Category Archives: Guest

Verses on Comfort

verses of comfort

 

Sometimes when our heart is in so much pain we can’t think of verses that will bring comfort.  Bookmark this page, print out these verses and keep them in your Bible or pin this page.  Whatever you need to do to help keep the verse handy.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 71:21 – You will increase my greatness and comfort me again

Psalm 77:2 – In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.

Psalm 86:17 – Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 119:50 – This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life

psalm 119 50

 

Psalm 119:76 – Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant

Jeremiah 31:13 – Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

2 Corinthians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort   (Did you catch that dear Christian? the GOD of ALL COMFORT!!) 

2 Corinthians 13:11 – Finally brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you

1 Thessalonians 3:7 – for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith

2 Thessalonians 2:16 – Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace

 

What Verses do you turn to for comfort?

Do you have any printed out?

Will you share them in the comments below?

May the JOY of the Lord fill your heart today!

 

What Was the Colossian Heresy?

For centuries Bible students have tried to identify the particular form of false teaching opposed by Paul in Colossians. In reality, no one knows. The apostle does not name names or explain particulars, since they would have been well-known to the original recipients of the letter, and his greater concern was teaching the correcting truth.colossians1_18

We can, however, piece together the general shape of the heresy by observing Paul’s counterarguments. Growth in historical studies has also provided more understanding of the cultural and religious background of the first few centuries A.D., and this has helped us make sense of the problem in Colossae.

 

What is a “heresy”?

 

First, a note on the word “heresy.” Heresy has become a loaded and emotional term in our culture. It often conjures up pictures of medieval torture chambers or people burning at the stake. In discussions of the Bible or theological usage it means no such thing. Heresy simply defined means “teaching, doctrine, or practice that is a departure from revealed truth.” Heresies are errors that arise from within, or infiltrate from without, professing Christian ranks.

 

Keep in mind that every disagreement among Christians does not constitute a heresy. The term refers to departures from the truth in regard to the most important foundational truths of the Bible. Some examples would include the nature of God, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the fact and meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Bible as the Word of God, and how salvation is received (by faith alone in Christ). Every cult is labeled as such because it denies most or all the biblical teaching on these major issues. On the other hand, denominations are Christian groups that disagree over relatively minor and debatable issues, while they agree on the fundamentals.

 

Therefore, “the Colossian heresy” refers to the particular brand of serious false teaching that was disturbing the believers in that assembly.

 

I.         Characteristics of the Colossian Heresy

 

False Teaching Regarding Jesus Christ

 

As explained in the introductory article, “Colossians: the ABCs,” a leading characteristic of the false teaching in Colossae is the devaluation of Jesus Christ. This can be seen in the letter in two ways:

 

1.     Paul’s counterarguments about the supremacy of Christ. There is nothing taught in Colossians that can’t be found in Paul’s other letters, but in no other passage is there such a forceful and concentrated emphasis on the deity and supremacy of Christ as in Col. 1:15-22. Then in Col. 2:9 Paul asserts the deity of Christ in unmistakable language:

 

For in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.

 

Who is Jesus Christ? God, says Paul. And not just “partly” God or a “semi-God.” All that is God can be found now and forever incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ. Paul is clearly trying to make it impossible to misunderstand that Jesus Christ is God and that He is supreme over all things.

 

2.     Clear warnings against deception and encouragements to stay firmly grounded in Christ. Paul expresses his concern that, while the Colossians have begun well in Christ, some of them may have moved away. In explaining the redeeming work of Christ, Paul says the result is that believers can stand “holy in His sight, without blemish, and free from accusation” (1:22), but then adds a disclaimer:

 

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (1:23)

 

In other words, Paul can confidently state how they stand in the Lord’s eyes providing they haven’t moved on to some other “gospel” than the one Paul teaches.

 

Positively, Paul expresses his hope and prayer that the Colossians

 

may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (2:2-3)

 

As stated in the introductory article, the central warning of the letter is 2:8:

 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than on Christ.

 

Whatever the false teachers were saying, they were clearly devaluing the person and role of Jesus Christ in their doctrines. Paul will not have it, and this letter is a straightforward defense of the position the Lord should have in believers’ minds and hearts.

 

False Teaching about Religious Practices

 

Besides the false teachers’ errors about Christ Himself, they also were apparently promoting a definition of spiritual living that was leading people astray. Paul therefore issues direct warnings against being deceived in three categories, which can help us understand what the heresy was about.

 

1.         Warnings against legalism.

 

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (2:16)

 

The essence of legalism is the notion that God’s acceptance is earned and maintained through our behavior; that God’s acceptance is conditional, rather than offered freely through faith in Jesus Christ. The false teachers apparently were telling the Colossians that faith in Christ is not enough, that they must observe the regulations of the Law of Moses. This is an indicator that at least part of the heresy involved Jewish law-keeping. Any form of “Christ-plus” is to be rejected. It doesn’t matter if it’s “Christ plus good works,” or “Christ plus church activities,” or “Christ plus sacraments.” Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

 

2.        Warnings against mysticism.

 

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. (2:18)

 

The false teachers may have claimed to have had “divine visions” as the basis of their authority. Mysticism has been a part of almost all of the world religions, and is basically the attempt to bypass objective truth to gain direct experience of “spiritual reality.” Even in our day many people are impressed by others’ claims of mystical experiences or “inside knowledge.” Don’t be impressed or deceived, Paul says. The truth of God and Jesus Christ have been clearly and publicly proclaimed, and there are no “secret truths” available to some elite group. Such claims only mark the person as arrogant and puffed up with spiritual pride. If you have Christ you have everything you need.

 

3.         Warnings against asceticism.

 

Since you have died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (2:20-21)

 

Asceticism has also been practiced in almost all world religions. It is severe self-discipline in external matters in the effort to become “spiritual.” Typical practices include extreme fasting and celibacy. When you consider that most of us wrestle to some degree with self-control, it is not surprising that we are often impressed by the rigorous self-denial of people who do these things. But Paul punctures the illusion:

 

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (2:23)

 

Paul exposes these practices for what they are — the attempt to attain spirituality from the outside-in. Outside-in spirituality, however, is a sham. It doesn’t work, because it cannot change the heart. Only through the inside-out work of the Holy Spirit (Christ in us) does real spiritual growth and transformation take place. So don’t be deceived by these practitioners. Paul then goes on in Chapter 3 to explain how we actually live out the work of Christ in our lives. It is through knowing who we are in Christ, and choosing to present our minds and bodies to him for his use.

 

 

II.                  Insights from Historical Studies.

 

As has been explained, no one knows for sure who the false teachers were, or what particular heresy was troubling the believers in Colossae. We can, however, approach a general description of it.

 

Religions of all kinds could be found in the Roman Empire of the first century. According to Clinton E. Arnold,

The Christians at Colossae lived in an environment of religious pluralism. They coexisted with people who worshipped Anatolian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian deities and with Jews who were devoted to the worship of one god and the observance of Torah. The manner of devotion and religious expression was quite varied among the different groups.

 

Just as in our time, the dominant religious attitude was Syncretism, the selecting and blending of religious ideas into new forms according to one’s wishes. Someone has called these “designer religions.” The Colossian error seems to have mixed Christian, Jewish, Greek, pagan, and mystical elements into its scheme.

 

1.            Comparisons to Gnosticism

 

For a long time, scholars assumed that the Colossian error was some form of Gnosticism. Today, that idea has been discounted, because it has become clear that fully developed Gnosticism did not come into being until the 2nd and 3rd centuries. But even so, the tendencies that later became Gnosticism were there long before, so it remains a helpful comparison.

The word Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means “knowledge.” A Gnostic, therefore, means “one who knows,” or “someone in-the-know.” The essence of Gnosticism was the pursuit of secret knowledge that could only be revealed to the elite. Typically, this “knowledge” involved the view that only “spirit” is pure good, and that the natural world — creation itself, and especially the human body — is a corruption, an illusion, or positively evil. The Gnostic hoped to escape the prison of the body through his “knowledge” and by mystically climbing the ladder of heavenly realms. Fully developed Gnosticism, like the error in Colossae, combined ideas from Greek philosophy, Eastern religions, Judaism, and Christianity.

These groups often claimed Jesus as the true Teacher of Gnosticism. They distinguished between his public teaching followed by ordinary Christians, and the deeper “secret teaching” revealed only to his disciples, now passed down to the Gnostics. Some Gnostic writings containing these “secret teachings” still exist (the so-called “Gospel of Thomas” is an example). Occasionally these writings make a splash in the media, being presented as “new discoveries about the origins of Christianity.” The media like to play up the sensational aspect of these “discoveries,” but scholars know they are no such thing. They are corruptions of genuine Christianity that arose 100-200 years after Christ.

Like the later Christians felt when confronted by Gnostics, the believers in Colossae likely were intimidated and confused by the heresy they encountered. There is a seductive quality about those who claim “higher knowledge,” especially when it’s backed up by impressive-looking self-discipline. Eugene Peterson writes,

The gnostic line is quite convincing when we first come across it. There is an ascetical earnestness and mystical intensity that catches our attention. Because these people seem to be so deeply concerned about the inner life and to know so much more than anyone else about the graduate levels of spirituality, we are attracted and want to know more.

 

But Paul exposes this illusion, pointing out that while they have “an appearance of wisdom,” these are of “no value” because they are detached from Christ (2:23).

Like the Gnostics, the heretical teachers in Colossae said that the Christian teaching about Christ was false; that there is “secret wisdom and knowledge” you must receive to obtain the “fullness” of spiritual experience. Like a master debater, Paul takes their favorite terms and uses them to assert the truth of his gospel. Notice how he uses those favorite terms of the false system:

 

Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE. (2:3)

 

For God was pleased for all his FULLNESS to dwell in him [Christ]. (1:19)

 

For in Christ all the FULLNESS of the deity dwells in bodily form. (2:9)

 

And you have been given FULLNESS in Christ. (2:10)

 

If you have Christ, you have God’s all; fullness, wisdom, and knowledge are all found in him.

 

2.            A more recent suggestion: Merkabah Mysticism

 

In recent decades, many scholars have investigated an ancient movement called merkabah mysticism, and noticed its similarities to the Colossian heresy. While again we must point out that no one knows for sure, this ancient religious pursuit might be close to what Paul was combating.

“Merkabah” is the Hebrew word for God’s throne. Merkabah mysticism was a movement where people tried to attain the kind of spiritual vision of God on his throne that was seen by the prophets Isaiah (see Isaiah 6:1-8) and Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1). They blended those visions from the Hebrew Scriptures and added Gnostic-like concepts of heavenly spheres, each guarded by an angel.

The merkabah mystic believed one had to prepare oneself for this ascent by rigorous fasting and other ascetic practices for many days (some said as many as forty days). Then he had to rise through a hazardous spiritual journey, where he could only gain passage by giving the angels the appropriate passwords (the content of the “knowledge”). Eventually he hoped make his way to the highest sphere and see God on his throne. The typical term these mystics used for the total system of heavenly spheres was pleroma, the Greek word translated “fullness.”

Scholar F. F. Bruce comments on this cult:

 

It cannot be proved that the Colossian heresy involved an early form of merkabah mysticism, but the heavenly ascent implied in Col. 2:18 appears to have been of the same character as the experience which the merkabah mystics sought. The Colossian heresy evidently encouraged the claim that the fullness of God could be appreciated only by mystical experiences for which ascetic preparation was necessary.

 

As Bruce indicates there are remarkable parallels between this ancient cult and the errors attacked by the apostle Paul in Colossians.

 

Conclusion

 

While it can’t be proven that the Colossian error was this particular brand of religious practice, it is still instructive for illustrating the kind of world the Colossian believers lived in. While the names and language are different, it is also remarkably like our own.

We too live in a world of religious syncretism. Every day on television, radio, and movies we can hear people who are certainly religious, but their religion is a do-it-yourself blend of selections from several religions and practices. National bestseller lists regularly include someone’s latest “discoveries” about spiritual truth. Those celebrities and authors sound so sincere and convincing, but rarely are their ideas solidly biblical. Like the false teachers in Colossae, they have “an appearance of wisdom” (2:23).

Paul’s Letter to the Colossians is as relevant to us as it was to his first listeners. The answer is still the same: Christ is God incarnate, supreme Lord over all, and an all-sufficient Savior to anyone who puts their faith in Him. We need go nowhere else.

 

T.L.S.

The Gospel of John: The ABCs

Authorship, Background, and Contents of Johns Gospel

 

Authorship

 

Though the names traditionally assigned to the four gospels go back to earliest Christian times — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — it is true that none of the four actually names its author. We have accepted the identities of the authors on other grounds, chiefly consistent early tradition along with internal evidence. Probably the last gospel written, the authorship of John can be established with confidence.

In one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the decisive clue leading the detective to the solution of the mystery is “the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” When a puzzled character says, “But the dog did nothing in the nighttime,” Holmes replies, “That is the curious incident.” The dog did not bark because he knew the person who came to the stable, guiding Holmes to the culprit. The mystery hinges on what did not happen.

Similarly, the Fourth Gospel is striking because of the central character who is never named — the apostle John. This John was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee, nicknamed with his brother “the Sons of Thunder.” These brothers along with Peter figure prominently in the other three gospels as Jesus’ inner circle. In this gospel Peter appears often, as do many lesser-known disciples, such as Nathaniel, Philip, and Thomas. It is therefore surprising that John, who is mentioned so often in all of the other gospels, is never named in this one.

There is a person referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and this person is identified as the author in 21:20-24. James was martyred too early to have written this gospel (about A.D. 44), so that leaves John. Many scholars have pointed out that the author of this gospel was a Jew who lived in Palestine before the destruction of Jerusalem. He is accurate on many details that someone would not know otherwise, such as geography, culture, religious practices, and architecture — much of which did not exist after A.D. 70. Some of the architectural features he mentions were not verified until they were discovered by archaeologists in the 20th century. John’s descriptions are true.

All early Christian writers identify John as the author. Irenaeus, writing about A.D. 180 wrote that:

 

John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, had himself published a gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia.

 

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John himself in his youth, giving a strong link back to the first generation of Christians. Irenaeus writes:

 

I remember the events of those days more clearly than those which have happened recently … I can speak even of the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and disputed … how he reported his converse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he had heard from them, including his miracles and his teaching, and how Polycarp had received them from the eyewitnesses of the word of life, and reported all things in agreement with the Scriptures.

 

The early Christian historian Eusebius, writing about A.D. 325, says that the first three gospels having already been written (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the “Synoptic” gospels), they were presented to John for his comments:

 

He admitted them, giving his testimony to their truth; but that there was only wanting in the narrative the account of the things done by Christ among the first of his deeds, and at the commencement of the gospel.…For these reasons the apostle John, it is said, being entreated to undertake it, wrote the account of the time not recorded by the former evangelists.

 

John reflects this, seeming deliberately to avoid retelling many of the teachings and events already presented in the Synoptics, and filling in many of the blanks they do not cover (see Contents).

 

Despite the unanimous early testimony of believers and the absence of contrary evidence, radical scholars have attacked the authenticity of John for 150 years. The main reasons given are 1) the supposed 2nd century philosophy represented in it, especially John’s use of Logos, “the Word,” for Christ; and 2) the supposed “advanced Christology.” However, recent scholarship has skewered the first view, finding that the concept of logos was already known and used in the first century. The second charge of “advanced Christology” is based on the faulty assumption that the first followers of Christ considered him only a man (though highly revered) and subsequent decades showed a gradual growth into belief in his deity. A study of the New Testament epistles shows the foolishness of this view — John says nothing about Christ that was not taught about him from the beginning. Particularly Paul’s letters and the book of Hebrews, written in the 50s and 60s, prove that Christians believed all along that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and Creator of all things who has now become man to redeem us and reconcile all things to himself.

Two important archaeological discoveries also have confirmed the traditional date of John. One of these, the John Rylands papyrus, is the oldest extent portion of New Testament Scripture: a fragment of the Gospel of John dated about A.D. 130. This proves that, allowing time for copying and transmission, this gospel could have been written no later than the time always assigned to it — sometime between A.D. 70-90.

There have always been, and always will be, committed skeptics. However, believers today can be confident that this gospel was written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the faithful disciple John.

 

Background

 

As seen in the Irenaeus quote above, John appears to consciously supplement the three gospels that had already been written. Early traditions are consistent in placing John in and around Ephesus during the last decades of his life.

The first three gospels in the New Testament are known as the “Synoptic” gospels, meaning “seen together” or giving a “common view.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke share a common outline, probably because Matthew and Luke used Mark as the structure upon which they built additional records about Jesus’ life and teachings. John stands apart as a strikingly different viewpoint of Christ, emphasizing different teachings and events than the others.

In the first decades after Christ’s resurrection, the Church was primarily Jewish. Jewish Christians coexisted within the community of the Jews, and there was alternately uneasy tolerance and rejection (the Epistle of James was probably written during this period). But after the destruction of Jerusalem, relations between Christians and non-Christian Jews widened, and there was much animosity. The Jewish Christians among them would have been special targets of scorn. John’s writings — the Gospel, his three letters, and especially the Revelation — reflect that hostility, and give encouragement to keep believing.

We can know, however, that his listeners were primarily Gentiles. As such, they would have had a weaker foundation of Old Testament understanding. They would have been quite familiar with the religious currents of the day, and more susceptible to the errors of the cultures from which they came. The religious atmosphere of the time was a swirling mix of pagan mythologies, philosophical speculations, and mystery cults. Believers needed clear truth to keep their focus on Christ and the gospel.

Many early traditions say that John contended with a false teacher named Cerinthus, who taught an early version of Gnosticism. In brief, Gnosticism was a religious and philosophical movement based on the understanding that the material universe is an illusion and evil. Only “spirit” is good. Therefore, pure “spirit” could not be united with matter. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek gnosis, knowledge. “Salvation” for a Gnostic meant coming to this “spiritual knowledge” and escaping the illusion of this world.

Cerinthus taught that Jesus, being pure Spirit, could not have joined himself to matter. He only seemed to have a human body. From this view, the error of Cerinthus has been called “Docetism” — from the Greek word dokeo, “to seem.” The First Letter of John directly attacks this false teaching.

Whether or not this controversy had arisen by the time this gospel was written, John could hardly have chosen language better designed to attack Docetism than these words:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh.

John 1:1,14

Jesus was not partly God. He was not God pretending to be a man. He was not God who only seemed to be a man. Jesus Christ was truly God-become-Man.

The profound claims of Christ and the profound teaching of the apostle John have given us incredibly strong assurance of who Jesus was and is.

 

Contents

A major contribution of John is his narrative of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a period passed over by the other gospel writers. For example, Mark summarizes in a single chapter the inaugural preaching of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, and the temptations. Then he goes straight to this comment:

 

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. (Mark 1:14)

 

Matthew and Luke follow this pattern, giving the impression that Jesus’ move to Galilee was immediate. It is John who explains more fully, telling us that Jesus spent several months working in Judea under the umbrella of the Baptist’s ministry. The first four chapters of John describe Jesus’ activities during this period. From the viewpoint of the public at the time, John the Baptist was seen as the leader of the movement, with Jesus subordinate. But Jesus quickly took over the dominant role. That’s why we have this exchange:

 

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ . . . He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:26-30)

 

During this period the disciple John became acquainted with Jesus and began to follow him. John also tells of how Peter met Jesus in 1:40-42. Thus we know that when Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to full-time discipleship in Matthew 4:18-20 (“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”) it is not the first time they had ever met him. Peter and Andrew had known Jesus for several months, as John makes clear. The same was true for John and his brother James.

 

I.            The Theme of John: Eternal life comes through faith in Jesus Christ

 

According to Stephen S. Kim, “The literary structure of the Fourth Gospel makes it one of the most carefully crafted pieces of literature in the Bible.” But what was it crafted to accomplish? Merrill C. Tenney has written, “One of the peculiarities of the Fourth Gospel is the fact that its author chose to hang its key by the back door.”

He is speaking of John 20:30-31, where the apostle reveals his purpose:

 

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 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.

 

Just as in his letters, John wanted believers to have a clear understanding of who Christ is and what He has accomplished, and thus have assurance of salvation through faith in Him. John identified his aim in his first letter, which could also serve as the purpose statement of his gospel:

 

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

 

Scholar N. T. Wright points out that the Greek “verb ‘believe’ (pisteuein) occurs more in this gospel than in Matthew, Mark and Luke put together; and, perhaps even more surprising, more than in all of Paul’s letters put together.” It is used 99 times in John’s gospel.

 

II.            Knowing Whom to Believe: Emphasizing the claims of Christ.

 

Biblical faith requires content; that is, it is not a feeling, nor is it “putting your brain on the shelf.” Exercising faith according to the Scriptures means you know the person who is the object of your faith.

John establishes the identity of Jesus immediately:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

 

In this profound opening, John refers to Christ as “the Word” — Greek, Logos. Logos means not only “word” but “communication,” “speech,” “reason,” and “logic.” Thinking of the Word as Creator, it is striking to recall the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, where God creates all things merely by speaking.

Notice that not only was the Word “with God” in the beginning, but also that “the Word was God.” How can a Person both be “with” God and “be” God at the same time? It boggles the imagination, but from passages like this we see a glimpse of the eternal three-fold nature of God, who is a Trinity: three Persons in one Divine Nature. Then in verse 2 it is made clear that the Word is not some impersonal quality of God, but a Person: “He was with God in the beginning.”

This same Word “became flesh” (v. 14) — a real human being in whom we see the glory of the invisible God. Therefore, as Jesus says later,

 

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

 

Jesus’ direct claims to deity can be seen throughout this gospel. Some examples:

 

  • Jesus’ claim of the Divine Name. In the midst of a hot controversy with his opponents (chapter 8), Jesus did not shy away from the confrontation. On the contrary, he inflamed it. He tells them that because of their unbelief, “You will die in your sins” (v. 23); “You belong to your father, the devil” (v. 44); and “You do not belong to God” (v. 47). Finally he pushes them over the edge by claiming, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”

(v. 56). They protest that it’s impossible; Abraham lived 2000 years before!

 

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (v. 58)

 

At this point they picked up stones to stone Jesus. Why? Because they heard loud and clear that Jesus was claiming to be God. “I AM” is the name by which God introduced himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3), and is the inner meaning of God’s personal name in Hebrew, Yahweh, which means “I AM THAT I AM” or “He Who Is.” In English Bibles, Yahweh is usually rendered “the LORD” in all caps. By this statement, Jesus was straightforwardly claiming to be the Creator God revealed in the Old Testament.

 

  • Jesus’ claim to be One with the Father. In the midst of another controversy Jesus made a claim no one could miss. We are told that his opponents demanded answers: The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). Jesus goes on to say,

 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (10:27-30)

 

At this statement, they again picked up stones. When Jesus asks them why, they reply that it is not for any good work, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

 

  • The “Seven Great ‘I am’s’.” In the progress of his ministry, the Lord made seven striking claims, all beginning with “I am.” Despite the common view in our culture that Jesus was an ordinary man, imagine “an ordinary man” saying things like these:

 

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (6:35)

 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (8:12)

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. (10:9)

 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (10:11)

 

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (11:25-26)

 

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (14:6)

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)

Put these claims together, and you’ll see that Jesus is claiming to be the answer to every one of the deepest needs of the human heart. No mere man could fulfill them.

 

Conclusion

 

In this introduction we can only briefly mention a few of the other important themes in John. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is spelled out in great detail by the Lord in chapters 14-16. The narratives of Jesus’ encounters with individuals, such as the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, are profound and fascinating. You’ll also find strong emphasis on the humanity of Christ, where he declares his dependency upon the Father for all he said and did:

 

I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. . . . By myself I can do nothing. (5:19, 30)

 

Finally, the Lord calls his people to live in the same way he did:

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)

 

Just as Jesus in his humanity could “do nothing” apart from the Father, he tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. Only through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Christ himself in us) are we able to live the genuine Christian life. Our manner of living is the same as his: Total dependency upon the Lord who supplies the ability to do his will. He produces the fruit; we bear fruit through relying on him.

 

The Gospel of John is a lifetime study, and at the end of it you’ll feel your studies are only beginning!

 

T.L.S.

Been There…

Have you ever seen that T-shirt that reads:  “My parents went to California and all I got was this T-shirt?”

Well friends, Jesus came to Earth….and we get way more than a T-shirt!

Maps show us where some one else has already been, right?

Warning signs keep us on the right road…….

The need for road maps has become clearer to me in recent years…..like when my wife and I became lost once, because I thought I knew the way…..I have to admit that I was the only one really lost!

Maps are only good to us if we read them right?  Warnings only work if we believe them, right? If a sign warns us of a washed out road ahead….the sign would do us no good if we didn’t believe and accept what it says with the faith that there is really a washed out road ahead!

Jesus’s sacrifice means nothing to us unless we are willing to surrender to God by accepting and believing that what he has done is enough!

How about this warning within a promise……

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.  .John 3:36

Here are a few things that come to my mind that Jesus has already experienced…..

Pain  –  Suffering – Humiliation  – Lust – Betrayal  –  Loneliness –  Degradation  – Hunger  – Temptation  –  Storms  –  Homelessness  – Taxes  – Death

Jesus gave his life……..  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.………..”  Isaiah 53:4-5

All we have to do is believe Jesus died for us and accept that he did all that was required and believe that he has the power and loves us so much that we can take him at his word and bring him anything that we are experiencing and lay it at his feet and know that he will carry our burdens for us!

So, all we need to do is come to Jesus, after all……he’s already been there ahead of us!

 

Here is a song to go with the post if you would like to use it:

 

Visit Mark at Planting Potatoes.

When in doubt….plant potatoes!

My Hope

David said….. “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope”   Act 2:26

Photo credit: www.reformingculture.com

God loved man so much that he made a garden for him and provided all he needed…at that point, Adam had no need for hope. Right?

But then Adam fell – and he fell hard – so hard in fact, that we are still paying for it to this day! His mistake ushered sin into this perfect world God had created – and since God could not abide by sin, man became lost and without hope. 

Yes there is hope for us – it does exist – but our hope is in Jesus Christ alone! Our faith leads us to wait for his return which means, we have nothing to hope for but Jesus Christ!  This is not something we “wish” for like a birthday present…….

When I was young, I remember being asked what I wanted for my birthday.  I shared my wish with anyone who would listen…but then I waited impatiently because I was never really sure if my wish would come true – sometimes it would, sometimes it wouldn’t.  Of course, I was always encouraged to blow out all the candles if I wanted my wish to come true.  I could never understand why my wish wouldn’t come true if I told anyone……..  Where did that come from?

Jesus did not die so we would need to “wait and see.“….nor do we need to search this world for his hope……our hope is the blessed assurance that he was raised from the dead and that he is coming back for us!

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I remember being left at the babysitters and my mother promising to come back at the end of the day to pick us up. That was always a long day, because I was never quite sure if she was really coming back for us…but of course, she always did………

Satan has been trying to convince us that God is not coming for us….and by the looks of things more people are believing that every day!

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:5

A lot of things offer us hope in this world, but because they are attached to this world, they will never be anything but short-term illusions because God does not intend for us to remain here and he paid the high price for our souls so we wouldn’t need anything else!  Our society is designed as if this is our final destination!  Don’t be fooled…..there is a force at work in this world intent on ensuring we never reach our true destination!

I remember having to live with relatives while growing up and how I would always hope for a place of my own…….

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  John 14:2

As for our nation….Aren’t you getting tired of being told, “if we just get the right man in the white house or….”just a little more tax…..”   or  ……” with a little sacrifice ….”  Can anyone tell me how long we’ve been fooling ourselves with this false hope? Why are people pushing Jesus aside while waiting for “something more?”  It makes no sense to push aside the hope that has already been given us, in search of false illusions. Hasn’t our hope already been delivered to us?

I believe our hope first arrived the moment that Jesus Christ was born – but the hope that we can now be reconciled with God and have eternal life actually was given to us the moment he died! 

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”  John 19:30

Sin is still in the world – and always will be – so, does that mean there is no hope for man?

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:2

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”    John 14:6

Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

In Christ alone my hope is found………

Visit Mark at Planting Potatoes.

Why Jeff Bethke Hates Religion…

In Jeff’s words, his inspiration for this viral video came from a poem he wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion.

“In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus’ gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God the Father.”

Watch this awesome video in light of God’s desire for His commands to come first before our own traditions as declared in Mark 7:6-7

 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

Visit Jeff Bethke at his website.

Also check out the book that inspired the video, The Prodigal God.

Remembering 9/11

Cross Amidst the Ruins

On an early September morning;
Hatred reared it’s ugly head.
Terrorism struck Manhattan;
It’s wake left thousands dead!

It truly was a miracle …
How many lives were saved.
Over-shadowed by the horror;
Of the war-like rubbled grave!

Time seemed frozen, hope was lost;
For loved ones left behind.
Trying to hold onto their faith,
Praying, “God give us a sign!”

Uncovered from the wreckage;
A sight that seemed unreal.
A cross that stood ’bout twenty feet …
From twisted beams of steel!   

© Marge Batzer

 

 

 

 

 

He Knows The Hairs On Our Head

Below is an amazing video by Yale scientist, Alexander Tsiaras, who is part artist, part technologist whose work explores the unseen human body, developing scientific visualization software to enable him to “paint” the human anatomy.

In his own words, “Even though I am a mathematician, I look at [fetal development] with marvel: How do these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us?” and “The magic of the mechanisms inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go — the complexity of these mathematical models is beyond human comprehension.”

But we, as Christians, know that answer to that marvel! We know that it is our God, Creator all who is at the center of all this complexity, all that is ‘beyond human comprehension’. Just makes me smile!! 🙂

Contemplate on Psalm 139:13-16 as you watch this amazing video!

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered! Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~Luke 12:7

Just Pray – For The Colorado Victims

This wonderful song is now out in tribute to the victims of the Colorado shooting. Please join us in praying for those still healing and the grieving families of those who were taken in this evil crime. 

 

Know that our Great Comforter is always with us!!!

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4


Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10
 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4
 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

 

His Blessings

Recently, we have come to realize just how much the Lord has blessed us. This, of course, rouses the curiosity about how many verses there are in the Bible about His blessings.

Here’s just the beginning…

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:3
  • Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:2
  • Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. Psalm 1:1
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matt 5:9
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matt 5:7
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matt 5:8
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matt 5:6
  • Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed are those who heed wisdom’s instruction.  Prov 29:18
  • Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20
  • Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Rev 1:3
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matt 5:5
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matt 5:10
  • “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matt 5:11
  • Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him. Psalm 34:8
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:10
  • Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Psalm 32:1
  • Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29
  • Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.  Rev 20:6
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt 5:4
  • “But blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” Jer 17:7
  • When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed are those who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15
  • Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. Psalm 33:12
  • Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Psalm 119:1
  • Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:17
  • Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. Prov 3:13
  • But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. Matt 13:16
  • “Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Rom 4:8
  • Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” Luke 10:23
  • Those who give heed to instruction prosper, and blessed are those who trust in the LORD. Prov 16:20
  • Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21
  • It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed are those who are kind to the needy. Prov 14:21
  • “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Luke 7:23

 

There are so many more. We are richly blessed by our heavenly Father. In turn, we are so blessed to be a blessing to others!