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Biblical Studies Carnival September 2016

Biblical Studies Carnival September 2016

dog-dayssWelcome to the September issue of the Biblical Studies Carnival! With the dog days of summer behind us (well at least for those of us who live in cooler climates), the Fall Carnival schedule is ready to kick into high gear. For the upcoming months the Carnival will travel to the following locations:

October 2016 (November 1) – Bob MacDonald, @drmacdonald, Dust, http://meafar.blogspot.com/

November 2016 (December 1) – Jim West, @drjewest, Zwinglius Redivivus, http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/

December 2016 (January 1) – Jennifer Guo, @jenniferguo, http://jenniferguo.wordpress.com/

Cassandra Farrin at Ethics and Early Christianity https://www.westarinstitute.org/blog/ has also got January covered. The rest of the year is wide open however. So if you’d like to host a Biblical Studies Carnival in 2017 please contact Phil Long at @plong42 or plong42atgmail.com. This month’s Carnival comes to you from the ancient city of York (England). Yes (all you Church History lovers), the very city where Constantine himself was proclaimed Emperor. So without further delay, let’s begin!

Statue of the young Constantine the Great in front of York Minster
Statue of the young Constantine the Great in front of York Minster

Old Testament

To get this party started check out Michael J. Kok’sGeneral Survey of the Hebrew Bible,” and also his post entitled, “The Christian Appropriation of the Old Testament,” at jesusmemoirs. Lindsay Kennedy has an interesting article on “Psalm 2:6 and the transformation of Zion.” George Athas asks, “Genesis 19: Has Lot Lost the Plot?” Continuing with the Genesis theme, I have written a post entitled, “Are the Seven Days of Creation Literal?” I also concluded a series on Biblical Numerology entitled, “Symbolic Numbers in the Old Testament,” (although I  must confess I actually look at the Bible as a whole).

Language Studies and Textual Criticism

In his most recent post, Bob MacDonald offers his translation of Esther 1. In other September posts Bob shares translations from Job, Jeremiah and Zechariah (click HERE and scroll down). Mike Aubrey announces that the new book “The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis,” will not only be available at Logos Bible Software, but you can also purchase a hard copy at Amazon. Brian Davidson notes than even modern “scribes” can make errors in his “Ancient Errors, Modern Scribes,” post. He also emphasizes the significance of word order in “The Word Order Hurdle.” Looking at the Didache, David Corder examines Aaron Milavec’s preference for the most difficult reading. Peter Gurry asks a challenging and provocative question in his post, “Does Scripture’s Self-Attestation Apply to Textual Criticism?” Although we could put “Jens Schröter, Galatians 1.6-7 and the Greek Scholars,” by Wayne Coppins in the New Testament category, it seems best suited here. Finally, for all you Hebrew lovers, Todd Scacewater at exegeticaltools has posted a humorous video on learning Hebrew based on Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine. You’ll love it!

New Testament

Todd Scacewater has produced another interesting title sure to draw readers in. Check out his, “Think You Understand Crucifixion? Think Again,” post which compares and contrasts 3 new books on crucifixion. Phil Long is working his way through Romans and has a whole host of articles. His latest as of this writing is “God Shows No Partiality.” Check out his blog at readingacts to see other posts on Romans. Marg Mowczko asks, “Did Jesus Address Only Men in Luke 14:25-27?”  Julia Blom at jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical continues a series on Luke 24. The latest is entitled, “Key Number Five: And Their Eyes Were Opened.” Michael J. Kok has an article on Hebrews and Subsequent Christian Supersessionism.

Theology

Michael Patton has written his observations in a provocatively entitled article, “Why Arminianism Won’t Preach (and Calvinism Won’t Sell).” Continuing with the theme of Calvinism, Bobby Grow offers, “A Different Way: A Calvinism Where God is Love Rather than Law.” For the philosophical theologians among us, Grow also writes about “Hypostatic Grace: A Response of Sorts to Tom McCall and Substance Metaphysics.” Marg Mowczko looks at “Tertullian on Equality and Mutuality in Marriage.Andy Goodliff has an interview with Tim Carter regarding his latest book, “The Forgiveness of Sins.” Cassandra Farrin, in her “Understanding Religion Series,” examines “Testimony.” Finally, Dr. Mariottini offers some sage counsel in “Do Women Really Want to Go Back to Patriarchy?

Archaeology

At theoutwardquest David Corder has a host of articles dealing with various topics  including a series on Amihai Mazar’s book, “The Case of the United Monarchy.” Click HERE for the latest in that series. Dr. Claude Mariottini reports on the discovery of the “Scale Weights of the High Priest, and, in case you haven’t seen it before, Dr. Mariottini has a number of free ebooks available on his site including Israel Finkelstein’s, “The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel.”

Church History

In her latest post, Cassandra Farrin draws our attention to the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation (coming in 2017) and seeks to demonstrate how some of its themes can speak to the modern situation in America. At Zwingliusredivivus Jim West shares two short posts. The first is a quote from Calvin regarding his “Explanation of the Nones,” and the second is regarding the legitimization of the worship of images by the 7th Ecumenical Council.

Plagiarism

OK, I confess. I stole this from google!
OK, I confess. I stole this from google!

Normally, posts about plagiarism would not merit a separate heading, but it’s definitely a topic that’s been “trending” this month and so this separate category seems justified. Scot McKnight has some very good thoughts on “Plagiarizing Sermons.” Warning: this is not a “How To…” article! At Crux SolaChristopher Skinner questions Stan Porter’s defense of Peter O’Brien’s plagiarism in 3 of his NT commentaries in the Pillar series by Eerdman’s. For an opposite view one can read “Plagiarism Hunters,” by Fred Butler. Although I’m in danger of violating Carnival protocol, (this next post actually appeared in August), Brian Renshaw offers some very constructive “Thoughts on Research and Note Taking After O’Brien and Eerdmans.”

Book Reviews

booksAt the Dustin Martyr Blog the book review series on “A Man Attested By God,” by Daniel Kirk continues. At corinthianmatters you’ll find a review by David Pettegrew of “People Under Power: Early Christian and Jewish Responses,” by Lebahn and Lehtipuu. Lindsay Kennedy balances Old and New Testaments with a review on “Psalms By the Day” (Alec Motyer) and a review of “A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament,” (ed. Michael J. Kruger). Both reviews are available at mydigitalseminary. For Bible backgrounds lovers, Spencer Robinson looks at the new “NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.” Over at hipandthigh you can read Fred Butler‘s review of ” Truth Or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare” by Jim Osman. Jennifer Guo reviews Eugene Merrill’s commentary on 1&2 Chronicles in the Kregel Exegetical Library, as well as “The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History, and Theology,” by Osvaldo Padilla. Her most recent post reviews Frank J. Matera’s “New Testament Theology.

If you get tired of reading book reviews you may want to get some cotton candy, put your feet up, and check out the youtube interviews with Larry Hurtado on his new book, “Destroyer of the gods,” at the christianorigins blog. Now that you’ve recovered with a good sugar rush you can check out Nijay Gupta’s post on “Do We Need More Commentaries?,” or his review of “Kingdom Ethics” by Gushee and Stassen. While you’re there, check out what Gupta’s website partner Christopher Skinner has to say about Estes’s and Sheridan’s book entitled, “How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel.J.K. (a.k.a. Kevin Turner) reviews Kent Hughes’s “Disciplines of a Godly Man,” and offers advice on Bible reading plans. Finally, Andy Goodliff lists “11 Books Every Christian Should Read Before They Turn 25.” It’s a good looking list but the problem for me is none of these books were around when I was 25! I’ll bet Andy would encourage me to read them anyway. 🙂

That’s it for this month.  The Biblical Studies Carnival has packed up and is moving on to it’s next destination. Once again, remember if you’d like to host a Carnival, contact Phil Long at at @plong42 or plong42atgmail.com. Happy Reading and Blogging until next month!

Saeed Abedini: More Than a News Story

Saeed Abedini: More Than a News Story

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Saeed’s mother Bebe is a wonderful cook and over the 6 days we spent with her and Zizi we were treated to an array of fabulous Persian cuisine.

One of the greatest bonds between people is the love of a mother for her son. I was vividly reminded of this recently when my wife and I had the opportunity of visiting with Saeed’s mother and sister. Zizi, Saeed’s sister, was a former student of mine, so Gloria and I have known her for nearly 6 years. But our recent visit with Zizi gave us the opportunity to meet Bebe, Saeed’s mother, for the first time. That first night with Bebe was very impactful. As a loving mother is want to do, she showed us past photos of Saeed. She also showed us videos he had made. One of the videos was of Saeed giving his testimony. If you have never heard Saeed’s testimony from his own mouth, it is worth watching (you can click here to view it).

Prison Life for Saeed

I had often wondered what prison conditions were like for Saeed. What does the prison look like? What does his day consist of? It hadn’t been that long since Bebe had been in Iran and was able to visit her son so I asked her about her experience of visiting Saeed in prison. At this point she broke down in tears and was unable to speak about it. As you can imagine, I felt terrible for even asking the question. It was at this moment that I realized we weren’t just talking about any person who was in prison. To her this was more than someone who is reported about in the news, more than even a Christian brother to be concerned about and pray for; this was her son! Of course I realized this before asking the question, but the emotional impact of her response brought home to me the personal pain Saeed’s family experiences with each passing day of his imprisonment. Once Bebe recovered, she not only shared the photos and videos that I mentioned above, she also showed me pictures of what it looks like inside of Rajai Shahr prison where Saeed is currently incarcerated. She showed me pictures of the kinds of cells that prisoners are held in and the deplorable sleeping conditions they face. She showed me a filthy latrine and shower, the kind that Saeed is made to clean each day. She also showed me pictures of the courtyard where most prisoners are able to go and get some sunshine and daily exercise. But Zizi told us that due to the dangers of mixing with other prisoners, Saeed is not able to get this daily dose of sunshine and exercise. I wanted to post several of the pictures that Bebe had showed me so I googled images of Rajai Shahr prison. I couldn’t find those particular photos, but I was horrified at the brutality of the pictures that I did find. Out of sensitivity for the family, and readers here, I will not post any.

The Closeness of Saeed’s Family

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Me and Gloria with our beloved Zizi

We spent 6 days with Bebe and Zizi. During that time I became impressed with just how close this family is to each other. Every day each family member skypes or calls each other. During the time we were with them, we were able to speak to each member of Saeed’s family. Zizi often speaks about the closeness of her family and how they have always loved and supported one another. Although I would never minimize the significance of family for those of us from the West, there is a difference between Western and Middle Eastern culture when it comes to family. In the West we are usually close to our parents and siblings. Fewer of us stay in close touch with cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. Many families in the USA are scattered across the country and only see each other once a year or less. Zizi explained to me that in Iran families stay very connected to one another. They usually live in the immediate vicinity of each other and they are in constant communication not only with immediate family members, but with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Important decisions such as marriage, and business are not just personal concerns, but the concern of the entire family (or clan). When someone in the West confronts an important life event or decision they will hope for the family’s blessing and support, but whether they get it or not they will usually go ahead with their own decision. Middle Eastern culture is very different. If the family does not support a marriage or some other decision, the individual will usually relent and do what is best for the family. What is best for the family comes before an individual’s desire. To put it succinctly: in Western culture it tends to be me first and then family; whereas in Middle Eastern culture it is family first and then me.

Your Family is Cursed

This realization about cultural differences heightens the personal tragedy for Saeed’s family. Although we can sympathize with Saeed’s family, and our loss of a family member is no less painful, yet we can not fully appreciate the effect of Saeed’s imprisonment on his family because of the difference in cultural dynamics. Let me give one example that Zizi shared with us. As mentioned above, in Iran not only are families close, they live close to one another and are involved with each other’s lives on a daily basis. When a family is scattered, it is considered to be a curse from God. Many of Saeed’s relatives have told Saeed’s father that the reason his family is scattered and experiencing so much turmoil is because he and his family converted to Christianity. Saeed’s family is considered cursed and unclean. As a result, the extended family has very little to do with Saeed’s family. Saeed’s father remains in Iran so that he can visit and maintain contact with his son. Although he has a lot of family still in Iran, Saeed’s father is virtually alone because he has been ostracized from the larger family unit. There is no support, no encouragement, only disdain and contempt.

Saeed’s family who once had a beautiful home in Iran and experienced the daily love and support of each other, has now been scattered to various places around the world. Imagine losing your home, being separated from your family, being forced to leave the country you love and becoming refugees in a foreign country. I say, “imagine,” but for those of us in the West, this is beyond anything we have ever experienced and therefore it is difficult to truly imagine it. Saeed has two sisters and a brother. Not only is he separated from them, but they are separated from each other. Zizi lives in the states, her other brother and sister are currently refugees in another country. Even Saeed’s parents are separated by the circumstances. Bebe, Saeed’s mother, has been warned not to come back to Iran or she will be arrested (We were told this was because she boldly witnessed to the guards about her faith in Christ!). This means she can no longer even visit her son in prison. Saeed’s father is the only remaining immediate family member who can stay in Iran. In spite of being separated from his dear wife and other children, and in spite of being ostracized by other family members, he stays. He stays because he is the only link between Saeed and the family and between Saeed and the outside world.

Saeed’s Family Reunion: Living in Hope

saeed-abedini
Saeed, Nagmeh, and the children

For those of us who have followed the story of Saeed’s imprisonment, we are aware of the loving and courageous efforts of his wife Nagmeh to obtain his release. While we were visiting with Bebe and Zizi, Nagmeh was in Germany speaking with government officials there about Saeed’s release. This past week, she, Bebe, and Zizi have traveled to Washington D.C. to appear before Congress and appeal that no deal be made for Iran’s nuclear program without an agreement to release the 4 Americans currently held in Iranian prisons. Nagmeh has eloquently spoken before governments, churches, and other organizations about her desire to see her family reunited and the toll it has taken on her children not to have their father at home. Here is yet one more family separation that I have not yet mentioned. Not only are Saeed’s children growing up without him, they are frequently without their mother as she answers the call to testify of her faith and to secure the release of her husband. Nagmeh herself related this difficulty as she spoke before Congress this week (click here to read). The article I am referencing begins: “The wife of a prominent Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran has described how her family has been ‘torn apart’  by their ordeal. But they have kept their faith, she explained adding: ‘Jesus hasn’t abadoned us.'”

While many continue to pray for Saeed’s release, I thought it important to be reminded, as I was through my visit with Saeed’s mom and sister, that it is more than a news event we are praying about. It is a real family who has not only experienced the pain of separation from Saeed, but also from each other. Our prayers are about a real man who is a husband, father, son, and brother. Without a change in regime, it is sad to think that Saeed’s family can never be reunited again in the their own beloved country. But I do pray and long for the day when they are all reunited again in the country of God’s choosing.

Dear Jesus, thank you for sustaining Saeed and his family, thank you for protecting him and for keeping his faith and that of his family strong. Thank you for the example that Saeed and his family are to many of us–love for You, love for each other, and love for their enemies. Thank you for what you have accomplished through Saeed’s imprisonment. Thank you for those who have been converted through Saeed’s witness, and his family’s witness. Dear Lord, pleae reunite Saeed and his entire family and please bring him home soon!

Favorite Posts of 2014

Favorite Posts of 2014

picture from: http://ontopinternetmarketing.com/restaurant-marketing/blog-marketing/
picture from: http://ontopinternetmarketing.com/restaurant-marketing/blog-marketing/

To be honest, when 2014 began I didn’t know much about blogging and I thought websites were something that “other” people had. The start of my own website in 2014 and the opportunity to post articles on topics I believe are important has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. There has definitely been a learning curve involved for someone like me who is not the most computer literate person in the world and I continue to learn a lot about blogging and what goes in to making a good post. As you can tell by the title, this blog is about favorite posts in 2014. By favorite I mean three things. First, the posts that received the most views, second, some personal favorites that I’d like to draw to your attention in case you haven’t read them, and third, least viewed posts. I’m grateful to each one of you who has visited this site in the past year and would like to thank you for taking time to read what I’ve posted. I also want to thank my friend and colleague Lindsay Kennedy who helped get this website up and running, and whom I still barrage with tons of questions! Lindsay has a great website of his own and if you haven’t visited it, I highly recommend it. You can find him by going to mydigitalseminary.com.

If you are new to this website, or if you have missed some of the posts listed below, I hope you’ll click on the ones that pique your interest. Feel free to also explore the other posts on this website that are not listed here. Thanks again for visiting this site in 2014 and Happy New Year to each of you!

Top 5 Favorite Posts (the most viewed)

oh-thats-interestingThe top 3 favorite posts are all from my series “Violence in the Old Testament” (click on the link to view all the posts in this series). I have taken a break from this series, but I plan in the New Year to add more posts to it. Popular attacks on the Bible such as Richard Dawkins’s book “The God Delusion,” continues to make discussion of this topic very relevant. So here are the posts in order of most viewed in 2014.

1. Violence in the Old Testament Part 1: The Problem

2. “You Reap What You Sow:” Violence in the Old Testament Part 6

3. The Necessity of Judgment: Violence in the Old Testament Part 5

4. The Difference Between Legalism and Obedience (Romans 5-8) was the fourth most viewed post and among one of my personal favorites because I believe these two ideas are constantly confused and misunderstood in the Church today.

5. Khirbet Qeiyafa came in fifth and is part of my “Biblical Sites” series. This series concerns archaeological sites and artifacts and I look forward to adding to it in 2015, especially after our trip to Israel this coming Spring.

My 5 Favorite Posts (personal favorites)

I LOVE THIS POST . Fresh OJ... I mean OC_c051f3_33082131. Bible Study: Can it Be Spirit-Led and Academic is probably my favorite post of the year. I am convinced the answer is not “either/or” but “both/and”. We should not be discouraging people from rigorous study of the Scripture, nor should we become so academic that we leave the Holy Spirit out of it. Judging from reader response, this was a popular post for many of you as well.

2. For those of you who are tired of reading and just want to view a video, this next post is for you. Family Portraits Interview is a video interview featuring me and pastor Mike Neglia of Calvary Chapel Cork concerning my book, Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel. Had I known he was going to do the interview that day I would have dressed nicer. Had I known a month sooner, I may have dieted…well, probably not! Hope you enjoy the interview.

3. One post that has not been well viewed, but that I think people will find helpful is entitled Mind the Gap: Guidelines for Gaps in Biblical Narratives. This is probably an obscure title (I chose it because “Mind the Gap” is a British expression) and people may be wondering what a gap is and what this has to do with Bible study. This post offers an important insight that is necessary for asking the right questions when we study the Bible.

4. Perhaps a post with another obscure title is The Pooh Principle: Violence in the Old Testament Part 8. I believe that this is one of the most important articles that I wrote in this series. It deals with a principle that is essential in understanding why there is so much violence in Scripture. Please read it if you haven’t and let me know what you think.

5. One of the very first articles I wrote is entitled Cross Examination: The Cross of Christ in the Roman World. This one is low on the viewing scale too, probably because I didn’t have many readers at the time I wrote it, but I think it is also one of my more important posts. Its a short aritcle, please give it a read.

Least Favorite Posts (the least viewed)

Lost-interestSome people not only want to know your successes, they want to know your failures too! Well far be it from me to conceal my failures! Actually, it’s a natural point of curiosity to want to know what’s at the bottom of the list, but rather than bore you with 5, I will give you the bottom 2.

1. At the very bottom is a post entitled Words and the Word: Book Review. This is actually a very good book, but it is also technical and I understand why the post doesn’t appeal to many. This review (and book) is for the serious student and Bible scholar, so if you don’t feel you fit in that category, I won’t beg you to read it!

2. The post that finished next to last is 2 Samuel 2–Asahel: Running into Trouble. Possibly the reason that this post didn’t receive a lot of attention is because Asahel is a rather obscure character. His story is a very interesting one, however. Most of this post is taken directly from my book Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel, so it’s also a way of checking out whether you might like the rest of the book.

Once again, to everyone who has visited this site throughout 2014, thank you! I always welcome your thoughts and comments, so please feel free to interact with any of my posts. I hope you’ll return again and again in the New Year.

My Ten Favorite New Testament Passages

My Ten Favorite New Testament Passages

What is your favorite Old Testament passage?
My 10 favorite New Testament passages

For many people coming up with their 10 favorite New Testament passages is a lot easier than coming up with their 10 favorite Old Testament passages. This is usually because they are more familiar with the New Testament. For me, it’s just the opposite. I don’t mean to say that I’m unfamiliar with the New Testament, but because I focus on teaching the Old Testament, I spend a lot more time there. So when it comes to choosing my favorite New Testament passages, I’ve had to put a bit more thought into it because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just choosing a passage because it was well known, but because it had somehow spoken into my life. So without further delay, here are my ten favorite New Testament passages.

John 17:3–And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. As I mentioned in my 10 favourite Old Testament passages, I was introduced to the importance of knowing God through J. I. Packer’s book “Knowing God.” No verse speaks of that significance better than this one.

PeterActs 2:38–Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This continues to be a very important verse in the church tradition I grew up in. I heard it every Sunday, and it was one of the most important passages that led to my conversion.

Romans 2:4-5–Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. This passage is a good reminder to guard against self-righteousness. If you read from Romans 2:1, Paul is speaking of the hypocrite who judges others, while doing the same thing. The part of this passage that really gets me is the description of the hard, impenitent heart that is storing up wrath! That’s a good reminder to stay humble! It is very sobering to remember that judging others leads to a hard, impenitent heart.

chosenRomans 11:28-29–Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. When I was a senior in Bible College, I wrote a paper on Romans 9-11. One of my motives was to understand who the Israel is that Paul is talking about in this passage. Some say that the nation of Israel has been replaced by spiritual Israel (the church). A study of these chapters (most clearly stated in these particular verses) convinced me that God still has a plan for the nation of Israel.

Romans 11:32–For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. OK, this is my third passage in Romans, but since I have taught Romans for many years, it naturally has had a huge impact on my life. Out of all the verses I have chosen, this is actually my favourite New Testament passage. It brings me such hope, and I frequently pray it for lost loved ones. What an amazing God, who commits all to disobedience so that He might have mercy on all! That is not the way human beings reason. This truth could only come from God.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8–Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. There are just some passages that it is impossible to leave off the list of (I would think) anyone’s top ten New Testament passages. This is one of them! Reading these words everyday will change how we live.

crucifiedGalatians 2:20–I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Ever since I learned the praise song from the 70s that put a tune to these words, I have loved this verse. It is a reminder of what Christ has done for me and how I should live.

Ephesians 2:8-9–For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. A true understanding of God’s grace will revolutionize any one. I remember as a young Bible College student when I began to understand grace for the first time (even though I was already saved), how it totally changed my life.

Philippians 3:8–Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. This is another verse from J. I. Packer’s book that has meant a lot over the years. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!” (Jim Elliot)

1 John 5:9-11–If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. This is not a passage that I hear discussed very much among Christians, but I think it is one of the most powerful in the Bible. As a young pastor I found that many Christians doubted their salvation. I taught on this passage several times. These verses actually say if we believe in Jesus and doubt that God has given us eternal life, we make Him a liar. Wow! Salvation is as sure for the believer as God is true!

What Are Your Favorite New Testament Passages?

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So what is your favorite New Testament passage?

As the Christmas season approaches, I have found it refreshing to think through the Scriptures and recall the favorite, or the most influential, passages in my life. Looking over my list, I notice that there are a lot of New Testament books left out. Perhaps you will fill in some of the gaps by sharing one or more of your favorite New Testament passages (as some of you did with the Old Testament). Some shared on Facebook, or LinkedIn, while others shared here on this blog. The Word of God is a special treasure. full of wisdom, instruction, and inspiration.  May the Word who became flesh bless you this Christmas season (or whenever you read this blog) as you meditate on those special verses that have meant so much to your life.

My Ten Favorite Old Testament Passages

My Ten Favorite Old Testament Passages

What is your favorite Old Testament passage?
What is your favorite Old Testament passage?

Everyone who loves the Bible has favorite passages. Some people even have what they refer to as “life verses.” When I’m asked what my favorite passage in the Bible is, I struggle because I have a hard time coming up with just one. Recently I read an article entitled, “10 Old Testament Passages that Shape How I Think About God,” by Peter Enns. I do not always agree with what Enns writes, but I found his choice of passages interesting and was encouraged by reading them. I also gained two other benefits: 1) I learned something about Peter Enns; what is important to him and why; and 2) it challenged me to think of my ten favourite Old Testament passages. So the idea for this post is not original, I owe it to Enns, but the passages are my own. I hope you will enjoy reading them. Hopefully, they will encourage you. No doubt, they will teach you something about me, and most of all, I hope you will be inspired to draw up your own list of favorite passages.

abram1. Genesis 15:6–“And he believed the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” This passage refers to Abram’s trust in God’s word, when the Lord told him he would have a son. That faith was simply based on God showing Abram the stars of the heavens and declaring “So shall your descendants be.” Of course, Paul’s treatment of this text in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 has greatly influenced my life. As a young man, I frequently depended on my own righteousness, which was nothing but a “self-righteousness.” I’m grateful for the truth that I am “justified by faith apart from deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28).

Joseph2. Genesis 50:20–“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” I am greatly encouraged by Joseph’s ability to see the “bigger picture,” and to know that whatever happens in this life is under the control of an all-powerful God whose plans are good. His willingness to forgive rather than hold a grudge is liberating. Since the elected are always rejected in Scripture for the sake of others’ salvation, I know that God’s plan for my life is a good one in spite of the hardships I may face. In fact, God is so gracious that He will use my suffering in order to bring blessing to others. This is the path of the cross that my Savior walked and the path that He bids me to follow (Mark 8:34).

blessing3. Numbers 6:24-26–“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” This passage, and one other below (1 Sam. 16:7), are also on Enn’s list (sorry Peter, hopefully you won’t mind, after all, it’s nice to have favourite verses in common with others. I’ll bet some of you really like this verse too!). This verse has been a favorite Old Testament passage ever since I used to sing it with my youth group growing up. In the Calvary Chapel church tradition, these are the verses that Pastor Chuck Smith always used to end the morning service with. Lately I have had a desire to meditate more deeply on this passage and to find out exactly what is meant but each expression. It is certainly a deep, rich, and beautiful blessing.

<img class=" wp-image-1267" src="https://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/shema.jpg" alt="Deuteronomy 6:4-5, also known as the Shema is quoted everyday by faithful Jews.” width=”171″ height=”128″ /> Deuteronomy 6:4-5, also known as the Shema is quoted everyday by faithful Jews.

4. Deuteronomy 6:4-5–“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” How do you not include “the greatest commandment” on a list of favorite Old Testament passages? Actually, this is a verse I have spent about 7 years (off and on) meditating on. I have preached on it a number of times. Perhaps one day I will explore it in more depth on this website. Most importantly, these verses should guide our every thought, word, and action.

joshua5. Joshua 24:15–“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I find this to be a very contemporary verse. It is as if Joshua is still challenging us. We live in a pluralistic society. If we are not politically correct, we are not tolerated. There seems to be tolerance for all, except those who commit to the biblical standard of one God. If we quote Jesus and say the way is narrow that leads to life (Matt. 7:14), or insist that no one comes to the Father but by Jesus (John 14:6), we can be assured that our viewpoint will not be welcomed. A world that calls for a tolerance of all beliefs is, ironically, not tolerant of those who express their belief in the one true God. Joshua’s statement takes courage and faith. It also returns us to the truth that the elected will be rejected!

sam6. 1 Samuel 2:30–“Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” When forced to name a favorite Old Testament passage, this is the one that most readily comes to my mind. It may seem like an odd verse to have as a favorite, but my love for this passage stems from my understanding of 1&2 Samuel and the integral part this verse plays in its theology. If it is true as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” then honouring God is our primary objective in life. Paul puts it this way: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This verse, however, is an explanation of how God responds to our actions of honouring or dishonouring Him, and why some are “lifted up” by the Lord, while others are “brought low” (see Hannah’s words, 1 Sam. 2:6; my post on Sovereignty and Free Will in 1&2 Samuel, or my book Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel, which explores this idea in more depth).

heart7. 1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This passage is a constant reminder not to judge by the outer cover–something that I, and every other human being I know, does! The new students I meet each semester are a reminder of this truth. It is interesting how quickly I can form an opinion based on an initial meeting. By the end of the semester, however, my understanding of certain students is totally transformed by the frequent interaction and fellowship that we have shared.

David buys the threshing floor from Araunah where Solomon will later build the Temple
David buys the threshing floor from Araunah where Solomon will later build the Temple

8. 2 Samuel 24:24–“Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” I know, this is my third passage from 1&2 Samuel, but if I’m choosing my favorite Old Testament passages and 1&2 Samuel are my favorite books, then what can you expect? I am actually restraining myself, as I could easily add a few more! I often think of this verse during worship when I find myself mouthing the words of a song without singing them from the heart. It is easy to “go through the motions” or to allow tiredness to keep me from giving my all. This is also true of my work, my Bible study, or whatever I do. God is worthy and He deserves my best. If I am going to “honor Him” as 1 Sam. 2:30 reminds me that I should, then I should not be seeking to take the easy way out. In fact, I should find pleasure when my devotion to God costs me something. It certainly cost Jesus something to purchase my salvation.

jeremiah9. Jeremiah 20:9–“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” When I was in Bible college, and also as a young pastor, Jeremiah was my favorite Old Testament book. I was fascinated by his story and the power of his preaching. Jeremiah reminded me that I had received a holy calling. That calling is not always easy because it inevitably brings conflict. I suppose that this was my introduction to what is becoming the theme of this post, “we are elected to be rejected.” Not that I had it as bad as Jeremiah, but there are always times in ministry when it is tempting to “throw in the towel.” Even though Jeremiah had times when he wanted to give up, yet he was faithful for over 40 years to proclaim God’s word in the most difficult of circumstances.

<img class=" wp-image-1273" src="https://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/jesus.png" alt="Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 on 2 occasions in the Book of Matthew (9:13; 12:7)” width=”223″ height=”167″ /> Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 on 2 occasions in the Book of Matthew (9:13; 12:7)

10. Hosea 6:6–“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The word translated “mercy” in this passage is hard to translate with one English word. It carries the meanings of loyalty, faithfulness, and stedfast love. Like 1 Sam. 16:7, this passage reminds me that life with God is never about externals alone. Ritual only has significance in the context of a relationship. If two people are not committed to each other, they can go through the ritual of a wedding ceremony, but only in developing a relationship will they have a true marriage. When I was a young Bible College student, I read a book by J. I. Packer entitled “Knowing God.” That book transformed my relationship with God as I learned what it really meant to “know Him” in a biblical sense. Prophets like Hosea and Jeremiah have a lot to say about knowing God and this was another reason that I was drawn to them and their message.

What Are Your Favorite Old Testament Passages?

Perhaps now that you have patiently waded through my top ten favorite Old Testament passages, you will consider what yours are. If you do, I want to invite you to leave one or two of them in the comment section below with a short note on why this particular Old Testament passage is a favorite of yours. In the future I will do a post on my 10 Favorite New Testament passages and will look forward to hearing yours as well.

Calvary Chapel Bible College Transformation

Calvary Chapel Bible College Transformation

Walmgate Bar (short for barbican) is the home of Calvary Chapel Bible College York's Coffee shop
Walmgate Bar (short for barbican) is the home of Calvary Chapel Bible College York’s Coffee shop

No, the above photo is not what Calvary Chapel Bible College used to look like! However, Walmgate Bar (short for barbican) has always been an important part of Bible College life here in York. The video link below is about Calvary Chapel Bible College York where I work. It shows the transformation of the property that has taken place over the last 10 years. Calvary Chapel Bible College is a great place to work and a great place to come to Bible College! I wanted to take this oppotunity to share a little about it. Just click on the link below to see the short 2 minute video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tKyTs2iOrcg

If you are a prospective student you can learn more about the Bible College in York by visiting our website at: http://www.ccbcy.com Besides the York campus, Calvary Chapel has Bible Colleges throughout the world. You can check out the main site at:  http://www.calvarychapelbiblecollege.com

These unassuming buildings are part of the student flats that make up Calvary Chapel Bible College York
These unassuming buildings are part of the student flats that make up Calvary Chapel Bible College York
IMG_6766
The inner courtyard of Calvary Chapel Bible College York

Of course, the most important part of the Bible College is the people. While the buildings have been transformed over the years, the most important thing is the transformation that has happened in many lives. Come visit us, or better yet, come and enroll for a quality Bible education.

Calvary Chapel Bible College York graduates, Spring 2014
Calvary Chapel Bible College York graduates, Spring 2014