Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bible for today

The Bible study series on John 14 will resume shortly.
         This blog is a response to a visit recently to the local Cabarlah market. As we presented Bibles and Bible plaques for the people to take, the wide variety of needs left a deep impression on me.

One lady came along, as she often does, to collect some Bible plaques to thoughtfully give to others. How good it is to be a link in the chain of God’s blessing to others.
Then a young man from another country came near. He evidently had no Bible and hardly knew what one was. He took an ‘Ultimate questions’  booklet in his own language as well as a Bible in English (easy to understand English). – a mission field on our doorstep!

A middle aged man paused to talk about the confusion of 30,000 protestant denominations? The difficulty of knowing the truth. Who was going to heaven? He seemed so distracted by the claims of men, that he was missing the most important matter  - the claims of Christ Jesus the Lord.

Another man told a little of his life story.  -  time in prison,  times in a motorcycle gang, but now turned to God, turned to good. It was a real joy to connect with one thus seeking after God. He was delighted with the Bible plaque of Titus 3:3-7  - “We were once foolish.........................we have become heirs of eternal life”

Then the young girls who are blessed with a foster home. They suffer the trauma of separation  from parents, the challenges of different schools etc. It was good to be able to accompany the Bible plaques with a gift of love.

This is not a trumpet blowing session, but rather an attempt to show that the Bible truely is a compass for the ‘all sorts ‘ of today.  Also to show that in presenting the Bible, it needs to be presented in different ways to meet the need of the circumstance i.e. language, focus on Christ, relevance to background, carried by Christian care etc.
It is interesting to notice in the Bible that the Lord avoids formulas. We read a verse like Acts 16.31 and make it a formula. God reached out to the Ethiopian in Acts 8 a different way. He brought Saul to his senses another way. He knows the hearts and we ought to be flexible by His Holy Spirit to meet the need appropriately.

One Bible verse that does remain significant as a summary of the gospel is John 3.16 Ponder it again and let it reach your heart afresh.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life

If you don’t know HIM, speak to Him yourself today – He is listening

Friday, February 14, 2014

Continuing studies in John 14 .9 -14

John 14.9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”

This statement , in answer to Philip’s question in verse 8, is a summary of this section. The Lord Jesus is not only claiming to be the way to God, the revealer of God, the giver of life, but now asserts that He is the perfect representation of God.

       At this juncture I think we need to double check our investigation by comparing this with other scriptures lest we push these verses beyond their true meaning. Matthew 16 records the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God. Mark begins his Gospel Jesus the Son of God John 10 quotes Jesus as saying “My Father is greater than I”
Peter repeatedly identifies Jesus as the Son of God, now seated at the right hand of God in heaven.(Acts 3.21, 1 Peter 3.22)
Paul writes of Him as the visible image of the invisible God, creater of all things (Colossian 1.15) Whoever wrote Hebrews, began with the statement “the Son reflects God’s own glory and everything about Him represents God exactly” (Hebrews 1.3)  In fact Romans 1.8 goes on to say, “to the Son He says, Thy throne O God is forever and ever”.      These with other scriptures agree with our present study, that Jesus is indeed the full and complete representative of God.

Verse 10.    Not only is He the representative of God, but now He claims to be united with the Father  -  “ I am in the Father and the Father in Me” He is speaking of oneness of relationship, a significant thread that runs on into chapter 17. Before He speaks of our unity in Him, first He speaks of the union of the Father and the Son. First He explains how His union with the Father affects His words  -- the words that He discoursed were not His own opinions or the result of His research. No, they were the words of God (see John 3.34). Likewise in Matthew 6, He says without qualification “ I say unto you”
Secondly, He identifies His miracles, His works, His  signs as being the direct result of His union with the Father. Others may do miracles of sorts eg Exodus 3, but only He could claim “I do always those things that please the Father.” (John 8.29).  Whiles the miracles were done in kindness to the people, the deeper purpose   was to identify Him, Jesus,  with the character and power of God His Father. That is why John in particular calls the works, signs.(John 20.30).

Verse 12  “I am going to the Father”
These days I seldom hear preaching about the present position and service of the Lord Jesus. That is a shame , because from His present work in heaven flows the authority and power to work in his Name.
“Going to the Father “ – what does He mean?  Two things  - on the cross He yielded up His spirit into the Father’s hands. He said to the repentant thief ‘today you will be with Me in paradise’, so that I conclude that He went to the Father. Secondly, in the beginning of this chapter He stated that He was going UP until His final return. This accords with Luke 24 and Acts 1 where He “was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” The angel standing by, explained that He was going “up into heaven.”  Peter preached that God has seated the Lord Jesus at His own right hand. Paul teaches that in the heavenlies He is head over all things, in particular the church.  The book of Hebrews along with others, outlines His present functions for His people. As a great High  Priest He represents all believers before the Father. In our verse He promises to answer the prayer that is in accord with His name. Eg The believers prayed in Acts 1, and the answer came in acts 2  -three thousand people converted.  Act9.40, Peter prayed and Dorcas was raised to life. Acts 12, the church prayed and Peter was miraculously released from prison.  Yes, these were great, even greater works to show the power of God in the Name of the once crucified, now glorified Lord Jesus. The Apostles did many miracles to affirm the authority of the word they taught as being God’s word.
And so it was that the  word of the Lord increased and multiplied (Act 13.49, 12.24, 17.11, 18.11)

In concluding this section, I am reminded of the precious word in John 20.29  - 

“ Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed!” 

May all my readers be true believers and find the fullness joy in knowing HIM

John McKee

Sunday, February 9, 2014

John 14 continued (previous bog verses 1-6)

Back to John 14.6 The Lord Jesus says “ I am the truth”.

       Our culture has sometimes emphasized the need for truthfulness – meaning not lying ie  not telling an untruth, or not withholding the truth. A visit to the courtroom brings this to the fore. Whiles it is true of my Lord   ‘ He could not lie’, the meaning of ‘truth’ in the Bible is somewhat deeper. A study of dictionaries and concordances would be helpful, but let me give you my thoughts. ‘Truth’ is the revealing of the reality of a matter. John 1 – the Son of God is said to be “full of grace and truth”. i.e. He ‘the Word’ (communicator) gave full and final expression to God’s character of love and holiness. The truth about God, the truth(reality) of God was seen and felt by contact with Jesus Christ. Just to touch the hem of His garment was  power to heal. Just to accept His words was life (ch4.50, 5.24). To receive Him as the Lord from heaven was food unto eternal life (ch6.29,6.57). Paul understood this – Colossians 2.3 ”In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. In the final city of God, new Jerusalem, ‘the Lamb is the light “ meaning more than physical light. The ‘truth’ of Him revealed will be the eternal light of our spirits. ‘This is life eternal to know the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.’   -- All the fullness of truth, is in the SON. How blessed to be among those who know Him who is the truth!

John 14.6 “and the Life”  
          This may be known a little by viewing the contrast. Through the sin of Adam, we live in a dying world. We and all around us dies. Once we pass 50 or 60 years we look ahead to failing strength, memory loss, disease, tooth decay and we fight it by any means possible – in hope to live! Not a lot of people grasp the prospect of heaven so as to say “I sometimes grow homesick for heaven and the glories I there shall behold” 
     How different it would be to have real life where sickness, sin, sorrow did not interfere!

           What then is this “life”. We must needs turn our thinking from ourselves to God – he lives, He is the author of life, He gives life, He will resurrect people to life, He keeps the book of life – only real life is to live in Him.
But what is “life”- more than existence (the unbeliever will be conscious in eternal punishment but yet dead). Life can be illustrated by my newly born granddaughter. She was a girl in the womb, she breathed a first breath and then screamed to prove she was alive. Now we look into her eyes for recognition. At times I hold her fingers, waiting for her to hold my finger. The all joy breaks out when she smiles.- she is entering into life!
So it is with God – He doesn’t just give us eternal life wrapped in a box. No, “life” is a vital experience of God – now and forever. Our Lord Jesus lived on earth in joyful communion with the Father. Everyday, in every situation He could and did communicate with God His Father. Sometimes He would find a quiet spot and there spend time alone with God. This was “Life” to Him and this is the “life” He yearns to share with others.
Science thinks of life as molecules connecting together to make a living organism.

“I am the Life” – true life is only real when we are connected to The Son of God – as branches in the vine, as sheep in His flock, as children in His family!
         John the Apostle wrote in another place ‘whoever has the Son has life’ (1 John 5.12 )

At this point we must ask the question – am I on the way to God?  Do I know the truth revealed in Christ?   Do I have eternal life ?

If anyone is not sure, don’t go on until you are sure. Seek Him today and you will find Him. Call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bible study in John 14

By request – a brief study on John 14

       John 14 is very full of study material. There are some puzzling statements, some short statements that need to connect with other Bible verses. There are promises made by the Lord that seem to exceed practical reality. And yet for all the complexities, these verses yield to the sincere inquirer some very precious gems.
      My first approach, to keep this brief, will be to highlight (with a coloured pencil) the obvious references to the Lord Jesus.

     Verse 1 “ You believe in God, believe also in Me” It was not so hard to believe in the Almighty God of Israel, but here is a seemingly ordinary man, in ordinary clothes saying “believe in Me, just as you believe in God! This takes faith, but as He points out latter, His claim is backed up with evidence. For those who do ‘believe in Him’, this gives the victory, even in difficult times like was about to burst upon His followers.
      Verse 2.  " I go to prepare a place"  Most Jews hoped for a better future for their nation. John who recorded this conversation, had seen in his lifetime the nation of Israel go from bad to worse by virtue of their unbelief. Now he by the Spirit of God, identifies a greater hope. Jesus had been teaching about heaven from the beginning of His ministry, but now at the end, He makes it clear, that heaven is a special place for His own loved disciples. In fact the whole chapter is presented in the atmosphere of affection for His own disciples.We could puzzle over the thought ‘prepare a place’, but I press on to find Christ in the next verse.
       Verse 3 He who with meaning and authority said “ I go”, now with the same confidence says “I will come again” . This is different from verse 19 which refers to His return on the day of His rising from the dead. This ‘coming’ in verse 3 is explained by it’s purpose  -  ‘to receive you unto myself’ This is the fulfilment of a relationship begun on earth. This is the precious hope, to be caught up, to be forever with the Lord.
        Verse 6.  He has aroused new thoughts for the listeners, who confess ‘we don’t know where or how’ these things can happen.
(how good it is to do Bible study with this lowly attitude) . In response the Lord gives a brief yet profound, deep and meaningful answer.
“I am the way..”    Their minds from youth had been implanted with the way to God being through confession, ceremonies, sacrifices, learning  -  things largely connected with the temple in Jerusalem. Now Jesus declares – “I am the way”  .  He is to replace the old covenant way. He fulfilled the old covenant way, and so made a new and living way to God. [the very colours of the curtain in the temple that obstructed the way to God, expressed the glories of the Lord Jesus – Blue –the one who came from heaven. Purple – the King to reign forever. Scarlet – the true  humanity of Jesus. Fine twined linen – the strength of the holy Son of God. But wait a minute – I have just diverted into typology, which is helpful and instructive, but for another day. However such is not irrelevant – remember when Jesus died, that very curtain was torn into two pieces from the top to the bottom. No explanation is given, but it’s significance is rather obvious. The ‘way to God’ has been opened by the death of the Lord Jesus, and that is the general teaching of this chapter – the disciples of The Lord Jesus going to the Father by the Lord, and the Father coming to the disciples (verse 23).

            I suggest we pause here and let the wonder of it all fill your mind.

Some of you have learned about the tabernacle/temple types – cherish the expanded understanding it gives you. Some of you have been suppressed by teachings of inferiority and an unworthiness to draw near to God.- claim with boldness the promise of a new and living way through the blood of Christ. Some of you have lived in the shallows of preoccupation with earthly affairs – grasp the moment of opportunity and taste of the bliss of heaven – to know HIM, to love HIM, to trust HIM and let Him reveal the Father to you as never before!

      Well I haven’t proceeded far, and my pen with my mind is running in many directions connected with this simple yet overwhelming statement “I am the way”  eg for  your study Acts 4.12 Peter announces this as the only way. Hebrews 7.19 this is the better way of drawing near to God. Ephesians 1.5, 5.20 He is our means of acceptance with God !

                 Isn't He wonderful, wonderful ,wonderful
                  Isn't Jesus my Lord wonderful
                  Eyes have seen ears have heard
                   It's recorded in Gods word
                    Isn't Jesus my Lord wonderful

To be continued tomorrow  J Mckee

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why study the Bible


Bible study is good, but we should ask the question ‘ why study’?  What is the objective of Bible study?

Some study academically, researching its content analytically so as to categorize its theology and be able to make it fit a particular doctrinal dogma!  Others  study its origins, manuscripts and cultural settings to judge its reliability and relevance. Yet another will spend endless hours searching out fine details of translation hoping to find the key to interpretation. One man I knew actually rewrote the New Testament and had it published so that he could cut out the sections that didn’t make sense to him!

Do despise scholarship ?  - No  - I thank God for those who dedicate much time to research study, exposition, translation etc, but I do feel that many have wasted much effort distracted by side issues.

Why apply effort and time to Bible study? Is it for personal gratification and happy feelings?  Shall I use my knowledge gained to promote myself as a teacher  and secure an income?  Do I use my understanding to criticise others?
If not, then WHY bother?

The Lord Himself rebuked the learned men of His day  “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life: and it is they that bear witness about me.” John 5.39.  For these dedicated people, their study was a total loss for they had missed the answer to the question “why”  !

Paul encouraged study, in particular for the teacher and leader of the people. It is important to be able to “rightly divide the word of truth”. The fundamental question is, do we  study for self, for others or for God? Unfortunately most of us begin with self first, others and then God. We need to be converted in our thinking, to let God be first, then others and ourselves last.

This leads to the very important principle of Bible study – ‘What is God saying in the Bible as a whole, and in it’s history, and in it’s laws, and in it’s songs etc ?
Then eventually we ask “what is God saying to me?”
The Bible can sustain scholarly research and be a blessing, but it is also a voice from God to individuals then and now, made good to the individual by the Holy Spirit. How many millions have experienced this, and so many have died for the reality of believing the voice of God to them through the Bible! His promises do not fail.

In Conclusion let me summarize my feeble answer to the ‘why’ of Bible study:
1              To lead us to worship God.
2             To reveal the Lord Jesus.
3             To instruct us in God’s ways, God’s will for us
4             To discover God at work in the past, present and future.
5             And more......................................................
Bible study is not an end in itself, but the object and end is to know Christ and be like Christ!

Put another way by Paul “the aim of our charge is love (God’s kind of love),that issues from a pure heart, and a good conscience (to discern right and wrong), and a sincere faith (implicit trust in God revealed in His Son Jesus).  1 Timothy 1.5

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all as you yearn to ‘know HIM, whom to know is life eternal’ ( heaven begun on earth).

Suggestions for further study welcome –

These recent blogs are in response to a request for Bible studies by someone I met at the local market.