Seeing Jesus (book review)

seeing-jesusB.B. Warfield once commented that the Old Testament is like a beautiful mansion, but the lights are turned off; with the Advent of Jesus, the lights have come on and we can now appreciate the beauty that was always there. In Seeing Jesus, Nancy Guthrie shows us the beauty of Jesus that is on full display from the opening words of the Bible, shining a bright light on passages that many may have previously missed.

Sadly, a lot people mistakenly believe that Jesus first shows up at His birth in Bethlehem, forgetting that Jesus Himself said that all the Scriptures point to Him. Nancy does just what Jesus said: She links together passages from both Testaments to show how all the Scripture finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Each chapter opens with a passage from the Old Testament and a passage from the New Testament. Then Nancy masterfully shows how Jesus links the two Testaments by the work He completed at Calvary. I appreciate how there is a satisfying conclusion to each chapter, but also how there is an open door to explore each particular topic more in my own Bible study time.

Especially for those who have thought the Old Testament is confusing, or outdated, or even boring, Seeing Jesus will bring a whole new excitement and insight into your Bible study time.

I am a Tyndale book reviewer.

Real Faith Is Dangerous

the-bad-habits-of-jesus“We all need to learn the relationship between real faith that could put us into dangerous situations and the real danger of misinterpreting the Scriptures to our own advantage. Wrong interpretations can yield pharisaical commitments to practices and rituals rather than to the Person of Jesus. But true faith that walks the talk and toes the line of true discipleship can be downright dangerous. This is the line the Jesus regularly walked, and it is the same line that He still calls His followers to find and walk today.

“Faith is not a synonym for fail-safe.” —Leonard Sweet, in The Bad Habits Of Jesus

Thursdays With Oswald—Is Your Religion Rotten?

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

Is Your Religion Rotten?

      No man can redeem his own soul, or give himself a new heredity; that is the work of the sovereign grace of God. Man has nothing to do with Redemption, it is God’s “bit”; but God cannot give a man a good character, that is not God’s business, nor is it an inevitable thing. God will give us what we cannot give ourselves, a totally new heredity (see Luke 11:13). God will put the disposition of His Son, Holy Spirit, into any man who asks, then on that basis man has to work out a holy character. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you….” [Philippians 2:12]

      If your religion does not make you a better man, it is a rotten religion. The test of true religion is when it touches these four things—food, money, sex and mother earth. These things are the test of a right sane life with God, and the religion that ignores them or abuses them is not right. … A man needs to hold a right attitude to all these things by means of his personal relationship to God.

From Shade Of His Hand

God gives Christians a new heredity—a new way of looking at life through a relationship with Jesus Christ—by placing His Holy Spirit in us. That, as Chambers says, is God’s bit.

What we do with this new heredity—this new way of looking at life—is our bit.

So… how are you doing? Does your relationship with Jesus Christ help you handle food, money, sex and mother earth in God-honoring ways? Is the Holy Spirit able to correct your attitude so it aligns with the biblical viewpoint on these topics?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, your religion is true. If not, Chambers says you have “a rotten religion.”

9 More Quotes From “The Bad Habits Of Jesus”

the-bad-habits-of-jesusI know suggesting that Jesus might have some “bad habits” sounds a bit sacrilegious, but you’ve got to check out my review of Leonard Sweet’s thought-provoking book (which you can find by clicking here). I have already shared a few quotes from this book here, but there were just too many good ones for just one post!

“Jesus’ mysterious, open-ended, twisty endings [to His stories] were brilliantly conceived, and His lack of explanation was perfectly pitched. He wanted people not only to think about the story and to converse with each other about the story, but also to ask Him about the story. Ultimately, Jesus’ stories were about cultivating a relationship with Him. We call it discipleship.”

“The people Jesus was interested in the most, the ones Jesus celebrated the most, were those who asked questions like He did. … Jesus loves people who would not just listen to Him, but who would follow Him, learn from Him, and be in relationship with Him—and with God.”

“Why do we feel that to be good and faithful Christians, we must not look too happy, not enjoy ourselves too much, when throughout the Scriptures, God clearly loves a party?” 

“For Christians, every day is a reminder of the Resurrection. Each and every day should be a grand celebration of God’s amazing gift of Jesus. Everything in life is filled with Resurrection moments. And every person is filled with Resurrection hope just waiting to be celebrated. The church above all should be a place of festivities and joy. People should look at the church and think, What joyful people!

“The ‘Nice God’ of therapeutic culture leads one to expect that if I have a need, God needs to meet my need. This is Christianity as Niceianity. For Jesus, God is loving and merciful and true but not necessarily ‘nice.’ The holy God is dangerous, because the holy God is truth.”

“Traveling with Jesus is not always dignified, pretty, or easy. Jesus takes the common routes and dangerous pathways, seeks out the messy and the dirty and the difficult. But traveling with Jesus is also beautiful, for those who follow Jesus also bring God’s lost and dirty people home to God—to be renewed, to be cleansed, to be clothed, to be loved.”

“How often does our ‘religion’ get between us and God? Are we so filled up with religion and all its trappings that there isn’t room for the inpourings of God’s presence and the outpourings of God’s power?”

“Jesus is the way into a life of truth, not a way out of life’s problems, difficulties, failures, and missteps.”

“Jesus was inclusive, but while He accepted people as they were, He didn’t affirm them as they were; He transfigured them into the singular images of God they were created to be.”

More quotes from The Bad Habits Of Jesus coming soon. And you can also follow me on Twitter and Tumblr to read some great quotes each and every day.

How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Can We Really Know If The Bible Is God’s Word?

inspired-scriptureHave you ever been stumped by someone’s argument against Christianity or the Bible? Has anyone ever made fun of you because the Bible sounds like a fairy tale? Over 100 years ago Oswald Chambers described how our post-Christian world was beginning to treat Christianity and the Bible on which it’s based—

“We have made ambition and competition the very essence of civilized life. No wonder there is no room for Jesus Christ, and no room for the Bible. We are all so scientifically orthodox nowadays, so materialistic and certain that rationalism is the basis of things, that we make the Bible out to be the most revolutionary, unorthodox and heretical of books.”

It’s that “rationalism” that we need to address. We need to ask scoffers and seekers alike, “What makes you so sure of your beliefs? How did you come to that conclusion?”

Every human being exercises some sort of faith—that the chair will hold them when they sit down, that their spouse will honor their marriage vows, and that their worldview is correct. We need to explore what kind of faith they (and we) have:

  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence.
  • Blind faith—believing in something without any evidence.
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence.

I want to show evidence that makes it reasonable to believe in the Bible.

Empirical evidence—

  1. The bibliographical test: determining whether the text of the historical record has been transmitted accurately.

Josh McDowell states, “No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.” He can make this claim because the profession of “scribe” was one of the most professional and exacting of all professions. The rigorous standards employed to prove the accuracy of a copy of a biblical manuscript was higher than for any other literature.

Most of our modern-day Bibles are based on a 1000-year-old manuscript. But after the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, we found biblical manuscripts going back to 250 B.C. that confirmed the accuracy of the manuscripts we already had. This led Dr. Peter Flint to conclude: “The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.

manuscript-evidenceThen regarding the New Testament, Josh McDowell says, “I believe there is more evidence for the reliability of the New Testament than for any other ten pieces of classical literature put together.” Check out this chart reproduced from McDowell’s book God-Breathed to see by comparison to other literature, how close in dating the earliest biblical manuscripts are, and how many of those manuscripts have been discovered!

2.  The external evidence test: determining whether the historical record has been verified or affirmed by data outside of itself.

Over one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic, and two-thirds of its prophesies have already been fulfilled. For example, 700 years before His birth, the city in which Jesus was to be born was identified by a man named Micah.

Time and time again archeologists discover articles that verify the claims in the Bible. This led archeologist Nelson Glueck to conclude, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

3.  The internal evidence test: determining how of the historical record stands up to the test of internal validity.

The Bible was written by 45 different authors, over a span of 1500 years, on 3 different continents, and in 3 different languages. Yet there are no contradictions!

Anecdotal evidence—

  1. Changed lives. My life is one that has been amazingly impacted by the God of the Bible, as was a man named Saul, who had a total about-face after encountering Jesus. As a result, Christianity was spread far and fast through his writings and world travels.

2.  Changed societies. Wherever the Christian faith of the Bible has been put into practice, societies improve. Leonard Sweet notes—

“Before Christianity, there were cults that practiced all sorts of human sacrifice as well as self-mutilation and self-castration. Before Christianity, the weak were despised, the poor maligned, the handicapped abandoned. Before Christianity, infanticide was rampant, slavery run-of-the-mill, and gladiatorial combat a form of entertainment. In Jesus’ day, Corinth was famous for its temple prostitutes, continuing a long-standing tradition symbolized by the Corinthian athlete Xenophon.… Aristotle…not only condoned institutionalized slavery but provided an elaborate argument in favor of it. As if that weren’t enough, Aristotle called man ‘begotten’ and woman ‘misbegotten,’ and because a woman’s reasoning was ‘without authority’ accepted no female students.

“Only Jesus and His followers known as the church insisted on the concept of human dignity and the value of every human soul. Only the church built hospitals and took care of the abandoned and disabled. Only the church celebrated charity and selflessness as the highest virtue and elevated the status of women.”

Is all of this “proof positive” that the Bible is God’s Word? No, it’s not. But I think the evidence is compelling enough that it is certainly reasonable to reach this conclusion.

Here are some great application questions from this lesson:

  1. Other than because it says so in the Bible, how do I know that it is God’s Word?
  2. How can I let the Bible “thoroughly equip” me (2 Timothy 3:14-17)?  
  3. Is my worldview pragmatic or biblical? Does it really make a difference?

The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy (book review)

the-dawning-of-indestructible-joySometimes I am concerned that even those who know the story of the Incarnation of Jesus miss out on the stunningly powerful miracle that took place in Bethlehem. Instead of being awed by the majesty of Christ’s First Advent, we merely give lip service to His birth. John Piper’s book The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy will give you a fresh perspective of the miracle of Christ’s birth and all that it means.

The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy is written in 25 chapters, building an exciting countdown from December 1 until Christmas morning. Each day John Piper will awaken your heart and mind again to the unimaginable gifts that Jesus Christ made available to us through His incarnation. Gifts such as freedom from sin, intimacy with God, eternal life, and soul-lifting joy.

Each chapter is short enough to serve as an ideal family reading time, perhaps each evening around the dinner table in December. The Scripture passage for each day is short enough, too, for everyone to memorize so that they are prepared to share with anyone else the joy that comes with the miracle of the Advent.

Make this book a part of your family Christmas tradition.

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