September 28 – Hard Questions – Why are there 4 different gospels?

Read John 20:30-31

“Our tendency in approaching the Gospels is to think of them as modern biography. We want them to give us all the facts about Jesus and especially to get the chronology of His life right…Yet, the Gospel writers did not set out to write modern biographies. They did not even know about it or realize that people would be interested in such issues in hundreds of years. What they did know about was ancient biography.

The point of such works was not to give a chronology of a life but to present selected facts so as to bring out the significance of the person’s life and the moral points that the reader should draw from it. The point is that, as was the case in ancient biography, the Gospels are not photographs of Jesus but portraits.”

When I walked into The Great Commission Bible Institute (GCBI) in August of 2011, I had no idea the amount of God’s Word I was about to get to know. I was a fairly new surrendered follower of Jesus and still trying to grasp and understand His truth and, boy, was I hungry to know more! But like most new followers, I was confused by a lot of things at first, especially why the Lord gifted us with 4 different portraits of Jesus’ ministry and time on earth. 

The Overview:

The Book of Matthew – The Words of Jesus 

The Book of Mark – The Works of Jesus

The Book of Luke – Chronology of Events

The Book of John – The Conflict of Jesus

Matthew’s gospel was focused on the words of Jesus. I say this mostly because its backbone was the main 5 sermons taught within its pages. (Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5, True Witness in chapter 10, What Heaven is like in chapter 13, Forgiveness in chapter 18 and The Olivet Discourse in chapters 23-25).

Mark’s pages skip the first 30 years of Jesus’ life and focus mostly on the workings of Jesus’ ministry

Luke enters in during the first church; think the book of Acts. He collects interviews from first-hand accounts and puts them in order chronologically (Luke 1:3).

By the time John’s writing Matthew, Mark and Luke’s writings had been already circulated through the church and Jews were trying to turn Gentiles to Jews. In my opinion, John is a Polemic Biography, meaning “to make a point” and the point being where we started:

So then, many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31

I don’t say all of this for just the sake of knowledge and knowledge alone, but to give you context. Each God inspired writer (2 Timothy 3:16) has a purpose and that was to tell you the whole story.

Think of it this way; when you walk into a tattoo shop, what the artist does before he begins to tattoo skin is draw on translucent paper. Say someone wants an in-depth intricate piece that will take four sessions; each session has its own piece of paper. On its own, it may look great, but it doesn’t give you the fullness of what was intended. Once the artist stacks all four pieces on top of each other, you see the beautiful piece it was intended to be. 

Alone, each gospel tells the story of Jesus and it is good. However, God intended for us to have four different perspectives of Christ’s life and ministry that fit together to give us the entire perspective as it was intended to be.

Kelly Lawson

September 27 – Hard Questions – Are Old Testament prophecies really accurate?

Read Deuteronomy 18:22 and Isaiah 41:22-23

What do you think of when you hear the word “prophecy”? Perhaps the name Nostradamus and his various prophecies come to your mind. Or maybe you think of the Mayan calendar that pegged the end of the world to occur in 2012. The year 2012 came and went, but the world did not end. There have been numerous prophecies throughout history that have ended in nothing.

When I hear the word “prophecy”, I think of the New Testament book of the Bible called Revelation. But did you know that the Old Testament is full of prophecies that have come true or that will come true in the future?

You may be asking yourself right now, “How can I trust the prophecies in the Bible when so many prophecies throughout history have failed?”. That is a valid question and one that God answers for us in Deuteronomy 18:

“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death. You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”(v. 20-22)

God gives us four truths regarding false prophets in the verses above:

  1. A false prophet will speak presumptuously or arrogantly in God’s name commandments that He has not given (v.20).
  2. A false prophet will speak in the name of other gods (v. 20).
  3. A false prophet’s prophecy will not come true because it is not from God (v. 21).
  4. Do not be afraid of or be alarmed by false prophets (v. 22).

These four truths can be boiled down into one statement: you can trust God’s prophecies because they always come true. Nostradamus’s prophecies did not come true because they were not from God. The Mayan’s prophecies did not come true because they were not from God.

There are numerous Old Testament prophecies and there is no way we could cover them all here. But I do want to end with one of my favorites which says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV). This prophecy is talking about the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary and He was called Immanuel, which means “God with us”. But don’t just take my word for it, you can find the fulfillment of this prophecy in Luke chapters 1 and 2.

Jesus, the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, who rose again on the third day, and who wants you to turn away from your sins and trust in Him as your Savior, was a fulfillment of prophecy. You can trust God’s prophecies because they always come true.

Because God’s prophecies always come true, we can trust Him. He is always faithful. We shouldn’t fear the future because it’s in His hands. What are some things in your life that you are anxious or fearful about? Cast those things on God and trust Him that He is in control of the future!

Ethan Cline

September 26 – Hard Questions – What does “the Word of the Lord came to me” actually mean?

Read Isaiah 20:3, 30:2 and Jeremiah 37:17

If you know my Dad, you know that he is very logical and matter of fact. I remember a time where I was following a bus to a retreat. I had just lost my debit card so when I got to a toll road, I pulled off the side and found an alternate route to the destination. When I pull up to yet another toll road, I begin to panic. How am I supposed to get there if I can’t pay for the toll? I’m in this car by myself in the dark and I don’t know what to do. My breath gets shortened and as sweat begins to fall, it’s almost like I heard Dad say “You got this, buddy. Take a breath, get control and figure something out.” I had to route the path (which apparently only went through toll roads) and zoom out and run my little blue dot parallel to the outlined path until I got to the resort.

I had heard Dad’s logic and level headedness for so many years that it was almost like he was in the car with me.

In the Old Testament, there is a common theme among the prophets:

“The Word of the Lord came to me…”

What does this actually mean? Was it like Dad seemingly being in the car with me? Did God actually and audially speak to these prophets? Does this same thing still happen today?

First off, it’s important to understand what the role of an Old Testament prophet was. As Moses was preparing his ministry, God told him and Aaron that He would “put my words in his mouth”. This means that these prophets would be a mediator between God and the people, or Pharaoh in Moses’ instance. In Old Testament times, the word of God would come audially (i.e. the burning bush etc.) and their primary goal was to accurately pass on the message to the people to whom they were ministering to. The stress was on the action coming from the divine source not the prophet who was the recipient. As we all know, many followed the command of God while others did not.

Sound familiar?

When Jesus came, He fulfilled the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) and became our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Because of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, we have immediate access to God if we repent of our sins and commit to follow God. We have the access to God that only prophets did back in the day. Also, because of the canonization of the inspired Scripture, there is nothing that prophets can tell us that isn’t already in there.

How amazing is it that we have God with us at all times? Don’t waste this access. Spend time getting to know God and growing in your faith. When you have experience to fall back on, your faith will be strong. Just as I fell back on what I heard my dad say for years, you’d be surprised how God can being truths and lessons to your mind when you need them most.

Jake Lawson

September 25 – Hard Questions – Why does God seem so angry in the Old Testament and loving in the New Testament?

Read John 1:18, Jonah 4:2 and Matthew 5:29-30

Throughout the Old Testament you can find books that indeed show the love of God. Read the end of the book of Job.  Look at the book of Ruth, Proverbs, and Psalms. But, at the same time, realize that mankind has been in rebellion to God since Adam and Eve.  Mankind has to face the consequences of sin.  We read in Hebrews 12:6

“For whom the Lord loves He disciplines and scourges every son whom He receives.”

Read now in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel:

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked rather than he should turn from his ways and live?”

Read this question again through those passages and still one more:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.”Hebrews 13:8

In the Old Testament, people were admonished to follow the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and spirit.  We are taught in the New Testament to do the very same. 

As we grow to be like Jesus, we will see more of His attributes in what we read of the Lord in the Old Testament. Our prayer today ought to be for God to open our eyes to the truth of His Word and not of our perceptions and ideas we have concerning it.  The Bible is the only book in all of human history where, at any point in history, we can talk to the Author of it about it.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God being declared to be “a compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness”.  In the New Testament, we see a more fully shown view of this in the sacrifice of Jesus for mankind. Jesus spoke of the Spirit being the Helper. The one to teach us all things.  It would be through the Spirit in each of us that we have our perceptions of God and ourselves seen through different eyes, Spiritual eyes. 

Pray each day for renewed understanding. We are told that God gives wisdom to all who would freely ask.   Pray that our misconceptions of God would be either answered to or removed from our way of life, our way of thinking.

Lastly…note that our Father in Heaven is our Father. Kids don’t always do what they are told and, when that happens, discipline follows. That does not mean that we are loved any less because of it.

David Brenneman