Toward a Chronological Understanding of the New Testament

My publisher just mailed me a copy of their new chronological Bible. And, well, I’m super impressed with it. I will be reviewing it later this week.

I’m happy to see that publishers are now coming out with chronological Bibles.

Thomas Nelson created one several years ago. And Tyndale just came out with one last month. (I’ll be reviewing it soon.)

Why a chronological Bible?

Well . . . have you ever read your Bible without understanding what you were reading?

Have you ever read any of Paul’s letters and wondered, What did he mean when he penned this verse? Whom was this letter written to specifically? What were the people like to whom he wrote? Where was Paul when he wrote, and what was he feeling? What events prompted Paul to write this letter in the first place?

Have you ever read through the Book of Acts and thought to yourself, When exactly did these events take place? And at what point in this riveting epic did Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude pen their letters? How do all of the Books in the NT fit together? What special historical events were occurring during the first century, and what influence did they have on the early church?

To my mind, reading the NT chronologically and narratively has it’s value. Here are four reasons why.

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Standing on the Side of Church History

Thomas Nelson has kindly made available the Appendix of my new book with Leonard Sweet, Jesus: A Theography.

In the original manuscript, the Appendix appeared as Chapter 1 of the book. But our editor felt we should move it the back so the flow of the story wasn’t broken.

Len and I wanted this part of the book in the front because it would let readers know right out of the gate that our basic supposition is firmly rooted in the history of the body of Christ . . . across denominational and religious partisan lines.

The Appendix is called Post-Apostolic Witnesses.

While we don’t agree with everything that the authors we quote ever wrote . . . nor do we agree with every word of some of the quotes we cite (for instance, I don’t agree with C.S. Lewis that only Christ, and not the Bible, is the word of God) . . . we stand with all of them on their main contention that Jesus Christ is the subject of all Scripture – both Old and New Testament – and the Bible is “the book of the church” (as Bonhoeffer put it).

Click here to read it.

Two other things.

1. Christian Books (CBD) recently interviewed me on Jesus, biblical interpretation, and the gospel. Click here to listen to it or hear it on iTunes.

2. I typically don’t post reviews of my own books on this blog. But this one was so remarkable that I wanted to give it some airplay.[Continue Reading...]

Sowing Seeds of Discord: Part IV

“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” 

~ Proverbs 6:16, 19

So far we’ve covered three ways in which seeds of discord are sown in the body of Christ.

The first is to tell others what someone else allegedly said about them.

The second is to misrepresent others.

The third is to judge the motives of another.

In this post, I’m going to address another. It’s what the Bible calls “heresy.”

The popular understanding of heresy is that it refers to false doctrine. But this is not entirely correct.

While heresy certainly includes the teaching of false doctrine, the Greek word translated “heresies” in the New Testament actually refers to creating a sect. That is, it’s the act of dividing a body of believers by persuading them to rally around a certain idea or practice . . . even if that idea or practice happens to be true.

Consequently, a person can be a heretic with the truth.

Let me give you a real-life example from a church I once knew many years ago.[Continue Reading...]

Sowing Seeds of Discord: Part III

“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

~ Proverbs 6:16, 19

One sure way to destroy a friendship, alienate people, and cause division is to judge another person’s motives.

It’s perfectly fine to judge someone’s actions.

Lying about someone is wrong. Paying them a sincere compliment is good. Those are value judgments.

But to impute motives to their hearts is wrong and Scripture condemns it.

When someone says something like, “Tommy told that joke because he was trying to garner attention and is full of pride.”

Or . . .

“Candy wore that dress because she was trying to impress Rick.”

Or  . . .

“Bill posted that update on his Facebook page because he was trying to make Andrea jealous.”

Or . . . “Tim said all of that in order to prove to himself that he’s better than his father” . . . they are attempting to read someone else’s heart.

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Sowing Seeds of Discord: Part II

“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” 

~ Proverbs 6:16, 19

Imagine that one of the bloggers you regularly read writes a post accusing Billy Graham of being a racist.

As you continue to read the post, the blogger buttresses her accusation saying, “It’s clear that Graham is a racist from his own book Nearing Home on page 77.

The blogger then uses guilt by association, saying, “Another evidence that Graham is a racist is that he was good friends with Harry Carney, who belonged to the KKK in 1965.”

Or  . . .

“Graham quotes Thomas Jefferson who was a racist. So Graham is clearly a racist too.”

Now . . . believe it or not, a certain percentage of Christians reading those charges will believe that Billy Graham is a racist.

Why? Simply because a professing Christian accused him of being such.

And . . . they mentioned a book and a page number as well as an association.

Those who know Graham and/or his work will blow off the accusation, knowing that it’s not true.

And the blogger will instantly lose credibility with them.

But the naïve, the gullible, and those who are inclined to think the worst about others will swallow it hook, line, and sinker. Some will even be so irresponsible and reckless as to repeat it to others.

A few people who once loved Graham will disown him.[Continue Reading...]

Sowing Seeds of Discord: Part I

“There are six things the LORD hates – no, seven things he detests . . . a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

~ Proverbs 6:16, 19

In this new series, I’m going to identify a number of common ways in which seeds of discord (dissension) are sown among sistren and brethren in Christ.

We’ll look at the first today and the rest this week.

The first is rather subtle so it broadsides many Christians when it takes place. This is how it works.

One of your friends . . . a Christian, perhaps even a member of your fellowship . . . says the following to you:

 “You know, Jimmy doesn’t like you . . . I’m telling you this because I’m your friend.”

Or they may say something like:

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think you should know that Twila said such and such about you.”

Immediately, your defenses go up. You feel insulted. Hurt.

You suddently look at Jimmy and Twila, whom you’ve regarded as trusted friends, in a completely different light.

Your friend was doing you a favor by telling you these things . . . right?

Think again. [Continue Reading...]

On the Creeds

In Reimagining Church, I set forth the authority of the Scriptures as being the unchangeable standard for Christian faith and practice – including church practice. In the course of the book, I also discuss the creeds of the Christian faith saying,

Historic Christian teaching on the essential doctrines of the faith plays a crucial role in keeping a church on scriptural track. Throughout the centuries, Christians have preserved the core beliefs of our faith: Jesus Christ is God and man, He was born of a virgin, He was crucified for our sins, He rose again in bodily form, etc.

These core beliefs do not belong to any one ecclesiastical tradition or denomination. Instead, they are the heritage of all genuine believers. And they reflect the voice of the church throughout history. These “essentials of the faith” embody what C. S. Lewis called Mere Christianity—“the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” (Vincent of Lerins in these words: “Christianity is what has been held always, everywhere, and by all.”)

Thus the call to recover the ecology of the New Testament church doesn’t translate into a summons to reinvent the religious wheel on every theological issue. Nor does it include a rejection of all that has been passed down to us by our spiritual forefathers. At the same time, everything that is postapostolic is subject to scrutiny and should be critiqued by the apostolic tradition itself.

The call to restore organic Christianity sides with every voice of the past that has remained true to apostolic revelation—no matter what segment of the historic church to which they may have belonged. The primitive church was rooted in the soil of Christian truth. And staying within that soil requires that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. As C. H. Spurgeon affirmed, “I intend to grasp tightly with one hand the truths I have already learned, and to keep the other hand wide open to take in the things I do not yet know.”

Reimagining Church, pp. 237-238

What follows are the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed – two creeds I believe all Christians should be familiar with as they are part of our heritage.

While these creeds aren’t complete theological statements, they are correct theological statements. And they represent the consensus of the body of Christ throughout the ages.[Continue Reading...]

The Nines 2012

Today begins the Christian Web conference called the Nines, put on by Leadership Network.

Todd Rhoades, who is coordinating the event, kindly invited me to speak this year. Thanks Todd.

Unfortunately, I had to decline the invitation to the Nines 2012. The timing wasn’t right. I was immersed in another project, traveling and speaking at other events, and I barely had enough time to brush my teeth!

I felt bad saying “no” to the invitation, however. But I felt a little better when I discovered that my friend and colleague Leonard Sweet also declined the Nines this year.

Anywho, if you’re interested in checking out the Nines 2012, you can click the link at the top of this post. Some of my favorite people who will be speaking are Phil Cooke, Ed Stetzer, Kem Meyer, Scott Williams, and Neil Cole. So I commend it to you.

For those of you who wanted a contribution from yours truly for the Nines, here it is:[Continue Reading...]

Beyond Kindness

Going through a tough time? Experiencing a crisis, a trial, an insuperable problem?

Contrary to what you might be feeling right now, let me remind you that your Lord is a good God.

He is a God of kindness and mercy.

Sometimes we need to remind one another about this. Especially if we’re going through the northeast corner of hell.

The Lord allows pain and suffering to come into our lives for reasons too numerous to list.

Sometimes it is to get our attention, to soften our hearts, and to bring us to a place of sheer desperation for Him.

Other times it is to show us areas of our lives that we would have never seen before.

Sometimes it is to demonstrate His power and glory against the dark backdrop of a black night.

Other times it is to build something eternal within our character that cannot easily be dismembered.

When we’re walking through the fire, it’s easy to doubt God’s love and care for us.

But here are two proofs of God’s unwavering love for you.

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