Posts Tagged Bible

The Book of Jesus

Luke 24: 27

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

The backstory here is that it is the third day after the crucifixion. Mary and several of the other women went early in the morning to Jesus’ tomb. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. There appeared unto them angels who told them Jesus was risen. The women raced back to tell the apostles and others of Jesus’ followers that Jesus had arisen. Later, two of the men from this group went to Emmaus. In route, they encountered a man whom they did not recognize. He asked them about all they were discussing. They were amazed he didn’t know the news about Jesus. So, they told him the story about Jesus and the crucifixion and what the women discovered that same morning. They also told him of their disappointment because they had hoped and believed that Jesus would be the savior of Israel. Then the man revealed himself to them and it was he, Jesus. He responded, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (vs. 25 – 26). He was, himself, disappointed for the prophets had foretold these very circumstances yet the men did not understand. Therefore, Jesus explained all these things to them beginning with Moses and continuing through all the prophets.

The entire book of the Bible speaks of Jesus. It is all about him. Sometimes it may be a bit like an Easter egg hunt, but he is there. That is why publishers are still putting all those Old Testament books in our Christian Bible. It is the story of Jesus. The two men on the road to Emmaus revealed they did not know the stories or at least that they didn’t understand them. Jesus accused them of unbelief. Worse, he called them foolish for not recognizing the connection between him and all the prophecies.

We have the benefit of historical perspective, we know Jesus as Messiah. I think, though, that we don’t always see him in the richness of the culture into which he was born. It is hard for us to see him in the context of the time, location and his ancestry. Reading about Israel and Judah reveal some of Jesus because these were his people and their traditions were the traditions Jesus was born into and lived by. The Old Testament writers give us a glimpse into the lives of the Jews. It is exciting to know Jesus and then read a prophecy about him.  From our perspective we can see how it came true.

Of course, the New Testament is all about Jesus and the New Covenant he established for us. So how do we relate to it. It is much easier for us because we have been coached in the New Testament and because Jesus is unveiled in those books. Still, there is a haunting refrain which calls out to us from today’s passage that we must consider. The men Jesus encountered on the road were some of his own followers. They knew him personally. Even though they knew him and followed him while he was alive, Jesus perceived them as slow to believe. We think if we lived in Jesus’ time, we would be true believers, but we are in danger of being called slow of heart too. There is much to challenge us in the life of Jesus. I heard a minister preach that the feeding of the 5000 was not a miracle but that instead, it was the work of the women who were always prepared. There is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t actually believe the Bible, not even New Testament text.

I wrote on Wednesday that we must be diligent to challenge ourselves. We must confront these passages and decide if we are going to believe them or if we will reason away what they say. What does it take to be a believer? Can we go the next step and accept that what the Bible says is not only true but that it is applicable to our lives? Jesus said we could have whatever we believe so now we must press ourselves to believe big and even expect big. That is the calling of the gospel.

Roommate

Colossians 3: 16

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

When we read the Bible, particularly familiar sections of it, our minds react immediately with recognition. The downside, though, is that familiarity puts our minds in to a comfort state rather than an inquiring mode. We tend to read over the passage a bit more than one that is new to our eyes and mind. One of the cures for this is to read from different Bibles periodically. I love this version of this scripture. It is the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and not only is it my favorite Bible, but also I like this verse best from the NASB. However, look what you get from reading the first part in the God’s Word translation, “Let Christ’s word with all its wisdom and richness live in you.” They say the same thing but the phrasing in the GW Bible strikes the brain in a little different way and, I believe, opens it up to a different understanding.

The Word of God is to dwell within you. Dwell is an interesting choice of word. God’s Word is to live, abide, set up residence within us. Of course, we are the architects of that indwelling presence. When we set up the Word’s abode within us, we are not supposed to issue visitor’s quarters. This is to be a permanent residence of the Word.

Secondly, the Word is not supposed to be a superficial roommate with whom you have little to no relationship. These are to be permanent quarters which allow the Word to dwell richly with you. All the wisdom of the Word and the richness of its meaning is the have room within you to express itself and to expand. We are to abide with the Word of God with all its fullness in ever increasing measure.

When we allow the Word to abide with us and in us fully, then there is no space for fear. Doubt loses its foothold. Faith is given fertile soil in which to grow and our lives in Christ blossom. It’s true. There is life in that Word and it gives sustenance and growth to the seed which is sown there.

It may be obvious but, how does the Word of Christ come to dwell within us? Secondly, how does it become a richly dwelling presence? There is more to this than simply reading the Bible. It begins with a passion to put the Word inside us. That means you have developed a desire to read the Word. You want to read it and you do so daily. It becomes something you do rather than something you have to do. We can develop a desire, even a passion for God’s Word, especially when we appreciate that it is the life of Jesus and that it is God’s personal word to us.

Besides reading the Word, we can also put the Word in us by listening to anointed Bible teachers share the Word with us. This dwelling presence is not an intellectual, brain thing. This is about the Word residing in our spirits, being intertwined with who we are, our spiritual selves. Sure, you mind should engage with the Word but just to read the Bible with your mind or to memorize passages is not the same as having the Word richly dwell within you. I would rather have you read one verse and engage with it than to read a chapter everyday. It is your mixing with the Word that causes that indwelling richness. If the Word is going to dwell within you richly then you have something to do with that. We are not passive receptors and this is not data entry. I am talking about letting the Word of God indwell you such that it impacts your life, even who you are. I am trying to convey that this is more of a personal engagement than an intellectual one. The Word will inform your mind, no doubt, but that information should come up from your spirit. The wisdom and richness of God are to dwell in your heart, or spirit, in the person of Jesus who is expressed through the living Word. The Bible is a book but when it comes alive, as it truly is to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, then it becomes a person, a person with whom you have interaction and a relationship. That Word of God that you hold in your hands becomes the very alive person of the savior living within you. He brings hope to everything you encounter and He is love overflowing. He will change your perspective and your life BUT not because you go to church on Sundays or read the Bible once in a while. No, this is choosing a roomy whom you want to spend your time and life with. And yes, it is just that intimate and personal.

Even as you read the Word of the Day, I want it to affect your thinking. I want you to read it in the morning and meditate on it all day so that something goes down on the inside of you. It might even be something I didn’t write but that the Father showed you. That’s cool! Hopefully the Word of the Day changes who you are because it is the Word being delivered to you. It’s what you do with the Word of the Day that matters most. Spend a few minutes thinking about the verse. While you pump gas, get dressed, or any of the mindless chores you will have to do today, think about the Word dwelling richly within you with all wisdom accompanying. Read it in different bible versions. Ask what it means to have the Word abiding within you and how it can impact you. Ask how the Word gets into you in the first place and then how it comes to reside. Ask yourself. As the Word dwells richly within you, increasingly, you will find that those answers arise from your own spirit where the Word resides.

Big Turn-out

Acts 13: 44

And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God.

I often wonder why we, as Americans, do not seem to honor the Bible greatly. In the passage above, nearly the whole town turned out to hear the Word of God. One reason may be that Bibles are so readily available to us; we have such easy access to them. Looking up from my keyboard I can count eight Bibles of various translations, formats and languages. And that only represents the ones in this room. There are others in different places in the house. Does this sometimes make us complacent? Do we esteem lightly those things which are easily obtained?

I also hear people talk about the Bible being written by men although it is inspired by God. Their point is that they think the Bible may be flawed because God had to pen it through a person’s hand. So I wonder, have we become arrogant in our age of individualism and intellectualism? Are we so impressed with our own great intellect that we do not feel that we need take direction from another? Do we believe that the Apostle Paul cannot inform our lives? If not that, are we just lazy? Do we forsake the reading of our Bibles because we have televisions to entertain us? Or maybe fear plays a role in our indolent attitude towards the Bible. Maybe we are afraid that it will in some way require something of us. Perhaps we fear it will require something we are unwilling to give. Maybe we think we can plead ignorance when we face God so we keep ourselves intentionally ignorant of the Bible’s passages.

I do not know all the answers to these questions but I do have observations. And I have observed that a great many Christians give short shrift to the Bible. The scriptures and teaching of them does not even always hold a primary position in Christian services. Whether we believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God or not, most of us do believe it is the Word of God. It is the only word of God we have.

I want you to develop a lifelong love affair with the Word because it is the power of God. There is comfort in the Word. There is healing. I know the best thing I can give anyone is the Word of God. There is so much security and help in the Word and all I can bring you is a little dose. God talks to us through his Word. He leads us through his word. It is your sword and your shield and your very constant companion.

The Bread

Matthew 6: 11

Give us this day our daily bread.
I had the opportunity on Sunday to hear Pastor Wayne Anderson of Idaho speak on his most recent book, Change the World with Prayer. One of the messages he brought to us was Jesus’ teaching on prayer which is found in what we commonly call the Lord’s Prayer. I was very much struck by Anderson’s point about this one little, short verse having the word “day”, or a derivative, in it twice. As he discussed it I was reminded of how the manna that God provided from heaven to the Israelites would spoil after one day. that really got me thinking.
God promised to provide for the Israelites daily. The fact that this is a daily event is an important point. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction’” (Exodus 16: 4). The Israelites were specifically precluded from collecting two or three days of manna. They were supposed to take only enough for each person for one day and then trust God for the bread for the other days. That is not our way, is it? The ground was literally littered with manna but God said to gather only a day’s worth and not to keep any of it for the next day. It would be normal for us to want to collect enough for several days but God said “Let’s see if they will follow my directions.” “But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul” (Exodus 16: 20).
Overnight the manna that people saved became inedible. Years later Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread. Yesterday’s bread won’t feed you today. It was for yesterday. It was good food for yesterday but you need today’s bread for today. Thousands of years ago as God tried to get the Israelites to trust Him day to day for their provision He was also laying down a spiritual principle that Jesus picked up and attempted to instill in his followers, including us. So this is Jesus’ word to us that we need to feed daily on the bread which God provides for us. But what does this really mean? Is this spiritual mumbo jumbo or does Jesus mean this literally? What do you think Jesus is trying to get us to do about daily bread? 
 
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6: 30 – 35).
I believe Jesus is teaching us that we need to partake of him daily. How do you do that, you may ask. My answer is John 1: 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the incarnate Word of God so to partake of him we partake of the Word of God. But wait, there is more. Blindly reading the Bible is not what I am talking about. A heathen could sit all day and read the Bible but never partake of Jesus. Our consumption of the Word is a meditative, contemplative, spiritual ingesting of the person of Jesus Christ as he is found in God’s Word. There is, to my way of thinking, a big difference between “The Bible” and “The Word” but I will leave that to you to figure out.
At the end of the day I think Jesus is telling us that God has provided for us just as He did for the Israelites. Our manna is the living word. Jesus seems to be teaching us that we must feed on it daily. Yesterday’s manna is no good for today. It met yesterday’s need but today is a new day and we need fresh bread. I promise that Jesus is fresh and appropriate to today’s need.

One last comment, I only gave you today an excerpt of what Jesus said about being the bread of life. I strongly recommend that you read the entire sixth chapter of John. I think it will be a blessing and definitely food for thought.

Building the Foundation

Isaiah 40: 8

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
What is your life and your faith based upon? As I observe people and religions I find it interesting to notice what underpins people’s lives and faith systems. When we construct buildings we certainly want the under girding to be very strong indeed. Yet with our lives we do not always give the same consideration. Surely, we all want our lives to be founded on that which is strong and true. The Bible teaches us in Ephesians 6: 14 to gird ourselves with truth. John 17: 17 says “Thy word is truth.” So, putting those together would direct us to under gird ourselves with God’s word. In other words, if we build our houses, our lives, on the firm foundation of God’s word, then we are building our lives on a platform of strength and stability. This is the foundation which stands forever, the Word of God. We need something of strength and durability to stand on and that is the Word of God.

I know there are many people who criticize the Bible or question its validity but this is what I have noticed. Many who make those comments have not spent much time with it. They have read very little of it and are really just commenting on what they have heard about it from someone else. Secondly, those who actually have spent time with the Word yet who do not revere it, rarely have anything substantial to supplant its use. They seem to have nebulous philosophies to which they loosely refer. That is fine. We all have to choose our own path in life but I say build your house on the rock and you will fare well in the storm (Luke 6: 48). The Bible works. It has been working for thousands of years. Its truths are infallible and the word of our God stands forever.

Story Time

Proverb 4: 1

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 

I wish to share a little trade secret with you today. We all know we should read the Bible but we also all fail to read it as much as we should. Sometimes it is hard to get out of it what you need. Well, here is the secret. Read it like it is a personal letter from Jesus to you, especially the New Testament. Insert your name in the text. Stop and talk aloud to Jesus about it. Consider it all a letter just to you. When you make it personal instead of a homework assignment it takes on much more meaning.

When reading the Old Testament, look for the story. Imagine yourself as a Hollywood producer looking for the next great epic film series. The Old Testament really is awesome but you have to be prepared to see it for its glory. 

Also, I know we are wedded to our King James Bibles and you don’t have to throw it out but get a modern version too. Unless you are an Elizabethan scholar you will get much more out of a modern language version. I use the New American Standard Bible for its authenticity but I often give NIV Bibles as gifts because although they are not quite as accurate as the NASB they are even easier to read. And don’t minimize the paraphrase versions either. I still pull down my Living Bible I received in Junior High to read really convoluted passages so that I can get the general meaning. Then I can switch back to more literal translations in order to hone in on the exact thoughts conveyed.

I want you to read the Bible because it is good for you, it is life, health and well-being. I don’t want to make it a bore and I certainly do not want you to put yourself under condemnation when you don’t read it as much as you could. However, if I can give you only one gift and then you must travel the rest of your journey without me, I would give you the Word. I know it will keep you. if your read Proverbs 3, 4 & 5 you will understand how important God thinks His Word is to your life. Just remember, make it fun, make it personal. Jesus is talking to you specifically. I pray for each of you right now in the name of Jesus that God will give you a love of the Bible and a deep longing for it. Amen.

Operator’s Manual

John 17: 16

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Jesus is speaking here, talking about believers. Since we are not of this world, then what are we of? I mean, if we are not part of the world, as Jesus tells us here, then what are we a part of?

Acts 1: 3 speaking of Jesus reads, “To these He also presented Himself alive, . . . speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Jesus came preaching that the Kingdom of God had come. His ministry was about revealing this kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the New Covenant which is sealed in Jesus’ blood. So, the answer to the questions above is that we are not of the world because we are members of the Kingdom of God. We are sanctified, meaning set apart, from the world and unto God. We are called to live our lives in the Kingdom of God rather than in the world but we were raised in the world. We learned how to operate in the world system. Mostly we have learned the rules of society and how the world system works. Now we are thrust into this kingdom and we don’t know the laws which govern it, what principles it operates under or even the rules of engagement. When we are born again we truly are born anew. It’s a whole new ballgame. One may have lived on the earth for fifty years and have pretty much figured out the ins and outs of the culture. Then, in a moment, saving grace translates them from the world to the kingdom of God’s dear son (Colossians 1: 13). All of a sudden we are babes again. We don’t know the language, how to walk and we cannot even feed ourselves. We are brand new creatures (2 Corinthians 5: 17) but without a clue.

Fortunately, this new creature comes with an owner’s manual though many don’t realize it. It is called the Bible. Yep, that’s it. I guess that is one of the reasons the Bible has been so important to me over the years, I have understood it to be my “How To” book. Because of this realization, my self-interest is very invested in learning what information and wisdom it holds. Looking back over the last 35 years, especially, I can see how important and beneficial God’s Word has been. I am very thankful for the good teachers I had when I was young who taught me to value God’s Word. If I had one thing to change in my Christian walk it would be to read the Bible more. It is amazing to me to recognize how much my understanding of the Word and of the Kingdom of God has improved over the years. I think, “Wow, what if I had read the Bible everyday for all these years?” I know that my revelation would be much greater than it is today. Still, I see things in the Bible today that I didn’t see last year or the year before. I see the whole Bible fitting together now and I can see the broad picture. Not only are there specific principles at work but over time I am seeing the broad concepts emerge.

My encouragement to myself as well as to others is, “It’s never too late.” While I sometimes regret having not spent more time in the Word, I revel in the new day. Every day is January 1st and I get to start over. Let’s not beat ourselves up over what we have not done but rather encourage one another (and even ourselves) to have a good day today. Let’s do the things which will move us forward in the Kingdom of God’s dear son. 

You are not of this world and not meant to be. You are part of God’s kingdom. If you want succeed and prosper in this kingdom, you must learn how it works. The Bible is your “How To” manual. Let it guide you.