The Friday Briefing 1 (9 March 2018)

Welcome to the first issue of The Friday Briefing. The aim of this new weekly briefing is to introduce a wide range of books, articles, and audio and video resources helpful for studying the Bible, for Biblical thinking and understanding, and for Christian discipleship. It will also include quotations that I’ve found thought-provoking and significant. There’ll also be alerts to material uploaded on this site.

I hope that some of the resources highlighted in this briefing will prove helpful. Paul prayed for the church in Colossae: “that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, . . . .” (Colossians 1.9-12). That is my own prayer, too.

”All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Exodus Themes in Luke 9.10-50

What Tolkien did so well, what we do so poorly

Why you want [adult] Sunday school

Book review – Bound Together by Chris Brauns

Creation Sings, a hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Jared Totten writes, “We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. . . . . And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. . . . . “What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

Read the whole article HERE

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Exodus Themes in Luke 9.10-50

Alastair Roberts (who is always worth reading) finds New Exodus themes in Luke’s Gospel chapter 9. He writes, “In my church’s midweek Bible study groups last night, we were going through Luke 9:10-50. It struck me that there are a number of interesting potential Exodus themes in there. Here are a few that jumped out at me. . . . .”

In a reply to a comment on his post, Dr. Roberts writes: “The accounts of Jesus’ ministry are not just collections of various miracle, teaching, and healing stories, but are unified narratives driving in a specific direction. Recognizing Exodus and other patterns helps us to relate various individual gospel narratives to a single Gospel Narrative and, beyond that, to see an underlying unity in the entire biblical story, something that I am trying to show in my 40 Days of Exodus series. When Jesus models his ministry after that of Moses, or Elijah and Elisha (for instance, compare Luke 4:4-24-27 and Luke 7:1-17), we can have a sense of where things are going, of the meaning of his actions, and of Jesus’ perception of his mission. When related to the larger framework, certain events take on a new significance. For instance, the feeding of the four thousand might seem superfluous, merely repeating an earlier miracle on a smaller scale. However, once we recognize the underlying patterns and relations, it becomes a very important event in its own right, not a mere unnecessary repetition. With this approach, we can recognize that Jesus’ life and ministry serves a salvation purpose, not merely his death and resurrection.”

Read the whole article HERE

The Exodus is a foundational theme in the Bible. God delivered His people Israel from Egypt through an Exodus. Jesus, too, saves people through a new Exodus. This new Exodus is prophesied in a number of places (for example Isaiah 11.10-16 and Isaiah 43.14-21). God was going to rescue people from a slavemaster far worse than the Egyptians. He was going to rescue them from bondage to sin and Satan. That Exodus would be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah would deliver people from sin and Satan through His death, resurrection and ascension to His Father in heaven. Click HERE for an outline study that compares the first Exodus from Egypt and the second and greater Exodus that Jesus the Messiah accomplished.

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What Tolkien did so well, what we do so poorly.

Tim Challies writes, “Over the past few weeks I have been reading through The Lord of the Rings, slowly meandering my way through Middle Earth for the umpteenth time. . . . . Tolkien did not simply write a story, he created a world. . . . . One of the great strengths of Tolkien’s work is its grounding in history. One of the great weaknesses of the contemporary church is its detachment from its own history. Few of today’s Christians have a clear sense of how the church came to be. They know of Acts and Reformation and Billy Graham, but the rest is a blur. There are many reasons we ought to teach believers their history.”

Read the whole article HERE

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Why you want [adult] Sunday school

In many American churches, there has been a tradition of teaching adults (as well as children) in Sunday School. This would be in addition to any evening and/or midweek gatherings. In these scenarios, then, an adult would have opportunity for Bible teaching, often in a setting that facilitated group discussion, as well a sermon during the worship time.

But British churches, by and large, do not run adult Sunday school, or regular Bible classes of any kind. Jonathan Pennington writes: “During my graduate studies in Scotland, I noticed that many churches didn’t have Sunday school, and there seemed to be a correlation between the lack of adult Sunday School and the generally lower biblical literacy among the congregation. I’m sure that there are other factors involved, and that there are many churches in the United Kingdom that are exemplary in both biblical literacy and adult education. But the experience . . . cast the value of Sunday school in a new light.”

They comment: “If you don’t have Sunday school, where are you going to teach people how to study the Bible? Where are you going to give them a thorough grounding in systematic theology? Where are you going to discuss the ins and outs of parenting, or dating and marriage, or evangelism? I’m afraid that when churches abandon Sunday school, some of these things are simply no longer being taught to the congregation as a whole. And churches are thereby missing a significant opportunity to equip their people with biblical building blocks for faithful discipleship.”

Read the whole article HERE

The magazine in which this article was published contains a number of articles about adult Sunday school. Read them all HERE

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Book review – Bound Together by Chris Brauns

I’ve recently added a review of this book HERE. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California writes: “In Bound Together, Chris Brauns cleverly unpacks two key theological concepts—union with Christ, and original sin—and manages to explain them in a way that any reader can understand. Highly recommended.”

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Creation Sings – sung by Stuart Townend; words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

I love this hymn!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Book review – ‘Bound Together’ by Chris Brauns

Cover for Brauns C. 'Bound Together'

Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices by Chris Brauns.

Bound Together is a highly readable and engaging book on a vital yet often neglected truth. Here’s the publisher’s commendation: “We are not just isolated individuals. Instead, our lives are woven together with others. We have solidarity with other people—the choices one person makes affects the lives of others, for good and for bad. Because much of the pain we endure in life is in the context of relationships, this truth often strikes us as unfair. Why should a child suffer because of the choices of his parents? And on a grander scale, why do we all suffer the curse of Adam’s sin? Why should anyone be judged for someone else’s sin? In Bound Together, Chris Brauns unpacks the truth that we are bound to one another and to the whole of creation. He calls this, “the principle of the rope.” Grasping this foundational principle sheds new light on marriage, the dynamics of family relationships, and the reason why everyone lives with the consequences of the sins that others commit. Brauns shows how the principle of the rope is both bad news and good news, revealing a depth to the message of the gospel that many of us have never seen before.”

In chapters 2, 3 and 4, Chris explains two vital truths – truths that lie at the heart of the Gospel message.

 People’s union with the first man, Adam. In chapter 2, Chris explains how everyone has been bound to Adam. So, when Adam committed his first sin in the Garden of Eden, every human was involved in that sin. This is what is called the doctrine of ‘original sin’.

 Believers’ union with Christ. Everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ for their salvation is, so to speak, unbound from Adam and bound to Jesus Christ. They are united with Christ. In other words, they are, as Paul often says, “in Christ”. And that changes everything. Robert Letham writes, “Union with Christ is right at the center of the Christian doctrine of salvation”. In chapters 3 and 4, Chris explains what it means for believers to be united with Christ and takes us through images that the Bible uses to illustrate this union.

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California writes: “In Bound Together, Chris Brauns cleverly unpacks two key theological concepts—union with Christ, and original sin—and manages to explain them in a way that any reader can understand. Highly recommended.”

View the publisher’s description page HERE.

Read some reviews HERE and HERE.

Chris Brauns’ website A Brick in the Valley is HERE. I recommend it.

Chris Brauns is senior pastor of the The Red Brick Church, Stillman Valley, Illinois, United States. He is the author of three books and numerous articles. Chris and his wife Jamie have four children. You can read more about Chris background HERE.

Read Scripture videos by The Bible Project – a great resource for teaching the Bible

The Bible Project has produced (among many other resources) a series of 71 short videos, named Read Scripture, that take you right through the Bible. They’re are a wonderful tool for teaching the Bible story – snappy, engaging, visually impacting, and theologically astute. And they’re all free – as is everything produced by The Bible Project.

These Read Scripture videos are suitable for teenagers as well as adults. They’re a great introduction to the Bible story that you could use with your family, your small group, or your whole church. I first encountered one of these videos at a church service where the preacher used the video to introduce a sermon series on the Book of Numbers. It was a brilliant way to begin that series.

Here’s the Read Scripture video on Genesis chapters 1 to11:

Other resources related to this video on Genesis 1-11 from The Bible Project are available HERE

The full set of Read Scripture videos for the Old Testament are available HERE.

Here’s the Read Scripture video on Matthew chapters 1 to 13:

Other resources related to this video on Matthew 1-13 from The Bible Project are available HERE

The full set of videos for the New Testament are available HERE.

The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short, animated videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible’s unified story. They focus on the Bible’s overarching themes and each book’s literary design, and they are committed to understanding the Bible in its historical context. To find out more about The Bible Project, click HERE.

‘The Good God’ by Michael Reeves

The Good God, Michael Reeves, Trinity, God, Theology

The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son, And Spirit by Michael Reeves. First published in March 2012 by Paternoster through Authentic Media, Milton Keynes, UK. ISBN 1842277448 (paperback); 178078029X (Ebook). 144 pages; also available in electronic versions. Also published under the title: Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, first published in July 2012 by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, USA. ISBN 0-8308-3983-6 (paperback); also available in electronic versions.

This wonderful little book (only around 120 pages long) transformed my (admittedly at the time rather minimal) understanding of the Trinity. But this book didn’t merely speak to me – it sang! It’s difficult to imagine that a book on the Trinity could do that, but it did.

The Trinity isn’t a doctrine to file away on the dusty shelves of our theological storeroom. It’s pivotal to our Christian faith. No wonder the ancient Church Fathers fought so long and hard to understand and teach this doctrine. The fact that God is Triune is undergirds all that God is – His love, His grace, His holiness, His beauty and glory. It motivates all that He does – creating, redeeming, sustaining and ultimately glorifying this world. Being Triune means that He is a God Who has given everything to save you and me. It’s foundational to our relationship with Him.

Dr Reeves writes, “. . . it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beau¬ty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.” . . . . In fact, we will see that the triune nature of this God affects everything from how we listen to music to how we pray: it makes for happier marriages, warmer dealings with others, better church life; it gives Christians assurance, shapes holiness, and transforms the very way we look at the world around us. No exaggeration: the knowledge of this God turns lives around.”

Andrew Wilson reviews the book HERE. He writes: “Mike Reeves’ book The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son and Spirit is not just the best book on the trinity I have ever read. . . . . I wouldn’t even say it was merely the best book on God I have ever read. . . . there are lots of books on God out there, I’ve read a number of them, and some are exceptionally helpful. For me, though, The Good God is the best Christian book on anything I have ever read.” He comments “The beauty of The Good God is that it’s searchingly deep, rich, theologically profound and provocative, at the same time as being witty, creative, amusing, readable and short . . . .”

Only after reading this book did I understand how utterly essential the doctrine of the Trinity is. Read this book, enjoy it, and delight in God more fully through the truths that Michael Reeves unlocks for us.

The publishers’ descriptions are online HERE and HERE.

Michael Reeves (Ph.D., King’s College, University of London) was until recently the Theological Advisor for the UCCF (Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) – an organisation that supports student Christian Unions and mission among students. He was previously an associate minister at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. He is currently the Theologian-at-Large, at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, UK. He is also the author of The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation; On Giants’ Shoulders: Introducing Great Theologians – From Luther to Barth and The Breeze of the Centuries: Introducing Great Theologians – From the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas.