1000 Gifts: Review

ImageMy wife and I recently enjoyed walking through 1000 gifts.  The urge to communion with God through thanks is so powerfully spoken and displayed through this work that one cannot help but be drawn into an introspective examination of one’s own heart.  The path that Ann Voskamp leads the reader to walk directs the soul to gratitude as the secret of contentment in this life.  I could hardly do justice to this work by trying to explain a plot line or a story behind the work.  This is an inspirational work of art that is powerfully suited to encourage the soul to worship.

As my wife and I read this work, my heart was inspired toward gratitude for countless blessings every day.  Voskamp’s words opened my eyes to the power behind cultivating a heart of thanks toward God.  As we read through the trials in her life and family, my wife and I were inspired to awe in Jesus for the graciousness that he has displayed for us in so many ways every day.  Thankfulness is a hard thing to learn, but it is a joy to cultivate it.

Voskamp will also challenge your theology.  Be it reformed, emergent, or divergent, her words are founded in Scripture and supported by experience that does not elevate itself to authority but rather validates a greater authority.

I highly recommend this book!  Don’t be deceived by the cover, it is not a book for women.  Yes it is a woman’s journey into understanding thankfulness.  But lets’ be honest, her gender is a pitiful excuse for you not to turn off the TV and engage deep things of God.  Man up and read!  In the challenging words, you will find a perspective shift that will lead you to GREAT JOY!  Note: the stream of consciousness writing style is difficult to get used to, but stick with it, the content is worth learning to listen to the stream.

Short Summaries of The New Testament Books.

Yesterday I took up the challenge of briefly summarizing the books of the Old Testament.  Today I attempted the same with the New Testament.  I recognize that these books are difficult to summarize because God’s word is living and active and speaks so loudly  and powerfully to those who believe.  So, in glancing through these, if I have missed something you think vital to understanding the basic message of a book, put it in the comments.  I don’t mean to be trite, join in if I missed something.  For better summaries check out Mark Dever’s book: The Message of the New Testament. It’s big but it’s an easy read.

I would like to state again as I did with the Old Testament books:  This is not an academic work that I would turn in for publication, please be gracious in critique.  It took me about 40 minutes… if I left something out you think critical to an extremely brief overview of a book, put it in the comments.

THE GOSPELS – Who is Jesus?

Matthew – The long awaited King has come!  His name is Jesus and He does not look like you want Him to.  He conquers through dying and calls His own to follow Him in overcoming death!  Jesus is the victorious King that Israel has been waiting for.

Mark – Jesus is the supernatural, suffering servant who has come to restore Sabbath rest.  He is the promised one who would rescue us from sin.  He is the priest who came to serve and die to make atonement for the people.

Luke – Jesus is Savior to ALL people.  He has come to rescue and show the glorious truth of God’s love to all mankind.  He came with a mission to spread the character and nature of God.  His voice is pleading for repentance, His indignation over false worship is couched in love, and His words are a transformative challenge to religious institutional structures that are devoid of the character of God.  He is the Messiah!

John – Written so that you would believe.  The light has come in to the world and the world has rejected Him, so He goes further.  Jesus is God.  He stands as the promised Prophet (the new Moses promised in Deut.) and proclaims the call to repentance and faith.  He draws men to Himself.  His call is for total surrender…  He is God in flesh, come down to save.  He has won the victory and calls us into the light where we must admit He is God and we are not.

ACTS – What about Jesus’ Followers?

Acts – The church rises out of obscurity to follow Jesus on Mission.  The early church shows us that the Holy Spirit works through normal people to accomplish God’s great purpose.  The church rises to follow Christ into self-sacrificing, life-surrender that promotes the truth of salvation for those who love Jesus.  They model absolute surrender to the mission of God and the subsequent joy that follows such surrender.

Paul’s Letters – What do we believe and how?

Romans – The Gospel explained in 16 chapters!  Chapters 1-3 explain the sinful state of man, chapters 3:21-5 explain God’s gracious rescue in salvation, chapters 6-8:30 outline the sanctifying work of God in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus, chapters 8:28-11 explain how God worked the gospel out through the Jews to the Gentiles, and chapters 12-16 display the exhortations for living if we have believed the Gospel.

1 Corinthians – The people of God are a messy collection of people called to the mission of spreading the Gospel, motivated by Jesus, for the eternal purpose of God’s glory.  Paul articulates what it looks like to live in community with fellow believers and exhorts us at the end to have an eternal perspective over a worldly one. (Take the long view of life.)

2 Corinthians – We are still messy.  Paul explains that the mission of God is accomplished in self-sacrificing and suffering.  True joy is found in absolute surrender to the eternal plan of God.  True strength is found in contentment in weakness.  True life is found in living like Jesus.  (Walk the way Jesus did, suffering for the glory of God)

Galatians – What is the relationship of the Christian to the Law?  You are freed from it!  It is no longer a burden but a joy that teaches us the character of God.  When you trusted Jesus, your sinful nature was crucified and you were redeemed from the law to a new life in Christ that is free to live in radical obedience to Christ.

Ephesians – Romans in Miniature… seriously, it is very similar.  Two parts, chapters 1-3 are dominantly theological in nature and give us the foundation for chapters 4-6 which are dominantly pragmatic.  The letter focuses on being unified around the truth and living in loving community with one another because of the glorious truth of God’s rescuing work in our hearts.

Philippians – Jesus is the humble servant whom we should imitate.  We are called to humble service to each other and to this world.  In learning to live the way Jesus did, we find true contentment.

Colossians – You ARE NEW!!!  Jesus has done a work in you that has removed your sin and made you a new creation.  Live like it!

1 Thessalonians – Timothy’s church has been working well in the Gospel.  There struggles in this life will not persist.  God is coming back and so Paul exhorts them to take the long view and continue to live a life that models Christ-likeness.

2 Thessalonians – The end is coming! The Lord will judge the enemies of God and will redeem His own.  Holdfast, it wont be long now.

Pastoral Letters

1 Timothy – A letter to a young pastor that describes how the church should look.  The church is founded on the authority of God’s Word and must submit to the truth in it.  The church is focused on the Mission of the Gospel reaching the world.  The church will be a difficult place to serve.  So teach the Bible well and with all love for the people.

2 Timothy – Paul says, “I was serious about that first letter…  Teach well the Scripture!”  This life is a battlefield not a playground so go to war by teaching the truth of the Gospel.

Titus – Organize the church, teach sound doctrine, work hard to live on mission, and don’t fret too much those who are going to turn on you.

Philemon – Those who were once slaves need to be counted as brothers.

The other Letters – Look like what you believe.  There are loads of false teachers.  The end is near.

Hebrews – Jesus is better than everything!  A better high priest, a better prophet, a better leader, a better sacrifice, a better heavenly king, etc…  Jesus is better!

James – Faith is validated by work, so if you believe, get to work!

1 Peter – In the midst of the war of this life remember God is here in your suffering and will bring you through it because you are His!  You will live holy and in suffering find contentment.  You are in the army of Jesus Christ for the Gospel!  Take the long view.  Heaven is better than here.

2 Peter – Not only is God here, but He is also coming back to rescue you even now!  Many false teachers will rise, work hard to know the LORD and you will find joy in Him.  Join in the war by proclaiming the truth.  It won’t be long, holdfast!

1 John – How do you know that you believe?  God is love and He has loved you, has it made a difference.  The evidence of Christ in your heart is not that you have repented once, but that you repented and are continuing in a lifestyle of repentance and change in Jesus.

2 John – The woman and her children are exhorted to continue to walk in faith and watch out for the false teachers.

3 John – Walk in the truth, for that brings your pastors the greatest Joy!  Imitate Jesus, not wickedness.

Jude – False teachers will be judged as they were and are from the Old Testament.  Remember you are in the last days and many will come and scoff.  Holdfast to the faith of Jesus Christ and live in mercy and strive to rescue a dying world with the Gospel.

The Last Things

Revelation – Jesus is King, Jesus Was King, Jesus is coming back to reign as King!

Short Summaries of The Old Testament Books.

I was asked how I would summarize the book of Exodus succinctly the other day.  I thought about it… it is difficult to summarize any of God’s words succinctly because God’s words are so full of meaning.  But I gave it my best effort on the phone.  After that brief conversation I thought this would be a fun exercise.   I have laid out brief summations of each book.  For better summaries check out Mark Dever’s book: The Message of the Old Testament. It’s an easy read.  This was not a laborious task but a fun exercise.  This is not an academic work that I would turn in for publication, please be gracious.  It took me about 30 minutes… if I left something out you think critical to an extremely brief overview of a book, put it in the comments.

The books of history

Outline:

Genesis through Exodus -God establishes a people

Leviticus- Deut. – God establishes a Law

Joshua- Judges – God establishes a Land

Ruth- 1 Samuel – God establishes a King

2 Samuel – 1 Kings – the people lose the law and the king

2 Kings – 2 Chronicles- the people lose the land

Ezra – Esther – God restores the people, The Law, The Land…  they await the King. (who will be prophet and priest as well.)

Genesis,

In Genesis God creates, establishes, and provides for mankind.  Mankind rebels, rejects God’s leadership, and attempts to make provision for them.  In the midst of rejection, God chooses for himself a weak and small people to display his character and love through to the world.  The people of God need the animating power of God within them and the gracious love of God coming out of them.

Exodus

God sets his people free and then provides them a framework to live in freedom with one another.  God teaches us what a free man looks like, that is one who can freely submit to God’s law and love.  God’s people prove that they are not righteous on their own and yet God continues to love and lead them into freedom.  The people of God need a deliverer who will teach them to live in freedom well.

Leviticus

God teaches his people what worship looks like establishing that the life must be entirely surrendered to Him in worship.  Only when we worship in absolute surrender can we truly worship.  The people of God need the life of God to be able worship Him in truth.

Numbers

God organizes his people for the walk into the Promised Land.  The people rebel and God remains faithful to provide and protect them from their own failures.  People die because of rebellion, God redeems out of rebellion, and the wandering in the wilderness establishes a thirst for the Promised Land in the people of God.  The people of God need God’s heart inside them to give them courage to follow and obey.

Deuteronomy

God explains how the people of God are to relate to the outside world.  The Governmental structure of God’s people is established and God’s people are ready to enter the Promised Land under new leadership.  God promises a Prophet, Priest, King who will come and redeem the people from their slavery to sin.  The people of God need the Word of God written on their hearts.

Joshua

The people of God enter the Promised Land, take much of it and yet fail to drive out everyone God has commanded.  God invites other cultures into Israel and is often spurned by them.  The people of Israel learn that they must obey the LORD fully.  The people of God need a conqueror who will go before them and guide them to obedience to righteousness.

Judges

The cycle of depravity begins in the people of God.  They sin, suffer, supplicate, and are saved, then they sin, suffer, supplicated, and are saved, then they sin… etc… (I tried really hard to make those all start with ‘S’… impressed?)  The judges that are ruling over the people constantly break God’s law until the final one (Samson) who breaks every law imaginable.  The book ends in civil war.  God’s people need The King (God himself) to rule them in love and change their hearts.

Ruth

In Ruth God shows His love and what His love is like for his people.  The main relationship is God’s relationship to Naomi, representing Israel.  Ruth is the Love of God for Israel and if you’re a careful reader you’ll see that Ruth and Boaz obey the law extremely closely.  God’s people have God’s love and God will one day send a King who will change their hearts.

1 Samuel

God gives Israel a king because of their rebellious heart and that human king proves to be inadequate.  God shows his standards are not like man’s and are in fact better than man’s standards.  Israel needs God to rule them as king.

2 Samuel

God’s appointed King fails and begins the downfall of Israel.  Human kings cannot substitute for God himself and the people of God need The King.

1 Kings

The Kingdom of Israel has a slow downfall and split.  They are in desperate need of The King of God who will also serve as the voice of God.  The northern Kingdom is overtaken by idolatry and the voice of the LORD is denied even in the face of miraculous power.  The people of God need The Prophet who is going to lead them to repentance.

2 Kings

The prophet’s obedience in the northern Kingdom is contrasted with the bloody disobedience of the kings.  The southern kingdom (Judah) soon follows suit and both are exiled from the Promised Land in an effort to restore their love for The LORD.  The people of God need The Prophet who will bring them out of exile into Sabbath rest with God through the free life of worship.

The books of 1 and 2 Kings focus on the Northern Kingdom, 1 and 2 Chronicles focuses on the Southern Kingdom.

1 Chronicles

Saul was a tragic failure, David was a great king, and yet neither one could accomplish the completion of the temple of God.  David leads people to worship the Lord; however worship is left incomplete because the temple of God is not there.  The people of God need a temple to aid them in proper worship of God.

2 Chronicles

Solomon builds the temple and amasses wealth for the nation of Judah.  Good and bad kings follow and yet the people of God always fall back to a lifestyle of wickedness and rejection of God.  The people of God need to become so intertwined with the worship of God that they become the temple of God.  The people of God need The Priest who will lead them to become the temple of God.

Ezra-Nehemiah (originally one book)

The people return from exile.  Ezra restores the worship of God and restores the Word to its rightful place at the center of God’s worship.  Nehemiah restores the governmental defenses and holy purity of the city of God.  The people repent.  The temple is rebuilt and the walls of Jerusalem are restored.  The people of God need The Prophet, Priest, King to return to live among them.

Esther

Even in exile God is faithful to protect and defend His chosen people.  Esther rises to be the queen of Persia and the enemies of the people of God are cast down.  God protects His people and will soon restore them in His promised land.

The Books of Poetry

Job

God is just in tragedy because He is God and He is good.  God is faithful not because He keeps us out of trouble and tragedy; rather He is faithful in His intimate walk with us through trouble.

Psalms

God is great, man is weak.  Be honest with God, He can handle it.  He is here with you.

Proverbs

General truths couched in an understanding that one must obey in order to find delight in the worship of God.

Ecclesiastes

All material gain/worldly pleasure comes to naught.  Worship the LORD while you are young.  In the end, He is all that remains.

Song of Solomon

God loves His people with a powerful romantic love.  This is how a husband loves his wife.  This is how Jesus loves His church.

The Books of Prophecy – Judgement comes, rredemption and restoration follow…  God is good in both

Isaiah

Idolatry will kill the people of God and false worship is not acceptable.  The Lord will redeem His people through a suffering servant who will save His people from death.  The Lord will retain form Himself a people who will worship Him in spirit and truth.  He will not only retain them, He will establish them.

Jeremiah

The message of the Lord is rejected.  Jeremiah has only 2 converts in his entire prophetic career and one of those is questionable.  The people of God have turned to their own broken cisterns for sustenance and find themselves in need of the life giving water of God.  God will restore His people, but not until after they are torn down completely.

Lamentations

Jeremiah explains how awful it feels to be a prophet who is rejected by everyone!  God can take your pain and your complaints…  He is big enough to handle them.  God is good and we need to trust Him even in our complaints.

Ezekiel

God is AWESOME and real!  God is a personal intimate God who is vast and powerfully holy and transcendent!  Judgment is coming but so is restoration and redemption.  They will come in God’s time and they will be AWESOME!

Daniel

Even in the exile, God is faithful to protect His people.  He rules all things and peoples, even the things and peoples that are outside of the Promised Land.  God will one day make that known to the entire earth!

Hosea

Israel is a prostitute.  God loves her still and redeems her despite her total rejection of His love.  The people of God will lose everything but God will keep a remnant for Himself and establish them in His love.

Joel

The day of the Lord will come, destroy everything and then God will redeem.  God will only redeem after judgment and repentance.

Amos

Turn or Burn.  No seriously.  His message is: repent or die.  Israel does not repent and is subsequently put into exile.  (Another interesting point is that Amos is primarily disgusted with social injustice.)

Obadiah

Edom is going to be destroyed.  Only the people of God (here, “the house of Jacob”) will be saved from the impending doom.

Jonah

The Lord is the only judge.  Jonah disobeys and the Lord uses even Jonah’s disobedience to save.  The Lord’s plan is to rescue the dying.  Jonah thought it was to exalt the Jews.  Jonah and God have a debate.  (It might help to think of Jonah as the antagonist vs. God as the protagonist in the story.)

Micah

God is going to destroy Zion but will redeem through a coming messiah.  Sin is deadly and kills, but God loves and redeems even the sinner.  God is complex and personal.

Nahum

God will only put up with injustice and mockery for so long.  Assyria will be destroyed for their rejection of God. (Contrast Nineveh portrayed here, roughly 150 years after Jonah, with the repentance found in Jonah)

Habakkuk

A conversation between the Lord and His prophet.  Habakkuk asks why injustice persists.  God answers, it won’t persist forever.  Habakkuk questions God’s methods. God answers that He is the one in control and He shows that in the end He will redeem in total justice.

Zephaniah

Those who are hidden in God will be saved.  Those who take refuge elsewhere will not.   Trust the LORD for your salvation, nothing else will do.

Haggai

Rebuild the temple!  Set forth the worship of God above all else.  He has never broken His covenant with you; do not break your faith in Him.

Zechariah

Return to the Lord, for Joy is in Him!  God will punish the oppressors and set right the Kingdom.  Return to the Lord, for Joy is found in Him.

Malachi (the Italian Prophet- lol)

God is Love and He righteously judges the wicked, but He will shower blessing on His remnant.

God continues the work

I was about 8 years old when it clicked.  I asked dad why he was always going to Africa.  He began to tell me about the great need of the world.  He began to explain to me there was trouble in the world, people were dying in Africa, and God wanted dad to go.  I had heard about the mission my family was on.  I knew that I was in a family that had a mission to help a dying world learn life.  But, it finally clicked.  God saves and God wants to use His people to rescue.

Shortly following the conversation with my dad, Pastor Paul Calmes preached a sermon about Samson.  I don’t remember the details, but I remember thinking, “If God can use a guy that breaks all the rules and denies that God is good, then maybe he could use me too.”  I remember this because George Foreman was going to fight Evander Holyfield that evening and we were going to watch it.  (When you lived in Michigan in the 80’s, Boxing was a big deal!)  During the sermon, I drew a picture of Foreman stepping on Holyfield. (If you remember that fight…  I picked the wrong guy)  I vividly remember looking at my dad, wanting to show him what I had drawn.  I looked up and his focus was intensely glued to Pastor Paul who was explaining that God uses broken people to accomplish rescue.  What dad and mom had tried to drill into me suddenly clicked.  Jesus came to save, He came to save me, He called me to mission, and I was in!  Jesus saved my dad and gave him mission.  God is Amazing!!  I was in, let’s do this!

I told my dad I wanted to walk forward.  Now, just to clarify, my parents wanted to be careful and walked me through the Word of God for the next 6 months before I was baptized.  By the time I made my public proclamation I knew God had rescued my soul and had put my faith in Jesus as my Savior fully.

Now, what is crazy about my conversion experience is that God didn’t stop moving in me.  He has been constantly moving in my heart to change me to be more like His image each day.  And each day I realize just how far I’ve been brought and how much further He is going to take me.  He has blessed, built, broken, molded, raised, razed, changed, lifted, reproved, motivated, inspired, deflated, humbled, moved, focused, and rescued me!  One of the greatest truths about salvation is that God is not finished when you prayed for Him to save you.  He is not finished when you walk forward and get dunked.  God has just started…  This is a walk with Jesus, not a moment in time.  I would tell you stories of God’s work in my life from EVERY YEAR since that day it clicked and, indeed, I started to write it down.  After page 3, I had reached the age of 14 and I realized I had 17 more years of joy to cover.  So, I decided you’ll get this abbreviated encouragement.

For us, let us cling to Paul’s admonition.  “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 1:6.  Jesus is not done in you… trust Him!

The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

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