The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 3 Review

"...all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

“…all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”

In week three we took a trip down to Egypt. Although God’s people had spent 400 years in a foreign land and were under the great burden of slavery, God had not abandoned them nor his plan. He leads them out of Egypt and set them in the direction of the Promised Land.

God did great wonders in their sight, but the people continue to waver between faith and doubt. Not long after God delivered them they turn to false idols. Their great sin is a danger to their on-going existence as God says he’d be tempted to destroy them if he were to be in their midst. But Moses pleads with God to stay because of their sin.

God’s people are a stiff-necked, stubborn, sinful people. But that is all the more reason we are desperate for God to be with us. This longing for God’s presence and guidance is a deep desire within us. Our sin is a barrier, but in Jesus Christ God has done all that was needed to remove our sin making it so that our longings can be fulfilled.

What’s the Difference between Confidence and Arrogance?

I saw this video today and it got me thinking a bit about the nature of confidence, and I think it can tie in nicely with what we’ve been reading about and the confidence we can have as we look ahead to our future. So I thought I’d share.

While I may want to quickly define the difference between confidence and arrogance as the difference between a smile and a smirk, there’s a bit more.

This video makes it a break down between internal and external. Confidence, he says, is internal–a self-belief in which you know you’re good enough (smart enough, and by golly that people like you). Arrogance is external and is about trying to prove to others your worth, often by putting others down.

You regain confidence by knowing how great you are. Again, it’s about what you have in you. “You are amazing.” In this definition confidence is the result of being your own best cheerleader, rather than needing others.

While their may be some good from this pop-psychology, I’d say the confidence we have is actually external. It doesn’t come from within but from one the only one who can give us real value. We’re wired to need something outside ourselves, and it is just a matter of where we look to find it.

At its root, the word confidence means a having a firm trust. It is a self-confidence in the first definition. But the confidence we gain through Christ is external; it is not trust in ourselves. It is a firm conviction of our value and our identity through the eyes of God himself. It is not based on my work, but on the work of Jesus. That is something we can trust in and have true confidence because of.

2 Corinthians 3:4-5
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…

(I first found this video and a discussion about confidence and arrogance here | Lifehacker)

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 2 Review

“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

“Look toward heaven … So shall your offspring be.”

Having established that God does have a plan that we can find and trust within his word, week two brought us along to Abram/Abraham. To Abram God made promises that would drive much of the story of the Old Testament. He would make Abram into a people as numerous as the stars and he would give them a land, and all the blessings God would give would also being a blessing to the whole world.

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. 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. 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.”

Genesis 12:1–3

These and all promises of God ultimately find their fulfillment of Jesus Christ.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 1 Review

"before the foundation of the world..."

“before the foundation of the world…”

We are in the final week of this 10-week reading plan so it is now or never for review. I’d thought we would look back and try to remember each week a bit before we reflect on our final readings.

The idea was to have a plan that in a relatively short time introduced a great, overarching theme of Scripture. I wanted us to see that the Bible is cohesive. God has a plan and has had a plan since the very beginning. And we read this in week one. Before the world was made, God had chosen us in Jesus Christ.

We read this back in Ephesians 1:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Our other readings emphasized that we can actually believe the Bible. We aren’t left in the dark about who God is and what he is up to. God’s word is trustworthy and points us to this great plan God has in Jesus Christ. In reading the Bible we trust that God will continue to speak to us, at times with comfort and at times with very challenging, piercing words. But the whole of it is his inspired word.

Understanding the Vitality of the Letters of the New Testament

Paul writing his letters
Often times we open up the New Testament and read one of the letters thinking that Paul (or Peter, etc) wanted to write a theological pamphlet and send it to whoever would read. Maybe that day Paul was interested in atonement or communion or some other doctrine. So he got to writing his essay, put it in an envelope, and headed to his nearest post office.

While the authors certainly want to be clear on these deeply theological issues, what prompted the letters was very different.

Jesus Christ came to live among a fallen people. He revealed himself to be the Son of God who was ushering in the Kingdom. Jesus performed miracles and taught about new ways of living. He came fulfilling the law and the prophets. Then he went to the cross. Jesus died and then was raised on the third day and continued to open up his disciples minds to understand the Scriptures and how they relate to him. After forty days Jesus ascended to Heaven and gifted his people with the Holy Spirit.

Those early believers, if they truly believed this, must have had questions. It was a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles who wondered what practices of the Old Testament should continue? In what ways should new believers be brought into the community? How did Jesus fulfill the law–did he end it or make it more demanding? What does God want me to do? What if we aren’t good enough and sin? How do I treat others who sin against me? What does the future hold? Is Jesus coming back and if so, when? If Jesus has defeated sin and death why are people still dying? If Jesus has authority over all powers why do we still suffer? How do we relate to those who are making us suffer? What is our purpose?

When you start to understand the context of the early church the letters that were written to them become more energized. The letters weren’t textbooks. They were compassionately written messages to churches needing help and guidance. They were life-giving.

As you read them I hope you see how vital they were and how vital they still can be for the church, a church always in need of being reformed according to our Scripture.

Jesus Christ and the Big Reveal

The Sixth Sense

The movie the Sixth Sense is about a psychologist, Malcolm Crowe, who is trying to help a boy who can see and talk to dead people. It is a standard supernatural thriller, but what makes the movie so powerful is that at the end it is revealed that Crowe has himself been dead the whole time.[1] It is a fantastically surprising ending to the movie and it makes you want to go back and watch again. When I first saw it, I also wanted to take others to the movie so I could see their faces when they figured it out. People’s eyes would get big and their jaws would drop as their mind would try to immediately reprocess the story in light of the stunning reveal.

In watching the movie again you could go back and see all the clues that were there earlier in the movie. Without knowing that Crowe was dead, they hadn’t meant anything to you. But in light of how the story ends, it all seems so perfectly obvious.

As you read the gospels do you get the sense that this is God’s great revealing? God comes to us in Jesus Christ and lives a fully human life in our midst. Jesus reveals God to us and even says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”[2] As if this isn’t already too much for some to handle, Jesus then lives a life that people would never have expected the Messiah to live. Jesus would eventually do what no one ever saw coming, he submitted himself and suffered a criminal’s death on the cross. People, including his closest disciples, were distraught and in despair. Even though Christ had told them what was to come–what you might even call clues–they could not anticipate that God would come among them and then be crucified.

After three confusing days Jesus is raised. He comes and continues to teach his disciples and help them make sense of what had gone on. Jesus then sends us his Holy Spirit to open our eyes and lead us into all truth.

What Jesus did was so world-changing that the early church needed to look at all of life through new lenses. They needed to go back and reprocess their own story in light of the crucifixion and resurrection.

The story that had been handed down and preserved was what we call the Old Testament. So they went back to the beginning and studied it all seeing more clearly what God was doing because they could see by the light of Jesus Christ. The church began to see how everything pointed ahead to the one who would one day come and fulfill and the hopes and needs of the people.

Now that God had been made known in a greater way than ever before, now that the plans of God found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and now that the church was living by the power of the Holy Spirit, they had to go back. If what Jesus Christ said about himself were true, if he really did all he said he did, then Jesus must be there in all of Scripture. People like Paul and the author of Hebrews helped the church to connect the dots and see how the story of God had its climax in Jesus Christ. It isn’t a new story but a continuation and fulfillment of the same story–the story of creation, of Israel, of redemption and forgiveness. But it now makes more sense because of what Jesus has done.

The story continues, though. We continue to look back to Jesus’ works, live for him today, and we await the thrilling conclusion when he will one day return.


  1. I’m sure by now that anyone who has desired to see the Sixth Sense has done so already, so I don’t need to fear spoilers.  ↩

  2. John 14:8–10  ↩

Why does Jesus perform miracles for some, but not for others?

FeedingMultitudes_Bernardo
In Matthew 15 Jesus walks around the Sea of Galilee and then goes up a mountain to sit. But many people have been following him and they bring to Jesus those who were lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many more. Although it seems Jesus is looking for rest, he heals them. Then seeing that these people were hungry, having followed him for three days, Jesus performs another miracle feeding thousands with just a handful of bread and fish.

Surely these were miraculous signs. Yet in Matthew 16 the Pharisees and Sadducees go to Jesus and test him asking for Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus doesn’t seem to have problem performing great works among the people as he goes about his public ministry. But there is purpose behind his actions. Jesus isn’t in the habit of performing party tricks. He heals people who are sick and miraculously feed those who are hungry. Jesus’ power is displayed with purpose and when the religious rulers want to test him and have him do something for their own purposes, Jesus won’t go along with it. He instead tells them that they only sign that they will see is the sign of Jonah. They want a sign of power from heaven, but they will see a surprised when what they see is Jesus dying on the cross and then three days later showing true power over death itself.

In the gospels Jesus is not aimless. He doesn’t drift about seeing which way the wind will take him. He has a mission with clear objectives and appeasing the religious elites is not a part of it. Jesus cares more for those on the outside and actually warns his own about the damaging influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus’ perfection covers our deepest flaws

Sermon on the mount

Last night I was talking with my wife about this week’s readings from Matthew. There are some truly challenging teachings that Jesus has in Matthew 5 and in the following chapters. One line is particularly difficult, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I’ll speak for myself here and say that I don’t measure up.

So what do we make of such a a line? In the conversation I had, my wife looked at it a bit differently and was thinking about how else Jesus could’ve said that. What else was Jesus going to say? What else would Jesus desire for us?

That absolutely should be our aim. Thankfully, when we don’t measure up we have one who does. Jesus Christ fulfilled all the laws demands perfectly for us. His righteousness is all that we could ever need. Whenever we miss the mark we can find comfort knowing that when the Father looks at us we are found in his Son, Jesus Christ.