Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Favorite Bible Stories]

Last week Melany and I wrote about what we believed about the Bible and this week is all about our favorite Bible stories! The Bible is one amazing book...

1. The woman who washed Jesus' feet with her hair. (Luke 7:36-50) I wrote about this story nearly two years ago and every time I read it, it has the same effect on me. (Read my post titled Canceled Debt.) I can relate to this woman and Jesus' statement, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (vs.47) That's me. My sins are many and so I kneel before God in thanksgiving and praise for the work He has done and is doing in my life.

2. When Jesus claims authority over the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23-3:6) This story shows up again in Matthew 12:1-14, Luke 6:1-11, and John 5:15. It's basically written the same four different times and here's the gist: "One Sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" Jesus response to this question blows.me.away. "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and at the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to this who were with him? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (vs. 25-28) Basically, the needs of David's men took precedence over ceremonial bread and Sabbath rules! Jesus is telling them that HE IS GREATER THAN DAVID AND THE TEMPLE! He made the Sabbath, He owns it, He made the rules and Jesus was telling them, "IT IS MINE!" The best part of this story is the continuation into chapter 3 of Mark where Jesus intentionally provokes controversy when He entered the synagogue and told a man with a withered hand to "Come here." (vs.3) and proceeded to ask this amazing question, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" And no one had an answer for him. After He healed the man's hand the Pharisees sought ways to destroy Him. And this is why this story is so extremely powerful: Jesus put the issue of the Sabbath on a new plane: the Sabbath is for expressing Jesus' rule and authority - not Moses' - it is for worshipping CHRIST. It is for relieving man, not burdening him. And for showing mercy and doing good - just like CHRIST. Jesus is telling them to REST IN ME. WORSHIP ME. EVERY DAY. I AM YOUR SABBATH.

3. The story of Job. Although it has a sad beginning, I LOVE this story. Job loses every thing: his wealth, his children, his health and then every one turns against him - including his wife (2:9). His three "friends" give horrible advice, telling him he deserves what happened to him because of his sin. Here's the thing, Job was a righteous man and it had nothing to do with Job's sin. God gave Satan permission to touch all that belonged to Job to see if Job would continue to follow Him or turn away from Him. Instead of blaming Job for all his tribulations his friends should've taken Elihu's advice in 37:14, "... stop and consider the wondrous works of God." (which I believe is the entire purpose of this book). No matter what you're going through, stop and consider the wondrous works of God! Even if you lose everything... praise God! Do not be like Job who started out doing just that, but then turned to complaining and begging God for an answer to his "why me?!" Instead of praising God, he begins to conflict with God (see 3:26, 6:8-9, 7:11, 9:15, 10:1-2, 13:3, 13:15, 21:15, 23:1, 23:4, 23:17, 31:35, 31:37). And God's answer to Job is awesome, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements - surely you know!" (I'm sensing God's wrath and perhaps a bit of sarcasm?) God continues to lay out his mighty works in chapters 38 - 41 and after this AMAZING discourse, Job promises silence in 40:4-5 (which I believe is the climax of the book) and repents in chapter 42! Read it to find the happy ending, but learn from Job: no matter what - praise God! And if you need reason to praise Him read what He says about Himself in 38 - 41 (My favorite is when He tells Job that He can put Leviathan on a leash... wow... or when he simply states, "Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." (41:11) Even what was taken from Job and even what was given to him at the end. Amazing.)

4. The Lord freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt. (Exodus 1-15) If you want to read a perfect example about God's Sovereignty - read this story. Every time I came across something that pointed to God's sovereign hand - I highlighted it. God was in control from the beginning starting with why the Israelites were there (see #9) to the very end when the Israelites were freed from slavery. In this story you learn God's name (3:14) and you learn the reason this event is about to take place, "So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it;" (3:20). God's sovereignty is on display with Pharaoh when He hardens his heart again and again, "I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go." (4:21) Why did he do that? Well each of the plagues pointed to each of the god's the Egyptians worshipped. In other words, God is sending sign after sign after sign stating, "I AM THE ONLY LIVING AND TRUE GOD!" Need proof? Read 7:5, "The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them." or "By this you shall know that I am the Lord..." (7:17) or "...so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God." (8:20) or in 9:14-16 (my favorite), "For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." (bolded mine) or 9:29 or 10:3 or 11:9 or 13:8-9 or 14:4 (another favorite) "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." He states that again in 14:17-18. He is in control! This story makes His sovereign hand evident from beginning to end. They were in bondage because God wanted His Name glorified in all the earth! They were freed from bondage because God wanted His Name glorified in all the earth! Praise God for His sovereignty!

5. The story of Onesimus, the slave of Philemon. There's this itty-bitty book that's less than one page in length, sitting in the New Testament, that shares an amazing story of forgiveness and grace. Paul is asking Philemon to forgive his slave (Onesimus) who ran away from him and probably wronged him in more ways than that. Paul is asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus in his home, not as a slave, but as fellow follower of Jesus Christ. The key verse is in 18 where Paul is giving a wonderful example of what God did through Jesus Christ, "If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account." In other words, just like Christ, Paul was willing to pay this man's debt, but Paul, knowing Philemon's faith in Christ, would forgive and welcome Onesimus (just like Jesus). Beautiful.

6. The widow's offering. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) This woman had little, but she gave all she had. Jesus praised her for her sacrifice. I need to be more like this woman.

7. The plot to kill Jesus. (John 11:45-57) Ahhhh! Another amazing example of God's sovereignty. This event happened just after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and as a result of that miracle many people were following Jesus. This of course upset the Pharisees and the chief priests so they gathered together and plotted how to kill him. What the high priest says is this, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." (vs.50) What John wrote about this one statement is incredible, "He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." (vs.51-52) Get this: "These words spoken by the high priest sealed Jesus' fate. These words were his death warrant. Caiaphas, the high priest, wanted Jesus dead and out of the way so he spoke these words. God wanted Jesus dead and risen and reigning forever, so he spoke these words." (- John Piper) Isn't that amazing?! God parodied this high priests words into truth! God himself issued the death warrant for Jesus knowing that Jesus would prevail! Jesus would be victorious! The only reason the high priest spoke these words (remember, "he prophesied") is because GOD BROUGHT THESE WORDS TO MIND. God is the author of HIS story; this story makes that evident. *Mind.Boggling.*

8. Abraham's faith in God when he was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-19) Abraham had an unwavering faith in God and His Word. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, even after God had promised that a mighty nation would come of his son, Abraham followed through. His statement to his son when he asked, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham's response, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." (vs. 7-8) What faith! Just as he was lifting the knife God called out to him saying, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." Abraham knew the Lord would provide because Abraham knew God would keep His Word. Do I have faith like that?

9. When Joseph makes himself known to his brothers that sold him into slavery. (Genesis 45:1-28) This part of the story is awesome because of Joseph's response to the brothers who wronged him: "... do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life." He again points to God's Sovereignty in the midst of heartache in verse 7, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here but God." God is in control of this whole story. Which leads into the future where God displays his mighty Name through Pharaoh and the plagues (see #4)!

10. The Gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) There is no better story than that of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through His work that we are righteous. And because He is our High Priest, our Mediator, our Savior we have reason to praise His Name - now and for all eternity.

My goodness. Writing a brief summary of all my favorite stories makes me want to jump up and sing praises to an amazing, almighty, sovereign GOD! 

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