Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Launch Party!








June Journaling

1.    Baby shower for my niece. She only wanted diapers.

2.    My husband is preaching this morning. Then we’re going to Niagara Falls for two nights because my husband is presenting at a water conference and accepting an award on behalf of the city. We have a room overlooking the Falls, and we also ate dinner at the Keg overlooking the Falls. Very nice.

3.    Most of my day will be spent in the hotel room as my husband is at the conference. I don’t mind as I haven’t had a proper nap the past two days and need to rest so I don’t crash. It’s all about pacing with this illness. Also today, the 3rd of June is the 21st anniversary of my husband’s cancer surgery which is how they date his recovery. So glad he’s still with me.

4.    Stopping at my daughter’s in Hamilton on our way home, so my husband can do some plumbing repairs. My novel copies arrived today; 18 boxes worth.
5.   School day, brought to you by; addition and subtraction, word families and sight words, don’t worry, waterfalls and hair.
6.    Went to my dentist’s office to bring him the six copies of my novel he requested. Only charged for five. They were so excited. Also, two of my husband’s co-workers bought books.

7.    My book launch is just over a week away. Writing my speech and gathering up the things I need to take, making lists, getting nervous. I’ve got to think positive: This is my 15 minutes of fame. Enjoy it. Got some news today, still trying to process it. Will share later.

8.    We dropped our daughter off at the airport for her trip to Peru for two weeks. I’ll have to live vicariously through her, as Machu Picchu was always a bucket list item for me. Then we had a joint men’s and women’s breakfast meeting. Good message.

9.    Church.

10. Haircut and dollar store for last minute launch items. Nap, dinner, and school prep.

11. School day, brought to you by: sight words, word families (at, et, and an). I tried the word family ‘at’ last week, and he was able to read all the words by sounding them out.

12. Errands, getting things for the launch. Getting real.

13. Picked up launch promotional materials from the UPS store.

14. Grandkids came to be here for my book launch tomorrow. Setting up at church tonight. My website is live now: phthompson.com

15. Book Launch! Benaiah: Mighty Man of God by P. H. Thompson is now out there, on my website, and on amazon and chapters/indigo, kindle, kobo, etc. and in some Christian bookstores across Canada. I was surprisingly calm, people must have been praying for me. Also, we set up most of it the night before. I’ll post pictures. Good turnout and sales. Most bought two books each. I'll post pictures.

16. Church. Worn out from yesterday.

17. Dentist. Someone bought another book. Shopping for the trip.

18. Pain clinic. Heard some sad news today. Our daughter was pregnant with her third. It was a surprise pregnancy and about a month ago we learned there was a genetic problem they could see on ultrasound. An amniocentesis confirmed it was Turner’s Syndrome. It was a little girl. The risk of miscarriage is around 99% for the first trimester. She made it to her 16th week so we thought she’d make it. At the midwife appointment, they couldn’t find a heartbeat. They confirmed it with an ultrasound. Then I went over to watch the kids because she had to be induced and delivered it that night. So sad. Her name was Emilia Rose and she was loved and we were prepared for whatever challenges she would have had. I don’t usually take any stock in verses that jump out at you from the Bible, especially if you open it at random, but today, the same day that my daughter lost the baby, this was in my daily Bible reading:



The children you will have,
After you have lost the others,
Will say again in your ears,
‘The place is too small for me;
Give me a place where I may dwell.’”
Isa. 49:20



The fact that I’m a month ahead in my reading, and yet it sovereignly was the reading today meant a lot to me, and to them as I shared it, after they told me they want to have a third child. I don’t know if the rest of the verse means their third child will tell them they need a bigger house…

Another verse that was helpful for understanding why it may have happened was this:



Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”          2 Cor. 1:3-5

While it seems like Paul needs a good thesaurus, his point is that there is a correlation between the comfort we receive from God in our trials is related to the comfort we can offer others who are going through similar trials.

A further reason could be that even though they were happy with two children, now they desire a third.

The kids were told recently through pink cupcakes that they had a sister. My grandson told me, “The baby isn’t in mommy’s tummy anymore because she’s in heaven. It’s very sad, isn’t it?”

19. Still at my daughter’s place. My mom, husband and mother-in-law came over too.

20. Last day at my daughter’s. My son-in-law took three days off for bereavement. We went to IKEA.

21. My other pain clinic. Errands. Time to start getting ready for our trip. Today is the first day of summer and also the midsummer celebrations in Finland. They have full sun at midnight.

22. Beautiful summer weekend. Ran some errands with my husband, then had a nap. Then pulled some weeds.

23. Wow, that little physical activity yesterday has made me so sore. Our daughter returned from her trip to Peru. She had a great time and called it the trip of a lifetime. She climbed mountains, saw Machu Picchu during the winter solstice, went to a women’s weaving cooperative and an alpaca farm, went for a dune buggy ride over sand dunes, went sand surfing, did a home stay with a local family, travelled through different cities and climates in Peru, and ate great food. There was a group of 14 people from all over the world, and she was the only Canadian. They got along well.

24. Errands. Getting down to crunch time to prepare for the trip.

25. Final day of school. Of course, my grandson graduated from pre-school. I wrote a report card for him. Our granddaughter plays the four-monica for her four-paca.

26. Chiro and massage. My masseur bought my book. Bank appointment. We got approved for more money on our line of credit based on our home’s equity. We need to update our bathrooms.

27. Meeting with our travel agent, who is our friend. Getting all the paperwork together. I also applied to be a guest author on two Christian t.v. programs and one Christian radio program. I am terrified they’ll say yes, and saddened they’ll say no, but Benaiah’s story needs to get out there.

28. More shopping for clothes.

29. Dinner party at a friend’s house.

30. Church bbq. Submitting my income statements to the insurance companies, for the passive income received from my book sales. So far, sold about 85 books.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Character Studies: Boaz in the Book of Ruth



Boaz was wealthy businessman in Bethlehem; he was powerful and important in society. He was older than Ruth by at least twenty years. His ancestors were Salmon and Rahab, the harlot. There were a few hundred years between them and Boaz.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Boaz rules his “kingdom” from a position of virtue and servant leadership. He doesn’t selfishly abuse his workers (Ruth 2:4) but gently provided for their needs (Ruth 2:8-9, 14-16).He is impressed by Ruth as she works in the field, hearing a good report of her by his foreman. He has heard of her actions in following Naomi to a strange country.

Every time Ruth encounters Boaz she comes to him empty and leaves full (Ruth 2:14, 17, 3:17, 4:13). Although he is impressed by her and may even be attracted to her, he doesn’t pursue her as he probably feels their age difference is too great. We see this in the fact that three times when he speaks to her, he refers to her as, “my daughter.”

If it were not for Naomi’s meddling and Ruth’s willingness to do as Naomi instructed her, Boaz may never have made a move. On the advice of her mother-in-law she prepares for their “date.” She then approaches him the night on the threshing floor. When she basically proposes to him, he is very humble, not even acknowledging that he is quite an eligible bachelor.  Instead, he commends her for not running after the young men. 

He guards her reputation that night on the threshing floor by telling his employees not to gossip about her presence there, and sending her away while it is still dark, lest someone assume something happened between them. Then he gives her grain to take with her in case someone was to inquire where she was at that hour.

He remembers that there is another relative who is closer than he.  This is the conflict, or complicating factor you see in all great romances.  How will they overcome it?  Will our hero and heroine find true love? He also tells her he’ll approach the other relative, so she doesn’t have to humble herself by proposing to a second man in the same day. He also indirectly promises to care for Naomi as well through his generous gift of grain and his willingness to buy back her property. 

He may have worried that the other relative would be greedy for the land, but was pleased that the man did not want to have a wife whose son would bear another man’s name.  He would also have to share his inheritance, which is probably the main reason he refused her.  Similar idea to the story of Tamar, where Onan did not want to father a son for another man or share the inheritance. Yet for all his insistence that he could not lose his inheritance, it’s not the other “close relative” who is remembered, as he remains unnamed, but Boaz.

This transaction, done at the “city gates” where all business was transacted before witnesses, was done properly, so there would be no question as to the legitimacy of Boaz’s claim to Ruth and the inheritance of Elimelech. Although it sounds like Ruth is ‘purchased’ in a business transaction, you see from the interaction between them, that Ruth and Boaz do really love each other.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pool day with Family





May Journaling

1.    Chiro and massage, long nap.

2.    Bible study, nap, dinner, Spanish homework.

3.    Home day, except for Spanish class. My book is on the chapters/indigo  website for pre-order. Seeing it there makes it real.

4.    Our daughters are running in a fund-raising run. Ordered a card reader for book sales.

5.    Church flanking a long nap.

6.    Home day.

7.    School day; field trip to the local Reptile Zoo, again. Back by popular demand. The kids held a snake, a turtle, a chinchilla, a gecko and an armadillo.

8.    Home day, homework, and attempting intermittent fasting, starting with 12 hours. Desperate to lose weight, I gained 40 pounds since I got sick six years ago. Nothing has worked for me. I’d try some plans, but most assume you overeat, and I barely eat my three meals a day, and only because I need food to swallow all my pills. Also, because of my M.E. I can’t exercise.

9.    Bible study, errands, and nap. Dropped our daughter off to take the train to Ottawa for a conference. Also had to buy a replacement fridge for downstairs. Ordered some things for my book launch party.

10. Homework morning, nap, dinner and Spanish classes.

11. Final planning meeting for my book launch party.

12. Church.

13. Homework and school prep. Then driving to Hamilton to watch the kids two days while my daughter does an intensive course at university this week.

14. Childcare. Exhausting. This is for the young and healthy.

15. School day: brought to you by ordinal numbers, simple addition and subtraction, sight word matching, and the story of the lost sheep. My mom and aunt came by.

16. Bible study, then we’re taking our moms and my aunt from Finland out for high tea for Mother’s Day at The Tartan House Bed and Breakfast. I’ll post pictures. It was delicious. I made a facebook event page for my book launch, which is in a month.

17. Pain clinic, then my daughter took my car for a camping trip this long weekend. Fish and chips for dinner, then Spanish class.

18. The new fridge is coming for the basement apartment.

19. Church. Beautiful day, 25 C. Barbecued sausages.

20. Victoria Day.

21. My stand up banner is ready.

22.Just heard bad news today, related to our earlier good news.

23. Final Bible study regular lesson. Next week we do the summary and lunch. At least I am done, since I did it as I went along.

24. No Spanish this week.

25. Headed to London today, to have a pool day with family since my aunt is here from Finland. Great food. I’ll post some pics.

26. The grandkids were living their best life: going from sauna to pool to hot tub, to trampoline, and repeat.

27. Chiro appointment. I missed my massage because I marked the wrong time.

28. Spent the day with the grandkids. No school today, because my daughter has a long appointment. More on that later.

29. Bank appointment. I hate bank appointments. Eating smelts my cousin brought from up north. My aunt is going back to Finland tomorrow.

30. Watching the Raptors in their first game of the finals.

31. Spanish class. I’ll soon be quitting. I only took it to get a little bit of conversational knowledge. Not a fan of conjugating verbs. Also bought a copy of my book on kindle to hear how it sounds. Makes it real to see it there and on amazon. Benaiah: Mighty Man of God by P.H. Thompson 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Bible Character Studies: Luke


           Luke is the author of the gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts, which is the history of the early church from Jesus' ascension to Paul's house arrest. The gospel of Luke is one of the four gospels (good news) of Jesus Christ, his book is named for its author. Because of their similarities, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic gospels. This comes from the word, synopsis, which means, “seeing together”, because they report Jesus’ life in the same pattern. John’s gospel is completely different.

            According to tradition, Luke was a Gentile (non-Jew) (Col. 4:11,14) Very little is known about him, as he includes very few details about himself. We know nothing of his background or his conversion, or whether he was a Jewish proselyte first. Early church fathers believe he was from Antioch, since so much of the book of Acts is centred there. 
            Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) which explains his evident interest in Jesus’ healing ministry. He later joined the Apostle Paul on his missionary journey (2 Tim. 4:11, Philemon 1:24) and recorded those events and other things that happened beginning at the ascension of Jesus. Those are recorded in the book of The Acts. Parts of the book where he joined Paul are written in first person, using the pronoun, we. Those two books are the only two books of sixty-six in the Bible written by a Gentile.
He was not one of Jesus’ apostles, but used sources and research to write his “orderly account”. However, it is not necessarily in strict chronological order. Since he states his knowledge of the events he records came from eyewitnesses, it strongly implies that he himself was not an eyewitness (Acts 1:1.2). It is believed Mary, Jesus’ mother was one of his sources for His birth narrative and the details about John the Baptist. 


Both Luke and Acts were written about the same time, with Luke being written first (Acts 1:1) This two-volume work was addressed to Theophilus. The name “Theophilus” literally means “loved by God” or “friend of God, so that has led some to believe it is just a generic title that applies to all Christians. However, it seems more likely that Luke is writing to a specific individual, even though it has application to all believers. Others think Theophilus was a wealthy relative of Caesar, an influential government official (based on the honorific term, most excellent, which is used elsewhere of Roman officials), a wealthy benefactor who supported Paul’s missionary journeys, or even Paul’s lawyer. We cannot know for sure, since Scripture doesn’t tell us.

The dedications at the beginning of both books are much like formal dedications in modern books, suggesting he intended them for a larger audience. The books of Luke and Acts together are a sweeping history from the birth of Christ to Paul’s imprisonment under house arrest in Rome (Acts 21:20-24).
Luke’s writing style is that of a scholarly, well-read author. He is a meticulous historian, often giving details to help identify the historical context of the events he described (1:5, 2:1.2, 3:1.2, 13:1-4). Of all the gospels, his has the fullest account of the nativity. He also includes the praise psalms. He is the only gospel writer to include the unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, the annunciation of Mary, the manger, the shepherds, and Simeon and Anna. His gospel has the most parables recorded (28) and he includes the famous parables of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son and the rich fool.
A theme of Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ compassion for Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, and sinners, who were often regarded as outcasts and pariahs in Israel. Every mention of a tax collector is in a positive sense. i.e. Zacchaeus. By telling about Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, to the women at the tomb on resurrection morning, Luke emphasized the central role of women in Jesus’ ministry.
By use of a travelogue of Jesus, we see the theme Luke stressed throughout his gospel: Jesus’ relentless progress toward the cross. This was the very reason Jesus came to earth. Luke also highlights the universal scope of the gospel invitation more than the other gospel writers. He portrays Jesus as the Son of Man, rejected by Israel and then offered to the world. It is not surprising, since he was a close companion to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles.
Like the other three gospels, Luke’s focus is on the final week of Jesus’ life. This was the climax of the Old Testament types and shadows. Even though it was based on fabricated charges, false witnesses, a kangaroo court, and many miscarriages of justice along the way, it’s important to remember the cross didn’t “happen” to Jesus. It was the plan of God the Father, and Jesus was in control of the timeline all along. But that doesn’t absolve those involved of their responsibility or guilt.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bible Character Studies: King Artaxerxes


Artaxerxes was the fifth king of Persia and reigned from 464-423 B.C. (41 years). He died in Susa in 424 B.C. He was the third son of Xerxes. His queen was Damaspia. They had five children. His son Xerxes 2nd succeeded him.

From the book of Nehemiah, we see that the man is perceptive, noticing his cupbearer’s sad demeanor; he is caring, asking the reason for his servant’s sadness; and he is intuitive, recognizing that behind Nehemiah’s assessment of the situation, is a request. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the length of time Nehemiah will be away; the trip would take 3-5 months, and even with a return to Susa between terms, he will be gone over 12 years. He is generous. He also not only grants Nehemiah’s further bold request for letters of safe passage, but goes further and sends an armed guard with him, and supplies of timber (a precious commodity) from the royal forest for building.

He is favourable to the Jews, possibly because of the influence of his step-mother, Esther, as he was growing up. His kind letter addressed to Ezra in Ezra chapter 7 demonstrates his generosity to the rebuilding project.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Bible Character Studies: Mary, the mother of Jesus


Mary

Contrary to Roman Catholic teaching, Mary doesn’t have a prominent place in the ministry of Jesus. She plays an important role in bearing the Messiah, and she is definitely blessed, but she is not in every scene in Jesus’ life, like the movie, The Passion seemed to portray. But then it was made by Roman Catholics. It’s hard not to talk about her without drawing attention to some of the errors of Rome and contrasting them with the Protestant view throughout history as we look at this interesting woman.

It’s noteworthy that since Jesus hands the care of His mother over to John (John 19:26-28) Mary has likely told John much about Jesus’ early life. Yet he chooses to leave that out of his gospel. For one who knew the most about Mary, compared to the other gospel writers, he mentions her the least. That is significant. For all we know, she even asked him to make it so.

Also, any time John mentions her, he doesn’t even use her name, but just calls her the mother of Jesus, or His mother. (John 2:1,3,5,12,19:25,26)

Her last recorded comment in this gospel is, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5) Then she fades from the scene until the crucifixion. We would do well to heed her words and focus on obedience to Jesus.

Also, contrary to Roman Catholic teaching that Jesus was her only child, in order to bolster their teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary, she and Joseph had children together after Jesus was born. He is called her “firstborn Son” in Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7). It also says that Joseph did not “know her” as in sexually, UNTIL she brought forth her firstborn Son. (Matt. 1:25) This implies that they had a normal marital relationship after Jesus’ birth.

The term firstborn can be in reference to birth order or rank (importance). Either way it would imply He is not Mary’s only child. For birth order; He’s the firstborn, if rank; He would have to be compared with another. For further proof, John 2:12 mentions “His brothers” distinct from “His disciples”. Acts 1:14 also mentions His brothers in a sentence separate from the disciples and in connection with His mother.

Mark 3:31-35 tells of a time when His mother and His brothers came to see Him. He distanced Himself from them because they had no special favours as His family; unlike the Roman Catholic idea that Mary is somehow able to influence Him because she’s His mother, as justification to pray to her. As if He needed any prodding to be compassionate! Consider His compassion to the thief on the cross, even with no encouragement from Mary, although she was standing there.

Both Mark and Matthew name Jesus’ brothers (four of them) and also mention “sisters”, so that implies at least two. So at least seven children in the family, seven to Mary, six to Joseph.

“Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” Matt. 13:55,56

This James is the one believed to have written the book of James, so he did eventually come to faith. Yet in his book he just refers to Jesus as his Lord and doesn’t claim any special status because of the familial connection. In fact, in his book, he condemns favouritism very harshly. Another brother of note is Jude (called Judas in the gospels, he no doubt shortened it because of Judas Iscariot). He wrote the epistle that bears his name.

Even during Jesus’ own intense suffering on the cross, He is concerned for others. As Joseph is no doubt dead by the time of Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus as the eldest son, looks to plan for the future care of His mother. His own half-brothers were at this point unbelievers, so He put her in the care of His beloved disciple John, whom He knew would be living the longest. It shows us we are to care for our elderly parents.

Mary is not sinless, but refers to “God, my Savior” (Luke 1:47). She wouldn’t need a Savior if she was sinless. Finally, she is mentioned among the worshippers in the Upper Room after the Resurrection. (Jesus’ brothers are also there. Perhaps at that point they were all believers.) She is not being worshipped or prayed to, but is just one of the followers of Christ awaiting the promised Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14)

But Mary had a difficult life, in spite of the great blessing of being the mother of the Messiah. She went through the scandal of a pregnancy that many thought was the result of an illicit affair. She knew what it was like to have unbelieving children, to be a widow, and to have a Son cruelly treated and killed in front of her. The words of Simeon to her when Jesus was an infant were true; “…a sword will pierce through your own soul also…” (Luke 2:35)

As with most things, we need to have balance and not make too much of her, like the Roman Catholics, or too little of her as a backlash against their errors, as many Protestants do. When someone in a crowd shouted to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” Jesus answered, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27,28)

Bible Character Studies: The Disciples (as a group)


The Disciples (as a group)

They were called individually, even if they were brothers. They each had a spiritual encounter with Jesus and chose to believe in Him (or not; Judas Iscariot). They were eyewitnesses to all of the miracles and teachings of Jesus. They were given power to preach the gospel and perform miracles as well. They lived with and travelled with Jesus for three years, so they knew Him better than anyone else. They were with Him as His popularity was at its peak, and most deserted Him when the tide turned against Him. (John 12:12, 16:32, Mark 14:50) They were slow to learn and often didn’t understand the significance of an event at the time, but the Holy Spirit reminded them of everything Jesus said and did and how it fulfilled Scripture or was clear in light of His redemptive work in order for the Scriptures to be completed. (John 4:33, 6:6-9, 60-61, 66-69, 13:7, 12:16) At the end of Jesus’ ministry, they finally confessed their faith (John 16:30) “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” (John 16:31) Don’t be too hard on them. We have the benefit of two thousand years of church history and many study Bibles and commentaries to help us to understand what we’re reading. They were living in the moment and at the time that Jesus died, they really had lost all hope that He was the Messiah promised to Israel. (John 20:9) Other than Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him, as the Scriptures prophesied, (John 13:18-19) all but John were martyred for their faith in the risen Saviour.

Bible Character Studies: Nicodemus


Nicodemus is known for his late night meeting with Jesus which led to the famous discourse on the new birth.

Everything in Scripture is there for a reason. First the fact that he is named is significant. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are the only members of the Sanhedrin named, other than Caiaphas and Annas but that is because they were the High Priest and his father-in-law, and their names needed to be recorded as a matter of historical record.

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him,” John 3:1, 2a

It is generally understood that the reason for this clandestine meeting was that he was afraid or cautious about being associated with Jesus or interested in His teaching. But the further mentions of Nicodemus in John’s gospel always say that this was he who (at first) came to Jesus by night.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’” John 7:50, 51

“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.  Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” John 19:38-40

I think it is written this way to show the contrast with him at the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry. Also, even if he was fearful at first, later he is bolder, appealing for Jesus to be treated fairly, and then after the crucifixion, he isn’t ashamed to be associated with Him, and does the great kindness of caring for His body in burial. I think this shows a change in Nicodemus and I believe he was a true follower of Jesus in the end.

Bible Character Studies: The Apostle Peter (Cephas)


Peter is introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who tells him, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41-42) Jesus’ first words to him after sizing him up are, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas (a stone).” What must Peter have thought of that? How could Jesus know anything about his character, either now or in the future?

Peter also witnessed all the same things as John, and even performed miracles himself during the time that Jesus sent them off through the countryside two by two. He must have been offended when Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman as he was a very devout Jew. Even after Jesus’ ascension, Peter would still have trouble making the transition to the new covenant. Even when he is given the vision of the picnic blanket full of unclean animals let down from heaven and told to eat, he dares to refuse, repulsed by doing anything contrary to the ceremonial law he had always followed. (Acts 10:9-16)

But even though he is slow to learn lessons, and often has to be confronted over his return to his old ways, (Galatians 2:7-21) he does eventually learn. In Acts 15:1-12 Peter says, “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them (the Gentiles) by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”

John mentions Peter seven more times in his gospel;

1.     During the washing of the disciples’ feet, when he is embarrassed by it and tells Jesus He can never wash his feet. When Jesus explains its’ importance, he goes to the other extreme, asking for a whole bath. (John 13:3-17)

2.     During Jesus’ arrest when Peter impetuously tries to ‘protect’ Jesus. (John 18:10,11)

3.     During Jesus’ trial when Peter denies Jesus three times, as predicted. (John 18:15-27)

4.     On Resurrection morning, at the empty tomb, when he barrels past John into the empty tomb.(John 20:2-10)

5.     That evening in the upper room, when Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in His glorified body. (John 20:19-23)

6.     A week later, on Sunday with the disciples, including Thomas. (John 20:24-29)

7.     After the great catch of fish, when Peter is restored.

Peter was undoubtedly dejected and depressed after his denials of Jesus, after he had promised to die with Him (John 13:37) Even after seeing the empty tomb, and seeing Jesus in person twice, he couldn’t seem to get past it to be effective for the kingdom. So he went back to what was familiar to him, commercial fishing. After all, how do you begin to turn the world upside down? (Acts 17:6)

However, when he goes fishing with his other professional fishermen, God chose not to bless their old way of life, beginning the transition to a new calling. When Jesus calls to them from shore, their one word answer to the question of success says it all. “No.” But with Jesus word, there’s a blessing on their endeavours. The large catch of fish would’ve reminded them of Jesus words, “I will make you fishers of men,” and the parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-49).The success of the church is guaranteed.

The breakfast Jesus prepared for them of bread and fish would have reminded them of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus will provide for His people. And standing around the coal fire (John 21:9) would have called to mind the night of Peter’s denial of Jesus (John 18:18).

But in order for Peter to move forward, Jesus knew he not only needed a personal touch, but a public vindication before the others. So the Lord restores him by asking him to affirm his love for Him three times, almost as if he is undoing the three denials. He is commissioned to care for Jesus’ sheep (the church). (John 21:1-23)

Bible Character studies: The Apostle John


John

John was the author of the gospel that bears his name, as well as the books of 1st ,2nd , and 3rd  John and Revelation. He was a disciple of Jesus, along with his brother James. James was martyred. “Then he (Herod) killed James the brother of John with the sword.” (Acts 12:2)

He referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” recognizing the close relationship he had with the Lord. He was the only one of the disciples not martyred. He was exiled to the island of Patmos, where He was given the vision of the end times.

He claims to be an eyewitness of the events he records, and testifies to their veracity.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

“And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” (John 19:35)

“This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” John 21:24

He also mentions it in 1 John 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

What would it have been like to have lived alongside Jesus for three years? To see the miracles, like the calming of the storm, the raising of the dead, or the feeding of the five thousand? And to hear the greatest Preacher in the world, to see His character to know the sound of His voice and recognize His mannerisms? To see the veil pulled back on the Mount of Transfiguration and get a glimpse of the glory of the Son of God? To witness the mockery of the trial and to see the nails being driven into the hands of the Lamb of God on Passover? To feel the grief over the loss of his dear friend and his Lord? And to run to the tomb at the news of Mary Magdalene. Seeing the deflated linen wrappings and the napkin folded off by itself made him finally believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be; the Son of God.

Then after a lifetime of sharing this news and establishing the church, he was exiled to a remote island where he could cause no more trouble. Yet it was here that the Lord gave him even more blessings. He allowed him to see what was to happen in the future; the horrible persecution to come on the church, the horrendous plagues to fall on the world, and even to get a glimpse of Heaven itself, when all of the judgments, including the Final Judgment are past, and it’s just glory, glory, glory.

But while we’re reading his gospel, he hadn’t yet reached that point in his life. Peter wanted to know what would happen in the future; he was always rushing ahead. Jesus told Peter that his future would include persecution and martyrdom. Then Peter asks Jesus what would happen to John. Jesus told him not to worry about it. His concern should be to follow Jesus. (John 21:18-23) We each need to be concerned with our own walk with the Lord and not what He’s doing in the life of another. He knows the best path marked out for our good and His glory.

Bible Character Studies: John the Baptist


John the Baptist

The only denomination mentioned in the New Testament. J

John was the forerunner, the voice in the wilderness crying out, ‘Get ready, Someone is coming! In fact, He’s already here among you, and you don’t even know Him.’ They didn’t recognize the significance of the Person about to come on the scene. (1:23,26)

John came baptizing with water, but the coming One would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John recognizes the superiority of this One. He claimed to not be worthy to untie his sandals. He said this One was preferred before him, for He existed before him. (1:15, 30, 33) This “before me” can’t refer to Jesus being older than John, for John was born first. Remember, his mother Elizabeth was further along in her pregnancy than Mary (Luke 1:36). She was six months along when Mary received the message from Gabriel, so something greater must be in mind.

John the Baptist also recognized pre-born Jesus in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:41-43). He leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the appearance of Jesus, and his mother Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She also recognized the significance of Mary’s pregnancy because she referred to her as “the mother of my Lord.”

John denied being the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. He understood his role was to magnify the Messiah, like a friend of the bridegroom magnifies the bridegroom (3:29) His job was to bear witness to the True Light (1:8) It was time for this Jesus, whom Israel nor John did not know, to be revealed to Israel (1:31) Jesus thus began His public ministry with baptism. We should begin our spiritual walk with a public declaration as well.

John also knew by a message from God how to recognize Jesus (1:33). The Spirit would descend on Him and remain there. This sign would confirm the identity of the Messiah. Twice, he points Jesus out and says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” (1:29,36) This hints at the idea that He has come as a sacrificial lamb; the reason? To take away the sin of the world.

Twice, John says, “I did not know Him.” (1:31,33) Apparently, although they were second cousins, Jesus and John had no contact with each other during the early years; Jesus living in Nazareth and John living a nomadic, ascetic life. But John recognized Him once the prophetic sign was fulfilled.

John’s disciples, including Andrew now leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus. John doesn’t seem to mind; it was his purpose, like how we raise our children to leave our nest and live on their own. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Bible Character Studies: Joshua


Character Studies: Joshua

-Joshua first comes on the scene in the book of Exodus (17:8-14) during Israel’s first battle as a nation, against Amalek.

-he is tasked with mustering a task force. This will help to prepare him as a military leader. At this point the children of Israel could hardly be called an army.

-his name was still Hoshea at this point, until Numbers 13:16 when he went into Canaan as a spy.

-the victory over Amalek is attributed to Joshua (Ex. 17:13)

-God tells Moses to “write this for a memorial in the book, and recount it in the hearing of Joshua.” This is because Joshua will be one of those going into the Promised Land, although we don’t know that yet. By learning why God was angry with the Amalekites, he’d act accordingly. Deut. 25:17-19 tells us what they did. “They attacked the stragglers at their rear ranks, when they were tired and weary, and did not fear God.”

-in Exodus 24:12,13 God called Moses back up on the mountain to receive the law on tablets of stone. So he “arose with his assistant Joshua.” Moses left the elders at the foot of the mountain and took Joshua up at least part way. “Wait here for us until we come back to you.”

-Ex. 32:17 As Moses descended from the mountain with the ten commandments, Joshua was waiting, and said, “There is a noise of war in the camp,” but Moses corrected him saying it wasn’t the noise of a shout of victory, or a cry of defeat, but the sound of singing. This tells us that Joshua wasn’t in the camp with the people when they made and worshipped the golden calf.

-Num. 11-28-30 He is referred to as Moses’ assistant and one of his choice men.

-Joshua was zealous for Moses’ sake and wanted him to forbid people from prophesying. Num. 11:25-30

-Num. 13:1-16 Moses dispatches twelve spies, one from each tribe, to spy out Canaan. Joshua (Hoshea) son of Nun, from the tribe of Benjamin is a representative.

-his name is changed by Moses from Hoshea (desire for salvation) to Joshua (the LORD is salvation).

-Num. 14:6-9 After a discouraging report from ten of the spies, Joshua and Caleb spoke up, after they had torn their clothes in distress, saying; the land was an exceedingly good land, if God delights in us then He will bring us in and give it to us, the land flows with milk and honey (bountiful), don’t rebel against the LORD or fear the people, their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. The congregation wanted to stone them (shoot the messenger).

-Num. 14:26-38 God swears that none of this congregation who have complained against Him will enter the Promised Land, but will instead wander in the wilderness for forty years and die there. The exceptions are Joshua and Caleb. The other ten spies died by plague, but Joshua and Caleb were spared.

-Num. 27:18-23 God tells Moses to take Joshua and publicly inaugurate him, for spiritual service, to assist Moses. “Lay your hands on him, set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation."

-Num. 31:23 Moses inaugurated Joshua a second time, as his replacement, saying, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

-Num. 32:11,12 Joshua and Caleb “wholly followed the LORD.” –this was the reason they were spared to see the Promised Land. Their faith led to their good report of Canaan.

-Deut. 32:44 Moses and Joshua, at the end of the 40 years of wilderness wandering, taught the people the song of Moses.

-Deut. 34:1-12 He was probably the one who recorded the details of Moses’ death.

-Num. 27:18 He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit

-“Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel headed him and did as the LORD commanded Moses.” Deut. 34:9

-Josh. 1:1, Num. 27:18-21 After the death of Moses, God speaks directly to Joshua, telling him to cross over the Jordan. After that, God communicates to him through Eleazar the priest, using the Urim and Thummim. Moses’ relationship with God was unique.

-Joshua sets up memorial stones, to help the people remember God’s faithfulness (Josh. 4) and he writes their history so it will outlive him, and be a witness to future generations (Josh 8:32, 24:26)

-he faithfully circumcises the conquest generation before they cross over the Jordan, (because they didn’t do it during their time in the wilderness) and then celebrates the Passover for the first time in the Promised Land (Josh. 5)

-Josh. 3:23,24 When Joshua hears the report of the two spies who went to Jericho, he doesn’t get angry with them for making such a deal with a prostitute, when everything is under the ban; but sees the sovereign hand of God behind it.

-he met with the Commander of the Army (hosts) of the LORD (Josh. 5:13-15) This was his commissioning by God, as Moses had been at the burning bush. See Scarlet Thread.

-crossing the Jordan. He followed the instructions of the LORD and faithfully passed on the instructions to the people, “…for you have not passed this way before.” Josh. 3:4b The Exodus ends as it began, with the crossing of great waters.

-he fought alongside the people until Jericho was defeated (Josh. 6)

-he tells everyone to avoid the accursed things of Jericho, but reminds them to spare Rahab and family because she hid the spies. Then he speaks to the two spies directly and tells them to go back and rescue her as they swore to do. Josh. 6:25 says “Joshua spared Rahab.”

-he places a curse on anyone who rebuilds Jericho, and prophetically announces the personal cost on the one who does it. Josh. 6:26 fulfilled exactly in 1 Kings 16:34

-he is a great military leader and he follows God’s instructions fully, by completely destroying the people, yet not leaving them hanging past sunset, as the law required, and keeping his word to spare Rahab’s family, and to not kill the Gibeonites after his covenant with them (Josh. 8:26,29,6:25,9:26).

-as promised in Josh. 1:9 “The LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.” Josh. 6:27

-he was privileged to witness a large swath of the new country’s history, having grown up in Egypt, surviving the wilderness, and settling in the Promised Land

-he received his inheritance in the mountains of Ephraim (Josh. 19:49-50) He gave Caleb Hebron as his inheritance (Josh. 14:14) A fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Abraham.

-as a leader, he reminds the people of their history, God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness, and challenges them to choose whom they will serve (Josh. 24)

-he gave a farewell address which included warnings (Josh. 23).

-he was almost 90 years old when he became Israel’s leader, and died at the age of 110 (Josh. 24:29).

Bible Character Studies: Ezra the priest/scribe


Ezra

Ezra was a godly man, raised up by God to be the spiritual leader during the second return to Jerusalem. He was a contemporary of Nehemiah.

He was both a priest and a scribe. (Ez. 7:6, 12) His genealogy is recorded back 16 generations to Aaron, the first High Priest (Ez. 7:1-5). He arrived in Babylon sixty years after the second temple was dedicated, 80 years after Cyrus’ decree.

He was a skilled scribe in the law of Moses (Ez. 7:6). This was no small task as life had changed a lot in the intervening 1,000 years since the law was given. But the pattern of his preparation is exemplary.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10 He first studied God’s word to know what He commanded, then he obeyed, then he sought to teach others. Seek, do, teach is a great pattern to follow. Tradition says Ezra had the law memorized and could recite it from recall.

After the temple was rebuilt and dedicated, they reinstituted the appointed feasts, which they now saw as a great privilege. (Ez. 6:19-22) He was given great privileges and freedoms by the kings of Persia (second cause) because  “the hand of the LORD my God was upon me.” (first cause). He was granted everything he requested (Ez. 7:6), as the letter from king Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12-26) records. Any Jews who volunteered to go to Jerusalem were freed to go to assist in the rebuilding and resettlement. (Ez. 7:13) The project was financed generously by the royal treasury (Ez.7:15-20). They were given discretion in spending (Ez.7:18), given exemption from taxes (Ez. 7:24), and allowed to exercise local autonomy by appointing any magistrates or judges as he saw fit to do. (Ez. 7:25).

Ezra acknowledged that all these things were done because of the grace of God moving these pagan kings to extend mercy to both him and his people (Ez. 7:27,28).

The humble character of the man is best shown when he hears about the great sin of intermarriage with the pagan Samaritans, especially that the leaders and rulers had been foremost in this transgression. He understood full well that God had justly punished them as He’d warned, expelling them from the Promised Land for taking on the ways of the people of the land, not remaining separate and holy as they were told they should. He saw how the Samaritans, who were the offspring of mixed marriages (spiritually) had drifted far from true worship. And now that they were finally back in their homeland, they were already beginning the slippery slope into idolatry.

Ezra’s priestly prayer of confession and intercession, recorded in chapter nine, is like Daniel’s (Dan. 9:1-20) and Nehemiah’s (Neh. 1:4-11) because he also used plural pronouns to include himself in the guilt of the sin, even though he had not personally married someone from there. He understood national sin led to national guilt and often national punishment. The sin of the few contaminated the many. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Gal. 5:9

He humbled himself, fasted, lamented, and prayed for repentance. He was humiliated. He knew they had transgressed a clear command of God’s word. A transgression is an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense. They were without excuse. (Ez. 9:10-15)

He recognized the goodness of God in giving them favour in the sight of the kings of Persia, and in leading them back to the land to rebuild the temple. He had graciously redeemed a remnant and revived them. He had given them a peg in His holy place; this speaks of permanence. Now he feared they could lose it all again, and rightly so. (Ez. 9:6-9)

Ezra’s prayer of repentance was an example to the leaders, who trembled at the word of God, and they came and confessed that they were guilty, God was right to judge them. Yet they still had hope that God would forgive them, because of His mercy in the past. They supported and encouraged Ezra in the difficult task ahead of him. Only a few opposed the process of dealing with the intermarriage issue. It was thoroughly investigated by leaders in each city, and it was completed within three months’ time. The priests led by example in promising to put away their pagan wives and admitting their guilt, and presenting a trespass offering.

We’ll see more of Ezra in the book of Nehemiah.