Category: Food for Thought

3 Ways Bible Dictionaries Improve Your Bible Study

Posted by on 07/24/2017 in: ,

You know what a Bible is. You also know what a dictionary is. But do you know what a Bible dictionary is, or why you should use one? Here are three reasons to use a Bible dictionary, based on my own recent study of God’s Word.

LEARN A LITTLE CHRISTIAN TRIVIA

I was reading Psalm 111 the other day and decided to pull open the Resource Guide. As I was scrolling, I noticed that “Hallelujah” was listed under Topics. Now, I know that “Hallelujah” means “Praise the Lord” (and the app told me this, too), but I was curious if there was any other information on the phrase that I hadn’t heard before.

When I tapped on “Hallelujah” and opened my Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I learned something hilarious. You see, when I was in high school, I sang in the choir, and we always sang songs that incorporated “Alleluia.” Turns out that, according to Vine’s, it’s a misspelling of “Hallelujah”! All this time I’ve been wondering what the difference was…

 


LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES IN HISTORY

Exodus 4 is another passage I was looking at recently. It’s here that Moses is instructed to inform Pharaoh that Israel is Yahweh’s “firstborn.” If Pharaoh does not relinquish the Israelites, God promises to kill the Egyptian ruler’s his firstborn son.

“Firstborn” is most definitely a key word in this passage–but what is its significance? There is a deep, rich history of God expressing the closeness of His relationship to the Israelites through this term, that is discoverable through using a Bible dictionary. Vine’s provides references to many other passages that teach about the cultural view of firstborn children in the Israelite community, revealing that it was a coveted position that held many benefits. A firstborn son was considered to be the most loved and to receive the greatest inheritance.

So, when the Israelites hear that God has called them His “firstborn,” a lot of emotions are stirred! According to Vine’s, being God’s “firstborn” meant enjoying a privileged position and blessings, in comparison all other nations. In Exodus 4, God is making it known that Israel is His prized child, and that no one—not even Pharaoh—can mess with them.


LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES FOR TODAY

But it doesn’t stop there. Vine’s is searchable, like a normal dictionary, and you can find a word’s definition for either the Old or New Testament. By looking up “firstborn” in the New Testament, I found passage after passage where Jesus is referred to as the “firstborn” (protokos) of creation. The most interesting reference I found was when John the Baptist proclaims that “He (Jesus) was first (protos) of me.” He’s saying much more than “Jesus was born before I was.” Instead, he is putting Jesus in the ultimate privileged position with God, receiving the highest blessing, because he is not just a son, but the Son.

Now, the important question: how does this apply to our lives? Time and time again we see God be faithful to His people, the Israelites. Better yet, we see the Father praise, glorify, and bless His Son. This seems like a pretty exclusive group.

But, we’re invited! When we believe in Christ’s atoning work, we are welcomed into this family. We enter this promise, into this privileged position with God. If you study the word “firstborn” across the Old and New Testaments, you can learn more about the history of God blessing those He calls His own. For thousands and thousands of years, God has been drawing people to Himself—and you are one of them.


ONE LAST THOUGHT

Overall, the main reason to use a Bible dictionary is this: The Bible is not our own. The Bible is a compilation of God speaking to His people through His people, in a time and culture we weren’t around for.  So, although we have been welcomed into this family, we must recognize that this family has existed for thousands of years! That takes a bit of help and research to understand—but it’s worth the investment.

In this blog, I used Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words—but there are lots of other helpful dictionaries out there as well! Here are a few we like and have available in our store:

Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.)

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

The IVP Dictionary Series (8 vols.)

Theological Dictionary of the Old and New Testament (TDOT & TDNT 25 vols.)

Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

DON’T SEE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?

Head on over to our website to see a list of all of our Bible dictionaries. If you have questions, remember that you can always email support@olivetree.com.

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Insight on Ecclesiastes:
When Life Seems Meaningless

Posted by on 07/21/2017 in:

Sometimes, life seems meaningless. And sometimes, God seems distant. If you’re feeling this way, you aren’t alone! The author of Ecclesiastes struggled with the same issue, but he continued to call God good and just all the same.

“The book of Ecclesiastes, or Kohelet as it’s called in Hebrew, is not meant to comfort the reader. The author was frustrated by the contradictions, tensions and incomprehensibility of life. He asked again and again if life is meaningless.

The book’s portrait of God is unlike that found in the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Nowhere does the author address God as YHWH, the more personal and intimate name for God in Hebrew and the sacred name not to be misused in the Ten Commandments. YHWH walked closely with Adam and Eve in the garden and spoke to Moses from within the burning bush.

The author instead opted for addressing God as Elohim, actually a title and a more generic and less personal Hebrew name for God. The opening lines of Genesis begin with the actions of Elohim bringing forth the heavens and the earth. Kohelet prefers this choice of addressing God, Elohim, a slightly more distant or transcendent God. “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecc 5:2). The book argues for caution and reverence for the divine (see Ecc 5). It also insists that God is both just and sovereign (see Ecc 3:17; 9:1); however, the justice of God is slow and at times seems absent: “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve” (Ecc 8:14).

The fact that Ecclesiastes is in the canon of Hebrew Scripture speaks to the depth, richness and nuance of Jewish theological and philosophical thought in the ancient world. The Christian canon also includes this theologically complex book. Human wisdom is often frustrated when contemplating life and the divine. But frustration, wondering and questioning all have a place in the religious life, which Ecclesiastes makes clear.

Ecclesiastes urges the reader to enjoy life, though much of life is cruel and meaningless. One should fear God, tread lightly and be grateful for simple pleasures.

The end of Kohelet also raises some interesting questions about the author’s view of God: “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc 12:13–14).

This passage is an epilogue, a common literary device in wisdom literature. But it also seems a bit out of place. Some scholars have suggested it was added by a later editor who was uncomfortable with the book as it was originally written.

Whether added later or written by the author, it is meant to balance out the tone of book. It is clear from the book that the author believed in God’s justice, though he did not always see it. The final line acts as a kind of last word. Whether one sees it or not, God’s justice will prevail.”

Does this encourage you? How does it give you a different perspective when you’re going through difficult times?

This blog was adapted from First-Century Study Bible Notes, on sale now.

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Generation of Hope

Posted by on 07/20/2017 in:

This blog is written by guest author Casey Fleet. He is a youth pastor at Higher Ground Church in North Carolina and is passionate about teenagers knowing Christ.

For the past six years I have engaged myself in ministry deeper than I could have ever imagined. I was ordained two years ago, and have served in many different capacities already. I am so thankful to have a loving wife and two beautiful young girls who support me. I am currently serving as a youth and a children’s pastor at my church. Working in ministry has been phenomenal for my life, changing me in many ways. Not only that, but I’ve also been able to see God touch the lives of many children and teenagers. My desire, passion, and hope for this next generation is that they will be blessed and prosperous.

I titled this blog post “Generation of Hope” because I truly want people to know that there is hope for this next generation of kids. So often we hear negative comments about the youth: “There’s no hope for them!” We even hear these comments in our churches, and it cuts me deeply. In retaliation, I hear some respond by asking, “If this generation is so bad, what does it say about the one before it?” In other words, if the younger generation is so bad, it must be because the previous generation has been doing something wrong. However, I do not believe that is the case. I believe God is preparing us for something great, working through all His children—the whole Church. I believe we are a chosen generation, and in the end, God is going to bless all of us in phenomenal ways if we pursue Him.

With all of this being said, I believe in the youth of this world. They are loving, smart, caring, helpful . . . and smart. Did I say that already? They are so smart! Instead of tearing down the children of the world today and blaming them, we should be lifting them up. We should encourage them. Do you know what that will do? Do you recognize how powerful our words are? It will create a generation of hope!

Serving teens and children has blessed me tremendously. I have been able to see them through many obstacles. In return, their love and compassion has helped me and my family as well. It is such a blessing to come alongside the youth and teach them about God’s Word. The greatest tool I have ever discovered for my study is Olive Tree Bible App. It has been my companion lately and helped me tremendously. As a matter of fact it is now my favorite app! Last week, I typed out my sermon notes in a Google doc, pasted it into the notes section in Olive Tree, and guess what—it automatically hyperlinked my scripture references. Technology is such a gift, and I am happy to use it to present hope for the next generation.

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14 Facts about Biblical Life

Posted by on 07/07/2017 in:

When you understand ancient biblical life and the culture in which Scripture was written you can more easily see how it applied to life then and how it applies to life today.

Ancient Health Practices:
1. Although there was no theory of communicable diseases, the isolation of the leper looks very much like quarantine (Lev. 13:45). The modern disease called leprosy is a particular infection called Hansen’s disease. Its symptoms are different from the leprosy mentioned in the Bible.

2. Balm is a kind of resin taken from trees by cutting the bark. It was used as a perfume and was considered effective as a medicine (Jer. 51:8). Although Gilead is mentioned together with balm (Jer. 8:22; 46:11), the substance was not produced in Gilead. It may have been transported through Gilead or sold there. Ancient pharmaceuticals consisted mainly of plant products recommended by tradition.

Ancient Food Practices:
3. The salt used in ancient times was not refined, and there was always some proportion of chemicals present in addition to sodium chloride. If the fraction useful for flavoring food was leached away by dampness, what remained was without value. It was sometimes strewn on paths like gravel, since it was “then good for nothing” (Matt. 5:13).

4. The custom of eating while reclining seems to have come from Palestine from the East. People ate from common dishes on a low table as they reclined on large couches. The banquets of the rich included musicians, fine foods, and perfumes for the guests. Ivory inlays decorated the wooden parts of luxurious furniture (Amos 6:4). Examples of such inlay survive, showing how it was carved by artisans.

5. Fasting appears in the Bible as a natural expression of feeling distress, sorrow, and guilt (Deut. 9:18). It does not play a large part in the Law of Moses, where only one mandatory fast is found – on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31). The apostle Paul called this day “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

Ancient Marriage & Family:
6. Jewish people regarded marriage as the natural duty of men and women. In line with Jewish tradition, Paul suggested that a person should marry in order to avoid sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:9). The apostle also understood marriage and celibacy to be gifts of God (7:7). When he advocated remaining single (7:8), he was conscious of people’s usual expectation that adult men, and especially religious leaders, would marry.

7. A marriage was a union of two families, not just of two people. The formalities and celebrations could continue for several days, or even into the night. Jesus told a parable of a midnight procession that took place during wedding festivities (Matt. 25:1-6). One could never know exactly when someone would return from a wedding feast (Luke 12:36).

8. The status of women in the ancient world was not the same in every culture. For example, Roman women were more independent than Greek women. The Book of Proverbs describes the “virtuous wife” (Prov. 31:10) as a woman who has authority over her household economy and is free to do many different things. She is industrious (31:13-15) and resourceful (31:16-19).

Ancient Fashion & Clothing:
9. Sandals were such personal items that they symbolically represented their owner in some legal transactions. In one type of business transaction, removal of the sandal confirmed an exchange of buying and selling. Such an exchange could even include the acquisition of a wife (Ruth 4:7-10).

10. Ancient societies did not change their fashion of clothing every year. Certain garments and styles could persist for generations. At the same time, there was room for people to exercise vanity and to advertise their rank in society (James 2:2). Rings and other items of jewelry clearly had such functions.

11. A wedding party was a substantial, almost public affair. Guests wore their best clothes as participants in an important ritual of the social order. A person who attended without being properly dressed proclaimed indifference, not so much to the one holding the party, but to the people of the village and their common interests. Jesus’ hearers would sense the dishonor of a guest lacking the appropriate wedding garment (Matt. 22:11).

Ancient Music & Literature:
12. Traditionally riddles were important tests of someone’s wisdom, insight, and skill. In some cases a riddle was offered as a test whose outcome was of far-reaching importance, if not life and death. Although Samson was marrying a Philistine woman, relations between Israelites and Philistines were strained. The Philistines were serious about finding the answer to Samson’s riddle (Judg. 14:14).

13. The ancient world had wind, percussion, and stringed instruments. The main instruments of the Israelites seem to have been small harps and percussion instruments, not including drums (1 Chr. 13:8). The percussion instruments include the metal rattle called a sistrum that was a favorite in Egypt. The titles of the psalms probably include some names of musical tunes.

14. Ministers today often use sermon illustrations to help their hearers understand a sermon’s point. In the same way, ancient Jewish teachers often told stories to illustrate whatever moral principle they were trying to communicate. Sometimes these parables had one central point. In other cases, such as Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils (Mark 4:2-8), parables included several points of comparisons. Because Jewish parables were usually stories, we understand Jesus’ parables best when we consider them as stories.

You can learn more about the historical context of Scripture by using a resource like the NKJV Chronological Study Bible!

Blog adapted from Bibleconnectionnews.com

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Yielding to God’s Purposes

Posted by on 06/23/2017 in:

“But the wisdom that is from above is the first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. –James 3:17 NKJV

Consider this: God is perfect. Eternal. Almighty. He knows everything about everyone (Ps. 139:1-4). On the other hand, we are imperfect. Sinful. Our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

So why in the world wouldn’t we align our plans with God’s purpose?

We tend to think we know enough to make our own way in life.

But because God actually cares, get over that tendency. He is God. You are His. He provides the resources you need to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 records God’s assurance to His people:

“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

God’s purpose for you is not mysterious – see Micah 6:6-8. This is the foundation of God’s will: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All of the specific decisions we make can fall under these categories.

So make every one of your actions purposeful. And know that obedience is tightly tied to how your purpose is lived out.

If God’s absolute care for you is not enough motivation, consider this: There were many times God called specific people to do specific things; and from those who did not obey He took away His hand of protection and provision (Jer. 7:13-15; Rom. 1:18-32). Even in such cases, His distance is intended to bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

David wrote Psalm 57 when he fled from Saul into the cave. Perhaps David doubted God’s purpose for him at this point. Maybe he wondered what was going on. He may have even been tempted to think God was wrong. But instead he wrote, “I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me” (Ps. 57:2-3). David did not turn away from God’s purpose for his life, even when circumstances made it difficult to see the way forward.

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). James calls us to follow Jesus’ example when he reminds us that the fruit of wisdom is becoming a person who is “willing to yield” (James 3:17).

What might the Lord be asking you to yield or surrender so that you might do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly alongside Him? Think on these things.

If you are a fan of this blog post. you can read more like it by purchasing the Know The Word Study Bible, which runs parallel to any Bible in our app.

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Love Is An Action

Posted by on 06/19/2017 in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NKJV

Faith is compelling when it is seen in action. When Jesus announced that He would be leaving, He gave one very simple and profound instruction: “Love one another.”

This is harder than it seems. We are prone to argue, hate, and fight. We default to selfishness and wanting to win. Love doesn’t naturally fit.

But we crave it.

And love is the mark of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus asked His disciples to practice the love that He modeled. If they reflected the example of Jesus’ love, they would stand out in a world that does not understand love.

Jesus explained, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).

The distinguishing mark of Jesus followers is how faith influences their daily actions: how they work alongside coworkers, how they solve problems, how they speak to spouses and children, how they work out problems with church members. Jesus’ followers live differently, demonstrating love consistently toward others.

Jesus kept it simple. He taught and demonstrated that love is an action. As John explains, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Faith transforms us into people of love who live differently in the world. There are plenty of distinguishing characteristics when it comes to the church. Unfortunately, and all too often, outsiders looking into the church see it as a place of hatred and condemnation. Our churches are to be oases of love. In a world where so many people feel beat down, insecure, and worn out, the behavior of a loving Christian is refreshing water for parched and weary souls.

Love is an action. What actions can you take to love more like Jesus? A helpful exercise may be to write down a list of ways you remember Jesus loving others as told in the Gospels. Not only will this help you to remember God’s love for you, but it will inspire you to be a person who loves as well.

Need help thinking through other passages of scripture? Know the Word Study Bible Notes (used in the writing of this blog!) can run parallel to your Bible in our app, helping you navigate and apply God’s Word to your life.

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What are the characteristics of a godly man?

Posted by on 06/12/2017 in: ,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned  to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,  but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25 NASB

Until he became engaged to Mary, Joseph’s life probably resembled that of most other men in his hometown. No doubt he had business concerns and goals for the future—but nothing seriously interrupted his daily routine until Mary informed him she was pregnant. This was when his life changed rapidly.

The news was shocking to him, and rather than disgrace Mary, Joseph planned to send her away (Matt. 1:19). But God saw the confusion building within Joseph’s mind and sent His angel to guide him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (vv. 20, 21). From this point on, Joseph never questioned the Lord’s method or motive. He realized that the God of the universe had chosen him to watch over Mary and the Son she would have. He remained faithful not only to his wife, but also to the Lord.

Joseph showed courage by ignoring the ugly rumors swirling around town about Mary’s pregnancy; he valued God’s plan above what others thought of him. He remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit, demonstrated by his acceptance of His guidance. After the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to him, warning him of impending danger. Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they found safety until the threat passed (Matt. 2:13–15). As we look at the life of Joseph, we find that he was a humble man who honored God by obeying His Word. He remained consistent and content, and he could be counted on to follow the Lord, regardless of the personal costs.

How can you grow in your faith to become a godly individual? Begin by committing yourself to a consistent, daily walk with Christ. Attend a church where the Word of God is proclaimed as the standard of life. Make a commitment to God and to your loved ones that you will not abandon your devotion to Christ or to them.

You will gain a sense of godly responsibility when you stand up for what is right. A committed Christian is not easily swayed, but is filled with conviction, faith, and a desire to know God intimately. When Joseph had no one else to guide and comfort him, he turned to God and found the strength and love he needed to get through the most difficult of circumstances.

You will, too. Will you make Joseph’s spiritual commitment your own today?

Adapted from Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes. Add it to Your Library today!

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Pentecost: A Fulfillment of the Jewish Feast

Posted by on 05/31/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
—John 14:16-17 NKJV

The Feast of Weeks

The Feast of Weeks was the festival celebrated at the beginning of the grain harvest (Exodus 34:22). This was the feast at which the Hebrews offered their firstfruits of the harvest to the Lord at the tabernacle. It was one of the three major Jewish feasts, along with the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Exodus 23:14–17; 4:18–23; Deuteronomy 16:1–17).

According to Leviticus 23:15, 16, the Feast was celebrated for seven consecutive weeks beginning “the morning following the Sabbath day” of Passover. Thus comes its title, the “Feast of Weeks.” Later in the Old Testament this feast became known as “Pentecost” (“fiftieth”), since it was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover.

Pentecost

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled as described in Acts 2. On this Day of Pentecost came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, as Christ Himself had promised (John 14:16, 17).

The Orthodox services for Pentecost place their emphasis on the descent of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness. His descent means that the Mosaic Law, given by the Lawgiver and honored on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, is now transcended: “The All-Holy Spirit, who freely distributes gifts to all, has descended and come to earth; not as He formerly had in the Law’s dark shadow, shining in the Prophets, but now in very truth, He is bestowed in us through Christ” (Vespers, Thursday after Pentecost).

The worship services for Pentecost repeatedly emphasize how Old Testament prophecies of the Holy Spirit are fulfilled on this day. Two of the greatest of these prophecies are found in the Old Testament readings for this Feast—Ezekiel 36:24–28 and Joel 3:1–5. St. Peter directly quotes the passage from Joel in his exhortation to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21). A third reading—Numbers 11:16–17, 24–29—relates how the Lord commands Moses to select seventy of the elders of Israel, who, when the Spirit comes upon them, prophesy at the tabernacle. The comment of Moses regarding this event, “Would that all the Lord’s people might be prophets when the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29), is prophetic of the Day of Pentecost.

Excerpted from a study article in the Orthodox Study Bible.

How have you felt the Holy Spirit working in you? Please share below!

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Jesus, the Peace–Bringer

Posted by on 05/30/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
—John 14:27

Peace, shalom (shah–loam). Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning “to be complete, perfect, and full.” Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks. The word shalom occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament.

In Psalm 35:27, God takes delight in the shalom (the wholeness, the total well–being) of His servant. In Isaiah 53:5, the suffering Messiah was beaten to bring us shalom. The angels understood at His birth that Jesus was to be the great peace–bringer, as they called out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14–17).

Just as the saving power of His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to have peace with God (being made right with Him, Romans 5:1), the indwelling of His life and character through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is intended to help us learn to abide in the peace of God.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart” (John 14:27). Surrender to His will and submission to His Word will bring inner rest, as we allow the peace of God to “rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is to let God’s peace act as umpire 1) over decisions that would trouble you, 2) overruling doubts that would disturb you, and 3) overthrowing the Adversary’s lies that would defeat or deter you. Perfect peace is available when the heart and mind keep focused on God’s promise, power, and presence. Trust Him.

What troubles and doubts might you need to surrender to God today?

Excerpted from a “Kingdom Dynamic” and “Word Wealth” study note in the New Spirit–Filled Life Bible.

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Introduction to the Gospels

Posted by on 05/25/2017 in: , ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” —John 20:30–31

The English word “gospel” derives from the Anglo–Saxon word godspell, which can mean either “a story about God,” or “a good story.” The latter meaning is in harmony with the Greek word translated “gospel,” euangellion, which means “good news.” In secular Greek, euangellion referred to a good report about an important event. The four gospels are the good news about the most significant events in all of history—the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense of the word, since they do not intend to present a complete life of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:30; 21:25). Apart from the birth narratives, they give little information about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. While Jesus’ public ministry lasted over three years, the gospels focus much of their attention on the last week of His life (cf. Jn 12–20). Though they are completely accurate historically, and present important biographical details of Jesus’ life, the primary purposes of the gospels are theological and apologetic (Jn 20:31). They provide authoritative answers to questions about Jesus’ life and ministry, and they strengthen believers’ assurance regarding the reality of their faith (Lk 1:4).

Although many spurious gospels were written, the church from earliest times has accepted only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired Scripture. While each Gospel has its unique perspective, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when compared to John, share a common point of view. Because of that, they are known as the synoptic (from a Greek word meaning “to see together,” or “to share a common point of view”) Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, focus on Christ’s Galilean ministry, while John focuses on His ministry in Judea. The synoptic Gospels contain numerous parables, while John records none. John and the synoptic Gospels record only two common events (Jesus’ walking on the water, and the feeding of the 5,000) prior to Passion Week. These differences between John and the synoptic Gospels, however, are not contradictory, but complementary.

Each Gospel writer wrote from a unique perspective, for a different audience. As a result, each Gospel contains distinctive elements. Taken together, the four Gospels weave a complete portrait of the God–Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe.

Learn something new? Share your thoughts!

Excerpted from the Introduction to the Gospels in The MacArthur Study Bible.

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