Trust Me

Episode 47

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I’m coming to you very late, but Brittan and I are safely here in Scotland. It’s Saturday the 15th of October already. It’s raining. Brittan is at the Church practicing the keyboard and I’m home alone. The acoustics are not good in here, but that’s never stopped me before, right?

I wish I could show you how beautiful this little village of Buckie is, but, alas, we’re on audio, not video.  If you’d like to see some pictures and have not already liked our facebook page, please do so. Just search FB for Scotland Rising and hit like. It’s that simple.

I’m realizing that I have no place to properly record, so I’m going to keep our time together short for you ears’ sake, but I do want us to get together while I’m here. Once we get back to the camper, programming will return to normal, whatever normal is.

This week and next week, we’re going to remain in John’s Gospel. After that, we’ll look at the Old Testament as a whole, then we will begin our survey of the Old Testament books.

Now before we jump into John 14, I just wanted to let you know that I have run into a few listeners all the way over here.  Ok, they are people who already knew me from years ago, but still, it’s great to know we’re international. Thank you, social media.

Ok, enough already. Lets grab a glance at the first 6 verses of John chapter 14.

Joh 14:1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Joh 14:2  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

Joh 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Joh 14:4  And you know the way to where I am going.”

Joh 14:5  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Joh 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

Let me set the scene. Jesus and his disciples are in what we call, the upper room, preparing for the Passover meal. It is during this meal that they share what we refer to as ‘the last supper’. Later that night, Jesus will be arrested and the next morning, crucified. He is aware of what’s coming, but the Disciples are not, so Jesus is preparing them for a future without His physical presence.

He starts with Let not your hearts be troubled. Now I know some of you associate that phrase with a certain right wing radio host, but it didn’t start with him.

In chapter 13, Jesus has been preparing the disciples for His betrayal, arrest and execution, now He tells them not to panic. Don’t let your hearts be troubled.Relax. Trust me.

He tries to encourage them with the promise that His departure is temporary and their future is glorious.

He says heaven is real. He would have told us, if it was just a fable or fairy tale.  The thought of eternal life while hopeful, is mysterious and can make us skeptical.  We can’t see outside of these few dimensions that hold us in, so Jesus says trust me. His resurrection will establish His final authority.  As a side topic, but not to be missed, Jesus says there’s plenty of room .

Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, there is room for you, just trust him.

One of the most important and controversial things Jesus ever said, is recorded in verse 6 as a follow up to Thomas’ question, How can we know the way?

First there is hope, “I am the way”. Thomas, you know me. Trust me. I’ll get you home. Stay close.

The controversy comes with the second statement, no one comes to the Father, except through me.  He’s made that statement, or very similar before. In chapter 8 He declares Himself to be the great I AM. In chapter 10 He declares that the other ‘saviors’ were thieves and robbers. He is the good shepherd, the door to the sheep fold. Now He is THE Only way.

Millions simply don’t like that declaration and reject it. But what if He’s telling the truth. We love His other teaching, why not trust Him with this one. After all, His way is awfully easy and attractive. Others say, ‘work’, He says, ‘Trust’. Others say, ‘earn’ He says, ‘come’. Others say, ‘do’, Jesus says, ‘done’.  Others say, ‘hope’, Jesus says, here are my scars, ‘Trust me.’

Now is the time to return to the simplicity of the Gospel.  The Bible is much simpler than we make it. Its not hard. Church sometimes makes things hard, but Jesus says, ‘Trust me.’

Hey, that’s all I got. Frankly, that’s all there is. If you’ve already trusted Him, take some time to rejoice and rest in the knowledge that He’s coming again to take you to a brand new Home. One with no mortgage or insurance premiums. His gift to You.

If you haven’t yet done so, I wish with every fibre of my being that you will do so, right now. Let go and let God.

If you’ve finally said Yes, Jesus, I trust you, let me know so I can put some material in your hands and help you find a good Church home if you don’t have one.  Email, message, or tweet me. I might be in Scotland, but I’m here for you.

Next week we’ll be in Chapter 19, “It is finished”  Until then. Be blessed and be a blessing.

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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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Nic At Night

Episode 45

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Once again, John tells us Nicodemus was a Pharisee.  From this we can infer that he is a well respected member of the community.

Why at night? – Down through the centuries, scholars, lay people and skeptics alike have debated why Nicodemus came to see Jesus under the cover of darkness. Many have speculated that this was because Nic was unwilling to risk being seen openly praising Jesus because of the risk to his status and reputation. While this interpretation cannot be discounted, I tend to reject it because in chapters 7 and 19, Nicodemus is overt in his support of Jesus. In my opinion, it may very well be nothing more than the Pharisee wanting some private conversation which was unlikely to happen during the daytime.

Jesus being obscure….again. – After Nicodemus pays Jesus a nice compliment, Jesus takes over the conversation.  He goes right into, ‘unless a man is born again…’  There are a few times in the Gospels where Jesus comes across like one of the old Shao Lin masters in 1970s Kung Fu movies. He makes these obscure declarations that blow up the conversation and take it in a direction He wants it to go.

In this case He says, Unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God, which naturally confuses Nicodemus. This idea of Rebirth is new. It’s not an extension of the Mosaic covenant.

Jesus clarification is just as cloudy, even 21 centuries later. He reply, Unless a man is born of the water and spirit, he cannot ender the Kingdom of God.

Jesus words born of water and Spirit…. Have thrown generations into bewilderment. Several, though not all, scholars have tried to make born of water refer to physical birth , as in the amniotic fluid that accompanies a baby during birth, while Spirit refers to rebirth.  For the life of me, I cannot see it that way. Both contextually and grammatically, both water and spirit refer to the second  or rebirth. I read this passage in multiple translations and even went back to the Greek and translated it myself.  Admittedly, my Greek skills have atrophied over the years, but fortunately, verse 5 is in rather simple Greek so it wasn’t difficult. It is clear that a natural reading suggests water and spirit and are a phrase in themselves.  There are no definite articles separating the nouns, or any other differentiators. Also,  the human birth experience called born of water does not exist in Greek literature. This is an invention of the Church to try and explain a very difficult and obscure declaration.

It is my conclusion that Jesus is foreshadowing conversion, which would not be fully understood until Pentecost.  The conversion experience, called here a birth, refers to our human response to the Gospel which is summed up in our obedience in Baptism while Spirit refers to what is unseen, the hard part, as it were, that can only be performed by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 6, Paul also uses baptism as the picture of the human response to the Gospel and describes it as death, burial and resurrection. Here Jesus is foreshadowing conversion by comparing baptism as birth rather than death.  In light of the Book of Acts, the understanding is simplified.

Jesus explanation of New Birth does not clear up Nicodemus’ confusion. The Pharisee asks, How can this be?  At first, Jesus reprimands him for his lack of understanding, then He shifts gears and makes simplifies the subject by going way back to basics. He spends the verses 11-21 by saying, it’s all about me, Nicodemus. Just like Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9), so the Son of Man will be lifted up.  Again, this is a foreshadowing of His crucifixion, that Nicodemus would simply not understand at this time.

But He makes it a bit easier by saying He came as an expression of God’s love rather than His Judgement. He has come to bring light to the world, but in our attraction to sin, and it’s associated darkness, many will reject him. But there will be others, and revelation tells us it’s a multitude that cannot be numbered, will literally come to the light.

And with that, the story ends. Abruptly, and to some degree incomplete.

That’s because at this point in the Gospel, the whole story is not yet known. It’s not until after the resurrection that the story is complete and the pieces of the puzzle can be fit together.

We have the benefit of the Bible. We can figure these things out. Salvation requires a conversion, a new birth than can only be achieved by coming to Christ, the light of the world. He came to offer light and light in place of darkness and judgement.

You don’t have to understand all of it to get started. You can simply start with John 3:16-18

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Joh 3:17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Joh 3:18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God

Probably most of you listening, have already accepted that promise and followed him, but there might be a few who are sitting on the fence. My challenge to you today is JUMP. Take Jesus at His word and ‘Believe in Him.’

I’m going to pray for you right now.

If you took that first step into Jesus arms, well done. I’m so excited. Please let your Pastor know right away so he can guide you into your next steps. If you don’t have a good Church, email, tweet me or  use the comments feature on the website with the show notes and I’ll get back to you right away with some material and with the name of a good Church in your area.

Next week, we’re going behind the curtain of one of Jesus most remarkable miracles and what it means in a lesson called, ‘Fish Sandwiches all round, no coupon required. No limit.’

Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.

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Farewell, Dear Iris

Iris at 12
Iris at 12

Shredded hearts heal, but some take longer than others. I wrote this last week, but I’m only just now (barely) able to post it.  Still, I have to share.

Today is a sad day. On the sad-o-meter, it’s pretty much off the charts. In a little less than an hour, Brittan and I are off to the vet with Iris the Irritable Corgi on her final car ride. And my heart is breaking. Whoever said, ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’, never owned a dog.

As I type this page, Iris is lying uncomfortably beside my chair, in constant pain, but not wanting to be away from us. She looks older than her 12.5 years, and because of her infirmities she acts it. Our once upon a time all-star athlete can’t even go down the three steps from our deck to the yard. Often she can’t even step over the threshold without tripping and doing painful splits across the kitchen floor.

My mind races back to better days. I smile wryly at her arrival all those years ago, when she gave us a run for our money as she bolted through the Bangor, Maine airport, when an airline employee foolishly opened her crate to take a peek at the little bi-eyed monster inside.

Iris darted out of the crate and down the corridor past the gaping airline worker and a dozen wide eyed travelers.  Had it not been for her need to take a dump, we might still be chasing her around the airport.

Iris and I got off to a rough start. She was just under a year old, and full of bad attitude. Like many Cardigan Corgis, she had a bossy streak and was a natural ankle and calf nipper. Herding is in her DNA.

She was Brittan’s dog, so I didn’t take her antipathy personally. Besides, I had my rowdy team of sleddogs outside to spend my time with.

Frankly, most people had a similar experience with our little squatty terrorist to the one I did. She was just not a friendly dog. She adored Brittan and tolerated me, but other people were a genuine nuisance to her, and she refused to hide it.

Our relationship changed a few months after her arrival, when we took her to basic obedience classes to help socialize her and hopefully earn her a Canine Good Citizen certificate.  During the first class, Brittan handled her and it was rather stressful, so beginning with lesson 2, Brittan asked me to handle the Queen of Irritability, and for some reason I agreed.

We instantly formed a teamwork bond. A switch flipped and Iris became the star of the class.  Within just a couple weeks, she was perfect at every skill. We only had to practice a few minutes a day. It turns out the little beast was a genius. She learned quickly, and would do anything for a treat.

When test day finally came, I was a nervous wreck, but Iris flew through her exam like a champ. I was so proud of her. I didn’t like her, but I was proud of her.

We thought she might have a future in competitive obedience, but we discovered that she had hip problems and would never be able to handle jumping. It was the first step in a series of steps that has led us to where we are today.

One of the worst nights of my life, was watching Iris start a fight with Lucy the Bullmastiff. This was about 4 years ago now. Both were Alpha females and disliked everything about the other, but Iris was 35 lbs of middle aged arthritis and attitude, while Lucy was 110 lbs of solid muscle.

Iris snarled and snapped at Lucy over something, and in a flash, Iris was sliced from stem to stern and Lucy was shaking her like a rag doll.

I can’t even remember how we got Iris free from Lucy’s grip, but by some act of Grace we managed it. This was late on a Saturday night and the nearest emergency vet was an hour away.  I raced through the dark streets while Brittan furiously fought to stem the flow of blood.

The vets rushed Iris into surgery, with little hope for her, while Brittan and I paced and prayed and fretted the night away.  Sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. , weak but alive, Iris was placed in our arms along with a bill roughly equivalent to the GDP of a small European country.

Like I said, that was roughly 4 years ago. Iris has not been the same since. Oh, she’s still sometimes grumpy, and gets into all kinds of trouble, but I don’t think she’s had a pain free day since.

She has extreme arthritis in her shoulder from trying to compensate for her hips and she has a permanent bladder infection. The stumpy grumpy one rarely runs these days, and when she does, she regrets it. It breaks my heart.

Iris still loves attention, and dare I say it, especially from me. She’s completely incontinent now, having multiple accidents per day. Tramadol is practically a food group and she can’t leave the deck.

On some level, we’ve known we were on borrowed time for several years. We are so blessed to have enjoyed our adventures together. Now, in 15 minutes, we go on our last one. And it feels like a sword in my stomach.

Brittan believes that God will allow our special pets to be with us in Heaven. I never have. I have never wanted to be wrong about anything so much. Farewell, Iris the Irritable, bi-eyed, bat eared, spotty, squatty Corgi. So difficult to like. So easy to love.

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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