September 30 - Kingdom of God: Jubilee

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is one of those things that we as Christians don't often think about, but in the Old Testament, the idea of Jubilee was part of the Law.

We first read about the Jubilee in Leviticus 25:8-10.  This is what Snyder calls a Sabbath of Sabbaths. Land is to lie fallow, slaves are to be liberated, debts are to be cancelled and all land acquired during the previous forty-nine years is to be returned.

When Jesus announced His ministry in Luke 4 - scholars agree that 'the acceptable year of the Lord' is a proclamation of the Jubilee year.  Jesus announced that His coming was to bring the Jubilee.  This wasn't just a Jubilee year, but a Jubilee age - "the very kingdom of God" (pg. 70).

Why does this matter in the Kingdom of God?  The first thing that we have to believe about all of this is that God as King is owner of everything we see ... all of the land belongs to him, no matter that we have taken ownership and have deeds and abstracts to prove it.

We can not separate the idea of God's Kingdom from caring for the land and caring for the oppressed.  We can't live in our perfectly manicured homes with our perfectly manicured lawns and believe that is all there is to bringing God's Kingdom to earth.

When Jesus taught His disciples the Lord's prayer, He told them to pray asking for forgiveness of debts as we have forgiven our debtors.  This is Jubilee material!

The Kingdom has come - the Age of Jubilee has been announced.  When Jesus spoke those words, He was proclaiming not only for Himself, but for all who would follow - their marching orders.

Preach good news to the poor
Bind up the brokenhearted
Proclaim freedom for the captives
Release the prisoners
Comfort those who mourn
Provide for those who grieve
Bring beauty instead of ashes
Gladness instead of mourning
A garment of praise instead of despair.

Jubilee is upon us ... What is our response?

September 29 - Kingdom of God: Sabbath

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We've forgotten what rest really is.  There is no day of the week where we simply rest.  But, one of God's commandments is about Sabbath.  This is the sixth theme that Snyder writes about in his little book, "Kingdom, Church and World." In Genesis 2 we find that God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested. 

I love that Snyder states that God actually did create something on this final day of creation - He created Sabbath.  He goes on to say that Sabbath is just about cessation of work, but it is an affirmation - the creation of rest, peace and ... shalom. (pg. 60)

Sabbath is something that God led His children to adopt when He set down the law.  Every week would lead to the climax - to the Sabbath.  Snyder also tells us that history will lead us to the climax ... the shalom of the kingdom - the final, perfect Sabbath.

The Sabbath was set forth in two great acts of God in the Old Testament - the Creation and the Law.  No wonder it is so important within Judaism. 

When we get to the New Testament, it may be a little startling to find that Jesus sets aside the rules and traditions of Sabbath.  In Mark 2:27-28, He says "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

But, all this means is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.  The Kingdom is centered in Jesus ... Sabbath finds its meaning in Him.

So, as we come to know Jesus ... we find in Him peace and wholeness - shalom.  We find in Him rest - Sabbath.  And we know that the final rest will be found in Him as well.

At the end of everything, when all is finally said and done, restoration, reconciliation, wholeness, peace, completion; all will be found in the fulfilled kingdom of God.  Sabbath will be found there.

Until that time as we seek first the kingdom of God, we remember the Sabbath day ... we make it holy ... we worship and remember the gift of creation ... the gift of the Sabbath.

September 28 - Kingdom of God: Justice for the Poor

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The fifth theme that Snyder tells us flows throughout the Old and New Testament when speaking of the Kingdom of God is justice for the poor.  He says, "Justice for the poor is a thundering refrain throughout the Old Testament." (pg. 51)

If you spend any time reading through the Law found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you will find that great portions are filled with concern for the poor and downtrodden. The Psalms speak of it and Isaiah as well as the other Minor Prophets cry out for justice throughout their messages.

Snyder tells us that justice for the poor is 'evidence of the kingdom.'  (pg. 53)

When Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61 in Luke 4, He tells us that He has come to preach good news to the poor and He goes on to demonstrate this often in His ministry.  He reaches beyond the comfortable and satisfied to those that won't be touched by most of civilization to bring healing and comfort.

Paul calls for Christians to be generous - to the point that we bring equality among God's people.  If we have plenty, we don't just offer a pittance to take care of part of the needs of others, we supply the needs of others (2 Corinthians 8:13-14).

The striking distinction between having plenty while others have nothing proclaims that we are not seeking God's Kingdom on earth. 

Evangelism - proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the entire world is a command that we can not ignore.  But, when we refuse to care for the poor and oppressed, they will never know who He is. 

Snyder says "It will not do for white middle-class Christians to evangelize only people like themselves.  This violates the kingdom and is a form of violence against the poor." (pg. 58)  If we aren't bringing the Kingdom of God to them ... we are withholding it from them.

Justice for the poor.  This is what God's kingdom is about.  This is what He calls us to do.

September 27 - Kingdom of God: City of the King

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yesterday we talked about the Tabernacle - the House of God.

Snyder, in the book "Kingdom, Church and World" says that the "Bible is a book about cities, not just about sheep and vineyards." (pg. 43)  That sentence just leaped off the page for me!  Oh my goodness, there are cities sprinkled all through the scriptures.

It all begins in Genesis 4:17 - Cain builds a city.  Wow.  It didn't take long for urbanization to take hold, did it?  The worst example of a city was one that believed it was its own crowning glory - Babel.  Maybe you could consider it to be like Silicon Valley in the 80s and 90s.  It was everything that mankind could create.  God wasn't having any of that, though.

David conquered a Jebusite city and even though we might think that God was always in residence in Jerusalem ... no, not until that point.  But, when David moved in ... God did too and this city became the home for centuries of God's temple and was also known as Mount Zion.  This was the one place that God returned to - even after Babylon (remember Babel?) conquered her.  God brought His children back to Zion ... to Jerusalem.

The city of God, the holy city ...

Jesus calls Jerusalem "the city of the Great King" (Matthew 5:35), he weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:42) when He was rejected.  It seemed as if all the hopes for Shalom ... for peace and wholeness were dashed at His crucifixion.

With His resurrection ... the Good News went out from Jerusalem to the entire earth.  And the promise was set forth to all people ... not just the Jews ... of the coming New Jerusalem, the city of God, the final completion of the Kingdom of God, our Promised Land.

If you look at the passage in Revelation 21:1-4, Revelation 22:1-5, you will see that the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to a cleansed and re-created earth.  God dwells with man as He did in the Garden of Eden.  The reconciliation is finally complete.  Man can return to the garden ... man can walk the streets of the New Jerusalem.  The throne of God will be in the city.  There will be no more night.  He will reign forever.

Snyder goes on to lay out several things about cities ... things that become important points for each of us.  1) Cities are places of power, 2) cities are places of the poor, 3) cities are places of mission.

How do we move within our cities?

September 26 - Kingdom of God: House of God

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The third theme that Howard Snyder speaks about in his book Kingdom, Church and World is "The House of God."

What an amazing concept this is when followed through the Old Testament and then into the New Testament. 

Do you think about how much God desires to dwell with us?  How He has created things so that the relationship He has with us is intimate?

When Adam and Eve walked away from the Garden of Eden, God no longer just showed up to hang out with them.  (Genesis 3:8-10)  He had enjoyed the time He spent with them - they were His creation, His children.

We saw that He spent time with Abraham, but as the years passed and the earth became more and more filled with sin, God's presence wasn't immediately with His people.  Then, He pulled them out of Egypt and it was another chance for Him to dwell among His chosen people.  They built a tabernacle to His specifications and He began traveling with them.  What a joy this had to be for Him.  Then, when Israel settled and made its home in Jerusalem, the Temple was built by Solomon so that God would have a permanent home among His people. 

All of this changed as the people once again pulled away from a relationship with God. 

Then ... He sent His Son.  Jesus came.  John 1:14 says "The Word is made flesh and dwells (tabernacles) among us."

God has returned to live among His people. 

When Jesus died and was resurrected, everything changed again.  We became part of the family of God and this is what we read in Ephesians 2:19-22:  "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built togther to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

We have become the Temple of God.

From the very beginning, God has desired to dwell among His people.  He has gone to great lengths to make this happen.  While we have the physical experience to look forward to when the New Heaven and the New Earth are brought together under His reign, right now we have the great opportunity to welcome Him into our hearts and allow Him residence.  This is His tabernacle.  His home.

September 25 - Kingdom of God: The Land

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The next theme that Howard Snyder talks about in his book "Kingdom, Church, and World." is The Promised Land.

Most of us recognize the importance of Land in the Old Testament.  When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised that He would give them the land of Canaan.  He promised Jacob the land (Genesis 48:4).  God promised that the people would have a land where they could dwell in peace ... a continuation of the theme from yesterday - Shalom.  (Leviticus 26:6)

Land - just as it is for most of is - symbolized belonging.  When you settle in the land, you belong there, you put down roots, you make it your home.

One of the things I see quite clearly traveling in and out of Iowa is the farmer's ties to the land.  They care for the land - it is their business, but even before that, they took care of the land.  When they discovered that they were destroying it with their farming techniques, they went to great pains to reclaim the land, to restore it to health. 

Now while the Promised Land was an Old Testament ... Jewish thought, God still promises His people a safe, peaceful place.  However, rather than just a small location near the Mediterranean Sea, we are now given the entire earth.  The Greek word in the New Testament is "ge" and it is used 248 times.  We recognize it as the beginning of the word geography ... the land ... the earth.

Jesus says "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5).  Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God here.  This is the Promised Land ... the whole earth.  This inheritance is a promise of blessings, fulfillment, of shalom.

What is our response?  Well, what do you know ... we ARE called to tend to the earth, to care for it, to be good stewards.  The Kingdom of God is happening now, where we live.  And while one day this earth will be transformed, today we are to care for God's creation.  It is our inheritance, it is our gift.

September 24 - Kingdom of God: Shalom

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm going to interrupt the study of Matthew a little bit to share some of the other fun information I've been gleaning from other courses.  As COOL as the genealogy is, it won't take up seven days of blogging to tell you about it.  The next thing I'm going to be digging into is the birth story found in Matthew 1.  But, that will come later.

Another book I've been reading is Kingdom, Church, and World, Biblical Themes for Today by Howard A. Snyder.

This little book focuses on seven themes that are found around the idea of the Kingdom of God in both the Old and New Testaments.  I got a little excited as I began looking at this.

The first theme he introduces is that of Shalom. For most of us, it simply means 'peace.'  Stop there and we're done, right?  Not so much.  Snyder says that this word occurs nearly 350 times in the Old Testament.  It is part of everything that occurs.  And the meaning is so much more in-depth than simply 'peace.'

It is a complete picture of peace ... not just a cessation of stress or war ... but, a positive thing.  The root of the word means 'to be whole, sound, safe.'  Take just a few moments to think about those words.  God is the source of shalom.  It is a sense of wholeness.  God intends to bring His creation to that wholeness ... to shalom.  Creation lives in harmony, everything working together.

Snyder describes the Garden of Eden as a model for shalom.  If the fall of man hadn't occurred, we wouldn't be afraid, we'd each have our own fig tree and we'd have great relationships with each other and with God.  Shalom ... wholeness ... harmony ... well-being ... peace.

When we get to the New Testament, the first thing that happens is that the angels announce 'peace on earth.'  This is what Jesus' coming means.  His reign on earth brings peace.  If you open your concordance to the word 'peace,' you'll find that Jesus is peace.

So, the first of these themes that flows through the entirety of Scripture regarding the Kingdom of God is peace - not an absence of battle - but as Snyder says (pg. 21) - harmony, balance, health.  While the Old Testament teaches about peace, Jesus is the focus in the New Testament and He defines the Kingdom of Peace.

September 23 - Matthew 1:1-17

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How much time do you spend looking at the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke?  If you're anything like me, the begats and begatted get a little old and you skip pretty quickly past them to the meat of the story.

My assignment for this week is to do a survey of Matthew 1:1-17.  Yup.  The genealogy.  My first thought was, "Are you kidding me?"  And then I immediately moved to, "Well, if he thinks it is important enough to assign, it probably is important enough to dig in to."  So, I did. 

Guess what ...  THIS is cool stuff!!!

Dig out your Bible and open it up to Matthew 1.  There are some really neat things happening here.

The passage breaks into three major units. 
Matthew 1:1 is the first section - the introduction.
Matthew 1:2-16 is the second section - the genealogy.
Matthew 1:17 is the third section - the summary.

Now, we will spend time just glancing through the middle section - the genealogy.  Notice how it is split into three sections?  From Abraham to David, then from David to the Babylonian exile, then from the Babylonian exile to Jesus.

Alright - that's cool.

As I read from the NRSV, there were some interesting bits of repetition.

Of course we notice that there are a lot of 'fathers.'  Notice that each time Matthew speaks of Jesus, he says "Jesus the Messiah."  He wasn't letting anything get past his readers.  He also tells us in Matthew 1:17 that there are fourteen generations.  He says it three times for each time that it occurs.  That is significant.  (I haven't discovered the why on that yet, but I can guarantee I will before the end of the semester!)

The next thing that is cool to see is that Matthew moves from the general to the specific.  Starting in Matthew 1:1 with the general idea of the genealogy, he then moves to the specific people and then back out to the general in 1:17.  But the other interesting thing is the way he moves the narrative.  It's called 'Chiasm.' 

Look at the movement in verse 1.  Jesus to David to Abraham.  Now, look at the movement in verse 17.  Abraham to David (through the exile) to Jesus.  Chiasm marks a type of narrative that moves forward and then later on moves backward to the same point.  A - B - C, then C - B - A.

We have a creative author here!!!

The last thing I spent time doing was making observation regarding the passage.  Some of these are fun - such as the use of several women in the genealogy that was more than likely by a Jew written for Jews.  A patriarchal system accepting women?  What a kick in the pants.  And not only are there women, but there are blatant sinners in there.  Rahab was a whore, Matthew mentions the fact that Solomon is David's son by Uriah's wife.  That was some serious sin!!!  We meet great kings of Israel (Uzziah and Hezekiah are two) and we meet not so great kings.  There is a Gentile with Ruth it ends up with Mary as the mother of Jesus ... not just Joseph as His father.

All of this information comes out of a genealogy - seventeen verses. 

This is why the Bible is such an incredible story!!!

September 22 - The Kingdom of God

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

As Christians, we don't have the benefit of fully understanding the world that Jesus entered.  We see things from the other side.  One of the most exciting things that I am doing right now is reading books that help me to understand the culture and thought processes of people living in the First Century.

I'm reading a little book called "The Drama of Scripture, Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story."  It's an amazing process of discovery of the entire Biblical story with information on the history and background surrounding the things that are happening ... placing the Bible into context.

The period of time before the New Testament takes off is a fascinating time, yet one we don't have a lot of understanding about.  I really love the synopsis that this little book gave me.  It helped me put things into a perspective that I didn't have and helps to make sense of some of the things that occur in the New Testament and why they are so important.

When the Jews were given permission to return to Jerusalem during the reign of Cyrus (of Persia), they were ecstatic, believing that God was returning them to their home and that He would return with them to reign and to bring back His rule on earth.  Many Jews didn't return, though and this confused those that had.  There was an expectation that all would come together and things would go back to the way they had been before sin tore their world apart.  The Temple was rebuilt, but it seemed shabby in comparison to Solomon's Temple.  There was a lot of disappointment.  But, in studying the Law, they recognized that God was not finished yet with His judgment.  They needed to prove that they were faithful.  At this point, the Law was being adapted and applied to contemporary situations.

With the coming of Alexander the Greek, Greek culture began to pervade every part of the Empire, including Jewish life - introducing new pagan patterns and questioning belief.  Synagogues were erected to become the center part of Judaism in the far flung reaches of the Empire for those that hadn't returned - the Diaspora.  Worship and study centered around these while the people continued to send money and prayers to Jerusalem to support the Temple.

Antiochus Epiphanes decided that the Jews weren't responding well to Hellenization and decided to simply force them to become Hellenized.  He desecrated the Temple, turning it into an altar for Zeus and then forced them to worship him or his image.  The Maccabbean revolt occurred when one old Temple priest decided it wasn't going to happen.  He killed the Jew who worshiped the image and the Greek guard who forced the worship.  He and his sons fled to the country where they built up a fighting force to force the Greeks out.  Even though they were small, they were mighty and held their own, winning many battles.  On December 25, 164 BC, Judah Maccabee led troops into Jerusalem with shouts of "Hosanna" and waving palm branches (seem familiar?).  They took back the temple, cleaned it out, removed anything that was pagan and rededicated it to the Lord - This is the festival of Hanukkah.

From the Maccabees came the Hasmonean dynasty of Jewish leaders.  While it was initially a good thing, they were corrupted quickly by the powers of the Greeks and later the Romans.  Rome conquered Israel in 64 BC and then placed their own puppets - the Herods, the last of the Hasmoneans - into power as leaders of the Jews. 

Israel was frustrated with being yanked around by foreign powers.  They were the children of God!!  This frustration was seen in their revulsion of anything Gentile.  While they were taught that they were to be a blessing to the Gentiles, they now figured that this blessing would occur far into the future when God had returned.  Their expectation was that God would return with His Messiah to restore them to a favored position in the world.  From this favored position, they would then bless the surrounding nations and from there, the rest of the world.  But, they knew that they were God's children and it was only to them that His favor would come.

His Kingdom would come when He renewed the world, cleansing it of all evil (as they saw it) and bringing redemption.  Israel's God would be the King of the world and everyone on earth would acknowledge this.  They saw in verses such as Isaiah 60:12-14 and Isaiah 2:3 and Psalm 2:9, that God would bring Israel to a place of power over those who had ruled her.  All who refused would be destroyed.

This small group of people knew that God was on their side and while He might be furious with their sin, a day would come when He would send the Messiah (which means 'anointed') to bring forth the Kingdom.  During the 200 years just before and just after Jesus' life on earth, there were many different 'Messiahs' that showed up, hoping to bring forth the Kingdom of God.

What very few remembered or wanted to acknowledge was the message of the Suffering Servant.  Isaiah's Kingly prophecies were remembered, but when it came to this message, they conveniently forgot.  Israel was ready to bring God's kingdom on earth in the first century, no matter what.  They prepared themselves for battle.

What they got was an infant who grew to a man that would teach a very different message than they one they wanted to hear.

September 21 - Matthew - Climax and Strategic Areas

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So, what would you consider to be the climax of the Gospel of Matthew?

I suppose that there are a couple of options.  For my survey, I chose the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10).  To me, the Resurrection is proof positive that Jesus Christ is the Messiah that has been seen in prophecy from the beginning.  The story of the Gospel is complete with this occurrence.  While others may believe that the crucifixion is the climax of the story, I rather like the Protestant idea of the empty cross ... the ripped curtain in the Temple ... the return of the Messiah after a cruel death.

There are a couple of other things about the Gospel of Matthew that really stuck out as I read the book over and over.  The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is fascinating in that it sets Jesus up for things that happen later.  He spends quite a bit of time teaching these messages.  This is His interpretation of the law and later on, these teachings will come into play as He handles the Pharisees quite deftly.

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 seem to set forth the beginnings of the idea that the least are of greater importance than those who are the greatest.  This information would later translate quite nicely as Jesus healed the man with the withered hand ... he acted as a servant (Matthew 12:9-14).  He taught His disciples to serve in the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21).  He healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), taught on self-denial (Matthew 16:24-28), taught about children being the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1-5), dealt with the mother of the sons of Zebedee (20:20-28) and entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-10).

So much of the Gospel of Matthew is based on offering us a view of the Kingdom of Heaven.  So much of the Gospel of Matthew is based on the idea of the greatest becoming the least - of being true servants.  Everyone desires to be a King of their own kingdom, to be in charge, to have a sense of authority.  Jesus' teachings were in such contrast to that in this Gospel.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a place where all will be in the presence of God.  The Kingdom of Heaven shows up on earth when we act as true, selfless servants.

Tomorrow I will begin putting together a survey on a much smaller portion of the Gospel.  I can't wait to dig in and see what happens!

September 20 - Matthew - Interrogation and Preparation

Monday, September 20, 2010

I've been burning up my brain today learning how to parse Greek verbs.  That means that I look at a verb and based on the information I find there, I can tell you about its tense, mood, voice, person and number.  Well, I WILL be able to tell you all of that ... someday.

The fun thing about this is that it isn't going to take too long before my classes start working in tandem.  The inductive study into Matthew will soon encourage me to use information found in an Interlinear Bible.  That's a Bible that generally has the Greek text, an English translation and then all of that information (verb parsing, noun declensions - oh for heavens sake, stop, DIANE!) about the specific word.  Knowing that information will help me understand exactly what the writer was saying.  But, for today, as I try to assimilate some of this random information, I simply shut the book and say, 'head hurts ... make it stop.'

Another type of structural relationship that we observe when working through Matthew is 'interrogation.'  This is kind of fun.  Where are there question and answer passages in the book?  Well ... in Matthew, there are a lot.

The Pharisees question Jesus about His healing the man with a withered hand (12:9-14)
They don't much appreciate the fact that His disciples don't rush out to wash before eating and question Him about that (15:1-9)

The conversation between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30 is a form of interrogation.

When Jesus comes before Pilate, He is interrogated (Matt 27:41-46) and then Pilate also interacts with the crowd in that format when he offers a choice of either Jesus or Barabbas (Matthew 27:15-23).

One more type of structural relationship is how a scene is prepared and then realized.  It doesn't always happen, but when details are given about a scene, they might be there for a reason ... more than likely to draw you into the story and help you imagine what is happening.  In Matthew 5:1, we see the scene being set for the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 8:23-27, the scene is being set for the storm on the sea and the realization of Jesus' power over the sea.

There are so many different types of structural relationships that help us to observe the scripture just a little more deeply.  We may not find all of them, but looking for some of them simply makes us more intimately involved with what is happening.

September 19 - Matthew - Pivot points & Intercalation

Sunday, September 19, 2010

There are so many ways to dissect scripture and every time that you implement one of these, you are actually bringing more information into your mind.  I continue to find this quite stimulating and really exciting!

One structural relationship that you look for is a pivot point in the story.  One of those that I considered was found in Matthew 10:1-42 when Jesus sent out His twelve disciples.  If you look at what has been happening just prior to this, you will see that Jesus is inundated with people.  In Chapter 9 he heals a paralytic, then he is asked to heal a synagogue's daughter and while on his way there, a woman touches his cloak and is healed.  He heals two blind men and then a demon-possessed man who was mute.  In Matthew 9:35-36, we find that he is traveling through towns and villages, teaching, preaching and healing.  "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them ..." (Matthew 9:36a)

The last verse of Matthew 9 reads, "Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" (Matthew 9:37-38)

The scene progresses in Matthew 10 with Jesus calling the disciples, giving them authority and then teaching them about what to expect as they travel.  He's no longer alone.  This is a crucial pivot point in the story.  Lay leadership is born, Jesus has called the workers to the harvest.

One of the other structural relationships that is kind of fun is called 'intercalation,' inserting a story into a longer story line.

We see it in the story of the ruler's daughter when all of a sudden, out of the blue, a woman shows up to touch Jesus' cloak.  Do we know why this is inserted here?  I have no idea.  There are a couple of others that I have discovered and I'm sure more will show up as I go through this.  As Jesus was teaching and preparing the Twelve to be sent out, all of a sudden, he inserts the teaching of how He came not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34-39) and then look at Matthew 27.  The first two verses bring Jesus and Pilate together.  Then, all of a sudden, the scene switches from the Roman palace to Judas' suicide, and then immediately takes us back to Pilate and Jesus.  (Matthew 27:3-10)  Again, why was the action interrupted like this?

September 18 - Matthew - Recurrence and Contrast

Saturday, September 18, 2010

After I finally figured out what the format for this crazy survey was, I also finally figured out that I would be able to do it.  Let me tell you, there was a lot of panic surrounding this.  I've never really been worried about learning or absorbing information, but I do worry about comprehending the mechanics of what a professor is looking for. Until I can get that settled, I stress.

I submitted my paper this evening and can only hope that I did it correctly.  If not, I'll let you know!

Inductive Bible study seems so overwhelming until you look past the technical aspect into the beauty of it. This week we focused on the structural relationships found in Matthew.  Oh my goodness, this is glorious!

One of the types of structural relationships is 'recurrence.'  What in the book is repetitious?

Well, in Matthew there are some really awesome things happening.

For instance - in Chapter 5, we find that Jesus is clarifying the Law.  If you read through that chapter, you will find that He repeats the words "You have heard it said ... But I say to you ..." over and over.  That's recurrence!  That's cool!

According to the NRSV translation, he says "Truly I tell you" 31 times and he speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven another 31 times.  It is so wonderful to see these things happening in front of me.

Another type of structural relationship is Contrast - Again, the information in Chapter 5 is contrasting (You have heard it said ... But I say to you). If you read Chapter 6, you will find that He uses contrast over and over.  Look at it.  It is so cool.  He talks about hypocrites and what they do - and how you shouldn't.  Don't store up treasures on earth - do so in heaven (6:19-21), so many different things.

Then there is Comparison.  Part of his teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven is when He compares it to something - like a Sower (13:24), a Mustard seed (13:31), leavening (13:33), treasure in a field (13:44), a fine pearl (13:45), a net in the sea (13:47), a king with his slaves (18:23), a landowner and laborers (20:1), a king and the wedding banquet (22:2), bridesmaids meeting the bridegroom (25:1).

If you have time today, read through Matthew 5 and 6.  Look for the points of repetition ... look for the contrast. 

This is a glorious way to study!

September 17 - Matthew Survey (Chs 21-28)

Friday, September 17, 2010

My poor little brain hurts tonight.  I'm absorbing such random information since I'm in four different classes that sometimes I don't know what to do with it.  So, you're only going to get the information and chapter titles today.  I'll be back with commentary tomorrow! :)

Chapter 21 - Jesus enter Jerusalem on the donkey, He cleanses the temple, curses the fig tree and faces down Pharisees regarding His authority.  Jesus teaches the Parables of the Two Sons, and the Wicked Tenants.  Title:  Triumphal Entry

Chapter 22 - This opens with the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, then comes questions about paying taxes, resurrection, the greatest commandment, and David's Son.  Title:  Setting Traps

Chapter 23 - Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees and laments over Jerusalem.  Title:  Woe to You!

Chapter 24 - Jesus talks of the destruction of the Temple, gives signs of the end of the age, foretells persecution, speaks of the desolating sacrilege and the coming of the Son of Man.  He teaches the lesson of the fig tree, speaks on the necessity for watchfulness and tells of the faithful or the unfaithful slave.  Title:  Signs of the End.

Chapter 25 - More parables!  The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and the talents.  Then He talks of the judgment of the nations.  Title: Parables of the End

Chapter 26 - Here we are at the end.  The plot to kill Jesus, the anointing at Bethany, Judas agrees to betray Jesus, Passover meal, Lord's Supper, Peter's denial foretold, Prayer in Gethsemane, Betrayal and Arrest, Jesus before Caiaphas, and then Peter's denial.  Title:  Betrayal.  Arrest.

Chapter 27 - Jesus is brought before Pilate, Judas kills himself, Pilate questions Jesus then hands Him over to be crucified.  The Soldiers mock Jesus and we see the crucifixion.  Jesus dies, is buried and guards are set at the tomb.  Title:  Death.

Chapter 28 - Resurrection, the guards report and then the disciples are commissioned.  Title  Resurrection. Go Forth.

September 16 - Matthew Survey (Chs 15-20)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I got the draft of the survey done today ... on time.  Once I finally figured out what this was supposed to look like, things began to make more sense.  Would you believe me if I said that I didn't know how I planned to get through the Gospel of Matthew in 14 weeks, that there is way too much to discover - and uncover in there?

As I worked through this overview, I kept finding myself getting caught up in small details, exciting things that I would find in the text, new ways of drawing out information.  I had to stop myself and go back to the overview that I was to be working on.  What excitement!  You could spend an amazing lifetime being this involved with Scripture.

I want to continue today and tomorrow with the Chapter titles ... by then I'll hopefully know if the overview that I submitted was done correctly and I'll move forward with you.

In Chapter 15, Jesus runs up against the Pharisees.  The tradition of washing hands prior to eating is compared to honoring God with lips and not hearts.  He teaches that to the people then encounters a Canaanite woman who responds correctly when asking to have her daughter healed, tells him that even the dogs get crumbs from their Master's table. Jesus heals many and then feeds Four Thousand people.  Title:  Traditions Uprooted.

Chapter 16 - The Pharisees demand a sign, the disciples are taught about the 'yeast' of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Peter declares that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection and then calls His listeners to the cross and self-denial.  Title: Sign of the Times

Chapter 17 opens with The Transfiguration, Jesus cures a boy with a demon, talks again about his death and resurrection, then has to pay a temple tax.  Title:  Transfiguration and Taxes.

Chapter 18.  A child is the symbol of true greatness in heaven, Jesus warns of tempting others to sin, teaches the parable of the lost sheep, how to deal with a fellow Christian who sins, speaks of forgiving seventy times seven and finishes with the parable of the unforgiving servant.  Title:  Be a Servant.

Chapter 19. Jesus teaches about divorce, blesses the children, and disappoints a rich young man.  Title: Come As a Child.

Chapter 20.  Jesus teaches about the laborers in the vineyard, speaks of his death and resurrection a third time, handles the mother of James and John and heals two blind men.  Title:  Vineyard Laborers.

Tomorrow I will finish the Chapter outlines!  By the way, if you see something I'm missing and want to help me with creative titles, I'd love it!  I really wish I was wittier or more insightful sometimes!

September 15 - Matthew Survey (Chs 8-14)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm really stressing out about this crazy Matthew survey.  The professor is talking way over my head about all of these expectations for it.  I'm pretty certain that he's making things sound worse than they are, but until I can get into communication with the rest of the class, I feel absolutely lost.  Somehow I don't think Bible Study - even when quite detailed - should be this difficult. 

I will be posting a beginning to the overall survey this afternoon.  For the next three days, a few members of the class (that are in my team) and I will discuss our surveys, trying to make sense of the entire procedure.  The final thing is due Friday by midnight.  I'll be glad to get to that point, because I know full well that along the way I will figure this out and all will be well.

Moving ahead with titling the chapters, we find some fun things to tie each of them together.

Chapter 8 - Jesus is finished with His teaching on the mountain and moves into the world.  He cleanses a leper, heals a centurion's servant, heals a bunch of people at Peter's house, stills the storm, heals the Gadarene Demoniacs and I will simply call Him - Miracle Worker.

Chapter 9 - He is still healing people beginning with the paralytic.  He calls Matthew, deals with the issue of fasting, then a leader's daughter and a hemophiliac woman are healed. He heals two blind men and a mute, then wanders through communities healing everyone who needs him.  I say:  Healer.

Chapter 10 - Jesus calls the twelve, commissions them and sends them out, telling them to be wary but gentle.  This is titled:  The Twelve Disciples

Chapter 11 - John the Baptist's disciples go to Jesus asking if He is the one.  He assures them that He is and then when they leave, He uses the example of John to teach the crowd.  Jesus Teaches on John.

Chapter 12 - The Pharisees get center stage in this chapter.  They challenge Jesus about plucking grain on a Sabbath, healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and then they plot to destroy Him. Jesus teaches about them as He is accused of being Beelzubul.  He reminds them that a tree produces fruit and is known by it and when they ask for a sign, He taunts them.   This chapter is simply: The Pharisees.

Chapter 13 - This chapter is filled with Parables.  Jesus teaches the people in the way they need to learn.  The Parable of the Sower, Weeds among Wheat, Mustard Seed, Yeast, and He explains the Parables as He goes.  Chapter title:  Parables

Chapter 14 - After John the Baptist is murdered, Jesus does some amazing miracles.  He feeds the five thousand, walks on water, and heals many in Gennesaret.  Chapter:  Great Miracles.

It's good to see how this book has been put together.  It will be exciting to keep moving through it.  Now for a little motivation!

September 14 - Matthew Survey (Chs 1-7)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I have a paper due tomorrow.  Well, it's the beginnings of a paper.  For this I will have read through the entire book of Matthew at least twice.  Silly me, I forgot to put my favorite audio recordings of the Bible in my car when I left on Sunday, so I'll wait to listen to the Gospel.

If you want to join me on this journey through Matthew, I'd love to have you.  Otherwise, you can just read about all of my craziness on the blog and I'll try to help you keep up as we go.  Spend some time over the next few days reading the book of Matthew.  There are 28 chapters and my professor tells us that there are 2071 verses.  He says it will take approximately 2 1/2 hours to read the entire Gospel. I did it in 45 minutes yesterday.  So, somewhere in between those two numbers if you are going to do this in one sitting.

Time spent today will be in titling each chapter.  Then I will combine chapters into larger segments and title those.  And do that again.  The idea is to begin to comprehend how the book is written and see the larger, overarching themes.  There are days I wish I was quite witty so that I could do humorous 2-4 word titles, but I'm afraid they will be mundane and that's ok, too, I guess.

Matthew, Chapter 1 includes the genealogy and the birth of Jesus.  My 2-4 word title for the entire chapter will be:  How Jesus Got Here.

Chapter 2 includes the visit of the wise men, the escape to Egypt, the massacre of the infants, and the return from Egypt.  My chapter title will be: Herod Hated, Jesus Escaped.

Chapter 3 tells us about John the Baptist proclaiming redemption and baptism and Jesus' baptism.  That's pretty easy. (oh, I guess it's not ... I'm still thinking ... remember only 2-4 words).  John called, Jesus Baptized.

Chapter 4 gives us Jesus' temptation, the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, the first four disciples and finally tells how Jesus traveled curing disease and drew great crowds.  I really don't want to give the devil any credit in the title.  Jesus overcomes.  Jesus begins.

Chapter 5 begins the Sermon on the Mount.  There are so many smaller teachings that fill these next few chapters.  The Beatitudes, Salt and Light, the Law and the Prophets, Anger, Adultery, Divorce, Oaths, Retaliation, Loving Enemies.  Wow!  But since He is teaching about righteousness, I'll just call it: Blessings and Righteousness.

Chapter 6 continues the Sermon on the Mount with teachings about almsgiving, The Lord's Prayer, fasting, keep your eye healthy, serving two masters (wealth), and worry.  Christ is teaching us how to be holy and how to trust in the Lord only.  So, I will call this chapter. Teaching holiness and trust.

Chapter 7 concludes the Sermon on the Mount by speaking about judging others, profaning the holy, Ask, Seek and Knock, the Golden Rule, the narrow gate, a tree and its fruit, self-deception, hearers and doers.  It all seems really random ... just teachings that Jesus felt His listeners desperately needed to hear.  Love God.  Love Others.

If you begin working through the Gospel of Matthew this way and want to share with me, please feel free to email back to me or post it in a comment on the blog.  I'd love to have you be a part of this project.  It's going to be an incredible time of learning!

Inductive Bible Study, Pt. 4

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's been interesting as I read the posts going back and forth in my Inductive Bible Study forum.  Some of the people are quite assured of themselves.  I simply figure they have no idea what is about to hit them.  Others are a bit panicked because they realize that this is much more intense than they originally thought. 

The fourth step in IBS is Application ... getting what you have learned off the page and into yourself.  Start with the big ideas and then move into the specific points.  Isn't that interesting?  Sometimes we get so caught up in the itty bitty details of scripture that we forget what the big information is all about.  When God says love your neighbor as yourself, we get all wrapped up in what we are supposed to do to make that happen.  When Paul tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is in Galatians 5, we instead focus on each segment rather than his general teaching of living fully in the Spirit.  Big to small ... encompass it all.

One of the coolest things I read is the impact of Inductive Bible Study on the community.  As we transform our lives, we are doing this to transform our community.  In the Old Testament, God was redeeming the entire nation of Israel.  Everything they did in relationship to Him was as a community.  Today we focus on the redemption of ourselves, forgetting how this works within the community.

After we apply scripture, we finish by working through Correlation - seeing how what we have learned correlates with the entirety of scripture and then how it correlates with the rest of our life learning. 

While this may look daunting, I believe that IBS is something that can become a part of our daily scripture lives.  I'm kind of looking forward to working through it this semester and see if I can fully translate this information into something that is doable for us.

4.    Application
   a.    Begin with major principles
      i.    Central points
      ii.    General principles
   b.    Ideas and Actions
      i.    Growth in both inner and outer lives
      ii.    Scripture affects and changes the reality of daily life
   c.    Corporate and Individual
      i.    Individuals are members of community
      ii.    Transformation of the community is God’s goal
   d.    Positive and Negative will occur
      i.    Affirmation / Rebuking
      ii.    Comfort / Confrontation
      iii.    Assurance / Unsettling
   e.    Probes and Questions
      i.    Apply to entire life – every aspect
      ii.    Application questions
         1.    How does this affirm God, Jesus, me, others, the world
         2.    Confirm goodness due to God’s grace
         3.    Confess what sins are brought up
         4.    What should change now
         5.    What should my prayers be?
5.    Correlation
   a.    Connect passage to entire Biblical message
   b.    Make generalizations from the specifics
   c.    Means
      i.    Topical studies
      ii.    Passages that relate to each other
   d.    Connect passage with learning outside of Scripture

Inductive Bible Study, Pt. 3

Sunday, September 12, 2010

After you have taken the time to observe and then interpret the Scripture you are working through, the third part of good Inductive Bible Study is Evaluation.

How in the world are we supposed to look at all of this information we've gathered?  Sometimes it is so easy to simply read through a portion of Scripture and we might observe things about it, we might spend time interpreting, but we forget that our own thoughts actually stop us from seeing this Scripture without a personal agenda.  By evaluating the Scripture with some of these ideas in mind, we begin seeing it more from the long view of history and what Scripture is really doing. 

Now, while these steps may seem long and tedious, I can promise you that over the next few months I'm going to be taking every one of them through the Book of Matthew.  I can only hope that it will make more and more sense to you as I show you what I'm doing and how I'm getting down to the nitty gritty of God's Word.

3.    Evaluation
   a.    The Sacred Story
      i.    Progressive Revelation
         1.    God continues to reveal His word throughout scripture
         2.    Later teaching refines scripture
      ii.    Understand major Biblical history points
      iii.    Learn settings from which writings come
   b.    Separate historical / local information from universal truths
      i.    What information is locked in time
      ii.    What points are foundations of faith
   c.    Biblical Preferences
      i.    Personal over the mechanical – choosing the relationship of God over the strict performance of acts
      ii.    Liberty over legalism
         1.    Love and grace balanced with justice
         2.    Spirit of the Law versus the letter of the Law
      iii.    Faith over works
         1.    Trust, faith, belief in God
         2.    God is the emphasis, not us
      iv.    Holy love over all else
         1.    Goal for salvation – love for God, love for each other
         2.    Love that is filled with God
   d.    Jesus’ life and words
      i.    Jesus is Lord of all revelation
      ii.    Jesus set the standard for Kingdom living
   e.    Canonical Dialogue
      i.    Evaluation in context with all scripture
      ii.    When scripture isn’t specific, prayerful understanding of entirety
   f.    Find the Dialogue – find other similar Bible passages
      i.    Concordance
      ii.    Cross-References
      iii.    Commentaries

Inductive Bible Study, Pt. 2

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The one thing that I have figured out about Inductive Bible Study is that it takes time.  In reading some of the comments flowing back and forth among the other students in the class, I've also figured out that we are a huge bunch of pious idiots sometimes!  All of these seminary students making noise about how no one else will actually take the time to do this work and how lazy everyone is.  Oh, for heaven's sakes!  This might kill me and I've committed to giving an ENTIRE semester to the Gospel according to Matthew! 

Ok, breathe, Diane.  I'm trying not to wade into those forum conversations and just call out the idiots.  I think that would be a bad thing to do at the beginning of the semester.

I firmly believe that deep, intensive, questioning study of a scripture passage is very important.  But I also believe that people have very different learning and studying styles and when we expect people to follow a specific standard and do their Bible study exactly as someone else does it, we're just insane.

Inductive Bible study is consuming ... I would love for everyone to be as interested in Matthew as my professor is.  But, I don't think that's happening any time soon.  He spends day in and day out teaching Old Testament and classes like this.  His life is filled with Scripture - every moment of every day.  I hope that some day my life looks like that.  Many of the would-be pastors in my class will spend their days like that.  But, the sooner they learn that not everyone in their church is able to commit that kind of time, the easier their life as a pastor will be.

With that in mind (I guess I really needed to rant a little at you, didn't I!) the next step after "Observing" the passage is to begin "Interpreting" the passage. There are things that you can use to help gain more understanding, but begin with looking at words and phrases to ensure you know what they mean ... a full context.

2.    Interpretation
   a.    Standard Questions
      i.    Definition
         1.    What is it?        
         2.    What does it mean?
         3.    What is involved?
         4.    What is the significance?
      ii.    Reasons
         1.    Why is this so?
         2.    What is the purpose?
      iii.    Understand the means
         1.    How is this done?
      iv.    Explore the implications
         1.    What is implied?
         2.    What does this assume?
      v.    Other questions
         1.    Time
         2.    Place
   b.    Approach
      i.    Big picture first – details later
      ii.    Begin with important structures (Section 1 – Part b)
      iii.    Question reasons guided by structure
         1.    Ask ‘why’ from the text
         2.    This is a difficult exercise
      iv.    Implications are guided by the structure
   c.    Finding answers to the questions
      i.    Look at content and context of passage
      ii.    Discover meanings of words & expressions
         1.    Look at other Biblical uses of word or expression
         2.    Original language translation
      iii.    Author’s intent
         1.    Stated clearly, or
         2.    Inferred from content
      iv.    Historical and cultural setting
         1.    Found in Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias
         2.    Discovery in lifelong attention to Biblical resources
      v.    Other interpreters
         1.    Commentaries
         2.    Bible study resources
      vi.    Spiritual discernment though
         1.    Exposure to scripture
         2.    Relationship with God
         3.    Christian community
      vii.    Common sense
      viii.    Life experience
         1.    Teach how to incorporate scripture
         2.    Always lead back to more careful consideration

Inductive Bible Study, Pt. 1

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Bible Study That Works" by David L. Thompson

I'm working on an overview of Inductive Bible Study taken from this wonderful little book.  If you are interested in digging in - this book is pretty cool.  I'll give you some of the highlights over the next few days.

Start with "Why Study the Bible?"

The first reason is that God communicates with us through the Bible.  That should be enough in and of itself.  But, there are other really good ideas that Thompson presents and things that we often don't think about.

The Bible is a giant in world literature.

The Bible is God's written word offering instruction, encouragement and growth.

The Bible tells us of Jesus:  his attitudes, what He felt was important, how He connected with people and His teachings.

The Bible directs a Christian's path.

When you study the Bible (not just read or do devotions) there are two main questions that should fill your mind:

1. What did the author (s) intend to say to their first readers?
2. What does that have to do with us and our world?

So, what are the steps to studying the Bible.

I.  Observation
   A. Content
      1. Survey (read through) a unit
          a. A unit is the whole picture of the story, maybe a chapter, maybe a book, maybe just a paragraph.
          b. Gain the big picture
      2. Create short & descriptive titles for:
          a. chapters
          b. paragraphs
          c. subunits
      3. Proportion and Atmosphere
          a. how much space & time is given to the information
          b. what is the attitude or atmosphere surrounding the passage
      4. Observe the literary type or genre - what is the author's intention
      5. Use visual aids to present your own survey
          a. charts
          b. pictures

   B. Structure
      1. Look at basic structural relationships in passage
          a. Cause and Effect
          b. Climax - building towards a high point
          c. Comparison - similarities
          d. Contrast - opposites
          e. Pivot - a crucial change point
          f. General and specific relationships
             1. Generalizing - specific to general
             2. Particularizing - from general to specific
          g. Introduction - orienting the reader to what is to come
          h. Question / Answer
             1. Interrogatory
             2. Pose a problem - find a solution
          i. Recurrence - using repetition for emphasis
      2. Find the design - why did the author structure the unit this way
      3. Probe relationships - go deeper into meaning by asking questions

Tomorrow I'll show you what happens in the next step - Interpretation!

September 9 - Repost #9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My heart can take a lot of battering, I can handle great amounts of doubt and I can face down ugly attacks from the outside.  Sometimes I break apart for short periods of time, but never for very long.  One of the greatest things that I have is that I know that Who resides in my heart and is ultimately in charge of everything about me is greater than anything I face.  I will be completely honest and tell you that there are days I forget this, but those are simply short periods of time and I always come back to the One who is my foundation.  Where I find Him is in His Scriptures ... so these are the words I make part of my life.

September 21, 2009 - In the Heart

Psalm 37:31, "The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip."

A few weeks ago, we had some guys come out to the cabin to check out our septic system. I don't know that anyone had done anything to it since it had been installed in 1979. It's not used all that often, but problems had crept up and it was time. Well, after a lot of searching for the tanks and a backhoe to uncover them, they were opened. The smell was horrific!

For some reason, the guys wanted me to see inside the tanks. I still have no idea why, but they were at the bottom of a small hill, down from the entry lane to the cabin. It was a little wet, rain was coming down off and on and all I had on my feet were a pair of flip flops. The walk down the hill was tentative to say the least and all of a sudden one of the guys realized what he had asked me to do, because he finally put his hand out just in case I decided to slip down that hill. If I had, there would have been nothing to stop me from plunking right down into the filth of the tank.

I'm here to tell you that I kept a firm grip on the ground as I made my way down that incline. I did not want to slip.

Just like the hand that reached out to me to give me assurance as I made my way down a treacherous hill, is the Word of God.

"I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
Psalm 40:8

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people." Jeremiah 31:33

"For in my inner being, I delight in God's law ..."
Romans 7:22

"You know that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." 2 Corinthians 3:3

This is a gift we have been given. His law has been placed on our hearts. The Word of God is already there. In Psalm 42:7, the Psalmist says "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls."

I find that as I spend time reading the Word of God, it fills my heart. I believe that it is calling out to that which God placed within me before I was created.

September 8 - Repost #8

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This blog and my beliefs are about to be put to a test, one that I have every confidence I will pass, but one that will make me question my belief about the perfection of Scripture.  You see, the reality is that there are too many questions about the exact wording and interpretation of Scripture.  Even to the point that some serious questions are raised about serious points of theology.  

I will reiterate, though, that God's Hand is always at work and He has ultimate control over His scriptures.  I don't worry about that at all.  It's going to be quite a ride!!!

September 19, 2009 - Perfection of the Divine
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)

I guarantee that if you spend any time studying scripture in an academic setting, you will face down contentions that the Bible is flawed, that there are errors within its pages and that throughout the years, scribes and copyists, even the original authors made errors that have come down to us.

Ok. Fine.

I take exception with nearly all of that, but my arguments will never work on an academic level because unless you believe that God is the author and perfector of all things, you can never understand His divine influence over His Word, the Bible that we love.

You see, I fully believe that God is living and active in this world and has been since the day He called it into creation. If He was uninterested in us or apathetic about His creation, then we have an entirely different set of problems.

But, the Bible tells us that He is not either uninterested or apathetic, or for that matter, dead. God is alive and actively works in this world to draw His people into relationship with Him. His one single avenue that will never change is the Bible.

Now, why would He allow His scriptures to disintegrate due to poor handling by scribes and copyists throughout the years? Do we not believe that He has the power to force corrections and changes?

When the original King James version was created, there were quite a few translation errors, but over the years these were fixed. And, over the years, more and more fragments of the Bible have been found that take us closer to the original dates of publication. These generally confirm the authenticity of what we hold in our hands. In fact, throughout the 20th century, archeological digs have also confirmed the authenticity of many of the events that were questioned.

God's Word is always being proven to be truth.

When you read the Bible, be convinced that God has been very active in not only sending His word to the men who wrote it down, but also with those who were commissioned with pulling the canon (the order of the books, the choices of which books to incorporate, etc.) of the Bible together. He did not quit working to perfect the Bible when the last book was written. God continues to work to this day to ensure that we have a perfect representation of His Words in our hearts. His goal is to bring us closer to Him. His Word is there for us to read as we reach back out to Him.

September 7 - Repost #7

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

God continually encourages us in Scripture to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, bringing the world to Jesus, doing whatever it takes to ensure that the world around us is invited to be a part of the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity.  In this lesson, the thing that strikes me the strongest is that God promises abundance of blessings for those who carry the seeds of His word to the world!  It won't wear us out, it will energize us.  How can we ignore this?  We can't ... not and call ourselves His children.

September 14, 2009 - Contains Seed for the Sower

"He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." Psalm 126:6

I began writing today's lesson thinking about our responsibility as Christians to spread the Word of God and that we are provided with all of the tools we need. These passages for today tell us that the Bible contains the seed that we can use as we sow the truths of the Gospel in the world.

But, then I re-read that first verse from Psalm 126.

How can we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world and not be energized and renewed? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:10, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness."

So ... as we use up the seed planted in us by God, he not only supplies more, but increases our supply and enlarges the harvest!

All of this wraps around the parable that Jesus teaches in Mark 4:14-20. "The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path where the word is sown. AS soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop - thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

There is a never-ending supply of seed, but not only does it increase within us as we share it, it also produces an enormous crop when sown on good soil! God's Word is incredible! It fills us up as we share it and just as Isaiah says in Isaiah 55:11, " is the word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

God promises us abundance when we share His Word. By increasing the power of His Word within us, He promises us restoration as we share it. There is no possible way that we can go into the world and tell of His love and the love of the Savior and then have nothing left to give when we are finished.

If we leave with weeping, we will return with rejoicing!

September 6 - Respost #6

Monday, September 6, 2010

I've become so much more cynical as I grow older and I trust very little.  It's not necessarily the way I want to be, but my history shows me the dangers of trusting others.  As humans we are bound to fail, no matter how much we desire to be steadfast and trustworthy.  The one thing that has never failed me is God's Word.  He never changes, nor does the truth found in the words of our scriptures.

September 15, 2009 - Absolutely Trustworthy

When I was growing up, I knew that my father could handle anything. I was completely safe in a boat with him whether we were on a wind-tossed lake, in a canoe flying down a whitewater river, in a van sliding on an icy road, in a house being battered by terrible storms. I trusted him with everything I had because he never failed me as a child.

1 Kings 8:56, "Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses."

Then there was the day when I did something awful. I have no memory of the circumstances, but I definitely remember the shock of mom's words to me when she told me that she no longer trusted me, that I was going to have to work long and hard to earn that trust back. I was devastated by those words. And as much as I wanted to fight with her, I knew that she was right and I had betrayed her. Having her trust me was of great importance to me.

We don't extend trust easily anymore. It seems as if people around us don't deserve it. We are betrayed constantly because of selfishness and greed. Yet those things don't exist in the relationship we have with God.

Psalm 111:7, "The words of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy."

Wouldn't it be amazing to have those things said about us? When Carol and I owned the printing business, the one thing that we wanted our customers to know about us was that we were honest, that we would do everything in our power to meet their deadlines and do the work well. That isn't the way that everyone dealt with us, though and in fact, there were many customers that never really believed we would follow through with that behavior, so they treated us suspiciously from the very beginning. What kind of world do we live in? What kind of world do you live in?

Are your words trustworthy? Are they faithful and just?

Ezekiel 12:25, "But the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord."

God's word is to be trusted. This is the one constant that we can believe in. As he calls us to perfection, will our word be the same?

September 5 - Repost #5

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We really are commanded to spend time in God's Word.  Sometimes we simply read it, sometimes we study it, sometimes we work on interpreting it, sometimes it's used as a devotional.  But, all the time that we spend in Scripture, we are being obedient to God.

September 13, 2009 - Commanded to Study the Bible

If we spend any time at all ... ever ... reading the Bible, we will find that God expects us to study scripture and understand it.

Deuteronomy 17:19 reads, "It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.

I have heard, more times than I care to even remember, people telling me that they can't get into religious discussions because they don't know the Bible well enough. I had one person tell me that they were afraid to come to dinner at my home, because they were afraid Dad (a minister) would engage them in conversation about the Bible and they wouldn't be able to speak clearly and would be embarrassed.

When Isaiah speaks of the judgment against the nations and how the animals will take over the city once it has been destroyed, as he explains the process to the Israelites, he says, "Look in the scroll of the Lord and read ..." (Isaiah 34:16a)

Now, Jesus reminds the Jews "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me."

We are told over and over that we should study and learn what is in our Bible.

I love Luke's commentary in Acts 17:11 regarding the Bereans. In fact, this is probably one of my watchwords. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

The searched the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Every day! I would love to believe that your passion and love for God would translate into reading Scripture every day. Heck, I would love to believe that I would actually study and search the scriptures every day. But, we are so easily distracted by everything else in the world that the one thing which ensures our knowledge of Jesus Christ and eternal life is easily ignored.

I think I love Paul's statement to the Roman's most of all, though. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

These Words that God inspired in the hearts of the authors of Scripture were written as encouragement to us so that hope remains in our hearts, no matter what.

If we are looking for hope, how can we not look in the one place we are promised by the Lord of Creation to find it?

September 4 - Repost #4

Saturday, September 4, 2010

As a child I had a difficult time comprehending how a heart could love so many different people in so many different ways.  My parents made sure that the three of us kids knew that they loved each of us - differently, yet the same.  That was hard to believe sometimes, especially when we knew we had made one of them angry.  Could there still be love in that heart for us?  Absolutely.  Our hearts are made for love.  Our hearts were made for God's love.

September 4, 2009 - Precepts Written in the Heart

There are points in scripture that God acknowledges people have hardened their hearts against Him. See, that always breaks my heart. I see it yet today, though. There might seem to be a defiant attitude towards opening your heart to God, or even worse, apathy. The heart is so withered towards the love of God that it feels as if there is no hope.

But, how would that be transformed if the knowledge of God's Word were closer to us than anything else? I don't believe that God intended for His Word to ever be difficult to study and understand. He meant for it to be a physical, moment by moment link with Him. When we can't see Him or touch Him or use any of our senses to recognize His presence, we can read His words and know that He has gone to great lengths to show us His love.

Deuteronomy 6:6 says "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts."

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads." (Deuteronomy 11:18)

Our hearts are easily broken. When we put up barriers to keep people out, when we are wounded by actions and words, it is our heart that takes the greatest beating. Why in the world would God ask us to put His words upon our hearts if He didn't plan to use that avenue to protect us and to love us?

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

These words protect us from evil.

Luke 2:51 tells us that "...he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart."

When she grew older and told Luke the story of Jesus' birth, those memories and the knowledge of what she had experienced was still written on her heart.

Paul tells us in Romans 10:8, "the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is the word of faith we are proclaiming..."

When the Word of God is solidly in our hearts, it can flow from our mouths. What an amazing gift we can be to the people who come in contact with us if we relate to them using the Word of God! It is written on our hearts so that it can be spoken with our mouths.

Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

As the Word of God dwells within us, so will the Lord God Himself. What better way to keep our hearts tender and loving.

September 3 - Repost #3

Friday, September 3, 2010

I know that many of the things I will learn over the next few years will cause me to question the truth of our Scriptures.  Maybe not intentionally, but learning how to discern the errors in copying, translating from original languages and seeing how that interpretation happens in the Bibles that we read ... on and on and on will be difficult at some level.  I'm thankful that I've spent (ahem ... cough, cough) nearly 50 years as a student of Scripture itself and have faith in the God who made His words available to us.

September 3, 2009 - Divinely Inspired

Sometimes I get quite emotional when I realize the gift that I have been given ... that we all have been given ... within the pages of our Bible. That the Lord God Almighty would desire a relationship with us is almost more than I can comprehend. There is no King or Ruler on earth that could be bothered with me, but the Creator of everything we see and that which we can't see wants me to understand Him and wants to be close to me.

The gift of His words is a large part of what makes that relationship happen. He gave us prophecies, teaching, stories of failures and success, descriptions of His power, songs of praise and worship to help us understand the depth of His great love for us.

Jeremiah 36:2, "Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now."

Ezekiel 1:3, "...the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River int he land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was upon him.

Zechariah 7:12, "They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets."

Over and over again we are told that the Lord spoke through His prophets so that the people of Israel would understand exactly Who it was they were to take leadership from.

In Acts 1:16, Peter says "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus."

King David, spent hours before the Lord and as God spoke to him, wrote prophecies in the Psalms as well as hymns of praise.

Paul tells Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Peter says, in 2 Peter 1:21, "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." We see the reality of that in Revelation 1:1 when John identifies that the revelation of Jesus Christ came when Jesus sent his angel to John to deliver it.

In Revelation 14:13, John says "Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'"

These men knew that they were hearing from the Lord and knew that they were the conduit for His words to God's people. They were assured by the Lord over and over of the importance of what they were doing.

God has given us His words so that we can know Him intimately. What a gift we have received.

September 2 - Repost #2

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Because of this blog I've managed to find myself in Scripture every single day.  For that I am immensely grateful.  When everything falls apart around me, knowing that God's Word waits for me to read and learn reminds me that I am not alone and reminds me that things really aren't all about me.  Today's post was written a year ago as I thought about how the Bible feeds us.

September 2, 2009 - Food for the Soul

I love words. I love to read, I love to write. A friend asked if I actually saw words in my mind. I do. All the time. Mom used to laugh at me. If there were words anywhere, I would stop to read them. I'd get lost in the cereal box at breakfast and would read every single word on the box until she could catch my attention and draw me away. If there is something nearby for me to read, I will read it. I end up being a terrible snoop, but I really don't mean to, my eyes are simply drawn to words on the page. I read at an incredible rate because I can gather in a huge number of words, make sense of what the author is trying to say and move on quickly. I learned how to skim and still retain information years ago. I love words.

To be honest, if I were given a choice between eating and reading, I would choose reading every time. Now, obviously, I've never had to make that choice, but it's not one that would take more than a moment to make. A Snickers or a good book? I'll take the book, thank you very much.

Deuteronomy 8:3 says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (also found in Matthew 4:4)

In Job 23:12, we read, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread."

This all seems very clear to me. The words that God gives to us are more important than the food which gives us life. The Lord gave manna to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert so that they would be nourished and would live. But as important as that nourishment was, the words that came from His mouth was even more important!

There were times in my life when I was too busy (insert whatever excuse you'd like) to read the Bible on a regular basis. Every time I came back to it, I felt like I was snuggling into my favorite comfortable clothing, surrounded by a bed filled with soft pillows. It was the most comfortable place I could imagine. The Word of God is my comfort, my fulfillment, my nourishment. If you took every other book away from me, I would still be content to read and re-read this Book.

"How sweet are your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
(Psalm 119:103)

Jeremiah 15:16 - "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty."

These words, this Word of God is my joy and my heart's delight.

September 1 - Reposting

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Tuesday, September 7 I begin an extraordinary journey. After 25 years I am finally returning to school ... to seminary.  

One of the courses I will begin with is an Inductive Bible Study of the book of Matthew.  We're going to take an entire semester to study one book of the Bible.  Wow ... this might get a little intense.  The professor insists that by the end of the semester we will fully understand the book and be able to move through it, knowing exactly what comes next and where to find anything that happens there.  I can hardly wait!

I expect to be able to take you on this journey with me.  One of the best ways for me to learn is to teach.  In the time period between now and the start of this course, I want to repeat a few of my favorite posts from the last few years.  We'll begin with a blog post I wrote exactly a year ago - the Bible is my passion - that will never change:

September 1, 2009 - The Book of the Ages

If you know me at all, you know that one of the greatest passions of my life is the Bible. I can't imagine not having access to the incredible storehouse of knowledge, hope, truth and so much more from God. I believe that it is the inspired word of the God of Creation.

It never occurred to me to question whether it would be available to me after I died. I guess I assumed that I wouldn't need it once I was in heaven because once I was in the presence of God, all things would be made clear to me.

That may actually be, but the Bible itself tells us that these words will always be here. I'm not sure what to do with that little bit of information. Will the written word still exist for me when I stand before God or will I FINALLY have the entire scripture committed to memory!

Psalm 119:89 says "Your word, O Lord is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens."

Isaiah 40:8 says "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

Now, I've talked quite a bit about how Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1-5) in past blog studies, so at any given moment, I'm not sure how to interpret all of these passages. Maybe standing in the throne room before the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:6), it will be very clear to me that in Jesus Christ I will find every single word that has been handed down from generation to generation in the form of the Bible. I think that could be very cool.

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus is telling the crowds that He has come to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it or the Prophets. "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

But, in Matthew 24:35, He says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

There we have it. Jesus is the Word of God. The Law will finally disappear when everything that God has planned for this earth is accomplished, but Jesus Christ's words ... Jesus Christ - the Word of God ... will never pass away.

Peter affirms this in 1 Peter 1:25, "but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.

We face eternity with the Sword of the Spirit ... the Word of God ... the Lamb who was slain ... Jesus Christ by our side, standing between us and judgment. The more that we reach into scripture to learn about who He is and how we can have an amazing relationship with the God of Creation, the more we feel confident to approach eternity. We will go forward with a familiarity, a sense of closeness, when we spend time with The Book of the Ages.