Jesus On Every Page - Book Review

I used to ask why the God of the Old Testament seemed so different than the God of the New Testament.  Maybe many Christians ask that question, because in my small group Bible study last week, the leader suggested that the God of the Old Testament acted differently than He does in the New Testament. 

I knew theoretically He was the same God, but to say that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever – that was difficult for me to reconcile with what appeared to be two very different treatments of people from the Old Testament age to the New Testament.   Then in seminary I learned about progressive revelation and how we can see shadows of Jesus throughout the Old Testament.  I learned that the Old Testament people were under a God of grace just as we were, and then I discovered the joy of reading the Old Testament through the lens of the Gospel.  I never read the Bible the same again and approached the Old Testament with enthusiasm.  

Whether or not these teachings in the church seem to be lacking or subtle, I still don’t think a lot of Christians understand this, so I am really excited about the book Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament, by David Murray, professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology.  In this book, Murray explains how through the road to Emmaus, Jesus removed the veil from the Old Testament and showed how he was predicted and prefigured.  By recognizing Christ, the veil is removed from the Old Testament and we see how He became its climax and fulfillment. 

Through David Murray’s explanation of law versus grace, he shows that grace was there all along.  The Law exhibits Christ’s character.  The moral and civil law reverse the irregularity and disorder brought by sin, and the law had a restorative and redemptive purpose foreshadowing what Jesus Christ was going to do.  God was concerned about cleanness/uncleanness, but the Law shows His willingness and ability to wash it away and restore the defiled person to life and communion with Him. The Law predicts God’s intention to restore order to His world, to cleanse it from defilement, and to restore its inhabitants to communion with Him.

Somehow I missed seeing the subtitle of this book, “10 Simple Ways”.  The ten simple ways or ten simple steps are not obvious, and the effort to start the ten chapters with the letter “P” distracted me from what the ten “steps” were actually about.  But overall, this book is an excellent introduction to reading the Old Testament through the lens of grace.  It is not academic in nature and easy to read.  I believe every Christian who is seeking to know God more and understand the relationships of the Old Testament and the New Testament should be familiar with the theology in this book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review.

Are you a Bible Worshiper?

Are you a Bible worshiper?  The denomination I was raised in has been accused of “Bible idolatry”.   The first time I heard this idea, I was stunned.  Really?  Since the Bible is God’s words, then how could that even be possible?  I read a book recently called The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight that opened  my eyes to exactly what it might look like to worship the Bible instead of God.

Do I value the Bible more than God Himself?  If I no longer had a Bible at my fingertips, what would happen to my relationship with God?

Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies, profoundly says, “Without denying the legitimacy of the various terms in the authority approach, those who have a proper relationship to the Bible never need to speak of the Bible as their authority nor do they speak of their submission to the Bible.  They are so in tune with God, so in love with him, that the word “authority” is swallowed up in loving God. Even more, submission is engulfed in the disposition of listening to God speak through the Bible and in practice desire what He calls us to do.” (page 93, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible).

I had been taught the “authority approach” to God’s Word, defined with words such as revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, authority, submission.   I had a relationship with the Bible.  Scot McKnight showed me that the Bible is far more than submitting to an authority.  It is an integral part of a relationship with God.  Our relationship to the Bible should actually be a relationship with the God of the Bible. 

In Psalm 119, the psalmist declares God’s word to be delightful and expresses a love for doing whatever God asks.  He does not say, “Your Words are authoritative and I am called to submit to them.”  Instead, he says, “Your words are delightful, and I love to do whatever you ask.”  The first approach emphasizes a relationship to the Bible. The second one emphasizes a relationship to God.

We should stop asking what the Bible says and instead ask what God says to us in the Bible. Is this just semantics? Is it the same outcome, different perspective?  I think it boils down to relationship.  God gave the Bible – not so we can know it, but so we can know and love Him through it.

The best way to read His Word is to be in conversation with Him. To listen to Him. To be attentive to His voice. To absorb what He says, and then to act on what we have heard.

The Bible is the vehicle for knowing God. It is the means to the end, not the end in itself. God wants us to take the two-dimensional words on paper and allow them to become a three-dimensional encounter with Him.

Sips from Streams in the Desert

New challenges erupted into our lives this week as my friends Grace & Faith and I read from the September 8-15 in Streams in the Desert.  Two of us faced or are facing results from medical tests that have the potential to be ominous.  My grandma, my last living grandparent, was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 89.  Then throw in the daily challenges (and joys) that come with raising teenagers and preschoolers along with the mix of strained extended family relationships, we find ourselves leaning on God begging Him to lift us above our circumstances and to quench our thirst with His love and peace.

I don’t want to live a shallow life directed by my own impulses, moods, and circumstances. I don’t want a spirit of hastiness, nor a spirit of complaining and criticism.  I want patience, peace, and quiet submission to God’s will and way.  Yet sometimes when I need it most, it disappears as quickly as a the falling star I glimpsed early yesterday morning. 

The best way I know to do this is to begin each day on the mountain with God where we can draw strength and sweetness to prepare for the tasks of the day – planned or unplanned. It is there that we can draw the peacefulness to accompany the nagging worries and pettiness of daily life. It is there that He lifts me up to peek into the quietness of eternity.  It is there that the purpose of God becomes my primary purpose. Then I can move steadily ahead in the face of circumstances, even rise above them to see the future where sorrows, seeming defeat, and failure will be reversed. 

Jesus draws me close in order to mature my wisdom, deepen my peace, increase my courage, and boost my power. All this He does so that through the very experience that is so painful and distressing to me, I will be of greater use to others and give greater glory to Him.  None of it is in vain.

Why sips from streams in the desert? Click here for original post.

Everything Happens for a Reason? - Book Review

“Everything happens for a reason”.  Some people say this flippantly. Some say it as a word of ‘encouragement’.  But when you are in the middle of something horrid, they are tough words to hear or believe, especially when the bad that happens is based on people who do bad things.  Then, you have to grapple with God’s sovereignty versus His goodness.  If He is sovereign, then why does He let it happen? Maybe He’s not good.  If He is good, maybe He’s not sovereign and is unable to control it. 

But God IS sovereign AND He is good.  Even though sometimes the world seems full of randomness, God is not just sitting back and watching; yet His character still stands up.  Paul Enns provides a thoughtful, biblical response to the question in his book Everything Happens for a Reason?: God’s Purposes in a World Gone Bad.

We are incapable of fully understanding or interpreting all the bad things and tragedies that occur.  But God IS at work in all things, big and small.  In thirteen chapters, Paul Enns tackles the difficult questions – why bad things happen, is God sovereign over evil, why we suffer, the purpose of suffering, etc. The answers aren’t easy.  He provides clarity and hope through biblical passages and characters as well as illustrations from his own life and the lives of other admirable Christians who have walked the earth before us.

The last chapter is the best. Paul Enns pulls everything together so that you can live out what you know and believe.  He gives a plan on what to do when suffering and loss come your way.  It boils down to remembering God’s goodness and power, not dwelling on suffering and tragedies but centering our thoughts on Jesus Christ, and nurturing a divine, eternal perspective.

Powerful, enlightening, encouraging, and strengthening – this book invites you to draw nearer to Jesus as you understand that God is good and sovereign, whether He delivers or not, whether He heals or not, whether we understand it or not.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is grappling to understand God’s goodness and purpose in the face of suffering and evil.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.

Kinship in Suffering: Sips from Desert Streams

Yesterday way my 43rd birthday.   My two precious friends from high school share their birthdays within a few weeks of mine, and we have a 25-year tradition of celebrating together, especially recently since we are no longer scattered across the Midwest and can easily gather in the hometown where we met.  To protect their privacy, I am going to call them Faith and Grace.

The year 2013 has been difficult for all three of us in different, multiple ways - raising teenagers, family tensions, stress, difficulties in the workplace, sickness, death.  Faith and Grace were both at my side immediately upon hearing of my husband’s heart attack, even as they were both facing crises of their own that very day.  Our kinship has deepened on our desert journeys this year, and though we would sometimes rather life was peachy, we can’t deny that trials has strengthened our bonds.   

Sometimes it has felt like a desert journey, leaving us feeling parched, desperate for refreshment and strength from Jesus.  Grace, who is also my faithful blog reader, had been exchanging encouragement and quotes from her devotional time as she has plodded through the driest desert of her life thus far.   

During this desert time of our lives, we discovered a month ago that we had been drawing refreshment from the same 'obscure' devotional book.  I picked my copy up at a book sale (fill a bag for $5) and discovered in January this year that I had picked up a treasure after reading the first few pages.  She found her copy among her late mother-in-law’s prayer journals earlier this year.  When we finally shared the name of the devotional book we had been reading from, she couldn’t believe it could possibly be the same one.  We laughed with delight after I read a page to her over the phone to prove we had been reading from the same book for the last six months or so.  Coincidence?

Faith lost her mother this year and is grieving, unable to open her Bible, truly a weary desert traveler.  When she heard of the encouragement we had found in this little book, she thought it might be a good place to begin to draw nearer to Jesus in this season of suffering.  So we gave her a copy for her birthday gift.

It turns out that this little book, which was obscure to us, is actually a bestseller.  Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, was first published in 1925 and is a compilation of her favorite writings.  She was a missionary with her husband overseas until his health declined. Then they returned to the United States where she took care of him until he died six years later.  She collected the writings that satisfied her thirst in the dry, desolate days.

Faith and Grace asked that I send a snippet of the theme of the day’s reading to help us easily remember it and keep our bearings on our daily sojourns. I’m going to attempt to collect a few drops from the sparkling clear river of wisdom and encouragement by summarizing it into a concise, simple statement that we can carry along through the desert for sips of nourishment.  As we dialogue, I hope to post periodically along this journey that I will call “Sips from the Desert Stream” as we search for joy in God’s provision and purpose in the trials and sufferings of life.