Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Thematic Approach

Understanding the Bible Thematically by Chris Bruno (via Crossway)

Understanding the Bible Thematically from Crossway on Vimeo.
There are two ways to do biblical theology.

You can trace the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in one continuous narrative. In my first book, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses, I was trying to trace that big story by looking at sixteen key “trees” in the overall forest that is the story of the Bible.

In The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words, I'm taking a second approach to biblical theology—a thematic approach. Instead of looking at the whole story in one shot, I'm looking at sixteen key themes and tracing how each theme develops throughout the message of the Bible.

For example, the theme of covenant: you can see throughout Scripture that God makes covenants. He makes a covenant with Adam and Eve in the garden, he makes a covenant with Abraham, he makes a covenant with Moses and Israel, he makes a covenant with David, and he makes promises and establishes a new covenant in and through Jesus. We can trace that one theme throughout the Bible.
In this book I've chosen sixteen themes in order to take a thematic approach to biblical theology.

Monday, May 15, 2017

How To Read the Bible

How to Read the Bible - Tim Keller
There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? If I read David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then the story is really about me. I must summons up the faith and courage to fight the giants in my life. But if I read David and Goliath as basically showing me salvation through Jesus, then the story is really about him. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship). For example how can I ever fight the ‘giant’ of failure, unless I have a deep security that God will not abandon me? If I see David as my example, the story will never help me fight the failure/giant. But if I see David/Jesus as my substitute, whose victory is imputed to me, then I can stand before the failure/giant. As another example, how can I ever fight the ‘giant’ of persecution or criticism? Unless I can see him forgiving me on the cross, I won’t be able to forgive others. Unless I see him as forgiving me for falling asleep on him (Matt.27:45) I won’t be able to stay awake for him.
In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision. This provision is pointed to at every place in the Old Testament. We see it in the clothes God makes Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system, to the innumerable references to a Messiah, a suffering servant, and so on.
Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is, ‘Salvation is of the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9).

Friday, May 12, 2017

When You Feel Like Giving Up

Feeling like quitting? Tired of the race? Don't Trow in the Towel by J. Lee Grady

I have a friend who is a respected Christian leader. But like all of us, he wrestles with his own sins, weaknesses and trials. People associated with his ministry have disrespected him, his family has suffered, and he has struggled with health problems. He has also carried loads of shame since his childhood because of sexual abuse.
My friend recently admitted that he has occasionally asked God to take his life because he was so discouraged. When I prayed with him, I saw a vision of a huge arena. I could see athletes running while the crowd cheered, but my friend was sitting on a bench next to the track. Then I saw Jesus walk over to him, grab his arm and beckon him to get in the race.
My friend turned a spiritual corner after I shared this vision with him. His hope was renewed, and he decided to run the race of faith again. But there are many Christians today who have pulled out of the race because life got too tough. Some were instantly broadsided; others gradually slowed down until they quit.
The apostle Paul wrote to a group of people who were thinking of quitting the race. They were Jewish Christians who faced intense persecution. Using imagery of an athletic arena, Paul said to them: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).
Are you sitting on the bench? Or are you out of breath because you are lugging 50 pounds of shame and failure? Have you disqualified yourself from the race? Here are five of the most common reasons Christians throw in the towel:
1. Depression or discouragement. When we face stress, tragedy, disappointment, failure or prolonged delay, we will lose hope if we don't stay close to God and cling to His promises. We must remember that the darkness never lasts. "Weeping may last for the night," Psalm 30:5 says, "but a shout of joy comes in the morning."
Charles Spurgeon wrote: "There are no immortal sorrows for immortal saints. They come; but, blessed be God, they also go." No matter what obstacle you face, it will not stand in front of you indefinitely. No matter how heavy and dark the cloud is over your head, the sunshine will soon break through. Though you may not see a light at the end of the tunnel, you must keep pressing forward. You will outlast your problem.
2. Shame or self-loathing. The miracle of grace says all your past sins have been blotted out. If you have trusted in the blood of Christ, heaven has purged all record of your failures. Yet many Christians cannot forgive themselves for their weaknesses, and they imagine that God is still angry with them because they still struggle with temptation. And the devil is eager to remind us of what we once were!
Go back to the cross and give God your doubts, fears and shame. Stop punishing yourself. Trade your sinfulness for His righteousness. Jesus knows you cannot live a sinless life apart from Him—so He chose to live His perfect life through you.
3. Sinful habits. If you struggle with a life-controlling problem, you cannot overcome it alone. You must open your life to mature Christians and confess your weakness. Paul told the Hebrews: "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble" (Heb. 12:12). Athletes don't rehabilitate themselves—they ask for help. You cannot run the race when sin has crippled you. Be transparent and let the right people pray with you.
4. Distraction. The key to winning a race is focus. Paul emphasized this when he told the Hebrews to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Our focus cannot be on a pastor, a celebrity preacher, a pet doctrine, a church, a denomination, a political party, spiritual gifts or emotions. If you put your trust in any of those things, you will not be able to finish the race. It was Jesus who started His work in you, and only He will complete it.
Regaining your focus is not difficult. Simply set aside some time to pray, and cast your cares on the Lord. Read the Psalms. Listen to praise music. Spend time in God's Word each day. Spurgeon said: "A Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't." If you soak your mind in Scripture, you will find unusual grace to press forward, even when all hell is raging against you.
5. Persecution. It's easy to serve God when everybody thinks you're wonderful. But how do you respond when family members and co-workers speak against you because of your faith or your moral convictions? Persecution can tempt us to deny Christ or to make moral compromises. But you must remember that when you suffer for His name's sake, you will be blessed. Peter said when we are persecuted, "the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Pet. 4:14).
I will tell you what I told my friend last week. Jesus is calling you back in the race. Don't just sit there and let the devil win. Put one foot in front of the other, focus on Jesus and trust Him to give you the strength to run.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Going Vertical

When I'm overwhelmed by the horizontal perspective of daily living, it's time to go vertical using the Psalms.  How the Psalms Verticalize Our Lives by Dane Ortlund at Crossway

Slow Down. Calm Down. Look Up.

The Psalms let us slow down in our very fast-paced lives and commune with God, meditating on who he is. They train us in verticalizing our lives.
So we’re going through our lives and everything is horizontal—our lives in general are lived on this horizontal plane. But the Psalms help us live life mindful of God. In other words, they help us live in an ever-prayerful way, in a way that is worshipful, in a way that brings every adversity to God, and in a way that brings every joy and thanksgiving to God.
This verticalizing of our lives calms us down and helps us live moment by moment in a way that is trusting the Lord and at peace with him.

Friday, April 28, 2017

In The Limbo of Waiting

I'm in that limbo right now, and have been for a very long time. Yet by grace I still believe. How about you? Check out What to Do When God Isn’t Answering Your Prayers by Ann Swindell at Relevent
All of us have prayers that haven’t been answered yet—at least, not in the way we want them to be. And for some of us, these unanswered prayers feel like the lynchpin of our lives: We feel like if God would just answer this one prayer, everything would finally lock in to place.
So what do we do when we’re in the limbo of waiting? How do we keep moving forward? Here are three things to remember:
1. GOD’S TIMING ISN’T THE SAME AS OURS.
We pray and ask God for something—healing, change, breakthrough—because we see our lives from our perspective (which is the only way we can see things!). But God’s perspective is much, much bigger—it’s eternal in its scope and wisdom. When we start praying for something and it doesn’t happen on our timeline, it’s easy to think that God has forgotten us or refuses to answer. But in truth, God is working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Sometimes that means that He is waiting on answering a particular prayer now because He can see down the road and He wants what is eternally and completely best for us. So even though God might seem slow sometimes, He’s never actually slow. He’s not even late. His sense of timing is just way, way better.

2. YOU WON’T BE WAITING FOREVER.
Some of us will have certain prayers answered here on earth, and we’re told to pray persistently about the things on our hearts (Luke 18:1-8). And yet, some of us will pray the same prayer for a lifetime and not see it answered in the way we want here on earth. But I can promise you that you won’t be waiting forever. There is a day coming when Christ will return and make all things new (Revelation 21:5). On that day, every prayer will be answered in its truest and best way, every sickness will disappear, and every trouble will fade. Even death will be swallowed up in life (2 Corinthians 5:4). Christ Himself will meet every longing and fulfill every dream, and all of our waiting will end.
3. GOD LOVES YOU WHOLEHEARTEDLY AND WITHOUT RESERVATION.
Our culture constantly implies that love is the same as license—that loving someone means giving them what they want. But true love isn’t anything like that; true love means giving someone what they deeply need, even if it’s not what they immediately want. God loves us in this way, and that’s why He has given us Christ—His life, death, and resurrection—to secure the way for us to have right relationship with Him. This is the truest form of love: giving us a way to be redeemed when we’ve never deserved it and can’t earn it.
So, when it feels like our prayers keep going unanswered and it might feel like God isn’t loving us, the reality is that He loves us more than anyone else. He proved that love at the cross.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Wounds That Speak

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast week.
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne.
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.

From "Jesus of the Scars" by Edward Shillito
Quoted in Tim Keller's Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, page 113


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ordinary

Beware the pressure to be an "Extraordinary" Christian - Be Ordinary, Not Extraordinary by Justin Buzzard
Many of us live with a vague, pressured sense that we need to be extraordinary. Extra-ordinary: more than ordinary. Consider the synonyms of extraordinary, this adjective we highly desire: remarkable, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal. Your hearts craves this. My heart craves this.

This is a mistake. A trap. A lie. A dead end.

Our pursuit of becoming extraordinary actually prevents us from experiencing the extraordinary. Chasing extraordinariness for ourselves leaves us exhausted and empty of the true extraordinariness we are designed to enjoy. Your job as a human isn’t to be extra-ordinary, your job is to be ordinary. Your mission in life is to be an ordinary person who trusts an extraordinary God. In the drama of life your role is to be human, God’s role is to be God. This drama is themed for the extraordinary, but the character who brings the amazing, astounding, sensational, unbelievable to the script is not you, but God.

So, quit trying to play a role in life that you were not designed to play. Be the very unique, yet very ordinary, human God formed you to be. And play your part with childlike wonder as you behold our extraordinary God who takes center stage and wants to dazzle you with his extraordinary being and extraordinary ways.

Today, be ordinary. Be human. And look to God—ask God, cry out to God, trust God, believe God to show himself extraordinary. Enjoy the freedom of playing your ordinary role which shines the spotlight on our extraordinary God.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Seven Promises

7 Gospel Promises To Embrace Today by Paul Tripp
You may have heard me say this before, but it's worth repeating again: I'm deeply persuaded that many Christians, myself included, have a big gap in the middle of our gospel theology.

Let me break it down and then apply it in a fresh way:

I think we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel past - meaning, we trust deeply in the historical sacrifice of Jesus which paid the penalty for our sins.

I also think that we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel future - meaning, we trust eagerly in the eternal promise of heaven that's coming.

But there's something missing in the middle. We either don't understand, or fail to embrace, the theology of the "now-ism" of the gospel. In other words, we don't take full advantage of all the benefits of the work of Christ today.

In this post, I want to briefly outline 7 gospel promises that are offered to us right here, right now. It's my hope that you would save this link or print off the post and come back to these promises regularly!
1. The Gospel Promises Forgiveness Today

Even though we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, we don't fully embrace his forgiveness today. Many of us carry around our sins in a metaphorical backpack of regret, bruising our spiritual shoulders and breaking the back of our faith.

Jesus took the weight of our sin on himself so that we wouldn't have to carry it any longer. He says that he will remember our sins no more, but will separate us from those sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

What freedom is found here! It makes no sense for a believer to live imprisoned by fear, paralyzed by regret, in the darkness of guilt and shame when complete forgiveness has been offered to us.
2. The Gospel Promises Deliverance Today

Christ came not only to forgive our sins, but to deliver us from them. On the Cross, he broke the power of sin's mastery over us (see Romans 6:1–14). That means we don't have to give in any longer to sins that used to dominate us.

Your life should look progressively different after you come to Christ. Addictions can be broken. We can speak in a new way. We don't have to be so angry all the time. It will take effort, and you'll need to surround yourself with resources from the body of Christ to help, but the gospel won't settle for anything less than heart and life transformation.
3. The Gospel Promises Power Today

If the gospel promises deliverance, it must also promise power to deliver. As the Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). In ourselves we have no power and can do no good thing, but the Lord doesn't abandon us there.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Prayer To A Broken God

To A Broken God by Michael Card

Didn’t see You there, didn’t know You were weeping too;
I think of tears as a human wound.
Though of course You care, You have shown You were human too,
They say You cried at Lazarus’ tomb.

I was unaware how it is with a broken God,
I thought of You as above my pain.
Lost in my despair, so it is with a broken heart,
I never dreamed You could feel the same.

Once, in a magazine I saw a face
wrinkled up in grief and travailed grace;
I kept looking to that face,
some sad refugee in some sad place.
And in his eyes the sorrow of our race;
then I saw it was the face of God,
the face of God—Your face, dear God.

Some say You’re not there, just a myth for a lazy life,
an artifact from an ancient scroll.
But I have known You near in the gift of a weary sigh,
Lord of the lost and the lonesome soul.

I was unaware how it is with a broken God,
I never dreamed You could feel the same.

http://www.michaelcard.com/