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Archive | Biblical Studies

Now That You Are Behind in Your Bible Reading Program…

Sorry for the pessimistic title! But knowing that a large number of New Year’s resolutions typically get dropped by mid-January, I wouldn’t be surprised if many reading this post do not find themselves in this predicament. I want to offer you some encouragement and perhaps a plan that may refresh instead of burden you.

As I explain in the article I am reposting below, many Bible reading programs do not account for human nature. Such things as the unforgiving character of a checklist, the legalistic tendencies of our hearts, and the common disruptions in our calendars can make following a typical Bible reading program frustrating rather than freeing.

As I explain below, I have journeyed through many types of reading plans. That experience, combined with my own desire for Bible reading to be worshipful, meditative, and joyful, led me to put together what I call the STAR Bible Reading Program. If you are already behind and discouraged in your Bible reading, or even if you just want to try a different approach, perhaps this method might revitalize your time in God’s Word.

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Over the years I have used a number of Bible reading programs.  From choosing different books of interest to McCheyne’s classic […]

He Knows

Jesus’ letters to the seven churches at the beginning of Revelation have often been a source of direction and encouragement. While each of the letters follows the same format, each shines a light on the needs of a particular congregation and calls them to greater faith and faithfulness in Christ. Each letter presents Jesus in its own beautiful light (“who holds the seven stars in his right hand…the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David…the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation…”) and calls the congregation to rest upon their Savior. The unity and diversity of these letters is a reminder that every congregation is different but every congregation ultimately has the same deepest need: to worship God and grow in faithfulness.

Maybe one of the most encouraging parts of each letter is the way they begin. After introducing the divine author of the letter, they all begin with two simple words: “I know.” Before problems are addressed or encouragement is given, Jesus tells each church, “I know.”

Wanting to Silence those who Show us up?

Introduction

I’m planning to preach tomorrow on the murder by Cain of Abel. Time is pressing on so I’ll try to be fairly brief.

Text

John brings out Cain’s main motive for his murderous act, in 1 John 3.12:

“We should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous!”

The word ‘RIGHTEOUS’ shows us that the deeds of Abel conformed to the standard God set, whereas, in comparison, in the case of Cain, they fell woefully far short.

The problem with Cain’s offering?

The problem with the gift was neither that it was cereal, nor just a token expression (this common popular interpretation is probably a part but not the heart of the matter), nor even because there was no blood (blood, of course, was required for without death of a sacrificial victim there is no pardon or acceptance – Moses is teaching Israel, in Genesis, during their wilderness wanderings, so mention of gifts, lambs and fat parts assumes some kind of knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system): have there not been many false religions in history that offered blood of sacrificial victims […]

And the Word became Flesh…

The Word of God
…the Pre-Incarnate Logos
…the Eternal Son
…the outward expression of the inward purpose of God
…the One who always was God and was always with God
…the appointed Mediator
…the One by whom, for whom and through whom all things were created and do presently consist
…the One who in the form of God possessed every attribute and characteristic of deity that makes God divine
…the One who was omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, co-equal, all-wise, sovereign, transcendent, thrice holy and pure love
…became what He was not, the Word of God made Flesh

The Word of God became, irreversibly, forevermore, without mixture or confusion, through mysterious and miraculous conception, fully enfleshed God-Man
…this fully divine person took to Himself a whole, complete, entire, full, human nature not by compression, confusion, transmutation, metamorphosis, or subtraction, but by addition of manhood to divinity; so He became what he was not while remaining what he always was
…this man born Jesus of Nazareth remained One Person but now possessed Two Distinct Natures
…with a human mind, heart and will to love God with all His soul and his neighbor-creatures as Himself
…with a mind full of wisdom
…with a heart full of compassion
…with a will set on obedience
…with the face of a man to fix […]

Confessing Non-Conformity

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ.’” (Mark 8.29 E.S.V.)

“Before leaving this subject, special attention should be called to the fact that the words of Jesus ‘But you, who do you say that I am?’ convey a very important lesson, namely, that a true believer is one who is willing, whenever necessary, to express a conviction that is contrary to that of the masses. In the best sense of the term, the believer is willing to come forth boldly in the interest of the truth.

The Kingdom is for vigorous people …for strong and sturdy men like Joseph …Moses …Joshua and Caleb …Samuel …David …Nathan …Elijah …Jehoshaphat …Daniel and his three friends …Mordecai …Stephen …Paul …Epaphroditus …Onesiphorus …and the apostle John …It is for such valiant women as Ruth …Deborah …Abigail …Esther …and Lydia.

Conformity with the world, compromise on basic issues, the unwillingness to be distinctive, is strongly condemned in Scripture …not being ‘of the world’, believers are shining lights in the midst of the world …They are spiritually different from the world, in order to be a blessing to the world.

So here in Mark 8.28, 29, […]

Refuge in the Redeemer

Storm Shelters

It’s stormy in the mountains! A tornado’s headed this way! The town is under siege! Life hangs in the balance! Danger is all around! In such situations, we all need a place to turn to, a safe house to which we can run, a refuge where we can hide, or a location far from threat and beyond the reach of harm.

David’s Dangers

That’s what the son of Jesse learnt during his rise to power. He was pursued like a fox, chased down by many assailants, either ducking under Saul’s javelin or outwitting royal militia manoeuvres. David was subject to slander, surrounded by envious liars, and often took recourse to a hideout for escape.

Reliable Refuge

In the end, he knew however, it was God who spared his life. In Psalm 18.1-3 he recounts how the LORD had kept him safe.

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

What is striking in this Psalm, and also Psalm 144.2, is the multiplicity of word-pictures used to convey how faithfully Yahweh kept him safe. As Derek Kidner […]

What is Whiter than Snow?

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

Just arrived back from a walk with our dog. It has been unseasonably cold in Belfast this week. We woke this morning to a blanket of snow. So I headed out with my son, who has just returned from Uni, to enjoy the falling, fluffy, flakes.

As the clouds cleared away, sunlight began to sparkle and twinkle its refracted light on fields and woods: everything was irradiated, and lit up almost-magically, as my heart was full of gladness in this winter wonderland. All green grass concealed. All brown branches covered. Glistening, glinting snow had hidden everything from view.

We continued down the field, at times entering into forest – till I bumped into a lad from Hong Kong who I’d talked to at length, on one previous occasion.

A Vital Question

The question that I posed to him was this: ‘What is whiter than the snow?’

Since he didn’t appear to know how to respond, I gently mentioned Psalm 51, and the covering it speaks of, when God forgives our sins.

Psalm 51

In this prayer, conniving, murdering, adulterous David had now come clean with God, as the superscription informs us. He begs the LORD for mercy! His only hope is God’s compassionate, […]

Jesus knows! Yes He really does know!

As I reflected in my daily devotions on how much Jesus knew about the woman with the ‘issue of blood’, I was truly blown away by the details of His omniscience.

Even during His earthly ministry, when His divine will and nature, by the Holy Spirit, communicated this lady’s fact-file to His human consciousness, Mark makes it evident, that he knew her case history completely, in 5:25-3 (E.S.V.):

“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you […]

How Much Do You Love Your Local Church?

A Painful Question

Are you cold, indifferent, angry, frustrated, intolerant, castigating or hostile towards your local church? Or are you warm, concerned, involved, sympathetic, committed, patient, and full of love, grace, hope and peace, in your relationships and dealings with your brothers and sisters in the blood-bought congregation of God?

A Pauline Concern

Paul’s own personal response to God’s people seems to have fluctuated with the ups and down of the churches, over which he was given charge, and to which he was bound with cords of compassion and love.

A Pertinent Text

The giveaway text comes at the end of the letter of 2 Corinthians. The Achaian congregations, contained many of his harshest critics. In this epistle, like no other, for the sake of the progress of the Gospel, and Corinthian spiritual growth, he has to defend His ministry repeatedly, from false accusations and disparaging charges. Yet, like a parent deeply involved with happenings of their children, when the Church is progressing nicely it causes Paul to sing, but when the congregation goes bad it forces Paul to lament.

“For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish – that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, […]

Proverbial Sayings in the Law: Sow One Seed in Your Vineyard

When one considers the law section of the Bible known as the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible – it is easy to think of them simply as codes and regulations like we have in modern law. Yet we need to remember there are various literary genres contained in what we know as the Law of Moses – Genesis through Deuteronomy. There are certainly legal stipulations such as those associated with the sacrificial section or the civil law of ancient Israel, but there also historical narratives such as Moses leading Israel out of Egypt in Exodus, prophetic portions such as Balaam’s pronouncements in Numbers, genealogies like the one found in Genesis 5, and even Hebraic poetry like that found in Genesis 4:23-24.

Another interesting thing to note in the book of Deuteronomy is the presence of what we might call proverbial sayings. When Moses is speaking, perhaps rather than viewing what he is saying as simply a legal stipulation for Israel, we might want to remember what this book truly is. Deuteronomy is not simply a collection of laws, but it is Moses preaching a sermon based on Israel’s history and the law the Lord had given them to […]