(Re)Discovering The Bible Podcast Relaunch

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After two plus years, we’re back. I’m so excited. Attached are the show notes, in rather unedited form. I just wanted to get the podcast to you. Thanks for waiting. And thanks to you new listeners.

 

 I want to welcome you, or, welcome you back to ReDiscovering the Bible. I’ve been away a long time. A lot has happened since we were last together. My wife and I have moved to North Eastern Scotland. I’m back full time in ministry. I’ve had a heart attack, 4 strokes and had triple bypass surgery to repair the damage. But I feel great, and I’m looking forward renewing our relationship, or getting to know you for the first time, whichever situation describes you and I. For those of you who were regular listeners before, we don’t have farm animals here in Scotland, so we won’t be interrupted by crowing roosters or braying donkeys, or goats calling for their dinner. And the camper, that I used as a recording studio is also a thing of the past.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the Bible. It’s message is unchangeable. It still points us to Jesus,

I’m looking forward to our time together. For reasons no one can explain, all our old episodes have disappeared. The hosts can’t explain it, but they are doing their best to get them back. But it’s ok with me either way. We’re going to start over. If the old episodes come back, great, if not, most of you are new, anyway, so we’ll do this together.

So let’s get started. What is the Bible? And why do I think it’s such a big deal? First of all, it’s still the best selling book of all time. Plus it’s the most given away book of all time. And each year, it’s best seller. Often, the year’s number one seller. So much so, that most charts just ignore it. The Bible is a category all it’s own.

But while it’s a best seller, and a cherished book to give away, or receive, it’s surprisingly unread. Millions upon millions of copies gather dust and go completely ignored. Yet, it’s subject matter is discussed, and argued about, daily. Many people offer opinions about it without ever reading it. And because their hearers haven’t read it, ignorance is compounded and a huge majority of human beings, especially those in the western world, think they know all about it. And that’s tragic.

Another scary thing, is with the advent of YouTube, ignorance and misunderstanding about the Bible has exponentially increased. Oh there’s some great stuff out there, but there are also hours and hours of drivel and garbage. Frankly, and sadly, people don’t go to Church anymore so they don’t know how much garbage is being published. And, even worse is, there are many Churches teaching junk as well. It gives me a headache just thinking about it all.

So I decided to address the subject for the ordinary person. My books are simple. My podcasts are simple. My sermons are simple. We’re all starting from the beginning. Some of us all over again. Since I have a face for radio, I’m focusing on podcasts and books rather that YouTube. I may sometime try a video or two, but like I said, I have a face ideal for radio, so why push my luck.

I do have two e books available on Amazon, if you want to read them. They are called Rediscovering the Bible Vol 1 and 2. The first volume is on the subject of today’s episode, and vol 2 covers the 4 Gospels, and Acts. Matthew Mark, Luke, John, and Acts of the Apostles are the first 5 books of the New Testament.

But what is the Bible? And why should I read it? First, the Bible is not religious. And frankly, Christianity in not a religion. Religion helped create the mess the world is in. Christianity, and it’s Scriptures, are the answer to the problems created by, and without, religion. The Bible is God’s love letter to the Human race. The short version goes like this, The first 4 books of the New Testament tell us Who Jesus is. The next one tells us, what to do about who he is. And how the news about Jesus spread through the Roman empire. The next 21 books tell us how to live as followers of Jesus, and the last book, Revelation, tells us how it’s all going to end.

The Old Testament is different. It’s main purpose is to show how sin came into the world, and what a mess the world was in before Jesus came, and what steps God took through the human race to get the world ready for Jesus. There are some absolutely awesome stories in it. Things that hollywood can only dream of. There are some beautiful songs, some promises and prophesies, and much more. The Old Testament gets a really bad rap, primarily because people don’t pay attention to the why things are happening. That and they don’t read it, but pass their interpretations of things they haven’t read to a public who haven’t read it either. It’s the oldest form of Fake News.

But I’m kind of getting ahead of myself. Surprise Surprise. The word Bible is just the greek word for book. Seriously. It’s an ordinary word that was used by greek speakers everyday. But it’s not a book. It’s actually 66 books in one volume. Like a whole library in one cover. It’s not in chronological order, or even in importance of topic order. Heck it’s not even written in the best order to read it. Seriously.

The best way to read the Bible is to read the New Testament first, then the Old testament. You will understand the flow of the book much better if you do that. In point of fact, I have outlined a reading program for the whole bible in volume 1 of my book. I believe that alone is worth the three bucks the book will set you back. But if you write me either using the comments section of the blog where I put my show notes, www.samburtonpresents.com, or email me at samburtonpresents@gmail.com. I’ll send you a New Testament reading plan at no charge. I put this plan together to give you the best possible way of reading the Bible to get the most out of it.

The Bible calls itself, “God Breathed”, meaning it comes from the very breath of God. It’s his heart. He’s the ultimate author, as he guided the authors of each book in areas of correct doctrine and history. You will hear claims that the Bible contradicts itself, but that is not the case. That is ignorance or bias speaking. We’ll look at those supposed contradictions as we go along.

Why are there so many translations of the Bible? Now that’s a great question. First of all, the Bible wasn’t written in English at all. Not even King James english. The old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Neither of those languages is spoken any more. Modern Hebrew is as different from Biblical Hebrew as Modern American English is from King James English. And for what it’s worth, King James English was different in 1611, when that version came out, than it is in it’s modern form. We’ll come back to that.

The New Testament was written in something called Koine Greek. That is different that either classical greek or Modern Greek. For years, it was called Biblical Greek, because people thought that only the Bible was written this was as some kind of code. But archaeology has shown us conclusively, that the Koine Greek of the Bible was the way people spoke in the first century A.D. We now have thousands of books from that time period that demonstrate that classical Greek was formal, or generally accepted, but that Koine was the commonly spoken variety. Much like we all have our own dialects of english.

This shows us that God was trying to be understood rather than being formal or grammatically correct. And the New Testament was translated into the commonly spoken languages literally as soon as early evangelists entered those countries.

But language changes over time. So lovers of the Bible have translated it repeatedly as we have better understanding of the original languages and as our own spoken English changes. That’s also why there are often updated editions of various translations.

I encourage you to try out several, to see which one you like best. You can do that for free. They are pretty much all available via apps for your phone, or via google on your home computer or laptop.

Just search Bible on your phones app store, and you’ll see loads of options. To save space on my phone, I settled on YouVersion as my app. I’ve downloaded multiple versions so that I don’t require internet access every time I want to use it. There are other excellent apps. I’ve used most of them. On your home computer try Biblegateway.com. There are many translations there. You can try them out and see which you like best.

Again, there are loads of good places to find translations, I’m just trying to keep things as easy as possible here on the radio show.

If you want a Bible study tool, and you have a laptop or desktop, I highly recommend, e-sword.net. I’ve used it for 20 years. You can download many translations, commentaries, old books, maps, and more. The tool is free. You can make donations if you like. I made a donation some years ago, because the program is so valuable to me.

If you want recommendations for translations, I’m going to give you three here. First of all is the English Standard Version. It’s a solid translation. While it’s not my all time favorite, it’s what I currently preach from. It has become extremely popular in strong Bible Believing Churches over the last 8 or 10 years.

Next is the New Living Translation. This is my wife’s favorite. Again, it’s extremely popular and strong.

The third, surprises a lot of old timers, but it’s the Good News Bible. It used to be called, Good New For Modern Man. Each edition of it has gotten better than the one before it. If you are not a good reader, or if English is not your first language, this translation is for you. I absolutely love it.

You’ll note, I didn’t mention the King James, aka The Authorized Version. That translation is historically very important. It changed everything for the Protestant Reformation in England and the British Colonies. It was an excellent version for it’s time, written in the everyday common language of the people.

I grew up reading the King James. I still love certain parts of it, like the 23rd psalm, and the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2. But it is not even close to the most precise translation available to people today. Those who say it is the ‘only Bible to use’ are mistaken. On the other hand, it is not a bad translation. If you still love the KJV, use it. That’s fine.

If you have questions about another translation, feel free to write and ask me about it. I will be totally honest with you. These three are recommendations for those of your who don’t know where to start or don’t have a Bible.

One thing I want to mention is there are some things about the Bible that are NOT inspired. The chapters and verses. The Bible was written without those. They were added later to help people in memorization and to serve as bookmarks to know where they stopped and started reading. The chapters were introduced by Stephen Langton in the early 1200s. And the verses weren’t added until the mid 1500s by Robert Estienne.

Also, just for the record, neither is the paper, ink, or cover of your Bible. Leather editions, and Red Letter editions are sometimes considered more valuable that hardbacks, paperbacks, or e-versions. It is the message, not the vessel that’s important.

I recommend you try and read at least a little every day. Even if it’s only a chapter or two. Start with the Gospel of Luke, then Read the book of Acts of the Apostles. They were written by the same guy, so the flow is good. Like I said, you can get my entire Bible reading plan from Vol 1 of Rediscovering the Bible, or I’ll send you the New Testament plan absolutely free, if you write me and request it.

Gosh, I’m glad you stopped by today. That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be back next week. Have a good one. For now, I’m out…..

First Anniversary Of My Open Heart Surgery. Let’s Celebrate

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Image result for Celebrate images public domainSpeaking of it being June, it was one year ago today, that I received triple bypass surgery. Between January 2107 and June 4, 2018, I had a heart attack and 4 strokes. The last stroke was during my heart surgery. That’s pretty scary. The only after effects of all those attacks on my body, are scars on my chest and legs, loss of vision in half of my left eye, and trouble remembering names and names of places. My speech is not slurred. My long term and short term memory are good. I’m not as quick remembering things. I used to be really good at quizzes and memory games. I could think of things quickly. I’m not as quick as I used to be. It’s kind of like the way you lose a step in football or tennis when you get older. But this is with my mind. I can still recall things, it just might take me a minute to process the question. But all things considered, I’ll take it. The heart specialist told me that it’s not uncommon for a patient to die if they have a stroke during heart surgery. Ok, I’ll take a bit of blindness and a slower recall of historical information. And, with the names, it’s not like I don’t recognize people. It’s just embarrassing, when I’ve known someone for years and suddenly their name is gone. Still, what’s a little embarrassment in the great scheme of things.

For a year and a half, I was so sick. I tell people all the time, that it’s like I was asleep. I have very few memories of what happened during my sick time. I remember being a lot of trouble for my wife, if we went places to sight see, or shop. I was always having to stop and rest, and often spraying my heart meds. Poor lass, couldn’t have had much fun.

We live two or three blocks from the Church of Christ, where I’m the minister, and I couldn’t even walk it without stopping to rest. I remember that Sundays took a lot out of me. Preaching in the morning and at night was almost more than I could do. I had to start taking Mondays off, because I couldn’t get out of bed.

But now, a year on, I feel great. I still need to do some work to get seriously fit. I need to lose some more weight, but I’m losing it. Last week, I walked down to Buckpool harbor and back with my grandchildren. There were no problems. I’ve walked up and down all the stairs over at Brodie Castle. And, I’m awake. I feel like I was asleep, and I’m awake. So today, I’m celebrating. Life is not to be taken for granted. We live in a beautiful world. Especially up here in Moray. From the Sea to the Mountains, and every mile in between. We are surrounded by some amazing views of nature. And let’s not forget all the wonderful people we meet. Life really is a blessing.

But what about after. What would have happened to me, if my stroke during surgery had been fatal. Sure there would have been a sense of shock for some of my friends, and all the folk at church. Probably my wife would have been pretty upset at me. And I hope, a little sad. But what about me?

I am 100% confident of what would have happened to me. I would have awakened with no pain, in a place even more beautiful than Moray. I would never know a moment of sadness or illness, or pain ever again. Not because we all go to a better place, but because Jesus promised a forever of joy for ever single person who would put their Faith in Him. He is the creator of the world we live in. He died on a cross because we sinned, and he didn’t want to be separated from us. And he rose again, to conquer death. Not just once, in his case. But for all of us. And I made the choice many years ago, to give my life into his care. For that reason I know what will happen to me when I die. I know I’m not perfect. I’m not even close. Just ask my wife. But I am forgiven. Like the apostle Paul, For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And what about you? On this anniversary of my surgery I have to ask. There is a funeral going on right now in Buckie. I saw the cars. There have been quite a few recently. Yikes. What if one of them next week is yours? What if your family and friends dress all in black and weep at losing you. What happens to you? Have you made preparations? Do you have a will? Do you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt what your future will be? You can. Seriously. I’m not joking. You can hand the keys over to Jesus right now. You can say, Jesus, I need you. I surrender. You drive from now on. And I can tell you, from experience, that new life with and from Jesus is even better that waking up after surgery. I’m glad I’m alive. I love my life. I love this town. I even love all the rain. And it’s much easier to love it all, because I know that even after it’s all behind me, life gets even better.

We’d love to have you visit us at Church sometime. We talk about things like this. You don’t have to dress up. Wear something. Otherwise you might get arrested. But you don’t have to get all dressed up. Sometimes people think you have to put on fancy duds to come to church. No Way. You can. Some people do. Heck sometimes even I do. But not always. Come as you are. We meet at 11 a.m. At the intersection of West Church and Pringle streets. We also have a meeting at 6:20 sunday evenings. You’d be welcome at either…or both. If you have a church home, I encourage you to go there. But if you don’t you are more that welcome to visit with us.

That’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll talk again soon. But for the rest of this week…..I’m out.

Fish Dinners and Good Wine – How John Uses Jesus Miracles To Prove Both His Deity And Humanity

Episode 46

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It’s another gorgeous autumn morning here at the farmstead. I thought last week that I would wait until we got to Scotland to do this weeks show, but at the last minute I’ve decided to record a brief broadcast before we leave tomorrow since I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get a chance to record over there.

So, in the words of Sherlock Holmes, ‘Let’s crack on.’

Last week I announced that we would look specifically, and in depth, at John’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. As I studied, my direction was altered a little bit, so I’m calling an audible.  We ARE going to look at the feeding of the multitude, but we’re going to look at it in the context of some of the other miracles John writes about, including Jesus turning water into wine, the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in chapter 5 and the raising of Lazarus in Chapter 11.  I’m doing it, because after 60 years on this planet, I finally see that John chooses these miracles, because they are perfect illustrations of Jesus’ humanity as well as his deity.

Joh 6:1  After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

Joh 6:2  And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.

Joh 6:3  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.

Joh 6:4  Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Joh 6:5  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Joh 6:6  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Joh 6:7  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”

Joh 6:8  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,

Joh 6:9  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Joh 6:10  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.

Joh 6:11  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

Joh 6:12  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”

Joh 6:13  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

 

Jesus performed a lot of miracles during His ministry. In fact, John writes in his last chapter that if all of them were written down, the entire world wouldn’t hold the volume of books about it. So with all Jesus deeds to choose from, all 4 Gospel writers chose to record this one. It obviously had a profound effect on them.

First, it establishes Jesus as lord of Creation. He somehow manages to make 5 loaves of bread and two small fish stretch to feed a crowd of up to 25,000 people.  Secondly, He is the Lord of Abundance. There is not only enough to eat, but there are leftovers. It reminds me very much of the old testament story of the widow’s oil. He is the Lord of provision.

There is no doubt, this act of creation and multiplication is evidence of Jesus’ Deity, but the similarities to his miracle of water into wine, showed me evidence of His Humanity as well.  So I looked at some of the other Miracles recorded in John’s Gospel and realized that each one, as well as many of His encounters with people, note the woman at the well in Chapter 4, the woman caught in adultery in Chapter 10 and Jesus’ conversation with Mary and John in chapter 19, show clearly Jesus compassion and humanity. Remember, John’s purpose to persuade others to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Everything he writes is to demonstrate Jesus dual nature as the Word who became flesh.

Why did he turn water into wine? On the surface, it could be interpreted as showing off. At least until you think about the event for more than a few seconds. With a deeper look, we see not only His creative power, but how much He cares for the potential embarrassment of the ‘master of the feast’, the newlyweds, and His own mother.  Jesus is not just interested in the Big things, like sin and salvation, His humanity shows His care for the little things, the mundane, the ordinary. He is paying attention, and it matters.

At the pool of Bethesda in chapter 5, Jesus is knee deep in needy people. Some of them pious, some probably profane.  But He finds an individual in the mass of humanity and interacts with him, changing his life forever.

Jesus doesn’t miss the forest for the trees. He cares about the tree in the forest. He sees you. He knows your name. And He cares deeply for you.

The story of Lazarus shows us that Jesus has friends. He tenderly interacts with both Martha and Mary, and before he raises Lazarus, he weeps. He raises Lazarus in part to show that death is an illusion and under His control. But also because of His deep love for two grieving sisters.

It’s as clear as crystal for me that each of these events are obvious, intentional stories John includes to illustrate both the divinity and humanity of Jesus. And it makes me Love Him more and more. I hope it inspires you to dig deeper into who Jesus is, and ultimately to follow Him, if you don’t already.

That’s it for now. I need to catch a plane. Next time we’re going to look at Jesus’ promise of Eternal life from John 14, in an episode I’ll just call, “Trust me.”

Talk to you soon. If you want to follow some of our Scottish adventures, simple join our Facebook group, ‘Scotland Rising’ and you’ll get all the photos and updates during our time there. Have a great week. Be blessed and be a blessing.

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Jesus Unmasked – His True Identity Revealed

Episode 44

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I hope things are going well with you wherever you are.  It’s a beautiful day here at the farmstead. It’s a very emotional week as our remaining animals are going to their new homes as the week goes along. By next week’s show, all the animals will be gone. It’s a very surreal experience. If you could remember Brittan and me during your prayer time, I’d sure appreciate it.

On the other hand, It’s just a couple weeks until we head for Scotland. We’re so excited about the trip.  I hope you’ll follow our adventure on Facebook. All you need to do is search for ‘Scotland Rising’ on Facebook and like the page. We will update that page regularly with stories, photos, and prayer requests.

Today, we’re going to John Chapter one. Last week we started our journey in John with a look at the end of John’s gospel where he explained WHY he wrote what he did. His overt goal was proselytism. He wanted readers to not just know about Jesus life and teachings, he wanted readers to place their faith in Jesus as ‘the Christ, the son of God.’

Now, it’s time to go back to the beginning of the Gospel and look at the claims of Jesus, as recorded by John.

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Joh 1:4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Joh 1:5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 

These 5 verses must be some of the most elegantly written pieces of Theology in existence. It is an extremely controversial set of statements in the  21st century, because it categorically declares the Deity of Christ.

Liberal and humanist minds have always chafed at these verses… They identify Jesus as God, as eternal, as creator and as redeemer.

First, John says Jesus was ‘In the beginning’.  John is deliberately identifying Jesus with ‘Elohim’ of Genesis 1.  Somehow they are different but somehow they are the same. The word was with God, suggesting some distinction. In fact, I found a translation called, “The Scriptures 1998” that actually translates the word, God as ‘Elohim’. Wild.  The word was God, suggesting equality. I’m not a theologian, nor do I play one on TV, but I can clearly see John is undeniably calling Jesus, God.

Those who argue against the deity of Christ, have worked hard to come up translations to try and make John say something less direct, but their arguments fall pitifully short. Even the extremely liberal RSV, is forced to translate verse one correctly. It’s simply impossible to do otherwise. The Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation tries to translate it the word was ‘a god’ with small g. And sometimes you might see it translated the word was divine or ‘godlike’.  But to do so is simply allowing theological bias to drive the translation rather than the other way round.  Sadly, I see this play out in a few other NT verses, but with this passage, only overtly pseudo Christian groups are bold enough to mistranslate John’s opening declaration.

By saying He was in the beginning, John is teaching the Eternality of Jesus. Before creation, only eternity and the eternal existed. Creation is the beginning of the bubble we call time. Jesus was there at the emergence of time. He is eternal.

John clearly identifies Jesus as creator when he says, By Him all things were made, and nothing was created apart from Him.

Finally John identifies Jesus as Redeemer when he says, In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Quite frequently, light and darkness are considered opposites. You know, the opposite of light is darkness. In movies the Dark Force is often portrayed and the polar opposite of light, sometimes as even a necessary requirement to create balance in the universe. eg. The dark side of the force.

In both Scripture and in Science, darkness is not the opposite of light, rather it is the absence of light. They are not equals and it is never a fair fight. Light ALWAYS dispels darkness. And darkness can’t overwhelm light. No matter how deep the darkness, even the smallest light will send it running. In fact, the heavier the darkness, the more effective the light.

No matter what darkness does, nor how dense, it is impotent against the light. So John can say with confidence, a light has shined in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

I believe this is a reference to sin. Sin covered all the human race and it seems so omnipotnent. But Jesus sacrifice shined a light into the darkness and conquered it.

Many, maybe most of us are afraid of the dark. Darkness hides many secrets, many dangers, many monsters. And as long as the darkness reigns, they seem so powerful, but the instant a light shines in the darkness, the hidden is revealed. Some dark creatures, like rats and cockroaches go scurrying for cover and others are able to be dealt with in the light of illumination.  The monster is slain, the bogey man is unmasked as a fraud. And in the same way, sin is defeated by the light of Christ. That’s why John can say in his first letter, ‘we want to be in the light, as He is in the light.

Right there my friends is the Gospel. Christ is the conqueror of darkness. It is defeated once and for all. The darkness is exposed. And that is Good News.

I could probably end here, but there is one more verse we absolutely MUST look at, and that is verse 14.

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

If the first verse is controversial in the 21st century, it is verse 14 that caused all the arguments in John’s day.

We’ve talked on and on about Gnosticism but John 1:14, must have caused blood to come out of their eyes and ears. And the Word became flesh was in conflict with everything they believed.  John does not say the word took on flesh, or the Word appeared to be flesh, but the Word BECAME flesh. The eternal became mortal. It is the perfect complimentary verse to Philippians 2 Php 2:6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Php 2:7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 

The true identity of Jesus of Nazareth has now been revealed. The mask is ripped off. He is the God Man, the one of a kind, full of Grace and Truth.

You can reject Him, but you can’t dilute the claim.

 

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Why John REALLY wrote his Gospel

Episode 43

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I hope you enjoyed our journey through the New Testament. I know I did. Very soon, we’re going to take a similar one through the Old Testament, but I wanted to take a break from our hectic race through the Bible and zoom in just a little on some topics from John’s Gospel. Full disclosure here: on some level, John was chosen at random.  I wanted to focus on Jesus, so one of the 4 Gospels was a given.  It could have been any of them, but I have always been drawn to John’s Gospel.  My reasons are quite subjective and personal, but, hey, it’s my radio show.

Keep in mind, the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus.  He is there in Genesis 1, the first promise of His incarnation in in Genesis 3. He is there in Revelation 22, when John pleads for His return.  I like to say the Old Testament is Waiting for Jesus, The Gospels are Memories of Jesus, Acts is Following Jesus and Carrying Jesus, The letters are Living for Jesus, and Revelation is Victory in Jesus.

But for the next 4 weeks (at least), we’re going to dip our toes in the water of the Gospel of John.  We’re going to go a bit deeper than during our fly over with our survey, but we’re not going deep enough that anyone is at risk of drowning.

This week, in this first lesson, we’re going to look at WHY John wrote his Gospel.  And to do that, we have to start at the end.  Just like Luke did in Chapter 1 of his memoir of Jesus, John explains he motives, but instead of being right up front, John waits until almost the very end of his Gospel, in Chapter 20

Joh 20:30  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

Joh 20:31  but these are 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.

1 This passage begins, Now Jesus – I’ve already said that Jesus is the focus, the center, and at some level, the subject of the entire Bible. You will hear me repeat that over and over again as we survey the Old Testament beginning in just a few weeks. There have been many great teachers, outstanding philosophers, mighty prophets, excellent leaders and wise counselors down through the ages, but there has never been the like of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is unequivocal in it’s declarations about Him.  The Apostles proclaimed, There is no other name under Heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  Paul

Php 2:9  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I began (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 2 with these lines from the poem ‘One Solitary Live’, All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever set sale, All rulers that have ever ruled, and all the kings that have ever reigned on this earth, all put together, have not affected the life of man on earth, like this one, solitary live.

It’s true, there’s just something about that name.  As we’ve established over and over in our weekly time together, while it makes no logical sense, it is possible to reject Jesus. It is also possible, and I would argue, reasonable, logical, and desirable to accept and follow Him.  But it is not possible to remain intellectually and historically honest, and ignore Him.  Sooner or later, we all have to deal with Him.

John continues his thought: Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

What are these other signs? He may be referring to miracles recorded in the other Gospels, or perhaps miracles we know nothing about. After all, John finishes his Gospel with these words, Joh 21:25  Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Please remember, the Gospels are not exhaustive biographies of the Life and Ministry of Jesus, but collections of memories of Jesus words and deeds. So there were undoubtedly many remarkable things we don’t know.

In this case, however, the context of John’s statement about many other signs, appears to be in context of post resurrection appearances and interactions. It is very similar to  Luke’s beginning to Acts of the Apostles where he says, Act 1:3  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

 

We’ve said many times before, that the entire key to understanding Jesus specifically, and Christianity in General, is the resurrection.  Jesus spent 40 days between His resurrection and ascension into heaven interaction with people. The Gospel and Acts accounts are limited to time He spent with the Apostles and a select few others including a group of women. 1 Corinthians  15, however, adds an appearance to James, and an occasion where He appeared to more than 500 people at one time.

The evidence is overwhelming that He was raised.

And John is clear that the purpose for Jesus’ resurrection and subsequences is to establish His identity first of all the Christ, the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the Son of God.  This is borne out in the Gospel Sermons of Acts. Each sermon to a Jewish audience is built around the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. And each message to Gentiles it to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God and ultimate Judge of the human race.

He is not one of many, or one of a select few, He is the One.

John is quite specific in stating his purpose was to incite faith. He wants readers to Believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Many contrast faith as something in the heart, rather than merely intellectual acknowledgment.  But that’s only part of the story.  If we had the time to dig really deep into the scripture we’d see that faith implies much more than a belief that is both heartfelt and intellectually satisfying, it leads to change in behavior and allegiance.  The Bible most frequently calls that repentance.

Interestingly, in Acts chapter 3, Peter commands the people to repent and believe, which is the inverse of how we usually talk. We normally ask people to believe and repent, but the conversion experience, at least our role in it, is so intimately interconnected, that we silly to talk about things like sequence.  Again, in Acts, Faith, Repentance, Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit are seen in every conceivable order. I perceive that’s not an accident.  God would never want us to see conversion reduced to a formula. Salvation is His doing and His alone. Conversion, is our response to what He has done.

There are many places in the New Testament, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, I Peter, where the entire human response to Jesus is summarized by just one of those words, sometimes it is faith, sometimes, baptism, sometimes repentance, and once, confession.  In each case, our complete response is assumed. The Bible knows nothing of unbaptized Believers. That’s a modern invention. At the same time, it knows nothing of unrepentant ones, or of unbelieving baptisms or faith that doesn’t produce repentance. Instinctively, we know that’s true, but we want to categorize our response or prioritize or create and order of response.  But in our hearts, we know the ultimate truth of the old song, ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. ‘

John finishes his thought with, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is another passage that liberal and fundamental tribes of Christians have each claimed half rather than the whole.

For most of my life, liberals have emphasized how the life and teaching of Jesus will help us improve our lives here on this green ball we call earth. Those with a conservative bent, have emphasized eternal life and forgiveness of sin.

I am utterly convinced when we do that, we parse a word that was never intended to be parsed. He meant both.  Watch as we look at John’s Gospel, we are going to discover a Jesus who comes to give eternal life, and life to the full, here. Jesus, the Christ, the son of God, is Lord over all, both time AND eternity.

The Bible tells me so.

Next week, we’re going to go back to Chapter 1, where John blows up the arguments of those who claim Jesus was never Human as well as those who claim He is ONLY human. Please, don’t miss it. Do send your thoughts and question to me by email or via the comments feature on the website with the show notes.

Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.

 

 

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Book of Revelation: Weird, or, Wonderful?

Episode 42

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We’re finally here. We’ve made it through each book of the New Testament. I’ve had a ton of fun.  Starting next week, we’re going to spend 4 weeks in the Gospel of John, then we will move into a survey of the old testament.

Today, we’re going to race through the Book of Revelation.  For some it’s the most fascinating book in the Bible. For others it is terrifying and for still others, it is extremely confusing.

Rev 1:3  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

This collection of visions was written by the Apostle John while he was in exile on Patmos, around AD 90*95.  It was an extremely difficult time for Christians.  The persecution of Christianity that began under Nero in the mid 60s, reached a fever pitch under Domitian.  Nero used Christians as the scapegoats for the burning of Rome, which was probably his own doing.  Domitian’s problem with Christians was more theological and in his own mind, noble.

Domitian loved Rome very much.  He believed her culture and religion were the highest in all the world, and superior to any other.  He also believed that he was a god in the flesh.  He was extremely tolerant of other religions, as long as the people also honored and worshiped him. Christians simply wouldn’t make that compromise.  In Domitian’s eyes, that was not merely defiance, but treasonous.

As a result of the Roman Oppression, the Church, was frightened and discouraged. John’s visions are written to bolster their resolve to stay true.

10:1010:26Simultaneously, the Churches in Asia were facing a scourge in false teaching and immorality in the form of the Gnostic heresy. In chapters 2 and 3, Jesus writes to seven prominent congregations, to let them know He still holds them in Hand, he is aware of their challenges, He warns them regarding their sin, and He promises to bless them if they overcome.

Down through the ages, interest in the Book of Revelation has waxed and waned, and there have been numerous popular interpretations of both the book and regarding the end times themselves.

For the first 1800 years, there were two primary dominant views of the end times, One is normally called today, Amillennialism and the other is referred to as Historic Premillennialism.  Essentially, their is whether or not the thousand years was literal or figurative.  For a while, a branch called postmillennialism gained popularity by saying the coming of Jesus happened AFTER the millennium. Yes, the Church was splitting hairs.

At the end of the first quarter of the 19th century, a new understanding of the end times was born. It is called dispensationalism, or dispensational premillennialism. Frankly, the other three views have more agremment with each other than any do with this dispensationalism.

It was made popular by John Darby. 14;50Darby was the son of wealthy Anglo Irish descent, and grew up in southern England. He was positively brilliant and gifted. He studied law and passed the bar. After just a few years, he abandoned his promising law career to serve as an Anglican Pastor. After becoming disillusioned with denominationalism, he left the clergy to become a lay preacher with the Plymouth Brethren.

Darby was the first well known proponent of Dispensationalism. He influenced C.I. Scofield, whose Bible Study notes really put this view on the map.

Dispensational looks very different than the other views in many ways.  One of the ways is in its approach to Israel. While the other three see the Church as the fulfillment, or even replacement for Israel, the dispensationalists see Israel as God’s primary concern and the Church as a parenthesis in history, to redeem Gentiles. After a secret ‘rapture’ which none of the other views see, there will be a seven year Tribulation which will end with Christ establishing a thousand year kingdom on earth. God will spend the millennium focusing on a revival of the Jews and re-establishing the Jewish Temple system.  Near the end of this reign, Satan will be released on the earth and establish a final rebellion. Christ will quell the rebellion and usher in the final judgement.

I fully confess my explanation of all the views are extremely broad brushed descriptions.  Sometime we’ll look at them in some depth, but today we’re not going there.

In 1948, Dispensationalism got a boost, when the allied forces offered reparations for the Jewish People by establishing the Nation of Israel. Dispensationalists saw this as a fulfillment of prophesy.

It was in the mid to late 1960s in the years following the 6 day war, with the extremely popular writings of John Walvoord, and especially Hal Lindsay, that Dispensational Premillennialism went mainstream.

Then, in the 1990s, the Left Behind novels (and later movies) catapulted the Dispensational view into preeminence.  Today, many, if not most Evangelicals, especially in America, do not even know about historic premillennialism or Amillennialism.  I have even recently read articles decrying the historic views as heretical false teaching.

I was very recently in a discussion with a group of Godly Believers, most of whom had never heard of anything but the Dispensational view, which for the record, I do not hold.

The discussion was lively, but respectful. When I got home I decided to do some digging on the matter and found that the debates among Believers have at times become quite ugly and have given ammunition to skeptics and unbelievers to allow them to mock and dismiss us for yet another way we Christians have no unity or agreement.

I knew this episode was coming up and decided right there to change direction. I am convinced that we sometimes miss the forest for the trees when discussing the Book of Revelation specifically, or the end times in general.

It is time for us to look at the areas in which we agree and go public with those, rather than focus publicly on our differences, which mostly don’t matter, anyway.

When we take this approach, the Book of Revelation is much less complicated. It doesn’t make great movies or novels, but it makes great sense and gives great hope.

Revelation repeatedly tells one thing and its one thing all Christians believe.

Ready for it? Jesus is risen and glorified. 2. Things are sometimes really tough for Christians. 3.It’s going to get worse. Much worse. 4. Just when it looks like evil wins, Jesus puts an end to the rebellion and 5. Sets up his Kingdom where all things good and holy exist forever and evil is banished. We call it, heaven.

I realize that’s not nearly as sexy as some of the view points, but it sure is accurate. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one.  And…that’s the Book of Revelation in a nutshell.  And its good, no, GREAT news!

And…that’s all I got. At least for today. Thanks, BTW, to those of you who have sent donations for our Vision trip to Scotland. We’re getting there. I’m still amazed at how many gifts are coming via cash and check rather than through the crowd funding page. Still, I’m humbled by all the gifts. What I’m promoting now is that if 100 people will give us $40 then we and get this done. But any size gift is welcome. Those $10 and $5 donations add up. Thank you.

Thanks, too, for buying Vol. 2.  Once you’ve read it, would you please consider writing a review. Reviews are huge for Kindle books. Thanks again, you rock.

Next week we’re going to begin a study in the Gospel of John. Talk to you soon. Until then, Be blessed, and be a blessing.

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Hey, Jude

Survey of Jude

Episode 41

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Hey, Jude

Ok, I couldn’t resist.  Sorry, it’s just how I roll.

Let me just say from the outset, I’m a huge fan of the book of Jude. There are several verses that would allow a deeper study of several weeks, but we’ll just highlight a few of them and scratch the surface. I promise, though, we’ll come back later.

We know very little about Jude himself, other than his name. He identifies himself as the brother of James, which likely means he is a half brother of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church say this is the Judas, aka, Thaddeus, who was one of the original 12 apostles.  Frankly, the majority of scholars and ancient Church leaders agree with the former understanding.  Do your own homework.

If you read this little letter right after, or right before, 2 Peter, you’ll immediately see there are similarities. They seem to be written for similar reasons, to a similar audiences, and about the same time. I date this book in the mid 60s A.D. Do your own homework if you really want to dig into that some more.

Jude begins his letter by saying he wanted to write about our common salvation, but feels the need to address some false teaching and teachers. How often have we heard that in recent weeks.

Jude wants to be positive, even joyful. His heart is to talk about our hope in Christ. Our eternal destiny in a Kingdom where all but love passes away. A place with no pain, no heartache, no sickness, no oppression, no death.  Who wouldn’t want to talk about that?

Unfortunately, the urgent matter of false teaching has reared it’s head and Jude feels compelled to address it. The bad guys here appear to be the same Gnostics, Peter, John, and Paul in his later years, had to confront in their letters.

We’ve talked about the Gnostics ad nausaeum the last few weeks, so I won’t go back over it. If you’re new to the show, go back and listen to the episodes on 2 Peter and the epistles of John.  For what it’s worth, this Gnostic problem plagued the Church for at least 300 years, and it made a big reappearance in the latter quarter of the 20th century and is nipping at the heels of the Gospel, even today.

Jude spends the overwhelming bulk of this letter, comparing these false teachers to just about every villain in the Old Testament.

As an aside, his many references to the Old Testament suggest strongly that Jude is writing primarily to Believers from a Jewish background.

Jude compares them to The Jews who sinned in the desert, to the angels who sinned in genesis 6, to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam and Korah.  Folks, that’s a Hall if Shame, if their ever once was.  This is like the anti Hebrews 11 chapter.

Jude also talks about them Denying the Lord Jesus. I am convinced this is a reference to the Gnostic teaching that Jesus was not really human.  The New Testament, on the other hand, constantly and consistently testifies to Jesus dual nature as both Man and God.

It’s also important to note, that Jude points to these false teachers’ love of money and sexual sin.  It would appear that not much has changed in the last 2,000 years.

When we come back to a deeper study of Jude, we’ll drill deeper into all these issues, but I want to spend just a moment on Verse 6.

Jud 1:6  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

Who are these angels?  I believe these are quite literally the fathers of what we call today, Demons.

I want to refer you to 2 Peter

2Pe 2:4  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

And to Genesis 6

Gen 6:1  When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,

Gen 6:2  the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.

Gen 6:3  Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Gen 6:4  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Gen 6:5  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

 

It is obvious from the language that these ‘fallen’ angels are not the Biblical Demons, because they are chained in gloomy dungeons awaiting judgement.  But when we look back to the story of their sin, we finally gain some clarity.

We’ll look at this subject several times during our Old Testament Survey,  but let’s do a flyover right now.

It appears from Genesis, that at some point between The Garden of Eden and Noah, that some Angels (sons of God) decided to intermarry with humans. It is not something God designed or ordained. It was a violation. The offspring of these marriages were human/angelic hybrids, called, Nephilim.  These Nephilim are evil and do all they can to interfere with God’s plan for His people. First, here in Genesis, then when the Israelis are trying to get from Egypt to the Promised land. They appear again during the United Kingdom as they try and prevent David from establishing a dynasty. Then they disappear, only to reappear as ‘unclean spirits’ during the ministry of Jesus. They make a final, albeit feeble stand during the ministry of the Apostles, then disappear from Scripture. It is my contention, though, that we will see a greater manifestation, a reappearance, as it were, as we grow closer to the return of Christ.

For now, these angels, await judgment , chained and incarcerated far away from the earth and humans they tried so hard to pervert.

Jude says that the false teachers he’s warning the Church of, are just like these fallen angels; evil, defiant, perverted and defeated.

Let’s finish this glance at Jude by looking a little closer to home. We have an abundance of teachers, preachers, pastors and evangelists who are truly devils in disguise. Just look at the prosperity Gospel peddlers. Everything is all about money. But the truth is, we can’t serve both God and money.

Think how many Christian Celebrities have been found out as adulterers and perverts.  I know of many so called shepherds who are constantly scanning the flock for easy prey. These monsters are not shepherds, but predators, wolves looking for their own pleasure and to satisfy their own appetites. I remember reading of a female Christian singer who said she would watch the crowd to find a boy to take back to her hotel after a concert.

Jude has had his fill of these predators, getting away with their green and lust and warns the Church to watch for them.

We need to be on the lookout for them, too. Don’t be sheep. Be like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily.

And that’s all I got. Drop me a note with your thoughts. Next week, we’re finally in REVELATION. Can you believe it. I’m excited.  Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.

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Diotrephes, Demetrius, And Da Truth

Pergamum
Pergamum

Episode 40

3 John

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I hope you had a great week last week. It was busy around here as we prepared for our congregation’s 10th birthday party; and wow, what a day.  I won’t go into it, because unless you go to the same place we do, it will be pretty meaningless. I will say this, though, and it relates to the letters of John, if you are not attending a Church at all, or are going someplace that compromises on the truth, or does not practice Grace and Mercy, then let me know and I will help you find a good one. I’m not trying to be a jerk, but, as you can tell from John’s letters, there’s not time to put up with all the compromise and goofiness going on in many congregations these days. We need to be about the Father’s business rather than chasing some political or social agenda.  So if you need help finding a good congregation, email me, or use the comments section of the show notes.  If you include your name and where you live, I PROMISE to research and give you some suggestions. Yeah, it’s that important to me.

Speaking of important, let’s take a look at 3rd John.  Unlike 2nd John, or Revelation, this letter does not appear to be in code. John, kicks but and takes names, or at least names names, so he doesn’t seem to even make an attempt at discretion, so that suggests to me that he’s probably writing from his home base back in Ephesus.

John’s  frequent use of the word truth in his 3rd letter, just like the first two, maintains his pattern of emphasizing historic Christian doctrine in contrast to the mysterious Gnosticism that was so pervasive in Asia Minor during the latter decades of the first century.

Let’s face it, the New Testament’s emphasis on the uniqueness of Christian doctrine stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming opinions of the 21st century as well.  Christianity is rapidly becoming an unwelcome presence in the public arena.  I was recently reading a politically tinged article where the leftist magazine Salon, urged the Republican party to abandon their alliance with Christianity or fall into irrelevancy in our ‘post Christian’ America.

Wow.  I’m not going to spend one second on politics, but I didn’t know any party had an alliance with Christianity or with ‘Post Christian’ America either for that matter. But the article DOES imply that those who control the microphone, and editorial content of the mainstream have little tolerance for our faith.

So be it. It doesn’t change a thing. If we look at the New Testament writings, the early Church, and Jesus Himself during His ministry, saw truth as more important that acceptance.  Their attitude and practice was to tell the truth in love and let the chips fall where they may.

3rd John is a classic example of that. The letter is written to one, Gaius. That doesn’t tell us much at all. Several men by that name are mentioned in the New Testament. It was extremely common. Heck, it was even Julius Caesar’s first name.  Frankly, it’s like starting a letter, Dear Bill.  Without context, there’s just no knowing which Bill.

There is an ancient tradition that says John appointed a leader named Gaius as ‘Bishop of Pergamum.  While I’m not convinced that the Apostle appointed Bishops (we’ll leave that for another day), it is certainly possible that an elder by that name was the target of John’s letter.

Considering the possibility that John may have sent Gaius of Ephesus (see Acts 19) to Pergamum, this letter could be John’s welcome to Pergamum letter.

After a pleasant, if maybe a little lengthy, considering the brevity of the note, greeting, John identifies two other leaders for Gaius’ consideration. One, very negative and one, very positive.

The first of the two, Diotrephes, has become a pain in the rear for the Apostle. He is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture,  but because of the tradition of Gaius being the Pastor of the Church in Pergamum, I can’t help but associate Diotrephes with the letter to the Pergamum congregation in Revelation 2. Pergamum is dealing with a great deal of false teaching including Gnosticism.  I just see Diotrephes as the villain behind the problems. You do your own homework and see what you think.

At any rate, this Diotrephes, had assumed almost dictatorial control over the congregation. He does not recognize the authority of the Apostles, and even excommunicates people who do receive the apostles and their representatives. What a goofball.

I love verse 10, where John demonstrates there’s a little Boanerges left in his 90 plus year old frame. This ancient Son of Thunder says if he gets to come to Pergamum he’s going to face down Diotrephes. That verse always sends a tingle down  the back of my neck. I love it. The man of God refuses to back down to the enemy of truth.  I only hope I would be so bold under the same circumstance.

In contrast to Diotrephes, John mentions another member of the Church, one Demetrius. Again, there are far too many men of that name to identify who this is.  Going back to Acts 19 and the beginning of the Church in Ephesus, a silversmith by that name, was so upset at the Gospel for hurting his business, nearly caused a riot in the city.

Wouldn’t it be really cool if it was the same guy? An enemy of the Gospel, who became a Christ Follower and a great example of the Faith?  We have no way of knowing, but it would be awesome if it was him.

John says in verse 12, that Demetrius is a man of absolute integrity and character. He says even the truth itself offers testimony to Demetrius character. Oh how I pray that could be said of me.

Then suddenly, after brief remarks about these two contrasting men, John just shuts down the letter, just like he did in 2nd John.  He says here, Gaius, you rock, I’m so proud of you. Beware of Diotrephes, he’s a jerk, but Demetrius is a great guy. See you soon, Say hello to the Church.  See you soon, John.

It begs more questions than it answers, but you have to love it.  We have two great role models in Gaius and Demetrius, and we have one moron, Diotrephes.  Just change the names to modern ones and it could be anywhere.

All I know is, I want to be someone accused of walking in the truth. I hope you do too.

That’s all I got. I do hope you love this little note that way I do. Ping me and let me know. I can hardly wait until we look at Jude next week. It is STRONG. Until then, be blessed. And be a blessing.

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truth-has-no-agenda2 John

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I have a very special guest here in the camper today. I will introduce you to here in just a minute, but before we get into today’s topic I have a couple of special requests to make of you.

First, I want to thank you for being such an awesome audience. Your notes and words of encouragement mean more to me than you could possibly know.  With that in mind, would you share this podcast with your network?  The only way I have of expanding this show is by word of mouth.  We have no such thing as a marketing budget. So, if you would let your family and friends, or your FB and Twitter network know about this radio show, it would mean the world to me. And hopefully they will get some benefit from listening.

Also, and I’m truly excited to share this, Brittan and I are going to Scotland for the month of October.  We will be preaching in congregations, visiting with pastors, elders, ministry leaders, Govt. workers, social agencies, business leaders and more to nail down the direction of our long term ministry goals for our ministry, ‘Scotland Rising.’  But….we need your help to get there. Including plane tickets, we need about $7500 to make the trip happen.  Would you consider a one time donation towards this vision trip? To make it easier to donate, we have created a Crowd Rise campaign.  The url for that is http://tinyurl.com/hjujgeo. I will include the link in the show notes.   All the information is on the campaign page.  If you want more information, or would rather donate by check, ping me by email or Twitter.

Ok, thanks for prayerfully considering those requests. Now, back to business. This week, we’re looking at the second letter of John, better known as 2nd John.

I have always found 2 John to be fascinating.  There are some interesting messages in those 13 verses that make up this book. It only takes a couple minutes to read and you can brag to your friends that you read a whole book of the Bible today!

As I mentioned earlier, I have a very special guest in studio with me today.  This is episode 39 and this is my first guest. Shame on me.  My guest is absolutely awesome, but I confess I have a natural bias, because she is also my wife, Brittan.

Brittan and I cover a variety of topics including who 2nd John is addressed to, the nature of truth, False Teachers and Gnosticism.  It was fun having her in the studio. I hope you enjoy it.

Next week I’ll be taking a look at 3rd John.  Wow, we’re nearly finished with the New Testament. Amazing.

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Knowing Beyond Doubt – Just Ask John

Episode 38

1 John

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As usual, I’m here in the camper where I belong. It’s a cloudy day here in North Georgia and we haven’t been able to say that much this summer.  I don’t want to jinx anything, but there’s a rumor going around that we might get rain several days this week.  That would be awesome.

Hey, before we get into our look at First John, I want to mention again that Vol 2 of (Re)Discovering the Bible, launches tonight at midnight on Amazon Kindle.   Thanks to all of you who read volume 1 and either recommended it to friends or reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads, or both. Volume 2 is focused on the Gospels and Acts. It’s not a commentary, though I do offer some commentary on certain passages, it’s a companion guide to help you as you read through those books. My goal is to help make the Bible come alive to readers and to help you help yourselves.

The Gospels and Acts are absolutely essential to making sense of the Bible. The whole Bible is about Jesus and it’s the 4 Gospels where we learn His true identity, who He was and is, and what his purpose was and it. Those 4 little memoirs tell us EXACTLY who Jesus is. Acts is the only book that describes how people became Christians and how Churches were born.

Naturally, I want you to take advantage of it. So for the next 5 weeks (35 days), volume 2 will be priced at only $3.99 at the Kindle Store.  After that, the price goes up to $4.99.  Please get it, read it, and encourage you family to get and read it.  I truly want this little book to go viral.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not saying that because I want to make a fortune on book sales. I want to make Jesus famous again.  I’m not keeping a dime of the money from this book. Not one red cent. Every penny will go to local Church ministry.

Ok, now that my shameless promotional commercial is out of the way, let’s get cracking on the little 5 chapter letter we know as First John.

There’s no definitive answer to which of John’s writings was first, though there is a kind of consensus that Revelation was last. Since all of his work as completed inside a 10 year period between A.D. 85 and 95, they are virtually simultaneous.  Traditionally, John did his writing in Ephesus and on the island of Patmos where he was exiled by the Emperor, Domitian.

Nearly all traditions agree that John spent his later years in the mighty city of Ephesus, where he eventually died of natural causes.

Legends hold that he took Mary, the mother of Jesus with him when he moved to Ephesus, where she also passed away. That story, whether true or apocryphal suggests that John took Jesus’ charge to care for his mother quite seriously.

Another legend, which John makes mention of, and refutes, in his Gospel, was that John would never die. That rumor was built on an interesting foundation. First, Jesus had said to Peter concerning John, ‘What’s it to you if I want John to live forever, you follow me.’  John 21:21-23.

6:06Also, it was widely told that Domitian had ordered John boiled in oil, but that the Apostle had survived the ordeal unharmed, which is why the old man was exiled to Patmos, which he also survived.  And of course, John was still alive decades after the other Apostles had been martyred.

In his later years, John became famously known as, ‘the apostle of love’. One story says that in his dotage, John would be carried to Church where he was seated on a comfortable mat due to his age. Out of courtesy, he would be asked whether or not he had a word for the Believers. Each week his reply would be, “Beloved, let us love one another”.  Eventually, after weeks of the same greeting, a frustrated member of the Church in Ephesus blurted, “Have you no other word for us, Brother?”  John’s sure and quick reply was, “What else is there?”

Love is a major theme in both John’s Gospel and in this, his first letter. In 1 John alone, he mentions love 36 times in 24 verses, mostly in chapters 3 an 4.  Chapter 1 is the only 1 of the 5 where he doesn’t mention it.

All this talk of love is remarkable coming from the once firebrand of a young disciple who was quick to silence others and to wish for fire and brimstone on a town that rebuffed Jesus. He along with his brother, James, were nicknamed ‘the sons of thunder’ by Jesus, probably because they were so quick to judge. Now, in is final days, John has become known best by his commitment to Christian love.

Looking at the book a little more directly; in Chapter 1 – John reminds readers of his authority as an eyewitness.  There are a couple of reasons why he does this. One is because of the rise of a philosophical cult called Gnosticism.

Gnosticism was (and is again), a mystery philosophy that pushed a doctrine of ‘secret knowledge’.  One had to be initiated into a deeper way of knowing that went beyond head knowledge.

Gnostics did not believe the dual nature of Jesus as both man and God.  He was God, but his humanity was a ruse.  He merely looked human. He couldn’t be truly man, because flesh was evil.

Interestingly, Gnosticism expressed itself in one of two ways; the first was asceticism.  Practitioners would deny themselves any physical pleasures, be they dietary, financial or sexual.  They were the forerunners of the monks and nuns who would later renounce living in society and would become reclusive.  I’m not suggesting Monks and Nuns are Gnostics, but ‘Christian’ Asceticism has its roots in that philosophy.

The other school  of thought said that because the flesh was evil we should just let it do whatever it wanted and concentrate of freeing our spirits. It was this hedonistic branch that Jesus addresses in many of his communications to the 7 Churches of Asia we read about in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.

John spends much time in his writings directly and indirectly disputing the claims of the Gnostics.

Another motivation for Chapter 1 is explained in a little more detail in John’s 3rd letter. It would seem there were certain ‘leaders’ in the Church who discounted the message of the Apostles and held themselves as superior and dominant.  John writes specifically about one of these men, Diotrephes, in his 3rd letter.

At any rate, John spends a great deal of time reminding readers that He was an eyewitness of the things of which he spoke and wrote. In this, he sounds very much like Peter in 2nd Peter.

Then he spends much of the first chapter  reminding his readers that while we never escape sin, we can be better than we are because of Jesus.  And no matter how far we wander, we can always come home.

It’s from there that John spends the majority of his letter, talking about how love should at the center of our lives. It should drive our actions and should be more than just a word.  We can’t just talk a good game, but must walk our talk.

Sure, he takes a few side trips but always comes back to love being our motivation of all we say and do.

Probably my favorite side trip is in Chapter 3, where John  takes a moment to look ahead to that great day when we shed these weak, sickly, suffering shells for eternal glory.  Verse two is one of my all time favorites, and, I still love the way King James says it, “ Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He sall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  Boy howdy, I could stop and vacation in that verse for a long, long time.

As you read through this letter, please take special note in chapters 2-5 how often John really does keep coming back to love.

Before we go, I want to stop for a second and one other scenic overlook.   Let’s look a verse 13 of chapter 5. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.

Wow, what a verse.

First, note the phrase believe in the NAME of the Son of God. Name implies personality. I truly believe this is a reference to Jesus humanity. He’s not some alien or deity from some otherworldly place, He has a name. He is human. He is real. It takes me back to Chapters 3 and 4 in the book of Acts. In Chapter 3, John is with Peter at the temple where they meet a lame man and say, In the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  Verse 6. Can you get any more specific than that?  It is the NAME of the God-Man that brings healing, that brings life.

As if there is any doubt, when they’re explaining themselves about this act, in Chapter 4 verse, 10 Peter says it is the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well.

And in verse 12. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which you must be saved.

The Son of God. Our confidence in not in some dude on TV, or some guru sitting cross legged in a far away temple high on some remote mountain side. He is the God who became a man. Not disguised as a man. Really God and Really man. John wrote all about that in Chapter one of His gospel.

You know what, I think I’ll just read that here. Joh

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Joh 1:4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Joh 1:5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Joh 1:6  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

Joh 1:7  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

Joh 1:8  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

Joh 1:9  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

Joh 1:11  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Joh 1:12  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

That’s the name John is speaking of here in Chapter 5.

The other part of the verse I want to note is where John says, ‘that you may KNOW you have eternal life. There are oh so many people who live in doubt as to their destiny. Entire denominations lead Believers to lack confidence in what Christ has done.  I love a song we sing at Church that says this:

Christ is my reward And all of my devotion.

Now there’s nothing in this world that could ever satisfy.

Through every trial My soul will sing

No turning back, I’ve been set free,

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me,

Everything I need is in you, Everything I need.

Christ is my all in all, the Joy of my salvation,

And this hope will never fail, Heaven is our home

Through every storm  My sould will sing

Jesus is here, to God be the glory.

Oh, friend, you don’t have to doubt, you don’t have to wonder. You can know. If you’re a believer who questions, I’m so sorry someone has led you down such a terrible path that keeps you in suspense and worry. Tonight, you can lay your head down on your pillow in confidence that if you open your eyes in eternity, that eternity is secure. You can KNOW. Your faith is not vain. It is sure. In the name and by the name you have been saved. Rescued. You are safe. If you are part of a Church that teaches anything else, get out. Run as fast as you can. Contact me and I’ll help you find a good one.

For some of you who might be listening and are still on the fence about Jesus, today you could get off the fence, surrender, the Bible calls it repentance. It means, hand the keys to Him and let Him drive. He never makes a wrong turn.  You can rest assured, you can KNOW that you will arrive at your forever  destination safely.

If you need assurance and you make your choice to surrender, please let me know. Ping me. I want to celebrate with you.  And, I want to put you in touch with a good Church if you don’t have one. A Church where you can feel at home and who will help you with your next steps.

I’m done. That’s all I got. Can’t wait till next week. My wife, Brittan will be joining us as we talk about hospitality, truth, and standing strong. We’ll be in 2 John. Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.

Appendix: All the references to love in 1 John

1Jn_2:5  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:

1Jn_2:15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1Jn_3:1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1Jn_3:10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

1Jn_3:11  For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1Jn_3:14  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

1Jn_3:16  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1Jn_3:17  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

1Jn_3:18  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1Jn_3:23  And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1Jn_4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1Jn_4:8  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1Jn_4:9  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

1Jn_4:10  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1Jn_4:11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1Jn_4:12  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1Jn_4:16  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1Jn_4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

1Jn_4:18  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1Jn_4:19  We love because he first loved us.

1Jn_4:20  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1Jn_4:21  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1Jn_5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

1Jn_5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

 

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