That's The Book: Acts
I sat in church this morning and was reminded October is Pastor Appreciation month. I thought about what my life would look like without my church. With no pastors or teachers or small group or faithful friends. Pretty bleak. Made me grateful. I've called pastors when life hit so hard I didn't know where to turn. Pastors have led the way. They've held my hand. They've hugged my children. Church has been a rock in my life. I know this isn't everyone's story.
The book of Acts is a riveting, fast paced and sometimes shockingly raw book. It tells the story of what happened to the people who believed in Jesus after they found his tomb empty. Essentially its a story of church.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer". Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believes were together and had everything in common. they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the tempe courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being said. Acts 2:43-47
Small group! Every Wednesday my house is full of people figuring out how the Bible fits in their world. We talk, we laugh, sometimes we cry. We always eat. Never underestimate the power of a good meal. Good for the soul, good for reconciliation, good for building friendships. We pray. If you don't have a group of people who hold you accountable and who hold your hand on bad days and who cheer on good days then find one. Today. Join Celebrate Recovery or Precepts or Bible Study Fellowship. Call your neighborhood church and ask if they have Sunday school classes or coffee bible groups or life groups. Find some people. Commit to them. Eat and pray. If you can't find a group of people shoot me an email and I'll help you find some. Jesus knew we needed people. That's why he built the church.
One of the reasons I go to church is I frequently need some hard truth to change my path. The book of Acts if full of sermons which moved people to change.
"Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and forknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2: 22 -24 and 36-38.
So let's face it - pastors and church's aren't perfect. HA! NOPE. Sometimes they lose their way. Sometimes they let you down. Sometimes they are actually the enemy. Churchs can blow it big time. Exclude people. Hate people. Make people carry more than they can. Gossip, break trust. You name it.
It happened in Acts too. I find great comfort in the fact that the early church leaders didn't sugar coat the start. There was division, complaining, persecution and set backs. Disagreements and discouragement. Read the book, you'll see.
The two primary leaders were Peter and Paul. Remember these guys? Peter had denied Jesus at his time of greatest pain. Paul had actively chased and killed early church members before he himself was dramatically converted. If the early church could trust and grow under a flake and a murderer its because Jesus transforms people. He still does.
Whining happened too. Probably legitimately . The leaders figured it out.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." Acts 6: 1
God helped them work through some racist assumptions too.
Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. But accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" Acts 10:34-35. When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying "So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life." Acts 11:18
Am I saying to follow leaders who have ignored the truth? Hurt people? Abused people? Lied? Of course not. Acts shows great examples of calling out bad teachers and stopping lies. Couple people dropped dead because they lied and were making a mockery of the foundling faith. But Acts also shows the faithful were committed to figuring it out. They met, they prayed, they tried new tactics, they sometimes found new partners. But they didn't give up on the church. And that's what I'd say to you.
Been hurt? Quit church? Bitter and cynical?
Go Back. Find a church. Stick with it.
If you've left church because you are disgusted by problems then go back and help fix them. If you have concerns about racism within the church then go be part of the solution. If you don't see a place for people like you - then go create that space for others. Have hard talks with your leaders, research why you believe what you do and share the information If you've ever been loved by a pastor tell them thank you. Advocate. Don't quit.
If you don't see the point, be encouraged. Here is the beautiful truth of Acts. Jesus went back to heaven but God didn't leave us alone. He gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort. And he gave believers each other. The church collectively is the bride of Christ and he gave us a massive mission. Love each other. Be light. Make disciples. Comfort the hurting. Set free the captives.
Then Peter said: "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. Acts 3:6,8
Its a mission we still are on together. I was talking to one of my pastors this morning. He said he always believe that when God is getting ready to do something powerful in someone's life or in a local church that the devil steps up the pressure. More pressure and heartache and attacks going on in your life? More pressure - more power. Hang in there. The Holy Spirit in on your side.
"If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this; you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is "The stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation Is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:9-13
Oh how I want that in my obituary. Weird thought right? But someone write this down. I want it noted at the end that any courage from this unschooled and ordinary person is astonishing and only because I've been around Jesus. That's it.
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace. Acts 20:24
The church leaders were persecuted, martyred, imprisoned and beat. Happens around the world still today. And here our pastors and teachers face pressures, abuse to their families, disappointment and great pain. You can make a difference. Thank one of them.
Our pastor this morning asked us to think about what our life would look like without Jesus. Mine would be a mess. The best things in my life are from him. The hard things I can do with him. I'm grateful for his gifts. The church hits the top of my list.
It's Pastor Appreciation Month. Need some ideas about how to love on the pastors in your life? This is a good resource. READ HERE. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you note. Or food. Food is good too.
Fire from heaven? Yikes! Find out why Acts is so exciting and why it matters to you. The team at The Bible Project's Read Scripture series on YouTube (say that 5 times fast) is a great overview.
There is a lot going on in the book of Acts. The infographic is helpful.
That's the Book: John
I always read through the That's the Book posts one final time Monday morning before I hit publish. Last week I read my words and paused.
It was terrible.
I had noticed a pattern in the verses of John. There are such a crazy variety of ways people responded to the life of Christ. Kinda interesting. So I read though and grabbed all the stories where it showed how people responded to Jesus. Some people were scared. Some angry. Some were grateful, confused. Some worshipped. Some followed.
I had blogged through these responses and showed how different elements in our society still respond the same ways. I even had some nice tie ins to NFL protests. Should have been okay. It wasn't.
It was boring, a tad smug and a lot depressing. This was not a post I could put up. I had worked super hard, put in lots of hours and it stunk. I missed a deadline.
I put away my computer and wondered how I was going to fix it. Hauled my body into the shower and prayed that God would help me see and help me write something decent.
He whispered into my soul.
You missed Jesus.
I'd read one of the most beautifully written books about Jesus and I'd focused on all the other people. I completely skipped the power and grace and love and hope. I'd focused on fear and anger and confusion. I'd looked at other people, at powerful people, at lost people, at broken people and even at some joyfully found people. But I'd skipped Jesus. No wonder it stunk.
The book of John is the most poetic of the four gospels. It's a powerful book. The language is deep and memorable. John also contains stories not mentioned in the other three gospels. More pictures of Jesus. More love.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
The Word becomes flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Somehow I had blown right by these life giving words and searched instead for people. Sigh. I may do this all the time. Pray for help and then look around to see the people who can fill my need while Jesus is waiting for me to accept his gift. Or I watch people to see if what I did was worthwhile. If I should continue. When who I should be looking at is Jesus.
I do it with the Bible too. And Jesus knows I do.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40
Sometimes I work and hustle and get my big long lists done because I think that's the important work before me. But Jesus really wants the focus to be him.
Jesus answered, The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29
He can meet my needs. Yours too.
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
He can light my path. Yours too.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12
He doesn't want me to worry about the future. You either.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Really. Just remain in him. The rest falls away.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Trouble will come. Of course it will. But he'll be there.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Last week I was chatting with my eldest. I told her I was having a really hard time summing up John. My eleven year old had some advice 'Just tell them what you really think mom'.
I think I'm convicted.
I think I care too much about other people's opinions. I watch other people's responses too often. I think this week my post stunk because I was looking at people and my eyes were off Jesus. I'm just like the crowd who cared more about human praise than what God thinks. Sometimes I'm more like the people who were scared their lives would change so they choose not to follow. I think I read the book about my savior and my eyes were on other people. I think I need to change. I think I better watch Jesus, follow Jesus, love like Jesus.
And about what I write? What do I think? Please. Please. Don't read these words and think you heard from Jesus. I'm a mess. But you can hear his words for yourself. Read John. Just make sure you look for Jesus.
John 3:16 is probably the most well know verse in the entire Bible. I love Max Lucado's book all about this verse.
Need a song today? Here's a good one to settle in with while you read the book of John.
I love John. So much love. The guys at The Bible Project think so too. Check out their Read Scripture YouTube. I seriously have to go meet this team. They are in Portland, Oregon you know?!
This is the fourth gospel. Why do we need one more? I thought it was interesting to compare the four infographics from New Spring Church. Geek out! Look at charts. If you really want to get to know Jesus better spend some time in the book of John. New Spring has a devotional series newspring.cc/studies/john-21-day-guideHERE you can use.
That's the Book: Luke
If you have kids my bet is you've seen Finding Nemo. More than once. Who am I kidding? You probably have it memorized. So you already know the movie is about Nemo, a fish, who gets lost. He spends the whole movie trying to get home. His dad spends the whole movie trying to find them. The movie documents their story.
The book of Luke is the third gospel or story of Jesus. This one was written by a doctor named Luke. He investigated the reports of Jesus and compiled his notes, interviews .songs and information into one text. His stated goal was to help people find Jesus. This is the most detailed of the four accounts and provides extra insight into the people, miracles, wonder and events around Jesus. If you are searching for Jesus let me recommend you start with Luke.
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1: 3-4
As I read Luke this time I thought about where we can find Jesus today. Here are some hints from my read through this week. You want to find Jesus?
Try church: There is a push right now in the Christian world to avoid church and find faith anywhere else. Can I recommend you go back? Church can be a primary place to feed your soul, to encourage other believers and to find out more about Jesus. Luke has a story about when Jesus' parents couldn't find him and Jesus seems shocked they didn't try the temple first. It's a good place to start and a good place to stay plugged in.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke2:49
Try prison: You want to find Jesus? Try the places where people are hurting. My guess is you'll find Jesus there. His ministry was all about helping the hurting. So if you want to find Jesus find someone hurting and try to make a difference. Or find a group of believers already pushing back on the dark in a hospital, homeless camp, jail, brothel or bar. You'll find Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
Try the Lake: Yup. Jesus loved to be near his guys out fishing. Out boating. Walking through fields. Praying in gardens. He knew that nature portrayed the glory of God. Wanna find Jesus? Take a Bible and go for a walk.
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Luke 5:5-6
Look for kids: If you want to see the world like Jesus did then start to volunteer in your church's preschool department. Or borrow your friend's kids and hang out at the zoo. Play with play-dough. Ask them questions. Serve someone weaker and smaller than you. You'll learn about heaven.
Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48
The book of Luke is full of stories of Jesus interacting with and around his world. You'll find him arguing for outcasts. Standing for truth. Welcoming strangers.
Here is the great hope found in the book of Luke. If you seek him- you'll find him.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10
Want to know the better truth? He came to find YOU!
You know in Nemo he was surprised his dad was looking for him. Dad was out the whole time searching for Nemo. Just so he could tell him "Come home kiddo". Do you ever feel like you are searching for God and he's hiding? He's not. He left all the glory of heaven just to come and find you. Read Chapter 15 of Luke if you need a refresher. God's crazy about you and he went to great lengths to find you.
One of the stories in Chapter 15 is of the Prodigal Son? Here's the 2 second version. Rich dad has two sons. Older son does what he's supposed to his whole life. Follows the rules. Younger son takes his inheritance and runs away. Breaks all the rules. Ruins his life. Repents and heads home. Dad throws a party to celebrate because his son has returned. Older son pouts.
I think most people don't notice what happens next. We stop there. We talk about how God welcomes home the wandering messed up sinful son. And he most certainly does. But what happens next makes this church girl so happy. The one who was lost was welcomed home with open great arms to a great party. The elder one was pouting, bad attitude, missing the party. And then.
Dad went to find him too.
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. Luke 15:28
"My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Luke 15:31-32
See? God wants everyone at the party. He wants those lost in the world to come home. AND He wants those lost in judgment and apathy and fear in the church to come to the party. Salvation is for everyone.
You know what's fun about Finding Nemo? It came with a sequel. There was a next step. Same with Luke. Once you find your way home to the father - you are commissioned to the world to find others. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." Luke 5:10
Wowsa. So much info in the book of Luke. If you have time and want a great sum up check out The Bible Project's Read Scripture series. Here are the two they did for the book of Luke.
Infographic?? Here you go!! And check out New Spring Church and their 24 day devotional to go along with the book of Luke. newspring.cc/studies/luke-a-24-day-devotionalREAD HERE. It's a good one.
THAT'S THE BOOK: MARK
My daughters are both taking piano lessons. One of the weekly assignments this year is to listen to a classical piece of music and then write down a personal response. The little one is supposed to write what it makes her feel. Tonight we decided to start with Beethoven's Fifth. Everyone has heard of Beethoven's Fifth but I wondered if they'd ever actually heard it. As the familiar opening Ba Ba Ba Boom played I watched my girls' faces. I listened with fresh ears. Its a very different thing to know of a work of art and to actually take the time to listen to it for yourself.
The book of Mark is the shortest of the four accounts of Jesus' life. Like Beethoven's Fifth, it is packed with action, movement, and big emotions. The book focuses on the power of Jesus and how his life overturned the status quo. As I read through Mark this last week I was thinking about how many people know of Jesus but have never read the book. In pop culture, Jesus is frequently portrayed as meek and mild. Or boring. This is not the Jesus found in Mark.
The beauty of the book of Mark is it calls readers to get to know the whole Jesus. Not just a flat substitute. As I read this week I tried to compare what I think about Jesus with what the story actually told. Here are the things I wrestled with. If you read Mark this week let me know what you think. Where were your preconceived thoughts of Jesus challenged?
If my faith doesn't include the teachings of Jesus which call us to care for the broken hearted, to rescue the lost, to welcome the stranger or to host a dinner party for the most difficult people in your neighborhood than I think I may be following only half of his legacy. A gospel without compassion makes a mockery of Jesus' teachings.
"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
On the flip side, Mark makes it clear Jesus cared about people's behavior and frequently called people to leave their former lifestyles behind them. So while current culture wants my faith to be ONLY about serving the broken while ignoring personal integrity or repentance from sins, I think that's missing half the story. If the church preaches a gospel without repentance it is editing the work of Jesus.
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23
Can I be honest? Sometimes I cringe when I hear mention of end times. It's confusing and can be embarrassing. But then I am disregarding a major sermon topic from Jesus. The entire chapter 13 of Mark is all Jesus' prophecies about the end of the world. And Jesus says the sermon is for everyone. When the church ignores sections of Jesus' teaching because its uncomfortable its like telling God we know better.
"What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13: 37
Honestly we all have our favorite verses and can spin the word to support our particular cause. Me too. Reading Mark is convicting. If I want to know the real Jesus I have to read the whole story and recognize that choosing to follow him may actually undermine my status quo. My power structure. My habits. My preferences. At one point in Mark he does enough miracles in an area that the people become scared and ask Jesus to leave. I understand. It can be scary to follow.
BUT. When people left behind their former lives to follow Jesus they were witness to the miraculous.
The real Jesus was incredible and powerful and joyful - he was a man of deep distress, of sorrow to the point of death, of compassion and courage, of miracles and wonder. Jesus was constantly on the move, teaching, preaching, and healing. He expressed a wide range of emotions including anger, compassion, sorrow, indignation and humor. He taught, healed, walked on water, called a storm with a word. He was tempted by the devil, attended to by angels. He was anointed by a prostitute, had dinner with sinners, gave orders, helped children, prayed, taught. cleared out the temple and rose from the dead. Not mild or boring.
Perhaps my favorite story in Mark is this one.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I love this. Cheer up. On your feet! He's calling you. If you follow, count on adventure.
When I asked my littlest one what Beethoven's Fifth made her feel she said 'What if it made me feel angry, sad and happy?" Well my love. I'd say that's how life works. Rarely are things experienced on one flat plane. It was gorgeous though, Same with Christianity. Scary, uncomfortable, challenging, exciting and beautiful. But I believe its true. The whole thing. Want a faith checkup? Read the book of Mark with fresh eyes.
Another gospel? Same story? Nope. The guys at the Bible Project show in this Read Scripture video why the book of Mark is important and distinct. Watch and learn.
You have no time? Want the big picture. Here you go - courtesy of New Spring Church.
That's The Book: Matthew
Last week our eldest entered middle school. We put her on the bus with the big kids. She went off to school looking a lot like I did at her age. Blue Converse and a pink ESPRIT bag and a smattering of freckles across her nose. As the bus pulled out, I held my five-year-old's hand. I needed the comfort. I prayed my middle schooler wouldn't trip or spill her lunch or get lost or cry. I prayed she would remember what we've taught her about her worth and her character. I prayed she would listen and learn. I prayed she would filter what others tell her through her history. I prayed she'd speak words of life to the people around her.
Welcome back to That's the Book. One of my goals with this feature is to make the Bible accessible for people who have no church background. Each week I'll review one book of the Bible. You'll notice I try to share a little about how I apply the text to my own life. I've found such direction and comfort in this book. I hope you do as well. How is that for a standard heartfelt teacher welcome back to school speech?
In the biggest picture possible the Bible is split into two sections, the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament I covered last year. The Old Testament is split into five major categories. History Books, Law books, Wisdom Books, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. For a review of each you can go HERE.
The Old Testament tells the story of God's grand plan to rescue his creation through the people of Israel. God gave lots of hints throughout the OT books to to how He planned to save the world. The Old Testament says God planned to send a person to save humanity; a savior or Messiah. The OT is full of prophecies about how people could recognize the savior when he came.
The New Testament tells how this plan played out in the life of Jesus and the early church. The New Testament is split into three major sections. The gospels, the letters and prophecy. Today we begin with the first book in the section of the New Testament called the gospels. Gospel means good news. The first 4 books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the story of the life of Jesus. Each book covers the same time in history but from a different point of view. Matthew comes first.
Matthew was a Jewish tax collector. Tax collectors in Israel were considered traitors and thieves. They were Jewish people who agreed to work for the Romans and exact taxes from their countryman. Most of them cheated and took way more money to line their own pockets. Matthew was likely a hated, greedy, lecherous person. Then he met a man named Jesus. His whole life changed. Matthew's account of Jesus' life is written to convince his countryman that the person of Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
I loved going back to school. I liked new clothes, old friends, mountains of books and I really liked when teachers handed out a syllabus. Something nerd in me geeks out with a big organized schedule of what is to come along with a tidy to-do list. I absolutely can not summarize the 28 chapters of Matthew in one blog post. Not possible. It's much more important and effective if you read it yourself. But I would like to point out a few rafter level understandings to watch for as you work through the book. It's your faith journey after all. But these assignments may help you work through the book and learn the very most.
WORDS POINTING TO JESUS:
93 different times the Old Testament is quoted in the book of Matthew. These are used as pointers to the OT prophecies to show how Jesus fulfilled the promises and should be trusted as the savior.I read through Matthew this last week looking just for these markers. Remember word searches? A favorite handout from teachers in those early awkward first days back to school. So try reading through Matthew grabbing all the verses which talk about prophecies being fulfilled. Can you find all 93? Here is one to get you started.
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet; I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world." Matthew 13: 34-25
At one point in the story, Jesus asks his team of guys who have been following him around (church people call them disciples) who they think he is. And Peter's response sums up the point of the entire book of Matthew.
"But what about you?" he asked, "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:15
WORDS FROM JESUS POINTING THE WAY
The second major topic on the book of Matthew is the lessons Jesus himself spoke. In the book of Matthew many of these sermons are filtered through the context of the Old Testament. Jesus wanted people to remember their history while he expanded the lessons. Think of this like the back to school "what did you do over the summer?" assignment. You know your teachers didn't really care about your camping trips or summer vacations. They gave out the question to see if you were paying attention and to get you thinking. Jesus did the same thing. He was calling them to remember their history as a starting point and then he expanded it to fulfill what God's intent was the whole time.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17
Here is one of the examples. See if you can find more.
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate our enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-44
WORDS OF LIFE
I care about what my daughter learns. I dutifully look over her homework and encourage her to do her best. We cheer for good grades and high five when she completes an assignment with excellence. It's not really what I care about the most though. For me, it's all about relationships. If she learns to get along, to stand up for the underdog, to forgive an offense, to stand alone when necessary and to carry herself with character I'll be a thrilled mama. Heavy list isn't it?
I believe it is good to know the context of the book of Matthew. I'll argue understanding how the prophesies of the Old Testament fit makes it easier to understand the message of the New Testament. But those details, while interesting, aren't what is most important. The book of Matthew is about finding a relationship with the very Word of Life. Its why a man like Matthew changed from a greedy tax collector to a committed follower. Its why a person like me writes and prays and cares at all. Its why I pray for my daughter as she walks the halls of her school.
Back to school comes with pressure, homework and high expectations. Jesus has an assignment for you too. Jesus calls you to be light. To love your enemy. To walk in good character. Its a heavy syllabus. Do you need some encouragement? The grading scale is stacked in your favor. Jesus already passed the test.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28
Your assignment today? Matthew is a treasure. Crack the book.
Here we go! If you read along through the Old Testament you'll know I'm a fan of the Bible Project and their Read Scripture YouTube Channel. Here are the two they did for the book of Matthew.
Infographics help me. I'm a visual learner so if I can see it I retain it. You too? Check out New Spring Church and their great collection of Bible Studies and infographics. Here is the one for Matthew.
OH!!!! The summer is almost over. Football season, cozy socks, caramel and pumpkin spice. Hurrah! I'm especially excited this year because That's The Book is going to be back from vacation starting NEXT MONDAY and this year I get to write about JESUS. Happy Day!
If you are new to Quirky Faith then welcome to That's the Book. Every Monday I'll write a short sum up of one book of the Bible. My goal is to give a massively simplified overview with a few personal stories to show how the word of God has impacted my life. I talk to people all the time about the Bible. One of the frequent things people say is they just don't know how to apply what's in the Bible to their real lives. So That's the Book is my attempt to share what reading the Bible and applying it looks like. You may not agree with me all the time (in fact - if you do we probably have a problem).
The other thing I'll share each week is a section called Resources. This is a list of some printable infographics, YouTube videos, music videos, Bible studies, books and other gems I've seen on the same topic. Honestly - these authors, churches, pastors and musicians are probably more helpful than anything I've written so if you only have a few minutes each week spend it reading your Bible yourself. And then the next couple minutes spend with the resources section. If you've still got space I'd love to have your time each Monday this year as we walk through the New Testament.
Up on the That's the Book page are all of last year's posts for each book of the Old Testament. It's been an inspiring journey reading and writing. Hope you find some encouragement to dig into the book yourself.
That's the Book: Zephaniah
It took me a while to write this post. First I got lost in my news feed. The protests in Portland are an angry wreck of a mess. Then I finally kicked in and researched what I was supposed to reading.
Zechariah. Found an amazing sermon. Stayed on task and wrote. Saved. Supposedly. I went back to add some photos and guess what? All my words were gone. HA HA HA HA. Blogging. What a funny game.
Let me be honest. There is entirely too much going on in the book of Zechariah for this blog post to do any sort of justice to the book. Even in a second rewrite. The 10,000 mile up view is that Zechariah was a prophet to the refugees returning to Israel from the captivity in Babylon. It contains nine dreams of symbolic prophecy, some sections of history and several poems.
If you only have time today to read one message on Zechariah quit reading my blog right now and make it Charles Spurgeon's 1877 sermon on Zechariah chapter 9. One of the factors to this blog taking me forever to write is the time I spent reading it, tweeting excerpts and generally bullying my family to read the sermon. Go now. Read it.
You didn't listen did you? Okay. Here you go. First excerpt from Spurgeon's sermon.
Dear Heart, if you are lying in Giant Despair’s castle, if you have been beaten with his crab tree club till every bone in your body is sore and your heart is ready to break, this is the key which will open every lock in Doubting Castle if you can but use it--
I can get stuck there. Despair and Doubt. They are fancy schmancy castles. They host amazing rhetoric. Decent pastimes. Lots of people who agree. Have you ever been a resident? Body sore and heart ready to break? I think the people in Portland today might identify. The people in Israel who Zechariah was sent to give a message certainly knew what despair looked like. Prison too.
One of the themes of the book of Zechariah is God was not pleased with how they were treating each other.
This is what the Lord Almighty said; Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other. But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. Zechariah 7:8-12
Um. Stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. God might not be impressed with us either. Ya think?
Do you know how to get this done? How to get the keys to the Castles of Despair and Doubt?
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:11-12
Oh. I want to be a prisoner of hope. Permanently aligned with love and grace.
Spurgeon's sermon continued.
“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin —even we guilty sinners who have so much sin to be cleansed from! Believing in this Truth, trusting in Jesus, we are “accepted in the Beloved.” How gloriously God has brought some of us forth! We are not now in the pit wherein is no water. We are forever set at liberty and our heart leaps at the very sound of Jesus’ name!"
We are no longer in the pit where there is no water. We have the keys to the prison. If you've been yelling don't be like the people of Israel who refused to listen. Zechariah had some news you should hear.
The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be only one Lord, and his name the only name. Zechariah 14:9
Here's the truth. I have no ability to save anything. Clearly even saving my own blog posts is beyond my ability. My words are worth nothing. But Jesus? He is the Word. He can set you free. Permanently. Become a prisoner of hope.
Here are your resources. You're going to learn a ton and be encouraged if you put a little time in. Watch the Bible Project's Walk Through. Read Charles Spurgeon's sermon. Scroll below. Read the book.
I love when I can sign a worship song and can sing lyrics I recognize from Bible reading.
Chris Tomlin's Whom Shall I Fear? God of Angel Armies.
I liked this book. Brave women. Beautiful story.
That's the Book: Haggai
This was a beautiful weekend. Sunny, time with family, good results from an EKG. Catch your attention? Sure caught mine. Saturday afternoon I felt a weight on my chest. The kind all those Pinterest meme's about women's heart attack symptoms being different than men's tell you not to ignore. So I hauled into the urgent care. Said enough magic words to earn an ambulance ride and full workup at the local ER. Turns out my heart is completely fine. Not sure what happened but might have been a mix of a nasty allergic reaction and a bit of paranoia from too many recent visits to friends and family in the hospital. As I read through the book of Haggai, I'm feeling grateful and paying attention.
In 520 BC the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians. The Israelite people in captivity were given a the opportunity by the Persians to return to Israel. A remnant returned and were using all their time and resources to rebuilding their homes but were completely neglecting rebuilding the temple. Haggai encouraged them to get to work! Gratefully they did. As they worked some of the people were discouraged by the size of this new temple compared to the grand temple of Solomon. Haggai's message was the same. One of encouragement. Be strong. Look to God. Be faithful. Keep working. The future is bright. It's the same message to us.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'" Haggai 1:7
As I'm sitting here this Memorial Day I'm grateful for the sacrifice others have made for my freedom. I'm sickened by recent hateful events and praying for insight to how to respond. I'm pondering work life balance. I'm wondering if I'm sewing seeds of hope around me. I'm thinking through the input I receive in my life. Too much junk food. Too much time online. Considering invitations and motivations. Clearly I need to eat better, exercise more often, detox on technology. Its a time for thought. Here is a list of ten questions you may want to ask yourself. Give careful thought to your ways.
1. Do the people who matter most in my life know that I love them?
2. Do my actions match my faith?
3. Is there someone I need to forgive?
4. Are my habits dragging down my health? or my story? or my family's health?
5. Is there someone I should thank?
6. Am I using all my resources for myself only? What can I cut or give to support what God is doing?
7. Do I have questions I need to trust God to answer?
8. Is my version of success the same as what God wants?
9. Am I vested in heaven? What can I do to be more heaven focused?
10. What do I do to rest, to restore, to renew?
This certainly isn't an exhaustive list. And its not supposed to trigger guilt or frustration or despair. Mindfulness is a way to get to freedom. To peace. To growth.
"Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the Lord, and work. For I am with you," declares the Lord Almighty. 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear."
I love this verse. Broken and weak is useful to God because its where we can be molded and grown. But His instruction for us is to be strong. To work. To not fear. The reason that is all possible is because HE is with us. Be strong and work FOR I am with you. God is the purpose and the power. Can I encourage you today? God wants you to get help. He wants you to ask the hard questions and find the reasons for the stress. He wants you to think and face and ponder the truth. But its because His goal for you is for health. To be mighty for and through Him. Now - just like the people in Haggai's day were distressed because the work of their hands was smaller than they thought it should be - sometimes we forget the long view. God will eventually set all things right. The seeds we sow now may be for eternity not for next week. But the effort will produce results. His spirit remains among us. Wherever we go. Give careful thought.
The team at Read Scripture hits it again. Your choices MATTER. Read and see what Haggai has to do with your story.
I think I need this shirt. You might need one too. Faith Over Fear. He is with you.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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