Christianity 201

August 18, 2018

The Word of God Reinforces God’s Word

You’re looking at today’s title and saying, “Which is which?” I’ll just leave it at that!

Today’s writer has been linked at Thinking Out Loud but is being featured here for the first time. John Rothra’s website contains many great articles and I encourage you to look around. For this one in particular, click the title below.

The Hidden Message of the Old Testament that’s Buried in Plain Sight

While reading Joshua 1:8 the other day, I remembered something interesting I discovered while in seminary. Placed right at the front of various Old Testament books was a message from God.

Of course, this isn’t some sort of hidden, secret Bible code.  It’s not numerology or some sort of word twisting.  Rather, it’s something that’s in the ordinary language and that relates to how the Jews organize the Old Testament.

To understand the beauty of it all, we first need to have a basic understanding of the organization of the Old Testament, or the Tanakh.

The Three-Part Organization of the Tanakh

The Jewish Bible is called the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament), and it is divided into three parts:

  • Torah (aka, The Law/Teachings, the Pentateuch) – begins with Genesis
  • Nevi’im (aka, the Prophets) – begins with Joshua
  • Ketuvim (aka, the Writings) – begins with Psalms

The Tanakh gets its name from the first letter of the three sections: TaNaKh.

The books found in each section are as follows:


Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy


Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2  Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi


Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon (Songs), Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles

Take note of the first book of each section because that’s vital!

The Not-So-Hidden Message of the Old Testament

As read Joshua 1, God reminded me of this three-part structure and how the beginning of each section reveals a message from God to us.  First, Genesis (the Law):

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:3 (ESV)

Notice that God spoke here.  God said words.  Thus, at the very beginning we have God speaking something, making his words and his will known.  In this case his will was to create light (and later the rest of creation).

Now let’s turn Joshua (the Prophets):

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Joshua 1:8 (ESV)

At the beginning of Joshua we have directions to meditate on God’s word.  Again, God’s word is in focus here.  Why meditate on it?  Because God wants his word and will to be known.

Now let’s look at the final section by looking at Psalms (the Writings):

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV)

Just as with Joshua, we have an edict to mediate on God’s word along with a promise to the one who does.  Again, God clearly wants his word and will to be known and followed.

So let’s put all this together.

The Old Testament is comprised of three parts.  Each section begins with God’s word.  I believe God is trying to say something here.

Furthermore, there’s a pattern to it:

  1. Genesis (Torah): God speaks, reveals his word
  2. Joshua (Nevi’im): God tells us to mediate on his word
  3. Psalms (Ketuvim): God again tells us to heed his word

So the message from God, essentially, is this:

Here is my word → listen to it → listen to it

Are we getting the point?

Oh, on a related note, the Gospel of John, which begins by quoting Genesis 1:1, also begins with the word of God, this time the Living Word: Jesus.  The final book of the Bible, Revelation (also written by John), closes with the Living Word.

So, are we seeing the message?

Bringing it Home

While the tripartite structure is a human creation, I believe God foresaw it and providentially guided the process so that this message would be included.  God wants to reveal his word.  God wants us to listen to his word.  God wants us to learn from and meditate on his word.  God will bless those who do.

But it’s not just the written word.  God wants us to know, follow, and obey the Living Word: Jesus!

As you look at your life, are you heeding God’s word, the written and living ones?  Are you reading, learning, and applying the Bible?  Are you seeking, drawing closer to, and following Jesus?

God’s message is simple:

This is my word. Listen to my word. Listen to my Word.

October 6, 2012

How Firm a Foundation

In 2010 we visited the blog Christian Blessing; today we return for an article by Wayne Stiles which appeared there under the title How to Fix Foundation Problems in Your Spiritual Life. (You’re encouraged to click that link and read this at the original source.)

Years ago, my grandmother’s 1909 house got a fresh layer of wallpaper.

But only weeks later, I noticed in a high corner the wallpaper had buckled, and in some places, it had even split.

When I asked her about it she said: “Oh, the house needs foundation work. Every time the seasons change and the wind blows a different direction, the whole house shifts.”

That made sense. For years I shaved inches off most of the doors trying to get them to close. But the repair only lasted until the wind shifted again.

Look closely at the lives of your friends and family. Maybe even your own life.

You’ll see this old house’s problem in vivid display.

Foundation Problems Affect Everything

The choice to fix foundation problems always costs. But so does ignoring them.

When I remember my grandmother’s old house, I remember Jesus’ words:

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand . . . the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” —Matthew 7:26–27

Hearing God’s Word, but failing to follow it, is like papering over the cracks of a bad foundation. Sounds silly, but we see it all the time:

  • When one marriage hits the rocks, another follows with little more success.
  • When one obsession or addiction seems conquered, in its place comes one more of equal destruction.

Job after job, church after church, relationship after relationship—when the walls of lives get wrinkled or ripped apart, the solution seems simply to paper over the tear with a fresh print and start over.

The problem, of course, lies not in the wallpaper, the walls, or even the wind. These remain but symptoms of the real problem: a poor foundation.

Our Favorite Foundation is Faulty

I’ll never forget the sobering statistic I read from the Barna Group years ago:

“The basis of people’s moral and ethical decisions these days is more likely to be feelings and less likely to be the Bible.” —Barna Group

The problem here? God never intended feelings to guide us. Instead, they betray us. (Tweet that.)

  • When the devil tempted the first woman to disobey, the cunning serpent appealed to emotion by discrediting God’s Word (Genesis 3:4-6).
  • When we doubt God’s truth—or simply stay unaware of it—we have nothing left to base our decisions on but emotion and common sense—both inadequate as foundations.
  • When we make decisions based on any other foundation but God’s Word—not simply morality, but real, biblical truth—we sit at the mercy of any wind’s whim. No marriage will endure, no salary will satisfy, no job, church, or relationship will last.

How can they, when we base them on feelings that constantly shift?

How to Fix Foundation Problems in Your Life

Got some cracks in your spiritual life? In key relationships? Don’t paper over them. Work to fix foundation problems.

If you choose to invest time in the Bible and apply its life-changing truths, you will live like those of whom Jesus spoke:

“Everyone who hears these words of mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.”—Matthew 7:24-25

The decision to fix foundation problems always costs. But so does ignoring them.

Question: On what basis do you make your decisions?

~Wayne Stiles

April 29, 2012

Doers…and Not Hearers Only

Or then again,  maybe we should have titled this,

Hearers…and not Doers Only.

I was surprised to discover today that we had yet to include Talbot Davis in our collection of Bible study and devotional writers.  His blog, The Heart of the Matter is now entering its fifth year.  Talbot is pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, a modern congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina. You’re encouraged to read posts here on C201 at source, where this one appears as What “Doers Of The Word” Teaches Us About The Bible

James 1:22 is one of the more familiar verses in Scripture.  I love how the King James version translates it:

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

We get the “doers of the word” part — most of us Methodist are more than eager to put our faith into some kind of meaningful action.

But note the contrast — “and not hearers only.” 

If we gave it some real thought, most of us would contrast “doing” the word with “reading the word,” wouldn’t we?

In our mind, the sin James rebukes here concerns people who read, study, and underline their bibles but don’t then live their bibles.

Except James couldn’t write his letter and give this exhortation with that sin in mind.  Why?

Because the people in James’ church didn’t have their own personal copies of the bible.  In fact, the majority of them couldn’t read.

They encountered the sacred text in church, in community, and out loud.  So most people in James’ church heard the word without ever reading the word.  James writes with that dynamic in mind.

Which brings up the larger point:  the bible is a collection of books — a library as we call it at Good Shepherd — written for people who are by and large illiterate.

Books for people who can’t read?  You bet.  That’s why the books in the bible are written more for the ear than for the eye.

So try it.  Read it out loud today.

And the book of James wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

~Talbot Davis

In many parts of the world, oral transmission — orality — is the dominant medium by which the scriptures are heard.  If you wish to know about a ministry organization producing oral texts for both major and obscure language groups, check out this article about Megavoice.

April 26, 2011

Powerful Worship Song: Speak, O Lord

Do you appreciate the worship songs posted here, or do you wish that every day was a text devotional or Bible study?  We’ve somewhat evolved a style here with something different in terms of mix or balance, and I think some days a great worship song can say as much or more than a great devotional post.

I saw this online at Tim Challies blog a few days ago, he had the making of the song with Kristyn Getty, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.  I thought it would be great to share all three verses of the song.

Allow God to speak to you as you listen.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us—
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

December 26, 2010

Five Reasons to Read the Bible

  1. For the truth about God. The world gives us a multiplicity of meanings as to who God is and what He is all about.   The Bible gives us a proper standard for truth by which to test everything else we hear or read.  For the LORD gives wisdom;  from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.  (Proverbs 2: 6, 9 NIV 2011)
  2. To keep our thoughts focused. Living in the world, we think worldly things.   That can cut off our focus on God and our communication with him.   It’s a tug of war.   God’s word will draw us to Him even as the world tries to draw us away.   Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)
  3. Because we need direction. Just as our thoughts can be drawn away from God so our will and decision making can be drawn away from His best.   Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (II Tim 3: 16, 17 The Message)
  4. As an act of obedience. If we love God, we will want to do the things that please Him.   He should keep it with him all the time and read from it every day of his life. Then he will learn to respect the Lord his God, and he will obey all the teachings and commands.  (Deut 17: 19 NCV)
  5. As a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The Bible is described as the “sword of the Spirit.”   It can be used against the ideas that Satan confronts us with through others, or simply puts into our minds.   Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”  (Matt 4:10 ESV)