John

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


God, A Stranger

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
John 1:10

So much here…
It aches me to think that not one person recognized their Maker when He walked among them. So deep is sin and the deceitfulness in us that we are so blind to light even when face-to-face with Him. I can only imagine how much we might be missing today as well—God have mercy

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
John 1:11

This might be even sadder than verse 10.

These aren’t just any people—these are the very ones who have immersed themselves in the very Scripture that SHOUTS Jesus. These are ones who have prayed to God. Who were his special people. And when He came up close to them they had no clue who He was. They had their own ideas of God based on things here and there. But the Real God was essentially a stranger to them when He got close. Just consider that

New Names

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter ).
John 1:42

It’s interesting He names Peter here. My mind thought of how Adam exercised his dominion over the animals by naming them. Likewise, I wonder if Creator Jesus is showing his dominion over Peter / the disciples by giving them new names? Maybe not…but an interesting thought…

On Mission

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.[d] 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”
John 2:23-25

I love how Jesus’ focus is totally on his mission, and he does not need validation from people to keep going. The only validation Jesus needed was from his heavenly father, and he lived in full confidence knowing his father loved him and was pleased with him.

Amen! I’d add that the reason given in John for Jesus not trusting people was that “he knew all people…he knew what was in each person”. I’ve taken that to mean that He recognized the fallenness within each of us. That the praise of man is fickle and misleading. That people can be hot and cold. That humans are not a good place to put your trust (that include in ourselves) – see Jeremiah 17.

I’ve been reflecting on the same as we are going through the gospels! Jesus knew his purpose and did not divert.

Righteous Judgment

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 5:30 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=John%205:30&version=ESV
2 elements to righteous judgment:

  1. Judge according to Gods word (“As I hear, I judge”)
  2. Judge according to Gods will, not your own

May we follow this same pattern in making just judgments today!

Hearing God

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:37-40

What a sobering thought!
You have never heard God’s voice, though you search the Scriptures. Because you aren’t willing to receive and follow what it says

John begins with calling Jesus “The Word”. And by that I’ve taken it to mean He is the exact expression and communication of God (because He is God in the flesh). But there’s also a strong correlation between the Scriptures (as God’s written Word) and Jesus (God’s personal Word). Both Scriptures + Jesus communicate God exactly. I think of it as the difference between writing someone a letter (Scriptures) and talking to them face-to-face (God in the flesh = Jesus). They written and face-to-face communication will sync and match, just the face-to-face version usually gives added “shades” and “coloring” that the written communication doesn’t have.

Along these lines, I’ve been thinking about how much Jesus (God’s Word) matches and fulfills Scripture (God’s Written Word) as seen throughout John:

  • Ch. 1 = Jesus matches the dream of Jacob, with angels ascending and descending on Him. He is the new Jacob/Israel, and would appoint 12 apostles, just as Jacob had 12 sons/tribes of Israel.
  • Ch. 2 = Jesus’ first sign was turning water into wine. I think this hearkens to Moses’ first sign of turning the water into blood. Jesus, like Moses, will save his people from oppression (the oppression of sin).
  • Ch. 3 = Jesus compares Himself to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. His death on a cross would undo the power of sin/Satan over those who believe, just like the bronze serpent undid the power of the serpents for those who looked to it.
  • Ch. 4 = If you compare the story of how Isaac and Jacob gained a wife at the well, I see striking similarities. It starts by asking for a drink of water, but then gaining a bride (which I think she is part of Jesus gaining a bride–she recognizes Him as Messiah, and gathers the whole city to Him…this is like Jacob giving water to the sheep in addition to the woman).
  • Ch. 5 = Jesus heals someone lame for 38 years. I think of Deut. 2:14 and how Israel had to go 38 years in the desert before they enter the Promised Land. Jesus is the Promised Land, bringing healing to this man after 38 years.
  • Ch. 6 = Jesus compares Himself to the Manna that comes from heaven as nourishment for the people, like the manna while the Israelites were in the desert.

The point I’m sort of seeing and feeling out here (maybe still a bit raw) is that Jesus personified and fulfilled God’s written word in so many ways, as God’s ultimate Personal Word to the people. He showed them what God was really like. And the sad irony is that no one recognized God when He came.

Moses as Author

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
John 5:46-47

Literally today i was talking with someone about whether Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible. He takes a more liberal view (that Moses wrote some but a lot was written by other authors). Then I opened up and saw this and BAM. Shows what Jesus thought. Amen!

More Confirmation

I also happened to hear a quick teaching on the Bible today and BAM they started talking about Jesus as Gods Word and comparing to Scripture, Gods written word. Exactly what I wrote about earlier. Just seems like God is really using John to weave together things in my life this week.

Not a Political Leader

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
John 6:15

What a picture! They wanted Jesus to change things politically / militarily. He had a far bigger agenda. What a word for the zealot in our own hearts today as we think political / military change should be Jesus’ chief mission. His ways are better than ours!!

Not My Will

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 6:38 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=John%206:38&version=ESV
I find this amazing. Jesus, as fully man, had a will that could be contrary to God’s will. Though being God He could lay down any human will and completely submit his will to the Father. That’s what pure righteousness looks like.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
John 7:51

This shows the US legal precedent for presuming innocence until proven guilty by due process.
I fear our mob mentality and instant judgment of people breaks this very important principle. May we go back to not judging quickly but presuming all innocent until proven guilty!

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
John 7:52

Even further, they judged him guilty because of something that seemed true but actually wasn’t if they would’ve investigated humbly and carefully.

Comedy, John, and Sheep

man – the gospel of John has been cracking me up! So many funny things that I think are supposed to make us pause.

One thing I just went over:
Jesus: “the sheep know the shepherd’s voice…” (vv. 4-5)
“But they did not understand what he was saying to them” (v. 6)
…the irony. He just said his sheep know his voice. But then right after they were like, “we don’t recognize your voice” haha…you must not be a sheep

Relationship Over Religion

“Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?”
John 7:22-23

I love how Jesus is always teaching us relationship over religion. Jesus wants to see restoration, and he doesn’t seem to care one bit about his bringing restoration getting in the way of religious tradition.

Something else to consider: Jesus routinely points to the principles of Scripture as guidance over the letter-of-the-law / formula that the Pharisees were so in love with. Here he shows the ridiculousness of their extra-biblical traditions. That they were against healing on the Sabbath (a work of God), yet were OK with circumcision on that day (a work of man in accordance with God).

When you have externals, then self-effort can make you feel self-righteous. But when you go to principles, it becomes more relational and driven from internal change (as said), not “did I meet the quota?”

Other examples of this include:

  • Jesus pointing to David and his men getting the showbread from the priest (though it was “unlawful” to eat)
  • Matt 5 – where He rebukes them for thinking “they’ve arrived” when they don’t commit adultery but DO lust…or don’t murder but DO have hateful thoughts. In other words, they meet their human quota, but don’t obey from the heart. Of course, none of us do this, thus the need for the gospel!

More Confirmations

I’ve been amazed all week that I’ll comment things on here, then hear a “random” teaching here or there give confirmation of it. It just happened again, so wanted to share. This is from “Regeneration Through the Spirit” by Michael Reeves:

After reading from Mark 7, the speaker says:

So Jesus knew how sin collapses religion into a hollow outward show that fails to deal with the deep issues of the heart. So to be [truly] evangelical is to be highly wary of a pharisaical hypocrisy in which our lips may be orthodox [i.e. say the right words] but our hearts are not.

Regeneration Through the Spirit – Michael Reeves

Limitless

At the end of John:

  • death couldn’t stop Jesus
  • The stone couldn’t stop Him
  • A locked door didn’t stop Him
  • A doubting Thomas didn’t stop Him
  • And a night of toil without fish wasn’t too much for Him

I’m so convicted that I think my issues / blindspots / stubbornness is TOO BIG for Jesus to get through. Or even the church’s issues collectively.

Christ forgive me for seeing limitations with natural eyes.

A Servant

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
John 13:4-5

I love how Jesus’ response to “all things under his power” is to immediately become the lowest servant. Jesus flips culture upside down, and we are called to do the same. This is not an act of self-punishment or asceticism, however, because Jesus assures us that “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (v17).

Love this! Never noticed it was in response to things under his power. I do see though how those who are their position in Christ and the power of God in us are the freest to love and serve without conditions. Love because He first loved us…

Are The Gospels Reliable?

It seems to me that a lot of atheists try to discredit the word due to discrepancies and the lack of reliability. I was actually amazed how similar the accounts are (especially in the first three gospels). John is a bit different… I’m sure I’m biased but I see amazing reliability in these accounts!

Brian speaking:

  1. The more I’ve looked into the gospels (even did a full harmonization of all 4 gospels), the more I’ve seen incredible agreement. But I think it’s like what Jesus shows us with parables – those unwilling to follow will listen to a parable and be all confused and think, it doesn’t make sense (a good excuse for not following). But those willing to follow will see how amazingly it all goes together. Such is the same with how people view the gospels. Things may seem contradictory until you look closer. But only those interested in following Jesus will look closer.
  2. A person commenting on how people approach supposed “contradictions” in the gospels compared it to a husband who happens to come home from work early, and sees his wife hugging a man he didn’t recognize. If his relationship with his wife is already pretty poor, he could jump to the conclusion that she is having an affair. But if they have a healthy relationship, he will talk with her and try to figure out what is happening. Then he may realize a lot of scenarios that were totally pure, and not adulterous. All depends on where their heart is with their spouse and their relationship is at. That filters, so to speak, how you will approach things that your mind initially views as possible contradiction.
  3. There’s a beautiful picture, to me, of how Jesus’ earthly ministry (his body-in-the-flesh) is compared to the temple curtain in Hebrews 10:20. He was a walking holy-of-holies, because the Spirit filled Him (and He was God) while still living as a man. So the temple curtain speaks to his body. Well…check this out…if you look back to Exodus on how they were instructed to stitch the temple curtain together, you see they were told to use 4 different fabrics. 3 of the fabrics were of the same material, but different colors. While 1 of the fabric was completely different than the other 3. Now consider that for a moment! This is how the temple curtain was to be stitched, and this represents Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh (Heb. 10:20). Amazingly, this corresponds precisely to the way the gospels stitch together Jesus’ earthly ministry. We have 4 gospels (like the 4 fabrics). 3 are very similar (Matt, Mark, Luke) while 1 is very different (John). It takes the skill of the Holy Spirit (and humility) to see how they all stitch together. But they do stitch together amazingly to those interested in learning.
  4. this is already too long probably, but if you haven’t seen this, check it out: https://youtu.be/r5Ylt1pBMm8 …gives some powerful evidence that the gospels should be taken more seriously than skeptics have though

Biblical Worldview 101

WORLDVIEW: the lens by which you view and evaluate the world.

BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW: using the Bible as your lens for viewing/evaluating the world.

Audio of “Biblical Worldview 101” (54 min)
  • God’s Word reveals God’s thoughts: Psalm 119:130; Isaiah 55:6-11; 1 Cor. 1:25
  • Jesus treats God’s word as the highest authority on EVERYTHING: Matt. 3:17-4:11; Mark 7:1-13; John 10:34-35; John 12:47-50
  • God’s Word = Seed: Luke 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:23
    • seed = origin
    • don’t mix with other seeds: Deut. 22:9; 1 Pet. 1:23
    • EXEGESIS = working out from Bible as starting place (versus eisegesis, having your own starting place independent of God’s word)
  • Revelation from Bible + Holy Spirit: Gen. 1:2-3; Acts 15:12-21; 1 Cor. 2:11; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 John 2:27
    • Like 2 eyes – focused on the same thing, we get light
    • Spirit and Word always true: Lev. 11:36-37 (cf. John 4; Luke 8:11)
    • Scripture
      • tests the Spirit’s revelation: Heb. 4:12-13; 1 Thes. 5:19-21
      • is best interpreter of Scripture: Matt. 4:7
      • is treated as ultimate authority: Matt. 3:17-4:11
    • Need soft hearts: Psalm 95:7-11; Prov. 1:23; Luke 8:4-15; John 7:17; 2 Cor. 3:16
    • Nature gives supplementary revelation: Psalm 19; Romans 1
  • In practice
    • 2 Tim 1:14: we guard the doctrine; the Spirit is necessary to help
    • John 7:17; James 1:22-25 (cf. Ex 16:19-20): willingness to obey solidifies learning
    • Acts 17:11; 1 Thes. 5:19-21 – (1) be willing to receive, (2) examine by the Scriptures
      • like eating: put the food in your mouth, chew to separate it out (and spit out the bad), then swallow
    • devote yourself to learning God’s word
      • Acts 2:42; 17:11
      • copy the Bible: Deut. 17:18-20
      • Publicly read the Bible: Deut. 31:9-13; 1 Tim. 4:13
        • Teaching to understand it: Nehemiah 8:8; 1 Tim. 4:13
    • use (and be) good teachers
      • not a dependence on teachers: Matt. 23:10; 1 John 2:27
      • good teachers get you established in God/Scripture, not themselves: Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2, 3:10-4:5
      • test teachers (good ones will desire you to do this, and be correctable to Scripture where they err from it): Acts 17:11; 18:26; 1 John 4:1

Luke

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


Luke – Acts Background

I think it’s helpful to consider a little background behind Luke writing Luke and Acts.

If you flip to the end of Acts, you see that Paul was on trial for being rebellious to “good”, Jewish orderly piety. Luke was a companion of Paul’s (as you can see in the “we” passages in the book of Acts that start midway through the book, when Luke presumably joined Paul and his crew).

So we see that Luke wrote Luke-Acts:

  • as a companion of Paul’s
  • when Paul was being charged with disorderly conduct, yet to be fully tried

I think that background really helps to understand possibly why Luke-Acts is shaded the way it is at times.

One theme that emerges, in Luke is the orderliness and piety of people surrounding Jesus’ birth:

  • Zechariah was a pious priest, punished for disobedience
  • Mary and Luke were dutiful citizens to come at the time of the census
  • They offered Jesus at the temple dutifully, in accordance with the law
  • And they went back to their home dutifully, while still coming to Jerusalem to observe the feasts that brought people to Jerusalem
  • Even Jesus, when he was lost at age 12, was actually in the temple amongst Jewish leaders, calling it his “father’s house”

Comparing with Matthew’s gospel we see Luke never mentions:

  • Non-Jewish men (Eastern wise men) finding and worshipping Jesus and disregarding the king’s command
  • Mary and Joseph’s defecting to Egypt
  • The angel telling them to go to “Galilee of the Gentiles” (as opposed to the “upstanding” Jerusalem)

Hopefully that makes sense. Luke focuses on upstanding Jewish and dutiful citizen things that happened and Matthew focuses on Jesus’ mission extending beyond the Jews (and that He is a new king who is greater than the kings of the world). Matthew’s family line even emphasizes the non-Jewish parts of Jesus’ lineage, whereas Luke doesn’t.

But if you think about the circumstances of Luke’s writing (in part, to vindicate Jesus’ movement, and Paul’s dealings with it, against charges of insurrection), it may be helpful to view what and why he’s showing us things.

I’d say all of this is underneath God’s careful hand who oversaw every word. So it still communicates everything truthfully and is part of the revelation God wants the world to have concerning Jesus. But it’s fun to think about the human elements that went in, and then together we can hopefully parse out some of the power of this great gospel!

Their Devotion

I haven’t read very far in Luke, but already noticed these phrases:

  • “they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (1:6)
  • “this man [Simeon] was righteous and devout” (2:25)

So you have these phrases about people being righteous and devout before Jesus even came. Of course, this isn’t true in an absolute sense, as later Jesus would say: “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). But in a relative sense, they were diligent to do all of the rituals God commanded of them, as best as they knew how.

In part, I think this speaks to what I said above, about 1 of Luke’s themes being to show the “Jesus movement” was not made of a bunch of rebels, but upstanding citizens.

But I also think this speaks to something I’ve been pondering lately: what is the difference between unrighteous Pharisees (who Jesus staunchly rebukes — see Luke 18:9-14, for instance) and righteous disciples? It ultimately comes down to where you place your trust for your righteousness before God: in you or in Jesus? But externally, people fully trusting in Jesus and people fully trusting in self could look pretty similar honestly. That’s what I’m picking up in Luke. That you can be zealous to obey God’s law (a good thing) without falling into phariseeism of trusting/exalting/justifying self (a deplorable thing).

“She [Anna] did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37)

Observation I’ve heard elsewhere: Luke begins and ends inside the temple:

  • Zechariah unbelieving while serving God in the temple (Luke 1)
  • the disciples worshiping Jesus and believing while serving God in the temple (Luke 24:52-53)

Jesus Points to God

39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Luke 8:39

Love how Jesus points to God. Of course they are 1. But He gives an example as a human too, that we would keep pointing to Him.

Listen Carefully

Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
Luke 9:43-45

I LOVE this passage! Jesus says, “listen carefully” but the meaning was hidden from them. Only later did it make sense. Let us listen carefully and trust God to reveal later.

Being Jesus’ Disciple

Luke 9:57-62 seems a clear correlation with 1 Kings 19:19-21. I respect that Jesus demands more than Elijah did in the situation, though Elisha did make a clean break of his former life. But now One greater than Elijah is here: JESUS.

Jesus Offends

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
Luke 11:45-46

I think I laugh out loud every time I read this.
The lawyer thinks he’s laying it down a bit heavy. Then Jesus is like, “I’m just getting started. Glad you brought up the topic of lawyers” BOOM
Sometimes true love can feel REALLY offensive to those who are self-righteous.

Jesus and Sabbath

But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Luke 13:14

Another laugh out loud moment for me
“Stop healing on that day because God wouldn’t like it”. As if God wasn’t the One doing the healing that very day

Jesus and Social Justice

I’ve been really meditating on Luke 12:13-21. I think it has a lot to say to our current culture regarding what many call “social justice”. May we consider it together:

First, we have a man who is upset because his brother won’t share his inheritance with him. That’s all we know. But I think we may be able to fill in some details based on other Scriptures and thinking further on this. Namely:
his brother was probably the oldest, and therefore got a double portion of inheritance that is meant for the eldest son
this man thought it was unfair, so maybe found himself in some hard times–or maybe his brother was having lavish times he wasn’t having. In any case, he knows his brother got more than him, and he is protesting the injustice of this.
Jesus responds first by saying “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (12:14). There is some irony here in the fact that Jesus will be the ultimate Judge for this man and his brother (which speaks to the rest of the passage). But, in essence, I think He’s saying here, “Your not having more money than someone else isn’t a concern of mine.” PAUSE there. Have we or others made income disparity a concern where Jesus hasn’t? CONTINUE…

Instead, Jesus looks into the man’s heart and sees a bigger concern than perceived injustice: coveting. He says to the man, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (12:15). In other words, “Be way more concerned about the state of your heart than the state of your bank account compared to someone else’s.”

Next, in 12:16-21, he furthers his point by showing that getting more wealth just for yourself will lead you to God’s judgment that you don’t want to receive. Thus the irony of his first statement of not being a judge. In essence, if your concern is with having more money just for yourself, and you want to take from your wealthier brother to do that, you’ve missed the whole point. God wants your soul to be fully given over to Him.

Thus this is really an indictment to more than just this man. It is also an indictment to his brother if his brother is gaining wealth only for self-serving purposes. The whole point is that making wealth (and even wealth inequalities) a big issue could be setting yourself up for a scary judgment to come. Get your soul right with God. If He gives you more wealth, use it for His glory. If someone else gets wealth, their soul will also be judged just as ours is judged. Keep eyes on God and the Final judgment to come, not money and temporary things of this life. (edited)

Mark

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


Mark 5:18-20

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

I think that one of the most powerful testimonies someone can offer is a changed life on display. This man wanted to follow Jesus and the disciples, but Jesus seemed to know that his presence in the community as a totally changed person would be more impactful than him joining the group as a disciple.
Evangelism for this man must have been kind of simple after being freed from his demons. I imagine people that knew him before being blown away at his radical change, and him telling them that he simply met Jesus and is now free.

It also catches my attention that in this episode Jesus says “go and share”, while many other times in Mark (and Matthew) Jesus says, “don’t share.” I wonder if the difference is due to Jesus leaving that area, and so He implements a way for “His presence” (at least via testimony) to stay there. A sort of “multiplying” of Himself, if you will. But in another case where He said don’t share, it was because He was still with them and maybe didn’t want to be overwhelmed by people all at once? At least I think of Mark 2:40-45: “Jesus sternly charged him [the healed leper]…’say nothing to anyone…’ But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town”

It is easy to forget that Jesus was fully human, and he understood what was practical for himself as well as what was necessary for his message to spread.

I’d add that according to Matt. 12:15-21, Jesus telling people to not share was part of fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-3. That Messiah was to be somewhat quiet UNTIL “He brings justice to victory”. And then, “in his name the Gentiles will hope.” I take this to be a reference to His death and resurrection. In other words, He was to be quiet and news of Him somewhat hushed UNTIL his death and resurrection. At that point, the Gentiles will be brought in and the whole world should know.

Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:28: “if I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

Consider that. A piece of Jesus’ clothes at the outer, edge of His body can issue so much healing. Now think ahead to His body today – that is, the Church (Eph. 5). We are individual members of His body, all with His Spirit indwelling us. This tells me that even someone who is “little” and sort of “on the fringes” can still issue healing (on many levels) to souls around them. So long as you are part of Jesus’ body, with His Spirit within, there is a power you have (and of how much more worth are you than a garment?).

Mark 5:21-43 – thinking also of the rest of this story with Jairus’s daughter. You see how ruthless/serious Jesus is about the healing in the fact that he only brought 3 of his apostles, then ordered everyone away when He was there. It was probably perceived as rude and socially awkward, but Jesus’ eyes were only toward the healing of this child, so He took those extra steps. Makes me wonder where I might be able to take extra steps that could seem rude or socially awkward but would lead to ministry of others – from death to life.

I love this idea that we are all an extension of Jesus’ body, and we can offer Jesus’ healing power to others as long as we are aware of the Holy Spirit with us. So great!

Mark 6

Mark 6:5 – “Jesus could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”
Not many times did Jesus marvel. Not many things would make the God of the universe marvel. But here is an instance: when God comes in the flesh, to the very place he’d spent years at, and yet so few believe Him. That makes Him marvel.

Note:
Again, in some way, we see the faith of the community tied to the healings that happened. Perhaps this helps explain why a lot of radical miracle stories happen in non-Western countries?
Consider why those who knew Jesus the best had the least faith. Obviously, they only knew him in the flesh, and not by revelation of God. Further, they knew him largely before Jesus began his public ministry, so I don’t think He was really preaching or doing great miracles for them a lot. But I also think that we have a preconceived notion of what God would be like if He was among us. And then Jesus was so different than human perversions of what we think God is like. And they couldn’t believe it. Just a thought…

Mark 7

Mark 7 has a precious place in my heart.

A couple highlights from reading it today:

The Pharisees had worked out this “logical” idea that giving to God is better than giving to parents. On the surface, of the 2 choices, most would probably side with the Pharisees, right? But the problem is their “good idea” replaced Scripture, and actually led to disobedience they didn’t even realize. How often is the church doing the same today? We logically work out what “true obedience” looks like. We even have good arguments for why that is “true obedience”. Meanwhile, the Scriptures remain there telling us there’s a different way (that may not make sense to your sense of logic about what “true obedience” looks like). So, for instance, giving money (or time, for that matter) to your parents can be more appreciated by God than pouring out your money (and time) to something that seems much more “godly” and “grandiose”.

Jesus comments on what comes out of the heart. Notice nothing good comes out of our human hearts in that list? Consider that. And I’d add, “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). Doesn’t get much grimmer than that. Or Jer. 17:9 – “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Ouch. That could be rude…if it weren’t so stinking true! And thus it is mind-boggling how much stock our society places today on the heart/feelings/emotions, etc. Gross

“He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” (Mk 7:24) – I LOVE this passage. For anyone who thinks they can have Jesus “hide” in their heart and his presence won’t be made known to others… You don’t know Jesus. If He’s in you, people will know. And vice-versa. Maybe not immediately, but it happens sooner or later: “24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.” (1 Tim. 5:24-25)

Mark 14-16: Death and Resurrection

Trusting we are all reading Mark 14/15 today individually and with our families and churches along with most other Christians. Amazing to know in unity we share this story together and grieve in His death together today. Thankful that it’s not the end of the story and Mark 16 exist, but for today may we all reflect on his great sacrifice for each of us.

It is a trippy thought that God could take what looked like the absolute worst thing that could happen (Jesus’ death) and make it pretty much the absolute best thing that could happen (our salvation, and his subsequent resurrection). Just expands your mind when we look at really tough things happening today and assume it’s all terrible. While God is saying, “Do you remember the Cross?”

HE’S ALIVE!!!!!!

^^ these are 2 songs that have become special to our family (and house church) when celebrating and considering Jesus’ resurrection!

Also, if I may, a small observation from our time considering the gospels and Jesus’ resurrection:

None of the disciples believed the women’s report about Jesus being alive. Nor did they really believe Peter’s message immediately, nor the 2 to Emmaus. The disciples didn’t believe any of the messages until Jesus Himself came. Even Thomas didn’t believe when literally every other apostle told Him He was alive. They were all filled with doubts. Jesus remedied this by coming directly to them. But consider that for a moment. Not only does that communicate how authentic the resurrection story is/was (no one would make up a story filled with so much doubt LOL).

BUT IT ALSO communicates something really important:

God wanted THESE disciples to share the gospel with the whole world. They were supposed to tell people to give their lives for this Jesus even though their hearers wouldn’t see Him with their eyes. THESE doubting disciples were the chosen vessels to spread the gospel to the world. They were not filled with faith (a bit hypocritical honestly since they were telling others to believe without seeing). They were not that smart (evidenced by all the times they misunderstand Jesus). THESE were God’s chosen vessels. Just think about that. I think it tells us how much trust God has in His Spirit within us. If His Spirit can empower THESE doubting, simple fishermen to spread the gospel to the nations…then He is looking to use us too–you and me. Not waiting for you to be filled with faith or super smart. Just yielded to His Holy Spirit and willing to be fools He could use.

Matthew

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


Matt. 1- God’s Grace & Sovereignty

I was really moved to read Matthew 1 and the list of names actually. It felt like a scene from the movie where we’ve been working through the Old Testament and we see all the issues and we’re waiting for the Messiah… Then there is this time of silence (400 years) between the Old Testament and Jesus’ coming. And you can only imagine the waiting. Then Matthew 1 starts and recounts all of that history (at least starting with Abraham)…all the waiting…all the struggle…all the messiness. It’s like all we were reading got a quick montage in my mind. AND THEN…after all that…JESUS IS HERE. Just makes me want to cry honestly. So moving–He truly came. And in the introduction of his name we see His purpose: Jesus [God saves] – God will forgive and save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). He’s here! All that nasty history in the Old Testament. All that nasty history in our own life. All that comes to an end when Jesus comes. We’re saved!! We’ve been forgiven!!! Can only capture so much of my feelings here in words. But I have been really touched!

A theme of Matthew is that God brings in Gentiles/sinners. I saw that in the genealogy when He mentions promiscuous acts/women (even Gentiles) as part of the lineage of Jesus: “by Tamar…Rahab…Ruth…the wife of Uriah…” (Matt. 1). Then the first sign of people coming to Jesus in Matthew 2 are these people from Eastern lands (not even Jews). You get this theme of God bringing in all the world to Jesus to forgive them. Fast forward to the end of Matthew, where you get the great commission to go out to all the nations (not just Israel). Matthew is the only 1 to talk about that. This is a theme that is really at the heart of his gospel. And I’m seeing it in these early chapters.

I was also struck by God’s grace and sovereignty while reading the genealogy in Matthew 1. We are reading through the book of Genesis at my church right now, and we just recently got through the story of Judah and Tamar. Looking back at Jesus’ family line there is just a ton of brokenness and sin on display. Deceit, violence, sexual brokenness, and favoritism are all part of Jesus’ family history.

I am comforted, however, that God chose to use these broken people to bring about his plan because I know that I don’t have to be perfect for God to use me.

I love that connection at the end (I was thinking the same): this gives us hope to be used in the Lord’s service!

Matt. 7

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
Matthew 7:16-18

This verse, and the concept of us “bearing fruit” has been an important lesson for me over the last few years. During the early days of COVID, when we were all just trying to survive the shutdown, this was something on my mind a lot. With all of the tension and anxiety and uncertainty of the time it became plain what “tree” we were all connected to.
I know that when I am plugging myself into anything other than Jesus (who tells us that he is the vine, and we are the branches) I am a very hard person to be around. However, when I am connected to Jesus I am a blessing to others. Jesus’ teaching shows us that the only way for us to grow spiritually and bear good fruit is to be connected to him.

Matthew 8: Jesus calms the storm

I love this story, and the children’s Bible that we read after dinner describes it very well:
“Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm.
‘Hush!’ he said. That’s all. And the strangest thing happened…
The wind and the waves recognized Jesus’voice (They had heard it before, of course- it was the same voice that made them, in the very beginning). They listened to Jesus and they did what he said.”
This reminds me of John 1:3:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

Matt. 9 – Opened Eyes

“And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it.’ But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.” (Matt. 9:30-31)

I love this on so many levels.

I continue to be legitimately unsure if Jesus would’ve liked them sharing or not. It goes against his command to them (con), but they were so eager to spread His name (pro).

Either way, I love the power of this–when God opens our eyes, we are compelled to run and share Him with others. The more our eyes are opened (i.e. the more revelation we have of Jesus and His work), the more I believe we will be compelled to share Him.

Along these lines, I encourage us to join Paul in his prayer:

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Eph. 1:17-20

Matt. 11 – Jesus’ Yoke

Matt. 11 – I’m struck by the contrast between the wise and prudent striving to know God versus the infants and babes who just surrender to Jesus. The yoke of the scholars to learn God is all effort placed on you. The yoke of Jesus is placing complete reliance and trust on Him–like a baby would be dependent on parents for everything. In my humble opinion, there is a LOT of blindness among people studying the Bible because they haven’t learned this first lesson.

Matt. 12

Continuing the theme of bearing fruit, Matthew 12:33-35

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

The fruit of the Spirit is not a “To-Do list,” but it is what will naturally come out of us if we are connected to the “proper tree,” so to speak. This has been weighing on me lately after a somewhat disappointing interaction I had with a few friends recently.

This group of friends used to go to my church, and a few years ago they left our church with two of the pastors to help plant another church in a nearby city. This was a time that was difficult and felt like the church was splitting apart, but it was also kind of exciting to see how God would work through the difficult circumstances and bring about something new.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with this group of guys a few weeks ago, and I left the time feeling very disappointed and dissatisfied. I was hoping to be encouraged and filled by the opportunity to see how my old friend group was growing, but instead I felt like a foreigner. There was very little encouragement in conversation at all, and one thing in particular that stood out to me was a frequent use of explicit language. I am not at all trying to be legalistic here, and I will openly say that I fail at this often (especially in my thoughts and to myself), but it just kind of gave me pause. It made me wonder that if this is the “fruit”, then what does the “tree” look like? This group of friends spoke a bit about their political beliefs and I have noticed a lot of community activism on their part, but I don’t think that this is necessarily always the same thing as following Jesus.

Later, in Matthew 28, Jesus gives us all the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” I think that when we become disciples of Jesus, and are connected to him, the one true “vine” or “tree,” we will bear the fruit of the spirit. I do believe that making disciples is remarkably different from making activists, advocates, or party members. Disciples of Jesus are different from the rest of the world, namely in the way they love and the “fruit” they bear.

Matt. 13

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

Reminds me of 2 Cor: “we have treasure in earthen vessels”. Our value with Christ (the treasure within) is so much greater than without.

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:52

Never noticed the reference to “scribe” before. A writer. May be a veiled reference to NT writers where they stitch together Old Testament references with NT events.

Matt. 14

And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
Matthew 14:35

Recognition / revelation of Jesus —> coming toward Him as healer and savior

Matt. 15

15:21-28 ~
This actually really stirs me. Makes me wonder when Jesus is waiting for me to knock down the door, so to speak, and won’t respond until He sees us asking with a bit of conviction and muster!

Matt. 21

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
Matthew 21:43 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%2021:43&version=ESV
Shows that Israel after the flesh are rejected from Gods kingdom if they reject Jesus. And a new people is formed: the church—made up of all who receive Jesus; Jew and Gentile.

God Can Use Us

Something that strikes me in Matthew…and really in all of the gospels, is how hopeless the disciples are on their own. They misunderstand Jesus the whole way through. They try to correct him because they know the better way. They aren’t able to cast out the demons that Jesus seemed to expect them to. They leave Jesus at his hardest hour, even though they all claim they’d never deny Him. They chastise Mary for pouring out the alabaster flask on Jesus. And I could go on.

Anyone else read this and think, “Wait, these are the ones Jesus wants to use to turn the world upside down?” Haha!! I hope it’s actually empowering for all of us to consider this. Jesus is looking to use people who don’t have it together…NOT at all. Anyone who studies church history will see the same thing. It’s always stunning to me to do a deep dive study of heroes of the faith. They also had tremendous issues most of the time.

Why? So He gets all the glory!

I totally agree as well! God uses us broken people to further his kingdom, and he ends up with the glory. If we end up with the glory we will most likely misuse it due to our brokenness.

This is empowering for me because I read the Bible and think, ‘if God used these totally messed up people to bring his kingdom then I suppose he can use me too.’

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

(1 Cor. 1:26-31)

By the power of the Holy Spirit–Christ in you…

Rise up fellow non-influential–non-noble–weak-lowly-despised-fools. We’re just the people God is looking to use, as His Spirit carries us fumbling and bumbling along!

Malachi

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


A day before we started reading Malachi, a friend said it’s been heavy on her heart for the church to heed and wondered my thoughts on it. We didn’t have time to chat but I thought it was beautiful timing since tomorrow we are reading it!! Read expecting the Lord to speak!

Giving to God

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor!”
Malachi 1:7-8

Giving our tithes and offerings is the way that we are able to trust God with what is very personal and close to us. God does not need our wealth, but he does deeply desire our devotion and our heart. He wants us to be all in so we can experience the way that is best, HIS way.

So I also was impacted by Mal. 1:7-8, but I’d like to challenge us to think about this principle on some other levels…

Namely: what sort of time, money, energy, resources are we offering to the Lord and building up his kingdom? (kind of like the call in Haggai to stop making your own house so beautiful while God’s house lies in ruins)

Maybe we can think of this another way: There have been seasons (maybe you all can relate) where Shana and I find ourselves spread thin doing all these things that seem “so important” that by the time her-and-I connect, we sort of give each others the leftovers. We’re both exhausted, it’s late at night, and our times where we had the most energy were spent elsewhere. That should not be, and we repent for that when it does happen.

Now consider what it’s like with the Lord. Is He only getting brief prayers before meals that are more mechanical than from the heart? Does He only get us quickly reading the Bible here and there without praying, considering, studying, and devoting ourselves to the principles laid out? Or maybe is His body (the church) hurting in ways we clearly can serve, and our time, energy, money is mostly spent elsewhere except for throwing a few scraps to honor God’s church here and there? I think all of these things are examples of not heeding the charge in Mal. 1:7-8.

Lastly, and interestingly, I find that when I do prioritize giving the Lord my best, it helps me prioritize my time and puts me in a position to give my wife my best, and everything else falls into place from there. Sort of like what’s said later in Malachi – “watch what will happen when you give me your first/best…and how I will bless you with surplus!” (my paraphrase). Also similar to, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you”

Malachi 3

We actually went through Malachi 3 with our family this past weekend when they were in town as I thought that chapter was really rich.

The more I’m reading this book though Malachi 2:13-15 is really hitting me:

“You cover the Lords altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

Wow! God is seeking Godly offspring. He brought my wife & I together with a portion of His spirit. Yet, I have so often trampled on that with lust in my thoughts…I’m engaged in ongoing accountability and more to keep pure but these verses really spurred me on. And to think any of this unrepentant sin is going to lead to potentially unanswered prayer… powerful.

I’m glad you teased out this passage. It puts together some things my wife and I have been going through recently:

  • dear friends who are husband and wife had a blowup in front of us – we realized that their marriage is still really on the rocks, and have tried to walk through this with them ever since
  • other dear friends who are husband and wife had some struggle related to their marriage they were sharing with me. It felt similar to the first encounter, but definitely not nearly as severe. Had a chance to pray and minister truth to them, which I heard an update that they are really working through things together and it sounds like they are on a good trajectory – praise the Lord. But Shana and I want to minister to them more.
  • an engaged couple we have been counseling broke off their engagement. This actually was a praise for us because 1 was a believer and 1 a non-believer, and we told them that the non-believer really needs to be in the Lord before the Lord could endorse their choice to marry. They agreed with us on that, but were hopeful he’d come around to surrendering his life to Christ before wedding date. Anyway, I’m glad they don’t have a wedding date anymore, so now he can truly pursue Christ on His merits alone (not with the backdrop of trying to do it to please his wife)
  • then, last night, I confessed to my wife that I was getting “too curious” about looking into the Will Smith – Jada Pinkett Smith “open marriage” specifics. It was a sort of thought porn, honestly…It led to a beautiful time of intimacy between us, honestly–praise the Lord! Then my wife had a dark dream last night that seemed a direct attack on our marriage union and intimacy together. We prayed about it and rebuked it.
  • All to say, definitely sense this as a theme for us lately. Something Satan is trying to sow division in, but we God is challenging us to uphold the unity of the marriage covenant.

Devotion to Christ

I totally agree with what is said above–that when we prioritize God and his mission our priorities tend to orient themselves in proper order.

I sometimes struggle with the practical application of how to put my devotion into action, as sometimes my natural tendency is to feel like I need to make huge life changes or large gestures that seem overwhelming. However, I am slowly learning that our devotion to the LORD is made up of many, many small decisions made everyday.
The bulk of our daily lives is what would be classified as “mundane,” and I think seeking God in the mundane is so important. I am often reminded of marriage in this context as well. A wedding day is a great event (kind of like a large gesture of devotion), but choosing to serve our wives everyday of our marriage (the mundane) is where devotion is really tested.

The end of Malachi sums this up somewhat subtly:

  • 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
  • 4:4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”

The law was given to his people to give them a framework of devotion in the mundane, daily routine of life.

Sonship & Service

I noticed the beginning and end of Malachi ties sonship with service to the Lord. Mal 4 – “son who serves”

This is different than slaves who serve for payment. Sons serve because it is right, it pleases their fathers, it brings honor to the family, there is fatherly discipline where they don’t, it is tied up with how they will steward the inheritance.

All to say, people who teach that being sons of God somehow absolves us from serving God don’t know the Scriptures.

We still serve him, but our inheritance and salvation isn’t dependent on how good we served. We can’t stop being sons—that is a work of God. John 1:12

Zechariah

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


Love the book of Zechariah!

We see a lot of similarities in Revelation as well. The main theme of the book is completing God’s temple at a time when they felt pretty defeated. This is pretty much spot-on the theme of Revelation as well, only the temple envisioned there is God’s people / bride. I think Zechariah points to this ultimate truth as well.

Zech. 1-3

  • Chap. 1 I was struck by the incompleteness of the first prophecy. It didn’t really instruct the people a ton except to say, your fathers disobeyed and God’s word prevailed. It wasn’t until a few months later that more revelation is given. Makes me think about being content to receive only partial messages from the Lord. We want the whole picture, but maybe He only shows us a part and we will get in trouble for extending it beyond that.
  • Chap. 1 I was also struck by the horsemen and horns that patrol the earth, with special attention to the lot of God’s people. It seemed the earth was pretty much at rest for 70 years, then they realized it needed to be shaken up because this would ultimately help God’s people prevail and God’s temple be rebuilt. What a word for our time! It’s been 77 years since WWII…the earth has seemed pretty at rest. But now things are starting to shake up with Russia-Ukraine. Hopefully it won’t be a full-blown war, but if it is, I’m thinking ch. 1 of Zech…God is stirring up the nations for the sake of growing his church.
  • Chap. 3 Love the picture of Joshua given new garments when accused by Satan (“The Accuser”). Also, love the reference to sins being forgiven in a single day. This goes so deep, and God shows us that when He talks about the men surrounding Joshua as signs that speak to things WAY BEYOND Joshua. He references “the branch” which, I believe, is a title for Messiah who would come later (see Jeremiah and Isaiah). I think we can all see where this is going — there is 1 Person who will stand against the accuser and give us new garments of righteousness when He puts away sin in 1 day. OH…and if that’s not clear enough, in ch. 6 God shows that the name of the One would later come matches the name of Joshua. Think about that for a moment…”Joshua” is the Hebrew form of “Yeshua” in Greek. Which is “Jesus” in English. Pretty incredible stuff here!!

Zech. 4-6 ~

Wow, again, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I know I need to limit what I share, but it’s tough to choose–it’s all so good. Here are some highlights:

  • ch. 4 – for about 15 years now, this chapter has captivated a lot of my thoughts about what it looks like to partner with God in building up his church. It shows me that it’s not size or numbers that matter, nor is it human power that gets it done. Instead, it happens with the Spirit’s power and God’s grace as we work together.
  • ch. 5 – I love the visual for how sin is being totally subjugated and stuffed down, and left in Babylon (thus, the Israel’s leaving Babylon is like a new start…maybe like a baptism, if you will)
  • ch. 6 – I believe this chapter is a very rare and precious gem that I don’t hear many people talking about. But the gist is that there is a prophetic sign here. Namely, there will be a Messiah who will function as king and priest simultaneously (which only Jesus did). And His name will be “Joshua” (in the Hebrew). Which corresponds to “Yeshua” (Greek) / “Jesus” (English). So Jesus’ office and name was known 400+ years before He was born!!!! Only God could write this!!!! Even more, He will be exalted as king by people taken out of captivity. That’s all of us, brought out of our captivity to sin (just like the picture in ch. 5).

I just find these pictures so powerful. So much depth in so few words. Kind of like the parables of Jesus.

God’s Will

Looking this morning at 7:8 “render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil in your heart.”

And then….

8:16: “speak truth to one another; render in your gates judgment that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

Sometimes we think God’s will is so elusive but verses like these spell out very clearly what he desires and what he hates. Maybe His will is not so elusive after all?

P.S. I know we often hear as believers “at least we know how it ends”…. This book really highlights that for me. The end of the book is amazing! 14:11 “and it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”

Similarly…I’ve thought a lot about how people want to know God’s will for their job, their spouse, their location…things like that. Yet God spends so little time talking about these things. He cares WAY more that our hearts are right before Him, and we honor Him in any job, spouse, location we have. I think the problem with people looking for “God’s will” in their life is that their priorities don’t start from Scripture. Start with God’s priorities, and you’ll realize He’s said A LOT on the things that really matter to Him. And He wants us to start thinking more about those things, and less about the things He spends little time mentioning.

What Does the Bible Say About Social Justice? (With Audio)

Audio of “What Does the Bible say About Social Justice?” (1.5 hours)
Venn Diagram of "social justice" versus "Biblical righteous/justice"

2 Cautions

  1. The phrase, “social justice,” is used 0 times in the Bible. No doubt some of the concepts people mean by “social justice,” are biblical, but there are many today who have attached very harmful and unbiblical meaning behind the words, “social justice,” as well. Christians should use caution in using this term, defining it very clearly if you need to use it.
  2. The gospel is the foundation of Christianity. It tells of a God who was unjustly treated by humans so that He could justly pay the penalty we deserved in his crucifixion–giving us grace and mercy instead of mere justice. This gospel must be our starting point, which tells us “justice” alone is insufficient, and even injustice can be used by the Lord for amazing things.

God’s Justice

“The righteousness of God has been manifested…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:21-26)

In this powerful paragraph, we see 7 references to the concept of “righteousness” / “justice”. In God’s economy, these words are joined together and even used interchangeably. In truth, many different Hebrew and Greek words are all translated as “justice”, “just”, “righteous”: tsaddiq (Hebrew), shaphat (Hebrew), din (Hebrew), yashar (Hebrew), dike (Greek), krino (Greek). And these don’t include the derivative words that also share the same root that points to “justice” / “righteous” by God’s definition.

This makes it difficult to give a concise definition of biblical justice. C.S. Lewis relates it to “fairness,” (Mere Christainity, 1952, p. 79), while the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2013) sees it as, “an embodiment of two contemporary concepts: righteousness and justice,” (see “Justice” entry), and Calvin Beisner recognizes that true justice must, “accord with the righteous standard of God’s moral law,” (“Social Justice vs. Biblical Justice, 2nd Ed.,” 2020).

However it is defined, the emphasis is clear that the standard of justice/righteousness must be God and His Word:

  • “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just” (Gen. 18:25)
  • “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice…just and upright is He.” (Deut. 32:4)
  • “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.” (Prov. 28:5)
  • “It is from the LORD that a man gets justice.” (Prov. 29:26)

And while the concept of, “justice,” is part of the “weightier” matters of God’s law (Matt. 23:23), this must always be held in tandem with attributes like mercy and grace (Micah 6:8; Matt. 23:23). In fact, we might consider that God tells us to, “do justice,” and, “love mercy,” showing that He wants us to especially cherish mercy, even while we need to uphold justice and righteousness. This matches his own character wherein, “mercy triumphs over judgment,” (James 2:13). 

And thus we return to the gospel where God:

  1. Had to act justly (even at the cost of His precious Son).
  2. Paid a higher cost to extend grace and mercy to all of us who are undeserving.

What Justice Isn’t

Recognizing that God’s justice (a) must be biblically defined, and (b) is reflected in the gospel, we can now consider what God’s justice isn’t.

Namely, God’s justice isn’t:

  • driven by emotion or anger (Prov. 6:30-31; Jer. 10:24)
  • determined by how “well-meaning” someone is (John 16:2)
  • self-seeking (2 Sam. 15:4; Luke 12:13-21)
  • seeking equal outcomes (Matt. 20:1-16; 25:14-30–even equal pay)
  • concerned with externals as much as intentions (Deut. 19:1-13)
  • determined privately or hastily (Deut. 19:15-21; 1 Tim. 5:19)
  • meant to be isolated from God’s mercy and love (Micah 6:8; Matt. 23:23; Rom. 3:21-26)
  • executed outside God’s authority (Lev. 19:18; Rom. 12:19-13:7–including delegated authorities)
    • Note: God’s authority includes Kings (1 Pet. 2:13-14–and other government leaders, over citizens), Shepherds (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:5–i.e. church leaders over saints), Fathers & Mothers (Eph. 6:1-4–over children), Husbands (Eph. 5:22–over wives), Masters (Eph. 6:5–e.g. employers, over servants). But consider that God Himself is the “King of Kings, (1 Tim. 6:15), “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4), “Father” (Eph. 3:14), “Husband” (Eph. 5:23-24), and “Lord of Lords” / “Master” (Deut. 10:17; 1 Tim. 6:15). In other words, relative, delegated authority is always a pale comparison to God’s absolute authority (and should never be followed where they contradict God’s clear instructions).
  • hurting or killing the unborn (Exod. 21:22-25)
  • attainable outside of Christ’s Final Judgment (Ecc. 3:16-17; 5:8; Matt. 5:39; Rev. 6:9-11)
  • anything in conflict with His word and character

What Justice Is

In contrast, biblically-defined justice:

  • Is a “weightier” command (Gen. 18:19; Micah 6:8; Matt. 23:23-24)
  • Honors God, and thereby people (made in His image) (Exod. 20)
  • Accords with loving your neighbor as yourself = sacrificially showing God’s care (which accords with His word and character) to others (Matt. 7:12; Luke 10:25-37; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; Gal. 5:14; Eph. 5:25-30)
    • In the gospel, God’s ultimate love for us upheld his word/justice by sacrificing Christ, while extending forgiveness and blessing to those who repent and believe. For us to likewise love, we, too, should be sacrificial, uphold God’s word, extend God’s forgiveness and blessing–and especially to those willing to repent and believe.
    • Lev. 5:1; 19:11, 17; Eph. 4:25; Heb. 6:18; Rev. 21:8 – speak honestly and forthrightly 
    • Lev. 19:9-10; 1 Tim. 6:18 – be generous with God’s surplus
    • Lev. 19:11-13; Eph. 4:28 – don’t take what doesn’t belong to you
    • Lev. 19:14 – don’t add extra obstacles for the disadvantaged
    • Etc.
  • Comes alongside God’s mercy and love (Micah 6:8; Matt. 23:23; Rom. 3:21-26; James 2:13)
  • Treats claims of injustice as innocent until proven guilty (Deut. 19:15; John 7:51; 1 Cor. 13:7; 1 Tim. 5:19)
  • Is 100% impartial (Lev. 19:15; 24:22; Deut. 1:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:17)
    • Including ensuring the weaker are not unjustly treated (Deut. 10:18-19; 15:1-2, 4-5, 11; Job 31; Psalm 146:7-9; Is. 58:6-7; Ezek. 18)
  • Never seeks more than proportional retribution (Exod. 21:23-25; Matt. 5:38-39)
  • Renders back what people are due (Rom. 2:6-8; 13:2, 7)
  • Should be in the church primarily (Deut. 15; Matt. 25; Acts 2; 4; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Cor. 8-9; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 2:1-2)
    • Helps the widows and poor (especially believers), but in a way that empowers and benefits them, and doesn’t add too much burden to the church as a whole (Acts 6; 2 Thes. 3; 1 Tim. 5)
  • Needs the gospel, the Holy Spirit, and God’s word to faithfully implement (Isaiah 55:8-11; John 14-16; Titus 3:1-7)

Start with the Gospel

Not only is the gospel the focus and what is “of first importance,” (1 Cor. 15:3) to the Christian, but it also should be the starting point for considering and walking in all matters of the Christian faith (including that of justice).

For instance, notice how it applies to:

  • Luke 10:25-37: You witnessing an injustice. In that story, all barriers are broken as a sworn enemy of a certain group of people decides to show mercy. But consider that the “good Samaritan” saw the man “half dead” and sacrificed some of his money. Whereas Jesus saw us who were sworn rebels of His, fully dead in our trespasses, and yet offered His very life for us. You can’t improve on this gospel starting point for helping others suffering injustice around you.
  • Matt. 18:21-35; 1 Pet. 2:21-25: You suffering unjustly. Here, again, we are beckoned to look to the great debt Christ forgave us of in the gospel, and also follow his example in suffering unjustly on the cross. Turning our attention back to the gospel empowers us to forgive and to entrust God (not seeking personal retribution) when we suffer unjustly.
  • Rom. 3:26; 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:17: You as an authority presiding over alleged injustice. And lastly, if you are in a situation where you are the authority figure presiding over injustice, you do the best to see how God handled a similar situation in the gospel. There He couldn’t tolerate injustice/unrighteousness, even at the cost of His Son. In like manner, judge righteously even at great cost to you or your family. Further, He did look for ways to extend mercy and grace (while upholding justice), which also cost Him severely. May we–by the power of God’s Spirit–do likewise as gospel-people.

Haggai

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!


Haggai 1:7-9 has been speaking to me BIGTIME! I’ve shared it with multiple people since reading it yesterday morning.

It says:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.

Reflections:

  • Everyone is busy with their own house. I’ve thought about this over the years as speaking to us making an idol of family (which I think it definitely applies!). But this time around reading it, I also thought about it as sometimes how Christians might be getting too inwardly focused on their church (lowercase “c”) and missing the work to build up God’s Church (big “C”) all around. Or even it becomes just keeping up with status quo of “doing church” that misses opportunities to build up the church. Don’t misunderstand. A BIG part of building up God’s Church is growing and edifying each other in your own church. Just so long as you don’t miss the bigger church in your geography, and what it means to build that bigger church up. Next point…
  • “Go up into the mountains” – that is a LOT harder than going down a hill…or even walking on a level plane! LOL! Going up requires a special effort that fights against the force of gravity. Yet that’s what they were called to do.
  • “Bring down timber and build my house” – Again, back to point 1. If we ONLY try to build up existing believers around us we could be guilty of neglecting to look to God’s harvest all around and bring in new converts to Christ (like bringing down new timber). This is God’s charge to us, though: My church will be expanded to it’s full number through doing the hard work of looking for new believers who will help to expand the spiritual tabernacle of God (church with big C).
  • Though we fight gravity to build things God’s way (“go up into the mountains”), we fight God to build our things our ways. I’d rather fight gravity any day than fight God :slightly_smiling_face:

Struck also by Haggai 2:1-9..

just how God shaking the nations results in his kingdom growing… and look at 2:9–“in this place [his temple…ultimately points to His church] I will give peace”. I think that’s set as a contrast to the unrest in the nations. That the church is the place of peace between God and man, firstly. From that point it grows into peace between brothers and sisters. May we have eyes to see what He’s doing in the shaking happening around us.