Monday, August 29, 2011

Be Strong and Courageous

Photo by dryhead

Joshua 1:5-7

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.”

The message below, “Be Strong and Courageous,” is from a staff devotional for teachers on August 29, 2011. I was blessed to be able to give the devotional on the verses above from Joshua 1:5-7. Be strong and courageous is this year’s theme.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Do You Know What You Are Reading?

Photo: On the platform, reading, by moriza

Recently I purchased a Haitian cell phone so that I could communicate while in Haiti. To my surprise and dismay, I discovered French instructions to the phone when I cut it on. I don’t read French. At that point, the phone might as well have been a paper weight. It was useless to me. I knew what I was looking at was a welcome screen. I even guessed what it was probably saying, but I had no idea of what the actual message was. I was confused.

This got me thinking about the Bible. Many of us are looking at our Bibles this exact same way, and we are confused. We sit there with our “glorified paperweight” and we have no idea of the magnitude of the message we have before us.

Just as I did not understand my phone message and its instructions, many of us do not understand what we are reading when we read the Bible. As a matter of fact, one of the most common responses to the question “Why don’t you read your Bible?” is “I do not understand what I am reading.” Maybe you have felt like this before. I know I have. Not just with my Haitian cell phone, but with my Bible as well.

In Acts chapter eight, there is a wonderful record of Philip encountering an Ethiopian eunuch through the nudging of an Angel of the Lord. As Philip was traveling, he was instructed to go down the road toward Gaza. While traveling in this desert area, Philip came across the eunuch who was reading Isaiah. Acts records the account like this: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8:30-31).”

This is an amazing occurrence of spontaneous Bible teaching from the scriptures. The outcome is equally amazing. Philip entered the eunuch’s chariot and explained to the eunuch that what he was reading in the Old Testament scriptures was in fact about Jesus. The passage, from Isaiah 53:7-8, was a prophesy of Christ’s crucifixion. “The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:34-35).”

When I was fumbling with my cell phone and nothing was making sense to me, a friend of mine, who also happened to know French, came to my rescue. He took my phone, understanding what it said, and made some adjustments so that I too could comprehend what it was saying. On a much grander scale, this was what occurred between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It was at the hearing of the explanation of God’s word that everything changed for the eunuch. The account continues with the eunuch becoming a follower of Jesus. He responded: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37).” Then, he was baptized.

Understanding what we are reading in scripture is vital! Do you understand what you are reading? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?

Tips for understanding what you are reading in scripture:

  1. Before you read scripture, ask God to reveal Himself to you by His Spirit.
  2. Seek Jesus within the pages of the Bible.
  3. Read the Bible with someone more knowledgeable than you are and discuss it.
  4. Go to Bible studies at a local church or look up lectures online from a credible church.
  5. Ask questions of the scriptures and other people who are wiser than you.
  6. Go to the Bible with a dictionary in your hand and look up words that you don’t know.
  7. Use the internet and go to online resources that are dependable like:,,,,, and there are many others.

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Acts 8:26-40

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Problem with Reading the Bible

Flikr3032, photo by flikr

One of the biggest problems we face in reading scripture is missing Jesus.

If we read the Bible and do not see Jesus within the pages, we have missed the message completely. Jesus speaks to this in John 5:39-40 when he was addressing the Jews and their understanding of the Old Testament scriptures, or Torah. Jesus said to them, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:39–40).”

The Jews had familiarized themselves with the scriptures and were even looking for salvation by reading them, but they missed Jesus within the pages. Jesus pointed out that the Jews thought they would have salvation in the pages of scripture. They gave themselves to the scripture, but not to the message. They committed a sort of “Bible-Idolatry” by worshiping the text instead of God revealed in the text. When it is clear, the scriptures are pointing to Jesus. The Bible is literally calling His name and calling us to Him. If in reading the Bible we do not come to Jesus for the life He offers us, we have read the Bible in vain and we have read it wrongly.

In the gospel of Luke, chapter 24, Jesus reveals Himself after His resurrection to two men walking on the road to Emmaus. The men were talking about all that had happened in Jerusalem concerning Jesus and were confused and sad. As the men were talking, Jesus approached and inquired about what they were talking about, but the men did not know it was Jesus. They told Jesus all about the crucifixion and they were distraught. They said that they had “hoped” Jesus would redeem Israel. They missed Jesus.

Jesus responded to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:25-27).” The men did not understand what the scriptures had said of the crucifixion and resurrection and they did not understand that they were talking and walking with the Risen Lord Jesus. They had missed Jesus in scripture and were missing Him in the flesh, until He opened their eyes.

Jesus’ explanation of the scriptures to the men on the road to Emmaus is important. He was instructing them, and is instructing us, that all the scriptures concern Himself. One of the greatest resources that have come out in a while is The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The subtitle of this book basically echoes what Jesus told the men on the road to Emmaus: “Every Story Whispers His Name.” This is the Bible in its essence. The Bible is about Jesus. Every account in scripture points to Him. If we miss this, like the Jews in Jesus’ day from John 5, then we will completely miss God’s message to us.

May we hear every story in scripture whisper the name of Jesus and would we find our life in Him.

Here are some basic facts that allow us to read and think about the Bible rightly:

  1. If we miss Jesus in the pages of the Bible, we have missed the message
  2. All of scripture leads us to Jesus
  3. We must not value scripture above Jesus
  4. The Old Testament, the Torah and the Prophets, point to Jesus
  5. Old Testament prophesies and the writings of Moses are fulfilled in Christ
  6. The New Testament reveals the Old Testament telling the singular narrative of salvation in Christ
  7. It is better to look at the Bible, not as the “Old” and “New” Testaments, but as a “Whole Testament”

The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 5:39–47). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Trustworthiness of Scripture

Torah, photo by Lawrie Cate

The apostle Peter denied Jesus three times (Mark 14:66–72). Many remember this monumental failure on Peter’s part. Jesus even forewarned Peter that this would happen before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:34). However, we see a completely different Peter than this in the book of Acts when Peter leads about three thousand to Christ publicly (Acts 2). Where once we saw Peter looking out for himself or looking at lesser things, we now see him looking at Jesus.

The account of Peter’s faith is not perfect, but it is real. If you were making up a story, you wouldn’t want to include a lot of what Peter did and said. Peter walked on water, but then began to sink because he looked away from Jesus (Matthew 14:25-33). Peter even cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the garden when Jesus was being arrested and he was rebuked by Jesus for doing so (Matthew 26:51-52). Peter tried to stand in the way of Jesus going to the cross in another account and Jesus told him “Get behind me Satan (Mark 8:33)!” Yet, Jesus chose Peter to “be the rock upon which He would build His Church (Matthew 16:13-20).”

When Peter wrote First and Second Peter, we also see a different Peter. We see his faith in the risen Lord. In 2 Peter 1:16 Peter recalls seeing the deity of Christ first hand when he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on the “sacred mountain” with James and John. There the disciples heard the voice of God and saw Jesus radiate with the light of His Glory and Holy Spirit. This event help solidify for Peter who Jesus is (Matthew 17:1-9). Peter recalled, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

Not only is Peter an author of scripture, he is also an eye witness with a firsthand account of Christ and His ministry. As he continues to write his letter 2 Peter, Peter goes on to say this about the scripture: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).” Peter is acknowledging that the scriptures were written by Holy men of God who were led by His Holy Spirit.

So how do we know if the Bible is trustworthy? According to 2 Peter, we can rest in the following facts about how we can know that the Bible is trustworthy:

  1. The Bible is not a list of made up “stories,” myths, or fables
  2. First and Second Peter, and many other books of the Bible, were written by eye witnesses
  3. The Bible did not come about through private interpretation
  4. It was not through the will of man, but was the will of God that the Bible came into being
  5. God moved people to write and led them by His Holy Spirit

It is extremely assuring to rest in the scriptures with the knowledge of these facts. It is even more assuring to realize that the “messiness” of the accounts in scripture actually lend themselves to the Bible’s credibility. As evidenced in the life of Peter, the Bible is indeed trustworthy. It is trustworthy not only because it gives us the high points, but it gives us the low ones as well. The Bible gives us the whole story. It gives us the whole truth. It is indeed trustworthy.

The New King James Version. 1982 (2 Pe 1:16–21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.