Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Gospels part 4

This is the last in the series where I'm sharing from an overview on the Gospels. I’ve used this as an introduction to Bible Studies when they were taken from the Gospels.

John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is the writer of the fourth gospel. John was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee and Salome. Along with James, they were known as “the sons of thunder.” It is believed by many scholars that James and John were actually cousins of Jesus (along with John the Baptist.) Many believe that Salome was Mary’s sister. Compare the women who were at the cross. Matthew names “the mother of Zebedee’s children.” Mark names “Salome” herself, and John names “Mary’s sister” It is consistent for John’s writing style to avoid identifying his mother by name, as he never mentions his own name either, and only mentions his brother as a “son of Zebedee.”

It is also understandable then, when Salome asks Jesus for her sons, James and John to sit one on His left and one on His right when he comes into His Glory. Who else but a relative would have the nerve to ask such a thing of Jesus? It is also logical in that case that Jesus would entrust the care of His earthly Mother to John, her nephew, at the cross, since His brothers did not believe in Him as of yet.

John’s gospel was written to the Greeks who were known for their lofty thought and great philosophies. Indeed, one could not get more “lofty” than “the Word made Flesh!” It is considered by many to be the deepest and most spiritual book in the Bible. It has been said that the Synoptics are presenting theology from a historical point of view, while John writes history from a theological point of view. And Augustine is quoted as saying that “John’s Gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim, but shallow enough that a child would not drown.”

With John’s portrait of Jesus rendering Him as the “Word made Flesh” which “was in the beginning with God” he shares no earthly genealogy, for the Creator “was, is, and ever shall be.”

The Apocalyptic Creature of John’s Christ is the Eagle, which shows the Divinity of Jesus. (Anytime an eagle is mentioned in the bible, it is representative of the Divine Nature of God.)

In John, Jesus gives a more complete revelation of Himself and of God than either of the Synoptic Gospels. The manifestation of Christ’s Divinity to the world is accomplished by a six-fold witness or testimony. That of John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit, the disciples, Christ’s own works, that of the Father, and the Scriptures. The “law” requires only 2 or 3.

John’s newspaper depicts the “editorial section.” More than half of the book of John is given to the events of Jesus’ life and His sayings during His last days.

Betty Newman 2003

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Gospels parts 2 & 3

For the next few posts (unless there is “late breaking news…”) I am going to share from an overview on the Gospels. I’ve used this as an introduction to Bible Studies when they were taken from the Gospels.

Last time we looked at Matthew - this time we'll cover Mark and Luke.

Written by John Mark, son of Mary of Jerusalem, who was also a sister to Barnabus, Paul’s traveling companion. It was Mary’s house, many think, that was the meeting place for the disciples and where the Last Supper took place. The gospel of Mark was written primarily to the Romans and thus has little to say concerning prophesies. He also explains many Jewish words and customs, for his non-Jewish readers.

Mark was very close to Peter, and many feel that this gospel reflects much of Peter’s recollections of Christ although it is debatable whether Peter had already been martyred when the book was written. Mark is also thought to be “the certain young man” in Mark 14:51-52 who was caught following, and had to escape without his clothes as Christ was taken by the soldiers from Garden of Gethsemane. If indeed the “Last Supper” had taken place at his house, it would not be surprising for a “young man” to sneak out in just his nightclothes to see where his heroes were going!

In Mark we see the Suffering Servant who gave His life as a ransom for many. Also, as Mark reflects on the “servanthood” of Christ, he gives no genealogy, since the “family tree” of a servant or slave would not be important.

Mark’s “creature” (many believe the four creatures with the four faces mentioned in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4, with heads of a man, an eagle, an ox [or a calf] and a lion, represent the four gospels) is thought to be represented by the ox or calf, which signifies the One who “carries the load.” It also shows the works of Christ more so than His words, by recording 18 miracles performed by Jesus against only 4 full-scale parables. Also an unusually large number of instances of Jesus’ exorcizing of demons are noted.

Mark’s Gospel is generally accepted as the earliest gospel written, as both Matthew and Luke seem to draw from his accounts. It is the shortest and appears to be told in a “breathless” manner, as if Mark was in a hurry to get it all down. It is likely that Mark wrote in this manner, as the Romans were a “practical lot” who allotted little time for details. As the newspaper analogy, Mark’s gospel would be the Headlines.

Luke was known as “the beloved physician.” He was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul. He wrote his gospel (and the book of Acts) to Theophilus, and ultimately to other gentile Christians, so that “you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4) As the only Gentile writer in the Bible, Luke writes his gospel after interviewing eyewitnesses and ministers to gain “an orderly report.” It is also a devotional gospel as it especially emphasizes prayer.

Luke’s gospel is sometimes known as “The woman’s gospel” due to his respect and reverence for womanhood. He shares the births of Jesus as well as John the Baptist with a physician’s love for life and with such a grace and delicacy that fill the stories with an atmosphere of love and purity. One cannot help but wonder if many of the “eyewitnesses” that Luke interviewed were the women, who would surely remember and share that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”

Luke writes of the “Son of Man” and traces the linage of Christ all the way back to Adam. Luke’s genealogy is believed by many to be Jesus’ family tree through Mary, as Heli (or Eli) was thought to be Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law. This line goes through David’s son Nathan where as Matthew’s goes through Solomon, the last King of the United Kingdom. Matthew’s linage presents a “descending” line from Abraham down through David to Joseph, to “Jesus who is called Christ.” Luke’s genealogy presents an “ascending” line starting with Jesus and going back to Adam, and thus to the Creation.

The heavenly creature most accepted for Luke’s gospel is the one with the face of a man. As the “Son of Man,” Luke shows Jesus love and care for the poor, the lonely and the outcast.

As Luke gives a great many details and stories of Jesus’ life, his gospel as a newspaper, is the “features section.”

Next time - John, the beloved disciple...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Gospels

For the next few posts (unless there is “late breaking news…) I am going to share from an overview I wrote on the Gospels. I’ve used this as an introduction to Bible Studies when they were taken from the Gospels.


The Gospels

History is filled with men who would be god
but only one God who would be man.

There are not really four different Gospels, but rather, one fourfold Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Holy Spirit who inspired four intelligent writers to present Him from a fourfold point of view, forming one complete whole. For many of us, our knowledge of “Bible History” confirms that by blending all the stories into one seamless narrative. For instance, when we think of the Christmas story, we picture the journey to Bethlehem, the arrival of the shepherds, followed by the wisemen. In actuality, it takes both the gospel of Luke and Matthew to paint that picture.

To fulfill our “Passion Week” experience, we need all four gospels to complete the story, as some share facts that others do not. This does not show inconsistencies, but indeed confirms truths. Sameness in all four would make them mere copies. It shows that the witnesses were independent, with some recalling things that others did not.

Throughout the Gospels, variations in the order of events also show that following a strict “timeline” was not always the aim either. However, the spiritual connection is just as true in those that do not adhere to the chronological order as in those that do.

Each gospel has its purpose, as each will touch someone that another will not. Much like the differences in each individual witness. There is someone that only “you” can reach.

Written by the apostle Matthew to the Jews, his theme being “the Kingdom of Heaven” (in Mark and Luke, it is called “the Kingdom of God”) as opposed to the earthly kingdom, which the Jews were expecting. Matthew is also known as Levi the publican or tax collector. He gave a great feast for Jesus who attended it regardless of the fact that the publicans belonged to a despised class of people.

Matthew, as one who dealt with money, gives us many of the “money incidents” that the other gospels do not; the very expensive gifts of the Magi, the miracle of the tribute money, the parables of the hidden treasure, the goodly pearl, and the talents. And Matthew alone gives the incident involving the “blood money” that Judas received for betraying Jesus. 30 pieces of silver received, 30 pieces of silver returned, but nary a word seeking repentance - remorse, yes, but repentance, no. Matthew also relates the bribing of the soldiers at the tomb.

He places great emphasis on Christ’s Kingly and Priestly Nature. He lists more prophesies fulfilled (about 60), and more direct quotes (about 40) from the Old Testament than any of the other gospels. Christ’s mission to the Jews is especially emphasized. As a King, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham the father of the Jewish nation, and “in whom all families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Many believe that the four creatures with the four faces mentioned in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, and Revelation 4, with heads of a man, an eagle, an ox (or a calf) and a lion, represent the four gospels. There are some differences of opinions as to which face represents which Gospel (except John’s) but most agree that the lion represents the Gospel of Matthew. As the lion is the “king of the beasts” so Christ is the “King of the Jews.”

J. Vernon McGee does an analogy of the gospels as if they were a newspaper. In this scenario, Matthew is the “Announcement” section, as he announces The King.

Next - Mark.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day Poem

Flour on the Bible

While filling up my flour bowl
a job I sometimes dread,
My older son (who always helps)
turned to me and said,
“Mama, you got flour on your Bible,
seems it’s always in the way.”
I smiled and said, “No son,
I need to read it every day.”

Since the kitchen is my “home court”
where I spend most all my time,
With my Bible and my coffee cup
every morning you will find,
That when I get them off to work and school
and before another deed,
I lean back in my rocking chair
and sip my coffee while I read.

A woman gives and gives and gives,
then has to give some more.
Not only must I meet my needs,
I need a reservoir!
So my Bible’s in the kitchen
giving strength for each new day,
and filling up
an extra cup
if needed on the way.

And if some food gets spilled along
I’ll wipe it with a breeze
So far it’s nothing major,
just watch that syrup, please!

© Betty Newman

Written in 1988 when our boys were 6 and 2 years old.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


As I opened my Bible this morning, intending on reading from the book of John in preparation for the Sunday reading, I opened “randomly” and it fell open at the book of Obadiah.

My eyes fell immediately on verses 1-9 (as it is only a one chapter book.)

1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom-- We have heard a report from the LORD, And an envoy has been sent among the nations saying, "Arise and let us go against her for battle"--

2 "Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You are greatly despised.
3 "The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?'
4 "Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down," declares the LORD.

5 "If thieves came to you, If robbers by night-- O how you will be ruined!-- Would they not steal only until they had enough? If grape gatherers came to you, Would they not leave some gleanings?
6 "O how Esau will be ransacked, And his hidden treasures searched out!

7 "All the men allied with you Will send you forth to the border, And the men at peace with you Will deceive you and overpower you. They who eat your bread Will set an ambush for you. (There is no understanding in him.)
8 "Will I not on that day," declares the LORD, "Destroy wise men from Edom And understanding from the mountain of Esau?
:9 "Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, So that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.

I especially noted 2b-4, and my heart melted. I fell in prayer for our nation. Not that God will come to the side of America, but that America will once again come along side of God.

America is greatly despised among the nations. And our arrogance has deceived us. America does live in the “clefts of the rocks” in the secured areas. History has shown that we have been falsely “secure” in our location, but December 7, 1941, and 9/11 has changed all of that.

But still, we say in our hearts, “Who will bring us down?” And we are the “eagle.” And even though we have “set our nest among the stars” I greatly fear that God will bring us down.

I know this prophecy was for the nation of Edom, but it brought a chilling discovery to my heart.

As in the book of Haggai, we have been “sent” with a purpose. But we have gotten fat, and lazy, and self-centered. And now our nation is crumbling from the inside out.

We ourselves have fulfilled verses 1-4, oh that God will spare us from the fulfilling of verses 5-9!

Oh God, I pray for a revival in this nation, that we may once again hear the voice of the Lord!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Faith Mothers" part two

This is the second in a 2-part blog from a sermon I did on Mother’s Day in 2004, just 5 months after my Mother passed away. In this, I’ve been talking about Timothy and his mother and grandmother who taught him the Word of God - and about all those “Faith Mothers” - known and unknown - who’ve taught all of us through the years…


I haven’t cried a whole lot since she died, but I cried a lot before. I cried out to God, “I can’t imagine that losing her will hurt more than seeing her like this!” And it didn’t. I do have an emptiness; there is a hole in my heart. But oh, how I feel her presence at times. And heaven, my feeling about, and toward heaven is, well not completely different, but I guess “fuller” is more the word. I am so looking forward to heaven now.

I never thought much about heaven before. I did know and believe in heaven of course. I thought it was a real place to me. But now it is a REAL PLACE, for my Mother is there. And I believe without a shadow of a doubt that when she drew her last breath here on earth, that she exhaled it in a shout in heaven! That’s why I refuse to wear just a white rose on Mother’s Day. She is alive in Christ.

All of us have mothers. It’s a biological fact. All of us, here, have “faith mothers” as well. I was very fortunate in that mine was one and the same. But, I’ve had many other “faith mothers” within these 3 churches too; (I grew up in this 3-point circuit.)

Mrs. Wykoff, Mrs. Cox, Miss Elsie, Mrs. McKnight, Bonnie, Gran
Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Smeltzer, Dorothy, and even Mary Snyder
Mrs. Hickman, Mrs. Ingle, Anna Mary, Mae, and even Faye. And Ruby still is a Faith Mother to me.

Who’s your “faith mother”? Who did you watch, and listen to, as a child, as a young adult. Who are you still watching? Your “faith mother” doesn’t have to be older “age-wise”, just older “faith-wise.”

As I’ve been studying the book of Acts, and the letters of Paul, it has amazed me the number of times that women are specifically mentioned as becoming believers. (Acts 17:4, 12 for example.) And just think, these are all “faith mothers.” As Paul writes to Titus, another young preacher, he instructs how older men and older women are to be teaching the younger ones. I believe that this not only refers to older in age, but also older in wisdom and experience.

So, on this Mother’s Day, think about your “faith mother.” But in addition to that, and more importantly ladies, whose “faith mother” are you? Who’s looking to you for guidance and direction? Who could be looking to you, and you don’t even know they’re looking? What are you teaching, by word or example? You don’t have to be a mother to be a “faith mother.” You don’t even have to be well known to be a “faith mother.” You just have to have faith. And be willing to share it. Will you do that?

Let us pray:

Father, thank You for Mothers. Thank You, that in Your infinite wisdom You created us and allowed us to share in creation ourselves. We are amazed and awed, and more than a little humbled.

Father, thank You also for “faith Mothers.” Those special women that You have placed in our lives. Thank You that they were faithful to Your Word.

Now grant us, as mothers and “faith mothers” wisdom and courage that we may indeed be faithful.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Will you do that? Will you be someone’s “faith mother?” But if you have no faith, no story, no “grounding” what will you share? Romans 10: 17 says, “So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Pick up that Word of God. Become someone’s “faith mother.” Make that commitment today.
And if you don’t know Christ, man or woman, He’s calling today. Your “faith mother” is praying for you…

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Faith Mothers" part one

My Mother passed away in January 2004. When May came around, I knew I would have a difficult time with “Mother’s Day.” So, I asked our pastor if I could do the sermon on Mother’s Day. I knew that if I was focused on the service, I could deal with it better - and I did…

The following is that sermon. As I usually do with writings this long, I will break it up into a couple of posts.

For at least part of May, I will be writing for and about "Mothers".

Faith Mothers

Turn in your Bible to Paul’s second letter to Timothy - 2 Timothy 1: 1-5. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy from a Roman prison and most scholars believe that this was the last letter Paul would write before he was executed.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

We first meet Timothy in Acts, chapter 16, verses 1 and 2 as Paul is beginning his second missionary journey.

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,
and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.

We” meet Timothy here, but Paul probably met him 3-4 years earlier on his first missionary journey through Lystra, and now he is so delighted to see Timothy’s spiritual growth. Also, (as Luke says) “He was well spoken of by the brethren...” This is much like Christ’s growth as the Scriptures tell us that “He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

Timothy, you might say, was a “good boy,” we find out why in 2 Timothy. He had good “raisin’s.” We don’t know a lot about Timothy’s parents, except that his mother was Jewish, and his father was Greek. Many believe that his father was either dead, or had left his mother, which is why they were living with his grandmother. And as little as we know about his parents, we know even less about his grandmother except that she had a “sincere faith.” She taught her daughter well, and she taught her grandson well. And that’s all we know about her.

There are many instances in the Bible where we see the results of faithful teaching without knowing much about who was actually doing the teaching, or who might have been doing the teaching in the background.

For instance, when Nehemiah kneeled before King Artaxerxes and requested permission to return to Jerusalem, we only read about Artaxerxes granting it with very little questioning. And not only that, but Artaxerxes sends him with enough provisions to rebuild the city walls. Why did he do that? God’s prompting? Yes, but most likely God worked through someone. You see, King Artaxerxes’ step-mother was Queen Esther. Remember the story of Esther, and this passage from the book of Esther? “Who knows but that you are in this place for such a time as this?” I believe she was there for more than one reason. She was there to teach the young king.

The Bible admonishes us to teach the scriptures to our children and grandchildren. But of course, not everyone does.

Paul says later in his letter that Timothy was taught the scriptures from childhood.

Timothy was fortunate; he had a good grounding in the faith. And I am fortunate; I have had a good grounding in the faith as well. You see, the greatest single influence on my walk with God was my Mother. It’s funny - that never occurred to me until she died. I never realized how much of what, and how I believe, was taught to me as a child.

I don’t know how my Mother came to be saved. She just always was. I don’t remember my grandparents going to Church, but I never remember Mother missing.
She was a devoutly Christian woman. She wasn’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but her attitude toward God was nearly so.

I’m an “idea” person, but she would never let me call my ideas “brainstorms”. I had to call them “inspirations.” She truly believed that every good thing came from God. And I can never, ever remember being told “That’ll never work. You can’t do that. It won’t work.” She and Daddy believed in me and supported me.
She held nearly every position within the Church at some point. I grew up having Bible readings every night before bed and prayer before every meal, no matter where we were, no matter who was present.

And she had this one phrase - you know how a lot of us are when we pray - how we gravitate toward saying the same things, using the same phrases? Well, Mother had this one phrase, if you ever heard her pray I’m sure you heard her say it. I reckon she used it in every prayer I ever heard her pray. And I would hear it coming, I knew when she was getting ready to say it, and God forgive me, I would roll my eyes. Here we go again…

She always thanked God for “the means of Grace and the Hope of Glory.” Now, that word “hope” doesn’t mean “oh, I hope so, I wish, I wish, I wish…” It means “hope” as in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A “hope” - a certainty. “The means of grace and the certainty of Glory.”
And now that “hope” - that “certainty” has been fulfilled.


Tomorrow - the challenge!