What’s it this all about then?

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

Giving everything up for God? Not quite. The key phrase in te story is

“in his joy he went and sold all he had”.

It’s a parable of the kingdom so this little story, only a few lines long, gives us a principle of how God likes things to be and how they are as he has his way. The kingdom of God is characterised by a giving up in joy of everything for something far more precious. Its not just that we give everything up for God its that in Jesus we find something so precious that in our joy we give up everything else for him.

In Jesus we find forgiveness, adoption, purpose meaning love, eternal left etc (etc seems such a belittling word to put after such a long list! But there is more, inheritance, new resurrection body, freedom from the power of sin, united to Jesus as part of the church….etc!) but its Jesus that ultimately captures our attention and gives us such delight. Not the gifts but the giver, as people often say.

If someone gives me a wonderful present I am pleased but I am attracted to something in the giver that is even more wonderful. Kindness and grace and love and mercy and justice have their foundation and focus in a person. Jesus. When we see Jesus we would joyfully give up everything for him. And people do. And count it a small thing.

But remember this is a kingdom principle. Its not saying that we are the man (or the merchant in the next verse) and Jesus is the treasure (or pearl). That’s just one application. This is a principle that characterises the kingdom and supremely it characterises the king. God gave everything up for us. He saw in us something so precious that he was willing to give up his only begotten son to a horrific death on a cross. Jesus gave up his life for us. Can you see how this forsaking all others and everything else for the joy found in anther is so central to the kingdom of God. This is what “the kingdom of Heaven is like”.


Watching the bible being written

Here is a video of the ESV bible being written. What a cool insight into the process behind this really helpful translation.

What a great and godly bunch of bible scholars. I’d love to have a few hours in that room for Q&A.

Lights please! (How to read the bible part 1)

I thought it would be an easy talk but as always it took some hard graft to put together. I had been asked to speak at the UEA CU on how to read the bible. I love reading the bible and there are a lot of things that I could say about it, but still, putting a 20 minute talk together was a challenge. I wanted to make it personal and practical but also ground it in the bible itself. After all, if the bible is so good, why not let it speak about itself!

I began thinking of a passage I could base the talk on and Psalm 119 came to mind. It is a massive Psalm but I very quickly homed in on a few verses. I wanted everyone, including me, to experience something of the metaphors that the Psalmist was using so I gave out lots of sweets, turned all the lights off and began to read the passage by torch light:

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. Psalm 119:103-105

It’s amazing how exciting it is being in a dark room with a torch. My kids love it and I guess I’ve never grown out of it. I was tempted to give the rest of the  talk in the dark but sanity prevailed and the lights went back on.

I wanted to vividly make the point that God’s word is sweetness and it is light! That there is both an experiential delight and an intellectual enlightenment to be found in the bible. That is certainly the testimony of the Psalmist who writes as someone who as discovered hidden treasure. By studying this song I hoped to find clues that would lead me into a similar experience.

Many people dismiss the bible as boring and irrelevant. The psalmist however, even though he only saw a fraction of what is there for us to discover now, was inspired to write 176 verses about it; 8 for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In God’s word he finds truth, comfort, direction, protection, blessing and salvation.

I can relate to the Psalmists verboseness. The more I read in the bible the more I seem to have to say about it so inevitably I ended up with too much material for the night. I thought therefore that it would be a good idea to blog my notes.

I had three points which I will blog over the next few weeks. First I will look at the Psalmist’s heart, next his head and finally his hands.

“The Gist” – A brand new bible translation

Just read a guardian article that put on me on to some great bible twitterers. @biblesummary, @FakeBible and @janariess (Twible).

Biblesummary is summarising the bible one tweet per chapter per day. So far it has got to Gen 15 (a little ahead of where I am in my bible blog

Gen15: The Lord promised Abram an heir and many descendants. Abram believed. He was told that they would be enslaved but would then return.

Gen14: The kings went to war and took Lot captive. Abram rescued Lot. Melchizedek blessed Abram and Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Gen13: Abram journeyed with his nephew Lot. Their servants argued, so Lot went to Sodom, Abram to Canaan. The LORD promised Abram the land.

Gen12: God told Abram, “Go. I will make you a great nation. You will be a blessing.” In Egypt Abram lied about Sarai and Pharaoh was cursed.

Gen11: They began building a great tower for themselves, but the Lord confused their language. Shem’s line included Abram who married Sarai.

Gen10: Japheth’s line lived in the coastlands; Ham’s included Nimrod and the Canaanites; Shem’s lived in the East. These formed the nations.

Gen9: God blessed Noah and set the rainbow as a sign that he would never flood the earth again. Noah got drunk and cursed Ham’s son Canaan.

Gen8: The flood abated. Noah sent out a raven and two doves. When the earth was dry God called them all out of the ark. Noah built an altar.

Gen7: Noah and his family went into the ark with two of each creature. It rained for forty days and forty nights and the earth was covered.

Gen6: Humankind corrupted the earth with evil. God decided to destroy them. He told Noah to build an ark to be saved from the flood.

Gen5: Adam’s line was: Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Gen4: Eve’s sons made offerings to God. Only Abel’s was acceptable, so Cain killed him. Abel’s blood cried out and God sent Cain away.

Gen3: The serpent deceived the woman; she and Adam ate from the tree. The earth became cursed, and God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden.

Gen2: God formed a man and gave him the garden in Eden, except for the tree of knowledge. Adam was alone so God made a woman as his partner.

Gen1: God created the heavens, the earth and everything that lives. He made humankind in his image, and gave them charge over the earth.

FakeBible are doing each verse as a tweet in an informal twitter style:

Ex10:29 “Okay, you won’t ever s-see me again,” said Moses. And it was true, except for in a lifetime of Pharaoh’s nightmares.

Ex10:28 “GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! IF YOU SEE ME AGAIN I’LL FLIPPIN’ KILL YOU!” It was a strange threat to make after the plague of darkness.


Ex10:25-26 Moses: “We all have to make sac-sacrifices! I.e., sacrifice our cattle. To G-God. B-better take ALL the cattle, just in c-case.”

Ex10:24 Pharaoh summoned Moses. “Go. Take your women and children. But leave your cattle as collateral. Fair? Fair. Good talk.”

Twible paraphrased the whole of the Book of Leviticus in one tweet: “Don’t eat this. Don’t screw that. Don’t touch this. Don’t DO that. Thus saith the Lord.”. Actually it usually does a couple of tweets per chapter and a couple of tweets per day.

1 Kgs 22: Great Jehoshaphat! Kings of S & N join forces to fight Syrians. 1 Kgs ends on happy note of unity & peace. Won’t last.

1 Kgs 22: Great Jehoshaphat! Kings of S & N join forces to fight Syrians. 1 Kgs

1 Kgs 21: Queen Jezebel uses eminent domain to seize Naboth’s vineyard; has the guy stoned. (Don’t worry. She’ll soon be Pupperoni.)

1 Kgs 21: Queen Jezebel uses eminent domain to seize Naboth’s vineyard; has the guy stoned. (Don’t worry. She’ll soon be Pupperoni.)

1 Kgs 20: Gleeful Syrians threaten to take Israel’s gold, wives, & kids. Like a country music song! Isr trounces em . . . this time.

1 Kgs 19: Elij crashes from theo high; now in deep funk sans Celexa. Wants to die, but G won’t hear of it. Bakes him a cake instead.

1 Kgs 19: Elij crashes from theo high; now in deep funk sans Celexa. Wants to die, but G won’t hear of it. Bakes him a cake instead.

1 Kgs 18: Theology throwdown; Elij dares 850 pagan prophets to duel. Elij: “Ha! Is that all you’ve got? LMAO @ your girly-man gods.”

If you didn’t like “the message” then you’ll not get along with these “versions” but I think they are a great resource. I view the bible as inspired at all levels, from an individual word to “the gist”. If that wasn’t the case then at what point does a translation stop being a helpful bible? The English versions we have are already a long way from reading the original manuscripts in their original language. Missing the gist can be as bad as missing the detail. Those that emphasis the importance of each word would be quick no doubt to emphasis context and context is just another word for the gist. So we have had “the message”, now its time for a new groundbreaking  bible version called “The Gist”. I’m actually quite serious. The book would contain several versions of the bible at different levels of detail. In recognition that a summary necessarily needs to be done from a particular perspective with certain presuppositions and aims in mind (just like any bible translation) each level would be done in a number of “takes”. Anyone want to be the new Eugene Peterson?

A brilliant version of the bible for Adults and Children alike

When I first became a Christian I was so daunted by the size of the bible and particularly the Old Testament that I decided to buy a children’s version to get a quick overview. While it did help me a bit with the bare bones of some of the main events, like many children’s bible stories it was heavily sanitised plus I was left with the feeling that it was just a collection of unconnected faintly moralising stories without much of a plot running through them.

More recently, having actually read the OT for real, I was looking for a version for my children to read. They had three or four versions already but they all suffered from the same problems that I had encountered before. It was never obvious reading about Abraham, David, or Jonah what the point of the stories was. If someone loves Jesus and has decided to follow him why wade through the OT? Jazzing it up in colourful language and pictures may keep a child’s attention but what’s the point if it doesn’t tell them about Jesus? Recently a friend recommended “The Jesus Storybook Bible : Every story whispers his name”, and we have so far listened to/read the first third. I have to say it’s absolutely brilliant. It is written soooooo well, it’s exciting, funny and interesting but also very insightful and Jesus focused. Each story clearly points to Jesus in ways that even I hadn’t fully appreciated before. I really cannot sing it’s praises enough.

Here’s the introduction:

The heavens are singing

about how great God is;

and the skies are shouting it out, “see what God has made!”

Day after day … night after night …

they are speaking to us.

Psalm 19:1 — 2 (paraphrase)

God wrote, “I love you” — he wrote it in the sky, and on the Earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror — to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims. And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called “the Bible.”

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get a afraid, run away. At time are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairytales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this story is — it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one big story. The story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the centre of this story there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like a missing piece of the puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the child upon whom everything would depend. This is the child who would one day — but wait. Our story starts were all good stories start right at the beginning …

It really is the best Children’s’ bible I have ever come across. The author is Sally Lloyd-Jones. Is she related to “the Lloyd Jones?” I’ll let her answer that from her blog:

When you’re such a fan, of such a great man, of course you’d love to be able to say you’re related or connected somehow. You wish you had met him. And been able to hear him preach. Or had him as your great Uncle. You sometimes even wish (inappropriately) you could tell all manner of lies to make it a better story–you remember him singing welsh hymns to you, he took you riding on his horse–in short, you wish you could say anything other than, “no”. Which for some reason I can’t help but follow with “sorry”. (I feel it is such a let down and I’m rather let down by the whole thing myself.)

I don’t think she needs to feel sorry at all. The truth is, asking the question is a massive compliment because given her amazing gift of writing and insight into truth being related to the late great Lloyd-Jones is a very plausible possibility. Another recognisable name that cropped up was Tim Keller. Sally says he had some input into the book and a little research confirms it is indeed “the Tim Keller”.

If you have young children and you’re looking for a great bible story book then this is the one to get. It’s also a good one to listen too (the Deluxe version has a great set of CD’s with it) if you have just become a Christian and want to get a quick feel for the whole bible story. Not only will it inspire you to read the “real thing” it will help you listen for the whispers of Jesus in every story.