Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Best Books in the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Study to present yourself approved unto God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15 

Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” 

—John 5:39 

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. —Luke 24:27 

Importance of Studying 

Paul tells Timothy that he must study the scripture, exert himself in the pursuit of Scriptural knowledge so that he will be prepared when he meets the heavenly Father.  

Like any other knowledge base, scripture needs to be studied and pursued. It isn’t just a healing salve, it is wisdom that must be learned and taken to heart. This study of the New Testament is an excellent place to start, a structured course that can help you get into the Word of God.  

As Paul tells us, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. During his time, most in the Roman empire could not read and copies of the Torah were few and sacred. Most people heard the scripture read aloud instead.  

Today with the ability to read and write, we might understand this as faith comes by reading and understanding the Word of God. We have the privilege of accessing the Bible in so many different forms, from a physical copy to a digital one on an app. Take advantage of it and step into the New Testament with us! 

What’s in a Word? 

The first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are referred to as the “gospels.”   

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon god-spell, meaning “good story.” And god-spell is an early English rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” 

The first three books, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have been referred to as the Synoptic Gospels since the end of the 18th century, due to their incredibly similar structure and narrative treatment of the life and ministry of Jesus.   

While these four gospels tell us about Jesus’ works and detail His teachings, they are far more than a biographical text because they also share the good news of redemption Jesus brought to the world.  

The gospels show us that the whole Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—is all about Jesus Christ. They are therefore the most important books in the Bible, the key to understanding all of Scripture. As we will see, Jesus declared that He is at the center of God’s plan from beginning to end. Everything in Scripture points to Him and His plan to redeem and save lost mankind. 

The Greatest Revelation  

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. –John 1:17-18 

This verse in the first chapter of John explains the great revelation of Jesus, who through Him made God the Father known.  

In the original Greek, John used the word exegesis, which is a deep and critical interrogation into a text to ascertain the meaning. It is the act of bringing out in the verse what is in it, as opposed to inserting meaning that is not in the text.  

In this case, Jesus exegetes God, meaning He brought out all the meaning of God. This means that Jesus Christ is the greatest revelation of truth, of God, the world has ever been given.  

Everything that Jesus was, everything that Jesus said, and everything that Jesus did reveals God to us. And because the gospels are about Jesus, we can determine that these books are at the core or the heart of the scripture.  

Word became Flesh 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  

–John 1:1-5 

God had a word, truth, that He wanted to communicate with man. Yet, He struggled to communicate with humans, being God. Like humans trying to talk to animals and vice versa, the message gets lost.  

And so God made a great sacrifice because of His love for humanity. He sent Jesus to humble himself and become man. In order for those thoughts to be translated to earth to human comprehension, God had to become human too.  

Jesus is the embodiment of the word, the conductor of translation that became man so that humankind could understand the Word of God. Everything that He was, said, and did on earth revealed God to us.  

It Points to Jesus 

The religious leaders of the day didn’t believe Jesus’ claim that He was God, so they asked for proof, for evidence that He was who He claimed to be.  

In John chapter 5, Jesus lays out a defense, proving that He is in fact the Son of God. He references His miracles and explains the great prophet John the Baptist paved the way for Him.  

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.”  

–John 5:33-35 

He then says that the revered Moses wrote about Him, prophesying the coming of Jesus Christ generations earlier. In fact, Jesus cites the scriptures as a whole as a testimony to Him, they’re all about Him.  

When we understand this, we can appreciate that Jesus is the very heart and thread that connects the scripture together.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

The Mysterious Masterpiece

Author: Rachel Kidd

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. —Hebrews 1:1-3 

Who’s the author? 

The book of Hebrews is a mysterious masterpiece, because it’s authorship is unknown. Some argue that Paul is author, like in the King James translation of the bible, but there isn’t a general consensus. Paul’s letters always start with his name, Hebrews does not.  

Paul also typically quoted from the Hebrew Old Testament, but the author of Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The grammar used in Hebrews also doesn’t align with Paul’s typical style.  

The author of Hebrews also did not focus on justification by faith, which Paul always emphasized. Unlike Paul, this author does not claim to have personally seen Jesus Christ. 

We also aren’t sure if Hebrews is a letter at all or even what the literary form is, because it lacks a salutation and a discernable form. The group who is addressed in Hebrews is equally mysterious, as we cannot place them in a specific location.  

Bible scholars do not know who wrote it or who the specific Hebrews were, but we do know that they were Jewish Christians or Messianic believers who were suffering persecution. The author of Hebrews offers much-needed assurance of salvation, encouragement, and exhortation to believe. 

We include Hebrews in the general Epistles, not Paul’s Epistiles, because of these key differences. The author could have been Apollos, mentioned in the book of Acts, Barnabas, or even Luke. Whoever wrote this book was an inspired and eloquent scholar, threading intricate knowledge of the bible and the identity of Jesus throughout Hebrews.  

Content Speaks 

However, the authorship of the book is less important than it’s content. Asking ourselves; What does the book say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?  

 Hebrews is a masterpiece in content. More than any other book, it ties together the Old and New Testaments. Cohesive from beginning to end, a clear argument is threaded throughout.  

 

Hebrews presents Jesus theologically as the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament, the Lord has revealed in the New Testament, and the coming King of Kings. 

Better Belief 

Jesus Christ is better than the prophets. The message God revealed through His son is even better than the message He sent through the beloved and revered prophets. Because Jesus Christ is God’s Son, He is better than the angels, the priesthood, the covenants, the tabernacle, everything.  

Speaking to orthodox Jews, the author of Hebrews says that what they hold most sacred, most Holy, pales in comparison to Jesus. No more animal sacrifices need to be made at the temple, because Jesus’ death fulfilled them all in the same patterns of Jewish tradition.  

Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 

–Hebrews 7: 22-25 

When Jesus died on the cross, He acted as high priest as in Jewish tradition and He was interceding for the sins of the whole world in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of heaven. This tabernacle is not made of human hands and the blood offered was not that of an animal, but of Jesus Himself. 

From that time on, the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled all the animal sacrifices and eliminated the need for the Jewish sacrificial system. He is better than even Solomon’s Temple, fulfilling every one of God’s promises.  

By reading and believing in Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can experience fulfilled salvation. The book of Hebrews is a wonderful place to start, meditating on the greatest promise ever made to humanity.  

 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. –Romans 10:9-10 

Categories
Church Development Spiritual Development

Strategic Harvesting

Author: Charles Hegwood

Did you know that Jesus had a plan and strategy for Kingdom ministry? We may know this to be true, but we rarely think about our Savior having a mapped out plan. The gospels record Jesus’ method, strategy, and words. Matthew in particular captures a snapshot of Jesus’ strategy in Matthew 9:35-38. This snapshot is not simply to inform us that Jesus ministered but to model ministry for us and call us to join Him. Matthew invites us to walk the same ministry path that Jesus walked. In this passage let us look at the strategy that Jesus used as He taught in strategic places, preached the gospel, and cared deeply about people by meeting their needs. Jesus then challenges us to pray for and join this Kingdom harvest. 

Strategic Places  

There is nothing wrong with spontaneously sharing the gospel. As a disciple of Jesus you will find that seemingly random conversations happen. While these conversations can be God ordained, as a strategy, spontaneity is not sufficient to be a complete model for evangelism and discipleship. With intentionality, let us follow the way of our Master. Jesus went to the synagogues to teach. Synagogues were a place where teaching and learning took place. So Jesus taught in places where people gathered to learn about God. This was a strategic location. Jesus went where the people were. And when He found a gathered crowd, and He taught them. This was His routine and method. Paul follows this example if you look in the Book of Acts.  

As we go about sharing the gospel we would be wise to learn from the example of Jesus here. Find a strategic place to meet with people. This will depend largely on where you are and the context in which you find yourself. You may go to a coffee shop to meet a friend and share the gospel, you may go to a mall, or any place where people may meet to have conversations. Be strategic in where you meet people to share the gospel. Sometimes the best gospel conversations happen because the place of meeting is comfortable for the friend that you are sharing with.  

Strategic Message  

The message that Jesus shared was also strategic. He did not do TED talks and hoped that people would ask about the Kingdom of God. He went to the people at a strategic time and place and proclaimed the gospel. Jesus knew before He entered the synagogues what He wanted to say. He did not wing the gospel conversations. He knew His message and how to share it. He was clear in His teaching. Jesus’ message had purpose.  

When we share the gospel or meet to disciple people, we need to know the gospel and how to share it. I have talked with believers who are eager to share their faith. That is exciting to me, but as I talked with them about the message of the gospel, it became clear that these passionate believers did not know how to organize the message of the gospel coherently. Jesus preached the gospel and knew how to share it with people so that they would understand and respond. We need to know the gospel well and know how to share it in a clear, concise way. A strategic way. How do we do this? Practice sharing the gospel. I have found that the best way is the simplest way. Be clear and concise, and most importantly, know your message.  

Strategic Action  

I think it is amazing that Jesus had compassion on the crowds. We see that Jesus had a compassionate heart. I hope as you grow deeper in your relationship with God you would grow more compassionate to the spiritual and physical needs of people around you. However, all of the compassion in the world, not aimed in the right direction will have minimal impact. Jesus strategically met people’s needs. He healed and cast out demons. He also taught. He met people’s physical needs and spiritual needs well.  

We need to be strategic in how we help those around us. Some ministries can help organize your efforts. Whatever you do to help those around you make sure to meet people’s needs in sustainable ways. And note that Jesus’ aid was connected with His preaching and teaching. We should help people with their physical needs but we must meet their spiritual needs. We need to see people who are not following Jesus as Jesus saw them, sheep without a shepherd. We know a Good Shepherd. Your aid and message should strategically lead people to the gospel.  

Strategic Prayer  

Jesus then called His disciples to pray for the spiritual harvest. This was a very targeted and specific prayer. Jesus had them pray that the “Lord of the Harvest” would prepare and send out laborers. Many of the disciples praying that prayer would be those laborers. They were not yet ready, so Jesus had them pray that God would prepare them. Specific and purposeful prayer is strategic prayer. 

How do we pray strategically? First, pray for the spiritual harvest already happening all around the world. Pray that God mobilizes the church to go and share the gospel with their communities. Pray that missionaries be sent out. Pray that local churches in every nation would be ready to go out into the harvest. Second, pray that you would be ready to be sent out into the fields as well. Maybe as a missionary, but for sure as a disciple in a local church. We too often think that the harvest in Matthew 9 is for ministers and missionaries to reap. However, we must see that Jesus is calling each of us to engage in this harvest. Pray that you would be ready to go out into the harvest as a laborer. No one can stay on the sidelines. So pray strategically that God would raise a generation of workers ready to proclaim the gospel.  

Conclusion  

As we conclude, I want to encourage you to consider yourself a laborer in this great harvest. As we go to strategic places with a strategic message, and meet people’s needs, we go with an attitude of strategic prayer. Pray before you share the gospel. Pray as you share the gospel. Pray as you meet people’s needs and introduce them to Jesus. Pray that you will be ready. Follow the words of Jesus and go reap the harvest for the Kingdom of Heaven.   

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

In this second part of this series on how to read your bible, we’ll be focusing on how to create a practice that works for you.  

Whether you’re a morning person who reads scripture over a cup of coffee or someone who prefers reading late into the night, it’s about creating a sustainable practice for you. If your practice doesn’t fit well with your lifestyle or personality, you’ll be much less likely to stick to it.  

With busy lives spent running from one thing to the next, it can seem nearly impossible to find time to be still and soak in scripture. Developing a habit that sticks takes time and effort, but this practice of self-discipline is well worth it. 

The Purpose 

Before diving into how to create a sustainable bible reading practice, determining your purpose, your why is crucial. The scripture is clear from Old Testament to New, that reading and meditating on the Word is transformative and part of a strong faith.  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

–Romans 12:2 

This verse in Romans reminds us that the Word, the written will of God, is perfect. By allowing it to permeate our minds and hearts, we are transformed and renewed.  

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

–Proverbs 30:5 

Scripture also acts as a shield, like this Proverb tells us. It protects our hearts and provides a refuge, a safe haven from the harsh reality of the world we live in.  

But, in order to experience the transformative power of scripture, we need to spend time reading and meditating on the Word. We need to create time and space to spend time with God, just like we would with any other relationship. So, how do we do that? Where do you start?  

Lifestyle 

Think about your life, consider all the factors. Are you a busy mom without a spare minute to herself on school mornings? Are you a student with a packed schedule? Or are you retired with plenty of hard-earned time on your hands? 

 Consider your personality too, are you introverted or extroverted? Do you like to process new concepts and information alone or with others? Do you prefer independent study or study groups?  

 If you haven’t already, identifying  your learning style and personality type can be really helpful in building a life that is the most effective for you. 

No matter your age, stage in life, or circumstances, I am betting you can find a few minutes each day to dedicate to quiet time. Not only is it a great time to dig into scripture, but its a great time to recenter yourself and connect with both yourself and God.  

With who? 

It can also be a time to connect with others, like your spouse, children, roommates, or prayer group. Especially for extroverts and verbal processors, creating space to discuss scripture and pray with people you love can be so life-giving.  

If you’re like me, sometimes you like to be alone to process and sometimes you prefer to be with others. Create variety in your scripture reading practice by scheduling different groups. Maybe you have a prayer group you attend once a month, once a week you do a devotional with your spouse, and every morning when the house is quiet, you read alone with God.  

When? 

Determine when you have the most time in your day, week, or season and start small. Perhaps you find yourself finishing your lunch within the first thirty minutes of your lunch break and scroll on your phone for the next thirty.  

What if you took just fifteen of those thirty minutes to open your bible app instead? Or listened to an audio version of your bible?  

Finding those pockets of time in your busy day can be incredibly rewarding and helpful in creating a sustainable practice for you.  

How often?  

Maybe you only have time right now for a bible study for an hour once a week sitting in your car while your child is at soccer practice. And that is okay! If you already have a routine bible study, add to it! Build up from three times a week to four, then five. 

Life has seasons, times that are busy and times that are leisurely. Understanding the seasons of your life and patterns of behavior can be helpful in embracing the natural ebbs and flows. 

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. 

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 

(read the rest of this chapter for a complete list of patterns) 

 It can also help you both take advantage of the good times, soaking in the Word, in preparation for the hard and busy times when you lack that time to read scripture.   

Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. 

–Proverbs 4:21 

 The scripture reading practice you create and follow consistently will only support your faith journey and relationship with God.