For God’s Glory- John 11

It seems to me that many people miss an important fact.  They miss the fact that all things are for God.  Let me explain…

The Bible tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called  according to His purpose.  And it’s completely true.  But the second half of that gets little play time in our conversations, and even when we include it we miss the point.  It’s not all about us.  It’s about His purpose.

Nobody has a real foundation for the argument that God does not love us.  His love for us is easy to see for those who’s eyes are opened (that is, those who simply choose to open them).  And His love is unlike anything else.  It is greater than we can comprehend, and far beyond our own aspirations to love one another.

But God doesn’t exist for our sake, we exist for His.  We are not the end all of it all, He is.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  In Him all things exist, and in Him we have our being.

In our passage, John 11, we have the story of Lazarus dying.  And Jesus didn’t say the situation was for Lazarus’ good, although it certainly works out good for Lazarus.  Jesus says in verse 4 “No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.”

What I don’t want is for someone to walk away from this post misunderstanding our place in reality.  People are not just pawns that God throws around without concern.  One would have to completely ignore the cross to see us as such.  We are loved by Him more than we could ever be loved by anyone, including by ourselves.  But in the end it is all about God.  And it should be.  And there could be no higher honor for man, indeed no more complete joy, than to be used to that end.

What a terrible thing it would be if reality was all about anything except Him!

What goodness lays in store for us BECAUSE it’s all about Him!  Look what it did for Lazarus!

Praise God that He is God!!!

Book of Names book review

A review of:

The Book of Names, by D. Barkley Briggs (NavPress, 2008 )

From the Legends of Karac Tor

The book started off slow.  Honestly I found it hard to keep reading.  But after a few chapters I found I was beginning to enjoy the story. 

I started to remember what it was like to be a boy in a rural Michigan town, intrigued by the mysteries of Native American culture.  We would get all excited when we found arrowheads in the fields.  But what these boys encounter is something that would have blown my mind as a kid.

The book makes a good transition as it gets further into the story.  I didn’t feel like any of the elements were forced upon me, they seemed to flow as they should have.  And as with any good book I read, I was inspired over and over again to imagine new things that I could write about.

The villains in the story were set up pretty good.  A few things that were said made me question who the real villains might be, keeping me on edge until the last.

The allies were well thought out as well.  Very believable.

Overall I really enjoyed the book.  I’m looking forward to reading the next novel in the Legends of Karac Tor series.

A couple of things did bother me though.  The first, which I will keep in this paragraph, may be a bit of a spoiler.  Go ahead and skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read it.  The way that Briggs mixes Christianity with other religions in our reality really didn’t set well with me.  I understand that these other worlds are fantasy worlds.  But taking their mystical elements and combining them with the world we live in and yet trying to hold the Christian world view… there’s a line that’s crossed there.  It’s good to open people’s eyes to the realities of Christianity which we do not normally recognise.  It’s another thing to add actual magical elements to a truth that rejects those very things.  I’m hoping that Briggs has something planned out in future novels to rectify this problem.  Though he writes well, I will truly be surprised if he finds a good way to pull it off (I don’t think there is one).

The other thing that bothered me was the use of cussing at the end of the book.  The problem I listed in the last paragraph is one that Briggs may have an ace up his sleeve to rectify in another volume (though I doubt it’s a direction he’s even considering).  But this cussing thing, there is no ace for that.  One representing a Christian view has no excuse for using that language anywhere.  It’s something that Christ had to die to forgive.  The need to represent the world the way it is… that’s no valid excuse for sin (there is no valid excuse for sin).  The world has been far better portrayed by the Lord Himself in the Bible than by any other writer, and that without a single cuss.  We owe the Lord better than this relying on the world.

These two problems and the slow start aside, I found that I really enjoyed the book.  Don’t let the size of the paragraphs that I complained in deceive you.  I just don’t want to accidentally spoil the experience of the read.  The story was very enjoyable, well written, and seems to be very well thought out.  Briggs created a world with great depth, and I’m eager to see the rest of it.

I would caution against suggesting this book to non-Christians, unless non-Christians are informed of what the Bible says about these two problems.  For any Christians who struggle with mysticism, paganism, wicca or magic… I would advise against reading this book.  For those who look to justify foul language, this book (though only in one part near the very end) will place a stumbling block before their feet.  For any other familiar with the truth of the Lord, as long as they are conscious of and reject the offerings of these issues, I don’t think they’ll have a problem reading this book.  And if they are fantasy fans, I’m guessing they’ll really enjoy it!

Thank you Briggs for your creation.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of what you have to offer.

Featured book, The Book of Names http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/160006227X
D. Barkley Briggs’s Web site –
http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?Itemid=49&id=19&option=com_content&task=view
D. Barkley Briggs’s blog –
http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=23&Itemid=79

For more reviews of this book, check out the following blogs:
Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

Sinmaster (John 8)

We often try to think of ourselves as our own masters.  We have free will, sure.  But the things we do with that free will… they’re things that we’re told to do.

Jesus offers us freedom in serving Him.  It sounds backwards, but that’s the way the world wants us to see it… backwards.  However, Jesus wants us to see things just as they are.  He wants us to know the truth.  And to do that, we must continue in His word.

We can, of course, choose to go “our own way.”  But that’s a deceptive way of saying it, because really it isn’t our own way.  It’s sin’s way.  If we reject Christ, we become slaves to sin.  Sin becomes our master.  All of us have sinned, and allowed sin to have dominion in our lives. 

And sin doesn’t like to let its servants go.  It pulls them deeper and deeper into servitude.  It will let them think they are the master if that’s what it takes to keep them.

If we want true freedom, we must become a servant.  Sounds confusing, but if we want to understand the truth of it then we simply need to continue in His word.  We need to love and obey Christ.  Only then will we know the truth that sets us free.

Trust the Light (John 8)

Jesus had silenced the blood lusting Scribes and Pharisees who brought an adulteress to Him.  He showed them their own guilt, and used mercy to do it.  Every guilty person there was shown mercy by Him.

We continue the story, starting in John 8:12:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Pharisees challenged Him on this, saying that Jesus’ testimony was invalid because He was testifying about Himself.  But Jesus Himself had been teaching the principle of valid testimony.  He declared to them that one needs a testimony beyond his own.

The Pharisees were so desperate to trap the Son of God that they made fools of themselves in their efforts.  Unfortunately this still happens even in our day.

People want to discredit God.  They want us to disregard the Bible.  But they make major errors in their efforts (not surprising, since their goal is itself a major error).  One of these errors is to say that the Bible isn’t true because it uses a form of circular reasoning in declaring itself to be true.

But one only needs to look a little deeper to find out the truth of the matter.  From early on the honest Bible reader comes to realize a few things.  They realize that the things the Bible does are things no other book has ever done.  The way it brings good life to people.  The way it harmonizes with itself even though it was written by many men, in many countries, in various languages, over thousands of years… perfect harmony!  It speaks in a way that no other book has ever spoken.  And it gives more information than any man, or even mankind as a whole, will ever be able to completely understand.

The reader will also find that external evidence only grows in its support of the Bible as time goes on.  New discoveries continue to be made that uphold the historical truths of the Scriptures.  The truths in our world and the people in the world are constantly proving God’s word to be indeed from God.  Recorded history supports the life of Christ more than some of the most beloved and indisputably historical people we know of.  History also proves the text of the Bible to be more reliable and authentic than any other work of its kind; the extent of this is so incredible that one has to laugh when they see the figures.

It’s a fool’s game they play today.  It didn’t work out for the Pharisees, and it won’t work for people today.  Every man is confronted with the truth of Christ, and His validity is greater than anything they already trust in.  Whether one chooses to accept or ignore that fact, well that’s up to them.  But we will all give an account one day, and at that point it will no longer be possible to ignore the truth.

Christ told the Pharisees that they would know the truth once He was lifted up.  And we see that it happened too, from their bribing the Roman guards to keep quite about what had happened.  It was so completely obvious that Christ was who He said He was.  It’s still obvious.

All men are capable of ignoring or not caring about the obvious reality that engulfs them.  But men don’t have to be fools if they choose to walk in the light that Jesus gives.

And only He has the words of life!

The Director (John 8)

The Setup

John 8 begins with the story of the woman caught in adultery.  To better understand the situation, one should note what had happened the day before.  It was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Temple Guards had returned to the Pharisees.  Contrary to their orders, they did not have Jesus with them.

The Pharisees lashed out at the guards.  Then Nicodemus questioned their methods, saying that the Law requires them to hear Jesus’ side.  The Pharisees then lashed out at Nicodemus as well.

The Plot

Now come back to the next day.  The Pharisees have been brewing in their anger all night.  They’ve been plotting. 

Jesus is teaching again in the Temple courts… their temple, as far as they are concerned.  And when they come to Jesus, they bring a woman that they just happened to catch in adultery that day.  They didn’t bring the man, mind you.  Just the woman.

And they throw this woman before Him like a dog.  They make her stand there in front of all these people that Jesus was teaching.  They’re trying to prove something to Jesus’ audience, and trying to find a reason to accuse Him.  They want the people to stop following Jesus.  And they want Jesus dead.

They pose their question to Jesus.  What they wanted was for Jesus to say “Yes, the Law says to kill her so kill her.”  If He did then in their minds not only would it look like His message of mercy was tainted, but it would also give them Jesus’ own approval to kill in the name of the Law.  And they wanted to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, so they could kill Him.

Remember that the people were excitable.  It wasn’t exactly safe for the Pharisees to brave the crowds for the sake of killing Christ.  In the interest of self preservation, they needed the people on their side.

The Real Powerplay

It’s easy to look at this situation as just a convenient trap.  But this was a very deliberate and hate filled plot.  This was an attempt to catch Jesus in just the right place, at just the right time.

Proverbs 16:9 says:

 “A man’s mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. “

This confrontation was to be no exception.  These men planned and plotted death for Jesus, and were willing to kill this woman to do it.  But Jesus came to bring life.  With a wisdom far beyond their own, Jesus turns the tables.

He didn’t use a show of force.  He didn’t use a miracle.  He simply spoke.  And with His words, Christ spoke of the same message that they were trying to quiet.  A message of love, truth and mercy.

Not only did he speak His message of mercy, but He compelled the blood lusting Pharisees to follow it.  The Lord directed their steps. 

The Mistake

If only they knew the Law…

You’re Not Alone (John 7)

It’s a violent world we live in.  People are filled with hatred and malice towards each other.  But even in the midst of all the wickedness there are windows… windows that open to a world of love and truth.

We see an example of this in the end of John 7.  The leaders of the people, along with some of the crowds, they had a burning hatred towards Jesus.  And we know that Jesus did not deserve it.  None the less, they wanted to kill Him.

But not all of the people in the crowd were filled with sin.  Many put their trust in Him.  The temple guards refused to arrest Jesus.  Even one of the leaders, Nicodemus, stood against the evil.

And Jesus Himself was a window to a better world.  He brought love to His enemies, and we still receive that love.  It’s a love that conquers.  It’s a love that truly gives life.

There are people out there that love the Lord.  If you are a Christian who feels alone in the world, look for the windows.  Look for the view into a better world.  You’ll come to find that they are all around us.

I like the song by Andrew Peterson, “Windows in the World.”  Give the song a listen, and you may find it a little easier to see the other side.

How can we know? (John 7)

In John 7 Jesus answers the question that many people have today.  People wonder how they can really know that Jesus is who He said He is.  They wonder how they can know that His words are true.

Jesus said:

“My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own. “

All one has to do is seek God’s face and do His will.  If they can do that, if they can act upon an earnest desire to know the truth, then it will be made clear to them.

One thing I’ve noticed as a Christian is that this isn’t just something that happens once.  The more I abide in His will, the more I see the truth of what Jesus taught.  I have no doubt that Jesus spoke the truth, but He is proved over and over again the more I walk through life. 

And I am all the more convinced that true life is only found in Him.

Choose to DO God’s will, not your own, and you will come to see the truth of Him too!

Jesus Is Always The Truth (John 7)

Some people like to point to John 7:8 to try and accuse Jesus of lying.  Jesus told his brothers that He was not going up to the feast.  Later though, He did go.

I can understand how a non-Christian would think that this was lying.  But they’d be wrong.  And they have the responsibility to look deeper into the passage to see what the truth of the matter is.

When Jesus said he wasn’t yet “going”, he used this Greek word…

 anabainw Verb : 1st Person : Present : Active : Indicative : Singular 305 anabainw

“Going”, also transliterated “Anabaino”, is a present tense word, not future tense.  Jesus was waiting to go later, but was not going up at the time with His brothers.  This lines up just fine with what Christ said.

Please remember that Christ will never lead you astray.  He calls all men unto Himself.  He will not ever sin, nor will He call us to sin.

Psalm 3:5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.

My Flesh, My Blood (John 6)

Jesus wasn’t a man chasing the status quo.  He sought God’s righteousness.  And some of the things He said didn’t sit very well with the fallen people around Him.

One crystal clear example of this is the second half of John 6, where Jesus makes a bold statement.  He says to the people that they must drink of His blood and eat of his flesh in order to receive life.

Now the Jews were a people who saw cannibalism as a sin.  And that’s certainly what it sounded like Jesus was teaching them.  But they should have known that He meant something else.  He left no question on whether He followed the Father’s will.

I don’t know what I would have thought had I lived back then and heard this for the first time.  I’m guessing it would have been hard.  But we see that his closest disciples at least understood that Jesus was the one they needed to cling to.  They knew Jesus would direct them in the path of God.

I like the way Rich Mullins talked about this in an article he wrote for Release Magazine back in ’96.  Here’s what he said…

The Communion of Saints

by Rich Mullins

Release Magazine September/October 1996 

 

 

In one of those especially poignant passages that so frequently and powerfully mark the gospels and charge them with the character of Christ, we encounter Jesus and His twelve in a moment of deep sorrow followed by a great flash of glory. (And does glory ever come except on the heels of sorrow?)

Jesus has just alienated many of His disciples by telling them that they must “eat (His) body” and “drink (His) blood.” This directive must have been even more startling to its original audience than to us. They did not hear it through the filter of some 1900 of systematizing theology contrived to intellectualize and cushion us against the blow of His outrageous command. They it head on and felt the full force of it and they were repulsed.

Here, Jesus, who was habitually pushing the margin of reason into the realms of faith, crossed the line. Here, He ventured too deeply into the uncharted territory of the kingdom of God, articulated too clearly the good, yet disturbing news of that kingdom, and called for an obedience too radically opposite the reasonable sensibilities of many disciples at that time. He called them to follow too far outside their well-defined comfort lines…and they ran away in disgust or stood paralyzed in terror as Jesus walked on – walked on into the blinding light of the liberating truth He had just spoken.

The twelve stayed with Him – maybe reluctantly, maybe for reasons that they didn’t know. But when Jesus asked that heartbreaking question, “Will you also leave Me?” it is Peter – the impetuous apostle – who gives us the secret to the hidden heart of discipleship:
“Where else can we go? You have the words of life!”
Peter may very well have been as perplexed over the point of Jesus’ teaching as those who abandoned Him, but he was not confused about the person Jesus. Peter might have misunderstood His methods and mission, but he was certain that Jesus was Messiah. He may have been in the dark about where he was going, but he knew that in Jesus there was light. He may have been scared nearly to death by the demands of discipleship, but he knew that in Jesus there was life. Just before this confession of his dependency on and the sufficiency of Jesus, he had sunk in the storm of intimidating waves and been rescued by the hand of a Master who knew his weakness and the shallowness of his faith (Matthew 14:22- 31).

There is much that we are intimidated by in our walk: doctrines that run counter to our cultures and egos, tasks that seem nearly insurmountable, the weakness of our wills and the seeming severity of God’s. We can get lost in the endless debates over the mechanics of Christianity and sink in the despondency of our powerlessness to grasp the mystery of grace, but in the midst of that, we must do what the writer to the Hebrews advised and what Peter did, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” It is He who calls us and He who enables. His body is our bread; His blood our drink. He has the words of life.

Can I get a witness?! (John 5)

I’m still amazed at how much I’m learning by doing these blogs.  I’ve traveled the landscape of His word many times, yet I’ve dashed right past so many wonderful views.  Views that reach into my heart, my mind, my soul; views that cry the Name of the One who loves me, the name of the one on whom I call.   How can one miss so much testimony?

How can one not hear the overpowering voices of the witnesses?

I don’t know how… but I know its possible.  Both my own life and the Scriptures guarantee to me that it’s possible.  From verse 31 on to the end of the chapter, John 5 tells us about witnesses for Jesus.  Not just one witness, and none of them small or insignificant…

Jesus- He testified about Himself (though He states that this is not His only testimony).  If a man does not state the truth about himself, it may be hard for another to understand who the man is.

John- The people were willing to listen to John, and he was a man like them.  Jesus was a man like them too, but His testimony as a man would not be valid by itself.  Jesus uses this lesser (only a man’s) testimony of John to help convince the people.  He uses one of their own, a man and a kin, to reach them.

Jesus’ Works- One can look to the things that Jesus did (which were all given to Him to do) to see the truth of who He is.  And He did these works in a manner that greatly benefited the people. The works declared that the Father sent Jesus.

The Father- Jesus was declared to all by the Father Himself.  People didn’t hear because they didn’t embrace the Father’s Word as they ought to have, but He was declared to them by the Father none the less.  Jesus calls to the authority that they claim to submit to.

Scripture- The Old Testament (and now also the New) testifies about Jesus.  The words told that life is in Christ, and the words were the hope of the people.

All around them the greatest of witnesses poured fourth speech.  The rocks would have cried out too had none of people heard these witnesses. 

The voices are overwhelming.  And each one has it’s own unique way of reaching people. 

Jesus, John, Jesus’ Works, The Father and the Scriptures all cry out who Jesus is.  If we listen, then we can hear the Holy One they cry out about… we hear Him in our humanity, and in our desire for good works in the world.  We hear Him from He whom we ought to submit to, and we hear Him in that which the people of God hope will bring them salvation.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear…

He who has eyes to see, let him see…