Genesis sets the Bible’s theme: “Man is incomplete without an intimate, Father/son relationship with God.” Understanding and wisdom begin with knowing Him. “Without faith it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). No one illustrates this better than a guy named Joe who lived between 2000 and 1600 B.C., a golden age called Egypt’s Middle Kingdom.
This is the factual account of the son of a successful Hebrew rancher in Canaan (today’s Israel). To his family’s disgust, young Joseph shares with them his dreams that some day he’ll rule over his parents and eleven brothers. Having had enough of his arrogance, the boys sell him to a caravan of Arabian merchants en route to Egypt. There he, at 17, is sold as a slave to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s palace guard. When he shuns the sexual moves of his boss’ wife, she has him jailed.
Maybe you’ve noticed that life isn’t always fair. Here’s a small consolation: “When you fall, I’ll be there to catch you. With love, the floor.” Then there’s this request that arrived at the North Pole: “Dear Santa: I’ve been good all year. Okay, most of the time. Well, once in a while. Forget it, I’ll buy my own stuff.”
Like Paul, Joseph, Abraham’s great-grandson, was a world-changer. Without his leadership the entire Egyptian and Jewish populations would have starved to death, severing the lineage into which Jesus would be born. However, since He’s always true to His word, God would never allow that.
Of the New Testament's 27 books, 13 are by Paul, a Jewish Roman citizen. His letter to Christ’s folks in Rome in 57 AD is called "the fullest, plainest, grandest statement of the gospel." It answers life’s #1 question: How can a person get right with God? (Job 9:2; John 3:3-4; Acts 16:30)
Paul’s longer than usual letter to Jesus’ friends in Rome is postmarked circa 57 A.D. The Jews have been dispersed for seven centuries, having been captured by Babylon and Assyria (both aka Iraq), Persia (today’s Iran), Greece and occupied by Rome.
Apostle/tentmaker Paul’s writing springs from real life, and is inspired by God. Born Jewish in Turkey, schooled in Palestine, this ex-Pharisee is a citizen of Rome. The Empire is home to barbaric tribes, scholars, rich traders, farmers and 60 million slaves! Chariots race at Circus Maximus.
The Bible opens with the Old Testament (OT) describing Earth’s creation and its first humans. With history, poetry and prophecy, the OT’s 39 books trace the Jews’ bumpy ride up to 400 years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The New Testament’s (NT) 27 books describe the life and teachings of Jesus, God’s only Son, while He lived on earth. Next, the Acts of the Apostles relates the infancy of the Christian faith. Then a string of letters, most written by Paul, God’s first missionary to the Gentiles. The NT concludes with Revelation, the biblical Star Wars.
B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth Four sportswriters might profile the Mariners' inscrutable right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki, from different angles -- his quirky batting style, lightning speed, flame-thrower arm, or stratospheric success at bat with the sacks juiced. Four looks, same Ichiro. The Bible's four gospel authors cover Jesus differently. Matthew does Christ as King. Mark, Christ as Servant. Luke, Christ the Son of Man (God in human flesh). John, Christ as the Son of God (the God-Man, fully human yet fully divine). Four lenses, same Jesus. John states that Jesus is God, the Key to life, the One who died that we might live forever forgiven! Either we buy John's assertion that God loves us sinners and offers us eternal life instead of eternal punishment. Or we don't. No wiggle room.
Since 1890 Margaret Fox, Spiritualism's co-founder, has rested at Cypress Hills in Brooklyn. Bahai founder Baha'u'llah is buried in Bahj, Israel. Zionism patriarch Theodor Herzl’s remains are at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, is entombed at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. INation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad is interred in Mount Glenwood Cemetery near Chicago. In 1997 the Church of Satan Anton LaVey died. His ashes are who-knows-where.
Let's say you're God, you want to tell your creation who you are, how much you love them, and what life can be like in a trusting relationship with you. C.S. Lewis, Oxford scholar-broadcaster-novelist, describes how God went about this: "Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a Man who goes about talking as if He were God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.
Jesus Christ, claiming to be God's Son, knits the Bible into one seamless whole, giving us wisdom to cope with today, while inviting us to become personally related to Him now. We're examining the earthbound exploits of Jesus, as recorded by His last living disciple in the late 1st century, an ex-fisherman named John.
We're investigating the New Testament's fourth book, written by John, one of Jesus' original twelve disciples. He and his brother James were northern Palestine's "sons of thunder." But hanging with Jesus for three years transformed them from brawling fishermen into wise, loving, godly men who braved persecution and martyrdom to spread the new Christian faith.
John was from northern Palestine, near the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water. He and his brother James were full-time fishermen when they heard Jesus say, "Follow Me," and joined His 12-piece band. James would become the first of that dozen to be martyred for telling others about the Messiah.
Jesus has taken His disciples from the Upper Room, scene of the "last supper," up to Gethsemane, just hours before His arrest where He's fingered by the traitor, Judas. There He preps them for "the hinge of history” -- His crucifixion and resurrection. He says after His ascension to heaven, He'll return to earth as King of kings, in great power. No one, not even He, knows when He'll return; only God the Father knows.
It’s Thursday night of Passion Week. Jesus Christ knows He’ll die tomorrow on that old rugged cross. He convenes His disciples for their “Last Supper.” Childishly, the boys spar over which of them is “the greatest,” just as He who truly is the greatest kneels and washes their feet. When He discloses that one of them will soon betray him, Judas, that one, disappears into the night to do his dirty deed.
As we’ve discovered in the Bible’s sixty-six books, Jesus knits the Scriptures together into one consistent whole in which we find wisdom to help us understand the world and find our way in (and out of) it. In about 90 A.D., twenty years after 30-year-old Nero was slain by his secretary, our author John is the sole survivor of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He passionately wants his readers to put their full faith in his best friend, the Son of God.
Our audacious mission is to demystify the Bible. It’s been said, “To know God, you’ve must understand the Bible. To understand the Bible, you’ve must learn about Jesus. To learn about Jesus, you must read the Gospels.”
In this book John recaps seven of Jesus’ “I am” sayings and seven miracles, like turning water into wine, feeding 5,000 people out of a lunch bucket, walking on water, healing the blind and lame. The biggie in this chapter is the pinnacle of His “God-signs,” showing His dominance over death and galvanizing His enemies’ intent to do away with Him.
A gaggle of tempting voices claws for our attention. Each wants a piece of us. Whom do you believe? Most look good. If only we had a trustworthy search engine, a lie detector to separate sincere from sham. Perhaps that’s why you’re here. Something tells you that we’re not random acts of chance, that there must be a purpose for living, an afterlife and a Master Designer.
Jesus’ confrontations with the Jewish sect of 6,000 Pharisees is turning nasty as they seek to silence Him once and for all. They strictly interpret the Law and oral traditions. Sadducees hold that God is in total charge, and man is a puppet. Essenes believe man can actually sway God’s behavior. Pharisees cede to God overarching authority to do as He pleases, while giving man his free will. Where do you come down on this?
Each time we meet I’m reminded that what we’re doing is what really matters during our time on earth. Nothing’s more life-giving than hearing God speak through His Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away but,” says God, “my Word will never pass away.” True wisdom, wrote King Solomon, is found in knowing the Bible: “Nothing you desire can compare with (it).” (Proverbs 3:15)
Today we parachute into the world of two millennia ago. Rome's fist grips tiny Palestine who prays that their Messiah will come and toss Caesar. Bitter, melancholy Tiberius is running the early Roman Empire. The governor of Judea is Pontius Pilate who handed Jesus Christ over to that blood-thirsty mob. To observe their manmade traditions, 1st century rabbis will not stoop to touch lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors -- anyone "unclean."
Does God exist? If so, what's He like? Jesus Christ claimed to be God's Son come to earth. If true, by observing Him we can get to know God. That's why John wrote this book. For three years Jesus was teaching, hanging out and doing miracles to back up His radical claims. Strangely and sadly, millions have opted not to become associated with Jesus. It seems that hearing about Him, even seeing Him is not enough. Jesus says those who come to a personal faith in Him have been drawn by His Father.