Head Hunting Days In PNG Are Over

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The Gospel Has Transformed PNG Culture

Making changes in the rough draft of a translation of Scripture can be a very slow, tedious process.  In the article written below by one of our PBT missionaries, she relates how difficult it was to check the translation of John in one language, and was only able to finish checking chapters 1-15 of John in a three week period.  Praise the Lord that she and the language team were able to identify rough spots that needed some corrections and these have now been entered into the computer.

Changing the hearts and minds of a people group can take much, much longer.  This is especially true here in Papua New Guinea, where tribal warfare, fear of evil spirits and all manner of animistic practices have reigned for millennia among the hundreds of distinct linguistic and cultural groups of this country.  But praise God even more, that we are seeing the fruit of countless missionaries and budding churches here as the lives of many Papuan people have been and are being transformed by the Gospel.

                                

“This isn’t right!  What is this ‘doing the head’ thing anyway?  We don’t talk like that!” said one man.  After several rounds of discussions about how to communicate “hate/treat someone as an enemy, ” the national translator finally said, “I have something that will work.”  After a few more minor corrections of pronouns, the first man and the other translation assistants were giving good back-translations and everyone agreed that the phrase was accurate. 

The literal back-translation of John 15:23 now says, “One man dislikes me and puts the head and sees me, he also will dislike my father and put the head and see him.”  In the NIV this reads as follows, “He who hates me hates my Father as well.”

Wanting to better understand this idiom for hate/treat as an enemy, I asked them to explain it a bit more.  One of the older men said, in the past our ancestors fought with various neighbouring language groups.  The leader of our village/clan would take a trophy – the head of an enemy and bring it back after a fight.  They would sometimes eat the edible parts, but sometimes they would just let it rot until it was just a skull and then they would paint it red and hang it up in the leader’s house. That is the way we showed that we were treating those people as enemies.” 

I asked if anyone living had participated in those kind of raids, and he assured me that when the first missionaries came, all of  that had ended.  He had just grown up hearing the stories about it all and various idioms from their head-hunting days (such as the one above) are still a part of their language.  He ended by saying that if it were still the head-hunting days, there would be no way that he could safely travel to Madang – he would have been killed.  Hearing the stories from probably 100 years or more ago, made me very thankful for the transforming power of missionaries on a country that had been controlled by tribal warfare.   

    

A few days before this discussion, we had been struggling with the concept of “peace”.  In the language of wider communication, “peace” is referred to as having a “stomach that is soft/slow/at rest” – bel isi.  The translation checkers, however, objected to the literal translation of this phrase into their own language and said, “What is this soft stomach stuff!”  I tried several scenarios to help them find the correct term. The one that worked best was when I asked, “After you have been fighting for a while with another village/language group, how do you resolve it?” 

They explained that after things were talked through and people all had “one thought” they planted a coconut as a symbol of the peace, the fact that they now had “one thought”.  I explained that John 14:27 was saying that when people end the fighting and have “one thought,” it only lasts for a while and eventually fighting will break out again about something. However, when Jesus does it and we have “one thought,” then that kind of “one thought”  will last forever.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14.27 (NIV)

After three hard weeks, we ran out of time and thanked God that we had been able to complete the checking and revising of John 1-15.  It was a difficult checking session in which the rough draft was heavily revised.  Thank you for praying that we would find the problems.  God definitely answered those prayers.  Pray that the discussions we had about peace and many other important concepts will have an impact on the lives of all the participants in the checking session.  Please pray too that we will find a time to complete the checking of the Gospel of John in 2014.

    

Prayer:  “Lord God, we praise You that the truth of Your Word can be expressed in every language of the world.  We pray that You would help all of the missionaries and the national translators who work so diligently to find the best way to express Your truth into their local languages.  We praise You for the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ so that we are no longer Your enemies, and that You can grant to us Your eternal peace.  May this message of Love continue to transform the lives of the people here in Papua New Guinea and around the world.  Amen!”

Praise God

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2012 Review of “The Listening Post”

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Thank You WordPress.com

As a blog writer for wordpress.com, I am given a summary each year of the highlights and high moments from the past year of blogging.  It has been my joy and my privilege to share over 140 new articles in 2012.  These have primarily been stories of what God has been doing around the world through the ministry of Bible translation, in-depth studies on the Gospel of John, and a review of a book by Max Lucado.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys have prepared a 2012 annual report for “The Listening Post“.  I hope you will enjoy this graphic designed report.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

God bless and Happy New Year!

A Response to Max Lucado’s “Open Doors” – Pt. 1

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A few weeks ago, I wrote two articles that dealt with the topic “God Opens Doors and God Closes Doors.”  These articles were based off of chapter eight of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raised some interesting points and asked some good questions.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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“I have not read Max Lucado’s book so my thoughts are incomplete. However I want to address one aspect of what you are saying.  It is common for people, particularly Christians to say, “if its of God, then the door will be open, if it’s not then the door will be closed”.  This all sounds fine, but it lacks scriptural evidence and it also ignores the same activities of Satan. It may sometimes be true, but we first need to actually hear from God before assuming such a fact.

In the book of Proverbs, the door of the harlot was constantly open with direct invites to any young man on the street. Is it therefore of God?  On the other hand, the door into the promised land was closed off from the Israelites by the threat of the giants who were not about to relinquish power. Was it therefore NOT the will of God?

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Door open, door closed are not paths we can assume are God’s. They may confirm a path -alongside other indicators, but only a fool would blindly assume.  The problem with just letting your path be defined by open or shut doors is that it absolves a believer from listening and discerning the voice of God. It avoids relationship.

Many years ago I was asked to lead an informal discussion group in a church on the character of God. The group was very reluctant to contribute, but I encouraged them by asking appropriate questions around the circle about what they thought the character of God was like. When we had finished, to their horror, I congratulated them on accurately defining the character of Allah, not God!

“Inshallah, It is the will of God” might well be the cry of much of the church!”

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At first glance, what our friend has written may sound like he is very antagonistic towards the Church and Christianity.  He does certainly end with a couple of shocking and provocative thoughts.  But I would like to look more carefully at what this man has said.  I believe that he has hit upon some very important points that we need to pay attention to lest our faith be not grounded properly upon the truths found in Scripture.

The first thing we need to do when seeking truth is to check out in the Bible if God’s Word has something to say on the topic.  And we do in fact find the words and the concept of this in a number of biblical passages.  Let me list a few here:

Matthew 7:7-8  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Acts 14:27  “On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. ”

1 Corinthians 16:8  “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Colossians 4:3  “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Probably the most well-known passage that deals with this idea of God opening and closing doors as a means of giving guidance to His people can be found in Acts chapter 16, where Paul desired to preach the Gospel throughout Asia, but God’s Spirit intervened in some way to close that pathway and opened one up for him to take the Gospel to Europe.  Read that account here:

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

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From these verses above, we can truthfully say that God does interact with His people and guide them in some supernatural way to show that one course of direction may not be what He wants us to do, and that another course of action may in fact be what He wants us to do.  But let us still be very cautious about throwing these phrases around so quickly, “God opend the door for me….” or “God closed the door for me….”

I agree very much with my friend who wrote above that we can so flippantly state that God is the Agent behind an event in our lives, when there can be a number of other causes behind the circumstances of our lives.  I have much more to say on this, but I will write a further article on this topic next week.

Jesus Can Do Much With Little

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John 6:1 – 13

6 1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

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This event occurred just after the half way point of Jesus’ ministry.  Previously, we saw Jesus was getting into more and more trouble with the Jewish authorities.  But many of the people were still amazed at the miracles He performed and followed after Him to hear Him teach.  This was the height of Jesus’ popularity with the crowds.

Jesus and His disciples had been actively ministering to people and then went across the Sea of Galilee to get a short reprieve.  But the crowds find out where He is going and hurry around the lake to meet them on the other side.

Considering how tired Jesus and the disciples must have been, it is quite amazing that Jesus immediately began to heal the sick and to teach the crowds again about the Kingdom of God.  Once more, Jesus modelled for us true servanthood by giving of Himself, even when He sought out some peace and quiet.  The needs of people always came first for Jesus.

    

As we see the story unfold, the day is nearly over and the people are still there seeking to be blessed by Jesus.  After giving so much of Himself, He decided that He needed to help feed them an evening meal too and miraculously multiplied a small boy’s meal to feed the thousands.  It’s a wonderful story about Jesus’ compassion for the people, and His divine power to multiply the food, but I believe there is much more we can take away from this story.

One of the things that captures my attention is that this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.  We know that Jesus performed many miracles in His 3 ½ years of ministry.  John only recounts a few of them in his book, and usually for an important theological reason.  So why would John pick this one, and what makes it so important that it is found in all four Gospels?

    

There are three things that I think are worth mentioning that we can learn important truths from.  First of all, as John tells us here, this event took place near the time that was the special celebration of the Passover.  Why would he point that out?  Well, at the very next Passover, Jesus would offer up His life on the cross, and by that means, offer spiritual life to all who would believe in Him.

Jesus then is to be seen as the Source of Life.  In just a few more verses (starting at verse 25) Jesus will teach one of His greatest lessons, that He is the “Bread of Life”.  By multiplying the bread for the people here, Jesus showed that He can grant sustenance for our physical bodies.  But very quickly, we will learn that He is the One who grants us sustenance for our spiritual lives.

    

The second lesson I see is that Jesus begins to show us that He wants to work through His disciples to minister to the world.  First Jesus challenges His disciples to see how they might find the solution to feed the crowds.  Then, as we read all the accounts of this miracle, we see that Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, and then they gave the pieces to the people.  Beginning then, and up until now, Jesus wants to work through His people, namely you and me, to bless the world.

And finally, what should be obvious, is that Jesus can do much with little.  The boy’s lunch was so small for such a large crowd.  But it was offered in faith, and Jesus turned it around to make it into a feast for all.  By extension, what do you have, even if you consider it to be to small, to offer to Jesus.  Scripture tells us to offer God our time (moments of each day), our talents (the natural gifts He gave to us), and our treasure (our financial resources) to Him.  He will bless and multiply what we give Him and use it to bless others.  Amen?  Amen!!!

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

My Life Testimony – Pt. 2

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 2

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this second article that includes portions of the questionnaire, I talk about my early dreams of being a missionary and how God used early experiences in my life to prepare me for overseas mission work. My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q3: Since when did you start having desires to commit yourself to translating Bible?

In my article, “God Spoke Through People”, I wrote about how three significant people influenced me during my teenage years to think about Bible translation. I also remember a discussion I had with another student when I was in Grade 12. He asked me, “Why would you want to be a missionary to another country and culture? Why not just leave them alone. If they never hear about Jesus in their language and culture, then God will be merciful and let them into Heaven because they were innocent and ignorant about your Gospel.”

This was quite a challenge to my faith, but I told him that I really believed what the Bible says, especially in John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Romans 3:22-24 and Romans 10:9-13. The problem as I saw it was that there were many people in the world who did not have this message written in their language yet, and so how could they ever really understand and respond to the Gospel Message unless someone helped to translate that message into the language of their hearts, their mother tongue language.

Q4: Before going abroad as a missionary, you and your family were on the road for quite a while, serving as pastor in some churches while taking different jobs in other places. Which were some of the most humbling/ insightful job experiences for you? How exactly did you see God working through your life? In what way have those experiences changed you compared to when you were young?

In my article series, “Who Am I?” the articles of #14-17 show how I went through three difficult pastoral positions in a row. First there was the year of church planting in Beaumont, Texas that was not able to get off the ground (and we experienced the death of our first child during pregnancy.)

Then the church in northern Alberta was rough, as the eldership was very tough on the pastoral staff. (I found out later that I was at least the third or the fourth pastor in about 10 years that the elders “had let go” for reasons that were not fully justified.) Then the church in Manitoba had key players that had no real desire to welcome newcomers and to grow, so I knew I could not stay in that environment very long.

I must say that there were some rough edges to my personality during this period though. I was still young, a bit arrogant and pushed for new ideas and change before the people were ready. Now as I look back, I can see that God had to reshape me as well, and he did that not through the church work as much as He did it through the other jobs that I took.

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While in Manitoba, I worked the night shift at a merchandise store (Canadian Tire), bringing new merchandise out of the back and restocking the shelves for the next day. It was quickly found out that I was a pastor of one of the churches in town, and they quickly gave me the nickname of “Reverend” or just “Rev.”

Some said this just to make fun of me, some said it with respect, but many of them would greet me when I came into the store by saying, “Hey Rev, how’s it going?” I do know that I was given more than my fair share of lowly jobs, and I believe that was because of me being a pastor. But through that period where I preached on Sundays, and then worked at night in that store, I learned a great deal more about humility and loving others who mistreated me.

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You may also want to read in more detail the “Who Am I? Part 16” (Aug. 6, 2011). For a year, the Lord had pulled me out of ministry as a means to help heal me from the wounds I had received from the previous churches where I had served. As I say in the article, when I worked on the construction project as a janitor, I literally crawled on my hands and knees up and down 18 flights of stairs for six months to strip off the floor wax and put on new floor wax.

It was during those six months that I drew very close to God in prayer and submitted myself to Him for Him to do with me what He wanted. The next year I was at a seminary in Illinois and that is where I found out about Pioneer Bible Translators, the mission which I have been a part of now for 17 years.

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Jesus – The Eternal Word

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John 1:1 – 5

The Word of Life

1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2From the very beginning the Word was with God.  3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

This is a grand opening to this book, the Gospel of John.  It is very interesting to see how each Gospel (the Good News) begins from a different perspective in setting the background to the glorious entrance of Christ, who came as a baby and lived among us as the man named Jesus.

Mark begins his story with John the Baptist, whose preaching prepared the hearts of people to receive Jesus.  He came and was baptized by John to lead us by example to show the importance of being fully submitted to God.  Then we see Jesus being fully tempted as a man by Satan, but Jesus wins victory and shows that He will be the right Man to save all of Mankind from sin and Satan.

Luke takes us back at the start of his Gospel to the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  He narrates for us the simple and humble beginnings of the One who is King by having simple shepherds witness this divine birth in a lowly stable.  Matthew takes us back even further by starting his Gospel with a long genealogy to show that Jesus came from a line of kings, all the way back to King David, and was also the Successor of Faith having descended from Abraham himself.

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Of the four Gospels though, John takes us back the furthest of all.  He takes us back, not to the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, and not even back to the beginning of the creation of the world.  No, John takes us back before the beginning, before there was even Time itself.  And in that place where only God existed, there also existed the Word.  And contrary to some philosophies and religions, this was not some impersonal or mystic force, but the equally divine and creative Second Person of the Trinity of God.

We start to see the personal side of this One who is called “The Word” in verse two.  Greek has three gender endings on most nouns – masculine, feminine and neuter.  This “Word” that was with God from before the beginning of time is written as a masculine noun, which implies a “person”, not an abstract “thing” was there with God in the beginning.

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There are many other important truths given to us in this powerful introduction that we must make sure we do not miss.  Not only was this eternal Word “with God”, but verse one tells us that “the Word was God.”  This is one of the greatest paradoxes and mysteries about God.  How can one God consist of two Beings?  (Actually three when we add in the Holy Spirit.)  Yes, this is a mystery.  And yet this is what the Bible claims.  And if the Bible fails to be true here, then it is in danger of falling in every other area of truth.  I’ll come back to this.

Another important truth in this passage is that the Word was intimately involved in the creation of all that we see in the Universe.  True, it is God who created the Universe (read Genesis chapter 1), but here we learn that it is through the Word that all things came into being.  In other words, the Word was the Agency through whom God himself caused all things to exist.  (Jumping ahead, we know that Jesus is the Word spoken of here, so we now know that Jesus Himself was intimately involved in creating us and everything around us.)

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Back to this puzzle about God being Three-in-One (the Trinity).  There is an analogy in nature itself that is helpful for us to understand this concept.  A brief description of light is shared in the book “Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations” which says:

Science tells us that light is constituted of three rays, or groups of wavelengths, distinct from each other, no one of which without the others would be light. Each ray has its own separate function.

The first originates, the second formulates, illuminates or manifests, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Mysterious and yet very simple at the same time.  Just as we can accept that there are different components that make up light, but altogether is still just one light, so too we can accept by faith that God is three Persons with different kinds of interaction with us, yet God is still only One in nature and reality.

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One other quick insight on a truth here is in the contrasts found in vv. 4 and 5.  The Word is the source of life and light, which are the complete opposite of darkness and death.  We learn in other verses that Satan, the demon ruler of Hell, is the source of darkness and death.

So we have right here at the beginning of this book a sharp contrast and battle shaping up between the life-giving Word who illuminates us with all that is spiritually true, and the death-dealing demon lord and his realm of darkness.  But praise God, we are told that the Word is forever shining (present tense verb) and Darkness has never been able to put out that life-giving source of life, who is Jesus.

Hallelujah!!  What a great way to start this book.

Introducing The Gospel of John

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The Gospel According to John

In the last article, I mentioned that because it was the start of a new year, I would start on some new ideas for what I want to do with my article series this year.  Tuesdays will be the day that I share interesting and exciting stories from the mission field written by my colleagues within Pioneer Bible Translators.  Now I want to tell you my idea for the Thursday articles.

I realized last month that I will be doing a lot of preparation to do the consultant check on the Gospel of John for two completely different language groups in Papua New Guinea.  So then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be neat to do a number of articles on the Gospel of John?”  So far, I have worked on both translating and checking the translations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  Now is my opportunity to study more deeply the Fourth Gospel.

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Most people agree that the Synoptic Gospels are easier to read and to translate.  There is so much more narrative material in these books which gives us more action and fewer extended  passages of deep and difficult theology to try to unravel in the translation.  But that does not mean that there are not difficult sections to understand and translate in the Synoptic Gospels.

Certainly the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chs 5 – 7 is full of complexities.  And the many parables throughout all the gospels contain every day words on the surface, but also carry some deep spiritual truths below the surface form which must be handled very carefully.

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Let’s take a quick tour then of the Gospel of John to see what spiritual treasures we will encounter as we go through this book:

The Prologue

Chapter 1 gives us not so much a historical setting as a theological setting for this man, Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Jewish mother who was able to become pregnant through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  That tells us that Jesus was no ordinary child.  He in fact was God who came down from Heaven and took on the form of a man.  John’s Gospel will give us more insight into the divine nature of Jesus even from his opening words of his prologue.

The Book of Signs

Chapters 2 – 12 cover the entire ministry of Jesus up until the last week before his death.  We see Jesus traveling extensively, starting with his baptism by John east of the Jordan River, and then moving back and forth between the province of Galilee in the north to the city of Jerusalem in the south.

Everywhere Jesus went though, he astounded the people by his insightful and authoritative teachings and amazed them by his miraculous deeds.  Jesus demonstrated that he was from God by exercising supernatural power over nature (turning water into wine and multiplying bread) and over any sickness or disease (healing a crippled man and also a man who had been blind since birth).  Jesus even had power over death itself as he was able to bring Lazarus back to life after being dead for four days.

The Book of Glory

Chapters 13 – 20 have been called “The Book of Glory”.  They reveal the true depth of Jesus’ love for his disciples, and let us hear his heartfelt prayer to God on their behalf.  Then Jesus demonstrated his magnificent love and his power by being crucified on a cross, followed by his resurrection from death.  There is no way that you can read these chapters and not get caught up in the deep emotions (“pathos”) of those few days in Jerusalem.

But all of the book of John up to this point was not written just so that we would have an emotional response.  Certainly we do feel awe when we read about the amazing miracles he performed.  And we feel despair when Jesus died but then we rejoice when he rose to live again.  No, this book was written for a much more important reason.  John himself states in chapter 20 verse 31 the purpose for recording the life of Jesus.  He wrote:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Epilogue

Many scholars think that John finished writing his book at the end of chapter 20, and then later added chapter 21.  We will never know that for sure.  Most likely, there was some later concern among the early believers with regards to Peter who had denied his faith in Christ before the crucifixion, but afterwards was reinstated as an apostle and leader of the church by Jesus himself.

This gives us a very rough outline of John’s gospel.  I do hope that this is helpful to those who read this.  Now what I would like to do is to go back and start at the beginning and work through the book slowly, one passage or section at a time.  My desire is to try to have a balance between what the text is saying (interpretation) and how its truths can still impact us in our lives today (application).

Please be praying along with me that I will be able to write very good, meaningful and helpful articles.  I invite everyone who reads these to feel free to respond and interact with me as we go through the book.  May God bless you as we go on this journey together.

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[If you find these articles to be an encouragement to you, may I suggest that you subscribe to this site on the right hand side to get these sent directly to your email Inbox.  God bless.]

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