A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (2)

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day Two

We are reading the Gospel of John to discover how to live in the light, to receive strength from the Holy Spirit and to experience God’s love that will equip us to live our daily lives in community with one another, and to minister to the world.

John’s Gospel is often referred to as the “Eagle’s Eye Gospel.” John’s deep insight into Jesus is compared to the eyesight of the eagle, which “can see a rabbit moving on the ground a mile below even in the moonlight.” (J.R.R. Tolkien) No bird can fly so high and see so keenly as the eagle. This is the insight into the person and work of Jesus Christ that John brings to us in his Gospel.

Chapters 1-11 are centered around 7 signs, or miracles, that Jesus did. John selected these 7 miracles and signs out of many miracles Jesus performed. (John 21:25) The purpose of these signs is found in John 20:30-31. A result of the signs can be found in John 10:41-42.

Write down the 7 signs found in the following passages:

  1. John 2:1-11
  2. John 4:46-54
  3. John 5:1-18
  4. John 6:1-15
  5. John 6:16-21
  6. John 9:1-7
  7. John 11:1-45

Read these miracle stories and make note of the things they teach us about Jesus. These signs were done openly, in the presence of His disciples. Many other people also saw the signs; they are open to all who will see and believe.

Another help in understanding John’s Gospel is to note the 7 “I AM” statements that Jesus Christ made about Himself.

In John chapter 8, Jesus made the most radical claim about Himself, so radical that the Jewish religious leaders attempted to stone Him. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58-59) This was the name God revealed to Abraham to use when he went to Egypt to deliver God’s people.

Then, throughout the Gospel, there are 7 statements that begin with the words “I am. Write down the 7 “I AM” statements.

  1. John 6:35 (For example, Jesus says, “I am the Bread of life.”)
  2. John 8:12
  3. John 10:7
  4. John 10:11
  5. John 11:25
  6. John 14:6
  7. John 15:1

You may already have noticed that the Gospel of John includes much symbolism. For example, Jesus says that He is the Bread of life immediately after feeding the multitude of people with bread and fish. So “bread” is both physical bread and spiritual food as well. You will find this symbolism throughout your reading and studying of this book.

Spend some time meditating on these 7 miracles, or signs, and the 7 “I AM” statements Jesus made about Himself. Every sign, or miracle, that Jesus did teaches us about Jesus in a special way. John does not simply tell us that Jesus performed miracles; he also interprets Jesus’ miracles. Remember: John is sharing with us what he actually saw and heard as a disciple of Jesus. This is his eyewitness account. He opens up his treasure chest in order to create faith in his readers.

It would be good to prepare a notebook or journal of your observations and insights into the Gospel of John. Be sure to keep looking at the structure of this Gospel. John 12:36-50 will let you know that one large section of the Gospel is coming to a close. Then John 13:1 seems to open up a new section.

It may be helpful for your continuing study to begin to make an outline of the content of the Gospel of John. Or you can make a chart. But we will talk about that at a later time.

God bless you as you continue to study this wonderful book.

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A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John

Day One

Some of us are studying the Gospel of John. Our approach to this Gospel is to read it together and discuss the main teachings of John. We are reading to meet Jesus and know Him better, to listen and obey all that God says to us, so that we may be used by God to extend His Kingdom throughout the world.

A few people have asked for some guidelines for reading the Bible, so in the next few weeks I will be sharing some ideas about how to read the Gospel of John.

Two excellent books for all Bible readers are How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book, both by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. They will help you as you read.

Reading is basic to all Bible study, and a key to reading is to observe. As I begin studying a book of the Bible, I like to read through it quickly and write down as many observations as I can. Remember: When you observe, just think of the questions “who, what, how, when, where, in what way . . .” and do not write down your own thoughts or interpretations. It is possible to see many things without actually observing them. One reason people interpret the Bible poorly is that they do not begin by observing what the Scripture actually says. Try writing down your observations as you skim through the Gospel of John; you will probably end up with 30 to 100 observations. You will be surprised by what you discover, because the Gospel of John is like a treasure chest of precious jewels.

The basic approach to Bible study consists of 3 steps: First, observe. Second, interpret – what was the meaning to the original readers? Then, what is the meaning to us now? Third, application – What is God saying to me as I read and interpret?

Now, search for the purpose for John’s writing this Gospel. A hint: It is found in the last part of chapter 20. When we know the purpose, we will understand why millions of people have come to believe in Jesus Christ simply by reading this book.

The last thing to do today, or soon, is look for the structure of the book. Is there a major division between the first chapter and the last chapter (21) of John? What happens in the first part of the book? What happens in the last part of the book? Can you make further divisions of the book?

May the Lord bless you as you begin your study of the Gospel of John.

 

 

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Lenten Meditations Part 3

  1. Psalm 129

This psalm reminds us that those who fully follow the Lord will be misunderstood and even persecuted. Christians worldwide are persecuted more today than at any other time since the early days of the Christian Church. Yet we can testify that the Lord is good and faithful. Consider the great blessing of the Lord to us, and also the blessing we can be to others, even to those who persecute us.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 130

The mark of the pilgrim who is going to Jerusalem, and in our case to the New Jerusalem, is to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the world. We wait for the Lord, and for His word to us. Our waiting is a positive longing for the Lord, because in Him alone is hope, steadfast love, and plentiful redemption.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 131

Sometimes in our pilgrimage towards the presence of God, we need times of silence, of stillness, of quiet waiting for Him alone. We turn to God who is both Father and Mother, and are satisfied in Him alone.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 132

The original pilgrims remembered that their forefathers had carried the ark of the covenant, which was the sign of His presence. They remembered God’s anointed servant who had valued God’s presence more than anything else. This is a psalm of one who puts first the will of God, above all else. We still pray this psalm today, asking God to clothe all His ministers, pastors, and others with salvation and with songs of joy. Remember: Through Jesus, we enter the dwelling place of God. We will be blessed with the gifts of eternal life.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 133

Here is the beautiful goal and promise of our pilgrimage! God desires that all who follow Him and count themselves as children of God to be truly united. We as pilgrims are now nearing our goal: dwelling in the glorious presence of God! We can do so only in unity, because this is God’s will. This is where we discover His blessings. Unity is like the anointing oil poured over Aaron, the first priest; God will pour out the anointing of His Holy Spirit on those who walk in unity. Unity is like the dew of Mt. Hermon, the dew of blessing that causes us to grow into maturity. God will command His blessings on those who walk in unity.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 134

The pilgrim arrives at her destination. When we arrive into the presence of the Lord, we are called to do two things: First, to bless God, and then to receive His blessing! We bless God by worshiping and obeying Him. The blessings that God gives to His worshipers include all the blessings of heaven itself! (Ephesians 1:3) As you continue to meditate on the Psalms, may God continue to bless you and enable you to bless the world.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

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Lenten Meditations Part 2

  1. Psalm 121

The pilgrim, surrounded by hills on the journey, is seeking for help. Help comes, not from the hills but from God Himself. We may have passed through a valley of suffering, but now we can lift up our eyes to the Lord; and He will answer.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 122

The psalmist arrives in Jerusalem; we who meditate arrive in the New Jerusalem! (The writer to Hebrews tells us that we already have arrived, spiritually, in the New Jerusalem! Hebrews 12:22-24) Consider some of the things we find there: fellowship, unity with others who worship God, the presence of God, peace with God.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 123

The pilgrim lifts up his eyes to the Lord, longing for Him alone and depending only on Him. He is the one who provides our needs and who shows us compassion. The psalmist prays for mercy.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 124

After the prayer for mercy, this psalm tells of the help and deliverance of the Lord. “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side,” what would have become of us in our distress? We all can ask this question. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Perhaps you feel like a bird who has escaped the cage, or imprisonment.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 125

This is a psalm of trust in God. He is like the mountains surrounding Jerusalem (or Seattle, where we live); God surrounds us at all times, forever. God’s peace “overshadows” our troubles. How has God “overshadowed” your own troubles?

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 126

A psalm of restoration. Here is hope for new life, for the transformation of dried-up souls.

 

Meditate on verse 5. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 127

All of our work is important and fruitful if we realize that God is actually working through us as we labor and toil. This psalm leads us to trust God, and to be happy doing work – any kind of work – that is blessing people in some way. Consider the themes of sleeping in the arms of God, resting in His love and care, and trusting God to give us what we need to do His will in the world.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

 

  1. Psalm 128

The happiness of “fearing the Lord.” To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of God. This is a positive fear, and it means to walk in God’s ways. The fear of the Lord is to turn away from sin and evil, and turn our faces to the Lord, desiring to please Him. Another psalm tells us that God has special friendship with those who fear Him. It is the foundation of a happy life.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

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Lenten Meditations

Part One (of three)

I have found it helpful to meditate on the Psalms during the Lenten Season leading up to Resurrection Sunday. One way is to meditate on the “Psalms of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134, sung by pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem. For Christians, this is the journey into the heart of God, what we could call “The Path to Glory.”

Psalms 120 – 134

Luke tells us that Jesus, when He knew that His time had come, “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) He set His face towards total rejection and death on the cross. He was on a journey. It began in heaven, then to Bethlehem, then to Jerusalem and Golgotha’s cross, and continued on to glory in His resurrection and return to heaven.

 

Jesus told His disciples to begin in Jerusalem to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, and to go from there to all peoples and all nations. Today we also begin where we are and go wherever Jesus tells us to go, to proclaim His Gospel.

 

We Christians are on a pilgrimage, not to the old Jerusalem but to the New Jerusalem, into the presence of the Lord. Paul calls this the “Jerusalem from above.” (Galatians 4:25-26) The apostle John describes the New Jerusalem beautifully in Revelation chapter 21. This is the Jerusalem the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 65:17-25 (not the earthly Jerusalem but the New Jerusalem to come). Not everyone can make physical trips to holy places, but we can all enter the New Jerusalem spiritually; we can daily enter into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

 

Jesus endured the shame that we might live in joy.

Jesus took upon Himself death that we might receive unto ourselves life everlasting.

 

The Lenten season is a good time to begin our journey. We take the journey together with Jesus, and His Holy Spirit guides us. We go again to Golgotha, the cross, and to the resurrection of Jesus. As we journey we are ascending the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. (Isaiah 30:29) We are headed to the mountain of healing, forgiveness, renewal, restoration and to a new beginning.

 

The Psalms will be our guide for this journey. Psalms 120 – 134 are called “Psalms of Ascent;” the pilgrims sang them as they traveled to Jerusalem. Today these 15 psalms are a guide to us as we take a pilgrimage during the Lenten season (or any season), preparing for the joy of Jesus’ resurrection.

 

We can meditate each day on one of these psalms, beginning with Psalm 120 and ending with Psalm 134. The best way to meditate is first to read through each psalm to understand the meaning and emphasis of each psalm. Then we will take one verse from each psalm for our meditation.

 

Some things to remember about meditating on the Bible:

 

  1. Meditation is a journey with the Holy Spirit. You already have embarked on your spiritual pilgrimage!

 

  1. A good definition of meditation is: “When we open our Bible and ask God to open our eyes to behold wonderful things in His Word, the Holy Spirit takes the written Word, transforms it into the living Word, and plants it in our innermost being.

 

  1. I begin meditation by sitting before a verse, or even a single word, of the Scripture, and simply asking God if He has something He would like to say to me through this Word. I listen and receive whatever He wants to say to me.

 

  1. We do not need any other book, just the Bible. It would be good to keep a journal of what God says to us each day, or of our response of prayer to God based on what He says.

 

  1. As you meditate, do three things: OPEN yourself to God, FOCUS on each word of the verse, and allow the Holy Spirit to FILL you with that word. He will plant each word in your spirit; just as a seed that you plant in the soil takes root and produces fruit, so will each word that Spirit plants in you as you meditate take root and produce fruit in your life.

 

  1. You will see change coming into your life.

 

PSALMS OF ASCENT

 

  1. Psalm 120

We begin our pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem with Psalm 120. We begin where we are. The psalmist is in distress. He or she wants peace, but is surrounded by those who do not want peace. The one who begins this journey to go higher with God is surrounded by antagonism and people who oppose. She is seeking the peace of Jesus.

 

Choose one verse and meditate for about 5 or 10 minutes. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen and respond.

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DNA is God’s Book

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The discovery of DNA gives us understanding of what the psalmist calls “God’s Book.” The psalmist is not referring to the Bible as God’s Book, although the Bible is the book that reveals God to all humankind. Even though King David, who wrote Psalm 139, did not know the modern words “DNA,” that is what He was talking about.

Psalm 139 reveals our identity. In Psalm 139:13-18, the psalmist tells us 3 profound things about our lives: First, God alone is the source of each person’s life. Parents are of course instrumental, but it is God alone who gives life. (verse 13) Second, God created each of the 7.6 billion persons in the world as a unique being, unlike any other person. (“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” (verse 14) Third, God’s thoughts of me are so vast that no book could contain them all. His plan for each life is great, good and perfect. (verses 17-18)

God is the Author of our biological code. DNA is the biological code for every facet of our spiritual, psychological and physical self; it includes the design of our face, our body, hair, limbs, as well as the personality traits with which we are born. The psalmist says, “In Your Book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them!” (verse 16) DNA is the book God has written for each person, each star in the heavens, every tree and every animal. He even gives a name to  every star in the heavens! (Isaiah 40:25-26)

It is time that the artificial war between Christianity and science is called off. Christianity is not incompatible with science; in fact, some of the greatest scientists in history have been, and still are today, men and women of great faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Growing through the Church Year

All of us want to grow during this new year. Children want to grow older physically; the elderly want to grow younger in spirit. But all of us want to grow spiritually, with increasing joy in the Lord and commitment to doing His will.

I am enclosing a file on The Church Year. Most Protestants have no idea what this is, but the Church Year, often spoken of as the “Church Calendar,” describes the pattern of growth into Christian maturity. Beginning with Advent, it leads us to expect the Lord of all nations to come to earth as the baby in Bethlehem. Each event leads us in our growth.

The file is in both English and Korean, and I hope it doesn’t confuse some of you. But if you will follow it during this year, you will see that now we are in the time of Epiphany, or the manifestation of Jesus to the world by the Wise Men. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, or to share your own ideas and understanding that will help us all to grow more. Also, if you cannot open the file, please let me know and I will send it to you in another form.

May God bless you during this New Year, and keep you safe in His everlasting Arms, and cause His face to shine upon you, that you may walk in His grace and in His peace.

Church Year

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