Jesus is still Number 1

Episode 49

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Image result for number 1 imagesFirst, I want to apologize to everyone for last week’s audio problems. I never did figure out what happened, and I’m sorry to everyone who couldn’t get the podcast to play. In the end, I just deleted the file and replaced it. Sometimes, the best fix is just to start over. No fuss, no muss.

This week and next, Brittan and I are out of town, so we’ll have abbreviated shows.  Please pray for us as we’ll be presenting our coming Scotland work to a congregation in Florida.

If you didn’t get to hear last week’s show, we’re preparing for our survey of the Old Testament Books, by having a quick review of the New Testament Book of Hebrews. It is my strong opinion that Hebrews holds the key to understanding the Old Testament. I promise, as I always do, that a good understanding of the New Testament unlocks the Old Testament much better that the other way around.

This book called Hebrews likely began life as a sermon by Paul, that was later written down by Luke and distributed to the Churches. Remember, the early Church didn’t have mp3, or even cassette tapes.  We are very fortunate to be able to turn to podcasts or YouTube for great sermons these days.

Please keep in mind as we see all the ways Christianity is superior to Judaism, is because Jesus FULFILLED the Old Testament. The Church, including this podcaster, has often been guilty of teaching either that Christianity is a continuation of the Old, or, that the New Covenant is a Replacement of the Old One.

The replacement theory is partly true, but it’s more than that. The New One is certainly the one in effect these days, but that’s because Jesus fix, or fulfilled, the terms of the Old Contract, so it became obsolete. The New One is superior in every way. The book of Hebrews explains that better than all the books and doctoral discourses in the world put together.

Today we’re going to look briefly at the superiority of Jesus. Next week we’ll look at our superior contract.

Paul begins his message by claiming that Jesus is superior to Angels or Prophets. In Chapter one we read, that the old covenant was explained and introduced by a variety of methods and prophets, but the New One came via His Son.  As it were, directly from the horse’s mouth. And the rest of the Chapter declares the superiority of Jesus even to mighty Angels.  In fact, Paul declares that even the ancient and revered songs of David declared the superiority of Jesus.

Look closely at verses 1 and 2.  He begins with, In the Past, as it, it used to be THIS way.  Verse 2 begins with BUT. The implication is ‘Now things have changed’ and the rest of the chapter explains the deity and superiority of Christ.

He continues that theme in Chapter 2.  After declaring the Deity of Christ in Chapter 1, verse 14 of Chapter 2, teaches Christ’s humanity. Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature.

Chapter 3 teaches Jesus is superior to Moses. That’s a really big deal. Check this out. Heb 3:5  Moses was faithful in God’s house as a servant, and he spoke of the things that God would say in the future.

Heb 3:6  But Christ is faithful as the Son in charge of God’s house. We

Beginning in verse 14 of chapter 4, Paul spends several chapters showing that Jesus priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood.

Please consider these two passages as illustrative of  the material in chapters 5,6,7

Heb 7:23  There is another difference: there were many of those other priests, because they died and could not continue their work.

Heb 7:24  But Jesus lives on forever, and his work as priest does not pass on to someone else.

And

Heb 7:27  He is not like other high priests; he does not need to offer sacrifices every day for his own sins first and then for the sins of the people. He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself.

Heb 7:28  The Law of Moses appoints men who are imperfect to be high priests; but God’s promise made with the vow, which came later than the Law, appoints the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

The short version is, The point of the Old Covenant was to uncover the sinfulness of sin and that God set places holders, the law, prophets and even Moses, until He sent His Son to fulfil all the holes and requirements of the law. Everything before Christ was temporary, but because of His Resurrection, we have a perfect priest and an eternal messenger.  More than a servant, a Son. One who is perfect and who never dies.

Moses, Aaron, the law and the Priesthood, were sent to show the way. Jesus, the Christ IS the way.

Next week, we’re going to see how we have a superior Covenant. And why that’s a good thing. That episode will impact everything you understand about interpreting the Old Testament, and the way you understand the End Times.  I can’t wait. Until then, Be Blessed. And be a Blessing.

 

Happy New Year – Podcast: Season 2:Episode 1

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Episode 48

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Season 2, Episode 1:

You’re listening to the Rediscovering the Bible online Radio Show, Season 2, Episode 1.

Happy New Year everybody. Welcome back to all you regular listeners and a special welcome for you new comers. My name is Sam, I’m your host, Wow am I glad you’re here. Today, it’s a cloudy, rainy, January 2 and I’m coming to you, as you’ve come to expect, from the camper here at the farm.

Gosh, it’s been a long time since we’ve been together, hasn’t it?  A lot has happened in my life, and I’m sure in your world, too. The biggest news of all, I guess, is that Brittan and I are moving to Scotland permanently later this year. I’ll get you all the scoop as time goes by, but I’m expecting this show will continue, just from another location.

This season, we’re going to spend the bulk of our time in the Old Testament.  We finished the New Testament last season, and I really want to get through a survey of the Old Testament this year. We’re going to change the format, just a little, and look at some things chronologically and others thematically. Don’t worry, it will all make sense later.

First, I want to recommend that our new listeners go back and listen to some or our earlier episodes, particularly those on Luke and Acts. They will really help, I promise.

Now, let’s talk about translations and reading plans. It’s a brand new year, and there are a whole lot of people who’ve made new year resolutions to read the Bible through. If you’re one of those people, Yay, you. Those of you who’ve been listening for a while, or have been through one of my classes or workshops, know that I believe the order in which we read the Bible is very important to understanding it. First, I encouraged you to begin with the New Testament. The Bible will make way more sense that way. Start with the Gospel of Luke, then read the book of Acts. Luke will clearly tell you who Jesus is, and Acts will give you instructions on how to begin following Him. If you’d like to see my entire reading plan, just go to samburtonpresents.com and let me know by leaving your information on the ‘contact’ page.  You can also simply request a copy via the comments section of the show notes which are also at samburtonpresents.com.

One of the questions that comes in regularly is related to which translation to use. The shore answer is, the one you’re comfortable with. This season, I’m going to be using the New Living Translation. I think its simple language is a great way to understand the Old Testament. It’s a fine translation especially if you’re new to Bible reading or if English is not your first language.  On the whole, it’s easier for me to disrecommend  the translations I discourage, than to share the ones I endorse.  I strongly disrecommend the New World Translation. It has been seriously tampered with. Unless you’ve been given one by a Jehovah’s Witness, you probably haven’t ever seen it. It isn’t sold at Christian Bookstores. Yeah, it’s that bad. I would also discourage the Revised Standard Version as it was translated by liberals and skeptics and downplays many important texts.

For those who only have King James, that’s fine. I’m not going to bash it. It’s not my favorite, but it’s still the most used translation in the English language. I it starts to get difficult for you, but you like the way if flows, try the New King James.

Here’s a big money saving tip for you. You can try loads of translations for free by using the internet. For my laptop, I downloaded e-sword.net and several free translations and other Bible Study materials.  I did the same thing with for my smartphone with the free app, YouVersion.   In full disclosure, I haven’t found a free downloadable New Living Translation, but you can read it for free online at BibleGateway.com and via YouVersion for your phone or tablet. You’ll just have to make sure you have internet access.  If you have any questions, ping me and I’ll help any way I can.

Ok, I think that takes care of all the housekeeping for now. The Old Testament can be fun. I know…some of you are giving me that cross eyed skeptical look. I can see you right through the microphone.  But I’m serious. There are two keys to the old Testament that are really important. First is, Read the New Testament First.  How many times have you heard me say that? The second is, right before you begin a study in the Old Testament, go through the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

I am totally convinced that Hebrews unlocks the Old Testament and how it relates to the Gospel and The New Testament better than any other tool. So…we’re going to spend a few weeks in Hebrews setting the table for our Old Testament Survey.

Let’s spend just our remaining time today, reviewing the background of the Book of Hebrews, because some people find it controversial. I think those people have way too much time on their hands, but let’s look anyway.

Many conservative scholars consider Hebrews one of the most important theological studies of any of the NT books except possibly Romans. Martin Luther, the Reformer, not MLK the civil rights advocate, on the other hand was not a big fan of Hebrews. I would say, he’s the father of all the Hebrews critics. In the first place, he thought there was too much emphasis on works, though not as much as the book of James.

The other big hurdle for some people to clear is the fact that the author is anonymous. While it has a formal ending, it has no salutation at the beginning. Now, I believe there’s a good reason for that, and we’ll get to it in just a minute.

Frankly, several of the New Testament books, Matthew, Mark, and, John as well as Hebrews are anonymous and all have controversy surrounding them as a result. Church tradition is pretty clear and consistent on the subject, but modern and modernist scholars tend to ignore tradition and history and look for novel hypotheses.  After all, there’s not much notoriety, grant money or name recognition is writing, ‘The Church Fathers were clear on…’  Fame comes from stirring the pot.

Over the years, several alternative authors have been named as candidates, namely, Peter because the closing is similar to his closings in his letters, Barnabas, James, Luke, because the quality of the Greek was good and the style indicated an educated individual, and Apollos.

I must admit that when I was in Seminary, I liked the notion of Apollos, but just because I thought he was underappreciated.  I played with the idea of James for a while, but mostly it was just because I was having fun.

In the end, though, I have come back to the oldest traditions that Paul is the source of the Book. Hebrews indicates a thorough knowledge of the Law and Old Testament. While there are other candidates, James, whose entire ministry was spent in Judea would be one. Barnabas, a Levite, would be another, but Paul, the formally trained Pharisee, would have had the most complete training in the law of any of the early Christian leaders and Biblical writers.

I have come to the conclusion, as have many others, that The book of Hebrews began life as a sermon preached by Paul, and eventually written down by Luke, very possibly after Paul’s death.  This would explain the lack of a greeting at the beginning, the superior quality of the Greek, the similarities to Luke’s other writing, and the very ancient tradition that Paul was the author.  In fact, the matter is pretty much settled in my mind.

Do your own homework. In the end, as I often say, background studies are fun as an academic exercise, but in the long run, don’t help much in understanding the contents.

Hopefully, you’ll do a reading of Hebrews over the next few weeks while we examine it. What you will see, if you do, and the direction I’m going to drive the show, is that Hebrews is an overt attempt to show that everything about the Gospel, including the Giver, is a fulfillment of the old covenant, is superior to it, and has replaced the Old Testament as the covenant in place. These conclusions have a profound impact on our understanding of the end times, of role of Israel and the Church in Prophesy, our understanding of everything from the sacrificial system to the ten commandments.

In the next couple weeks, at least for those of you who are familiar with current trends in Current teaching, I’m going to challenge much of what you probably take for granted. It’s not new teaching, it was standard operational procedure for the first 1800 years of the Church. It just sounds new.  And, it’s going to dramatically, affect the way we look at some of the more difficult and controversial parts of the Old Testament.  We’re going to rock the boat. I love that. It’s going to be FUN.

Please join the investigation.  Next week we’ll look at a Superior Savior. Then, A superior Covenant. After that, A Superior Salvation.  Then we’ll be ready to dig into the Old Testament itself.

And that’s all I’ve got. It’s so good to be back with you. As always, please share your thoughts and/or questions either via the comments section of the show notes on samburtonpresents.com or via email.

Talk to you soon. Have a happy New Year. Be blessed, and, be a blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Knowing Beyond Doubt – Just Ask John

Episode 38

1 John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, what a verse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Christ is my reward And all of my devotion.

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

Through every trial My soul will sing

No turning back, I’ve been set free,

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

Everything I need is in you, Everything I need.

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

And this hope will never fail, Heaven is our home

Through every storm  My sould will sing

Jesus is here, to God be the glory.

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

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

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

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

Appendix: All the references to love in 1 John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Just Do It!

 

Swoosh

Episode 35

James

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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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Saint Paul The Comedian?

PhilemonEpisode 33

Philemon

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Welcome back, or if you’re tuning for the first time, a very special welcome to you. I’m so glad each of you are here. You have so many options for Bible study and yet so many of you keep tuning in week after week. Wow and wow.

I had a great idea turned in by a regular listener, who also happens to be my wife, and I thought it was a fantastic suggestion, so beginning today, I’m going to suggest a verse from each book to memorize.   I’m a big believer in Scripture memorization and can’t wait to get this started.

I also had two listeners suggest that I start making the show longer.  First, thank you. I am honored that some of you are wanting more. Secondly, I doubt that I’m going to increase much, at least in the short term.  Once we get into slightly deeper water after we finish our survey and start looking a little more closely at each book, things might get a little longer, but for now, thanks for wanting more. I hope that’s still true a year from now.

For today, we’re turning our attention to the book of Philemon. It is the shortest of all of Paul’s letters and is in many ways the most unusual.  It looks like Philemon was written at about the same time he wrote the Book of Colossians, which is about A.D.60. While Philemon is not mentioned directly in Colossians, the subject of the Book, Onesimus, is, as are Philemon’s wife Aphia, and one Archippus, who is likely their son.

From Paul’s early encouragement in the letter, it sounds like Philemon may be a leader, and a wealthy one at that, in the Colossian Church. Paul writes as if they are good friends.

There is little doubt that Philemon is the most personal of all his letters. He writes in an extremely intimate manner and the letter is loaded with puns and tongue in cheek humor. Sadly, many of the jokes and puns are lost in translation, but while he is dealing with an extremely serious matter, he does so as friend to friend.

The first 7 verses are devoted to encouraging Philemon and his family. He tosses many compliments to Philemon, and our Memorization section comes from this section, namely, verse 6:

Phm 1:6  My prayer is that our fellowship with you as believers will bring about a deeper understanding of every blessing which we have in our life in union with Christ.

It keeping with the somewhat light hearted, but serious nature of the letter, Paul uses all this back patting as a set up for the main subject which is Paul’s request that Philemon welcome back his runaway slave, Onesimus.

Onesimus, for reasons we don’t know, ran away from Philemon and ended up in Rome. At some point, he looked up Paul in prison and ended up becoming a Christ Follower. Now Paul wants Onesimus to go home and resume his life there.

The sticking point is, as a runaway slave, it is Philemon’s legal right to have him beaten severely or even killed.  But Paul spends the bulk of the letter, which is only one chapter, coaxing and guilt tripping Philemon into taking Onesimus back with no strings attached.

First, Paul says that Onesimus is his true spiritual son, suggesting that hurting the slave would be hurting the apostle. Then he uses a play on words to make his point. Onesimus means useful. Paul says, I know he was once useless, but know he is Onesimus, useful.

He askes Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as more than a returned slave, but as a brother in Christ.  He then says that if Onesimus owes any expenses for trouble that he’s caused, Paul himself will pay it out of his own pocket.  At this point he take the pen out of the hand of his scribe and writes, ‘see, I’m writing this in my own hand, if Onesimus owes you anything, I will pay it back myelf,’

Frankly, that’s really cute. Paul is using humor again to make a serious point. I can almost see him chuckling as he grabs the pen and writes his thoughts. Then he goes on to say, with tongue firmly in cheek, ‘While I will gladly pay you, I won’t mention that you owe me your very self.

And if that’s all not enough guilt, Paul adds a final goad by saying, oh, fix up a room for me, I expect to be released soon and can’t wait to visit you and the family.

Philemon is pretty much in a corner.

In this letter, Paul is changing the game in  how slavery is played. In several places the New Testament mentions how slaves and slave owners should interact. Now, Paul is upping the ante by asking Philemon directly to change his behavior toward his slaves.

Many skeptics point out quite accurately, that the New Testament does not overtly condemn slavery, and that causes much head scratching among 21st century people.

But the New Testament does not get involved in any Political Matters.  The Gospel isn’t about changing policies, but about changing hearts, and policies will change as a result.  Paul says we are to obey the government and pray for all those over us. He tells slaves to respect their owners and owners to respect their slaves, but that if a slave gets a chance to gain his freedom, he should take it. He also says that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave nor free, nor male or female.  He totally changes the rules.

Here’s the kicker, as hearts changed, practice changed and Christians became the first to free their slaves.  It’s just hard to view all men as equal and support slavery.  Heart change is always superior to coercion, because it’s lasting.

1801, in Kentucky, was the peak of what is historically known as the ‘2nd Great Awakening’.  It was a huge revival across North America. On of the locations of the huge revivals was at the Cane Ridge Church in Bourbon County.  One of my heroes, Barton W. Stone, was a leader in that revival and Pastor of the Cane Ridge congregation.  The Cane Ridge Church had many slave owners and slaves as part of the members. The building had a balcony, or loft, which was where the slaves sat, while the owners sat on the floor level. Such was the revival among the Church that by the end of 1801, the members tore out the slave balcony and the meetings were integrated. By 1804, every member of the Church had freed their slaves. No revolution, no riots, no bloodshed, they merely followed where the Gospel led.

Secular America had to fight a war to end slavery. The Holy Spirit melted it away.

When it comes to matters of Social Change, I am firmly convinced that the Church should lead the way.  Think about it.

Well, that’s all I got. Read Philemon and determine what ways the Holy Spirit is asking you to trade stinkin’ thinkin’ for seeing the world, and her people in a brand new way.  When I was a boy, I always wanted a pair of those ‘X-ray’ glasses they sold on the backs of comic books. These days, I want to see with Jesus’ eyes.

I can’t wait till next week when we get started on the ‘Open Letters’, or General letters. We begin with Hebrews, which I believe is the key for every Christian to understand the Old Testament. Man, I’m excited. Until then though, have a great week. Be blessed, and, be a blessing.

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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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