On Kings’ Day

Today is “Reyes”, a holiday here in Spain, and around the world. In the past children received their presents today. However, today many more parents are moving to Christmas to give gifts to their children from Santa Claus. What follows is a short creative fiction piece written from the perspective of one of the wise men.

For hundreds of years we had been waiting. I was part of a small number whose life and livelihood depended on our ability to see the signs and read the times. We were the link between the heavens and the earth. We were the keepers of the ladder which every king had attempted to climb. We were the priests of the future because we could understand the past and interpret the present. We were wisdom.

The day we had seen it, the day we had realized what the heavens were declaring, was a day I will never forget. Aligning, shining, guiding, proclaiming. The lights above were speaking to us. Calling, leading, pulling us toward something. Toward someone. It was almost as though the sky was singing.

What were we to do? We who had been foretelling, reading, studying, directing. Were we now to drop all and follow? Should we, the leaders, diviners, interpreters, the wisdom-givers step out and walk behind?

I cannot explain it, but follow is both what we were forced to do, and what we desperately wanted to do. We had no will, nor any desire, to do otherwise. We were being drawn in to what we had been created for.

We had packed and prepared and set out across the sands. But the trip itself was of no consequence. Asking about the desert and the dangers, the plodding and the monotony would be like asking the bridegroom about the weeks leading up to his wedding. Of what significance were all the plans, and trials, and unknowns? They were but a moment, a haze, a brief vapor dancing before my eyes. It was the singing of the heavens which pulled us, and it was the moment of fulfillment which became the event around which my life’s work, my entire existence, would be measured and remembered. I would read my life story as being before, or after the Christ child.

And then we had arrived in Israel and met the king. Oh, you misunderstand. I am not speaking of Herod! No, not that little rat, hiding and conniving, threatening and abusing. He was no king. He was a puppet afraid of the strings. I am talking about the child King. The King of all kings.

The helplessness which I felt in his presence was unlike any other moment of vulnerability I had experienced. I am familiar with kings, despots, and tyrants. I have lived my life in the presence of men who sought supreme control. These men always desire to read, and wield, the stars and planets for their own means. But what I saw in this moment was different. Here was power. Here was control. Here was fear.

But the fear I felt was the realization that I was not worthy. Here was such goodness, pure and unteathered completeness, that all of me which missed the mark was highlighted in his splendor. All the darkness of my heart and soul was on full display before his radiance. I felt as though I was unbound, undone, uncovered. The only possible posture in the presence of unleashed goodness is reverence and awe. So I worshiped.

When I saw him I was changed. I was unmade and made anew. I lost myself and found who I was meant to be. I was fearful yet safe.

I fell to my knees, and then I laughed. A real laugh. A full laugh. A laugh like that of a child who has nothing to fear. Nothing to fear…

Matthew 2:1–12 (ESV): Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6  “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Teaching around the world

This past Saturday evening, from 8:00-11:00 pm I was participating in online education. Santiago and I were co-teaching a course on studying the Bible using tools from the 21st century, namely Logos. The two of us have taught this same course a variety of times around Spain, but this was the first go at it via Zoom.

I don’t particularly like purely online courses, first and foremost because it allows me to distance myself from the students. I can talk all I want and completely disregard any potential distractions. However, the current global situation has forced us into this new version of learning, and when you have lemons in hand…

However, I do believe that with the right mindset, online education can be extremely helpful. This class was scheduled for the benefit of our intern here in Ponferrada, Itziar. She meets regularly with us to discuss ministry philosophy, her doctrinal statement, her progress in leading Bible studies, etc. This online course is just a talking point for the bulk of the training – that which takes place right here in our city as we personally interact.

If the local church is clear, strategic, and faithful with discipleship, I believe online courses can be of incredible value.

This course will last five Saturdays, two hours of teaching each session. There are students joining in from all over the world, and from differing religious backgrounds. This past week I believe there were 18 of us all together. But we are all trying to learn how we can better understand this incredible gift of God’s Word, and how it leads us to Jesus Christ!

If you are interest in joining in, and your Spanish abilities are up for it, let us know!

Bible Translation

One thing I love about using the Logos.com platform is the monthly giveaways. Awhile back they were highlighting resources on Bible translations, and I picked up some new resources for free and cheap. One of those I just recently finished, the MobileEd course by Lexham Press, God’s Word as Translation. It was helpful for more than just Bible translation questions.

Path: Dr. Trick builds a foundation for the translation process by explaining the concept and problems behind “literalness”, the nature of meaning and communication, how this affects the translation process, and the missiological implications of Bible translation.

Sources: As a translator himself, having worked with language groups around the world, Dr. Trick helps the student understand not only how translation works, but how language and communication work.

Agreement: This course was so much more than just translating a word or verse. I found his metaphors very helpful in my own understanding of meaning and communication.

Other books along this theme would be:

  • Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
  • Köstenberger, Andreas J., David A. Croteau, and Joe Stowell. Which Bible Translation Should I Use?: A Comparison of 4 Major Recent Versions. B&H, 2013.
  • Ryken, Leland, and C. John Collins. The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2002.
  • Wallace, Daniel B. “Five Myths About Bible Translation.” Parchment and Pen (blog).

For me, this was the most helpful diagram of the whole class. It is his explanation of how communication happens.

One to One Bible reading

The four most important words in a Bible discussion are often “What do you think?”

Helm, David. One-to-One Bible Reading (Kindle Locations 206-207). Matthias Media. Kindle Edition. 


I am sure you can think of many other words which are more important than these four, for example the actual words of the text, but take an hour and read through this short book. I highly recommend it.

Reading through the Bible

I am part of a men’s group which has been meeting for a Bible study each Saturday for years. Beginning the end of February we decided to try something different than our normal book by book studies. We decided to read through the entire Bible in a year, taking a chapter or two to talk through each Saturday morning over coffee. I have read through the Bible at various speeds, in different ways, and with different resources over the years, and each one has been beneficial. I have read through it in the normal order we find our Bibles today, at other times chronologically, one time extremely fast, and other years one chapter at a time.

With our men’s group we are reading through it chronologically, but I have paired it with some very helpful resources which I would recommend to every person interested in reading through the Scriptures. This plan has been very beneficial and worth starting this week if you are unsure of where to go next in your reading.

• We are following the YouVersion chronological plan (free app).

• After reading the Scripture passages, I then read any articles for the passages in Hard Sayings of the Bible.

• At the beginning of each book, I also read the corresponding chapter in Leland Ryken’s excellent resource, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible.

• I also frequently watch the corresponding video from BibleProject, or read their entry in the book, Bible Project Coffee Table Book.

This format does not add much time to the daily reading, but yields some great results. I have benefitted from it greatly and would encourage you to try. I would also like to hear if you have any other similar resources you regularly use. Anything you could recommend?

The promise fulfilled

Reading through the Bible we cannot help but see promises made, fulfilled, and yet to be fulfilled. The promises fulfilled in Christ give us hope that the promises of Christ will be fulfilled as well.

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.  You know the way to where I am going.”

John 14:1–4 (HCSB)

WikiTheology: But it’s a different culture…

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owlswhy Hell might not be what you think, maybe Jesus just being overly dramatic, and why your stomach still growls.

Question: The culture that Jesus lived in is so different than ours. How can we know that everything he said then is culturally relevant for today?

Text where it stems from: The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7)

Me: Are there some commands that Jesus gave to his disciples that are not relevant for us? Yes! For example, he told the disciples to not go to certain cities. He told individuals to not tell others about him. He told people to pay their taxes to Cesar. He told his disciples to meet him in Galilee. None of those things are relevant to us. But does that mean that nothing is relevant for us? I think we would all say “No. There is much that is relevant for us!”

But how do we know the difference between what is relevant to us in the 21st century and what was only relevant to those standing beside Jesus in the 1st century, or even those who were listening to Moses in the 15th century before Christ, and what is relevant for us today? This question is part of what we call Hermeneutics, or “the discipline that studies theories of interpretation” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

The Bible is a collection of 66 books written over the span of more than 1500 years by 40 authors. We also recognize that this collection we “Scripture” is inspired by God, or given to us by God himself through human authors (2 Tim 3:16). We must take into account both the diversity and unity of authorship. Because of the nature of this revelation we must as well acknowledge its time-bound and timeless nature. This is distinct from other faiths such as Islam.

Given the nature of the Bible, when we come to a certain text we must come to it as though we were three different audiences. We ask ourselves, “How would I have understood this if I were the original audience?” Then we ask, “What does this reveal in a timeless way about God and mankind throughout all history?” And finally we can ask, “How does this apply to me as part of the present audience?”

[This mashup of the COMA questions and the Flow of Bible study did not originate with us. See One to One Bible Reading by Helm and also this post by Michael Patton]

You may think, but that sounds like a lot of work! Yes. Yes it is. The Bible is a big book, and if we don’t take our reading of it seriously we could arrive at the point of where we are sacrificing goats and chickens, or rejecting the whole book outright. For example, you may have heard statements such as, “If you are going to say that a certain sexual behavior is wrong, you can’t eat pork either because Leviticus says you can’t!” Given what you have read, how would you respond?

So, was the culture of Jesus different than ours? Certainly. Does this mean that nothing is relevant for us? Absolutely not. The words of Jesus, and all of Scripture as the revelation of God, are essential to our life and godliness (2 Peter 1), and although they are difficult to understand at times (2 Peter 3), they are the words of life (John 6).

Si la cultura de Jesús fue tan diferente de la nuestra ¿cómo sabemos que sus palabras son relevantes para nosotros?

¿Hay algunos mandatos que Jesús dio a sus discípulos que no son relevantes para nosotros? ¡Sí! Por ejemplo, dijo a sus discípulos no ir a algunas ciudades. Dijo a algunos no hablar de él a otros. Dijo que todos deben pagar sus impuestos al Cesar. Mandó que sus discípulos fuesen a Galilea para reunirse con él. Ninguno de estos son “relevantes” para nosotros. ¿Pero significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? Creo que todos de nosotros diríamos “No. Hay mucho que es relevante para nosotros.”

Pero nos lleva a otra pregunta. ¿Cómo sabemos la diferencia entre lo que es relevante para nosotros en el siglo XXI y lo que fue relevante solo para ellos de pie al lado de Jesús en el siglo I, o incluso a ellos escuchando a Moises en el siglo XV antes de Cristo? Esta pregunta es parte de lo que llamas Hermenéutica, o, “la disciplina que estudia las teorías de interpretación” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

La Biblia es una colección de 66 libros escritos durante más de 1500 años por 40 autores. También sabemos que esta colección que llamamos “Las Escrituras” es inspirada por Dios, dada por Dios mismo por medio de autores humanos (2 Timoteo 3:16). Tenemos que reconocer la diversidad y la unidad de la autoría. Por causa de la naturaleza de esta revelación también tenemos que reconocer su naturaleza como eterna y, a la misma vez, temporal. Esta declaración distingue Cristianismo de muchas religiones, como Islam.

Dada la naturaleza de la Biblia, cuando leemos un texto tenemos que pensar como si fuésemos tres diferentes audiencias. Nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo lo hubiera entendido si yo hubiese sido la audiencia original?” Después, nos preguntamos, ¿Qué nos revela, en su aspecto intemporal, de Dios y la humanidad a lo largo de la historia?” Y finalmente, nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo se aplica a mi este pasaje, siendo yo como la audiencia presente?”

[Estas preguntas y “audiencias” no tienen su origin con nosotros. Puedes consultar “One to One Bible Reading” por Helm y también este blog]

Probablemente piensas, “¡Me parece mucho trabajo!” Sí. Lo es. La Biblia es un libro grande e importante, y si no lo tomamos en serio, podríamos llegar a un momento en el que sacrificaríamos cabras y gallinas, o rechazaríamos el libro por completo.

¿Has escuchado declaraciones como, “Si vas a decir que este tipo de acto sexual es malo, tampoco puedes comer jamón porque Levítico dice que no!” Según lo que has leído, ¿cómo responderías?

A ver, ¿la cultura de Jesús fue diferente que la nuestra? Claro. ¿Significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? De ninguna manera. Las palabras de Jesús, y de todas las Escrituras como la revelación de Dios, son esenciales para nuestra vida y piedad (2 Pedro 1), y aunque son difíciles de entender a veces (2 Pedro 3), son palabras de vida (Juan 6).

The promise fulfilled

We just finished our four week series in the Panoramic Picture of the Bible. The promises fulfilled in Christ give us hope that the promises of Christ will be fulfilled as well.

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.  You know the way to where I am going.”

John 14:1–4 (HCSB)

Psalm 42-43

This past Sunday we studied Psalm 42-43 in our Sunday study. It was a great encouragement to remember that we can, and we must, hope in God, even when “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (42:7).



Reading the Bible together

Any committed Christian is capable of initiating a good conversation on a biblical text. In reality, your fears in this area of personal work betray two Screwtape-like lies that every Christian must resist. First, that gospel growth depends on us and on our abilities. This is simply not the case. Our proficiency in the Bible is not the final arbiter in seeing spiritual growth occur. The Holy Spirit can and does use timid people just like us. The second lie we fight against is disbelief—disbelief in the potency of God’s word. We need to be reminded that God does his work in his way, and it is his word that accomplishes whatever he desires in the world.

Helm, David. One-to-One Bible Reading (Kindle Locations 176-181). Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.