01.2 John – The Power of Light

Have you thought about just how powerful light really is?  We measure distances in light years, based on the light traveling over that distance of 6 trillion miles in a year.  And the light doesn’t end at that point.  We see stars in the night sky that are trillions of miles away and yet they light up the night on our planet.

Anyone who has ever worked a night shift knows just how difficult it is to avoid the light of day.  As a kid, my folks would often wake me for the third of fourth time by flipping on the light in my room and I would fuss and pull pillows over my head, but still could not hide.

But to then recognize that Jesus’ life is the light to all mankind (v5), but that the world did not recognize Him or receive Him (v9-10).

Think about just how much effort is required to hide from the light.  You first have to shield your eyes, your spirit, your mind.  You have to hide in the darkness of lies and falsehoods.  You have to make up explanations for every sign that points to God, which is all of creation.  You have to come up with new theories and then emphatically argue them to be true instead of the real truth.  You have to so fully fill your life with darkness and hate and deceit and distrust and false love and false brotherhood and false caring that you can deny that Jesus is the light.

And, yet, the light keeps popping up.  People keep witnessing to it.  The gospel continues to be good news.  It seems the more that darkness tries to overcome the light, the more the light bursts forth in new directions with new believers.

Do you realize the most oppressed countries in the world are also the fastest growing in terms of new believers in Christ?

We can see the troubles all around us, and become focused on the problems of the world and the daily talking heads.  But that is not what we are called to do, that is simply a form of shadow, a diversion from moving forward into the light of Jesus and eternal life.  2 Cor 4:18 tells us:, “So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” TLB

My Answers:

3.
In the beginning was the Word, The Word was with God and the Word was God.  Jesus did not come into existence at his human birth, He is an eternal part of the trinity of God in the creation and with all attributes of God

4.
G:God created – Jesus is God
C: Jesus is the image of the invisible God, He Created and He is before all things and holds  togthr
H: Appointed heir of all things, son of God, radiance of God’s glory, exact representation of being

5.
All things, visible and invisible (physical and spiritual) were created in Him, thrones, powers, rulers and authorities.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is creator of all. –  He is my king and my lord (and savior)

6.
Light is grace and majesty, darkness is evil.  Light is the presence of God, darkness is to be out of His presence.  Darkness hides sinful deeds, light brings them to repentance.  Light is truth, darkness is lies.  Light is everlasting life, darkness is death.  Light overcomes darkness, darkness cannot overcome light.

01.2 John – The Power of Light

0.0 John Introduction

One of the books I read this summer discussed the training of the US Marines and other military branches on “the Big Why.”  Soldiers are trained to clearly understand, before anything else begins, their big why.  Why am I doing this?

At a high level, this may be to make a better life for me and my family.  It may be to honor those who came before me, particular past family members who have served.  It may be a love and commitment to country.  When things get tough, when you get tired, hungry, hurt, drained, feeling that you can’t go on and do more in the heat in the mud; the soldiers are taught to ask each other, why are we doing doing this.  The answer draws back to the big why.

At a mission level, understanding the big why of an operation or goal is critical to not get mired in the little challenges and obstacles.  When faced with obstacles, it allows for alternative approaches but maintains focus on the important objectives instead of the small impediments.

As we embark on a 30 week daily lesson plan, I think it is important for each of us to ask and answer our own “Big Why.”  Why do you want to complete this study of John?  Why do you want to show up every week?  Why do you want to do your lesson every day?

God doesn’t “require” you to invest time with Him every day.  God doesn’t “need” you to be in the word every day.  You aren’t doing this for God.  God also doesn’t love you more or less based on the time you spend with Him.  His love for you is unconditional – meaning, it doesn’t depend on you meeting certain conditions.

But there are a lot of good “Big Why” answers.  Maybe it is because the bible is the major way that our God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  Maybe because it is the true inspired Word of God.  Maybe because your heart desires a closer walk.  Maybe you want more faith and less fear, more joy and less worry, more life and less just living.  Maybe you want to read and hear an eye witness account from someone who walked with Jesus every day.  Maybe you want to better understand, at every level, why this is called the Love Gospel.  Maybe it is because of the sacrifice that Jesus made.  Or maybe it is just because when you love someone you want to be with that person every day and you truly love Jesus.

There are lots and lots of possible big whys.  What is yours?

Because, the road will be difficult.  Every scheduling conflict will occur during BSF time.  Daily plans for doing your lesson will be met with distraction and chaos.  Your time will be hijacked, family will get sick, sporting events and commitments will pile up and things will conspire to keep you from having a daily walk in the word of God.  Temptations will abound and you will be faced with obstacles.

The road was not easy for Jesus.  As we will read this year, He faced every obstacle: physical, spatial, mental, spiritual.  He faced deceit from His closest followers.  He faced hatred from the religious leaders.  He faced death.  But His focus remained.  His Big Why was to do the will of His Father.  His Big Why was to save His sheep, so that not one would be lost.  His focus (which included quiet times of prayer when the obstacles mounted the highest) always came back to His Big Why – the love and unity with His Father.

What is your Big Why for the study of the book of John?  Write it down.  Carry it with you.  Put it on your bathroom mirror.  Put it on the visor of your car.  And pray!

Neither you nor I will be able to complete this journey on our own strength and will.  But with the power of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible, no obstacle is too great and no evil barrier can block our path to being with our Lord and Savior this day and for every day to come.

0.0 John Introduction

29.5 Revelation – The Main Event

Revelation 22:17 starts with “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!””

As I read this I thought about “come to what?”, “come to where?”.  Aren’t we already in heaven?  Hasn’t judgment day come and gone and this is the after-life?

A few weeks back I was at a, for lack of a better term, let’s call it a gala.  When we arrived at the venue there was interesting and enticing food and drink.  All the people in attendance were dressed in fine dress, some in very colorful native dress from their countries of origin.  There was music and entertainment.  The servers were welcoming and friendly.  Conversations were wonderful and engaging as friends embraced and new introductions and friendships were begun.  All attending had been invited and had made the choice to attend.  It was a wonderful event.

Then the doors to the main dining room were opened and we were called to come in to a banquet that had been specially prepared.  There was no rush or pushing or jockeying for position because each of us had a reserved seat with our name carefully placed.  Everyone was courteous and welcoming to each other, all filled with the joy of meeting with and being greeted by the host of honor, the master of the ceremonies.

When I read the invitation in Revelation 22 to come, and each of the times Jesus expresses that He is coming, I think of how these earthly galas will pale in comparison to the banquet of the spirit, the bride and the Lamb. I also realize that however wonderful I see the part of heaven that is described in the bible, there is even more and greater joy when the banquet doors are opened and we are called inside to meet God face-to-face.

Each of us has received an invitation.  Each of us has a ticket, paid in full by the sacrifice of Jesus and His defeat of sin and death.  But, each of us must choose to accept the invitation, dress in the robes provided by the host and show up.

Who do you still need to tell to come?  If you absolutely know for certain that the prophecy of Revelation is 100% trustworthy and true, what do you need to change in your life?  Your life is a witness to others (whether you intend it to be or not).  Your words are a witness.  Your heart drives your words.  If you have taken to heart this prophecy, has that invoked change in your heart, word, actions, life, interactions, love, witness?

My Answers:

11.
This is the only place for choice.  This is where man was allowed to choose.  The choice we make here is eternal.  I desire for as many as Christ has chosen me to reach to come.  Let no person stumble because of me!

12.
There is urgency, but also assuredness and completion.  It isn’t just a command, but also an invitation.  And all who accept the invitation also are empowered to call out for more.

29.5 Revelation – The Main Event

29.4 Revelation – Ands and Buts

As anyone who teaches or writes about the bible, I am prayerful and vigilant of the warnings in Revelation 22:18-19 to not add to or take from the word of God.  There is risk in any illustration or any words not directly quoted from scripture that they alter meaning, even if done inadvertently.

The things I watch for are the ands and the buts.

For example, the bible says (quote any scripture passage), but…  or John wrote (reference/quote), and I…

Whether in writing or in speech we need to train ourselves both to watch for and to avoid using these terms.  Clearly there are numerous examples where we are called upon to teach the bible.  Our study in BSF includes lectures and notes which provide illustrations and principles and applications.  We have study bibles which include additional resources.  All of these are good and add value to our study.  The key is that it is our study, yours and mine, and that our goal is not to learn what someone else thinks or says but what the word of God actually says and how God speaks to me and you directly to build a stronger relationship with each of us personally.

Hopefully, when you visit here or read other comments (after you’ve completed your own questions, of course), it isn’t to shape your beliefs or interpretations or even your answers around what I think or what my life experiences have been, but because you are so moved by the word of God that you want to continue to swim in the verses with another human being that also loves His word.  One of the things I love about God’s word is that the deeper you go, the more beautiful it is and the more we are moved to share it with others.

Amen?

My Answers:

9.
a.
Spirit says come, the bride says come.  I too say come.  I am thirsty for the joy of salvation.  I am thirsty for the power of holiness.  I am thirsty to shed off the pain and sadness and horrors of wrongness of this world and live in perfect peace.

b.
My treasures are not of this world.  I seek not for more for the sake of more, but for relationships and connections, for helping and leading others, young and old.  I look to God’s direction and calling.

10.
Because it is not ours.  We can be confident in what it says, but we only confuse and confound and create division when we try to interpret it to fit events, rather than allowing the events to unfold as Christ says they will

29.4 Revelation – Ands and Buts

29.3 Revelation – The College of the Lamb

Revelation 22:13 sent me to the Greek.  I was curious, are these words, Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and End, just three different interpretations of the same scriptural word or do they actually hold different meaning.

I love the richness that is found in doing this and encourage you to do the same when you get curious about a passage of scripture.  I use an online reference bible, www.blueletterbible.com, for this.  By selecting any passage you can go to the “interlinear” which shows the original Hebrew or Greek.  These words then are linked to Strongs so you can see the definition of the word as well as other places in the bible where the same word is used and the context of those uses.  Since we are at the end of our study of Revelation this week, I’ll digress and give an example of how valuable this can be.  Take Genesis 2:18, where Eve is brought forth to be Adam’s “helper”.  The word used here is “‘ezer”.  However, before we fall into a trap of thinking this means assistant, support-staff, underling, or however else you think of “helper”, we see that every other time the word appears in scripture it applies to God.  That God is our “‘ezer”.  Clearly God helps us and assists us, but we don’t mistakenly think that makes us above God in those roles and relationships. Now, back to Revelation 22:13.

The three phrases do have different meanings or at least a different reference point.  Alpha and Omega are letters, written and spoken words and language.  First and Last are numerical, mathematical, all that can be counted and quantified.  Beginning and End reflects physical matter, being, states of substance and existence, life.

When we step back and look at those, we see that Jesus is the master over all that is known to mankind.  Every subject of higher learning is covered within these three bookends.  All of literature, math, science, philosophy, all of the -logies, Jesus is at the beginning and the end.

And, as we would give advice to anyone going off to college or studying in school, we are called to pay attention to our great professor and learn from Jesus, not from the false-teachers, deceivers and those who seek to lure us into lies.  As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8a, “Be alert and of sober mind.”

 

My Answers:

6.
Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and the end

7.
a.
All are sinners.  But those with robes washed, have been purified by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice.  The others chose not to and were judged and have been found to be impure, doing what is shameful and deceitful and they will never enter the holy city, drink of the water of life or eat from the tree of life and live forever.  Instead, their path leads to death, eternal death

b.
Washed – I have accepted the gift and received (and continue to receive as I repent of my sins), the right and honor to be called a brother to Christ Jesus

8.
I ask Him to shine a light to my path.  To help me stay alert.  To help me stay focused and walking with Him daily, not distracted by the world.  Also to be bold in telling the gospel.

29.3 Revelation – The College of the Lamb

29.2 Revelation – To Heart

Our questions today focused on Revelation and the Bible as a whole being “trustworthy and true”.  I imagine that many will focus their answers around the bible being true with the idea that if it is true then, obviously, by default, it is also trustworthy.

However, most of the attacks I see on the bible today and on the basic beliefs of Christianity, are not attacks on the truthfulness of the bible, but on its applicability.  This is particularly true of the attacks coming from those inside the church who seek to put their own ideas of acceptability above what is taught by the bible, some not even recognizing or accepting that this is what they are doing.

The argument made goes something like this, it is not that the bible is untrue, but that parts of it applied then and there but don’t apply here and now.  If we simply go by what the bible says then, we would still be worshiping on Saturdays, eating only what was kosher, offering animal sacrifices, and administering capital punishment for everything from working on the Sabbath to rebelliousness on the part of children.*

If we only look at scripture as a rule book, then this argument seems to provide a strong backing to a modern or progressive rewrite of the word of God.  And, as we continue to progress as a modern society, we would continue the rewrite or redefinition of what is currently applicable and what is old fashioned.  That’s progress, right?

But the bible is not a self-help book or a rule book, it isn’t a user manual or legal compendium.  The bible is a love story.  It is a story of how every sin is a sin against God and yet, God still loves us.  It is a story of the measures that the Creator God will go to redeem His people that sold themselves into the bondage of sin.  It is a book of grace and mercy, not to change the definitions of sin to ignore what is and isn’t sinful, but to recognize the sacrifice that was made for us and try to grow in holiness.  Yes, there are rules and self-help elements, there are how-tos and do’s and do not’s, but that is why it is critical to know not simply a narrow passage of scripture, but to know and take to heart the entire bible.  It is “whole bible” learning and application.

The blessing of Revelation is not simply for those who read and hear the prophecy, but to those who take it to heart.  Taking something to heart means a heart transformation, not a message transformation.  A hardened heart seeks to redefine God’s word to fit in it.  A transformed heart is one that seeks to be reshaped into the holy image of our Lord’s heart.

John was rebuked for falling at the feet of the angel.  Today, many fall at the feet of pastors and leaders who absolve them of sin by redefining what is sinful, by reshaping the image of God to meet man’s desire, rather than reshape men to God’s desire.  Sadly, these souls do not receive the same rebuke from these leaders that John received from the angel.

*quote from blog posting of prominent pastor, left anonymous here to not be misconstrued in intent.

 

My Answers:

3.
a.
Because Jesus is Faithful and True.  There is precedent – everything in the bible is true.  There is authority, comes from the creator.  There is substance, the power of the Holy Spirit.

b.
Start with the hypothesis: what if it is true?  Then what does that mean for you?   It is not a history book or an owners manual.  It isn’t a book of rules and regulations.  It is a living love story.  Heb 4:12, For the word of God is alive and active…

4.
Rev 1:3, read aloud, hear, take to heart.
Blessed by revelation of the end of this story.  Blessed by drawing closer to who God really is and not whom He is “rumored to be” by mankind.  Blessed by seeing the power and awesomeness of our Lord.  Blessed by seeing the method of worship in heaven

5.
a.
Worship God!  John had bowed down to worship at the feet of the angel, he is a fellow servant

b.
When I seek fulfillment in places other than God.  when I have not been diligent in staying alert or walking daily with Him.  When I have been overwhelmed (positive or negative) and I’m awestruck, I forget how much more full of awe God is than even that.

 

29.2 Revelation – To Heart

28.5 Revelation – Tendrils of Distraction

Living according to God’s will for us is hard.  We are called to be salt and light to the world.  We are called to rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all, to be thankful, and alert.

I think that for most of us that last one is the hardest. Following biblical teaching, we often think of sin as a lion crouching in wait for us.  We think of a beast grabbing ahold of us and pulling us under. A leviathan of the deep with tendrils choking and crushing our bodies.

But, in my day-to-day life, the bigger issues are not the direct attacks that I can see and those around me join together to pray through.  It is not in the big bully beast wrapping around me in attack.  Instead, it is in the little taps of distraction on my shoulder.  It is more like a buzzing fly, drawing my alertness away.

I sit down to read or pray and my mind goes a million directions.  I stand in worship at church and feel a cramp in my foot or hear an instrument out of tune or feel cold or just start day-dreaming.

Even the chosen 3 apostles who went with Jesus to pray fell asleep time and again.

We are powerless.  But God is not powerless.

Do you start your bible study with a prayer for peace and alertness and focus?  Do you ask God to keep your mind and body focused on worship time?  Do you call on the power of the Holy Spirit in each of these situations?

These tendrils of distraction are real evil things.  Yes, everyone has them.  They are completely “the norm”, but the norm is a fallen world permeated by sin.  Normal and right are not the same thing.

I think this is an area that all of us can ask for God’s help in our journey to eternal holiness with Him.

My Answers:

10.
M28: Go – make disciples of all nations – baptize them (father, son, holy spirit), teach, obey, walk with Jesus, every day, every single day

J13: Understand that while Jesus is gone He is still glorified with and in us.  Love one another, be known for love. We will follow Him.

1T5: Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances, accept God’s will, be in Jesus Christ. Trust, not doubt, rjct evil

H12: Be thankful, worship God (acceptably with reverence and awe), look forward to a kingdom that cannot be shaken

1P1: be alert, set hope on grace brought by Jesus, be obedient, do not conform to the evil desire, be holy because Christ is holy

11.
fear and doubt and worry.  It is not in my belief, but in my unbelief.  It is in the little ways and thoughts and temptations and words that are not the witness that they need to be.  It is in my failures to pray continuously, but intermittently, to run ahead of God, instead of walk beside Him, to ask Him to save me instead of asking for direction in advance.

28.5 Revelation – Tendrils of Distraction