A Worthwhile Chrsitmas Gift

It is interesting that I was thinking about writing a short blog on suggesting to you a worthwhile Chrsitmas gift – a good Study Bible – only to see that Albert Mohler and Justin Taylor have done the ground work for us on this subject.

christmas-giftLet me say, however, that the introduction of a good study Bible into my personal Christians growth was revolutionary.  It began with my grandfather’s (whom I never knew) old and worn Thompson Chain Reference Bible.  I still have it and appreciate all the notes he took and the help that one of the early Study Bibles gave him and helped me.  Now, however, we have a glut of Study Bibles from all sorts of publishers and ministries and it is hard to choose a good one.  Sadly, the creation of a Study Bible has become a marketing strategy rather than providing a resource for good Bible Study – for example, to get a Study Bible that emphasizes being a man or a woman simply misses the point.  It is unbalanced.  A healthy Study Bible is one that is well rounded, accurate, sourced in good sound theology, using a translation that is most helpful (i.e. NASB or ESV) and will guide you to interact with all the Bible as you study particular texts.

So, as I see it there are just a few highly recommended study Bibles.  mac51m3ka2sr4l_sl500_aa240_First, I recommend the MacArthur Study Bible, written and edited by John MacArthur and the Master’s Seminary Faculty.  It is a treasure of resource, has undergone some healthy revisions (i.e. after the first edition which didn’t have a concordance they added it because so many people responded saying they loved the Study Bible but also wanted the concordance.  From my understanding the reasoning behind not having a concordance was thickness and weight, so in the subsequent editions they removed the Topical Index that was based on the Treasury of Scripture knowledge and included a concordance.)  I have personal used the MacArthur Study Bible for my own growth and ministry.  I can personally recommend this resource as trustworthy and an extremely  helpful tool.

esv41fmld2eb3l_sl500_aa240_Another addition to the Study Bible shelf is the new ESV Study Bible (ESV = English Standard Version) which was edited by Wayne Grudem, a trusted and gifted professor of Systematic Theology at Phoenix Seminary.  This is a really exciting volume and has both the thickness and the weight that the MacArthur Study Bible doesn’t have, but the wealth of information, the Biblical and careful theology reflected in the notes, and the integrity of purpose make this addition to the Study Bible genre a home run.  I don’t personally have this one yet, but maybe next year I’ll get it.

So, if you are thinking about getting a gift for someone you love or even spending money on yourself for personal spiritual growth, I highly recommend these two Study Bibles….but, of course, a Study Bible is no good unless it is used.  So, maybe you have one.  Why not determine now to begin your New Year with a reachable plan to be using your Study Bible for personal growth.

Here is an extremely helpful radio program with Albert Mohler and Justin Taylor talking about this subject.

Here are Albert Mohler’s comments on this subject…



Until Shiloh Comes…

It never amazes me how God is so complete in His Word, and that our neverending joy is to study God’s Word and find more and more reasons to see God in His glory.  So, today, as we are at the beginning of the Christmas season I want to wrestle with one of the more obscure Messianic passages (a passage that speaks about and/or points to the coming of Messiah) in the Bible.  But, in order for it to make a little more sense I want to begin at Luke 2:10

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

header-12-7Now, of course, Christmas is about Good News – the Good News of the Gospel – That Jesus, God’s son came into the World as Immanuel, God with us, and that the earthly plan of satisfying the requirements of the Gospel had begun.  That’s also why Christmas is about Joy.  It is a time to celebrate, to rejoice, for our King has come.  But who is this King?  What has Yahweh already revealed to us about  Him and His coming?  Well, that’s a loaded question which goes beyond the scope of this article, but we can look at one passage and consider who the Messiah would be, when He would come and what He would do when He came…That brings us to Genesis 49:10.

In Genesis 49 we find Jacob (Israel) on his deathbed giving his final words to his sons…

1Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.  (Gen. 49:1)

So, as Jacob starts speaking to his sons he bypasses Reuben, the logical choice to be the leader of the family and the receiver of blessing, because of his immorality.  He also steps over Simeon and Levi because of their anger and violence.  But, when he comes to Judah, his words are full of praise and a blessing flows out of his mouth.

8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;

Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies*;

Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.

9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp;

From the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He couches, he lies down as a lion,

And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?

10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

Until Shiloh comes,

And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

11 “He ties his foal to the vine,

And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;

He washes his garments in wine,

And his robes in the blood of grapes.

12 “His eyes are dull from wine,

And his teeth white from milk

In summary…

  • Judah’s brothers will praise him…
  • He will be a lion, i.e. a force to be reckoned with…
  • Through him Shiloh would come…

And that is where we begin to scratch our heads and wonder what is going on in this passage.  What seeds of hope spring forward to a coming Messiah in one obscure verse in the earliest of books?  Look again at vs. 10…

10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,

Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

Until Shiloh comes,

And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

And in this little verse we find three key pieces of the Messianic puzzle in seed form…

1. We are given a glimpse of the Messiah’s character through the Title – “Shiloh”

Now, up front I must say that there is some differing opinion as to the specific definition and use of the Hebrew language here.  In fact, if you take a NASB, NIV and ESV, you will have three different expressions of what is going on in this text, but I think that we can glean that Shiloh speaks to the person and rstarofafricaole of the Messiah.  The word Shiloh comes from three Hewbrw words – Sh (Who or Which), l (to), oh (him) = Which is to Him or To whom it belongs. It refers to the one to whom this kingship (note scepter) belongs, i.e. the rightful king.  Or, to put it another way, this little verse is looking forward to the coming of the rightful king…and that King is none other that Jesus, the “Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5)

This Messiah King, when He came, would be a messanger and the message of good news (Gal 4:4).  He would be a peacemaker (Isaiah 9:6) and also a deliverer/savior.

2. We are given an indication concerning His Timing – “Until Shiloh comes”

He would be the ultimate fulfillment of the line of Judah.  The scepter (a picture of regal authority) in Judah would ultimately be fulfilled in the rightful King sitting on the throne.  Now, in Matthews Gospel we have the written genealogy from Abraham through the line of Judah which passes through King David and ultimately ends up at Jesus.  So, as Galatians 4:4 tells us concerning the “fulness of times” ( i.e. the right time orchestrated by God politically, religiously and culturally), Jesus, the rightful King would come.

3. We are also given an understanding of the Task of the coming Messiah – A Gathering

The latter part of Genesis 49:10 is translated in the NASB the following way…

And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The KJV speaks about the “gathering” of the peoples.  We might say that it is a gathering of those who, by virtue of their effectual calling, are coming to the Messiah.

So, the task of the Messiah King would be to gather the peoples to Himself.  It is worth noting here that although this blessing is given to Judah in the context of the family and nation of Israel, that God always had the “Peoples” in mind.  This word is inclusive of both Jew and Gentile.

Now, when Jesus was born angels, shepherds, family friends all gathered, and soon after wise men from the east.  Then as Jesus entered into His ministry He gathered 12 disciples to be with him and to teach and train.  Then, as the Messiah King entered Jerusalem a multitude of people were present to meet Him praising God and saying, “Hosanna”, but only a few days later many would also be yelling “crucify Him.”

People gathered around His cross – some mocking, some wondering or pondering, and others mourning and weeping, but Jesus had already spoken these words…

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me.”

That certainly sounds like a gathering to me…hands-worshiping

And He is still gathering people into His Kingdom.  He calls those who are part of His kingdom to gather together in local fellowships to be the Body of Christ on the earth.

But, one day, we who know this Shiloh, Messiah King, will gather around the throne…

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.

I am looking forward to that day…

It is good news which will be for me (us) great joy…

Now read the following verses…

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people (Luke 2:10)


And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;

For out of you shall come forth a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”  (Matthew 2:6)

“Walking Through The Valley”

valleyA couple of weeks ago we held a three part seminar on grief entitled, “Walking through the Valley.”  It was an opportunity for our church family to wrestle with the heartache we have experienced with the loss of freinds whom we love and the families they have left behind.

I invite you to listen, to be strengthened and to apply how God spoke through His messengers on that day.  As I said last week, “You are either experiencing the valley or soon will be”.  I hope that the following summary can be helpful to both our church family and to you who may stumble upon this blog.

Session 1 – Pastor Jere LesterKing of the Valley

Jcolor living TEAN DEATHere began by emphasizing that even though we are walking through the valley we can be confident that God is our King.  It is easy for us to begin to lose sight of our King, but we must fight to see that He is both Sovereign as well as Tender as our King.  Jere took us to see how God’s sovereignty sustained and strengthened Isaiah in his grief (Isaiah 6:1-6) and then he took us to see the tenderness of God revealed in His Son Jesus Christ as he ministered to the woman with the issue of blood.  For twelve years she lived with the grief of her condition, ostracized from the Jewish society as unclean, but when she touched the hem of the Messiah’s garment she was healed.  Jere emphasized that it wasn’t simply a touch, but, more literally a “reaching out and grabbing” the tassle on His prayer shaul that brought the healing…the healing that was in His wings.

Session 2 – Pastor Rod PhillipsHope in the Valley

It was my turne next and I began by walking those gathered through the common secular advice for those going through grief – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  I emphasized that these stages had become the standard and were a helpful tool as they do describe the different emotions people who are grieving feel.  But, then I turned to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that says…

We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

griefIt would be irresponsible of me to leave God’s children with the above 5 stages since we who are in Christ have hope and because God has an opinion which must be heard and sought.  I suggested that for each stage there is a God response which should be our goal:  Belief, Forgiveness, Submission, Hope and Love.

For the person who is walking through the valley, however, these God goals seem unreachable.  They are platitudes which can discourage us and we need help to move in the right direction.  Therefore, we must see that our struggle is in the area between Denial and Belief, Anger and Forgiveness, etc.  These areas of struggle are the places of ministry for us and the battleground for those going through grief: Divine Perspective, Forbearance, Self-Denial, Acknowledging Emotions/Renewing the Mind and Being Comforted and Comforting.

Session 3 – Pastor Don Ott Comfort in the Valley

Don wrapped our time up by looking at the valley in Psalm 23 and then gave extremely practical advice in how we can be a comfort to others when they are in the valley.  He used the following acrostic:

grieving_pupils_narrowweb__300x3690 C – Come along side

O – Offer specific help

M – Mail the note

F – Feed them

O – Opinions – Be careful

R – Remember – What the person is going through

T – Talk about it

We are able to face the valley with hope because we have a sovereign and tender God who has given us real hope and is always faithful in the valley.  He is also a God who provides a path through the valley, and because this is all true we have comfort as His children.

So, when we find ourselves in the valley, or when our friends and neighbors are in the valley, we know that we are not alone and that He has given us guidance through His Spirit in His Word.

You can listen to the sessions here:

Over The Top

benson_marymagd_smMy quiet time took me to Matthew 26 this morning and I was struck with the example of the woman with the vial of expensive perfume (verses 6-13).  What a lavish example of giving our best to Jesus.  She took her alabaster vial, broke it off at the neck and poured it over the head of the Messiah.  Of course, the Disciples struggled with what seemed a waste of such expensive ointment, an unnecessary use and over-the-top expression that, the worth of the perfume, would more righteously be used to help the poor and needy.  But Jesus commends her lavishness and points to His burial preparation being fulfilled by her actions.

She has been totally selfless and has given her best for her Master.

Now, the paragraph that comes next in Matthew’s Gospel is the account of the betrayer, Judas (14-16).  We are told that he is willing to give up His Master for thirty pieces of silver  – that’s about three months worth of wages,  not a bad sum of money.  But compared to the lavish anointing of Jesus where the perfume was likely a years wages, it falls flat.  Judas was purely selfish, the woman selfless.  She gave all she had, Judas was looking to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Hers was a public display of affection; his was a private betrayal.

Then I thought.  What does Jesus give us that we take for granted or that we use selfishly for our own ends?

  • How about our time?  Every day is a gift from Him to us.  We can use it wisely, working hard, learning, shaping other lives and pursuing the Kingdom, or we can be selfish, maximizing our selfish pursuits with the precious time He has given us.  I wonder, am I giving Jesus my best or am I looking to use his time for my own selfish pursuits?pp-30pcs1
  • How about our talents?  Maybe you are one gifted in music or sports.  Why do you play that guitar or shoot that basketball?  Is it to make your own kingdom grow or is it to be used by God to grow His kingdom.  It is sad that so many people who have made it to the big time musically had as their training ground ministry in the church.  In other words, people gifted by God with a talent, learn to use it and are groomed through the church only to see them abandon the house of God for selfish ambitions and a less than God-honoring lifestyle.
  • How about our money?  We who live in this great country (USA) have been blessed with lots of money and stuff, yet, we can so easily allow the blessing to become a selfish curse on our lives.  Money can consume us as we seek to live “the lifestyle” that our society believes is the norm and the right of everyone.  In stead, we should be giving it back to the Lord and giving lavishly in order to please Him.

So, what’s the choice?  Give God our time, talents and money lavishly because He and His kingdom are worth it, or pursue our own self-centered ambitions by stealing His gifts to use for our own selfish gain.

You decide…