Who are you?

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Who?If I’m ever asked the question, “Who are you?” the answer is pretty straightforward. “I’m Tim.” There’s not much confusion about who I am or what I’m supposed to be about.

But that wasn’t the case for Jesus. The expectations for the long expected Messiah were great. The Roman government that ruled Israel at that time was harsh and only made the longing for the Messiah even deeper. It was in that desperation that many found their expectations out of sync with the reality of who Jesus was and how He would fulfill His various roles.

The Prophets taught that the Messiah would come from the line of David and establish a kingdom that would be independent and free. So the average Jew thought the Messiah would bring freedom from Rome.

They understood the Messiah to be a victorious military ruler that would vanquish all their enemies. So a Messiah riding a docile donkey instead of a military chariot was out of the question.

The righteousness promised by the Messiah was understood only in the context of dealing with the burden of the Roman taxes and the unjust nature of life at that time. They didn’t see a righteousness that was needed in human hearts.

They didn’t see the ministry of the Messiah as going further than the borders of their nation. He was to be a Jewish Messiah coming to the seed of Abraham. His intent was not toward the Gentiles.

Finally, I don’t think they viewed the Messiah as a personal Messiah that would bring peace to their hearts. It seems their context was more national than personal.

These wrong perceptions of the Messiah will show up in our study of John time and again. Understanding them adds insight to the conversations recorded in the book.

Machine wash warm: The Creator knows what the creation needs

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Whether it is stitched into the shirt on the side seam, on the back collar or printed on the inside, every shirt, every piece of clothing, has a tag that tells you how to best care for it, “Machine wash warm, tumble dry low, do not iron.” You know stuff like that. You’ve seen it before — even if you didn’t know what it meant!Care & maintenance tag

R. Kent Hughes has said ‘that the Creator knows what His creation needs’ thus the Creator God sends his only Son to the creation to meet our greatest need.

John 1:12 says that to those who believe in His name he gives them the right to be children of God. What does it mean for us to ‘believe in His name?” What about this — It means to stop believing in yourself.

I know that is contrary to all the ‘feel good’ thinking of our day. But what I mean is that we try to deal with our sin and the shame and guilt that comes with it on our own power and effort. We think the solution is found in what WE can do. The Creator has given us explicit instructions on how to fix our sin problem. If we were wearing a ‘god shirt’ with a tag on how to care for the shirt, it would read, “Do not strive. Believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Remain in the Son.”

Jesus, Perfect Picture

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Verses 1-18 serve as the prologue to the book of John. It introduces the main character and an overview of some themes that we’ll find in our study. These few verses are the tip of the iceberg, while the remaining 21 chapters reveal what lies below the waterline.

This passage immediately challenges my finite mind with infinite truth! Things I can’t begin to understand or comprehend. Like Jesus was there at the beginning — not just that it all began when He spoke creation into being but that he was there before that!

Or how about the fact that the Creator comes and lives among the creation. And the creation didn’t know Him or receive Him! BUT as many as received Him he “gave them the right to become children of God.” They did win that distinction because they were born into it by blood (there’s a dig at being of Abraham’s seed) or through their will (there’s a dig at keeping the Law) but through their belief!

Verse 17 says the Law came through Moses but grace and truth were realized through Jesus. This grace and truth served as the iceberg to the burdensome Titanic of the Pharisee’s system of Law keeping. He came and dashed a hole in their religious system that sunk it — and as we read through the book, they knew it!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” — now connect that to the closing phrase of verse 18, “He has explained Him.” WOW. I’ve read this passage so many times and in this reading this phrase jumped off the page like I’d never read it before! Jesus explains the Father. As Colossians says “He is the image of the invisible God.” (1:15)

There’s a song that I came across a few years ago off the Worship Project P40.3: See, Fear, Trust CD called “Perfect Picture”. It has this phrase in it . . .

You came and became one of us
You give and forgive and promise us you’ll never leave
Perfect picture of the Invisible One, the mystery of God, seen in the Son
You’ve open my eyes, image of God you’re changing my live
Jesus, perfect picture.

It’s funny that I just recently began to listen to this disc again and this song is the one that stood out to me. He came and became one of us so He can be the perfect picture of the invisible God.

Want to know what God looks like? Look at the Son.

To buy the CD, click here “Worship Project P40.3

God at work in crisis

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“I believe that God has been opening doors for us in this time of trouble that we can have bridges with people — that we can build more relationships that can open doors and we can deliver the message of Jesus.”

Do you like tension? The tension of being in between? Theologically speaking, the stress of being between what we see happening in our world and the spiritual reality that God is in charge, fully sovereign and in control.

This kind of stress is typical for us as we slowly continue on our journey of becoming like Jesus and being transformed in our thinking (Romans 12:2).

I think it is also pretty typical for us to feel confused about where God fits in to world events, specifically the uprising that eventually ousted Egyptian President Mubarak. You probably hear that from me as I often pray for these type of events in our Sunday morning prayer time. I usually say things like, “God, I don’t know how You fit into this, but we trust You that you are stepping into the lives of people even in the middle of this terrible circumstance.”

Every once in while it’s good to hear how God did just that. Check out this story of how God opened doors in Egypt during this crisis. (thanks to Mission Catalyst Newsletter for the original post)

EGYPT: Crisis Opens Doors
Source: International Mission Board, February 9, 2011

Two weeks ago, Mina Peter didn’t know a soul in his Cairo apartment building. Like many young Egyptians, the 22-year-old computer science major was simply too busy to make the effort. And as the only Christian in the building, Peter wasn’t sure his Muslim neighbors cared to know him.

But that was before a massive revolt calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak plunged the city into chaos. Demonstrations turned violent; police threw tear gas while protesters traded rocks and Molotov cocktails. Businesses were looted and vandalized. Tanks rolled down Cairo’s streets.

The violence brought many Egyptian communities together. Neighbors improvised checkpoints at their apartment buildings to ensure safety. And in the process, Mina says, they inadvertently began to get to know one another.

“[I] have been building relationships with people who have been living in the same building with me for years and I haven’t known them,” he says. “Now I get to know them all, I get to speak to them, we drink tea with each other … [and discuss] what’s happening in the country.

“I believe that God has been opening doors for us in this time of trouble that we can have bridges with people – that we can build more relationships that can open doors and we can deliver the message of Jesus.”

Peter adds that the crisis also is creating opportunities for sowing the Gospel. Sunday, Feb. 6, a large evangelical church near Cairo’s Tahrir Square (the epicenter of the protests) held an open-air worship service before thousands of protestors, many of them Muslim.

“[The church] had a lot of demonstrators in Tahrir Square supporting them. [There were] a lot of people shouting, even if they didn’t know the words for the songs … but they were joining them,” Peter says. “All the Muslims around them were listening … they’re seeing that Christians are loving the country, that they don’t have any [intentions] except love and mercy for the Egyptian people.”

Samir Abdou* is the pastor of the evangelical church in Cairo that Peter attends. Abdou is working to help his congregation navigate the crisis in light of their faith. Though no one in the church was physically harmed during the violence, a shop owned by two church members was looted and burned. Abdou doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the theme he chose for the church in 2011 is “affliction and growth.”

“Maybe this is what the church needed … to regain our vision and stop being silent,” he says. “If we want them (Egyptians) to know the Lord we need to be close to them. … We are happy with the closeness [the crisis has brought] and we are seeking that the Lord might use it to serve and help our Muslim brothers.”

Abdou believes prayer is critically important during this potential period of transition in Egypt’s history. His church is holding daily prayer meetings, and he covets the prayers of Christians around the world — but not only on behalf of Egyptian believers.

“Pray for all Egyptians because at the moment we are all in the same boat and that’s a positive thing,” he says. “Pray that the change will bring more freedom for us (Christians) to share our faith and to be able to build churches, and for those who come from other backgrounds to be able to become Christians and to declare their faith without fear.”

But freedom isn’t the only thing Egypt’s Christians are yearning for. Peter wants something bigger.

“We have been praying for years for revival in Egypt,” he says. “We have been praying for the church, especially for the young people to have a real revival. … I believe that God is using [the crisis] for everybody to speak and maybe, weeks later or months later, these relationships will be used for them to see how Christians live and how they love God and how they love nonbelievers. … That’s what I hope I see God doing.”

Prayer requests:

    Pray that the Gospel spreads to millions of Egyptian families during this crisis.
    Ask God to inspire Egyptian believers with creative and appropriate ways to share God’s Word. Pray they seize every opportunity, with wisdom, to tangibly love their neighbors and to share the hope that is within them.
    Pray that Egyptian believers will be filled with God’s strength and be encouraged.

*Names changed

Don Graham is an IMB writer.

John 1:1-18: Observations


Some say that this passage is the most beautiful unfolding of who Christ is. It’s poetry. It rolls off the tongue so easily, comes to memory so quickly.

As you read these verses, what impacts you? What questions do you have? What do you learn about Jesus, his purpose and plan?

How many observations can you make about what the text says about “The Word?”

Intro to John’s Gospel

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I had a few requests for the notes from the power point this Sunday. You’ll find them below. Enjoy!

Purpose of the book is found in John 20:30-31:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Some of the themes we’ll be studying are:

    Light & darkness

Things not in John:

    Jesus’ genealogy
    Birth & childhood events
    Jesus’ baptism & temptation
    The Sermon on the Mount
    Demons, lepers or parables
    The Mount of Transfiguration
    The Garden of Gethsemane
    The Great Commission
    The ascension

Things only in John (90% of John is not in the other Gospels):

    Jesus as the Creator (John 1)
    Jesus as the “only begotten” of the Father (John 1)
    Jesus as the promised “Lamb of God” (John 1)
    Jesus revealed as the great “I Am”
    Jesus turning the water into wine (John 2)
    Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (John 3)
    Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well (John 4)
    Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8 )
    The raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11)
    Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13)
    The Upper Room Discourse of our Lord (John 14-17)
    Jesus’ teaching on the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16)
    Jesus’ high priestly prayer (John 17)

Seven Signs:

    Water into wine
    Healing the official’s son
    Healing the invalid at the Pool of Bethsaida
    Feeding the 5,000
    Walking on water
    Healing the man born blind
    Raising Lazarus

Seven “I Am” statements:

    “I am the bread of life” (6:35)
    “I am the light of the world” (8:12)
    “I am the door for the sheep” (10:7; cf. v. 9)
    “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14)
    “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
    “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6)
    “I am the true vine” (15:1; cf. v. 5)

Suggested outline of the book:

    Prologue – 1:1-18
    Public ministry – 1:19-12:50
    Private ministry – 13-17
    Passion ministry – 18-20
    Epilogue – 20-21

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