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6 Requisites for an Effective Preacher

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John Broadus, in his work, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons,  claims,Broadus

Almost every definition of preaching includes the preacher. For example, preaching is truth through personality, or preaching is proclamation by a chosen man. The preacher is not the source of the message; it is from God. But he is the channel of the message. The message moves through his personality. He is the transmitter.

According to Broadus, there are 6 characteristics necessary for a preacher to be an effective transmitter.

  1. A Sense of Divine Call: “Ministers are classed as professionals, but they should never be persons with just a ‘profession.’
  2. A Vital Christian Experience:  “No eloquence of tongue, no charm of manner, no artistry of homiletics can atone for a lack or a loss of a vital inward experience of a spiritual reality.”
  3. Continuation of Learning: “Just as the spirit must be cultivated, so must the mind… Too much emphasis cannot be placed on disciplined, planned study, which is the only route to enlarged knowledge.”
  4. The Development of Natural Gifts: “All are not created equal, but every person has natural gifts, and these may be greatly improved. For example, the power to think clearly, to speak forcibly, to feel deeply are capacities which the preacher may develop.”
  5. Maintenance of Physical Health: “To stand before a waiting congregation is a great challenge. Physical trim will add to mental acuteness and vitality. Good health promotes effective speech.”
  6. Complete Dependence upon the Holy Spirit: “The key reason some worship services are cold and lifeless and the sermons within those services without impact is that the Holy Spirit is not present to give warmth and life. When John Calvin mounted the pulpit stairs, he prayed a prayer which every person who enters the pulpit could pray with earnestness of soul, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”

Marketing Failures in the Case for Religious Liberty

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This week Arizona legislators tried to update their religious liberty bill with amendment SB-1062. The media quickly responded by labeling it the “anti-gay bill” or the “gay-hate bill” (e.g. CNN, BBC, USA Today, LA Times, MSNBC, NBC, Yahoo). Perhaps in response to this rhetoric, many within the Republican party sought to distance themselves from the bill, and yesterday, Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed the bill.

Republican’s desire to distance themselves from “gay-hate” is certainly understandable. No one, regardless of political party, should be comfortable with hateful or spiteful behavior. Still, I can’t help but think this bill died from poor marketing, not because it promoted hate.

I think these three points, if discussed more fully, may have helped prevent the marketing catastrophe that killed SB-1062.

1. The bill is not directed towards homosexual people. We should at least admit that it is strange for the bill to be almost universally referred to by the media as the “anti-gay bill” when it never even mentions homosexual people or practices. When we see a bill referred to as something that it doesn’t even address, we should be on the lookout for spin.

Of course, the bill is a response, at least in part, to actual instances where small business owners refused to participate in homosexual marriages because of religious objections. But the law would just as easily apply to the Muslim barber who refused to cut a woman’s hair because of religious objections. I won’t deny that people who hate homosexuals, and even people who hate women, may find it easier to discriminate against the people they hate because of this bill. However, this is not the same thing as promoting, or even condoning, that hatred.

The point is that the bill was written to address the rights of religious people. Perhaps one could argue that the bill gives religious people too much power. But to suggest that the bill was written to promote hate or encourage discrimination is unfounded.

2. Homosexual people are not the only victims. Homosexual people, and women for that matter, are often victims of hateful behavior. They have been mistreated, bullied, raped, and even murdered. Hateful people have sought out ways to target them and to ruin their lives. This behavior is wrong and we should not minimize that fact. But we should also recognize that hateful people have also targeted some religious people in order to ruin their lives.

Consider the vendors who have refused service because of their religious beliefs. Each of these vendors are small business owners. Though I don’t have access to actual figures, I assume that most bakers, florists, and barbers are living on relatively modest incomes. These people weren’t activists seeking to leverage power against those they hate. Nevertheless, they are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and, in some cases, jail time. With penalties like these, it seems clear that these vendors will lose their businesses because of their choice. Whether or not these vendors are right to refuse service, we should recognize that they are paying a very high price for their religious convictions.

3. This is not a win-win situation. No matter how this is resolved, someone loses. The question isn’t if someone will be the victim of discrimination, the question is who is allowed to discriminate?

In each instance of discrimination, both parties believe they are victims of discrimination, and both parties are right. It’s absolutely true that the homosexual couple is discriminated against when the vendor won’t participate in their wedding. It’s also true that the government is discriminating against the vendors when they are told that they cannot practice their religion in this regard. Similarly, it’s true that women are being discriminated against when the Muslim barber is unwilling to touch her hair. But it’s also true that he is being discriminated against by the government when it tells him that the cannot practice his religion in this regard. Both parties are victims of discrimination, I can’t see a way out of this problem.

The question that this bill addresses is who can discriminate? Which form of discrimination is more troublesome? Are you content to live in a country where the government allows private parties to discriminate in an attempt to prevent itself from discrimination? The other option is a government that discriminates in order to prevent private parties from discrimination. Either way, discrimination will happen. The question is, whose discrimination are we more willing to endure?
________

I can’t help but think that if people thought that this bill was not an attack against homosexuals, but simply an attempt to protect everyday people and an honest attempt for the lesser of two evils, it may have been more successful. What do you think?

The Problem of Evil and the Goodness of God: Finding Help in Psalm 73

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1) 

The claim that God is good may be the most important thing we can say about God. Nearly every other characteristic of God flows out of this one. Whether we are talking about the holiness and justice of God or the love and compassion of God, in a sense, we are just trying to explain what it means to say that God is good.

But grasping the goodness of God isn’t simply about being able to describe God, it’s about being able to know Him. By itself, the power and majesty of God aren’t altogether encouraging to us. We can’t help but feel like Susan, who grew nervous about meeting the great Lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is the promise of Mr. Beaver, that God is good, that gives us the confidence to approach the world’s creator.

Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver… ‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”

Paul recognized that confidence in the goodness of God was a sort of prerequisite to knowing God. In Hebrews 11:6 he explains, “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That is, if we want to know God, we must believe that he exists, obviously, but we must also believe that he is good. And how do we know that God is good? Because he rewards those who seek him.

Doubting God’s Goodness 
Oddly enough, it has become en vogue to question God’s goodness. In Christopher Hitchen’s book, God is Not Great, he describes himself as an anti-theist, as opposed to a mere atheist. He laments that most atheists are simply ambivalent about the existence of God. He, on the other hand, is convinced that if God did exist, he must be evil. For Hitchens, who died in 2011, the evidence of evil led to an inescapable conclusion: “God is not great.”

For many, like Hitchens, questioning the goodness of God is the first step along a path that leads to a denial of the existence of God. And as Psalm 73 begins, this appears to be the path that Asaph, the Psalmist, is walking. But as we walk through Psalm 73 together, we will see that he meets God, and in this meeting he remembers one very important truth; God is good.

Asaph’s Problem 
In Psalm 73:2-3 we get a picture of Asaph’s problem. He knew the message of verse one. He knew that he was supposed to believe that God was good, and that God rewards those who seek him. But, when Asaph looked at the wicked, the evidence just didn’t seem to add up.

Asaph casts the problem a little differently than Hitchens and many of the modern skeptics. The new skeptics question why suffering exists at all. Asaph, on the other hand, is questioning why it isn’t dealt out equitably. Why, for instance, would the wicked people not suffer as much, or even more, than righteous people? Asaph wasn’t troubled with the fact evil exists, he was upset because God didn’t keep it away from him.

In Psalm 73:4-12 Asaph seems to teeter between scorn and admiration for the wicked people. They are violent, arrogent, and proud, all the things Asaph detests. But at the same time, they are rich, fat (well fed), and generally not afflicted, all the things that Asaph wants. So, what does this evidence suggest? Could it be that Asaph was wrong? Maybe God doesn’t really reward those who seek him. Maybe God isn’t good after all?

The evidence of evil led Asaph to a crisis of faith. In Psalm 73:13-16, he admits that he lost his faith; his hope is gone. When he judged God in light of his circumstances, Asaph concluded that he “washed his hands” for nothing. He worked hard to make God happy, but his experience suggested only that he was afflicted and punished. He was on the verge of going public with his doubt. He was on the verge of letting everyone know that “God is not great.”

Asaph’s Solution 
When things seemed to be at their lowest, a miracle happened. Asaph encountered God. At this point in the story, nothing should strike us as less likely. Remember that Hebrews 11:6 tells us that in order to draw near to God, we must believe that God is good, but clearly, Asaph believed the exact opposite. As Asaph said in Psalm 73:2, his feet had almost slipped and his steps had nearly gone astray. But now, in Psalm 73:17, the unthinkable happens. He meets God and everything changes.

More specifically, when Asaph meets God his perspective changes in three distinct ways. For Asaph, these three perspective changes are the solution to his own personal problem with evil. They put his feet back on solid ground and they allow him to again draw near to God. For us, they are an example. Asaph’s three perspective changes are like pieces of a puzzle that help us draw near to God, even when we are staring in the face of our own personal problem of evil.

Perspective Change #1: Asaph Sees the End of Evil 
Asaph’s version of the problem of evil was that evil wasn’t being punished. He couldn’t understand why wicked people prospered while righteous people suffered. But when he meets God he realized that this reality is only temporary. Seeing God reminded Asaph that evil has an end, and that end is destruction.

In Psalm 73:17-20, Asaph spends time dwelling on the end of the evil people he had just described. When it is all said and done, their wickedness will be like the foggy recollection of a dream. All their evil will be forever wiped away.

Asaph saw the oppressive power of wickedness in people, but for many of us, it comes in other forms of suffering. Certainly, devastation is often caused by the selfishness and evil actions of others, but I have been just as hurt watching friends and family suffer through cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and countless other illnesses and diseases. But though the source of the suffering is different, the promise is still the same.

Revelation 21:3-4, provides us a glimpse of this promise. It beckons us to imagine the day when God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will no longer exist, and grief, crying, and pain will be no more. The future eradication of all evil is a great hope. It doesn’t mean that our suffering is insignificant, but it does change the way we handle our suffering. Our grief is mingled with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), and it is precisely because we know that God is good. Evil may have its day, but God is good, so that day must come to an end.

Perspective Change #2: Asaph Sees His Own Error 
When Asaph judged God in light of his circumstances, he thought, “perhaps God isn’t good.” But when Asaph judged his circumstances in light of God, he realized that it was himself who lacked goodness. Asaph’s second perspective change teaches us how foolish and wicked it is to question the goodness of God.

In Psalm 73:21-22 Asaph explains, “When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was a fool and didn’t understand. I was an unthinking animal towards you.” We can turn again to Elisabeth Elliot to see the error of judging God.

God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that he act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice. It is the same spirit that taunted, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” There is unbelief, there is even rebellion, in the attitude that says, “God has no right to do this to five men unless”…

Elliot’s rebuke is strong, but important. We cannot question God’s goodness without simultaneously asserting our own goodness as the higher standard. As Jesus reminded the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:17), “there is only One who is good.” It’s not us.

Perspective Change #3: Asaph Sees that God is the Good 
Perhaps the most drastic perspective change is the third. In Psalm 73:25-28 we see that Asaph radically changes his view concerning what good is.

In the first half of this Psalm, Asaph makes it very clear what he thinks good is. Good is all the things the wicked have and he doesn’t. Good is health, food, and money. Before his great change, the good Asaph sought was a secure and happy life. But after he steps into God’s sanctuary, his definition of good changes. Once he meets God, there is no one in heaven and nothing on earth he desires but God. Once he meets God, God is his portion, the only thing that will satisfy him. After he meets God, he concludes, “But as for me, God’s presence is my good” (Psalm 73:28).

The ultimate solution to our problem of evil is not to change our view of evil, but to change our view of good. We relentlessly pursue lesser goods and vilify God when we do not find them. The rapper Shai Linne includes a sample from John Piper to help demonstrate our love for lesser goods.

Would you be satisfied to go to Heaven, have everybody there in your family you want there, have all the health and restoration of your prime, and everything you disliked about yourself fixed, have every recreation you’ve ever dreamed available to you, and have infinite resources and money to spend, would you be satisfied… …IF GOD WEREN’T THERE???

Most of us, if we are honest, will have to admit that our greatest love isn’t God, it’s God’s gifts. We have become infatuated with the lesser goods, and we ignore the greatest good: the Father of lights who gives these goods in the first place (James 1:17).

This is a serious problem, in part, because devastation caused by suffering becomes insurmountable when we are seeking after lesser goods. How can we make up for the loss of the lesser goods, when to us, they are our greatest love. This is why the solution to the problem of evil must include changing our perspective of what is good.

This is the point of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:44

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

And this is Paul’s perspective in Philippians 3:8-11

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The problem of evil, or the problem of suffering, is finally vanquished when, in our hearts, we recognize, not only that God is good, but that he is the good. All other goods pale beside him. To lose everything, but to find Christ, would be an happy trade. This is true, not simply because God is good, but because he is the good.

Conclusion
I have written this post with a single goal; to warn us against questioning the goodness of God. The Christian has no hope in the face of evil without an unwavering commitment to the goodness of God.

However, the truth is, when faced with the reality of suffering in our lives, we often find that our faith in the goodness of God does waver. Like Asaph, like Christopher Hitchens, and like many others, we walk through intense suffering and we wonder, how can a good God allow this? But, though this may be common, it is not healthy. As Asaph remarks, it is a slippery path (Psalm 73:2)

In the midst of suffering, our hope is the same as Asaph’s: we want to experience God. With whatever faith we have left in the goodness of God, we must draw near to him. God is good, and he promises that as we draw near to Him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). In fact, it is most often in the throws of suffering that we will learn to say, like Asaph;

Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever…
But as for me, God’s presence is my good… (Psalm 73:25-26, 28) 

The Problem of Suffering and the Answer of Faith

“‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy, therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.’ This is the problem of pain in its simplist form.” – C.S. Lewis 

This argument, described as the problem of pain by C.S. Lewis, and the problem of evil by others, is perhaps the most common argument raised against Christianity. The first time I heard the argument raised was shortly after my own “great awakening,” and, as an infant in the faith, I must admit, it caught me off guard.

My Experience
I was working as intern with Norfolk Southern railroad in Roanoke, and every day I would take my lunch break in a corner booth in a little restaurant on Market Street. Five days a week I would sit there for about 45 minutes with my nose in a book. One particular lunch break stands out because another employee had joined me for the 10 floor descent on the Norfolk Southern elevator. He noticed the book in my hand and asked about it.

The book I was reading was, and still is, one of the most exciting biographies I have ever read. Through Gates of Splendor, is the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, along with a team of several other families who were missionaries in Ecuador focused on reaching a tribal village known as the Auca indians. Jim Elliot, and four other men were famously and brutally murdered by this indian tribe in October 1957. These five men are probably still the most well known Christian martyrs of the modern era.

I told my co-worker this story, describing Jim Elliot as one of my heros, and his response caught me off guard. Rather than joining me in my admiration for the Elliot’s sacrifice, he asked me how I can believe in a God that would allow that to happen. He asked how I can believe in a God that would let anyone be savagely murdered by indians. Even worse, in his mind, was the idea that I followed a God who might require my health, wealth, family, and even my life, in service to him. How can I possibly believe in a God like this?

That conversation happened about 15 years ago. Since that time, the problem of suffering has left the pages of a book and has become more than a casual conversation on an elevator. I have watched many of the people I love and respect the most walk through intense suffering, and many of my friends and family are in the middle of inexpresible suffering as I am writing this post.

Because of all this suffering, we are faced with a great temptation. If we aren’t vigilant, we will begin to understand God in light of our suffering, rather than understanding our suffering in light of God. Our suffering will tempt us to deal with the problem, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, by believing that God lacks either goodness or power.

A Model of Faith
I intend, at some future time, to write about how we know that God neither lacks in goodness or power. But that is not my goal here. Certainly, knowing these truths and dwelling on the Bible’s presentation of them is an important part of walking through suffering. But before laying the foundation, I want to look at someone who has already walked upon this foundation. I want to look at Elisabeth Elliot, the woman whose husband was brutally killed in service to God, and see how her unswerving commitment to the goodness and power of God served her and steered her through this unspeakable suffering. My hope is that watching this saintly woman who has walked before us will stir our hearts to pursue God and to know Him as she has.

I will pick up Elliot’s thinking where she addresses the temptation to find justification for God in the circumstances rather than trusting that the circumstances are justified because of the nature of God.

We know that time and again in the history of the Christian church, the blood of martyrs has been its seed. We are tempted to assume a simple equation here. Five men died. This will mean x-number of Waorani Christians. Perhaps so. Perhaps not…. God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that he act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice. It is the same spirit that taunted, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” There is unbelief, there is even rebellion, in the attitude that says, “God has no right to do this to five men unless…”  

Those men had long since given themselves without reservation to do the will of God… For us widows the question as to why the men who had trusted God to be both shield and defender should be allowed to be speared to death was not one that could be smoothly or finally answered in 1956, nor yet silenced in 1996. God did not answer Job’s questions either. Job was living in mystery — the mystery of the sovereign purpose of God — and the questions that arose out of the depths of that mystery were answered only by a deeper mystery, that of God Himself.

I believe with all my heart that God’s story has a happy ending. Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of the thing shall be well…” But not yet, not necessarily yet. It takes faith to hold on to that in the face of the great burden of experience, which seems to prove otherwise. What God means by happiness and goodness is a far higher thing than we can conceive… 

Elisabeth Elliot models the type of faith that I long for. She doesn’t try to justify God. How could she? He is the just and the justifier (Romans 3:26). We are the ones who need to be justified, not Him. How arrogant must we be to ask God to step into our courts?

But this kind of faith is about something bigger than avoiding arrogance, it’s about finding joy. It is about knowing that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we can trust God. We can be confident that, when all is said and done, he has our best interest at heart. Beyond that, we believe that He is able to bring about the greatest good that He has intended.

In another book, Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot again reflects on the years following the death of her husband. She says,

Years after the end of the Jim Elliot story, my mother said something to me about my “suffering” during those waiting years. It came as a surprise to me, for though I would never have denied that the trail was a bit rugged, I had not thought of it as suffering. Shipwrecks, floggings, physical pain, yes those I would call suffering, but not my aching heart. However, it is no use trying to measure suffering. What matters is making the right use of it, taking one’s thoughts to God. Trust is the lesson. Jesus loves me, this I know — not because he does just what I’d like, but because the Bible tells me so. Calvary proves it. He loved me and gave Himself for me. 

This is the kind of faith I want. This is the way I want to deal with the problem of evil when I find it in my life. Jesus loves me this I know, not because my life is free from suffering, but because the Bible tells me so. I believe that this unswerving commitment to the goodness and the power of God is the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. More than that, it is the source from which we can do something that is uniquely Christian; find joy in all of our sufferings.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing… To Shepherds?

The Christmas season is in full swing again this year, and Christmas music is playing around the clock on Mix 101.5. If you are fortunate enough to have a station dedicated to Christmas music, you will probably hear the classic, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Here is the Amy Grant version, which I think is the one most radio stations play.

This song celebrates the amazing event recorded in Luke 2:8–20, when the angels came to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. I imagine the scene was beyond amazing. A slew of paintings have tried to capture the moment, but I’m sure they all fall short of the impressiveness of that sight. A host of herald angels announcing the coming of the king, how could you capture that in a painting?

One question that stands out to me is, why waste that kind of show on shepherds? Even Aladdin knew that when your heralds announce you as king, it needs to be impressive. Not impressive to a bunch of nobodies, impressive to the other kings and other people of power. But Jesus does the exact opposite, he brings the most impressive heralds that anyone could imagine and displays them to meager shepherds. Why would he waste his big announcement on people who are of such little importance?

The Humble Jesus
The most common explanation I have seen for Jesus’ big show for the little shepherds is that it highlights Jesus humble origins. After all, Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, a relatively insignificant clan in the nation of Israel. Considered in light of this evidence, presenting Jesus to the shepherds is just another example of the amazing humility of Jesus, who, as Philippians 2:6-7 says, although “he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
We certainly can’t deny that Jesus’ birth, and even his proclamation to the shepherds is a great demonstration of his humility. Still, I think that Luke records the angels’ message to the shepherds to point out something else as well. I think Luke’s purpose is to help us see what the angels meant when, in Luke 2:11, they announce that Jesus is the Christ.Jesus the Christ.
The first thing we should point out is that Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name. It wasn’t Joseph Christ and Mary Christ who had a little baby named Jesus Christ. Christ isn’t a last name, it is a title.The word Christ is actually the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah. In fact, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates verse 11 as, “today, a Savior who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” And this is a fine translation because both Messiah and Christ mean the same thing. But using the Hebrew word instead of the Greek word isn’t really helpful if we don’t know what either of them mean. So why call Jesus the Christ or the Messiah?

If you look up the word Christ or Messiah in a dictionary you will probably see it defined as “anointed one.” Throughout the Old Testament, we see God anointing certain people, and sometimes even certain alters, to accomplish certain tasks. It is a way of showing that these people are specially chosen by God to carry out certain tasks. For instance, only anointed priests could bring the sacrifices into the temple (Leviticus 4:4-6). Or when God chooses a king for Israel, like Saul or David, He anoints them to mark them as specially chosen people (1 Samuel 10:1, 2 Samuel 5:1-3).

When we read the Old Testament, we actually see several examples of “anointed ones,” or messiahs. But these messiahs are all imperfect and temporary. They are all little messiahs that are looking forward to the final Messiah. The entire Old Testament, whether it be through pictures and examples or through promises and prophecies, is preparing us for the ultimate Messiah, or the Christ, who will finally make all things right.

The Christ in Micah 5
I believe that Luke was especially thinking of a particular promise in the Old Testament when he wrote this story. In fact, when we look at the relationship between Luke 2:1-20 and Micah 5:2-5, I think we will gain a deeper understanding of why Jesus’ heralds would have announced their news to the lowly shepherds.

Micah was a prophet and he wrote this book around the 8th century BC. He is writing for two basic reasons. The first is to warn the nation of Israel that God is about to judge them for their sinfulness. But the second reason is to promise them that even though God will judge them for their sin, he also desires to save them. So throughout a book in which Micah is condemning Israel for their wickedness, he peppers in promises of a future salvation in hopes that the people will repent and return to God. Micah 5 is one of those places where Micah peppers in a promise of future salvation. It’s a reminder that even though God will allow other nations to attack Israel as a penalty for their sins, He also promises that he won’t forget them. He promises to bring them a savior. That’s where our passage comes in.

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure,
for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
5 And he shall be their peace. (Micah 5:2-5)

Micah is giving us a list of things to look for as we wait for the coming Christ. We are looking for someone who is from Bethlehem. He is going to be a king, or a ruler. In verse 3 we see that he will be born of a woman (she will be in labor), but in verse 2 we see that he will be coming from “of old” and will be from “ancient of days.” I am sure that one was confusing. In verse 4 we see that this king is called a shepherd, he is a shepherd king. And finally, in verse 5 we see that the Christ will be his people’s peace.

As Luke is writing the second chapter of his gospel, it almost seems like he has Micah 5 opened up beside him. The Christ will come from Bethlehem, Luke 2:4. The Christ will be a king or a ruler; he twice mentions that Jesus is of the line of David in Luke 2:4. He will be born of a woman, Luke 2:6-7. But he will also be of “ancient days,” thus this baby’s messengers are the very messengers of God, the “Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9).”

And then we look to see if he will be the shepherd king. And that, I believe, is why the angels announced Jesus birth to the shepherds. God sent the angels to shepherds as a way to proclaim that this boy, lying in a manger, is the shepherd king. God sent the angels to the shepherds to let us know that Micah’s promise was being fulfilled. God’s promised one, the one who will bring peace to all who will follow him, is finally here.

Conclusion
The Old Testament is written to teach us to sing “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.” It tells us that the Christ is coming, but we didn’t know when. Plenty of kings had come and gone, each time reminding us that the perfect king would one day come. But when Luke announces Jesus, he is saying that this king is different. He is the king from Bethlehem, he is the shepherd-king, and he is the one who will bring peace to all who follow him. That is why I believe we sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It is because their song teaches us that Jesus is the one we have been waiting for. They teach us to sing, “glory to the newborn King!”

The Church’s Job is Everybody’s Job

My Dad once told me, “if it’s everybody’s job, then nobody will do it.” I was reminded of his sage advice today when I ran across this little story.

There is a story about four people. Their names are Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. The story goes that there was a very important job that needed to be done. Everybody was asked to do it, and Anybody could do it, but Nobody actually did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job to do. Everybody thought that Anybody could have done it, and Nobody realized that Everybody blamed Somebody for not doing the job. Still Nobody did it. The arguing got worse and finally Nobody would talk to Anybody and Everybody blamed Somebody.

The moral of the story, at least as my Dad tells it, is that I must recognize that everybody’s job is my job.

The Church’s Job is Everybody’s Job
I think this story is particularly challenging because the Bible gives the job of the church to everybody. More precisely, the job of the church is given to the entire church body, not just to the church’s leaders. Mark Dever made this point clear in his book, What is a Healthy Church? He explains,

It is for pastors, yes, but it’s also for every Christian. Remember: that’s who the authors of the New Testament address. When the churches in Galatia began listening to false teachers, Paul wrote to them and said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). Who was the “you” that Paul called to account for the false teaching in their churches? Not the pastors alone, but the church bodies themselves. You’d expect him to write to the churches’ leaders and say, “Stop teaching that heresy!” But he doesn’t. He calls the whole church to account.

If Dever is right, and I believe he is, then the church’s job isn’t just the pastor’s job. It’s every Christian’s job. It’s my job and its your job. So the next question is “what is the church’s job?” What does the church exist to do? What tasks did God give to everybody that I need to do?

I believe the church’s job description can be summarized into five major categories. I know that other authors have offered lists, some that include a few more points and some a few less. Nevertheless, I believe the following five points succinctly and effectively summarize the church’s job description. As I list them, I will try to think through how we can do the job of the church, even if we aren’t the pastor.

Proclamation of the Word
Proclamation of the Word of God describes the church’s task to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Word of God, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. These tasks are special means by which God continually communicates the gospel to our hearts.

Perhaps more than any of the other tasks, this one can strike us as someone else’s job. Of course, we recognize every member of the church should be baptized and regularly take the Lord’s Supper. But what about the sermon? Certainly that is the pastor’s task, not ours. Well, not really. We are called to be what Thabiti Anyabwile calls “expositional listeners.” That is, we are to actively listen to the message like the people of Berea, who received the message eagerly, and then examined message in light of the Word of God to see if the things being said are reliable (Acts 17:11).

(Acts 17:11; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2; Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:19-20)

Worship
Worship refers to the obedient and joyful response of the Christian and the church to the glory of God, especially as it is seen in the gospel. Worship includes making a joyful noise to the Lord through music and singing, but extends further into every aspect of the believer’s life. Worship happens through the renewing of our minds so that every aspect of our lives can be lived as a worshipful response to God.

Obviously pastors, or music leaders, can lead us in the worship service, but there is a reason we call it corporate worship. Worship is something that the entire body should do together because we impact each other when we worship together. John Hammett explains, “The primary purpose of worship is to honor God, but as worship is portrayed in the New Testament, it also serves the purpose of edifying believers and evangelizing nonbelievers.” This means that you, me, and the entire church body must work together to create an atmosphere of worship and to invite others to join us as we worship God.

(Psalm 95:1-2; John 4:23; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 5:19- 21; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 3:16; Revelation 4:10-11)

Fellowship
Fellowship refers to a sense of unity that is derived from a common salvation shared by all believers and is worked out through love and service for one another. The development of community among the body is in view, as is meeting the spiritual, relational, and physical needs of individuals within the body.

Perhaps we find it easy to agree that the burden of fellowship belongs to the entire body. Yet, if we are honest, many of us still tend to think of fellowship as the task of everybody… else. We are more aware of how many people greeted us, than we are of how many people we greeted. We expect the church to visit us in the hospital, but don’t volunteer to be the visitor. Meeting needs and building relationship is everyone’s job, but we must make it our job first.

(John 13:34-35; Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:1-6; Hebrews 10:24-25) 

Discipleship
Discipleship refers to the training of the body to fulfill the work of ministry. It includes cognitive development aimed at helping the church develop knowledge that is key to Christian growth and practice. Discipleship also seeks to influence the affections of the church body, developing a deeper love for God and joy in the salvation He offers.

This task of training begins with the pastor who is given specific teaching and shepherding roles within the church. However, older women are called to teach younger women and older men are called to teach younger men. Fathers are given a discipleship role in their families and mothers work with their husbands to disciple their children. Thus discipleship is a task that must be accomplished by the entire church body. Each and every one of us should seek to develop ourselves for the work of ministry, which includes training our friends, family, and fellow believers to do the work of ministry along with us.

(Ephesians 1:16-23; 2 Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:1-14; Titus 3:14)

Mission
In addition to ministry to the body, the church must seek to minister to the entire world. The church is to be a “city on a hill” that proclaims the truth of the gospel and the glory of God to those who are outside of the church. This task is accomplished through acts of service and through proclamation of the gospel. Through service and proclamation the church acts as Christ’s ambassadors, imploring men from every tribe, tongue, and nation, to be reconciled to God.

God’s mission, to call people who will worship him in every tribe, tongue, and nation, is too big for any one person to accomplish. It is a task that requires everybody. Not the kind of everybody that assumes someone else will do it. It requires you and me to be ambassadors. We must tell our family, our neighbors, and the entire world about the salvation offered in Jesus Christ.

(Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

1963 vs. 2000: The Battle for the Bible

While filling out a job application today I was asked a question that I have never been asked before, “Which Baptist Faith and Message do you affirm, the 1963 or the 2000?” I get the sense that no matter how I answer this question, someone is going to be disappointed. In fact, it kind of reminds me of a story that my pastor once told,

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

The two statements were written for essentially the same reason, the doctrine of the Bible was being subtlely but consciously undermined by certain pastors and seminary professors, using what Ralph Elliot called “doublespeak.” The statements sought to bring clarity by specifically addressing points of difference and making it harder to find loopholes that allowed someone to say the right things while simultaneously undermining the Bible’s reliability and authority.

As I read through these two statements I couldn’t help but think there was more room for unity than for division. At the same time, there are a couple of differences, and partly because a job may hang in the balance, and partly because I want to be like the Bereans who test everything against Scripture to find the truth (Acts 17:11), I offer this comparison.

The Record of Revelation vs. Revelation
The newer confession leaves out two words that make a world of difference: “record of.” These two little words seem harmless enough, but they open up a giant loophole that has been used to dismiss both the reliability and authority of the Bible. That loophole is perhaps best seen in Karl Barth’s teaching, known as Neo-Orthodoxy. Barth distinguished the Bible from revelation itself saying,

Therefore, when we have to do with the Bible, we have to do primarily with this means, with these words, with the witness which as such is not itself revelation, but only —and this is the limitation— the witness to it.

For Barth, God perfectly revealed himself in Jesus Christ and the Bible was an imperfect record of a perfect revelation.

The Bible itself will not let us side with Barth on this one. In 2 Peter 1:16-21, Peter describes the transfiguration of Jesus, which he saw with his own eyes. Peter goes on to explain that to read the Bible’s record of that event is even better than having watched the event with his own eyes. Peter explains that when he saw the event, he had to interpret the event. But when he reads the account of the event in the Bible he is reading something even “more sure,” he is reading God’s interpretation of the event. As Peter says, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the Bible is not merely man’s record of God’s revelation, it is God’s revelation concerning God’s revelation.

Therefore, All Scripture is Totally True and Trustworthy.
This addition didn’t cause too big of a stir. Some may argue that it seems redundant, especially considering that it follows the phrase “and truth, with any mixture of error.” Still, the fear remained that some would distort the intent of the original phrase. In fact, some scholars have suggested that the Bible’s purpose is to communicate spiritual truth, and that truth is without mixture of error, but on other topics, such as history, the Bible may contain some errors. This sentence was added to make it clear that the all of the Bible is totally true, both in reference to spirituality and in reference to history.

Jesus as Criterion or Jesus as Focus.
The heart of the debate lies in this exchange. A quick search of the Baptist Faith and Message on Google will bring up a slew of critiques of this exchange. One such critique was written by Russell Dilday, the former president of Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary. He says,

This theological principle, expressed in the Christocentric language of BFM63, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ,” declares that the guiding key to Biblical interpretation is Jesus Christ. Through Him as a criterion, or standard, the Bible becomes unified, self-consistent and coherent. Jesus said, “The Scriptures … bear witness to me” (John 5:39). Therefore, we are to interpret the Old Testament and the rest of the Bible in the light of the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, illuminated by our own direct experience with the living Christ. It is through Jesus as the criterion that we interpret the Old Testament prophecies, the ceremonial, civil, dietary, and moral laws of the Old Testament. As Martin Luther insisted, the Bible is always to be understood from its center – its heart – its Christ.

No one will deny his reference to John 5:39. In fact, this is the very thing that the BF&M2000 tries to make clear. Jesus is the person who the whole Bible is about. Jesus is the central character of the Bible. He is promised in the Old Testament. He comes to earth, dies, and is risen again, in the gospels. In Acts, the message of his death on our behalf is circulated throughout the whole world. The epistles explain in detail both why Jesus died and how we should live in response to his death and resurrection. Then, in the book of Revelation, we are reminded that Jesus will one day come again. Dilday and Luther are certainly right that the whole Bible should be understood with Jesus at the center.

The problem is that to call Jesus the “criterion for interpretation,” is sufficiently vague to be used for entirely different purposes. Al Mohler explains that,

Some who have taught in our seminaries over the past several decades claimed that this allowed them to deny the truthfulness of whatever biblical passages did not rise to their standard of Jesus’ intention. Professors and pastors have denied that God ordered the conquest of Canaan, tested Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac or inspired the Apostle Paul when he wrote about the family or roles in the church.

Mohler isn’t making this up, I have personally read suggestions that we ignore Paul’s instructions because Jesus would have never agreed with Paul. It is quite common, for instance, to hear someone suggest that though the Bible speaks negatively of homosexuality, Jesus never does. The implication is that the Bible is not a reliable guide for determining the character of Jesus.

This type of argument suffers from an advanced case of circular logic. We know who Jesus is from the Bible, but we know what parts of the Bible to trust based on who Jesus is. This type of logic has allowed many pastors and professors to create their own version of the Jefferson Bible, picking and choosing which passages best reflect Jesus, discarding the others. Not surprisingly, this logic typically leads people to find a Jesus who looks remarkably like themselves.

Jesus vs. the Bible
Still, many people will argue that the moment we rely on the Bible to know Jesus, rather than relying on Jesus to know the Bible, we have found a new god. Dilday quotes another saying,

“This amounts to nothing less than idolatry.” It is pure bibliolatry.” “I’ll bow down to King Jesus, but I will never bow down to King James.”(Quotes from article in Biblical Recorder, July 29, 2000, p. 11)  

But this is just a rhetorical slight of hand. No one suggests that we should worship the Bible above Jesus, especially when we have already agreed that the entire point of the Bible is to call us to worship Jesus. Instead, we only argue that God is best known according to the Scripture he inspired. We cannot pick a single picture of God and dismiss the others. We cannot love the Jesus who welcomes the children and hate the Jesus who says “Do not think I have come to bring peace to earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” (Matthew 10:34-35). We can either accept the Jesus presented in the Bible or reject him, we cannot pick a better Jesus based on our own ideas of what Jesus is like.

In fact, it is much easier to show that to create a Jesus in any image other than the one he presents of himself in the Bible is the very definition of idolatry.

Sometimes We Don’t Have to Scream “Die, Heretic Scum.”
The truth is, I like both statements. That really shouldn’t be a surprise since they aren’t that different. I think the BF&M ’63 was good and served its purpose well when it was written. As time passed, people found some loopholes and used them to discredit the reliability of the Bible. The BF&M 2000 helps tie up some of those loopholes. In a few years I won’t be surprised if some new loopholes pop up. I hope that the BF&M 2025 will continue to tie up these loopholes by defining our historic faith in a way that addresses contemporary concerns.
_______________
Dilday’s entire article can be accessed here. Al Mohler’s article can be accessed here.

Think of the Bridge!

Perhaps you, like me, aren’t terribly familiar with the 19th century minister named Robert Lewis Dabney. Southern Presbyterians might recognize him as one of the most influential theologians of their tradition. Civil War buffs may be familiar with him as he was a chaplain in the war and, according to Wikipedia, the chief biographer of Stonewall Jackson. Duck Dynasty fans might recognize him as the pioneer that gave birth to Uncle Si’s sense of style.

In Dabney’s later years he suffered from a variety of ailments including the loss his eyesight and extremely painful kidney stones. His biography refers to them as urinary calculus, but for the best I can tell he had kidney stones stuck in his ureter. His doctor tried to pulverize the stones, but with technology as it was in the 19th century, this ultimately caused irreparable damage to his prostrate. Dabney describes his own pain in a letter, saying

Soon after I got through with it, the leading surgeons began to notice that lithotrity was followed in too many cases by hypertrophy of the prostate glands, resulting from the bruising, a permanent and incurable evil. It was precisely so in my case. The evil grew gradually for five years, causing increasing anguish, at times beyond description. Now, indeed, this constriction caused me ‘cystitis’ in good earnest This became worse and worse, until in January, 1890, it brought me to death’s door. One of the physicians gave me over to die at once. In the old States my death was reported, and my obituaries written and published.

The event apparently caused some fear in him because he wrote a letter to a friend named, Clement Read Vaughn. From what I can gather, Dabney’s letter expressed some fear that he would lose faith as he faced his impending death.

Vaughn’s response shows deep theological understanding and pastoral wisdom. It is the most profound, yet surprisingly simple, recipe for developing faith that I know of. I trust that as you and I find our faith assailed by the sufferings of this world, we will return to this sage advice and find refreshment for our souls.

DEAR DABNEY:
… Do you remember, in the stress of your trial, how faith comes? Let me remind you, although you know it. You know we are sanctified through the truth. Sanctification is just the growth of the particular graces of the spirit, of which faith is one. Just here is where Christians make a great mistake. When they want more faith, or want to know whether the faith they have is the right sort of faith, instead of looking at the things to be believed, they turn their eyes inward and scrutinize their faith. They want to see something in their faith to trust in, something that will certify their faith. Of course, self-examination is all right, but not when it practically substitutes faith for our Lord, grace and righteousness. Even a great theological thinker is as apt to make that mistake when he has come into the practical stress of this awful world as a common Christian.

Now, suppose a traveler comes to a bridge, and he is in doubt about trusting himself to it What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge? He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it. He don’t stand at the bridge-head and turn his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if he has confidence in the bridge. If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow? Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge.

Now, my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in. Think of the Master’s power, think of his love; think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him. Think of what he has done, his work. That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of all the sinners that ever lived. Don’t you think it will master yours? Think of his great righteousness; will it not avail for all you hope to gain? That great work is enough; it needs not to be supplemented; it meets every demand. It warrants you to come into the King’s very presence, assured of welcome, because you can come in the name of the King’s Son. That work of Christ is like a bankrupt for ten thousand dollars allowed to draw on the revenues of an empire to pay out. Think of the Master when you want your faith to grow.

Now, dear old friend, I have done to you just what I would want you to do to me if I were lying in your place. The great theologian, after all, is just like any other one of God’s children, and the simple gospel talked simply to him is just as essential to his comfort as it is to a milk-maid or to a plow-boy. May God giye you grace, not to lay too much stress on your faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinner’s refuge. Faith is only an eye to see him. I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step. Good-bye. God be with you as he will. Think of the Bridge!

Your brother, C R. V.

* For more on Dabney you can read The Life and Letters of R. L. Dabney as a .pdf. You will find this letter on page 479, (512 of the .pdf file)

My Grandfather’s Funeral

My grandparents holding my mother

On January 25, 2013, my grandfather, Roger Hightower passed away. He was 86 years old and had spent the last several years of his life struggling with a failing mind and a failing body. But on that Friday morning all the problems of this life died with that old body as he entered fully into eternal life. Revelation 21:3-4 helps us picture the new life he is enjoying in his new body.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

I am confident that my grandfather is experiencing this life now. I know this because he loved God. My grandfather had a deep and meaningful relationship with God. This relationship started when he realized that he needed forgiveness and that God would be faithful and just to forgive. In my grandfather’s memoirs he records:

I can’t remember the exact day and date of my conversion, but I do remember the place, and that it happened. It was at the Pilgrim Holiness Church in Owosso, Michigan. The preacher was Rev. Paul F. Elliot, Sr. (who was a fiery preacher) It happened on a Sunday night. Elmorse and I went to the altar in the night service. I think that I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time. I know the Lord did something in my heart at that time. I haven’t ever had any desire to rebel against the Lord at any time until now. I know that I haven’t always been without fault, but I do know that my heart has always wanted to obey the Lord and do just what He wanted me to do. In my childish mind, I went to the altar many times after that because I didn’t understand what the whole Christian life was all about. I didn’t understand that as 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. I thought that any sin separated us immediately from the Lord and that we had to begin all over again. I have been so thankful for that verse as it gives me hope that I can make heaven my eternal home. Isn’t the Lord good….? As of this writing (March 11, 2000), I am well into my 73rd year and the Lord has kept me all these years. I have gone too far to turn back now, I am planning on seeing my loved ones who have gone on before and making heaven my home.

When you bury a loved one, it is an immense blessing to have words like this to cling to. My grandfather was confident both in his need for mercy and in God’s eagerness to show mercy. It is this faith in the abundant love and mercy of God, demonstrated and secured by the death of his own Son, that has secured my grandfather’s eternal destiny.

Each of us must experience death. First we see the death of those we know and love. Eventually, it will be our turn, and we will follow them into the grave. My prayer is that we will not waste the deaths of our loved ones by failing to prepare for our own. Instead, like my grandfather, we must confess our sins and place our trust in the love and mercy of the God who is so eager to forgive us and welcome us into his kingdom.

The funeral itself is too long to add to YouTube. However I did extract the portion where I was allowed to share some of how I was blessed by the life and death of my grandfather. I will include that video below.

The Big Picture

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Christmas should be fun, right? Then why did God start the Christmas story with a genealogy? Matthew 1:1-17 is a long list of names telling us the names of Jesus’ father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great great-grandfather, great great great-grandfather, and so on.  It starts with Matthew 1:1

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 

And ends with vs. 17,

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

That’s a lot of generations and a lot of names. And most of us agree, its no fun reading someone else’s family tree.

The question is, what makes this family tree so important? Why are we asked to suffer through reading such a long lineage? There are probably several answers, but one seems to be the most obvious. God wants us to know that Jesus isn’t the beginning of the story, he is the climax of a much longer story.

When we read the Christmas story this month, it is important to remember that we have skipped to the end of the book. It would be like picking up Lord of the Rings, but starting when Frodo finally gets to Mordor to throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Without having read the first two books, this third climactic book lacks the depth of context and characters that makes it so compelling. The Bible is the same way. It is the Old Testament that adds the depth and context to Jesus’ miraculous birth, life, death, and resurrection. We cannot rightly understand the climax without understanding how it fits into the whole story.

If you don’t have time to read the entire Bible before Christmas day, I suggest this poem as a good temporary substitute. Matt Papa delivers a dramatic reading of a poem summarizing the entire story of God in about ten minutes. It will help us all remember the context that leads up to the birth of Jesus and then remind us of the significance that Jesus life and death continues to have for us today.

If you have a little more time and you have kids (you are probably thinking that is an oxymoron), I suggest picking up the Big Picture Story Bible. It is one of the best, succinct presentations of the whole story of the Bible. Your kids will learn from it and you will too.

Merry Christmas!