As we say goodbye to 2019 and the last decade, it's easy to look back with grief and perhaps regret. We think of all that could have been and all the pains we've experienced. It may seem audacious to say now, but if I've learned anything about God, it's that he is a master of redemption. And in God's redemption, we can find hope in 2020. Here's how.
A reflection on 2019 cannot be complete without looking at it from the perspective of Christmas. The celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the arrival of the Son of God equals unfathomable hope. The hope of Christ changes everything. For the hope of Christ means you are not alone, but instead that God is "with us." The Gospel of Matthew says it this way:
"'The virgin [Mary] will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')" (Matthew 1:20 NIV; compare Isaiah 7:14).
Jesus is "God with us." But perhaps at this point, you're thinking, but my regrets and grief produce serious fears. I'm afraid of what may come in 2020. Even fear itself is confronted in Jesus. Joseph, Jesus' adopted father, is told, "do not be afraid." And the angel continues, "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20 NIV).
The salvation that comes in Jesus is a saving power, from both sin and fear. That means you can feel rest assured that God can address whatever happened in 2019.
Jesus is born into uncertainty, fear, and poverty; and his life is marked by suffering. But it is also marked by redemption. By the end of the story, we know that his life is marked by resurrection. We know he is savior.
It is the resurrected life of Jesus, which he describes as "life and life abundant," that God wants to offer us (John 10:10). The prophetic book of Isaiah, over 500 years before Jesus' birth, puts it this way:
“From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11, my translation).
Jesus can bear your sins. Jesus can bear your grief. Whatever you're facing, Jesus can. Reflecting on the beauty of this Christian hope, the apostle Paul says:
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [Christ!] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:34–35 ESV).
God doesn't want us to stay in regret for 2019, but to find repentance. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, from God's hope.
As you reflect back on the pain of 2019 and the past decade, ask: “What has God been doing in my life? Where is God at work and how can I follow him in that work?" I bet in the process of reflection you will find that God has been doing much more than you realized.
But perhaps you're reflecting back on a deep grief. Perhaps you have lost someone dear to you in 2019. That's happened in my family. And while 2019 meant saying goodbye, I find comfort that those we've lost no longer feel pain. And that they live on through the stories we tell of their life. And that those who know Jesus have been healed in heaven and are in deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus now than I can even fathom (2 Corinthians 5:1–10).
I also find hope in 2020 knowing that one day, we will see our loved ones again—we didn’t truly say goodbye, but rather acknowledged a stepping off point. For one day, we will all have resurrected bodies (Revelation 20:11–15; 1 Corinthians 15:12–58).
When I look back at the losses of 2019, and the past decade, I remind myself that this is not the end. But simply a stepping off point to a new period of life. That God will have the final say; and that word will be good.
As a Christian, my theology demands that I examine 2019 from the perspective of resurrection. I ask Christ to lift, and even bear, all of the last decades pains. I'm not strong enough on my own, but I know that "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).
I lift a glass up to God here at the beginning of 2020, requesting that he redeem the last decade. I ask God to give me new life, by the power of the resurrection of the Son of God. As I do so, I realize that my times of pain and grief are not in vain, but that God is there in all of it, working tirelessly to draw me closer to him. And that relationship has eternal value. What price wouldn't I pay for that? God will have the final say in the end:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39 ESV).
I believe in hope for 2020, because I know a God of hope. I believe in redemption for the last decade because I trust a God of resurrection. I want God to have the final word on 2019 and the first word on 2020. I pray the same for you.
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From the beginning of the early church, there is a concern for the impoverished and for effective alleviation of poverty. Right off the bat, early Christians are pooling their resources for the sake of the marginalized and impoverished. Early Christians sold their stuff so that they could share resources with the hurting (Acts 2:44–45). Self-sacrifice is a core part of the gospel. That's the core story behind my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. Here are three principles that emerge in the Jesus' Economy book.
We have to be willing to sacrifice our own comforts for the sake of the impoverished. I can’t look at the situation in Bihar, India—where millions of people are living in extreme poverty—and deny them clean water or economic opportunities. As a Christian, I should experience a conversion in those moments of witnessing poverty. I should be inspired to give of my time and resources to empower the poor. I should be willing to go so far as to sell my house and my belongings. That’s at least what Jesus told one man (Matthew 19:16–22).
That’s precisely what my wife and I did—we put all of our resources into empowering the impoverished and bringing the gospel to the unreached. We sold our house and our stuff, for the sake of the mission. I’m not saying this to boast, because I can tell you that there is no glory in it. I’m saying this to note that I’m not asking you to do something I haven’t done myself. I’m also not saying everyone’s journey will be so radically life altering, but I do ask, “Are you giving enough that it hurts?” That’s the model of the early church.
Jesus has a different economy in mind than the one on offer in our world. He believes in empowering the impoverished. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice. Jesus’ currency is love.
When the earliest Christians gave, it wasn’t about guilt (2 Corinthians 9:6–7). And likewise, their love wasn’t an empty love—one where I give of my resources without thought of relationship. I believe in intelligent love and I believe in love that calls people to a higher standard. I believe in this because the early church did. I also believe in love that respects the value of hard work (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7–8). There is a time for charity, such as meeting a basic need like clean water, but people also need economic opportunities. They need jobs.
The early church built intelligence in their giving. We see this in the appointment of deacons—following an issue over distribution of charity to widows, one of the most impoverished groups of the day (Acts 6:1–7). Jesus would have us give in ways that multiply and to think about how we’re giving and to whom we’re giving.
This is why I believe in job creation efforts being a core part of the work of the church. We can meet a person’s need today or we can give them the ability to meet their own need tomorrow. But no matter what we do, showing Jesus’ love in word and deed should be our mission. We should live on mission and empower missions, so that all can know Jesus.
The early church sent missionaries out, but their goal was to train and empower local leadership. Much of 1 Timothy and Titus is about this—the appointment of local elders and deacons. We also see Paul in 1–2 Thessalonians and 1–2 Corinthians working to instruct local leaders on how to lead their own church. Paul’s model was always about raising up indigenous leaders.
Today, we can do the same. We need to empower local leadership around the world. What we need is to sponsor indigenous church planting movements and to empower them with quality, Bible-focused training. And we need to empower them with strong project management, resources for community development, and let them sit at the center of an effort to renew a community.
Churches around the world should partner together, for the sake of both bringing the gospel to unreached people groups and to meet basic needs. And where there are needs to be met, we should meet them. Near the end of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he requests that they join him and other churches in bringing together an aid package for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26–29).
As Christians, we need to have a holistic approach to life transformation. We need to be about creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs—one community at a time.
Imagine what could be if the church functioned this way—if we looked at the biblical model of self-sacrifice and lived with the principles of the early church in mind. Imagine how different our world be. Imagine what would happen if we had a truly Jesus economy in mind at all times.*
Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live the currency of love.
We all know our world is broken and hurting. We’re left wondering, what can I do about such big problems? How can I make the world a better place? We find Jesus’ response in Luke 4:16–21, which records a scene from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus shows us that his gospel is about our whole lives.
In this sermon, I examine Luke 4:16–21. In the process of doing so, I utilize research from my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. I also draw on stories from the work of pioneering church planters in Northeast India. This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on February 3, 2019.
Enjoy this sermon? Check out Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.
Our world is deeply painful. Jesus' parables are meant to give us perspective. God has not abandoned us, but is deeply attuned to our needs. God is ready to receive us like a loving father. But to fully understand the perspective the parables offer, we have to understand how the parables are interconnected. The Gospels present parables in a particular order, next to other parables and stories, because they share themes. The parables in Luke 15, 16, and 18 show this to be the case. These parables show the challenge of the gospel, but also its incredible grace.
This lecture is part four of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.
Jesus' parables are mysterious. This is because the kingdom of heaven itself is mysterious. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is mysterious. It's in embracing the mystery of the kingdom of heaven that we come to an understanding of Jesus' parables. An additional key is reading the parables in their context. Matthew 18 profoundly demonstrates both of these lessons.
This lecture is part three of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.
This lecture was delivered at The Table (a missional church plant in Bellingham, WA) on January 24, 2018. Get more talks like this one by subscribing to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or SoundCloud.
Jesus was fond of speaking in parables. But why did he speak in these short, often confusing, stories? To understand Jesus' parables, we have to look at his first-century context and think of him as the rabbi that he is. We also have to make the commitment that Jesus asks us to make: We have to enter the journey with him; we have to follow Jesus the rabbi like his earliest disciples did.
This lecture is part two of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.
Today is National Book Lover's Day. A day set aside to encourage bibliophile's to put down technology (after you read this post of course) and pick up a book to read.
On this day, all things books are celebrated. Reading, exploring new books and/or genres, literature, book clubs, writing a book, and shopping for books are all great ways to spend the day. And we thought, what better way to celebrate Book Lover's Day than by recommending a book to you?
Grab our Founder and CEO John D. Barry's latest book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, The Currency of Love, And A Pattern for Lasting Change from our Fair Trade Shop. The Jesus' Economy book offers long-term solutions to poverty around the world and what you can start doing right now in your own church and community.
Jesus’ Economy is a call to address our own spiritual poverty—as people who can too easily become distant from Christ—and it is a call to address the physical poverty all around us in a smart and sustainable way. Jesus’ teachings show that with simple, everyday choices, you can make the world a better place and create enduring change. Here’s how to live Jesus’ economy—a currency of love.
Best part? 100% of the author’s proceeds from this book go to the nonprofit Jesus’ Economy, to fuel the movement of creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Plus, it's on sale right now at Amazon for only $11.70! Just click the "Buy on Amazon" button on the Jesus' Economy book page.
And if you've been bitten by the buy-all-the-books bug, check out our other books written by John D. Barry!
Jesus' parables can be perplexing, to say the least. How do we interpret them? Before we can answer that question, we need to have a basic framework for understanding Jesus as a first-century rabbi. We need to understand Jesus as prophet, messiah, and savior. Here's that framework.
This lecture is part one of a four-part series on "Studying Jesus' Parables." In this series, I draw on my research for my book, Parables: Portraits of the Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Jesus’ parables, we find a rabbi who will turn our world upside down. And that’s a good thing.
If you only had three years to do a monumental project, what would you do? Chance has it that you would clear the deck, ignore most people, and just focus on that singular initiative. You would have little time for people and their random problems. But Jesus had an entirely different approach.
In this sermon, I look at Jesus' decision to stop on the Road to Jericho to not just heal a man but to engage in a conversation (Luke 18:35–43). To explain the passage, I draw on my field research for my book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change.
Enjoy this talk? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.
Global inequality is the root cause of much of the world's problems. If you can't feed or educate your children, you will become desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. Desperation even breeds terrorism. But we can do something about it. We have the power.
Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable to corruption and exploitation. If we could fix these ethical problems and create fair-wage jobs, we could cut off the problem at its source. We could change the world. The key to all this: technology, organization, and simple choices. We need action and we need the right plan. In this talk, I explain how we can leverage our interconnected world to fix global inequality.
I believe in these ideas so much that my wife and I gave up our former lifestyle to make it happen: selling our house, our possessions, and quitting a great job. In this talk, I explain what motivated me to make these drastic decisions; and the part I believe we all can play in transforming our world.