Is My Money _________?

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My family’s budget is one of the last things I want to do every year, and thanks to my powers of procrastination it was just finished at the beginning of March. I’m glad it’s done though, because the usefulness of our money depends largely on how we view it and how we use it. This year, I wanted to make sure I was getting the most out of every dollar, and ended up asking four questions about my money.

1. Is my money a gift from God?

This first question is a reminder that any money I have is a gift from God, and this brings me to worship and gratitude. Worship, because it is ultimately God who provides, and gratitude, because he did not have to. Viewing money as a gift helps me to use my money with an “I get to do this” attitude, rather than an “I am entitled to this” attitude.

2. Is my money wise?

Jesus invites us not to worry because of the provision of God the Father. God also offers dozens of suggestions in scripture on how to use our money wisely, most notably in the book of Proverbs. This question leads me to think about how our income can remove our debt, be saved for emergencies, be better used by being wise about purchases, be invested for our long term goals, and serve an eternal purpose.

3. Is my money joyful?

One of the uses of wealth is to enjoy it. Do the members of my household have access to the money we need to relax and recreate? Are we bringing the best food to the party and the best gifts to our friends and family? Am I seeking opportunities to show hospitality (Romans 12:13)?

Using your money to create joy ultimately comes down to this question: Is my money being used to create relationships, or is it being spent only on myself?

4. Is my money eternal?

This may be the last question, but it is the most important one. If your money stops at wise and joyful, it is NOT eternal. This is why giving (often in scripture giving is off the top, and there is precedent of 10 percent) is so important. We can’t take our wealth with us when we die, and the things that we purchase in this life will rot and decay. God calls us to give, and by doing this He has given us an opportunity to put our money to work as a tool for people to see, encounter, and be transformed by Jesus Christ. My money can be used to see people live forever with Jesus in heaven.

To take it deeper, this is why my wife and I give to the local church. We want our money to be eternal, and God uses the local church to proclaim the Gospel in the world. We make sure our giving is:

Regular - Regularity invests my heart in what God is doing around me.

Sacrificial - Seeing people meet Jesus is worth the cost! 

Joyful - Seeing my money be used to build the Kingdom of God literally brings me joy.

So as you look at your budget and how you spend your money, where do you see areas of improvement? Is your money a gift of God, seasoned with wisdom, used to build rest and relationship, and used for an eternal purpose?

Maundy Thursday

Scripture:

Read John 13:1-17 and John 13:34-35

Commentary:

Today is referred to as Maundy Thursday because of the events that took place in the upper room the night before Jesus was crucified. The word Maundy is specifically connected to the Latin word for command because Jesus gave us a new command that we love one another just as He has loved us after. This commandment was given shortly after Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.

Why feet washing? During the 1st century in the Middle East people didn’t wear shoes, but sandals, and the common form of transportation was walking. This isn’t too strange, but the things about walking from place to place is that the streets were dirty, as Sally Lloyd Jones says not just dusty dirty, but really stinky dirty…you can [only] imagine the stuff on the street that ended up on their feet.  With that said it was only logical that their feet had to be washed when they came in doors. This job fell on the lowest servant of the group, and Jesus’ disciples were too busy trying to figure who the greatest was that none of them were willing to make themselves the lowest.

Since none of the disciples were willing to wash the others feet before their meal, Jesus rose from the table in the middle of the meal and removed His outer garment, wrapped His waist with a towel, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.

Application:

After returning to the table Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” In other words He asks, “Do you know why I washed your feet?” This question is just as important for us today, as it was for His disciples back then. I believe that there are two reasons why Jesus washed their feet.

First, He used it as an opportunity to teach us something. In verse 10, when He is talking to Peter Jesus says, “The one who is bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…” As believers in Christ we are clean (converted and regenerated) but we still need continual spiritual cleansing (confession and repentance). We have “bathed” in the fountain that is Christ, but we still need to “wash our feet.” We do this by coming to Him regularly to confess the sins that have ended up on our feet as we walk through this world and seek forgiveness for our actions.

Second, Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet teaches us the need for loving and serving each other. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” This call isn’t to physically wash each other’s feet, but it is figurative. We are called to serve each other, to love one another in sacrificial ways. After this event Jesus gives the New Commandment that we love one another as He has loved us. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet wasn’t lowest that He was going to stoop to demonstrate His love for us. Remember, this took place the night before Jesus was crucified in our place for our sins, demonstrating the depth of His great love for us. It’s with this same love that we are commanded to love one another.

On this Maundy Thursday Christ is calling us to two things:

  1. Wash your feet – confess, seek forgiveness, and repent for the sins that we continue to commit.
  2. Love one another as I have loved you – serve each other, and give of ourselves in order to love one another.

Prayer:

Jesus, thank you for the way you demonstrated your great love for us by dying on the cross in our place for our sins. Help us to come to you for spiritual renewal, to confess when we sin against you and seek your forgiveness. And help us Lord to love like you. Help us to give of ourselves to love one another and you gave yourself to love us. Amen.

Holy (Spy) Wednesday Devotional

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As we continue to look at the week leading up to the cross and the resurrection, we arrive at Spy Wednesday, which gets it's name from Judas agreeing to spy on Jesus for those who wanted to put him to death.
Read this Scripture: Matthew 26:1-16
Explanation:
Jesus retreats to a town just outside of Jerusalem. Mary, who is a disciple of Jesus, breaks open a very expensive bottle of perfume and pours it all over him. This act of love is criticized by Judas and the other apostles (see John 12:1-4), but pleases Jesus. "She has done a beautiful thing to me." Judas then goes and offers to betray Jesus for payment. He strikes a deal with the chief priests and waits for an opportunity to betray Jesus to them. His payment of 30 pieces of silver fulfills prophecy of how much Jesus would be betrayed for.
Application: 
We don't go and brazenly ask someone if they will pay us for betraying Jesus, but there are moments in our life that we are tempted to betray Jesus. It's the times we do not follow Jesus in his commands and willfully sin. It's the split second when someone asks what you believe at work or school and you decide to keep it as short as possible, or even lie about it. It is choosing to be completely silent about our faith for fear of retribution, embarrassment, conflict, or loss of friendship, job, etc.
What comparably small amounts we are willing to deny Jesus for! There is a cost to following Jesus, but it does not compare to the love poured out by him on our behalf to bring us into the people of God. The answer to our heart condition isn't doubling down on our will-power, but on fixing our gaze on our Lord and Savior like Mary did. By spending time with Jesus and by experiencing his heart and his power, she was moved to worship him despite the circumstances and danger.
Today, do these three things:
Repent of the times you have betrayed Jesus. There have been times that all Christians have.
Remember how Jesus has shown his love to you
Ask God in prayer to increase your love and devotion for Jesus
Prayer 
Father, Judas betrayed you, but all the apostles denied you, and I recognize that I have too. Your spirit calls me not to despair like Judas did, but to repent like Peter did. As I do, I ask that you would increase my love for Christ. Remind me of the reward that I receive for Jesus' sacrifice, as well as your active work in my life and in the lives around me. In Jesus' name, amen.

Holy Tuesday Devotional

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Read this scripture: Matthew 21:23-27 Explanation

Yesterday, Jesus cleansed the temple as a way of demonstrating that he is God and came to cleanse and restore false worship. Today, the temple authorities (chief priests and elders) challenge the authority of Jesus. Mathew 21:23 says that they interrupted Jesus in the middle of his teaching. Instead of hearing him out they wanted to shut him up. They challenged him saying "By what authority do you do these things, and who gave you this authority?"

Unafraid of their petty challenge, as God always is, Jesus challenged them back by asking them a question regarding John the Baptist who was widely considered to be a prophet who spoke the truth of God. John had previously proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, sent from God.  So, Jesus was putting them on the spot. He was basically saying, "If you believe John is a prophet, then you know that I have the authority of God."  In doing so, he was giving them an opportunity to own their reasons for rejecting his authority.

But they chose not to rise to the challenge. They did not want to admit that John was a prophet because they did not want to be wrong. They also did not want to admit that John was only speaking with the authority of man because they did not want the crowds to disregard them. Afraid to be wrong, and afraid what others might think, they chose to disregard Jesus' loving invitation towards truth and worship.

Application:

Like these Priests and Elders, we do the same thing to Jesus all the time. We hate the idea of anyone have authority in our life, unless it is us! Therefore, like these people in the story, we prefer to interrupt Jesus instead of listen to him. When he challenges us with truth, we often disregard him because we do not want to admit that we are wrong, or because we are afraid of what others will think.

  • Take a moment and admit to Jesus your problems with his authority. Tell him why you have a problem. He is inviting this!
  • Ask him for help. Ask him to demonstrate why he is the only worthy authority in your life. Ask him for help to face the truth, even if it means you are wrong or others will reject you.

Prayer:

Jesus, forgive us for being more concerned with being right and being accepted, then we are with embracing your truth. Help us to see that you are good and God, the only worthy authority in our life. Amen.

Holy Monday Devotional

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Read this scripture: Mark 11:15-19 Commentary:

Following the events of Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem the next day I can imagine the city was a buzz. I’m sure everyone was talking about what He would do next. He was hailed as their King on Sunday, so would it be on Monday that He would begin to go about setting up His kingdom, and if so, how would He do it? Contrary to their ideas and what they expected Jesus returned to the temple. On this visit He didn’t just present Himself in the temple as our Lord (Malachi 3:1), but He cleansed the temple. This wasn’t because the temple was dirty, but because what was taking place in the temple was repulsive in the sight of God. The religious leaders were making a profit off of the worship of God.

Application:

The temple was to be the place of worship, a house of prayer, not a den of robbers. Today our bodies are the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we are to worship Him in all we do. If Jesus were to show up in the temple of your heart this week, what would He see? What tables would He turn over in your life? What in your life needs to be cleansed so that the worship of your King can be restored? I think that these are good questions for us to ask as we begin this Holy Week. Our King has come to be our Savior so that our worship could be restored. Let us begin this week by examining ourselves and asking our King come in and cleanse the temple of our hearts that we might worship Him rightly.

Prayer:

Jesus, we thank you for coming and presenting yourself in the temple as our Lord. Forgive us for allowing other things to come in and detract and distract us from worshipping You. Would you turn over the tables that we have set up that are in opposition to worshipping you. We ask God that you would cleanse the temples of our hearts, and that you would help us this week to remember your sacrifice and the things that make for our peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Letter of Apology To The Homosexual Community

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On Sunday March 6, 2016, I preached on homosexuality from Romans 1. I opened with an apology to the homosexual community on behalf of the church. This is that letter. Dear LGBT community,

The Christian message is really quite simple. It states that God made all people in beauty and dignity in his image. But even as image bearers of God, we decided to live our way instead of his way. The Bible calls this sin and states that every human who has ever lived (aside from Jesus) has been held captive by sin. The consequences for sin are death and separation from God. But, the good news of the Christian message is that God was so full of love for sinners that he decided to take on flesh and die to forgive them and be close to them. This is the hope of Christianity.

Unfortunately, in many ways, we as the church have reduced this message to say that God only loves people who look and act righteous. This is wrong. But because of this kind of thinking, we as Christians have felt justified to demean and shame those in homosexual community. For this I am deeply ashamed, and sorry. I am sorry for the ways we have treated you like you are worse off than us. I am sorry for the ways that we have publicly humiliated you or hated you by saying things that should not be said about anyone who is an image bearer of God. Please forgive us for being more disgusted with you, than we are with our own, gossip, slander, greed, selfishness and pride, all of which the Bible equally condemns as sin.

I am also sorry for the ways we have that we have not been a safe place. One of the hopes of God we see in the Bible is that he is a refuge for the weary, burdened, and anxious. The Bible instructs the church to be the hands and feet of this kind of love. If there is any place that people should be able to come as they are, it should be the church. But for the gay community, we have not been this kind of refuge. We have been more of a battlefield than a place of safety. We have attacked you instead of welcomed you. We have shunned you instead of pursued you. We have avoided you instead of embraced you. I am sorry. We have not taken the time to hear your story, and imagine life in your shoes. This is not the way of our Lord Jesus, who was so full of love for sinners that he got off his thrown in heaven to pursue them. And when Jesus came to this earth, many who had been rejected by the religious system flocked to him because they knew he was a safe place. He even said, “Come to me, all you are are weary and heavy ladened, and I will give you rest.”   Forgive us for showing you the stiff arm of religion instead instead of the warm embrace of God.

Finally I would like to apologize for the things we have not done. The book of James tells us that it is just as wrong to act out against God, as it is to not act for God when we know we should. The church has also failed the homosexual community in this way. In the face of mockery and hate, we have often been passive. Whether it was because of cowardice, ignorance, or lack of care, many of us have not defended your human rights in the face of opposition.  God is the defender of the down trodden, yet we have let open mockery happen. Forgive us.

Forgive us also, for not being clear with you about what we actually believe about sexuality from the Bible. It is just as wrong for us to not speak clearly when you ask our opinion, as it is for us to treat you as scum of the earth. The truth is, the Bible has a lot to say about human sexuality. Many of its views are likely in opposition to your views. But, because we haven’t wanted to disrupt the comfort of popular opinion, we as the church, have chosen to avoid this issue, or not take the time to discuss it. This is disrespectful to you. I am sorry.

So, in conclusion, we have failed big time. But we cannot fix our problems, nor can we change history. The only thing we can do, is say sorry. I hope we can do better in the future, but I also cannot guarantee it. The only hope we have, is to draw closer to Jesus, knowing that the closer we are to him, the more of his heart we will actually have for you. We need the same grace we preach.

In grace and peace, from a minister of the gospel

Kyle Bateson

THE EASIEST WAY TO HELP YOUR NEIGHBORS KNOW JESUS

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"I really want to people in my neighborhood to know Jesus, but I don't know where to start." This is a common feeling among most Christians. Solution? Prayer-walk your neighborhood. If you want people in your neighborhood to know Jesus, try prayer-walking your neighborhood at least once a week. WHAT IS PRAYER-WALKING? 

It is really simple. Take a walk around your block and pray for the people around you. Pray that God would bless them, and reveal himself to them. Pray for their well being. Pray that they would hunger for God. Pray for opportunities for Christians to speak them. Pray for them everything that you would want someone to pray for you.

And when you pray, keep your eyes open. If you notice needs, ask God to help. Look for potential barriers and bridges to the gospel. What might be keeping these people from meeting Jesus? What could help them to know him? Notice the stage of life of your neighbors. Are there children running around? Are many people retired? Notice their interests. Do you see RVs, boats, or quads in the driveway? Do people have sports flags hanging from their home? Also, keep your ears open. Pay attention to things people are talking about. Notice the music they are listening to. Listen carefully to how people talk. Are they highly educated? Is their language sophisticated, or rough and earthy? Are they discussing sports, or cars, or philosophy? All these things will help you pray better for your neighbors.

Finally, pay attention to the promptings of your heart. When you are walking, does it seem that one house grabs your attention more than another? Do certain neighbors come to mind more than others? Do specific social needs come to mind like racism, divorce, illness, or depression?  Maybe these promptings are God's way of guiding your prayers. So pay attention.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU PRAYER-WALK YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

  1. You will see God at work! God answers prayers. When he does, you will be reminded that he is at work. Unless he builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).
  2. You will learn the needs of your neighborhood. This may give you and some fellow Christians an opportunity to serve people with the love of Jesus.
  3. You will meet people. Sometimes the biggest obstacle for sharing Jesus is that we don't know anyone around us. By being out and about, you will meet some of your neighbors.
  4.  You will learn how to talk to your neighbors. By observing barriers and bridges to the gospel you will be able to speak more compassionately to your new friends who don't know him. This will prevent you from making assumptions and help you speak directly to their needs.
  5. You will be humbled. It is so easy to get wrapped up into our own lives that we forget their are 7 billion other people on this planet. By prayer-walking your neighborhood you will realize you aren't the center of the universe. There are many people right around you who are equally loved by God and are struggling through life just like you.

So, give it a shot and see what happens.

 

Lesson on Prayer from Jonah 2

This week at the worship gathering we looked at Jonah chapter 2, which is a Psalm or prayer of thanksgiving. Many of us can look at Jonah’s prayer and compare it to our own prayers, and think, “My prayers don’t sound like that.” Truth be told my prayers don’t sound like that either. Here’s the spoiler alert, Jonah’s prayer wasn’t all original either.

When it comes to prayer, many of us find ourselves at a loss for what to pray or how to pray. I am not trying to write as someone who has figured this out, but I think that there is lesson on prayer for us to learn from Jonah 2. Much of Jonah’s prayer was taken from the Psalms (120:1, 42:7, 31:22, 69:1, 142:3, 31:6, and 3:8). The book of Psalms is a book of Prayers that were written by various men, at various times, and in various situations. Jonah was so familiar with the Psalms that it was very natural to include them in his prayer.

We can follow Jonah’s prayer as an example of including scripture as we pray. I am not as familiar with the Psalms as Jonah was, but I do have the Bible right in front of me, and so do you. The beautiful thing about the Psalms is that as we read them, whether we have been in the exact situation or not, we can relate with them. We can use the Psalms in our own prayer lives as either prayers that we pray, or as an outline with prompts to help us pray. Knowing what Psalms to look at for different occasions can be challenging because the book of Psalms is made up of 150 psalms and contains many different types of psalms.

The most common types of psalms are: hymns of praise, laments, psalms of thanksgiving, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms.

  • Hymns of praise: characterized by their exuberant praise of the Lord. God is praised for His attributes, i.e. power, mercy, etc., or for His actions, i.e. creation, the exodus, etc. Many of these songs were used as part of Israel’s worship in the Old Testament. These include: 8, 19, 24, 29, 33, 46, 47, 48, 65, 67, 68, 76, 84, 87, 93, 96-100, 103-105, 111, 113, 114, 117, 122, 135, 136, 139, 145-150.
  • Laments: express an emotion opposite of praise. Generally the psalmist opens his heart honestly to God, expressing emotions like sadness, fear and even anger over things that they are experiencing personally or that their community is experiencing. There is always a cry for God to intervene and they generally end by turning to the Lord with confidence. These include: 3, 5-7, 13, 17, 22, 25-27, 28, 31, 35, 38, 39, 42-44, 51, 54-61, 63, 64, 69-71, 74, 79, 80, 83, 86, 88, 102, 106, 109, 120, 125, 130, 140-143.
  • Thanksgiving Psalms: generally characterized by the psalmist thanking God for his deliverance. This type of psalm is appropriate when the Lord answers a lament, and generally concludes with the psalmist declaring that they will give a thank-offering to the Lord. These include: 8, 18, 19, 29, 30, 32-34, 40, 41, 65, 66, 67, 68, 81, 92, 100, 103, 107, 116, 118, 124, 129, 138.
  • Royal Psalms: these psalms are concerned entirely with kings, generally God, the King of the universe, and David, the king of Israel. They were generally composed to highlight a specific event in the life of the king. These include: 2, 18, 20, 21, 24, 45, 47, 72, 89, 93, 96-99, 101, 110, 132, 144.
  • Wisdom Psalms: make use of themes found in the wisdom books of the Bible (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). Those themes include a contrast between the righteous and the wicked, fear or the Lord, etc. They often include instruction. These include: 1, 37, 49, 73, 91, 112, 127, 128, 133.

The first three categories, hymns, laments, and psalms of thanksgiving, are probably the most relevant in our personal prayer life. When you find yourself right with God, consider reading and praying through a hymn. If you are out of harmony with God, read and pray through a lament. And when the Lord reestablishes His relationship with you, or delivers you from your lament, read and pray through a psalm of thanksgiving. I hope this helps you as you continue to seek the Lord both in His word and in prayer.

HOW DO I DISCIPLE MY KIDS? PART 2: BE PRESENT

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"What do you think is the most important gift you can give to your family?" A couple years ago two friends of mine, Jim Cofield and Rich Plass, asked me this question. I sat their in silence contemplating what might be the "right" answer. I knew it wasn't knowledge, or provision, or special presents, but I couldn't come up with a good answer so I just sat there thinking. Thankfully they interrupted, "We are convinced that the most important thing you can give to your family is your transformed and transforming presence." To be transformed means to be changed. As humans we absorb the presence of others. That's why you've said something before and thought, "Oh my gosh, I just sounded like my mother/father."  Our kids are absorbing us too, whether we like it or not. That's why the best thing we can give them, is our transformed and transforming presence.

To be transformed, is to be changed. And as absorbent beings, when we have an encounter with God, it changes us. Bits of the way we live, think, and act literally become transformed. This is great news because God is good. He is infinitely loving, wise, compassionate, patient, joyful, truthful, just and forgiving. And the more of his presence we can absorb, the more of his goodness we can give to others.

In other words, the best thing we can do to disciple our kids is this: hang out with God and then hang out with them.  This is how God himself chose to disciple us. He didn't just shout from heaven and tell us how to live. The fullness of the Bible tells us that he gave us himself in the person of Jesus. John 1:14 says he dwelt amongst us, or as Eugene Peterson says, "He moved into our neighborhood." God knew that in order to have an impact on our souls, he had to give himself.  That's why Jesus came to Earth, to give us his presence. To transform us by spending time with us.

As parents, we are to follow God's lead. This is simple, but with our busy lives extremely difficult. Here are a couple of ways to give your kids the gift of your transformed and transforming presence.

Personally spend some unhindered and uninterrupted time with God. 

Take 15-20 minutes a day to quiet your soul and be with God. You can't give your transformed presence if you aren't taking time to be transformed. Read a small piece of scripture, pray, and simply be still in the presence of God. Do whatever you need to do to block this time out in your schedule. It can be a early morning, during lunch, after work, before you go to bed, or whatever works. Simply put down the phone, get to a quiet place, and be with God.

Create a regular rhythm of giving unhindered uninterrupted time to your kids

Because life with kids is so ridicoulously busy, these must be planned an protected rhythms. The only way to give your presence to your kids is if you create space to be with them. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Eat dinner with your family at least 4-5 times a week. - Turn off the TV, put away the phone and email, and enjoy a meal with your family. If your schedule makes this difficult, figure out a way to make it happen. For example, have snacks early and eat late. It will be worth it.
  2. Take your kids out on Daddy or Mommy dates. - Once a month, take each of your kids to do something fun. If you got a lot of kids, put them on a weekly rotation. They need this one-on-one time with you to be reminded that you are for them, not against them. This doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Right now, I take my kids to Scheels to ride the ferris wheel ($2) and then Wendy's to get frosties ($4). It is simple, cheap, and it gets us hanging out together. When your kids are older, you may think they don't want to hang with you, but trust me, they do. Get to know their interests and do something they would like. Make sure to plan it, or it won't happen.
  3. Do spontaneously fun things. - As parents, our job is to cultivate joy in our kids life. One way we can do this is by spontaneously doing something fun. Pick them up early from school and take them to a movie. Wake them up in the morning and take them to get doughnuts. Go on a surprise trip out of town. I really believe that simple fun and spontineity can be a huge gateway to our kids' hearts.
  4. When you're home, be home. - Put down the phone, the remote, social media, and even the chores. Give yourself permission to not be busy all the time. If you are a stay-at-home or work-from-home person, be clear with your kids on time you need to work, and time you can be with them. Be present with your kids.

Remember that Jesus lived 30 years of his life before he started his public preaching ministry. This means that before he gave us his sermons, he gave us himself. It would be wise for us to do the same with our kids.

How To Find Jesus In The Old Testament

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Jesus showed his disciples in Luke 24:27 that the entire Old Testament pointed to him. It is easy for us read that verse and say "The whole Bible is about Jesus" but sometimes this is much easier to say than to see, especially when reading some of the difficult passages of the Old Testament. So how can we see him in the Old Testament? How can we know that it all points to him? Below are 9 ways to find Jesus in the Old Testament. Hopefully they can serve as tools to help you faithfully interpret the Bible. (Before we begin, I want to say that I did not come up with any of these on my own. All of this stuff I've learned mainly from Sidney Greidanus and his book,  Graeme Goldsworthy, and a podcast from Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney have also been helpful. Click on their names to learn more)

1. Redemptive Historical progression

This approach requires us to ask the question, "Where does this OT passage fit into the storyline of the Bible?"

The Bible begins with God creating a perfect world, with perfect creatures and perfect relationships. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve listen a lie of Satan and rebel against God. This results in brokenness to everything that God created perfect. God forgives them of their sin and promises that one day he will send someone to defeat this brokenness and death (Genesis 3:15). This person would become known as the Messiah. The rest of the Old Testament is the unfolding of who that person would be, what family he would come from, how he would act and what he would do. So the redemptive historical approach is to see how a particular story or passage fits into the greater story of the Messiah.

For Example the Story of Ruth is about a nice guy named Boaz taking in a widow (Ruth) to be his wife. We might ask, "Why is this in the Bible?" But the last verses of Ruth tells us. It says that Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, Jesse fathered David (Ruth 4:21-22).  God later made a promise to David that the Messiah would come from his line and the New Testament tells us that Jesus comes from the line of David. In other words, God used the kindness Boaz showed to Ruth to bring about Jesus, the Savior of the world. This is what it means to see the story of Ruth as a piece in the greater Story of Jesus.

2. Typology

Typology requires us to ask "Does this OT passage contain a person or object that specifically foreshadows the person and work of Jesus?"

I think this approach is the funnest but also the most abused approach. It is fun because it is really cool to see how many things in the Old Testament specifically foreshadow Jesus. It can be dangerous because there may be a temptation to find Jesus in the Old Testament where he simply is not. One leader in my church calls that "stretchology" because you stretch the Bible to mean something it doesn't mean.

Typology is looking for foreshadows. For example, Jonah is a type of Christ. This can include people or objects. As Jonah went into the belly of the fish for 3 days, Jesus went into the belly the earth for three days (Matthew 12:40). As Job is a righteous man who suffers, Jesus is the greater righteous man who suffers. As Issaac carried wood up a hill to be sacrificed by his father who loved him. Jesus carried wood up a hill to be truly sacrificed by his Father in Heaven who loved him. For objects you could say the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the special dwelling place of God on earth. In order for people to connect with God, they had to go to the tabernacle. John tells us that when Jesus became flesh he dwelt, or tabernacled, amongst us (John 1:14). In order to connect with God, you must go to Jesus (John 14:6). Jesus is the truer and greater tabernacle. These, and many more things are all foreshadows of Jesus.

3. Anti-typology

Different from typology, Anti (meaning opposite) Typology requires us to ask, "Does this OT passage contain a person or object that specifically foreshadows the opposite of Jesus and his work?"

An example would be King Saul. God appointed Saul to be the king of his people. Saul looked like a king. He was tall, handsome and stood out among the people (1 Samuel 9:2). Saul started out good but overtime became proud. He started to care for himself more than the people. Because of this he became a bad king. Jesus, however is like and unlike Saul. Like Saul he was appointed by the Father to be king of his people, but unlike Saul he didn't look like a king. He didn't become proud but took on the form of a servant, even to the point of death (Matthew 10:45). Jesus is a king who valued people more than he valued himself. Jesus is the anti-type of Saul.

4. Longitudinal themes

This approach leads us to ask, "What idea or theme is in this OT passage that finds it's ultimate end in Jesus?"

Longitudinal themes are ideas or dominant themes that develop throughout the Old Testament and are most fully revealed in Christ. Examples of this include the phrase "Salvation belongs to the LORD" said by Jonah when he hit rock bottom (Jonah 2:9). We too, when we hit rock bottom can call out to Jesus to be saved. Another theme is that salvation is by faith alone in God. Paul says that as Abraham had faith in God, we need to have faith in Jesus in order to be saved (Romans 4:3). Martin Luther once said, "God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines." This too is a longitudinal theme. Throughout the entire Old Testement we see God using flawed men and women to advance his purposes. We see the same with Jesus as he chose flawed disciples to be his apostles and chooses a broken church to advance his kingdom. These are all themes that find their end in Jesus.

5. Promise and Fulfillment

For this approach we ask, "Does this OT passage contain any promises that are fulfilled in Jesus?"

The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies that have already been fulfilled by Jesus. This is not to mention the many that have yet to be filled in his return. One simple way to find Jesus in the Old Testament is to look for these promises. My favorite is Genesis 3:15. God tells the serpent, "There will be man who comes from the seed of a woman, who will crush your head but be wounded in the process." Jesus fulfills this by being the man who was born from a virgin, who defeated Satan, sin and death, but was wounded in the process as he died on the cross. He was only wounded though, because he resurrected from the grave 3 days later and lives victoriously. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's first promise of redemption.

6. New Testament References

To find Jesus with this approach, we ask the question, "Is this passage quoted in the New Testament as being about Jesus."

Most of the New Testament is made up of Old Testament quotes or references. When we find a Old Testament quote being used in the New Testament as being about Jesus, we can conclude that the original passage was meant to point us to Jesus. The Apostle Peter shows us this in Acts 2:24-33 when he says that Psalm 16:8-11 is really about Jesus not David. Thus we have a fuller meaning to Psalm 16. There are many quotes like this in the New Testament. This approach is to mine them out. This may not always be easy, so a good Study Bible or online study tool might be helpful.

7. Analogy

Analogy requires us to ask "Does this OT passage reveal a relationship Between the LORD and his people that is parralleled in the relationship with Jesus and his church? "

The relationship between the LORD and Israel in the Old Testement is often analagous to Jesus' relationship with his church. For example, as Israel was called the bride of the LORD, the church is called the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). As Israel is the chosen people of God in the Old Testament, the church is the chosen of people of God (new Israel) in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:9). As the LORD was the faithful king to Israel as athey sojourned through the wilderness, Jesus is the faithful King of his disciples as they sojourn on earth toward the promise land of heaven.  In summary, Jesus relates to the church the same way we see the LORD relating to Israel.

8. Law and Gospel

For this we ask the question, "How is the law of God revealed in this passage ultimately fulfilled by Christ?"

The Law is what God commands. It is beautiful but also terrifying. I like to think of it like the ocean. It draws you to its beauty. It terrifies you with its size and power. This is how the commands of God are. They are beutiful and show us the goodness of God. But they are terrifying because we will never be able to live up to their standard. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) The easiest summary of the Law is the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). In every way that we fail the 10 Commandments, Jesus fulfilled them on our behalf. He also paid the consequence for our disobedience to them on the cross.

There are different types of Old Testament laws. Some are Ceremonial laws, describing what was required for the ceremonies of worship for Israel. Others were Civil laws, describing how Jesus Israel was supposed to civilly treat each other. Others were Moral laws, describing how all people are called to treat each other as fellow humans. In Jesus' life and death, he fulfilled all these categories.

9. Contrast

This final approach finds Jesus by asking "How are the ways God works in this Old Testament passage different than the way Jesus works in the New Testament?"

While God's relationship with his people in the Old Testament and New Testament is very similar, often the way he works and accomplishes his purposes is different. For example, in the Old testament God calls Israel to invite people to join their nation so they could worship God (Exodus 12:48). But in the New Testament, Jesus sends his disciples out the nations to proclaim the gospel so all nations can worship (Matthew 28:16-20). In other words, in the Old Testament, God's people had a ministry of gathering. In the New Testament God's people have a ministry of going. With the coming of Christ we see contrast to the way in which God advances his kingdom.

 

The whole Bible, even the Old Testament, points to Jesus.

 

HOW DO I DISCIPLE MY KIDS? PART 1: PRAY FOR THEM

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"How do I disciple my kids toward Jesus?" That is one of the most frequent questions I get. So, I'd like to take a couple blogs to answer this question. The first thing you can do is pray for them. Before you talk to them about God, consider talking to God about them. Here are a few things that I've learned about praying for my kids. PRAY THROUGH THEIR SEASONS OF LIFE

I got this idea from a friend of mine named Alex Early. As he tucks his kids in bed at night he prays through the decades of their life. For instance, on Monday he'll pray for them between ages 0-10, Tuesday ages 10-20, Wednesday 20-30, etc. I've started doing this as well and it has been fun and helpful. I break it down to spans of 5 years instead of 10, but the idea is that your are praying for your kids' entire life, not just their current situation. This gives you the opportunity to pray for their future friends, school, temptations, joys, spouse, career, faith, perseverance and so on.

PRAY PRAYERS OF THANKFULNESS

Philippians 4:8 commands us to meditate not just on our problems, worries, or frustrations, but also on the things we are thankful for. Do this as you pray for your kids. Think of all the things about your kids that you love, and thank God for them. Like a water balloon filling with water, this will expand the capacity of your love toward your kids. It will also be encouraging for your kids to hear you thank God for specific things about them. More importantly, all good things come from God, and he deserves praise for all the good that he does.

PRAY THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE

It is easy to get into a rut and pray the same things for your kids over and over. While this isn't bad, you might be missing out on some of the breadth of God's genius. One way to counter this, is to pray scripture over them. I try to do this as often as I can. If something from the Bible gets my attention, I pray that for my whole family when we go down to bed. All you have to do is take a Biblical truth that you've recently read, or heard in a sermon, and simply pray that for your kids. Consider using the petitions of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), or the truths of the Psalms to give you content for your prayers.

PRAY ACCORDING TO THEIR PERSONALITY

As your kids bloom into their own individuality, they will need different prayer according to their personalities. Every individual on the face of the planet has different gifts and weaknesses as it pertains to relating to God and others. Get to know your kids and pray for them accordingly. For me, my son Josiah seems to be a boy with a big heart and a gentle spirit. He seems to be mostly introverted and mechanically minded. I have a feeling that he will find it easy to have a few really close friends but might struggle putting himself out there with the crowds. So I thank God for his heart and loving spirit. I ask God to help me cultivate his creative and mechanical talents. I also pray that God will give him courage to make new friends and to be bold and courageous when he needs to be. My Daughter Penny on the other hand, is a social butterfly. She is funny, spunky and always has kids following her lead. She also can be quite emotional and dramatic. I have a feeling she will have lots of friends but will find it hard to develop close and intimate relationships. So I thank God for her joy, and the life that she brings to our family and this world. I ask that God would help her to be gentle and merciful if she gets the opportunity to lead. I pray that she will use her influence for good and not evil.  I also ask God to give her the gift of a really close friend or two that will be by her side no matter what. As time goes on, and I get to know my kids more, I will pray for them accordingly. You can do the same.

 

Doubt Your Doubts

Doubts about Jesus. What do we do with them? Frequently I feel like doubting Thomas who said, “Unless I see the holes in Jesus’ hands and I touch his wounds, I will never believe in the resurrection.” (see John 20:25) But when these doubts overcome my mind, I have a choice to make. Do I give in and walk away from the faith? Or do I test them to see if they are valid? Here is what Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City says about doubts:

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.” - Timothy Keller1

Contrary to popular opinion, doubts may not be the enemy to faith but the bootcamp to a stronger faith. It all depends on what we do with our doubts. Tim Keller later encourages his readers to doubt their doubts. This means to wrestle with them. Test them. Investigate their validity. Only when we do this, will we be more confident in our conviction of what is true.

STEP 1: ADMIT THAT WE HAVE DOUBTS

The first step to doubting our doubts is to admit that we have doubts about Jesus. If we say we do not have any doubts, we are not being honest, or we are not paying attention to what the Bible actually says. Exploring our doubts may take some time of reflection and quieting of our souls. We might need to ask questions like, “What is difficult for me to believe about Jesus?” or “What teachings of Jesus or the Bible do I have a hard time swallowing?” Honest answers to these questions is the first step to doubting our doubts.

STEP 2: ASK, “WHAT STARTED THESE DOUBTS?”

The second step to doubting our doubts is look for the reasons those doubts might exist. What are the seeds of doubt? In a sermon on Doubting Thomas, D.A Carson gives a few seeds of doubt2:

  1. Severe disappointment - God did not perform they way I wanted or expected him to.
  2. Moral disagreement - I do not want to believe because I want to run my life.
  3. Ignorance - I do not know the facts, so I am not sure.
  4. One thousand small decisions - I stopped reading my Bible, praying and going to church. Now I just do not believe anymore.

I would like to add one more seed of doubt.

  1. Religious indifference - I do no care enough to investigate.

STEP 3: TEST THEIR VALIDITY

Once we admit our doubts, and find the seed of our doubts, we must test their validity. This means conducting a reasonable investigation to determine if our doubts are true. The way to do this is to ask questions regarding:

  1. Clues - Are there any clues in the Bible, literature, history, or nature that verify the truth of this doubt? When compared to the clues of Jesus’ resurrection, which is more reasonable to believe?
  2. Implications - What are the implications of this doubt being true? Am I ok with that?
  3. Alternatives - If this doubt is true, what alternative religious belief should I trust?

Why?

Only by testing our doubts, will we be able to stand firm in what we believe. Do you, have the courage to doubt your doubts?


1 Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

2 http://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library/doubting-thomas-john-20-24-31

7 Reasons to Believe the Resurrection of Jesus

This Christian message is crazy. Jesus, as God, died for the sins of the world. He resurrected three days later and promises eternal life to all those who believe in him. It is so remarkable it seems unbelievable.

Did this happen? Can we really be expected to believe such a foolish message? If it is true, than he is God and must be worshipped. If it is not true, than he is a fool and anyone who follows him is a fool. If it is true, than we must accept everything he says. If it is not true, than why pay attention to anything he says at all?

Here are 7 reasons I think the resurrection of Jesus actually happened.

1. The surprised disciples

All four accounts of the gospels describe the disciples of Jesus as being surprised, even confused, when they arrive at the empty tomb. If this were a story they were making up, it would not be written this way. Rather they would have described themselves as expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. The only explanation for their confusion is that it really happened and was just as remarkable to believe back then as it is now.

2. The empty tomb

The empty tomb is a clue that must be investigated. Some people say the disciples invented the idea of the empty tomb, but this is highly unlikely because there were so many witnesses and even people who did not believe in Jesus whom acknowledged that the tomb was empty (Matthew 28:1-15). So the question is how did the tomb become empty? Below are the options, and why the options seem highly unlikely.

1. Somebody stole the body of Jesus: Although a popular belief, it is unlikely because the tomb was guarded by a band of soldiers and sealed with a giant rock to prevent thieves from entering (Matthew 27:62-66). Furthermore the most likely candidates to steal the body of Jesus were his disciples, and they were all scared and hiding (John 20:19). And if that weren’t enough, inside the tomb was found a folded face cloth of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of a story where robbers tidy up the place after they steal its goods (John 20:7).

2. Jesus did not actually die and was able to walk out of tomb. This is called the swoon theory. But this too holds little weight simply based on the process in which Jesus died and was buried. Before Jesus was crucified he took two beatings that almost killed him. When he was hung on the cross he died within six hours. After his death a professional Roman executioner stuck a spear in his side to confirm he was dead. So to say he didn’t die is to say this professional executioner who had killed hundreds of people did not know what he was doing. And to continue, Jesus was buried in a tomb with 75 pounds of spices and cloth put on him. If he did not die from the beatings, the crucifixion, or the spear, he certainly would have died by suffocation from the cloths and spices (John 19).

3. The disciples went to the wrong tomb. This isn’t likely simply because Jesus was buried in a well known tomb. And because of the magnitude of the claim, if there was another tomb somebody would have produced it and his body to stop the rumors. But the dead body of Jesus was never revealed. Why? Because he is alive.

3. The female witnesses

In the ancient near East, female testimony was not valued in the court of law. So if the disciples were trying to create a new religion that everyone would believe, they would not have described women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection. Rather they would have placed themselves or prominent members of society at the center of the discovery. But they don’t. Why? Because it was actually women who discovered the empty tomb first. They were recording actual events, not creating a new myth.

4. The new day of worship

For approximately 1500 years the Jewish community worshiped God on Saturday. But in one weekend, hundreds and soon to be thousands of them moved from worshiping on Saturday to Sunday. If you know anything about religious people, changes like this don’t just happen! Something significant must have taken place. The explanation? Jesus really did resurrect. And he did it on Sunday.

5. The 500 witnesses

It wasn’t just a few disciples that saw the resurrected Christ, but one account describes over 500 people seeing him at one time. Names of those people are even given. The author was inviting people to ask those witnesses themselves to see if the account was true. Was this a hallucination? Probably not. There has never been a recorded mass hallucination this big. Most even believe mass hallucinations to be impossible. The reason 500 people saw Jesus is because they actually saw him.

6. The emboldened apostles

When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, all of the remaining eleven disciples fled for fear of their lives. After Jesus was killed they remained in hiding because they also did not want to die. But something weird happened a few weeks after Jesus’ death. The apostles went from being scared to being willing to die. The book of acts records them as walking through the streets of Jerusalem and proclaiming Jesus as Lord. They even rejoice in suffering for his name (Acts 5:41). Church history tells us that every one of them besides John died a martyrs death. How do eleven men have such a transformation at the same time? Something extraordinary must have happened. Jesus must really have raised from the dead.

7. The brothers of Jesus

While Jesus was doing his earthly ministry, his brothers thought he was crazy (John 7:5). They mocked him and at one point tried to get him to stop proclaiming that he was God. But when we read the New Testament, two of the books are written by Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude. In both of those books they call Jesus their Lord. Now I know many people who have a great brothers. But none of them are willing to call their brother God. So what happened to make Jesus’ brother go from thinking he was crazy to calling him God? The only probable conclusion is the resurrection.

So is Jesus Alive? I think so.