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New Testament Overview Parts 1, 2 & 3 (10 minutes each)

New Testament Overview Videos

This is a gift from BibleRoads –  a New Testament overview video in about thirty minutes, free. We hope many will take advantage of watching it, tell your friends, use it in Sunday School with your iPad or laptop, start a BibleRoads study program with it providing helpful background,  etc. The goal is that after getting a clearer sense of the timeline, the books, letters and stories will be more meaningful.  Then the real goal – bringing their lessons forward to our lives today – happens with ease and grace.

Enjoy this free video overview by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post.  It’s divided into three parts for ease of viewing if you want to watch it in three ten-minute segments.  Or you can watch it all at once if you prefer.  Please let us know your response and we hope it whets your appetite for further searching of the Scriptures with our many BibleRoads talks and workbooks.

This particular overview is video, meaning you have maps and slides to aid the audio. It was given prior to an in-depth five day class on three of Paul’s letters at a beautiful ranch in the Colorado Rockies this past winter. All maps shared in this presentation are by Manna Bible Maps – http://www.biblemaps.com/

(***Note: This New Testament Overview video is a great accompaniment to the Bible Roads Overview of the Old Testament. If you have not seen it yet, you can gain access by signing up for our monthly newsletter.)

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

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3 Helpful Doors into the 91st Psalm

A “fowler” trapped birds.

The 91st Psalm was our family’s go-to prayer during emergencies –like when a tornado funnel whirled dangerously close to our living room window in Oklahoma.  It’s one of the three Psalms my Mom had us memorize and pray before going to sleep—something I was incredibly grateful for as the years went by and new emergencies arose.

In World War I, many of the troopers recited Ps. 91 daily, earning its moniker as “The Soldier’s Psalm”.  Some claim the Commander of the Army’s 91st Brigade even had the Psalm printed on a small card for his men, asking them to pray with it daily.   They must have felt particularly close to it given the name of their Division.

Here are three ‘doors’ for understanding it more, which I hope you also find helpful:

1–Context. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned studying different Biblical texts is to look at their context:  what precedes and follows them.  It turns out that Ps. 90-92 are a unit, all written while Israel was in Exile, yearning for their homeland, embedded with a foreign culture, language, and religion.

Psalm 90 is the opening of Book IV of the Psalter (which has five books total) and includes Psalms 90 – 106.  While the previous Book III is full of laments over Jerusalem’s fall and the Exile, Book IV’s tone changes significantly.  It takes us back to the time of Moses since Ps. 90 is the only Psalm attributed to the great Hebrew lawgiver.  We’re reminded of the Wilderness period before there was a Temple, land or king.  It was just the people and their God, which reminds us that even in the most desolate, abandoned situation, God is in charge and reigns.  What hope this must have given the Children of Israel.

While it’s not possible that Moses actually wrote this Psalm (formed after the Exodus period), the anonymous author clearly wants to remind us that in God we find our home.  Its opening declares unequivocally:  ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (Ps 90:1).  How life-saving must have been their growing realization that home wasn’t a physical place but the presence and power of the eternal God.

The English hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) captured this in his loved Christian hymn (of the 750 he wrote!):

“O God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.”  (emphasis added)

2 – Response.  And that brings us to Psalm 91 which is a response to the petitions of Psalm 90.   Three examples:

  • 90:14 petitions: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love”

Ps. 91:5 answers: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night nor of the arrow that flies by day.”

  • 90:16 invokes: “Let your work be manifest to your servants.”

Ps. 91:14 replies: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him.”

  • 90:17 entreats: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us.”

Ps. 91:3 responds: “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler…”.

I love that these two Psalms have this meaningful ‘conversation’ of entreaty and response because it mirrors our own prayers when in need.  Petition, then declaration.  This one-two divine punch destroys fear and lifts us to the astounding reality that God is right here, present, loving us.   Wow.

3- Structure.  It’s also helpful to know what the author intended by seeing how a text naturally divides.  Psalm 91 separates into three sections:

  • Verses 1 – 2 are addressed to a believer who already understands the security the Lord provides.
  • Verses 3 – 13 is the body of the Psalm offering instruction about the Lord and describing how free and secure life is when we know God. A fowler was one who trapped birds ( 124:7) and can be easily understood as a metaphor whenever we feel trapped by something or someone. The Psalm promises:  “Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler” (Ps. 91:7)
  • Verses 14 – 16 are the triumphant climax when God speaks directly. And surely it is the benediction to our lives.

“Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
     When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
    With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.

Please share your experiences with this Psalm of Psalms!

 

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‘Go to Galilee’: A Perpetual Post-Resurrection Mandate

‘Going to Galilee’ has special meaning in Mark’s Gospel, the first of the four to be written. It’s original ending, which includes that phrase, has left Bible students head-scratching, however, for centuries.  Referring to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome just after encountering the ‘young man dressed in a white robe” (Mark 16:5) outside the tomb, it reads:

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid (16:8a, NLT). 

Could this possibly be where Mark truly ended his story?!  A significant majority of Bible scholars agree, explaining a short ending of v. 8b was added in the 2nd century CE.  Then the longer ending (vv. 9-20) was a compilation of traditions that related to the resurrection appearances of Christ Jesus found in the other Gospels as well as Acts.

Back to the original ending.  Why?!  New Testament scholar, R. Alan Culpepper writes one of the clearest explanations I’ve found:  “How could the women, who had witnessed the death of Jesus and who had seen the empty tomb…go and not tell anyone?  Mark was a skillful writer.  Perhaps shock and surprise were the reactions he intended for the church to have, for now it knew everything the women knew.  So the question comes home to haunt those who hear Mark’s Gospel.  How could they, how can we, hear these words, go and tell no one?”  (emphasis added, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary on Mark, p. 597).

And why would we be surprised to find that Mark’s Gospel actually tells us how to share the Gospel in the verse immediately before:    

‘But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee, filled with so much of the healing, teaching and preaching.  This is where his words came alive, where both disciples and crowds were eye-witnesses to the piercing through of a spiritual reality they had only hoped for.  It is to his lifework that we turn in order to follow him, to continue the work he began.  And in doing our own work as disciples, we find that resurrected Christ continuing to guide, comfort, and encourage us forward.

Perhaps Mark meant that every Christian has to find their own ‘Galilee’ – the marketplace, the neighborhood, the political arena, the home or school – where people still need to be uplifted, fed, healed, comforted.  Our ‘Galilee’ is where we find/make the time to pray, to be led, to discover the work our Father has for us just as Jesus had for his ministry. 

I find it especially comforting that even though the women might have been afraid, the angel still charged them, still called them to discipleship…and still calls us regardless of our often hesitant–or even detouring– footsteps.  That’s heartening. 

See you in ‘Galilee’.

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“Want ad for an Apostle…” 

The Apostle Paul, from a 4th-century cave painting in Ephesus, Turkey.

If God ever wrote a want ad, looking for an apostle, maybe it would include some of the qualifications below.  That may seem like a silly idea, but it was a way to begin to appreciate the remarkable career of someone who changed the course of Christianity forever.  I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it years ago when I began to realize just what one person had accomplished and the extraordinary qualifications he brought to the work.   Many have requested this after hearing it in talks, so I hope you enjoy.    “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” (Matt. 9: 37).  Indeed!

  • Must have a practical trade whereby he can support himself and not be obligated to those he serves.
  • Must be able to relate to and interact with all classes and types of people, from philosophers (Mars Hill) to tradesmen (Ephesus silversmiths and tentmakers), to politicians, government officials, women, wealthy, poor and slaves.
  • Must have an ability and willingness for public speaking (including to crowds who don’t like the message) in an articulate, thoughtful, persuasive and heartfelt way.
  • Must have a working knowledge of Hebrew and know the Scriptures about Me collected by my people, Israel, as well as understand the culture of the Temple and synagogue in which they worship.
  • Must be able to speak and write Greek, the language that the educated Gentile world uses and understands.
  • Must have demonstrated the ability to work in My vineyard, study My Law, be obedient to My teachings as best they understand them.
  • Must be freeborn and have a passport, i.e. Roman citizenship, in order to move freely throughout My world,
  • Must have significant spiritual receptivity, conviction, courage, and trust in Me, not himself or his own intellect or willpower.
  • Must have enormous nurturing abilities to express patience, tenderness, and care for those who don’t always get it, who backslide, who need course correcting.
  • Must have enough life experience that he isn’t fooled by the ways of the tempter, and is able to discern between My voice and that of the carnal mind
  • Must have the faith and courage to hear My voice in the darkest hours, such as in prison, and to consistently stand against envy, ignorance, greed, and hatred.
  • Must be on fire with the clarity and truth of the message I will provide along with indefatigable energy to walk, sail, or ride thousands of miles over three decades.

In short,  ‘I’m looking for Saul of Tarsus who I will transform into Paul.’

 

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Why linking Valentine’s Day and a Biblical Book isn’t crazy!

The judgment of Solomon, by Raphael (1483-1520) painted at the Vatican while Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel nearby.

The headline of this blog might be a head-scratcher for you.  After all, Valentine’s Day has its origin in the ancient pagan cultures of Greece and Rome when orgies celebrating romance and fertility regularly occurred. But as the Roman Empire was Christianized, the festival of Juno Februata – the Roman goddess of love, marriage, and women—was replaced with religious festivals to the Virgin Mary and an obscure Saint Valentine.  By 1536 Henry VIII, known for his womanizing, declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day and the modern custom of exchanging love messages began.

How does that relate to our Bible?  Because of that perplexing book, “The Song of Solomon” (or “Song of Songs” as it’s also called)–long been thought to be one of the most difficult books of Scripture to interpret.  Is it to be read as an allegory?  A drama?  Literally?  However one interprets it, “Song” is poetry chock full of timeless tips for lovers.  For instance, compliments, not complaints, bind the ties of affection.   A sample might be:  “ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves” (Song 1:15).

For all the steamy poetry that appears to be between a country girl and her beloved, a simple shepherd, the book made the ultimate ‘cut’:  the Canon.  Why?  Because the more we understand the love between two individuals, it is reasoned, the more we understand our relationship to God, often depicted as a marriage in the Scriptures (see the book of Hosea, especially chapter 4).

“Song” has no religious beliefs, themes or guidelines for ancient Israel, no plot that seems evident, not even a single mention of God.  And then there’s that erotic and figurative language filled with the longing, love, joy and fear of a man and woman in love.

What a puzzle it has been for Christians through the centuries, which most probably explains why Song ’s most popular interpretation is allegorical.  Couldn’t the references to love, for example, apply to God’s love for His creation, or to the love within a devoted marriage?  For Jews, it might be about God’s love for the chosen people, Israel.  And for Christians, some see it as Christ’s relation to his bride, the Church.

Whatever way one interprets “Song of Solomon”, its name derives from its opening verse:  “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” (Song 1:1).  The book concludes the Old Testament’s collection of Wisdom literature – one of the three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, along with the Law and the Prophets.  Like other books in this category, such as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, all three are attributed to the wisdom of King Solomon.   Scholars don’t believe Solomon actually wrote these books so much as an author wanted to associate its language with the renowned wisdom traditions of Solomon – not to mention, in the case of Song of Solomon, his love of women (see I Kings 11:3).

So this February 14th, perhaps try something a little different: read some love poetry from this rather baffling Biblical book.  Dig deeply to see why it has had a place in the Canon all these centuries and then please share what you discover with your fellow Bible Roads’ readers.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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