Some of my grandchildren do an Obstacles Course as an after-school activity. And we face many obstacles in life. Today we are looking at the most important obstacles in our lives. These are the ones that come between us and God. This post is based on a message given in Sydney, Australia, by Franklin Graham in February 2019.
Do you have peace with God? Are things good between you and God? Are things settled between you and God? Do you know Him? Do you know who His Son Jesus Christ is? Jesus Christ came to the earth for a reason. God sent Him on a rescue mission. (more…)
The Bible is a big book that was written thousands of years ago. Where do I begin to read it? And, what does it mean for a reader today? Here’s a simple outline of the Bible’s structure. It can be divided into two sections. The portion written before the 400 years of silence is called the Old Testament and portion written afterwards the New Testament.
The books of Psalms to Song of Songs are Israelite wisdom and poetry. Most were written 1000 – 700 BC.
Where do I begin?
A history book or a story book is usually read from the beginning to the end. Stories usually begin with an introduction and then suspense builds up to a climax. The climax is the turning point of the story when the main problem is addressed. After the climax there is relief and it ends with a conclusion.
It’s probably best to begin by reading the introduction and the climax of the Bible.
The introduction of the Bible is a foundation for the rest of the Bible. So start with Genesis chapters 1 to 11. It begins with God creating a perfect universe (Gen. 1-2). But then the first couple, Adam and Eve, disobey God (Gen. 3), which brings conflict and evil into the world. This sinful pattern of behavior and its impact is demonstrated by the events described in the rest of the Old Testament. It is a characteristic of humanity that doesn’t change.
Because of their disobedience and wickedness, God punished mankind with a global flood (Gen. 6-9) and by dispersing people across the earth into different languages and nations (Gen. 10-11).
The climax is when God solves the problem of people’s sinfulness. He does this by coming to the earth and taking the punishment that we all deserve. There are four separate accounts of the life of Jesus Christ: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It’s a good idea to read Mark first because it is the shortest.
The Bible’s climax has two plot twists. Firstly, Jesus’ followers believe He is the Messiah, but their hopes are dashed when instead of setting up His kingdom on earth, He is executed as a criminal. So their great expectations are replaced by grief and loss. Secondly, a few days after His burial Jesus miraculously resurrects back to life and the grief and loss is replaced with joy! What a dramatic fluctuation in emotions!
What’s the main theme?
The Bible is all about God’s solution to the problem of people’s sinfulness. This is God’s promise or God’s rescue plan. It is fulfilled in the history of Israel, from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to king David and to Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. It is now fulfilled in the Christian church, which includes all nations. In the future it will be fulfilled in the resurrection of God’s people and the restoration of creation back to its original state.
What does it mean?
In order to understand the original meaning of a passage of Scripture it’s good to know who it was written to. For example, the Old Testament was written to Jews living in Palestine, whereas Paul’s letters were written to Christians living around the Mediterranean Sea. It also helps to know where it occurs in the sequence of events shown in the table. For example, was it written before or after Jesus was on earth? The context is also important – what happens before and afterward the passage?
Other questions can be asked, such as – What does it say about God? What does it say about humanity?
What’s its conclusion?
Choose-your-own-path adventure story books and video games have multiple endings. At the end of each chapter/episode, there is a choice between various options, which determines the path taken and the eventual ending of the story.
The Bible has two conclusions. They are heaven (Rev. 21:9 – 22:5) or the lake of fire (hell) (Rev. 20:15). Which one will you choose as your destiny?
Written, January 2015
The importance of renewal
Recently I moved to a new place of employment. Before I left my old job I spent a day sorting through the stuff that I had collected in my office, keeping some things, but discarding many items that were no longer useful. Changing jobs was a good opportunity to clean up all the things I had accumulated after 14 years at my previous job.
Similarly, when people move to another dwelling they have many possessions to go through. Some have garage or yard sales to get rid of unwanted belongings. We accumulate lots of unnecessary things over the years. Also, there’s a limit to how much we can store. A new start can be necessary and refreshing, but it can also be challenging.
We follow a God who has given human beings new starts down through the ages. When evil was rampart early in history, God started again and re-populated the earth, beginning with Noah’s family. Noah lived right and obeyed God (Gen. 6:9). But children and descendants don’t always follow the ways of their parents and ancestors, and people still disobeyed God and wickedness once more became prevalent across the earth.
In the future God has promised a new start for the universe: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5 NIV). He calls it “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). This will be idyllic, as God “will live with … His people” (Rev. 21:3). It will be a world where everyone is right with God; like it was in the beginning, in the garden in Eden (Acts 3:21; 2 Pet. 3:13).
Many people received a new start in life from Jesus. Those with serious disabilities and diseases were healed, demons were exorcised and death was reversed. A demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs and wore no clothes was cured and restored to be “in his right mind” (Mk. 5:1-17). Lazarus was raised from death to life (Jn. 11:1-44)!
Jesus gave many people a new direction in life. The disciples changed their occupations when they followed Jesus (Mt. 4:19). Zacchaeus, a wealthy and corrupt tax collector, changed his ways, becoming generous to the poor and those he had cheated (Lk. 19:8). However, the rich young man remained the same and went away sad (Mt. 19:16).
Jesus told people they should repent instead of perishing in hell (Lk. 13:3,5). This means to turn around and go in a different direction. He came to rescue these people (Lk. 19:10). It is like giving them a new start. Such a transformation needs to come from within and not just be external. Judas Iscariot seemed to make a new start with Jesus, but he didn’t change internally. This led to despair and suicide (Mt. 27:3-5).
At Pentecost, those who followed Jesus were empowered by the Holy Spirit and when they spoke about 3,000 people joined them (Acts 2:1-41). Many others had a radical new start as well. Paul was converted from a persecutor to a preacher (Gal. 1:23). The slave Onesimus became a partner (Phile. 16-17). Those in the church at Thessalonica turned from idolatry to Christianity (1 Th. 1:9). In fact, all Christians are part of God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This is the most important new start we can make.
Each day is a new day. It brings fresh opportunities and challenges. We can make a new start each day to follow Christ and serve His purposes in our part of His world. This means being willing to dispose of the rubbish in our lives and to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our thoughts and attitudes (Eph. 4:23-24). Prayer and recalling God’s goodness is a great way to start each day (Ps. 5:3; 88:13). Then we will know, like Jeremiah, that God’s faithfulness is great; His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).