THEOLOGY & Ben Witherington’s 7 Conclusions from his new book: “Biblical Theology: The Convergence of the Canon.”

What are some of the positive major insights or conclusions of this study? We may list the following:

(1) without a deep concern for careful contextual interpretation and the historical givenness of the text, much can go wrong when one attempts to do biblical theology. In particular, the OT must be allowed to have its own say, its own contribution to biblical theology, which is chiefly to provide us with a portrait of Yahweh, the creator God, and how he called and formed a people which came to be called Israel.

(2) Biblical theology also requires a commitment to a theology of progressive revelation. Really, protoTrinitarian and then Trinitarian thinking does not begin before the Christ event, and then only gradually does it become clear that even Binitarian thinking (a Godhead involving the Father and the Son) will not be adequate. The NT canon is progressively more Trinitarian the further one goes in the canon. This is not simply an evolutionary or chronological development, because some of the highest Christology is some of the earliest – for instance in Paul’s letters and perhaps in Hebrews as well.

(3) While covenantal theology is a very important part of biblical theology, it is critical to realize that with the exception of the New Covenant, none of those covenants were everlasting or permanent covenants, and it is incorrect to say that there has just been one covenant between God and his people, in many administrations. Furthermore, there are no unilateral or unconditional covenants in the Bible, either. Furthermore, HESED means mercy, not God’s tenacious loyalty to a particular covenant, say the Mosaic covenant. God is faithful to his character, and to his promises based on his character, but covenants come and go, are fulfilled or become obsolete until the new Christ-inaugurated and Christ-centered covenant appears.

(4) God’s grace, like God’s love, is not given with no thought of return. On the contrary it is intended to start an ongoing relationship and the recipient is expected to love God with his or her whole heart. Nor is grace, even in the NT, “perfected” in such a way that it becomes totally ‘perfected” in such a way that it becomes totally irresistible, such that we can deny there actually are apostasy texts in the Bible. This is not  even true of Pauline or Johannine theology, never mind biblical theology.

(5) Election and salvation, though interrelated matters, are not identical matters. For example, Christ is God’s chosen one, his anointed Elect One, but he does not need to be saved. Furthermore, in both the OT and the NT one can be among or a part of the elect people, and in the end not be saved. Furthermore, as we noted repeatedly, salvation in the OT does not refer to “salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.” Indeed, it often refers simply to God rescuing, redeeming from bondage, or healing some OT figure or group. One has to have an understanding of how the concept of salvation grew and developed as time went on and the canon grew larger.

(6) While covenantal nomism is an adequate way to speak about the Mosaic covenant, which was indeed inaugurated and sustained by God s grace, the New Covenant does not lack commandments or law, called the Law of Christ, so the old Protestant contrast between a law covenant and a grace covenant, or worse a God of law and judgment in the OT pitted over against a God of grace and redemption in the New Covenant, does no justice to either the OT or the NT, to either the Mosaic or the New Covenant.

(7) Finally, we used the word “convergence” in the subtitle precisely because all the pieces of a necessary full-fledged biblical theology do not emerge until all the lines of development about the Father, Son, and Spirit and redemption converge in the NT, and in particular from about the Gospel of John on in the NT, reading progressively through the canonical witness rather than just chronologically.

From : Biblical Theology: The Convergence of the Canon

SUFFERING & 5 Biblical Reasons Why God Allows Suffering

by Lesli White, BeliefNet, 5/29/19.

… It’s common to wonder if our suffering is God’s Will. People often hold only one view of suffering; however, the Bible does not have one approach to suffering but many.

Here are five biblical reasons why God allows suffering. 

To Prepare Us For the Trials and Complexity of Life

… Scripture tells us, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). In these verses, Paul is referring to multiple types of suffering – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. What makes this experience complex is the fact that when suffering comes, several of these types of suffering are often involved which can take a major toll on our spirit. It’s important that we recognize that suffering is a battleground.

The book of Job offers great insight on the two ways we can choose to respond to suffering. One way is to curse God because of our suffering and the other is to praise God, even in the midst of our suffering.

To See the Magnitude of His Love

When we think of suffering, we often think of God being far away from us. Yet, God will carry us through some of the darkest seasons of our lives to show His incredible love for us. Sometimes the emotional or physical pain of suffering is prolonged. It can continue for weeks, months, even years. This pain can be intense. We may hurt so badly that even those who try to bring comfort feel the pain. If you’re going through a tough time, take heart. The Lord is sovereign and He controls all adversity in our lives. That’s why it’s imperative that when we are going through a time of trial and suffering that we remember how much God loves us. If He allows us to go through pain, suffering and loss, then He has something good He wants us to accomplish.

It Reminds Us of the Reality of Sin

Each of us knows firsthand what it means to suffer as a result of someone else’s sin. We have all been the victims of the evil choices of others. Evil words and actions have left great marks on our hearts, minds and bodies. Because of this, some people will get angry with God, believing He did nothing to stop the sin that unfolded. Yet, none of us is innocent. We too have played the role of sinner, harming others with the choices we make. Sin lurks at each of our doors. We, like Cain must battle our fear, insecurity, shame, resentment and anger. Failing to recognize or master these things often creates suffering for others.

To Help Us Grow in Community

Suffering happens in community and we have a responsibility to be of support and aid to those who are suffering around us. Paul alludes this in Galatians 6:2, when he writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…”

It Allows Us to Minister

The comfort of God that we can extend to others isn’t limited to the church and is not limited to shared experience. Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Paul’s idea is not that we must suffer the same thing as another person in order to minister the hope and comfort of God. What is needed is an experience of deliverance from affliction, comfort in grief and restoration in brokenness. These experiences remind us of who God is and what He can do. They are a silent testimony of healing and wholeness that enable one to invite God to be present in the pain of another.
Read more at https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/5-biblical-reasons-why-god-allows-suffering.aspx#UK3ER2cFcAEmSMEz.99

BIBLE & What the Bible says about fear (and how we should react)

by Jay Lowder, Christian Broadcasting Company, 10/27/18.

… The Bible speaks quite a bit about fear – more than 700 times to be exact. 2 Timothy 1:7 says,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)

… I believe fear is one of his enemy’s primary tools used against believers to create doubt and faithlessness. Even Jesus said in Matthew 10:28,

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (NKJV)

… In Judges 7, as Gideon is preparing to battle the Midianites, God makes it clear He wants the Israelites to credit Him for the victory. So, God decides to wean Gideon’s army. The first cut? Any man who is afraid (Judges 7:3). With that, 22,000 men packed their bags and went home out of fear.

… We all have fear. The enemy wants to paralyze us with it, but God wants us to walk by faith and instill courage in us to follow Him. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6,

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (NKJV)

Copyright © 2018 Jay Lowder. Read more at … http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/what-are-you-afraid-of

BIBLE & 5 facts on how Americans view the Bible and other religious texts #PewResearch

by  , Pew Research Fact Tank, 4/14/17.

… Here are five key facts about Americans and their holy texts.

About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study

Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While about four-in-ten Christians (39%) say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God.

In 2014, about four-in-ten Christians (42%) said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity.

Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) know the Bible teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A similar share know that Moses was the biblical figure who led the Exodus from Egypt, and 63% could identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, according to our 2010 religious knowledge survey. But fewer than half of adults (45%) could name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and only four-in-ten (39%) identified Job as the biblical figure known for remaining obedient to God despite extraordinary suffering.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5-facts-on-how-americans-view-the-bible-and-other-religious-texts/

PETER ON LEADERSHIP & “I have a special concern for you church leaders…”

“I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for— God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people.

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

1 Peter‬ ‭5:1-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/1pe.5.1-7.msg

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

30947170-BEE8-4C74-A6C9-D3F9DB5F852A

How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53

CHURCH PLANTING & A Biblical 3 phase approach #BGCEfellows

by John Paul Thompson, Ph.D. Presentation given to the Fellows of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Wheaton College, 12/19/17.

When Jesus used the planting/sowing metaphor the object planted was “the word” (Mark 4:14), “the word of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19), “the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:31) or the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:24, 37).

When Paul declared, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth,” (1 Cor. 3:6), he is referring to planting the gospel, not planting local chruches.

Irenaeus, in 180 AD, coined the phrase church planting when he wrote, “the Church is planted like the Garden of Eden in this world.” He was speaking of the institution of the universal Church, not of local congregations.

Stefan Paas asserts that the classical understanding of church planting throughout church history was a three step process:

  • evangelizing (sharing the gospel)
  • gathering (forming community and discipling)
  • establishing (creating the institution and structure of the church)

Paas insightfully pushes back suggesting a return to the three stages without rushing to the third stage.

  • He suggests the the third stage is not always needed in communities that already have churches.
  • He challenges church planters to consider working with exiting churches.  Church planters could focus upon planting and gathering, encouraging new followers of Jesus and their gathered groups to become part of already established churches in the community.

NEED-MEETING & Luke’s commentary on Jesus’ words, “more blessed to give than to receive…”

“In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ‭‭ Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭20:35‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Read more at …. http://bible.com/37/act.20.35.ceb

LEADERSHIP & If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.

“If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.”

– Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  Read more at … http://bible.com/116/rom.12.8.nlt

LEGACY & Leaving a Bigger, Better “Barn” & Combating Greed

“Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”

He (Jesus) replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?” Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’

“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” He continued this subject with his disciples. “Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.

“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

“Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” ‭

Luke‬ ‭12:13-34‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.12.13-34.msg

GENEROSITY & Do not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving

“He (Jesus) continued this subject with his disciples.

‘Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.

‘What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

‘Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being’.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-24, 29-34‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.12.22-24,29-34.msg

#WesleyTour
#BibleQuote

CULTURAL BIASES & Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are hip.

“He (Jesus) continued this subject with his disciples.

‘Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more…

‘What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself’.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-24, 29-32‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.12.22-24,29-32.msg

BIBLE & View of the Bible Divides Nominal and Practicing Christians #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 6/8/16.

Both nominal and practicing Christians see the Bible as sacred, but that’s where the agreement stops.

Those Christians who attend church services at least once a month, and say their faith is very important to them, hold the Bible in the highest regard for them and for society, according to the 2016 State of the Bible from American Bible Society. The same is not true for other self-identified Christians.

Ninety percent of non-practicing Christians say the Bible is sacred. That is only slightly below the 96 percent of practicing Protestant Christians who say the same. Only 36 percent of Americans of other faiths or no faith agree.

In virtually every other area, however, nominal Christians are closer to non-Christians in their attitude toward the Bible.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/05/23/view-of-the-bible-divides-nominal-and-practicing-christians/#.V1gFdfT3aJI

 

BIBLE & Who Was the Beloved Disciple? #SBL

by Christopher W. Skinner, “Who Was the Beloved Disciple?”, n.p. [cited 27 Mar 2016], Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).

…The shadowy figure known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” appears in five scenes in the Gospel of John (John 13:21-30, John 18:15-18, John 19:26-27, John 21:7 with John 21:20), though some also regard the unnamed disciple in John 1:35-39 as the beloved disciple. In these scenes the beloved disciple stands in contrast to Simon Peter, who is characterized less positively. In each instance the beloved disciple responds to Jesus in a way that the narrator considers praiseworthy, while Peter expresses confusion, doubt, and misunderstanding before he denies that he knows Jesus. In a sense, the beloved disciple gets everything right: twice he is found in a location that indicates his loyalty to Jesus (John 18:15-18, John 19:26-27); he responds appropriately by believing at the empty tomb, even when he does not understand (John 20:3-8); he also recognizes the risen Jesus from afar while the other disciples do not (John 21:7). In what is probably the most important comment about the beloved disciple, the narrator depicts him as “leaning back on the chest of Jesus” (author’s translation, John 13:25)—an English rendering of the same Greek phrase used to describe the relationship between Jesus and God the Father (“close to the Father’s heart,” John 1:18). Each of these depictions reinforces the idea that the beloved disciple should be seen as an ideal follower of Jesus—one with whom any faithful reader can and should identify.

Perhaps a historical individual actually stood behind the figure of the beloved disciple. Nevertheless, the beloved disciple is anonymous in the text and must remain so to fulfill the role given him in the story. The point John’s Gospel makes is that any reader who wishes to follow Jesus can become a beloved disciple by following his lead. From the pages of the story the beloved disciple beckons the reader: “Follow Jesus as I have followed him, and you too can become a disciple whom Jesus loves.”

Read more at … http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/who-was-the-beloved-disciple

 

NEED MEETING & The 25 Top Topics Searched for in the Bible

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Bible Gateway is a go to website for finding biblical references. Their release of the “Top 25 topics most searched for in the Bible” can help leaders in two ways.

First, it indicates the topics for which people are searching for biblical answers. These should be the topics of our sermons and our Bible studies.

Secondly, this gives us a glimpse into the needs for which people are seeking answers in the Bible.

Familiarize yourself with these topics and allow more of your ministry to revolve around answering them. (And, if you want to know the most popular scriptures search for the other Bible Gateway, see this post: )

MOST-POPULAR KEYWORD SEARCHES

By Bible Gateway, 2015.

Here are the most-popular keyword searches in 2015 in both English and Spanish.

Rank English Español
1. love amor
2. faith fe
3. peace paz
4. hope oracion
5. joy corazon
6. marriage gracia
7. grace amigo
8. prayer esperanza
9. holy spirit misericordia
10. healing espiritu santo
11. forgiveness mujer
12. strength perdon
13. children gracias
14. fear luz
15. love one another gozo
16. heart diezmo
17. forgive ofrenda
18. trust pecado
19. comfort padre
20. pray obediencia
21. light ayuno
22. salvation salvacion
23. worship espiritu
24. fruit of the spirit fortaleza
25. love is patient palabra

Based on over 1.6 billion pageviews and over 160 million unique visitors to Bible Gateway from December 2014 through November 2015, this data provides a glimpse at how people engaged with the Bible in 2015.

Read more at … https://www.biblegateway.com/year-in-review/2015/

BIBLE & Stories of generosity amid diversity. A Leadership Exercise.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Pd.D., 9/20/7/15.

I give my students an extra-credit exercise (that they seem to enjoy) which is also good for leadership development.

In the book “Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-impact Nonprofits” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012) the authors Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant found the following: 41xiQY+aMiL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Most organizations operate in a competitive mode rather than a partnership mode with similar organizations.
  • Even when they have the same mission most organizations operate in a competitive mode with other organizations, simply because they  are reaching out to a different culture.

Here is a quote:

“…high-impact nonprofits work with and through other organizations – and they have much more impact than if they acted alone. As we explored this attribute in depth, we were struck by the enormous amounts of time and energy these groups spend sharing funding, expertise, leadership, power, and credit with likeminded allies. They build networks of other nonprofits in their field—with either formal or informal affiliations—and they work in coalitions to achieve collective goals. At times they make significant short-term organizational sacrifices to move the larger cause forward— they put their long-term vision and desire for impact above their own self-interest. And they do all this while managing and growing their own organizations. What they don’t do is focus exclusively on building their own empires or hoarding resources.” (p. 128).

Crutchfield and Grant warn against hoarding “funding, expertise, leadership, power, and credit” (2012:128) when they could instead be sharing these assets with like-minded allies.

Now, here is the Bible exercise.  Have each leader look in the scriptures and pick a different story that illustrates no-stings-attached generosity to others who could be perceived as our physical or spiritual competitors.

The resultant Biblical stories can be helpful reminders of how God asks us to be generous while His Word diversifies, justifies and sanctifies different cultural groups.

TEAMWORK & Keys to Developing Leaders When Your Team Grows Too Big

by Lighthouse: A Blog About Leadership & Management, 7/4/15.

…As your team grows, it becomes geometrically more complex to manage your team. As this image from StackOverflow below shows, every person you add to a team adds many more lines of communication, making everything harder for your team. developing leaders lines of communication stackoverflowAnd as a manager, you’re caught in the middle of this. As your team grows, there are more tasks to delegate and outcomes to manage, more communication issues to navigate, and more interests and motivations to consider. As those issues build up, it then becomes easy to have soft skills slip. Unfortunately, it’s exactly then, when you don’t give everyone the attention, feedback, and coaching they need, you all lose. Your team can easily slip into disorder or simply resentment for you as you break promises, forget what matters to them, and struggle under the growing stress.

The breaking point: 10-12 direct reports

We’ve had managers of all levels of experience and team size use Lighthouse to help them manage and motivate their teams and the common pattern we’ve seen is managers struggle most with more than 10-12 reports. It’s at 10-12 people that the complexity and demands become too great for even a well-trained, experienced manager. Just look at the diagram above and how a team growing from 6 to 10 people causes the lines of communication to grow from 15 to 45 (and 66 by employee #12!). But don’t take my word for it, here’s what some experts have said:

  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, has a “2 Pizza Rule” which really translates to ~8 people, since a pizza is normally cut into 8 slices and 2 slices per person is a reasonable amount.
  • Michael Lopp, author of Rands in Repose, uses the formula 7 +/- 3, which crucially takes into account how much time you could be committed to in 1 on 1s with everyone on your team.
  • Tomas Tunguz, VC at RedPoint Ventures deep dives into the concept from many sources to conclude “roughly 7″ and explores how “Span of Control” and “Span of Responsibility” impact it.

The consensus appears to be that double digit team sizes are generally a sign of trouble for a manager. So what do you do? Start developing leaders on your team.

Read more at … http://getlighthouse.stfi.re/blog/developing-leaders-team-grows-big/?sf=eyvzx

COMMUNICATION & 7 Biblical Ways to Increase a Church’s Visibility – from my interview w/ Outreach Magazine

by Bob Whitesel, 2/25/15.  The following is from my interview with Outreach MagazineI was asked, “What you would want to convey to the church that says, ‘We aspire to be better known in our community’.”  Below are my thoughts about how to organically and biblically increase a church’s visibility.  (It is probably not what you anticipated.)

——————-

ELEVATE: Raise Your Visibility Before a Skeptical World

Today in an increasingly skeptical world, the church must move beyond branding and build a new, more powerful reputation.

15-MJ_BobWhitesel-300x225Here are 5 steps to elevating your visibility in a community.

1. Elevate the visibility of your need-meeting. Churches should be known as the place in a community where people go when they have a crisis. Churches that offer divorce recovery programs, grief support groups, 12-step programs, etc. increase their visibility as the primary place where needs are met in their community.

2.  Elevate the visibility of spiritual-change. People are looking for ways to change their lives and often psychologists or self-help programs are their first choice. While these can offer the physical change that people need, I believe only Christ can offer the spiritual change that people long for deep inside. So in the name of helping people better their physical lives, do not neglect their higher needs for a supernatural transformation that only comes through Christ.

3. Elevate the visibility of your openness and honesty. Churches often promote that they have the best program or the most exciting worship. But non-churchgoers sense that this is not the real purpose of the church. Acknowledge that your church doesn’t do everything well and sometimes you get fixated on your organizational needs. Then remind them that your church is a spiritual community, seeking to work together to draw closer to Christ.

4. Elevate the visibility of your unity in diversity. In an increasingly diverse world, people want to go to a church that mirror’s the diversity of God’s creation. But such diversity must not be only symbolic, but also heartfelt. It is important for people of diverse cultures to run the church together, to worship together and to learn from one another about cultural background and baggage. The church should be visible in the community as a place that not only promotes spiritual reconciliation to God, but also physical reconciliation between cultures.

5.  Elevate your visibility as a place to learn. People today have a conceptions of the church as a place that lectures and criticizes, rather than a place that promotes learning. Jesus gave us a Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to “make learners.” Thus our goal must be to acquaint them with His words, while we exemplify how these words are lived out in community.

6.  Elevate your visibility as a place where everybody can find a place to fit. Emphasize smaller fellowship groupings within the larger whole. Most people today are not only looking for a large event, but also a smaller group where they can ask spiritual questions and receive support on their spiritual journey.

7. Elevate your visibility as a community that promotes and seeks God’s wisdom. The church should be known as a place of Bible-study and prayer. Thus it should be a place where people who are estranged from God or even just struggling in their relationship, will find people and prayer environments that will assist them in connecting to their heavenly Father. If a person in the community needs prayer, the first place they should think of is your church.

If you can’t elevate one or more of these areas, because they don’t yet exist in your church, then start with the easiest but don’t stop until you develop these seven ways to elevate an organically spiritual and Biblical visibility.

CLICK HERE to download the entire article with contributions by my colleagues Len Sweet, Will Mancini, Tony Morgan and Tom Bandy: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

And HERE IS A LINK to the online version: http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/11582-raise-your-visibility-before-a-skeptical-world.html

BIBLE & Even non-believers may want to visit the $400 million Museum of the Bible

by Jonathan O’Connell, The Washington Post, 2/13/14.

The main entrance is to be flanked by two large bronze panels lettered with passages from ancient manuscripts. On the roof will be a “Biblical garden,” filled with plant species that were around at the dawn of Christianity. A newly built wing will be clad in layers of handmade bricks from Denmark, meant to evoke the layers of history as they were recorded.

When it opens in late 2017, just about every aspect of the planned Museum of the Bible — the building materials, doorways and common areas — are intended to bring to mind the Holy Land or stories from the good book itself.

An exterior rendering of the Museum of the Bible. (Smith Group JJR)An exterior rendering of the Museum of the Bible. (Smith Group JJR)

Even architectural enthusiasts who could care less about the Bible may take an interest in the $400 million project…

Read more at … http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/02/12/even-non-believers-may-want-to-visit-the-400-million-museum-of-the-bible/

BIBLE & Top Bible Websites, Plain and Simple #DJChuang

by DJ Chuang, 9/20/14.

… The most valuable resource for all humanity has become that much more accessible through the Internet! … the 20 most popular Bible websites with a very brief description:

  1. biblegateway.com – providing the Bible online for over 20 years, currently with over 70 languages and 180 versions (a division of The Zondervan Corporation)
  2. biblehub.com – provides quick access to many Bible versions and multiple languages, topical studies, interlinears, sermons, commentaries (a production of the Online Parallel Bible Project)
  3. biblestudytools.com – with multiple Bible versions in English and a large resource library for in-depth Bible study (Salem Web Network)
  4. kingjamesbibleonline.org – the King James version of the Bible; the most popular website for the most popular version
  5. bible.com – home for YouVersion and the Bible app (LifeChurch.tv)
  6. bible.org – home of the NET Bible (New English Translation), “where the world comes to study the Bible”
  7. blueletterbible.org – with multiple versions of the Bible, linked with Bible-centered study aids and courses (a ministry of Sowing Circle)
  8. biblia.com – “Bible Study Online” (a service of Faithlife / Logos Bible Software)
  9. youversion.com – “a simple, ad-free Bible that brings God’s Word into your daily life,” links to Bible.com
  10. esvbible.org – English Standard Version of the Bible by Crossway—an “essentially literal” translation of the Bible in contemporary English
  11. Bible.oremus.org – the Bible and prayer resources used in the Church of England and in the wider Anglican Communion and elsewhere
  12. Easyenglish.info – EasyEnglish is clear and simple English (vocabulary with a smaller word count), developed by MissionAssist
  13. ebible.com – “eBible aims to capture all the answers, to all the questions, about all the verses in the Bible.”
  14. bible.is – “Bringing the Bible to everyone in the world in their heart language, in text and audio, free of charge”, a ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing
  15. O-bible.com – the Bible in English and Chinese (GB and Big5)
  16. biblez.com – Bible website with “Zip Search With AutoComplete,” part of the BibleHub.com suite
  17. mybible.com – nice visually-designed online Bible and Bible verses with Facebook covers and images for social sharing
  18. ebible.org – links to an online study Bible by Digital Bible Society with robust UX and other Bible resources
  19. kingjamesbible.com – provides the King James Bible in HTML, viewable and downloadable, by JohnHurt.com
  20. bibles.org – many Bible versions and languages, with desktop and mobile websites, provided by American Bible Society, and free Bible tools (widget, highlighter, API) to bring the Bible to your audiences

Read the list at … http://bibletld.org/blog/post/just-the-top-bible-websites-plain-and-simple#.VJh6HsAL0