Exodus Part 1

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Show Notes

Image result for Red Sea Discoveries imagesToday, we’re going to look at the Book of Exodus. That’s the second book in the Old Testament. In case a new discoverer, we’ve been looking at each of the Books of the Bible. We started with the New Testament, and now we’re going back to the Old. I’ll leave a link in the show notes, in case you want to go back and listen to some of the earlier shows.

The book of Exodus is really rather exciting. It tells the story of how the Israelis were in Egypt and were eventually made slaves. It talks about how God sent a deliverer names Moses to set them free and lead them through the desert towards the land he had promised them. It’s really quite dramatic in it’s telling. The book was written by Moses himself, somewhere around 1407 BC.

There is some controversy around when these events happened, and we’ll tackle some of them while we

re together. But let me just say that when we think of Ancient Egypt, we tend to think that everything we find buried in the sand, is all related to the slavery of the Jews. That simply isn’t true. For example, I don’t think they built the great pyramid. I think it was built a long time before the Israelis. But I think all the talk about Rameses II and the 1200s BC talk that you often hear from liberal scholars, is also rubbish.

Moses gives us enough detail that we can pretty much pin the dates to the 15th century BC. When the story begins, the midwives of the Jews are asked to kill baby boys, but Moses mother, hides her son in a basket, in the Nile and he was found by a woman callled, Pharoah’s daughter. Interestingly, there was a woman who actually had that as her Title. Her name was Hatshepsut. She was the daughter of Tutmose II and the brother of Tutmose III. Her father loved her very much and she was the first woman to be treated like a pharoah. This woman would have been powerful enough to rescue an Israeli baby and raise him as her own. And she lives right at the time tha’t best fits the Biblical time period. She is hated by her brother, Tutmose III and once he becomes pharoah, he tries to wipe her name out of existence. It’s fascinating to read about it and see the conflict between them. And it follows that Tutmose would be angry with Moses. Because he was raised by Hatshepsut as a prince of Egypt, he would have been seen as such by the people and explains how he had access to Tutmose whenever he liked. Hatshepsut had been loved by many people so Tutmose would have indulged Moses.

One of my favorite visits, was to the Egypt exhibit in the British Museum. In fact, Brittan and I are going there in a couple of weeks. One of the things I love is all the stuff they have related to Tutmose III. His very sarcophagus is there. As I walk through that exhibit, I can imagine, the debates between Him and Moses.

When we look at the ten plagues God cursed the Egyptians with, we must take note that these plagues were directly related to Egyptian worship. They worshiped the Nile, Frogs, their cattle, their gods of the sky and harvests. Ultimately, they worshipped the Sun and Pharoah himself. So each of the plagues was pitting God against those worshiped by the Egyptians. They are not random acts. There is purpose to them. We don’t see that unless we’re told about it, but the Egyptians and Israelis both would have known exactly what this was all about.

The slavery part of Israel’s history ends with the Passover. God tells them to butcher a lamb and eat it quickly, with a few quick vegetables and herbs and unleavened bread. They are to take some of the blood of the lamb and paint the top of their doors with it. When the angel of judgment and death comes by, he will pass over any doors covered by blood.

Death was everywhere in Egypt that night. By morning they were begging the Israeli’s to leave. They were actually paying them to go. And the Jews walked out of Egypt, a free people.

To this very day, Passover is an important part of the Jewish calendar. Even Jews who don’t believe much at all will practice the passover.

But sadly, they don’t see it as a picture of Jesus. Jesus, who, like the lamb, was sacrificed, at Passover. Some day, each one of us will stand before the Judge. We are all guilty and deserve punishment, but we will be passed over by the blood of the lamb who’s blood we claim, just like the Jews did. Oh how I see Jesus in every part of the Passover. I hope you will, too.

There is one more part of the Book of Exodus I want to look at for a moment. And that is, the crossing of the Red Sea. That’s a really awesome story. We read about it in the 14th Chapter. After the Jews had been gone a few days, Pharoah had regrets and sent his army out to bring them back. The Jews found themselves trapped, with the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. They thought they were done. But God spoke to Moses and told him to stretch his walking staff out over the sea. When Moses did that, the sea parted. Interestingly, the Cloud of God’s presence stood between the Jews and the army almost like a fog, and the Egyptians did not see them crossing on dry ground. When God lifted the cloud, the Egyptians saw the Jews and ran into the sea bed, which God closed in around them, drowning the army of Egypt.

The story is beyond dramatic, it’s miraculous. Many people scoff at it. But why? Interestingly, this coincides with about a 70 year time period, when the Egyptians became monotheists. Now, they weren’t worshiping the God of the Jews, but their pantheon of Gods had just been defeated, along with their army. They had a new pharoah, and he led them in this monotheistic revival.

Also, consider the archaeological evidence. I remember when I was young, thinking divers should find something at the bottom of the red sea, but there was nothing there. That’s until fairly recently. See, the red sea has two fingers that stick up. There is the Gulf of Suez, but there is also the gulf of Aquaba. We have always thought the Jews crossed the gulf of Suez. Liberal scholars have even suggested there was a shallow bit to the north that would have worked. But in the late 60s, an explorer found an interesting set of sites over in the gulf of Aquaba.

Roughly a quarter of the way down the gulf, there is a sandy beach, directly across from it is another beach in Saudi Arabia. On the Saudi side, he found memorial markers and other signs that made him think this might actually be the spot. The problem is, the Saudis wouldn’t allow anyone to come see them.

He did manage to get some divers to do some work in the sea and they found several chariot wheels and other objects that looked like something had happened. But again, the saudis were a hindrance to the research.

Just last week, I read that the Saudis are considering opening these sites up for exploration and possibly even tourism. This could be really interesting. Especially, because if it pans out, a lot of tourist places and old worship sites like monasteries, built since the middle ages, will prove to be false. And we will have to deal with the repercussions of the scandal from the fall out. Stay tuned for this part. There is another site in this region of Saudi that looks pretty interesting, too, but again we’ll have to wait and see. I will get into it a bit next week.

When you read Exodus, I want you to understand the history that was surrounding these events. The events of the bible happened in space and time. Much of the history we can’t find, because history was not well chronicled in those days. But much has been uncovered. And the Bible is being confirmed all the time. You don’t hear about it, because it doesn’t match the agenda people want to feed or be fed. But the simple truth is, the Bible is stunningly accurate is all it proclaims.

So far in the book we’ve seen that God loves his people and delivers them from bondage. And folks, that’s the story of Jesus. God love his creation. He knows that we are held prisoner, not from Egypt, not from any government, but from sin. Jesus died and his blood sets us free. We will still be chased and tested, but God will be there with and for us. Every step of the way. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we will trust him. That’s your call.

And that’s all I’ve got for this week. We’ll finish the book of Exodus next time. I hope you have a great week. Read the book of Exodus, if you can. Write me with questions and thoughts. I’ll talk to you then, but for now…..Yep…I’m out…..

(Re)Discovering the Bible Relaunch Part 2

Image result for Very Excited images public domainGood News, the old podcasts are up. They have been found and reposted. I’m so excited. I will include a link on how to find them at the end of these notes. This episode is short, but I really needed to finish our review. It was just going to be incomplete. 

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Do remember if you listen on Stitcher, that it takes a while before the episode is available there. I’m working to make sure we’re connected to some of the other podcast hosting sites.

When we started this podcast, we were going to use it as a kind of supplement for my books of the same name. Those books, Vols 1 and 2, are still available on Amazon. I probably won’t get started writing volume 3 for a few more months. I’m writing a book of weight loss and eating right. It’s taking a toll on my brain, but I want to get it done before the beginning of 2020, because a lot of people start in January, thinking about losing a pound or two with their new years resolutions. Since I’m convinced I’ve found a plan that works, does not cause great hunger pains, and is consistent with what the Bible teaches about food, I’m really excited to get it finished. I’ll keep you posted on progress. My hope is, to finish my research on Re Discovering Volume 3, Pauls letters, and get started writing it, as soon as I get done with my food book.

I’m thinking that we should probably spend two or three weeks in review of Ground we’ve already covered just to get us all up to speed and get our minds in gear. Hopefully, that works for you.

If you are new to the Bible, or let’s say new again, you probably should listen to the last episode, ReLaunch. It will give you some good tips on what the Bible is all about, and how you can find a translation that suits you and your style. That’s really important. You need a version, a translation that matches your reading style. And there are lot’s of them available, for FREE, if you’re willing to download them to your smartphone, or tablet, or laptop, or even your desktop, if you’re still using one of those.

I really believe there are a lot of people, as in millions upon millions, who are really confused about faith and religion, and even Jesus. There’s a great deal of conflicting information out there. It can make your head spin. But you can go directly to the source of our available information. You can read the Bible for yourself, and draw your own conclusion.

But the thing is, and I’m sorry to say it, while the Bible is truly God’s love letter to the human race, the human race has put it together in a way that makes it harder to understand. Seriously. If you read the Bible in New Testament First, then Old Testament, it will make a whole lot more sense to you. It really will. And frankly, I have created a reading plan that will make it even clearer to you than that. If you’ll write to me, samburtonpresents@gmail.com, or use the comments section at samburtonpresents.com, where I put the show notes, and ask for it, I’ll send you the reading plan for the New Testament absolutely free.

You see, the Bible is not A book. Its 66 books, 27 in the New Testament and 39 in the Old Testament. Those books are given to us by God himself. Truly. But the order in which they’re put together was created by book editors and Church leaders. Not by teachers who were trying to help you understand it. That’s where I come in. I’m just a teacher. A guy who wants you to read the Bible and understand it. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is who you’re looking for, whether or not you even know you’re looking for him. I also want the Bible to make sense to you. It’s not a bunch of religious jargon. And it’s certainly not boring. Sometimes we preachers are, but the Bible isn’t.

Don’t just listen to someone on YouTube, read it for yourself.

And for those of you who are familiar with the Book, my reading plan will help you see the Bible differently than you ever have before. You’ll understand the flow of the book much better. And I’ve got the harder to understand books later in the plan, because as you understand more of the thought processes in the Bible, the books are not so hard after all.

But whether or not you want to use my plan, do yourself a favor, and read the New Testament first. Then go back and read the old. The whole book is about Jesus. I encourage you to start with reading all about Him, then go back and see how the Old Testament is preparing the world for his coming.

Then after you’ve read the New Testament, think about all it says. After you read one of the Gospels, I suggest Luke first, you’re going to have some decisions to make about Jesus. Then read the book of Acts to find out what you should do about and with Jesus. After that, I’ll leave you to read it on your own if that’s the way you want to do it. But read all the New Testament before you read the old. But just before you read the old testament, read the book of Hebrews again. I believe that Hebrews is the key to unlocking the Old Testament. It’s like a magic pill.

You might be wondering why I ask you to read Luke’s gospel first. Instead of one of the other three gospels. It’s simply because he also wrote the book of acts and it’s literally reading part one and part two of the same story. I also believe that if you read Luke, then Acts, then the Gospel of John, you’ll have a real grip on the whole Jesus message.

When you first start reading the New Testament, you’re going to be surprised at how short the books are. And you’re going to scratch your head at the Chapter and verse divisions. Especially the chapters. Keep in mind, those are not original. The chapter divisions came in the 1200s and the verses in the 1500s. They were to help with memorizing passages and in knowing where you left off reading from the last time you read. They’re not perfect, but they are helpful.

Each book was written for a specific reason. Maybe to answer some questions. Maybe to straighten out some misunderstanding. When the author was finished with that, the book was done. For example, the Gospels are not biographies of Jesus. Even all together they’re not a biography of Jesus. They are memories of Jesus. Kind of like at a family or class reunion, when everyone is telling stories. Sometimes, their not even chronological. That’s true with Matthew and Mark. They are sharing their stories and are not particularly concerned about chronology. Luke is very orderly, so he pays a lot of attention to things like chronology. So does John. But John and Mark don’t say a word about Jesus’ Birth or childhood. Because they are not biographies. Matthew is trying to show that Jesus is the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for. He’s the King of the Jews. Mark’s Book has a verse in chapter 10, verse 45 that says, the son of man did not come to be serve, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many. And that seems to describe the book. The first part is huge on Jesus serving and healing people. Then he gives his life as a sacrifice for the human race. Luke’s book could be called, The son of man. That phrase is used many times in the Gospel. It shows that Jesus is a fulfillment of prophesies, and the gospel deals with the human race. Our problems. Our crises, our need for God’s intervention. And John’s gospel is clearly to prove that Jesus is both God and Man. He states that in the very first verse and each story clearly establishes one side or the other of Jesus’ dual nature.

The book of acts tells us how important the Resurrection was to the Church. It was not Jesus miracles, nor his teaching, but His death and Resurrection that set him apart. It tells us how churches were born and how the message spread through the Roman empire. And it’s the only book in all the Bible that tells us how people became Christians.

The rest of the New Testament is written to followers of Jesus, whether Churches, or individuals to help us learn to live for Him. And the book of Revelation is there to explain how things will turn out in the end.

I think that will catch you up if you’re new to the show, and is a great brief review for long time listeners.

Last Episode, Part One – Click HERE to listen 

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(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…..

Changes Coming

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First, I want to thank all of you who read this blog regularly. You rock. I want to tell you that I’m going to be making some changes in the near future. This is mainly to do with the fact that I have several blogs and can’t keep up with everything, so I’m moving everything here. The only downside is you might receive notices of posts that don’t interest you. I hope you’ll be patient with that inconvenience.

Beginning in September, I will be making posts regarding my Ketogenic Transformation, Dogs, Money Management, Farming, Gardening, and the Bible. I will also be posting occasionally about my books, including my adventures in fiction. I’ve written two Novellas, Isitoq’s Hound, and Night of the Rougarou. I have a couple more that I’m writing and will be updating readers here.

I am hoping that all my readers, where non fiction, or fiction lovers will be able to become one big family. I know this is a risk, but here’s hoping.

 

Good Bye NIV, Hello ESV

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Today’s topic is rather personal, and spiritual. I know some of you are not even remotely interested in Spiritual things, so I’m warning you ahead time. I hope you’ll keep reading, because you might get something out of it. Besides, it’s just us, so of no one will know you’re reading someone discussing the Bible.

The year was 1972. I was a teenager. I was skinny and had a full head of hair. My how things change with time. I already loved the Bible. And I loved Jesus. I had submitted to Him a few years before and loved reading His Word.

In those days, that was the King James Version. That’s pretty much what everybody read. I did have a Good News For Modern Man (Today known as the Good News Version, or Today’s English Version). but I read about a brand new translation that was hitting the market called, The New International Version. I raced out to a Christian Book Store and bought one. It was only the New Testament, that’s all that was completed at that time. It was brown leather. Just like a Bible should be. Kidding. Mine was a large print edition. In those days that was an option I didn’t need. Now it’s a requirement.

This new Bible was like magic. I understood it. Every word. It was like it was written just for me. I absolutely fell in love with it. In 1974, I went to college at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. In the bookstore, my first day, I saw and purchased, a whole Bible in the New International version. I was in heaven.

Throughout my college years, I was introduced to many translations. I liked some. Disliked others. Some I have to this day. A few I have as an app, but no actual hard copies. But I always loved the NIV.

Then in 1979, I went to Cincinnati Christian University, called Cincinnati Bible College in those days. One of the professors there, Lewis Foster, had been on the team of translators for the NIV, especially the Gospel of John, and played a role in the Book of Joshua team as well, but I don’t remember what he told me his role was. I will just say, Dr. Foster was an awesome man who loved the Word and the God who inspired it. I truly enjoyed his classes and spending time with him. I treasure those memories.

I was ordained into the ministry in 1978 in Cynthiana, KY in a Church where the minister was King James only. He was adamant about it. He disliked me very much for the fact that I was sold on the NIV and even used it when I was preaching and teaching. He only agreed to participate in my ordination because my dad was an Elder in the Church. I remember some dandy conversations with the Pastor as we would go about our days.

I also remember NOT getting hired by a church in KY once because I used the NIV rather than the King James. Those were weird times in churches. In fact, I would carry a King James AND an NIV with me when I was traveling and raising support to be a missionary, so I wouldn’t offend people if their church was still sold on the KJV.

When I got to Buckie, Scotland in 1980, I boldly preached from the New International version. Most of the people stuck to their King James, but converts used the NIV. Eventually, it became the majority version in the Church in Buckie, as well at in Forres which I planted in 1986, and in Cumbernauld, born in 1988.

I stayed true to the NIV, even when The New Living Bible became so popular in the late 90s. My wife loves that translation. She uses it all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s just not me.

I received a beta version of Today’s New International Version of the New Testament to read and comment on sometime in 2000 or 2001. It was published in 2002. I read it and HATED it. It was, lets say an attempt at political correctness. It was just awful. And I said so.

The Old Testament was finished in 2005. The translation was totally unacceptable to serious believers in Jesus and His Word. Eventually it just faded away and ceased being published.

Then in about 2012 a new edition of the NIV came out. I had bought a new Bible and was teaching a class at Northwest Christian Church in Acworth, GA. As I was reading, I became aware that some of the translation was just terrible. I laid my bible down and told the class that this version was crap. The NIV had implemented some of the translation model that had been used in the TNIV and the NIV was ruined.

The next week, I went back to my 1984 edition of the NIV. It was the last sound version of the NIV. It is now only possible to buy it from used bookstores or backrooms at Christian bookstores. Despite all the furor, I stuck faithfully to the 1984 edition of the NIV. And I will continue to use it in personal study.

But today, I am announcing, primarily because the 1984 NIV is so rare, that I will begin this week, preaching from the English Standard Version. It is considered a literal translation, yet it reads pretty smoothly for one. It is used by many conservative Churches in English speaking countries. In fact, it is the translation used at Brittan’s and my home Church in GA, Crosspoint City Church.

Frankly, this was an extremely difficult decision to make. I wish the publishers of the New International Version had never forced me into it. But they did, and that’s that. It’s done. Here I stand.

If you want to understand more about translations of the Bible, I recommend my book, (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1. Its a short book. And inexpensive, too. Just click on the link. You’re welcome.

So, farewell, New International Version. You have been a faithful translation. You have served me well. I cherish the many memories I have had using you to reach people in the U.S.A., Great Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and any other English speaking country I’ve visited. But it’s time to move on.

Hello, English Standard Version. You have big shoes to fill. But I believe you have what it takes. Let’s do this. The Gospel of Jesus is too important. There’s no place to go but on.

Thanks for listening folks. At least now you understand a little bit about why this is so important to me. Use the comments section and tell me about your favorite, or least favorite, Bible translation. See you next week.

My UFO Close Encounter – A True Story

I think that since I started my mind thinking about supernatural things and cryptids last week, I would continue with that thought today. Why not, right?

We moved several times when I was in Jr. High and High school. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the names of the roads we lived on during that time, except for one, Middlesex Drive. I remember it not because of the odd name, but because of a strange event that happened to me while we were there. Frankly, it changed me forever.

The house was brand new as were all the others in the neighborhood. Lexington was a fast growing city in the seventies and new houses were going up everywhere. Most of these new homes were split levels and split foyers. Ours was a split level. On the ground level were a single car garage, the kitchen, dining room and living room. Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bath. Below ground were a family room, an extra bedroom and the utility room that also contained a bath. My bedroom was below ground. Probably every teenage boy in the neighborhood had a below ground bedroom in those days, because we were not civilized. Our rooms smelled bad. Probably mostly to do with unwashed socks hiding under our beds. I know it didn’t have anything to do with unwashed bodies, because I took at least two showers every day. One before school in the morning and one in the evening. At least three days a week I took one in the afternoon at school after gym class as well. I hated the thought of smelling bad. I was terrified of smelling bad in front of, you know, girls.

We also played our music too loud. Apparently, 20th century parents weren’t keen of Black Oak Arkansas, The Edgar Winter Group, or even Elvis. They kept spinning in my room along with Elton John, the Bee Gees and a wide range of Southern Gospel Quartet music. I had a nice collection of Motown favorites like Marvin Gaye, and the Stylistics for variety. Man, my hair is growing back just thinking about it.

One of the features about downstairs living I liked best was the fact that I had my own entrance to the house. There was a door from my bedroom to the backyard. That was great because I had a white German Shepherd, Rajah. I could easily sneak him into the room, not that I would ever do a thing like that! Anyway, after we were done playing, I could open the door and let Rajah out. He would stare in the back door for a while, then lay down and sleep right outside. It was comforting for me to know my big dog was right outside.

One summer evening, August, to be precise, I was listening to the radio late on a Tuesday night. I kept it low enough not to disturb my parents or sisters upstairs. Rajah lay outside my door. The radio was tuned to WKYT radio as it pretty much always was.

The time was ticking away, well past midnight. It was dark out. Because there were no houses behind us, just a corn field, the back of our neighborhood was always particularly dark. There were lots of stars lighting the sky, but no moon that night. Whenever there was no moon, the darkness of the cornfield was particularly creepy. I was glad Rajah was out there. I was thinking about letting him inside when it all happened.

First, the radio stopped. It just shut off mid song. So did the clock. At first I assumed it was a breaker. Then I saw Rajah. He was sitting up just outside the door with his eyes fixed on the sky. He was frozen like a statue. I called to him. He didn’t move a muscle.

I got up and looked out at the sky. All I saw were stars. Then one star began to move, but instead of moving across the sky, it moved towards me. It began like a white pin prick and grew larger as it moved closer. In just a few seconds it was as big as a full moon and lit up the back field. But it wasn’t done. It kept coming closer until it was in our back yard. Technically, it was in the corn field, but very close to the yard. It was very large and very bright. The thing just sat there pulsating and watching me.

I did what any 16 year old would do. I jumped back in bed and hid under the covers. There was a hum coming from the orb, but that was the only sound in the night. There were no dogs barking. There weren’t even any insects or frogs doing their usual serenading of the darkness. It was terrifying.

I don’t know how long I stayed under the covers. Probably around 10 minutes. By that time it was getting pretty hot under there and the oxygen was pretty stale. I was trying to decide what to do when I sensed a slight change in the brightness, so I pulled my head out from under the blanket.  The craft was now moving off. It flashed once, then slowly but steadily retreated the way it came until is was just a tiny pin prick, then disappeared.

The moment it was gone, the radio came back on. Rajah shook and turned to face me. I got up and let him in. He whined and lay down by the bed. I let him sleep there the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep much. I kept watching the sky, afraid the thing would return.

The next morning I said nothing to my sisters. Neither of them have ever said they saw anything. Eventually, like a year later, I told my parents. They never saw anything. My dad poo pooed it.  My mom stayed quiet. She was open to anything.

On the school bus, and at school, nobody saw or heard a thing. It was like I was the only witness to the event. And that made no sense to me.

In order for you to fully understand my discomfort, you should be aware that even back then I was a Christian, and did not believe in men from outer space. I was convinced we were the only inhabited planet in the universe. There were no grays or lizard people. But what I had experienced was real. And it shook me to my core.

Those were days before the internet so Google wasn’t an option. I was forced to go to the library and go through the card catalogue with a fine tooth comb. I did that at my school library and at the public one, checking out everything I could find on UFOs, encounters, the Bible, and anything else I could find.

Eventually, I found a book written in 1972 by an Australian Christian Writer, Clifford Wilson, called, Crash Go The Chariots. It was a response to Erich Von Daniken’s, “Chariots of the Gods”. I don’t remember much about the text of the book, but Wilson seemed to answer most of my doubts. He set me on a path that I still walk. These days, I call UFOs, and most other supernatural events. Demonic Practical Jokes. They are designed to trick us and to cause us to take our eyes off of God and His message to us.

For example; the teaching that every single person has brought back from a kidnapping encounter with ‘aliens’ is a denial of the Gospel’s core teaching. What’s also true is the message is almost exactly the same as from those who have near death experiences. What a coincidence.

Now this episode is getting a bit long in the tooth, but as I unfold these stories to you, I’ll also unpack what I think is happening. For now just let this thought sink in. I believe that UFOs, The Loch Ness Monster, Dogmen, and even ghosts, are ‘real’. I believe they are trans dimensional and enter our dimension with evil intent. I believe that’s why they can do things that seem so odd to us. Because we are used to our 3 dimensions.

Yes, there are loads of hoaxes. But there are too many serious stories that cannot be discounted or disproved. We must take them seriously.

For now, think on those things. I’ll be back soon with more.

 

Help, I Just Can’t Make Sense Of The Bible. Oh, By The Way, It’s Boring

Rediscover CoverDoes that headline resonate with you? It wouldn’t surprise me. Nearly every week, I am asked about the best way to read the Bible, or asked why the Bible is so hard to understand. I totally get that. It can be frustrating when your new to it.

One of the reasons the Bible seems so hard is that it’s not in the best order for reading. Say what? I’m serious. If you’re new to the Bible, or have just never seemed to make sense of it, I’m going to clear some of that up for you right now!

The Bible is actually a collection of books; 66 of them to be precise. And they are grouped into categories just like a library. In fact, we should think of the Bible as a library of books in a single volume. Just like we wouldn’t go to a public library and start with the first book and read them in order all the way around the walls, we get the most out of the Bible if we don’t read from beginning to end (Genesis to Revelation) the first time we read it.

If you want to know more about that, I recommend my book, “(Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1”. It’s available on Amazon as an e-book, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it.

In the next two paragraphs, I’m giving you a suggested order in which to read the Bible. I am convinced you will get more out of your personal study if you do this.

The Bible is divided into two major segments, Old Testament and New Testament. As you can see, I’ve recommended the New Testament first. If you read the NT first it will help you understand the Old Testament much better than if you begin there. Trust me.

I highly recommend reading the Gospel of Luke first, followed by the Book of Acts. The reasons are two fold and quite simple. The Gospels tell us who Jesus is, which is the most important thing you and I need to know. The Book of Acts tells us what to do about that knowledge. It’s the only book in the Bible that describes how people became Christians.

The second reason I choose Luke and Acts, when there are 3 other Gospels, is that Luke is the author of both books, so they flow very smoothly. See, I told you it was simple.

In the next paragraph, you’ll find a recommended order for reading the entire New Testament. Essentially, I tried to put easier to read books first and the more difficult ones towards the end.

One more thing; I encourage readers to read through the New Testament twice before moving on to the Old Testament. Mainly, that’s because it really will make the Old Testament easier to grasp.

Here’s the full NT reading list in recommended order:  Luke, Acts, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Matthew, James, Mark, 1 and 2 Timothy, John, 1,2,3 John, Galatians, Philippians, Titus, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, Romans, Jude, Revelation.

Ok, now it’s time for the Old Testament. What I’ve done here is simply put the Old Testament books into an order that breaks up the harder to read ones by including some of the easier to read ones in between the harder ones. That gives our brains a rest. You’re welcome.

I do have one more suggestion. Before beginning your Old Testament reading, go through the New Testament Book of Hebrews one more time. I call Hebrews the ‘key to understanding the Old Testament’. It really will help. I promise.

My suggested Old Testament reading plan looks like this: Genesis, Joshua, Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, Judges, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Leviticus,Ruth, Job, Lamentations, Numbers, 1 Samuel, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, Deuteronomy, 2 Samuel,Song of Solomon, Daniel, 1 Kings, Hosea, 2 Kings, Joel, 1 Chronicles, Amos, 2 Chronicles, Obadiah, Ezra, Jonah, Nehemiah, Micah, Esther, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

There you have it. Obviously, you can read the Bible in any order you want, but I did this to help those having trouble staying focused and those who were inexperienced with the Bible. As you become more familiar with its message, you may create your own reading plan, or simply go front to back. It’s your call.

I hope this helps; I really do. If you have any questions, please use the comments section and ask.  Again, I refer you to my book, and encourage you to tune into the (Re)Discovering the Bible Online Radio Show podcast.

You can also email your questions to me.  Thanks, as always. You rock.

Just Do It!

 

Swoosh

Episode 35

James

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Just Do It!

When I was a teenager, way back in the 70s, the two most popular NT books for Bible study were the Gospel of John and the Book of James. Several decades have come and gone since then, but the popularity of those books as not waned.

James is one of the first New Testament books to be written.  Many Scholars say it was first. I think that’s a real possibility, though Matthew may be slightly older. Both were written around the mid 40s AD.

James’ back story is every bit as fascinating to me as that of the Apostle Paul. James is from the tribe of Judah, and the biological son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth. He is the direct descendent of King David through Solomon.  He, then, is the half brother of Jesus. Like Jesus, he would have grown up a tradesman, a carpenter.

With the exception of Mary, probably no one knew Jesus the way James did. They grew up, playing, rough housing, and working together. I would have loved to have been privy to some of their one on one conversations during their years together.

Despite, or possibly because of, their closeness, James was not a disciple of Jesus during His ministry years. In fact, as we read through the Gospels, it appears as if Jesus’ siblings took a bit of a sarcastic, if not outright cynical view of their older Brother’s ministry.

I tend to believe, though, that Jesus and James were close. I make that claim, based on the fact that James was one of the individuals Jesus made a personal appearance to following His resurrection.  You can read about that in I Corinthians 15.

The next time we meet James, he is already a leader in the Jerusalem Church. He seems to have been on equal footing with the Apostles. Obviously, his familial connection with Jesus would have given him some leverage, but his character and faith were obvious from the beginning. The legends that grew up around him, say he was so devoted to prayer, that great, thick callouses grew on his knees, earning him the nickname, ‘Old Camel Knees’.

7:227:48According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, James was martyred in A.D. shortly after Governor Festus died, and before the new Governor, Albinus, arrived.

There are two versions of James’ Death. One says that James was lured to the roof of the temple where he was invited to address the crowd. While he was preaching, some of the Pharisees threw him off in an effort to kill him, but failed. James rose to his knees and began to pray for the assassins, whereupon, they began to stone and club him until he died.

Josephus tells a much less fanciful tale, and says the high priest, Ananus, took advantage of his interim leadership, between Festus’ death and Albinus’ arrival to have a number of his least favorite people executed. James was among that number, when he was publicly stoned.

Somehow, Josephus’ account has a more ring of truth to it, but Hegesippus’ tale of intrigue and conspiracy would make a great movie. Perhaps someone should get Mel Gibson on the phone…

Again, according to tradition, James never left Jerusalem. He lived, ministered, and died in that great city.

The letter that bears his name, might be a favorite now, but has not always been so. Martin Luther and many of the early reformers disliked it because of its emphasis on good works. In fact, Luther called it, ‘an epistle of straw’, or, ‘a right strawy epistle.’

For some reason, it appeared to the reformers that James was somehow contradicting Paul’s emphasis on Grace and Faith.  A few people continue to make that mistake even in the 21st century.

Frankly, I just can’t see the conflict. It is clear from Paul’s letters that he was comparing salvation by faith, to trying to keep the law of Moses as a way to earn salvation. James is saying that if we truly have faith, it will show itself in the way we live. A faith that doesn’t shape our behavior is not faith.

The little book of James is much more, though, than a challenge to walk the walk we talk.

In Chapter one, he encourages the Church to sees their suffering as growing spiritual stamina and patience.  He finishes the chapter by reminding the readers that we need to do more than hear or acknowledge the gospel. We need to put it into practice.

In short, James says, the Gospel isn’t dressed until it has shoes on.

Chapters 2 and 3 contain the juiciest bits. These are the two chapters that have stirred the pot for centuries.

James begins chapter 2 by denouncing favoritism; especially economic favoritism. When we show favoritism for the wealthy, we look really tacky.  Examples.  But back in Exodus, God told Moses not to show favoritism to the poor OR the rich.  The truth (which is, or should be, implied in the word, justice), is blind. It doesn’t show favoritism. That’s why we always see ‘lady justice’ wearing a blindfold.

11:08 These days, we see it in other ways, too. Talent. A struggling congregation will grab a musician like a monkey grabs a peanut.  Good looks will get you a seat at the table PDQ as well.  Celebrity. The list goes on. Its so tempting. But it’s still wrong.

After his excellent words on favoritism, James returns to the subject of putting faith into action. Here he says things like, ‘it is by works a man is justified and not by faith alone. And Faith without works is dead.

Chapter 3 is all about how much our mouths get us into trouble. No man can tame the tongue.

Chapter 4, while not nearly as dramatic as 2 and 3, is deep. It reads almost like a commentary on Jesus’ statement, ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. ‘  The source of quarrels, ugly words, selfish actions all have their roots buried in stony, self engrossed hearts.

In Chapter 5, James returns to the danger of riches. Coveteousness and greed are siblings and they  hide everywhere.

From there he goes back to patience, especially as we wait for Christ’s return.  And he finishes with a powerful statement about prayer. He reminds us of the power of prayer, and that every Believer has access to that Power. Prayer is for everyone, especially ordinary people.

I won’t dive any deeper into James’ letter, because I want you to read it for yourself and discover just how much is packed into it. This little letter by the camel kneed brother of Jesus is both powerful and practical. I think you’ll love it. Let me know.  For now, that’s all I got. See you next week. Until then….

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Finding Joy In Hard Places

 

Episode 26

Finding Joy in Hard Places

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Philippians

I guess right off the bat, I need to apologize to regular listeners for announcing that we are going to examining the book of Colossians today. That’s next week. On my calendar, Colossians is scheduled for today, but we missed a week so we’re off schedule. Oops. Colossians and ‘The God Particle’ are NEXT week.  Today, we’re going to survey Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

This letter is the most upbeat examination of hard topics anywhere in the Bible. Paul starts off addressing the fact that he’s in prison, then he moves on to false teachers. There are actually people preaching the Gospel with the intent of causing more problems for Paul.

In Chapter 2 he does an amazing job of transitioning to the doctrine of the Incarnation, aka the deity and humanity of Christ, which was coming under attack during the second half of the first century.  We’re going to come back to that in just a few minutes.

Chapter 3 is Paul’s takedown of a group of legalists nicknamed, the Judaizers.  They are focused on gentiles accepting the law of Moses including the act of circumcision. Paul, if you will pardon the obvious pun, eviscerates their argument about circumcision by using his own life as an example. Even in this hard, to the point chapter, Paul is able to make a positive point about how following Christ is worth every perceived sacrifice you can mention.

He finishes this little book in chapter 4 by asking two squabbling ladies to work it out, then he encourages the Church to find joy in every circumstance, then praises them for their generosity and challenges them to continue to be so.

It’s really an amazing letter.  It is one of the most personal letters Paul wrote, at least that he wrote to a whole Church.  While the Ephesian Church is one Paul had a deep relationship with, this Philippian one is deeply personal. You can almost feel Paul’s rapport dripping off every paragraph.

When you consider that it appears Paul didn’t get to spend a great deal of time in Philippi, and much of it was spent in conflict or in jail, the joyful nature of the letter becomes even more evident.

You can read all about the beginnings of the Church in Philippi over in Acts 16. Paul is on his second mission trip and is trying to go back to Asia Minor, but doors keep closing. Finally, while he’s on the coast, he has a vision of a man calling him over to Macedonia to preach the Good News in Europe.

Philippi is called an important city in Macedonia, and it certainly is prominent compared to the towns in Galatia, but is Hicksville compared to Corinth or Ephesus. Philippi’s big claim to fame is that it’s a military outpost. As such, there is a great deal of activity with soldiers coming and going. And there is a huge amount of trade. When I think of Philippi, I can’t help but think about Limestone, Maine where Brittan and I used to live. When Loring airforce base was active, it was a bustling town of several thousand and influenced nearby Caribou, as well. Since closure, the population and economy dwindled away. That’s kind of the history of Philippi. During Paul’s visit, it is a hive of activity.

Paul’s first foray into evangelism was with a group of women gathered by the river to pray. These are not secularists like he will encounter in Athens, rather these are devout God fearers who are gathered together to seek Him.

One of these ladies is Lydia, a successful business woman who traded in expensive fabrics. She believes the Gospel and is baptized right away. A short time later, she plays host to Paul and the evangelistic team.

From this positive beginning, things turn sour for Paul as he attracts the attention of a demon possessed fortune teller who follows him around trying to profit off the Apostle’s coattails. After several days of frustration, Paul gets angry and casts out the demon.

One would think that’s the kind of act that would see great results for the kingdom, but in reality, this becomes a case of no good deed goes unpunished. You see, this young lady brought in a tidy income for her owners and they suddenly find themselves without their cash cow, so they had Paul and Silas thrown in prison.

It is while in the local jail, that God produces another remarkable miracle. At about midnight, while Paul and Silas are praying and singing, the jail becomes the epicenter of a serious earthquake. The jail collapses and all the cells are thrown wide open. The jailer, assuming a jailbreak, does not want to face execution, so he prepares to fall on his own sword, but Paul stops him by assuring the soldier that all the prisoners are present and accounted for.

In his gratitude, the jailer falls on his knees and cries out, What must I do to be saved. I know it’s popular to think he’s repenting of his sins right there, but I think he’s more focused on his earthly life. Paul, however, takes that opportunity to present Christ to him and the darnedest thing happens.

Here is, 0 dark 30 and the jailer takes Paul home, washes their wounds and they all have a big baptismal service as the whole household responds to Jesus. After their baptism, they all have a hearty breakfast.

What an incredible story.  Paul leaves town, probably the next day, but you can bet, the effects of his short visit lived on a long time.

We don’t read of any subsequent visits to  Philippi, but whatever happened during those exciting days, made a deep impact on Paul and the new Christians and bonded them for life.

Later, while Paul is in prison again, this time courtesy of Nero in Rome, the Philippians send him a care package, which prompts Paul to write this amazing letter.

Sometime in the future, we’ll spend some time digging into the various subjects in Philippians, but today I just want to spend a few minutes in Chapter 2, because something Paul writes about Jesus is incredibly profound and, I believe is easily overlooked if we don’t park and look closely at it.

I’m going to read verses 4 – 11. If you are in a place to get out your Bible and follow along, I encourage you to do so. If not, please go back later and read it again. It’s powerful.

Php 2:4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Php 2:5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

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.

Php 2:8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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.

 

Verse 6 says that Jesus was in very form God. He is Spirit.  Form has to do with shape and substance.  Before he is a baby growing in Mary’s womb, Jesus is spirit.

Verse 6 then has one of the most striking and sometimes controversial statements in, though He was in form, God, he didn’t count equality with God something to be grasped. Weird. Many people have read that and said it means Jesus isn’t God. See, we often think of ‘grasp’ as something to reach for, but this word means grasped as in, ‘to hold on to’.  It is best read, ‘did not see equality with God something to be clung to.  Wow, that’s beyond profound.

Go on, But emptied himself.  That is an incredible statement. He divested himself of all those ‘Spirit’ qualities and exchanges things like omnipresence to be limited to the dimensions of time and space by becoming a man.  In verse 7 he takes the form of a servand and is born in the likeness of man. The one who was the Word, the medium by which all the universe was created, becomes and ordinary, flesh and blood human. He is not a humanoid like Clark Kent, but in reality superman, Jesus has emptied himself of his superpowers and is totally man.

Paul continues by describing Jesus’ crucifixion and God’s exaltation of Him back to Heaven and giving Him His old authority back. One day, every knee will bow, in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father.

BTW, the use of Lord is clearly a reference to Jesus as God, like in John 8.

The heart pounding truth in all this, is that when Jesus divested himself and took on flesh, in some sense he limited himself for all eternity. There is no mention of Him going back to His old ‘form’. Jesus, exalted and praised, loves us so much that he has nail scars for ever.

Do you get that? No wonder it’s the ‘Greatest story ever told’. It’s the greatest sacrifice ever made.

And here’s the kicker. The context of that doctrine, is back in verses 4 and 5 when Paul says, Let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

Paul is saying that we should be willing to give up literally everything in our service to others, Just like Jesus gave up everything in His service for others. Are you there yet? Me neither, and it certainly sets the bar high, but there’s the target. Let’s go for it.

That’s all I got. I’d sure love to hear from you. You’ll find the show notes at www.samburtonpresents.com. Please click to comment there or email me directly samburtonpresents@gmail.com.

Next week we really are in Colossians, I promise. Until then; be blessed. And be a blessing.

 

It’s All About That Grace!

 

ReDiscovering The Bible Online Radio Show

Episode 25 – Ephesians

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Notes:

So glad to be back after some time away. I didn’t expect to be gone quite so long, but life is full of surprises. More experienced podcasters have a few episodes in the bank so that when things come up, they don’t have a gap in broadcasts. I’m not that smart, but I thank you all for your patience and I’m back in the saddle.

This week we’re looking at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and it’s especially interesting because the Ephesian Church may well be the congregation Paul had the strongest relationship with. It was certainly the place he stayed the longest, a full 3 years.

You can read all about the dramatic founding of the Church in Ephesus, including the miracles, growth, and opposition in the 19th Chapter in Acts. In fact, that chapter is so exciting, I encourage you, if you’re in a place to do so, pause the show right now and go read Acts 19. If you can’t do so at the moment, go back and do so at your earliest opportunity.

This Church is so important to Paul, that later, when he is on his way to Jerusalem, he summons them to join him for a meeting at Miletus (about 38 miles south of Ephesus) when his ship docks there for a short time.

During that meeting he shares many insights with the elders and in 20:15 he mentions that they will they will never see each other again. After that statement, Paul warns them about false teachers and other trouble makers who will try and break up the Church.

At the end of Paul’s speech, there is a great deal of weeping as they pray and say their goodbyes. Verse 38 says the thing the Ephesians were most sad about was that they would never see him again.

I find that one of the most tender passages in the New Testament. Paul loved these people very much and they loved him just as much.

Sometime after Paul leaves, probably around AD 63, Paul writes the letter we call the Book of Ephesians.

It appears that following Paul’s death, Ephesus becomes one of the most prominent Churches in the Kingdom., certainly in the province of Asia. After Paul’s death, it becomes the home of the Apostle John. According to some traditions, when John moved there, Mary, the mother of Jesus was still alive and moved with him.  John did his writing from Ephesus (and maybe some on Patmos) and Ephesus was the first of the 7 Churches Jesus dictated special letters to in the Book of Revelation (see chapter 2).

Ephesus is no little backwater place like Galatia, but rather the most important city in Asia Minor. Over time, it had replaced Troy (troas) and was a prominent port, trade, education and religious center. It’ a large and influential place.

As we look through the book, we find some of the most important and central doctrines of Christianity within it’s 6 small chapters.

It also contains a few verses (Chapter 1, verses 4-7) that are among the most contentious verses in all of Christianity. So let’s take a quick look at those verses and see if we can’t clear up some of the misunderstanding.

Most of the confusion comes from verse 5 and the word ‘predestined’. It says, ‘He predestined us us for adoption as sons…’ That word connotes for many people an assumption that God individually selects certain people for salvation and others to miss out. Entire denominations and ‘Theologies’ have been built around that concept. Millions have feared they are left out or that loved ones are left out because of ‘predestination’. Many have turned away from Christ because of the idea that this would either negate the loving nature of God, or that it eliminates the free will of man.

If we look a little deeper, however, the explanation is much more hopeful and inclusive. This kind of misunderstanding is what comes from focusing on a single word pulled out of its context with the rest of the Bible.

Let’s put it back in context and see what happens. Back in verse 4 Paul writes that ‘he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world….”  Keep in mind, Paul has already addressed this in a letter he wrote to the Church in Rome some years before this one. In chapter 8, verse 29, he wrote, “Those He foreknew, He predestined.”

Here he is saying the same thing.  God knows everything. Before we were ever born, God knew that millions would be willing to accept that we are sinners and turn to Him, so, in His Grace, He created a plan of redemption that He Implemented even before the world was created. That’s all that’s meant by predestination here. It isn’t that God selected some and not others. He selected ALL who would follow Him by creating an avenue of redemption. So in verse 5, (everything is plural). When He is talks about Predestination he is referring to the Church as a whole.

Remember, Paul is writing to the whole congregation and explaining that our salvation is God’s work, not ours. He planned everything from before the beginning. We didn’t create it and we don’t deserve it. It’s a gift of His Grace.

It’s all explained in Chapter2. We must always remember that chapters and verses are not a part of the original, so we shouldn’t let them divorce us from the way the entire message fits together.

In Chapter 2, Paul zooms in on this subject by highlighting Grace as the source of salvation. The decision to offer forgiveness is God’s alone,

BTW, This is the chapter that provides the verses that led me to title this episode, “It’s all about that Grace”.

In verses 4 and 5 Paul talks about God’s mercy and His grace, which are the heart of His Salvation. In verse 4 God’s love for us, despite all our rebellion and screw ups is the motivation behind salvation. Wow.

Let’s take a quick side road for a minute. It’s not unusual for us to hear about God’s Mercy and Grace and not think about the difference between them. Understanding that difference can make us really appreciate what God has done for us.

Mercy is God withholding from us the punishment we deserve. Jesus took that in our place.

Grace,on the other hand, is God giving us what we don’t deserve, forgiveness and new life.

Verse 8 is the key to the whole chapter. Let’s read it. ‘For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. It is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.

There is nothing you or I can do to gain salvation. We can’t pray enough, work enough, preach enough, be baptized enough, give enough or any enough. Salvation is by God’s favor upon us, pure and simple.

Salvation is by Grace, period. Yes, we must respond to His Grace, but we have nothing to do with creating it or making it available. Grace. Period. That’s the list. The end.

Just one more thought before we go. Neither grammatically nor contextually is there a comma after saved in verse 8. The emphasis in verse 8 and 9 is not comparing faith to works, but comparing grace to works. And also, grammatically, it is Grace that is the gift of God. Not faith that is the gift of God. The entire section has grace as its focus. There are several denominations that make Faith the gift, but grammatically and contextually, that just doesn’t fit.

When all is said and done, I’m so glad our Salvation is in God’s hands, rather than ours, because I would screw it up like I do everything else. Instead, I am confident that the one who made me, loves me, and sustains me is the one who guarantees my hope. I hope you’re glad about that, too.

Moving on, the heart of the book, from chapters 3 on are dedicated to instructions for living. They are incredibly practical and straight to the point. Some of the things, particularly in chapter 5 about families are controversial in our post modern 21st century, but remain a basic part of Christian doctrine and practice, at least in Bible Believing Churches.

Before we go, I want to spend just  minute in Chapter 6. Paul is getting ready to close, but just before asking for prayer and offering final greetings, Paul reminds the Ephesians that we are at war. Our battle is not merely a political or physical one, but is spiritual. He reminds them that if we are at war, we need to be prepared. So he advises them, and by extension, us, to put on ‘the full armor of God

I love it as he paints a word picture of a Roman soldier and uses the soldier’s armor as a model for our spiritual war.

He begins with the belt of truth which gives us flexibility and mobility.

The breastplate of righteousness covers our hearts

The Gospel is on our feet as shoes laced up for movement. The Gospel is meant for going, not standing still.

The shield of faith, puts out the flaming arrows launched our way by the Enemy.

Salvation is described as our helmet. The truth of our hope in Christ isn’t just something we feel, it’s something we KNOW. It is part of our intellect and not merely emotional.

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God is the Scripture. Our great weapon is for hand to hand combat and is the only weapon mentioned. Our defense and our offense is not primarily built on our testimony, but on the Bible.

This analogy about armor is key to our understanding of how to be prepared to deal with opposition.

And that’s all I’ve got. As always, please do your own homework. Use the comments section on the show notes at samburtonpresents.com to share your thoughts and questions. Or…email me: samburtonpresents@gmail.com.

Next week we’ll take a look at Colossians and “The God Particle”. Until then, be blessed, and, be a blessing.