God’s Story, Your Story: The New Testament

If you could sum up the Bible in one word, what would it be?

This may be tricky for some. Some may be thinking we can’t sum up the Bible in one word.

I think we can sum up the Bible with the word, JESUS. After all, in Luke 24, Jesus tells the disciples on the way to Emmaus that all of scripture points to him. Paul, in Colossians, says that all things are held together in him. So as we read scripture, even the Old Testament, we should be able to see Jesus in everything.

As we take the time to talk through the New Testament, remember how the storyline of the Biblical narrative goes:

Act 1: Creation, Fall, Israel

Act 2: Jesus, Church, New Creation

Last week, we saw the 39 books of the Old Testament are divided up into categories:

Pentateuch (Torah), History, Writings/Poetry/Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets

The New Testament is divided up into categories as well:

Gospels of Jesus, History (Acts), Paul’s letters (longest to shortest), General letters (longest to shortest), Apocalyptic

So the way to think about the layout of the New Testament is like this:

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension 

The spread of the message (Acts)

Living out the Christian life through the empowerment and presence of the Holy Spirit (the letters and Revelation)

Now, if the whole Bible could be summed up with JESUS, can we think of key passages that help explain the gospel and the way the Christian is supposed to live in the world?

Many know John 3:16 (For God so loved the world the he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.)

Unfortunately, this is where many people stop—at the point of gaining their own salvation. But the Christian life and faith is so much richer and deeper than simply personal salvation—it’s about being in community, sharing life together, and laying down our lives for the sake of others.

The second part of the gospel we need to hear, and live out, is 1 John 3:16 (This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.) This is why we follow the command, and example, of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him. We follow him even though we, as believers, will have challenges and suffering in this life. We follow him because he is the only source of hope and life.

So many people think the Christian life is just for them—it’s become what can Jesus do for me here and now? How can my life get better? But see how we miss out on the power of the gospel? The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives in community, when we seek to bring new people into the family of God (this is kingdom growth not just numerical growth). The power of the gospel is found when we live our lives for others instead of ourselves.

This is why there is so much emphasis on not judging, gossiping, slandering, anything that destroys or devalues another human life. The emphasis is on love—a word that has honestly lost it’s meaning because we over use it. (I love hamburgers, I love my spouse, I love (pick your favorite sports team).) Love in the Bible is not a feeling, or even how we feel in the moment. Love is the way of life. Love is at the core of who God designed us to be.

A little pastoral care moment: When we “speak truth in love” our goal is never to belittle the person but to build them up and encourage them. So often we attempt to speak, what we call, truth and end up having anger in our hearts towards the person. This is not the example of Jesus at all.

Christ followers are to emulate and imitate Jesus in their everyday lives. This is the point of the epistles (letters) from Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, the author of Hebrews. What’s incredible is how the Spirit continues to speak through these words today—with the intention of building up the community and growing the kingdom of God (God’s rule and reign in the world).

Then we come to the book of Revelation. This is a book that has been misunderstood and misapplied for the last 200 or so years. We’ve said it before, the point of Revelation is to show how God’s people can and should stand firm in their faith even when everything is going to pot. 

The ancient readers would have understood this was a letter, written in code, so they could understand what’s happening in the world to them at that time. We do know that Christ will come again and set things right (true justice not revenge). That is why we can live in hope and joy—we know the end of the story.

This is the New Testament, in a brief nutshell. 

One more thing to consider. There really is nothing new in the New Testament that is not in the Old Testament. In fact, what we see is an expansion of the thoughts and teachings from the Old Testament. (Think Sermon on the Mount which we’ll begin next week.)

This is why it is so important to study and read through the Old Testament. There are many resources available to help us study to learn the history, traditions, and context of the Old Testament. When we better understand the OT, we will begin to see more of the beauty found in the New Testament.

Jesus is the point of the Bible. Jesus is the point of the Christian life. How we live, in this life, matters and it has eternal consequences. I challenge you to read through at least one Gospel, a few letters, and Revelation this week. Ask God to reveal himself to you. The best picture of God is found in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Then, ask God to mold you into the likeness and image of his Son and give you the grace to live out the Christian life in community and help you be a person to build people up and work with God to grow the kingdom of Heaven.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist is one of my favorite biblical characters because he definitely stands out and people take notice of him. He is memorable, not only of his message, but of his clothing and food choices.

Though the Gospel of Luke does not mention him wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey, Matthew and Mark do. This is still the image we can have of John as we read his proclamation to “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

Mark Twain said, “the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I imagine John felt excitement when his time had come to deliver God’s message to the people the Messiah is coming.

What joy! What exhilaration! He was finally able to go and do what he was born to do! He went out to preach a sermon that no one really wanted to hear; but needed to hear: prepare for the Lord’s Messiah, seek forgiveness and repent. I would imagine the people did not want to hear they have to change their hearts, their lives, their will. I imagine the people only wanted to hear their lives will be better and that God will com in to take care of the “real” problem: the Romans.

What message is it you want to hear at Christmas? The sweet story of a baby being born and the angels and shepherds giving God glory and praise? Or, are we preparing ourselves fully for the complete gift of God through Jesus Christ and realize His life, His death, AND His resurrection are the reason we are reconciled to God.

To fully see the beautiful picture of Christ at Christmas, we have to be different from our culture and see the gruesome death that is coming.

How do you stand out to show the full meaning of Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Learning About God at the Beach

Standing on the beach and staring at the ocean can make us feel small. We may even feel like there is so much going on around us (birds flying and feeding, waves never ending, avoiding sea weed and jellyfish). With all of this going on around us, it can be difficult to see or hear from God; or even allow our minds and spirits to be quiet and calm so we can learn more about God.

Two mornings in a row, I’ve had the opportunity to just walk on the beach and learn 3 amazing things about God, God speaking to us, and something about us:

1) We have heard God’s love is like the ocean (vast, endless and never ending). As the waves were coming in, it occurred to me something is trying to stop them or at least break them apart. Then, looking at the land and feeling the breeze, it dawned on me that we are like the land and the breeze. We’ll try and try to stop God and His love from reaching us; but it just keeps coming and reaching out for us.

2) We can see there are many waves and they can be loud. We know the waves are there but we also have ways of tuning the sound and the presence of waves out. It was at this point I felt God saying the waves are like His voice, His words trying to speak to us. A question to think about is: How often do we really pay attention and tune in to hear the voice of God instead of ignoring it? Water is life. Without water, the land would dry up. So is the same with us when we try to avoid and run away from God. We need His life giving spirit each and everyday.

3) Last but not least. This morning there was a lone sea gull trying to search for food and wandering about. This reminded me of us, as humans. We are constantly reaching out and wandering about to find something, anything that will fill us up. Just as the water kept coming toward the land and the sea gull, God is always reaching for us. It is in Him we find fulfillment. It is in Him we find spiritual nourishment. It is in Him we find our purpose.

My prayer is that we never look at the beach or the ocean the same way again. May we be the people who see God everywhere!

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Worship…Take Time to Worship this Weekend

Psalm 122:1 says “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house.'”

How is it to you to go to a place of worship? The only thing that matters is that when we go to worship, we pause what we’re doing and allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill us once again. We all have busy schedules and an almost never ending to-do list, but we can also be excited to be around with other imperfect people so together we can worship the One who created each of us.

The joy of worshipping as a community comes from support and realizing we all have struggles in life but we can still be there for each other. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those around us in a worship service helps us to visibly see God moving in and through us to work with God and fill other hearts with peace and joy.

Where ever you might be this weekend, I hope and pray you find a place to worship and praise God (whatever that looks like for you), so that we can be filled together and go out together to bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it most (the outside world….and us!).

If you do not have a place of worship, you are invited to get a group of friends together and worship with us online Saturday night from 6:00pm-6:30pm central standard time. The message is “Seeking & Knowing God’s Presence” and we’ll look at and explore Exodus chapter 33.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZnpdwYGbVY (may have to copy and paste link)

We do not worship for ourselves, but to give honor and glory to God, our Creator.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us–no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness!”

May the peace and love of God fill your heart and strengthen you today and forever more. Amen.

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