Let the Word Get into You this New Year

With the New Year upon us, many of us have a desire to "get into the Word."  I'm with you.  There are many good reading plans to help guide you in this pursuit.  But this year I'm coming at it from a little different angle.  This year, I'm leading my church through the Gospel of Mark.  My goal is for us to meet Jesus and to know him personally and deeply.  To be "apprenticed by Jesus" as Zach Eswine says.  For that to happen, I'm seeking to slow down and soak up the book of Mark.  Instead of getting into the Word, I'm wanting to let the Word get into me. If you'd like to join me (especially if you're a member of Oak Hill), try this approach to reading the Bible this year.  Try reading through the Book of Mark on your own.  Go at your own pace.  When you're finished, do it again.  And keep a journal.  Meditate on what you read.  Talk about what you read with others.  In addition, if you are a member of Oak Hill, take the sermon note sheet with outline and discussion questions each week and walk through it with your spouse or a couple of good friends.  Get into the Word ... and let the Word get into you this year.

Read Less, Meditate More in 2012

I commend to you this Daily Bible Meditation Guide written by my good friend, Dr. Eric Johnson. Here’s a blurb from the introduction:

The purpose of this Bible reading schedule (shortened considerably from schedules that get through the Bible in one year) is actually to limit the amount of Bible we read daily. Reading quickly through many verses may not be as profitable as savoring deeply a few verses. So the aim of this schedule is not to read less, but to meditate more.

You will also benefit from Dr. Johnson’s thoughts on the “what” and “how-to’s” of meditation.

New ESV GROW! Bible for Kids

ESV Grow! BibleI just got a copy of the ESV GROW! Bible from a friend of mine. I love it!  It's designed specifically for children ages 8-12. One of the coolest features is the "Cross Connections" boxes that are scattered throughout to help kids understand the centrality of the cross in all the Scriptures. Another feature called "4U" is great for explaining the text and how to apply it to a child's life.   I can't wait to read it with my 7 and 9 year old girls.

ESV Grow! Bible from Crossway on Vimeo.

Click on the Bible to the right to view the text.

Resources on Seeing the Story of God in the Bible

Michael Wallenmeyer has put together a good list of resources on the Story of God in Scripture:

My buddy, Cam Potts, also pointed me to this great resource that "provides a beautiful, powerful, yet simple explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ using 4 major themes found in the Bible: Creation. The Fall. The Rescue. The Restoration." Check out the website for more info.

The Almighty Bible - A Review

The Bible is not a boring book. It pulls us in and captures our imagination as we see ourselves in God's big story of creation and redemption. But we live in a culture that is ever-changing. And though we must never change the timeless message of the Bible, our methods should always be open to change as we adapt to the culture we live in. Recently I received a free copy of Genesis and Exodus from the folks at The Almighty Bible. These guys are on the cutting edge of communicating God's story in fresh, new ways. There's even an Almighty Bible app for your iphone or ipad!

As I made my way through these books, I was highly impressed with the quality of the illustrations. Each page will appeal to young people (especially 10-13) as they see familiar characters of the Old Testament come to life in a vivid way. Ours is a visual culture, and for those who are new to the Christian faith or struggle to read on their own, these books can serve as a bridge to understanding the Bible's beginning message.

As a family pastor and father of three, I recommend The Almighty Bible with some reservations. First, the authors have chosen to summarize the actual text of the Bible in order to make it more concise for their readers. For example, at the end of the story of Joseph, they sum up Genesis 50:20 with these words, "God meant it for good to save many people." In doing so, they omitted the first half of that verse that reads, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good ..." Joseph's brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. That's an important contrast for young people to see--namely, God's sovereignty reigns over human sin.

Closely related to this, I think there's a tendency in our media rich culture to move away from the written Word of God. As I read through these books, I felt as though the pictures were primary and the text was secondary. Don't get me wrong. I love the use of visual art and creativity, but if this becomes the steady diet of a new generation, will our kids be interested in reading and understanding the actual text?

Finally, while in one sense these books capture our imagination, in another sense they limit it. Think about it. When C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia were made into movies they instantly brought the story to life and at the same time stopped our imagination. Why? Because one man interpreted Lewis' books for us and left us with these images every time we think of these stories.

In conclusion, The Almighty Bible is breaking new ground with other graphic novels like The Gadarene by John Piper. These novels can serve as a fresh, new way of communicating the stories of Scripture, but we must be careful not to lose the message with the medium.

  • Check out The Almighty Bible for yourself
  • Read Sam Luce's review of the books here
  • Take a look at John Piper's graphic novel called, The Gadarene

66 Clouds: The Bible in Word Clouds

This is a pretty cool website that "brings the Bible, design and technology together in a fresh and beautiful way." Below might be just the gift you're looking for with Valentine's Day coming soon!

Song of Songs PosterSong of Song Poster (Framed)Song of Songs (Pomegranate) A limited edition "Pomegranate" colored Song of Songs 11" x 17" poster is now available. Makes a perfect gift for that special someone.

(HT: Cam Potts)

A Bible Reading Plan that Encourages You to Read Less and Meditate More

My guess is that many of you have already seen a plethora of Bible reading plans posted on various blogs, most of them encouraging you to get through the Bible in a year.  Though I certainly commend this practice (I've done it myself), I've often wondered if we should approach the Bible differently.  Instead of reading quickly through many verses at a time, maybe we should meditate on a few verses more deeply each day.  If you're like me, you rarely take time to just slow down your mind and soak in the truths of God's Word in such a way that it goes down deeper into your heart. That's why I was excited to get a copy of this Daily Bible Meditation Guide written by my good friend, Dr. Eric Johnson.  Here's a blurb from the introduction:

Down through the ages, Christians have taught that we need to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s word and we need to savor its truths if they are to satisfy our deepest longings for greater intimacy with God and if we are to experience a greater healing of our souls from his hand. The purpose of this Bible reading schedule (shortened considerably from schedules that get through the Bible in one year) is actually to limit the amount of Bible we read daily. Reading quickly through many verses may not be as profitable as savoring deeply a few verses. So the aim of this schedule is not to read less, but to meditate more.

I encourage you to download this Daily Bible Meditation Guide .  You will also benefit from Dr. Johnson's thoughts on the "what" and "how-to's" of meditation.

Tale of Two Sheep in Isaiah 53

In preparation for Easter I've been reflecting and meditating on Isaiah 53 - the most famous messianic text in the Old Testament.  Looking at this passage we see that the LORD was despised, stricken, and afflicted for our transgressions and iniquities, yet he opened not his mouth. 

Christ's response to suffering was silence, patience, and willing acceptance.  Like a lamb led to the slaughter he was obedient.  Quite the opposite of you and me who are like stubborn sheep that have gone astray and turned to our own way.   And often, in the face of suffering, our mouths are wide open with grumbling and complaining. 

Thankfully God knows our frame and sent his "sheep" to the slaughter to make intercession for the others ... and by his stripes we are healed.

Why Our Interpretation of Genesis is So Important

Justin Taylor recently pointed to an interesting discussion between two scholars on the interpretation of Genesis 1.  Considering his post generated 61 comments, I think it's safe to say that this is a "hot button" issue.  But does it really matter all that much?  After all, does our interpretation of Genesis and whether or not we believe in a literal, six day creation make all that much difference in gospel ministry to this world?  And what are we to do with all these new, scientific views on Genesis?  Here's my twin brother, Mark Wolter's response:

Now how are we to scientifically interpret such a silly looking text as Genesis 1-11? We've got talking snakes, a big boat that carries two of every living kind of animal, worldwide floods and, oh yeah, God finishing his creation in six short days... (days and nights written in just for added clarity!) This looks hard... Before we rush in to let "science" reinterpret what seems to be the plain reading of the text let's consider:

What are the foundational doctrines that have begun to be developed in those first 11 chapters? I have chosen just 5, since they are simply the first to come to my mind. Following them are honest and humble questions I have for you or anyone who is willing to think about this with me:

The Foundations of 5 Key Doctrines in Genesis 1-11:

1. Sin and the Curse - How could there be millions of years of death before Adam's sin? How could the world and everything in it be called, "good" and "very good" by God if it was (from the beginning) laced with disease, suffering and death - for millions of years before Adam even came into the situation? Why is the creation groaning to be set free (Romans 8:19-25) if it was created suffering before sin even entered the picture?

2. Complimentary Manhood and Womanhood: If this is a figurative/poetic text, what do we do with the very precise and key doctrines that are shaped for us here about men and women and personhood in general? Are they figurative as well? Why or why not?

3. Universal Judgment: How can the coming judgment of the entire world have any significance if Noah's flood did not cover and judge the whole world? (2 Peter 2:5) How could the flood have so much significance to Jesus and Peter (in particular) if it was merely a local flood? Why would they continue to stress, "the whole world"? (Luke 17:27, Mt. 24:38)

4. Redemption: How could the first pillar of redemptive history be laid without a literal Adam and Eve? (Gen. 3:21) How could Romans 5:12-18 make any sense without a real Adam, in a real garden, with a real tree in the middle of it?

5. The Trinity: The first clear statement regarding the Trinity is in Gen. 1:26 as God shows that he is a plurality and yet a singular God. If we take the word, "our" figuratively or poetically, why should we believe in a Trinitarian God? Isn't this just being too literal?

The Integrity, Believability of the Bible: This is really what the issue comes down to for me. Why should we believe that the N.T. material be taken objectively or at face value if that is not what we are expected to do for the first and foundational book of the Bible - where we see the introduction of the Creator, the Creation, Sin and the Curse, the Trinity, the coming Judgment, and the Redemption through Christ? A recent study shows that this is where many kids from Christian homes start to fall away from the gospel. The foundations are so shaky. The Sunday school stories (O.T. and N.T.) are some real whoppers and churches are not giving good answers as to why I should trust the stories or take them at face value.

So, you see, for me it all comes down to Christ and preserving the pure gospel of God from Genesis to Revelation. I am open to your rebuke and help. Please help me to see my errors if you see any glaring at me. I am wanting to approach this whole issue with a humble heart. I admit that may indeed be wrong. But I have studied the Bible and the scientific data enough to think that I am not overlooking the importance of this issue. In my mind it is foundational.

Thank you for your refining questions and thoughts (and prayers).

The Bible Story is the Story of Mission

Tim Chester with a great reminder about the centrality of mission:

Mission is not one thing we do among others. Mission is central to the Bible story and central to our identity. We are missionary people. We are communities on mission.

Creation:  God made humanity with a mission: (1) to fill and govern the earth, and (2) to be his image in the world, reflecting his glory. We create, we explore, we investigate, we cook, we clean, we repair, we do science and culture and art – all to the glory of God.

Fall:  After our rebellion our mission distorts and turns inwards. At Babel humanity (1) comes together instead of being scattered (2) to a name for themselves instead of glorifying God (Genesis 11:4).

Abraham:  ‘All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ (Genesis 12:3) God chooses Abraham for the nations. The Saviour will come from Abraham’s descendants. See Genesis 18:18-19. The nations will be blessed as God’s people walk in his ways and ‘do’ justice. People will look on and see it is good to know God.

Exodus:  ‘Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Exodus 19:5-6) Priests made God known and brought people to God through sacrifice. In the same way, the nation is to make God known. They are to be holy (distinctive) as God is holy – the place on earth where people could see what God is like. See also Deuteronomy 4:5-8. So the law has a missional goal: to shape the life of Israel so the nations are drawn to God.

Israel:  ‘Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom’ (1 Kings 4:34). But ultimately Israel follows the ways of the nations and is drawn away from God instead of following the ways of God and drawing the nations to God.

Prophecy: See Isaiah 2:2-5 (60:1-3). One day the nations will stream to Mount Zion in Jerusalem to learn God’s ways as God’s people walk in his light. The ‘servant of the Lord’ will be light to the nations that Israel had failed to be (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).

Jesus:  ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12).

The church:  Because Jesus has been given authority over the nations, he sends his disciples out to call on the nations to submit to that authority (Matthew 28:18-20). See Matthew 5:13-16. The rag-bag community of Jesus is to be the light to the world that Israel failed to be, the city on a hill promised by Isaiah. so ‘let your light shine before men’ and bring praise to God. See 1 Peter 2:9. The church is now the kingdom of priests and holy nation which makes God known to the nations. So ‘live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us’ (12).

New creation: People from all nations worship the Lamb together and find healing in the new creation (Revelation 7:9-10; 22:2).

Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the good news of God’s coming kingdom (Mark 1:14-15). But people don’t believe God’s rule is good news. They think they’re better off without God. We believe the Serpent’s lie that God’s rule is oppressive and restrictive (Genesis 3:5). We are to so live together under God’s reign that people see that God’s reign is good news, a reign of life, love, freedom, justice and joy.