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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Taking a Break

Well obviously I don't have my notes on Romans up yet. I was talking to a friend on Thursday and I don't think that I am going to do them. Don't get me wrong. I loved Romans and gleaned some really good and important things from it. But there are some reasons that I am not going to put up notes on the epistles.

The big reason is that none of the epistles are stand-alone theology books. Paul, Peter, James, John, etc. are writing to specific people in specific times about specific topics. The danger is in taking a book like Romans and saying "There is Christian doctrine." It's not. And so there are some blanket statements that I read in Romans that I think should have the context of the rest of the New Testament before I consider them correct doctrine.

Concerning the specific topics, when these letters were written they were a lot of the time to correct false beliefs of the church that they were written to. For example in Romans the Jews were trying to put their Jewish laws and traditions on the new Gentile Christians. Therefore, Paul emphasizes our freedom from the law and the fact that the law is to show our sin. But I know that in James, he is dealing with people who are sluggards and are not obeying what Jesus commanded. So James emphasizes works that are brought about by the Spirit. My point is that it could be very dangerous for me to take one letter of the New Testament on it's own without the context of the others. So I'm not going to do that.

So I'm not sure how I am going to write notes on here. I may do something at the end where I write down really important things that I learned from the letters to the churches. We'll see. I'm going through them slowly and methodically so it may be awhile before I finish them. But I would encourage the people who read this to go back and read through these letters (basically Romans-Jude). Even if you have been a Christian for 40 years, there are so things in here that are really emphasized that I don't hear talked about too often. And I think it's important to understand them. But who cares what I think. God thinks it's important to understand them, otherwise why would he put them in the Bible.

That actually makes me think of a conversation I was having with my dad last night. I just got Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book. It's basically a big book that has the basics of nearly every doctrine discussed and explained in it. So I was thumbing through it and talking about it with my dad. I found it interesting that the first section of the book is not the doctrine of God; it is the doctrine of God's Word. As we thought about it that made a lot of sense. If God's Word is not reliable, then the rest of it really doesn't matter. If you don't believe the Scripture, then there is really no reason to read it or try to come up with a belief about God from it. The reason for that is that the Bible believes itself to be true. From Genesis through the end (I've seen it even if I haven't read all of it through) the Bible is written as the Word of God and that is what everyone accepts it as. I've already talked about how Jesus believed that the Scriptures were historically accurate by His references back to Jonah and David and Noah. He talks about them like they were real historical figures. So if they aren't real, then I don't trust Jesus because He was wrong about them.

Here's my point. There are two things that the Bible can be. 1) It can be a book that is not true. 2) It can be a book that is true. If it is not true than it has no purpose besides reading for fun and maybe for some purpose of understanding ancient literature. It's basically of no importance. But if it is true, than it can be taken as nothing less than the words of the Creator of the Universe given to us. And it is of eternal and infinite importance. So the only thing that the Bible cannot be, is kind of important. It is either the most important tangible thing that we have because it reveals who God is or it is of no importance. But it cannot be kind of important.

Just a little rant that my dad and I were having last night. I think that is very important for me to remember though. Everything that I believe stands on the legitimacy of the Bible. If that falls, everything else falls with it.

Soli Deo gloria

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Okay first off, Acts is a narrative. It's very much like one of the historical books in the Old Testament. But it is a narrative dealing primarily with the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. And that is where we'll start.

Acts is about God. Like every other book in this Bible (yes I'm including Leviticus), Acts is about God. Acts is particularly about the work of the Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, after Jesus's ascension into heaven. Now I want to point something out. This is not new. The Holy Spirit didn't magically show up in Acts for the first time in history. We've talked about Him throughout the Bible so far, but more specifically, we talked about His presence in the book of Luke (if you didn't know, Luke and Acts were essentially written as a part 1 and part two of the same story, written by Luke). At the same time, this is an amazing fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus in John 14.

So here is the work of the Spirit in Acts. First, the Holy Spirit is the origin of Scripture (1:16; 3:18; 4:25; 28:25). This isn't a new thing when we read it in 2 Timothy 3:16 or in 2 Peter 1:20-21. Obviously they knew that the writings of the Old Testament writers (Acts mentions Isaiah, David, and "all the prophets"). Next, God's Spirit causes people to speak in tongues (2:4; 10:46; 19:6). The Spirit gives the apostles the power for many signs and wonders (2:43; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6,13b; 13:9-11; 14:3; 15:12; 16:18; 28:3-6), including healing people (3:7; 5:16b; 8:7; 9:40; 14:9-10; 19:11-12; 28:8-9). Also, the Holy Spirit gives boldness to preach the gospel (4:8,31,33; 6:10), speaks directly to people (8:29; 10:19-20; 11:12; 13:2; 15:28-29; 16:6-7; 20:23; 21:4), and prophesies (11:28; 21:9,11). There are a couple more things like comfort that are mentioned a few times. But for the most part, these are the works of the Holy Spirit in Acts. I'm not going to finish this with a disclaimer like: "but He doesn't work like this anymore" because it doesn't say anything like that. After I finish through the Bible I'm sure I will look at some commentaries on this, but until then, I am just relaying what is said. I know that I have never healed someone, spoken in tongues, cast out a demon, prophesied, or heard the Lord audibly talk to me, but I'm not going to say that it doesn't happen just because it hasn't happened to me. That would be ridiculous and nearsighted.

Now I want to talk about my favorite part in Acts, the way Paul preaches the gospel. Only a few times does it actually show him preaching. Much of the time, he is found reasoning with people and proving to them, through the Scriptures, that Jesus is the Christ (18:4,19; 19:8-9). I think that is so cool. He is sitting down there reasoning with these people and discussing things with them.

There are many other things in Acts concerning the church and what they looked like. Often the apostles are shown "preaching and teaching the word of God." Acts 20:17-38 is one of the most emotionally moving things that I have read in the Bible to this point. He is talking to the Ephesian elders and telling them that he probably won't ever see them again. He's giving them instruction about how to conduct themselves and the church. At the end of it they all knelt down to pray together and it says there was much weeping.

Anyway, there is a lot of good stuff in here but it is in little chunks since it is a narrative. I just wanted to give you the main point of what I thought Acts was giving and I believe that it is the work of the Spirit of the Lord. The rest of the things talked about in here (circumcision, salvation by grace alone, election, elders and deacons) will be discussed in the letters so I know I can discuss it in more detail with you there.

Soli Deo gloria

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


John is going to be very difficult to talk about. The reason is that John writes the reasons for Jesus doing almost every thing that He did. It's very theologically packed. I mean there are libraries full of books written on one or two sentences in John (I know I've used that one before, but it fits). So I could sit here and break down each section and talk about all these really important things that Jesus said and did and the reason that He said and did them. But I'm not going to do that. Firstly, because it would take really long. And secondly, because I really don't know what most of them mean. So you will get the large themes of John along with some things that I am working through and trying to iron out.

Disclaimer: I am talking about some things in here that are hotly debated topics. I am prayerfully talking about them in humility. I don't pretend to know everything that the Bible says. By God's grace (not of my own work) I am starting to understand some things by reading through them. But I am only trying to present to you what God says in His Word. So again, I pray that this can be done in humility.

The most important theme of John is that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. John hits this point over and over and over again to the extent that he is hammering it into our heads. He uses Jesus's own claims (1:51; 3:31; 4:25-26; 5:18,27; 6:27,35,41,48,51; 8:12,18,28,58; 9:35-37; 10:11,14,24-25,30,36,38; 11:4,25; 12:23; 13:31; 14:8-11,20; 17:5) along with the claims of the people around Him (1:1,14,29,34,36,4145,49; 4:42; 6:14,69; 7:26,40-41; 10:33; 11:27; 12:13; 19:7; 20:31) to prove this. If you'll read these, you'll notice that a lot of them are Jesus referring to Himself as "the Son of Man." The reason that is a claim to be the Messiah is because He is reaching back to the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14. Daniel says that the Messiah is "one like a son of man." So when Jesus calls Himself this, all of the Jews would know that He is claiming to be the Messiah. (I heard that first from Phill Knuth and checked it in my sister's ESV Study Bible in John 1:51 and it seems to be very reliable.) Also, a lot of them are "I am" statements (e.g. "I am the bread of life, I am the vine, I am the good shepherd," etc.). All of these are referring back to Exodus 3:13-14 when Yahweh tells Moses that His name is "I am." The people knew what He was saying when He said this. John 8:58 is the best example of this. As soon as He said "I am" they picked up rocks to stone Him. Also throughout the book, but especially in John 10:33 and 19:7, you will notice that Jesus was not arrested and killed because He was doing good things; It was for claiming deity. That is the point that John is hammering home in this entire book.

Next is what keeps coming up about believing and eternal life. Obviously John 3:16 is the well-know example, "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That's not the only place that it is found (1:12; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40,47; 8:24; 12:36,46; 16:27; 20:31). So all over the place He is telling us that by believing in Him, we inherit eternal life. But we have to take a broader look at this. Because he says similar statements all throughout the book. In John 3:36, John equates "believing in the Son" to obeying the Son. ("Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.") This does not look at all like John is contrasting the two. He believes that they mean the same thing. In John 6, Jesus keeps saying that whoever believes has eternal life (40,47). Then He says, "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (6:54)." And in verse 57 and 58, "so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me... Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." (He says this right after He calls Himself the bread of life). Again in 8:51 Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." In 10:9 He says, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture." In 14:15 Jesus says again, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." and then goes on to promise the Holy Spirit to those who love Him. Then just read John 14:21-24 because it describes who loves Jesus. Again in 15:10 He says, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." And in verse 14, "You are my friends if you do what I command." And then the last one is in 17:3 as He's praying to the Father, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

These are the statements Jesus makes in John about eternal life. I'm not saying I know what these mean because I don't. All I am saying is that I grew up basically believing that John 3:16 was the only verse in the Bible that Jesus talked about eternal life. At the same time, I don't believe that Jesus contradicts Himself. So the only logical thing that I can come up with is that believing Jesus, obeying Jesus, abiding in Jesus, and loving Jesus are all the same thing. That's all I've got. I'm not trying to rock the boat. I just want to follow God's Word and not come up with things on my own.

The next large theme is the theme of the elect. It runs all the way through the book. In John 1:12-13 He says, "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God." In 5:21 Jesus says, "For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will." Just read John 6:22-71. It is worth the read and is very important to read it in that context. Notice especially verses 37, 44, 63, and 65 (notice that people are offended at this teaching [v 61] and after that "many of his disciples turned back and no longer waked with him [v 66]). In John 8:47 Jesus says this to the Pharisees right after He tells them the devil is their father, "Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." Chapter 10 talks all about Jesus being the good shepherd and keeps talking about His flock and that some are apart of His flock and some aren't. Just read the chapter. It's important to read it all in context. In 12:39-40 Jesus quotes Isaiah when he talks about God blinding their eyes and hardening their hearts lest they understand and turn and be healed. In 14:17, when Jesus is promising the Holy Spirit, He says, "... even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." In 15:15-16 Jesus says "... for all that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you..." (Just a note: I see how that could be debated that He is only talking to the disciples. I'm not hanging my hat on that, I'm just trying to present everything in the book that has that kind of language. Again the same thing could be said in 15:19) In the High Priestly prayer in chapter 17, three times Jesus talks to the Father about those who the Father gave Him out of the world (verses 6,9,24). Verse 9 says, "I am praying for them (referring back to verse 6, whatever that may mean). I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." And that is the last that we hear from John on this topic.

Obviously I'm trying to be very careful with these Scriptures. The reason is that I realize it is very much against today's culture and against our instinct to believe these things (that the Father chooses who are His and who aren't). What I am trying to do is put all of the Scripture in front of you that talks about this and not just try to give my opinion. I have the advantage of being able to read all of this in context, so I would beg all of you to go back and read it in context. I am not trying to push my agenda. I am trying to be true to the words that God has given us about Himself. At the same time, I have no problem discussing it with anyone, so feel free to shoot me an email or something.

the next big thing is the promise of the Holy Spirit in chapters 14, 15, and 16. I want to point out two things. The first is that Jesus calls the Spirit, "the Helper." I don't know what exactly that means, I just find it interesting. The second thing is that in 16:7, Jesus says that it is to our advantage for Him to leave because that means the Spirit will come. That is amazing. Next is something that I know I have to mention because it jumped out at me. It is in John 14:12, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works that these will he do, because I am going to the Father." I just find that interesting because I don't know what He is talking about. I know that later in the New Testament Paul talks about healing and gifts like that, but we have pretty much done away with those. We say that they aren't for this culture or time or something. But when Jesus says "whoever believes in me" I assume that that means all times. Like I said, I don't know that this means. I'm just trying to put it all on the table.

Well that's it. Yes I realize that was a lot. John is a very full book. I hope that if nothing else this challenged you to look at the Word and see what it says instead of just assuming that we all know what it says. And I can honestly say that I don't know what most of this means. I'm praying for enlightenment from the Spirit and praying that He gives me understanding, but I don't understand it all. So I am praying that He continues to give me understanding and continues to sanctify me into Christ's image. Now onto the rest of the New Testament.

Soli Deo gloria

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Purpose to Be Absolutely His

"I claim no right to myself - no right to this understanding, this will, these affections that are in me; neither do I have any right to this body or its members - no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears, or eyes. I have given myself clear away and not retained anything of my own. I have been to God this morning and told Him I have given myself wholly to Him. I have given every power, so that for the future I claim no right to myself in any respect. I have expressly promised Him, for by His grace I will not fail. I take Him as my whole portion and felicity (happiness), looking upon nothing else as any part of my happiness. His law is the constant rule of my obedience. I will fight with all my might against the world, the flesh, and the devil to the end of my life. I will adhere to the faith of the Gospel, however hazardous and difficult the profession and practice of it may be. I receive the blessed Spirit as my Teacher, Sanctifier, and only Comforter, and cherish all admonitions to enlighten, purify, confirm, comfort, and assist me. This I have done. I pray God, for the sake of others, to look upon this as a self-dedication, and receive me as His own. Henceforth, I am not to act in any respect as my own. I shall act as my own if I ever make use of any of my powers to do anything that is not to the glory of God, or to fail to make the glorifying of Him my whole and entire business. If I murmur in the least at afflictions; if I am in any way uncharitable; if I revenge my own case; if I do anything purely to please myself, or omit anything because it is a great denial; if I trust to myself; if I take any praise for any good which Christ does by me; or if I am in any way proud, I shall act as my own and not God's. I purpose to be absolutely His." -Jonathan Edwards


First and foremost, I want to make it clear that Luke is about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to fulfill the Scriptures (24:44-47). This is slammed into our heads throughout the book, and Luke always comes back to it (9:21-22; 18:31-32; 24:7). And when Jesus talks about proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God (4:43; 9:2,60; 16:16), I believe that He is the good news that He is talking about (11:20; 17:21). I say all of that because I have a lot of things to say about Luke. They are about what Jesus stresses in the things that He says to His disciples and to the crowds, but know that what He stresses more than anything is that He is the Messiah and He came to proclaim His gospel.

In order to hit that point home a little bit, I'd like to share something that I learned this week. I had been making sure to underline any point in the gospels that Jesus or someone else claimed that He was the Messiah or the Son of God. Then as I was sitting, listening to one of my friends teach a class at church, he brought up this point. Jesus keeps referring to Himself as "the Son of Man." In fact, He calls Himself by that name like 80 times in the gospel accounts. I didn't catch this, but He is referring back to Daniel 7:13-14 (that's not just a guess my friend had, it's well-known apparently). This is a prophecy about the Messiah in which Daniel calls the Ancient of Days "one like a son of man." Apparently this would have been obvious to the people of that day, especially people like the Pharisees would studied every prophecy there ever was about the Messiah. So every time that Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man, He is claiming to them that He is the Messiah.

Now, let's talks about the themes that come out in what Jesus says in Luke. There are many things that keep being referred to, but there are two in particular that just jump out and I want to talk about a little. The first is the theme that has run through the Bible of God working through the weak and poor (We've talked about this before and referenced Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2, go back and look at the third paragraph in my notes on 1 Samuel). This theme is hammered into our heads in Luke. This makes sense because Luke was a Gentile. Actually, he was the only known Gentile to write a book of the Bible. Some of the places that he emphasizes this are 2:10,32; 4:25-29; 7:9; 17:16b; 20:16-17; 21:24. And those are just the passages that talk about the Gentiles. It seems that every single healing was done to someone that society deemed as worthless (lepers, women, widows, blind, cripples, children, poor). And that is only the half of it. He doesn't stop at lifting up the weak; He puts down the strong. The Pharisees are His main opposition throughout the book, and they are probably the most well thought of people in the Jewish community. The Parable of the Banquet is another perfect example, along with the good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich young ruler of how Jesus puts down people who would be considered good.

Here is my point. The things that Jesus was saying were not intuitive. They were completely unprecedented. That is why all of these sayings are met with awe and bewilderment. The rich were the good people and the poor were not. It would have never occurred to them that God did not think the same way. Did you see the disciples' reaction to the rich young ruler? They couldn't believe it. If the rich can't get into heaven then who can? Jesus continually says these things like "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (14:11)" and "For he who is least among you all is the one who will be great (9:48b)." He says this all the time to His disciples. This is weird. And I don't just mean it was weird then; it is just as weird today, if not more so. This is weird even among our Christian culture. Even in the "selfless things" I do, they are normally so that people will think well of me and lift me up. I am looking to exalt myself. Jesus is telling us things that are FOOLISH in our minds. People do not think this way. And He says it over and over and over again. To wrap it up, the way that Jesus taught us to view ourselves is completely radical and life-altering. It is impossible to tack Him on and have no change, and it is impossible to be a disciple of Jesus and not look profoundly different than the rest of the world.

The next stress that Jesus has is found in Luke 9:23-26, 57-62, and 14:25-33. This is not talked about very much. We don't like it because it sounds like a works based salvation. Either that or we just don't want to hear it because it would mess some things up for us. Here are the passages:

•And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

•As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

•Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Just think about those things that God just said for a minute. I'm not sure about you, but those are not what I see in my life. I haven't given up everything. And we are so quick to say "Well He didn't actually mean you have to give it up. You just have to be willing to give it up." I don't think that's what He's saying. And I don't think that because it's not what He said. He said right there in verse 33 of Luke 14, "So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce everything that he has cannot be my disciple." I have to give it all up. I'm not saying that I have to get rid of all of my stuff, but I have to give it all up. It is not mine anymore. Later in the Bible Paul calls us slaves quite a bit. A slave does not own anything. He takes care of some things, but they belong to his Master. And again we want to say, "No I can keep my stuff, I just have to be willing to give it up." Well that may be true, but I can promise you right now that I have not renounced what I have. Because if I had given it all up to Jesus, I wouldn't buy the things that I buy. I wouldn't spend my time doing the things that I spend my time doing. I wouldn't spend most of my energy trying to attain comfort. Just think about that for a little bit. I know it has been heavy on my mind for the past few days. Pray about it. I'm not offering up any answers to questions. I have plenty of my own questions to answer. The thing that we have to ask is this: Is He worth it? Because this is not a price paid for the gift. It is a reaction that must take place because we have been given a gift that we could not buy. Jesus tells us to look at Him and decide if He is worth it. So is He?

It's kind of hard to transition from that, but I'll just keep going. The other themes from Matthew and Mark are upheld in Luke. Old Testament Scripture is all over the place. Jesus makes it obvious (and even rejoices) that we cannot understand His Gospel unless the Father allows us to (10:21-22).

Something that is different than the other gospel accounts is the emphasis on the Holy Spirit. He is especially prevalent towards the beginning of the book. It is obvious that Jesus lived His life on earth in the power of the Spirit (4:14) which I had not thought about much.

One other thing that is important to note is that Jesus points something out after His resurrection that is vital. On the road to Emmaus (24:25-27) and then when He appears to His disciples (24:44-45), He points out to them that all of the Scriptures (Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms) are about Him. All of it points to Jesus. That is very important. And it's becoming more and more obvious to me as I read.

That's all I have. Obviously Luke was a pretty eye-opening book for me. There were some things that I have seen, but I just didn't notice until now. Obviously the three passages about the cost of discipleship dominated a lot of my feelings on Luke. Since I have read this stuff, I started to look at some of David Platt's sermons because I know he talked about Luke 9:57-62 in that sermon that Dayton sent me. So I found this series that he preached a couple years ago. I've listened to two of them now. He's hitting very good points. I'd recommend that you listen to them, because He explains these things way better than I can. I hope that this challenges you. And I want it to encourage you but I want to be careful about that. I want it to point you toward Christ. The last thing I want to do is encourage people to keep living the way they are living if it doesn't line up with Scripture. So I pray that this points you toward Yahweh.

Soli Deo gloria

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Mark is very different from Matthew in how it is written, but tells the same story and emphasizes the same things for the most part. Mark is extremely concise (only 16 chapters whereas Matthew has 28). The reason for this is probably connected to when they were written. Mark was the first of the gospel accounts (written in about 65 A.D.). So it makes sense that it would be the most to-the-point of the three synoptic (general summary; Matthew, Mark, Luke) gospels. There is a sense of urgency to Mark's story. Forty-one times he begins a sentence with "and immediately." The way that he writes makes everything seem like it is connected.

Mark begins with the most important thing in the book: the book is about Jesus, who is the Son of God (1:1). And right away he shows that prophecy of scripture is being fulfilled. He jumps right into Jesus's ministry as opposed to Matthew or Luke who give a lot of background first.

The biggest thing that I saw in Mark is that everything seemed to center around Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection. Three times He tells His disciples that these things have to happen (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34), and every time they just don't understand (8:32; 9:32; 10:35-37). And after each time of them not getting it, Jesus talks to either them or the large crowds about having to follow after His humility and suffering (8:34-38; 9:33-37; 10:35-45).

Obviously there are other things in here but those are the things that stuck out to me after reading both Mark and Matthew. I have a few questions for people who have studied these things. First, what is up with the signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24 and Mark 13)? Have these things happened yet? A lot of it seems to not line up in the way that I am looking at it. I just really don't get it. (Yes Jr I am asking you if you know anything about it.) Next is the ending in Mark. I have no idea how trusting I should be of the last twelve verses in brackets in Mark. How much of a question is there regarding that ending? Just a few questions that I was unsure about and I'm sure will come up later on.

Next is Luke. This is the format the rest of the gospel accounts will probably take now, me contrasting what I saw and just noting new things. The themes of fulfilling OT scripture, God using the weak to confound the strong, and God being the one who allows us to come to Him were all still in Mark. I just was looking for different things. I am guessing that I will find a few in Luke since it is so long. And I know that there will be a lot in John because it is so different.

Soli Deo gloria

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Wow. I could not have prepared myself for the reading of the first gospel. Reading it in light of the entire Old Testament made it so much different than any other time that I have read it. So amazing. Reading the suffering of Jesus in chapter 27 was one of the most emotional things I have ever done. But I will just go through as best I can and hit on some things that stuck out to me. I think that will be the best way of doing this since most of you have heard the story of Jesus over and over again in your life. And honestly me summing up the whole thing wouldn't do it a lick of justice.

The most noticeable thing for me in the entire book was how hard Jesus's teachings are to understand. I could study those for years on end and still never get them. (But I still plan on doing just that.) They are just not things that are common sense type things. The wording in them just seemed to be so difficult to understand. Ones that were really hard for me to follow were 9:14-17; 10:34-39; 12:22-32; 22:1-14. Those were just some that I read and I was like "What the heck does that have to do with anything?" I'm sure more study and prayer will help though. And possibly seeing them in the other gospels will be beneficial too.

The next thing that I noticed was the amazing connections to the Old Testament that both Matthew and Jesus had. Ten times Matthew says "This was to fulfill what was written" and then quotes an Old Testament text (1:22; 2:6,15,17; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9). And eighteen times Jesus quotes the Old Testament (4:4,7,10; 11:10; 13:14-15; 15:4,8-9; 19:5, 18-19; 21:13,16,42; 22:32,37,44; 23:39; 26:31; 27:46). What may mean even more is how he refers to the Old Testament characters. I have heard it said many times that the stories of Jonah and Noah may or may not be historically accurate. And most people say it doesn't really matter whether they are or not. Well I'd say that it matters because Jesus obviously believed them to be true. He spoke of Jonah (12:38-41; 16:4), Solomon (12:42), Daniel (24:15), and Noah (24:37-39) as if they were historical fact and it doesn't even seem debatable. My point is that Jesus believed the Old Testament account to be factual and He put an amazing amount of stock in it.

A theme that is picked up from the entire Old Testament is the theme of Yahweh using the weak or lowly to confound the strong or self-righteous (this is found most explicitly in Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2). Jesus goes to the children, the tax collectors, the sick, the poor, the diseased, even the Gentiles (15:21-28). These are the people He chooses to reveal the kingdom to. Not the intellectual Pharisees or to the upper class. He again (like always) is using the foolish to confound the wise.

This next note was something that I did not expect, but it was very obvious from the reading. The theme of Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:26-27 is carried on here to the fullest extent. In both of those passages it is obvious that the work is done by Yahweh. He changes the hearts of stone to hearts of flesh so that the people may be obedient to His ways. That is continued in Matthew. The places where it is seen are 11:25-27; 13:11; 16:17; 19:11; 20:1-16 [esp. v 15]; 22:14. Notice that God gives understanding to whomever He chooses. I know that not very many people like this. Jesus knew that this was an offensive teaching (John 6:60-61). I am not trying to push an agenda. I am telling you what is on the pages in front of me and trying to relay God's Word to the people around me.

The last big thing to stick out to me was the offense for which Jesus was actually crucified. It is very plain in Matthew 26:65 that the charge against Jesus was blasphemy. He claimed that He was Yahweh. That is why the Pharisees hated Him. Not because He was more popular. Not because He taught true brotherhood. Not because He was a good teacher. Jesus Christ was killed because He believed Himself to be Yahweh. There is no way of getting around that and I know for a fact that this shows up way more in John's gospel.

This is all that I have for you. I know it is a bit different than the notes on the minor prophets and the other books of the Old Testament. I can't promise that I will stick to this style. I probably will at least in the gospels but we will see. As I have said before, this is meant to challenge you. Don't just sit back and think that everything is hunky dory and you've got it all figured out (or even that you've got it figured out that you don't need to have everything figured out). Open up your Bible and read it. This is what we base our entire Christian faith and all our beliefs about God on. It's important.

Soli Deo gloria

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How the Gospel Changes Us

I just listened to the Timothy Keller sermon "How the Gospel Changes Us" again. If I could recommend one sermon to a believer, it would be that sermon (granted I haven't heard a whole ton of sermons). It is so extremely important to get. I am still processing and probably need to listen to it again in the morning. But please sit down for an hour or so sometime this week (probably Sunday because that is most people's least stressful day) and listen to this sermon. Take notes. It'll be much easier to follow and remember that way.

Also, there is a section at the end (from the 44:50 mark to about 50:30) where Keller talks about a concept that Jonathan Edwards wrote about in a book called "The Nature of True Virtue." The concept is common virtue vs. true virtue. It is amazingly obvious to your mind once he explains it. I took a page of notes on that section alone. In fact, I would suggest that common virtue is what is most often taught in churches and Christian circles. It was awesome for me to hear it and like I said I am still processing it and will be for a long time.

I hope that has intrigued you enough to listen to this. Seriously, an hour out of your day to blow your mind and see your motivations for doing things in a whole new light. I think that is worth it.

Also, if you want to keep digging into this topic, a friend of mine gave me an article that Keller wrote titled "The Centrality of the Gospel." I haven't read all of it yet, but I plan on diving into it tomorrow if I have time. Thanks for listening. As always I hope this points you to Christ and His surpassing worth.

Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Intertestamental Period

Well, I'm done with the Old Testament. Wow. What a crazy trip through. Most of those things, probably the vast majority, were things that I have never read. It is pretty cool to know that I have read it all now. At the same time, I know that I want to read it again. There were a lot of things that I read and I knew that I didn't have the time I wanted to really look into (Daniel for example), and also there were times that I just wasn't awake enough as I read stuff and I knew it. But I do want to go back to a lot of that at some point.

Even in my deficiencies, the illumination of the Holy Spirit was amazing. I understood some things that I have no reason to understand. I remembered things that I don't even remember learning (connections between certain passages and concepts in the New and Old Testaments). I'm sure it will take awhile to really sink in but I have learned so much in the past five months.

Now I am moving on. I'll start Matthew tomorrow morning. And I can't tell you how excited I am. I got giddy with a sentence or two talking about the coming of the Messiah in the prophets. Now I get to read four books in a row that are about Christ through and through. Pray for me as I read. Pray that the Spirit would keep me focused and give me an understanding that is beyond my human mind.

Now a little housekeeping. I'm not sure exactly how I will put up notes on the New Testament books. If I note every little thing I will have twenty pages to put up here for each gospel. I think what I will do is note key themes. I can't give a summary of every parable but maybe a theme in the parables as a whole. The smaller books might come out a bit differently. Honestly, I don't know what exactly will happen. Matthew will tell me a lot about how everything will look in my notes. So just roll with me on this one for awhile.

Thank you for all of the encouragement that all of you have given me over the past several months. It really is encouraging to hear how many of you have been encouraged by my notes on this site. It's also very humbling when I think about how much grace God has shed on me. I don't deserve this. None of this encouragement is from me. It's a gift from God. Amazing. I continue to praise Him for the amazing things that He keeps teaching me through His Word.

All for His glory,

Also just a little note. Don't be afraid to ask me about why I do things. I don't mind at all. I want people to. I know that some people are confused as to why I keep writing Yahweh in place of the LORD. The reason is that in Exodus 3:15, in the story of Moses and the burning bush, my footnotes say that the times when "the LORD" is used it stands for the divine name YHWH, which is connected to the verb "to be" in verse 14. So it is a name. I think a big reason that I depersonalize God is that I see Him just called God or the Lord. Well this is His name. Yahweh. It continually reminds me of that covenant God of Abraham and Moses and David. So that's why I do it. Again, just ask me about anything else. I don't explain things well all the time.


Malachi centers around the question of Yahweh's love for Israel. This is spelled out in the second verse of chapter 1. I noticed right away that God's answer as to how He loves Israel is the verse quoted in Romans 9, "I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated." I just like to read this side of those Old Testament quotes. Anyway, it seems as if Israel asks Yahweh "How have you loved us?" and it opens the door to Yahweh telling them how terrible a job they have done of loving Him (the core of everything about Israel's relationship with Yahweh, Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

So in verse 6 of chapter 1, Yahweh asks them, "If I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?" He goes on to tell them all the ways that they have failed at loving Him. Their offerings are polluted, blind, lame, and sick (remember all the emphasis in Leviticus on sacrifices being unblemished?). When talking to the priests in chapter 2, He points back to Levi, the father of the priests. He says that Levi "feared Him and stood in awe of His name." Basically Yahweh is telling the priests that they were set aside for a purpose and they are doing a terrible job.

In chapter 2 verse 10, Malachi begins to speak instead of Yahweh directly. He attacks Judah's disobedience of the covenant all the way back to Moses. They have taken foreign wives and ignored their own (2:11,16). Verse 17 now brings up something very interesting and something completely relevant to today. I'll just read it.

"You have wearied Yahweh with your words. But you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of Yahweh, and He delights in them.' Or by asking, 'Where is the God of justice?'"

Does that sound familiar. How many people in the world will say that we're all good in God's sight. Everyone is okay. That it is self-righteous and exclusive to say that you need Jesus to not experience God's wrath. If you haven't heard this you haven't been listening. This is a huge thing. No one wants to acknowledge that we cannot be okay with God. And the next question is ironic considering the first statement. "Where is the God of justice?" We have two ends of the spectrum here and they almost always end up being the same people. People will say that we are all okay with God and then scream for Him to be fair when someone else gets something we think we deserve or we get pain in our lives. These people are operating under the assumption that they are deserving of something other than the wrath of God. That would be just. That is what our evil has earned us. Okay rant over. Sorry I got into a little there.

The next part is another awesome promise of the Messiah. First John the Baptist is promised and then Christ. Here He is called "the messenger of the covenant." Interesting considering all the breaking of the covenant that is coming out in this book. Malachi calls Him a refiner's fire, who will purify the sons of Levi. The end of chapter 3 is another dispute between Yahweh and Israel. Yahweh is upset because the people are withholding their tithe. He is upset because it is showing a lack of trust in Him (3:10). He even challenges them to test Him on whether or not He will bless them.

And finally in chapter 4, it is the coming of Yahweh. This is not talking about this first coming of Christ, but His second coming in wrath against "the arrogant and evildoers." He gives hope to those "who fear His name" by telling them that they will tread down the wicked under the soles of their feet. The last three verses are a call to remember the law of Moses and then a prophecy that Elijah will return before the day that Yahweh comes. We know this now to be John the Baptist.

Well, I am done with the Old Testament. I'm going to write something about it in just a bit and then maybe a look into what will happen in my reading of the New Testament. Again, I hope that this is cause enough for some of you to read the things that I am reading.

All for His glory,


Zechariah was a long book. Well I guess fourteen chapters is long when all the rest of them have been two and three lately. This book is again about the rebuilding of the temple.

The first six verses are a call to return to Yahweh (because their fathers had refused to). The cool part is that they did repent (v 6). The next six chapters (1-6) describe eight visions that Yahweh gives to Zechariah, all of which are then interpreted by an angel of Yahweh (1:9). The first vision (1:7-17) tells that Yahweh is returning to Jerusalem, therefore the people should not rest but rebuild His temple. In the second (1:18-21), God says that He will use nations to terrify the nations who came against Judah. The third vision (2:1-13) is of a man with a measuring stick in Jerusalem. It is basically about how prosperous the city will be, so much so that it cannot be measured. The next vision is very cool. It is a picture of the new high priest in dirty clothes, but Yahweh takes away his iniquity (3:4) and gives him pure clothes. And in verse 8, the coming of Christ, the Branch, is promised.

The fifth vision (4:1-14) is also pretty amazing. It is meant to encourage Zerubbabel. In 4:6, Yahweh acknowledges that this (the rebuilding of the temple) can't be done by the might or power of human hands, "but by His Spirit." And He promises that to Zerubbabel. Vision six banishes evil from Judah. The seventh vision banishes wickedness from Judah and kind of cleverly sends it to Babylon (where they were banished before). And the horses come up again in the eighth vision, patrolling the earth.

Chapters 7 and 8 talk about the real reason for fasting. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 talk about the coming of Christ, the king, the cornerstone, the shepherd. And in 11:6 He even talks about how He will be slaughtered. Chapters 12 and 13 also talk about the death of Messiah (12:10 and 13:7). And then chapter 14 talks about the final triumph of Yahweh.

Zechariah is a very interesting book. Again, it deals with the rebuilding of Yahweh's temple in Jerusalem. The promise of the coming Messiah is so awesome to see here though. I'm only one book away. I'm glad I don't have to wait 400 years like they did.

All for His glory,

Monday, July 5, 2010


Haggai is pretty cool because it deals with Deuteronomy 28. The books starts out with Yahweh telling His people that they need to rebuild the temple. They stopped the rebuilding to build their own houses, but almost twenty years had passed since then and they still had not rebuilt the temple. What's intriguing is that God connects it to their terrible "luck" lately. They have had sown much and harvested little. They never have enough. God tells them to "consider their ways." Basically in 5-6 and 9-11 God is telling them that He has been cursing their work because they have not rebuilt His temple. This is one of the curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28.

What happens next is crazy and it is the only time I have seen it in these minor prophets. The people obey. Zerubbabel and the rest of the people obey Haggai's word and fear Yahweh (1:12). And by God's grace (1:14) they began to work.

At the start of chapter 2, it gives a picture that the old people are disappointed. They saw the temple that Solomon build and this one pales in comparison. But God addresses the problem. He tells them to be strong, according to the covenant He made with them when He brought them out of Egypt. Then He promises that the latter glory of this temple will be greater than that of the former (2:9). That latter temple that He is referring to is Jesus. That's what it seems like to me though. I suppose it could mean the temple that Ezekiel had visions of that is still to come, but Jesus's words in Matthew 12 make me think that He means Himself to be that temple.

Chapter 2:10-19 is a cool passage because it is showing Yahweh turning back His curse from them. And then verses 20-23 are words to Zerubbabel promising that he (meaning Jesus) will be Yahweh's signet ring. We can assume that He is not meaning Zerubbabel directly, but his line, which is the line of David.

It is pretty awesome to see these images of Christ given way back, over 500 years before He came.

All for His glory,


Zephaniah seemed pretty straight forward to me. The How to Read the Bible book said that it was very confusing but it seemed okay to me. The basic plot is judgment against both Judah and the surrounding nations. Now Fee and Stuart said that the opening lines of the book are meant to be hyperbole, but in light of the rest of the judgments, it doesn't seem that way to me. At the same time, I realize that I am reading this for the first time and they both have Ph D's in study of the Bible. So just to let you know, the experts don't take these first lines literally.

The first few lines echo the pronouncement of the flood in Genesis 6. God says He will "utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth." The oracles against Judah goes to verse 6. After that "the day of Yahweh" is described with respect to Jerusalem through the end of chapter 1. Chapter 2 begins with a plea for Judah to repent so that Yahweh might not put His wrath on them (2:1-3). The rest of the chapter is oracles against the nations (Philistines, Moabites and Ammonites, Cushites, and Assyrians). Then the oracle against Jerusalem comes in 3:1-8. There are three things to point out in this section. First, is that a remnant from Judah will be blessed (2:7,9b). Second is what Judah will be judged for (3:1-4). And third is that Yahweh again pleas for them to repent, but it is obvious that they refuse (3:7).

The end of the book is the hope that is regular in most of these prophetic books by now. Judah will be judged, but a remnant will be saved. The language of verse 9 reminds me of Ezekiel 36:26-27. "I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of Yahweh and serve Him with one accord." It is so awesome to see that. And it is also important to remember that His changing of our speech (or hearts in Ezekiel) is what allows us to call on His name. Oh the amazing grace of our God.

All for His glory,


Habakkuk asks the question that everyone wants to know the answer to, just as much today as they did back then: "Why do the wicked prosper?" Habakkuk knows Yahweh's character. He asks Him how long He will hold off His justice and how long the law will be paralyzed (1:2-4). God's answer is not a satisfactory one in Habakkuk's eyes. He says that Babylon will exact His judgment on the surrounding nations (1:6). To Habakkuk, this is not helping anything. God is just using a wicked nation to take out other nations that are more righteous than them (1:13). Yahweh's next answer comes in 2:2-5. He tells Habakkuk to wait. He knows that it seems slow (2:3), but justice will surely come. Babylon will be judged for their evil. And He tells Habakkuk something very important- Paul even uses this phrase in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38- "The righteous shall live by faith."

That seems to be the summary of Yahweh's answer to Habakkuk. I know that it is hard and it seems like justice will never be served, but be patient. It will come. The righteous will trust in Me and have faith that I will do what I said I will do.

The rest of chapter 2 is a woe to Babylon. It's interesting that none of this has happened yet though. God just told Habakkuk that He would use Babylon later in His judgment on surrounding nations, then He proclaims His judgment on Babylon for the things they did in that judgment. Well they haven't done it yet. I don't know. I just thought that was interesting.

Finally, Habakkuk ends with a psalm to Yahweh. He remembers Yahweh's faithfulness in the exodus from Egypt. And the end of the book is so awesome. I'll just write it out.
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor the fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in Yahweh;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like deer's;
He makes me tread on my high places.

This is so awesome. Habakkuk says that even when things are not going well, even when I am not being "blessed," I will take joy in the God of my salvation. That is awesome.

Habakkuk again, does not follow the general pattern of the other prophets. This is more of a dialogue between him and Yahweh than it is an oracle. But it's very important because, as I mentioned at the beginning, this question is asked even today. The answer is hard to handle but comforting as well, wait on Yahweh.

All for His glory,


Well I'm glad to say that Nahum was a lot easier to understand than Micah. It was only three chapters so that was nice. But it's very interesting because it is an oracle against Nineveh, the same Nineveh that repented when Jonah prophesied against them. This is a later time than Jonah, so apparently they didn't stick to that change of heart.

Anyway, Nahum is an oracle against Nineveh as it says in the opening line. What comes after that though is very interesting. There is no word from Yahweh right off the bat. Verses 2-10 are just a general overview of Yahweh's character. It's very cool to see. It's like Nahum takes a minute to tell Nineveh (which I assume here means all of Assyria) and Judah what kind of god they are dealing with here. Go through and read 1:2-10 if you get a chance.

After that introduction comes the oracle against Ninveh. Nahum jumps back and forth though, between pronouncing destruction for Nineveh and deliverance for Judah, which will both happen in the same act. That is important because of what God promised Abraham in that first covenant for Israel, that He would curse anyone who cursed Israel (Genesis 12:3). Chapter 2 then begins the description of Assyria's destruction. It describes a "scatterer" who will be the destroyer. We know this to be Babylon. So this also goes back and forth between Babylon's army and Assyria's. Assyria's is in disarray (2:5-7). And then quite a bit of chapter 3 is Nahum mocking the Assyrians.

This is important because it is one of the oracles that fulfills Genesis 12:3 and it also shows that Yahweh is lord over all the nations of the earth.


As I write this I want you to know that I have been having a really hard time in the minor prophets. They are hard to follow. It seems like they jump all over the place and switch topics and people so quickly. In reality I realize that these oracles are probably years apart and they are not as compact and all over the place as they look to me. But they have still been difficult to follow. So my summaries for all of these are probably not the best. I'm trying to make sure I pick up on things that jump out, but I don't always do that. Anyway, just thought I'd let you know that I'm not flying through these.

The theme of Micah seems to be social injustice. The people are oppressing the poor and Yahweh's reaction to it is pretty major (1:8-9). So because of their sins (1:5,13; 3:4; 6:7,13,16; 7:9,13), Yahweh will pour out His wrath on them. The people who are singled out are the leaders and the prophets (chapter 3). And this is what I mean about the confusion. In the midst of all of this, suddenly Micah starts talking about Christ. In chapter 4, he talks about how Christ will come and many will come to Him for His teaching. He says the law and the word of Yahweh will come forth from Jerusalem (4:2). He also says that Jesus will be the one who judges the nations. The beginning of chapter 5 talks about how Jesus will be born in Bethlehem and then how Israel's adversaries will be punished. But then in chapter 6 he goes back to Yahweh's indictment of Israel, this time in the form of a courtroom scene. So then there is more destruction and more wrath. Then the last few verses are a praise of God's character (7:18-20).

Yes, I know that this didn't clear anything up for you. It didn't clear anything up for me either. Basically the only thing I got from this chapter was what it said about the coming of the Messiah. Hopefully the next few books aren't this hard to piece together. Let me know if any of you understand it any better. I may just be out of it this morning.

All for His glory,

Thursday, July 1, 2010


So I have to admit something. I've kind of been cheating. It's not real cheating. It's just that I am doing a Bible study with a few of my friends this summer and we are going through Ephesians. So I'm reading Ephesians... before I am even in the New Testament in my reading. So I feel a little out of whack. But I am also pretty pumped. I read chapters 1 and 2 the other night and then talked about them with the guys. Those chapters absolutely blew my mind. Don't just take my word on this one though. Read them for yourself. I'm never seen (or at least seen and had my eyes opened to) grace being screamed so loud in my life. The pages are just overflowing with grace, grace, grace. Everything that Paul talks about in that opening paragraph is said to be for the purpose of praising Yahweh's grace. That is amazing when you consider all the things that are talked about there. And then 2:1-10 made me cringe, but then quickly made me praise God for the truth of His Word and the power of His grace. It gives a picture of what we all once were (2:1-3), and then there is that amazing transition "But God..." I would argue that in this context that might be the most beautiful phrase in all of the Bible (I'm not actually going to argue with you about it though). "But God made us alive together with Christ..." Oh how beautiful that is. And there is God (through Paul's words) reminding us that this is not because of anything we did. It is by grace that we have been saved. It is a gift from God. Oh what a great and wonderful gift. Even while using "great" and "wonderful" I am realizing that there is not an adjective that exists that can properly describe this gift Yahweh has given me. Just bask in His grace today. Read Ephesians and bask in the awesomeness of His saving grace.