Showing posts with label John. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John. Show all posts

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Three Reasons to Get Going

“Jesus said … ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’.”

Ah, these little sayings that sometimes escape our notice.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it very exciting, and yet also not a little embarrassing, when I come to realize a verse I’ve known all my life has waaaay more to it than I ever realized.

This is one of those verses. Let’s break it down.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Blessed are the Hated

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

What? “Do not be surprised?”

Well, that is kind of surprising in our age. After all, we’re the “let’s get along” society. No culture in the history of the world has been so omnitolerant, so permissive, so inclusive and so welcoming of everyone and everything as modern, Western society. We are so morally earnest to make sure that nobody’s feelings get hurt, nobody gets excluded, nobody is marginalized or oppressed, that we bend over backward to accept absolutely everything.

And given that many Christians have also bought into the mindset that we must always be liked by our society and must do everything to be seeker-sensitive, welcoming, open, all-loving, and always, always of good social reputation, should it not surprise us if the world turns around and suddenly expresses hostility and hatred to us?

How could they do that? We’re so nice!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The People Standing Around

“I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around.”

Sometimes Jesus said things he didn’t need to say. Sometimes he asked questions to which he already knew the answer, or asked to be given things he didn’t require. Once, he even went through a baptism of repentance when he had nothing whatsoever for which to repent.

He had to, on account of the people standing around.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Getting to the Truth

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

— English Common Law
Oath of Testimony

The fight outside a club was broken up by police; but a man was stabbed. Inspector Thomas has been assigned to find the assailant.

When the perp fled, the crowd scattered, but four witnesses remain: a bouncer, the girlfriend, the bar manager and a local cabbie. Inspector Thomas knows procedure; that each must be interviewed separately in order to get a complete picture.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Anonymous Asks (225)

“If perfection is impossible in this life, why did Jesus tell people to go and sin no more?”

Jesus actually did this twice, and both accounts were preserved for us by John, one in chapter 5 of his gospel, and the other in chapter 8. In my Bible, the latter narrative comes with a disclaimer to the effect that the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel do not include it, which, frankly, doesn’t bother me a whole lot. I have always loved the story of the woman “taken” in adultery. It portrays the Lord in a way that seems to me wholly consistent with his revealed character. I believe John wrote it and that it is God-breathed just like the rest of his gospel.

Still, opinions vary about that passage. If you discount it, then you only have to answer this question once.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

What to Do with a Fruitless Branch?

I was baptized in Wynburg, South Africa just before reaching my 20th year. My counselor put a card in my hand after the service. It read “Kept by the power of God.”

I wondered whether that would really be true of me. Was I not responsible to abide in Christ according to his word? If I didn’t, would I not be cast forth like a fruitless branch? So I set 1 Peter 1:5 and John 15 at war with each other in my mind. I tried to soften the force of the Savior’s warning, but his word stayed firm and demanding: I must abide in Christ. That made me responsible, didn’t it? But Peter said I was kept by God’s power; clearly that made him responsible.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Man With No Handles

“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

What was the Lord talking about here? It is true that he always did what the Father commanded, but I suspect in this time and place he was talking specifically about what might motivate him to go to the cross. He prefaced his declaration by noting that the “ruler of this world” was making his move.

Nevertheless, for all his apparent power, Satan had no claim on him.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Doesn’t Always Mean What We Think It Means (7)

In Greek, the words “Jew”, “Jews” and “Jewish” (sometimes translated “Judean”) are all variations on Ioudaios. That term was discussed in what some might call excruciating detail in the second post in this series, the length being necessary because of confusion arising from the way “Jew” is used today in popular secular and religious parlance.

Unsaved folk often refer to Gentiles converted to Judaism as “Jews”. This is most likely an accidental byproduct of unfamiliarity with biblical usage and/or the preferences of actual Jews, as opposed to evidence of a hidden agenda. Real Jews draw a clear distinction between their fellow Jews and converts to Judaism, whom they call proselytes. (Certain well-known evangelicals also use “Jew” to describe Gentiles, but for very specific theological reasons we won’t get into today.)

Suffice it to say that the Bible doesn’t use “Jew” that way.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Everywhere a Sign

The apostle John has a thing about signs. You might say it’s one of the dominant themes of his gospel.

Every gospel mentions that the Lord Jesus performed signs (or miracles, depending on your translation), but John leaves the rest of them in the dust. In connection with the earthly ministry of the Lord, he references the word on sixteen separate occasions. Compare that to Matthew (three), Mark (one) or Luke (four) and you’ll see what I’m saying.

Unlike the old song, in John, signs don’t block out the scenery. They are the scenery.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Seeing and Being Seen

The first chapter of John is all about seeing and being seen.

We begin with a God who cannot be seen with the human eye or fully understood with the human brain — no man has ever done it — and a God who has allowed himself to be seen in all his grace, truth and moral glory.

Then John sees Jesus coming toward him. His first spiritual impulse is to ensure others see him too. “Behold,” he cries. “Behold, the Lamb of God.”


Friday, December 04, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Judge of All the Earth

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

On her way to work a few months ago, a Muslim driver urged my friend to reconsider her ways in view of coming judgment. The driver knew nothing at all about his passenger, but he was convinced his god will one day be both her judge and the judge of all mankind.

Tom: Not all religions acknowledge judgment is coming, I suppose, but many do. It is not an exclusively Christian teaching. But there are some things about biblical judgment that make it distinctive, Immanuel Can, and perhaps we can explore some of those today.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Reasons to Get Going

The most recent version of this post is available here

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Blessed are the Hated

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Right There in Front of My Face

From the Department of Missing the Obvious, let me present John 3:16, which I have been hearing my entire life without really hearing it.

This happens. Unfortunately it happens quite a bit. Bear with me. Perhaps the three things I am going to share with you today about God’s love are perfectly evident to you, and always have been.

Let’s just say they didn’t jump out at me, even though they were always right there in front of my face.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Call and Answer

As I have probably mentioned from time to time, it is my habit every morning to try to read one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New. Other Christians I know do much the same thing. More than once we have found ourselves sharing with one another how remarkably one passage seems to dovetail with another.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But the unity of scripture is a real phenomenon, and it should not surprise us when that inherent thematic oneness expresses itself in remarkable ways. This morning it is in the form of a call and answer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Who Does the Washing?

“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

A very simple thought this morning, but perhaps an important one.

It is helpful to recognize what is being symbolized in our Lord’s marvelous display of love and humility at the very beginning of John 13. When Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, the spiritual issue being addressed is not their eternal salvation. Judas had his feet washed right along with the rest of the disciples, and subsequently went to “his own place”. So the “share” at stake in allowing the Lord to wash our feet is not our “heavenly portion”. Salvation is settled separately, as Jesus told Peter: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”

One man had his feet washed who had never consented to take a bath: Judas. His footwashing did not help him in any way, shape or form. He went right out and betrayed the Lord only moments later. If anything, the footwashing he had received testified against him.

Sunday, June 07, 2020


In the upper room, Jesus sets out God’s program for his disciples. The Son of Man is to be glorified, and God glorified in him. This necessitates him going away, first to the cross, and then to the Father, where he intends to make his preparations to receive his disciples, and then return for them. Only three things are really required of the disciples in all this: believe, love one another, and wait patiently for his promised return.

This is God’s program in a nutshell. Unsurprisingly, three of the Lord’s disciples voice objections to it, and offer subtle improvements to make it more palatable to them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Diagnosing the Problem

“Behold, we are slaves this day ... behold, we are slaves.”

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

You can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is.

John 8:33 records a very strange statement, the second one I have quoted above. It appears to have been made not specifically by the Pharisees or Sadducees (though there may have been some of these present, of course), but more generally, by men who had just made a public confession of belief in Christ.

The statement was this: “We have never been enslaved to anyone.”

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The People Standing Around

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Place of My Own

One thing is absolutely certain: we are all going someplace when we die. It may be nowhere more exciting than the digestive systems of worms and soil microbes, thereafter to be distributed throughout the earth’s ecosystem over time, but it is certainly a place. Or places, if you prefer.

Biologically, we do not choose our place. It is imposed on us. Spiritually, however, we do; moreover, we testify to the choices we have made with every daily act we perform. Death makes all choice irrevocable.

This is true even when we are not aware we are making any choice at all.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Getting to the Truth

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why Do Christians Disagree?

Religious skeptics, along with many sincere believers young and old, find the lack of agreement among Christians to be a most perplexing and off-putting fact.

Denominationalism is only one manifestation of its reality. Within virtually all denominations we can find numerous ‘minor’ convictions still considered significant enough by their proponents to justify breaches of fellowship with those who hold different views, amicably or otherwise.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

On the Mount (30)

The way is hard that leads to life. Ain’t that the truth. Maybe in more ways than we are usually inclined to consider.

Matthew 7:13 is generally read as having to do with a man or woman’s ultimate fate: eternity in hell on the one hand; eternal life in fellowship with God on the other. These are the highest and most personal stakes for which human beings have ever played. In the face of everlasting separation from God and all that is good, it should be obvious that the horrors of war, the nuclear arms race and our current inability to cure cancer pale into comparative insignificance.

Understandably, we will wish to choose carefully.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fatherhood Expounded

In a previous post, I pointed out that very little is said in the Old Testament about the fatherhood of God. It took the coming of the Son to fully expound the ways in which God’s relationship to believers is paternal.

Or perhaps we have that the wrong way round. Perhaps instead we should say something like this: The human father/child relationship was designed by God to illustrate how he relates to his creations and his creations to him. In other words, we can expect that human fatherhood done right will be “Godly” in character. I don’t think that’s too much to assume.

Either way, until the Son came and made the Father known — not simply as God but in his role as Father — only a very small number of the faithful understood God’s parental care for his people, and only in the most limited of ways.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Things Prepared

To have had truth made known to you is not the same as understanding truth.

Parents will grasp this instantly. You’re correcting your five-year old, and he asks why, so you explain. He can process the words. He can retain the words. They have been “made known” to him, and they have become part of his experience. They reside in his memory, where he can access them and make use of them when he grows into them.

But your words are not of much practical use to him in the moment, because he doesn’t yet fully comprehend them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Recommend-a-blog (25)

John’s Gospel is my favorite.

Those of you who think we shouldn’t have favorite books and especially favorite Gospels are, of course, welcome to make the requisite harumph-ing noises, but a greater number of readers are probably quietly affirming, “Yeah, me too.” And of course in finding particular delight in John, I am not in the least disparaging Matthew, Mark or Luke, all of whom wrote with specific purposes, intended audiences and special emphases, and each of whom is tremendously edifying in his own particular way.

But John is just different.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

‘Christian’ in 2017

What does it mean to be “Christian” in a day of access to a near-infinite plethora of diverse perspectives and opinions?

We might choose to ask Mihee Kim-Kort, who calls herself a “Presbyterian minister, agitator, speaker, writer, and slinger of hopeful stories about faith and church.” For Mihee, being Christian means being Feminist, Democrat, pro-abortion, pro-immigration, a community activist and an advocate for and supporter of all women of color — not necessarily in that order.

This is all in the course of a single blog post, by the way, one that makes no reference whatsoever to the word of God.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

No Reinterpretation Required

Love is a two-stage project: there is the declaring of it and then the hard work of actually doing it. It is impossible to effectively communicate love without doing both.

The order of operations is not terribly important, but both elements are critical.

Now of course declarations of love on their own may mislead us and require us to do a little contextual reinterpretation. A classic Canadian rock tune from 1970 made the point that we often say “I love you” when we actually mean something else entirely.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Almost But Not Quite Circular

Claims are not proof. But nobody looks for proof unless some kind of claim has first been made.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Andy Stanley’s assertion that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve is history, not just spiritually valuable mythology. For Andy, it is how Jesus spoke about Adam and Eve that is definitive.

I agree with him on at least two things: first, that Genesis is historical, and second, that the words of Christ are of vital importance to the believer. They are there to be pored over, memorized, analyzed with all the faculties God has given us, meditated upon and lived out wherever they apply to our lives.

Good so far. And then, me being me, I have to lob a monkey wrench into the machinery.

Monday, April 24, 2017

John Was Not Surprised

Once in a while the force of an expression gets a little buried in translation. Take this verse, for example:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

Here are two related statements tied together with the word “so”. First, we are told that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Next, we are told that Jesus deliberately took his time going to see someone he loved who was seriously ill.

The word “so” might seem an odd way to connect these two ideas.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Leaving One’s Glasses At Home

Gratefulness is good. It is definitely better to be thankful than not to be thankful. The apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against men and women who knew God but “did not give thanks to him”.

So sure, absolutely, by all means be grateful. Appreciate what you’ve been given.

But is thankfulness enough?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Didn’t See THAT Coming

Photo: Seth Lemmons
If you have a modern translation of the New Testament, you’ll find John 5:4 appears to have gone AWOL.

The missing text was there in my youth. I remember it vaguely from my first King James. The NASB and some older versions still retain it in square brackets for the three people in the world with worse memories than me. But having collected and compared early versions of that passage from all over the Middle East, modern scholars have concluded the verse-and-a-half was not part of divine revelation, but rather a parenthetical explanation added later on by a helpful scribe, originally tagged with asterisks (yes, they really used those back then).

If so, of course, they are correct in removing or flagging the text, but I have always found it useful in understanding the passage.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Everywhere a Sign

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Good Wine

Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

The system is a cheat. Not news, I know.

Apart from Christ, people inevitably act in what they perceive to be their own best interests, and never mind the rest of us. The master of the feast at the wedding in Cana was telling the bridegroom the oldest tale in the human storybook.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

That’s MY Mail You’re Reading

I came across a very cool website.

RationalWiki is basically a repository of unbelief designed to show people how and where the Bible is (in their view) untrue. Somebody has gone to a lot of effort to attempt to debunk scripture and compile evidence of its alleged irrationality.

Possibly the coolest section of all is the page on ‘failed’ prophecy, which begins this way:

“Some Christians claim that fulfilled prophecies prove the Bible’s inerrancy … mainstream Christians will actually claim that, for example, the Gospels are historical evidence of Isaiah being accurate prophecy (rather than works written with a copy of Isaiah to hand to claim fulfilment of prophecy), therefore the Bible is accurate and Jesus is Lord.”

You know, I think they’re probably correct about Christians claiming such things, though they don’t provide specific examples. But they have a bigger problem: they’re reading my mail. Small wonder they’re a bit confused.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Forever Doesn’t Mean Forever Anymore

Universalists are a funny bunch. They’d like everyone, no matter how willfully and resolutely horrible, to be saved in the end. Not a bad desire, in one sense. It certainly appears a loving and even-handed approach, provided we don’t apply a microscope to it and examine its implications too carefully.

So universalists read scripture to conform with their fantasy, redefining words as necessary and explaining the meaning of difficult verses in what seem to me to be very unnatural ways.

Thing is, they’re not always wrong.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nothing to Worry About

The other day I happened across a series of comments responding to a post that referenced in passing the words of the Lord in John 17. You remember: the part where Jesus prays, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.

What did the Lord mean? I have rarely encountered greater diversity of opinion about just a few words. One person even not-so-tentatively floated the proposition that the Father has answered his Son’s prayer in the negative.

I’m thinking Eh, not so much.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: The Judge of All the Earth

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Higher Learning

The martyrdom of John Lambert came up in discussion with my fellow blogger IC last week. Lambert was burned at the stake in 1538 for refusing to retract his objection to the doctrine of transubstantiation. As he died, Lambert is reported to have cried out over and over again, “None but Christ! None but Christ!”

Subsequent to our conversation, IC sent me a link to a video clip of an episode from the otherwise-execrable TV series The Tudors, in which John Lambert meets his end. Interestingly, the show’s producers opted to change Lambert’s dying statement to “All for Christ! All for Christ!”

So what? Such minor tweaking of dialogue takes place all the time in the process of bringing real stories to big and small screens alike. It’s still a powerful scene, and the viewer’s sympathies are fully with Lambert, which is presumably the writers’ intent.

Still, there is a difference in meaning, and I think it’s one worth noting.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Very First Thing

The apostle John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. I will leave the reader to work out precisely what that means.

E. W. Bullinger was sure John is telling us he saw the prophetic “Day of the Lord”, and there is no doubt John did precisely that. Others who have grown up with the expression are convinced John means to say that the things he experienced occurred on a Sunday.

I don’t know that the distinction is worth fighting over. What strikes me instead is the disconnect between what John sees and the very first thing he writes about it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

In the Power of the Evil One

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” says John the apostle.

That’s an intimidating thought, and there’s plenty of evidence to back it up. Today, just as in John’s day, there is not a single nation on earth that orders its politics and governance — let alone its popular culture — on principles consistent with the will of God and the character of Jesus Christ. Not one.

As a Christian, no matter who you are and where in the world you happen to live, you are in enemy territory.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


People whose foremost desire is to disqualify the word of God from application to the human experience start with a set of baseline assumptions that cannot help being wrong.

One is that the world has always operated exactly the way they have personally experienced it to operate. Another is that every difference in eyewitness testimony amounts to a contradiction.

Neither is remotely true.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let’s Not Make a Habit of It

What does “sin” mean to you? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I use the word?

Is it something that you’ve done recently? Maybe it’s something that has been done to you. Or is it some remote, vile and peculiar thing that you’ve never engaged in personally but would like to see eradicated from society?

It seems to me that the Lord never dealt with sin as an abstraction. He never addressed the subject in a merely theoretical way. At the well in Sychar he told a Samaritan woman, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband”. 

That’s pretty specific.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Higher Learning

A more current version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Do Christians Disagree?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Deadliest Attack on Happiness

Author Trent Hand lists what he believes are the deadliest attacks on happiness:

1.   Comparing yourself to others
2.   Talking about your dreams instead of going to work on them
3.   Listening to people with nothing positive to say
4.   Focusing on the news
5.   Deciding someone else needs to change
6.   Thinking “happiness” is a destination you can reach
7.   Forgetting to say “thank you”

Clearing negative influences out of our lives does have a certain utility.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Who’s That Prophecy For Anyway?

The most recent version of this post is available here.