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Bible

Which Gospel Should I Read?

The Bible contains four separate accounts of the life of Jesus; they are called Gospels.  The question is often asked, “Which one should I read first?”  That is a hard to answer, as each one has its own strengths:

The Gospel written by Matthew does much to connect Jewish history and understanding to the life of Jesus.  It is great as a bridge from the old to new testaments of the Bible and for those interested in better seeing the connections between Judaism and Christianity (and the connection is strong and significant).

The Gospel written by Mark is the shortest and most concise.  It is a great source to quickly gain an essential understanding of who Jesus is and what he did.

The Gospel written by Dr Luke contains details and information not included by Matthew and Mark, serving to nicely round out and fill in our understanding of Jesus.  (The second chapter of Luke contains the familiar Christmas story of Jesus’ birth.  Even if you’ve never read Luke, you have likely heard the Christmas story, as recited by Linus in the popular animated TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”)

Last, but not least, is the Gospel written by John.  It contains more unique content than the other three accounts.  John was a disciple of Jesus and part of the inner circle, so he was an eyewitness to what he recorded.  His writing is poetic in nature and is great for those who want to mull over and contemplate what he says (and conversely frustrating for readers in a hurry).

Each account has its particular purpose and strength.  Pick the one that seems best for you to read first — then read the other three!

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Bible

Peter: Disciple, Confidant, and Leader

It’s interesting that we tend to equate writing prolificacy with profundity.

  • As such, the numerous writings of Paul, which account for about one third of the New Testament, are highly esteemed.
  • The two books of Dr. Luke (Luke and Acts) account for about 25% and are also highly valued.
  • Then there is John, whose five contributions make up another 20%.  His gospel is frequently praised, while his “revelation” sends our imaginations soaring.

After these three, the reminding New Testament authors, especially those of shorter letters, fade into obscurity and are barely noticed by most readers of the Bible.  Such is the case of Peter, whose two short letters comprise but 2.5% of New Testament content.

However, consider Peter’s stellar credentials:

  • One of only 12 disciples of Jesus, having spent three years with him and an eyewitness of his ministry.
  • Part of Jesus’ inner circle of three (comprised of Peter, James, and John).
  • The first leader of the movement after Jesus died.

As such, Peter has a special vantage from which to write.

This is not to diminish the other writers of Biblical text, but rather to elevate Peter’s writings to the place they deserve.

If you’ve never read First and Second Peter — or if its been awhile — check them out; he has much to say that is worthy of careful consideration.

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Bible

Their Eyes Were Opened

In the Bible, Doctor Luke records the interesting account of two disciples forlornly walking down the road after Jesus’ death — and after hearing the incredible report that he is no longer dead.  They are confused and dismayed.  Things with Jesus didn’t turn out as they expected — or wanted.  What did it all mean?  What were they to do next?

Then a third person joins them on their journey, asking what they are discussing.  They relate the recent events.  Then the stranger begins explaining what it all means — and how it was all predicted long before by the prophets.  Fascinated by what he is sharing, they invite him to supper, at which time “their eyes are opened” and they realize it is Jesus!

This idea also occurs much earlier in the Bible, in fact in Genesis.  As soon as Adam and Eve did precisely what they had been told not to do, their eyes were also opened — and they realize that they are naked.

Just as our eyes can be opened to the knowledge that we don’t measure up to God’s standard, our eyes can also be opened up to Jesus as the solution.

Are your eyes open?

[Luke 24:13-35 and Genesis 3:1-7]

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Bible

The Writings of Doctor Luke

Paul is the most prolific writer in the New Testament.  Who is second?  That would be Dr. Luke.

Luke wrote an account of Jesus’ life (called “The Gospel According to Luke,” or simply “Luke”) and also chronicled the activities of the early church (called “The Acts of the Apostles” or just “Acts”).  These two accounts encompass over 25% of the New Testament and give us valuable historical information about Jesus and his followers, providing a powerful and compelling two-book combination.

Luke was a doctor and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament.  As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the “outside.”  Luke wrote with simple, yet compelling language.  As a trained professional, Luke was a keen observer and provides many details and facts that are not included in the other three historical accounts of Jesus.

The book of Acts looks at Jesus’ followers’ and their efforts to continue on without him.  They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them for guidance, direction, and counsel.  Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church should function.  Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention Holy Spirit.  With about 100 references, Acts provides a close and personal insight into the function and mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Both our monthly Bible reading plan and the New Testament reading plan kick off the year with the books of Luke and Acts.  Regardless of your Bible reading intentions for the year, I hope you are off to a good start — and if not, why not start today?

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Bible

The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven?

The phrase “the Kingdom of God” is synonymous with “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Some writers in the Bible simply prefer one over the other; it is not meant to designate two different concepts or kingdoms.  (Mark and Luke used “Kingdom of God,” whereas Matthew used “Kingdom of heaven.”)

These phrases can perhaps be best understood by considering that Jesus desires to brings heaven’s rule to earth.  Under his rule, there are benefits and responsibilities to his subjects — the church.

Jesus explains about the Kingdom of God/Heaven through parables:

How do these parables change your view of God and our relationship to him?