Archive for : October, 2017

John 13

There is no greater example of service than what took place at the table that evening. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords put on a towel and began to perform the task that the lowest of servants would perform, He washed the disciple’s feet! Service Jesus proclaims is at the heart of what it means to follow Him. There should be no task that we are not willing to do, if there is a need we have been called to serve. Over the years I have noted that those who complain the most serve the least. Christianity is not about cheering from the sidelines, it’s about getting into the game and getting dirty. Jesus didn’t perform some religious ceremony as some do today washing a few clean feet, He got dirty and muddy because these disciples needed their feet washed. I found that one of the ways to true happiness and sound mental health – is through serving others. When you are serving others you get the focus off you and your problems and your dark world gets a lot brighter! 

John 12

One of the bench marks in Christian transformation is getting to the point where you are more excited to be with the Lord than you are to remain in this physical shell! Jesus says if you love this life, holding on with all you have – you will lose it. How? I believe you will lose your life in a number of ways. Most importantly you need to realize you are holding on to something that will not last – no one can avoid death! So this love of life will develop within us a powerful fear that will drive everything – that is the fear of death. The paradox is that when you are ready to let go of life – you can truly begin to live life! You can have a life free of fear, for when you think about it fear is all tied up in death. You will also disarm the Evil One of his power when you remove the fear of death from the equation. (Heb. 2:15-16) And when we have served our Lord to the point that we would give up this life for Him – “lose our life for Him” – we gain something so much more precious than this life and that is life eternal!!! The key to life is death!

John 11

In our reading we find Jesus making a statement about His identity by involving those observing in the miracle. Jesus went to the tomb and declared: “but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” This public gesture of looking up and speaking aloud was unnecessary, since the Father always hears the Son and responds. But Jesus’ mission was to bring people to faith and John was mission-focused throughout this entire book. The unbelieving crowds of mourners heard him pray openly to the Father. We learn later that many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. Jesus involved people not only in watching and hearing but in the miracle itself. First, they were told to move the stone. Then, after the miracle, they were told to unbind Lazarus. Oh, Jesus’ statement was clearly heard and thus the plot to kill Him was now in the works. The whole point of His mission was fast approaching!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings for the last week. Our last reading this week was John 10 where Jesus declared that He came to give us abundant life. When He declared that He came to give us abundant life He was not talking about wealth, power, or even material comfort. For the abundant life that Jesus offers is not quantity but quality of life. A life where those amazing fruits of The Spirit can grow and blossom in the mist of trials, suffering, pain, and grief. For an abundant life in Christ is not dependent on circumstances but connection! For as long as we are connected with God The Father, God The Son, and God The Spirit we can have joy and peace in the mist of all the chaos that is swirling around our life each and every day. For the abundant life rests solely in our trust and faith in God!

Reflections to consider

When something is “atoned,” it is paid for. Something is satisfied or a debt is taken care of. And what’s satisfied in Jesus’s atonement for our sins is the justice of God. This may sound surprising, but the cross was not primarily for us. The cross was primarily for God the Father. Since the blood of animals was merely a credit payment, and only symbolic, Christ died to make that final and full payment to satisfy the justice of God. He did for us exactly what he did for Barabbas. Before you and I were even born, before this world was even created, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit agreed that Jesus would take our punishment so that God could acquit us and still be justified in doing so. As the world poured out its wrath upon Jesus Christ, at his trial and at his death, God’s wrath against our sin was completely released upon Christ at the cross. The cross was all about three words: mercy, justice, grace. God’s mercy deferred payment for sin. God’s justice demanded payment for sin. God’s grace delivered payment for sin. (52 Weeks with Jesus)

John 10

What Jesus says in this text gives some insight into the fact that both “free will” and “God’s sovereign will” can coexist, something Calvin would strongly disagree with. Jesus makes it very clear that it was His decision to go to the cross! Yet, we know that it was God’s will before the creation of the world that His Son would die on the cross for mankind. “He (Jesus) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:20) So Jesus was predestined to go to the cross and yet Jesus declares that to go or NOT to go was subject to His will! The Hebrew writer makes it clear (Heb 5:7 -8) that Jesus had to submit to the cross and obey God. So we have played out in front of us on the cross a principle where “God’s sovereign will” and “free will” remain intact in the same event. How that all takes place is beyond our ability to understand and yet that is what our reading declares!

John 9

The disciples looked at this blind man and wondered who’s sins were responsible for this man’s blindness. They assumed his blindness was a form of punish for somebody’s sin, yet Jesus noted that their assumption was wrong! Jesus introduced another reason why this blind man was there in front of Him at this moment in time, to display the work of God to him and others. A better translation of the text is: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (NKJV) Jesus does not really comment on the cause of the man’s blindness, but does say that the blindness will be used to reveal “the works of God.” This resulted in the blind man becoming a disciple and the Pharisees being taught a lesson on spiritual blindness. God rarely answers the “why” question – but He does call upon all of us to remain faithful and focused upon Him no matter the hand we are dealt in life. For like this blind man – God will use a life that is faithful to Him for GOOD! (Rom. 8:28) This is a lesson most of us know, but as we encounter the struggles of life each of us needs to be reminded from time to time of this truth, for it is easy if we are not careful, to get lost in the pain and struggles of life!

John 8

What Jesus claims in our reading should not be taken lightly! “’I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” The text says that after Jesus made that statement that the crowd tried to stone Him! Why did they get so angry that they wanted to stone him? We need to realize in one short statement Jesus took the very title that solely belonged to God – He referred to Himself as the “I Am!”  The claim of Jesus, therefore, was clearly recognized from the Jews’ perspective to be a blasphemous statement they could not tolerate. God took that title for Himself when He was talking with Moses at the burning bush. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” “In Hebrew, this name is YHWH, which is sometimes transliterated as “Jehovah.” So, God’s personal name revealed to Moses is “The I AM.” Jesus in our reading was saying, “I am the ‘I am.’ I am God.” This is the very statement John made when he opened his gospel!

John 7

During the feast Jesus declared:”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” As John tells us, Jesus is talking about the coming of The Spirit upon God’s people. During the period after Israel’s return from exile the water ceremony became a part of the feast of Tabernacles. Water being the most precious commodity – a ceremony developed to remember God’s provision of water during the wandering. Every day the priest would lead a procession of people to the pool of Siloam where the priest would take a golden pitcher and draw water. Then the priest and the people rejoicing along the way would return to the temple with the people carrying willow branches and singing. They would enter the temple court through the “Water Gate” where the priest would meet for morning sacrifice. On the last and greatest day of the feast this water ceremony was held 7 times and when completed the people would break out in joyous celebration by beating their willow branches on the ground, dancing, with shouts of joy. It was during this joyous celebration that was centered on water that Jesus shouted to the crowd about the amazing gift of The Spirit that God was to bestow on His people!

John 6

Many who heard what Jesus taught were turned off by what He was saying! He told them that one must drink the blood of Jesus and eat His flesh. It seems that many were taking Jesus’ words to be literal – that one had to be a cannibal to be a disciple of Jesus. This was not what Jesus meant by what He was teaching! Some take this to be an allusion to the Lord Supper – but in context this is also a misunderstanding of what Jesus was teaching. So, what was Jesus teaching? He tells us clearly in verse 63 that what He was teaching was spiritual in nature and not physical. That one eats the flesh of the Son of man and drinks His blood by taking in Jesus’ teachings, that we devour them and make them a part of our lives! “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings. The gospel of John is different from the other three gospels. It was, by all accounts, written much latter and John fills in a number of things that the others did not include in their gospels. Also, John states from the very opening that he is writing his gospel to show that Jesus is truly The Son of God! John continues to point out signs (miracles) that prove this point. Maybe as a reflection today it would be good to ask yourself the question- why do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Sometimes we just accept something as true because that is what we were told, but we have never taken the time to consider why we believe it to be true. Just remember, a faith built on a weak foundation will come down when faced with the winds of strife, conflict, and struggles!

Reflections to consider

Are you all in? Have you bet the ranch on Jesus Christ? If you’re single, are you all in when it comes to your sexual purity and your holiness? All in concerning what you see and what you hear? How about marriage? Have you bet the ranch? Do you need to say to your spouse all over again, “I am all in with this relationship, and no matter what else happens, it’s going to be ’til death do us part”? Are you all in with your money? Are all your chips on the table when it comes to doing Christ’s work? That is what following Jesus means. Jesus’s call, first to his disciples and today to us, is to be all in. You may remember studying the explorer Hernando Cortés in school. He was from Spain, and in 1519 he came to Mexico and landed at Veracruz. He had been given orders to conquer the land and to build a colony. When all of his men were off the boats, he did something for which he has been remembered for almost five hundred years. He burned all his boats. He looked at his men and said, “We will either win this victory or we will die, but we are not going back.” Do you know what he did? He bet the ranch. He was all in. There is only one way to follow Jesus Christ: burn the boats, bet the ranch, and go all in. (52 Weeks with Jesus)

John 5

Jesus makes it very clear that a date is set when EVERYONE will respond to Jesus’ voice and will rise from the dead! “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4:16) It is interesting to note that both the good and evil will rise from the dead. The context strongly suggests that both (good and evil) will rise at the same event – when Jesus returns. Some teach that there is a gap of 1,000 years between the time the good (those faithful to God) and the evil will rise from the dead, but this text would suggest otherwise. There will be a simultaneous judgment of all creation at a time already appointed, when absolute justice tempered with mercy for those in Christ shall be executed upon all.

John 4

“I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Jesus in this text states that two actions are required for a harvest – sowers and reapers. When it comes to reaching out to a lost world, Jesus told the disciples that they were going to be reapers because others had done the hard work. The role of a sower is to plant the seeds of God message which are nurtured by godly love and influence, Jesus says that is the hard work! Those who did the hard work to prepare the soil for the disciples were the prophets and especially John the Baptist, they suffered because of their message and they did not see the harvest. The role you or I play in a life, sower or reaper, will depend their hearts. We are called not to produce results but to be faithful – interacting with those in our world to help them move ever closer to Christ.

John 3

Jesus declares clearly for one to be “born again” and enter the kingdom they must be born of both water and the Spirit! John the Baptist had preached that the road to repentance and forgiveness of sins for Israel went through baptism of repentance in water. John also proclaimed that the Messiah’s baptism was going to be different because it would include the Spirit. Those who would like to claim that the “water” in this text is one’s birth – I suggest it doesn’t fit structure of the text. Being “born from water” does not mean ordinary human birth; moreover, since everyone is “born from water” in that sense, it would be silly for Jesus to make a condition out of it with the word “unless.” So! Jesus is declaring that for one to be born again and enter the kingdom – one must be baptized in water at which time one is renewed by the Spirit!
Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”

John 2

John notes that when Jesus changed the water to wine that this was the first miraculous sign performed in Cana. It is worth noting that John calls this miracle a “sign” – but a sign of what? John uses the term “signs” for Jesus’ miracles eleven times in his gospel, John notes each of these miracles and calls them signs because they were part of the proof John was presenting that Jesus was the Son of God. What is interesting is that many of Jesus’ miracles mirrored the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. What took place here at the wedding would have remind one of the widow at Zarephath, who never ran out of oil or flour (the jars just kept refilling) and how Elisha told a widow to fill all the empty jars she could find with the one jar of oil that she had.  Jesus will kick up His miracles a notch and top them all off with the resurrection. All these miracles are “signs” that point to the fact that Jesus is “The Word” – He is Divine!

John 1

As we begin this gospel it is important that understand what John is declaring in this opening statement, for this statement sets the tone for the whole gospel! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is interesting that John should call Jesus the Word rather than some other name to introduce his book—interesting, but not surprising since the Jews often referred to God in such terminology. The doctrine at stake here is the deity of Christ. Jesus is God, and John wanted to make that point immediately. The term Word (logos) would have been familiar to the Greeks as well. Their understanding centered on ultimate reason or the rationale of the universe rather than the personal God revealed to Abraham and his descendants. John claimed that the God of creation, the ultimate mind of the universe, had taken on human form; he had become incarnate. Before there was a beginning, the Word had been coequal with God throughout all eternity. But what did the apostle mean by with God? The Greek word is pros which literally means “toward,” implying a face-to-face relationship. (Adapted from some notes by Holman)

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings for the week. Peter in our readings addressed Christians who were suffering for their faith. Peter challenged them to reframe what they had to face and center their focus on Jesus. It was a challenge to make Jesus their model in suffering and their purpose. When we do that we standout as a very bright beam of light in the mist of darkness. Nothing speaks louder to a dark world than how a child of light deals with suffering and adversity!

Reflections to consider

“Many choose not to follow Jesus because of the requirement he gives that we deny ourselves (Luke 9: 23). Jesus is honest as he explains, ‘There is a cost to following me. You’ve got to deny the hardest thing to deny, which is yourself.’ One Sunday I surprised my congregation by announcing, publicly, the church member who was giving me the most problems. Seriously, this guy was my biggest headache. I wasn’t sure if I should say his name out loud because—at one level—I liked the guy. I loved being around him, and he’s one of the best people I know. With a bit of fear and trepidation, I said aloud that the church member who was giving me the most trouble was… me! I have to constantly tell myself to get out of the way so Jesus can have his way. Jesus said, ‘If you are going to follow me, step one is to deny yourself.’ That means you have to put Jesus before you, above you, ahead of you, and instead of you. You’ve got to get the makeup of your life to be all of Jesus and none of you.
(52 Weeks with Jesus)

1 Peter 5

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” This is an easy text to understand – but all too often we ignore this command! We as Christians are willing to cast all our anxiety on God – IF he promises He will take away the problem or trial, but God hasn’t promised that! What He has promised is that He will give us wisdom and strength as we face the trial and that how things work out will be for the good. Cast means – to throw something upon someone or something else. This word suggests a deliberate decision of trust. We are to trust God with our anxiety, the things we worry about. Satan temps us to put more trust in ourselves and others as opposed to God. All too often we fail in the midst of anguish and pain: God cares for us. The form in which the verb appears (present active) indicates that God’s care and concern for Christians is constant, ongoing, and unending. God is not indifferent to the suffering of His children but desires our active, humble trust in him, especially during difficult days. So, are we willing to cast all our anxieties on God, trusting Him that however things work out it is for the best? That is what He is calling for in this text!