Sunday, March 30, 2008

Word & Flesh

Here’s our text for the week:

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’" From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.


Slowly and carefully read the text, asking God to guide your thoughts.


What is the overall point of this passage? How would you summarize it in a sentence or two?

How does it fit with the entire Gospel?

Who is the Word? Why do you think John uses this term?

Did you notice that John contrasts several things? Write down the verses that show each of these:
  • Light and darkness
  • The Light and John
  • Those who did recognize and those who believed
  • Those born of natural descent and those born of God
  • Law and grace and truth
  • Moses and Jesus

What could be the significance of such contrasts?

What else is on your mind this week??

Sunday, March 23, 2008

signs BELIEVE life

Studies in the Gospel of John

Sunday we begin an exciting series of lessons from John’s Gospel. John is unique among those who tell the story of Jesus. He tells of days and people that others do not tell and provides a fresh and unusual way of looking at Jesus.

John records seven "signs" of Jesus, which is his carefully chosen word for miracles. The signs of Jesus are intended to bring people to believe in him as God in the flesh.

Like no other, John invites us into the stories he tells. He wants us there to hear the conversations between Jesus and the individuals and the crowds. He invites us into the stories because he knows that observing Jesus will lead us to believe. And he knows, further, that if we believe, then we will experience life, abundant life and eternal life.

We hope to help those who have no faith to find one in Jesus, and we hope to strengthen the faith of all.

Here is the text for our introductory lesson from John:

John 20:30, 31

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 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.

Try to read this text each day and then spend several minutes of quiet reflection on these words. Read slowly and deliberately each word. Ask God to guide you as you read.

Tell us what you think about this text.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back at It

OK, the comments feature is enabled, so talk to me, please!

It was really nice being back "at church" today! I didn’t realize how much I missed it, missed you, until I was sitting there this morning.

A little later in the week I will share some texts that I plan to use on Sunday. Of course this coming Sunday is Easter. It is very early this year! It also falls on Spring Break; this will probably reduce attendance somewhat. We’ll go for quality instead of quantity this year.

My message on Easter is going to be deeply affected by some things that happened, and thoughts that I had, while in Turkey. Specifically, the things and thoughts are related to Islam.

Well, that’s enough for now.

Don’t be shy - jump in with your comments!

Friday, March 14, 2008

18 Years Ago Today

Luke was born!

What a blessing he is, has been, and will be.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ephesus - A Key Place

Here are some interesting things that we know with a significant amount of certainty:

  • Paul spent a lot of time in Ephesus. See Acts 18 & 19.

  • Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians.

  • John’s Gospel was written in Ephesus and was read by the Christians there and beyond. Irenaeus says that John wrote his Gospel after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He writes, “Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.” [Adv. Haer. 3.1.1]

  • John’s Epistles were written in Ephesus and were read by Christians living there. John seems to be a part of the community that receives 1 John. Second and third John may have been written to other house churches in Ephesus or communities close by.

  • Revelation was written by John while on the island of Patmos, which is in the Aegean Sea not too far from Ephesus. The Ephesians were one of the 7 churches to whom Jesus has John write. They seem to be the leading church.

  • Paul wrote 1st Corinthians while living and working in Ephesus.

  • Some theories regarding the recipients of Galatians (specifically the North Galatian theory, as opposed to south) mention Ephesus as a possible place of origin.

  • Timothy was working in Ephesus when he received Paul’s letters instructing him how to better lead the church there.


Today marks our 24th Anniversary!

Here’s a story problem for you:

Next year I will reach the mark where I will have been married half of my life. How old will I be then? How old am I now?

Don’t you hate story problems? Next year we will celebrate 25 years of marriage, and I will be 50 then. So I am 49 now. I knew some of you would be too frustrated trying to figure all this out on a Monday morning.

I know a lot of people complain and joke about marriage. Both, the complaints and jokes, bother me. I love being married. Kedra makes it easy. She is a wonderful wife and mother. I am a blessed man. I think good marriages are available for anyone who will base it on a relationship with Christ. Ephesians 5 is good starting point for trying to figure out what that means.

It worked out to where I did a funeral on Friday. At first I did not want to do it, but it seemed that it was God’s will for me to do so. So I did it and felt blessed to be a part. The man who died, a veteran, has two sons in the military. They began the ceremony by folding the flag that draped their father’s casket. This was followed by a 21 gun salute and taps. It was very emotional. And it was kind of “a tough act to follow”!

At the grave side, while the cold snow was blowing, the wife of the deceased man told me, “We got married when I was 16, and we’ve been married 44 years. I don’t know any other life than the one I had. I’m not sure what I am going to do.”


Well, I am beginning the process of returning to the ministry that I love so much. I’m sure there are going to be lots of adjustments and some rust that will need to be knocked off, but I am excited about returning to you, the church, on Sunday. I think the plan is for me to share a few thoughts and observations during the sermon time. I look forward to doing so. Some have suggested that I come in riding on a donkey. Any thoughts? Never mind, I don’t want to hear them!

I have thinking a fair amount about Easter and have some ideas about what I want to say that day. I was thinking of talking about the Resurrection (Ha ha). After Easter I think I am going to begin preaching from the Gospel of John. I have been reading in this area for a little while and am excited. Did you know that John’s gospel was likely written in Ephesus?

Next week I will switch the blog back to “Listening for God” and will enable the “comments” feature, so all you people out there that need to make comments can do so. Ha ha ha. Actually, I really look forward to interacting with you again.

OK, back to reading...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Back Home Again in Indiana

I am writing this from the comfort of my own home this morning. It’s great to be back home! I got here last night right at the stroke of midnight. The trip home was fairly uneventful with the exception of a couple of things noted below.

We were about an hour and a half late leaving JFK, but I am guessing that’s fairly normal. Getting to New York was quite a long journey. Security was really tight in Istanbul. I arrived at the airport and immediately all of my bags were screened. Then I checked in and checked my bags. Passed passport control without incident; I picked the slow line of course. Next was the typical security clearance before heading to the gate. This is never easy with my computer and all the other stuff I carry with me, but I went through just fine. “Ah, I am finished with security!” This was the foolish thought I had.

When I arrived at gate 223 I saw that people were lined up for yet another security check. First I was quizzed about everything that I had done since I had cleared the last security check point. I made it through this first obstacle without incident. Next was the metal detector deal; off comes the belt, shoes, vest, and out comes the computer, etc. I make it through the metal detector, but they wanted me to boot up my computer. OK. It was a little inconvenient but not a problem. I thought I was finally finished. Wrong again.

Next I went to a cold steel table where I guy with gloves went through every compartment and pocket of my computer backpack and the other bag I was carrying on. This took about 5 minutes. I was very cooperative, thinking, “This is OK; just about done.” Zipped everything up and smiled at the security official. He smiled and said, “Come with me.” He said something in his Turkish tinted thick English about, “body search.” Gulp.

He led me to a private area of the gate and pointed to a door. The door opened. There stood this big burly beastly bulging Turkish man with rubber gloves. With a very slight sadistic smile he pointed my way into the room. At this point I didn’t know what was coming next! Much to my relief he gave me a pretty aggressive “frisk.” Whew! I left room and made no further eye contact with anyone.

The flight was around 11 hours. It was pretty good. I read a lot, watched a movie (August Rush - enjoyed it), listened to a bratty boy run wild and unrestrained (this was beyond typical child behavior), and enjoyed the frequent airline food (actually it was good!).

I tried to communicate with the Turkish man next to me. The only thing we managed to communicate was that the supplied cookie was good. This was done with pointing and doing “thumbs up” motions. Oh well...

It was so nice to get to Indy. My beautiful wife and four kids were all waiting for me. After a brief, sweet reunion, Lester went back to Butler, and the rest of us headed toward Mitchell. I slept well and will begin the process of swinging my body clock around to local time.

I don’t know what I will do on the blog for the next few days, if anything. I guess you’ll just need to check back. Sorry about that. I just a little time to get organized and figure out a few things.

Thank you to all who have faithfully prayed for my family and me. Clearly your/our prayers have been answered. Everything went well, and the trip was more wonderful than I imagined it would be. There were surprisingly few problems, which I believe is a testimony to your prayers.

Love to all.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Good Way to End

Today I woke up to the sound of rain. I was concerned this was going to keep me from walking to assemble with a church. At one point I was pretty sure I would not go, but all of a sudden the rain stopped. Eventually the sun came out!

There were not too many people on the street this morning, so the walk to church went a lot faster than I anticipated. I made it to church early, so I walked around for a while. On my way I decided to forgo part of my walk and ride the Tunel, which is a very short subway that goes up a steep hill. It was interesting.

I worshiped with theUnion Church of Istanbul The church meets in the Dutch Embassy and has for more than 100 years. I was quite surprised by what I found. I went to the second assembly, which was full. I estimate that there were more than 100 people there. There was also an assembly earlier which was also full.

I was told later that there were 35-40 nations represented in the congregation. I sat next to a Chinese lady who sang and spoke in English, but she was reading out of a Chinese Bible. A couple from South Africa had their little baby girl dedicated this morning. Americans and Asians passed communion. The worship was fairly simple, the sermon was really good, and the communion was quite amazing. It was amazing to think about all these people from all over the world communing together.

Afterwards I introduced myself to the minister. He then invited me to have a meal with the church. It was great! We met and ate in another part of the Dutch Embassy. I met a lot of interesting and (I am guessing) important people. I think several are associated with various embassies. I spent a lot of time talking to an American university professor who teaches international relations in one of the universities. We talked a lot about Turkish culture. I learned a lot.

I am now getting ready to go to bed. I have packed everything I can. I leave the hotel about 9.30 in the morning, and my flight (Delta 73) leaves Istanbul at 12.35 (5.35 a.m. your time). It is an eleven and a half hour flight to JFK. After a short layover I should arrive in Indy about 10 p.m. It will be a very long day, but I am very eager to get home.

I’ll talk to you in a day or so...

Please pray for safe travel. Thanks!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Istanbul Sights and Sounds on a Saturday Afternoon

It was another beautiful day in Turkey! Sunny and 65.

Today I spent a fair amount of time reading and studying. I am still wanting to learn more about Ephesus and how it figures in with the biblical narrative. I’ll have more to say about all that when I get back.

This afternoon I went for a long walk; probably 6-7 miles, maybe 8. I walked over to the Galata Tower and the trendy area of Istanbul. Wow! It is quite different from Old Istanbul where I am staying. I hope to worship with an international English speaking church over there tomorrow. I really desire to gather with a group to worship. I found this church on the internet and have had a couple of email correspondences. There are no Churches of Christ in Turkey, at least none that I know of. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, so this may keep me away. I don’t think I want to walk 3-4 miles in a cold rain. We’ll see...

I tried to capture some interesting and informative video for you today. I hope I captured just a little of what it is like to walk around here. I have included two videos below. The first one is just some random scenes, and the second is a trio of musicians performing in the trendy area. I enjoyed listening to them.

Istanbul Sights and Sounds

Istanbul Street Musicians