It is not unusual to see small copies of the New Testament in circulation. Often it has been the first bible that new believers are handed. Naturally, this has prompted a discussion on how much weight the Old Testament carries and the importance (or lack thereof) that we place upon it. “It’s all about Jesus” is the message we hear and we are under the “new” testament or “new” covenant of grace so other than giving us a history lesson, how much should we focus on the writings of the Old Testament? Plenty! I think we’ve actually done a disservice to new believers by only giving them half the story with the pocket-sized New Testaments. Beyond the obvious record of history, the Old Testament is filled with the richness of our ancestry. Everyone is curious about where they’ve come from and seeks to define their family tree—this is ours! From Genesis to Deuteronomy (Pentateuch) we have an explanation of our beginnings (something many faiths are unable to provide) and we learn about Israel’s Patriarchs. We read of the mighty salvation from the slavery of Egypt, the trials of desert wanderings and the leadership of remarkable servants in Moses and Joshua. Throughout the changing face of the Ancient Near East we see how Israel is split into two territories, and then ultimately ends up in exile. We can learn much from the rebellious hearts of God’s people and the graciousness of God to forgive them time after time as He gives them the promise and hope of restoration.
Having an understanding of the events in the Old Testament times actually brings clarity and understanding to writings in the New Testament as many old prophecies are fulfilled. The Old Testament teaches us about the fallen nature of man, the sovereignty of God, and His love to provide salvation for those in slavery. The New Testament reminds us that man is still in desperate need of a savior.
From Genesis to Revelation we see the unchanging character of our almighty God and we develop a Holy fear of the One Whom holds all things in His hands. John 1:1 refers to the Word as being with God “…and the Word was God.” I’d say it is clear that we must give equal weight to the whole counsel of God studying both the Old and New Testament so we can begin to understand some of the mysteries of God as revealed through His Word of Truth. My experience has been that it fosters a hunger to know Him even more.
As a new believer I was sold-out for Jesus realizing that the life I’d lived my way had become one huge disappointment. Deeply touched by Jesus’ love, I committed to be a disciple for God, enthusiastically declaring “Here I am Lord, use me!” Well, as much as the Lord was no doubt pleased with my willingness to serve, I had a thing or two (or three) to learn about how vastly different His Kingdom is from all that I’d rehearsed in the ways of the world. Lesson #1 was prayer. Thankfully, He put a few people in my life that really had a heart for prayer, who continually ‘encouraged’ me to attend prayer meetings. Saturday mornings, prayer was held in a small room of the church for 3-4 hours. Yikes! The very idea of praying for more than 10 minutes was intimidating, plus the fact that Saturdays were my one morning of the week to sleep-in! With the constant prodding and the promise that ‘you’ll be glad you came’ I eventually found the resolve to drag myself to these gatherings. Initially, I felt like a bump on a log as I mentally wrestled with why I was there and felt completely inexperienced on how to pray. Rarely would I contribute much as my insecurities arose in the company of such great leaders—those who just seemed to have the right way to address the Lord, God Almighty. I realize now that even before I found the courage to say two words, I had been enrolled in the school of prayer. I began to understand that prayer is simply a conversation with God. In Luke 11:1, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. What we know today as the Lord’s prayer is such a great place for us to begin as we turn our eyes and heart towards Him. Jesus’ prayers of John 17 are also significant as you read the heartfelt petitions that are filled with love and compassion not only for those Jesus prays for, but for His beloved heavenly Father. If Jesus spent time alone in prayer, how much more should we? It is a discipline that we must adhere to as it is our spiritual sustenance. There will always be people and things that compete for our time and attention, so we must prioritize prayer. Charles Stanley once said that he used to literally shut himself inside his closet to pray. I’ve tried it and I am always amazed at how quickly my mind and heart settle into prayer in a dark closet! If you desire more of God—if you are desperate for direction or vision for your life, start with more prayer. If you are struggling to be disciplined in this area, find a closet—you’ll be glad you did.
Zephaniah 3:17 says how God will take great delight in Israel—that He will quiet them with His love and will rejoice over them with singing. The first time I ever heard this statement I was comforted by God’s tremendous love and tenderness. It was only recently however, that I began to consider the imagery of this verse and the thought that God sings. I’ve imaged the sight and sound of angels singing or the saints around His throne worshipping, but never, ever considered that the King, the Lord God Almighty, also sings! Somehow I just always thought of His children offering their songs of praise to Him and did not consider that God is the One who gave us our voices and the creativity of music and that maybe He too, likes to sing. Then I began to explore what it might sound like. Would the God of the universe only have one heavenly sound? Does He have a favorite genre? Would His sweet melody sound like an entire orchestra? I wonder if God whistles too! Considering the vastness of God, I would venture to say He never sings the same song twice.
When I think of a parent singing over a child, I generally revert to a scene of a mother humming sweet lullabies over her baby as he drifts off to sleep. When our heavenly Father rejoices over us, it paints a very different picture—one of joy and celebration; the idea that we are fully awake. So is it possible for us to hear this heavenly chorus? God says that His sheep know the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice. We can and do hear His voice all the time, so is it too much to expect that we can hear His singing too?
Recently I have been learning that in order to walk in the fullness of God’s perfect “agape” love, it needs to come by His Spirit, not through our own strength. As we yield to His will, we experience Him working through us. I am beginning to think that perhaps our worship follows this same principle. As we show the desire to praise and worship, yield to the creative hand of His Spirit and engage in the music, we can ascend to new heights. We are often praying for a new sound to come forth from heaven—prophetic songs and worship that raise the water level of the Spirit. As we open our mouth to sing and we posture ourselves to hear the Spirit’s song, every note that we play will harmonize with heaven to create a new sound before the throne, worshipping the King.
How amazing is it that our Heaven Father, to whom all praise and worship is due, would choose to sing a song over us? I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to sing to Him even more!
I recently watched Louie Giglio’s Indescribable video where he expertly presents one aspect of God’s greatness by comparing our planet to the rest of the universe. If the earth was the size of a golf ball, the sun would measure fifteen feet in diameter. He then goes on to describe just how ‘small’ the sun in when compared to some of the stars in the Milky Way. Before you’ve had adequate time to ponder those truths, he hits you with more extraordinary facts about our single galaxy that is only a tiny particle when compared to the rest of the universe. When I looked up at the stars last night I realized that I had never considered that stars are so much larger than our planet. They are, after all, just a twinkle in the night sky. I felt in awe of just how big God truly is and how small I am. Still, the God of the universe tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
When God told Abraham to look up at the stars and count them if he could, Abraham likely didn’t have the Louie Giglio perspective on how vast the universe is. Yet, to a man who had no children, the promise of having descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky was likely hard for him to fathom. How often do we feel the same way when God gives us a promise for our future? I am certain that we are all tested in the area of patience when waiting on its fulfillment! In Genesis 22 we read God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his beloved Isaac—an act which certainly would seem contrary to the very promise he’d been given. If God indeed was to bless him with more descendants than the stars, then why would He ask Abraham to kill his only son? Still, Abraham believed God and did not limit Him on how the promise would be fulfilled. In verse 18, God says, “…through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” We see here that the promise was not only revived and affirmed, but was enhanced. His descendants would be numerous AND they would be blessed by the Lord because of Abraham’s obedience.
I believe that we will all be tested as we steward the visions and promises from God. God’s ways are indeed higher than our ways, so He may ask us to do things that outwardly appear to contradict the very direction of fulfilling the promise. Are we willing to lay down what is most precious to us and yield to God’s command? Do we really trust and believe that God will come through and keep His word or do we secretly formulate a backup plan? I believe that Abraham was at the end of himself as his took Isaac’s hand, perhaps feeling completely broken at the thought of losing him; yet with courage he chose obedience. My hope is that we will all find the resolve to place God in his rightful place as Lord over all areas of our life and that we will have the courage to remain faithful and obedient when we are faced with those difficult tests. I believe we will see the promise come to pass and my guess is that it will look so much bigger and brighter than we could ever have imagined. Our faith doesn’t need to be as big as a golf ball, only the size of a mustard seed.
I’m sure every parent has found themselves in a position of deciding which child is telling the truth when both deny guilt in the midst of trouble. Some know their children so well that they know the truth before either party begins to speak! In a court of law, the magistrate has a difficult task in weighing up all the facts as presented, before passing judgment. The outcome of a case can rest solely on the expertise (or incompetency) of the defense lawyer.
In the Bible we read of a similar situation of trying to discern the truth in the midst of many opposing voices. One of the most profound statements during Jesus’ life was when He stood on trial before Pontius Pilate. When questioned, Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world; that He was born to testify to the truth and those who love the truth will recognize that what He was saying was true. Pilate’s response was, “What is truth?” One cannot say definitively what Pilate meant by his question, but the sobering fact is that Truth was literally staring him in the face.
As a Christian I have come to respect and love the truth so much more than I did before knowing God. I realize that we can often be misunderstood due to a variety of factors-- from external appearances or subtle prejudices that may exist to a simple lack of information or miscommunication. Thankfully, we do not have to defend ourselves before God as He sees all and knows all things. We are however, called to a higher level of accountability to seek the truth, to walk in integrity, and to love and forgive in the face of conflict. Having the assurance that the Spirit of Truth resides in us gives us a measure of faith for the journey and peace to trust in Him alone. Our responsibility is to keep our internal filters clear so we can hear Him without prejudice. There is only one truth and it never changes. In repentance we remain humble; in humility we remain teachable. It is in this posture that we will indeed find the truth and will remain free.