Welcome to The Story

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Welcome to The Story

Reading, Loving, and Living God’s Word

By Stephen J. Nichols

169 pages

© 2011

Stephen J. Nichols is research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. He has written an easy-to-understand book about how a person can get the most out of their Bible reading. A lot people read the Bible as a jigsaw puzzle and ‘cherry-pick’ verses to help them with their problems. Nicholas encourages us to read the Bible with the plot in mind. There is “Trouble in Paradise” and there are four elements to the biblical plot: Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. He begins with Genesis 1-3 and traces this plot line throughout the Scriptures. When one reads the Bible with these four elements in mind, the Bible is understood more like one grand story, than a bunch of stories that barely relate to one another. I wish I had read this book twenty years ago. I recommend this book but the best thing about this book is the practical guide to getting the most out of your daily Bible reading. Even after twenty-two years of walking with the Lord and hours of theological study, I still learned many things from this book. If you read it, let me know what you think.

 

Brian L. Spivey — D.O.C.

 

Reflections About Resurrection Sunday

It started with a question, “If an outsider were to observe our family for four years, which holiday would she likely say is the most important to us? Based on our actions and our joy, which holiday requires more of our time, creativity and effort, the INCARNATION or the RESURRECTION? Christmas or Easter? I waited…

Two of the six loudly responded, “Christmas!” The other four nodded their heads in agreement. After family devotion was over it was time for some serious REFLECTION.

Matthew dedicates just seven verses to the Birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:18-25. Luke dedicates thirty-two verses, Luke 1:26-38, and 2:1-21, which includes the birth announcement. That’s about forty verses. The miracles surrounding the birth of Christ are: (1) an angel appearing to Joseph (2), an angel appeared to Mary (3), an angel appeared to the shepherds and (4), a multitude of heavenly host praising God. Matthew dedicates thirty-one verses to the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are thirty-six verses in Mark, and forty-two in John. Luke dedicates seven-nine (79) verses for the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ. When we just contrast the numbers, 188-40, there is no comparison, there are more verses dedicated to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The miracles that accompanied the death and Resurrection: (1) Darkness over the land from 12pm-3pm (2), the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom (3), the earth shook (4) the rocks split (5), the tombs were opened (6) the saints was raised and went into the holy city and appeared to many (7), another great earthquake happened (8) an angel rolled back the stone (9) the linen clothes were lying there AND (10) Jesus appeared to His disciples.

Just a simple reading the New Testament reveals that there are more miracles and more scripture verses that accompany the RESURRECTION than the INCARNATION.

Our devotion started with a question, but ended with REPENTANCE. I repented and apologized. The New Testament emphasizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ more than the incarnation and I should also.

The incarnation is important, but the Christian hope is enveloped in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Do you place more effort in celebrating Christmas and neglect Holy Week? We are starting to plan for Holy Week 2016; will you join us?

Brian L. Spivey

THERE’S NOBODY LIKE JESUS


When was the last time you heard a sermon about Joseph? The famous ‘Coat of many Colors.’ “The Favored Son.” “The Tenacity of Joseph” “The Joseph Spirit.”
It probably focused on Joseph’s entrepreneurial spirit. Or how God will raise us up after we have been faithful in our trials. Is that the major theological lesson God wants us to understand from that story? The narrative of Joseph is just a demonstration of the Messiah and His future work. Joseph was sent to his brothers, and his brothers rejected him. Sound familiar? Joseph was put into a pit? Does this remind you of someone? His brothers were the ones who ate bread with him, and they were the ones who lifted up their heel against him. The ones who betrayed Joseph were the very people with whom he dipped morsels of bread. Remind you of another person? Joseph was raised and seated in authority to preserve the life of his people. What about the ‘Coat of many colors’? How does that point to Christ?
A sermon about Joseph that doesn’t mention Christ is missing the point!
There’s Nobody Like Jesus. He secured our salvation and lives forever.
In my past life, I once heard an “evangelist” sermonize for 70 minutes about how Christians need the armor of God to go to heaven. We need the armor, but the armor does not forgive our sins and change our eternal destiny. There’s Nobody Like Jesus.

ONLY ONE person can turn a woman who was famous for singing about adultery into a changed woman who now sings, (Shirley Murdock with Darwin Hobbs) “There’s Nobody Like Jesus” – JESUS THE MESSIAH.

 

Brian L. Spivey

Can You Sing the Song of King David & Our Forefathers?

David’s song would probably not be played on a contemporary Christian radio station, or played in our churches, but maybe it should.

In Psalm 16, he prayed, “Preserve me, O God.”  The Hebrew word for “preserve” means “to keep or guard.”  We can see this word in action when we look at how guards surround a king, and when a shepherd guards his sheep. David took refuge in the only person who can perfectly shepherd and protect him.

In verse 2, there is a second singular ending on the end of the Hebrew verb, “Say.”  It is a strange thing because it is in the feminine form.  I believe the KJV and the NKJV captures the gist of the why it might be there when they translated verse 2, “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord.”  David confessed to himself and the Lord, “You are my Lord.”  At the end of verse 2, David declares that his goodness “Extendeth not to thee…”David recognized his radical corruption.  This recognition is crucial for a true understanding of our condition before God.  We won’t feel a need to run to Jesus without this knowledge.

We stand undone and condemned before a holy God.  Without the foreign righteousness of Christ we are men most miserable – we are without hope. The realization of knowing ones sins was huge for pillars in church history.  Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century mystic said, “The knowledge of God and knowledge of self belong together and that in their mutual dependence they are necessary for salvation.”  Question # 1 of The Heidelberg Catechism provides a biblical summary of our only comfort in life and in death.  But question #2 asks, “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?  The answer – “Three things:  First, how great my sin and misery are…” This was the first on the list.  This was the song. The apostles knew how great their sin and misery were; the believer in the 12th Century knew this; the elders and church leaders in Germany in the 16th Century knew this; and David declared this in Psalm 16.  When you look squarely “into the eyes” of a Holy God, can you see “How Great, How Great is our sin!  Sing with me how great is our sin. Then all will see how Great, how Great is our GOD”

Can you sing the song of King David and our forefathers?  Well then, there is hope for you… You can now RUN to Jesus for safety.

Brian Spivey — D.O.C.

Skippy, Jif, Peter Pan or Dynamic Equivalent?

When I grew up I had to spend some time with a babysitter.  She had lunch prepared for me when I got home from school – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The only decision I had to make was whether I wanted Peter Pan, Skippy or Jif.  I always chose Jif because “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” I really didn’t think about the decision, the clever advertisers “made” the decision for me.

But is this how most of us choose a Bible translation?

I think it might be worth our while to spend a little more time thinking about what translation we will use for our personal Bible reading and study and what we choose to use in our churches.

choosing a Bible

Leland Ryken has written a 30 page booklet entitled, “Choosing a Bible,” that will help one to make an informed decision.  He explains clearly and briefly the difference between the two different approaches to Bible translation – Dynamic Equivalent and Word-for-Word.  Ryken says that one negative effect of Dynamic Equivalency is we get what the Bible “means,” vs. what the Bible says.

It is a quick read and Ryken explains these complex concepts with simplicity.  I highly recommend this booklet, especially if you don’t want the clever advertisers to make the decision for you.   

Brian L. Spivey

A Common Sense, Non-Technical Defense of the Perspicuity of Scripture

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Perspicuity is one of those words rarely used outside of theology, and even then primarily with regard to Scripture.  It has to do with clarity, plainness, intelligibility.  The Scriptures are able to be understood by every generation in every age (with qualification, see below).  Christianity is a revelatory religion.  If, as some contend, the Bible cannot be properly understood since we are thousands of years removed from the events it records, or that it is so colored by the cultural constraints of the inspired writers that we cannot truly know the meaning of the text, then the Bible becomes a puzzle book.  Is this what God intended?

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes some helpful qualifications with regard to the perspicuity of Scripture in chapter 1, sec. 7, “All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

By defending the clarity of Scripture I am not asserting there is no spade work involved, it does take effort.  Some portions require more labor than others, some are not as plain as others.  However, the Scriptures are intelligible in the main.  If it were not so, why would the apostle Paul command that they be read publicly to the people of God (1 Tim. 4:13)?  And why would Philip ask the Ethiopian eunuch, while he was reading Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30) if they cannot be properly understood?

In this post I wish to focus on the public reading of Scripture in particular.  The command to do this when God’s people are gathered indicates at least three things:

1) The meaning of the text is not locked up to academics and theologians.  Literally, anyone can grasp that which is revealed.  Otherwise, this would be an act of religious futility.

2) Since the command is for the church in every age until the Lord come, it cannot be that a meaning which was available to the original recipients of the text has been cut off from the modern believer.

3) The God revealed in the Bible is the God who speaks, who communicates.  That communication cannot be confounded by circumstance.  If God’s Word is a lamp unto the feet of His people, and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105) then it must provide divine guidance for our lives.

Why would Christians want to assert otherwise?  What do you think?

C.M. Granger

What Does the Book of Hebrews have to do with a Nail?

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If you haven’t read or studied the book of Hebrews in the past two years, you might want to move it to the top of your reading list.  But I don’t want you to take my word only, read and ponder the following quotes:

“Every Christian needs to understand Hebrews.  If they do not, they will misunderstand the Old Testament and will also fail to fully appreciate what our Lord Jesus Christ has done, what he is doing now, and what he is going to do in the future.  As a result, they will remain spiritually stunted” xi, Stuart Olyott – I Wish Someone Would Explain Hebrews To Me! (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2010)

“The doctrinal importance of this book is exceeded by none, not even by the Roman Epistle.” Arthur Pink – An Exposition of Hebrews, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 2006.

Look how much we learn about Jesus from the first four verses:

(1) The Son is the Heir (2) the Creator (3) the Revealer (4) the Sustainer (5) the Redeemer (6) the Ruler and Supreme.

The number seven in the Scripture often connotes completeness.  The apostle wanted to let his readers know right from the start, that Christ was the complete and final revelation of God.  Anything they were clinging to was inferior.  Christ is so much better.

On what doctrinal peg (teaching) are we hanging our soul?  Whatever it is, if it is not the finished work of Christ on the cross, we hanging our soul on a rusty, worn out nail that will eventually pass away.  The only nail we should point to is the nail that held Christ on the cross.  That nail reminds us that the Messiah was God’s plan from the beginning.  That nail reminds us that it was the Father’s plan to bruise Him.  That nail reminds us that our sins have been “Nailed to the cross and we bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O’ my soul.”

Twelve of the thirteen chapters of Hebrews is constantly pointing to that nail.

 My friend, is it well with your soul today?

If not look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Brian Spivey D.O.C.

A Lamb for the Lame

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How do you read the Bible?  Is the Bible just a book that teaches us how we are to live, or is it more than that?  The Bible is God’s story of salvation.  It makes all the difference in the world how we read the Scriptures. 

 

For instance, when we read in the Scriptures that God used Peter and John to heal the lame man (Acts 3), what should be our response?  The answer all depends on whether a person views the Bible as a book of morals, or God’s story of salvation.  If we view it as a moral book, then the result will be a desire for us to find a lame man and ask God to work through us like He worked through Peter and John; besides, “God is no respecter of persons.”  Yet, if we view the Bible as God’s story, then the result will be a deeper appreciation and devotion in us toward the God who heals those who cannot heal themselves. This lame man was healed by the lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

 

If we are reading the Bible as God’s salvation story, then when we read about a leper or a lame man, it should automatically remind us of our own condition.  As sons of Adam, we are spiritual lepers.  We cannot heal ourselves.  We were born sinners.  When we see the lame, we should remember that we have no ability to come to God unless He draws us. 

 

In 2 Samuel 9, we are introduced to a lame man by the name of Mephibosheth.  He lived far from the king. He was a descendant of Saul, so he was a natural enemy of the king.  He had no intention of ever seeking out the king.  He was a rejected refugee.  Mephibosheth was as good as dead.  He hid from the king and was not part of the king’s family.  But the king called Mephibosheth and gave him life.  He gave him an inheritance and adopted him.  He made him a son with all rights and privileges.

 

A moral book?  Then, we should praise God for David and try to imitate king David.

 

A book about God’s salvation history?  Then we stand in awe of how our King humbled Himself and came to earth to show us mercy.  He gave us new life, an inheritance, and the adoption of sons.  This story should evoke gratitude for the wisdom and kindness of our God – The Lamb of God came to earth to heal lame.Kosher+slaughter

 

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen

 

 

Brian (D.O.C.)

 

Are You a Groundhog or a Christian?

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There are seven festivals instituted by God for the Israelites.  These festivals were shadows or types of Christ.  You can find a detailed description in Leviticus 23.  Males were required to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate three out of the seven – The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks and The Feast of Booths.  The one that’s probably most unfamiliar to us is The Feast of Booths.  They had to hold a holy convocation for the first day, and a holy convocation for the eighth day.  No ordinary work was to be done.  You can read about all the details of this festival in Leviticus 23:33-44.  The point I want to emphasize here is what the Israelites were suppose to remember during this time – that the people of “Israel dwell in booths when I (The Lord) brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (verse 43).

The children of Israel had to leave the ‘comforts’ of their homes and live in these ‘booths’ for seven days.  This helped remind them that when God brought them out of Egypt, they had nothing but His presence.  If they had His presence, then they needed nothing else to survive.  These booths, or ‘tabernacles,’ were reminders, but they also pointed forward.  They were to look forward to the Messiah who would be ‘God with them.’   The tabernacle stood as a visible witness that salvation was God’s way or no way.  It typified the Incarnation of Christ.  The tabernacle was also a visible reminder that God’s presence – the most holy place, was off limits; it was only accessible by a representative.  The curtain dashed all of our hopes, and kept us out of the presence of God.

But the greatest miracle the world has ever experienced happened over 2000 years ago – Jesus was born.

John said that Jesus dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14).  Jesus said that He was the only way to the Father – there is no other name whereby men can be saved.  Jesus became our hope that entered into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19).

Why do we need to participate in a shadow?   We don’t need to go back to darkness and build booths.  Jesus said He was the light of the world.  A shadow disappears when the sunlight is directly overhead.  When the true Light of the world came, He dispelled the shadows.  Those festivals were not the real thing, they only pointed to the real thing.  Only a groundhog is foolish enough to believe that a shadow is a real thing… Are you going to be Christ-follower, or a groundhog?

 

Brian L. Spivey

Jesus and Goats?

Jesus and Goats?

What is the Book of Leviticus All About Anyway? Part III

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  When you think of a goat, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

For some people, goats conjure up images of curry and feasting.  Others may think of farms and sacrifice; or stubbornness and gluttony may come to mind.  If you are familiar with the deep-seated things of Satan, then ‘riding the goat’ may bring back fond fraternal feelings.  If you’re the type of person who associates goats with the words of Jesus, then you certainly want to be named among the sheep and NOT the goats.  But are we ever biblically justified to associate Jesus Himself with goats?

In the 16th chapter of Leviticus, Moses writes about how Aaron the priest is to enter the holy place with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  Aaron had to offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and for his house.  But Aaron was also commanded to take two goats.  The first goat was to be killed for the people and he had to sprinkle its blood over the mercy seat – this was to make atonement for the people.    Aaron had to lay both hands on the second goat and confess all the iniquities, transgressions and sins of the people.  The goat was sent into the wilderness.  The Bible declared, “The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area.”

Again, lets not get lost in the minutia of the rituals.  Remember that in many ways, the book of Leviticus points to Jesus.  We can biblically justify associating Jesus with these goats in Leviticus.  Both goats point to Him.  Like the first goat, He died on the cross for our sins and the prophet Isaiah said that He bore our grief and He was crushed for our iniquities. His blood was applied to the mercy seat of God and we have been set free from the penalty of sin.  Like the second goat, He has removed our transgressions far from us.  BUT unlike those priests with his natural goats, who had to do this ONCE every year, He did this ONCE AND FOR ALL!  Praise God!

Next time you read Leviticus, keep Jesus in the forefront of your mind.

Brian L. Spivey