Posts Tagged New Testament

The Feasts of the Lord

This is one I have been looking forward to for a while, but now that it’s here, I’m a little nervous.

For the next three (3) Sunday nights I will be teaching a series at our church entitled The Feasts of the Lord: Jesus Fulfills the Feasts. It’s a topic that is absolutely fascinating, and I hope I am able to do it a little justice.

I believe the series will be recorded, and, if so, I will try to post the audio here. At the very least, I will try to post summaries each week.

I hope it goes well. Pray for me.

And if any of you happen to be in the Sweetwater, TX area any of the next three (3) Sundays, feel free to drop in.

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Dissecting the James Dilemma-Part 1

I have spent enough time both in and out of the flock to know which Bible verses give believers fits, and James 2:14-26 probably tops the list:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:14-26 (KJV)

I must confess, I’m not entirely sure I’ve heard a truly satisfactory reconciliation of this passage in James and Paul, specifically,  “Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. I think the reason is because there is an attempted reconciliation where none is necessary.

Explanations usually begin with an acknowledgment of an apparent contradiction then employ circularity to explain why the two are not contradictory (e.g. the Bible cannot contradict itself, therefore there is no contradiction). Other explanations suggest James really means something other than what he is saying. These are equally problematic.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that all such explanations are necessarily aimed at an opposing logical fallacy, the straw man that the two are contradictory.

Paul clearly maintains that one is justified by faith, regardless of works. James clearly maintains that one is justified by faith and works. The assertion that these positions contradict each other is only valid if justification is a one-time event, and only a one-time event. If justification is both an event and a process, there is no contradiction.

Was Abraham justified by faith apart from works? Yes. Was Abraham also justified by his subsequent works? Yes.

To say that “faith without works is dead” means “faith alone is insufficient for justification” is simply a misunderstanding of the faith/works relationship. In James 2:22 he writes, “and by works was faith made perfect.” What came first? Faith, by which Abraham was initially made righteous. Then, works which worked to perfect that faith. Thus, Abraham was made righteous by his faith and continued to be made righteous by the perfection of his faith through works.

In Part 2, I will discuss the nature of works and whether any ol’ good works will do.

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Rethinking the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus’ first sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, is probably the most famous sermon in history. We are all familiar with the first few lines:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. Matthew 5 (NASB)

Toward the end of the sermon, Jesus says:

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7 (NASB)

Do the consequences sound familiar? Jesus also uses similar language in his last recorded teaching:

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.
21 “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;
22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
23 “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people;
24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21 (NASB), and compare Matthew 24.

I have heard countless sermons on the various portions of the Sermon on the Mount. In fact,  I heard another brilliant one yesterday (I will link to it when it becomes active). And I was stirred to reread the entire Sermon on the Mount.

What struck me was something I had never seen before. The opening of Jesus’ ministry is a prophetic plea. Jesus is imploring his Jewish brethren to “get it,” and warning them of the consequences of not “getting it”: being trampled.

The Sermon on the Mount is indeed full of spiritual truths, sound advice for living, and a whole host of really cool things. It is also much, much more.

When I teach my public speaking class, one of the things I try and instill is that the audience needs to hear what’s being said three times: (1) tell them what you’re going to tell them, (2) tell them, and (3) tell them what you told them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His public ministry by telling his audience what He’s going to tell them. Then he spends three years telling them. Finally, He is forced to conclude with a heart-breaking “I told them so.”

This is hardly a completed project, more of an infant idea. I just wanted to write it down for future reference (and if I had written it on paper or in a journal, I don’t know if I would ever find it).

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Review: What’s in the Bible? Episodes 1 and 2

Thanks to the good folks over at Tyndale House and Phil Vischer (creator of VeggieTales) for the advance review copy of What’s in the Bible? Episodes 1 & 2.

The What’s in the Bible? website describes this new video series as follows:

What’s in the Bible? is a new DVD series from VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer designed to walk kids and families through the entire Bible.

As you can imagine, I was excited to be included among those asked to review the first two episodes in this series, especially since my 20-month old daughter (The Libster) and I are VeggieTales-aholics.

So, here goes. First, What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver (and friends), is a puppet-human collaboration in the tradition of Sesame Street. The hosts are Phil Vischer (human) and Buck Denver, Man of News, (puppet). The cast of puppet characters includes the gray-haired Sunday School Lady, the piano playing Pastor Paul, explorers Clive & Ian, and other memorable characters. There is also an entertaining meta-character, Michael, who is a puppet child traveling in the backseat of a vehicle that appears at the beginning and between segments asking his mother to change DVDs. He’s quite amusing, really.

Second, each episode, which consists of two half-hour programs, begins with a “Big Question” such as, “What is the Bible?” “Who wrote the Bible?” and “Who picked the books to be in the Bible?” There are also “new words” where Biblical and theological terms and concepts are explained.

Each episode is filled with song, self-deprecating humor, sarcasm, and, of course, Bible stuff. The first episode, “In the Beginning,” explains “What is the Bible?” in the first segment and takes the viewers through the first eleven chapters of Genesis in the second segment. The second episode, “Let My People Go,” takes the viewer from Abraham to Moses and through Exodus.

The theology appears to be traditional Protestant/Evangelical. The humor ranges from slapstick to high-brow and everything in between. The concepts covered are considerably more complex than what can be found in Christian cartoons and Bible-story programs. This is because What’s in the Bible? aims at teaching the Bible and not just Bible stories. It’s a bold move, but one I expect to pay off.

The downside, if there is one, is that the audience might be limited to children over a certain age. On the Libby test, What’s in the Bible? struggled to hold the attention of a 20-month old. She liked the music and the children interviews, but she has yet to make it through a 30 minute segment after three or four attempts (as opposed to similar length VeggieTales episodes, which she can watch and still want more). I doubt, however, the audience is intended to be so young.

I do appreciate the working assumption: that children are capable of learning and appreciating more than simple Bible stories. Buck Denver and his crew take on concepts such as “redemption,” “salvation,” and the Christian “canon,” and they do so quite well. I suspect there are many adults as well who need refresher courses in these concepts.

In short, if you are looking for VeggieTales retold, look elsewhere. What’s in the Bible? is a more grown-up kids series. It is, however, a great way to introduce kids to more complicated Biblical ideas and to go beyond Bible stories. I would recommend for parents and children to watch together if possible. I would also recommend this series for Sunday school classes, vacation Bible school curricula, even as a supplement to grade school and possibly junior high age lessons.

I think you will be surprised by how easily complex matters are handled and explained. Enjoy!

Buy What’s in the Bible from Amazon?

Related Websites:

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Romans Bible Study

Our Wednesday night Bible study (which was Hebrews last semester) got a second act. This semester we will be studying the book of Romans.

For those following the Hebrews Bible Study online, I realize I haven’t posted the concluding chapters, which I will do when I get a little spare time, but I invite you to follow our Romans Bible Study. Last night we kicked off this semester with a lifegroup party before we dig into Romans starting next Wednesday.

Our group experienced some pretty cool stuff last semester, and we were presented with one ministry opportunity after another, after another. And it sure is fun watching all of that continue to unfold. So, I think we will be expanding even more the ministry aspect of our lifegroup, but without shortchanging the Bible study itself. I’m hoping we can make the ministry stuff our extra-curricular activity, so we can have the study element, the ministry element, and the testimonial element, without having to cram all of it into 1.5 hours a week.

This will be the repository for all of the Romans Bible Study posts for now until the semester is over and I can compile all of the posts into one master post, so bookmark this page. The chapter links below will become active as the semester progresses.

Any suggestions regarding commentaries, extra reading, etc. would be much appreciated. I’ve ordered two commentaries (Stott’s Romans: Encountering the Gospel’s Power and Kuhatschek’s Romans: Becoming New in Christ), but they have yet to arrive.

It’s going to be another great semester!

  • Romans Chapter 1
  • Romans Chapter 2
  • Romans Chapter 3
  • Romans Chapter 4
  • Romans Chapter 5
  • Romans Chapter 6
  • Romans Chapter 7
  • Romans Chapter 8
  • Romans Chapter 9
  • Romans Chapter 10
  • Romans Chapter 11
  • Romans Chapter 12
  • Romans Chapter 13
  • Romans Chapter 14
  • Romans Chapter 15
  • Romans Chapter 16

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Jesus: Creator, Created, Both or Other

We had an interesting discussion yesterday during our church’s Revelation Bible Study (we meet weekly, and it’s led by a good friend of mine who blogs about it at The Watchman’s Gaze).  I didn’t at all mean to derail the discussion, and I think I only sidetracked us for a few minutes, but I want other opinions.

Revelation 3:14 provides:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this… (NASB)

Now, I don’t mean to call into question the divinity of Jesus, or his role as creator, but as “the Beginning of the creation of God,” was there a point in time where the manifestation of God as Jesus came into existence or did the representation of God as Jesus always exist?

Our discussion leader and our pastor (who blogs at the Monday Morning Review) were  adamant (in a very friendly and cordial way-both are experienced in indulging my quirky rabbit trails) that Jesus always was. I, with very little other support around the table (except for possibly our pastor’s wife-who doesn’t blog yet), however, continue to be nagged with the metaphysical question of Jesus as “the Beginning of the creation of God” and as “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…”

I certainly do not see it as heretical to think of Jesus coming into existence in some way as other reflections of God must have, His Word for example. I think we got hung up on the word “created.” And I don’t care if we use “created” or some other word to describe it. Physicists spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to figure out the moment of creation, but I want to know your thoughts about the time before that, specifically the moment of the creator.

Thoughts? Ideas? Scriptural Authority?

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Not Exactly the Holiday Inn

My regular readers will know that I’m a fan of searching out obscure, often lost, stuff in scripture. Well, I must admit, I never thought to research the inn in Bethlehem referenced in the story of the birth of Jesus.

Now, I don’t have to. It was the subject of our pastor’s sermon Sunday morning. I guess I do if I want to figure out if he’s right, there was a little scriptural hopscotch being played to make the connections he made, but my initial reaction was, “that’s pretty cool.” And I still haven’t come up with a reason why it’s wrong, so it must be right. Right? ;)

It’s worth a read, but you won’t get the full flavor just from his post, The Inn in Bethlehem. If you have a few minutes, give the podcast (Sacrifice and Relationships) a listen, too.

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