John 135 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
When John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, he connected Jesus with the entire Old Testament, which explains in detail the need for a sacrifice to remove sin and to fix all things. John made it personal. Standing before them was the One who was the fulfillment of all their dreams and greatest needs.
The immediate response was to follow Jesus and learn of Him. This is also our choice–between each of us alone and our Creator, Savior God. Will we follow Him? Learn from Him? Notice in verse 42 how those who make a decision to follow Jesus are forever changed.
I am writing this series of blog posts primarily to help a special friend, Habibi, to understand why God and the Bible are so essential to everything in my life. It is my fervent and continual steadfast prayer that my Habibi will grow to love God and His Word as I do.
It could be that these writings about my understanding of God and His Word, may help others as they seek God. It may also help some prepare to explain who God is and why it is important to pursue Him. That would be wonderful.
Before we start studying the Bible, we need to understand a few things about the Bible. The Bible contains sixty-six individual books, which together form one book. With many different authors, written over centuries, this library of books tells one unified story of God’s desire for mankind, the history of man’s rejection of God, and God’s sovereign efforts to fix the relationship between God and man. Interestingly, the history contained in the Bible stretches from the beginning of time into the time when all things have been set right between God and all things, including man and the created universe.
The Bible presents thestory, not a story. It is the authoritative account by which all other accounts will be judged.
The main theme of the Bible is the reconciliation between God and man. That reconciliation is the central theme of the Bible may be understood by studying Luke 24:25-27,
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that athe prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
We will study Luke 24 a bit more in the next post, but notice how Jesus reproves the foolishness of His disciples for not understanding that all Scriptures point to Him.
Application: As the Bible states, all of history is explained in the Bible. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus, the Savior of all those who believe. Those who follow Jesus receive special blessings from Him, Who made us to know Him and enjoy Him forever. Believe in and follow Jesus.
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Bill: I am reminded that God is at the root of all things. There is no explanation, no meaning, no anything without God. In the beginning there was only God and from God came all things. How foolish it would be, then, to try and live life while ignoring God. Stated positively, if we begin with God, all things will be put into proper perspective (order), which will allow us to live our lives within the blessings of God.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Bill: It must be understood that our creator God created all things in six literal days. We should learn from this that our God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present (notice that the Spirit was hovering over the waters, which allowed God to organize the unorganized into a beautiful creation.) This also reveals our God to be the author of all things beautiful.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Bill: Although all things are created by God, all things are not created equally. We (humankind) are created in the image of God. We are God’s special creation, created to enjoy God and serve Him forever. As His image bearers, we a have the privilege and responsibility to creatively and wisely manage the earth ethically, morally, firmly, and beautifully.
29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Bill: When God finished creating, He pronounced His finished product, “very good.” It is correct to say that at the completion of God’s creation, all things were perfect.
Application: All that we have is from God and belongs to God. He has given us the wonderful and awesome responsibility of managing His creation. What we have, we should manage for God. By doing so, we enjoy the blessing that is called life.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.
4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a level path because of my foes. 12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage;
One of the five responsibilities Deb and I have for the B&B globalized cities initiative is to recruit the workers. In order to accomplish our God-given goal of making disciple in all nations, by ministering in key cities, we need to recruit three kinds of workers. Firstly, we need tent makers, those who use a secular vocation to minister in the city. Secondly, we need professional workers who pursue a career in strategic cities and become part of the B&B ministry team in that city. Thirdly, we need occupational Christian workers who will minister the gospel full time, moving from city to city as part of B&B church planting teams.
There are two new couples in Boston, one who came as tent makers, the others as interns. The Lord has provided both couples with employment. They are slowly adapting to city life. One couple has joined the church and the other couple is contemplating joining. One couple will be here for a year, while the other will remain indefinitely. Please pray for these two young couples, who have bravely, with resolute hearts, moved to Boston in obedience to the Great Commissioner. We also have two individuals who are raising support to come to Boston. Jean Tsen has around 43 percent of her support and is praying for 50% by the end of August. Andrew Eddy has just finished candidate seminar with Baptist Mid Missions and is just beginning his deputation ministry. Deputation is difficult and can be discouraging. Please pray for Jean and Andy as they move forward with the Lord.
There are others who are considering serving the Lord with B&B. Please pray that God will make His way known to them.
We need to recruit more workers, and the way we do so is multifaceted, including speaking in churches, using social media, and presenting B&B at Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian colleges. Deb and I desire to speak and be present in churches and educational institutions who are interested in B&B. Please pray that connections with like-minded institutions will be made, and that individuals will be recruited for gospel ministry in the cities of our world.
A church has supplied our need for an expandable table, which we will receive in the middle of September. In addition, another church is contemplating helping us with our very compact chairs, which we need for our expandable table. Our cocoon of a home, in the middle of the city, is being outfitted to impact the people of the world who live here—Praise the Lord!
Retreat, Refuel, Repeat: Deb and I are leaving for two weeks away. We will celebrate Deb’s dad’s 90th birthday on Friday in Williamsburg, Iowa. From there, we will travel to be with family in South Carolina, and hope to follow this with a time with more family in Jackson Hole. While in Jackson, Wyoming, I will work on my Life Organizational Accountability Plan (LOAP). This discipline, which I work through periodically, controls all our activity. Please pray as it is updated.
There will be no prayer letter while we are away.
September 13: Mid-Autumn Chinese Festival celebrated by the IBC. We meet many new friends at this activity
October 28-31: Missionary Conference at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary.
In our imperfect efforts to serve our Savior, there are times when, I’m sure, we all feel alone. This solitude may be real or imagined, but the feelings of isolation, which accompany it, are very real. And while the Bible has much to say about the strength and vitality of Christian community, it is not at all silent about serving the Savior alone.
2 Samuel 23:9 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. 10 He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.
Eleazer, understanding God’s intention for Israel, stood alone when others ran away and who only returned after the battle was already won. Eleazer won the battle alone, but he wasn’t by himself. The God of Israel was with him.
2 Samuel 23:11 And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory.
Shammah was much like Eleazer. He took his stand in the midst of Israel’s enemies and fought alone to a great and amazing victory. Undoubtedly, Shammah was a confident warrior, but his real confidence was in the Lord. Probably both Eleazer and Shammah realized the potential for death, but were, nevertheless, ready to stand upon the promises and dignity of God even unto death. They were willing to do so alone, but not really alone. The triune God was with them.
Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
Matthew 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
Matthew 26:44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
The Lord was alone. On the night when He was to be betrayed, when, more than ever, the fellowship of the disciples would be needed, they failed Him and left Him alone. But our Savior wasn’t alone, the Holy Father and the Holy Spirit was with Him, and that was all that was needed. Only Jesus could die for us, and He had to do it alone.
Maybe this is why, at times, we serve alone. Maybe it is the way it needs to be. Maybe it is the way of the cross. But we must remember this, when we are alone, or feel alone in our service to the Savior, we are not alone at all. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are right there with us, and that is more than enough.
While doing my daily Bible reading, I continue to discover more portions of Scripture that confirm the principle of giving financially to those who minister to us spiritually.
Luke 10:1 Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 “Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5 “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 “If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.
7 “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.
8 “Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 “I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
In the time before Israel became a nation, the principle of giving 10% to the Lord was established. Israel, being a theocracy, gave much more than 10% of their income. We found in the church age that, while 10% my be a reliable general standard, love should be our guide to even a larger percentages of our income being given. In the passage above from Luke, again we see that it is the plan of God for those who receive care from God’s minister to supply the need of God’s minister. In fact, this seems to be the bedrock principal found throughout Scripture. Those who minister should be financially reimbursed by those who receive the ministry.
Galatians 6: 6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.
Paul clearly explains the responsibility of giving to the minister. Ministers can’t minister without being paid, and it is logically, naturally the responsibility of those who receive the ministry to pay the minister.
Several years ago, a Muslim background believer told me that God had shown him my face in a dream. In the dream it was revealed to him that I was the one who would lead him spiritually when he came to the USA. I was naturally skeptical of such visions, understanding the parameters, which Scripture provides for walking with God. Still, knowing that many phenomena off this sort had been occurring in the Muslim community, yet being committed to the sufficiency of Scripture, I sought too disciple this interesting person. Now, after years of Bible study, counseling and prayer with him, I am more skeptical than ever about extra biblical visions, and remain totally committed to Scripture as our guide unto God. Here are some reasons why:
Being the focus of such a vision is a temptation to pride. What Christian minister does not want to be an answer to a person spiritual needs. Yet, we must keep firmly in mind that we are not ultimately the answer. God is the answer through Christ, energized by the Holy Spirit and communicated by means of the Scripture. We simply point individuals to Christ through the Scripture.
Being the focus fo such a vision may create an unhealthy reliance. If an individual focuses on you instead of the Savior, they will become dependent in an unhealthy way. Rather than finding answers in the Word of God and comfort in their relationship and communion with God, they depend on you. This is ultimately destructive on every level.
This kind of relationship tends to take time away from other people and other areas of ministry, as the dependent person demands attention and desires to be the focus of your activities.
I remember desiring to be with the person who led me to the Lord without interference from others. I wanted my spiritual father to myself. Thankfully, he did not allow this and immediately eased me into the larger community of believers. The teaching of the New Testament is that ministry happens best in community– in the body of Christ with each of member doing their share.
So while evangelistic ministry is best done one on one, discipleship is best done in community.
Today, in my Bible reading, I came to Judges 17 and Luke 2. It was timely reading since complicated issues concerning ministry support are before me.
Luke 2:1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Being born is such humble circumstances, Jesus seemed so utterly vulnerable. It reminds me, that as I stay humble and apparently vulnerable, I am actually under the providential care and protection of almighty God.
Judges 17:5 And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest.
Micah certainly was a pragmatic man who did what seemed right in his own eyes. With a veneer of dedication to God, he manipulated circumstances to his advantage with little regard for true sanctity. Things seemed to workout for his family, but would you like your legacy to be like his–I wouldn’t.
My Application: It is better to error on the side of caution than to try to out shrewd the shrewd. Just be humble and trust the Lord.
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Years ago I met Roger for an introductory Bible study. As is almost always the case when starting a new Bible study, we began in Genesis 1:1. To my surprise, immediately after reading Genesis 1:1, Roger exclaimed, “Stop right there. Are you telling me that we are not talking about one of many God’s but of the God!!”
When I affirmed that was the case, Roger announced that he could not go further, but needed a few days to think about the God who created all things.
Eventually, Roger continued the study, and eventually placed His faith in Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe.
Although I was startled by Roger’s response, his understanding of Genesis 1:1 is exactly why we begin in Genesis when introducing the Bible to not-yet-believers. We want to tell the story of the history of God and His creation, and, by doing so, provide an overview of the biblical worldview.
It is my belief that the Bible offers the only consistent reasonable understanding of why things are the way they are. Furthermore, since we are made in the image of God as rational beings who are made to think logically, we are able to comprehend the truthfulness of the Scripture. By presenting the biblical worldview, we offer our not-yet-Christian Bible study participants a consistent understanding of life, which then gives them the opportunity to exercise faith in Christ.