Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Pondering John 2:1-11

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

Here are a few of my thoughts about this passage. I’d love to hear your thoughts – for those of you who are pondering along with me.

Jesus cares about people – Weddings were a BIG deal back in the day. Still are in fact. But even more so back then. In the small town of Cana this would have been THE social event of the year. People had been invited from all over the region. (Jesus and Mary were from Nazareth. His disciples were from Capernaum) Weddings lasted more than a few hours, as they do in our culture. The celebrations could go on for a week. And the bridegroom was responsible for the party, not the bride. It was his responsibility to make sure there was plenty of everything for all the guests to enjoy. It would be major embarrassment for the bridegroom if they ran out of wine to drink. But that is what happened here. Mary brings this to the attention of Jesus. And even though it is not His job to keep the wine stocked He does something about it anyway. Because He cared about the bridegroom and did not want him to look bad to his guests. In fact Jesus made him look really good.

Jesus took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself to “do something nice for someone” when he didn’t have to. And not only did it help the someone but it got people talking about Jesus. Sometimes when we do simple acts of kindness it will also get people talking about Jesus.

Jesus brings about radical transformation – There was a LOT of water at the wedding but no wine. The water was for ceremonial washings – which happened often. Why did Jesus tell the servants to “FILL the jars with water to the brim”? Because it was not unheard of for people to dilute the wine that they did have with water. So you ended up with watered down wine and served that as the party progressed. People did not notice so much because they were feeling the effects of the good wine served earlier. Jesus did not create a watered down version of wine. He created the real deal. He changed water to wine. He didn’t add wine to the water.

Jesus changes people. He takes a life and brings about LIFE. He is not an add on.  And yet many people in our churches are confused about this. They believe that you can keep your old life and add Jesus to it. A little bit of Jesus makes you spiritually correct. NOT! Jesus doesn’t work that way. He wants your whole life. Hence, the hymn says “I surrender ALL,” not “I surrender some.” He doesn’t just make a person better, He makes them different. If your life is not different, if there has not been a change – then quite possibly you have not been changed.

Father, would you open my eyes today to the opportunities I will have to demonstrate kindness in Your name. And would You continue your work of transforming me more and more into the likeness of Your Son.

Next Week’s Passage: John 2:12-25

Quotes Worth Pondering: C.S. Lewis

QuotesWorthPondering

Here are two quotes worth pondering from C.S. Lewis…

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

Pondering John 1:35-51

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

I’ve always been intrigued by the conversation that Jesus had with Nathanael. In just a few minutes Jesus turned a skeptic into an ardent follower. How did He do this? Here are a few thoughts…

He chose words that provoked curiosity and questions (vs 47-48) – Jesus didn’t seem to be big on small talk. He generally cut to the chase pretty quick. We can presume that Jesus knew that Nathanael was not only skeptical but somewhat belligerent towards him. And who could blame him. Nathanael was passionate about what he believed. He had probably experienced a lot of disappointment as other Messiah wannabes came and went. And now, seemingly, the wool had been pulled over the eyes of his friend Philip. Interestingly, Jesus did nothing to try to build a case for Himself. He made no claims on His own behalf. Rather, He made a statement that changed Nathanael’s stream of thinking. He said something about Nathanael instead of something about Himself. And what He said engaged Nathanael and opened up, rather than shutting down,  conversation.

When we have gospel conversations with people are they “seasoned with salt”? Do people want to dialogue with us about faith issues because we demonstrate genuine interest in them and what they believe – as opposed to just trying to make a point. We need to work hard at choosing words that provoke curiosity and deeper conversation.

He was a student of people (vs 48-49) – Unbeknownst to Nathanael Jesus had been studying him. There are some interesting verses in the Older Testament, that I suspect both Jesus and Nathanael were familiar with:

“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.  See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 3:8-10)

Sitting under the fig tree is tied very closely in this passage to a Messianic prophecy (see also Micah 4:4).  Jesus had his eye own Nathanael before Nathanael was ever introduced to Jesus. He knew the longings of Nathanael’s heart – his longing for the true Messiah to come and rescue, to come and redeem, to come and restore His people to freedom. Jesus’ simple observation cut straight to the core of Nathanael’s being, pierced his heart, and transformed his life. From this point on he would never be the same again.

If we were to study people closely we would find that everyone has this same longing. An ache in their heart for rescue, redemption, and restoration. Most people medicate this ache in the wrong ways – like taking cold medicine when the problem is a broken bone. Our mission, as bearers of the gospel, is to point people to Jesus as the only true and lasting remedy for the sickness of their soul.

He offered hope (vs 50-51) – In verse 51 Jesus gives a clear allusion to Genesis 28:12 and the story of Jacob’s dream. Again, this is a story Nathanael would know by heart. In the story, God makes this promise to Jacob (aka Israel): “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I have promised.” The promise of this hope to Jacob would not have been missed by Nathanael. As a “true Israelite” and as one who was holding on to this promise from God, Nathanael saw in Jesus the fulfillment of hope.

People need hope! When people have hope it is amazing what can be accomplished. It is when people are hopeless that they live lives of desperation – and the result is often abusive and criminal lifestyles. We are to be hopegivers because we have been given a great and glorious hope in Jesus.

Next Week’s Passage: John 2:1-11

Quotes Worth Pondering: A.W. Tozer

QuotesWorthPondering

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”

(A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God)

New City Catechism – Questions 1-3

New-City-Catechism (1)

Each Monday I will post a link to the New City Catechism question of the week. This is a great resource that can be used in several ways: 1) Parents can use this to help disciple their children. By talking about this one question/answer each week you will be laying a solid theological foundation for your kids spiritual lives. 2) You can also use this on your own to help strengthen the foundation that has already begun in your life. It is worth your while to check it out. (Under the settings icon – it looks like a wheel (see pic below)- you will find both an adult mode and a child mode. So you can customize the way that the catechism is presented.)

You can read a short introduction about “why catechisms” by clicking HERE – it will give you some thoughts about why this is such a helpful tool for you and/or your family.

Since I did not start this the first week of the year I am using this post to play a little catch up. I have included the links for the first 3 questions of the catechism. Feel free to look at all 3 or just start with #3 this week and keep going.

Question 1: What is our only hope in life and death?

Question 2: What is God?

Question 3: How many persons are there in God?

newcitypic600x414

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the site. It is not at all complicated and will give you several ways to help teach the doctrinal truth each week: Q and A, a short video (V), a short commentary(C),  and a prayer(P).

It’s good stuff. Holler if you have any questions about how it can help you and your family.

Pondering John 1:19-34

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

If John the Baptist ever applied for a job I have no doubt that he would list Jesus as one of his references.  This is what Jesus had to say about John: “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11). Now keep in mind that Jesus and John were cousins. And their moms were close. Presumably they spent a lot of time together as kids. Just imagine what that would have been like for John – having a cousin/playmate who was literally the “perfect kid.”

Even with all the time that they spent together growing up John was clueless about who Jesus was. It was not until God revealed to John at Jesus’ baptism His true identity that John began to put two and two together. Imagine John’s surprise. Like most Jews, John was on the lookout for the Messiah. In fact, John knew that God had called him to be a “voice” to prepare people for the coming of the Christ. He just didn’t know who, when, or where.

And then one day while John is baptizing, his cuz shows up to be baptized as well, and something happens that thoroughly convinces John that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. And from that point his message changed from “the Messiah is coming, get ready” to “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Here are two takeaways for me from this passage:

1) Am I thoroughly convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? And if I answer yes to that question, does my life and lifestyle reflect that conviction? It is a question that deserves serious, intentional reflection. It is one thing to say that I believe that Jesus is the Christ. It is another thing entirely to live out that belief with authenticity, courage, humility, and perseverance. This is what John the Baptist did.

2) To what degree am I a voice preparing the way for people to receive and believe that Jesus is the One that they have been longing for? Most of us will not be a voice like John the Baptist. But how are we giving voice to our convictions and to our excitement that Jesus is the satisfier of our souls?

“Father, would you empower me, by your Spirit who dwells within me, to boldly live out my convictions and to give a clear courageous voice to what I believe.”

Next Week’s Passage: John 1:35-51

Pondering John 1:1-18

gospel-of-john

You can click HERE to read the passage.

There is much that is ponderable in this passage and worth commenting on. My attention was grabbed by two words that were repeated together in two verses:

Verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Verse 17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Grace and truth. Jesus embodied both. He was grace incarnate. He was truth incarnate.

Grace – God had always been a God of grace, but His grace had become overshadowed because of the Jews emphasis on the Law. Again and again God had treated the Jewish people in ways that they did not deserve because of their disobedience and hard-heartedness. Over and over again He showed them grace. But the law had become their taskmaster and they did not readily recognize how full of grace God was. Enter Jesus! In Jesus, through the life He lived, His death on the cross, and the power displayed at His resurrection, God’s grace was manifest in an abundantly clear and amazing way.

Truth – Truth is the compliment to grace. God was gracious but He also demanded obedience to His Word. He was forgiving but He but He was not a cosmic pushover. Jesus incarnated truth. We will see in this gospel how Jesus never backed down from speaking truth. In fact, he angered people because He told the truth – to the point that people wanted to kill him. It was because Jesus told the truth and people did not like what they heard that He was crucified.

Typically, people are either grace people or truth people. Jesus was both. He “came from the Father full of grace and truth.”

Next Week’s Passage: John 1:19-34

(Please “Leave a Reply”  below with your own observations and thoughts on this passage)

Sermon Notes on Introduction to Gospel of John

(Here are my notes from the message yesterday. Note that these are notes – not a manuscript of the message. They do not say exactly what I said. For those of you are planning to ponder the Gospel of John with me this year these may help you as you begin reading the book. If you missed yesterday and need a copy of the handout that was available you can click here. (Pondering Schedule). It will give you the passage breakdown for the year as well as some pondering tips.)

Intro: I love to read. Some great books I’ve read. I’m going to challenge you this morning to read a great book.

Who wrote the Gospel of John? What do we know about him?

  • fisherman

  • brother named James

  • Nicknamed sons of Thunder (Boanerges) Mark 3:17 Why? Luke 9:49-56,

  • inner circle (Peter, James and John)

  • son of Zebedee and Salome (Mt 27:56 and Mk 15:40) – Salome request Mt 20:20-23

  • beloved disciple – Peter asked John to ask Jesus about who the betrayer was (Jn 13:24)

  • the race to the tomb (Jn 20:3)

  • Also wrote 1,2,3 John and Book of Revelation

Why was this gospel written and how is it distinct from the other gospels?

John 20:30-31

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Different from synoptic gospels: Not as event oriented, more meaning of events. Example Feeding of 5000 – in John is followed by sermon on “The Bread of Life” – John 6

Contains no parables. Only 7 miracles – 5 of which not recorded elsewhere.

Written probably in the 90’s. John was living in Ephesus – where he located after destruction of the temple in AD 70. (All other gospels and letters of Paul already circulating)

Strongly theological – deals particularly with the nature of Jesus person and the meaning of faith in Him. The I AMs.

Why so theological? – Heresies – one of the main ones Gnosticism. One of the premises of Gnosticism is that matter is inherently evil and spirit is good. For Jesus therefore to be human meant that in no way could He be God. So Gnosticism denies the Incarnation of God as the Son. In so doing, it denies the efficay of the atonement since if Jesus is not God, He could not atone for all of mankind and we would still be lost in our sins.

John was writing in part to make sure that believers did not fall prey to the false teachings of the day.

What if John were writing today – what false teachings would he be dealing with?

  • Easy believism (antinomianism) – “against the law”. The apostle Paul dealt with the issue of antinomianism in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The most frequent attack on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is that it encourages sin. People may wonder, “If I am saved by grace and all my sins are forgiven, why not sin all I want?” That thinking is not the result of true conversion because true conversion yields a greater desire to obey, not a lesser one. God’s desire—and our desire when we are regenerated by His Spirit—is that we strive not to sin.

  • Moralistc Therapeutic Deism

  1. – A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.

  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

It views God as “something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he’s always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.

  • Theistic evolution holds that religious teachings about God are compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution, which accepts that evolution occurred as biologists describe it, but under the direction of God.

It perverts and denigrates the Word of God.

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Why refer to Jesus as The Word?

For hundreds of years in the Older Testament God had been telling His people about the Messiah. But they didn’t get it. So he decided to say the same thing… in a different way.

Don Hewitt, creator of “60 Minutes,” on his special talent as a journalist: My philosophy is simple. It’s what little kids say to their parents: “Tell me a story.” Even the people who wrote the Bible knew that when you deal with issues, you tell stories. The issue was evil; the story was Noah. I’ve had producers say, “We’ve got to do something on acid rain.” I say, “Hold it. Acid rain is not a story. Acid rain is a topic. We don’t do topics. Find me someone who has to deal with the problem of acid rain. Now you have a story.”

The issue was “Messiah”. The story was Jesus.

What do these verses teach us about Jesus?

John is writing down what the early church already believed – he is not introducing new doctrine. The two theological concepts mentioned here are 1) the incarnation and 2) the trinity. I’m not going to try to prove to you why the incarnation and the trinity are true – but I do want to point out why it is important that we exult in these two great doctrines of our faith.

A few quotes:

“The incarnation is “a kind of vast joke whereby the Creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.”

Frederick Buechner

“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” – J.I. Packer

A father put his four-year-old son to bed. Having finished prayers, stories, and all the little bedtime things, he kissed his son and turned the light off. His son started sobbing, “Don’t leave me. I’m scared and don’t want to stay here alone.” The father tried to encourage the little boy by reminding him of God’s presence and reminding him that they had had devotions. The little boy said, “I want somebody with skin on.” This is the great message of the Incarnation! Jesus came in flesh!

Many are willing to believe that Jesus was a real live living person – but not that God took on the form of a man. For others, it is ridiculous to even suggest that the man Jesus  was God.

“…the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

On the trinity – “If Jesus Christ is not God, he could not accomplish your salvation (Hebrews 2:14–15). And his glory would not be sufficient to satisfy your everlasting longing for new discoveries of beauty. If you throw away the deity of Jesus Christ, you throw away your soul and with it all your joy in the age to come.” (Piper)

What applications can we take away from this passage?

  • Regarding John: Acts 4:13 – unschooled, ordinary. Like John we are just ordinary folk. What made him extraordinary was that he really knew Jesus – and it changed him. The same could be true for us.

  • Regarding the book – great book to read, study, PONDER!

It will help you to know God better.

Draw you closer to Jesus.

Help you understand the Holy Spirit.

Help you know how to share the gospel.

Help you to be able to defend your faith.

Help you find fulness of life and experience joy.

Help you learn to pray.

Whet your appetite for heaven….

but wait, there’s more:

It will teach you to think biblically

It will help you to think deeply about the Word of God

It will fuel you with compassion, and boldness.

It will help you to believe what you say that you believe

It will help you make wise decisions about difficult life choices

It will empower you to worship

It will free you from sin that entangles you

It will equip you to go to war against the evil one

It will enable you to love others more deeply

Introduce pondering project – sheets available in the back

  • Regarding Theology

Don’t shy away from stuff that challenges you and makes you think and question. Lots of heresies out there that will weaken and destroy your faith. John 10:10 – the devil’s subtle approach. Growth Initiative challenge. Right Now Media. Great books.

  • Regarding our understanding of God as Triune

God the Father – reconciles, redeems, rescues, rewards, regenerates, revives

God the Son – God came near. Came to seek and to save the lost. Demonstrated humility, servanthood, compassion, sacrifice, love.

God the Spirit – leads, directs, comforts, teaches, convicts, enables, empowers

Let 2014 be the year that revolutionizes your life as you get to know our great and gracious God even better than you do. The Gospel of John is a great book. I hope you will ponder along with me.

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