Jesus paradoxically describes those as happy who are poverty-stricken in their souls. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). As upside-down and inside-out as this may sound, if we believe Jesus then we certainly want to know what he is talking about. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
The Bible is gospel-centered. The Bible is not primarily calling you to be a good person, but to trust in the grace of God to make you good enough for heaven.
In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture: “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.
Throughout much of church history there has been great confusion, and even tragic error, regarding the interpretation and use of the Song of Solomon. While some Jewish leaders have been on record discouraging it from being read by any man under the age of 30, Christian leaders have been almost as obvious in their discomfort with the book. One Christian forefather Origen even suggested that it should not be read by anyone who has not first completely crucified all his carnal, fleshly desires.
Why should I be concerned with doctrinal nuances? Isn’t that stuff just for preachers? This is a common question, or at least a common attitude, with which I have come into contact as a pastor. The richly diverse and meticulous language of Scripture, and a careful theology of Scripture, is often seen more as professional jargon for clerics than every day food for the souls of every day people. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required (Philemon 8). Corrie Ten Boom, the famous Dutch Christian who helped to hide Jews in her home during the Holocaust, tells of how difficult it was for her to forgive the man who betrayed her family to the Nazis. His lies and betrayal resulted in the death of her father and her sister, and subjected her and her brother to terrible suffering in the concentration camps. At the time, she swore she would never forgive him.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). The whole phrase “act like men” comes from one Greek word, basically taking the noun for “men” and turning it into a verb, i.e. “Be men,” or “Man up!” It is a peppy, catchy phrase, but what does it mean? What is Paul specifically wanting us to do, as a result of this command? What does it mean in biblical terms, to “man up”?
Here’s a brief meditation I wrote down from Psalm 119, a great text for Bible reading. You might find it encouraging as you continue looking for wonderful things in God’s law this year: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
In one of the most concise, and yet comprehensive, character sketches in the Bible, the apostle John outlines the qualities of a man named Gaius. We might summarize John’s description, in his third epistle, using four of his own well-chosen words: truth, faithfulness, love, and beloved.
Ruth was the great grandmother of King David. She is also one of only four women specifically named by Matthew in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). This distinct honor is bestowed on her for at least two reasons, I believe: first, to recognize her as a person of great character and faith. When Orpah forsook her mother-in-law in the face of hardship, Ruth “clung” to her, and to her God, and refused to be bowed down by the cares or concerns of her present circumstances.