Genesis – The Beginning

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Image result for the big bang images public domainLast time we were together I mentioned to you that all the old episodes of the show were back up and available. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. But it kind of changes the direction of the show. All the programs related to books of the New Testament, are available to you, beginning with episode 16. That’s where we started looking at the book of Matthew. I’m going to link to that episode in the show notes, but I will also put a link to the Podcast Garden website, and an RSS feed link so you can get the episodes. For those of you with a Stitcher app on your phone, you can search ReDiscovering the Bible and get all the episodes that way. I still haven’t checked to see what our status is on iTunes, but since iTunes is going away, I’m not in a big hurry to look at it. I do know that if you have the podcast player app, that you can find us there. Please tell your friends about the show, and let me know if there are other places we should be. I’m still working on Spotify. Stay tuned.

Today, we’re going to start looking at the books of the Old Testament. Honestly, they are much harder to understand in the 21st century than the books of the New Testament. That’s why I always recommend reading the NT first. And twice if you can, before you read the Old Testament. And, read the book of Hebrews in the New Testament just before you start reading the old testament, as it’s like a decoder ring for helping you understand the Old Testament. I’m serious. If you read Hebrews first, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

The Old Testament, just like the New, is about Jesus. But is was written long before he was born. The oldest books were about 1400 years before, and the most recent was about 400 years before he was born.

From the 12th Chapter of Genesis on, the OT deals with the nation of Israel, the Jews. The storyline goes simply that God chose this guy Abraham to bring the savior of the world through his offspring. As you read, you’ll see why. I just don’t want to get into the weeds just yet. Since Abraham had multiple children, God chose to work through his son, Isaac. Isaac had 2 sons, Jacob and Esau. The bloodline was to go through Jacob. Jacob has 12 sons. They become the nation of Israel. The rest of the Old Testament is about their trials and tribulations as a people. Their great successes and their catastrophic failures. The Bible doesn’t suggest that the Jews are the only people on earth or that God doesn’t care about other nations. It’s simply that the coming Saviour is to come through the Jews.

God gives them some special and strict laws. Those laws were for the Jews only. There are some horrific things that happen in the Old Testament. I will try and explain them as we get to them. We are not under the old testament laws anymore. Jesus changed all that. The new testament tells us that He fulfilled all the requirements, and we are in a new covenant with God. It’s not one written in stone, but written on our hearts. Jesus has set us free from all that. And as we go, you’ll see why Christianity is such a great thing.

One other thing. The books of the Old Testament are not put together in your Bible in chronological order. They are grouped according to theme. Oddly, the first books, are the first ones. There are 5 of them. In fact, the Books are divided into 5 themes. And you only have to remember these numbers, 5, 12, 5,5, 12. There are the 5 books of law, followed by the 12 books of history, then we have the 5 books of poetry, followed by 5 the five, Major prophets, and we finish with the 12 minor prophets. The names major and minor are only because of the lengths of the books. Nothing to do with importance.

God is the ultimate author of these books. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, that all Scripture is God Breathed. But God had nothing to do with the order in which we have them in our Bible. It’s probably not in the best reading order. But we’ll go through them in the order you find them in the table of Contents.

The first book is Genesis. Genesis, means beginning. Kind of makes sense. And there are several beginnings described in the book. Moses is the author. It was written between 1447 and 1407 BC, during the 40 years the Israelis were wandering in the wilderness.

In the book, Moses tells us about several beginnings. He tells us about the beginning of the world. Then he tells us about the beginning of Sin, and God’s plan to redeem the world. And he describes the Beginning of the nation of Israel. As you read, keep in mind that the Bible never pretends that the Jews, are the only people on earth. It is focused on them, because they are chosen to bring the Saviour to the world.

You will learn a lot about how bad Sin is. How great God is. And how impossible it is to be religious. Say what? One of the things the old testament teaches us is that sin separates us from God and that religion, however good it is, is not effective. But I’ll come back to that. You’re still shocked by hearing a conservative preacher say such things about religion.

Let’s take a closer look at the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Those chapters sound so odd to our 21st century ears. In many ways, it reminds of of reading Gilgamesh, or Homer, or old stories from Greco or Roman legends. Some of that has to do with writing styles. And some is just the way the history is remembered and passed on.

Remember, Moses wasn’t there at the beginning. He was relaying the story as it was handed to him from generations before. In fact, most scholars think that Genesis 1 is like a poem, or something similar, which is how each generation taught the Creation of the world. There’s a huge difference is the style in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

I think Chapter 1 is Moses relaying the creation story as it was relayed to him. It is poetic and majestic. But that doesn’t mean it is not true. Was the earth created out of nothing, or did it evolve over billions of years. None of us was there. We can’t possibly speak from experience. I remember going to Carlsbad Caverns when I was a sophmore in college. I remember very well, the guide saying that if the stalagtites were growing at the same rate since they began, then it would take X billion years to reach their current size. But there’s no way of knowing whether or not things have changed. I also remember learning that there were stalagtites in Churchills tunnels build for WW II. Those had begun growing very fast and were only 50 years old when at the time.

Honestly, Darwinian Evolution has been shown to be absolutely rife with holes. If you dig a little you’ll see what I mean. None of us was there and we have to make assumptions. The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation says that God made the heavens and the earth. He is the creator. Jesus himself believed that. Therefore, so do I.

I’m not anti science. I can just look at the world around me and see consistency with what the Bible says. Was it created in 7 days? I’m not going to get into that discussion. I’m just not. I think that the Bible is consistent in how it uses the word day. I believe it was 7 literal days. I think that to deny that, creates problems with other parts of the Bible. I know the Bible says God made the world. He made it on purpose and for a purpose. He made humans different that the other animals. And the Bible is about people. The Gospel is about people.

Ok, I’m getting bogged down. My goal is not to defend creationism. Maybe I’ll do that another time. But I do want to defend the fact that the Bible teaches that God made the world. All of it. And that humans are different than the other animals. We alone are made in the image of God. We alone have created speech and written languages. We alone have invented the airplane and the smartphone. God made us the top of creation. But He also told us to be responsible to take care of it. We’ve done a terrible job of that.

When you look at the plastic in the ocean. Oh my gosh is it bad. By the way, it’s not coming from straws in California. In fact, less than 3 % of the water pollution comes from the western world. Less than 3%. It comes first from Asia. China, India, Thailand, etc. Secondly it comes from Africa. The USA and GB could stop using plastic 100% and it would have no impact on the oceans. I’m just saying that the outrage makes us feel better but it’s not going to help.

I get just as frustrated with commercial agriculture. If you look at the poison in our waterways you’d be stunned. We have millions of tons, millions upon millions of gallons, of chemicals being washed into our waterways from factories and factory farms. Is it any wonder that we have the mess we have. We’re killing off birds, butterflies, and bees by trying to have the best looking lawns in our HOA. We’re doing it. Big agra and Big Pharma are making them, but we buy them and spray our fields and our gardens and our yards. We are killing our planet. Even a little thing like a bag on the back or side of a lawnmower is helping to kill the planet. Yet, we’re blaming cow farts. Oh my gosh. Sin had made us stupid.

Ok, I’m getting sidetracked again. I do that. After Creation. Genesis describes the beginning of Sin. First in Adam and Eve’s disobedience followed by Cain killing Abel. Sin and its consequences are what the Bible is all about. Adam and Eve sinned. That cost them eternal life. It greatly increased their work load. It cost them their garden home. Their access to the tree of life.

Sin is universal. If we learn anything about life from the OT, it’s that. One of the interesting thing about the Bible is it does not hide the flaws of it’s heroes. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and later Moses, David, Solomon, and so on…are flawed people. Some of them seek God’s forgiveness. Some walk away from God altogether. But sin is everywhere.

If you learn anything from reading Genesis, learn that. Look for it as you read the book. Sin cost adam and Eve so much. Besides their eternal lives and their home. It cost them their first two sons. Abel because he died, and Cain because he was forced to leave his home and wander the earth.

By the 6th chapter, sin has become so all encompassing, the human race has made sinning a kind of worship. Even Angels join in the rebellion. That’s why the flood came.

Humans had become so corrupt that God was sorry he ever made us in the first place. But, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. It was grace, undeserved favor, that kept Noah and his family alive. I’m so grateful that God is gracious and forgiving.

In fact, all the way back in Genesis chapter 3. When Adam and Eve sinned, God told them that one day, a savior would come. In 3:15 we read the first promise that Jesus would come. And that verse sets the stage for the entire OT. It’s about God preparing the world for this saviour.

There are also some things in Chapter 6 that will help you to understand why God is so upset with the people of Canaan when the Israelis inherit the land upon their release from slavery in Egypt. I want you to take note of verses 2-4. About these Nephilim. These hybrid people that were physical giants and very evil. I know it sounds like something out of Greek mythology. But perhaps greek mythology is based on something that really happened. Nearly every people group has a legend of giants, and a flood, and a survivor of the flood.

Even the North American native people told of Giants. And their fear of 6 fingered men. We’ll talk about that again in a few weeks. I promise.

I’m convinced that the Bible has the story right and that other myths and legends are just that. I’m convinced of it because of Jesus. Jesus put his stamp of approval on the story of creation. On the story of Noah. And Jesus rose from the dead. That gets my attention.

I want to make clear that the Bible says more that that it rained for 40 days and nights. Gosh I live in Scotland. It does that here every year. The Bible says that the heavens opened up. The clouds emptied themselves in torrential rain. But it also says the fountains of the great deep broke up. That means the earth exploded. The clouds above emptied themselves and the earth blew up. The tectonic plates shifted and everything went crazy. The very earth reshaped itself. That’s why the fossil records are so chaotic. That explains so much about geology. The whole world went through a kind of recreation. Everything changed. The story of Noah’s flood is not a children’s fable. It’s a horror story that holywood can’t possibly recreate. It will keep you up at night if you really think it through.

What could possible cause such a catastrophy? What could make God that angry? Sin. Sin separates us from a relationship with God. He cannot allow it in his presence. It was so all encompassing, that he had to destroy the earth and nearly every person on the planet because of it.

But Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord. We got a brand new start on a rebuilt earth. And yet sin is so widespread, it has taken the human race captive within a single generation after the flood. By my reckoning, Shem, the son of Noah, was still alive at the tower of Babel. One who saw the destruction of the entire planet was still around yet the people were caught up in rebelling.

We’re going to see that over and over through the Old Testament. Sin, it’s consequences, and it’s control over the people will be a constant theme of the O.T. That’s why it’s such a hallelujah moment when Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

 

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(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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I Am NOT On A Diet!

Let me start by saying, I’m not on a diet anymore. I will stop calling Keto my diet. It’s the way I’m eating. Using the word ‘Diet’ is like a punishment. I’ve been bad, so now I’m on a diet. Boo Hoo. Poor Me. It is psychologically damaging.

Keto is the way I’m eating. And frankly, I like it. There are some of the foods I don’t ever want to go back to. Processed sugar is done. White flour. Outta here. Pasta and White Rice. Bye Bye. I don’t miss them.

There are some things I will work slowly back in. I’ve already done that with potatoes. I have three new potatoes about every 10 days. I leave the skin on, cut them into 4 pieces, soak them for an hour, and roast them. New potatoes have a fraction of the starch of full grown potatoes. That means fewer carbs. Soaking them for an hour means even more starch is removed. Leaving the skin on means I get all the nutrients. What a treat.

Eventually, I’ll bring back most other vegetables I’m currently not eating, like winter squash. I will also eventually bring back local honey. Especially with Greek Style Yogurt. I do miss that.

But I have a lot of weight to lose and I’m losing it. My clothes are too big. My wife got me three pairs of trousers that fit. My belt is too big now. I’m trying to decide whether to buy a new one, or punch some hole in this one. I am leaning that way, because the belt is fairly new and I hate spending money when there is a lot of leather that only needs a hole or two.

My shirts are mostly too big. Some of them shrank after we moved to Scotland and started using a tumble dryer. I hung my clothes out on the line for 5 years and they lasted great. Dryers are hard on clothes. Very hard. All that lint you have to clean out, that’s your clothes breaking down. I hate them, but we have no clothes line here in the apartment so dryer it is.

My sweaters are way too big. I’m wearing one today. I look like a street urchin. My jeans are too big, and my sweater is too big. But I’m still in them. It’s not like my pepper plants are offended when I go to my greenhouse to work.

Last week I was 5 lbs from my first goal of 50 lbs. I think I’ll be there in a week or so. Once I hit that target I will really be excited. I haven’t been below 250 lbs in about 18 years. I was last under 200 lbs in 1997. I have a while to go for that. Patience is a virtue.

I will go to the gym starting next week. I feel like I’m ready to try. It’s not particularly easy at my age, but I’ve got to give it a go.

Anyway, that’s my story for now. I’m eating great. I’m losing weight. I’m just not on a diet.

Diotrephes, Demetrius, And Da Truth

Pergamum
Pergamum

Episode 40

3 John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rocky and The Cornerstone

cornerstone1 Peter

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Wow, it’s great to be back after a week away. I had hoped maybe to record an episode while I was out, but that didn’t happen.  I missed you.  I think I mentioned in episode 35 that Brittan and I were going to a Church Planting retreat and I’ve got to tell you, it was better than advertised. We came out of that retreat fired up and ready to run. I’m so glad we went.

Thank you for your kindness and patience while we were away. But here we are back in the camper and ready to look at 1st Peter.

Let’s start by taking a look at the author. Even though, he only wrote the two letters that bear his name, Peter is one of the most well known Jesus followers in the world, and certainly one of the most beloved.

We learn from the Gospels that Peter was a fisherman by trade and that he was introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew who was a follower of John the Baptist. Peter almost instantly became one of Jesus’ closest confidants.  Over the three years they were together , Peter was the source of many displays of great faith, as well as one of the great betrayals.

Peter is the only one of the disciples who was willing to get out of the boat and walk on water. It was Peter who declared, You are the Christ, the son of the living God. It was this declaration that got his nickname, ‘Peter’, or, ‘Rocky’.  He is the follower who produced a sword on the night Jesus was betrayed and waded in, however awkwardly, to defend his Lord.

Yet, that very night, it was this same Peter who committed an act of treason as egregious as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot.

As Jesus is being tortured and tormented by the priests, Peter denies ever having even met the Nazarene. The last time, he swears on oath, he does not know Jesus. At that moment, a rooster crowed and Peter remembered Jesus’ prophecy that the Big Fisherman would deny him; a prediction repudiated and refuted by the apostle. Luke says that as the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked at Peter.

Do you get that?  Jesus was close enough to hear Peter’s adamant denials. Right when Jesus needed a friend the most, Peter, said, ‘Him? I have no idea who that is?  You must be mistaking me for someone else?’

Later when Jesus has been raised, the angel tells the women, “Go tell my disciples, and Peter, that I’m alive.”  Mark is the only writer to recall that little detail, but remember, Mark is writing Peter’s memories of Jesus.  No doubt those two words, and Peter, stung like a burning sword. Peter had openly told the world that he was not one of Jesus’ followers, and Jesus took him at his word.

John records that a few weeks later, Jesus took Peter aside and asked him 3 times (one for each denial), if Peter loved him.  Three times, the last one with tears, Peter declares his love. Jesus welcomes him home.

Perhaps, I’m overstating the obvious, but that story can be our story. Many of us have done all we could do to distance ourselves from Jesus. Some of us by our words, some by our actions; but each of us, no matter how loud or vile our betrayal, can be welcomed back into the fold.

I know, because I was one who spent decades professing

discipleship and proclaiming His glory, then at the first real test of my faith, I abandoned ship. I spent years living a life that screamed denial and making a mockery of all I once professed. I will tell you that story another day. I look back on those years with regret and great embarrassment, but in the end, He healed my broken soul and gave me back my seat at the table and my voice to proclaim His greatness and His grace.

It was not to faithful John, or to any of the other apostles, but to Peter Jesus gave the priviledge of delivering the first Gospel message, on the day of Pentecost that saw more than 3k people come to Christ. I’m sure many of those in the crowd were among those who had heard him deny ever knowing Jesus. Now they hear Peter say, ‘This Jesus, whom you crucified, has been made both Lord and Christ.’  Wow.

Peter is also the one chosen to be the first to openly preach to a gentile audience.

God will do the same for you, for me, for any of us. He still makes beauty from ashes.

Eventually, the maniacal Nero, has Peter executed for his refusal to renounce his Christ and Peter is crucified, albeit upside down.

This is the Author of the two open letters that bear his name.

I must confess, the first letter has some things that I find rather diffuclt get my head around. Later, down the road, we will take a few weeks and unpack some of the more challenging passages, but for now I just want to look at one place. That’s 1 Peter 2:6-8.

1Pe 2:6  For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

1Pe 2:7  So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

1Pe 2:8  and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

 

Let’s park here for just a minute, because Peter is addressing one of the issues we’ve all dealt with. Why is it that many people reject the Gospel?  The simple truth is, the message of the cross just doesn’t fit the world view of literally millions of people. Paul said it this way, ‘It’s a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles.’

It is very rare that anyone studies the Christian message thoroughly then decides against Christ. More often, it’s a knee jerk reaction based on preconceived notions.  For that crowd, regardless of the facts, or rebuttal to their objections, they’ve made up their minds ahead of time and those minds are now closed. Most have a ‘pet’ topic, be it, hypocrites in the church, creationism, exclusivity of the Gospel, supposed contradictions in the Bible, the existence of pain in the world, a rejection of the doctrine of Hell, or one of a handful of other popular memes, and they smugly regurgitate canned objections but never stick around for honest investigation.

Instead, they get loud and start name calling, which is nearly always the fallback tactic of those whose argument is weak.

It’s really sad, but that’s the real world. There are times when we need to patiently stick with it, because the skeptic is a loved one, but there are other times, we need to, as Jesus said, ‘wipe the dust from our feet and move on.’ The message of Christ is a precious cornerstone to the lives of many many others and we need to keep moving to find those individuals.

Look through the book of Acts and take note of the number of times, Paul gave up on people and moved on.  There is no value in drilling a stone in search of blood.  The harvest is plentiful. Jesus said so, but we’re not going to harvest sweet water from salt springs.

First Peter is packed with great insights into God’s promises to His children and establishing our identity in Christ.  Take time this week to read it. It is deep water, but clean and cool for parched hearts.

And, that’s all I got this week. I can’t wait to dig into 2 Peter next week.  In that short letter Peter is going to be swinging for the fence. Don’t forget to send your questions and thoughts via email or on the comments section of the show notes. Until then, Be blessed and be a blessing

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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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Herding Gluttons

GluttonEpisode 32

Titus

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I’m in the studio on Monday. Yay, I love being back on schedule.

I need a favor. Prayer Network for Scotland. If you believe in Prayer. If you believe in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, If you are Scottish, If you love Scotland, If you are a friend of this show I would really appreciate it, if you would join our network of prayer partners. There is no catch. There is no gimmick. We are simply seeking to gather a circle of Christian Scots and Albafiles together to pray for Scotland; her Believers, her Churches, her Leaders and her needs, both physical and spiritual. Here’s how to get started. 1. Go to Points North Scotland on facebook and like the page. 2. Send me a PM, an email or comment on the show notes page and let me know you want to Pray for Scotland. Please include your email address.  I will soon announce a private Facebook group and send you a personal invitation to join.  Thanks. Also, send me any questions. I’m delighted to answer.

Ok, commercial over, let’s move on to our topic.

Titus

Titus is a little known, but obviously important protoge of Paul, much like Timothy. When I say, little known, I truly mean it. He is only mentioned 13 times in the New Testament and 8 of those are in 2 Corinthians.

We know absolutely nothing about his background. He is never mentioned by Luke in Acts. His name is a gentile one, and we have that confirmed in Galatians 2:1, which is the first time he is ever mentioned.

In that chapter, Paul mentions that Titus traveled with Paul to the council in Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 15. I find it interesting that Luke, another Gentile companion of Paul, makes no mention of Titus in his account of the council. It’s not a big deal, but I do find it curious.

Since the first mention of Titus is in the letter to the Galatians, it indicates the Churches are familiar. Also, since the visit to Galatia is the beginning of the end of the first Journey and the beginning of the second journey, and that Titus travels to Jerusalem with Paul, I’m going to suggest, that like Timothy, he is from one of the Galatian cities.

It is very interesting to me that the trip to Jerusalem as all about stopping the Judaiser attempts to force Gentile converts to obey the law, which is the primary theme of Galatians where Titus is first called by name. Then as we read through the letter to Titus, we will discover the same topic is a major theme it Paul’s letter to his young disciple.

The letter is very similar to 1 Timothy, albeit a much shorter. After studying the book this last week, I now believe Titus was probably written about the same time as I Timothy and possibly right before. The primary reason I say that is it appears from I Timothy 1, Paul seems to be on his way FROM Macedonia and is planning to meet Timothy in Ephesus. In Titus 3, he asks Titus to come to him in Nicopolis, which is a town in Macedonia. In episode 30, I suggested Timothy was written first. Now I think Titus may be a few months earlier than I Timothy. Still, the similarity in their content is so similar that they were very likely written near the same time.

Crete is an island south and slightly east of Greece, and virtually due west of Cyprus. In today’s vernacular, the insult, “Cretan” is a derisive term with historical roots in the decadent, immoral past of Crete’s cultural. Here in Titus, Paul mentions that one of the poets of ancient Crete, called the inhabitants of the island, ‘Liars and lazy gluttons.’

If you do a little digging, you’ll discover that the poet mentioned was also a philosopher named, ‘Epimenedes’. He lived in 600 B.C.

As an aside, he is also the indirect source of the altar ‘to the unknown God’ in Athens that Paul describes in Acts 17.

By the first century A.D. Crete is home to a large Jewish population. Acts Chapter 2, says there were Jews from Crete in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and were among those who heard the Apostles speaking in tongues and were exposed to Peter’s Gospel Sermon that day. Seeing that it was not unusual for celebrants at Pentecost to have been residing in the city since Passover, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that many of them were witnesses to the Passion and Resurrection events of that earlier holiday.

It would be my educated guess that some of them were among the 3,000 baptized on Pentecost and that they became the nucleus of the first Christian congregation when they returned home. That would make the Church on Crete one of the oldest congregations in the Roman Empire.

The only time Luke records that Paul visited there was on his journey to Rome. According to Acts chapter 27, the ship was first on one part of the island, where ‘we spent a long time’ and then left for a safe harbor along the coast to winter in. It was while sailing up the coast of Crete they encountered the storm that blew them out to sea and after two weeks hit a sand bar and shipwrecked off the coast of Malta.

I guess this would be a good time to fill in some of the blanks related to Paul’s history and imprisonments. The book of Acts ends with Paul in Prison in Rome. Most conservative scholars call this his ‘first’ imprisonment. In piecing together the timeline of his letters, it appears that Paul was released briefly and made some short trips, including the visit to Macedonia mentioned here and in I Timothy. Some ancient legends say he even traveled as far as Britain in between imprisonments. I think that would be cool, but I just don’t believe there was enough time in between for such a long journey. Anyway, sometime after AD 64 he is arrested and was executed between 65 and 67. II Timothy was written during this second imprisonment.

If you have any thoughts or questions about that, by all means email them or use the comments section of the show notes.

Based on Chapter 1 here in Titus, Paul apparently went to Crete another time, or he left Titus there during his voyage to Rome and Titus was there a VERY long time. The former idea is more likely.

Again, from chapter 1, it looks like there were several congregations on the island. Titus is going to ‘set things in order’ and appoint elders to oversee the congregations. It looks like from that, and the doctrinal challenges, in all likelihood the churches were rather loose and disorganized. Titus was tasked with fixing that. I bet that was fun….not!

Paul goes on to give the same instruction to Titus about the characteristics of Elders that he gives to Timothy. He does not, however, include anything about deacons here.

Verse 10 in chapter 1 sets the major tone for the rest of the letter. He finishes the chapter with this subject then returns to it in verse 9 of chapter 3.

Chapter two is focused on relationships with other people; older and younger, just like Paul writes in I Timothy, but then that shouldn’t be too surprising if he wrote them about the same time.

Let’s go back to chapter 1, verse 10 and look at the problems the Cretan churches were facing. Paul says the Churches are dealing with all kinds of false doctrines and money hungry preachers. The thing these rogues have in common is they all have a Jewish heritage.

One of the banes of Paul’s ministry was that group called the Judaizers who followed the Apostle from town to town, stirring up trouble trying to coerce Believers to follow the law of Moses in addition to the Gospel. Paul devotes large portions of his letters to Galatia and Philippi to them; and even alludes to them in both Ephesians and Colossians.

It appears that because of the large Jewish Population in the island and the loosely organized nature of the Churches that these false teacher are pretty much running amok. Poor Titus has the unenviable task of shutting them down.

Having been in the position of confronting false teachers myself, it’s a scary, nerve wracking, and exhausting experience. And dealing with families who have been influenced and victimized by false teaching (and just like with Crete, it always goes back to money), there can be a lot of work and healing to do.

Here in chapter 1, Paul calls it rebellious, deceitful nonsense. He also says it’s shameful and that they must be silenced.

Over in Chapter 3 he calls it, Stupid, worthless and useless.

Pay very close attention to verse 10 in chapter 3

Tit 3:10 Give at least two warnings to those who cause divisions, and then have nothing more to do with them

here in the 21st century, in our culture of ‘tolerance’, we’re not supposed to ‘judge’. Paul has no such compunction. If the teaching is false, he says, shut it down. Peter and John are going to make similar statements in their letters. Stay tuned; no spoilers today.

Doctrine is important. Eternity is at stake. There are many things that are open for discussion, but some things like the Deity of Christ, His death and resurrection, salvation by Grace through faith rather than by obedience to the Law of Moses are not among the debatable. And those who try and spread false doctrine are to be silenced, not tolerated.

In our day, it’s a risky position to take, but we absolutely must. There is a lot of goofy stuff being taught out there and not all of it is harmless. This is why it is mission critical to have strong, capable, knowledgeable, faithful leaders, who can defend the truth and train the next generation so that God’s Church is full of GRACE and TRUTH. We need both if we’re going to be a light in dark places as we await Jesus return.

And that’s all I got. Go back and read Titus as soon as you can. This tiny letter was not merely written to a young preacher 2k years ago. It’s written to you…and me.

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