Category Archives: Religion

Unto You is Born…

angel_shepherdsOver the past year, I spent the last 15-30 minutes of most nights listening to the Bible with the YouVersion Bible app, following along with Blue Letter Bible’s chronological plan.  With my recent focus studying the Old Testament for all its pointing to Jesus Christ, I was just stunned how much the Bible opened up when following along through this plan.  Today, I’d like to take you through a whirlwind tour for just a taste of what you can see digging through the Bible this way.  As just a reminder, recall Jesus’ words in Luke after His resurrection:

22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:22–27 (ESV)

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:44–48 (ESV)

I’m going to steal approximate dates from Adam’s Synchronological Map of History (or other random sources), so forgive me if you disagree with any of them (I might too) … but, they should be close enough to survey the landscape, at least.  Now, there is no way to be exhaustive here in this post without writing an entire book… I’ve already posted 13 lengthy studies for Genesis 1-22 alone.  Like I said, this will be a whirlwind tour, with just a "few" highlights.  Let’s go!

c. 4000 BC – Creation, the fall of man, and the "seed"

Adam and Eve just ate the fruit.  Bad news.  They’re doomed.  The planet’s doomed.  The snake’s in trouble.  What does God tell them?

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:13–15 (ESV)

All is not lost.  The offspring (seed) of the woman will make things right.  But we soon find that won’t be Abel.  Cain killed him and is cursed.  But there is another.

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Genesis 4:25–26 (ESV)

And we then start to see a line of patriarchs unfold, the line that will eventually lead us to Jesus Christ.

c. 2350 BC – Noah is saved from the flood

Things are really messed up.  Fallen angels are being quite bad.  Man isn’t doing much better.  There is one "blameless" man and his family.  God lets loose the foundations of the deep to destroy the world.  And yet…

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.

Genesis 7:11–16 (ESV)

God saves that family through the ark.  That ark points us to the one who will save us spiritually, but for now, there is still hope.

26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.

Genesis 9:26 (ESV)

God keeps a line of the offspring of the woman.

c. 2000 BC – Job is suffering

But I digress for a minute here.  We find another blameless man, allowed to suffer greatly.  And in all his moanings, he has something interesting to say.

23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! 24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Job 19:23–27 (ESV)

Job, in all his sufferings, looks forward to his Redeemer!

c. 1920 BC – Abraham is called

Back to the line of the "offspring," we find Abraham called by God.

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 12:1–7 (ESV)

God promises to bless the entire earth through the "offspring" of Abraham.

c. 1860 BC – Isaac is (almost) sacrificed

Abraham is promised bajillions of children.  But God asks him to sacrifice his beloved son, the one born to him and Sarah in such old age.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Genesis 22:9–14 (ESV)

God gave us a picture of what He would one day do with His own Son.  He would provide, but we aren’t there quite yet.

c. 1700 BC – Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers

The promises continue with Jacob and his sons.  But, they do wrong.  They sell Joseph to slavers and he ends up suffering for years.  But God exalts him.  He saves his family and they are reunited.

7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 45:7–8 (ESV)

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:19–21 (ESV)

God will one day provide another who suffers for us, but not through Joseph. 

8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.

Genesis 49:8–12 (ESV)

He will provide through his brother, Judah.

c. 1450 BC – Moses saves his people

The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt.  God sends a prophet to rescue them from Pharaoh and take them to the Promised Land.  Moses doesn’t get to enter, but in some of his final words points to the future.

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (ESV)

There is still hope for the future, for another prophet like Moses.  The ultimate prophet.

c. 1240 BC – Ruth is redeemed

Ruth, a Moabite, has a tough time.  Her dad dies.  Her brother-in-law dies.  Her husband dies.  She and mother Naomi have nowhere to turn, but to head back to Bethlehem.  (Bethlehem?  Interesting, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.)  They find a man who redeems her.

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:13–17 (ESV)

They have a child, the grandfather of King David.  The line continues.

c. 1040 BC – David is King

David has a rough path on the way to becoming king of Israel.  God has a promise to make to him before he departs the earth, though.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”

2 Samuel 7:12–16 (ESV)

"Established forever."  This isn’t just his son Solomon in view here, but someone greater.  And David writes and sings about this someone so many times in the Psalms, it’s hard to miss once you start looking.  Here are just a few:

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Psalm 2:1–3, 6-8 (ESV)

8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Psalm 16:8–10 (ESV)

6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Psalm 22:6–8, 14-18 (ESV)

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:6–8 (ESV)

9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. 21 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. 29 But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

Psalm 69:9, 21, 29 (ESV)

3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: 4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah 15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, 16 who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. 26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ 27 And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. 36 His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. 37 Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah

Psalm 89:3-4, 15-16, 26-27, 35–37 (ESV)

God’s promise to David was not a lie.  He will provide… another King, and one who suffers on His path as well.  There is far more in the Psalms, but we must press on.

c. 800-700 BC – Prophets are prophesying

In no particular order, we find God’s prophets giving us more information about this offspring of His.  Though the world falls apart, and enemies abound, there is no doubt He is coming.  Here is just a taste of what the prophets tell us.

5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

Hosea 3:5 (ESV)

1 “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

Hosea 6:1–2 (ESV)

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Micah 5:2 (ESV)

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)

1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1–2 (ESV)

9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:9 (ESV)

3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 9 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

Isaiah 40:3, 9–10 (ESV)

3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:3–5 (ESV)

There is hope for us sinners, for the Savior is coming.

c. 700-550 BC – More prophets are prophesying

The offspring is not here yet, so God continues speaking through His prophets.  Again, just a small taste.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:14–17 (ESV)

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Jeremiah 23:5–6 (ESV)

11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-16, 23–24 (ESV)

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)

One like a "son of man."  God still has someone prepared for His people.  They’re in exile in Babylon, and yet God is still promising a future and a hope for them.

c. 550-480 BC – Even more prophets are prophesying

God is still speaking, though there aren’t many prophets left to go.  Another small taste.

4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ”

Haggai 2:4–9 (ESV)

10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Zechariah 2:10–11 (ESV)

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Zechariah 9:9–10 (ESV)

God still has a promise for His people.

c. 480 BC – Esther saves her people

And yet, we still find Satan working to destroy the line of God’s promised offspring.  Haman wants to wipe out the Jews, all of them (sound familiar today, anyone?).  Esther becomes queen and has the ear of King Xerxes.

6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

Esther 3:6 (ESV)

14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14 (ESV)

Mordecai knows God will save them, though, even if Esther didn’t play her role, for God has made promises to His people.  He was going to send the ultimate Savior.

c. 460 BC – One last prophet is prophesying

We come to Malachi, who has the last word in the Old Testament before we get to the New.  God’s people have been waiting, and they’re going to have to wait some more.  But, God’s still going to send a Savior.

17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” 1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 2:17–3:1 (ESV)

2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Malachi 4:2 (ESV)

The Savior is coming.  God Himself is coming.  But not yet, because first we have…

c. 460-4 BC – Silence

… nothing but silence.  God’s prophets are done speaking.  He said there would be another messenger, another prophet if you will, to prepare the way for the Savior.  But for over 400 years, nothing.  For me, following along in my chronological study, I only had to wait for the next night.  For God’s people, who had already been waiting for around 4000 years to witness God’s promises fulfilled, how hard must it have been?  And yet, they still had hope.

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Hebrews 11:1-2, 13 (ESV)

Faith.  Hope.  They were still looking forward to…

c. 4 BC – Messiah arrives

Oh, what a moment to witness!  I’ve read or listened to the Christmas story in Luke innumerable times, but it meant nothing like it did the night I listened yet again during my nightly study.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8–20 (ESV)

"For unto you is born this day."  This day!  The promised offspring, the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem!  And God comes to simple shepherds to announce His arrival.  Oh how amazing that moment must have been!  Hundreds… thousands… of years of waiting, and He is finally here on earth.  Can you feel it?!  I know you see more text to read below, but just stop for a minute.  Dwell on that picture for just a bit.  Emmanuel, God with us… on earth.  Thousand of years.  Promises fulfilled.  Just pause and breathe… and rejoice in the moment!

Seriously… I said pause.

Move on when ready.

c. 4 BC-33 AD – Messiah lives, teaches, heals and dies for us

For the next 30+ years, Jesus will be on the earth teaching and healing God’s people, all the while awaiting His crucifixion at the hands of men… His sacrifice to save us from our sins against God.  And yet, for all the waiting everyone did, there are those who missed Him, those who spat upon Him, those who forgot God’s promises or did not believe them…

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Luke 19:41–44 (ESV)

… and were lost.  But there is still hope, for God made another promise…

c. ??? – Messiah is coming again

Jesus Christ will one day come again.  There is still time, but maybe not much.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 (ESV)

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 (ESV)

I so look forward to that day.  I missed that glorious night the angel came to the shepherds, but will I miss that glorious night when Jesus Christ comes back Himself?  Will you?  Perhaps we will pass from the earth before that day, and be grouped with the witnesses who came before us.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 11:39–12:2 (ESV)

Look to your Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  He came before, and He’s coming again.  I pray you don’t miss Him.  There is still time left, but how long?  For many of us are praying the prayer of John…

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:20 (ESV)

I pray you’ll join us.  Until next time, have a blessed Christmas this year!

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Book reviews 10/27/12

Time for some book reviews today while the family is outside working on leaf blowing, leaf burning and leaf diving.

voting_socialvoting_economic_foreignVoting as a Christian: The Social Issues (Wayne Grudem)

Voting as a Christian: The Economic and Foreign Policy Issues (Wayne Grudem)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

These two books were recommended to me by Bruce last week after he noticed them for a steal of a price on Amazon.com for their Kindle versions (only $2.99 each!).  I jumped at the price and quickly read through them, not really to prepare for the election due to my choice already being made, but to get Grudem’s take on things.  These are abridged versions of a much longer treatise on the subject, so would be great reads before the election for any of you out there who still struggle understanding what God has said regarding various issues being debated politically today.  He does a great job summarizing issues in such short books, and provides plenty of references to branch off to as he goes.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can simply download Amazon’s Kindle app for your computer and read them there (which is what I did).  Check them out.  I’ll leave you with one specific item from the books… Grudem’s engagement with Jim Wallis’ flawed "consistent ethic of life" argument is well worth the read.  As for me and my household, it all comes down to a single issue right now: abortion.  The rest really pale by comparison. 

 

real_christianityA Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity (William Wilberforce)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

In my quest to read a few "classics" here and there between other books, I picked up this Amazon.com Kindle version for free several weeks ago after listening to a few John Piper sermons on Romans where he referenced it.  Wow, was he right about the book… deep, weighty and hard to get through.  It sure was handy that the Kindle app has an integrated dictionary!  William argues quite well the many distinguishing characteristics of what true Christians should behave like and how the bulk of "nominal" Christians act in the world.  As with most books from previous generations, it’s always surprising how little things have changed from the past, and yet scary how much their slippery slope arguments reflect exactly how society is today.  This one was no exception to that rule.  Rather than babble more about the book, I’ll leave you with a lengthy excerpt.  Hard to miss who his argument from 1797 was looking forward to.

       Such being the circumstances of the pastors of the church, let the community in general be supposed to have been for some time in a rapidly improving state of commercial prosperity; let it also be supposed to have been making no unequal progress in all those arts, and sciences, and literary productions, which have ever been the growth of a polished age, and are the sure marks of a highly finished condition of society. It is not difficult to anticipate the effects likely to be produced on vital Religion, both in the clergy and the laity, by such a state of external prosperity as has been assigned to them respectively. And these effects would be infallibly furthered, where the country in question should enjoy a free constitution of government. We formerly had occasion to quote the remark of an accurate observer of the stage of human life, that a much looser system of morals commonly prevails in the higher, than in the middling and lower orders of society. Now, in every country, of which the middling classes are daily growing in wealth and consequence, by the success of their commercial speculations; and, most of all, in a country having such a constitution as our own, where the acquisition of riches is the possession also of rank and power; with the comforts and refinements, the vices also of the higher orders are continually descending, and a mischievous uniformity of sentiments, and manners, and morals, gradually diffuses itself throughout the whole community. The multiplication of great cities also, and above all, the habit, ever increasing with the increasing wealth of the country, of frequenting a splendid and luxurious metropolis, would powerfully tend to accelerate the discontinuance of the religious habits of a purer age, and to accomplish the substitution of a more relaxed morality. And it must even be confessed, that the commercial spirit, much as we are indebted to it, is not naturally favourable to the maintenance of the religious principle in a vigorous and lively state. 
       In times like these, therefore, the strict precepts and self-denying habits of Christianity naturally slide into disuse; and even among the better sort of Christians, are likely to be softened, so far at least as to be rendered less abhorrent from the general disposition to relaxation and indulgence. In such prosperous circumstances, men, in truth, are apt to think very little about religion. Christianity, therefore, seldom occupying the attention of the bulk of nominal Christians, and being scarcely at all the object of their study, we should expect, of course, to find them extremely unacquainted with its tenets. Those doctrines and principles indeed, which it contains in common with the law of the land, or which are sanctioned by the general standard of morals formerly described, being brought into continual notice and mention by the common occurrences of life, might continue to be recognized. But whatever she contains peculiar to herself, and which should not be habitually brought into recollection by the incidents of every day, might be expected to be less and less thought of, till at length it should be almost wholly forgotten. Still more might this be naturally expected to become the case, if the peculiarities in question should be, from their very nature, at war with pride, and luxury, and worldly mindedness, the too general concomitants of rapidly increasing wealth: and this would particularly happen among the laity; if the circumstance of their having been at any time abused to purposes of hypocrisy or fanaticism, should have prompted even some of the better disposed of the clergy, perhaps from well intentioned though erroneous motives, to bring them forward less frequently in their discourses on Religion.
       When so many should thus have been straying out of the right path, some bold reformer might, from time to time, be likely to arise, who should not unjustly charge them with their deviation: but, though right perhaps in the main; yet deviating himself also in an opposite direction, and creating disgust by his violence, or vulgarity, or absurdities, he might fail, except in a few instances, to produce the effect of recalling them from their wanderings.
       Still, however, the Divine Original of Christianity would not be professedly disavowed; partly from a real, and more commonly from a political, deference for the established faith, but most of all, from the bulk of mankind being not yet prepared, as it were, to throw away the scabbard, and to venture their eternal happiness on the issue of its falsehood. Some bolder spirits, indeed, might be expected to despise the cautious moderation of these timid reasoners, and to pronounce decisively, that the Bible was a forgery: while the generality, professing to believe it genuine, should, less consistently, be satisfied with remaining ignorant of its contents; and when pressed, should discover themselves by no means to believe many of the most important particulars contained in it.
       When, by the operation of causes like these, any country has at length grown into the condition which has been here stated; it is but too obvious, that, in the bulk of the community, Religion, already sunk very low, must be hastening fast to her entire dissolution. Causes, energetic and active like these, though accidental hindrances may occasionally thwart their operation, will not at once become sluggish and unproductive. Their effect is sure; and the time is fast approaching, when Christianity will be almost as openly disavowed in the language, as in fact it is already supposed to have disappeared from the conduct of men; when infidelity will be held to be the necessary appendage of a man of fashion, and to believe will be deemed the indication of a feeble mind and a contracted understanding.

 

heavens_devotionalThe Heavens: Intimate Moments with Your Majestic God (Kevin Hartnett)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

This devotional book is simply outstanding.  The pictures of the heavens, which continually display the glory of God, provide great backdrops for the messages Hartnett provides throughout the book.  I have to admit, I could not simply read one of these per day, like you’re probably supposed to do with devotionals.  I instead sat down a few nights here and there and soaked in about ten at a time.  It was really hard to stop each time, as he continually struck notes that resonated with me.  If you’ve found yourself wondering in awe at the heavens before, do some service to yourself and check out this book.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1–6 (ESV)

 

pilgrims_progressThe Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Here’s another classic I finally got around to reading.  Though the language was difficult at times to get through, I really enjoyed the journey following Christian through his trek.  I could see many aspects of my Christian journey as he went along, and I guess I have much more to look forward to.  The book does well to put on display what Paul might have meant to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."  By the way, I was quite surprised when the story ended half-way through the book, and I found there was a part two that follows Christian’s wife and children in their later journey.  Personally, I would stick with part one and move on to other books after that.  Or, maybe someone who’s read these before can enlighten me on the better aspects of part two.  I guess I just didn’t find much in there beyond what was already better covered by the first half.

 

restless_flameThe Restless Flame (Louis de Wohl)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jake’s wife Amanda loaned this out to me, knowing that I had read Augustine’s original Confessions, which this book is based on.  I hadn’t heard of hagiographies, or historical fictional biographies of saints, before I came across this one, but I may have to check out some more now.  I thought de Wohl did a tremendous job with the task, as throughout the entire book I could tell how closely he integrated Augustine’s own words from his biographical book.  If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely suggest you read Augustine’s own book instead.  However, this one is a quicker read, and provides a neat way to view things (even if completely fictional) though the eyes of some of the other people in Augustine’s life, especially his mother… a fine example of life-long devotion to praying for the salvation of her son.

 

gospel_star_warsThe Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope, and the Force (John C. McDowell)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Brian and I were having a discussion once during the Bible study T and I hold at our house that went something along the lines of how there are many aspects to Lucas’ Star Wars films that relate directly to the Bible.  Jedi and Sith.  Light side and Dark side.  Anakin’s "virgin" birth from the midichlorians.  Yes, you forgot that one, didn’t you?  Anyway, he found this book soon after and bought us both copies.  It was actually a pretty hard book to get through as McDowell was well-versed in theological/philosophical things of the world, and perhaps I’m not so much.  It was obvious throughout that he’s done a ton of thinking about Star Wars, as have many, many others.  In the end, Lucas’ visions much more closely fits Buddhism and other eastern religions far more closely than Christianity, and McDowell does a great job pointing that out as he goes.  And, here’s the real lesson… don’t forget to get your theology from the Bible, and not from Hollywood.

 

enoch_primodialEnoch Primordial (Brian Godawa)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This prequel to Godawa’s Noah Primeval was just as well written, and appears to based heavily on the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch.  I had read bits and pieces of 1 Enoch previously, but decided it was time to read through the entire thing before diving into Godawa’s vision.  Both were interesting reads, and obviously very speculative.  Were things really like this before the times of Noah?  Perhaps.  Godawa does a great job integrating 1 Enoch and other ancient histories with what little God has given us in Genesis and other books of the Bible.  Entertaining stuff, but like I mentioned above… don’t forget to get your history from the Bible, and not from fictional accounts.

 

momentary_marriageThis Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I picked up a free PDF copy of this from the Desiring God website, which it appears you can still do.  John does a great job laying out the argument noted on the website, that "the chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human conception is – and always has been – gargantuan."  After all, Paul points out marriage is not what most of us think of it in human standards, but is ultimately a picture of Christ and his love for His church.  How much we can learn by really soaking that in, and perhaps how much it could really change our own marriages, and increase our love for what Christ has done for us.

 

131_christians131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Mark Galli)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

How does one choose 131 Christians we all should know?  I have no idea, but there seem to be some great choices in here.  Many familiar ones will jump right out at you, but some might appear missing.  I found this to perhaps be more like: "100 Christians you likely have never heard of before, but really could learn from, plus some others you likely already heard about though maybe don’t know why."  I ended up reading this more like a devotional, taking my time over several months and reading about a couple people each night.  I would recommend attacking the book in the same way, otherwise I think you’ll just get lost under a sea of people and not learn much from their lives.  Of course, to really learn from their lives, one would have to dig deeper into whatever you can find out there on each person, rather than relying on the simple summary material contained in this book.  However, it’s a great place to survey the landscape of famous Christians throughout history and then branch off from there.

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Stumbling Block to the Jews

stumbling_blockI decided to take a minor diversion here before continuing with the next post in the Jesus in the Old Testament series.  I’m doing this because I want to dive down a rabbit hole before hitting Genesis 18, which is where the study will pick back up.  Hopefully it will be worth the read.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he states:

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:22–25 (ESV)

Jesus Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews.  Paul appears to be referring to the crucified Messiah as being the stumbling block, the idea that the Jewish Messiah could possibly be crucified rather than coming as some sort of warrior king to bring about an earthly kingdom led by the Jews.  They fail, however, to notice the idea of the "suffering servant" of Isaiah.

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:1–6 (ESV)

The Jews mostly see these verses as referring to Israel, or at least some portion of Israel.  However, we Christians understand Isaiah to be referring to Jesus Christ, the Messiah come to earth to suffer at the hands of men for our sins.  Just one example reference to Isaiah from the New Testament (out of many) confirms this.

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:21–25 (ESV)

So, we find Jesus Christ to be a stumbling block to the Jews because they missed in their own Scriptures that the Messiah would first come to suffer.  However, the reason I’m going down this rabbit hole is because there is more to this stumbling block.  I would suggest that Jesus is a stumbling block for an even larger reason.

I’ll take the liberty here of quoting Wikipedia, the 3rd-most reliable source of information out there (following the Bible and then Fox News, of course ;).

Shema Yisrael (or Sh’ma Yisrael ) (Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל‎; "Hear, [O] Israel") are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and are the title (sometimes shortened to simply "Shema") of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one," found in Deuteronomy 6:4. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.

"Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one."  God is one.  God is not two.  God is not three.  When Jesus Christ was here on earth, what was His claim?

24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

John 10:24–31 (ESV)

Jesus claimed to be God.  They clearly recognized the offense.  Jesus was claiming to be both the Messiah and God.  It wasn’t just that He was claiming to be some Messiah who didn’t act like a warrior king, but that He claimed to be God in the flesh.  And yet they understood God to be one.  It was right there in Deuteronomy.  God could not be both Father and Son, or both God and some man.  And yet, Jesus revealed the mystery in verse 30.  He was man, and yet, He and the Father are one.  God was on earth in the form of a man, and yet God, as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4, is still one.  Blows your mind.  And because the Jews couldn’t (and wouldn’t) wrap their heads around it, they rejected Jesus Christ.  They rejected God.

So, what does this have to do with Genesis 18?  We’re going to see a pretty big event.  God is going to clearly appear to the father of the Jews, Abraham, in the form of a man on earth.  He’s going to have a meal with Abraham.  He’s going to walk and talk with him.  God revealed Himself in the form of Jesus Christ to the father of the Jews, and yet hundreds of years later, they won’t recognize Him, and they’ll send Him to a cross for it.  Jesus even pointed out their mistake.

52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

John 8:52–59 (ESV)

"Before Abraham was, I am."  Ever seen that simple phrase before?  How about Moses at the burning bush?

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Exodus 3:13–15 (ESV)

"I am."  God’s name forever.  They should have recognized Jesus Christ.  They should have recognized their God come to earth, as Isaiah would also prophecy.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)

Looking at Matthew 1:23, we find Immanuel means "God with us."  God told us He would come down Himself.  Don’t miss that.  Don’t make the mistakes of the Jewish leaders.  Don’t trip over the stumbling block of Jesus Christ.

This is why we’re working our way through the Old Testament, searching out Jesus.  This was no minor prophet.  This was no ordinary man on earth here to teach us a better way to live our lives.  This was God, manifest in the flesh, crucified on the cross for our sins, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and He is coming again.  God revealed Himself as Jesus Christ all throughout the Old Testament, and the Jews missed Him.

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Luke 19:41–44 (ESV)

Don’t miss Him like they did.

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Book reviews 4/29

It’s time for some book reviews again.  Seven months later.  Yes, that’s how I continue to roll.

 

who_ate_lunch_abraham

Who Ate Lunch with Abraham (Asher Intrater)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

This book was advertised by one of the charities I support, and I found it quite inexpensive on Amazon to read on my Toshiba Thrive’s Kindle app.  This was by far my favorite book out of all the ones I read over the past several months, probably because it’s right up the alley of the Bible study I’ve been leading at home.  Asher is a Messianic Jew, writing about many times Jesus shows up in the Old Testament.  His point in doing this is to demonstrate to fellow Jews that the idea of God showing Himself to us in the form of a man is not blasphemous, but is something God has been doing for a long time in the form of the "Angel of the Lord."  If you find it a big struggle to read through my lengthy study posts, or you’re annoyed I’m taking WAY too long to get to them (ha), here’s a great option to check out.

 

art_of_god

The Art of God: The Heavens and the Earth (Ric Ergenbright)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

T and the kids got me this for my birthday, and I fell in love with it.  Ric’s photography is simply amazing.  He not only captures the beauty and sheer awesomeness of God’s creation, but does an amazing job expounding on each photograph as well.  His inclusion of Scripture with the images throughout the book is the icing on the cake.  I’m going to have to soon find out if he has more of this kind of material (I’m too lazy to Google right now, though ;).  Let me know if you want to borrow it, as it’s a quick read/view, though I think you’ll want to take your time walking through it.

 

Counterfeit Gospels Final.indd

Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (Trevin Wax)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I really don’t’ remember how I happened across this book, but it was a pretty quick summary of some of the prevailing false gospels out there within Christianity.  He chooses six main ones to work through (each with some sub-themes), points out what is wrong with each and why they are so attractive, and then turns back to how he sees the true gospel answering them.  In case you don’t plan to read the book, here’s a really quick summary, which ultimately can’t do the book justice:

  • Therapeutic gospel – The fall was the moment we failed to meet our potential, Christ’s death proved our worth as humans, and the church is there to help us find happiness and fulfillment.
  • Judgmentless gospel – Restoration is about how good God is rather than including any demonstration of His righteous judgment for rebellion, Christ defeated sin, death and Satan, but the need to avert God’s wrath through Jesus’ sacrifice is missing, and the church doesn’t really need to evangelize the world.
  • Moralistic gospel – Our sinful condition is only from our sins and redemption is through us working with God to stop committing them, the good news is the instruction to help us attain God’s favor and blessings for obedience, and the church is there for us to gather with other moral folk like us.
  • Quietist gospel – Scripture is of a personal nature only, Christ’s message is not for the political sphere or society but only the changing of individual hearts, and the church is to be separated and removed from the world.
  • Activist gospel – God’s kingdom is to be advanced by believers (we are the answers to our prayers), Christ’s power is to be demonstrated through social, political and cultural change that we lead, and the church’s role is to be focused on this change.
  • Churchless – Scripture is for the individual only (not a community), Christ’s gospel is only for individual soul-saving, and the church is an optional aid to our individual growth to be discarded any time it slows us down.

If you want to understand what the problem is with each of those, you’ll either have to read your Bible some more or go check out the book.  While I might quibble on just a couple things in the book, I thought Trevin did a great job with this.  I could more easily see how I personally tend towards some of these myself.  Reading through it, I think you’ll find out how much fuller (or maybe even simpler) the gospel is than perhaps you are being taught.

 

insights_romans

Insights on Romans (Charles R. Swindoll)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I think I now have all of the books in Chuck’s "Insights" series, though have only recently made it through Romans.  Chuck has a way of bringing Scripture down to planet earth that is unequaled by other authors I have read.  He chunks passages up in nice bites, allowing you to digest as much as you want during any sitting.  He also breaks up the study nicely with some personal stories that are usually entertaining as well.  If you’re looking for something a little less scholarly (i.e., lengthy commentaries with big, scary words) and yet with far more meat that a study Bible, these are a great option to dive right into.

 

feasts_lord

The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom (Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This is a nice, short trip through the feasts God commanded the Jews to observe, with a focus on how they point towards His prophetic calendar in the person of Jesus Christ.  When seen from this viewpoint, one sees there is importance in these feasts for all Christians, as some have already been fulfilled by Jesus, while others are still yet to be fulfilled.  I expect to consult this again along with my other resources when getting around to Leviticus in our home Bible study, looking for Jesus Christ throughout all the Scriptures.

 

heaven_for_real

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Todd Burpo)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I had some trouble rating this book.  While there may be some truth in this boy’s story, written through his pastor father, or it may even be completely true, I’m not sure what to make of it.  One of the problems with near-death-experience stories is that they generally seem to side right along with the religious worldview of the person having the experience.  What do we do when a Muslim/Mormon/Hindu/Wickan/etc. has an experience like this, yet he or she sees everything backing their own personal views?  What sets this story apart from all the others that would lead a person to believe?  I think relying on testimonies like this, rather than the truth of God’s own written Word, can lead one astray.  Since that’s just a bunch of me rambling, I’ll leave you with one quick example in the book.  One of the things the parents seemed to focus on for some time was finding a picture/painting/representation of Jesus Christ that their son would finally say, "that’s Him!"  Well, they finally found it in the child prodigy, Akiane’s, painting of Jesus (Google for Akiane’s "Prince of Peace").  It’s an amazing painting, as are all of hers, but here’s where things break down a bit.  What do we do when we read some of her blog posts that are clearly against Scripture, yet she appears to claim as direct revelation from God?  That’s where the wheels come off for me, and why I guess I ultimately can’t give this book my recommendation, either.  This all requires some serious discernment, and must be tested against God’s Word.  If you want someone else’s thoughts, I felt this review was a fair one.  I would recommend spending more time in the Bible before spending it on books like this.

 

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The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

This poetic creation of John Piper, which depicts another side of the Book of Job, was a super-short read.  It appears John set out to give us a clearer picture of Job and his wife in their story, as well as maybe tie up some other loose ends someone feels are there in the book.  It was neat, and fairly well done, but I think there is a great gravity to the book that doesn’t require a reimagining of it, and God meant for it to include exactly what was there and no more.  It’s a book that requires much study, and multiple readings, and even some major life lessons, in order to fully grasp it.  I would recommend further study of the book itself before skipping to the reader’s digest, easier-to-read version here.

 

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Don’t Waste Your Life (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Dear Lynn of Lynn’s News blog, someone we became acquainted with last year during her own trials, has been a real testament of faith to us.  She loaned us several John Piper books to read (including a copy of the book above, which we already had) several months ago and hopefully we can finally meet up soon to return them!  While you may notice below that I’m rating all of them 4 stars, this was my favorite of the four.  Piper has a nice treatise here on all the ways we can and should see in our lives a purpose for glorifying God, rather than wasting them in all sorts of trivial pursuits.  I don’t remember him mentioning all these movies I’ve spent time watching is too bad, so there’s hope there for me. ;) 

 

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The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I really haven’t spent much time reading biographies, and I’m starting to realize I’ve wasted a bit of time there missing out on them.  There are so many people’s lives we could learn from, and these three are no exception.  These men persevered through various trails in their lifelong pursuits to glorify God by doing His work.  Piper doesn’t simply dwell on the positives of their perseverance, but points out their own struggles against their sinful nature as well.  It was very refreshing to see such role models of the Christian faith, and yet at the same time see how they are human, too.

 

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Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This book was very similar to a previous one of Piper’s that I had read, "What Jesus Demands from the World."  The fifty reasons are presented in a few pages each, which makes it both a great page-turner that you can get through quickly if you want, or that allows you to check out and dig more into as a single reason a night.  I felt a few were repeats of others in order to get to a nice, round number of fifty, but as Jesus spent much time repeating Himself during His ministry (as well as the Spirit did throughout all Scripture), I guess reminders never hurt.

 

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When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (John Piper)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Lynn loaned us Piper’s most widely recognized book, "Desiring God," which I already read, so it was nice to also see the other side in this book.  While his popular treatise is on how we are to desire God as our ultimate goal, this book provides some insight on what can be done during those all-too-prevalent times when we do not, in fact, desire God.  This one requires a bit more work to get through than the others, but was well worth the read.

 

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Read the Bible for Life (George H. Guthrie)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

I honestly don’t remember how I ended up with this book (whether I put it on my birthday wish list, or if T simply grabbed it during a sale), but it wasn’t too bad.  There is a whole set of study material that you can get to go with it, and we got the DVD along with the book, apparently.  I still haven’t watched it, but a quick glance appears to be George sitting around interviewing people and having group discussion.  The book itself contains several interviews with Christian leaders on topics related to how to study the Bible.  Personally, I could have done without much of the random "we were walking around in the garden" or "I asked this and he said something back with a big smile/laugh/chuckle/grin/etc."  I think I would have gotten much more out of it without all the extraneous detail.  However, I imagine there are many out there who enjoy things written this way, and you might be one of them.  Let me know if you want to check out the book and/or the DVD.

 

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Noah Primeval (Brian Godawa)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Chronicles of the Nephilim, Book 1.

Ok, time to step off into the fictional arena.  Here we have a really fun book by Mr. Godawa, as he imagines what Jesus Christ meant when He said: "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37).  Godawa’s vision of the times of Noah starts at about age 500 when Noah’s already heard from God that he is to build "a box" and is not really ready to do it, and continues until the flood.  The book hinges on the idea that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are fallen angels, and the Nephilim are the giant offspring of those fallen angels and human women (the daughters of men), which is something I’ve blogged about before.  While this book is obviously full of detail not found in the Bible, Godawa includes several appendices going into detail on why he wrote the story the way he did.  It’s a great ride, and the extra information in the appendices is a great walk through Scripture itself as you look to understand more, and act as a Berean from Acts 17:11.

 

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Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon (Chuck Missler)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Ok, I guess maybe we’re back in the non-fiction arena, but we are still with the semi-bizarre.  Chuck provides for us much detail behind the UFO phenomenon that we’ve most-likely encountered in one way or another during our lives.  For those who spent too much time reading about the phenomenon, there was a lot of repetition in the book that can be skipped, but for those that no little or nothing other than the word "Roswell," there might be a ton of interesting information in here.  The good stuff, which I don’t think he spent enough time on, is at the end, and is something I’ve briefly blogged about before.  Namely, he discusses the idea that the end-times great deception spoken of in Scripture could possibly tie in with UFO and aliens, keeping in mind that if so, these aliens are Satan, his demons, or some creation of them… perhaps in a similar way to the Nephilim during Noah’s time.  Anyway, if you have a desire to learn more, this is certainly an option to check out.

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God is for God

This is the first time I’ve heard Matt Chandler speak, and I’ll be checking out some more at his own church.  This is one of the best sermons I’ve heard in some time.  It’s even more interesting knowing he gave this at Elevation Church’s Code Orange Revival conference.  Take some time to check it out if you can.

 

Matt Chandler – God is for God
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