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THE JOURNEY … entering God’s epic story”

Session 4: Travel

Session 3 : Bearings

Session 2 : Lost

Session 1 : Pilgrim 1


Where to Find Stuff … Welcome to the Journey ........................................................................................3 >> Why it’s the right time to remember what the Bible is all about SYMBOLS Key .........................................................................................................5 >> Navigating your way through each session Session 1: Pilgrim...................................................................................................6 >> Through the epic story of God, He’s calling us to leave the comfortable behind (Group Discussion: pp. *-*; Session Notes: pp. *-*)

Week 1 Devotions..................................................................................................14 >> Get into the Gospel of Luke and find who Jesus would have you be for Him Week 2: Lost...........................................................................................................17 >> No racing ahead or repeating old steps; this six leg journey spans all of history (Group Discussion: pp. *-*; Session Notes: pp. *-*)

Week 2 Devotions..................................................................................................31 >> Get into the Gospel of Luke and find who Jesus would have you be for Him Week 3: Bearings ...................................................................................................34 >> Ignore sceptical snakes, as “God’s Word” is plausible and credible to trust today (Group Discussion: pp. *-*; Session Notes: pp. *-*)

Week 3 Devotions..................................................................................................47 >> Get into the Gospel of Luke and find who Jesus would have you be for Him Week 4: Travel .......................................................................................................50 >> Centred on Christ and His Kingdom, let’s faithfully travel in our leg of the mission (Group Discussion: pp. *-*; Session Notes: pp. *-*)

Week 4 Devotions..................................................................................................66 >> Get into the Gospel of Luke and find who Jesus would have you be for Him Appendix 1: SIGN: Pointing People to Jesus..........................................................69 >> Sick of the soap box but want to share your faith? Try this evangelism course

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Welcome to the Journey … (… and why it’s the right time to remember what the Bible is all about) I can still remember when I first started getting into the Bible. I was about eleven years old, and our family was on winter holidays at my grandparent’s property in country Victoria, Australia. It was a wet-weather kind of holiday, so I passed time exploring their quaint house, and lounging around in my bedroom. Around the house I discovered the simple pleasures of walking barefoot over quality Persian rugs, and the excitement of seeing how much money grandpa had given me in pennies as I counted out the contents of his owl-shaped money box. But by far the greatest discovery I made was an old Bible on the bookshelf in my bedroom. And as I explored, I found myself captivated by this story of God’s journey with a wandering world. Each day I would curl up under the warm sheets in bed, and read for hours on end, flicking through pages to see what gems were hidden in the text. This epic was like no other story I’d ever read. There were gritty stories with unexpected endings through the lives of characters like Joseph, Samson, and Daniel. Israel as a nation developed over time, as this child became an unpredictable teen, at times clinging to its loving Father, and at other times striving for rebellious independence. In Proverbs I found pithy wisdom and ancient humour in one, as lazy people justified inaction by appealing to dangerous lions outside their door. Obviously the Bible’s central and most enigmatic character is Jesus—I read of His guttural cry from the cross, and yet undying love at the time of His greatest loss. During this holiday, I was captivated most of all by the Psalms. David and others prayed a range of emotions I’d only begun to experience. This book was raw. And this book was real. Through this book I met God. As the years have rolled on, I keep returning to the Scriptures. God’s Word really is living and active, and it always cuts through my pretensions and brings me to face the way I walk with God and engage His world. And one day when I have a family of my own, I hope my kids will also discover their own story within the Bible’s pages. But I’m under no illusion—this will be a challenge in a world where “The Bible says” holds little or no meaning. We live in a fast-paced, noisy world. The still, small voice of God speaking through His Word is often drowned out by the cacophony of sounds constantly streaming from my t.v., iPod, mobile phone, and other media assaulting my senses. In this consumer culture, latest is greatest, and the customer is always right. This doesn’t fare well for an old story that’s slow at coming to the point—a story which confronts our idolatry with the cross. Biblical morality, miracles, and history are rejected as both an oppressive metanarrative and an unbelievable account for a scientific society. We are spiritually malnourished; all the while people avoid the Bible like brussel sprouts. 3


Sadly the picture isn’t much prettier in Christian circles. The average Christian in Australia owns eight Bibles, yet over half of us open the Bible less than once a week. And going to a church service on Sunday doesn’t necessarily help. Often we’re looking for fuel for everyday life—for how to fit God’s good advice into my story. It’s common to go message after message without the Bible being opened, a steady stream of topical preaching unlikely to seriously engage with what God has spoken. Surveying this scene, now is the right time to remember what the Bible is all about. As we cover in one of the sessions, this isn’t about a guilt trip. But if the Creator of the Universe—the one true God—really has spoken, then wouldn’t you want to know what He said? Especially if He has told us stuff we could never work out for ourselves, which directs all our journeys in this leg of the larger story. That’s what The Journey is all about. This book goes with the DVD, and includes notes, activities, and questions to guide your group during the session extra session notes to go deeper in what was shared on DVD twenty-four devotions (six per week) guiding you through the book of Luke, to get the most out of engaging God’s Word. Session one, Pilgrim, explores what is the Bible. Session two, Lost, explores what kind of story we’re in. Session three, Bearings, explores why God’s Word is worth trusting. Session four, Travel, explores how to faithfully enter God’s epic story. It’s also worth getting together one more time for a fifth session, to share how God has spoken to you each across the sessions, opening your eyes and making your heart burn as you engaged His Word. As we travel together over the next month, may you experience the childlike pleasure, excitement, and wonder of walking with God through His Word. And may you be captivated afresh by this story of God’s journey with a wandering world. For this book is raw. This book is real. And through this book, you will meet God. God bless, Dave Benson Pastor of Evangelism and Community Outreach, Kenmore Baptist Church, Brisbane, Australia www.kbc.org.au 4


SYMBOLS KEY

Navigating Your Way through Each Session Video … Each session has one video clip, divided into multiple chapters.

After each video

segment (chapter), a timer will guide you through activities before the next clip.

Take it to God … Prayer is crucial if we are to truly engage God’s Word.

Press into God at

the start of each session, that He speak to you through the Bible across the Journey.

Setting the Scene … Each session begins with a key Biblical story which frames all the activities. The story’s full version is in the Session Notes, after the group notes each week.

Truth Time … This activity is more for personal or pairs reflection.

These questions act

as a mirror, encouraging you to honestly face your engagement with God’s Word.

Try This … A number of activities are involved in each session, usually requiring you to work as a group and get into the Bible, to practice what you are learning about in ‘Drive.’

Drive … ‘Drive’ represents the main teaching blocks in each session that carry our understanding forward as we seek a dynamic and faithful way to enter God’s epic story.

Navigation … Here’s space to jot your own notes, in response to the video or activities. Fuel … Each session finishes with an inspirational biographical story that demonstrates what these principles can look like in practice. May their stories offer fuel for your journey.

Destination … When you reach the end of your session, ‘Destination’ reminds you of what still lies ahead. In particular, it highlights how to journal your way through Luke’s Gospel.

Maps … Check out these great sources if you want to explore the concepts in each session in more detail. Even a four week course is skimming the surface, so keep learning!

Session Notes … After each group discussion, but before the six weekly devotions, are ‘Session Notes’. These carry the key content for the Journey, fleshing out what is suggested in each of the video segments. Make sure you read through these with your journaling.

Journal … Here’s space to engage the Word each day, exploring six chapters of Luke’s Gospel per week. ‘Journal’ follows S.O.A.P.: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

Rear Vision … At the end of each journal entry is ‘Rear Vision’, directing you to read over one section of the Session Notes. This will help you look back over where you’ve been.

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THE JOURNEY … entering God’s epic story”

Session 1 : Pilgrim By the end of this session … I’ll understand what the Bible says about itself—that it’s an inspired and authoritative story through which God embraces and directs all our stories.

Take it to God … As a group, commit this session to God, and ask that He would give you a mind to understand, and a heart to respond to what’s in His Word.

Setting the Scene … The Day Yahweh Spoke Life was cruisy for Abraham, until the day YHWH spoke “Blessed to be a blessing”: thus begins Abram’s journey with a journeying God God’s got a thing for tents. His Spirit meets us as we disentangle from our comfortable lives and take up the journey to follow Him into a new thing Pilgrims walk with God, always moving toward the city of God We’re all on a journey somewhere. Join God and leave the comfortable behind Right at the start of the Bible, in Genesis chapter 12, we read of this rich guy named Abram. He was all settled in the city of Haran, near modern day Iraq, though some 4000 years ago. Life was pretty cruisy for Abe and his wife Sarai … the extended family got along, and the local gods they worshipped seemed to give their stamp of approval—Abram was prosperous in every way. But one day, everything radically changed. YHWH spoke. YHWH, the one true God who created everything . . . He wasn’t distant and detached like everyone had imagined. He was intimately involved in the day-to-day stuff of life on planet Earth. He’s not some static prime-mover who got the ball rolling and stepped out to leave us to our own devices. No, this God is passionate. And this God has plans that affect every single person. Especially Abram. So, YHWH spoke to Abram: “Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” 6


Okay, reality check. Abram’s settled. Life is comfortable. Leaving is painful. He’s being sent on an epic road trip to God knows where. What would you do? … I thought God was supposed to be safe! As for Abram, the Bible is matter-of-fact: “Abram departed as YHWH had spoken to him.” He packs up and sets out. … Did I mention Abram was seventy-five years old? Thus begins Abram’s journey with a journeying God. From Ur to Haran, from Haran to Canaan, the only constant is change. It’s like God’s got a thing for tents: pitching it, pulling it down, walking; pitching it, pulling it down, walking some more. Father Abram becomes Abraham, the father of a multitude. And his descendents, the Israelites, keep walking on … from Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. YHWH even has their leader Moses construct a tent for Him, imprinting on their understanding forever that this is the God of the journey. His Spirit meets us as we disentangle from our comfortable lives and take up the journey to follow Him into a new thing. Looking back on this time, the writer of Hebrews must have scratched his head reflecting on Abraham’s wandering. “He went out, not knowing where he was going?!?” Who does that? From the settled city to the portable tent, Abraham was walking with God as a pilgrim, always moving toward the city of God not made by human hands. That’s real faith. So, welcome to the Journey. My name is Dave Benson, and over the next four sessions we’ll unlock the Bible by entering God’s epic story. What is the Bible? What kind of journey does God have us on? Why should I trust that the Bible offers God’s directions? And how should I read the Bible to faithfully join this epic road trip? The Bible traverses from the Garden in Genesis to the City in Revelation. And it crosses over the Mount of Crucifixion where the ultimate pilgrim paid the price for our wandering away, so we could again walk with God. We’re all on a journey somewhere. Why not join God? God is not static. And nor is He silent. And through His Word He’s challenging each of us to leave the comfortable behind. So, have you read what He’s said?

Truth Time … Take the next 10 minutes in pairs to discuss the following: A How often do you read the Bible? I can’t even find my Bible! 1 2

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It’s my daily bread 9 10

A In a word, how would you characterize your experience reading the Bible? Explain. A Do you believe that God speaks through the Bible, even today? Why, or why not? A What inspires you to engage the Bible more? What discourages you from reading it at all? 7


Try This … As a whole group, take the next 10 minutes to discuss “What is the Bible?” A What metaphors have you heard to describe what the Bible is? (e.g. an owner’s manual) A In five words or less, finish this sentence: “The Bible is a _______________________________________________________.” A Thinking on what you’ve read in the Bible, how adequate is the description above? What parts of the Bible don’t fit within this picture?

Drive: What Is the Bible? Has God given us the wrong kind of book? Have we left it in the drawer? Is the Bible an owner’s manual for life, a divine rule book for living right? Is the Bible a collection of ‘timeless’ truths about the meaning of life? Is the Bible God’s love letter to us? Event (God steps onto history’s stage) Ö Inspiration (selected people give a Godbreathed take on history) Ö Illumination (God speaks via His living Word today) The Bible is an epic travelogue, a story of God journeying with His world to set everything right. And in the reading, we’re reshaped to join God’s mission The Bible may not be the book we wanted, but it is what we need. This book unlocks our own adventure so we can enter God’s epic story. The Bible is an inspired and authoritative story that directs all our stories. I heard this story about a woman whose dad was dying in hospital. She was stuck for the right words before he breathed his last. So in desperation she grabbed a Bible kindly left there by the Gideons. Not familiar with the book, she frantically flicked through page after page for just the right thing to say. Yet all she found was strange names, weird rituals, and unfamiliar places. In frustration, she put it back in the drawer, and composed her own words for the occasion. Clearly this was not the book she wanted. Perhaps as Christians we’re not so different. Most of us have a range of Bibles to choose from, but they stay on the shelf, or hidden in the drawer. Less than half of us even pick up our Bibles outside of church gatherings. And only one person in five reads it daily. Now, this isn’t about a guilt trip … but if the one true God really is there, and really has spoken through the Bible, then why aren’t we getting into this book? Like the woman in the hospital, I wonder if we’ve decided that God’s given us the wrong kind of book. So, what is the Bible? Everyone has some shorthand phrase to answer this. It’s the owner’s manual for life, a divine rule book for how things work, right? I guess … there is a lot of advice in Proverbs, and the Ten Commandments lay out a charter for how to live. But there are just as many examples of guys like Sampson doing the exact opposite, with hardly any moralizing. Besides which, I don’t find any owner’s manual—for my car or computer—particularly inspiring to read. 8


Okay then, the Bible is a collection of timeless truths about the meaning of life. Maybe … there are timeless truths in there, about who God is, and what went wrong. But this is the stuff of changing cultures and an ongoing history. None of us feels compelled to stone adulterers, separate fabrics, and circumcise our kids, so even when God’s the One speaking, I can’t just map His words unchanged onto my life today. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”—it’s a nice sentiment, but this is dangerously simplistic. Let’s try again: the Bible is God’s love letter to us. Now, I like a love letter as much as the next person—it makes you feel all gooey inside. And the Bible is about a God who is love, seen in Jesus on the cross. But … what about those stories of Joshua destroying the Canaanites, Ehud stabbing fat King Eglon in the stomach, and priests sacrificing thousands of cattle? It sounds more like a B-grade slasher flick than a romance. And the whole love letter metaphor doesn’t work so well with Paul’s tight-knit argument in Romans and corrective letters to the churches. Strike three. So, what is the Bible? Each picture has some substance, but leaves us short. We might want an owner’s manual, a collection of contextless truths, and a love letter, but that’s not the type of book God has given us. No wonder so few of us carve out time to engage the Word. We’re wanting pre-packaged devotions to fuel our daily living. We’re wanting a comment on our blog, or a tweet from Heaven to fit into our hectic lives; or, some kind of mystical horoscope reading, all to add excitement and direct our future. Well if the Bible, at its core, isn’t any of these things, then what is it? You’re holding this 1500 page English book in your hand that we call the Word of God, and it didn’t just drop out of Heaven. How’d this come about? Let’s go back to basics … It starts with an event, moves through inspiration, and finishes with illumination. The event is God revealing Himself on the stage of world history. God steps in and chooses Abraham, He liberates Israel, He warns through His prophets, He lives through Jesus, and He empowers the disciples. We experience God as God acts to save the world. Then comes inspiration. God wants the world to know who He is and what He’s done, so His Spirit breathes through selected people in telling a divine take on history, past, present, and future. Unlike the Koran, it’s not a word-for-word dictation … these writers and editors express themselves in their own style and cultural context. Sometimes “God speaks through me,” like with the prophets. Other times “I speak for God,” like the historians. We even find that for the poets, “I speak before God,” like in the Psalms. So the Bible is not so much one book, as a collection of 66 books written over 1500 years across three continents, using three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Bible wasn’t composed by one guy sitting in some detached room, writing universal truths for future readers. Instead, it took over 40 authors to tell this tale, ranging from Kings and prophets, through priests and philosophers, to peasants and fishermen. Now, I can’t even get a collection of five western philosophers writing in the last hundred years to agree with each other. Yet across this huge diversity, the whole Bible hangs together as one, for each author is connected by the Creator of the Universe who spoke through them. Right from the start the people of God recognized and circulated books where it was clear to the community that the one true God had spoken through His chosen witnesses, telling us who He is and what He’s doing in the world. But it took some time for everyone to agree on exactly which books would make the Bible’s final standard, or Canon, as we call it now. Within 150 years of Jesus’ life, we see the books largely agreed upon, though it wasn’t until some false teachers jumped the gun that a church council in A. D. 393 sealed the list. From there, it took the blood, sweat, and tears of numerous missionaries and 9


translators to get the Bible into nearly 3000 languages today, as the all-time most read and best selling book the world has ever seen. We didn’t get a Bible hand-written in English till around 1400 AD, and the chapter and verse divisions weren’t finalized till 1551. So, event leads to inspiration, and through transmission and translation, you’ve got this collection of books in the Bible firmly in your grip today. But finally we have illumination. YHWH, who acted in history, and then breathed through many writers to record the Scriptures, is the same God who opens your eyes as you read the Word to realize that He is speaking. Through His Spirit, we have light to see how God is working, and we’re shaped to take part in His new actions today to win back the world He loves which has gone astray. You see, God’s committed to setting everything right. He doesn’t just make a contract with us to give us good things if we give Him good things in return. Instead, He’s into Covenant, or Testament. He gives us Himself, and in turn—like a marriage—asks us to give ourselves to Him. The Old Testament is a record of God’s covenant through Abraham with the nation of Israel as His way of dealing with a planet wracked by sin. And the New Testament is a record of how Jesus, as the seed of Abraham, has fulfilled God’s plans and is making all things new. It’s the renewal of a covenant we broke, paid for in blood, and it represents the climax of God’s journey with us to set the world right. So, what is the Bible? It contains rules, but it’s not a rule book. It reveals truths about who God is, who we are, what’s wrong with the world, and how God’s setting everything right. But it’s clearly set in space-time history. And it’s a book about love, but it spells out in pain-staking detail how the cross of Jesus is the necessary cost of God’s mission to restore all things and embrace a rebellious people. So, what is it? … It’s a story. The prayers and songs, the genealogies and treaties, the letters and legal statutes, it all fits within an epic travelogue. It’s a story of journey, a story of God and His world, and it’s the true story that when read, reshapes you and me to be a people on mission with God. You see, every one of us is on a journey. And while the Bible may not be the book we wanted, it is the book we need. You may be wondering what type of tale you’ve fallen into. The Bible offers the key to unlock your own adventure, and connect it to His ultimate plans for the whole universe. It’s an uncensored account designed to be read in community to form a new humanity. This story is inspired by God, and it’s inspiring. It’s full of messy endings, raw accounts, and real people walking with, and often walking away from, their God. And as people with messy lives, or as actors lost without a script, this is exactly what we need. So God has acted and spoken in this world, telling us things we could never work out for ourselves. And this God, who holds all authority, has extended His authority through the Bible, so that as we read and engage, we’re set free to play a part in a story so much bigger than any one of our individual tales of travel. It’s a book to be read, and a book to be lived. We read it, but in the process, God’s Spirit reads us. The Bible is an inspired and authoritative story that directs all our stories. But don’t take my word for it. Open it up and see for yourself what the Bible really says.

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Try This … Let the Word Speak Over the next 15 minutes, divvy up some of the following passages to see what the Biblical authors say about the Word of God. What does each passage reveal about how they understood the Scriptures? Genesis 1:1-4 Exodus 3:1-15; 4:10-17 Numbers 23:19 2 Samuel 22:31 1 Kings 12:22; 17:24 2 Kings 1:16; 22:8-23:3 1 Chronicles 17:3 2 Chronicles 10:15

Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 19:7-10; Psalm 119:105, 140, 160 Proverbs 6:23; 30:5-6 Isaiah 40:5-8; 46:8-10; 55:8-11 Jeremiah 1:5-9; 15:16; 19:3 Jeremiah 23:29, 36 Amos 8:11-12

Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 5:17-18; 7:24 Matthew 11:27; 21:42; 26:54 Mark 1:1-3; 7:9; 12:24, 36 Luke 1:1-4; 4:21; 5:1; 8:5-15 Luke 11:28; 16:17; 24:25-27, 44 John 1:1-14; 3:12; 4:46-47; 5:39-40 John 7:17; 10:35-36; 14:26; 15:1-17 John 17:17; 20:30-31; 21:24-25 Acts 1:16; 4:25; 17:2, 11; 18:28 Romans 1:1-4; 3:4; 10:17 Romans 15:4; 16:25-27

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 Galatians 3:7-8 Ephesians 6:17 1 Thessalonians 2:13 1 Timothy 3:14-15 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17 Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12-13 James 1:21-22 1 Peter 1:10-11; 2:2 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16 Revelation 19:13; 22:18-20

Fuel: Inspiration for the Journey Blood was spilled so I can freely read my own Bible in English William Tyndale (1496-1536) thought translation was worth dying for, giving his all so God’s Word would be accessible even to a common labourer For Tyndale, God’s Word was anything but safe. And if the Bible is worth dying for, then it’s certainly worth living from S.O.A.P. up each day, journaling through Luke 1-6 this coming week May you be a pilgrim, disentangling from the predictable and rediscovering your story as you dwell in the tent of YHWH Across all of history, the Bible is unique in preservation. No other book has been more widely read, more widely sold, more widely distributed, more widely burned and banned than this book. It’s easy to forget the blood that was spilled just so I can freely read my own Bible in English. Apparently someone thought translation was worth dying for. And when it comes to the English Bible, that person is yet another pilgrim: William Tyndale. For a priest who only wanted some peace and quiet to translate the Bible, Tyndale lived an adventurous life. Born in 1496, he quickly proved to be a gifted linguist, 11


mastering eight languages including ancient Hebrew and Greek. In Tyndale’s day, access to the Bible was restricted to the few scholars and priests who were fluent in Latin. Yet his driving passion was to see even an uneducated ploughboy access God’s Word for himself. God reveals Himself through the Bible, so Tyndale figured the Scriptures should be available even to common people. This book is living and active, able to expose corruption and oppression in every form. So William’s plan was promptly blocked by those in power. In 1524 he moved to Germany to access the best Greek manuscripts, and within a year he had translated and hand-copied the entire New Testament. The Gutenberg Press was new on the scene, and Tyndale became the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. His accurate yet accessible translation has earned him the reputation, even above Shakespeare, of being the “architect of the English language.” We can thank William for turns of phrase like “blessed are the peacemakers,” “fight the good fight,” and “lead us not into temptation.” So within a few years around 6000 illegal copies were smuggled into England, hidden in bales of cotton and sacks of flour. Tyndale soon became public enemy number one. He spent eleven years as a fugitive, journeying around Europe to escape captivity, all the while working toward a translation of the Old Testament. Meanwhile, the greater the furore, the more the average citizen sought the Bible. And as they read, all kinds of practices by priests and politicians came under scrutiny. Finally Tyndale was kidnapped by a spy, accused of heresy, held captive in a castle for 500 days, and eventually strangled by rope before being burned at the stake in 1536. And all this for translating the Bible, getting it into the hands of commoners like you and me. His dying wish was screamed from the flames: “Lord! Open the King of England's eyes!” This prayer would be answered just three years later when King Henry VIII finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of a complete English Bible based on Tyndale’s translation. It was made available to local churches, accompanied by reading guides suitable even for ploughboys. The rulers burned most of Tyndale’s early New Testament prints—only three remain. But his legacy is preserved in numerous translations, especially the King James Version of 1611, where around 80 percent of the words follow William’s translation. For William Tyndale, God’s Word was anything but safe. It transformed his life from that of a quiet scholar and priest, to a fugitive translator on a mission. And it reminds me that if the Bible is worth dying for, then it’s certainly worth living from. It’s not a book to be left on the shelf or in the drawer. God speaks so we can understand and act. For all the words we’ll share across The Journey, the most important words of all are the ones you’ll engage in the Bible. Across the four sessions, can I encourage you to work through the book of Luke, six chapters a week, twenty-four chapters in all. Next session we’ll kick off by sharing how God has been speaking to you out of these passages in His living Word. The approach is simple, and it centres around journaling on what you read. Think SOAP. S is for Scripture … read the whole chapter, but focus in on one or two verses that really impact you. Write them out in full. O is for Observation … what stands out to you from these verses in light of the whole passage? What does it tell you about God and the journey He’s on, or about who we are and what we can learn from fellow travellers? A is for application … what’s one way you could live this Scripture out, and place your adventure within God’s epic story? Finally, P is for Prayer … talk to God about what He’s revealed to you, and ask for the Spirit’s help as you join God’s mission each day. Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. 12


As you journey this week, may you find what it means to be a pilgrim. Disentangle from the predictable, and rediscover your story as you dwell in the tent of YHWH.

Destination: Preparation for Next Session Over the next week, read Luke 1-6. Each day, read one chapter of Luke, whether by yourself or with a friend. Seek God for a Scripture verse or two that really impacts you, and write it out in full in your journal. Then, make some observations about this text: how it fits into the passage as a whole, insights about God and His mission in the world, who we are and what we can learn from fellow travellers. Next, write down one point of application that you can live out this day, in response to the text. Finally, commit it to God in prayer, and thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. Next session, come prepared to share one insight from living the Scriptures over that week. Remember, S.O.A.P. >> Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

Maps: Useful Guides to Go Further Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament. Mark Driscoll, The New Testament: Why to trust it, how to read it, and tips for studying it. Mark Driscoll, The Old Testament: An introduction and survey. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. Stephen Miller & Robert Huber, The Bible: The Making and Impact of the Bible. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, chapters 13-14. Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read.

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Luke 1:

John the Baptist is Born

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Like Abraham, God wants us to leave the comfortable behind and join Him on the journey. Read over pp. *-** “The Day Yahweh Spoke.”

Luke 2:

The Birth and Childhood of Jesus

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: The Bible is exactly what we need: an inspired and authoritative story that directs all our stories. Read over pp. *-** “What Is the Bible?” 14


Luke 3:

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: What does the Word say about itself? Check out some of the Old Testament passages on p. “Let the Word Speak” to see for yourself.

Luke 4:

The Temptation of Jesus

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: What does the Word say about itself? Check out some of the New Testament passages on p. “Let the Word Speak” to see for yourself. 15


Luke 5:

Discipleship, Healing, and Forgiveness

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: God’s Word is anything but safe, and many people have spilled their blood so we can engage God’s Word for ourselves. Read over pp. *-** “Fuel.”

Luke 6:

Jesus Chooses the Twelve

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: After this week’s journey, what have you learned and what questions remain? Check out the “Maps” on p. *: maybe one of these books will help? Come ready to the next session to share one insight from living the Scriptures this week. 16


THE JOURNEY … entering God’s epic story”

Session 2 : Lost By the end of this session … I’ll get a handle on what kind of journey God has us on—that far from being lost, we’re walking out the fifth stage of a six leg trip spanning all history. (N.b. For the first “Try This” activity, you will need one stub of post it notes, enough pens for each group member, and some tape to form a time-line on the wall.)

Take it to God + Journal Insights… Commit this session to God, and ask that He would give you a mind to understand, and a heart to respond to what’s in His Word. Then, spend 10 minutes in pairs or threes sharing how God spoke to you this last week through journaling on Luke 1-6.

Setting the Scene … Lost in the Story No one ever plans to get lost, but it’s easy to miss the markers Moses and the Israelites ran ahead to write their own story, and then tried replaying old steps … but the story had moved on If you want to pass on forty years in the wilderness and make the promised land, you’d better know what the Bible says and how to read the markers along the way rather than picking your own adventure We need a way to enter this epic story if we’re to walk in step with God No one ever plans to get lost. It feels like only yesterday when I was out hiking on a high school camp. Sixty students, four teachers, and a lot of egos. I’d been in this area once or twice canoeing, and it seemed familiar. So when it came time for the long hike back to base, four of us convinced the teacher to let us run on ahead. “Do you know where you’re going?” he asked. “Yeah, sir, I know it like the back of my hand!” And off we went. I don’t exactly know how it happened—we were distracted and looking anywhere but the track— but we missed the markers. Sir had said something about a sign, a bridge, and the point of no return. Of course, we knew better, so on we ran. And ran. And ran. Some four hours later, a much humbler group of boys were picked up by a ranger vehicle, further away from home base than when we began. Four hours lost is enough for me. But imagine forty years. Abraham’s descendents had dreams of the Promised Land, but instead they wound up as slaves in Egypt. So God sent Moses to call them home. You remember: the ten plagues, the Passover Lamb, the Red Sea parting with Moses’ staff … the Exodus had begun. God brings them together at 17


Mount Sinai and sets out a charter for what a redeemed people should look like if they want to stay free. But then the problems start. Like I said, no one ever plans to get lost. At the same time God’s finger inscribed the Ten Commandments, Israel was bowing before a golden calf—as though a mute statue could speak and show them the way home. This people thought they knew the path. They had their own story to write, so they ran ahead and got lost. What should have been a two week walk to the Promised Land turned into a forty year camping trip through the wilderness. Have you ever felt like that—you’ve missed the signs and you’re hopelessly lost with no way forward? The lynch pin to the story is found in Numbers chapter 13. God gets Moses to appoint spies to check out the Promised Land, looking for the best way through. They check it out alright, but they come back warning Israel against moving forward. They’re stuck in the story’s previous leg, and can’t keep up with the journey God is on. Egypt looks appealing. Understandably, God gets frustrated. “After all I’ve done, and you’re not willing to step out and trust me?” Israel is on notice—the unfaithful would die before seeing the good stuff God had in store. What would you do? Well, Israel quickly repented and tried entering the Promised Land without God. But the story had moved on. They were living in the past. And the flogging they got was a permanent reminder that on this journey, you’ve got to stay in step with God. Are we so different from Israel? So here we are in the present, with Bible in hand telling us all the markers for the epic journey we’re on. Yet more people read their horoscope than the Scriptures. Among Christians, the majority of us would say that the Bible is God’s Word and all it says is true. Yet with so few of us really getting into the Bible, it’s hard to know which morals, miracles, and history we’re affirming. “Joan of Arc, that’s Noah’s wife, right?” “I read the Bible, sure, you know, as the Good Book says, ‘God helps those who help themselves!’” What does the Bible say? If you were pressed to outline the key characters in the Bible, how would you go? Or the content of the Sermon on the Mount? Or what the church council decided in Jerusalem? Biblical illiteracy is an issue. An even bigger problem is when we misuse the Bible. Some people mine it for proof texts to prop up their story, or support their agenda to control the world. Christians mount their moral hobbyhorse and use the Bible as a megaphone to amplify judgment. One group uses it to justify public prayer in Parliament and enshrining of the Ten Commandments, while another group uses this same book to condemn Christians playing politics at all. How pliable is this book? Now, these stories were written thousands of years ago in a different culture, and it’s difficult to understand. So how can these stories carry authority for the journey I’m on right now? That’s what this session is all about. What kind of journey has God got us on? And how can we pay attention to the signs along the way, rather than picking our own adventure. We need a way of entering this epic story if we’re to walk in step with God. If we don’t, we’ll always be tempted to run ahead of what God’s doing, or replay moves from a previous leg of the trip.

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Truth Time … Take the next 5 minutes in pairs to discuss the following: A How solid is your knowledge of God’s Word, both the details and the overriding story? I’ll wait till it’s on DVD 1 2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Which chapter should I recite? 9 10

A Which statement better represents your approach to the Bible: The Bible is a resource to help me as I choose my own adventure. Or, The Bible reminds me of the bigger picture, so I can better walk in step with God. A Share a time you ran ahead of God, or lagged behind in the journey He has you on. How has God used the Bible to guide your travels?

Drive: How Do I Enter God’s Epic Story? Three thousand years ago Joshua crossed the Jordan and conquered Jericho Is this literally a promise to violently claim, or a rich story to metaphorically enact, or an old tale of no bearing since the New Testament came to pass? How are we meant to read the Scriptures? And what authority does an ancient story have for my living today? The commanding officer instructs with “Once upon a time … .” Or, the director withholds the details of the fifth act after a climactic fourth act. What would you do? This isn’t ‘anything goes’, but instead a call to immerse yourself in the story We must ‘faithfully improvise’ in the fifth act, consistent with what went before, but directed toward the final scene when Jesus returns and sets everything right God exercises His authority through the Bible as we tell and retell this story of the world, following the Holy Spirit’s leading to live our call in this time and space Just the other day I started reading through the book of Joshua. It’s a pretty amazing story—after forty years waiting to enter the Promised Land, Moses is taken out by God and his protégé Joshua steps up to the plate. In chapter one we find Joshua wondering what’s next, and looking more than a bit scared about the journey ahead to face a giant enemy. God’s timing is perfect: He promises this new leader that “every place the sole of your foot will tread, I’ve given it to you.” God goes further: “I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you, so be strong and courageous.” True to form, Israel crosses the Jordan River, and before you can say ‘shibboleth’, the walls are reduced to rocks, and Jericho is ransacked. That’s my kind of story. Now, some context. I’m a Pastor in a Brisbane-based church. Collectively, we’ve spent twenty years looking for land, but at every turn we’ve been blocked by the giants in the council. Finally, a break through! God seems to have led us this far, and we’ve purchased the land. It’s immediately across the Brisbane River, near Rocks Riverside Park. 19


Coincidence? I think not! So as I read this story of Joshua, which happened some 3,500 years ago, I’m wondering what to do with it. Strategy 1: This is clearly a promise to claim. God’s given us the land, and this reading is the Holy Spirit’s way of confirming what we’re to do. It’s time to rally the church, trust God for the full funds, cross that river, and storm the council buildings and literally slay any staff who try to block our project. Your thoughts? … Maybe not. Okay, Strategy 2: Yes, this is a promise to claim, but it’s a rich metaphor. So, we’ll rally the troops and cross the river, but we’ll fight with spiritual weapons. You know, we’ll walk over every square foot of dirt, blow the shofar, and shout the name of YHWH. The neighbours may not get it, but this is clearly what God would have us do. … Try again. Strategy 3: No, this is not a promise to claim. It’s an ancient story that maybe did or didn’t happen. Either way, it’s of absolutely no bearing to me now that I live in New Testament times. Be amused by the tale, smile at their barbaric faith, and thank God that I’ll never need to brandish a sword. I’m just scratching the surface here! How many other strategies could I form, all the while twisting and turning the Scriptures to fit into my story? How are we meant to read the Scriptures? And what authority does an ancient story have for my living today? If we’re to wisely read the Scriptures, we’d better work this out. Perhaps the best help in this has come from New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright. It’s hard to know what to do with a story. Imagine you’re fighting in a war, and you need directions from the commanding officer for what to do next. He enters the barracks, sits you down, and begins, “Once upon a time ….” If you’re in a rush, this kind of response will just make you frustrated. But what if the problem at hand can’t be solved with a bullet list of strategies 1, 2, 3? What if the skirmish is ages old, and you need sensitivity to wisely act in a changing context? What if the officer is not after drones who mechanically obey commands, but instead wants to build people of character who can take on any challenge? Telling a story is just what’s required to bring you up to date. Now it’s your task to carry the fight forward. To put it another way, Wright asks us to imagine we’re actors in a Shakespearean play where the fifth act has been withheld. The writer didn’t want to freeze the play in one form, so he records everything you need to know about the characters and the plot which comes to a climax at the end of the fourth act. The first scene of the fifth act is sketched out, and so is how things wrap up when the curtains close and a whole new play begins. Now, go act! What would you do? … You’d immerse yourself in the first four acts, right—in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and then with humility you’d step out and faithfully improvise. This isn’t ‘anything goes’. The trajectory is set, so any innovation must be consistent with what went before, and directed toward the final scene. At the same time, it would make no sense to simply re-enact scenes from earlier in the play. Coming back to the Bible, can you see how this works? The New Testament is inspired as the charter for God’s people between the first and second comings of Christ. We’re living in the fifth act. The Old Testament is the beginning of a story which has reached its climax in Jesus. And now through the Holy Spirit, we’re called to faithfully improvise as a foretaste of how the whole world will be when Jesus returns. God exercises His authority through the Bible as we “tell and retell this story as the story of the world.” As we find ourselves in this story, the Holy Spirit directs us to faithfully improvise so we can join God’s mission of making all things new. 20


So, where does this leave my church as we seek to cross the Jordan? Still open, I guess. We’re open to the Spirit’s leading, and we’re aware of how Jesus as the true and better Joshua has reframed the story. We can’t simply map this past river crossing onto our present experience. But we can, and we must, humbly step out as people of the Book. We’ve got to live our calling in this time and this space. And that’s the freedom and the challenge of living under the authority of the God’s Word.

Try This … Time- Lining the Biblical Story As a whole group, take the next 10 minutes for the following activity.1 (1) Use the tape to construct a 3 metre horizontal time-line on the wall. On the far left, write CREATION. On the far right, inscribe NEW CREATION. And in the middle of history, draw a CROSS (h). (2) Each person is to take 2-3 post-it-notes, and record a Biblical character or event on each slip, sticking it where you think is right on the time-line. (3) Once all notes are up, the facilitator must work with the group to roughly place the notes in the right order and area. Distinct groups of events should emerge. (4) Discuss how the events are grouped. (For instance, can you see the “silent years” from Malachi’s prophecy to the annunciation for Mary?) (5) If the Biblical story has six main acts, what would you label each? (6) Finally, where does your life, right now, sit on the time-line? How should your improvising in the present properly relate to the other acts both before and after? A What would have to change in your approach to God’s Word if you saw your task as faithfully improvising in the fifth act, all through the Holy Spirit’s prompting?

Drive: The Journey In: Garden, Tower, Tent “You are here!” The Bible offers a map to help orientate our journey Like Lord of the Rings, the Bible is a six stage story: three legs have come and gone as we’ve journeyed in to the heart of the battle; the fourth scene was pivotal as God’s Son dethroned the evil ruler; and we journey back out in the fifth leg to announce the victory calling all citizens to align with the King before He returns to set everything right Each leg is tied to a specific location, traveling in from the garden to the mount of crucifixion, before heading out toward the city of God Garden: We’re designed for good, to love God, love others, and garden the world Tower: We’re damaged by evil, despising God, abusing others, and vandalizing the world. Genesis 3-11 culminates in a rebellious uprising at Babel Tent: Israel is chosen to bless the world, but continual sin threatens the covenant and lands them in exile, awaiting Abraham’s seed and the Kingly Messiah … recorded in the books of the Law, the history books, poetry, and prophets 1

Thanks to Clayton Fergie of Scripture Union International for this activity, which he uses often around the globe.

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What kind of journey does God have us on? If you’ve ever been lost on a long trip, then you need some kind of map that says, “You are here.” Here’s where you’ve been, and there’s where you’re going. Everything else is rightly oriented when we know where we are. And that’s what the Bible offers—a kind of map for the journey. But is there a way to get a handle on this epic story, so we can faithfully enter in, even today? It’s no mean feat to condense a 1500 page story into something accessible. So let’s keep it simple and shift metaphors once more. Think Frodo in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Imagine you’re part of a community on a mission. You’re to represent a good King whose subjects have revolted. This mission began before you were born, and the journey will continue across space and time long after you die. But your actions in the present are a crucial link in the chain, connecting all your tales of travel as one. Now, this journey has six legs, or stages. Three legs have already come and gone, as you’ve journeyed in to the heart of the battle. The fourth stage brought this journey to a climax as the King exposed the enemy and recaptured His Kingdom. Now, in the fifth stage, you’re to journey back out as messengers calling all the citizens to align with the true King. You become a sign of what the Kingdom will be like when the true ruler expels all evil, and sets everything right. Got the picture? It’s more than a metaphor. This story offers a frame for understanding the Bible. So here’s my attempt to unpack these six legs of the journey, three at a time. And each leg is tied to a specific location. Through the Bible’s epic story we travel from a garden via a tower to a tent, journeying in to the mountain of crucifixion. On the other side of Jesus’ sacrifice, we’re sent out from a house as we reach toward the city of God. So, let’s start in the garden. In Genesis chapters one and two we read how humanity and the whole world were designed for good. This passionate and relational Creator paints an Oasis and plants us there. And in this garden Adam (the man) and Eve (the lifegiver) are told to multiply and cultivate the world. And from cultivation comes culture, so God’s plan was always for us to spread out and construct a God-centred city. This is the vision of shalom, a key Hebrew word meaning fullness, peace, and flourishing. Shalom is when we are rightly related to God, to each other, and to the earth. So God designed us to love Him, love each other, and lovingly garden the planet. But just as love is only real when it isn’t forced, the true King of the universe gave these humans a choice. Remember the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil? They could choose to reflect God’s image and trust His provision, or they could grasp for what wasn’t theirs. That’s idolatry, building life around ourselves, something or someone other than God. Clearly we’re not in Eden anymore! So we travel on to the tower. In Genesis 3-11 we read how humanity went astray by trying to displace God and build a name for ourselves. In the process everything has been damaged by evil. We’ve rejected God, abused each other, and vandalized God’s world, which the Bible calls sin. You see, in that garden was a shady serpent. And at the Bible’s end, this reptile is revealed as Satan, one of God’s created spiritual rulers who went wrong with pride. Satan tricks humanity into serving him rather than the Creator, building a Kingdom of slaves held through fear of death for all the rules we’ve broken. (But more on that later.) So, Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the forbidden fruit to become like God. And as the story goes, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake 22


didn’t have a leg to stand on! So from the heights of bearing God’s image for the benefit of creation, we fell. God exiled us from the garden and we’ve been homeless ever since. ‘Fall’ makes it sound like we tripped. But sin wasn’t an accident. It was a rebellious uprising. So, in nine chapters we span nearly 2000 years, as things go from bad to worse. Rebellion in the garden becomes Cain murdering his brother Abel. Then violence spreads across the whole world and God washes almost everything away in a flood. Sure, every sin was met with new grace from above—protection of Cain, and an ark for Noah and the animals—but things are going downhill fast. Our rebellion comes to a head at the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11, the people have constructed a city. But it’s the godless city of man, built around a giant tower to show God who’s in charge. At this lowpoint, God confuses their language and scatters the nations. But this is clearly not a happy ending. The journey comes to a halt. Where’s the new grace? What’s God’s plan to restore a world gone wrong? At this point God takes a huge risk, as the story zooms in on one middle-eastern man and his barren wife. In many ways, Genesis 12 right through to Revelation 20 captures the story of how God redeems a broken world and sets it right. Enter Abraham and his tent. In the third leg of this journey, Abraham and his descendents are chosen to bless. God’s in the habit of choosing the few to bless the many. So God selects this particular family and makes a nation of pilgrims as the means of dealing with sin, and restoring shalom. God makes repeated covenants with this people so that they will be a light to the nations, revealing how life is supposed to work when we worship the one true God. In Genesis we read of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who met them in their humble tents, reaffirming his commitment to bless them for the sake of the world. Then, in the other books of the Law, Exodus through Deuteronomy, we read how God journeyed with Moses and the nation of Israel, out of Egypt in an Exodus to the Promised Land. All the rituals and laws were to shape a nation of priests suitable as a channel for God’s blessing to the world. They were to be a model of righteousness and justice. In the history books, Joshua through Esther, we discover God’s covenant promise to King David around 1000 BC. One of David’s descendents—the anointed Messiah—would forever be the ruler over all, bringing the whole world back to its created purpose. But the Bible tells the story warts and all. It’s obvious from the start that Israel was no better than its neighbours. They turn inwards and keep God’s blessing to themselves, hurting and being hurt by the surrounding nations. Within two generations of David, the Kingdom has split into Israel in the North, and Judah in the South. Around 700 BC Assyria conquered Israel, and around 600 BC Babylon defeated Judah. Like Adam and Eve expelled from the garden, the chosen ones were now in exile. Enter the prophets. In the prophetic books, we read of characters from Isaiah to Malachi who brought God’s Word of warning and healing to both Israel and the nations. The prophets called these lost people to stop worshipping idols and re-centre their lives around the one true God. We hear the hope that God himself will step in and pay for our failure through His anointed King. God will breathe life into a dead people and return these tent dwellers from exile. God will give us a new heart that desires to live His way, and unite every nation as one under His just rule. But a God-centred city seems so far off. So in the books of poetry, like Psalms and Proverbs, we find raw reflections on how to be wise and worship a good God in a world gone wrong. How can we sing songs of joy when we’re exiled in Babylon? How can we journey on when our mission to bless the world has faltered? 23


So Israel was chosen to bless: they were meant function as God’s Priest to bless the planet, God’s King to rule with justice, and God’s Prophet to call a wayward world back to relationship with its Creator. But this lifeboat, sent to rescue a sinking world, had washed up on the rocks. The whole world was waiting for what God would do next. Would the covenant collapse? Were God’s promises empty words? Explore for yourself some of the key Scriptures framing this journey, and when you come back, we’ll enter the story’s second half in the New Testament.

Try This … Over the next 10 minutes in pairs, explore one of the passages framing this epic journey. The Garden … designed for good Genesis 1:1-3, 24-31; 2:7-9, 15-17. (See also Matthew 22:37-40.)

The Tower … damaged by evil Genesis 3:1-24; 6:5-8; 9:1-17; 11:1-9. (See also Isaiah 59, Romans 1:18-32, and 2 Corinthians 4:4.)

The Tent … chosen to bless Genesis 12:1-4; Exodus 19:4-6; 20:1-17; Leviticus 26:11-13; 2 Samuel 7:1-16; Psalm 67; Isaiah 55:3-5; Jeremiah 3:1-18; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:17-38; Malachi 1:11; 3:1-2 (See also Galatians 3:8-9 and Hebrews 11:8-10 in the New Testament.)

A What questions does this retelling of the story raise for you? Jot them below.

A Which of the Old Testament books below have you read from beginning to end? Tick them off. Books of Law (Pentateuch) Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy

History Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther

Books of Poetry Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon

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Major Prophets Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel

Minor Prophets Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi


Drive: The Journey Out: Mountain, House, City Before we can journey out to bless the world, God Himself must journey in to Jerusalem for a deadly confrontation Mountain: God enters the story through Jesus to restore us for better on the mount of crucifixion, completing Moses’ and David’s work with a New Exodus House: In that upper room, God’s Spirit falls in power. We’re sent together to help heal, a taste of how the story ends when Jesus returns. The Epistles (letters) direct a diverse bunch of former enemies in how to become a community of love City: Jesus returns and judges the world to set everything right. Sin is replaced by shalom, and as we read in Revelation, God’s reign is established everywhere That’s the epic story of the Bible, a journey in from the garden, via the tower and tent, to a mountain. And then it’s the journey back out to bless the whole world from the house to the city of God. So, have you read God’s story? So far we’ve journeyed from the garden, past the tower, and to the tent. We were designed for good, but through our rebellion, we were instead damaged by evil. So Abraham and his descendents were chosen to bless, as a way of dealing with sin and restoring shalom. Yet from all appearances, God’s covenant with Israel has collapsed. Jerusalem was meant to be the godly-city from which the Messiah would rule on the throne of David. Instead, it’s more like the city of man. We find it under Roman occupation, with an impostor for a King, and a bunch of Jewish factions fighting over how to regain power when God smites their enemies. If God’s promises are to be kept, then some temple cleaning is in order. Before we can journey out to bless the world, God Himself must journey in to Jerusalem for a deadly confrontation. That brings us to the fourth leg of the journey: the mountain. In the Gospels we find God has entered the story through Jesus, the Messiah. He’s come to faithfully live out what Israel failed to do. Through Jesus, everything is restored for better. In Matthew we see Jesus as the New Moses. He delivers a sermon on the mount to shape his disciples as people who really would bless the nations. In Mark we see Jesus as the way to a New Exodus from slavery to Satan. He binds and defeats the strong man, claiming the whole planet as our Promised Land. In Luke we see Jesus as the New David, announcing a Kingdom of Peace that includes all people and nations—women, children, the oppressed, and Gentiles … Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world. And in John we see Jesus unveiled as YHWH in the flesh, the great God “I Am” who made a covenant with Abraham that He would keep even if it cost His life. So, Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom God would bless the world. The climax of the covenant comes when Jesus marches into Jerusalem and confronts the powers. But in a strange twist of events, instead of fighting Rome and restoring Israel, He absorbs evil in love and carries His cross up the mount of crucifixion to die. Isaiah’s suffering servant has brought peace to the world through His nail-pierced hands. Jesus renewed the covenant through a broken body and spilled blood. And if that’s how the journey finished, this would be one sad story. But after three days in the tomb, a dead man literally stood up. Jesus was resurrected by God the Father to show that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient, that death is defeated, and He is the world’s true 25


King. For everyone who trusts in Him and aligns with His rule, they’ll be forgiven for their sins and find a new beginning in life. And this blessing was not just for Jews. In Jesus’ death, every division was laid to rest—so there’s no longer male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, but we’re the true Israel and the new humanity united as one. The fourth leg of the journey finishes as Jesus commissions His followers to announce the good news and give everyone a taste of what life is like when Jesus is Lord. But first they have to wait on God … which brings us to the fifth stage of the epic. We now journey out, from the mount of crucifixion to a house. In the book of Acts we read how Jesus promised they would be His witnesses, spreading the gospel across the whole world. But there’s no way this small band of disciples could do that on their own. So Jesus instructs them to wait in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem. There they are, praying and worshipping God during one of Israel’s festivals, when the Holy Spirit takes charge. The Spirit of God falls on them with amazing power. The Tower of Babel is reversed, and they speak freely in every language as though with one tongue. The nations hear the good news. And from Jerusalem the message spreads that Jesus is King of the whole world … align with Him now and find life to the full, or face judgment when He returns to expel evil once and for all. Just as the Father sent the Son, so Jesus sends us through the scars of His hands to bring shalom to a broken planet. In short, through Jesus we’re sent together to heal. We’re to call people back to worship the one true God. But how do you take a diverse bunch of people who were once enemies and build them into a community of love? That’s where most of the New Testament fits in. We find a collection of around twenty letters written by Jesus’ closest followers, all designed to shape our lives and grow us together as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Some letters were written to Pastors, advising how to deal with division. Others were addressed to regional churches, reminding them of who they are in Christ, and reinforcing their calling. Some letters were even written from prison, as disciples like Paul were persecuted for claiming Jesus is Lord. In the Bible we find 13 Gentile letters, from Romans through to Philemon, followed by 8 Jewish letters, from Hebrews through to Jude. The Gentiles had a lot of baggage, as they were fresh converts out of idol-worshipping nations. The Jews, on the other hand, had a lot of pride and confusion, as they slowly came to realize that Jesus was the fulfilment of all Israel’s hopes, for the sake of all nations. Bringing the two groups together was no easy task, and it took some pretty innovative reading of God’s Word to know what did, and didn’t, apply from the first four stages of this epic journey with God. So, sent together to heal—that’s the role of the church back then, and that’s our role as part of this Kingdom community right now. We’re still called to this mission, between the first and second coming of Jesus, as a sign of God’s rule. God has put His Spirit in us to give us a new heart that follows His ways. And He prompts us to faithfully improvise as we head towards the final leg of the journey. The grand finale is stage six, the city. Just as Jesus’ rose from the dead, He has promised to return and resurrect the whole universe and us with it. Our ultimate hope is not an escape to Heaven, but a New Heavens and a New Earth, where God dwells in the centre of the city. This is a cultivated garden-city—an Echo of Eden. There’s a river running through, lined by many trees of eternal life freely available for all who hunger. But this city of God is ultimately not a product of human hands—it’s a gift from above. In short, the journey finishes when God sets everything right. All through the Bible, especially in Isaiah, we’ve seen hints of how the journey will end. There is no more suffering, death and Satan are defeated, the earth is restored, and sin is 26


replaced by shalom. But it’s in Revelation, the final book of the Bible, where God most clearly unveils His plans. In this letter, the Spirit inspires John as he encourages the church to faithfully live for God under persecution, until Jesus returns. We see a picture of final judgment, which is cause for cosmic celebration as God deals justly with evil. God throws a party and everyone’s invited, but some exclude themselves from God’s grace. And apart from the Creator of life, all that’s left is Hell. But for those who receive the gift of life, a whole new story is just about to begin. Well, that’s the epic story of the Bible. It’s a journey in from the garden, via the tower and tent, to a mountain. And then it’s the journey back out to bless the whole world from the house to the city of God. This is the full Gospel, the good news of God’s reign. And as J. R. Tolkien who wrote Lord of the Rings said, “The Gospels contain a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of other stories. But this story has entered history and the primary world. This story is supreme. This story is true.” So, have you read God’s story?

Try This … Over the next 10 minutes in pairs, explore one of the passages framing this epic journey. The Mountain … restored for better Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 1:1; 5:1-19; 9:35; Luke 4:16-21; 10:17-20; 11:14-22; John 1:1-14; 3:1-21; John 10:10; 19:13-30; 20:1-23; Acts 4:12; Romans 1:1-4; 5:1-21; 9:1-8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 15:1-8; Colossians 1:12-20; 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 5:11-13

The House … sent together to heal Isaiah 66:18-19; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 12:31-40; John 13:34-35; 15:5-27; 20:19-23; Acts 1:8, 12-14; Acts 2:1-47; 15:1-31; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Galatians 2:20; 3:13-29; Ephesians 2:8-13; 2 Peter 2:9-12

The City … God sets everything right Psalm 2; 96; Isaiah 2:2-4; 24:5-6; 65:17-25; Matthew 13:24-51; 25:1-46; John 5:24-29; Acts 17:22-31; Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:21-58; Philippians 2:1-11; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Revelation 7:9-10; 11:15-18; 20:1-2, 7-15; 21:1-8, 22-27; 22:1-7

A What questions, if any, does this retelling of the story raise for you? Jot them below.

A Which of the New Testament books below have you read from beginning to end? Tick them off.

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Stories of Jesus Church (Gospels) History Matthew Acts Mark Luke John

Gentile Letters Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Jewish Letters Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude

Apocalyptic Letter Revelation

Fuel: Inspiration for the Journey Our ongoing challenge is to keep in step with God, rather than running ahead of what He’s doing, or re-treading steps from a previous stage This story has a trajectory, from the garden to the city always via the mount of crucifixion. We must be persons shaped by the story, sensitive to the Spirit Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream shaped by God’s story, calling for justice in the present in line with a future where God’s reign will be everyone’s reality Have you entered this epic? Do you know where you are in God’s story? How can ancient stories carry authority for the journey I’m on right now? And how can I faithfully enter this six stage epic? I want to keep in step with God, rather than running ahead of what God’s doing. And I don’t want to re-tread steps from a previous leg. This is the ongoing challenge for all people of God. Peter had to improvise when the Spirit spoke to Cornelius. James had to reappropriate God’s requirements for Gentiles at the Jerusalem Council. And three centuries ago, William Wilberforce had to challenge misreadings of Scripture which kept Africans enslaved. This story has a trajectory. It’s heading from the garden to the city, always via the mount of crucifixion. So we each need to be persons shaped by the story—sensitive to God’s Spirit, listening for how He would have us live today. How different would the world be if God’s Word had this kind of authority in our lives—if we were truly people of the book? I get a glimpse through the life of one African-American man who came in the name of love: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When MLK was assassinated early morning of April 4, 1968, there were many things he could be remembered for. In his short 39 years, this Baptist Minister had risen to international fame by fighting for civil rights. He was the youngest recipient ever of a Nobel Peace Prize, awarded fifty honorary degrees, the head of numerous movements, a friend of President and Pope alike. On the other hand, his own people would recall the beatings, police brutality, bomb threats, unjust nights in jail, stabbings, and run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan and racists of all stripes. 28


But what comes first to your mind when you hear the name of Martin Luther King. How about this: “I have a dream.” Like Moses in Egypt, he led 300,000 people in a march to the national seat of power. He called for the country to bank its promises to the black people, and set his people free to live and work without discrimination. Like the prophets of old, King delivered a divine perspective on past events, before calling for justice in the present in line with a future where God’s reign will be everyone’s reality. His detractors asked, “When will you be satisfied?” Quoting from Amos, MLK replied, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” And what was his dream? He dreamed that “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” King quotes Isaiah’s vision of the New Creation at the speech’s high point: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” At a time when blacks and whites couldn’t even share the same toilet, King’s dream must have sounded like a fantasy. Yet he wouldn’t back down. In a world with so many paths to take, he knew this was God’s path for his life at this point in the epic story. His actions would “speed up that day when all of God's children . . . will be able to join hands and sing . . . ‘Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’” On the day before he was murdered, MLK spoke about the death threats: “I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I don’t mind,” he said. “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. . . . I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” This man knew where he was in the story. He’d left the garden and knew that it was hard work preparing the ground and removing thistles. But nor was he left without hope at the tower, trying to build a name for himself and solve man’s problems apart from God. He was a tent-dweller like Abraham, traveling light through this world, though he wasn’t looking for physical fight and one plot of middle-eastern land where justice would reign. King was shaped by the Sermon on the Mount, practicing non-violence and redemptive suffering in love. But unlike Jesus he didn’t restrict his message to the Jews, and nor was he a willing martyr. He was faithfully journeying in the fifth leg, where God met him as a twenty-six year old minister in his family house, just like He did the first disciples in the upper room. He was given strength to face death-threats with courage as Jesus said he would never leave him alone. He was sent through scars in Jesus’ hands. And in this stage of story, King would give his all as a sign to the world of the coming city—a city where every tribe and nation would join hands and together worship the one true King. This man had humbly entered into the Bible’s epic journey—not running ahead or repeating what went before. For all his failings, like King David he was walking in step with God, achieving His purposes for this generation. Have you entered this epic? Do you know where you are in God’s story? Are you engaging God’s Word every day to be shaped and reshaped by the telling of this journey? You see, God wants each of us to faithfully travel in the fifth stage, as we strain toward the finish line. And no two of our journeys are quite the same.

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This coming week, get into the Bible and journal through Luke 7-12—Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer—and come ready next week to share how God speaks, even today. And as you travel, may you rediscover where you are in God’s story, and who He would have you be. God bless as you walk in step with Him, and faithfully improvise in the fifth leg of this epic journey.

Destination: Preparation for Next Session Over the next week, read Luke 7-12. Each day, read one chapter of Luke, whether by yourself or with a friend. Seek God for a Scripture verse or two that really impacts you, and write it out in full in your journal. Then, make some observations about this text: how it fits into the passage as a whole, insights about God and His mission in the world, who we are and what we can learn from fellow travellers. Next, write down one point of application that you can live out this day, in response to the text. Finally, commit it to God in prayer, and thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. Next session, come prepared to share one insight from living the Scriptures over that week. Remember, S.O.A.P. >> Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

Maps: Useful Guides to Go Further Roshan Allpress and Andrew Shamy, The Insect and the Buffalo: How the Story of the Bible Changes Everything. Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile. James Choung, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. N. T. Wright, “How can the Bible be authoritative?” Vox Evangelica 21 (April 1991): 7-32. (Available via google online.) N. T. Wright, The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.

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Luke 7:

Jesus Heals and Teaches in Galilee

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: No running ahead or repeating old steps from a previous leg; look for the markers along the way and walk. Read over pp. *-** “Lost in the Story.”

Luke 8:

Parables and Their Meaning

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: With humility step out in response to the Word and faithfully improvise in the fifth leg of the journey. Read over pp. *-** “How Do I Enter God’s Epic Story?” 31


Luke 9:

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: “You are here!” Rightly read this epic travelogue and join the journey in from the garden through the tower to the tent. Read over pp. *-** “The Journey In.”

Luke 10:

Sending the Seventy; the Good Samaritan

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Join the journey out from the battle in Jerusalem. Take the good news from the mountain, via the house, to the city. Read over pp. *-** “The Journey Out.” 32


Luke 11:

Jesus Teaches How to Pray

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: How does this six stage journey read in the original? Check out some of the passages on p. and p. “Try This” to see for yourself.

Luke 12:

Jesus Preaches to the Multitude

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Like Martin Luther King Jr., do you know where you are in the story? How would God have you enter His epic? Read over pp. *-** “Fuel,” and come ready to the next session to share one insight from living the Scriptures this week. 33


THE JOURNEY … entering God’s epic story”

Session 3 : Bearings By the end of this session … I’ll express my doubts about the Bible, but find my bearings as to why “God’s Word” is plausible to believe and credible to trust as a true story today.

Take it to God + Journal Insights… Commit this session to God, and ask that He would give you a mind to understand, and a heart to respond to what’s in His Word. Then, spend 10 minutes in pairs or threes sharing how God spoke to you this last week through journaling on Luke 7-12.

Setting the Scene … “Did God really say …? ” Never trust a talking snake—it speaks with a forked tongue! Why did Eve listen to what the serpent said? When you trust yourself and a talking snake over the Word of an all knowing God, you’ll be left looking stupid But, a talking snake?! Did God really say? Can God speak in an age of science? Science’s track record isn’t as strong as it used to be, and all belief takes faith And yet, the questions of morals, miracles, and history must be squarely faced We need solid foundations to see that the Bible is plausible and credible Here’s some good advice for free: never trust a talking snake—it speaks with a forked tongue. Way back at the Bible’s start, we read of a bizarre conversation between the world’s first woman, and a sneaky serpent. It goes something like this: “Woman, did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve recalls. Then she replies, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, and don’t touch it, or you’ll die.’” The snake slithers in for the kill. “You won’t die! God knows that when you eat your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like Him, knowing good and evil.” Eve’s eyes pan from the snake to the tasty fruit, and back again. It does look filling. And that friendly snake said it’d make me wise. And who doesn’t want to be like God? So she ate. And she shared it with Adam. Their eyes were ‘opened’, but what they saw was scary. (Thus the well placed fig leaves.) Their journey went on, though the second leg East of Eden was no walk in the park. And the rest, we’re led to believe, is history. But this story raises two tricky questions. 34


First, why did Eve trust the talking snake? Okay, in fairness to Eve, everything was new in this crazy world. So what’s normal? Why not a talking snake?! But look deeper. Why did she listen to what the serpent said? It’s clear that neither the snake nor Eve read Genesis 2 to see what God really did say. In verse 9 we read that God planted all kinds of trees in Eden, each of which was pleasing to the eye and good for food. Like Eve, we often assume that the fruit is always juicier on the other side. God gave them total freedom to eat anything, except from this one tree of knowledge of good and evil. So the snake twists God’s words: “God doesn’t want you to eat from any tree.” And Eve gets it wrong, too: “Don’t even touch this tree.” When did God say that? A good God is caricatured as scared of our growth, and stingy in His provision. God is made out to be a liar. Remember, God put them in the garden to enjoy and cultivate it. And that requires studying the garden, which is a form of science. It also takes technique and tools, so God’s all for technology and culture. The problem isn’t with God. It’s with them. God isn’t against knowledge. But when Adam and Eve try to play God, they bite off more than they can chew. They’re the creature, and God’s the Creator. They trust themselves and a talking snake over the Word of an all knowing and loving God. You see, sin isn’t just an act of moral wickedness. It’s also an act of mental derangement. The result: the first humans are left looking really stupid. “Did God really say?” It’s hard to trust God’s Word when the loudest voices call Him a liar. But this raises the second tricky question: In the 21st century, an age where science seems to have explained everything, how can any person with brains believe in a talking snake? We’ve journeyed a long way since Eden, and learned a thing or two about how the world works. In most people’s experience, seas don’t part when someone speaks, big fish don’t swallow unfaithful prophets, dead people stay in their graves, and snakes do not speak. Did God really say? Can God really speak at all? Many people attack the Bible’s history as unreliable. Did any of this stuff really happen? Eden, Exodus, the fall of Jericho, Exile? I’ve heard people question if Jesus even lived. “It’s only written in the Bible, isn’t it? For all we know, some guy a thousand years ago made the whole book up as a joke, and we fell for it!” And as for miracles—as Richard Dawkins says, “The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles . . . they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children. [But] every one of these miracles [is a] violation of the normal running of the natural world.” Times are changing, though. Science’s track record isn’t as hot as it used to be—it’s given us both the iPhone and the atom bomb. And we’ve discovered it takes faith to believe anything, including science. Like believing that the whole universe will run exactly the same today as it did yesterday—law-driven yet without a law-giver. It takes a whole lot of trust to think that what’s done in my test-tube relates to how the world has been and will be for all eternity—past, present, and future. Besides which, science only measures the material, so it can’t say anything about a spiritual God—or about love, justice, hope, meaning, or any other reality that we build our lives on. So more than a few of us are a bit sceptical of science, too. But the questions remain, and we need to face them head on. So far in these sessions we’ve seen that the Bible is essentially a story. It’s a story designed to shape and reshape us to faithfully follow God in the fifth leg of an epic journey. But did God really say? Is this the Word of God? Is this story true? 35


We need solid foundations to see that the Bible is plausible to believe, and credible to trust. And in the last session we’ll see why the Bible is relevant to read, even today. We’re all on a journey, but competing voices want me to trust and follow them. How do I get my bearings to trust God, without being deceived? That’s the focus for this session.

Truth Time … Take the next 10 minutes in pairs to discuss the following: A How sure are you that the Bible is God’s Word, and all it says is true? I don’t think so. It’s all miracles and misinformation. 1 2 3 4

5

6

7

Every word of it. It’s totally trustworthy. 8 9 10

A What has been your biggest doubt or struggle in believing the Scriptures? A If a serpent-like sceptic challenged your trust in God’s Word, what are the top two reasons you’d give for believing the Bible is inspired and authoritative for us today? A If the Bible is God’s Word, how would you know? What would convince you of this?

Drive: A God Who Speaks? … It’s Plausible to Believe Does God exist, and can God speak? How can this be plausible to believe? The hallmarks of design abound. Rational, personal, and loving creatures point to a rational, personal, and loving Creator. If God’s there, would He stay silent? In the Bible, God reaches down. Still, we need a DNA signature to identify fakes The Bible gives us a view from above. Like the missing pages of a mutilated book, God’s Word explains our story’s origins, meaning, morality, and destiny The Bible gives us a view from beyond. Only God can transcend natural law in miracles, and tell the beginning from the end in prophecy, as we see fulfilled hundreds of times, beyond all statistical possibility if simply a chance event God’s signature is all over the Scriptures, evident to those willing to search Does God exist, and can God speak? How could this be plausible to believe? This cab charges by the minute, so the best I can do is sketch an answer and invite you to search it out. These are good questions really worth answering. So let’s start with our almost universal human sense that there is a God. Across all of history, the vast majority of people have believed in some type of Creator God. The hallmarks of design are everywhere—a complex, ordered world points to an intelligent, law-giving designer. And everyone recognizes humans as the highest form of life on the planet. We are rational, and personal—we reason, we relate, and we love. So if 36


there is some type of God behind all that we see, this God should be at least as reasonable and relational as we are. It’s plausible to believe that this Creator God would communicate with His Creatures to make Himself known, revealing His purposes in Creation to lovingly guide us through life. If God is there, surely He wouldn’t stay silent? Now, most religious books aren’t claiming to be God’s Word. They’re collections of humans musing over the way the world is, and reaching up to grasp who or what might be behind it all. Only a few religions claim that the Creator God has spoken, revealing what we couldn’t work out for ourselves. God reaches down. To name the main three, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity claim to have books inspired by God. And each of these faiths claim Abraham as Father, tracing back to what’s in the Bible. Still, just because it’s reasonable to expect a Creator God to reveal Himself, that doesn’t mean He has. And how do we judge between competing revelations? Put simply, if the Bible really is God’s Word, how would you know? Perhaps a parallel from the art world will help. In recent history, art fraud has become a big deal. A famous artist paints a masterpiece, but within a few years, fakes have flooded the market. So how do you tell what’s genuine from a clever imitation? Pro Hart, one of Australia’s most popular artists, has turned to DNA signatures. He didn’t want the security measure to distract from the beauty and meaning of his work, so he chose an approach that is undetectable to the naked eye. Taking a swab of his cheek, the DNA is blended with the paints and applied to the canvas. Then a company records the DNA signature on a database. You’d never know unless you took the time to scan the work with the right tools. But having scanned it, you’ll never mistake a rip off for an original ever again. Coming back to the Bible, what kind of DNA signature could God give to His Word? What can only God offer to distinguish His Word from all fakes? If God is there and He isn’t silent, then He would have a unique vantage point on the world, and all of history. So I’m looking for two markers: (1) A view from above; and (2) A view from beyond. In giving us this epic story, I’m scanning for unique insight that makes sense of life, and I’m scanning for unique foresight that only God could give. Let’s take one at a time. First, a view from above. When we’re born into this world, we’re “horribly middled.” We enter the world with a confused cry, and spend the rest of our life trying to work out what kind of story we’re in. Why do we exist? What’s the meaning and purpose of life? How can I tell right from wrong? What’s the heart of the human problem? How do we solve it? What happens when I die? And where is this whole story headed? These are the big questions of life: origins, meaning, morality, and destiny. And none of us can live a life of purpose without at least a provisional answer to these questions. But you can’t tell the story right unless you can see how the whole story hangs together. You need a view from above, like that of novel’s author or a movie’s director. Over the millennia, all kinds of stories have been offered to answer these big questions. Perhaps I’m the chance result of a big bang? Maybe I’m a reincarnated soul looking for escape? Or worse, could I be the experiment of a disinterested Deity? The problem is that we’re all stuck with a view from below, a snapshot in time, which obscures satisfying answers. So how does the Bible fit into this? Maybe a metaphor offered by the scholar Francis Schaeffer will help. It’s the metaphor of the mutilated book. 37


Imagine you had a book which was mutilated, leaving only one inch of printed matter on each page. What you had was enough to convince you the book didn’t come about by chance. Yet you didn’t have enough information to piece together and understand the book’s story. So you came up with all kinds of inserts to make up a story, but none quite fit. Then, imagine that one day you discovered a wad of ripped pages in the upstairs attic. When added to the right places, you found that the story could be read and it made sense. This is a lot like Christianity. By ourselves, we only possess ripped pages—we have access to the nature of the universe through science, and insights into the nature of humanity, like our sense of morality, our desire to worship, our ability to reason, and the ultimate importance of loving relationships. It’s not enough to solve the mystery of the story we’re in. Yet, in the Scriptures, God has given us what we could never work out for ourselves. Like pages from the upstairs attic, this view from above matches what we know of the cosmos and history. But more importantly, it gives us answers that perfectly fit the big questions we ask.2 Every other story falls down at some point. But the Bible’s unexpected story makes sense of our life, like a box-top to a jigsaw, or a master key to a lock. Why do we worship? Why do our observations match the way the world really is? Why is there a universe driven by ordered laws? Why is our nature a mix of good and bad? Why are we different from all other animals? Why do we feel responsibility for a polluted planet? And why do we each have a hole in our heart that only love can fill? The Bible has God’s DNA signature, offering a view from above that sets our story within a larger epic journey. Still, perhaps this story fits because it’s made up to fit the bill. Why should I believe that this story is God’s story? I’ll let God answer that one for Himself. Way back around 700 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah spoke as God’s messenger (46:9-10): “This is what the Lord says … I alone am God! … No one is like me. … I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” So, God gives us a view from above. But the second DNA signature is that through prophecy, God also gives us a view from beyond. Now, I’m not talking about just a few predictions for the future, or vague and cryptic guess-work like hit-and-miss horoscopes or Nostradamus’s muddled writings. These kind of predictions are so generic and confusing that they’re bound to happen in one way or another. The Bible is unique on this front. At the time of writing, roughly one-quarter of the Bible was prophesying something still to happen—over 1000 prophecies in all. God wanted a way to mark out those who truly spoke in His name from other pretenders. So He would give His messengers short range prophecies, fulfilled in their lifetime, to show they were speaking for God. This warranted Israel to believe in long-range predictions concerning judgment of whole empires and national themes like returning from exile. Many of these long range prophecies are confirmed by the records of the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian empires. We see this with foresight concerning the rise of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28), the nature of Tyre’s destruction (Ezekiel 26:3-16), and the regathering of Israel as a nation, simply unheard of on the world scene (Isaiah 11:11-12; Ezekiel 37:21). 2

This is my paraphrase of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, pp. 119-20.

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It only gets more interesting when it comes to Jesus. The Old Testament contains some 300 prophecies in relation to the Messiah, 60 major claims, and 260 minor claims. Now, we know that these prophecies were made prior to Jesus’ birth, as the Old Testament was translated into the Greek Septuagint around 250 years before Christ. As He taught in Luke 24:44, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” And these prophecies went beyond anything Jesus could rig— born of a virgin, a descendent of Abraham, from the tribe of Judah and the house of David; born in Bethlehem, announced by a forerunner, anointed by the Holy Spirit for a preaching and healing ministry; a prophet and priest who would triumphantly enter Jerusalem on a donkey, yet be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver and abandoned by His disciples; this Messiah would be a suffering servant on behalf of us all, silent before His accusers yet beaten and spat upon, with hands and feet pierced, and crucified with transgressors; despite being pierced in His side, no bone would be broken, and He would rise again on the third day and be exalted, ascending into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God. Are you getting the idea? Some people reject all miracles and prophecy on the basis of science. Yet science only describes the way things usually happen; it doesn’t prescribe how things must happen. If God constructed the atom and spoke all matter into existence, it’s not unreasonable to believe that God can suspend or transcend natural law to bring the dead to life and tell us the end from the beginning in a word of prophecy. But maybe this happened by chance? Okay. Imagine you enter the lottery with one ticket in 10 million, and you win. You’d be lucky, right? That’s 1 chance in 10 to the power of 7. Imagine then you entered the next lottery and won that too. That’s now 1 chance in 10 to the power of 14. Okay, so you go in 7 lotteries in a row and win every single draw with one ticket. By 1 chance in 1049, someone should be suspicious! Once you hit 1 chance in 1050, statisticians say the event is impossible, or else some giant intellect is pulling the strings. Well last century a Professor of Science and Mathematics named Peter Stoner decided to check out about Jesus. His work was supported by 600 university students, scrutinized and given the tick by the American Scientific Affiliation as statistically sound.3 In his book, Science Speaks, he calculated that the chance of any one person fulfilling even 48 of these Messianic prophecies was 1 chance in 10157. What does all this mean? In Peter Stoner’s words, “Any [person] who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.” In terms of the Bible, it means this: only God could give us this kind of view from above, and only God could arrange these kinds of statistical miracles to give us a view from beyond time. His signature is all over the Scriptures, but it’s perceptible only if you’re willing to search. Is it plausible to believe that the Bible is God’s Word? See for yourself.

3

See http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/Christ_of_Prophecy.html#c9.

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Try This … A View from Above and Beyond As a whole group, take the next 10 minutes for the following activity: Together, read Psalm 22 (written by David, who prophetically spoke of experiences he never personally had) and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (prophesied concerning the Messiah). Both passages were first penned more than 700 years before Christ, and are found in the Greek Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament), dating to around 250 BC. A What clear parallels do you see with the life of Jesus? How do you explain this? A What other prophecies in the Bible weigh in favour of this being God’s Word? A In what ways does, or doesn’t, the Bible’s story make sense to you in answering the big questions of origins, meaning, morality, and destiny? Can you find a more coherent view?

Drive: A True Story? … It’s Credible to Trust Why should I trust anything the Bible says? Do these stories reflect reality? We must read each Scripture passage according to its genre: “Is it true in terms of its intended purpose?” Determine what truth claim the author is making—a divine take on history, an ironic parable, or an illuminating allegory—before assessing the text’s truth value. At points in the Old Testament, this is tricky The Biblical epic, however, rises or falls on its key events: Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, Church, New Creation. And the heart of it all is Jesus. Jesus affirmed the entirety of the Scriptures, so if the Gospels are solid, the whole Bible is gold The transmission of the New Testament books is trustworthy, with a mountain of manuscripts enabling reconstruction of a 99.5 percent pure text The timing is far too early for the stories of Jesus to be legends, and the details are too counterproductive to be made up. Also, nearly 40 ancient sources— many of whom are hostile—corroborate the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels The Bible gives us the true story of Jesus, and is credible to trust So far we’ve seen how the Bible hangs together as one coherent story. More than that, if I’m just looking at the Bible, I’ve got great reasons to believe it was inspired by God who has a view from above and beyond time. But that’s not enough. Why should I trust anything the Bible says? Are these just myths, or do they connect to the real world. If I was there on the mount of crucifixion, could I rub my finger on Jesus’ cross and get a splinter? In short, is the Bible a true story? Here we hit a tricky question. Recently I watched the play Shadowlands, telling the story of C. S. Lewis’s romance with Joy Davidman. You might remember that Lewis wrote the tales of Narnia, starting with The Magician’s Nephew. In this story, a British boy 40


named Digory secures a magic apple to cure his sick mother. In the play—based on real life events—Joy Davidman had terminal cancer. Her son, Douglas, with book in hand, asks Lewis of Digory and his apple, “Is it true?” How would you answer? Well, it’s true in the story. And it’s a metaphor pointing us to deeper truths about life, death, and hope—that’s why it moves you so much. But is there really a magic apple? Well, no. We need to remember that the Bible is made up of 66 books, and even within each book we see a range of genres—from poetry, to parable, to historical narrative. Is it true? The better question is whether each story is “true in terms of its intended purpose.”4 Israel’s exodus from Egypt looks quite different as we shift from a narrative in Exodus 14, to the Song of Moses and Miriam in chapter 15. Was it a strong east wind or a blast from YHWH’s nostrils that parted the Red Sea? Both accounts are based upon events the author claims really happened. Both accounts are true when read as the author intends. We have to separate out a text’s truth value from its truth claim. I may be convinced that the whole Bible is inspired and has truth value. It is trustworthy. But this doesn’t tell me what the writer intended for any particular passage—the truth claim. Was the inspired author offering a divine take on history, an ironic parable to expose bad motives, or an allegory to unveil hidden truths about who God is and who we are? Many of the books in the Old Testament are muddy at this point. These powerful stories move us, but often it’s hard to tell what the author is intending and what genre we should read the stories in. That’s why there’s genuine debate over books like Jonah and Job, and confusion over the creation accounts in Genesis. Jesus seemed to speak of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Noah, and Jonah, all as real people who actually lived. But before you reject the Bible and its talking snakes out of hand, know that scholars debate whether these tricky passages are literally true, or are meant to be striking tales telling deeper truths about how we’ve all tasted the forbidden fruit and swallowed a lie. We’re all lost and long for Eden. As one writer suggests, it’s not just that these stories happened—it’s that it happens, today. We live in the metaphors.5 But let’s get back to the main issue. Some passages may be metaphorically true, and little would change in the epic as a whole. But even if the authors have been artistic in their retellings of history, like a portrait painting, the basic legs of the journey must be factual or the story falls apart. God did design us for good in the garden. We were damaged by evil at that tower. Abraham was chosen to bless in his tent. Jesus did restore us for better on the mountain. The Spirit did send us to heal from that house. And Jesus will set everything right in God’s New City. This cab trip is too short to explore each of these claims, so let’s focus in on the heart of the epic: Jesus. If the accounts of Jesus aren’t trustworthy, then the whole Bible falls apart, and Christianity with it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” The Bible does not float free of time and space; it’s built upon real events that either did or didn’t happen in history. But if the accounts of Jesus are trustworthy, then the risen Jesus is Lord of all. And with this unique authority, we can trust what He said about the rest of the Scriptures. Jesus dealt with temptation in the wilderness by quoting the Word: “It is written.” And His last words on the cross came 4

See V. Philips Long, The Art of Biblical History, p. 25.

5

See Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p. 58.

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from the Bible: “It is finished.” In Jesus’ view, His whole life fulfilled what was written, and the Scriptures cannot be broken. So, if the Gospels are solid, the whole Bible’s gold. Each of the Gospel writers make their truth claim clear: this is a faithful account—it’s a true story. So, when it comes to Jesus and the Gospel accounts, is it credible to trust? Books like The Da Vinci Code work had to say it’s not. “You can’t trust the Bible to get your bearings. What you have in your hands today is nothing like what was originally written. It’s been changed in transmission. Anyway, the accounts are late, probably centuries after the events—a simple tale of a Jewish carpenter that became epic as time went on. Only the Bible speaks about these events, so how can you believe that? And you can’t trust these authors, anyway—they had an agenda. They were trying to paint Jesus as divine so they could prop up their leadership and gain control.” Heard it before? Well, what’s the substance? Can we trust this story or not? Let’s start with transmission. Is the Bible we have today the same as what was originally written? Did it spread like the telephone game, changing on down the line? In short, no. Picture instead a modified game of telephone where 24,000 kids at the end of the line say virtually the same thing; you’d figure each account is accurate to the original.6 In reality, we have a mountain of manuscripts—about twenty-four thousand in all, with at least fifty Greek manuscripts copied within three centuries of the originals. One fragment of John’s Gospel traces to within a century of Jesus’ life, and within fifty years of when the original was written. There are many small differences between these manuscripts, like how names are spelled, though none of the variants affects core doctrine. But because there are so many manuscripts, scholars can reconstruct the original text as 99.5 percent pure. No other ancient account even has 1,000 manuscripts dating within 500 years of the original. So if you throw out the New Testament as an unreliable story, then you also lose every other historical account. So, what about the reliability of these accounts? Are they late in the piece, unverified by other sources, and some kind of legend gone to ground? Again, no on all accounts. The four Gospels and Paul’s letters were clearly penned before the fall of Jerusalem around AD 70. This was the hottest news in this region, and it was predicted by Jesus. Yet not one New Testament book even hints at Jerusalem’s demise. So each account was circulating when genuine eyewitnesses were still alive. This is why Paul and the other Gospel writers constantly drop names like Alexander and Rufus, or the 500 people still alive who saw Jesus after His resurrection, all to confirm what had happened. They’re basically saying, “Go and ask them for yourself. This is true.” As Paul said in the book of Acts, “these events weren’t done in a corner.” How far back can we trace these accounts? Well, in 1 Corinthians 15 we read Paul passing on a creed about Jesus’ resurrection and Lordship, received sometime between his conversion in AD 32 and his first meeting with the disciples in AD 35 at Jerusalem. So Christians were worshipping Jesus as Lord within five years of His crucifixion. Jesus’ divinity was not a late development. Now if these accounts were false, then the last place you’d want to preach the message would be Jerusalem. Everyone would know you were lying. Yet Jerusalem was where the church grew the fastest, and it was the place where most accounts of Jesus’ life were penned. Putting it plainly, the timing is far too early for 6

See Lee Strobel, Case for Christ Youth Edition, pp. 61-62.

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the stories of Jesus to be legends. They show all the hallmarks of genuine eyewitness accounts: naming of sources, external references to places and times that match what we now know from archaeology, minor differences to show they are independent accounts, and random details like catching 153 fish or Jesus doodling in the dirt, which don’t advance the story but do demonstrate genuine recollection of real life experiences. This story was solid from the beginning, and it’s credible to trust. What you may not know is that Jesus’ story isn’t just confined to the Bible. Historian Gary Habermas has tracked down thirty-nine ancient sources collectively yielding over one hundred reported facts concerning Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. Fourteen of these sources are hostile witnesses, and they represent the most respected Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians of Jesus’ day: Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and the list goes on, each verifying key parts of what the Bible says. Did these authors have an agenda? Of course! No one writes without an agenda! They put quill to manuscript to convince readers that Jesus really is the Messiah. But this agenda required them to be accurate, or else every eyewitness would shout them down and debunk their books. Why else would these authors include embarrassing details, like Thomas doubting and Peter denying Jesus? Why else would they reveal that all the disciples fled, leaving only women as the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection? A woman’s word was worth nothing in a court of law at that time. Clearly the authors wanted the true story to come out, warts and all, even if it damaged their case. So the Bible offers us multiple independent stories, each a faithful eyewitness account of Jesus’ life. Putting all this together, the Bible gives us the true story of Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection are accurately recorded by eyewitnesses, and the core details are backed up by non-Biblical accounts and archaeology. And these stories reveal Jesus as both the longawaited Messiah, and the eternal Word of God in the flesh. When Jesus speaks of the Scriptures, we should listen. He sees His whole life as fulfilling what went before, and treats the entire Old Testament as inspired. And then He promises to guide His disciples into all truth as they record what they have seen and heard. He confirms major characters across the Bible, and tells us to trust this whole epic journey: from the garden through the tower and the tent in to the mount of crucifixion, and then back out again from the house to the City of God. Granted, all history is selective and told with a slant, just like Shadowlands artistically captures the story of C. S. Lewis. Yet it is credible to trust this story, and when the Biblical authors claim it really happened, it makes sense to believe.

Try This … A Trustworthy Account In pairs, take 10 minutes to discuss the following: A If someone asked you, “Is the Bible true?” how would you respond? A What do the following passages tell you about the agenda of Luke and John? Read Luke 1:1-4; 2:1-5; 3:1-2; 23:1-12 John 19:28-37; 20:30-31; 21:24-25 (See also Acts 2:22, 1 Peter 5:1, 2 Peter 1:16, and 1 John 1:1-4.)

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A In a word, how would you characterize Jesus’ view of the Scriptures? (See Matthew 4:1-11; 5:18-19; 26:56; Mark 12:24; Luke 22:37; John 10:35; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; 17:17-21) A From what you know, how reliable is the Old Testament, both in telling a true story, and faithfully transmitting it to us in the present? (The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls are particularly relevant here.) A Record below some big questions you still have about whether the Bible is God’s Word. Now, take a look at the “Maps” section ending these notes, and circle one book that might help you discover an answer. Explore it for yourself!

Fuel: Inspiration for the Journey If the Bible really is a true story, then it can stand up to scrutiny. God’s good with Thomases. The real question is this: how willing are you to search? Genuine sceptics fairly weigh what they find, and follow the evidence where it seems to lead. And often the greatest confirmation is after the fact, as obeying this ancient story lifts it off the page to transform lives Sir William Ramsay, Oxford expert in archaeology, was one such seeking sceptic. After thirty years trying to disprove Luke/Acts, he became a Christian and pronounced Luke “an historian of the first rank” God has scrawled His signature across the whole story, but only those willing to scan the Bible’s pages will discover its truth May you discern the smooth words of sceptics, and find your bearings from God “Did God really say?” Is it plausible to believe in a God who speaks? Is it credible to trust the Bible as a true story? Across this session we’ve explored good reasons to get your bearings for life from the Word of God. There is no higher authority. But maybe you’ve still got doubts. And that’s fine. A one hour discussion can hardly change years of conviction. Jesus is fine with us poking and prodding His Word to see if it stands the test. Just look at how He humoured Thomas after the resurrection. If the Bible really is a true story, then it can stand up to scrutiny. The real issue is this: how willing are you to search? I’m always inspired when I hear the stories of genuine sceptics like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. These guys took up the challenge of Christian friends to see if the Bible really is the Word of God. Both of them dedicated years to interviewing experts, investigating data, and leaving no stone unturned. They made an honest commitment to fairly weigh what they found, and follow the evidence where it seemed to lead. In both cases, they concluded that it took more faith to swallow the common objections than to take the Bible at face value. This book must have a divine origin. And the greatest confirmation came after the fact. When they started engaging and obeying the Scriptures as the Word of God, this ancient story lifted off the page and their lives were transformed. Maybe you’ve heard their story before. But have you heard about William Ramsay? If ever there’s a story of someone determined to uncover the truth, it’s this guy. 44


Born back in 1851, Ramsay quickly proved to be a genius. The youngest son of a third generation lawyer, he won every academic prize on offer. His major interest was archaeology, retracing the steps of Paul’s missionary journeys in the New Testament. “A devout believer,” you’re thinking. Well, not quite. When William won an Oxford scholarship for travel and research in Greece, he set about earning fame by disproving all that Luke had written in his Gospel and the book of Acts. He was sceptical, and steeped in liberal views of the Bible. And within a few years he was recognized as the archaeological authority on all matters to do with Christianity and the Roman Empire. Over his sixty year career, Ramsay held the Professorship of Classical Archaeology at Oxford; he received many honorary degrees, and was knighted Sir William in 1906 for all his work. “Why scrutinize Luke,” you may be wondering. Well, Luke was in the habit of recording details that placed Jesus squarely in space time history: He was born under King Herod in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus, and He was crucified under the watch of Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. And every step of the journey, Luke made real claims that could be checked. So Ramsay tested detail after detail, case after case. He researched languages spoken in regions, geographic movements, depth of water channels, trial scenes, census systems, lists of Governors, Magi at Jesus’ birth, and even fulfilment of prophecy, always expecting falsification. And what did he find? After thirty years of field research, Ramsay concluded that “Luke is an historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense . . . . He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Ramsay’s verdict extended to each book of the New Testament as “unique in the compactness, the lucidity, the pregnancy, and the vivid truthfulness of its expression.”7 Sir William left no stone unturned, and in the process He became a follower of Jesus who got his bearings from the Bible. Have you started this search? Do you have good reasons to believe that the Bible really is the Word of God? God has scrawled His signature across this whole story, but only those willing to scan its pages will discover the truth. This coming week, get into the Bible and journal through Luke 13-18—Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer—and come ready next week to share how God has directed you through His Word. And as you travel, seek the truth above all else. May you discern the smooth words of sceptics speaking with forked tongues. And may you trust God’s voice as your guide to life.

7

William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), p. v, 222.

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Destination: Preparation for Next Session Over the next week, read Luke 13-18. Each day, read one chapter of Luke, whether by yourself or with a friend. Seek God for a Scripture verse or two that really impacts you, and write it out in full in your journal. Then, make some observations about this text: how it fits into the passage as a whole, insights about God and His mission in the world, who we are and what we can learn from fellow travellers. Next, write down one point of application that you can live out this day, in response to the text. Finally, commit it to God in prayer, and thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. Next session, come prepared to share one insight from living the Scriptures over that week. Remember, S.O.A.P. >> Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

Maps: Useful Guides to Go Further Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 2d ed. Ken Boa and Larry Moody, I’m Glad You Asked (chapter six). F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Gary Habermas, The Verdict of History. Walter Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? Tim Keller, The Reason for God (chapter seven). Greg Koukl, “Never Read a Bible Verse,” Stand To Reason apologetics web-site (www.str.org) V. Philips Long, The Art of Biblical History. Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament. Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent + The God Who Is There. Jeffrey Sheller, Is the Bible True? Peter Stoner and Robert Newman, Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible (available online: http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/). Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ + The Case for the Real Jesus + God’s Outrageous Claims. Clifford Wilson, Rocks, Relics, and Biblical Reliability.

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Luke 13:

Parables of the Kingdom

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: We need solid foundations to discern truth. Never trust a talking snake; instead, get your bearings from God’s Word. Read pp. *-** “Did God Really Say …?”

Luke 14:

The Parable of the Great Supper

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: The Bible gives us a view from above, and a view from beyond, demonstrating it is plausible to believe. Read over pp. *-** “A God Who Speaks?” 47


Luke 15:

A Lost Sheep, a Lost Coin, and a Lost Son

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Like a carefully crafted portrait, the Bible gives us the true story of Jesus, demonstrating it is credible to trust. Read over pp. *-** “A True Story?”

Luke 16:

The Parable of the Dishonest Servant

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Look back over some of the passages on p. “A Trustworthy Account” to see Luke and John’s Gospel agenda, and hear Jesus’ view of the Scriptures. 48


Luke 17:

The Coming of the Kingdom

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Like Sir William Ramsay, the more you subject the Bible to honest scrutiny, the brighter its story will shine. Read over pp. *-** “Fuel.”

Luke 18:

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: After this week’s journey, what have you learned and what questions remain? Check out the “Maps” on p. *: maybe one of these books will help? Come ready to the next session to share one insight from living the Scriptures this week. 49


THE JOURNEY … entering God’s epic story”

Session 4: Travel By the end of this session … I’ll get a handle on how to properly interpret the Word of God, centred on Jesus and His Kingdom mission. In the process I’ll find travel companions in the lives of God’s followers from across this epic journey.

Take it to God + Journal Insights… Commit this session to God, and ask that He would give you a mind to understand, and a heart to respond to what’s in His Word. Then, spend 10 minutes in pairs or threes sharing how God spoke to you this last week through journaling on Luke 13-18.

Setting the Scene … Reading the Story Right “Everything changed that day we picked up a hitch-hiker” He turned it all around with a question: “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? It all points to the Saviour” He talked. We listened. And we talked. And as we journeyed, it all became clear … Jesus was the Messiah—we’d misread the plot. God reigns through the cross and resurrection, and we were to tell everyone this good news of His Kingdom The story wasn’t about us. It was about Him. And now God’s opened our eyes, the journey has just begun How can I legitimately apply inspired old stories to direct my steps today? The keys to the challenge of interpretation are found in the Emmaus Walk Everything changed that day we picked up a hitch-hiker. So get this. Me and a friend are on our way out of town. We’re headed anywhere but the city—especially after what went down in the last few days. He’s downcast. I’m depressed. And all we can do is replay the events like a broken record. Our hopes for the country were wrapped up in this one guy. It seems like we’d been waiting forever for a charismatic leader, a political Saviour of sorts—someone to free us from the mess our land is in. So we backed a winner. He was going to take it to the men who called the shots and set them straight … clean up corruption, that sort of thing. We weren’t after a bloody coup; just a change of administration I guess. But we didn’t mind if our guy stuck the boot in on the way through. But that’s all gone now. Anyway, back to the hitch-hiker. 50


As we’re heading out of the city, we pick this guy up for the ride. I don’t know where he’s from, but it couldn’t be around here. “Why the long face?” he asks. “Where have you been, mate? Check the news sometime! God’s gift to Israel has been taken out. The Messiah … the one anointed to get rid of Roman rule—he’s dead. It’s all been for nothing. We wasted our lives following him. And to make it worse, some women are telling tales about encountering angels, saying he’s alive. That’s like salt in the wound. So we’re leaving Jerusalem for good … we’re done with all this.” But who is this hitch-hiker? He called us … slow! He said we’d misunderstood the story. Then he turned it all around with a question: “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings—it all points to the Saviour. Didn’t you know the Messiah had to suffer before God’s glorious plans would come to pass?” So he talked. We listened. And we talked. And as we journeyed, it all became clear. This Jesus was the Messiah—we’d misread the plot. God wasn’t after a bloodbath. And He wasn’t playing favourites with Israel. Jesus was on mission to save the whole world, but not by killing the enemy. His way was to absorb evil in love. God reigns through the cross and resurrection, and we were to tell everyone this good news of His Kingdom. We didn’t want this journey to end, so we begged this stranger to stay. And as he broke bread around the table, our eyes were opened. The hitchhiker along the way—it was … it was Jesus! Our hearts were beating out of our chests. And even now we’ll never forget his last words to us … “you’ll preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in my name to all the nations, starting right here. You are witnesses of these things.” We’d missed it at first—the story wasn’t about us. It was about Him. The story was always about the Saviour. And now God’s opened our eyes, the journey has just begun. Okay, have you heard this story before? It’s from Luke 24 and it’s often called the Emmaus walk, as that’s the town where Cleopas and his mate were headed. As we get into the last session of the Journey, there’s so much we can learn from this pair and their mysterious hitch-hiker friend. So, where have we been? In the first session, Pilgrim, we explored how the Bible is a primarily a story—like an epic travelogue of God journeying with us over the millennia. And this story is inspired and authoritative for how we should walk today. In the second session, Lost, we discovered our place—walking out the fifth stage of a six leg trip that spans all of history. Remember, this journey starts in a garden, and focuses in from the tower through the tent to the mountain. Then, from Christ’s crucifixion, it heads out through the house to the city of God. Like the first disciples sent by Jesus, we’re living out His mission in the world, in the power of the Spirit, as a foretaste of what’s to come when God sets everything right. There’s no point simply repeating old steps … we’ve got to faithfully journey in line with what went before, striving toward what lies ahead. But why should we believe this story? So in the third session, Bearings, we explored why it’s plausible to believe the Bible really is the Word of God, and why it’s credible to trust this true story even today. So next time a talking snake comes our way, we can squash doubts before they poison our faith.

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Where does this leave us now? Let’s say you’ve journeyed with me, and you believe the Bible really is the inspired Word of God; it should direct our steps today. How can I take stories and teaching from way back then, and legitimately apply it to my life right now? It’s pretty clear that Cleopas and his friend mis-read the text. They were ready to take up swords and march into Jerusalem to install their warrior King. And let’s face it: the Bible is a pretty violent book. History gives us a long list of Christians using this text to control and oppress people. Slavery, sexism, homophobia, crusades, colonialism, racism … even the Ku Klux Klan used the Bible to justify its vendetta. Maybe it is God inspired, but in the hands of humans, this book is a dangerous authority. Now before you return to proof-text favourite verses, or put the Bible back on the shelf, let’s take up the challenge of interpretation. This session is all about how to properly interpret the Word of God, and the keys are found in the Emmaus Walk. In the process, I suspect we’ll find some amazing travel companions to share this epic journey.

Truth Time … Take the next 10 minutes in pairs to discuss the following: A How skilled are you at interpreting what God’s Word means? That is, how able are you to move from what the text meant for the original audience in the past, to how it should be lived in your leg of the journey right now? My head hurts just thinking about it! 1 2 3

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I’ve got the skills and I’m good to go 9 10

A What stories or teaching in the Bible most trouble you, or your non-Christian friends? Focusing on just one of these troubling aspects, how have you dealt with it? A Share a time you saw the Bible misused. What makes the difference between legitimate and illegitimate interpretation of the Bible?

Try This … Good Advice for Getting the Story Straight As a whole group, take the next 10 minutes for the following activity. (1) Together read Luke 3:21-22 on Jesus’ baptism, from two or more translations (e.g. CEV-Contemporary English Version; NRSV-New Revised Standard Version; TNIV-Today’s New International Version; NLT-New Living Translation) (2) How can we legitimately move from what happened then—both for the spectators of this event on the Jordan River bank, and for Luke’s Gentile audience via Theophilus (cf. Luke 1:1-4)—to what it means for us today? … As a group, write out your “top 5 principles to properly interpret the Bible.”

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Principle #1: _______________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Principle #2: _______________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Principle #3: _______________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Principle #4: _______________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Principle #5: _______________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________

Drive: Principles and Process: What it means For Them Interpretation is unavoidable, so let’s learn to do it well The Bible is only safe if you never read a verse; put it in its full context Are we stealing promises and skipping the unpleasant parts? Is it for me? Key Principle #1: Bring the Bible to Jesus. It all points to Him, so ask His Spirit to open your eyes, and then allow the Word to be fuel for the journey as you faithfully join His Kingdom mission Key Principle #2: Walk It out with Friends. We need travel companions, so read and engage the Scriptures in community The process of interpretation hinges on a key question: “What does this text mean for them, through Christ, to us today?” For them—in their particular context. Through Christ—how does Jesus fulfil and transform this text? And For Us—how do I live this today in my context? Step #1: What does this passage mean FOR THEM? What is the author’s point? What genre is this passage written in? What is the author’s point for the book as a whole? Where in the epic journey does this story sit? And what is the context of the passage? Pick up How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth + How to Read the Bible Book by Book (Douglas Stewart & Gordon Fee) + “ … for Everybody” series (N. T. Wright) Wouldn’t the Bible be safer if we didn’t interpret it at all—just read and apply, right? Perhaps you’re thinking this. “I just pick up God’s Word in the morning, flick and pick a passage, and then look for a command to obey or a promise to claim. And often this works, especially if we’re reading through one of Paul’s letters to the churches. Granted, flick and pick doesn’t work so well with stuff in the Old Testament, like rituals in Leviticus or wars in Joshua. And it doesn’t explain why we enforce some commands like opposing same-sex marriage but ignore others like a strict Sabbath or head-coverings for women in worship. But it’s close enough, isn’t it?” 53


Well, not really. The solution to bad interpretation is not “no interpretation.” Every time we read the Bible, we do interpret, whether we know it or not. To start with, you’re reading the Bible in English, but it was written in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Every translator has made decisions about which words to use so it makes sense to the reader. Maybe they’ve gone for a more literal translation, like the English Standard Version or the New Revised Standard Version—this is closer to what was originally written, but it still involves interpretation. Unless you’re at home with ancient middle-eastern currency, weights, measures, geography, and turns of phrase, you’re going to need some background knowledge to get what it’s saying. Or maybe your translator has gone for a dynamic interpretation, like the Contemporary English Version, Today’s New International Version, or the New Living Translation—this gives you a really good feel for what the author intended. But again, just reading the Bible in English involves interpreting the Bible. Interpretation is unavoidable. But the need for interpretation goes deeper than that. Have you ever seen one of those Bible Promise Boxes? I used to have one as a kid. There were literally thousands of tightly wound paper scrolls, and I used to love picking them out one by one with the tweezers to see what God had for me today. Imagine that you grabbed the tweezers, and the first verse you pulled was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” It’s a favourite alright. So what should you do with this promise? You could just claim it as your own—as though God dropped a one-size-fits-all promise out of the sky to help you through a tough day. “Dave, it’s all going to be okay—you’ll pass that multi-choice exam so don’t worry … and if in doubt, choose option ‘c’.” But is this legitimate? I mean, if your dad promised your sister some roller skates for Christmas, can you claim them as your own? Maybe it is for you, but it’s dangerous to assume. I need some background. Who was the original audience? What were the particular conditions attached to the promise? And when was the time it would be fulfilled? Is it for me? Okay, this is getting tricky. It seems like the only safe way to read the Bible is never to read a verse! And that’s exactly what one Christian author recommends—never read a verse … instead, read a verse in light of the whole paragraph, and the paragraph in the context of the flow of ideas in a book. Otherwise you’re lifting things out of context. Maybe it won’t be catastrophic. But this is where the KKK and Crusaders went wrong. So, back to Jeremiah … the promise was specifically to the nation of Israel around 600 years before Christ. God was promising to bring them back from exile after this nation was unfaithful. And with this promise also came judgment on false prophets only speaking happy words. The timing for fulfilment was within 70 years, which has definitely passed. So what do I do with this, today? Am I stealing promises and skipping the unpleasant parts? Perhaps. The point of it all goes so much beyond me and my concerns. Like Cleopas and his mate, we miss the real meaning because we’ve made it all about us. But this story is about the Saviour and His chosen people. God doesn’t abandon His people. So if I’m following Jesus, the real Saviour of the world, then I can face even my worst circumstances knowing God’s got it under control. That’s the legitimate good news of Jeremiah for my life today. But let’s back track for a bit. Interpretation is inevitable, that’s obvious. But what are the key principles guiding this process? Think back on the Emmaus Walk. 54


Was insightful exegesis enough to open Cleopas’s eyes and make his heart burn? Would he have come to the right conclusions on his own? I doubt it. So here we have two key principles for the journey. One: bring the Bible to Jesus. All the Scriptures point toward Jesus, and we need His company to help us understand and engage our mission today. Any time you read, ask Jesus through His Spirit to open your eyes. Bring your doubts, your questions, your struggles—all of it—bring it to Him and walk it out. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, you will never read the Scriptures right unless you read prayerfully and patiently as you walk with Jesus. And notice that He didn’t open their eyes so they could win the next round of Bible-trivia. He showed how the history, the prophets, the writings pointed to the Saviour so that they would join His mission as witnesses. God’s on mission to reconcile the world to Himself, dealing with our rebellion at the tower so we can journey to the garden-city together in the New Creation. Everything you read is fuel for this journey, so bring it to Jesus and ask how He would have you faithfully live it out as you join His mission. All Scripture reading should be centred on Christ, and directed toward His Kingdom mission. So, bring the Bible to Jesus. But the second principle is also important. Two: walk it out with friends. We need travel companions for this journey. Remember: Jesus talked; we listened; and we talked; and as we journeyed, it all became clear. It’s great to have a quiet time—a time with just you and God, reading His Word in the stillness. But every book in the Bible was given to a community. Every book was read out loud and discussed in groups. When Bible reading reduces to you and your private interpretation, things quickly go wrong. This isn’t to say that a community always gets it right. But the best way to engage the Scriptures is to bring what Jesus says to your friends, and rethink the story with yourselves in it. Now, the nearest friends for this journey probably live around the corner. But others may live across the globe, or even be from a different time and place—though long gone, their voices still speak. For instance, as you try and understand the meaning of particular words in a verse, or the broader context of a book, you’ll need expert help available in books. And as you try and learn lessons to faithfully walk your section of the way, you can learn amazing things from the good and bad of Biblical characters. But more on that later. For now, let me give you a simple three step process to legitimately interpret God’s Word. And like with the Emmaus walk, it all turns on asking the right questions. Ask yourself this: What does this text mean for them, through Christ, to us? For them—in their particular context. Through Christ—how does Jesus fulfil and transform this text. And For Us—how do I live this today in my context? We’ll explore step one now, and cover steps two and three after you work through Luke 3:21-22 with your friends. So, Step One: What does this passage mean FOR THEM? If you were on the banks of the Jordan River watching Jesus be baptized, what would have been running through your head? Or if you were friends with Theophilus, hearing Luke’s retelling of Jesus’ story for the first time, what would it mean to you? The point is this: “God’s Word to us was first of all His Word to them.” Every passage has eternal relevance, but God has breathed His Word into real space-time history. The way to keep us from wrong interpretations is to first find out what the author meant to say to his original audience, before we direct it our way. The question here is “What is this 55


author’s point?”8 Start by reading the passage in a few translations, like the CEV, NRSV, TNIV, and the NLT. Then, work your way through more detailed questions: What genre is this passage written in? Is it a parable, a poem, a prophecy, a letter, or some type of historical narrative? Each genre has its own characteristics and questions you should ask. For instance, as you read a Gospel, is the passage a direct teaching of Jesus, or a story about Jesus? Is there a similar account in the other gospels? How is this account in Luke different or the same as the others? Next, ask yourself: What is the author’s point for the book as a whole? Where in the epic journey does this story sit? … Is it the garden, the tower, or the tent? Or is it about the mountain, the house, or the city? How does the passage connect to what went before, and what follows? Now, if it’s centred in the house, or following Jesus’ teachings to the disciples on the mountain, then this is our leg of the journey and it’s legitimate to more directly apply what you read. Either way, the next question is crucial: What is the context of the passage? Never read a verse by itself—also read the main paragraphs before and after to get the author’s flow. Look up any words you don’t know in a Bible dictionary or concordance, and try to get inside the heads of the original audience. This step has a habit of dealing with difficult passages. Often passages don’t teach what we think. Perhaps it’s a violent act that the Bible describes but never prescribes. Or perhaps the Bible makes allowances for something like slavery, which in the Roman Empire was radically different from the kind of kidnapping and brutality Christians would later abolish. The point is to understand what it meant for them before judging what it means for us today. Of all the steps, here’s where you’ll need the most help from friends. You should always start with your own observations of a Scripture passage, but then you should turn to some expert help. There are so many good sources to recommend, but there are three worth buying. First, get a copy of Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This will give you tips for reading each genre of the Bible. Second, and by the same authors, track down How to Read the Bible Book by Book. In under ten pages you’ll get the most crucial background information for any book of the Bible you’re working through. Third, consider buying a good commentary that gives you the historical context of what you’re reading. For the everyday Christian reading through Luke, try Tom Wright’s “Luke for Everybody,” as part of his “… for Everybody” series. It’s excellent scholarship that’s really easy to understand. So, that’s step one: What does it mean FOR THEM. Soon we’ll work through the next two steps … What does it mean THROUGH CHRIST, TO US TODAY? But now it’s your turn. Open your Bibles, and let’s get into Luke 3:21-22.

8

See Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3d ed., pp. 17-31.

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Try This … What Luke 3:21-22 meant For Them Having already read Luke 3:21-22 in two or more translations, take the next 10 minutes (in pairs or threes) to discuss the central question of what this passage meant for them: “What is the author’s point?” (The following questions will help uncover the author’s point, and can be used as a process for any passage you read, before considering what it means THROUGH CHRIST, and TO US today. Remember, “God’s Word to us was first of all His Word to them.”) A What genre is this passage written in? ‰ Parable/Allegory ‰ Historical Narrative ‰ Law/Command ‰ Song/Poem/Psalm ‰ Historiography (crafted retelling) ‰ Prophecy ‰ Proverb/Wisdom ‰ Letter/Epistle ‰ Apocalyptic ‰ Other:______________ ‰ Unsure (consult a commentary for insight) A How should this genre affect your reading of the text? (For future reference, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart’s book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3d ed., is really helpful in this process.)

A What is the author’s point for the book as a whole? (For future reference, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart’s book How to Read the Bible Book by Book is very useful.)

A Where in the epic journey does this story sit? ‰ Garden (Creation) ‰ Tower (Fall/Rebellion) ‰ Mountain (Jesus) ‰ House (Spirit/Church)

‰ Tent (Israel) ‰ City (New Creation)

A What connections do you see in this passage to prior and following events in the epic?

A What is the context of the passage, historically, and in a literary sense of flow? (I.e., What would these events and this account have meant to the original audience? Why did the author include this passage in this location for the paragraph and book as a whole?)

A In a sentence, What did this event and Scripture mean FOR THEM? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________

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Drive: What it means Through Christ, To Us The whole story had come to a climax in Jesus. So when we read the Scriptures, we’ve got to ask, “What does this passage mean through Christ?” How has Jesus formed and reformed the story? Reframe in light of who He is and what He did Christians have used the Bible to oppress and control others. But when we worship a slain lamb and are sent through the scars in Christ’s hands, joining Jesus on mission, this kind of love will never oppress—if our story is straight “What does this passage mean for them, through Christ, TO US?” The whole story of the Bible is unlocked when we see it as the journey of a God on mission. In telling and retelling these stories, we learn to faithfully travel the fifth leg, joining Jesus in transforming the world What is God like, and what am I like? What’s God’s mission in the world, and who would He have me be, for Jesus Christ, today? … Remember your mission, and seek the Spirit’s help each day If you read it right, you’ll never be the same. Be offended, but bring it to God Find travel companions to guide your journey. The Bible is filled with divine mentors who direct our steps from the garden, via the mount, to the city Luke tells the story of Jesus’ baptism to perfection. God inspired this account, so what did you find it meant For Them? Remember from session 2, in Luke we see Jesus as the New David. He announced a Kingdom of Peace that included all people and nations— women, children, the oppressed, and Gentiles. Did you notice in chapter 3 how Luke places this story right in space and time? He builds the excitement for the unveiling of the long awaited Messiah to save Israel. But did you pick the subversive story underneath … this Messiah traces back past David and Abraham, to Adam. Jesus will save the Jews, but the Son of Man is truly the Saviour of the whole world. The whole Biblical epic ties together as one journey. We sense the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters like at Creation. We see Jesus baptized with all humanity marred by the fall. We hear the Father call Jesus His Son—words once spoken over Israel—and Jesus passed through the Jordan leading everyone in a New Exodus. And we see the kind of prayer and Spirit dependence that would mark out the early Church, sent just like Jesus to give a foretaste of a world set to right in the New Creation. But just like Cleopas and his mate, we’re still in danger of misreading the Scriptures unless we bring it to Jesus. We’ve seen what it meant for them, but what does it mean through Christ? When Jesus walked through the waters, hot on the heels of John the Baptist’s promise of fiery judgment, I bet onlookers were strapping on their swords: “Joshua took out Jericho. So how will YHWH save through Jesus? Let’s march to Jerusalem!” Yet, Jesus heads out for forty days in the wilderness and the real showdown: a battle with Satan. Joshua fought a war, but Jesus deposed the Devil. David established a throne and laid the foundation for a temple, but Jesus threatened to tear it down and rebuild in three days. Jesus fulfilled all the Scriptures and every Covenant promise with Israel. But in the process, He reoriented their hopes around Him and God’s plans for all creation. 58


Maybe this sounds technical. But it is crucial. If all the Scriptures point to Jesus, then we’d better reframe what we read in light of who He is and what He did. When Jesus came on the scene, the journey entered a new leg. God carries the story forward. Jesus stands in for Israel and reworks their entire identity. Herod’s temple is destroyed, but Jesus’ body and His Church are now the living temple of the Holy Spirit. Jerusalem may fall, but Jesus claims the whole world as His own and sends His disciples to announce His Reign in every land. Moses and the marks of Torah became a new humanity made of all nations with a new circumcised heart sensitive to the Spirit—this New Exodus gave them permanent Sabbath rest, and no food was forbidden when the Law is love. Are you getting the picture? This was radical. The whole story had come to a climax in Jesus. Jesus was the true and better Moses, the true and better Passover lamb, the true and better Israel, the true and better temple, the founder of a new and better humanity. So when we read the Scriptures, we’ve got to ask, What does this passage mean through Christ? How has Jesus formed and reformed the story? If I stop at what it meant for them, then I might follow Joshua across the water in a crusade to annihilate my enemy. People are right to fear this kind of story. And if I stop at what it meant for them, then I might exclude foreigners, females, children, and the disabled from the inner sanctuary. But when I bring it to Jesus, I’m called to overcome evil with good, to love my enemy, and to embrace the outcast. Following Christ, my agenda is not to rebuild the Temple on the Mount, or to establish a Theocracy to govern our nation, or to retreat from a dirty world and let it go to hell. I’m commissioned to join Jesus’ mission—to reconcile all things to God, calling people back to love Him, love each other, and faithfully garden this world He loves. Christians have used the Bible to oppress and control others. But at the centre of the throne is a slain lamb, and at the heart of our story is the God of the Universe crucified with His arms open to a world that left Him high and dry. And we’re sent through the scars in Christ’s hands, on this same mission. This kind of love will never oppress, if only we get our story straight. So, onto the last step. What does this passage mean for them, through Christ, TO US? Just like with the Emmaus walk, Jesus opens our eyes to the Scriptures so we’ll see how best to be His witnesses right here and now. When they understood the epic, they were sent out from Jerusalem, through Judea, to the ends of the earth. The whole story of the Bible is unlocked when we see it as the journey of a God on mission. In the telling and retelling of these stories, we learn what it means to faithfully travel in the fifth leg, between the garden where we fell and the city where we’ll be free. This story isn’t about me. It’s His story. Sure, I’ll find fuel for everyday life in its pages. But the main reason for reading is to connect with a God who transforms me to join Him in transforming the world. But how do we read the Bible like that? Again, it all turns on asking the right questions. What is God like? This is question number one. The Bible is God opening up His life for public inspection. What brings Him joy? What breaks His heart? What declares His glory? Next I might ask of the text, What am I like? The Bible acts as a mirror to reveal how my image is like, and unlike, my Creator. We can turn these insights into prayers, that God would give us His heart and shape us for His glory. Third, we need to ask, What’s His mission in the world? How broad is His concern? What’s His way of setting things right? How has He asked us to join Him? And in what ways has He used us to carry this mission forward, or have we rebelled and made a mess? 59


Last, we need to lay our lives and agendas before Him—our work, our relationships, our time, our money—and let the Spirit search us through His living Word: Who would You have me be, for Jesus Christ, today? How should I live? How should I pray, and love, and give? In my context, what does it look like to journey with this God on mission? Jesus said that “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). So what could this look like today? Thoughts like these have a habit of vanishing unless we write them down. So keep a journal where you can write out the key passage, any observations guided by these kinds of questions, and then how you’ll apply what you’ve read. You might even scrawl one or two practical challenges on a piece of paper to carry around with you for the day. Pray into this, as this mission is impossible without the Spirit’s power and guidance. And look for how you might faithfully enter God’s epic starting today. So, what does the passage mean for them, through Christ, to me? Try it. If you do, I’m sure that your eyes will be opened, and your heart will burn as the God’s Word still speaks. Before we wrap up this process, though, there are two more things you need to know. First, if you read it right, you’ll never be the same. There is stuff in God’s book that you’ll want to attack with scissors. Maybe it’s what it says about money, or science, sexual identity, or politics—the list could go on. And even after you’ve read it in context, it still seems so offensive. What then? Can I suggest that perhaps we’re wrong and God is right? In the West we have issues with God’s sexual standards, but we love this unconditional forgiveness stuff. While in the East, the sexual standards are good (though perhaps not strict enough), but this idea of forgiving your enemy is unthinkable. And one day in the future, our grandkids will probably look down on our standards of right and wrong as oldfashioned and naïve. Do you get the point? As C. S. Lewis put it, we may be “chronological snobs.” We’re convinced that our time in history, and our idea of truth, goodness, and beauty, trumps every other. But if God really is Lord of all, and we really are marred by sin in both mind and body—isn’t it just possible that popular opinion is off on occasion? If we’ll only follow God’s Word when it agrees with us, then we’re the authority, not Him. Do we really trust God? Do we trust that His Word is inspired and authoritative for how we live today? So, you can play it safe and skip the parts of the Bible you hate. But what I’m suggesting is different. Be offended! But bring it to God. And as you talk it out and live in God’s light, you may well be changed. This is the stuff of real relationships, which is exactly what God wants. So, read it right and you’ll never be the same. But one more thing in closing. This story is meant to be shared. No one goes on a road trip alone. So, find travel companions to guide your journey. A great way to understand the Kingdom of God is through the community of God. And the Bible is filled with characters who’ve walked this road before us. Like hitch-hikers headed the same direction, they’re traveling with us from the garden to the city via the mount of crucifixion. The Bible gives us graphic accounts of each life without the neat endings—this hall of faith, and sometimes lack of faith, is looking on. They’re divine mentors who direct our steps if only we’ll listen. “Turn right here, and you won’t regret it. … Now, take a rest stop or you’ll crash where I did.” We can learn all our lessons by making the mistakes for ourselves—but consequences are a harsh teacher. So why take a wrong turn when we don’t need to? These tales of triumph and tragedy are there so we can grow through 60


wisdom.9 I remember when my wife Nikki and I felt called by God to head to Vancouver for study. At that time I picked up Abraham as a travel companion to guide my journey. He and Sarah had an uncertain future as well—no kids, no clear direction for where to settle, just a big backpack full of essentials and a clear call to get up and go a land He would show us. Who is it for you? Which hitch-hikers might walk with you at this stage in your journey? Maybe it’s Eve and David while you’re tempted to sin? Or it’s Daniel and Nehemiah as you lead with opposition? Are you burning up to speak a prophetic challenge like Jeremiah and John the Baptist? Do you need faith to keep going like Ruth and Thomas? Or are you struggling with your call like Samson and Jonah? These are all travel companions. Pay attention to their character qualities. Listen and learn. And if you’re open to the Spirit, He’ll speak to you through the Scriptures and say, “Here is the path: walk in it.” Enough talk though … how is God speaking through Christ to you in Luke 3?

9

See Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 11:1-12:1. These ideas work off Wayne Cordeiro, The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Saviour.

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Try This … Luke 3:21-22, Through Christ, To Us Still reflecting on Luke 3:21-22, take the next 10 minutes (in pairs or threes) to discuss the central question of what this passage means through Christ, to us today: “Who would You have me be, for Jesus Christ, today?” (The following questions will help uncover this answer, and can be used as a process for any passage you read to legitimately apply the Scriptures to your life today.) A All Scripture points toward Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39-40). Whilst these verses in Luke 3:21-22 are already about Jesus, what does this passage mean through Christ? (That is, how does Jesus’ life and identity form and reform the story, reframing our understanding of the meaning and significance of this event?)

A From this passage, what is God like?

A From this passage, what am I (and what are we) like? (Use the Bible as a mirror to see yourself more clearly with God’s eyes.)

A From this passage, what is God’s mission in the world?

A Putting this together in concise form, what does this passage mean to me right now? … Who would Jesus Christ have me be for Him today? (Write out two application points to live over the next day.) __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ A How does this passage challenge my understanding and way of life? (Remember, read it right and you’ll never be the same.)

A What can I learn from Kingdom characters featured in this passage?

A Which Biblical character seems like a natural traveling companion for me at this stage in my journey? What do you have in common?

A What other questions help me legitimately apply God’s Word to my life today? (Remember, the Scriptures give us fuel to faithfully walk in the journey’s fifth leg.) 62


Fuel: Inspiration for the Journey The Word of God is alive and active. As we tell this story, we are shaped to be like Christ, on mission to reconnect a lost world to its loving Father But how should we travel on a planet seriously messed up? Mother Theresa was a woman shaped by the Scriptures: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world” God’s call on her life was clear, but it wasn’t without crisis. In the same way, when we stop racing ahead of God’s plans or retracing steps of those who went before, faithful improvisation can leave us with lots of questions Still, God’s Word is food for the hungry, and sensitivity to His Spirit makes the impossible a reality. Dwelling in this book directs our travel today as a sign of His Kingdom. Everything hinges on Jesus and His mission. Will you join His story? The Word of God—it’s alive and active. The Bible’s not some dusty legend of what happened way back when. God knows what He’s doing, and He’s given us just the right book we need to live for Him today. As we tell this story, we are shaped to be like Christ— we’re on mission to reconnect a lost world to its loving Father. And if you enter this epic story, you’ll see how Jesus would have you walk out the fifth leg en route to the city of God. Your life will be a foretaste of that final destination, when God sets everything right. But what does this look like right now? How should we travel on a planet seriously messed up? Perhaps you’ll find a picture at an Indian graveside, September 1997. Leaders of nations gathered to pay tribute to a five foot nothing giant of a woman. Even the President of Albania, an atheist, stood in awe-struck silence. Here was a life beautifully lived. Here lay Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Born in 1910 with the name of Agnes, even as a child she was inspired reading the stories of Jesus’ followers across the ages—people who risked everything in the name of love. By the age of 21 she had taken the name Teresa, after the patron Saint of missionaries. She joined the Sisters of Loreto and taught English to Indian children at the base of the Himalayas. Every day she would dwell in the Scriptures. She wasn’t looking to be famous, or to fit God into her story. As she said “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” So as she read the Bible, she discovered how her purpose in life was wrapped up in God’s mission for the whole of creation. As she prayed the Scriptures, she became the unique individual God had crafted to cultivate a dirty city. “I do not pray for success,” she said, “I ask for faithfulness.” At the age of 36 while riding the Darjeeling Express, God’s call on her life crystallized. She was confronted by the tent city of Calcutta. Millions living in slums stretching as far as the eye could see. Untouchables. The stench of death. Lepers. Kids without food or family. Old people dying like dogs in the streets. Like Abraham, God was calling her out of her comfort zone. Like the baby Jesus, she was born to share their poverty. And how she loved the least of these was the measure of her love for God. This was how the Missionaries of Charity began: one tiny woman taking a giant step of faith. No income, forced to beg; alone, and tempted to give up. Like Jesus in the garden, she wanted God’s will to be done. It was a no frills life. All she had was a Bible and three simple white saris sporting the cross of Christ on her shoulder. 63


In every starving face she saw the form of Jesus. For over 45 years she followed Christ’s mission to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled … all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, [and] uncared for throughout society … shunned by everyone.” She won the Nobel Peace Prize and India’s highest honour for her work. And by the time she died, this giant of a lady would leave behind 610 missions in 120 countries, with hospices for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programs, orphanages, and schools. God’s call on her life was clear, but it wasn’t without crisis. A lot has been made of Mother Teresa’s doubts. For decades she couldn’t sense God’s presence. She felt lifted up for the world to see, but like Jesus she wondered why the Father had forsaken her. Now, this is important for your journey too. It’s one thing to read the Bible and retrace the steps of those who walked before us. But once we ask what this story means for them, through Christ, to us today, we lose some of our certainty. We’ll all experience confusion, doubt, and dark nights of the soul. In the Scriptures we find bearings for where we’re all headed: from the garden to the city via the mount of crucifixion. But where should I place my next step? What does it mean to faithfully walk in this leg of the epic journey? Whatever God has in store for us, it’ll take trust and reliance on His leading. And if you want to absorb evil in love—it’s an impossible task, so you need God’s grace. His Word is food for the hungry. But what’s clear is this. If one day God will bring us to a city where there’s no poverty, no sickness, loneliness, or pain, then I can’t sit on my hands and read the Scriptures as all about me. I’ve got to get involved in the “ministry of salvation.”10 Right now God is calling us to be a sign of His Kingdom—to heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the good news of God’s love. This is what it means to travel today. Everything in the Bible hinges on Jesus and His mission. Will you join His story? Well, this trip is done and dusted, but your journey is just beginning. Over the next week work through this approach to reading the Scriptures as you finish off Luke 19-24. What verses stand out in each chapter, and what does this passage mean for them, through Christ, to us, right here and now? Get together one more time with the group and share how God still speaks today. And as you journey, I pray that you will be a pilgrim like Abraham, and find your place in the story like Moses. May you learn from Eve to ignore sceptical snakes, and may your eyes be opened like Cleopas to the divine hitch-hiker always by your side. Travel well.

Destination: Preparation for Your Last Session Over the next week, read Luke 19-24, using the process explored in this session. Read a chapter each day, and ask God for a couple of verses to focus in on. Then, consider what this Scripture means for them, through Christ, to us today. As you record your observations and write out application points for each day, commit it to God in prayer, and thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. Next week is an optional session without video instruction, but can I encourage you to consolidate all you’ve learned and celebrate how God has grown you through the Journey. And remember, everything hinges on Christ and God’s mission in this world. So travel well, and may God bless. 10

David Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 400.

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Maps: Useful Guides to Go Further Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World. Klaus Bockmuehl, Listening to the God who Speaks: Reflections on God’s Guidance from Scripture and the Lives of God’s People. Wayne Cordeiro, The Divine Mentor. Eugene Robert Ekblad, Jr. Reading the Bible with the Damned. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3d ed. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Douglas Stewart, Old Testament Exegesis, 3d ed. W. Randolph Tate, Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach, rev. ed. Rick Warren, Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods: Twelve Ways You Can Unlock God’s Word. Christopher Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. N. T. Wright, Luke for Everybody. N. T. Wright, New Testament and the People of God.

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Luke 19:

Jesus Rides into Jerusalem

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: Like Cleopas and his friend found, the Scriptures become clear when we interpret them with Jesus. Read over pp. *-** “Reading the Story Right.”

Luke 20:

Disputes in Jerusalem

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: As you read, bring the Bible to Jesus, and walk it out with friends. Ask: What does this passage mean for them? Read over pp. *-** “Principles and Process.” 66


Luke 21:

The Return of Christ in Judgment

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: With Luke 21 in hand, apply the framework on p. “Try This” to discover the author’s point: “What did this event and Scripture mean for them?”

Luke 22:

The Beginning of the Lord’s Supper

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: If you read the Word right, you’ll never be the same, especially if you share the journey with travel companions. Read over pp. *-** “Drive.” 67


Luke 23:

Jesus is Tried and Crucified

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: With Luke 23 in hand, apply the framework on p. “Try This” to discern God’s voice: “What does this Scripture mean for them, through Christ, to me today?”

Luke 24:

The Risen and Ascended Christ

Read this chapter, asking God to open your eyes to His leading this day. Scripture: Write out in full the one or two verses that really speak to you. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Observations: What is the author’s point? What does this Scripture show you about what God is like, and what you are like? What does this Scripture show you about God’s mission, and your mission in the world? What can I learn from Kingdom characters? ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Application: What does this passage mean to you right now? “Who would Jesus have me be for Him today?” Write out one point of application to live today in response. ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Prayer: Commit what you’ve read, and your application point, to God. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word. And over the day, look for opportunity to live this out. Rear Vision: As Theresa discovered, God’s Word is living and active; it directs us to pursue Christ and join His Kingdom mission. Read over pp. *-** “Setting the Scene,” and come ready to the last session to share how God has spoken to you over the Journey. 68


Appendix One: Sign: Pointing People to Jesus “God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others. What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19, CEV) Ever thought about what this means? Every day followers of Christ—you and me, warts and all—are God’s Plan A to make the introduction between a wayward world, and an infinitely gracious God. To put it another way, we’re to be a Sign held high that points people to Jesus, so that every person can be reconciled to God. What a privilege. And what a challenge! So, how are you going with this? When’s the last time you intentionally pointed someone to Jesus? How often are you a Sign Post to God’s Kingdom? Do you feel equipped to share your faith with your unchurched friends? Are you up for the challenge? This is what SIGN is about. It’s time to deal with all those caricatures and failed models of evangelism. And it’s time to see, experience, and share in new ways how the Gospel really is good news, even for a post-Christian culture tired of talk. Dave Benson (Pastor of Evangelism and Community Outreach at Kenmore Baptist Church in Brisbane, Australia) has put this material together specifically for those who are sick of the soap box, but want to share their faith. Jesus has been good news to us, so how can we faithfully and effectively share this with others who just don’t ‘get’ Christianity. The end result is a Kingdom-centred evangelistic strategy leading toward each person having their own plan to reach five others with the love of Christ and the way to be reconciled to God. Whether as an individual, or across a whole church as a campaign, this three-session DVD with accompanying manual will equip you to become a SIGN pointing people to Jesus.

(For further information, or to purchase the materials, check out http://pathways.kbc.org.au/passing/sign-evangelism/ and contact church@kbc.org.au.) 69


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THE

JOURNEY [

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The Journey ... Entering God's Epic Story  

What is the Bible? What kind of story is it? Why should I trust it? And how do I enter in? Over four sessions--Pilgrim; Lost; Bearings;...

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