Gloucester in the Clouds

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it.”

Change is inevitable; change is normal; the only thing that stays consistent is change.

Yet we usually resist change. For example; I hate the new default block editor on wordpress. I struggled with it, fought against it and won’t use it–I have my reasons.

Often times change is simply for the sake of change but other times, change is necessary. In our current cultural climate, I don’t think that facemasks are the kind of change that the sovereign Lord has in mind. I also don’t believe that burning businesses because of brutality by police is a good change agent. Nevertheless I believe that change is necessary and as a kingdom of priests to our great God, change is our responsibility.

The status quo wasn’t working. The teaching that the world goes to hell in a handbasket, for some strange (sarcastic) reason, has sent the world to the proverbial precipice of the gates of hell.

Why would we embrace such a bad theology that states; the world gets worse and worse and then expect people to work to make it better? What is the point? If we get rapture rescued from this wicked world, why bother doing anything to influence the culture?

The church used to build hospitals, hostels, orphanages, schools and universities but now only seems to build walls and circle the wagons. What happened?

Rather than be on the precipice of peace and prosperity (not a prosperity gospel), we are at war with a culture which we admit, we cannot win. And if we cannot win, why would we not lay down the shield and sword, helmet and breastplate? This way, we could hasten the coming of the Lord.

The evangelical church in America was on the opponent’s 1 yard line on 3rd down and goal. With much time remaining on the clock, we elected to punt rather than going for a touchdown or even a field goal.

We let prophecy pundits point the way by buying books and not considering the context of The Book. We only open the Bible to comfort our current anxieties and not to confront our current sin. We don’t use the Bible for or as reflection of ourselves but beat and berate each other with the Bible and pummel people, punching them with our prayers.

We don’t consider the context, aspirations of the author, genre, examples and certainly don’t divide rightly the word of truth. We use the Bible as merely a springboard and soapbox for our ideas rather than reflect upon the story it tells. We neither hone in on the historical narrative nor the timeless truth. It’s time for a change. Actually, we are long overdue for change.

I love maps because they are full of geographical information. Yet GPS has made maps all but obsolete to the average American. While GPS certainly has its imperfections it is superior to maps in most ways. For instance, with GPS coupled with real time information on the internet, one can avoid tolls, traffic, crashes and the like. These are only a couple things archaic cartography cannot do. Nevertheless I still love and use maps. I therefore have the shape of states, counties and countries memorized in my mind.

When I was a child my grandfather would bring me to Gloucester Massachusetts to go whale watching. Ever curious, I would, and still do, look at Gloucester on a map before we would go and after we would return. Gloucester’s shape is seared into my mind.

The other day, while fumbling over features found in the new WordPress, sitting on my porch, I looked up to the clouds to remind myself to pray for my friends in a certain communist country in the Caribbean (long story). As I gazed up to the clouds in prayer for a challenged church, I saw Gloucester Massachusetts in the clouds.

And then it hit me, how many other people saw what I saw. Enter trigonometry with too many variables to make an honest hypothesis. How many people in my area; how high was the cloud? What size was the cloud and most importantly, how many people, in my undetermined region, were looking up at the cloud at the same time?

But what if I took a picture of the cloud (I didn’t) and showed it to people and asked them what they saw? What if I gave a thousand people a proverbial Rorschach test? How many people would see Gloucester Massachusetts in the cloud?

My guess is not many, if any. Context is king and while I am sure that I am not the only one who has memorized the coastline of Gloucester, who else would see Gloucester other than anything else?

Obviously the cloud didn’t look exactly like Gloucester. Also, what we think at any given time affects our perception. Perhaps a man who knows the basic outline of Gloucester but also has a wife going through a difficult pregnancy with twins, which preoccupies him, may see images of the ultrasound of his babies in the womb. We have gone from trigonometry 312 to psychology 101.

Unless we are learning for ourselves we only know what we have been taught. Unless we are open minded we only see what we have been shown. Unless we make room for inner reflection and are open to change, we will condemn every opinion but our own. We have to carefully examine and explore the Biblical opinions of other people and not double down on dubious dogma. If opposing opinions are wrong, the Scripture will verify this, if the CAGED method is considered. We can’t shut down debate by walling off others. I saw Gloucester in the clouds, I’m sure of it but it does not mean that other people saw the same thing. How do I prove that I saw Gloucester in the clouds? I would have to have taken a picture and overlayed it onto a map of Gloucester. If the images matched, I would have proven my point.

The Bible is not open to our opinions or interpretations. Therefore we must overlay our theological beliefs over the Bible to see if our opinions are exactly that; opinions. The only way to tell the difference between opinion and truth is to consider the continuing context, the aspirations of the author to his audience, the genre, explore examples and then divide rightly the word of truth to cancel or confirm our opinions. But if we are not open to change, reading the Bible at all is futile.

Therefore my only goal in these missives is to promote daily Bible study, in which the context is considered.

Perhaps I have been painting with too broad a brush and not zooming in on the finer points of what it means to “consider the context.” One should understand the historical context–what is happening during the time period? Consider the cultural context, the people, the climate and obviously the author’s aspiration to his audience. Get to know the author and understand the audience as much as it is possible, by considering the context of the composition. Take the time to read an entire book of the Bible before jumping to any conclusions concerning a single verse. Let’s take a look at this principle.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it.”

What was the historical context in which John wrote his gospel account? We have to read the entire book to understand this. Not only that, but a knowledge of the Old Testament is as important. While I would love to read the Bible to the world, in order, it is impossible and unnecessary because most of us have the Bible at our fingertips (hell in a handbasket?). This is where the E in the CAGED method comes in. We have to explore examples and not rip verses out of context.

To understand the historical context and the aspirations of John, we must also understand the genre. John was a Jew living in the first century, who was an inspired eyewitness to the coming of the Messiah, spoken of in the Law and the prophets. John wrote in a historical narrative to be sure, but the genre of his gospel is like no other writing. As we continue, see the difference in the way John wrote compared to the other apostles and gospel writers.

From the beginning, John sets the table of the genre with bowlfuls of imagery.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it.”

Jesus is presented exclusively by John as “The Word.” Also notice the imagery of darkness, light and life.

What is the darkness of which John wrote? Most people assume that it is sin, which is true but John zooms in on more than simply sin in general. He actually points back to the Old Testament tutor more than we assume. John takes the reader all the way back to creation, places creation on the shoulders of Christ, emphasizing Christ as light and life amongst darkness and then…John the Baptist? Watch this!

“There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Did you see it? Unlike Matthew, John doesn’t build a case for Jesus being the true Israel and his followers being part of true Israel, he says it from the get go.

From the beginning of his gospel account, John demonstrated that Jesus is the God of creation, the Jewish Messiah who came to his own but was rejected by his own. This is not Gloucester in the clouds, these are John’s inspired words. This is not my opinion but words of an apostle, an actual eyewitness to these things, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Lord willing, we will overlay the words of the Law and the prophets over the words of John, utilizing the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, to see how sound our opinions are.

The dogmatic dispensationalists argue that Israel is God’s chosen people–that is their opinion. I would argue the opposite–that God’s chosen people are Israel. Stay tuned as we continue to consider the context of John’s gospel account.

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