Listen

“Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”

These words are some of the most well-known words in all of Scripture – at least for Israel. This passage is called the “Shema” which means “Listen” (from the first word) and was repeated morning and night by devout Israelites throughout history.

So what’s the point? To listen, to hear, to let this truth enter deeply into your being so that you can live it.

God is ours! Is God really yours? Are you part of the family of God? Have you become part of the covenant of God?

God is one! No polytheism here but God in three persons. As I am male but human so God is Father but God, Son but God and Spirit but God. More importantly, in context it’s quite possible what God was really saying is simply “I AM God – me alone”.

Love God! God is love! (1 John 4:8) and we should love Him! This is a covenant relationship (think marriage!). Let your whole life – what you think, say and do – revolve around God.

Are you listening?

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He Cares

In Numbers 35:9-15 Moses has recorded God’s instructions concerning Cities of Refuge. These were cities, scattered throughout the land, where a person could go if they had unintentionally killed someone – to escape any would be “blood avengers”. In other words to escape the lynch mob, the angry family member, etc. As long as they stayed in this city they were safe from harm.

These cities of refuge demonstrate God’s concern with justice and His compassion for people – not just His people (Israelites) but all people. In verse 15 the text says foreigners and temporary residents are included in this legislation.

God is a god of both justice and compassion and we should be too. God wanted the right thing done at the right time – and until there was time to have a trial a person should not unjustly be “avenged” for what they had done – accidental killing in this case.

Are you as concerned with both justice and compassion as God?

“He cares for those who take refuge in Him” Nahum 1:7

Do you Care like God does?

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Compassion, Confession & Consequences

In Numbers 14:17-24 we have recorded for us the interaction between God and Moses after the spies refused to trust God.

First, it is amazing that we have – available to us – the recorded conversation of a man (Moses) and God! And this conversation was from around 1445 BC! Crazy!

After the ten plagues and the miracles in the wilderness (manna, water, quail, pillar, cloud) the people of Israel still did not trust God to take care of them. This is kind of like us when after 40 years (or however many) we’ve always had food and shelter and then lose a job and wonder how we’ll manage? The same way we did for the previous 40 (or however many) – by faith!

Another crazy aspect of this portion of Scripture is that Moses intercedes for the people and God actually forgives them! Like Abraham bargaining with God for Sodom or the poor soul that needed bread in the late night hour in the Gospels – God hears the prayer. And by hear I mean He answers in the affirmative!

God pardoned/forgave them because Moses asked! What if Moses hadn’t cared and hadn’t asked?

It’s not just God demonstrating compassion here, Moses has learned from God what it means to care deeply about people – even when they don’t care deeply in return. In fact from God’s perspective, they have been disobedient, disloyal, despising of Him and tested Him. And yet, He’s willing to pardon at the request of Moses.

Alas, the pardon does not eradicate the effects/consequences of this rebellion – they have forfeited the land. Only the faithful Caleb (and Joshua) will enter the land. There are consequences to our sin. Others pay the price as well

  • the children of the Israelite’s paid the price
  • the whole nation paid as they wandered in the wilderness
  • even the faithful paid as they wandered for 40 years too!

As I reflect on this Old Testament passage today I am again thankful for the gift of the Old Testament – an act of God’s grace to reveal Himself to us!

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Observe This

The word “observe” can mean to simply “notice” something or it can mean “to fulfill or comply with”. It is this latter meaning that is the predominant way in which the word is used in the Bible.

In Numbers  (I know, one of your favorite chapters, right!?), God lays out an opportunity for those who were not able to participate in the regular Passover to have a second chance to participate in another Passover a month later (Did you know there were two Passovers?).

If you read Numbers 9:4-5, 9-12 you will notice the word “observe” (HCSB translation) five times. God says observe…observe…observe…observe…observe…observe. And then there’s all those pesky little prepositions like “on”, “at”, “in”, “with”.

God is pretty intent on one thing in this passage – that His people fully participate in (“comply with” from our earlier definition) the Passover celebration. This “command” (verse 5) is so important to God he allows a second chance (makes a “way”) for those who are “disqualified” from participating the first time it’s celebrated.

Are you observing “everything (verse 5) God has “commanded” you to do?

Let’s get back to the basics – actually obey what we know – and then God will show us the next step.

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The Radical Book For Kids

The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton is anything but “just for kids”. This phenomenal book belongs in everyone’s library. If you don’t have a library start one and make this your first purchase.

This engaging and illustrative book is packed with charts, info-grams, call-outs, and even recipes (unleavened bread). We read this with our nine year old son as part of our bed-time routine and I might have liked it more than him (and I’ve been teaching Bible for 20 years).

The sixty-seven chapters deal with everything from understanding the structure and contents of the Bible to jewels in the Bible, making a sundial, Christian symbols, making pottery, how to memorize anything, explaining God’s glory, growing up, Latin words and more.

Adults and kids will both learn from this great book. A top pick.

About Kevin : I have been teaching the Bible for 20+ years in Churches, Schools and Colleges as well as involved in church planting, food service industry, retail industry, and more. On a personal note I’m married with one son, love to camp, cook, canoe and collect books (I read some of them too!).

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The Spirituality of Paul (Book Review)

Leslie Hardin’s The Spirituality of Paul is in a sense a follow up to his book The Spirituality of Jesus.  The book deals with spiritual formation and the work of the Spirit in making believers more like Christ. This discipleship of the Spirit is unpacked from Paul’s writings and experiences in the New Testament.

Hardin deals with the following topics in the book;

  1. Practice of the Spirit
  2. Devotion to Scripture
  3. Prayer
  4.  Disciple-Making
  5. Proclaiming the Gospel
  6. Corporate Worship
  7. Holiness
  8. Spiritual Gifts
  9. Building One Another Up in the Faith
  10. Suffering
  11. Pauline Spirituality

Each topic/chapter is dealt with from the perspective of Paul. Hardin unpacks the writing and routines of Paul as they relate to the various topics above.

Hardin is blunt and honest in his grappling of these issues as he states “Paul frustrates me” and “often seems to contradict himself” (11). The first chapter expands on this frustration as Hardin wrestles with what “spiritual” means. He views “biblical spirituality as a practical partnership with the Spirit who is already at work (17) and aims to unpack this from the record and writings of Paul in the New Testament.

One aspect of the book I really appreciated was Hardin’s emphasis on saturating yourself with the Scripture. Hardin mentions that in Romans 9-11 alone Paul alludes to over 100 Scripture passages in the Old Testament. This illustrates his point that Paul was so steeped in the Scriptures that he oozed it. He didn’t need to necessarily quote a verse to support some point, his point flowed from his Scripture saturated and Spirit filled life. Hardin lays out the phases of Scripture saturation that occur as disciples immerse themselves in the Word.

  1. Thinking about Scripture
  2. Thinking with Scripture
  3. Thinking from Scripture

At this third stage, Thinking from Scripture, we begin to s”ee all of life through the lens of Scripture” (40).

In the same chapter on Scripture, Hardin interacts with N.T. Wright and the New Perspectives on Paul movement in his discussion of “works and law”. Hardin, with Wright, argue that Paul was referring to a “Jewish-style-holiness works” and with Wright, specifically  referring to an “ethnic identity” (37).

Hardin continues his though provoking analysis of Paul on the aforementioned topics throughout the book. Here are just a couple of my other takeaways.

  1. Though a great man of prayer (he’s praying during conversion in Acts 9:11), saying more on the topic than just about any other topic, there are actually no prayers of Paul’s recorded in Scripture. Though he prayed a lot, there is little evidence of him praying for temporal, daily comforts (Although he did pray to be relieved of the “thorn in his flesh” whatever that was.).
  2. Paul’s modus operandi for training (disciple-making) was time on task (59).
  3. For Paul evangelism was about making disciples, not just winning converts. Paul’s modus operandi was to stay in one place long enough (if possible) to convey the teaching of the Christian faith and lifestyle, not just proclaim the death of Jesus and move on (87).
  4. Regarding holiness, Hardin notes, God took the initiative. We’ve been made holy, worked over from the inside out in ways that we could never accomplish on our own. Our response to God’s initiative is a life of holiness in gratitude (109).
  5. Of course there is much good material in the rest of the book as well including, thoughts on unity in the congregation, spiritual gifts and suffering.

In all Hardin’s book is a good read, a welcome additional to my library on spiritual formation and has several good gems in each chapter.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Books N More (April 4)

Catch The Gospel Coalition (TGC) live today through the end of the conference here. In conjunction with the conference check out the Zondervan ebook sale until April 9th here. Books are up to 70% or more off.

The new monthly deals are out – here’s some of them.

Fortress Press ebook Sale with 800 books under $5. Includes N.T. Wright, Bonhoeffer, Brueggemann, Walter Wink, etc. Go here.

Logos March Madness sale with up to 70% off Doulas Moo’s works here.

WORDsearch Buy 1 Get 1 Sale continues until April 10th and has added 10 more options.

Tim Challies blog has several more kindle sales listed here.

A note on ebooks and platforms:

  • Purchase based on how you use the books. If you just “read” then kindle editions are probably the best bet for most items. If you research or purchase books with lots of footnotes the best bet is probably not kindle. I find myself regularly in the dilemma of which format to purchase. For instance, currently The Practice of Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann is on sale in kindle for $4.99 while Logos has it as part of their March Madness for $11.99.
  • I’ve purchased enough books in kindle to realize that study bibles or commentaries with lots of footnotes (I actually read the footnotes) are not much fun to use in kindle. This has caused me to decide to mostly not buy commentaries or study bibles in kindle (though I’ve already purchased many!). Instead I wait until they are on sale or purchase them in a package deal with Logos. This makes my study time much more enjoyable. Brueggemann’s book on the other hand is probably just a “reading” book and thus is probably fine in kindle.
  • Just my thoughts – hope that helps some.
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