I think it's safe to say that once you've read a book about reading, you are officially a citizen of Nerd-ville. Well, I did (read one), so I guess I am (a citizen). So what??? 🙂
I used to never read unless I was required to, which didn't happen unless I was in school (and often, not even then). About a year-and-a-half after I became a Christian, I started my first semester at Williams Baptist College. That semester I took both Old and New Testament Survey and read nearly the entire Bible in a semester. Every semester was reading intensive, and I developed a love for reading and learning, which has continued now for nearly two years after graduation, after I'm no longer required to read.
This love for reading led me to Tony Reinke's book, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Reinke gives some excellent advice about reading, such as how to set reading priorities, how to make the most of your reading time, and tips for marking and highlighting in books. He gives advice about reading fiction and other genres and discusses the role of worldview when it comes to reading. If you want to become a better reader or if you want to start reading, give this book a shot.
Most (but not all) of the “gospel” preaching that I have heard in my short time as a Christian has been mostly about a transaction (i.e., you give God faith in Jesus and he will give you salvation; eternal life; forgiveness…) or an avoidance of something bad (i.e., God's wrath; eternity in hell). Rarely have I heard the gospel presented as good news about a restored relationship with a loving, self-giving God. Darrell Bock seeks to buck this trend in Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News. A quote from the introduction will give you an excellent idea of what Bock is trying to communicate in this book:
The gospel starts with a promise: a relationship in the Spirit. It is pictured as a meal and a washing: the Lord's Table and baptism. It is rooted in a unique action supplying a unique need: the cross. It is inaugurated as a gift that is the sign of the arrival of the new era: Pentecost. It is affirmed in divine action and Scripture: God working uniquely and inseparably through Jesus. It is embraced in a turn that ends in faith: invoking the name of Jesus. It involves a different kind of power and is designed to be a way of life: reconciliation and the power of God unto salvation. (5)
Bock unpacks all of these ideas as chapters in the book. This is a short, accessible read that will give you a more comprehensive look at the gospel than most of us are used to. Although the book goes into more detail, the video below will give you a glimpse of some of the ideas you will find in the book.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
I would have made an excellent monk. What I mean is that a day of reading, alone in a quiet house, makes for a great (if not perfect) day for me. In fact, I can live my Christian life almost perfectly so long as I don't have to be around other people. 😉 God, however, designed us for relationships of all sorts, one of which is friendship.
I am an only child, so I learned to entertain myself at an early age. While I don't remember having any imaginary friends, at one time I had an entire basketball league in my head. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Shaq (am I showing my age?) were usually on my team, but I was the star player. Nearly every “game” we would be down by 30, maybe even 40, points, but I would always carry this all-star team on my back and make the buzzer shot to win the game. I didn't always have friends around, so I improvised.
Then I went through a phase when I played a lot of video games. Sure, sometimes friends would come over and play, but I was usually zoning out on these games alone…for hours.
Later, I became obsessed with music. I had friends that played and with some I started bands, but it wasn't unusual for me to jam out by myself.
When I worked on the farm, I could (and often would) spend about 10-14 hours a day driving a piece of equipment, rarely seeing other people (because my co-workers were doing the same thing!).
I spent about seven years immersed in the drug culture. Often, I was literally alone but sometimes “alone in a crowd.” I did have some real friends during this time, but many relationships were superficial. I met many people during this period of my life. I have no idea where most of them are now.
During part of that period, with some (but not total) overlap, I was involved in the local music scene. Again, people came and went. I have even been in bands where the members become like brothers, but now I hardly ever see or talk to them.
After I sobered up, I became immersed in church culture and met a lot of people there, as well.
I have been in and out of bands, jobs, and churches. I have gone broad with many, but deep with few. I have seen people come and go; I, myself, have come and gone… I have used people and I have been used. I have known people who were friends to me, but I wasn't to them, and vice versa…
I can faintly remember (because I was probably stoned) our high school counselor talking to my senior class, telling us that once we graduated, we wouldn't see each other very often, and could eventually lose touch altogether. I didn't believe her at the time, but she was right…
I didn't write this post to be sappy (because I'm not) or to make you think I don't have any friends (because I do). I have just realized, as of late, that, in my life, I have taken friendship for granted. This may be old news to many of you, but I'm a slow learner. 🙂 The word discipline in the title may sound cold, but friendship takes work. Nurture your relationships and be a friend.
For the past year or so, I have been trying to understand the “big picture” of the Bible. Thankfully, a dear brother in Christ, Don Pucik, told me about a book called God's Big Pictureby Vaughan Roberts.
This has been one of the most helpful books I have read on understanding the Bible. Roberts (rightly) sees the overarching theme of the Bible as being the kingdom of God, which he defines as “God's people, living in God's place, under God's rule, and enjoying God's blessing” (paraphrase), and then unpacks this idea throughout the whole sweep of Scripture. Visual learners will enjoy the charts, and there is also a Bible study at the end of each chapter.
I highly, highly, highly recommend this book!!! If you aren't a reader, check out these four videos:
If you have ever read through the OT, you have probably realized that it is not a stand alone book. (Conversely, neither is the NT.) It is a story that is going somewhere. If we had nothing after Malachi, the OT would be the ultimate cliffhanger disappointment. So many hopes…so many expectations…so many unfulfilled promises. We are left with a problem longing for resolution, a story awaiting its climax, promises needing to be fulfilled… The resolution/climax/fulfillment is the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. Throughout the life of this blog, I would like to unpack how the gospel is the fulfillment of the OT, but in this post, I just want to give a few examples showing that Jesus and the apostles saw that the gospel message was the fulfillment of their Scriptures (i.e., the Hebrew Bible, our OT).
According to the Scriptures
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus says, “Do not assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets [i.e., the OT]. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill…” (Mt 5:17)
John's gospel account records Jesus' saying to the Jews who persecuted him for healing a man on the Sabbath (John 5), “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about me…” (Jn 5:39)
A few sentences later Jesus says, “…if you believed Moses [i.e., the Law/Torah], you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But if you don't believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn 5:46-47)
My favorite example is the resurrection story in Luke when Jesus is walking with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. (Lk 24:13-35) The disciples are puzzled because they thought Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, but how could he be their Messiah if he is dead? Jesus begins with “Moses and all the Prophets” (Lk 24:27) and interprets the Scripture in light of himself. Apparently, their hearts were on fire as Jesus did this (Lk 24:32).
Later, Jesus tells the Eleven and those with them that not only the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in him, but also the Psalms. (Lk 24:36-49)
Upon entering a town, Paul would typically go to the synagogue to reason from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. (e.g., Acts 17:2-3, 11)
In Paul's most overt gospel statement (1 Cor 15:1-8, 20-28), he reminds the Corinthian church that Jesus' death and resurrection are both “according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3-4) Paul would not have had access to the NT biblical artillery used in our “Gospel as Formula.” Paul did, however, spend a year-and-a-half in Corinth teaching the word of God (cf., Acts 18:11). I am going to step out on a limb and speculate that Paul, being the Jewish scholar that he was (cf., Acts 22:3), had time to teach the church the OT story which begged for resolution and how the gospel of Jesus was that resolution, the fulfillment of the promises of God. Maybe when Paul said “according to the Scriptures,” he was confident that the church would recall that story.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb 1:1-2)
This list is not exhaustive. I just want to show that the gospel fulfills the OT. We can't fully understand one without the other…