Month: January 2021

The Lord loves a cheerful giver

“…the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

When people think of you, does the word “generous” get mentioned?  Are you a generous person by nature?  Now for a moment, though I am a preacher, I don’t want you to think about church offerings.   But in other areas of your life, are you more open-handed or close-fisted?  Do you freely share what is yours, or are you as likely to hoard and cling to the blessings and resources God has given?

This is a very serious question.  Generosity is the mark of a person who is winning the war of selfishness that every person is engaged in.  No one is exempt:  Not a child or preschooler, not a young adult or an octogenarian.  We all do war with selfishness on an ongoing basis at some level.

The only effective weapon to be triumphant in this battle is the weapon of generosity.  Jesus said what we give away in this life we will keep, and what we keep we will lose.  One of the radical changes Jesus brings to our heart at salvation is an orientation to defeat the raging selfishness that lives in us.

So, generosity is more than just a nice character trait.  It is a sign of a person who is winning this war that so many lose.  When we live focused solely on “me” and “mine,” we have lost the battle.  And ironically, the more we keep the smaller we become.

And yes, the matter of generosity impacts what we give to the Lord’s offering.  But it’s more than just a matter of a Sunday decision.  Generosity should affect every dimension of life, from our parenting to our friendships to our work.

It is generosity that brings a rare hilarity and lightness to our lives.  I have never… let me underscore the word… NEVER… met a miserable, generous person.   But I have encountered plenty of miserable, selfish people.

Practice generosity.  Daily.  Give even when it isn’t asked of you.  Give even to someone you may not know.

Be generous, and let God show you how He keeps His Word.

Generosity is a joyful path.  The alternative is a road you don’t want to travel.

Introduction to the Gospel of John Part 2

The Prologue

The Word became flesh….”. Christianity is a strange religion.  It is a religion of a sort, but it doesn’t tell us how to find God.  It doesn’t even tell us how to escape the world, as in “this world is not my home.”

It is actually the story of how God, our Creator, entered our world through a body of flesh in the person of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is the full Presence of God in our midst and in our world Who came to dwell with us.

OUTLINE OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

  1. Jesus, the Eternal, Incarnate Word of God  (John 1:1-18)
  2. Jesus’ Initial Ministry in the World  (John 1:19-10:42)
  3. The Preparation for the Crucifixion  (John 11:1-12:50)
  4. Preparation of the Disciples for Jesus Death  (John 13:1-17:26)
  5. Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection   (John 18:1-20:31)
  6. Epilogue: The Restoration of Peter Authentication of the Gospel  (John 21:1-25)

PROLOGUE                 John 1:1-18

“The Revelation of the Word of God”

  • His Deity                      (1:1-2)
  • His Creation                 (1:3)
  • His Illumination            (1:4-5)
  • His Forerunner            (1:6-9)
  • His Rejection               (1:10-11)
  • His Offer                      (1:12-13)
  • His Incarnation            (1:14)
  • His Witness                 (1:15-18)

Money Matters

Well, of course it does.  What an obvious title for this column.  It matters a great deal in fact.  Without it, we can’t buy food or medicine or clothing or pay our mortgage or rent or utility bills.  Of course it matters.

But for some, it matters far too much.  It is something that supplies us with more than life’s necessities.  It provides us with security and with status and with self-worth.

There is a balance we must strike in our relationship to money.  If we are irresponsible and place too little emphasis on it, we may find ourselves homeless and on the street.

But if we place too much emphasis on it, we find ourselves in the position of worshiping money as an idol.  Those are extremes, I’ll grant you.  But they are both real dangers that some face.

Our money matters.  It matters on earth, of course.  But did you know that your money also matters… in eternity?   Our ability to be generous with what God entrusts to us to manage (“stewardship”) makes an eternal difference.

Author Randy Alcorn wrote,

Giving is a giant lever positioned on the fulcrum of this world, allowing us to move mountains in the next world.  Because we give, eternity will be different—for others as well as for us.

I don’t know what that statement does to you, but it is exciting to me to think that I hold in my hand that which could leverage eternity for someone.  May God help us to always be ready to see the resources He entrusts us with on earth leveraged for eternal use!

Money does matter.

Eternally.

Introduction to the Gospel of John Part 1

Who was the Author?

Without getting into the deep weeds of the debate, let me just say that there has been quite a bit of disagreement about exactly which “John” was the writer of this Gospel.

  • John the son of Zebedee (brother of James)
  • John the Elder
  • Disciples of John the Apostle wrote down the things he said

Only self-reference to author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” or “the beloved disciple.”

Many of the eye-witness accounts are first-hand, inner circle kinds of reports

While it is safe for us to say that the beloved disciple was John son of Zebedee, other Biblical authorities make a case for this being a different John.  But there is ample references to make us fairly confident that John was one of the “sons of thunder,” the sons of Zebedee though other sources indicate it could have been a “John” who was not an apostle but who also followed Jesus and later became a church leader named “John the Elder.”

Why was John Written?

  • Gnosticism growing in influence: Pushing back against false theology
  • Provide a more non-Jewish theological framework
  • Fill in gaps in timeline and events not recorded before
  • Give an identity to an exiled community of Christians

What are the Distinctives?

 

What’s Missing?

Much if not all of the Galilean ministry of Jesus is missing

What’s Added?

  • Miracles:
    • Water into wine
    • Healing of man at Pool of Siloam
    • Conversion of woman at the well
    • Encounter with adulteress woman
    • Raising of Lazarus
  • Discourse at Lord’s Supper (Chapters 13-16)
  • Prayer in Chapter 17
  • Encounter with Peter in John 21

The Key Words in John

  • Life
  • Witness
  • Light
  • Truth
  • Believe
  • I Am
  • Father
  • Spirit

The “Signs” in John

  • Water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing of Capernaum officer’s son (John 4:46-54)
  • Healing of paralytic at Bethesda (John 8:1-15)
  • Feeding 5,000 (John 6:5-14)
  • Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-24)
  • Healing the blind man (John 9:1-7)
  • Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-48)

The “I Am” Statements

  • I AM the bread of life (John 6:35)
  • I AM the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • I AM the door of the sheep (John 10:7)
  • I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  • I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11)
  • I AM the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
  • I AM the true vine (John 15:1)

01 Introduction & Survey of the Gospels

INTRODUCTION AND SURVEY OF THE GOSPELS

Wednesday Night Series 2021

To quote Elvis, “It’s now or never…”  I have long wanted to try to do something like this, but really haven’t had the chance.   I’m running a risk here, because this is not a light-weight devotional class.  In other words, I’m not laboring here to try and make you feel good or give you chills.  I want to teach, much like I’ve taught college classes, and my thought is this is going to “thin the crowd” a bit.  I don’t blame you.  It’s hard work, but I think if you hang in you’ll find it rewarding, and it will change the way you see the Gospels.

So I’m going to pray, and if you want to kind of slip out nobody is going to judge you for it.

I will say that this session will be a little different than the rest.  This is a general intro to the Gospels.  Next week and for the rest of our sessions up until Easter, we are going to focus on an Introduction and Survey of the Gospel of John.

Manuscript Evidence

Inspiration and Revelation

1 Timothy 3:16

2 Peter 1:20

Preservation and Transmission

What about the “Other” Gospels?

 The four Gospels we have are not the only Gospels in existence.  We know, for instance, that there was a Gospel of Judas and a Gospel of Thomas, neither of which made it into our canon (list of approved books) of New Testament Gospel accounts.  There were a number of other gospels circulated, especially later in the first century when the Gnostics began writing Gospels that fit their teaching.

There’s a lot of discussion about Councils and church authorities (bishops, overseers, etc) who decided which books were included in the New Testament.  But their decisions were not based on votes and behind closed door discussions.  Those present in the decision making were pastors of churches, representing regions of churches and people who had traveled broadly.  One of the first criteria to be evaluated was, “is this book used widely in the churches?”  The Spirit of God used the people of God and His church to determine which books bore witness to the truth.  After the canon was closed, no other books were included even though other Gospels were being written.

What Are the Gospels?

Gospels are NOT NECESSARILY biographies of Jesus

If they were biographies, we would have a great deal of detail about His life from age 12 to 30, and we have none (though some of the rejected gospels offer thoughts:  one said that when Jesus was an adolescent, people saw Him healing wounded birds).  (Others said when He walked on the sand, He didn’t leave footprints).

But even with FOUR Gospels we have major gaps in the timeline of His time on earth.

If they’re biographies they aren’t thorough ones.

Gospels are WITNESSES to Jesus

Do the Gospels agree?  Not word for word.  But they do not contradict each other.

“The car swerved off the road and hit a tree.”
“A tire went flat and caused the car to swerve off the road and into a tree.”
“One of the front tires blew out and caused the car to swerve….”
“The right front tire blew out and caused the car to wreck.”

Which statement is correct?  All of them.  Four people saw an accident, but from four different angles.  They see the same event, but don’t describe it in the same way.  Yet there is no contradiction.

The New Testament Problem:  Gospels as Apologetic

Each of the Gospels had a different purpose and focus, with a different audience in view.  Some of the Gospels are heavy weighted toward a Jewish audience.  Others clearly aren’t.

For instance, Luke’s Gospel is addressed to a Hellenistic Roman individual named “Theophilus.”  By his name, we know he is a “lover of God,” so he was at least introduced by his parents to God.  But some believe he was the judge who was deciding Paul’s fate, and Luke (who traveled with Paul as a doctor and historian) was offering an educated and detailed defense and explanation of Who Jesus was (in Luke) and how Paul had come to be arrested (in Acts).

Authorship and Dating of the Gospels

The dating of the various books is a matter of great controversy and debate. However, we can generally date them as follows:

  • 1 BC–1 AD The birth of Christ
  • AD 30/33 The death and resurrection of Jesus
  • AD 48–67 The letters of Paul
  • AD 55–75 The Gospel of Mark
  • AD 60s–80s The Gospels of Matthew and Luke
  • Late AD 60s–80s The Gospel of John13
  • AD 60s–90s The General Epistles and Revelation14

Focus of the Gospels

  • Matthew: Jesus as Rightful King
  • Mark: Jesus as Son of Man
  • Luke: Jesus as Son of God
  • John: Jesus as Word of God:  Word made flesh…

 

GOSPEL OF JOHN—Intro Comments

Begin at the end:  John 20:30-31

What do we need to believe?

“That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

That Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT promises

    • Genesis 3–a child born to put things right
    • Psalm 2–all injustice will end
    • Isaiah 55–suffering servant
    • Daniel 7–“one like a son of man”

That Jesus is God

What does it mean to believe?

Not “belief in belief”

Not intellectual assent

“I believe that bridge can hold my weight”

Belief is walking across the bridge

Belief means to trust…to put your full weight down

Why do we need to believe

That you may have life, and life everlasting

    • John 1:4
    • John 3:16
    • John 5:24
    • John 11:25-26
    • John 14:6

 

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