Do you know the geography, structure, and primary message of your Bible? How the 39 Books of the Old Testament fit together and relate to the 27 Books of the New Testament? Where the prophets fit into the history of Israel? The major theme of each Book of the Bible? How the Book of Acts can help you understand the epistles? Why there are four Gospels? What the Old Testament has to say about Jesus? What the New Testament has to say about the Old Testament?
A lot of Christians know a lot of details about the Bible but are unfamiliar with the main idea, the Big Picture of each individual book.
Oh, and too many sincere Christians mistrust grace because they have been told that there are a lot of Books of the Bible that unravel or at least put a hard edge on the love, mercy, and grace of God.
What you’ll discover in our relevant, straight from the text journey through God’s Word is that from beginning to end it’s all about our Father’s love for us expressed in His plan to send one descendant, from one tribe, from one nation to rescue Creation and humanity from the impact of sin. The Old Testament looked forward to this Messiah, and the New Testament presents Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
I’ll be publishing free commentary notes weekly on each of the Books of the Bible beginning September 10th that coordinate with each teaching. You could subscribe to these weekly posts that include each podcast here, on edunderwood.com:
Most followers of Christ understand that Jesus asks us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). That seems non-negotiable. Introducing others to our Savior and mentoring them toward faithfulness to Him is one of our primary responsibilities. Those of us who have embraced the responsibility also consider it a great privilege.
The difficult part is this: No two believers we commit to discipling are the same, they don’t have the same problems, look at Scripture from the same perspective, or respond to the teachings of Jesus with the same questions, doubts, excitement, and fears.
Discipleship Begins With Relationship
We can’t improve upon Jesus’ incarnation model.⇦Tweet that! Jesus descended into the brokenness of humanity, and He’s asking us to step into the brokenness of the ones we disciple in His name.
Jesus related intimately with a few over a long period of time. The three (His inner circle), the twelve (His band of disciples), and the seventy (the group of followers most associated with the Master) knew Him and He knew them. He considered them friends, and they loved Him for it.
When we reduce discipleship to filling out blanks on a page or answering questions in a workbook we divorce relationship from the equation and it will always fall short.
Since no two disciples are alike, the one-strategy-fits-all approach misses the mark.⇦Tweet that! Think of the difference between the way Jesus related to Peter and the way He related to John. He was sensitive to their individual needs because He spent time with them.
He spent time with them even though, as the Son of God, He knew their heart (John 2:23).
Since we’re not capable of immediately knowing what is in the heart of the ones we disciple, we’re compelled to know their story.
Story Sensitizes Discipleship
I remember back when I was a “just the facts” type of disciplemaker. A man walked into my office one evening and stumbled through memory verses and seemed disinterested in stumbled through the review questions. I stole a look at his workbook and noticed that he hadn’t completed any of the assignment. The pages were blank!
Immediately judging this man as uncommitted and maybe a waste of my time, I was about to tell him this wasn’t working when the Holy Spirit gave me pause. “Ask him what’s going on?”
Wondering whether I had actually heard from God I grudgingly asked, “What’s going on? You haven’t done any of the work and you’ve whiffed on the memory verses?”
I’ll never forget what happened next.
He melted, broke into tears, and forced the hurtful words from his lips. “I just got a phone call from my dad. He has terminal cancer.”
Before I knew this dear friend’s story I had the absolutely wrong discipleship strategy for our time together that night.
Listening Galvanizes Discipleship
“I’m so sorry. Tell me about your dad.”
He talked late into the night.
And I listened.
To stories of a loving father who had poured into his son.
The Spirit did something special as I listened. He welded our hearts to one another in ways that became the foundation to one of the most sustaining and stimulating friendships of my life.
All because God pushed me out of my one-size-fits-all discipleship comfort zone.
One size does not fit all. Discipleship begins with relationship, is sensitized through story, and galvanized by listening.⇦Tweet that!
Question: Why do you think we tend toward the more programmed approaches to discipleship rather than the incarnational Jesus approach?
This quote comes from George Gallup, who should know.
Tyndale House Publisher’s survey showed that 64% of Americans said they did not read the Bible because they’re too busy. 80% feel that the Scriptures are just too confusing and when they read the Bible, they don’t understand it. (The Baptist Standard, December 4, 2000)
There are many reasons why Christians today feel they’re too busy and that the Bible is too confusing to understand, but there are two that I feel the church is responsible for:
1) We’ve developed a consumer mentality in our churches.
I’m all for relevant Bible teaching. I think it’s a crime to bore people with the Word of God. And I’m all for seeker-sensitive cultures. I came to Christ during the Jesus Movement that was the ultimate seeker-sensitive revival.
But my concern is that in trying to make the church relevant and seeker-sensitive we’re listening to the wrong seekers. One of my first reactions when I attend a so-called “seeker” church is, “Show me the seeker!” Often we’re trying to please immature Christians with Sunday show-times that are more exciting than the “seeker” church down the road so that we can swell our numbers and our giving.
The last time I checked, discipleship was costly. And I’m a grace guy. I believe that eternal life is a gift freely given, but once we belong to Christ, He makes costly demands. And one of those demands is that we study His Word.
2) An overreaction to the postmodern generation.
What an arrogant lot we pastors and theologians are. We’ve decided for an entire generation that they’re too shallow, too ADD, and too Sesame-Street to sit still and actually study the Word of God.
Again, I’m all for doing whatever we need to reach the next generation. I’m a Jesus Movement rocker who was part of the generation that refused to dress up for Jesus and listen to religious elevator music.
But I’m in touch with many young and hip pastors who are filling up their churches with 20-Something’s hungry for the Word of God. Some of the most relevant churches I’m aware of are led by young, hip, cool pastors who teach through the Bible, verse by verse, for 50 minutes every Sunday.
It’s about time we quit blaming the next generation for our failure to teach the Bible with clarity, boldness, and relevance.⇦Tweet that!
Could it be that some of the reason Americans feel they’re too busy to read the Word of God and that the Word of God is so confusing is because the pastors of America have ignored Paul’s command to Timothy to “Preach the Word”? (2 Timothy 4:2)
Questions: Do you think I’m overreacting? Would you rather have a shallow and fun church or a deep and challenging worship experience?
Nicole Lewis (pictured here talking about Jesus to a large college group) grew up in our church in Glide, Oregon. She was the only bi-racial student in the entire school system (in truth, in the entire county), and also one of the best. She achieved on every level, even serving as President of Glide High School. More than that, Nicole has walked with God her entire life and now serves Campus Crusade for Christ overseas in key leadership positions.
Her recent post on racism from the perspective of a black woman who loves Jesus should jar all of us toward admitting that the problem runs deeper into the fabric of humanity than most are willing to admit. It also gives me hope–the only hope for healing in our broken world.
As you might imagine, Judy and I are quite proud of this marvelous young woman we love. What follows are her words with just a few of my comments. Thank you, Nicole, for the privilege of posting this:
Sunday morning I (Nicole) read this from an article on the BBC:
In the middle of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville on Saturday, two young women, one white and one black, took each other’s hands and held them tightly, and with their other hands they gripped the steel barrier in front of them. A few feet away, a young white man with a buzzed haircut and sunglasses leaned towards them over a facing barrier. “You’ll be on the first f*****g boat home,” he screamed at the black woman, before turning to the white woman. “And as for you, you’re going straight to hell,” then he gave a Nazi Salute.
(Reading these words brought back memories of similar instances in Nicole’s life. She continues:)
Many years ago I once had someone yell at me “to go home” too. It was hurtful, but it was meant to be. It was hateful, but it was meant to be, It was humiliating, but it was meant to humiliate and shame me. Then again last summer I sat outside a Café with a friend in Portland and a car drove past us and this guy leaned out and yelled at us “to get out.”
Racism is a hateful spoken evil.
It’s at times like these that as a Follower of Jesus, I find his words a bit challenging, actually incredibly frustrating “You have heard it said ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, LOVE your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is great twitter worthy religion until you are stood in front of someone who is screaming at you to go home and then giving a Nazi Salute. And then it becomes an inconvenient truth and a choice to be made. Many of my friends have posted Dr. King’s words in the past days and they resonate so well with what we have just seen over the weekend “Darkness Cannot Drive out Darkness: only Light Can do that. Hate Cannot Drive out Hate: only love can do that.”
It was the last thing I wanted to do—be around a group of people.
I was bone-tired and emotionally spent. A desperate phone call the night before had left Judy and me sleepless. Two of our very best friends had been killed in a car accident in Oregon. Not only did this news break my heart, it also drained me as it pressurized my insane schedule. Somehow I had to find time to fly to Portland, do a wrenching memorial service, fly home, and get back to everything else I had to do. (On that list was taking my teenage daughter to the DMV for her driving exam.)
“I’m not going to small group tonight,” I reported to Judy. “This is nuts!”
“You don’t have a choice. We’re baptizing two new believers that you and I discipled in the pool. Everyone’s expecting us,” my bride protested.
“You go if you want,” I replied. “I’m not going; I have too much to do.” (Though I didn’t say it, I was also thinking that the last thing I wanted to do at that moment was be around a group of people . . . even if it was our church small group.)
Did You Ask Jesus?
“Suit yourself. But did you pray about it?”
There she goes, getting all spiritual on me. She knows that ticks me off.
It upset me because I knew she was right. She usually is. (Don’t tell her I said that!) It was the last thing I wanted to do, but it was exactly what the Lord knew I needed.
That was almost two decade ago, and I still remember how our friends rallied around us in ways only the Holy Spirit could orchestrate. Good friends extended such warm hospitality that seemed to unknot my stomach. Our host cooked ribs with special care for his special friends were the best ribs I ever tasted. Then there was the heartfelt encouragement:
“You okay? Anything I can do for you or Judy while you’re up north?”
“So sorry to hear about your friends. We’ll be praying for you on the morning of the funeral.”
As we gathered together and we baptized a few new believers, I knew God’s Spirit was speaking to me. “This is what you live for, Ed. This is why I called you to Myself. There’s nothing like the enthusiasm and deep sincerity of newly committed believers. What a privilege to share their new life with these people.”
Glad You Came?
And then the poignant question, “Aren’t you glad you came?
Truth was . . . I was glad I came. I left our small group that night encouraged in ways only a group of intimate friends in Christ could make possible. King David was exactly right when he described this joy: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it its for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
Christian, you need community the most when you want to go the least.⇦Tweet that!
What about you? In the good times as well as the bad times . . . do you have a group of redeemed friends whose protective love encourages you to walk with the Savior? If you don’t, you’re missing out on an incredible dynamic of your walk with God . . . the sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who are nothing less than extensions of His grace and love. They’re His provision to support you no matter what you’re facing right now! Get involved in a small group today—you’ll be glad you did!
Question: What is the number one reason Christians avoid intimate community?
If all you pay attention to is the most-read authors, if all you listen to are the most-listened to Christian celebrities, if all you absorb is the most popular subjects in religio-evangojive culture–you’r missing out.
Our personality driven, hot-topic preoccupation (just try to avoid the recent rants over dear Eugene Peterson’s one remark!) has thrust us into reading and talking about what everyone else is reading and talking about. Sought-after isn’t the same as wise. Marketable isn’t the same as spiritually insightful.⇦Tweet that!
To make something trendy, the mastermind avoids the grays of Christianity and blasts the black and white persuasions of the pre-determined biases of her or his target audience.
The caustic debater you love the most, the attacker/defender you “like” and repost on your favorite social media site–almost none of them are high on Jesus’ list of His followers who most embrace His one Great Commandment to the church. Remember that one, ‘love one another’?
Love brings pause to conflict; love cools temper. And love changes the way you see sisters and brothers who disagree, write a paragraph that challenges your convictions, or utter a sentence in an interview that pushes your theological hot-button.
Eugene Peterson’s words have soothed my soul for years. I’m going to trust those words still, and love a dear brother in the middle of the media storm.
Caustic doesn’t mean ‘profound’. It merely means caustic.⇦Tweet that!
I’ve never actually met Sandra Glahn, but I’ve been a huge fan of her writing for years. Professor Glahn is a prof at my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary. She’s a careful exegete, superb theologian, and a brilliant writer. I’ve corresponded with her a few times on twitter and through our mutual websites, commending her for bringing her unique perspective representing those of us who insist upon a high view of the inspiration of Scriptures.
This piece she wrote recently for bible.org expresses what I’ve taught for years about the image of God. However, she’s not only stated it better, but she’s coming from a perspective beyond my capacity–the perspective of a godly woman.
Do male humans “image” God more than female humans image God?
Both male and female were created in the image of God. Recall Genesis 1: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make adam in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule . . . God created adam in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (vv. 26–27).
The image of God is male and female. One sex does not “image” God more than the other. And, in fact, male and female are interdependent. I once had a student who wept with joy when she learned this. She was single and thought she could image God only through association with a husband.
We need each other. God made male and female to rule together, to multiply together, to use our gifts together, to build up the body of Christ together. How can we do a better job of building partnerships, celebrating his image in male and female?
Why does 1 Corinthians 11 say a man is the glory of God, and a wife is the glory of man? Why is the wife not also the glory of God?
Let’s look at the verse: “A man [or husband] ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but [a] woman [or wife] is the glory of man [or of a husband]” (v. 7).
First, note that is it only the “glory of God” here that is in question, not the “image of God.”
Second, it’s important to see that the words “man” and “woman” here could just as easily be translated “husband” and “wife.” The Greek does not have such specific words to differentiate as does English, so only context tells which way to go.
Translations differ here. But I suspect Paul intended man/wife. Here’s why….
Based on what we know about hair being used as a covering (v. 15) in the first century, it’s likely that some wives were inadvertently shaming their husbands by wearing their hair down in public, probably as an expression of spiritual freedom. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression “let your hair down.” Wearing hair down for a woman, to the best of our knowledge, communicated that she was single.
Similarly, some men (not just husbands) were probably shaming Christ by wearing their hair long and in a certain way—in girly looking ringlets—as an expression of freedom. Again, they were probably letting their hair down as an expression of freedom.
Now, it was not a shame for a man to have any long hair per se. Think of Samson. Or John the Baptist. Or anyone keeping a Nazarite vow. But a certain kind of long hair was considered “unnatural” or shameful.
Thus, one action (hers) suggested she was unmarried and available—like taking off a wedding ring; the other action (his) suggested he was trolling for boys.
In what they were communicating with their heads, one shamed her head (her husband) while the other shamed his head (Christ).
The result of the wife’s behavior, then, was that she was bringing un-glory to her husband. So she was bringing shame on the very person she was “made for.” And the man was bringing un-glory to Christ, when the glory of a man is supposed to be not a boy but a woman—the sex through which he came into the world.
Assuming this is the case—and there is good evidence to understand Paul in this way—the apostle tells the wives in question that they ought to have authority on their own heads…not that they are to wear signs of authority (head coverings were not signs of authority), nor that they are to have signs of submission (head coverings were not signs of submission), but that the females ought to have or possess authority (in every other NT usage, this is what the construction “have authority” means) when it comes to what they are doing with their heads.
And then immediately, lest these wives get a wrong attitude with all this authority, the apostle reminds them, “Nevertheless [contrastive], in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (vv. 11–12). Nice balancing act. There it is again: we need each other.
All this to say, God made woman in his image. In this context Paul is talking about glory and shame. Some men were shaming Christ; some wives were shaming their husbands. And both should have been bringing glory to the very ones they were shaming. Thus, the play on words with “head.”
Certainly females, like males, were made to glorify God and reflect the glory of God. Paul is simply doing plays on words by highlighting whom the wives and men are shaming in first-century Corinth.
Is ruling for men only?
God created both male and female to rule (Gen. 1:26). He also made both to multiply. The idea that ruling is for men and multiplying is for women goes against what the text says. Male and female image God. We rule. We fill the earth. Together.
Elsewhere, in 1 Timothy 5:14, wives are told to rule their households. Here is how some translations render the word:
Warren Wiersbe reminds readers in his Ephesians through Revelation commentary that the word sometimes translated here as “keep,” or “guide” or “manage,” literally means “rule.” In fact, in the Greek, “oikodespotin” has the word “despot” in it. Elsewhere “despotis” is translated as “authority,” “master,” and “owner.” It is translated “master” of slaves in Titus 2:9, 1Timothy 6:1, and 1 Peter 2:18. And the word is translated “lord” in Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24, and Revelation 6:10. One commentator notes, “It is interesting that the NASB translates the male context of the word as ‘head of the house,’ but the female context as ‘housekeeper.’” We all bring biases to the text, and translators are no exception.
All rule of a home does not fall on the husband/father. Nor to the woman/wife. Women and men are co-rulers under God.
Is submission only a “wife” word?
All creatures—male and female—are called to live in submission to our Creator. In this sense, we were all “made” for submission. Not only are we to submit to God, but all believers are to submit ourselves to each other (Eph. 5:21), following the example of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45; Phil 2:7). Submission is not a solely “woman” word. Or a “wife” word. Submission is for humans.
This post refers to our podcast. Can’t see the audio file above? Click here to listen!
Finally, preach the cross of Christ because all that matters is the new creation! –Paul⇦Tweet that!
What Mattered Most to the Apostle Paul?
You can feel the Apostle Paul’s exhaustion as he takes the pen from the scribe and finishes the letter to the Galatians in his own hand. He writes the words large (literally) to emphasize his passion for the message of this little letter–the original gospel.
With intense, bold, disjointed sentences he contrasts the slavery of works-righteousness to the wonder of grace.
In one small but intense paragraph Paul reminds these Christians he’s grown to love that only grace invites new life and only grace releases the new creation (Galatians 6:11-18).
What Matters Most to You?
What matters most is the gospel in all its glory. I’m not talking simply about trusting in the gospel to get to heaven when you die. I’m including the power of the gospel to release the new creation from your life here on earth.
The message of the cross of Christ–that we are sinners who cannot redeem ourselves, and that once we believe we become saints who cannot improve ourselves apart from trusting in that same gospel, is an unpopular message.
It always has been. Religious people especially hate it.
Teaching Paul’s words inevitably brings persecution:
“For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything;
the only thing that matters is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).
Two Sources of Resistance to the Gospel:
Irreligious people who don’t want to admit their brokenness, the sins they’ve committed against others and those that have been committed against them. When you start talking about a free gift that leads to a radical new way of life, it’s intimidating and confusing because it seems they should do something to make themselves better and they think they can.
Religious people who erroneously believe they are actually redeeming themselves through their good works have a lot invested in their sin-management system, and a lot of secrets the gospel will expose.
I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to pay the price of persecution to pursue the privilege of watching people I know and love wake up the wonder of grace, the awesome majesty of the gospel Paul insists is the only gospel in the Book of Galatians.
You can read my detailed notes on Galatians 6:11-18 here, and I hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast here. It’s a little edgy, but this is an edgy subject that needs to be addressed!
Question: Do you have a story of being persecuted because you refused to add works to the gospel of grace?
This post refers to our podcast. Can’t see the audio file above? Click here to listen!
How should we pay our pastors? By our response to the Spirit’s leading to love and serve one another.⇦Tweet that!
The Awkward Question: How much should we pay our pastors?
I was a brand new pastor just out of seminary. Judy and I had been standing with our two small children in the hall outside the worship center for over an hour. It was one of the most tense, embarrassing, confusing and awkward hours of our lives.
Why? The church was publicly discussing and debating my salary, considering the merits of how much they should pay me, and apparently arguing with one another. A few people left the meeting with frowns on their faces and let us know we weren’t the spiritual people they thought we were.
Our story isn’t unique.
The church often doesn’t know how to answer the question, “How much should we pay our pastors?” There are those who feel the pastor should be kept poor and those who feel the pastor should receive exorbitant salaries (not many of those!). But most Christians want to be fair, we just don’t know how to define fair.
It may be an awkward question, but the answer is simple…if we take God’s advice in Galatians 6:6-10.
The Simple Answer: Let the Spirit lead both pastors and flock in their response to love and serve one another.
Paul puts pastors’ salaries in the context of a community where Christians walk in the spirit. Here’s his simple formula: You who walk in the Spirit: Share your finances with those who teach you the word.⇦Tweet that!
You can read my detailed notes on Galatians 6:6-10 here, and I hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast here. It’s a little edgy, but this is an edgy subject that needs to be addressed!
Question: How would you answer the question, “How much should we pay our pastor?”
I don’t know what you think about church, but if you’re like a lot of Easter-only people I meet today, you’re not too impressed.
You know you should go to church, but sometimes you wonder why? Sometimes it seems like church just gets in the way of your walk with the Lord Jesus.
There’s a paragraph in First Peter, 1 Peter 2:1-10, that might change your mind about church. It describes the type of church every believer should want to go to.
Not because you have to, but because you want to.
Not because you’re driven by guilt and shame, but because you’re pulled by mercy and grace.
Not out of duty, but desperation—because you know you can’t live without it.co
When I read this amazing description of the church, I find the four marks of a radically healthy New Testament community. “Community” not in the social media definition of the word, but in the genuine sense of the word—depth of relationship and life-changing. To be radically healthy is to transcend the tired definitions churchianity offers and to settle for nothing less than the real thing.
A radically healthy New Testament community is a nourishing community. Since you have new life and are called to a new way of life, stop hurting one another so that you can be nourished by the Word of God and grow up! Why? Because you’ve all tasted the grace of Jesus (1-3).
Interesting isn’t it? Peter connects our capacity to be nourished by the pure milk of the Word to the harmony of our relationships!
A radically healthy New Testament community is a connecting community. “Remember you are not an institution,” says Peter, “you are a living spiritual temple of holy priests the Father is building on the precious and living foundation of His Son, Jesus Christ.” Why? Because you believed in Jesus and you will never be put to shame! (4-6)
Interesting isn’t it? Peter connects the depth of our relationship with Christ to the depth of our relationships with one another!⇦Tweet that!
A radically healthy New Testament community is a distinctive community. Peter continues, “Remember that your trust in Christ sets you apart from everyone else—you build your life on the very Person the rest of humanity stumbles over” (7-8, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14).
Interesting isn’t it? Peter connects our impact for Christ in the world to our clear understanding that this world is not our home!
A radically healthy New Testament community is an awesome community. Read your “press release” from heaven: You are a special community—a chosen generation of royal priests, a holy nation, a special people. You have a special calling—to proclaim your praise of the One who called you out of darkness. Why? Because you have obtained mercy! (9-10)
Interesting isn’t it? Peter uses some of the most exciting language in the New Testament to describe the church!
Who wouldn’t want to go to that type of church, the church Peter talks about in his letter?⇦Tweet that!
I wonder if we spent less time asking ourselves how to grow churches and more time asking God what church should look like more people would be excited about the churches we already have and more vested in the community God calls us to be a part of.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Question: Why do you feel we don’t experience more community in our churches?