Where Do I Start? – Part 2

From time to time people tell me they want to start reading the Bible, and they almost always share the same question… “Where do I start?” Last week we looked the way the Old Testament is organized, the purpose of the writings, and the topics covered. This week we’ll focus on the New Testament.

The first four books of the New Testament make up The Gospels (“gospel” means “good news.”) These books cover the life of Jesus, but they aren’t biographies you and I are used to. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic gospels” because they are so similar in the content the events they cover, but each writer arranges the events in a different order so the story had the greatest impact on their original audience (very common to the writing style of the time.) John uses a different approach than the others for the same reason. All four books give us the details of Jesus’ ministry on the earth.

The book of Acts is written by Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the Jesus story and it includes details about Jesus’ last days on earth, then covers the beginnings and spread of the first church. We see events and history recorded about the other writers of the New Testament, as well as read many stories of how early Christians cared for one another and were so dedicated to Christ that they were willing to face death because of their faith.

The Pauline Epistles is a fancy way of saying “Paul’s Letters.” These were letters written by Paul, an apostle that we first meet in Acts, to various churches that he worked with in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, two letters to a young preacher named Timothy, and a letter written to a man named Philemon.

The General Letters function much the same way as Paul’s letters, they just weren’t written by Paul. These writings include an anonymous letter called Hebrews, a letter from James, the earthly brother of Jesus, two letters from the apostle Peter, and three from the apostle John.

The final book in the New Testament is the book of Revelation where the apostle John recounts a vision that he had from God. He writes specific warnings from Jesus for seven churches in Asia, as well as a very apocalyptic description of God’s ultimate victory over evil, as well as a beautiful description of Heaven.

Hopefully these past two posts have given you some insight into the organization of the writings contained in the Bible. “So where do I start?”  Well, it depends. If you have never read the Bible before, I always recommend The Gospel of John near the beginning of the New Testament. John does a fantastic job of sharing the life of Jesus with his readers.

If you’re looking for specific answers to questions you have, you can use this summary to look on your own, do a search on BibleGateway, or you can always email me.

Next time we’ll discuss if the Bible can be trusted.

 

The Best New Year’s Resolution: Change The World

In the early 1900s, a shoe manufacturer wanted to expand sales, so they decided to send salesmen all over the world in search of new markets for their business.

Two salesmen were sent to the the remote regions of Africa, and had two very different reactions to what they found.

The first salesman telegraphed his employer:

It’s hopeless. They don’t wear shoes down here.

The second salesman telegraphed the same employer:

Wonderful opportunity! They don’t wear shoes down her yet!

Sometimes we fail to see our surroundings, our circumstances as an opportunity to change the world. (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!)

We all struggle with this. We fail to see being stuck in traffic as an opportunity to call a friend and just talk. We fail to look at difficult situations as an opportunity to grow personally. We don’t see the end of a relationship as an opportunity to form new ones.

I’m not talking about being optimistic in all situations. I’m talking about changing the way we view everyday situations.

What would this world look like if we started using the opportunities we are presented with every day to change the world, rather than gripe on Twitter. What if we decided to not be bitter but instead, as the old saying goes, turn lemons into lemonade?

Did you know the Apostle Paul talked about this same thing? He wrote a letter to the early church in Colossae. They were facing all kinds of challenges, and so was Paul. He was in prison when he wrote this! Look at what he decides to write while he is “here in chains.

Colossians 4:5-6
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Here’s Paul, writing from prison, encouraging Christians on the best way to live their lives. And if you’re not a Christian, and you’re reading this…don’t worry! If you follow Paul’s wisdom here, you’ll see an improvement in your life as well!

Paul says “Live wisely…” When we choose to apply wisdom to situations instead of reacting to the emotions of the moment, we will change the way we handle situations for the better.

He tells them to “…make the most of every opportunity.” No matter what life hands us, good or bad, use those situations as an opportunity to do good instead of evil.

Let your conversations be gracious…” Can you imagine how many problems in our world would simply go away if we could do this one thing? (CLICK TO TWEET THIS!) What would it look like if everyone simply handled every conversation they had tomorrow with graciousness? How many problems would be eliminated?

…and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” This part refers to creating another opportunity with the way we handle everyday situations.  If we handle stressful, frustrating, irritating, or painful situations differently than the way the rest of the world does, we will create new opportunities.

What kind of opportunities? The opportunity to tell others why we can handle these situations differently. To tell them about the hope we have found.

We can tell them about Jesus. The Jesus who loved the outcasts of society. The Jesus who had compassion on those who everyone else ignored. The Jesus who chose to die for everyone, even the ones who hated him and put him to death.

How different would our world look if we could take difficult situations, and instead of showing our selfish, self absorbed inner 5 year old, we would show the world the true, authentic Jesus of the Bible?

Simply put, we could change the world.

So, go change the world today!

 

Grand Opening

Many people wonder why God doesnʼt send big, visual, miracles our way anymore. They read about people speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, casting out demons, and they wonder why God seems so distant. We read about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Why are none of us recipients of the miraculous empowerment of the Holy Spirit? Why isnʼt God allowing his people to perform miracles here and now? Well, we can find out in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:3b-4 – This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

According to the writer of Hebrews, God used signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit as a way of testifying that his son, Jesus, did in fact bring salvation to those who chose to obey him. The signs were a way for God to indicate to humans that this shift in the way of doing things was divinely orchestrated! Simply put, God was using the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the miracles kind of like a grand opening at a new store. Letʼs say that a store that has been around for quite a while is purchased by some new owners, and they come in and renovate. Of course they want everyone to know about the changes, so they do this by having a big grand opening where they give away prizes, and do big and very showy things to alert the people of the changes. Now the grand opening doesnʼt last forever, and it doesnʼt need to. Thereʼs no reason for you to have a grand opening several years after the fact because it serves a purpose, and then itʼs no longer needed. The same is true with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and miracles in Godʼs church.

These people were so used to the Old Testament way of doing things that when Godʼs people were bought by the blood of Christ, and they were now under new ownership, God wanted to get the message out. He had a grand opening with all kinds of wonderful and very visual miracles, healings and the like that announced to the world once and for all that a new way of doing things was here. Out with the old covenant (or old testament) and in with the new covenant (or new testament)! So what about us today? We donʼt need the grand opening. Instead, we need to be looking forward to the time when the store gets relocated into itʼs permanent location in Heaven. Until then, we are the word of mouth. We are the means by which Godʼs church keeps growing and developing new members.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.