Wednesday, March 31: 1John 5-

John continues to repeat his main message; belief in Jesus is the entrance ticket into eternal life. Verses 1-5:  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1-5) and belief will lead to love and love means obedience to God’s command.

The comment, his commands are not burdensome, in verse 3 caught my attention. I had to pause and ponder that for awhile. Surely John is not saying that following God’s commands are a snap. Given all John’s warnings about not sinning, we must give effort to our carrying out of God’s commands, which do not come naturally to sin-stained humans. I pondered some more. What does it mean to be not burdensome?

An image emerged.  About a month ago, I was watching superior world class athletes compete in the Olympics. Lindsay Vann, Shawn White and Shannie Davis received a great deal of US attention. SI wrote reams on them and NBC interviewed them. One thing that came across through all of that was how hard they trained and worked. Lindsay Vonn, as an example, is the best conditioned and strongest female skier ever. Her workouts are the stuff of legend. Commentators were amazed that skiing on men’s skis, she could win the downhill on ‘one’ leg. Slow-motion video showed how little she used her right leg due to her injury. What I found interesting was that not one athlete bemoaned their training. Training was not a burden for them. Their training was rigorous, surely; exhausting, you bet;filled with pain and pushing themselves, absolutely, but not burdensome. They have an internal drive to keep at it. My mind flashed to other athletes, who when they retire say things like, “I just didn’t have the drive to get my body in shape…”

This athletic metaphor helped me understand what John was alluding to.

Keeping God’s commands requires energy. It can be a battle some days as my selfish flesh resists God’s commands, but through it all, it is not burdensome to give my all to Jesus. God, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, has worked a change in my heart. The Spirit living in me constantly testifies to the truth of God’s way (6) and this internal Spirit witness removes the ‘burden’ and instills desire to live for Jesus…

This thought helps me… I hope it helps you.

Thank You, Holy Spirit, for being the giver of life, the speaker of truth, and my ever-present counselor. Thank You, Spirit, for the strength You provide, for the witness to Jesus that You offer and for the motivation You give to follow the commands of God through love.

Lord, I don’t fully understand how You make it all work but I am thankful that You have placed in me the desire to love and serve You. Help that desire grow every day of my life, this side of eternity. I pray this in the name of the Father and in the name of Jesus and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

 

Tuesday, March 30: 1John 4-reight belief results in right living

John is passionate about Jesus and Jesus is the connection into,or with God the Father. You can’t have one without the other. If you know God, then you will know Jesus and if you know Jesus, you will know God the Father…

Jesus (or Jesus Christ) is not just a name, He is a person and to know Him is to know and believe the truth about Him. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (2) and more, If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God (15). Elsewhere in this letter John explains more right beliefs about Jesus (fill in verses). What I sensed is that John is passionate that the people to whom he is writing will understand fully and correctly who Jesus is. Jesus is God, God in human flesh, the purchaser of our atonement, Savior of the world, and so forth.

But John is never satisfied to leave belief in the realm of thinking. Right belief will result in right living.

So in verse 7, John pounds some more, the call to love. Love of God and love for others is the fruit, the result, of belief in Jesus. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (10-11).

As I ingested this lesson, my growth point is the second half of the equation. It is as if the Spirit whispered, “Bill, let your belief blossom and flower. Stretch your heart, risk loving, risk giving your life away as Jesus your Lord did. Love, go ahead and love, let My power and My love flow through you to others. Yes, Bill, let love flow to those you might not naturally love or affinity-wise be drawn toward. My Spirit will lead you… love as Jesus loved…”

O, God, help me. I admit and confess that this call of Yours is not innate to me. I cannot do it on my own. I can only go there as I am filled with Your love and empowered by Your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, this week I walk your passion. You forgave from the cross, those who nailed you there, Roman soldiers, Jewish leaders and priests, crowds who screamed for Your blood. Help me to love like that…to love like You. Amen

 

 

Monday, March 29: 1John 3-Lavish love

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday and in 6 days we will celebrate Easter. In between, we walk those last days with Jesus. This week is a most penetrating week for me, spiritually, as I contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made for me and for my salvation. Reading verse 1 was like dropping the start flag at the Daytona 500. My mind launched forward contemplating the sacrifices of God for us… How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

‘Lavished,’ that was the word which released my meditation. God lavished His love on us. The love lavished upon us was not mere talk, it was active, action-love. (add a definition of lavished). God spared nothing, held nothing back, He gave it all. God lavished us with love. I played that refrain as I did a mental walk with Jesus through the week.

Lord’s supper meal

Washing disciples’ feet

Prayer in the garden

The whole of arrest through death

The dark time in the tomb

That’s lavish love.

After some minutes of pondering and thinking, I resumed reading… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (16-18). Never one to let me off easily, the Lord threw in a spiritual twist. Jesus’ lavish love is to be my example, my goal, for living and lavishing love on others.

(God never seems content to let my faith be merely lived in my head. No, God generally pushed me to transfer my contemplations into action.)

My eyes ran over verses 17 and 18 multiple times: And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

God modeled it and now He transfers it to me (us). Love is more than mere talk, it is active-giving, action-oriented. That’s love and that’s how my Lord wants me to live…

Lord, as I enter the week when we remember all You gave for my salvation, how can I say ‘no’ to Your word asking me to love lavishly as You loved? Lord, I will need You Hold[HP1]  Spirit to live this out. Help me… please… in Jesus name. Amen.

 

 


 [HP1]I don’t know what Bill means here.

Saturday, March 27: 1John 2-The plain truth.

Reading this morning, two sentences seemed to be flashing neon signs. My spirit perked up. Those sentences were where I lingered with the Lord this morning,

Verses 1-2: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

I don’t generally want to sin. By that I mean, I don’t wake in the morning and think, “Ah, this is the area of my life where I want to run from God and harm myself and others.” I do, however, choose to sin throughout the day. Situations emerge and I make ungodly choices. I can so relate to verses 1-2. I know God doesn’t want me to sin, but thankfully, God provides a way out when I sin… Jesus. But if anybody does sin, (that’s me daily!) we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, (Jesus paid the penalty –atoned for- my sin and not only that He is my defense attorney and my defense! Thank you, Jesus, for doing what I could never have done for myself!) and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (and Jesus offers the same for the whole world and everybody that obeys, loves and believes in Jesus accepts his offer and is covered by His atonement).

This first sentence helped me appreciate Jesus and what He has done for me.  Oh so much! I regularly marvel at the gift of life Jesus offers through belief in Him.

Sentence number 2 came in verse16: For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. Even though I routinely recognize my own sinfulness and sin, I still find it easy to fall into the trap of, “At least I am not as bad as so-n-so…” Well, my little ‘justify myself cocoon’ was torn apart when I read this sentence and this caused me to cherish verse 1&2 all the more.

These sentences opened my eyes to my propensity to sin, in areas I don’t necessarily consider. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man (cravings… what do I crave, seek after, desire, envy? each are doorways to sin… overt acts or mental dallyings, they are sin, nonetheless), the lust of his eyes (reading those words returned me quickly to a sermon I preached less than a month ago, Feb 28, 2010, on sexual purity. My life, our 21st century lives, are inundated with lures to promiscuity. I have to be vigilant!) and the boasting of what he has and does (I live in a community of boasting…. the houses we own, cars we drive, handbags we carry, our college pedigrees, vacation homes, grand vacations, importance of our jobs, etc. Ugh, I am saturated with myself. This pierced deeply!)--comes not from the Father but from the world. In simple terms, it is sin.  So as I mentioned, God brought me back to verse 1-2 and my need for Jesus.

Jesus, Father, Spirit, on the one hand I don’t like times like these; times of brutal honesty about the real me, the me underneath with whitewashed fa├žade of pretending to be, ‘oh so good.’ Even if I was the ‘goodest’ person on the earth, which I am not (!), I would still fall far short of Your measure.

Yet, in Your grace and wisdom God, this honest look, as painful as it is, brings me back to the cross, back to the atonement Jesus provided, back to my defense attorney and Lord Jesus. That never ceases to refresh my soul and bring joy to my spirit. Thank You, God, for washing me clean again this morning through honest reflection of my life and renewed recognition of my need for You… cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean and wash me whiter than snow (Ps 51), I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

 

Friday, March 26: 1John 1-

As a family, we have taken a number of ranger led hikes in our National Parks. It was wonderful! On at least one occasion we have taken a night hike into forest. Our world is not pitch black at night.  Stars and the moon, depending upon its’ phase, cast some light which can be more or less given the cloud cover. Generally after a few minutes, with no artificial light out, eyes can begin to distinguish some features.

On our forest-night hike, after our eyes adjusted, the ranger taught us how to walk at night. The key to night walking is lifting ones’ knees and placing your feet squarely on the ground, not sliding your feet along the earth. Even though our eyes can distinguish some features, the ground is relatively indistinguishable. Branches, rocks, roots, holes, dips, twigs, gravel, etc. are all lying there waiting to trip up the impatient and inexperienced. Hiking at night is quite different than hiking during the day. Even with the best of night-walking techniques, stumbles and falls occur.

John writes, God is light in and him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth (5b-6). Darkness is a metaphor for living outside or apart from God, living outside or apart from what has been passed down to us about God in God’s Word.

‘Be truthful with yourself,’ says John. However, we are fooling ourselves and lying to others when we say we live by the truth but don’t.

God, honesty is my word for this morning.I must be honest with myself and with You. I must be honest enough with myself to ask myself, ‘Am I walking according to Your word and Your precepts and Your ways?’ Only then am I walking in the light.

Lord, I am thankful, too, that when I stray and sin, You will not leave me or forsake me because You have provided a way out. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (9). I love that when I confess, You purify me from ALL unrighteousness.

O, Lord, today I make my confession to You…

 

Thursday, March 25: John 21-In the end. grace.

Have you ever hurt someone you care for and love? Significantly hurt them? I don’t think I am alone in this, but I find crossing the divide, caused by my hurt, to be ‘oh so difficult’. Reestablishing a link so the broken relationship can be mended and restored is huge, at least for me. Life’s inertia, for me, is to remain disconnected, to avoid rather than speak, and so forth. Oh I feel the ache and it is not good.

Maybe this life-pattern of mine is what provided the connection, but I could ‘feel’ the tension between Peter and Jesus. The last direct interpersonal connection between Peter and Jesus was Peter’s triple denial of knowing Jesus. We are told in multiple gospels that Peter wept bitterly after the third denial. We know when we have failed someone we love.

Peter and Jesus saw each other in the upper room when Jesus said “Peace be with you” (20:19). But there is no record that they spoke to each other. Maybe Peter avoided direct contact with Jesus because of his guilt. If Peter were me, I would have longed to be reconnected but afraid to reconnect.

Here in chapter 21, Jesus makes contact; Jesus approaches and speaks. I could feel my blood pressure lowering. The question may come across strong, but I imagined how I would feel in the moment.  For me, the fact that Jesus approached me and spoke to me would speakvolumes. Jesus crossed the divide, Jesus sought me out, Jesus made the first move of reconciliation. O, my heart leapt! Jesus came with grace and love. Jesus said in effect, “No longer will I allow the awkwardness and pain of Peter’s denial mar our relationship. I love him too much. I will make the first contact.”

I realize much of this scenario comes filtered through my life. Still this morning I marvel how often that’s the way it is with Jesus. I screw up and Jesus crosses the divide I caused and reconnects, offering me forgiveness and grace and love.

Lord Jesus, thank You for reconnecting with Peter on the shore of the lake and thank You for doing the same for me countless times. Yes, Lord Jesus, I, too, love You… I do, yes I do… amen.

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 24: John 20-He knows your name.

We sing a song in worship named He Knows Your Name by Tommy Walker (you can hear it at http://popup.lala.com/popup/504966135936615613). The lyrics go like this:

I have a Maker

He formed my heart

Before even time began

My life was in his hands

 

I have a Father

He calls me His own

He'll never leave me

No matter where I go

 

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

 

I find its’ message powerful! The Father knows my name and my hurts. God gave me life and will never leave me.

While reading this morning, the comfort and security of this song flooded my life as I watched Jesus with Mary. Mary was a bit bewildered (who would not have been?) because Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. After getting the disciples, she lingers at the tomb after the others leave.

I imagine that to be an ‘empty’ time, Mary weeping and wondering what happened to her Lord? Unexpectedly she sees two people in the tomb.  Where did they come from? After a brief exchange, she glances away and back and now a third person is seated there. Not recognizing this man and confused, they speak. Mary is still confused. Finally Jesus, the third man whom Mary did not recognize by face or voice, calls her name, “Mary.”

That’s the moment of recognition. When Mary hears her name, John tells us, she knows it is Jesus and she cries, “Rabboni” (16).

It hit me; it was the speaking of her name that unlocked her knowing. Jesus knew her name. Jesus knows my name.  That was the overwhelming thought I has this morning as I read of the empty tomb and my risen Lord. Jesus knows me, Jesus knows my name, He knows all about me and He calls me to be his own…

O, Lord, You know me, You love me, You care for me, You hear me when I call. You will never leave or forsake me. My heart is warmed and I am known by the Creator of the universe. Out of the crowded billions in this world, You know my name. I am not just a number or blob of DNA… I am a person You know by name. O thank You, Jesus…

 

 

Tuesday, March 23: John 19-

It was not one particular verse, but the whole which engulfed me today. Jesus did what God the Father had for Him to do. No balking, no hesitation, no pity-party. Jesus gave everything; His breath, His life, His love.

Enduring one of the cruelest deaths humans have devised, Jesus maintained the best of humanity… compassion for others. From the cross, Jesus spies his mother and realizes she is now alone with no one to care for her.  He initiates, ‘John take care of my mom, consider her from today forward as if she is your mom’. There was no welfare, no Social Security survivor benefits.  A woman without a family was doomed to a life of poverty unless she was independently wealthy, which certainly was not the case with Mary. Staggering in pain, Jesus delivers compassion.

Then comes 3 simple words, “It is finished.” What Jesus was incarnated to do was completed. He died so I could live. He died so all who believe in Him could live. The Son of God, God who lived among us, died so we could live. Staggering, amazing… the heart of the Christian faith.

It never gets old, reading these words, pondering Jesus’ gift, relishing my atonement and salvation. I will seek to chew on this truth throughout today. Reminding myself what Jesus gave will hopefully spur me on to live as my Savior lived. With compassion and love, speaking  His truth at every opening…

O, Jesus, thank You for life, abundant life, eternal life…

O, Jesus, thank You that You saw Your destiny to the end. “It is finished” rings life into our fallen world.

O, Jesus, I surrender to You, Lord, Savior, God and my God…

O, Jesus, thank You… Amen

 

Monday, March 22: John 18-contrasts by firelight

   I found the way John weaves Jesus’ and Peter’s story fascinating. Jesus solid and strong; Peter wilts under the pressure. Jesus honorable and forthright during inquisition; Peter dogging simple questions. Jesus standing before magistrates and leaders remains firm in his convictions; Peter crumbles and lies before servants. What a contrast in that fire lit room.

The Savior and the saved…

Do I need a savior? You bet. Too often I am like Peter…

O, Jesus, thank You for standing firm and for taking the heat. Thank You for following through on the Father’s plan. Thank You for saving me and all who believe… Thank You, Jesus, thank You for doing what I would never have done for myself, could never have done for myself… saving me. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, March 20: John 17-Jesus prays for me (and you).

   John gives us a tremendous gift including this prayer in His gospel. Given the timing from 18:1 this prayer occurred before Jesus and the disciples crossed the Kidron Valley to go to the Garden of Gethsemane.  What an amazing gift… Jesus prayed for me (and all believers). Jesus prays about himself, he prays for his disciples who are with him, and then he prays for believers down through the corridors of time. That's you and me!!!

 

   Today as I read this, I am a bit off kilter. My day began with an early meeting and I have been running ever since, one meeting to the next, into the NYC for another meeting and so on... Just one of those days. I finally get home and grab some quiet time, I read how Jesus prayed for me and more than that He told me what He has prayed for me. He let me (us) listen in on His prayer for us.

 

   As I muse, my last sentence hit me. It is as if Jesus came and stood by me, put his arm around me and spoke His prayer to the Father into my ear so that I could listen in. I went back to the prayer and put my name into the prayer, that made Jesus’ prayer even more powerful:

 

   I pray also for Bill, that he may be one with all believers, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May he also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given him and all believers the glory that you gave me, that Bill and all believers may be one as we are one: I in him and you in me. May Bill and all believers  be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. "Father, I want Bill to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

   "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and Bill knows that you have sent me. I have made you known to him, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in Bill and that I myself may be in him." (personalization in blue)

 

   O God I am so blessed to be your Son. O Jesus I am so blessed that you have saved me and that you prayed for and pray for me. O Holy Spirit I am so blessed that you are God with me… praise be to my God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Friday, March 19: John 16-

How does God do it? Do what? Provide just the encouragement or word of comfort I need, when I need it. Provide just the measure of faith I need, when I need it. Provide just the touch or grace I need, when I need it.

Yesterday someone share a mistake recently made and the loss that has come from it. Today someone I’ve know for years died. Truthfully my heart is a bit fragile right now.

I came to my Bible reading empty, fragile, in need. What would God say? Would He speak or be silent? In my emptiness I wasn’t sure. God might be silent as I read His word yet envelope me in His love. He might speak through a word, verse or entire chapter. God could be present with me in a myriad of ways. I know I can trust my Lord.

Verse 20 caught my attention: I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. I realize that Jesus is speaking to his friend about His impending death. Yet the words resonated with me.  Today I mourn for the friend who has died and for the friend who is experiencing loss from a mistake. I don’t think the world is rejoicing about either of these but I grieve. Grief is part of life. I cannot shield myself from grief, unless I shield myself from people and that would be terribly unhealthy and lonely. So I grieve today.

I also take tremendous comfort in Jesus’ words that follow. Again I realize that He is speaking of the resurrection, His resurrection. …but your grief will turn to joy. I cling to that truth. My dead friend was a Christ-follower.  Today my friend is with the Father, Jesus and the Spirit in glory. Today I grieve, today my friend glories.  My grief will turn to joy over the next days because that’s resurrection faith.

Today my mistaken-friend grieves loss due to a mistake and I grieve along with my friend. This friend, too, is a Christ-follower and resurrection faith instructs me that even in our frailty, mistakes and sins, God can and does bring about good even from our mistakes… (Romans 8:28: note ‘all things’, Solomon from Bathsheba, Ruth the Moabite becoming the great-grandmother of David).

Lord, today I pray for my friend’s grieving family and for my mistaken-friend and for myself… that we all experience resurrection power… In the matchless name of Jesus I pray, amen.

 

 

 

Thursday, March 18: John 15-Remain, love, hate.

Remain, love, hate… are three words that dominate this chapter.

Remain in me… speaks Jesus illustrating what He means by the vine-branch analogy. His message is that only as we remain in Him can we bear fruit… and fruit bearing is a disciples’ mark.

From remaining, Jesus slides to love. As the Father has loved Jesus and Jesus has loved us, we are to remain in His love. (Love and obedience are once again connected as in chapter 14.) The command is that we are to obey, love one another, as Jesus has loved us. Love for others is another mark of disciples.

And what is the end result of all this ‘remaining and loving, bearing fruit and obeying’? Well it is a similar fate as Jesus.  People of the world will hate you and persecute you, as they did Jesus.

Remain… love… hate. Bear fruit… obey… persecute.

As I pondered this, my heart wished it was different, at least the final third was different. I can understand the call to remain. It is so easy to drift away and get off track…

The call to love others, likewise,  is ‘so Jesus’ and as he has done before, I get the link between love and obedience. If Jesus is my Lord, than I most obey.   It is the radical love from Him and for Him and others that is so different and compelling.

My mind shutters at the hate/persecute piece because I am so used to a cushy life. I am a pampered 20th-21st Century American. I have never really been asked to put my life on the line for anything. I have benefited from others sacrifice. But honestly when have I sacrificed significantly? I wonder is this a blessing or a liability? Muscle which is not worked is flabby and weak, muscle hardened by work & exercise is strong. I fear that my faith, largely untested, is weak…

O, God … O, Lord, help me… to remain, to love, to bear fruit, to obey and yes, to stand with integrity as Jesus did even in the face of hatred and persecution. Jesus … to be like You… this is my prayer today… amen.

 

Interesting introduction to John 15… John 14:31 (NIV)
31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. "Come now; let us leave.”

 

Wednesday, March 17: John 14-the "O" word. obedience

There it was staring at me with a glaze that would not let go… If you love me, you will obey what I command (15). Love for Jesus results in obedience. Mathematically I might write it Love = Obedience.

When I am speaking about Jesus, to say I love Him is to say I will obey Him. It is that simple… at least in print it is simple. Flipping the statement around I can say Obedience = Love. Or in words, my obedience to Jesus demonstrates my love for Jesus.

In a world where love is confused with emotions or some fickle feeling/desire that wells up without effort from within, Jesus says, ‘Not so fast!’  Jesus says, If you love me, you will obey what I command.

God’s penetrating gaze for me this morning is obvious. “Bill, do you love Me? Hold your answer, Bill.  First examine your living.  Are you obeying Me? There is your true answer to My first question.”

O, Lord God, Father, Jesus, Spirit I do love You, but I know there are areas of disobedience. Clearly my love for You is imperfect at best. Thank You for Your constant gift of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  Thank You.

Lord, I need the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to help me and to teach and remind me of all the things (26) Jesus taught so that I can obey, so that I can truly love You… amen.

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 16: John 13-what an amazing meal.

John’s snapshot of that last night is so different than the other gospels. John leaves out the transformation of the Passover meal into Communion.  Instead he call to servanthood and love. What a powerful portrait and a wonderful compliment to that of the other gospels.

The details shared about the footwashing are particularly striking for me.   Listen as John paints the scene (2-5):

The evening meal was being served… . Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

It is that second sentence that struck me. Knowing His position with the Father and that His future with the Father was secure, Jesus got up and began to wash feet. Maybe it is just me but that thought seems so telling. Jesus had the wherewithal and the strength to serve because He was secure in His Father’s relationship and the assurance of His future.

True servanthood, this suggests to me, is a sign of strength and assurance of position with the Father. If/when I am truly assured of my position in Christ, being a co-heir with Jesus, a child of God, and seated with Jesus in the heavenlies (Rom 8, Eph 2), then I will be able to lay aside my fears and myself and serve others humbly like Jesus did His disciples.

O, Lord, help me to grasp who I am in Christ. To understand in the depth of my being how much You love me, how You have adopted me and grafted me into Your family, how I bear Your name Father and all that goes with that.  Help me, Lord, to grasp all of this so that I might be free to serve, truly serve, others in Your name…

O, God, may my daily encounter and walk with You be so real that it dominates my life, frees me from personal striving, personal needs of success, power, position, and the like. O, God, may my knowing You and Your love, grace and mercy set me free to live with the attitude of Jesus, who became a servant serving unto his death (Phil 2). May it be so in my life, O Lord, may it be so… amen.

highlights Jesus’ footwashing, 

Monday, March 15: John 12-my easy faith.

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God (42-43).

It is so easy for me to become smug and think these Jewish leaders are wimps. I mean, really, hiding their faith from Pharisees; they should stand up and stand out for Jesus. Like I have ever honestly had to do that when real consequences were on the line! I’m one to talk.

While in Nigeria, I visited a medical ministry that has an incredible impact among Muslim women, with many of these women coming to faith in Jesus. What do they do now? Speak out for Jesus and possibly be killed or be thrown out on to the streets with their children and no hope of provision? What do they do? Missionaries counsel some (not all situations are the same) that it is okay to be a quiet believer. I was shaken the first time I heard that… self-righteous might be a better word for my smugness.

Regarding these Jewish leaders and women, I choose to step back and say I am not in their shoes. Maybe the time isn’t right to speak up about faith in Jesus.  I think of house churches in China or other closed parts of the world where people worship in constant fear of reprisal and persecution. Who am I to judge them?  God turned the tables on me as I pondered all this. God began poking me, “So Bill, where have you (do you) put your faith on the line? Are you completely open and honest about your faith in Jesus when you sense even the mildest threat? You know, the kind of threat that might result in a disparaging look or worse a cutting comment?”

Where the Lord took me for the next moments was to my level of commitment to be transparent before others about my faith in Jesus and the practice of my faith in Jesus.

O, Lord, I have many areas in which to grow. Many. All I dare muster this morning is a cry for help. Help me, Lord, to grow to be the man of faith You want and desire me to be. Stretch me or break me, whatever You know would be best for me, to be who You want me to be. Encourage me or rebuke me, whatever You know will best motivate me to become who You want me to be. Pour Your Holy Spirit upon me because I know it is only by the Spirit that I can be who You desire me to be… in Jesus’ name Amen.

 

Monday, March 15: John 12-my easy faith...

   Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God (42-43).
   It is so easy for me to become smug and think these Jewish leaders are wimps. I mean, really, hiding their faith from Pharisees; they should stand up and stand out for Jesus. Like I have ever honestly had to do that when real consequences were on the line! I'm one to talk.
   While in Nigeria, I visited a medical ministry that has an incredible impact among Muslim women, with many of these women coming to faith in Jesus. What do they do now? Speak out for Jesus and possibly be killed or be thrown out on to the streets with their children and no hope of provision? What do they do? Missionaries counsel some (not all situations are the same) that it is okay to be a quiet believer. I was shaken the first time I heard that... self-righteous might be a better word for my smugness.
   Regarding these Jewish leaders and women, I choose to step back and say I am not in their shoes. Maybe the time isn't right to speak up about faith in Jesus.  I think of house churches in China or other closed parts of the world where people worship in constant fear of reprisal and persecution. Who am I to judge them?  God turned the tables on me as I pondered all this. God began poking me, "So Bill, where have you (do you) put your faith on the line? Are you completely open and honest about your faith in Jesus when you sense even the mildest threat? You know, the kind of threat that might result in a disparaging look or worse a cutting comment?"
   Where the Lord took me for the next moments was to my level of commitment to be transparent before others about my faith in Jesus and the practice of my faith in Jesus. 
   O, Lord, I have many areas in which to grow. Many. All I dare muster this morning is a cry for help. Help me, Lord, to grow to be the man of faith You want and desire me to be. Stretch me or break me, whatever You know would be best for me, to be who You want me to be. Encourage me or rebuke me, whatever You know will best motivate me to become who You want me to be. Pour Your Holy Spirit upon me because I know it is only by the Spirit that I can be who You desire me to be... in Jesus' name Amen.

Saturday, March 13: John 11-

Not surprisingly the amazing story of Lazarus, miraculously being called back to life by Jesus after being dead and in the tomb 4 days, is a polarizing moment for people. Many believe in Jesus. Others believe He is a problem to be eliminated. I found myself contemplating the Jewish leaders’ response to Jesus: many of the Jews who … had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (45-48).

The first thing I wondered was whether their assumptions about what would happen were true. I mean if Jesus continued healing people, would that mean the Romans would come crush Israel and take away the nation? I just don’t see how Jesus’ miraculous signs necessarily mean the Romans would invade? It seems to me that the Jewish leaders were being strangled by possibilities that were beyond prediction.

I wondered how many people, like these Jewish leaders, get nervous about how people will react to belief in Jesus?  Jesus also taught to turn the other cheek. Maybe the Romans would have embraced the peaceful rule of people living out the teachings of Jesus?

Next I wondered how many people, when they hear the call of Jesus, get so nervous about what might happen to them if they put their faith in Jesus?

I pushed my wondering envelope and contemplated people who fear what Jesus might ask of them if they believe. They reject Jesus and refuse to put their trust in Him because of what He might, I emphasize MIGHT, ask of them?

The Jewish leaders assumptions, nervousness about others reactions, and possible fear of what Jesus might require, mushroomed into disbelief, even hatred. What happened to them can happen to others…

What do you think about Jesus? What assumptions do you have? Are they fair or exaggerated?

What nervousness do you carry about what others will think of you or might do to you if you were to believe in Jesus?

Are you fearful of what Jesus might ask of you and more to the point, is this keeping you from believing in Him?

My only response to this is to say that I do believe in Jesus and I have found that my worse fears never materialized. I manufactured them in my heart and mind and I am so glad that I did not allow them to keep me from belief in Jesus…

Jesus, today I pray for folks who have yet to put their faith in You. Lord, I pray that You help them overcome fear, nervousness and ‘what ifs.’ And I ask You, Lord, to help me be a comfort to and an encouragement for friends wrestling with faith in You. Lord, may I help them cross from fear to faith, from nervousness to belief, from ‘what if’ to ‘I believe.” I pray this in Your name Jesus, asking for Your Holy Spirit’s empowerment to fulfill this prayer. Amen.

 

 

 

Friday, March 12: John 10- facts are in and the choice is yours. Is Jesus God?

Friday, March 12: John 10- facts are in and the choice is yours… Is Jesus God?

We live in an age when people attempt to re-write history. They write and say things about people that cannot be verified by the facts of the time. Some people say Jesus never claimed to be God that, like us, he was merely flesh and blood. Well, it is difficult to say that and read this chapter. I suppose one could re-write this chapter, too, but taking it at face value is pretty convincing.

Let’s look at Jesus’ contemporaries, those He talked with and lived around. The Jewish leaders certainly understood that Jesus was equating himself with God.

Historical point: the Jews believe in only one God, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who orchestrated their deliverance from Egypt, etc. Jews did not have some multi-level understanding of God like the Romans or Greeks. NO, for Jews there was one all-supreme, all-knowing God. Thus to equate oneself with God was to equate oneself with the all-supreme, all-knowing God of the universe, Yahweh.

I place in evidence verse 33 (bold mine): "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." [note, in the Greek the ‘you’ here is singular. The Jewish leaders are speaking directly and personally with Jesus. This is note some broad statement about people, but a direct statement to Jesus about what he was doing.]

Evidence #2, Jesus, verses 30 & 37-38 (bold mine): I and the Father are one. … Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

So both Jesus and his contemporaries believed He was saying He is God.

The choice now is yours and mine. We can choose to believe Jesus is God or not. Choose ‘no’ and move on. Choose another religion to follow or follow no religion. Choose ‘yes’, however, and there are considerable life implications. If Jesus is God then His words and scripture are true and to be followed.

John tells us in verse 42 that place many believed in Jesus. Do you? Do you believe Jesus is God?

O, Jesus, I believe… I will follow, I will listen, I will do and live and act as You direct. Amen

 

Thursday, March 11: John 9-doing the works of the Father

There are certain chapters I know before I read them. I find it important to read those chapters slowly so I hear them freshly. Today was one of those days.

I love the way God enters my devotional times. No sooner had I written the sentences above and began reading that my eyes saw something in the text I don’t recall seeing before. Jesus and his disciples are discussing the plight of a blind man, a man born blind. The Disciples assume the blindness is a result of sin, either the man’s or his parents’. To which Jesus replies, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work (3-4). The word ‘we,’ which I bolded and underlined above and the change of person it denotes, stopped me in my tracks. Jesus is talking and He changes from the anticipated ‘I’, ‘as long as it is day, I must do the works of Him who sent me’, to we… ‘as long as it is day we must do the works of Him who sent me’. In other words, we must do the works of God the Father! I expected Jesus to say He must do the things of the Father, but the fact that He includes his disciples (of which I am one) took me by surprise.

Thoughts spun. Jesus, Father, You trust me to do Your works, works like healing. Honestly, this is a bit intimidating. Talk about living on the edge, putting my faith into action…whoa!

I wondered what the disciples thought when they heard Him say it. Did they catch it? I guess so because John wrote it. And now it is no surprise that there is so much detail with this story. Their senses were perked. Jesus was saying that they, too, had to do the things of the Father.

There would come a time when Jesus sent them out to do… there comes a day for every apprentice (every disciple) to go and do what they have been taught.

It is not like this is the first time I heard this. It just caught me unexpectedly and exposed some of my fears, some of my lack of faith…

O, Jesus, I have so much still to learn. So many places still to grow!

I observed a number of other things in the text but I cannot mention everything I see and every word God speaks to me. I did, however, note that John brought us again to his primary gospel message in verse 38: Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

Lord Jesus, I too believe. Help me today to be attentive to the works the Father would have me do.  Whether it is witnessing my faith in You to someone, or praying for a healing You want to accomplish in someone’s life, or preparing for my teaching on Sunday, or extending a kindness to someone in need, or giving unhurried time to someone who needs a friend. May I do faithfully all the works You have for me to do today. That You, O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit receive glory and honor and praise. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, March 10: John 8-Jesus, "I am the light.

John 7:53-8:11

You probably notice at note of some sort about John 7:53-8:11 saying that the earliest manuscripts do not include these verses. This is not some modern attempt to remove verses from the Bible. Instead it is reasoned verifiable statement that explains that the earliest Matthew documents do not have these verses. Even though I love this account of the woman caught in adultery, for my devotional purposes, I decided before I began reading that I would listen for God’s direction for me today in the account that I know has always been in the Scripture, i.e. verses 12 forward.

What an incredible exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus minced no words. He came straight at them claiming to have God’s truth and also saying that they did not! No wonder they hated Him.

Jesus’ word-picture in verse 12 took me back to an adventure in Carlsbad Caverns. One vacation my family and I camped there. On a ranger led hike we were taken down into the caves and invited to sit down. At which point the ranger hit a switch and turned off all the artificial lights. It was blacker than black. There was not one speck of light, not even the glow from iridescent watches. It was the first, and I think only time, I have been in total darkness. I recall lifting my hand in front of my face. I could see nothing as I waved it. I brought it closer and closer until it touched my nose. I couldn’t see any hint of my hand, it was so dark and the darkness swallowed up everything. Every feature, every person of the room disappeared at the flick of that switch.

Against the power and backdrop of that memory, Jesus’ words, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" spoke volumes.

After we adjusted to the total blackness and the children of the group relaxed- the darkness was unnerving for all of us, not just the children, -the ranger lit a small flashlight. I thought the sun rose, it seemed so bright. That tiny bulb brought to life stalagmites jutting from the floor and stalactites dangling from the ceiling. Just the smallest of light in a world of darkness is amazing!

Jesus provides for us, His followers, light to navigate our dark world. We need not fear the pits and traps of life if we stay close to Jesus… ‘The Light’.

It would not have been difficult to venture out beyond the range of light from the ranger’s single led bulb, but while we were near we could move safely through the cavern.

While we are close to Jesus we need not fear.  Venture too far from the Savior and the darkness of the world thickens and engulfs.

The Spirit whispered, “Bill, ponder all this for a while… ponder and meditate your closeness to Jesus.”

Lord, tether me close to You, for when I am close, then I am safe… amen.

 

Tuesday, March 9: John 7-reactions to Jesus

Jesus is the central figure in the Christian religion. And as I read this chapter I thought, ‘hmmm,’  reactions to Jesus haven’t changed in 2000+ years. The range of reaction to Jesus in this chapter is as broad as it is in our day.

Jesus is a good man (12): I hear that all the time. People talk about Jesus, the good man, who taught about love. Like Ghandi or Buddha or (fill in the blank), Jesus was one of the great people of history and should be honored and remembered for His goodness.

Jesus deceives people (12): He is demon-possessed (20): The sense I get from the text is that these people were saying Jesus was deluded, a bit crazy, He had thoughts of grandeur, He deceived Himself and others who followed Him. Dare I say He was a Jim Jones kind of person? And certainly I have met people who think a person is nuts to believe what Jesus taught. Their worldview is such that God, if He exists, can’t be a person so Jesus was off His rocker to say what He said about himself.

Jesus is a prophet (40): This is quite prevalent today. People hold that Jesus is a holy man. This can be similar to being a good man but with an added dimension of “divine” inspiration. People with a bent toward the spiritual will call him a holy man, people with a humanistic world view call him a good man. Did you know the Koran refers to Jesus as one of the great prophets?

Jesus is the Christ (41): Christ means ‘Savior’. That title can be endowed with divine attributes but it need not be. Many Jews in Jesus’ day were awaiting the Christ who would come and liberate them from Roman oppression, a warrior leader who would expel Rome from Palestine and reestablish the Jewish state. As a title unto itself, Christ does not necessarily imply divine personhood. There are books about Jesus as CEO, a great leader, etc.  That kind of thinking falls into this category.

I pondered all of this because what we think about Jesus, more to the point who we believe Jesus to be, is the core belief of the Christian faith. People are all over the map on Jesus. Where are you? Who do you believe Jesus is?

John is writing his gospel so that we believe Jesus is a good man, yes, but more. That Jesus is a prophet,  yes but more. That Jesus is the Christ, certainly, but even more. That Jesus is the son of God, God in human flesh. Listen to John’s own words from Chapter 20:27-30:

Then Jesus [after the resurrection] said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus, like Thomas I shout out for the world to know Jesus you are My Lord (the one who calls the shots in my life, the one who directs my path) and My God (the one I worship and adore). You Jesus are the center of my faith, the one who saved me and who guides me. To You Jesus I pledge my allegiance. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit I pray, amen.

 

 

 

Monday, March 8: John 6-things too hard to believe.

I found myself thinking about Jesus as the Bread of Life, His call to eat his flesh and drink His blood and the result that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (66).

I wondered not so much about the immediate context and Jesus’ call to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which I believe is a spiritual picture not a literal one (cf. verse 63). Instead I pondered all that Jesus taught and asked, “Does His teachings challenge me to the point that I would consider bailing on Jesus?” And I didn’t stop with a simple answer.

It was easy to quickly answer, “Oh no, I would never quit on Jesus.” But I pushed my thinking, “Do I say that because I simply avoid Jesus’ hard sayings? Sayings like “it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God… (after all I am rich by world standards).” Or even the Lord’s prayer petition, “forgive us (me) our debts as we forgive our (my) debtors.” Really do I want to pray a conditional prayer like that since I am quite capable of harboring unforgiveness against others?  Do I really want Jesus to hold unforgiveness against me!”

I hope I am not rattling your faith.  For me this was a positive time with Jesus but one that caused me to honestly think about the depth of my faith in following Him and my willingness to believe what He says, all of it and not just the parts I like.

Jesus, there are parts of Your teaching and the Bible’s teaching I don’t fully understand. There are parts that are hard for me to accept… yet not my will but Yours be done in my life day by day until am called to be with You, the Father and the Spirit in heaven for eternity! Jesus I am ‘all in’ with You, as the 12 said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (68-69). Amen

 

More calls to believe

Verse 29 is yet another direct call to believe and it is only one of a few in the latter portion of this chapter. John is not subtle about his agenda, which is why I believe John’s gospel is helpful for new believers to read early in their Bible reading.

 

 

Saturday, March 6: John 5-

The case for Jesus continues to build.  Through a long statement, closing the chapter, Jesus clarifies that God the Father has sent Him and to believe in Him [Jesus] is to have eternal life. Jesus speaking to Pharisees, men who study the scriptures, makes it clear that if a person believes the scriptures, then they will believe in Jesus because the scriptures point to Him.

It was a comment inserted by John at the beginning of Jesus’ monologue that caught my attention. Verse 18: For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Who is Jesus? Is he merely a good man, an influential teacher and miracle worker? No he is God. John made this astounding claim with his gospel opening, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… (John 1:1 &14). Here in chapter 5 John tells us that the Jews understood that Jesus was equating himself with God, thus they would naturally seek to kill him since it was blasphemy to equate oneself with God.

A person cannot read the NT and come to a conclusion other than it points to Jesus being God.

As a Christian I take Jesus’ divinity for granted, it is my faith starting point. To my surprise and delight reading that Jesus was equal with God, i.e. Jesus was God, caused me to play out that equation in my mind…

·       If Jesus is God then every word he spoke was true…

·       If Jesus is God then I honestly can put my faith in him…

·       If Jesus is God then what he says he will do, he can and will do…

·       And so my thoughts tumbled with the enormity of the statement Jesus is God.

God, for the Jews, was not some super-human who had faults and weaknesses like Greek gods. Not at all. For Jews God was absolutely supreme, creator of everything… the heavens and the earth and anything else that there might be. For the Jews there is God and then there is everything else which God created.

Jesus is claiming to be that God. And for a few minutes this morning I pondered the ramifications of the truth that Jesus is God… it was manna for my soul.

O, Jesu,s I worship You. O,Jesus, I adore You. O, Jesus, one person of the revealed God head, I pledge to follow You. To whom else could I go? Who compares with You?  No one, no where. You alone will I follow and worship. Amen.

 

Friday, March 5: John 4-

Most of the chapter recalls Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. Since the disciples are not present, only Jesus or the woman could be the source of this story.

John tells us in Chapter 1 that Jesus came bearing grace and truth (1:17); is that ever modeled in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman.

Grace- first of all, Jesus speaks with someone whom culture says is a ‘no no.’ For Jesus, every person had value, every person has worth. As it turns out, and Jesus obviously knew this, the woman has quite a sexual history. The story doesn’t elaborate as to why, but the woman has had 5 husbands  plus she is presently living with someone not her husband. Without announcing the details, the suggestion is that she is a bit ‘loose.’ Rather than looking down on her or avoiding her, Jesus initiates a conversation with her. GRACE… how often do I (we) avoid someone because of their lifestyle, status in life, or race?

And if Jesus is the source of the account, He is gentle, revealing only enough of her story to paint the picture but not belittle her. More GRACE…

But then there is TRUTH. When appropriate and apparently in a manner that was not condescending, Jesus looked her in the eye and spoke truth about her life. He spoke truth about what she believed compared with what Jesus believed and what true worshippers would believe. This is TRUTH.

Two more days Jesus spent with Samaritans… filled most likely with both grace and truth.

Jesus’ actions expose my lack …

Lord Jesus, show me how to live in the tension of both realities like You did. Show me how to live gracefully with all people and especially those who are different from me. Give me honesty, boldness and love upon love so that when the moment calls for it, I may speak truth too.

Jesus help me to live like and for You… In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit I pray. Amen.

 

Keeping track… more believe

John continues to pound his purpose… that people might believe in Jesus. Two events dominate this chapter;  Jesus with the Samaritan woman and the healing of the royal official’s son in Cana. Both result in belief in Jesus. With the Samaritan woman, many in her town believe that Jesus is savior of the world (42). And when the royal official realizes that Jesus healed his son, he and all his household believed (53).