. To submit to the authority of Jesus Christ over your life is to live in fellowship with the church. Here are nine reasons why you should have a high view of the church.
Sticking with Community in a ‘Gotta Go’ World. Truth is, it’s easier to go than to stay, to detach than to engage, to isolate than to immerse yourself in the complexity of genuine community. But in God’s grand plan for us, the difficult journey to meaningful connection is more than worth the effort.
The Reason You Are Married. The ultimate thing to see in the Bible about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. Most ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It is designed by God to display his glory in a way that no other event or institution does.
Submit to One Another. When we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, we make Christ look reverence-worthy. Because he is.
Don’t Ever Stop Praying: The Refreshing Privilege of Unceasing Prayer. If prayer is merely an activity to do, then “pray without ceasing” will sound oppressive. But if prayer is communion with God — communion with this Father, Son, and Spirit — then we will hear the command differently: “Enjoy God without ceasing. Depend on God without ceasing. Gain strength from God without ceasing. And find that he is ever near, always faithful.”
Scoffing Isn’t Funny. We define a “scoff” as a mock or a jeer, but scoffing often defies definition and is more clearly identified by the emotion it seeks to evoke. Rather than aiming at love or joy, scoffing shoots for sadness, heartache, or anger. It reduces someone to a punchline. It extorts laughter from unkindness. Exclusion is scoffing’s aim.
The Difference Family Worship Makes. [I]t is unlikely that exposure to the church once or twice a week will impress your children enough with the greatness and glory of God that they will want to pursue him once they leave your home. This is why family worship is so important. But even more importantly, God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families
Mitch Bedzyk serves as a teacher and worship leader at Elmira Christian Center. He received his Master of Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and works in IT for the NY Office of Mental Health. He and his wife, Sarah, have two sons, Oliver and Micah, and are foster parents. In his spare time he enjoys reading, coffee, guitar, following the Bundesliga and MLS, and playing fantasy soccer. You can follow him @mitchbedzyk