The Final Days of Jesus: A 40-Day Reading Guide

final daysThis week marks 40 days until Resurrection Sunday. While some celebrate with Lent and others do not, we should all prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To help in that endeavor, let me encourage you to pick up and read The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

A few years ago I put together a 40-day reading plan for that book.  The outline lays out daily Scripture readings from the Gospels, many intra-biblical connections to the Old Testament, and the page numbers to read from The Final Days of JesusIf you are interested in that 40-day reading plan, you can find it here.

Here is the devotional guide’s introduction. Let it be an invitation to a slow, worshipful reading of the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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Approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday: A Few Video Resources

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
— Galatians 4:4–7 —

Looking for ways to prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

A few years ago Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger teamed up to write a book called The Final Days of JesusIn it they produced a harmony of the Gospels, a “play-by-play” of everything that happened from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the day of his crucifixion (Good Friday) to the day of his vindication (Resurrection Sunday). This is a great resource, but maybe one to schedule for next year.

In the meantime, consider a shorter series of videos based on the book. In what follows Justin Taylor has teamed up with Köstenberger and a number of other biblical scholars (e.g., Douglas Moo, Grant Osbourne, Nicholas Perrin, and Paul Maier) to lay out the historical background and theological significance of Christ’s final week in eight 4-minute videos. And explanation for the dates and the content of these videos can be found in their book.

As you prepare this Holy Weekend, these videos would be a great encouragement. To watch them all would take less than an hour (approx. 40 min.). In that time you would be greatly encouraged and instructed with how and why Jesus did what he did as he approached his cross, the reason for which he came to earth.

Psalm Sunday, March 29, AD 33.

Monday, March 30, AD 33.

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

Maundy Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

Good Friday, April 3, AD 33.

Saturday, April 4, AD 33.

Resurrection Sunday, April 5, AD 33.

For those in the Woodbridge, Virginia area looking for a Good Friday service, please join us at Occoquan Bible Church at 7:00pm. And if you are looking for a church home, we’d love to have you join us on Sunday (at 9:30am or 11:00am).

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Jeremy Lin’s Faith: Keeping Our Heads in the Midst of Linsanity

“Gods come pretty cheap these days.  You can make one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop.”

Those classic words, spoken by Barbara Hershey in the movie Hoosiers embody what has taken place in the life of Jeremy Lin in the last 72-hours.  In less than half a week, he has gone from being a skilled bench warmer to an NBA superstar who just schooled one of the league’s best basketball players, Kobe Bryant.

However, it seems that Lin would want nothing less than to make him into an idol.  Instead of using basketball as a means of promoting himself, it seems that his greatest aim is to make much of Jesus as he plays basketball.  Give a listen.

It is doubtful that Lin, at the time of this interview, could have anticipated what took place in Market Square Garden last night.  Just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had never heard of Jeremy Linn–and neither had the rest of us.  Today, Kobe and the basketball watching world knows all too well about the sensational point guard who came out of nowhere to outscore Kobe and to send the Los Angeles Lakers back to the West Coast with a defeat.  Here are the highlights.

As I watched the highlights, I was–and still am–amazed.  In four games, Lin has become a household name, scoring and 25, 28, 23 and 38 points–not to mention averaging over eight assists in those games. Because I have a fondness for basketball and underdogs, the Jeremy Lin story is great. Unrecruited out of high school and undrafted out of college, Linn’s success is even more amazing than the Heisman-winning, two-time national champion  Tim Tebow.

But there is more.  Not only is Lin a great ball player.  He rightly sees basketball as a gift from God, and he desires to use it as a platform for ministry.  To get a sense of this, read Timothy Dalrymple‘s eye-opening interview with Lin when he was still a college player (March 3, 2010).  In it Dalrymple asks Lin about how his Christian faith and basketball intersect. His interview, is called “The Faith and Fate of Jeremy Linn” (Part 1, Part 2).

A FEW REFLECTIONS

Now in all the media hype of today, fittingly entitled, “Linsanity,” let me offer a few sobering reflections.  As with Tim Tebow and other outspoken athletes, politicians, and public figures–especially underdogs whose rise is meteoric–it is wise to not hang our hopes on them.  Consider the case of Josh Hamilton, another Christian-athlete who recently admitted to breaking his vow to never drink again.  See Evan Lenow’s helpful post “When Heroes Fail,” as he issues a similar caution.

Trust in the Gospel, not media giants. While we ought to give thanks for the way God raises up modern-day Joseph’s (and Esther’s), we should be slow to trust in man (Ps 20:7-9; 118:8-9).  Often times, Christians get more excited about the craze of attention public Christians get, thinking “this is how we are going to make a difference in the world.”  And to be sure, God uses public figures with large platforms to advance the message of the gospel.  But ought we to think that these extraordinary means are what we need for Christian impact to take place?  I think not.

God uses great and small alike.  God usually uses slower, more mundare means of sending his message–like mothers and fathers imparting the gospel into their children’s lives as they pray bedside for years.  No one sees it.  Many surely wonder of if something more spectacular is needed, and yet by the slow process of gospel witness and example, children are brought to faith. Don’t miss it.  In the interview, Lin gives attention to the impact that his parents had on him in that regard.

Let the outspoken faith of public figures spur you on, not slow you down.  While Christians have every reason to cheer on this brother in Christ, we must be careful not to make people like him and Tim Tebow our evangelistic replacements.  Every member of the body of Christ is called to evangelize, not to fall prey to the idea that God has raised up big names to do our work for us.  In comparison with Lin, it is tempting to distrust our own ability to influence others for Christ.  The temptation arises: If only I had a greater testimony, than I could be useful.  But such is not the case.  The power of the gospel has never been in the vessels who herald the message, the power is always in the word itself.

Rejoice in Lin’s heavenly status more than his earthly stats. At the same time, we should remember that Lin’s superstar career is four-games old.  He has shot into the NBA like a comet.  It is possible that his career and impact will be just as brief as a shooting star.  Or it may be God’s good pleasure to make Lin a perennial all-star.  Whatever the case may be, might we give thanks to God that his name is written in heaven on the testimony of his faith, more than the fact that a good, moral brother has his name written in lights.

Pray. Last, pray for Jeremy Lin, for Tim Tebow, and others who are under enormous pressure to perform, constant scrutiny, and for all their fame are in grave danger of isolation and narcissism.  May God protect their purity, their biblical fidelty, and their hearts from pride.  Pray for their families and their churches to reach out to them and to draw be a safe environment for these Christians to understand better what God demands and promises, instead of being bombarded for another autograph.

In the end, I find the Jeremy Lin story compelling.  It has my attention. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the story goes.  But as I watch I will be praying that God will make the light of Jesus in his life outshine his own newfound fame.

MORE

For more on Lin’s life and faith, see Michael Luo’s “Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride, and Points” (HT: Jim Hamilton)

For a rap video on Lin’s approach to the game of basketball and some thoughtful reflections on Lin’s potential to impact Asians for Christ, see my friend Owen Strachan’s post “Linsanity! Ex-Ruff Ryders Rapping & Asian-American Christianity.”

Another post on this story is also Owen Strachan, who fills in as a sports writer for by The Gospel Coalition.  His latest is called, “The Basketball Star No Body Wanted: Jeremy Lin’s Unlikely Triump.”

David Mathis and Tony Reinke provide a nice quote from Jeremy Lin, where he talks about what God has taught him from Philippians 3 about basketball and the greater prize that is found in Christ — All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Seven Habits to Becoming a Highly Effective Bible Reader

Each December, many scrupulous Christians gear up for the new year by thinking about how they will spend time in God’s word in the coming year.  For many, myself included, this is a time of self-doubt and disappointment.  Thinking back on the previous year, it becomes apparent that our goal for reading the Bible all the way through crashed on the rocks of 1 Chronicles 1-9 or petered out in Acts 11.

Yet, with a new year comes a renewed sense of hope and the prospect that this year we will finish the course.  Thus, there are many extensive plans out there.  And truly, there are many good and biblical reasons to adopt one of them–just ask John Piper.  Yet, with such an admonition comes a perilous danger–the promotion of self-sustained discipline that puffs up the strong and deflates the weak.

Thus, in what follows, I want to give seven ‘balanced’ principles for reading your Bible this year.  They are meant to give clear principles for reading your Bible well, and they are meant to give you sure promises that should be remembered if reading does not go as planned.  With tongue in cheek, you might call them “Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Bible Reader.”

Seven Bible Reading Habits 

1. Find a good translation.  Choose a translation of the Bible that is faithful to the text and accessible to you.  The New International Version is a good place to start if you have never read the Bible before. Although, beware, if you have the new updated version of the NIV, you have an edition with some gender neutral translations–see Denny Burk’s CBMW article for more information. Likewise, beware of paraphrases like the Message.  They are more like a commentary on the Bible than Scripture itself.  Still, the revised New Living Translation is paraphrase that does correspond with the original Greek and Hebrew.  For me, I have been sold on the English Standard Version since Wayne Grudem handed out a free copy in class (circa 2003). Seriously, it is a readable translation that translates the original languages word for word.   See Kevin DeYoung‘s little book for why your church should adopt this translation.

2. Use a Bible reading plan. There is no right way to read the Bible–provided you read it to behold the beauty of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Some people do better reading Morning and Evening.  Others once a day.  For some younger believers a single chapter a day would be growth in grace; for seasoned saints one chapter is not enough; and for seminarians it may be that a few verses slowly digested offset the lengthy reading required in class.  Whatever the case, find a plan and stick to it.  We never drift into spiritual disciplines.  Discipline yourself to read your Bible by finding a good plan sticking with it.

(This year, I am going to follow the “Bible Eater” by Trent Hunter.  The name makes me think of a mythopoetic monster and may seem a little silly, but the language flows straight from Scripture (Ezek 2:8ff; Matt 4:4).  This plan includes 2 OT chapters and 1 NT chapter a day, plus 6 “extended reading days,” with plenty of catch up days each month. Justin Taylor has also provided a number of helpful Bible reading plans).

3. Write in your Bible.  When I first read the Bible, I NEVER wrote in it.  I venerated my manufactured copy as much as the stones Moses inscribed and put in the tabernacle.  Somewhere in that first year though, I acquired a gold-colored pen.  It was the perfect gilded ink to underline in my Bible.  Since then, I have marked up innumerable Bible’s.  Cross-references, sermon notes, key verses and words, all get marked in the margins.  What I failed to understand at the beginning of my Bible reading was that the purpose of my Bible is not for me to look spiritual carrying down the church hall, or to feel good that I have multiple versions; the purpose of Bible reading is to get God’s printed word into my heart (cf Ps 119:9, 11).  Thus, pick up your Bible and your pen.  You will be a much more attentive reader and the notes will help you later understand God’s word better.

4. Know where to go when you don’t know.  Inevitably, you will find passages, chapters, and even books of the Bible that make little sense. In those instances, what will you do?  You can take on the belief that a time of devotion should only touch the heart and not inform the mind; or you can have a plan for finding an answer.  Picking up a one-volume Bible commentary would be a good place to begin.  Using a Study Bible, like the ESV Study Bible or the HCSB Study Bible, is another option.  With the advent of technology, you might be able to download a couple Bible references works to your phone, iPad, or computer.  Or, you could simply shoot email, text, or call a friend or pastor about it.  Few things delight a pastor’s heart more than an earnest question about Gog and Magog or the other people raised to life at Jesus’ crucifixion–plus, it will make them do some research, too.

5. Preach the gospel to yourself on days you fail to read.  The goal of reading your Bible daily is not reading your Bible daily; it is meeting with the living God as you hear his voice in the pages of Scripture.  Thus, if you miss a day, do not feel that you have missed God. In my life, God’s grace has been most evident on days I have “failed” to have a “quiet time,” because it has forced me to trust in God’s unmerited grace, and not my religious consistency.  God has called us to experience him in all of life, not just in Bible study.  Thus you should not feel guilty for missing; instead you should feel desirous for the next time you spend with him.

6. Congregate.  Don’t be a “Bible and me” Christian.  You and your Bible are not enough. Your Bible reading should be part of a lifestyle that orbits around the life of a local body of believers.  If you are weak at reading the Bible regularly, you need to be around the teaching of God’s word and the accountability and fellowship of other believers.  If you are strong at Bible reading, you need to share what you have learned with others, and then invite others to read with you.

7. Pray for God’s mercy.  Becoming a faithful reader of Scripture does not come by following these or any other seven steps.  You must have an appetite for the Word of God and eyes that behold Jesus as beautiful and not boring.  And the truth is, you cannot give yourself either.  If you have a hunger and thirst for God’s word, if you have understanding into its riches, if you love hearing, singing, and conversing about it; it is attributed to the grace of God alone.  To paraphrase 1 John 4:10, “If you love God’s word, God’s Word first loved you and died on the cross to give you such love!”

Thus, in the exact same way, if you struggle to read the Bible because you don’t see its relevance and place in your life, if you would rather workout, watch TV, or twitter away on Facebook, then pray to God to have mercy on you!  It may be that such a distaste for God’s word is evidence of your spiritual separation from God; but it also could be the corrosive effects of the world on your heart.  Go to God in prayer, asking him to give you an unquenchable desire for God’s word.  He does not turn away such requests!

Feast on the Bread, No Matter How Long It Takes

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  These words of Moses (Deut 8:3) quoted by Jesus (Matt 4:4) are a good reminder that the abundance of our living in 2012 is not measured by our physical well-being, our financial gains, or even our ability to read the Bible.  The abundance of our living depends solely on Christ.  Reading the Bible is an essential part of abiding in him, and one that is both the fuel (we live on God’s word) and the goal (we live to know God’s Word) of our Christian living.

Therefore, as you read God’s word in 2012, may our gracious God confirm the work of your hands.  As you clutch his life-giving word and strive to read from cover to cover, may you be reminded that the goal is not just to master the book, but to be mastered by the Author of the book.  To that end we labor together, with the strength that He supplies.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


What Does the Tabernacle Symbolize?

Justin Taylor has a helpful post on the meaning of the tabernacle on his blog today.  As we have seen in our study of Exodus, the tabernacle is filled with imagery that helps us better understand our own relationship with God.

Here is the ESV Study Bible note that he begins with on Exodus 25:1-31:17:

First, the tabernacle is seen as a tented palace for Israel’s divine king. He is enthroned on the ark of the covenant in the innermost Holy of Holies (the Most Holy Place). His royalty is symbolized by the purple of the curtains and his divinity by the blue. The closer items are to the Holy of Holies, the more valuable are the metals (bronze→silver→gold) of which they are made.

The other symbolic dimension is Eden. The tabernacle, like the garden of Eden, is where God dwells, and various details of the tabernacle suggest it is a mini-Eden. These parallels include the east-facing entrance guarded by cherubim, the gold, the tree of life (lampstand), and the tree of knowledge (the law). Thus God’s dwelling in the tabernacle was a step toward the restoration of paradise, which is to be completed in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21-22).

The explanation continues here with a full-color picture of the tabernacle.

For further reflections on the tabernacle see:

The Tabernacle as Typological Model

The Tabernacle as Holy Abode

The Tabernacle as God’s Meeting Place

The Tabernacle as a Royal Victory Palace

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Take This Book and Read :: 2009 Bible Reading Plans

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; 

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; 

sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; 

in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

 

Psalm 19, and in fact the whole Bible, is clear about Scripture’s perfection, wisdom, necessity, purity, veracity, and value, not to mention the benefit and pleasure of its Words.  It is all of these things because it is God’s perfect revelation to his covenant people.  And his people cannot live without it.  For those who have our hope set on heaven, God’s Word is not a trifling thing, it is our life (cf. Deuteronomy 32:41).  It is essential because its words reveal to us our Triune God and God’s gracious plan for salvation–Jesus Christ.  Nothing else compares.

But too often we neglect this book.  Sometimes for lack of desire.  Sometimes for lack of discipline.  If the former, pray!  But if the latter, pray and plan!  And in your planning, it might be helpful to use a reading guide for 2009.  Let me commend a few.

Crossway Publishers has compiled a list of 10 Reading Plans that will help you get through the Bible in 2009.  Included in this list is Mc’Cheyne’s One Year Reading Plan . This is the reading plan used in D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2).  Another helpful reading plan is the one commended by John Piper, Discipleship Journal Reading Plan . Both of these plans are excellent, as well as, the  Daily Reading Plan and the Chronological Reading Plan.

Personally, I will continue to use my own reading plan which includes 1 chapter from the gospels and 1 from the wisdom literature  in the morning; 4 OT history chapters at night (during the week), Psalms at dinner time and Sunday mornings, and 8-10 chapters of NT epistles or Minor Prophets on the Weekends.  I use this plan because of its relative flexibility and the fact that it includes material from every genre of the Bible each week, though not every day.  By God’s grace, this plan will take me through the Bible in 2009, with a little extra in the NT.

So in 2009, what is your plan? 

It matters less which one you choose, and more that you have one. It is already January 3, and time to get going.  I pray that God will bless the time you spend in his Word. He has promised to us that he will meet with us in His living Word (cf. Heb. 4:12).  So, take this book and read, and may the Lord open your eyes to the wonders of his Word.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

P.S. Eric Schumacher has given us an ESV Study Bible reading schedule for the articles and outlines to complement our Bible reading.  I commend to you this guide, but admit with other reading this year, I will have to utilize this plan at a later date.

(HT: Justin Taylor who has a more expansive explanation of these Bible Reading Plans; Jim Hamilton at Moore to the Point who referenced Eric’s blog)