Saturday, January 31: Romans 12- Sober Judgment.

Paul writes, For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (3).

I found myself mulling over the idea of ‘sober judgment.’ Evaluating myself and my life honestly and fairly.

It comes very naturally for me to fall into the trap Paul mentions of thinking highly of myself. I think I am a pretty good guy, and my measuring standards are tilted in my favor. Paul’s caution is to be honest with oneself about oneself.

I try to do this in my mornings with the Lord… at least this is one goal for my time with Jesus. For me, reading God’s Word, the Bible, and treating it as the standard against which I measure life and more personally my life, is key. Without the Word as the gold standard, the rules of life I measure myself against are completely subjective and that’s when I am most prone to tilt them in my favor…

How about you? Think about it.

Lord, as I sit on the eve of the Lord’s Day, I pray that You help me press Your Word into my life that it might form me and mold me into the shape You have designed.

Thank You for Your Word filled with truth and understanding of life as You designed it. I give my life to You… In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Friday, January 30: Romans 11- Grace.


Speaking of his people Israel, Paul writes that at the present time God has chose some, a remnant, by grace.  Verse 5-6: So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. Salvation through Jesus, no matter one’s origin, is by grace. And as Paul says here and elsewhere (see Ephesians 2:1-10), if salvation is from grace then it cannot be from works.

Grace… God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense is the only sure and certain path to salvation and restoration with God. Grace has been God’s plan from the beginning.

And grace teaches me I have earned nothing… my salvation, my relationship with the Lord, my eternal future, my forgiveness of sins, the peace I have with God, the gifts and blessings I receive from God, are all gifts. I deserve nothing but retribution and punishment for my sin. And yet by grace, God has gifted me with love and mercy and so much more.

I sat this morning thinking about the pathway of grace open to and available to all –Jew and Gentile alike. And my heart rejoiced in God, my Savior. Using Paul’s words, I praise God…

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (33-36)


Thursday, January 29: Romans 10- Zeal + Knowledge = Jesus.

As I read I remembered the NIV translation of Proverbs 19:2: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. It seems that is what Israel has done by seeking a righteousness of their own rather than by faith.

Verse 1-4: Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

It is sad and a bit frightening that a person can be zealous for ‘God’ but miss the way of Christ, which is the only way we can be found righteous before the Lord God Almighty. I think of Jews and Muslims, many of whom are zealous for God, but their path is leading to destruction. I think of church attenders who think it is about attending church or doing certain pious actions but who miss living faith with Jesus. I think of people who believe all roads lead to ‘salvation’ whatever that might mean to them.

The way of righteousness God has established is through Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:30). God’s way of righteousness is by grace through faith, it is gift not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8)

I hope you have both zeal for God and knowledge of God’s way of righteousness.

Lord Jesus, today I pray for everyone who might read these words. I pray that they come to faith in You, the living and true way of righteousness. May it be so, Lord Jesus. May it be so. Amen.


Wednesday, January 28: Romans 9- A passion for his people.

Paul’s passion for his people gripped me. He writes: I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen (1-5, bold mine).

Paul is willing to be cursed, doomed to hell for eternity if that would save his people. That is an incredible statement of love and care. The tortures of eternity in hell are unspeakable, and yet Paul would willingly accept that if it could save his people…

As I read this I was astonished by Paul’s selflessness; even more I hear the whisper of God, “Bill, do you long for your people’s salvation with this kind of longing? Bill, what would you give for “your people’s” salvation? Would you give worldly comforts? Would you give your reputation? Would you give your finances or standard of living, your toys? Bill, what would you give to see people come to faith in Me?”

I sat silently before the Lord, ashamed that I do not have a bold faith-filled answer!!

Lord, weight is heavy on me this morning.  I sit in my comfort… warm house, wonderful yard, typing on my fancy computer, checking my email on my smartphone and people around me are as lost without Jesus and the Jews Paul longs for. Paul’s heart broke; I’m not sure mine does.

O, God, wretched am I… Amen.


Tuesday, January 27: Romans 8- Overwhelmed by Joy.

As soon as my eyes lit on the opening verses and mind and heart filled with its message, I knew this is where I wanted to spend my devotional time with Jesus.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (1-4).

What words! What truth! No more condemnation for people in Christ Jesus! Halleluiah! I just want to sing praises and thanks to the Lord because He did it! Jesus became our sin offering. He took on my sin that God’s righteous requirements might be fulfilled and I can live condemnation free through faith in Jesus!

Joy to the world, Jesus took my place. I am free from the death strangle of sin because Jesus defeated death!

My mind is just exploding with thanks and praise to Jesus. What a message! What a truth!

Lord Jesus, thank you for what You did for every person who believes. I am overwhelmed and so blessed this morning thinking about Your incredible gift. Words escape me. My mind is so full of gratitude and yet it cannot form words.

Lord, as I sit and bask in the glow of the salvation you provided I renew my pledge to You… my pledge to love, obey and follow You wherever You lead. To You, Jesus, be all honor and glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen.


Monday, January 26: Romans 7- Thank You for the Law.

This morning Paul reminded me to thank God for the Law. The Law showed me what was right and what was wrong. In my humanity I can justify almost any behavior or thought.

Rationalizing is a powerful and often not good trait of being human. The Law provides an objective set of rules and truth. And, Lord, I am thankful for that, because the Law reveals to me how much I need God.

I cannot keep the Law on my own. I constantly fall short. This chapter shows me that Paul understood this, in fact, he lived it too and acknowledged it. But what is so beautiful and wonderful is the concluding note of hope as the chapter comes to a close…

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (25a).

Jesus is the one who can deliver us from the grip of the Law and from the death reserved for Law breakers!

Alleluia, in the darkest of moments, God shows up in Jesus. In the darkest of times, God reverses the curse in Jesus. God didn’t forsake us, He sent Jesus! Alleluia!!!

Lord, I praise You for Jesus. Imperfect though I am, chained to sin as I was, You set me free by grace through faith in Jesus. And I sing Your praises, Lord. Your light has dawned in my life and I can see!!! I can see YOU and I praise You. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, January 24: Romans 6- Saying no to sin.

Romans is so rich in teaching, it seems every paragraph and verse is worthy of contemplation. As I read I kept thinking, ‘Wow, look what God has done for us,’ which was immediately followed by, ‘I now have a responsibility to live for God’.

Verses 9-12 begged me to linger and mull over.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires (9-12).

In His death Jesus died to sin, and now raised, He lives to God.  This is the context for the “in the same way” of verse 11. Just like Jesus is dead to sin and alive to God, so we should be as well. We are to count [y]ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. The words that really got me come next Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body…

And here I have my marching orders for living. Yes, I have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ (chapter 5), but this is no license for sin! Anything but!  My justification opens me to the opportunity to live for God, which is a way of saying that I must give my effort to not allowing sin to reign in my life! The ‘therefore’ suggests that I have to give effort and energy to my not sinning! This requires diligence and determination. I must give myself to living to God!

I give myself too many things in life… to my work, to my family, to my….  God is saying I need to give myself to living to Him as well. And this, in par,t means saying ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to love and service.

What do you hear God saying in this chapter?

O, God, Father, Spirit and Son… I choose to live to You today. Spirit, I need Your promptings and strength to say ‘no’ to sin, especially the sins that live deep within me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.  


Friday, January 23: Romans 5- the only outcome of believing in Jesus a ticket to heaven when we die? .


The opening line of the chapter provided such life for my spirit that I returned to it after reading the entire chapter and spent my meditative time with it.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (1).

Is the only outcome of believing in Jesus a ticket to heaven when we die? NO! That is one outcome but there are many others. Peace with God is one of those others. Consider Paul’s statement again: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

As a Christ-follower, I have no fear in death. I know that God will receive me when my day comes, not because I am good but because Jesus has paid for my sins and His blood covers me. And when I slip up and sin, God’s Word reminds me that when I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive my sin and purify me from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).

I am not living life wondering if I will make it, looking over my shoulder to see if God will get me. Instead, I am free to connect with and see God in life and to speak with Him about it.

This morning I woke a few minutes before my alarm. As I lay there I spontaneously found myself thanking God for life… for my day to come. I spoke with God about my kids, asking His blessing to be with them and that He reveal Himself to them today. I touched on other subjects as they came to mind.  It was delightful!  All of that occurred because I have peace with God and peace with God means that my relationship with God is unhindered. I can go to Him whenever I need or want without any fear of reprisal or negative response.

Peace with God brings great joy to my life right now… a tremendous gift of justification this side of eternity.

Do you have peace with God???

Father, Jesus, Spirit, may I be of service to You today. Show me and lead me to whatever You would have me to do. Praise be to You, my God. Amen.


Thursday, January 22: Romans 4- Why Jesus is the key.

Verse 25 sprang to life as I read it. I spent my time with the Lord, considering the picture of Jesus: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Is Easter more important than Good Friday? No, they come as a matched pair, a set. They are like the two sides of a coin. They are both important and essential and are understood together.

On the cross Jesus died for our sins… atonement. His death atoned –paid for– our sins. The penalty we deserved, He took!

The empty tomb is our… justification. The empty tomb validated what Jesus did on a cross. Three men died on crosses that day.  However, only one was raised to life after 3 days. And that one was Jesus. He was raised for our justification… “just as if I’d never sinned.” Why is that so?  Because on the cross, Jesus paid for my sin. Not only are my sins forgiven, God credits to me the righteousness of Jesus. Thus looking at me through the blood of Jesus, God sees me wearing the righteousness of Jesus.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

No other faith has anything like this and that is why Jesus is key…

I am the recipient of Jesus’ death and resurrection work and so is everyone who believes in Him. Wow, what a truth to chew on this morning and today!

Lord Jesus, I am forever grateful to You for all You have done for me and for everyone who believes. What would You have me do for You today? Show me, Lord. I am Yours. Amen


Wednesday, January 21: Romans 3- God's way of righteousness.

The message of Romans changes with the small word ‘but.’ Paul has been describing in detail the human predicament and then comes the ‘BUT’.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (21-26).

God has a new way, a better way, THE way of righteousness in Jesus Christ. It was God’s plan from the beginning (the Law and the Prophets testify to it) but now is the time to unfold the plan which is This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Jesus changes the equation. It is all about believing in Jesus and God’s righteousness, which comes as a result.

This morning as I sit, I marvel at Jesus, God’s way of righteousness.

I hope and pray that you have made that step of faith to believe in Jesus.

Lord Jesus, my heart wells with ‘Thank Yous’. I am saved because of Your grace! I am saved because of Your sacrifice of atonement. Lord Jesus, I love you and I pledge my life to You, the Father and the Spirit! Halleluiah! Amen.


Tuesday, January 20: Romans 2- Repentance is the doorknob to .

      The sad story of our human predicament continues to unfold in chapter 2. We all are in deep trouble.

As I read the opening verses, an image formed in my thoughts… the image of a doorknob. A person has to turn the knob to open a door, right. As I listened to verse 4-5 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed- I pictured ‘repentance’ being the doorknob on door into connection with God.

Paul says God’s kindnesses is meant to lead us to repentance and unrepentance in our heart is storing up for us God’s wrath.  Thus, repentance is the doorknob and we know from John 10 that Jesus is the door (or gate).

My mind played with these images.  Jesus is the door and repentance is the knob we turn to enter in through Jesus into a relationship with the God!

I invite you to think about this… not simply as an image but to personalize it. Have you turned the knob of repentance (have you repented of your selfish way and asked God to forgive and redeem you) and entered God’s salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus?

Lord Jesus, I am yours. I was lost and dead and without excuse. Then You opened my eyes to see Your way of repentance. Help me to live as You want me to live and to speak Your Words so that others may life, too. In Your name, I pray. Amen.


Monday, January 19: Romans 1- A case for Christ.


Reading this chapter I realize all the more how much trouble we are in as human beings. Apart from faith in God, we cannot please God (see John 15 as well). But even more, apart from God we are really not trying to please Him.

The picture Paul paints beginning in verse 18 is an ugly picture indeed!!! Four words from verse 20 strike a frightening gong; people are without excuse.

When we stand before God at the end of our lives, we will stand there without excuse! We will have to answer God.  Have we either followed God’s way or gone our own way?  At that point our fate is sealed because we will have either lived in the righteousness of Jesus, which is the transformed life of chapters 12-16, or we lived for ourselves, which is opposed to God.

I am far from perfect… Jesus is my only hope! And Jesus is the only hope for every person.

I sat and pondered Jesus’ gift of salvation. I, a lowly wretched sinner, did not deserve grace, and yet God lavished it on me in Christ.

Lord, I sit here today so thankful for You, Jesus. Were it not for You and Your grace I would be living under condemnation. But You have lavished grace on me and saved me from me! Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You and praise You. Amen.



Saturday, January 17: Psalm 20- A wonderful blessing.

As I read the opening of this Psalm, I pictured DAVID praying this prayer over his family and the people of Israel.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests (1-5).

As I pondered these words I pictured me praying this prayer over my family and over my church family. I imagined signing ‘Birthday’ and ‘Thank You’ and ‘Christmas cards’ with this blessing. What a wonderful blessing.

I pray it now on behalf of you…

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests.

Amen and Amen.


Friday, January 16: Psalm 19- God is amazing.

I imagine David gazing up to the sky peering at the stars and the moon and seeing in them the hand of God. The heavens, David pens, declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (1).

Enraptured by God’s glory, David spins a song about the wonder and glory of God. The heavens… the sun… the precepts and law of God all declare the wonder and work of God.

Following David’s lead, I find myself enraptured by the Lord. I recall some of the most amazing nights I have witnessed. Camping in the northern Minnesota Boundary Waters, nary a light in the sky, I saw more stars than ever before. Camping in the desert of Utah or the Rockies of Colorado and Montana or the badlands of South Dakota, the sky is huge and the heavens shout the wonder of God.

The daytime sky with the sun and wispy clouds or the roll of thunder heads boiling above… they, too, declare God’s awesomeness.

Following David’s lead, I ponder the wonder of God’s Word, its riches, its truth, its message of forgiveness and love in Jesus… God is amazing!

Thank You, Lord, for this time of wonder and delight in Who you are!!! May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (14). Amen


Thursday, January 15: Psalm 18- God saves.

David pens a song of deliverance. God has stepped in and rescued David.  And the lyricist that he is, pens this song!

As I read David’s Psalm, I found myself remembering times when God stepped in and saved me. I have never been in war, like David, but I have been in tough times and these are what flooded my thoughts as I read David’s song.

God saves, I testify to this. God saves, I sing to this… in fact today my heart resonates with the words of David’s song…

I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies…

Halleluiah. Amen.



Wednesday, January 14: John 21- Do you love me?.

Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (15-17). Three times Peter said, “Yes.” And each time Jesus followed with an instruction to do something.

Most times when I read this encounter I focus on Peter but today it was as if Jesus aimed the questions at me…

“Bill, do you love me?”

There was no ducking and no hiding. In my time with Jesus today He was asking me if I loved Him. My spirit answered, “yes” each time. The bigger surprise came in Jesus’ follow up. ‘Do My will. Love My people. Testify to Me’.

Like Peter, our love for Jesus is the opening of a door to doing His will. His general will for all His people is clearly printed in the Bible.  Beyond that Jesus has specific things each of us are to do for Him. Among the specifics for me are to pastor His church and to teach a few weeks in Africa and to love my family. I know this deeply. They are not options or good things I can do, they are ‘calls’ from God.

As you read this passage and listen to Jesus ask you, “Do you love me?” Listen also for His directive. What is Jesus asking you to do?!

If you are not sure what Jesus wants YOU to do, start with His general call to all the church (read Mt 25, 28, Acts 1:8, Romans 12, Ephesians 5 and so on). My experience has been that as I set out to do what God’s Word calls all His followers to do, I hear God’s specific call to me.

Happy loving Jesus… it is quite an adventure!

Lord Jesus, Spirit and Father, I love and I place my life at Your disposal. I will follow Your Word and as I do, I ask You to lead me to do those specific things You have for me to do. Lord, I want to stay available to You all of my life… I do love You, Lord!



Monday, January 12: John 19- The end is not always the finale.

In the sweeping account of this chapter, Jesus is flogged, crucified and buried! The one who taught and performed kindly miracles, dies an ignominious death, a criminal’s death. If Jesus’ story ended here, it would be little more than an imposter’s tale. But I know there is more to come, and yet today, I am left to ponder Jesus’ death and burial.

The end is not always the finale.

Many a battle is lost but the war is eventually won.

Many children and adults stray from faith but eventually return.

Jim Elliot and his companions lay dead on the beach speared to death by the Ecuadorian tribe with whom they hoped to share the Gospel.  However, his death sparked a mission-movement that propelled the Gospel around the world. What’s more his wife and others returned and by the grace of God shared the Gospel with the same people who murdered her husband.  This time faith in Jesus blossomed.

The end that we see is not always God’s finale.

No matter how dark it may seem, keep trusting in the Lord.  This is what I am hearing this morning. God is at work. It might not be obvious but God’s plan is being worked out and God will see His will completed.

Jesus lay dead in a tomb. Evil appears to have won but the finale has yet to be played out. Hold on, God is still at work...

Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, I hold on to You. Much in this world seems to be racing head long away from You and Your values. And yet I know what I am seeing is not the finale. Jesus will return and You will make all things new.  Until that day, I live by faith, believing, trusting, working, praying for Your Will to be done in my life and in Your world. Amen and Amen.



Tuesday, January 13: John 20- Why we tell stories.

As the curtain rises on the finale of Jesus’ incarnation, the scene is dark and Mary is running to the grave of Her Lord. Something is wrong, terribly wrong. The tomb is empty and His body is gone.

As the scene unfolds we realize things are not wrong, but VERY right. True, His body is not there, but it is not stolen or moved, He has been raised to life again! Appearances by the risen Jesus to His disciples confirm this.

Disbelief dissipates as belief sinks in… as John’s account of Jesus life nears its conclusion.

Why do we tell stories?

We tell them to make a point. We tell them to reveal a slice of our lives. We tell them to fill space in a conversation. We tell them to connect. We tell stories for many reasons.

John explains why he told the story of Jesus. Verses 30-31: Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? If so, you have life in Jesus’ name.

I pray this is so.

Lord, I pray that all who read this blog put their faith in Jesus and have life in His name. Amen.


Saturday, January 10: John 18- Into the dark.

From the serene moments of prayer we are launched into the drama of Jesus’ final hours. Dragged in chains from the garden, Jesus is thrust into the tormentor’s hands.

As the scene unfolded I found myself watching Peter. Impulsive and violent with a sword one moment; lying to save his skin the next. What a picture!

A little 3-letter word caught my attention in Peter’s denial story. The word is ‘too.’

The text tells us that Peter and another disciple went to the courtyard. Twice Peter is asked, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” (17, 25). I wondered if the questioners knew that the other disciple was a disciple of Jesus and were asking Peter if he was one, too?  If this is a correct reading… then I mused about why some people can remain true under pressure while others cave.

From here my meditations spun into my life and in what faith situations I am strong and what ones I am weak.

I have no delusion that I am always strong. I know all too well my weaknesses…

In the midst of this probe, the Spirit reminded me that Jesus is with me, weak or strong and that Jesus died to forgive my sin…

In moments like this, I realize what a great gift forgiveness is!!!

Lord, Jesus, I am humbled this morning, realizing anew the wonderful gift You gave when You died for the sins of the world. I pray, Lord, that I can live today in the power of Your Holy Spirit, testifying rightly and boldly to Jesus today and every day. For Your honor and glory I live… Praise to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Friday, January 9: John 17- Jesus Prays.

I love the fact that God has allowed us to listen over Jesus’ shoulder as He prays on the eve before His death. He can see the finish line and He prays. After a moment of reflection on His work, Jesus launches into prayer for His disciples and all who will believe in Him through all time.

That He prays for me and all disciples, touches me deeply. Here He is hours before His death by crucifixion and He has the ability to look past His circumstances to see our need. What a Savior! What a Lord!

When He wrapped a towel around His waist and washed His disciples’ feet, He was modeling in action the same humility and “other-centeredness” that He displays in praying for us hours before His death.

I sit here this morning, awed by Jesus, my Savior… His care, His thoughtfulness, His love for those who believe and follow Him.

Lord, Jesus, I praise and thank You. You modeled grace right up to and through Your earthly life. You cared, You loved, You prayed for us right to the end. Thank You, Lord, Jesus. I pledge my life to You.  Use me for Your glory. In Your name Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, January 8: John 16- Does abundant life equal the good life?.

Does abundant life equal the good life?

This is a question I wonder about from time to time. Does following Jesus mean I will live the ‘good life’? Some media preachers preach this. Their message seems to say that if you follow Jesus you will prosper with the things of life, riches, money, things, stuff.

I am uncomfortable with that kind of ‘abundance’ preaching and verses like 16:1-4 are part of my reason for discomfort when I hear preaching promise the good life as defined by the world.

All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you…

These words of Jesus come from a long teaching section. My red-letter edition Bible shows me that John 14-17 is basically a monologue from Jesus. In the sentences above, Jesus warns His disciples of hard times ahead precisely because they are following Him.  His disciples will be excluded by their family, friends and faith and even killed. And what’s worse is that those who kill them will believe they are honoring God with their killing! This is anything but a good life!

The text doesn’t say that everyone who follows Jesus will endure these things, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they come to us or Christ-Followers we know.

In our world the truth of this word from Jesus is playing out on a scale like never before. According to David Barrett’s published research1 70 million people have been martyred for Christ since 33AD, 45+million in the 20th century alone. The rate is growing. In the 21st century about 400 people are martyred a day, that is 146,000 per year!

I may not feel the gravity of Jesus’ Words in today’s text, but many in the world are and this is driving me both to gratitude for my life right now and prayer for sisters and brothers worldwide who are spilling their blood rather than deny Jesus.

Lord, should I ever be put to this test, I pray that the warning of Jesus in John 16, the example of the disciples in the NT and brothers and sisters throughout the ages, bolster my faith so that I, too, accept death rather than deny Jesus my Lord, Savior and God. In His name I live and pray. Amen.


1World Christian trends, AD 30-AD 2200: interpreting the annual Christian megacensus / David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson. On the web at


Wednesday, January 7: John 15- Vine and branches.

When I opened and saw I was reading John 15 my heart lit up. The vine and branches teaching lit my heart. It is a deep passage and never ceases to deliver devotional insights and treasures. And it did today…

I latched onto verses 16-17: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

My immediate thought was to parse the opening sentence. (That may not be your normal first step in meditation but it works for me.)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you

so that you might go and bear fruit… and

so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

This is my command: Love each other.

I (and all Christ followers) have been chosen by Jesus and appointed by Jesus to bear fruit and to receive from the Father whatever we ask for.

As I thought about this, the bearing fruit and asking for what we need are grammatically parallel. I pondered this…

It seems that God is inviting us to ask for whatever we need to bear fruit –fruit that will last.

What is it I (you) need to bear fruit that will last, to bring the nations to Jesus, to battle the injustice in the world in Jesus’ name, to love each other? These, it seems to me, are exactly what God, the Father, is waiting to give to us when we ask.

Ask for the nations…

Ask for love to love others…

Ask for courage and wisdom to bring down strongholds of injustice and to flood this world with mercy.

What an invitation…

What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8 paraphrase). Lord, grace me with strength to ‘hate evil, love good and maintain justice’ (Amos 5:15 paraphrase). Help me, Lord, to live this way everyday You give me this side of eternity! Amen.


Tuesday, January 6: John 14- A rich deep life.

Here we have it, one of the most famous sayings of Jesus, John 14:6. Today I decided to spend my meditative time on it.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

First I recognize that it is one of the “I am” statements in John. They all grow from the revelation of God to Moses. God who when asked for His name responded, “I am.” A Jew of the day would not have missed Jesus saying this… and John seems clearly to intend for us to hear the echoes in these phrases

I am the way – the way, the path, the road, the method, the technique, the means; that which when followed leads to the determined destination. Jesus is the way to the Father, who is God

I am … the truth –the word truth is pretty self-evident. In the world there is truth and non-truth. Jesus, with these words, claims to be ‘THE’, don’t miss the word ‘the,’ truth. If following Jesus leads to the determined destination then that destination is the truth. May claim to be the truth and this is precisely what Jesus claims. If you follow Him then you believe He is the truth. I believe given the ‘the’, He is also saying that He is the ‘one’ truth. His way is the only way to the truth. That’s what I am hearing

I am … the life –life, ‘Zoe’, is the highest and best life that God gives, as opposed to ‘bios’ which is physical life. Zoe is life that leads to eternal life, it is God-filled life and is much more that simply being alive. Jesus is the giver of this Zoe-life, this higher, better, even best life that leads to true eternal life.

Jesus is making some powerful statements about Himself in these words. And He closes this statement with a powerful conclusion.

No one comes to the Father except through me. If being ‘the truth’ seemed exclusive, then this sentence confirms that it is. No one… Jesus is the only way to the Father. Jesus is the only truth of the Father. Jesus is the only giver of the Father’s Zoe kind of rich, deep life that leads to eternal life.

Now the question burns…. do you believe Jesus?

I do, and it drives my life, or at least I hope and desire that it drive my life. And I surrender to Jesus any area that doesn’t drive to Jesus.

All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give. I love You, Jesus. I pledge my life to You anew today… Amen.


Monday, January 5: John 13- Greater works.

I paused at a number of places, but Jesus’ washing of the feet of the disciples kept calling me back. His hour is almost upon Him, He is about to eat His final meal with His disciples as He transforms the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper. And ye,t before the celebration of this sacred Jewish meal, Jesus, the teacher, the rabbi, the ‘father’ of the group, stoops and dirties His hands in the soiled water of foot washing. Jesus does the lowliest slaves’ job…

Utter humility and service…

Distain for the privilege of class or titled privilege…

Willingness to stoop and serve…

Jesus speaks volumes by washing the feet of His disciples, His Passover guests.

Not only is Jesus modeling, He is also teaching. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (14, 17).

Blessed if you do them… says Jesus. I hear an emphasis on DO THEM.

Typing the words ‘do them’ sparked a thought. Many people I know, myself included, like to quote Jesus John 14:12 (the next chapter!) Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. This verse is used to say we should be doing the great works of miracles, etc. today that Jesus did. While I believe that is true, I wondered this morning, why I don’t include in the greater works of Jesus for me to do, things like service and foot-washing? Wasn’t Jesus’ ‘foot washing’ a ‘work’ of His?

I’m struck by the fact that I desire to do the big, grandiose, remarkable works of Jesus but not the messy, serving works that He did. Could it be that I long for recognition rather than service?

I feel exposed by the text and the whispers of the Spirit deep within… I believe this is a good thing.

Lord, Jesus, I am humbled by Your willingness to serve and wash feet. Amen 


Saturday, January 3: John 12- Belief, believe.

Belief… belief in Him, this is why Jesus came. On almost every page of John there are comments about those who believe or do not believe Jesus. It seems so very clear that this is why John is writing… to invite people to believe.

Five times in this chapter alone John uses the word ‘believe’ and this doesn’t take into account other phrases that suggest the same idea… (draw people to myself -v32; whoever serves me must follow me -v26; gone after him -v19; and so on).

As I sit stilling my mind on the day before worship, I find myself thinking about believing in Jesus. Absolutely it means the mental ascent of Jesus, belief that He lived, taught, rose from the dead, etc. But it seems as if belief is more than that too. Part of belief is to orient ones’ life around what one believes.

For me this means that believing in Jesus means doing the things He commands. Things like:

·         Love, forgive, care for one another;

·         Spreading His name, lifting Him up so others see a glimpse of Jesus in me and are drawn to Him and believe in Him,

·         Supporting His church financially and with my time and talents,

·         Growing in my understanding of Him, what He has taught and who I should become because I believe in Him and then orienting my life around these things I learn and believe…

As I prepare for today and for worship tomorrow, I dwell on these, asking myself, “How am I doing in my Loving, Spreading, Supporting, and Growing in Jesus?

How about you?

Lord, Jesus, as I step into the activities of today. help me to see places in which I can love, spread, support and grow. In Your name, I pray. Amen.



Friday, January 2: John 11- Am I willing to die for Jesus?.

The plot of John’s Gospel is quickening. Jesus’ confrontations with authorities is growing and Jewish authorities are moving toward killing Jesus.

As this morning’s accounts unfolded, two very different thoughts latched on to my heart. The first came in verse 4: When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

The words it is for God’s glory caught me. Do I live for God’s glory? Do I look at things that might happen to me –good things or bad things- as opportunities to give God glory or to increase the visibility of God’s glory in the world? Should I be living more overtly for God’s glory?

All manner of thoughts along this vein kept bursting into my head. To live for God’s glory rather than my pleasure, wants, and desires… this is a quantum shift in attitude and thinking…


After this pondering I returned to the second thought prompter, verse 16: Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Hear Thomas’ comment again, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

It is clear that the disciples understood that things were heating up and that being with Jesus could cost them their lives. And they were willing to face their death due to belief in Jesus.

The question stormed the castle of my life. Am I willing to die for Jesus?!?

Lord, today’s chapter causes me to ponder two very real shifts in my life… to live for Your glory and be willing to die for You. I can give trite answers, but these call me to truly look deep within… no games, no maybes and to see myself for all my sins and failures.

Lead me, God, and give me courage to answer these truly difficult questions with faith-filled answers. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen


Thursday, January 1: John 10- I am the Gate and the Good Shepherd.

In verses 7 & 9 Jesus refers to Himself as the gate, “I am the gate….” Then in 11 &14 He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and lays down His life for His sheep. These are powerfully telling statements offering me a rich time this morning.

As ‘the gate’, Jesus is the means through whom His sheep are saved, guarded and protected. Jesus as the gate gives life, all others give death.

As the ‘Good Shepherd’ Jesus knows, protects, watches over, cares for and ultimately even lays down His life so that His sheep are safe.

I sat today as dawn began to break and let these images seep deeply into my soul and heart…

Jesus shows and is the way to life…

Jesus calls to and leads people to life…

Jesus protects people in this life… and

Jesus will even lay down His life to ensure that His sheep have this life.

What an incredible promise wrapped up in the language of “I AM” statements which harken back to Moses in the wilderness where God revealed Himself as the “I AM.” Not only are these great statements by Jesus, the man/rabbi/teacher, they are also statements by Jesus, Lord God Almighty, the great “I AM.”

And, so I basked in Jesus today… what a wonderful day.

Lord Jesus, My heart cries out… Blessed be the Lord, Who saves, Who protects, Who gave His life so that His sheep could live!!!! Alleluia. Amen.