Entries tagged with “Gospel”.


It took me awhile to get through All About Jesus, more because of my schedule than because the book is bad. Actually it is a good synthesis of the known story of Jesus.  It’s subtitle says “The Single Story from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Taking all four of the Gospel books and compiling it into one seamless story-line isn’t an easy task. The compiler, Roger Quy, did an excellent job of sticking to the texts. He used the New International Readers Version which I had never heard of as his primary text.  The NIrV has this to say about itself:

The NIrV was designed to make the Bible clear and understandable to early readers and can be read by a typical fourth grader. For this reason, it is also of value to the millions for whom English is a second language. It intends to be distinguished by five fundamental characteristics—readability, understandability, compatibility with the NIV, reliability, and trustworthiness. It serves as a natural stepping-stone to the NIV when the time is right.

This book doesn’t read like a novel. I kept wanting it to be like a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel with smooth transitions and story-line. But I realized that the only way that would be possible is by adding to the story which would take away from the compiler’s primary goal of capturing the authentic story of Christ’s life. I’m not sure if a different version would have improved this area or not. The Message paraphrase could potentially make for an easier to follow story but as a paraphrase would lose some of the “inerrancy” of the story. I’m by no means a Biblical scholar so I assume their time line is accurate.

A few times the story repeated itself – in keeping with the original text they sacrificed smoothness to keep sections together. For example on page 200 and 201 it says this:

Herod and his soldiers laughed at him and made fun of him. They dressed him in a beautiful robe. Then they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends. Before this time they had been enemies…. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers twisted thorns together to make a crown.  They put it on Jesus’ head. Then they put a purple robe on him.  They went up to him again and again. They kept saying, “We honor you, king of the Jews!” And they hit him in the face.

And again on page 205:

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the palace, which was called the Praetorium.  All the rest of the soldiers gathered around him. They took of his clothes and put a purple robe on him. Then they twisted thorns together to make a crown. They placed it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand. Then they fell on their knees in front of him and made fun of him. “We honor you, king of the Jews!” They said. They spit on him. They hit him on the head with a stick again and again. They fell on their knees and pretended to honor him.

This is actually the only book of this type that I’ve read so I appreciate their effort. At the end of the introduction is this statement of purpose:

This book is meant for those who would like to find out more about Jesus. It is ideal for someone who is new to the Bible. Readers who already know the Bible may find that it helps them learn more about the life and message of Jesus.

I’m not completely sure if he accomplished this goal or not.  Obviously there were new things that jumped out at me this time, but that is the same with every Biblical story and even great novels.  I think if I was wanting to introduce someone to Jesus I would probably recommend reading the Book of Mark in The Message paraphrase before recommending this book.

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Much was written in the Gospels about the connection between Jesus and David.  He was called the Son of David several times and the geneology says he was the son of Abraham and the son of David.  Thus David must be an important character in the Old Testament.  So it is no surprise that a lot was written about him, specifically in 2nd SamuelTim chose a section from the book that I’m sure we are all  familiar with – Chapters 11 & 12.  If you can’t recall the topic, one word will suffice to remind you – Bathsheba.

You might recall that David was enjoying the view from his rooftop when he spotted a beautiful woman bathing across the way.  He quickly sent his staff to inquire about her.  I had never realized the importance of the characters in the story:

* Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) was one of the top 37 soldiers (mercenaries) out of millions of soliders

* Eliam (Bathsheba’s dad) was another of the top 37.

* Bathsheba’s grandpa was actually a top advisor to David

I think the point here is that David knew the family surrounding this  “beautiful woman.”  This should have been a second opportunity for him to realize the folly of his desires.  In this chapter alone David broke at least 7 of the 10 commandments.  To finish the story recap David slept with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, brought Uriah home to try to pretend like it was his doing, and killed Uriah – who had too much honor and integrity to indulge himself while his comrades were suffering in a war.

It is a little ironic that while David, God’s chosen, was full of deciet and lies that this Hittite or foreigner, would have such high honor and integrity.

In 12:1-7 we see that David has the moral capacity has Nathan tells him a story and David is very angred.  This is a demonstration that we have the moral capacity but that we don’t neccessarily act morally. We like David often pronouce strong judgments on our immoral actions (Romans 2:1 and Genesis 3:4-5).  But it is our actions that slowly erode our moral compass.  Like Romans 1:18 says we “suppress the truth by our wickedness.”

We watch ourselves sin, know it is wrong, and then judge ourselves.  Sadly, a new moral compass won’t help.  Many today just thing we need to fix the compass or try some new programs to reteach morality – it won’t work.  It is actually also part of the problem.  We love to sin but don’t like to face the consequence – death. Fortunately we have a Savior who died so that we wouldn’t have to.

Who is most like Jesus? In this story who is most like Jesus?  Is it David? Uriah? Bathsheba? or Nathan (he confronted David about his sin)?

It is actually Uriah, he shows us the suffering side of Jesus.

  • Uriah refused to take the easy path, enjoying life while others suffered.
  • Uriah refused to have his feet washed, instead staying with the servants/body guards – Jesus washed feet as a servant
  • Jesus kissed Judas as He was being betrayed – Uriah honored David by staying with the servants/body guards.
  • Jesus was betrayed by one close to Him Uriah was betrayed by the whom he served
  • Uriah made the right decisions
  • David used someone else, war to kill Uriah.  The Jews used Roman law to have Jesus killed.

Are we willing to admit that we are morally bankrupt and in need of a Savior? It is hard to say that we are screwed up and don’t know right from wrong in the depths of our heart.  We need Jesus’ help to make sure we avoid temptations.

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Replica of the Tabernacle

Replica of the Tabernacle

The story of Numbers is any interesting look at two main aspects of sin, according to Tim at Seward Church.  As we continue our journey looking for the Gospel message in the 66 books of the Bible, Numbers is our 4th stop.

A few quick thoughts on the book – it is called Numbers because it opens and closes with a census being taken. There are about 2 million Israelites or the size of the Twin Cities Metro area living on a vast plain.  The book though, shares the story of the wandering Israelites and their quest to enter the promised land.  Yes, Number is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, Hebrews 3:15-17 and I Corinthians 10:1-13.

So what are the two aspects of sin?  1) A longing to be an insider and 2) a longing to be satisfied.

We all have a desire to be a part of the “in-crowd” or on the inside of a group, or what C.S Lewis calls the inner-ring.  We may not aspire for a place of power, but we usually want to be within the group of people where power comes from though.  God created this desire within us. Wait. Isn’t that a contradiction, are you saying God created a sinful desire within us?  Nope, only that God created within us the desire to be in His inner circle, what in the Old Testament is referred to as the “Holy of Holies” or the inner-circle in the temple, tabernacle, or the tent. This is the place that only the High Priest can enter and only once a year.

Many passages throughout Numbers make it clear that only those whom God allows are to take part in the priesthood, tabernacle, and other holy things.  Take for instance Numbers 1:51 “When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.” Yikes! God is pretty strict about His holiness.

God has a high standard for who He lets in to the holiest parts, if you try to take part and shouldn’t be the consequence is… death. Our sin is that we try to lower God’s standards and create our own inside groups, cliques, and our own standards to get in.  Or maybe more importantly, we create standards to keep people out (ie racism).  Like in Numbers 12:1-2 or 16:1-11 we make-up some reason to block people out of our circles.  We will continue to be miserable, always seeking approval until we stop and seek approval only from God. The Gospel of Jesus slams all of the circles and bubbles of our life together not letting us keep people in or out.

Oh and in case you are wondering… all who come to Christ are accepted by God.

The second major aspect of sin is that we all have a longing to be satisfied.  You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  Well that was here in Numbers as well. The group of people actually started grumbling the minute God set out to free them… and continued even though He contiuned to provide for their every need.  Sound familiar?  I wonder how often we sit around and grumble, even though God has proven Himself faithful?

You might recall that God provided for the nutritional needs each day through manna.  One day God provided them with a supplement of quail to eat.  They literally had quail coming out the nostrils!  Then God returned to providing them regular old manna.  At that point according to Numbers 11:4-6 they decided that slavery under Egypt was better than freedom – because they ate better as slaves.  That seems stupid doesn’t it?

It is amazing that God continues to love and accept us, despite our foolishness and our desire to enslave ourselves to the ways of this world. Through our hero – Jesus – we are saved from our folly and receive an amazing and abundant grace.  Christ died so that we can be satisfied.  His death opens up the holiest of places for us to enter. He is the perfect high priest, the final blood sacrifice.

Through Jesus God is able to accept us completely and allows us to enter the holiest places.  Satan wants us to question this, which is why he creates unhealthy cravings and longings within us.  God won’t necessarily take away or fill our desires, but will direct us to a better place. He is willing to meet us where we are and offer us grace.  Ultimately, we have an offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:14).

Let us be free today from the longings and desires that keep us from chasing after God.

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It seems almost sacrilege to even mention that Christmas might have a darkside.  What could be bad about a holiday that celebrates the birth of the Savior? Or giving and getting gifts?

Some of the modern day darkness is easy to point out – the fact that it takes until February or March for the average American to pay off their Christmas-related debt or the fact that the commercialization of Christmas has made it the most important time of year for retail stores.  Yes this is some of the darkness, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

On Friday night Tim discussed with us the dark beginnings of what we have come to know as Christmas.  The key Scripture is pretty blunt, Matthew 2:16-18 says it all – Herod slaughtered all the male children under 2 years old. But the pain and suffering started before that.

The suffering started when God spoke and told both Mary & Elizabeth their “good news” about their forthcoming children. The news strained Mary & Joseph’s relationship – Joseph knew he wasn’t the father, “Mary is there something you are hiding?” The broader family and community were hurt by this scandal of a pre-marital pregnancy.  The trip to Bethlehem (which was necessary to fulfill prophecy) was painful on the very pregnant Mary and not so easy on Joseph either.  Actually the census was painful on everyone in the country.  Then you have Zecharia’s disbelief and his ensuing muteness. All of this is capped off by Herod’s evilness and desire to kill the so called King by slaughtering thousands of innocent babies.

Yes the pain and suffering surrounding the birth of Christ is immense. Tim also pointed out that if you look through the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, you not only see kings, but you see a rag tag group of hurt people. Victims of slavery, rape, war, and much more.  One good (?) aspect of all the suffering is that ultimately no one was spared. Every socio-economic group, every age group, and every gender was adversity affected by pain and suffering.

So why all the pain and suffering? Because God is a narcissist and like to see us suffer? Not so much and actually quite the opposite. The Gospel is a real story of good news which can help redeem our own pain and suffering. Our cultural focus is all about the hope, joy, peace on earth, and goodwill to men, but this is way outside the reality for most of us. Our holiday season is fraught with painful memories, family tensions, financial struggles, etc. It is reassuring to realize that from the beginning Jesus knew and understood suffering.

God’s plans is to suffer with us throughout our lives. But not the kind of dejected suffering where you see no hope. God understands our pain and wants to be a part of it. He wants us to connect with the heartache and not disconnect from it. He doesn’t want us to cover it over with alcohol or spending sprees. Nor does He want us to jump head first into painful and dangerous situations. Ultimately when we pull away from our suffering we are pulling away from God and the grace and peace He can offer us through Christ.

Finally, God suffered for us, bringing redemption into our lives. Redemption is amazing and unbelievable. God wants to turn our ratty lives into something awesome and indescribable. The Christmas story is one of hope because we know the rest of Christ’s story. We know that He suffered, died, was buried, and ultimately rose again – defeating Satan and providing a way for us to find eternal life.

We know that suffering will end eventually, but it is also part of the experience and we need to learn to try and embrace it and praise God through it.

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Tim ended the evening with John Piper reading his book The Innkeeper which is a great story about the suffering of the innkeeper and his meeting with the adult Jesus.

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