Jesus on every page of the Bible

A Christmas present I received a few years back was a book called Jesus on Every Page by David Murray. This was a book I had heard about from a few different places and wanted to read. Its focus is in seeking and finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, something many churches, pastors, and Christians have been avoiding.

I’ve felt that the Old Testament was being neglected ever since I got my Reformation Study Bible several years back and was fascinated by the prefaces to each book that were titled, “Christ in [book name].” Adjusting my viewpoint to the one where you read the OT as a witness for Jesus, where Jesus is, indeed, on every page, was quite eye-opening. In fact, Jesus makes the claim that the Old Testament is about him in Luke 24:44 when he says,

“This is what I told you while I was still with you:Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

And in John 5:39 and 46, Jesus urges us to look for him in the pages of both Testaments:

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me […] If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

In fact, Blue Letter Bible says that the New Testament points to the Old Testament 855 times through quotes, partial quotes, and other references. Revelation (249 references), Matthew (96 references), Hebrews (86 references), and Romans (74 references) have the most, but it is exciting to see that 22 out of the 27 books of the New Testament acknowledge how important the Old Testment is in pointing to Jesus.

The whole Bible testifies about Jesus. Moses wrote about Jesus. David wrote about Jesus. Isaiah and Jeremiah wrote about Jesus. This should be of great encouragement to study and understand Genesis through Malachi, knowing that

Jesus’ high priestly prayer for you

The “high priestly prayer” of John 17 has always been of utmost interest to me out of all of Jesus’ prayers, probably because it’s the one in which I see him praying for me directly. When you’re part of the story instead of outside of it, you become a lot more invested in it, after all.

We remember that one of Jesus’ roles is that of the high priest, clarified in Hebrews 4:14-16:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The high priest in the Old Testament was the spiritual leader of the people who made sacrifices on behalf of the people’s sins and interceded between them and God. Of course, the OT high priest was a fallible human and was limited in his role to making the same sacrifices, day in and day out, because he was but a shadow of the real high priest that was to come in Jesus.

And so in John 17, Jesus fully steps into the role of the high priest and gives this wonderful, heart-felt prayer for his disciples of all ages. You can sense the power, authority, and honesty here as he prepares for the culmination of not only his earthly life’s work, but God’s long-running plan to redeem the world. In the first five verses, Jesus gives glory to the Father while asking for glory in return. The persons of the Trinity can and indeed do glorify each other. Jesus’ work on earth was good and gave great glory to the Father, and the Father’s work in heaven was good and gave glory to the Son in his hour of triumph.

Then the great high priest starts to pray for and about believers:

  • He says that he has revealed God to those that God has set apart (the elect) and made it clear that Jesus’ power and authority is from God (vv.6-8)
  • He says that this prayer is not for the world but for his disciples (vv.9-10)
  • He prays for unity among believers (vv.11,21)
  • He asks God to “keep” us in his name (v.11)
  • He promises that believers will have “my joy fulfilled in themselves” (v.13)
  • Jesus expresses concern for believers because the world will be against them and will hate them, but while he doesn’t ask for God to whisk us away to safety, he does pray for protection from Satan (vv.14-15)
  • He clarifies that by believing, we are no longer part of this world; we are set apart in holiness as Jesus is set apart (vv.16-19)
  • He commissions us to go into the world (v.18)
  • Jesus specifies that this prayer is not just for his current crop of disciples, but those who “believe in me through [the disciples’] word” (v.20)
  • He shares his glory with us (v.22)
  • He illustrates the unity that believers will have with him — “perfectly one” — and says that through this unification, everyone will see that God loves and has sent his disciples to the world (vv.21-23)
  • Jesus clarifies that he was with God before the world was created (v.24)
  • Jesus wants to share knowledge and love of God with us continuously (v.26)

One of the coolest verses, in my opinion, is John 17:24, because it concerns the believer’s ultimate destiny:

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

So Jesus’ desire on the eve of his own sacrifice is that we will be with him in heaven and will see his glory fully revealed. He’s so incredibly excited about it, about being with us forever and us being with him forever, with no barriers in our relationship. This verse is so comforting to believers who might be facing death with fear and apprehension, because it gives a glimpse of what’s to come — and that glimpse is all good.

In fact, just hours later Jesus was hanging on a cross when a nearby crucified thief called out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In light of the prayer Jesus had prayed, you can hear the triumph and excitement and hope that comes with Jesus’ response: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43)

Wrapping up our ‘Save Our Ceiling’ campaign

Malachi 3:10 has one of the most exciting and thrilling verses in the Bible when it comes to how we worship God with our wealth. The prophet writes,

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

This isn’t just a prompt for us to give a portion of our income — our “crop” — back to God for his use, but it is a dare! A dare from the Lord, who says, “Hey, if you don’t hold back, if you give a FULL tithe freely and willingly, you’re going to see something amazing. Try me out on this, and I am going to turn around and flood blessings on you like crazy.”

These aren’t just flowery, empty words; they are a promise from the Lord God Almighty, and Christians even today who have taken God up on this “tithe test” discover that He is indeed faithful in returning that offering back to the people in spades. It may not be a monetary return, but often it is so much more — and more meaningful. A good Father loves to bless his children, especially when his children show that they are grateful of what he gives them.

At the end of August, Knox Church will be wrapping up our “Save Our Ceiling” campaign. We began this back in May primarily because the church’s ceilings were in dire need of repair and the church budget was not enough to handle it. God’s people at this church heard the call to bring the tithe to the storehouse, and they responded greatly. As I write this, over $22,000 has been donated toward this cause — enough to repair the roof so that no more damage is done to this house of worship. Hallelujah, God is good!

That’s not the end of our needs at this church, of course. Session listed a few “stretch goals” for the campaign to help address some other much-needed repairs around the building. If we are able to raise $2,000 more by the end of August, we can fix the pump in the boiler. If we can raise $2,000 past that — $4,000 total between now and the end of August — we will be able to repair the ceilings in the Christian Ed wing. Neither of those are super-exciting to behold, but they are important and they do need addressing.

So here’s the question: Dare we fill up the storehouse of God even more to see what blessing he might bestow back on us?

Pray and consider this. Ask God what he is leading you to do, and if that’s to contribute more, then know that it will not be an empty or wasted donation. It will be used to fix up this building which is used to proclaim the gospel of Jesus in this community, including to the kids who are ministered to on a weekly basis.

I’m very excited to see how these final weeks play out. God is good, all the time — and all the time, God is good.

Eight helpful tips for reading the Bible

Right now we’re in the middle of a six-week seminar series that I call “Savory Scripture” — learning how to read (and savor) the Bible the right way! These helpful tips and tricks can keep us from misinterpreting God’s Word and aid our understanding.

To catch you up, here are some of those tips from the three July sessions we’ve had so far. If this sounds interesting, join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm in the first three weeks of August!

Tip #1: Understand the genre of the Bible book you’re reading. We read and interpret history books in a much different way than poetry or letters!

Tip #2: Don’t be a “cherry picker” who only selects verses that agree with you and ignore or change the rest. God’s Word is to be read and understood as a whole.

Tip #3: Read the full passage — and even what’s before and after it — to get the full context for a verse!

Tip #4: Use a few trusted translations of the Bible instead of just one when you study a passage. My recommended versions are the ESV, NIV, and NASB.

Tip #5: Look up other verses and passages that are talking about the same subject you’re reading. Remember, the Bible doesn’t conflict with itself but illuminates these issues the more we study it.

Tip #6: Draw the true meaning out of a passage rather than putting your perspective and bias into verses. Ask yourself, what is the main point of this passage? What does God want all readers to know from these verses?

Tip #7: Read books of the Bible like, well, books! Start at the beginning and read through to the end. Don’t skip around, and you’ll be treated to a more cohesive narrative and train of thought.

Tip #8: Pray before reading the Scriptures that God may open your eyes and heart to the truth.

God bless you as you study His Word and may you find your faith growing by leaps and bounds the more you do so!

Thou shalt not covet

This morning I was listening to one of the Bible verse music CDs that I play for the kids on the way to school when I was convicted of a sin that I have not really thought about in some time. I covet.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

“Covet” simply means “yearn to possess” — a step beyond merely wanting something or taking a fancy to something and actively lusting after it. It’s something you crave that you do not have but want to have desperately. The sin here isn’t just what coveting can lead to, but the fact that it’s already led to discontentment with the blessings and gifts that God’s given to you.

It makes me think of the story of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Gollum used to be Smeagol, a generally nice, typical Hobbit. But when his friend found the One Ring in the river, the corruption of the Ring preyed upon Smeagol’s heart, leading him quickly to covet what his friend had. Even though it was Smeagol’s birthday and he had received presents, he wanted that one thing his friend had and he did not have. He coveted, discontent in his current possessions, and murdered his friend for the Ring. This corruption followed Smeagol, now Gollum, for the remainder of the series. Gandalf pities the creature he’s become, obsessed by this possession (his “precious”) and tormented by its loss that he follows Frodo across the world to get it back. He is miserable, he is angry, and he is never seen as truly content, even with the Ring.

When King David coveted what he saw in his neighbor’s wife, it led to adultery and murder. When Gideon created an ephod out of the spoils of war, his family about tore itself apart desiring it. Judas coveted wealth, stealing from the disciples and eventually betraying Jesus for money. Joseph’s brothers coveted his coat and their father’s attention, leading them to sell Joseph into slavery.

Ambition, drive, and having goals aren’t necessarily breaching the boundaries of coveting. What God is establishing in this commandment is a healthy way to live with a healthy relationship between us and God and us and others. We may desire things that we do not have, and we may pursue some of those things if they are not sinful. But throughout this, we should be filled with contentment and happiness with our current station, our current possessions, and our current blessings.

To covet breaks down that relationship between us and God, because how are we to praise God and thank him for what he gives us if our heart is unsatisfied? The Hebrews in the desert had daily bread and yet they were malcontent, complaining about the same food day in and out until God gave them meat as well (and even then, that wasn’t enough to stop them from coveting their old life in Egypt). It’s so hard not to covet in today’s world because marketing bombards us with goods and services that are promoted as things to fill us with happiness and make our lives better and easier. The message of these commercials and ads is, “If you don’t have this, then you’re missing out. You need this. You should want this. You should be unhappy until you obtain this.”

God, on the other hand, fills our lives with the abundance of his grace, mercy, and blessings, and then has to listen to our hearts yearning for even more. Have you ever done something nice for someone only to hear them gripe that you didn’t do or give them more? I know how that makes me feel, and I can only imagine how frustrated God gets when we’re like that too.

Coveting also breaks the bonds of harmony and love with other people. When they have something we desperately want, then we grow to resent them. We wonder why they get it and we don’t. We blame them, if silently. How can you love and be friends with someone in those circumstances? All too often we see people using each other, pretending to be friends, just to get access to things we covet. I know that as a kid, I sidled up to other kids who had video game systems I didn’t in hopes that I would get invited over to play on them.

So I was convicted today because, sure, I break this commandment. I think we all do. The only counter to it is to develop contentment in one’s life, and that comes through the daily exercise of praise and thanksgiving in our prayers. When all that we have comes from our Father and all belongs to him, we do not have the right to demand it anyway, but to be happy for what we are given. I may not be the richest, the best-looking, the smartest, or the most geographically blessed person in the world, but what I have is immeasurable. A wife who shows me sacrificial love every day. Children who abruptly come up to me for hugs and to say that they love me. A home that’s warm in the middle of a brutally cold winter. Food on the table. A Bible in my hand. The freedom to worship without fear of persecution. And a personal relationship with my Redeemer which will extend into eternity. There should be no room to covet in all of that.

A Church That Serves Together Grows Together

A year ago I was driving down the street and noticed that a local church had a lot of activity buzzing about on its front lawn. Teens and young adults were running some sort of outdoor activity for a group of neighborhood kids, with all of the volunteers wearing the same bright green shirt. I took a closer look at what those shirts said, and printed on the back was the phrase, “This is how I serve.”

That stuck with me and I’m sure it arrested the attention of others driving or walking by as well. Without saying a word, this church was showing and broadcasting that they were here to serve the community. The shirts’ message seemed to carry an undercurrent of invitation as well: “Come serve with us.”

Service is at the core of the Christian lifestyle. Jesus was a servant leader who humbled himself far beneath his station to wash the feet of his disciples, feed the hungry, preach to the lost, and bleed for the sinner. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” Mark 10 tells us.

In John 13, Jesus washed his disciples feet and said that they (and we) will be blessed if we take on the role of a servant. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you,” he said.

Part of that blessing, I truly believe, is that it draws his body of believers together. When we serve together, we grow together. We attract the attention of those around us who see a church that puts its actions where its words are, and in that action, we become a beacon of Christ’s light and an invitation to join us in Jesus’ service.

While Knox Church already serves in many capacities, from the community dinner to the playgroup, there are always opportunities to help and reach out in different ways. These might be one-time events, such as our caroling night, to a recurring service. And while service can grow to be big, most of the times it can be small and imaginative. It’s all about seeing a need and ministering to it.

So my charge to Knox this month is this: We should serve together more! I’d love to schedule a few one-time events in which we as a church serve the Ken-Ton area in some way, even if that’s handing out free water at a game or going door to door to offer to replace smoke alarm batteries. If you think of anything we could or should be doing, let me know, and we’ll see if we an serve together soon.

A visit to Knox VBS 2019!

This week, children from all over the community — and a few visiting the area — joined us for Vacation Bible School. Our theme was “Creation” — looking at all of the amazing things that God created in the beginning.

Before the week began, the decoration team transformed Bethlehem Hall into a star-studded, fish-frolicking wonderland.

In music class, Sarah, Debbie, and Stu led the kids in singing praises to our Lord. Those songs are now stuck in our heads!

Over in arts and crafts, every day the children made a project to take home with them.

They also created a Creation book with verses and pictures from the Genesis 1 story.

The students got to make new friends while hanging out with old ones as well!

Our awesome blue shirt volunteers gave their love, energy, and (vacation) time to making sure that VBS was a big hit!

Even the smallest kids got the best of care.

At the end of our first day, the kids had a “Light Parade” with flashlights!

We also enjoyed time together as a big group, practicing our memory verses and playing large-scale games.

We loved it when the kids got up there to help lead us in song, prayer, and scripture!

The snack crew made these tasty themed treats every day!

It was great to see several generations come together for this ministry.

Kids have a lot of energy? Run it out of them!

Thank goodness that Steve was there to keep order at gym time.