Showing posts with label Bible Basics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible Basics. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

OT-5 God's Partnership Plan


Engaged on  Mount Lemmon, Arizona

The Big Idea: The Old Testament is the background for God's hope to bring us into partnership with Him. 

The Backstory for Salvation History

This is the last in a 5 week series on studying the Old Testament. It is not everything there is to say, but it gets you started on principles to apply it. Check out the previous blogs for more!

I have been married twenty years. Recently my husband heard something about me he never knew. When we got engaged, he told me he wanted knowing me to be a lifelong study. There is always a new layer of history, something new we learn about each other still today. Our past builds into who we are.



So it is with Salvation History in the Bible. You can know God. In fact He wants to partner with you. He has always intended to be part of our life since He walked with Adam in the garden and had Adam help him name the animals. He wants a relationship with you. He loves you can save you from the worst parts of your stubborn nasty self. It is a bit scary and yet wonderful at the same time. He knows you and still loves you. Do you strive to know Him more and more too? It is spiritually healthy to continually discover more about Him. To know Him allows us to dive deeper in love with Him, deeper into His strength for our life.

The Old Testament is a great place to learn about God and His history to know and love you. Woven into its layers is His love for humans, desiring a personal, deep friendship with each individual who wants that too. When we learn He is holy it ought to fill us with awe and wonder. Get to know the lengths He went through to make a way for that relationship. It is all there in the first Testament of the Bible. The Old Testament.



The word "Testament" can be a synonym of "Covenant." "Marriage" is also a synonym of "Covenant." A branch of Theology, the study of God, is called "Covenant Theology." It is a very beautiful concept to study through the Bible because it is about God pursuing us, desiring a relationship with us. It is also a little like someone who pursues a love relationship. 

The entire Bible, from the book of Genesis, builds on the idea of the relationship between God and mankind. It usually involves an agreement from both sides to respect the covenant, though usually God promises more and agrees to more than He expects of man.

There are four main covenants in the Old Testament, though the concept of covenant occurs over and over again, explaining more and more of how this partnership with God works.

  • The Covenant with Noah
  • The Covenant with Abraham
  • The Covenant with Israel/Moses
  • The  Covenant with King David

The final covenant that encompasses and fulfills them all is the New Covenant with Jesus in the New Testament. In fact if you are in a communion service in a church you will often hear Luke 22:20, part of the Last Supper.

"After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you." Luke 22: 20 NLT

A very helpful five minute video explains the 4 Old Testament Covenants. This is from the Bible Project.


Download a timeline of mine that inserts thoughts about the different eras of Old Testament History, with the four Old Testament Covenants made in their place in time along with comments about Salvation History. 



"Salvation History." This is another beautiful name for another category of theological study. Theology, as I wrote earlier, is the study of God. Salvation History is about following throughout the entire Bible how God has been reaching out to man, explaining and foreshadowing Jesus the Messiah, who would make perfect the necessary work to save us from ourselves and bring us into that amazing relationship with God. 

This is a great reason to study the Old Testament. It points us to Christ!

“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah." Jeremiah 31:31 NLT

Here is a link to a webpage on how every book of the Old Testament points us to the right relationship with God through Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. It is like a big puzzle putting together what is the epitome of God's merciful and gracious plan. This is included in the introduction to a Study Bible for the English Standard Version of the Bible.



This week I met a woman for the first time at a conference at my church. We were both wearing masks. As we talked we reflected that someday we will see each other without masks. Will we recognize each other? Wearing masks during this COVID 19 period has made me think a little about mystery. This fits in perfectly when talking about Jesus in the Old Testament. There are a lot of verses in the Bible about the mysteries of God. Here is a sample.


“Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty?    Job 11:7 NLT


Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways.    Isaiah 45:15 NLT


He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light.    Daniel 2:22 NLT

The New Testament talks more about the fulfillment of those mysteries. Again a sample of verses.


When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters,  I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began… But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.1 Corinthians 2: 1-2, 7, 10-12 NLT


And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. Ephesians 6: 19 NLT


Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ  was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory. I Timothy 3:16 NLT


The Bible talks about mysteries in the plural sometimes. God is so much bigger than we are and we won't fully understand until we are face to face with Him and can ask Him our questions. We don't know everything (we are not God LOL). But we do know a lot about Him and we know we can trust Him. We know He knows better than we do.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 NLT


Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. I Corinthians 13:12 NLT


You may have noticed in the I Corinthians 2 passage that a key feature we have available to unlocking the mysteries is the Holy Spirit. I have just touched the tip of the iceberg about God's communication to us in the Old and New Testament. 

In previous blogs I wrote about Jesus' love for the Old Testament while He lived on earth. Next I explained how God has a purpose in everything in the Old Testament including the boring parts of the Bible. I showed the different styles of writing in the Bible, and said knowing what we are reading helps us understand it better. I gave tips on studying the OldTestament. In that blog I mentioned the importance of knowing Salvation History and Covenants, and that you should ask yourself where the passage you are reading falls in the overall plan. That is why I added this blog to explain what Salvation History is.

I hope this series has been helpful and given you some concrete ways to look at the Old Testament and study it. If you don't already, I hope you fall in love with it like I have, as you walk with Jesus.

 Up Next: 

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For Reflection:

What do you think a partnership with God looks like? Do you have a relationship with God? Do you feel like it is a partnership?

What do you struggle with as a mystery of the Bible or about God? What do you want to ask Him about when you are face to face with Him?

Have you ever asked the Holy Spirit to help you study the Bible?

Has this series on the Old Testament given you a better understand of the Old Testament and more confidence to study it?

If you don't understand what I am talking about having a relationship with Almighty God or asking the Holy Spirit to guide you. I would also invite you to talk to a pastor or friend who knows Jesus well, or email me at

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

OT-3 Poetry, Legalese and History Lessons

The Big Idea: Literary styles of the Old Testament writers is useful to understand they are saying.

So what are you in the mood for tonight?

On movie night at our house my husband will ask, so what kind of movie interests you tonight? On Netflix or movies at the library there are categories to choose from. Action/Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Historical Docu-Drama… It depends on what you are looking for. These are called Movie Genres, which are categories of stylistic categories of theme and presentation. 

The Bible likewise has a number of writing genres. Categorizing the Scriptures goes way back to the Old Testament (OT) times. They were categorized as the Teachings (Torah - Law of Moses), the Prophets (Former Prophets and Latter Prophets), and the Writings (Psalms and Wisdom Literature). Jesus referred to these categories too (Luke 24:44).  It helps us to understand what we are reading better if we understand the intention and style of the book. So let's look at the typical literary styles of the Old Testament.


The Bible is like a huge library. There are 66 books in two separate parts. The Old Testament, the books about the calling and forming of the Hebrew people before the time of Christ, and the New Testament, with books about Christ and the early church. All the books have one central theme. God who created mankind loves each one of us and wants a dynamic ongoing relationship with us. We are His creatures and He has great love for us. He wants to be part of our life. But He won't force us to love Him.

Each book of the Bible has to do with this theme. Just like a library, there are different types of literature. There are stories. There are poems. There are legal sounding laws. There are prophecies and declarations. These different categories of writing present God's ideas in a variety of manners. People are different. I'm sure you've noticed that. Even within one culture, even within one family, people have different personalities. And the variety of ways that God communicates resonates more with different people. Additionally, the stories and the sub themes weave together to give us the bigger picture of God's message to us. God likes it that we can know Him and His love. He also likes it that we need to continually seek Him and learn more about the mysteries of who He is. Loving God is never boring.

One of my favorite online Bible resources is The Bible Project. They have wonderful videos that explain the Bible. Here is their introduction to the styles of books in the Bible. It is helpful to watch this 5 minute video first. 

As the Bible Project explained, 43% of the Bible is Narrative, stories, characters introduced, history, and so on. Poetry makes up a whopping 33%. But if you don't like poetry, like "Mary had a little lamb," Don't write it off.  Bible poetry is ancient literature filled with imagery, metaphors and analogies about life, not cute little rhymes. And 24% of the Bible is discourse. A discussion type of conversation about life. Useful information.

Old Testament Genres are often put into these categories. It is common for a couple of styles tend to blend together in a book, but most books are predominately one type. Also you will find some teachers who change a few of the category names but it follows the same principles. The categories are:

  • Law
  • History
  • Poetry
  • Wisdom
  • Prophecy
  • Apocalypse



These sections of the Bible read a little more wooden than others sometimes. They sound like legal binding contracts, or how-to instruction manuals. Background studies of the nations in the world at that time, had contracts and guidelines similar in form to Biblical passages. The format was familiar to its time, though foreign to us. This includes things like the various covenants God made with man, the Ten Commandments, and guiding rules for the people. This falls into the discourse category. They generally cover:

  • Moral laws on how to live
  • Ceremonial laws on tabernacle and sacrificial worship
  • Civil law that governed and protected the people of God

The first five books of the Bible are considered books of the Law.  They are interspersed with some history, poetry, and even prophecy.


History writings are narrative in nature. They tell us what happened. They include various components such as background, location, political conditions, even weather conditions and crop factors that influence normal human life.  We see character development of key Biblical figures. We observe conversations and life choices. Sometimes there is a very evident spiritual lesson. Other times it gives background and flesh to the whole of the Biblical journey of God's people. These are the books from Joshua to Nehemiah.



Often these two categories are combined when grouping books of the Bible. Poetry is all the Psalms, and sections of other books. Wisdom literature and the Prophets intersperse poetry. 

Poetry from ancient Middle Eastern Literature is a whole different meter and flow than the way we read poetry. The Bible Project devotes several informative videos to explaining poetry of this period. What we do know is poetry expresses the gamut of human emotions and the human experience. They can be teaching aids. Imagery and metaphors play a part in this genre.

Wisdom literature, which often uses poetry, is a collection of wise sayings and advice to shape the quality of life and moral values of its readers. These are true principles with guidelines for life such as how to live and how not to behave.  They are not as direct in terms of doctrine and the promises of God.

The books of Wisdom are considered to be Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.



Many see prophecy as a prediction of the future.  More accurately a human being speaks on God's behalf what He wants people to know. Often in the context God states He sees what they are doing and tells what will happen if they obey or disobey. A blessing or curse forward may be conditional. Often it forshadows into the future but the future is not the only aspect of it.

There are four major prophetic books and 12 minor prophetic books in the Old Testament. The only difference is the volume, not how great the prophet was. These prophets emerged when the Hebrew people seriously strayed from God. God wanted the prophets to make clear His covenant love for His people; the consequences of straying and the blessing to return. God assured the people no matter how angry they made Him and no matter how far they strayed, He would be faithful, and there would be faithful people (a remnant) who would emerge. The promise of the coming Kingdom of the Messiah abounds.

Biblical prophecy is often telescopic. When one looks through a telescope or a zoom camera lens they can pull into focus several points along a spectrum. Prophecy has a current application to the people and a future application as well. It may fulfill an aspect at a future time and may apply much futher down the road too. I call this the telescopic layers of prophecy. This would probably be a good blog subject someday. 



Apocalyptic literature is similar to Prophetic books in that prophets speak God's urgent message to the people of both warnings and comfort. It is about the Last Days. Daniel is the primary apocalyptic book in the Old Testament, though it occurs in some of the other Prophetic books too. It is important to not take any one piece of Apocalyptic literature as a stand-alone text. Part of its beauty is the message intertwining and verifying future events with other passages in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament. It has a lot of metaphorical, symbolic language.



When you read the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, you might find some books seem a little obscure or difficult to read. It helps to ask yourself, what type of literature might this be? You might find the answer in a study Bible in the introduction of the book. It will help you to place why the book may have been written. It will also steer your focus. Is it background to God's codes of conduct, worship guidelines, or life illustrations of key characters on what not to do? How does it fit with the rest of the Bible and other books that are similar to it or in the same time period? Why might God have included this in our Bible?

I am drawn to quiet classical or soft jazz music. I like to read classic mystery novels and classic devotional literature. In a similar fashion I have my favorite books of the Bible. I love the Psalms and could read them every day. However it is important for me, and for all of us, to not just stay in the same books of the Bible all the time.



In college I was a nursing major. But the university required courses from several areas of study. My
Nursing program included what, at first glance, I thought were some rather odd courses. Statistics. I really hate math classes, but its importance was toward understanding nursing research. Communication Theory helped nurses integrate our ability to connect with patients, coordinate with patient teams and to organize and lead support groups.  There were subjects I would not have chosen for my dream class list, but they made me a well-rounded nurse and a better human being.

To apply this analogy, we may gravitate to our favorite go-to books of the Bible. We may choose the same type of Sunday School class or read/listen often to favorite authors or preachers on a favored subject. But to have a well rounded understanding of the Bible and a Christian walk, have some familiarity with the Bible as a whole. Read different genres and ask God what He has for you. Become a well rounded Christian, rather than one fixated only on their favorite subjects. This is how we will grow to maturity in Christ.

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 

Hebrews 6:1 NLT

Up Next: Old Testament: Tips for Studying the Old Testament

Previous Post: Old Testament: The Boring Parts by Design?


For Reflection:

1. What are your favorite books of the Bible. Why?

2. What type of Scripture might you challenge yourself to read or study for something different? Be willing to ask God to teach you something special.

3. Consider talking this over with a friend and sharing questions and ideas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

OT-2 Boring Parts by Design?!!


If you assembled the Bible what would you include?

This week, a post by Pastor John Piper got stuck in my head and I could not shake it. It is called, "How do I feed my soul in the hard books of the Old Testament." Writers often do a literature review. I like reading what others say about what I'm researching. The audio/article is worth checking out. If you do, you will see I am echoing a lot of what he says.

As a teen I decided to read the Bible from front to back. Genesis was pretty exciting. There were familiar stories from Sunday School. Exodus was also great about Moses raised in a palace, his wild rebellion, the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt… But then I got to Leviticus. That was so dry. Yawn. I wondered why so many details from an ancient culture were put in there?


For starters the Bible was orchestrated and inspired by God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:15-16, Hebrews 4:12-14, 2 Peter 1:21). Individuals of many different backgrounds wrote the different books with writing implements. But God was in the workings of it all. The Bible is His master creation, His Word to us. And it is for all who have ever existed or will come to be.

There are 66 books total, written over a thousand year+ time span by writers of various backgrounds. Realize it is inspired by God with one central message throughout. God who created mankind loves and wants a relationship with every person if they sincerely, earnestly seek Him. He wants to bring immense value to our life. He wants to delight in us and we in Him. In the odd, hard-to-get-through passages of the Bible, know it is the story of Almighty God desiring an amazing relationship with each of us.


Try wrapping your head around this. God was interested in a relationship with people of every culture, every nation, during every century of the Bible times. Now think of the spread of the early church. Same thing. It was not just for Israel. His desire was for every culture of every nation in every century through the first one thousand years A.D. For the second thousand years A.D. too. In fact, for every culture, every nation on the face of this earth today too. Hard to fathom, but it is true!

Let me back this up with choice Scripture. We see here an interest on God's part for people from all nations to be blessed and have a relationship with Him. Let's start with what God tells Abraham when He calls him.

 The Lord had said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3 NLT)

From the Psalms we read…

The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. (Psalm 22:27 NLT)

Here is Jesus speaking to Nicodemus,

 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)


Check out some examples in the Bible and Early Church history demonstrating God loves and accepts people of all nations who want Him. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Old Testament

Abraham and Sarah were called to follow God from an area near modern Iraq (Genesis 12).

Rahab was a Canannite who was of a tribe God ordered purged from the land. But she declared adoration for God and she was saved from Jericho's destruction. She ended up being an ancestor of Jesus (Joshua 2:9-14, Matthew 1:5)

 The Queen of Sheba (thought to be from Ethiopia) visited King Solomon. She declared the goodness of God (2 Chronicles 9: 1-8). The early church of Ethiopia harkens their faith to the Queen of Sheba.

New Testament

The Apostle Paul went as a missionary to many places far and wide. Here is a sampling of a few countries familiar to us today. He spent time in Ephesus which is modern Turkey. He started churches in several other places in Turkey. He preached in Athens Greece (Acts 17:22) and many other places in Greece. He ministered in Rome (Italy). He died in Rome. A great longing before he died was to go preach the gospel in Spain.

Paul sent those he trained as pastors to new regions to work. The most notable is Titus, to whom he wrote the book named Titus. He sent Titus to the island of Crete to begin churches there. Later he sent Titus to  Dalmatia which is called Croatia today.

Early Church History

72 A.D. Thomas (one of the twelve, "doubting Thomas") was killed by spear in India. It is thought he brought Christianity there. By 300 A.D. there was a growing population of Christians in India, but the latter 300s has such ferocious persecution many left (many went to Syria, some to Bahrain, Dubai other places such as France).

160- c240 A.D. Tertullian, an early church father and writer, was from Carthage, which is still today a part of Tunis, Tunisia. There was a huge Biblical library of written works there. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was also from Tunisia.

150-215 A.D. Clement of Alexandria. He was Greek but he taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria, Egypt which was a huge theological studies center. Many other well know church fathers spoke or taught there as well, such as Origin, Jerome and many more.

347-420 A.D. Jerome. Quite widely travelled. He was from an area we call Bosnia. He spent some time in France, teaching in Trier, Germany, and also some time near Bulgaria. He died in Bethlehem. A very interesting Biblical scholar.

Gallaus Oratory
600s - St. Patrick. He was from Britain and went as a missionary to Ireland. He has an amazing life story.

In the history of Christianity in China/Mongolia, Genghis Kahn reigned from 1206-1227. A grandson who became the Khan, Möngke Khan, listened carefully to Christians and protected their rights.

Today there are Christians in or from every corner of the Globe. Many Christians in America are concerned Christianity as they’ve known it is having less and less impact in America. However, rapid, even massive, church growth has shifted to the southern hemisphere especially in Latin America and Africa.


So let us get back to the original question? If you assembled the Bible what would you include? Remember it is not just for you and your corner of the world. It is for every century there ever was or will be, for every person.

When a Bible passage doesn't thrill you, seems boring or irrelevant, remember it is put there by God for a reason. It is for someone, for a people group, for some time frame. There just may something there for you too. Ask God what insight He might have for you. I will have tips for how you can work through some of those passages in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned! But let me pass on a final story Pastor John Piper recounted. I was so tickled by it I researched this Bible translation story from Papua New Guinea for myself.


It seems a young missionary and his wife (Des and Jenny Oatridge) worked on Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea with a very small tribal group. Over the years, many from that people group were wiped out by war and displacement. They were decimated from 3,000 to 111 people when the translation work began.

When Des finished the book of Matthew he had left the first 17 verses out, which were the genealogy of Christ. He realized he needed to include it to say the book was complete. His language helper sailed through helping translate this section. He then insisted they absolutely must read it at a village meeting that night. Why the urgency, Des wondered.

As Des read the passage that night, more and more people arrived and pressed in to hear. The room got so quiet it seemed even the night insects were silent.
 He wondered if they are angry. Had he broken some taboo?

"Why have you not told us this before?" they urgently demanded.

They explained no one records the ancestry of a spirit or a make believe tale. This Jesus must be a real person!  The whole room chattered as it dawned on them that Jesus and the stories about Him in Matthew were real. They had to be true. "What the mission has taught us is real," they said.

Who knew? Who knew that one of the more boring parts of the Bible to us would be the key that would unlock the reality of the Son of God made flesh for the sake of a small isolated people group on the other side of the world.

Don't disrespect the boring parts of the Bible! They are part of God's master plan. Ask God to speak to your heart, what you need today, from God's Word.

Up Next: Old Testament: Poetry, Legalese and History Lessons

Previous Post: Jesus Loved the Old Testament

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

OT-1 Jesus Loved the Old Testament

 What do you think of the Old Testament?

This is the first post in a series on the Old Testament, laying groundwork for how we can study that part of the Bible better.

I have always loved the Old Testament. Maybe it is because of the amazing stories I learned as a child in Sunday School which forged my faith in God. I am always a bit surprised to run into Christians who say the Old Testament doesn't speak to them, it's boring reading, or they want to spend their time reading about Jesus and how to live the Christian life which is clearly spelled out in the New Testament.

I muse to myself, "Do they not realize just how much Jesus quoted the Old Testament and valued it?"


Remember Jesus was born into a Jewish family descended from King David. He was not trained as a religious leader or a rabbi as other rabbis were in those days. But His command of those writings called the Scriptures was so astute and practical, it always got people's attention.

Every little Jewish boy and girl in those days would know portions of the Word. They would sing parts of it every Sabbath, at the Passover, and other times. It was not a literary culture. Many people could not read and learned by oral tradition, that is, through storytelling, singing and chanting. If you have been watching the new video series, The Chosen, you see this illustrated in Season 1 Episode 3 "Jesus Loves  the Little Children."


We know Jesus could read. One day He took a turn at the Synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth and read out of the scroll for the next public reading (Luke 4:14-22).

That which was called "The Scriptures" with a capital S, was a collection of many books about God and His work among the Hebrew people. Jesus called them the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).  They were Moses' books in the first five books of the Bible, Historical books, poetry and wisdom literature, and the teaching of prophets.

Jesus KNEW the Old Testament. He used it to teach, to illuminate and to verify what He did. He used it against temptation from the Devil and when the Pharisees tried to make Him trip up. He considered the Old Testament as real, not a fairy tale. He spoke of the Biblical characters as people, people He knew.

Even those books and sections that some today say are fabrications He treated as real events as a matter of course (Creation of Adam and Eve Matt. 19:4-5, Jonah in the Big Fish Matt. 12:38-41, the Flood Matt. 24:38-49 as examples). He completely trusted the Old Testament. He considered it the trustworthy authority and believed it was the Word of God. An excellent article on this is at the Blue Letter Bible website.


The method of preserving these writings was meticulously crafted and taken very seriously by men of the Old Testament called Scribes. They would count the syllables of the original text and the copied text. They read each word out loud as they wrote. To learn more check out this blog by apologist, Josh McDowell. Most of the writings were in Hebrew until the period between the Testaments (Old and New) which was about 400 years,

In the intertestamental period it was translated into Greek, which is called the Septuagint (abbreviated the LXX). That version was used some in Jesus' day. It is quoted a lot more in the post-Gospels New Testament because of the widespread church that moved into predominantly Greek speaking regions. Because the Septuagint and Hebrew Old Testament writings were used regularly as a decided unit, there was clearly a consensus among spiritual leaders about which books should be considered God's Word. Jesus seemed to validate that as He referred with authority to pretty close to every book.

There are about 300 quotes in the Gospels, mostly credited to Jesus, referring to the Old Testament. You will find it marked as "The Scriptures," "The Law of Moses," "Moses and the Prophets," and at times you read "It is written," or "It is said" and it is usually another Old Testament quote.


Jesus quoted the most from the Psalms. He quoted a lot also from Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Exodus.  He quoted from every book of the Law of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy), and numerous prophets.

We see a lot of Scripture is quoted by Jesus to help teach people that the Old Testament pointed to Him and why He came to earth. There is a lot about His death and resurrection. The word "fulfilled" is used with reference to the Old Testament a lot. It definitely points to the fact that Jesus is a fulfillment of a lot of things written in the Old Testament.

I was at a conference once where an icebreaker question was - If you could be a fly on the wall for any Bible story, which would it be? Most in my group said what I did: be on the Emmaus Road after the Resurrection. One of the most beautiful stories about Jesus and the Old Testament comes at the end of Luke. Two disciples walked between Jerusalem and Emmaus discussing and processing the recent events where their friend Jesus was killed on a cross, buried and is missing. A man joins them and connects the dots from the Old Testament what it said about Jesus, His life, His death and His resurrection. They realized later it had been Jesus,


Luke 24: 22-27  “Some of the women of our group have surprised us and made us wonder. They went to the grave early this morning. 23 They did not find His body. They came back saying they had seen angels in a special dream who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the grave and found it as the women had said. But they did not see Him.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish men. How slow you are to believe what the early preachers have said. 26 Did not Christ have to go through these hard things to come into His shining-greatness?” 27 Jesus kept on telling them what Moses and all the early preachers had said about Him in the Holy Writings.

Jesus used the Scriptures to teach about God's nature and how we should live. Many are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4-6) and when He privately taught His disciples. The Sermon on the Mount has a section where Jesus talked about the incredible value of the Scriptures. By keeping it and teaching it, He says you will be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pretty intense affirmation!

Luke 5; 17-19  “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 He also underlines that He will fulfill it.  Even down to the smallest detail, the Scriptures accomplish God's purposes. He was talking about the Old Testament Scriptures here. Do you still think it has little relevance? Think again.

Pray for an open heart and mind to receive all God has for you to learn in the Holy Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.

Up Next: Old Testament: Boring Parts by Design?

Previous Post: The Simplest Prayer: Help!


For Reflection:

1. How do you feel about the Old Testament? Have you read it very much? Why or why not?

2. Does learning how Jesus valued the Old Testament give you a new desire to try to read more?

In the next few weeks we will be learning more about how to approach Bible study in the Old Testament to build up our Christian life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Beginning with God

The Big Idea: We’re each unique. God loves each person individually and has a gift for you. Take it.


"Everybody grows up in some culture," said the professor.

It was a class on marriage and the family. Marriage is the merging of two people from two different backgrounds, she taught. Each family varies how they celebrate birthdays and holidays, resolve conflict and practice punctuality. Though a couple might grow up in the same small town, marriage is a merging of two separate life experiences, two distinct cultural systems.  

I  love getting to know people of different cultures. Even in elementary school I befriended the lone migrant worker's daughter that no one else talked to. We're all just people trying to make our way in this world. And every person's story is unique. 


God wants a one-on-one personal connection with you, no matter what background you have. Everyone's story, their journey to connect with God, is unique. God wants to connect with you! He who created the world knew you from the time you were in your mother's womb.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:15-16 (NLT)

He loves you. It is a mystery that He's crazy about each of us, all at the same time. I have a nativity collection to make an entire Bethlehem village. But when I find a new piece on ebay at a good price, I get all excited when it comes, added to my collection. I find a joy in each piece. It makes sense. I am created in the image of God who loves His collection too, His collection of people on this earth. So when I say He loves YOU, be assured. He does. He knows you by name. (Ex. 33:17, Is. 43:1)


But there is one little problem. God is love (I John 4:10). He is also eternal. He has always been and always will be. He knows everything. He is incredible and He is on our side. But He is absolutely perfect. Being His friend, while mind boggling, would be hindered because we are imperfect creatures. In fact, we have a bent toward badness.

You may say, I'm really a good person with good intentions. I'm not so bad. But here's the thing. You are not perfect. Where that matters is being a friend of God, who is perfect. It is hard for Him to even look at badness, because He is so holy.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 (NLT)

In fact, this sin problem is pretty serious. Not only do we fall short on perfection, our sin is our death sentence.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our
Lord. Romans 6: 23 (NLT)

Do you know someone who received a ticket for speeding when they did not realize what the speed

limit was? Well, our bent toward badness, whether you are aware of it or not, has a price. It is
against God's law to have us dirtied with sin in His presence. In fact the penalty is death. That's a problem when you have been expecting to spend your eternity in heaven.

You might think - well, if He's God. He's love. He should put up with my ways and accept me for me. You might even say - I know some who say they are Christians who are the most mean spirited folks I ever met. Don't let that derail you. They will need to answer to God for that themselves. Each of us are individuals and we each need our own relationship with Him, accountable to God individually.

Here is the problem put simply. How can we as imperfect, sinful creatures be viewed by God as pure?


Because of God's great love He has provided a way for us to be made right with Him. There is a description of what God does for us in the Bible that implies a special covering (the theological word for it is propitiation). It is Jesus. His sacrifice by His blood is what God sees when He looks at us. Our status becomes forgiven.

I had a one-on-one Bible study with a Japanese woman, a military spouse. Every week we discussed what it means to know God. She felt so confused. Finally, I took my fork and my napkin and said, "Imagine that you are the fork. Jesus is the napkin. When you ask Jesus for His forgiveness, He covers you just like this. You can't even see the fork now. It is still there, but the napkin is covering it. It is the same with God. You are sinful before a holy God. But when you personally ask Jesus to cover you, that is now what God sees. He sees Jesus over you, because He took that penalty for your sins."

She nodded. She understood. That may have been the day she prayed with me to connect personally with God.

Let's review the verse we just looked at, Romans 6:23.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23 (NLT)


Note the alternative to death for our imperfection of sin: the free gift of eternal life. This alternative is through Christ Jesus.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 (NLT)\

There had to be a way forgive our badness to make us pure in God's sight. But Jesus, who was God in the flesh, sacrificed himself on our behalf. He took our place, dying for us, as the verse says, while we were still sinners. That is incredible.

He died, but being God, He rose from the grave through His godly power alive forever (I Corinthians 15). It was a unique moment in world history when God Himself, who became human, died for us and then rose from the grave to live forevermore. Because He was God it was the perfect sacrifice, once for all (Hebrews 10:10). He is the only way to provide forgiveness for our sins. He has become our bridge to God. We only need to invite Him to enter this relationship once. It is a secure connection. From then on He is available for friendship, for help, for peace and joy.

God doesn't want anyone to lose opporunity to engage in this personal connection. There is a beautiful Bible verse in the book of 2nd Peter. I really like the way it is put in the God's Word translation.

The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, He is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act. 2 Peter 3:9 (GW)

God really wants everyone, as many as possible, to turn to Him. But there is a catch.


Let's look one more time at Romans 6:23.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our
 Lord. Romans 6: 23 (NLT)

The gift is free to us. There is no payment necessary. It is not contingent on monetary gifts to the church, doing good things, or any other way. The only thing is, you need to take the gift. Imagine finding out someone in your town gifted you with a home and an estate worth millions. You can tell all your friends about it, frame the letter and boast about being a millionaire. But if you never follow up on it with the lawyer and accountant and get the keys you will not receive your gift. It will do you no good.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)

You see that God's grace is involved. We do not deserve to be forgiven. We cannot take credit for it saying look what I did. We just need to believe it and receive it.

You need to take the gift.


This next part is simple. You just talk to God and establish this personal connection. There is an easy way to review what to do based on A-B-C.

A- Admit - that you are a sinner in need of His love and grace. Admit you are sorry for your bad ways.

B- Believe - that Jesus has paid your debt and will forgive you.

C- Commit - to be a true friend in this personal connection with God. That includes reading the Bible, talking to Him regularly and seeking to act in a way that reflects Him well.

You can pray to Him in your own words, or use this prayer.

God, I know I am not perfect. In fact, I find it too easy to sin sometimes. I am sorry, God. I believe you love me and paid for my sins with your death on the cross. Forgive me of my sins. Take them away! Cover me with Jesus' sacrifice. Teach me how to keep this new relationship with You alive, so I can learn more about You and live in a way pleasing to You.

Go ahead. Start your own story with God!


Up Next: The Simplest Prayer - HELP
Previous Post: How I got this way


For reflection: What kind of relationship do you have with God? Do these steps make sense to you? If not, what do you struggle with most? Tell God everything. Even if you feel confused.

Please email me and let me know if you have prayed this prayer or if you have questions.