Though Read This First is short and simple, that is exactly its purpose and its exactly its charm. It is just the kind of book each of us would have benefitted to read at the start of our journey to better understand God’s Word and just the kind of resource each of us loves to distribute to others. It will do exactly what it promises: help those who have a desire to read the Bible to actually read the Bible—and to read it right. I’m very glad to recommend it.
Every generation of Christians faces the very same challenge: To learn the Bible for themselves and to teach it to those who follow in their footsteps. This task cannot be willed, it cannot be inherited, it cannot be passed down. Rather, each generation must accept afresh the challenge to honor, to know, and to obey the Word of God.
Gary Millar’s Read This First is, according to the subtitle, “A Simple Guide to Getting the Most from the Bible.” It is, in that way, a wonderful place to begin for those who wish to accept their God-given responsibility (or alternatively, a wonderful resource to distribute to help others with theirs).
Millar says, “This book aims to help people who would like to read the Bible but don’t really know where to start or how to go about it. You may be a Christian who enjoys being part of a church or a Bible-study group, but you end up feeling lost and confused whenever you attempt to read the Bible for yourself. You may have even tried to embark on a Bible-reading regime but … it didn’t take long before you gave up with a sense of defeat: you just don’t get it. That’s why I’ve written this book: to guide you through it.”
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By Erik Raymond — 2 months ago
When our hearts and minds are restless and raging, we need help. It’s challenging to reason with ourselves when the boat of our mind is taking in the water of our emotions. Like the storm in the Sea of Galilee, we can only see the storm in front of us. The omnipotent Savior resting is eclipsed by our clear and present danger. We need to hear the words of the one who can calm the raging sea within us (Mark 4:35–41). Our access to this transforming power is the Word of God. More specifically, the promises of God in his Word. We need to hear, believe, cling to, and rest upon God’s promises.
Life has no shortage of problems. Jesus reminds his disciples to expect trouble (Jn. 16:33) and that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:34). During these times, rest seems like the furthest thing from our minds. However, suggesting it sounds almost as foolish as curling up for a nap while a tornado siren goes off.
But this is precisely what we need to do.
How? Here’s a brief encouragement: a picture, a story, and a memory device.
A Picture: Rest on the Pillow of God’s Promises
When our hearts and minds are restless and raging, we need help. It’s challenging to reason with ourselves when the boat of our mind is taking in the water of our emotions. Like the storm in the Sea of Galilee, we can only see the storm in front of us. The omnipotent Savior resting is eclipsed by our clear and present danger. We need to hear the words of the one who can calm the raging sea within us (Mark 4:35–41). Our access to this transforming power is the Word of God. More specifically, the promises of God in his Word. We need to hear, believe, cling to, and rest upon God’s promises. He is faithful, trustworthy, and unchanging. When the storm is flooding in and threatening to capsize you, rest your weary head upon the pillow of God’s promises. It’s your only hope, and it’s your best option.
When the storm is flooding in and threatening to capsize you, rest your weary head upon the pillow of God’s promises.
A Story: Jacob
In Genesis 35:1, God instructs Jacob to go to Bethel. Why? He’s lingering in Shechem because he’s afraid after the Dinah incident (Gen. 34:30). More specifically, God promised to bring him back to Bethel (Gen. 28:15) and Jacob himself vowed to go (Gen. 28:19–22). God is telling him to live in faith because God is faithful. So Jacob goes back to Bethel and sets up an altar to God. But then, God appears to him again and reminds Jacob of two significant events in his life (Gen. 35:9–15).
By Scott Hubbard — 1 month ago
Singing in sorrow, then, is one more way God conforms us to the image of his beloved Son. Here, as we suffer with him in song, Jesus teaches us to say, “Our God still reigns. Our God will deliver. And someone needs to hear of his surpassing worth.”
In all likelihood, no song had ever touched the walls of this cell or drifted through its bars. Moaning, cursing, yelling — these were the usual sounds rising from the dark heart of the prison. Not singing.
And especially not at midnight. Here was the hour of gloom, the first long hallway in the mansion of night, darkness without the faintest shade of dawn.
The other prisoners couldn’t mistake the sound. Some had woken under the strange melody, certain they were lost in a dream. Others, catching the first notes, lay wondering whether madness had seized the two men. It had seized many a man in chains before. These, however, were not the howling strains of the mad.
Midnight made its lonely march, and still the men went on: beaten, bloodied, cuffed — and singing.
How Could They Sing?
The events of that day make the song of Paul and Silas all the more surprising. A mob had attacked the two missionaries after Paul cast out a demon from a slave girl (Acts 16:16–21). The city magistrates, dispensing with due process, stripped the men and oversaw their public beating before delivering them to the city’s jailer, who “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24).
Darkness fell, and then that strange sound rose:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)
Praying we can fathom. Who among us would not cry out for deliverance from such an unjust dungeon? Yet Paul and Silas not only prayed, but sang. They tuned their heartache with a hymn, and met the darkness of midnight with a melody.
And as they did, they joined a great chorus of saints who sung by faith and not by sight. They joined King Jehoshaphat, who walked into war with praises rising (2 Chronicles 20:20–21). They joined Jeremiah, who gave his most bitter lamentation a tune (Lamentations 1–5). They joined psalmist after psalmist who, though feeling afflicted and forgotten, raised a “song in the night” (Psalm 77:6).
Again and again, the saints of God meet sorrow not only with prayer, but with song. So what did Paul and Silas see that freed their hearts to sing?
Our God still reigns.
From one perspective, Paul and Silas’s day was a picture of perfect mayhem. Their spiritual power was slandered; their gospel trampled by a mob; their innocence silenced by injustice. They appeared like two victims caught in the chaos of a merciless, purposeless world.
But such was not their perspective. For Paul and Silas, all the day’s sorrows rested in the hand of a sovereign God. God had called them to Philippi through a midnight vision (Acts 16:9–10). Was he now any less sovereign in a midnight prison? God had used them in Philippi to save Lydia and her household (Acts 16:11–15). Had he discarded them now? No, prison could neither thwart the plans of God nor remove them from his sight; of this they were sure.
Years later, locked in yet another jail, Paul reminds the Philippian church of God’s surprising sovereignty:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. (Philippians 1:12–13)
God had taught Paul and Silas to see his good purposes wherever they looked, even when they looked through the bars of a prison cell.
By Nick Batzig — 2 months ago
We find that our Lord Jesus, in consummate glory, will be Shepherding His people for all eternity. The Apostle John tells us that in glory, “the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them [i.e. the redeemed] and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” After all the under-shepherds have come and gone we will see that the Shepherd, who became the Lamb that was slain for the sheep, will continue to shepherd His people by giving them everlasting joy and peace in His presence.
As we consider the many biblical theological themes that are unfolded throughout the Scriptures, our minds ought to be drawn to many of the passages in OT historical narrative and the prophetic literature in which we discover a synthesis of typological imagery brought under the light of prophetical fulfillment. Ezekiel 37:24-27 is one such passage. There, we find the Lord promising to raise up a Shepherd-King–under the typical name of David–to shepherd His people in the New Covenant–to dwell with them and protect them:
“David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel 37:24-27).
This succinct New Covenant prophecy combines the most prominent biblical-theological themes of redemptive-history (i.e. king, land, covenant, descendants, presence of God and dwelling place) in typological prospective. What is striking is that Shepherd is included among the other well known BT themes. On one hand, this ought to be surprising to us; on the other, it ought to be one of the most naturally anticipated. Consider the following biblical-theological developments regarding the Shepherd theme in Scripture:
The Scriptures draw our attention, at the beginning of redemptive-history, to the fact that the very first person martyred for his faith in Christ was a Shepherd. Abel was a righteous Shepherd who was envied, despised and murdered by his brother. Jesus is THE RIGHTEOUS SHEPHERD who was envied, despised and murdered by His brethren (Matthew 21:38; 27:18; Mark 15:10 ). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the Sheep. Additionally, the fact that Shepherding was one of the very first occupations in human history shows us that it was God’s plan to set this apart for an analogy to reflect His relationship to His people.
In his departing covenantal blessing pronounced on Joseph, Jacob addressed God as being his Shepherd when he said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day” (Gen. 48:15). One of the chief characteristics of a Shepherd is that he feeds his sheep. God feeds His people with the rich food of His word. He feeds us also with His own flesh and blood in the Person of His Son. In the subsequent blessing on Joseph he spoke of the coming Redeemer by the name of “the Shepherd:” Again, Jacob alludes to the LORD as Shepherd when he pronounced a covenant blessing on his son prior to his death: “But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)” (Genesis 49:24).
The patriarchs are said to have been shepherds. When Joseph is speaking to his brothers about what they are to say to Pharaoh, we read: “Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘My brothers and those of my father’s house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me.’ 32