Archives For Bible as Story

scrollIn my Biblical Thought course today, I taught on the meaning of the Law (Torah = teaching or guidance from God.) We distinguish between the Moral Law of the Ten Commandments (which reflect the character and values of God) and the Civil and Ceremonial Law in the 5 books of Moses.

Our tendency is to ignore or pass over the laws in Leviticus and other books as irrelevant or hard to understand. I want to recommend a wonderful article I shared today by Christopher Wright from a recent issue of Christianity Today called, Learning to Love Leviticus. Here is an excerpt. I encourage you to read the whole article. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read on principles for interpreting this part of the Old Testament.

Before we get the Ten Commandments, we get the story of Creation, the brokenness of our sin and rebellion, and the wonder of God’s redemption, displayed in the Exodus of the Israelites. So the law was given to a people who not only knew that story, and knew the God who stands behind it, but who had lived it as well. God gave his law to people who had already experienced his grace, his love and faithfulness, his great act of salvation. Obeying the law was never a way to earn God’s salvation, but the right way for redeemed people to respond to God’s salvation when they had experienced it (Ex. 19:3–6; Deut. 6:20–25).

And God gave Israel his law in order to shape them into a society that would reflect God’s character and values in the midst of the nations—what we might call a missional motivation (Lev. 18:3–4; Deut. 4:6–8). The Israelites were to be distinctive by living in God’s way, the ways of personal integrity, economic and social justice, and community compassion. The law was not a set of arbitrary rules to keep God happy. It was a way of life, a way of being human, a culture in a particular time and place, to show what a redeemed people under God looks like.

To imagine that “living biblically” means trying to keep as many ancient rules as possible just because they are in the Bible misses the point of the law in the first place. Old Testament law was not just about rules but also about relationship with God, founded on God’s grace and redemption, and motivated by the mission of living as the people of God in the world, so that the world should come to know the living God.


The best way to derive principles from the Old Testament law is to ask questions. All laws in all human societies are made for a purpose. Laws happen because people want to change society, to achieve some social goal, to foster certain interests, or to prevent some social evil. So when we look at any particular law or group of biblical laws, we can ask, “What could be the purpose behind this law?” To be more specific:

● What kind of situation was this law intended to promote or to prevent?

● What change in society would this law achieve if it were followed?

● What kind of situation made this law necessary or desirable?

● What kind of person would benefit from this law, by assistance or protection?

● What kind of person would be restrained or restricted by this law, and why?

● What values are given priority in this law? Whose needs or rights are upheld?

● In what way does this law reflect what we know from elsewhere in the Bible about the character of God and his plans for human life?

● What principle or principles does this law embody…?

Now we won’t always be able to answer these questions with much detail or insight. Some laws are just plain puzzling. But asking questions like these leads us to a much broader and deeper grasp of what Old Testament laws were all about: forming the kind of society God wanted to create.

Then, having done that homework as best we can, we step out of the Old Testament world and back into our own. Ask the same kind of questions about the society we live in and the kind of people we need to be, and the kind of personal and societal objectives we need to aim for in order to be in any sense “biblical.”

In this way, biblical law can function sharply as a paradigm or model for our personal and social ethics in all kinds of areas: economic, familial, political, judicial, sexual, and so on. We are not “keeping it” in a literalist way like a list of rules. But more important, we are not ignoring it in defiance of what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. We are studying and using it as guidance, light for the path, in the joyful way of Psalms 1, 19, and 119.    READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.



Have you ever read a book that captured your imagination in a new way…that makes you change the way you interact with life? What if you found a book that did just that AND it somehow helped you read and understand the Bible better? This past spring, I found two such books. This fall we will be working through two sermon series that will help us understand how to become better followers (disciples) of  Jesus…and as better disciples (followers), we can become a more engaged church. These two books can be chosen as small group material or can be read alone. The Mark book would be a great read for families as well. Below, I’ve given a review of each book.

Card - markMark: The Gospel of Passion (The Biblical Imagination Series) by Michael Card.

Because I’ve read this gospel multiple times, finding a new way to read it was very appealing. The Gospel of Mark (in the Bible) is a book of action and passion with events happening one after the other, describing the life of Jesus in vivid detail with a sense of urgency and immediacy. This gospel was written by Mark, a young man who was a friend and interpreter for the Apostle Peter. He gives first hand glimpses of what was going on during Jesus’ ministry. Even though this is the shortest gospel, it was written to give the early Christians encouragement in all their sufferings. Michael Card wrote this book, as well as the series, not as a devotional or as a commentary, but with both in mind. He uses the most current resources and historical materials to comment on each section, but does it with a sense of imagination. He calls this informed way of reading “biblical imagination.” What this means is that as you read each section, the characters and settings come to life. It is a must read if you want to renew your passion for Jesus and your love and awe of how He works in and through all of us (1st century or 21st century)!

Keller - KingJesus the King by Tim Keller.

Timothy Keller, New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and the man Newsweek called a “C. S. Lewis for the twenty-first century,” unlocks new insights into the life of Jesus Christ as he explores how Jesus came as a king, but a king who had to bear the greatest burden anyone ever has. Jesus the King is Keller’s revelatory look at the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Mark. In it, Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God. It is an unforgettable look at Jesus Christ, and one that will leave an indelible imprint on every reader. Jesus the King is an excellent book for personal growth in discipleship or small group use for moving forward toward ‘the full stature of Christlikeness.’

These books will be available at the Christ Church Welcome Center or you can order them from Amazon or Kindle.

bestkeptsecretEvangelism is a good word (“Announcing the Good News!”)  but it has a bad rap in our culture at present – for some good reasons of course! When people feel tele-marketed or coerced, it betrays the love orientation that God demonstrates in Christ. The Gospel is good news because God, in Jesus is reconciling and restoring the world to relationship with himself!

Let me suggest two resources for authentic evangelism: one is the book by John Dickson that is a wonderful corrective to the false models and misconceptions about evangelism. It’s called The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More Than Our Lips.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 1.05.22 PMThe other is a tool from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship based on material from True Story by James Choung. It is an APP for smart phones or tablets that can be used to help share the Good News in language for today.

It’s called New World and uses the story of Scripture that humankind is: Designed for Good; Damaged by Evil; Restored through Christ; and Sent together to Heal.
Check it out at Intervarsity’s Evangelism site.

I’m not keen on “canned” tools for sharing Christ, but this is flexible and follows the “Six Act Drama” of Scripture that I so often use when seeking to explain more about what it means to follow Christ and use as the basis for my class, Biblical Thought, at URI.

NOTE: two sermons by myself and Nathan Albert can be accessed here.


mindthegapI won’t bug you with the stats! We talk in the Christian world  like we revere the Scriptures and live by every word of God. (Matthew 4:4) Our ‘walk’ is often much different! We are all too often rivaling the biblical ignorance of our society, and arguing about the Bible more than applying it.

Our Mind the Gap Series is a practical challenge for our church community this summer to face the disparity between what we know in our heads and what we DO. [The first week we looked at KNOWING God, as distinct from knowing ABOUT God.]

For those who are hungry to do some ‘gap minding’ in relation to the Bible, here are some tools and resources,  including some of my favorites. DISCLAIMER: Tools unused are of little help!

SO, here are some SUGGESTIONS for increasing your serious Rumination on the Word of God:

The Bible App – free online and mobile app that has exploded world-wide. There are dozens of reading programs built in also.

Bible Gateway – my go-to site when I’m on my computer. Also a new app is available for mobile devices.

ESV app – This is the translation I use and the app is resident on my smart phone so I don’t need to be online. It’s a well done format with cross-references and good search function, etc. NOTE: If you use a different translation – do a search and you’ll probably find an app for it or it will be likely included in the other sites/apps listed here. There is also an ESV Study Bible in all formats that is one of several good study resources.

NET Bible – A fairly new translation that has a lot of notes and language tools to go deeper into the text.

Community Bible Experience – This site has downloadable audio that includes great introductions to the sections of Scripture and readings without chapter references to get the big story of the Bible. The New Testament is ready and can be used in a group. Sign up for a sample and you get the whole NT with intros in ebook format.

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth – is an introduction to the books of the Bible (with interpretation points) that has stood the test of time and has been updated in recent years. NOTE: as I write this, Amazon has the Kindle ebook version for $1.99!

Obviously, we are overflowing with access to God’s written word in ways unimaginable in the past. So saturate yourself with the Scriptures! Be a life-long learner of the Book of Books. Not as an end in itself, but as the means of knowing Christ, the living Word, and being transformed by the Holy Spirit who inspired and illuminates the Scriptures.

One more challenge. Don’t just read books ABOUT the Bible. Get into the Word for yourself – The Spirit will turn the light on to help you see and learn Christ!

What is Your Game Plan?

January 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

This is our major teaching series at Christ Church this winter and spring.  It’s about creating what Christians for centuries have called a “Rule of Life.”  Click here for the sermon downloads.  The first two are, I trust, helpful introductions. Read on to better understand how to  prayerfully work through a personal plan for more intentional discipleship. At the end are numerous linked resources to help you.


What is a RULE OF LIFE?
Serious Christ-followers have always sought to become “Spiritual Athletes” who, like the Apostle Paul, seek to ‘train themselves in godliness.”

We don’t want to confuse Rule with rules!  ‘Rule’ comes from the root word, Regula, which meant a measuring stick or signpost.  A rule of life lays out spiritual expectations which give structure and form to our spiritual lives, identifies our successes and failures, and provides us with goals to attain, not on our own but with God’s power and the support of the community.

Think of “rule” as a plan for discipline; a “rhythm of life;” a “Curriculum in Christlikeness” (Dallas Willard); or as John Ortberg calls it, a “Game Plan for Morphing” or being transformed!   Continue Reading…

The new year is always a great time to be more intentional – and for the Christian disciple, that includes increased reading and meditating on the Word of God.  Here are a few resources to check out if you don’t already have a plan.

Audio Plan
I’ve just started the 40 day Audio version of Biblica’s Books of the Bible, NT.  Cheryl, our Assoc. Pastor has introduced  the use of this format in a Sunday class and a midweek group.  This unique way of reading or listening to the whole NT without chapter breaks opens up the text in wonderful ways.  Read about it here and download the audio version that can be made into an audio book on iTunes. (This is the NIV – 2011 version)

Apps for Smart Phones/tablets, etc.
The world’s most used Bible app is the YouVersion (Managed by LifeChurch, an Evangelical Covenant church).  In addition to multiple versions – many that can access audio – there are dozens of reading plans available of varying lengths, topics, etc. Look here for an overview.  It is also available on any computer.

Printed Plans 
Of course there are many plans you can print out and have on good ol’ paper!
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish pastor whose reading plan has become well known and appreciated.  It is available in many formats here.

The Psalms continue to be a staple of my reading – working through the Psalter monthly in various ways.  The important thing is to ruminate frequently in this great “Prayer Book of the Bible.” One early church saint said that the spirit of acedia (or spiritual apathy) must be cast out, mainly by prayer and psalmody (praying the Psalms as a spiritual exercise)

Our new series called Game Plan will introduce much more on “Intentional Discipleship” including the essential discipline of saturating our minds in the Scriptures!

Adam and Christmas Eve

December 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

Christ Church in winter

The Story of God and Man begins with the creation of Adam – the first icon, made in the image and likeness of God. Though designed to walk with God and rule the earth with him, Adam (whose name means ‘humanity’) falls and God immediately begins the great cracked-icon-restoration project with the promise of the serpent’s ‘crushing’ defeat. (Genesis 3:15) The Bible puts great emphasis on Jesus as the Second Adam. Replacing Adam One – the New Humanity has begun!

Patrick Reardon puts it this way, as seen not just from the birth, but from the death and resurrection of Christ.

(Christ) stands in defiance of Adam’s Fall…Adam no longer had the final word about the human expectation. On the contrary, a new order had been introduced; an order in which death was no longer the last chapter of history. Jesus…radically remodeled human iconography and changed the content of man’s inheritance. With respect to our ultimate destiny, Christ replaced Adam. Paul elaborates: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
(1 Corinthians 15:45). 

Christmas Eve will mark again, the glorious coming of the Second Adam – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
With the 5th  century hymn writer, we can sing:

Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
There a virgin has borne a babe
and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place where there has been born
a little Child, God before the ages.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!
Let us Glorify Him!