From the preface to John In The Now

Why write a new paraphrase of the book of John?

1. Because I love Jesus.

I love the real, living Jesus…the outspoken, passionate, confrontational, provocative, liberating, counter-culture, strong and brave and totally secure-within-Himself, fully integrated Jesus…the Word made flesh who became Jesus, the Christ…Jesus in the now…the One who embodies the “I Am,” the God who defies definition and description…the manna or the “what is it?” that came down from heaven…the One whose humanity is every bit as beautiful and intriguing and wonderful as is His divinity…the God-man who cannot be bound or limited in any way by religion or philosophy or doctrines or dogma…the firstborn among many siblings in the family of God who live in the 21st century. I love that real Jesus now more than ever and am in no way offended that He says that I must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have a revelation of Him!
2. Because I love the Scriptures.
They are a part of me, as absorbed into the fiber of my being as they could possibly be. The words of God vibrate in every cell of my body… they occupy the largest part of my mind…they completely saturate my spirit. The Bible is a miracle – not a book, but a collection of 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years in different languages to different people groups in different generations for different purposes. Therefore, the Scriptures must be rightly divided instead of wrongly connected. In other words, each book must be judged in its own context and on its own terms, whether it confirms any other book or not. In this way, biblical contradictions are not only acknowledged and accepted…they are expected. I celebrate the tension caused by the conflicting viewpoints of the writers who had different paradigms of God; their contradictions make the Bible literally pulsate with life! And amazingly, in spite of the given contention, the confirmation of Jesus, the Christ, is still the glue that holds the whole collection together!
3. Because I love the Gospel of John.
John’s gospel is unique – so different from the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They are all certainly wonderful biographies of the God-man, and each one brings something original to the table, but John’s account of the greatest story ever told is in a class all by itself. It is the gospel written for non-conformists and individualists – for those who can comprehend Jesus outside the box. Can you imagine the visionary mind of someone who begins his story with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”? You could spend a lifetime just discussing that one wonderful sentence and still would not be able to fully plumb the depths of its meaning!
4. Because I love the diversity among all the translations and paraphrases of the Bible.
Although I wholeheartedly reject the notion of an official “authorized version,” I do honor the grandeur and loftiness of the Bible that James, the King of England, authorized for his subjects to read in the 17th century (King James Version). That’s why I have memorized vast sections of it. And I love the way James Moffatt could turn a phrase in his translation. I could virtually live in The Amplified Bible with all of its shades of meanings and wordy explanations and parentheses and brackets. It’s like heaven to someone who loves exploring words and their meanings as I do. When I was young, Kenneth Taylor’s beautifully accessible Living Bible changed my life and set the course for my whole ministry. Many years later, Eugene Peterson’s daring paraphrase called The Message affected me nearly as dramatically. In recent years I have grown to respect the Today’s New International Version for its modernity and clarity and lack of religious sexism. In my opinion, it is probably the most accurate mainstream translation of them all. But I also love the New English Bible and The Jerusalem Bible for other reasons. I am constantly referring to all of these translations for my teaching and writing, along with some other great ones not mentioned here. You may ask then, “If you love all these translations so much, why write a new one?” My only answer is that this writing is my way to pay homage to those who have already blazed this trail of translation before me. I could not do this if they hadn’t done what they did. But this translation is what I hear when I read and teach these chapters and verses. These are the things I have seen…what I have read between the lines…for the last 36 years of ministry, and I simply want to submit them to you, the reader, for your consideration.
5. Because I love communication.
Nothing is more important to the life of relationships than communication, and nothing is more gratifying than knowing that you have effectively communicated your message to someone else. I certainly don’t claim to know everything about Jesus; in fact, the more that I increase in my knowledge of Him throughout the course of my life, the more mysterious He actually becomes to me. For me that’s not a problem. I’m rather glad that, even though I know Him more intimately than I know anyone else, there is always a part of Him that is past my finding out. I know that I will never reach the limits of the breadth and length and depth and height of Him, ever. But, what I do know about Him is the most wonderful knowledge that I possess, and I have a need to share that knowledge with others.
6. Because I love people.
One of the greatest songs ever written contains the words, “If I can help somebody as I pass along…then my living shall not be in vain.” I try to live by the philosophy of that song, so if this book can help someone to rediscover and rethink the Bible – someone who has previously been intimidated or confused or bored by it, regardless of its available translations and paraphrases – then I will have fulfilled at least a part of my destiny. I want to help people know and love Jesus better, but I also want to make them more comfortable with the Bible and with their own interpretations and opinions about it. The Bible is hearty, robust – it is not delicate or fragile – it can withstand a lot of handling by human beings, because it was meant to be people-friendly, and I want to open a door to the house of understanding and let the people in!

7. Because I love living in the now.

More than anything else, I believe that I was specifically put here on this planet to be a good steward of the concept of living in the now. God is in the now because He is always revealed as the I Am. His word is in the now because people cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds (present tense) out of His mouth. His kingdom is in the now because it can only be discerned one day at a time by those who take no thought for tomorrow. I will proclaim and defend the doctrine of the “now-ness” of God for as long as I live and will aggressively wage war on every religious idea that tries to relegate God to the past or attempts to project Him into the future. God is always now and my prayer is that, as you read John In The Now, you will walk in a fuller revelation of that. Now is all that matters!

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