A Minor Introduction

The minor prophets in the Bible are pretty cool! But we have to be careful with man-made titles. For example, the “old” in Old Testament doesn’t mean outdated; nor does the “new” in New Testament mean something updated to modern times. 

In the same way, the minor prophets are only called “minor” because of the volume of their writing, not the quality of their message. In fact, their messages are actually quite major! 

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760 BC (Amos) to 450 BC (Malachi). You can check out this side-by-side chart to see where these prophets fit in the history of Judah and Israel. 

Here are some interesting tidbits about the minor prophets:

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these books are referred to simply as “The Twelve.” 
  • All of these prophets identify themselves in the first verse of their writing except Jonah, but he is identified in 2 Kings 14:23-25. 
  • The only others of the Twelve that are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament are Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19; 2 Kings 25:18-21; Ezra 5:1). 
  • The prophets consistently give us some historical context in their writings to help us place when, where, and to whom their ministry took place. 

The Twelve also show up quite liberally in the New Testament. Every one of them has either direct quotations or has their writings implicitly referred to throughout the New Testament. Here’s just a small sampling… 

  • Micah 5:2 tells us where Jesus would be born (Matthew 2:6)
  • Hosea 11:1 says Jesus would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
  • Malachi 4:5 says an “Elijah” would precede Jesus (Matthew 17:10-11)
  • Zechariah 9:9 foretells Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)
  • Jonah 1:17 was used by Jesus to predict His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-42)
  • Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Amos 9:11-12 foretold all peoples coming to Jesus (Acts 15:16-17)
  • Hosea 13:14 was quoted by Paul to show how death was defeated (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
  • Habakkuk 2:4 was also quoted by Paul to tell how righteous people live (Galatians 3:11)
  • Haggai 2:6 foretells the end times (Hebrews 12:26-29)

I look forward to diving deep into the major lessons in the minor prophets over the next several weeks, but in preparation for that let me give you 3 overarching lessons for all Bible studies:

  1. Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a historical record of real people, saying and doing real things in real places in the world. It’s not a collection of fables, myths, or legends. 
  2. We need to study the whole counsel of God’s Word. All of Scripture is interdependent on all the other parts of Scripture, and every part reinforces and amplifies every other part. Don’t limit your Bible reading to just one or two parts.
  3. Looking back in wonder and gratitude builds faith for today and hope for tomorrow. When we see what God has done in the past, and we realize that He is still the same God today, it builds our faith for today. And when our faith today is strengthened, it gives us a bright hope for tomorrow. 

I look forward to having you join me on this journey of discovery through the minor prophets! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Most Unlikely Recruits

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Most Unlikely Recruits

     Men and women have come in simply out of curiosity—a curiosity often created by some unfounded story or malicious slander of prejudiced minds. Yet Jesus Christ has called them and they have become both His disciples and our warmhearted friends. Some of the most unlikely recruits has been, in after days, our most valuable soldiers. They began with aversion and ended with enthusiasm. They came to scoff but remained to pray. Such cases are not at all uncommon.

     They were not unusual in the days of Whitefield and Wesley. They tell us in their journals of persons who came with stones in their pockets to throw at the Methodists, but whose enmity was slain by a stone from the sling of the Son of David. Others came to create disturbances, but a disturbance was created in their hearts that could never be quelled till they came to Jesus Christ and found peace in Him. The history of the church of God is studded with the remarkable conversions of persons who did not wish to be converted, who were not looking for grace but were even opposed to it, and yet, by the interposing arm of eternal mercy, were struck down and transformed into earnest and devoted followers of the Lamb. 

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

It is true that “the history of the church of God is studded with the remarkable conversions.” Think of the murderous persecutor Saul of Tarsus who encountered Jesus on a road near Damascus. This unlikely recruit to Christianity spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide. 

Think of an atheistic college professor named C.S. Lewis who eventually surrendered to the truth in the Bible, calling himself the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. Lewis went on to write some of the most influential Christian apologetic books of the 20th century. 

And most personally, think of yourself. Paul reminds us, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Yet God is using you right now to build His Church.

Keep on loving Jesus. Keep on sharing Jesus with your unsaved friends—no matter how antagonistic they may seem to your message. You never know what God may do with those “reluctant recruits.” 

Not How But Who

This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34). 

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant! 

A Chronology Of The Life Of Paul

The Apostle Paul is a fascinating figure that looms so large across the New Testament and beyond.

I recently came across these amazingly helpful study tools to put the life of Paul into perspective. These are both from the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, which I highly recommend to you for adding a new depth to your Bible study time.

This is an illustrated timeline of the key dates and events of Paul’s life. Click on the graphic to view it better, or check it out on the Biblia website.

If you would like to research both the biblical texts and the attestations of Paul’s ministry outside of the New Testament, you may want to download this PDF chart → Apostle Paul Chronology

And it’s worth repeating: get a copy of the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible for yourself as soon as you can!

Putting CHRIST In Christmas

Does it seem like many people substitute “Happy holidays” for “Merry Christmas”? Or that more and more people prefer spelling it “X-mas” instead of Christmas? 

This isn’t something new in our culture. Francis of Assisi dealt with this same situation in the 12th century. 

“Many people spell Christmas without Christ, the glory of a Holy Day being supplanted by the glitz of a holiday—a problem that reaches back to the days of St. Francis of Assisi. 

“Francis was born in 1182 in central Italy, son of a rich merchant. After a scanty education, he joined the army and was captured in war. He came to Christ shortly after his release, and soon he began traveling around the countryside, preaching the gospel. At a February 1209 Mass, Francis was gripped by words being read from Matthew 10: As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff … (NIV). 

“Francis felt that Christ Himself was speaking directly to him. He decided to obey those words as literally as possible, preaching the kingdom and possessing nothing. It is as though a 1,200-year bridge were crossed, putting Francis in the shoes of the original wayfaring apostles themselves. 

“He spent his remaining days making Christ real to everyone he met—a passion leading to history’s first living nativity scene. On December 24, 1223, Francis found a cave near Greccio, Italy, and brought in animals traditionally associated with the birth of Christ. (Francis loved animals and sometimes even preached to them.) He built the crib, arranged the hay, and finished the scene. Crowds gathered full of curiosity and wonder; and there on Christmas Eve Francis preached the wonder of God made man, born a naked infant and laid in the manger. ‘Behold your God,’ he said, ‘a poor and helpless Child, the ox and donkey beside Him. Your God is of your flesh.’ 

“Glitz gave way to glory that evening as the people of Greccio learned afresh how to spell the word Christmas.” —From On This Day 

This Advent season, let us remember that there is no Christmas without Christ! 

I ❤️ My Church!

If you lived in the early first century AD—and if the donkey carts had bumper stickers—I’ll bet that you would have seen “I ❤️ My Church” bumper stickers on everything the early Christians owned. 

Both the Bible and historians of that day talked about the positive societal changes that Christians were making in their communities, and how every place they lived and worshipped got better. 

Why not today? 

Why not in your community? 

I believe Christians can—and should—live in such a way that everyone in their communities would sit up and take notice of the positive changes. If Christians really lived this way, we wouldn’t even need “I ❤️ My Church” bumper stickers because our lives would be the best advertisement there was! 

Join me this Sunday as we learn how the first Christians lived such positive, society-changing lives, and how we can do the same thing today. Join us in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday. 

Covenants To God

Christmas Evans tells us in his diary that one Sunday afternoon he was traveling a very lonely road to attend an appointment, and he was convicted of a cold heart. He wrote,

“I tethered my horse and went to a sequestered spot, where I walked to and fro in an agony as I reviewed my life. I waited three hours before God, broken with sorrow, until there broke over me a sweet sense of His forgiving love. I received from God a new baptism of the Holy Ghost.

“As the sun was westering, I went back to the road, found my horse, mounted it and went to my appointment. On the following day I preached with such new power to a vast concourse of people gathered on the hillside, that a revival broke out that day and spread through all Wales.”

Christmas went on to write 13 covenants to God. You can read all 13 of them by clicking here, but here are six of them that especially resonated with me—

V. O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, take for the sake of Thy cruel death, my time, and strength and the gifts and talents I possess; which, with a full purpose of heart, I consecrate to Thy glory in the building up of Thy Church in the world, for Thou art worthy of the hearts and talents of all men.

VI. I desire Thee, my great High Priest, to confirm, by Thy power from Thy High Court, my usefulness as a preacher, and my piety as a Christian, as two gardens nigh to each other; that sin may not have a place in my heart to becloud my confidence in Thy righteousness, and that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither, and I be rendered useless before my life ends…. 

VIII. … Grant that I may experience the power of Thy Word before I deliver it, as Moses felt the power of his own rod, before he saw it on the land and waters of Egypt. Grant this, for the sake of Thine infinitely precious blood, O Jesus, my hope, and my all in all.

IX. Search me now, and lead me into plain paths of judgment. Let me discover in this life what I am before Thee, that I may not find myself of another character when I am shown in the light of the immortal world, and open my eyes to all the brightness of eternity…. 

X. Grant me strength to depend upon Thee for food and raiment, and to make known my requests…. 

XII. Grant, O blessed Lord, that nothing may grow and be matured in me to occasion Thee to cast me off from the service of the sanctuary, like the sons of Eli; and for the sake of the Thine unbounded merit, let not my days be longer than my usefulness…. (emphasis mine)

If you want to do great things for God—if you want Him to do great things through you—then you must be wholly committed to Him. Perhaps Christmas Evans’ covenant statements will help you draft your own, or adopt a couple of his, to consecrate yourself to God’s service. 

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