Friday, November 17: Revelation 17- God's words will be fulfilled .

Through my window I watch the small wildlife in my yard scurry around. Chipmunks galore rarely rest. They scurry here and there, looking under leaves for morsels to eat or stash away as fall moves along and winter looms.

I felt a little like a chipmunk looking here and there in this chapter, turning phrases over in my head as I look for God’s morsel today.

I am not good at deciphering fantasy language so beasts and the like are a struggle for me. So devotionally I looked for kernels of truth to cling to. And God provides…

Verse 1: “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters… The Lord God is in control. I may not understand everything and how it all works out, but the Lord does. This is what matters to me. The God I love, honor and serve is in control and John is given a glimpse of God’s just retribution on His enemy.

Verse 6: I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus… Following Jesus is not necessarily an easy road. Many will pay dearly for their faith in Jesus. This causes me to ‘buck up’ to be ready and prepared for persecution, which could come. I haven’t faced anything of this sort but I could and I need to be prepared… to continually bear testimony to Jesus through the way I live.

Verse 8b: The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… A book of life with names written or not written from the creation of the world.  The theological word ‘predestination’ comes to mind. Predestination is a concept I do not fully understand, but it lives in the pages of Scripture. The words of the Prophet Isaiah come to mind: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I don’t understand why some have their names written in the book of life from eternity and others don’t. But putting my trust in the Lord’s will rather than my own gives me comfort, because He is just and I am sin-filled and frail. I can rest in the will of my God, even though I do not fully understand.

Verse 17: For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. I am back where I started. God is in control. God is even able to have His enemy do His bidding and in the end God’s Words will be fulfilled. I have staked my eternity on this!

Have you? Think about it…

Oh, Lord, You met me today in Your Word. You fed me with truth and beauty. Your Spirit encouraged me and provided for me yet again. I am blessed. I am humbled. I am Yours. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, November 16: Revelation 16- Too late to repent .

“It is done!” (17). Terrifying words coming from the throne of God as God pours out His wrath.

Sobering… sitting here thinking about God meeting our just judgment.

My world is, in large measure, completely oblivious to the ways of God and the judgments of God.  And, Lord, I simply do not know how to tell them these things in a way that they can hear.

Religion with any kind of judgment is summarily dismissed by many people.

Even “spirituality” is perverted into ways that can improve my life and make things better for me.

Lord, I am at a loss to make Your will know to people…

Someday those words will be spoken, “It is done!” Then the world will learn what folly it was to serve any other god but the Lord. Sadly, then it will be too late to repent! How sad it will be for those who don’t believe… Sobering. Oh, so sobering…

Lord, give me strength to live for You and wisdom to know how to best speak of You to those who do not yet know You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 15: Revelation 15- Singing thoughtfully in my heart .

Throughout Revelation songs are sung to the Lord, worship in the heavens to the God of God’s. The latest song is verses 3-4:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,

Lord God Almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

King of the nations.

Who will not fear you, Lord,

and bring glory to your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

I sat and read these words over and over, allowing each line to soak in. Great and marvelous are your deeds… I considered the span of Scripture and many of the Lord’s great and marvelous deeds

      Creation

      The ark and flood

      The burning bush calling out to Moses

      The signs (plagues) before Pharaoh

      The day the sun stood still

And so my thoughts went as I traveled through the OT and onto Jesus and the NT. Marvelous deeds indeed.

I wondered about the spectacles described in Revelation; God declaring His name and rule as He brings to a close the age of sin and readies to inaugurate the age of eternal life.

Just and true are your ways… though some of the scenes repeated what I found myself dwelling upon was times of God’s judgments... Pharaoh, the Amalekites, Israel sent to Babylon, Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s judgments are just and true.

I pondered the end of another song, Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It connected with the words song above, Who will not fear you, Lord… All nations will come and worship before you, Eventually everyone will fear the Lord, some out of reverence and love –His redeemed –and the rest due to His wrath. But all will eventually fear the Lord.

And so it went this morning, connecting this song with thoughts, memories, Scriptures. In essence singing this song thoughtfully in my heart and soul.

Lord God, You are so good. Your steadfast love endures forever. Lord, Your ways are inscrutable. I am awed and humbled that You called me to Your heart. Praise be to You, Lord God Almighty. Amen and Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 14: Revelation 14- In battle there are winners and losers .

A pair of phrases garnered my attention as I read this chapter. First came the phrase ‘firstfruits’. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb (4).

The 144,000 preserved for the Lord were firstfruits. This spun an image of harvest. Firstfruits are the initial crop, the first to ripen. They are the indicator of the harvest to come. My wife grew a vegetable garden this summer. The first beans, lettuce and spinach were tasty, but they also filled us with delight because they were a constant (tasty) reminder that more was coming, which she tended. All summer long we enjoy these and many other crops. But those firstfruits are particularly delightful because they signal all that is to come.

These 144,000 signal the full harvest of redeemed who will eventually join the Lord during His conquest and forever-kingdom establishment.

The second phrase sparked a more sobering meditation. It was ‘full strength’ as in the ‘full strength’ of God’s fury. A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb (9-10).

Restraint is over, the end is near. The fury of God will be poured out full strength on those who have been opposed to God and God’s people. Throughout our yard we have poison ivy pop up here and there. I am allergic, so my wife, our prime gardener, keeps a keen eye out for poison ivy when it shows up. Her immediate course of action is to spray it with Roundup a strong root killing poison. We buy it in bulk and according to directions dilute it something like 100:1 before using. It kills within 24 hours. It is strong stuff even diluted.

God’s fury and wrath is strong stuff but no more will it be diluted… the day has come when God will pour it out full strength. His enemy will be vanquished and the days of mercy are over.

‘Full strength’ paints a stark image…

As I sit, these two phrases are the flipside of each other. The joy of salvation is balanced by the punishment of evil and vice versa. In battle there are winners and losers; the victorious and the vanquished. Today God led me to contemplate both… and This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus (12).

So, Lord, I wait, I pray with patience and endurance for Your day. And until then may my life be pleasing in Your sight, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

 

 

Monday, November 13: Revelation 13- Troubling times.

Whatever all the symbolic imagery means with its dragon and beast and 2nd beast, there are problems in store for God’s people.

It [the beast] was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. ll inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (7-8).

With these words Saturday’s theme is repeated. The Devil will be coming after God’s people. It is one thing to be warned, but what should we do?

Answer, brace ourselves… “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people (10).

Yes, brace ourselves… This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

This may not be the most comforting answer but it is a real one. When hardships come that test our faith –directly and indirectly –hold on, endure, stay faithful. What you are going through is no surprise to the Lord. God was not caught off guard. He knows and somehow His plan is working out. Salvation is still ours. Attacks and problems are not indicators that we are bad, or deficient. In fact, it may just be happening because we are faithful.

Discipleship costs in the here and now, but its rewards are great beyond what we can imagine.

The story of the Revelation is not over. God wins and we win if we stand faithfully with Him. And [t]his calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

Lord, give me strength to have the patient endurance to finish my race honoring You, service You and being faithful to You and YOU alone. Through Jesus, the Lamb, who was slain, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 11: Revelation 12- As real as the Devil is, our God is stronger and wiser .

It is no fun thinking about it, but the Bible is clear that those who follow Jesus are opposed by the Devil who will try to defeat them. We read again about God’s enemy and ours in this chapter. Verse 17, paints a picture of the battle we, who follow Jesus, are in. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

Many today try to deny the truth that Christ followers have an enemy who is after them and who is keeping those who do not follow Jesus blinded. But believing in Satan and demons and angels, for that matter, is the Biblical worldview.

As much as I don’t like the truth that God’s enemy, the Devil, is trying to derail Christ-followers from faithfulness, it is difficult to read the Bible and not face that reality. CS Lewis’ ‘Screwtape Letters’ is an ingenious book about the warfare that the Devil uses to get us to live ineffectual Christian lives. If you haven’t read that book I commend it to you!

As real as the Devil is, our God is stronger and wiser. And although we may not be completely shielded from the Devil’s fury, we are sealed by the promised Holy Spirit who will see us through to our salvation! (Ephesians 1:13-14: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.)

So while I am wary of the enemy, I recognize that the Lord is stronger so the closer I stay near Jesus the safer I am because Jesus wins!

So as I settle into my day before the Lord’s Day I contemplate the words John heard spoken which he recorded this chapter:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (10-12).

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Halleluiah… You win. Give me Your strength to live until Jesus returns or You call me home. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, November 10: Revelation 11- God is worthy .

John’s Revelation is a difficult book to follow, but major themes do emerge even though I might not understand everything. Today I received the first glimpse of God’s future reign.

God wins! This is never doubt in the revelation.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become

the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,

and he will reign for ever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,

the One who is and who was,

because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

The nations were angry, and your wrath has come.

The time has come for judging the dead,

and for rewarding your servants the prophets

and your people who revere your name, both great and small—

and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. (15-19).

The first thing that hit me as I read this was the Halleluiah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah..

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ, And he shall reign forever and ever… Halleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah halleluiah!

The tune is exploding in my mind… I had to listen to it. Oh, my tears welled in my eyes! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUZEtVbJT5c). What a devotional moment. God reigns… all the pain and struggle and the service is worth standing with the Lord as He reigns!

It is no wonder to me that the 24 elders fell in worship. That is exactly what my soul did. He is worthy, Oh, so worthy of all my worship… all our worship… all the worship creation can possibly muster. God is worthy!!! Halleluiah!

Oh, Lord, You are worthy to receive all praise and honor and glory for You are mighty and full of wonder. Halleluiah! Amen!

 

Thursday, November 9: Revelation 10- following the evil one is like doing hardcore drugs .

“There will be no more delay!the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (6c & 7b).

Terror and hope filled my thoughts in quick order as I read these words. Terror for all the people who will hold on to their idolatries rather than bow to Jesus as Lord.

Hope for all in Christ. And also hope for justice. The Lord is just so His decrees are just. The evil one is that, just plain evil so his lure of ‘fun’ or power or whatever is a façade that sadly entangles people.

A thought flashed… following the evil one (whether you realize it or not) is like doing hardcore drugs. It feels good at first and it can seem cool, but shortly the drug owns you, controls you and ultimately destroys you. That is the Devil. He dangles enticement of some sort in front of people only to hook them and destroy them.

No more delay means the Devil’s end and that is a wonderful thing… it is however sad that all who are entrapped by him meet their end as well. The Devil’s end is a sinking ship…

However, God has sent a lifeboat, Jesus. Faith in Jesus transports us from the Devil’s sinking ship to the lifeboat of God’s love, grace and eternal salvation.

Readers, we all have a choice as long as we have breath… reach out for Jesus. Place your trust in Him, follow Him and serve Him and be saved.

Oh, Lord, pour out Your Spirit that millions and billions put their faith in You before the time ends and there is no more delay. Use me, use Your church as a megaphone for Your saving love. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, November 8: Revelation 9- How sad, people do not want to repent .

This section of Revelation is so difficult for me to read. To contemplate the horror of the wrath of God and the utter degradation of people given over to sin… ugh, my whole body cringes.

Is there a more vivid way to describe torturous pain than the words of verse 6? During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

Oh my…

The chapter continues as God releases warring angels to kill one-third of humankind (15). And, yet, with the wrath of God marching out, the surviving people will not bow to the Lordship of God. The grip of sin is so tenacious. The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts (20-21)

My second ‘oh my’…

One of the most chilling aspects of these two verses is that if I removed the words worshiping idols, and (because my 21st century culture doesn’t acknowledge demons except in horror films) the content of these verses are the content of the news virtually every day.

In recent days there has been a mass killing in Las Vegas (murder), not to mention the many single murders here and there. Hugh Hefner, king of the Playboy Empire, died with many comments lauding the man who was a kingpin in the rise of porn and sexual revolution of the late 20th century. Ugh! And regarding idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, has a human culture worshiped money more excessively than our present one?

How sad, people today do not want to repent… and it will be so right up to the end.

Lord, why did You grace me? How is it my heart and mind saw You and worshiped but so many do not. I don’t understand? GRACE… is all I can figure. With all my questions… I worship You still and even more vigorously for You alone are worthy of worship. You alone are Lord… Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I worship and adore You. Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 7: Revelation 8- Spread the news while there is still time .

Death and destruction… my mind sees death and destruction all around. The sea turning red with blood, people dying… the wrath of God is a gruesome sight.

I find no comfort reading this chapter. Yes, the people of God are vindicated, but that gives little comfort given the death and destruction of those who don’t believe.

How sad this is… millions meeting their faithless end.

Could I be doing more? Could I be giving more? Every person introduced to Jesus is a possible person saved.

I am quiet and still today. The reality of the wrath of God is almost too much for me.

Spread the news while there is still time… Jesus is the way of salvation. He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6)

Lord, do not let me lose this picture as I go about my day. Please, do not let me become distracted for the spiritual realities… with Christ comes salvation; without Christ is wrath.

Amen.

 

Monday, November 6: Revelation 7- No matter what.

On Saturday the idea of martyrdom dominated my devotions. Martyrdom again rises today. Verses 9-10, 13-14 places this issue on the table again.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”…

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

No one knows then this ‘great tribulation’ will happen. And I suspect people living through some of the large scale persecutions of Christians the world has witnessed may have thought, “This must be it.” But since Christ’s return hasn’t occurred, we know the great tribulation has not yet happened... but lesser tribulations can be horrible for those living through them.

Believers anticipating the church creating some utopia on earth miss the fact that a great tribulation is looming. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a century, maybe in a millennia, but at some time before the end there will be massive persecution.

Will I witness and live through it? Only God knows. The question remains, “Is my faith strong enough to survive?” I cannot control the time and the place evil will erupt, but I can own my faith and hone my faith to be as strong as possible. I can put my shoulder to the plow and not look back (see Luke 9:62). I can press on, study, pray, read, and serve so that my faith muscles grow strong. I can worship and surrender my will to God’s so that my heart grows strong. I can keep my eyes and ears open to the leading of the Lord so that I know His voice and can follow Jesus no matter what comes.

Jesus stayed strong facing and on the cross; keeping faith in Him I can weather whatever trials come my way. But only if I remain in Him (John 15).

I don’t know what the future will bring for me, but I do know that faith in Jesus will see me through no matter what.

The saints in white robes made it, thanks be to Jesus. And I will, too.

Praise be to You –Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation belongs to You. I will hold onto You with all I have, trusting that when my grip on You fails, Your grip on me will never fail. Amen and Amen.

 

Saturday, November 4: Revelation 6- The issue of martyrdom.

The message of John’s revelation is a tough one. Imagery, death, wrath and martyrdom fill its pages.

Martyrdom caught my attention reading today. Verses 9-11: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

The words I bolded make it clear that more martyrdom was still to come. Many apparently had already died for their faith, but they were not to be avenged until the full number of their fellow servants… were killed just as they had been.

Martyrdom is not something I think about often, if at all. Being a Christian is so safe in my country and community. Even where I go in Nigeria, I know there is religious violence and some horrible things happen. But still I don’t know people who live with the impending doom of martyrdom. Still around the world people are martyred for their Christian faith (and other faiths, I might add).

If I am listening to the words from Revelation correctly, martyrdom should not surprise us. As horrible as it is, the enemy doesn't play fair and having people pay with their lives for following Jesus is no big deal to the Devil. He is evil and vile to the core.

My particular world would have to change dramatically for me to be legitimately concerned about having to give my life for my faith… but that is not the case for brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

I wonder when the full number will be fulfilled and Jesus will return.

Until then I pray for the fullness of the Spirit to live faithfully, advancing the will and way of Jesus…

Lord, give me strength, give me courage to live for You, to serve You with vigor and to bring honor to You by the way I live and the things I do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Friday, November 3: Revelation 5- All eyes on God.

John continues to witness worship in heaven… all eyes are on God. The songs praise God, the body posture of those in heaven honor God. All focus is given to the One on the throne and the Lamb.

Someone has said that worship today in our churches is rehearsal for our eternity of worship in heaven. If that is so, then we have a great lesson to learn from this scene.

Worship is about God not us. Worship, rightly understood, focuses on God not us.

The question is not whether ‘I like’ worship or I am blessed by worship or I learn how to live better during worship. NO, the question is, “Was the Lord God honored and praised and lifted up in worship? Was His story told? Were the participants drawn to venerate Him?”

All eyes should be on the Lord, not ourselves. Is God honored is the crux of worship.

I returned to the text and focused on the songs… putting my attention on the Lord for the remained of my time this morning…

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” …

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (9-13).

You alone are worthy, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. You alone deserve praise and honor and thanksgiving. I lift my heart and voice and praise You, Lord God Almighty… Who is and was and is to come. Amen and amen.

 

Thursday, November 2: Revelation 4- Indescribable.

How do you describe something that is beyond description? That is what I felt when I entered chapter 4.

John seems to be describing something that is beyond human eyes to take in and human words to describe.

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. (1-3)

What does it mean to have the appearance of jasper and ruby? What is a rainbow shining like an emerald?

There is more later in the chapter that is simply beyond human ability to describe.

I thought how does one describe seeing God? God, the One beyond all things, is wonder-full and cannot be reduced to words on a page.

This chapter and the next few fill me with wonder and awe every time I read them. The inexpressible imagery... the simplicity of worship and utter devotion to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.

My heart soars. My God is front and center. And the inability to adequately describe the Lord only adds to the beauty and wonder.

Our God, my God, the God of the Bible is beyond description. Halleluiah!

I don’t want a God who is humanly fathomable, I want to serve a BIG, Awesome, Beyond-Description God and that is Who I meet in these pages.

Oh, Lord God, forgive me for all the times I try to reduce You to something completely knowable, to a formula, a precept. You are beyond description. You are great and awesome… You are God who reigns over all because You created all things.

I praise You, Lord. I am reduced to a humble ball of nothing before You and joy fills me heart as I worship You.

Through Jesus Christ, my Savior’s name, I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 1: Revelation 3- Ugh we are a sin-filled people..

Verse 11 caught my heart as I was reading. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

I don’t know when Jesus is returning and still these words seemed to speak to my heart, particularly the word to Hold on to what you have… I take that to mean, hold on to the faith in Jesus that you have.

The world seems to be changing at an accelerating pace. The ‘rich poor divide’ is widening. General views regarding faith of any kind, Christianity in particular, are fading as people become more post-Christian and post-spiritual. Tensions between East and West are growing. Politics is growing more mean spirited, racial and nationalistic tensions are also growing. I could go on.

Maybe the civility of the past hid many of these same divides, certainly people were no better, but things seem to be rougher and more caustic these days.

Jesus’ call to hold on to the faith seems timely. Hold on to the whole of the faith. Maintaining Jesus’ values seems more counter cultural today. And sadly some people use the faith to further some of the divides… Ugh, we are a sin-filled people!

Oh, God, help the church be the church! Help me be a faithful Christ-follower in my changing world. Lord God, pour out again Your Holy Spirit so that I and we Your people can rise above the tides of meanness and live counter culturally for YOU. Lord, show me what that means for the remaining years I have this side of eternity.

How shall I use my wealth, my time, my influence to strengthen Your people and Your reign here in my world. I pray this in Jesus’ name and for the advancement of the Gospel. Amen and amen.

 

Monday, October 30: Revelation 1- Life back then.

It can be common for people to remember nostalgically life ‘back then’ where the ‘back then’ is some golden era people dream to return. Church people often remember some former pastor and a time when their church was this or that or they remember a decade in their past when ‘life was good.’ Some people in the church long to return to the exciting days of the New Testament… as if the goal today is to return the church to the days of the early church and the Book of Acts excitement.

One problem with these statements is that we recall the wonders of the particular time gone by but leave out some of the more difficult parts of life back then.

For those who want to return to the ‘early church’, love the excitement, the conversions, the miracles and wonders. Truly those are wonderful. However, persecutions and hardships came with those wonders.

I was struck by John’s description in verse 9. I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

I, John your brother and companion in the:

Suffering; many in the early church suffered for their faith. There were seasons of persecution that are beyond the thoughts most of us have of persecution. Yes, they saw miracles, but many died to see those miracles.

Kingdom… John was a companion in the kingdom, which I take to mean they saw the wonder of people coming to faith and God’s reign growing and affecting many. I think we all long for this

Patient Endurance… but to see the kingdom they needed patient endurance. This was a phrase used often to call people to hang in there when life grew difficult, ‘Despite hardships and pain keep loving and obeying Jesus. Don’t give up’. These are words spoken during the hardest of times to encourage people to stay the course and not bale out.

Those ‘wonderful days’ of the early church were filled with wonders of God on the move, but they were also filled with costs to the people of God.

The nagging question in my heart, as I hear John’s description, goes like this, “Am I willing to endure the hardship to see the fruit of kingdom growth?”

That question has no simple answer for me… I admit I like my comfortable life. I would rather keep my comforts and see the miracles. However, that has not been the way of history and certainly wasn’t the way in the early church and the days of John.

Ugh, my selfish ‘self’ rises up again.

Oh, Lord, forgive me… forgive me… forgive me. My heart still needs much spiritual surgery and repair. Please send Your Holy Spirit and begin the much needed work in me. I pray… in Jesus’ name. Amen

Tuesday, October 31: Revelation 2- God speaks.

Three specific letters written to three different churches. And in some of the letters there was specific information for different groups within the church. 

I couldn’t stop thinking what letter would Jesus write to me…

What sins would God point out? What works or efforts might God applaud? What would He call me to do that I might not be doing right now?

I am not going to write out what the Lord spoke to me; it is personal.

I am so blessed that I serve a God who continues to speak… in broad overarching ways and in specific timely ways.

One line that jumped out at me as I read. It is verse 23: Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

This hit me because it underscored what I was thinking about, that God has words to speak to each of us regularly. There are words about lifestyle that need to change and sins we must guard against and works for us to do.

I am so blessed that God speaks with me… What a great God we serve!

Blessings to You, my Lord and my God. Thank You for correction and encouragement and words of life and peace. I love You, Lord. I Love You. Through Jesus I live and move and have my being and through Him I pray this morning. Amen.

 

Saturday, October 28: John 21- Called to a purpose.

When my children were young after telling them a story, they would often say, “Tell us another story, please...”

At concerts the crowd often cries out for an encore.  Chapter 21 is John’s encore.

John begins with his third Jesus-sighting after the resurrection (see verse 14).

The disciples are hanging around together; seven of them are together by the Sea of Galilee one evening.

It hits me they have gone home. They are no longer in Jerusalem. I get the sense they do not know what to do without Jesus. For three years these men have walked where Jesus walked and did what Jesus said. Now He is gone and they seem lost without Him.

When I stop to think, this isn’t a surprise. Who wouldn’t be lost?

Jesus pulls Peter aside and tells him to ‘feed my lambs,’ ‘take care of my sheep’ and ‘follow me’ (15-19).

I don’t get the feel from the passage that Peter yet understands, but that isn’t a surprise either. I am sure they are still trying to process Jesus’ dying and rising again.

This is in essence Peter’s commission to ministry. God was calling him to the apostleship and mission that would define his life.

This event probably happened shortly before what we call ‘the great commission’. I went back and looked Matthew 28:16-20 takes place in Galilee.

I found myself contemplating ‘calling.’ God’s calling to each of us to take part in building His kingdom. None of us will be called to be a Peter, but each of us who are called to follow Him are given things to do…

Help the widow next door

Share our faith with the person in the office next to ours

Support this or that ministry with our time, treasures and talents

Serve in your local church

Work to better the lives of a group of people affected by a particular injustice

The list of options is endless…

What has the Lord called you to do to further His kingdom, His name here in our world? Think about it.

Oh, Lord, focus my attention on Your calling. If I am not sure what it is do not let me rest until I am ready to listen. Lead me into the depth of Your calling. Your apostles, those fishermen, didn’t get it right away and I might not fully get it either. This is not an excuse, but a begging of You to keep pushing me and calling me until I do get it.

Sending Your Holy Spirit was the turning point in the fishermen becoming fishers of men, dynamos ready to die if necessary for You. I pray this in Jesus’name. Amen.

 

Friday, October 27: John 20- To hear my name.

 

I sat for much of my devotional time wondering what it will be like to hear Jesus speak my name. I was touched by the instant change in Mary when she hears her name.

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) (14-16).

Since Jesus had already spoken with her it was not the sound of His voice but the speaking of her name that jarred her into belief. How powerful the speaking of a name is…

Typing this observation took me back again to my wondering what will it be like when I hear Jesus speak my name? It will have to be in a dream or vision or at my resurrection when I see Him face-to-face. How will I react?

I suspect it will be in the fashion of Mary, who cries out in faith and belief! Rabboni… Rabbi, Teacher. Maybe like Thomas, later in the chapter, I will cry out, my Lord and my God (28).

To see my Lord face to face will be a thrill, and to hear Him speak my name. I struggle to push my imagination that far. One thing is sure I will be a moment of pure joy.

The chapter concludes with John’s reason for writing his Gospel, 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 (31).

I believe, I have life Jesus alone can give and I long to see Him and hear Him speak my name…

I hope you do, too.

What joy, what wonder, what awe it will be to see You, Jesus. To be in Your presence and to know I will be with Your family in the presence of my God –Father, Spirit, You –for eternity. Halleluiah! Amen.

 

Thursday, October 26: John 19- I put him on the cross.

Things certainly turned quickly for Jesus. Little over a chapter ago and a day ago, Jesus was teaching His disciples. By the end of this chapter he has been tried, crucified and buried.

As the account unfolds the Jewish leaders are recorded shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (6).

I pause to wonder what that must have been like for Jesus, the word made flesh who created all things, to hear the men anointed to preserve and teach your word shouting and calling for your death. Rejection is one thing but to hear hate-speech shouted at you is another level entirely.

My thoughts take me to Good Friday services. For years I have participated in community readings of one of the Gospels. Generally during these services the entire assembly read the words of the crowds or in this case, the religious leaders. Shouting, “Crucify, crucify. Crucify Him.” Saying “Crucify Him,” shakes my heart with terror every year. I have seen others tear up while saying those words.

Remembering those moments as I read John’s account, hammers home what my sin and our sin cost Jesus. When I sin I participate in why that moment had to take place. Jesus was accepting all that abuse because of me and my sin, and you and your sin. Our sin put him in that place. Our sin nailed him to the cross.

Jesus, I am forever grateful that You took my place. You died for me. You paid my sin debt. You endured the taunts and shouts for me, for us, so that we might be restored into relationship with You, the Father and the Spirit. Praise to You, Lord Jesus, my Savior and my God. Amen.

 

Wednesday, October 25: John 18- I am the one.

Such an abrupt change from prayers to arrest. If you were new to the story of Jesus, I think the transition from chapter 17 to 18 would strike you as a reader like a punch to the gut. It hit me that way and I know the story!

Jesus’ calm through the whole of the evening is such a contrast to Peter’s bumbling. The master is in control, despite the situation while Peter teeters on the edge, uncertain, out of balance and about to fall.

During His arrest and questioning before the priests and Pilate, it seems like Jesus controls the events. He speaks and the arrestors fall back. Before Annas they drill Him hard but Jesus, un-phased, fires back with a retort they cannot answer. Before Pilate, Jesus is strong and resolute.

Poor Peter, he just cannot measure up. In the garden he resorts to violence, striking someone with his sword. Invited into the garden because his friend vouched for him, Peter crumbles under the weight of a servant girl and other nameless observers.

While I long to be like Jesus, too often I act more like Peter. My bravado of faith, when I am in the company of friends, fades into obscurity sometimes when challenged by outsiders.

Oh, God, seeing Peter is like holding a mirror to my own life… my sins, my guilt, my faults. I am the one stripped naked by this text and these thoughts. I am the one who falls and denies my Savior.

All I can manage to say is…

Forgive me, Lord. Save me, Lord. I am in need of Your grace and mercy again and again. Amen.

 

Tuesday, October 24: John 17- Protection.

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. … My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (11-12, 15).

John records Jesus’ prayer on the eve of His death. Jesus prays for Himself, the disciples and all who will believe in Him through the message of the Gospel. As He was praying for the disciples He prays for their protection. Is His prayer for protection so that no harm will ever come to them? If that is so, how is it that many of the disciples died for their faith in Jesus and others, like John, suffered imprisonment? What did Jesus mean when He prayed for protection?

In verse 11 He follows His prayer for protection saying, so that they may be one as we are one. His protection then is to guard them so that nothing separates them from each other, so that they remain together, unified in Jesus. Certainly the apostles remained unified like this throughout their lifetime.

In verse 12 protection is linked to not falling away from the faith and again that was true. The faith and resolve of the disciples is amazing, given the persecution they at times endured.

Finally in verse 15 Jesus prays for protection from the evil one and to me that is a repeat of what he has prayed. The greatest power the evil one could have would be to pull someone from the salvation God has granted, but Jesus has protected them from that (12). Second would be to put a wedge between them so that the witness of love is destroyed. Again Jesus has prayed specifically for that in verse 11. 

My sense is that what Jesus prayed for them counts for us as well as His present day disciples. He has prayed that our faith will hold… Halleluia!. He has prayed that we remain one in spirit and in Jesus… and to that I say Halleluiah once more!

The protection Jesus offers us may not be from any and every harm, but it certainly is protection from the greatest fears… loss of faith and loss of my brothers and sisters in the faith.

Thank You, Jesus, for praying for my protection. May I live well and for Your glory under Your protection. Thank You for caring so much for me, for us, that You have protected us. Again I say, Halleluiah! Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

 

Monday, October 23: John 16- Finding Peace.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (33).

Finding peace in a troubled world, that is one gift Jesus brings. According to Jesus when we have him, we have peace.

While I cannot say that has been true for me every moment since confessing Jesus to be Lord of my life, I can say in the main it has been true. Despite the times I worry and fret, Jesus has always been there. During the darkest times of my life Jesus has been a shoulder I can turn to and cry on and a strong hand to lift me up. Jesus has provided peace that passes understanding. There are times I cannot explain it, but still as the waters rage about me I know Jesus is there with me. This is so hard to explain and yet so wonderful to experience. 

Trouble comes… I don’t mean to be pessimistic but life does have its share of troubles and I have found Jesus to be my peace during all times of life.

Have you confessed Jesus to be Lord and God of your life?

Confessing Jesus is the first step to finding peace amidst the trouble of life and peace with God, which brings eternal life.

Oh, Lord God, the gifts Jesus brings when we open our lives to him through faith are extraordinary. Peace, companionship, love, forgiveness, redemption, on and on the list goes. Oh, Lord, may I live in a way that point people to Jesus, the one and only Son of God. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, October 21: John 15- .

The vine and the branches is one of the more recognizable chapters in the gospels. As we have found with John’s gospel, he packs a great deal of teaching into each chapter.

An intriguing insight struck me as I was reading verses 5-8: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As I came to the words I bolded, I had the usual thought, “Wow, ask whatever you wish and it will be done” What a promise. However, is it really true. Countless believers ask for the healing of a loved one that doesn’t happen. And how many other prayers could be added to the list of unanswered prayers?

As I pondered this I realized that “remaining in Jesus” is a prerequisite. But I am wondering about Christians who do not have their wishes granted. And it seems that Christians are the ones remaining in the vine, so why are the wishes not granted?

As I pondered this verse 8 came into view, This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Could it be that this is not some carte blanch promise that anything we wish for will come true, but that it must be heard in the context of bearing fruit for the kingdom… fruit that shows we are disciples of Jesus?

This thought doesn’t eliminate all my questions regarding the ‘ask for anything you wish’ promise but it does push me in directions I haven’t pondered deeply.

As I consider this one thing I am realizing that doing things that give glory to the Father has to rise higher on my life-goal list. Life isn’t about seeking me and mine… my pleasure, my desire, my wishes. It is about living a manner of life that gives glory to God. On this score I have a great deal still to learn.

Lord, I offer You today. Point out to me things I should, could, do that bring You glory that I ordinarily may miss or skip over. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, October 20: John 14- You who are the way.

There it was in the text of the day, John 14:6: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. An amazing statement about who Jesus is and what Jesus provides for people who follow and believe in Him.

Jesus is the way… He leads us home to the Father God.

Jesus is the truth… in a world that seems to be losing the idea of truth and of right and wrong Jesus is the truth. His words ground us and stabilize us in a shifting world.

Jesus is the life… He gives us what we seek most in life… not simply living, but life and elsewhere we are told He gives us life abundantly!

I was in worship yesterday and we sang a song, which so wonderfully captures the essence of this verse. It is You who are the way by Angelo Natalie (ccli 5512911). The chorus goes like this:

You who are the Way we follow You

You who are the Truth we believe in You

You who are the Life we draw our breath from You

You who are the Way we walk with You

You who are the Truth we will sing of You

You who are the Life we'll rise again in You

 

Yes… this is Jesus. He is the way and the truth and the life. And it was such a powerful way to sing the truth of Jesus in worship and to bring the truth of Jesus into my life!

Thank You, Jesus, for coming and leading us home to the loving arms of the Father. Thank You, Jesus, for being truth, for showing us right and wrong and being an anchor of truth in the shifting sands of a relative world. Thank You, Jesus, for being life, for giving life and giving it abundantly. Thank You and praise You, Jesus, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Thursday, October 19: John 13- Washing feet.

Washing feet…it is not difficult to understand that the slave who washed feet was generally the lowest slave in the household pecking order. Imagine being the one who stooped down every time a person and guest entered the house, your job to handle the bare or sandaled feed and wash them.

Jesus, Rabbi, and the one and only Son of God, stooped down and washed the feet of all His disciples –even Judas’ –because not one of the disciples were willing to do so. Rising up after the job was done Jesus said, You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (13-17).

What are we, His followers, to make of this?

Our posture is not to lord it over others, but to be willing to stoop and wash feet. Serving someone even in a most humbling way is humbling. Yes, but it is also honoring, loving and caring.  Jesus modeled that. This is His way of life and as disciples we are to walk His way.

By humbling Himself, Jesus didn’t give up his rabbi, teacher, Lord position. He gave it dimension… He infused it with love. And that is how we are to live.

For us it could mean literally washing someone’s feet, but more than likely, it will be some other form of humble service.

Jesus looks my way and asks, “Am I willing to stoop, to dip my hands in the filth of the world and serve others, not because they are good, but because they are human?”

I am reminded that Judas’ two feet were washed along with all the others.

Am I willing to stoop, to dip my hands in the filth of the world and serve others, not because they are good, but because they are human? Are you?...

Think about it…

Words fail as my heart warms. I am Yours… direct me to whomever You need me to serve in Your name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, October 18: John 12- A gift of pure love.

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume [worth more than a year’s wages]; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (3).

Extravagant love… Mary took what may have been her dowry money and anointed Jesus with the whole of it. Where a few dabs would have adequately anointed Him, she poured out the whole lot. Certainly she was grateful, Jesus had just raised her brother from the dead. But Jesus understands in her gift something even deeper, anointing for His burial. Others may feel His death is coming (remember Thomas in an earlier chapter?), but Jesus knows it is coming.

Back to Mary’s gift… so extravagant, so filled with love.

I have never even come close to giving my Lord that valuable a gift. I sit here this morning humbled by Mary’s sacrifice of love.

I love You, Lord. I am humbled by Mary’s generosity and demonstration of her love. Honestly, I have no more words to say…  Amen.

 

Tuesday, October 17: John 11- O what a savior.

Even after all these years of reading the Bible, I am still amazed how the simplest word in the text can draw me into my daily meditation. This morning, despite all the tremendous teaching packed into this chapter, it was a word from Thomas that launched my meditation.

Verse 16 reads, Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” As dull and clueless the disciples seem at times, they could feel the pressure mounting around Jesus. The Jewish leaders were growing more and more impatient with Jesus. And if the disciples knew it, then Jesus certainly knew it. Jesus’ death in Jerusalem was looming for all of them.

I wondered particularly about Jesus. What was it like to live with this impending doom over your life constantly? And yet here he was giving and loving and teaching and demonstrating God’s love and kingdom despite what he knew –and the disciples knew –was coming.

As I sat this morning I marveled at Jesus… fully human. What were His deepest thoughts like? And how did he face any fears head on without letting on?

Jesus truly was human. The depth of His humanness pours out as He stands outside Lazarus’ tomb. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus wept. …  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. (33-38a).

Deeply moved, weeping, deeply moved again… Jesus’ emotions rise to the surface. Who of us hasn’t stood at a graveside of a loved one and not been moved? Jesus is just like one of us… He was human.

As I grasped and wrestled with Jesus’ humanness it hit me… He understands! Jesus understands us because Jesus is one of us. What an amazing picture of God in human flesh (John 1:14).

For the umpteenth time in my life I sit realizing how much God loves me (us) that Jesus became human to lead us back to the Father.

O what a Savior. O what a God. Lord Jesus, Thank You for all You did, felt, and endured to communicate the Father’s love to all humankind. I bless You and I thank You and I pray in Your name. Amen.

 

Monday, October 16: John 10- Do you believe?.

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (24-33).

One of the important features of John’s gospel is its declarations of Jesus as God. Throughout this gospel the divinity of Jesus is declared from the very first verses, and John mixes into the narrative confirming words and accounts of Jesus’ divinity.

Today we have another declaration. This one by Jesus Himself to the Jews and religious leaders. The Jews understand Him clearly and seek to stone him as a result. Notice their reason,  We are…stoning you... for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (33).

It seems to me that it is reasonable and fair to not believe the Bible, to think the Bible is a human book filled with created and made up stories that are not historically accurate. If you believe that then you can write off any truth contained in it that you want. However, if you believe the Bible to be historically accurate then one must accept, at face value, that Jesus believes Himself to be God and that He clearly spoke that to people of His day. To say Jesus’ divinity was a concoction of the early church is to believe the Bible is filled with concocted stories.

Taking the Bible at face value, it teaches that

·         Jesus is God in human flesh

·         He was born through Mary who became ‘with child’ by God not through human sexual relations 

·         Jesus voluntarily gave up His life for our sins

·         Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

And so much more.

This morning my reading confronts me with a three word sentence.  Do you believe???

I do believe the Bible. I do believe in Jesus as God who gave His life for me and my sins (and the sins of the world).

I do believe, do you?

Lord, I believe. Send the Holy Spirit to give me strength to believe and act in accordance with my belief. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, October 14: John 9- Peer pressure.

The pressure placed on the parents by the religious establishment was enormous. The religious leaders held the ‘keys’ to the community and if you stepped out of bounds they could lock you out. Locked out you were separated from your friends, your community, your religion. In other words you were completely isolated. Answering the Pharisees inquisition was delicate.

The blind man’s parents found a clever way out. “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him” (20-23)

But for most, there are no clever non-responses that can save us at times like these.

The pressure the parents felt most of us can relate to in one degree or another. Lunch break at work, a religion question comes up. “Are you one of those religious conservatives?” How do you answer? You won’t be put out of work but you feel the pressure.

I can think of a hundred scenarios like this in my country where we have religious freedom. Many more Christians face far more pressure in countries where it is illegal to be Christian, where being exposed as a Christ-follower could cost you your life.

How do you respond to the pressure peers and authorities can put on you for your faith?

The parents were able to skirt the answer. The healed blind men could not and would not and he was excommunicated from his synagogue for his statement. He was healed and had found Jesus and that was all that mattered to him.

Ultimately we answer these inquisitions based on what matters to us…

Does Jesus matter more than anything else... acceptance by peers or even life itself?

Think about it…

Lord, there have been times when I failed this test. I know I am forgiven for those lapses but there are times they still haunt me. Give me strength today to pass any peer pressure tests that come my way. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, October 13: John 8- The essential need to believe in Jesus.

Yesterday one who believes Jesus was front and center in my reading of chapter 7. Today part of the answer why that is important surfaced as I read.

There was so much in this chapter, after I read I went back and looked at some verses that grabbed my attention. They are below.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (12).

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins” (24).

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (31-32)

Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” (51).

When I put these verses together and read them one after another, why belief in Jesus is so important, came to life.

Verse 12: He is the light of the world. Light leads and directs us when the way is dark. When I travel in Africa a flashlight is essential gear. Night is dark and they do not have street lights and many houses have minimal light, so if you are walking after dark you need a light. In our dark and confusing world where there are all manner of ‘truths’ taught from all kinds of perspectives we need the light Jesus provides to find our way. Jesus is the light.

Verse 24: spoken from the negative position, people who do not believe in Jesus die in their sins. Every Jew knew to die in sin was to be separated from God in the afterlife.

Verses 31-32: Jesus’ teachings give us truth and His truth will set us free.

Verse 51: obedience to Jesus means no death, i.e., eternal life.

Now of course if you don’t believe Jesus you won’t believe these things. However, those who believe Jesus do believe these things, which explains why belief in Jesus is so essential to life now (He is the light) and life here after (He alone can remove sins and usher us into eternal life).

I believe… do you?

Thank You, Jesus, for all Your spiritual works on behalf of those who put their trust and faith in You. Alleluia. Amen.

 

Wednesday, October 11: John 6- Perspective.

The scope of teaching in this chapter is as cavernous as the Grand Canyon, far too grand to handle in one short devotional. Surprisingly, it was verse 6 that caused me to pause and ponder.

He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. This sentence is an addition by the author John into the narrative. John, who is now an old man, has had years to ponder and consider the things of Jesus. He has lived a full and faithful life and as he pens his gospel, he slips in these brief words that grows out of his years walking with and serving Jesus.

Recalling the feeding of the 5000 John realized that Jesus’ question to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (5). Jesus asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. That is not something one would realize in the moment, because in the moment people would have been carried away by the enormity of the situation and the miracle Jesus performed to alleviate the hunger need of the crowd.

As I pondered this I realized that many things in life need the perspective of years and thought and sometimes aging to more full understanding (I don’t know that we ever fully understand things).

In my 20’s I was enamored by the delight and beauty of my fiancé. I had no idea what richness she would bring into my life over the ensuing decades.

As the disciples stood at the cross they saw their Lord and friend die. Only after His resurrection and ascension did they begin to understand the true meaning of it all.

It has taken time and continued understanding poured into my life by the Holy Spirit to begin to grasp many of the truths of the Christian faith.

John’s tiny addition into the account is a reminder to me that many things take time to more fully understand and that this is especially true with faith.

My faith is so much deeper as I have walked with Jesus these 40+ years.

Living in God’s Word repeatedly and deeply over the course of years unlocks treasures of faith.

Stick with the Lord. Walk and wrestle and live as faithfully as you can and over time the canvas of faith will grow more beautiful with the added shades and hues of a growing discipleship.

Lord, thank You for years in Your Word, which never grows dull and is always full of new insights and rich wisdom for life. Thank You, Jesus, for prompting John to write his gospel years later and the richness it brings to understanding Your years of ministry on earth and Your gospel message. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Thursday, October 12: John 7- Who is Jesus to you?.

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? (40-41).

People were divided as to who they thought Jesus was. Some thought one thing and some another. Pharisees thought he was a liar and a blasphemer.

The gamut was as wide in Jesus’ day as it is today. Today some believe He is Messiah, others think He was a great religious teacher and no more. Still others think He and religion is all fake, made up by weak people who need something in which to believe.

I guess little has changed in the 2 millennia since Jesus’ day. The same question still remains… who do you think Jesus was/is?

I believe He is God’s Messiah and God Himself.  I am proud to say so and I pray you come to the place in life where you believe this, too.

Jesus, I look forward to the day when everyone will proclaim You Lord. As Paul writes in Philippians, ‘every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth’. Halleluiah. In Your name I pray, Amen

 

Tuesday, October 10: John 5- The wonder of eternal life.

On one hand it is difficult to choose one verse or a couple of verses upon which to ponder and meditate. The chapter is rich and full with Jesus’ teaching. And yet amidst the wonder of the chapter and its declarations about Jesus’ identity, one verse grabbed me.

Verse 24 is another of the gospels declarations of the eternal life Jesus will grant to all who believe in him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

To hear and believe is the ticket to eternal life. To hear Jesus’ Words and believe in the Father, the one who sent Him.

I love the cascading image of eternal life. Eternal life as a phrase speaks about living forever. To that Jesus adds that the person with eternal life will not be judged. So eternal life also means acceptance by God. If I widen my biblical horizon for a moment, since all have sinned (Romans 3:23) the only way I will not be judged is if my sins are forgiven, so being accepted by God means I am forgiven. (This of course fits the narrative of the entire New Testament.)

The understanding of eternal life grows even more when Jesus says the one with eternal life has crossed over from death to life. Again in the wider New Testament I was reminded of Colossians 1 13-14: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The cross over from life to death happens immediately. We can experience life here and now. Eternal life is not just a future gift. It is a present gift that carries us into forever.

What a gift eternal life is... what a joy to ponder this gift this morning.

Oh, Jesus, thank you for the gift of eternal life You give to all who believe!!!! I am rejoicing today in You and the gift You have given. Amen.