Saturday, December 31, 2022

DISCOVERING THE REAL JESUS - #25 - Jesus Is the Messiah

(Israeli soldier, in the Western Wall area,

(C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, referred to Christmas as "The Great Invasion.")

One little sentence can say a lot. Here's a sentence that says much about the Real Jesus.

Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦθεοῦ]. 
Which translated into English reads:
The beginning of the good news 
about Jesus the Messiah, 
the Son of God,...
- Mark 1:1

New Testament scholar Chris Keith  writes:

"Seemingly insignificant, this short sentence is packed with important information concerning Jesus. It identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Christ (christos, “Messiah”) and Son of God. With both these titles, Mark taps into Jewish expectations of a kingly deliverer who would rid Jews of foreign domination and reestablish Israel by reestablishing God’s reign in Jerusalem." (Chris Keith, "Jesus Inside and Outside the New Testament," in Hurtado and Keith, Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, Kindle Locations 835-842; see Keith's The Jesus Blog, highly recommended by Ben Witherington)

The word "Christ" (Χριστοῦ) means, literally, "anointed one." From this we get an English word that's not so much used anymore, "to christen," which can mean:


tr.v. chris·tenedchris·ten·ingchris·tens 
a. To baptize into a Christian church.
b. To give a name to at baptism.
a. To name: christened the kitten "Snowball."
b. To name and dedicate ceremonially: christen a ship. (See here for a recent "christening ceremony.")
3. To use for the first time: christened the new car by going for a drive.

Jesus of Nazareth was "christened" by the Father at his baptism when heaven opened, the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

Jesus is like a ship constructed for the purpose of sailing stormy seas to save people who have made shipwrecks of their own lives. At Jesus' baptism the Father launched the Christ into the dark waters of corrupted human existence.

Jesus is Messiah, "the Christ."


The book of Isaiah has been referred to as "the fifth Gospel" because of its Messianic expectations that fit the historical Jesus. Here's an excellent book to enter into this discussion -The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology, eds. Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. Some very good scholars contribute essays, to include Bock, Michael Brown, Craig Evans, and Walter Kaiser. See the book reviewed here.  




(I took this photo in Istanbul. The reflection of the man makes it look like he is eyeing the Turkish delight.)

The word "resolution," in music, means "the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or from dissonance to consonance."  

For example, if a musical piece is in the key of C, G is the 5th. A musical piece that ends on the 5th begs to be resolved to the 1st, or tonic chord, which is in this case C. The unresolved 5th causes one to inwardly strain and lean towards the anticipated 1st.

To "resolve" means: fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)

This week I am printing out these four resolutions, which I resolve to live out. I'll carry them with me. I will pray them, often. I want them to get inside me, and become living and active.

1. I Resolve to inquire of the Lord.

2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)

Bring life's dissonance before the Lord. Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure it out yourself; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today, and every day. 

Place your trust in God, now. Get alone with God and receive direction. 

As God called Jehoshaphat to declare a fast in response to unresolved dissonance in Judah, so God has promised to shepherd you through all things. God is willing to direct your paths.

Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.

2. I Resolve that my mouth will not bring destruction.

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right. 

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; 
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. 
(Psalm 17:2-4)

I will keep my mouth shut, unless my words serve to build up others.

I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will produce what comes out of the space between my lips.

Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.

3. I Resolve not to defile my soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)

Daniel refuses to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself. 

Daniel set his heart not to compromise himself by accepting redefinition as a Babylonian. This is the matter of allegiance.

When Linda and I were in Istanbul, Turkey, we tasted their famous dessert - called "Turkish delight." Turkish delight will be familiar to fans of C.S. Lewis. In Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of candy called "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.

Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.

4. I Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Learn about Jesus. 

Learn Jesus. 

Fix on him. 

Sum all things up in Jesus.

Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today.


My books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship

31 Letters to the Church on Praying

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

Friday, December 30, 2022

DISCOVERING THE REAL JESUS - #24 - Jesus Reinterpreted the Temple

(Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem)

One Sunday morning this past summer I saw a person I did not recognize at Redeemer. I went to her and asked her name. "Is this your first time with us?"

"I've been here before, but it's hard to get here since I have to walk."

That morning was cold, rainy, and very windy. "Where did you walk from?"

"LaSalle," she said. "When I am in this building I sense the presence of God."

This woman walked 5 miles in the cold, wind, and rain to be in the presence of God!

For ancient Israel the place to be, when it came to experiencing God, was the Temple. Observant, God-seeking Jews and Gentiles would travel, sometimes for hundreds of miles, to the great festivals held in Jerusalem that were centered around the activity of the Temple. Richard Bauckham writes:

"The Temple was the symbolic center of Jewish faith and it was also the place where God was accessible to his people in a special way. It was God’s holy presence in the Temple that made Jerusalem the holy city and Palestine the holy land. It was God’s presence in the Temple that made it the only place where sacrifice could be offered." (Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, p. 21).

New Testament scholar Michael McClymond adds:

“The overriding importance of the Temple in first-century Judaism becomes apparent in the persistence of the Jewish people in rebuilding and maintaining the Temple and in the large place given to it in ancient literature. Bruce Chilton notes that the Jewish Temple was renowned throughout the world and was perhaps “the largest religious structure in the world at that time.”” (McClymond, Familiar Stranger, 53)

In Jesus's final weeks on earth we see him in Jerusalem, walking daily up the mountain to teach and stir the religious pot in the Temple courtyards. Jesus intimately referred to the Temple as "my Father's house." It was part of his family estate. 

The Temple was the House of God, the spatial locale where God especially manifested his presence. It was always intended to be a House of Prayer, where the dialogue happened between God and the people of God. It was a most holy, set-apart place. But, sadly, no longer.

As Jesus the Light of the World stood in the courtyard, the Temple had become a place of spiritual darkness. Nothing more devastating could be said than Jesus's words in Matthew 23:13: 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."  
(This is, BTW, the real meaning of "Church"; viz., the corporate, flesh-and-blood sanctuary wherein the presence of God abides.)

Because of this, Jesus said the Temple is going down. People won't worship God on this mountain anymore. Not one brick of this magnificent structure will be left standing. It is hard to grasp the enormity of what Jesus was saying. Imagine someone walking in the outer courts of the White House in Washington, D.C., openly proclaiming its impending ruin.

This Temple will soon be gone. It happened in 70 A.D. But the Temple will remain. Because Jesus has already said, with jaw-dropping self-referential clarity:

I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
- Matthew 12:6


I am able to destroy the temple of God 
and rebuild it in three days.
- Matthew 26:61

But the temple he had spoken of was his body.- John 2:21

Jesus reinterprets the Temple in terms of his own self. Jesus hosts the presence of God. As we abide in Jesus, corporately and individually, the followers of Jesus become portable sanctuaries that host God's manifest presence. 

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple 
and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16


See James McDonald, Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church can Be, on the loss of God's manifest presence in America churches today. He writes:

"Whether you are 15 people around a candle and a coffee table or 150 people in a tired building trying to turn it around or 1,500 people on the rise with plans for another service— regardless of size: if you don’t have the thing that makes us distinct, you have nothing, no matter what you have. And if you do have it— what we were made to long for; what makes us a true church of the one true God— you have everything you need, no matter what you lack." (Kindle Locations 1003-1006)

And that thing is...?




Pastors and Christian Leaders, 

I am inviting you to join me and others to focus on prayer, and praying, in the coming month of January. 

I want you to use, as your devotional guide, my new book 31 Letters to the Church on Praying. Read one entry a day, beginning January 1.

If you want a paperback or ebook, they are available on Amazon.

If you would like a free PDF of my book, send a request to my email.

Pastsor and leaders, please forward the PDF to your people. Call your people to a month of praying in January 2023!

John Piippo

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Christmas Day - Jesus Comes to Save Us From Our Distress

In the first "Creed" movie there is a scene where the old boxer Rocky Balboa is training Apollo Creed's son Adonis in the gym. They are looking into a mirror (2:25 in the clip above). Rocky points to the young boxer and says, 

"See this guy here? That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face. I believe that's true in the ring, and I believe that's true in life."

It's not a stretch to say that many of my toughest battles happen in my own mind. Francis Frangipane called the human mind one of the "three battlegrounds." 
The apostle Paul knew about this. He instructed us to "take every thought captive," because if we don't, our thoughts will captivate us.

Neil Anderson writes of this inner battle in The Bondage Breaker. Steve Backlund shows us how to do battle against false thinking with his declarations.

A few years ago KoЯn's guitarist Brian Welch wrote an autobiography called Save Me From Myself. That was the best book I read that year, echoing a prayer I've brought before God for four decades. 

When I was in seminary I was introduced to psychologist Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior TherapyThe goal of REBT is to change irrational beliefs to more rational ones. Ellis's work was about the power of words and thoughts to affect feelings and behaviors. The transformative power of language was at the heart of my doctoral dissertation on metaphor theory.

Today, we have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. "CBT aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns which reinforce the distorted thinking.  Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress."

Jesus comes to save me from my psychological distress. From any catastrophic thinking. Thomas Merton writes:

God,  "save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement’s sake, to unsettle everything You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for your glory. This is what I live for." (Merton, A Book of Hours)

This is core to "working out my salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) I need to be rescued and redeemed and freed from my own self every day. 

We just celebrated Christmas Day. The Son of God came in human form to save us from our sins, which include self-inflicted psychological distress. That's why the angel told Joseph to name the baby "Jesus."

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

'Twas the Day After Christmas

(Bozeman, Montana)

Today is December 28.  

The days after Christmas are
 important for all who follow Jesus. 

How we spend our time, talents, and resources today signifies who, and what, we believe in.

Linda and I live in the overflow of the birth of Christ. Christ is the gift that keeps on taking, and giving. 

Today, Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, reconciling us to our Creator.

Today, our sorrow is traded for His joy.

Today, our imprisonment is acquitted on all counts, and His freedom is bestowed.

Today, Christ takes and gives. Today is a day of taking and giving.

The Incarnation is the pivot upon which our lives turn. 

Because of Christmas, we will never be the same. 

As splendid as Christmas Day was, today is better. The long winter waiting has ended. The long-expected Messiah has come. 

Today, He is wonderful.

Today, He is counselor.

Today, he is Mighty God.

Today, He is everlasting Father.

Today, He is Prince of Peace.

Decades ago, Linda and I met Him. And everything in our lives changed. Christmas, the day of endless taking and giving, began, in us. Christmas, with all its transcendent realities, was born. 


The worship of Christ. 

It's December 28. The real celebration goes on in the hearts of all who have been found by Him.

Sunday, December 25, 2022


It's 7:50 AM, and I am awake on Christmas morning. Linda and I spent a beautiful day yesterday with our family, and last night with our church family. (Thank you for coming!)

Below are photos I have taken, mostly from Monroe, with a few from a recent Montana trip.

I've added some quotes and scriptures to them.


Slow down. 

Scroll down. 


Treasure, in your heart,

Our family wishes you a meaning-filled, blessed Christmas day!