This Fall we have been considering the Big Story of the Bible. I want to give some reasons why it is so important to be familiar with this Story, but first, I want to give a recap of each chapter to refresh our memories. Prelude: God’s Eternal Covenant – The Father and the Son make an agreement and plan, called the Covenant of Redemption, before the creation of the world to redeem a people who will glorify the Son for all eternity. Where to find in the Bible: Hebrews 13:20; John 17:1-5; Ephesians 1:4 Chapter 1: Creation – In the act of creation God sets the stage for the blessings of redemption to be worked out, culminating in the New Creation. Where to find in the Bible: Genesis 1-2 Chapter 2: Fall – In God’s sovereign, redemption plan, he allows Adam and Eve to fall into sin; through sin, death and all evil enters into creation, necessitating redemption. Where to find in the Bible: Genesis 3 ... Keep Reading

God’s Big Story begins before Creation and ends with New Creation. It started with a plan between the Father and the Son to redeem a people. The Story ends with those redeemed people basking in the glory of the Father and the Son for all eternity. The Story weaves through all of human history and ties the Bible into a unity. The Completion of the Story is still future and involves the final restoration of God’s people and creation. We receive a glimpse into God’s end game when Paul writes in Ephesians 2:7, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God loves rebellious sinners back to life because he wants to display the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness” for all eternity. God is most glorified when the depth of his grace is magnified and enjoyed by his people. Revelation 21 and 22 give us a glimpse of the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness.” Hear the words coming from the heavenly throne: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). The covenant promise of relationship with God is consummated with no more barriers. Sin will be eradicated and removed. Death will be no more. All that has caused pain and suffering will be gone. The new heavens and new earth replace the old creation that has been marred by the curse of sin. The pinnacle of new creation is the pure, uninterrupted, undefiled joy in the presence of God. That is the ”immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness.” ... Keep Reading

Unending Thanksgiving

November 24, 2022 | by: John Lee | 0 Comments

“Happy Thanksgiving!” A simple yet helpful phrase reminding us here in the United States that it is the last Thursday of November. It’s the time of year for many of us that is filled with the joy of family, food, and counting one’s blessings from the Lord. For others, this year’s Thanksgiving is extremely difficult. It has been a year of life challenges, hardships, loss of loved ones, and it may simply seem impossible to give thanks. Yet, wherever you find yourself today, God’s gracious call for us to give thanks in all circumstances is not unprecedented. In a way, the imperative to give thanks is a reorienting grace. If you are like me, my heart’s giving of thanks often finds root in things that are quite movable, unstable, and shaky. We often learn the hard way that the wonderful and good gifts God blesses His children with are unreliable sources for lasting thanksgiving. So, I’d like to draw our attention to the wonderful eternal truths in Psalm 136, a reminder that our thanksgiving finds its source in something, or rather someone, immovable. In this Psalm’s 26 verses, the psalmist lays forth the command to give thanks and the reasons for doing so. For this Touchpoint, we’ll hone in on the first 3 verses of this psalm. These first 3 verses frame the rest of this psalm. Let’s take a look: ... Keep Reading

Chapter 10, Application, and Chapter 11, Expansion, of the Big Story of the Bible go hand in hand. Application focused on the theological work of the Holy Spirit applying the redemption accomplished by Christ. Expansion focuses on the historical outworking of that application in the church age. The full fruit of God’s Covenant of Redemption expand farther and farther to every corner of the earth. Jesus’ final words before his ascension in Acts 1:8 give an outline not only for the book of Acts, but also this chapter of the Big Story. He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The witness of Christ’s redemption expanded outward like ripples from Jerusalem. In Acts 1-7 the attention is primarily on the Jerusalem church. The persecution that arose after the martyrdom of Stephen pushed the church to expand out to Judea and Samaria. We see this expansion in Acts 8-12. And then the Holy Spirit led the church at Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas to carry the gospel to the Gentiles outside of that Palestine region. In each of his three missionary journeys, Paul travels farther and farther from Judea (Acts 13-20). Acts concludes recounting the story of Paul’s trials and travels to Rome (Acts 21-28). This was God’s design from the beginning. He told Abram in Genesis 12:3, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The expansion of the church, through the preaching of the gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfillment of Genesis 12:3. Jesus also said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). Jesus says that the end, namely, his second coming, will not occur until the gospel has been preached through the whole world. It is not only the proclamation of the gospel that is predicted. In John’s vision of the throne room of heaven, he hears the angelic host praising the Lamb, saying, “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Jesus has effectively purchased a people for God. This specific group of people will hear the gospel and respond in faith. Jesus didn’t shed his blood just to give people the possibility of being saved. Jesus shed his blood to save them. And this group of people is from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” The work of redemption accomplished by Jesus and applied by the Spirit must expand to every tribe and language and people and nation. ... Keep Reading

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises made in the Covenant of Redemption. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the law, satisfied the just wrath of God, and paved the way for all believers to be reconciled to the Father. Jesus purchased and accomplished redemption. Question 29 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks and answers, “How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.” Chapter 10 of the Big Story of the Bible focuses on this Application by the Holy Spirit. Let me address this topic by asking three questions: why, how, and what. Why do we need the Holy Spirit to apply the finished work of Christ to us? Can’t we just do this by ourselves? The resounding message of Scripture is No! The apostle Paul says we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1). He also quotes Psalm 14 in Romans 3:10-1 when he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” What Paul is describing in these passages is the dead condition of the human heart. Ezekiel calls this condition “a heart of stone” (Ez. 36:26). Therefore Jesus explains that one must be “born again” by the Spirit (John 3:5). The Spirit removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh so we can cling to Christ by faith. Apart from this work of the Spirit, no one will ever enjoy the finished work of Christ. ... Keep Reading

Jesus is the center of the Bible. Jesus is the focus of the Bible. Jesus is the thread that ties the Bible all together. Whether we read the Old Testament or the New Testament, we rightly ask how this passage reveals Jesus. This is because the Bible tells the story of God’s covenant of redemption. This plan of redemption was established befor... Keep Reading

Reading our Bibles with the Big Story of the Bible in mind protects us from a common fallacy. Many believe that the God of the Old Testament is a god of law and judgment while the God of the New Testament is a god of grace and forgiveness. The Big Story reminds us of the unity of the Bible and the consistency of God throughout the story. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The true God of the Bible is a God of holiness, justice, righteousness, wrath, grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Familiarity with the Big Story helps us understand how these attributes fit perfectly in our gloriously good God. The Old Testament story of the exile helps us. God is patient and slow to anger, but Israel runs out of time. God allows two neighboring kingdoms of Israel to “punish” them for their unfaithfulness. During this time, many of the faithful wonder if the blessings of God have ended. God still affirms his promises to bless. In 2 Kings 17 we read about the fall of Israel, the northern nation, to the Assyrians. The key verse is verse 7: “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…” This occurred about in the year of 721 BC. In 2 Kings 24-25, we read of the fall of Judah, the southern nation, to the Babylonians. Judah’s fall and exile occurred over a period of time between 605-586 BC. The key verses in regard to Judah are found in 23:26-27, where we read, “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him…” ... Keep Reading

The Old Testament closes on a high note, with some disappointment mingled in. In Chapter 7 of the Big Story of the Bible, we learned about the exile. The covenant people of God were removed from their land because of their unfaithfulness. Even in that punishment, we hear of the hope of restoration. The return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem are but a foreshadow of the true, deeper restoration God desires for his people. Hence the note of disappointment at the end of the Old Testament: the people of God were still waiting for the Promised One to come. We read the story of Israel’s restoration to their land in Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel’s restoration is a picture of and reminder that God is faithful to his promise to bless his people. During this time, we hear the promises of God being reaffirmed to give hope to the people. In Ezra we read of the first exiles returning to the land during the reign of Cyrus of the Persian Empire. They immediately seek to rebuild the temple. In Nehemiah we read of more Israelites returning to Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership some 70 years after the first exiles returned in Ezra. Nehemiah led the efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in order to provide basic protection for the city. The Israelites faced significant opposition to their rebuilding process of Jerusalem, but God was faithful to seeing them through to the end. ... Keep Reading

Have you ever imagined being the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? You have two sons. One of them comes to you and wants out. He has had enough of the family living and wants freedom. You have only loved him, cared for him, and provided for him. If he would only remain with you, he would be set for life. But he rejects all that by demanding his portion of the inheritance so he can be free. Once he leaves, you look for any sort of update that a traveler may have about your prodigal son. You pray daily for his return. You grieve over him when you learn of his promiscuous living. You become anxious when you hear he is financially destitute. You pray and hope he would return, broken from the experiences. This is the experience of God with Old Testament Israel. He gives them everything to be blessed and to be a blessing: a covenant, people, land, and a king, not to mention the promises of one to come. Yet, time after time, Israel wants out. They want to worship idols according to their own imaginations. They want to be like other nations with multiple gods. They believe the lie that God is withholding blessings from them. God does not look for updates about how Israel is doing, but he actively sends his prophets to warn Israel of their crash course with destruction. This is Chapter 6 in the Big Story of the Bible: Unfaithfulness. In chapter 5 we saw God give Israel yet another blessing, a king who is the foreshadow and ancestor of the Promised One. David, and his son Solomon, enjoyed a great period of peace and prosperity. That all comes to an end when Solomon’s heart wanders. 1 Kings 11:1 & 1 says, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God.” Solomon, and all Israel with him, became like the prodigal son. ... Keep Reading

In Chapter 4 of the Big Story of the Bible, God formed the nation of Israel by rescuing them out of Egypt, entering into a covenant with them at Sinai, and then establishing them in the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. It is from this nation that the promised seed of the woman would come. In the next chapter of the Big Story, we see this nation reject God, again; but God works this rejection into the story of the promised one to come. Chapter 5 is called Kingdom and covers the biblical books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and the poetry books of Psalms through Song of Solomon (the writings of David and Solomon). In 1 Samuel 8:6 the people of Israel tell Samuel the prophet, “Give us a king to judge us.” God explains to Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7). I stated last week that Israel in the Old Testament serves as a mirror for us, revealing how the human heart tends to drift away from God. In rejecting God as king, Israel shows us our tendency to resist the rule of God in our life. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, humans look for ways to avoid God. We desperately need the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent and rescue us from our sinful inclination to rebel. At first, God gives the people what they want. Israel gets Saul as king. He is taller and stronger than other men. He is a powerful military leader and decisive. But, just like Israel, Saul ignores God and takes matters into his own hands. Samuel pronounces to Saul, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Sam. 15:23). ... Keep Reading

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