Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Bible (page 2 of 7)

Some Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Narrative

If you’ve ever begun to read through the Old Testament and been filled with more questions than answers, you’re not alone. Many of the stories of the OT are hard to understand and hard to apply.

We know that narratives are inspired and ‘useful’ for us (2 Tim 3.16-17), but how? Are we really supposed to cheer on Samson? Are we always supposed to take Abraham as a positive example? Are we really supposed to take the admonitions of God to Joshua as personal words of exhortation & promise to us?

Here are ten hopefully helpful principles for interpreting Old Testament narrative. It’s important that we get this right, since this genre of Scripture makes up about 66% of our whole Bible.
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Eight Reasons to Study the Bible

Most Christians inherently feel the need / desire / drive to study the Bible, but a lot of times we’re not too sure why. And sadly, not too many of us stop to think biblically about why we should study the Bible.

So, from the Bible itself, here are seven great reasons, plus one ultimate reason why we should all be quick to study the Bible.

1. We must study the Bible to grow in faith

Rom 10  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

2. We must study the Bible to grow in joy

Ps 19  8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;  …  10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

3. We must study the Bible to grow in righteousness / good works

2Tim 3  16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

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The Epistles of Paul in Chronological Order

When I was planning my reading list for the summer I decided that I wanted to focus my Bible-reading-energy on the epistles of Paul for a couple months. I had the thought that it would be fun to read through his epistles chronologically to see how his thoughts and themes and concerns develop over time in different contexts.

So I did a little work to compile a timeline of the apostle Paul’s writings (see below). Since I had done the work anyway, I thought it might be worthwhile to share it here.

Book Date Authored
1 Thessalonians 50-51
2 Thessalonians 50-51
Galatians 55
1 Corinthians 55
2 Corinthians 56
Romans 57
Philemon 61-62
Colossians 61-62
Ephesians 61-62
Philippians 62
1 Timothy 63-64
Titus 63-64
2 Timothy 65

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75 Sundays

January 16, 2011 was a monumental day for us at Grace Fellowship Church. It was our first Sunday together officially holding a Sunday worship service. As of this past Sunday, June 17, 2012, we have met on 75 Sundays now.  I simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.

Here are some of my reflections.

God clearly loves his church …

He must. He continues to build it. We have seen slow, but steady growth through the entire time. And almost every person that comes has a story that makes me think, ‘Wow, God must be in this.’ We’ve had young people, single people, married people, young families, middle-aged people, and even retired people, from all different races join us. God is building this church as only he can.

I can’t describe or quantify what God has done or what we have felt in planting this church other than saying that we have sensed the divine smile every step of the way. Even when we’ve had to do hard things. And it’s not that we’ve done everything right; it’s just because he loves his church and he wants to prove it over and over.
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He Spoke

Last night at the dinner table, we were discussing our Fighter Verse for this week at church (Exodus 34.6-7). When God speaks about himself, the first thing he says is, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression…’. I asked the two older girls which of those things about God was their favourite.

One of our girls thought that ‘merciful’ might be her favourite, but she wasn’t sure what mercy was. So we tried helping her understand the difference between mercy and grace. DA Carson talks about the difference between mercy and grace in this way:

The two terms are frequently synonymous; but where there is a distinction between the two, it appears that grace is a loving response when love is undeserved, and mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. Grace answers the undeserving; mercy answers the miserable. (Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Confrontation with the World, 24-25)

Now, of course I didn’t cite Carson to my four year-old. But we did try to show her that grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s goodness to those (like us) who don’t deserve to know his goodness and couldn’t help ourselves. I think they got it.

So I asked them, ‘What are some ways that God has been merciful to us?’ I expected the usual Sunday School answers (‘Jesus!’) and not much more. What one of my daughters said, though, really gave me cause to pause and consider. She simply said ‘He spoke.’

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Newsflash: The New Testament is Shorter

Call me Captain Obvious if you like, but the New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that in some sense the length of the two covenant documents speaks to the relationship between the covenants themselves and what is required of the people who are part of those covenants.

Simply asking the question, ‘Why is the New Testament shorter?’ helps us to see the nature of the covenants in contrast. For example, here are at least two parts of the answer that I would give you to that question:

1. There are no genealogies in the New Testament

One of the things that makes the Old Testament longer is the accumulation of stories of family lines. So, for example, the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is vital because it records God’s preservation of the line of Judah. The Old Testament is filled with both genealogies and narratives that preserve bloodlines.

The New Testament, on the other hand, has no genealogies (except for that of Jesus, which is the climax of the Old Testament). There are no stories of fathers and children, no stories of family lines being preserved.

This makes the New Testament shorter. It also illustrates one of the fundamental differences between the covenants. The older covenant was passed on from generation to generation through bloodlines and families (Gen 15.3-5), while the newer is passed on through gospel proclamation and faith (2 Tim 2.2). Therefore, the New Testament simply has the book of Acts which records how the gospel was proclaimed and believed. That’s all there is for narrative. There is no ongoing record of families which must be saved because God’s people will now be made up of ‘all nations’ as they become disciplines… adopted children.

2. There is no case law in the New Testament

A second reason why the Old Testament is longer is because Moses and many prophets after him are forced to belabour the teaching of the Law in any and every imaginable context (and even some rather unimaginable ones!). Every time I read through the Old Testament I’m amazed at some of the case law and think to myself, ‘Really? Someone did that? And they needed to set a precedent law against it?’

In the New Testament, however, there is a distinct lack of laws (note: I didn’t say distinct lack of Law). You would think that as the New Covenant was being received and applied across cultural boundaries and geographical regions and religious backgrounds there would be a lot more Acts 15-type-moments. But in reality, there aren’t, simply because the New Covenant isn’t about setting case law. That’s not the nature of this covenant.

For example, when the Corinthians ask Paul about whether or not they are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he does not deliver case law that is binding on all Christians. Rather, he holds up the ideal of freedom and then allows it to be swallowed up by the law of love so that individual Christians simply cannot answer the ethical question without coming face to face with the question, ‘What is love and am I willing to be governed by it?’ (see 1 Corinthians 8-10). He does the same thing again when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). Love is the law that governs all of Christian behaviour in the New Testament (John 13.34-35).

And so it is written…

When you’ve only got one law that trumps in any and every situation, and you don’t have to record genealogies and family histories spanning thousands of years, you can write a much shorter covenant document. Which is precisely what we have.

The Mind-Blowing, Soul-Saving Bible

Greek New Testament

Sometimes people train for a career for years only to get into it and discover it’s not what they want to do. The job which once looked so appealing has turned out to be something different; something not worth the pursuit.

Thankfully, I can say that I’ve never once felt that about pastoral ministry.

Every single week my calling is confirmed by this single fact: I have the privilege of studying the Bible in-depth. Every week I study it. Every week it blows my mind. It never gets old. It is never exhausted.

Paul wrote of the Scriptures:

from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3.15-17)

That means that the Scriptures (1) contain the necessary wisdom for your soul to be saved, and, (2) contain all that is necessary for Christians to live the lives that God calls them to. Scriptures show us how to be saved, and how to live as one who is saved. All-sufficient. We need nothing else.

I’ve sometimes met Christians who are newer to the faith, who talk about how amazing the Bible is as they are discovering it in all its richness. I smile and think to myself, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’ The Bible is an inexhaustible mine of all the riches and treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Search deep, search hard, search long, search in faith and it is certain you will find him on every page.

Sometimes I sit in my office and wonder how in the world it could possibly be that God has blessed me, of all people, with the profound pleasure and duty of studying this glorious book. Since planting GFC Don Mills nothing has impressed me more than the majesty of God’s wisdom and and the magnitude of his grace as I have seen them in the Bible. I feel that I am just beginning to taste the wondrous delights that the Psalmist wrote of in Psalm 119.

In this book, like nowhere else, do we see the over-arching purposes of God for creation, the exacting demands of his justice, the longsuffering nature of his patience and mercy, the unimaginable love of a Father willingly crushing his Son, his passion for the sanctification of his people, and the indescribable holiness that undergirds every thought, word, and action of God. Here is other-worldly wisdom on display in the unfolding narrative of the history of created, fallen, and finally redeemed humanity. Here is sovereignty and power like we could not imagine in the servant who shows his strength in his suffering. Here is our God.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that God’s words amaze us. The first thing our God does in history is speak words. And when he sends his Son into the world as his most perfect revelation, he is known as the Word of God. So of course, the words which are breathed-out by the Spirit of God to testify to the revelation of the Father in the Son will be compelling like nothing else ever written. And that’s exactly what this book is.

I wish I had spent more of my first 30 years studying this book. If God grants me more years of life, I pray they will all be spent tenaciously pursuing him where he may be found: in this book.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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