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This is a great overview video explaining the structure of Matthew 1-13. Attached is a printable poster which can help you as you read through this gospel.
This is a great overview video explaining the structure of Matthew 14-28. Attached is a printable poster which can help you as you read through this gospel.
"30 Minutes in the Bible"- Matthew podcast. These guys talk through verse by verse and explain how to read this gospel.
This is more of a traditional Bible Study format than 1517. There is a sole teacher moving through the text, not a dialogue like 1517.
Looking at Matthew in its Jewish Christian perspective. Does a good job of bringing the ancient world into your very life!
Here is a full 12 week course on how to read and understand Matthew.
Practical Character Leading to Christian Obedience:
Serious skills and tools for no-nonsense followers of Christ
-Humility- Andrew Murray
-Compassion- Henri Nouwen
-Bold Love- Dan Allender
-The Peacemaker- Ken Sande
-The 21 Most Important Minutes in a Leader’s Day- John Maxwell
-Encouragement- Larry Crabb and Dan Allender
-Mentoring Leaders- Carson Pue
-Ordering Your Private World- Gordon MacDonald
-Brokenness: The Heart God Revives- Nancy Leigh DeMoss
-Overcoming Sin and Temptation- Editors Kelly Kepic and Justin Taylor
-The Screwtape Letters- C.S. Lewis
-The Rest of God- Mark Buchanan
Growing Past Infancy:
Experiencing breakthroughs into maturity
-How People Grow- Henry Cloud & John Townsend
-The Celebration of Discipline- Richard Foster
-Inside Out- Larry Crabb
-Experiencing God- Henry Blackaby
-Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands- Paul David Tripp
-The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation- Jim Wilder and Michel Hendricks
-Emotionally Healthy Discipleship- Peter Scazzero
-The Cost of Discipleship- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
-Renovation of the Heart- Dallas Willard
-A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23- Phillip Keller
-Hinds Feet on High Places- Hannah Hurnard
-The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth- John Maxwell
-Family Ties that Bind- Richard Richardson
-The Imitation of Christ- Thomas á Kempis
-A Long Obedience in the Same Direction- Eugene Peterson
-Leap Over a Wall- Eugene Peterson
Cultivating a Heart of Worship and Wonder:
Motivation for a life given to Jesus
-Desiring God- John Piper
-Awe- David Paul Tripp
-The Pursuit of God- A.W. Tozer
-Worship Matters- Bob Kauflin
Learning to Love Praying:
How to taste and see that the Lord is good!
-How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People- Peter Greig
-Practicing the Presence of God- Brother Lawrence
-The Prayer Life- Andrew Murray
-Purpose in Prayer- EM Bounds
-The Songs of Jesus- Timothy Keller
-The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions- Arthur Bennett
-Praying with Paul- D. A. Carson
-A Simple Way to Pray- Martin Luther (trans. Harrison)
-Hearing God- Dallas Willard
-Answering God- Eugene Peterson
Biographies, Autobiographies and Other Inspiring Stories:
Becoming inspired by those who have run the race before us.
-Through Gates of Splendor- Elizabeth Elliot
-Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire- Jim Cymbala
-The Cross and the Switchblade- David Wilkerson
-Bruchko- Bruce Olson
-In God’s Underground- Richard Wurmbrand
-The Hiding Place- Corrie Ten Boom
-A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael- Elisabeth Elliot
-21 Servants of Sovereign Joy- John Piper
-George Mueller- Faith Coxe Bailey
-The Confessions of St. Augustine- Augustine of Hippo
-Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners- John Bunyan
Accessible Theology: Thinking Deeply About the Most Important Things:
How can we love and obey what we don’t know?
-Knowing God- J.I. Packer
-Delighting in the Trinity- Michael Reeves
-Surprised by Hope- N.T. Wright
-Paul, the Spirit and the People of God- Gordon Fee
-The Divine Conspiracy- Dallas Willard
-Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers- Dane Ortlund
-Basic Christianity- John Stott
-The Drama of Scripture- Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen
-The Holiness of God- RC Sproul
-Mere Christianity- C.S. Lewis
-Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament- Christopher J.H. Wright
-What is the Gospel?- Greg Gilbert
-The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller
-The Pleasures of God- John Piper
-Simply Christian- N.T. Wright
Do you remember back in the day when the Gideons were allowed to hand out Bibles in school? I do. I think I still have my original copy from the early 90s. Did you ever stop and ask why Psalms and Proverbs were included? The New Testament made sense, but what is the big deal about these two?
Well, turns out a lot. Of all of the books of the Bible, only Psalms can truly be described as "words of God" while simultaneously being "words to God". Every other book in the Bible does something spectacular: they make a way for the holy, infinite, incomprehensible God to be revealed to a limited and frail humanity. The Psalms paint a picture of the Majestic One through metaphor and emotion in a way that prose could never match. And yet, the Psalms also gives us a faithful vehicle for responding back to him. You see, just as the disciples were at a loss for words when it came to prayer and fostering an inner life, we too need to be apprenticed into communicating back up to our holy God. For 2000 years the Church-and the Jews 500 years before them-tutored under the Psalms learning to pray and worship.
When I preach through a psalm I typically use two great commentaries:
-James Mays' Psalms
-Walter Brueggemann and William Bellinger's Psalms
In November (2020) I began to read a psalm alongside May's commentary each morning as a devotional practice. What began to happen was amazing, Dallas Willard can sum it up better than I ever could:
“Still today the Old Testament book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life. This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to him. If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life. And that is by no means a matter, as some suggest, of the “poetic effect” of the great language. No mere emotional lift is involved. What makes the language great and provides the emotional lift is chiefly its picture of God and of life. We learn from the Psalms how to think and act in reference to God. We drink in God and God's world from them. They provide a vocabulary for living Godward, one inspired by God himself. They show us who God is, and that expands and lifts and directs our minds and hearts." ― The Divine Conspiracy
If you are interested in trying this, I recommend Derek Kidner's Psalms for a rich devotional experience. Let me know how it changes your whole perception of reality!
If you are interested in going deeper in learning to communicate with God through the Psalms, here are two awesome books on the Psalms that may be worth checking out :
-Answering God- Eugene Peterson
-The Case for the Psalms- NT Wright
The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayers become.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We'll get to Proverbs and other Wisdom Literature another time. Hopefully this gives us some material to start exploring in the meantime. See below for two different ways to study the Psalms.
These are some podcasts that my professor has graciously allowed me to put on our website. They go through each Psalm giving us a context for understanding.
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither."
What does this actually look like? When Jesus read and reflected on Psalms what tools were available to him as a Jew that we simply don't know about? How might he have read them different from us? How does reflecting on one psalm deeply affect its meaning?
Let's try unpacking a psalm together! We'll pick one of the psalms from my Rebuilding series; let's say Psalm 95.
In Hebrew poetry there are three things that drive meaning in a psalm:
Identify and interpret all the imagery employed in the psalm
eg. God is our refuge and strength
eg. Dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me.
Typically in the psalms, every two lines work together. The second line interacts with and builds upon the first. There are lots of different types that a psalmist can use.
eg. Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!
eg. As a doe longs for running streams,
so longs my soul for you, my God.
Note all repetition and its effect on the development of thought. This can be a specific word or phrase, or it can be an idea said differently.
eg. Psalm 46: God as refuge, fortress, etc.
eg. Psalm 121: watch
1.Print off Psalm 95 in a word document. Make it landscape so you have more room to comment, circle, diagram, etc.
2.See Link for my work on Psalm 95.
3. Try it yourself!
1.See how I broke down the psalm into its little sections? Verses 1-2 go with 3-5, verse 6 goes with 7, verses 8-11 go together. We can tell because the theme changes in each of the three sections. Repetition of "Oh come" help us to identify the sections.
2. Look at all the metaphors in the psalm. Did I miss any other figures of speech? How do these images teach? When putting two dissimilar objects together for comparison what insight do we gain? What does it mean that God has "hands"? What about metaphors that are so common we skip over them- "hardening the heart" or "know my ways"? Stop and think about the image presented again. Lastly, honour the limitations of a metaphor. What does the Bible say elsewhere that may hedge in interpretation here? Alternatively, how may it expand my horizons?
3. How does each second line contradict, develop, clarify or illustrate the first line in each verse? Look at verse 3 and 4. The psalmist could just say "all things are in God's realm". But look at the power in phrasing it this way instead. What are the theological implications of the way he chose to say it instead? How does saying the same thing, from a slightly different angle create insight? (BTW, neuro-science is now telling us that when we do this we tap into "break the box" thinking which allows for higher problem solving functions. Forced associations create alternative neurological-pathways allowing greater creativity than patterned pathways.)
Further resources for deeper study
1.Great overview of our tools at work! https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/art-biblical-poetry/
2. Sandra Richter- Old Testament scholar explains how to pray, read and meditate on the Psalms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_WoFU8LyLA
1. Bible Project- Metaphor in Biblical Poetry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9W5afjndtU
2. Essay from a biblical scholar-
1. Two videos on how to utilize parallelism
a. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEL87NWUfFw b. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpd4qVXJyGc
2.Types of Parallelism https://www.olivetree.com/blog/poetry-bible-parallelism/
1. Bible Project- Repetition https://bibleproject.com/blog/biblical-storytelling-repetition-themes/
There is an ancient practice for meditative Scripture reading in the Church that Evangelicals are pretty new to. It's called lectio divina. Just like spaghetti or butter chicken the recipes are endless and pretty broad. For many, this has led to wholesale rejection of the practice in favour of rigorous Bible study (as seen above in our other exercise). There are some highly subjective, individualistic forms of this practice which end up "tickling the itching ears of the listener" like Paul warned in 2 Timothy. However, if a disciple of Christ is also studying Scripture on a regular basis in its original context searching for its intended meaning, lectio divina can be paired up with it to create something powerful. The temptation with study is that knowledge can become the end goal. Both feeling and thinking are not ends in themselves; our will is. God's word needs to get us to the point of forcing a decision or action in us; will we believe and obey or falter and reject?
For a step by step walkthrough on lectio divina see https://intervarsity.org/blog/study-bible-through-lectio-divina
A few notes I would add:
1. Psalms are meant to be felt as much as thought. When we read a Psalm listen to the emotion, and the imagery present in the psalmist's expression. Can you empathetically experience what he is feeling? What does this teach about God, what does it teach about you?
2. Be a Berean. Is what I am hearing actually God or did I get it wrong? Let Bible verses flood in from all over the Scriptures to confirm or correct your perspective. Part of the journey inward with Scripture means that we are learning to hear God's voice. Our own psychology and the world's influence will always be hoping to get a word in.
3. Your imagination can become a tool for God too. God has and continues to use dreams and visions to bring people to Christ all over the world. In narrative sections of Scripture, can you imagine the scene with all five senses? What could you miss by only reading it like a reporter describing the news or a scientist dissecting a specimen?
4. Journal your experience and compare it over time to see trends on what God may be telling you but still waiting for a response from you. On the flip-side if you are always hearing the same thing, it may be a sign that you need to grow in your breadth and depth of biblical knowledge.
For a critique on lectio divina see:
And a very thoughtful response:
Kolb's theory of learning is very helpful here. Think both/and not either/or. We will be invariably drawn to a more logical or more experiential form of spirituality based on our personality, life experience, faith tradition, etc. The key is to strive to become proficient at both.
Dr. Keith Bodner's 8 part "Bodcast" where he travels through the Psalter painting a powerful portrait of God's journey with Israel.
Worship is our grateful response to a gracious King!
In the ancient world, to live in a kingdom under a king or queen required three basic things: obedience, honour or reverence and service. As Christians we believe that God is the King above all kings and we desire to gratefully and fully respond!
Sometimes we tend toward the sphere where we most naturally feel comfortable, either the tradition we were raised in, or maybe the one that corresponds with our personality. But if God is our king, worship needs to be a reflection of our gratitude in all areas of our life! If you feel stuck in your walk with God, maybe it would be helpful to stop and reflect on how you are living in his kingdom. Worship in its many forms is the channel we communicate to our God.
I tend toward the red sphere, as I am more analytical. I value knowledge and keeping God's commands. Sometimes God pushes me to put my knowledge into service for him or others. Most often though, God calls me into more heartfelt praise even though it is not as comfortable for me as an intellectual faith. Becoming a balanced Christian is God's will for our lives.
Check out all three verses above for examples of people who were over-focused on a form of response toward God. Jesus wanted them to move into a fuller response to his rule and corrected them in their imbalance. What is God asking you to move into?
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
We all go through hard times in life. What is God's will for our lives during and after these times?
How to not waste a hard time:
-In a journal describe the present struggle and all of the dangers against you. Pour out your emotions and all of your painful prayers in present tense, in the moment. Do you have people who can walk with you through this valley (2 Cor. 1)?
-After the struggle is over, and God has rescued you, write down your present emotions, prayers, etc. Compare them alongside your journal entry from the event.
-Reflect on Scripture and note the promises of God’s covenant to you a Child of God. Compare it to his rescue. Note how different you are before and after the rescue.
-Describe the change before Christians and non-Christians.
-Transfer your faith and hope into their situation (2 Cor. 1).
-Corporately give thanks for your rescue, pray for theirs. In this way you are able to faith and hope for them. You are able to carry them through and suffer alongside them as a fellow traveller.
"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High." Psalm 50:14
In the Psalms we actually find a powerful template on how to "sacrifice" an offering of thanksgiving.
HOW TO GIVE A TESTIMONY
1. Life Before Meeting Jesus (or a Recent Hard Time as a Christian) (ie.Verses 1-5)
2. Jesus’ Intervention and Rescue
3. Reflection Leading to Thanksgiving (ie.Verses 6-7)
4. Individually Give Him Praise Before Others (ie.Verses 8-9)
5. Invite the Hearers to Join in Praising God (Present) and to Trust in Him (Future) (ie. Verses 8-9)
Like a spark that ignites an entire pile of kindling, God can use us to encourage each other.
Giving a testimony of God’s past or present rescue is a form of worship!
*Taken from the Thanksgiving Service 2021
"Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about," . . . Remember that line from A Charlie Brown Christmas? What is the big deal about Christmas anyway (well, I mean besides presents, eggnog and Nat King Cole)? Why did Christmas ever become such an important date on the calendar?
One Word. . . The Incarnation.
Here is the modernized audiobook- On The Incarnation- the classic book on the true meaning of Christmas, written over 1600 years ago by the famous church father, Athanasius the Great! It explains why the Son came to earth, and why it really matters that God and man have been bonded together forever in Jesus! We look back on Jesus' birth as a special event: unrepeatable, in some ways inexplicable and yet always awe inspiring. "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"- 2 Corinthians 9:15
"There's something about Christmas time
Something about Christmas time
That makes you wish it was Christmas every day
To see the joy in the children's eyes
The way that the old folks smile
Says that Christmas will never go away"
Maybe the Incarnation is something to enjoy, not just at a Christmas Eve service but all through the year!
P.S. Put your thinking caps on for this one, its worth the effort! If you ever want to discuss this amazing book I'd love to chat about it over a coffee!
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